Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day Thirty

A Dream for the Future

This seems really similar to yesterday's post. I'm not really one to plan for the future. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. And while I don't necessarily think of myself as a pessimist, I'm definitely not an optimist. I joke around with people and call myself a realist. To me, that just means that good things are gonna happen and bad things are gonna happen. That's life.

So to have hopes and dreams for the future can be a good thing. But to invest too much into those dreams may be unrealistic and can lead to some pretty real heartache. And again, it could be that having this point of view is what's held me back for so long. I've talked a lot recently about how I shut people out, all because I don't want to deal with the pain of being let down. By not investing in any kind of dream for the future, I guess I'm doing the same thing. Except in this case it would me doing the letting down, not someone else.

That being said, I suppose I do have some things I'd like to see happen in my future. I'm only 30, so I guess I've still got time for these things to happen if I just apply myself. Like I said yesterday, I'd still like to finish writing a book and maybe even see it published.

Another thing that's been on my mind lately is the idea of finding someone to spend my life with. In spite of the fact that so many of my friends' and family's relationships have ended painfully, there's still a part of me that sees the appeal in finding a girl that I can stand to spend more than 10 minutes with and settling down. I'm hoping this kind of thing won't be an impossibility for me. I have grown really cynical over the last few years. Cynicism isn't really a helpful tool when it comes to picking up chicks.

At this point I'm still not sure about whether I would want to have kids. If I ever do decide I want kids, it will be because the previous paragraph came to pass and I'm spending the rest of my life with an obviously wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman with a great sense of humor. It will be because we came to the decision that it would be a good idea to bring a child into the world with all of our best qualities.

But for now, life is what it is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day Twenty Nine

My Hopes, Dreams, and Plans For the Next 365 Days

First of all, I want a new job. That is a dream that I pray does not last a lifetime. I hope it's the kind of dream that only lasts for a few more weeks, and then becomes a reality.

Next, I'd really like to finish a novel. Not reading one. Writing one. I'm so close I can almost taste it. I guess the dream part would be to have it published. But more realistically, I just want to finish it and be able to say that I wrote an entire novel that makes sense from beginning to end. Even if there are only a few people in the world who get to read it, I think that would be huge for me.

I guess, tied in with the first one, I'd like to not have to stress out about money. It would be nice if a second job was no longer a necessity.

I hope I can open up to people more. I hope I can stop being afraid of making myself vulnerable. I hope I can stop being afraid to risk putting myself out there. I hope I can realize that without that risk, there can be no reward.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day Twenty Eight

What's In My Wallet

  • Some cash, which usually depends upon how generous the customers are while I deliver the pizza.
  • Driver's license
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision care benefit card
  • Voter registration
  • Medical insurance
  • Immunization record
  • Prescription card
  • Spare car key
  • Various business cards
  • Debit card
  • Grocery rewards card
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Another debit card (which is loaded each week with the pizza paycheck)
  • Credit card (for emergency purposes)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day Twenty Seven

My Worst Habit

I would say that one of my worst habits would be that nasty habit I have of pushing people away. It's something I recognize in myself and talk about on this blog all the time. Yet, for some reason, it's one of those things that I have a very difficult time changing in myself.

When I was a kid, living in the Denniston house, there were very few guys in the neighborhood. I've never been very social, but I think part of it came from a lack of options in that neighborhood. There were a lot of older people living in those older houses. The few households with younger families tended to have girls. Despite that overwhelming ratio of girls over boys, there was one family that lived behind us. They had a bunch of kids, but only one boy, John, who was a year or two younger than me. But at least this gave me someone to play with on those warm afternoons after I got home from school.

John and his sisters were homeschooled, so they had a head start on the afternoon activities by the time I got home. John also had a friend, whose name escapes me, who was also, I assume homeschooled. So I'm just gonna call him Homeschool. I don't necessarily think of that as an insult. I just don't remember the kid's name.

For a few weeks after John introduced me to Homeschool, the three of us would hang out, usually playing in John's back yard. Around that time, I was on this spy toy kick, so I contributed these spy toys to our imaginative afternoons of fun. Things seemed to be going all right and I felt pretty sure that I had made a couple good friends.

Then one day I got home from school and John and Homeschool were already out in the yard playing, as was normal. I made my way across the alley and asked what we were doing today. Homeschool just looked at me and said I wasn't invited. I could tell that John was kind of conflicted about it, but he didn't say anything. Homeschool and John ran off to do whatever it was they were going to do and I was left alone and kind of hurt.

I hadn't thought about that afternoon in a long time. For some reason, it came to mind a few days ago and it got me thinking about being so shut down around people. Now, the cynic that I've grown to be looks at that situation and thinks boo-freakin'-hoo. So what if a jerk kid didn't want to be friends with me anymore? I had homework to do anyway. But then there's that part of me that took one too many psychology classes in college that looks at that and thinks it's a logical contributor to the reason I build up walls and don't allow people to get close to me.

For a few weeks, I felt like I had made some new friends. And then suddenly, I got the big let down. Maybe they only wanted me around 'cause I had a toy periscope and some walkie-talkies. Once that particular fad faded away, I became obsolete.

The point is, it's a bad habit, this thing where I push people away. And I'm guessing there are a lot of incidents like this one that have caused me to be this way. Anyone know a quick fix for decades of psychological scarring?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Question of the Week: Too Serious

What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

Recent deaths, certain diseases, clowns. I think at some point everything can be on the table. But I think even people with the most crude sense of humor need to be aware of how what they say can effect others.

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

Day Twenty Six

My Week, In Great Detail

This will just be a typical week. Not a specific week that was. Granted, there's not really such a thing as typical. But I'll give it a shot. And it won't be as detailed as the day I described in yesterday's post.

Sunday-
  • Lately I've been bad about starting my Sunday mornings with church. I really should get back to that on a regular basis.
  • Lunch, usually out somewhere.
  • Afternoon nap.
  • For the last couple months, I've been scheduled to work a lot of the Sunday evenings. Turns out, people tip more generously on Sundays.
Monday-
  • Monday is just about the most dreaded day of the week. It's the day I return to work at the bank. The day begins with our weekly motivational meeting. This is followed up by a typical day of running transactions and answering stupid questions. And don't feed me that "there are no stupid questions" line. Work at the bank for a while. There are stupid questions.
  • Evenings are generally spent reading, writing, and watching How I Met Your Mother.
Tuesday-
  • After Monday, Tuesday is just about the most dreaded day of the week. It's another day that I have to return to work at the bank. More transactions. More stupid questions.
  • I work more Tuesday evenings than not.
  • After work, I eat a late dinner then go to bed.
Wednesday-
  • Wednesday is a glorious day. Thanks to my less than 40-a-week schedule at the bank, I get the day off in the middle of the week. Unless the Most Awesome Person I Know wants to do something, I usually just spend the day in my apartment.
  • I read. I write. I play Farmville. Sometimes I watch movies of the PG-13 variety. Yeah, I'm a wild kid.
Thursday-
  • After Tuesday, Thursday is the most dreaded day of the week. It's another day that I have to return to work at the bank. More transactions. More stupid questions.
  • Thursday evenings are a lot of the same when it comes to my down time. But there's extra fun thanks to Community, 30 Rock, and The Office.
Friday-
  • After Thursday, Friday is the most dreaded day of the week. It's another day that I have to return to work at the bank. More transactions. More stupid questions. And, bonus, we stay open 'til 6 on Fridays instead of 5.
  • I also deliver pizza a lot of my Friday nights. Not as good a tip night as you'd think.
Saturday-
  • Saturday is just one of those days where I spend my day in my apartment. Again, unless the Most Awesome Person I Know has something better to do.
I look back and read that average week and realize that I need a life in the worst way.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful for a lot of things in my life. I may not always show it. I may not always act like it. But I am very grateful for a number of people and circumstances that have helped to make me who I am.

I'm thankful for friends who seem to still want me around, in spite of my issues and hang ups.

I'm thankful for family that loves me, even though I stay away for so long between visits.

I'm thankful for a job that I complain about every day. I know how lucky I am just to have that paycheck coming in every other week. I need to stop taking it for granted.

I work so hard at pushing people away and keeping people out. I'm thankful that there are a handful of people who aren't afraid to push back and force their way into my life.

I'm sure I could find more to be thankful for, and I have no doubt I could take this in a less serious direction. But I'm not in a less serious mood at the moment. So those serious things that were mentioned above are what you get from me this Thanksgiving. I hope everyone reading this has a good one.

Day Twenty Five

My Day, In Great Detail

I'll be giving the details of my day yesterday. As it's only 8am as I'm writing this, I have yet to have any details for my day today. So here you have, in great detail, the day that was Wednesday, November 24, 2010.

  • 6am - The alarm on my phone woke me up, much to my great annoyance. I fumbled around for it and hit the snooze.
  • 6:05 - The alarm went off again. I hit the snooze again. I repeated this process for roughly half an hour. Then I decided to just turn it off and reset it for 7am. I always set it early with the intention of getting up an hour or so earlier than I really need to. I'm not sure why. Maybe I think I'll be inspired one to day to get up and do something productive before I have to head to work. So far that's not working out for me.
  • 7am - The alarm on my phone woke me up again. This time I turned it off and got up.
  • 7:15 - By this point I was finishing up a shower that did very little to make me alert. While showering I debated with myself as to whether I should shave. I had just shaved the day before and I'm not one who likes to shave on a daily basis. So, because I didn't feel like it and mostly because I just didn't care, I opted to let the scruff have its way with my face.
  • 7:30 - I was dressed by this time and was sitting in front of the very computer on which I write these words. I decided it would be a good idea to check my bank account, just to make sure I had money. Generally, I check on things once a day, just to make sure things are where they're supposed to be.
  • 7:45 - It takes 45 minutes for me to get to work. It's a little ridiculous, I know, but that's how traffic works in a big city like Wake Forest. Okay, it isn't so much Wake Forest's problem as it is Raleigh's.
  • 7:50 - I decided I was making good time. Believe it or not, the roads were pretty empty yesterday morning. My theory is that a lot of people decided to start Thanksgiving a day early. And since I was making good time, I stopped at a convenience store to get some caffeine. Now, I don't drink coffee. So when I say caffeine, I mean Mountain Dew. I got two of them, but only because Pepsi products are 2 for 2.22 or 1 for 1.59. Do the math.
  • 7:55-8:30 - Lately, in driving to work, I've been listening to a morning radio show called Bob and the Showgram on G105. Yesterday I wasn't able to do that. My radio was working fine. But they were doing a fundraiser for cancer research. When I turned on the radio they began a heartstring pulling story about a family who struggled when their son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and later died. I had to put a CD in. Listening to stories like that kind of make me want to cry. Crying plus driving equals mangled wreck. So I sang along with a CD until I got to the bank.
  • 8:30ish - I arrived at the bank. And then I cried some more.
  • 8:45-11:35 - Work. And here are some of those great details as I release a heavy sigh. Open the vault; pull out my cash drawer; sign on to my computer; get deposits out of the night drop; run the one deposit from the night drop; act surprised that the idiot business owner that left that deposit actually got it right this time (that's a rarity, by the way); do some pointless busy work in the form of updating a three ring binder with new forms and throwing away the old ones; disappoint the Most Awesome Person I Know via text message; run transactions; kill a spider; read some of my book because things have gotten slow; get annoyed when someone asks me a stupid question ("Are y'all closed tomorrow?"); sell all the cash in my drawer to the vault; close down my computer; leave with a smile on my face because I only had to be at the bank for three hours.
  • 11:35 - I drove home. This didn't take as long as driving to work because, well, it was the middle of the day.
  • 12pm - I got home and heated up some leftover Tombstone pizza. It's never really as good reheated, but it got the job done. I ate and then I wasn't hungry anymore. Score one for the good guys.
  • 12:15-5pm - Mostly I killed time before I had to go deliver pizza. While eating, I wrote my post for yesterday's blog. I took pictures of the apartment so I could show off where I live. I wrote some more. I played a computer game for a while (Civilization V). I read. All in all a pretty relaxing afternoon.
  • 5pm - I changed into my pizza delivery clothes and left for work. Again.
  • 5:30 - I clocked in and started delivering pizza. It was a pretty busy night, so this status didn't change until after 8pm.
  • 8:15 - Fluffed cheese, cleaned the oven catch trays.
  • 8:40 - Clocked out and drove home.
  • 9pm - I knew I was kind of hungry, but really didn't have much of an appetite. I hadn't eaten anything since lunch, so my brain told me I should probably eat something. So I grabbed a soda from the fridge and snacked on some Ritz crackers. Not the healthiest of dinners, I grant you, but it was all I needed at the time. And I was pretty tired. I knew I wouldn't be doing much of anything else for the rest of the night.
  • 9:30 - I did some Facebooking and then went to bed. I know, kind of early for a night before a non-work day. It wasn't long before I hit the pillow that my eyes were closed.
So that's my day. Not too exciting. I thought about making something up about being fangoriously devoured by a gelatinous monster. I'm sure I could have worked it in between jobs yesterday. But who has the energy to fight alien blob monsters?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day Twenty Four

Where I Live

I live in Wake Forest, North Carolina. It's a smallish town in Wake County, just north of the state capital, Raleigh. It's the original home of Wake Forest University. Of course, back then it was just Wake Forest College. And then it was decided that the Raleigh area had too many large universities in the surrounding area, what with NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Duke being right around the corner. So Wake Forest was moved to Winston-Salem. The way I hear it, some people gave them a lot of money to make the move. Can't blame them. I'd move if someone gave me a lot of money.

Here's a shot of downtown Wake Forest. I really think "downtown" is more of an honorary title.
 I live in this old building. It's called Glen Royall Mill and it was once home to a cotton mill. Some time ago it was converted into the awesome apartment building that it is today.
This is the hallway outside my apartment. Notice how it looks like it goes on forever? Well, it doesn't really. Walking at an average pace, from one end to the other, can be done in three days time. And there are a number of traps along the way. Some spots in the carpet are actually a sort of slush that acts like quicksand. There are certain spots that trigger the fire extinguishers if stepped on. But the fire extinguishers spray a mild acid, instead of that carbon foam stuff. It was quite an ordeal moving in.
And here we have my living room. It's where I do most of my living.
See how high the ceilings are? Makes the place seem a lot bigger than it really is. It's pretty much the most awesome apartment ever.
And that's the bed that I refuse to sleep in. It's really uncomfortable.

So that's my place. Come by any time. Just be sure to wipe your feet. I don't like when people track stuff through all the dust on my hardwood floors.

The Perils of Pizza Delivery, Part 8

I was scheduled to leave work at 8pm last night. More often than not, that scheduled time off is extremely flexible. Personally, I like getting off when I'm scheduled to get off because I like having the ability to go home and eat dinner before 10 at night.

But last night was one of those nights where 8pm came and went and I was still delivering pizza. I mean, it wasn't so late when I finished what I thought would be my last delivery. Maybe 10 after. So I got back to the store and began doing the busy work that was assigned to me. Just a few little things: restocking the Coke coolers, fluffing the cheese, etc.

Just as I was about to find someone to clock me out, the guy running the oven, Lee, called me over and asked if I wanted to do one more run. There were no other drivers in the store at the time. So at first I thought he was just desperate to get this order out quickly. With that, I really thought about just saying no. But then I realized that he was trying to do me a favor. The delivery was an order of 10 pizzas to a really nice neighborhood. Lee, being a former driver, assumed that the tip would be pretty good. So I grabbed it.

That 10-pizza delivery brought me an $18 tip at the end of my night. Sure I didn't get home 'til after 9, but it was well worth it. And to Lee, wherever you are, I thank you. That one delivery can nearly fill my gas tank.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day Twenty Three

A YouTube Video

I came across this yesterday. It made me laugh. And since Thanksgiving is only another day or so away, I thought it appropriate. Enjoy.

Rebooting Buffy

There are a number of articles across the internet about how Warner Bros. is going ahead with a remake of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The link there is one of those articles. And it has a snippet of Joss Whedon's reaction to this news.

Joss Whedon, if you aren't aware, is the creator of Buffy and all her related characters. Originally, Buffy was bound to be a big-screen heroine in a horror/action/drama with snappy dialogue, much like the TV show eventually turned out to be. But the producers wanted to turn the story of a cheerleader turned fighter-of-evil into a comedy. 'Cause who would believe that a cute blond from LA could seriously be a superhero without being made fun of.

Thankfully, Whedon got a second chance with his creation and moved her to the television. I don't feel the need to get into how awesome the show is when I already got into it earlier this month.

My reasoning behind writing this post isn't about how awesome Buffy the Vampire Slayer already is. It's about how lame Hollywood is. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, it seems these days that the people in charge of our entertainment simply can't come up with an original idea to save their lives.

How many of these "reboots" have we had to endure in movies and television over the last few years? Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The A-Team, The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Hawaii Five-O. And then there's the super-hero movies. Batman Begins restarted that franchise less than a decade after it's most recent sequel. Granted, that last sequel was one of the worst movies ever made and Batman Begins was pretty freakin' awesome. But I think that was a real exception to the rule.

Can't come up with a coming-of-age underdog story of your own? Why not remake The Karate Kid? Can't come up with a compelling story continuing the saga of Peter Parker as he ventures further into adulthood? Why not start the whole thing over? Recast all the main roles and put him back in high school. That's an awesome idea.

I get that after so many years of writing stories, eventually you're gonna come back around to something that's already been told. But give it some time to be immortalized in the halls of pop culture. Surely there are some board games that haven't had movies made about them. Where's the Candy Land feature film? Chutes and Ladders? Connect Four?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day Twenty Two

A Website

I risk exposing my inner geek again by directing you to the Superman Homepage as my website for today's blog journal post. Of course there are a lot of websites that I visit on a regular basis: Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and a pretty large number of blogs. But most of the blogs I follow can be found over on the right side of this page. Actually, there are a few more now, I should probably add those. And those other sites are pretty popular with the world at large. Most of you reading this probably visit those sites pretty regularly anyway. In fact, there's a good chance many of you clicked over here from Facebook.

But anyway, the Superman Homepage is a pretty fun website for geeks like me. It's got everything you ever wanted to know about Superman but were afraid to ask. So go check it out. And you don't have to tell them I sent you. There's a good chance they don't even know I exist.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day Twenty One

A Recipe

How to make cereal:

Get the box out of the pantry/cupboard/wherever. Get the milk out of the fridge. Set the milk next to the box of cereal. Get a bowl and spoon. Set them in front of the cereal and milk.

Look, I don't have any original recipes. I do enjoy cooking, but I don't have reason to cook these days. I'm a single guy who gets by just fine on cereal and sandwiches. Cooking isn't practical for one person, unless I was the kind of person who liked lots and lots of leftovers. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the leftovers. So you get how to make cereal. Hopefully tomorrow's post will be more interesting.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day Twenty

A Hobby of Mine

About the only hobby I've had in my life that I've stuck with would be comic books. And my reasoning is the same now as it was when I was a kid. I like the stories.

These are the stories of men and women with extraordinary abilities who save the world on a monthly basis. Sure, a lot of the time they're fighting against other men and women with extraordinary abilities who are bent on world domination on a monthly basis. But the point is, these super-heroes are constantly fighting a never ending battle and these illustrated stories have the capability of inspiring some hope in an otherwise hopeless world.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make comic books out to be some kind of gospel that people should start adhering to religiously. Like any work of fiction, their value is purely for entertainment. I spend money on these things and if they're not fun to read, then they're not worth buying.

And I feel the need to be specific in what comic books I purchase. If you've read this blog long enough, it probably comes as no surprise that I prefer DC Comics over the Marvel Comics. Then again, there are probably a lot of you out there that have no idea that there's a difference. Believe me, there's a difference.

It's the same way you can separate people by what kind of cola they prefer: Coke or Pepsi. Or what sort of computer they use: Mac or PC. I'm a Coke. I'm a PC. I'm a DC.

DC Comics, to me, are a more optimistic brand of comics. My experience with Marvel's characters is that they all seem to be dealing with a lot of inner turmoil. And I get that it's gritty and realistic in the way those characters are portrayed. No one in the real world is perfect, why should we expect our heroes to be perfect as well?

The DC stable of heroes has its share of imperfections, but on the whole, they're a bit shinier and more often think about how their actions will affect the innocents around them. Look at their flagship character, Superman. Hollywood has a hard time coming up with a good movie for him because they have a hard time trying to make him relatable to the average movie-goer. He's the world's oldest living boy scout and has nearly flawless integrity when it comes to doing the right thing. People view him as perfect, so how can anyone relate to that?

But it's an idea that's stuck around for more than 70 years. It's an idea that can inspire hope and optimism where there may not be much to go around. Superman's the kind of character that doesn't give up hope, no matter what may be happening around him. And, in most of these DC stories, he inspires his fellow heroes to stand up and fight, despite the odds. To me, that's how the DC Universe works.

I haven't had a lot of exposure to Marvel's way of doing things, but what I've gathered is that their heroes do what they do for very different reasons than DC's heroes. Superman does what he does because he can. He was raised as Clark Kent and was instilled with a sense of morality. He helps people because he's the only one who can do the things he can do. Why does Spider-Man (a Marvel hero) do what he does? I think it can be argued that he does it out of a sense of guilt. Early in his career he allowed a criminal to escape because it wasn't his problem. Later, that same criminal killed his Uncle Ben. And so he lives his heroic life by the immortal creed, "With great power comes great responsibility." Peter Parker is constantly trying to atone for his inaction in the murder of his uncle. Even so, how many times over the years has Spider-Man tried to quit being a hero? It's not something he wants to do. He seems to be pretty unwilling to don those blue and red tights.

So what if Superman was a Marvel character? Would he mope around, whining all the time about how he's the only one of his kind? "There are no more Kryptonians and my parents sent me to this primitive mudball. Woe is me." Would Batman still place value on human life if he was a Marvel character? Would Batman have become a killer if Bruce Wayne's parents had been gunned down in the Marvel Universe? Just some thoughts.

But anyway, yeah, I collect comic books. I'm thirty years old. Do I think that they'll retain some kind of incredible monetary value over the years? Do I think I'll be able to sell them all one day and retire comfortably? Absolutely not. Like I said, I still get them for the entertainment value. I think there will be a handful that may be worth something to collectors one day. But since I'm a collector, there's a good chance I won't want to part with them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day Nineteen

A Talent of Mine

I really don't like to brag. I mean, I know I get on here and occasionally write about how awesome I am. But, you know, that's just a shallow facade attempting to mask the decades of insecurity that rest just under the surface of my personality. More often than not, that insecurity surfaces, turning me into the shy, semi-mute person that I was in high school.

And when it comes to just about anything I do, I'm my own worst critic. The way I see myself, I think that I'm okay at a lot of things, but I don't really excel at anything. I posted those white board drawings the other day. Customers come in and compliment them all the time. But I don't think they're that great. I've written things other than posts for this blog, and have had people tell me they think I'm a good writer. But I always second guess myself, so I've never attempted to put myself out there where writing is concerned. Again, in my mind, I just think I'm okay at it.

And then there's the thing I've been doing since I started forming real words with my mouth. I grew up singing and constantly had people telling me how good I was. I didn't let it go to my head. I still just think it's one of those things I do that I'm just okay at. A choir director once told me he thought I had the strongest tenor voice that he had ever worked with. I took that as a huge compliment and it made me feel really good. Then I went and tried out for American Idol and the producers who didn't choose me to move to the next round only confirmed for me that I was merely mediocre.

I realize this is one of my deep issues that I need to work on. The whole self-confidence thing is lacking a lot of the time. Reason number 86 why I should probably be in therapy.

Question of the Week: Lifetime Allowance

Would you accept a guaranteed, lifetime allowance of $50,000 per year (adjusted annually for inflation) if accepting it meant that you could never again earn money from either work or investments?

Uh, shoot yeah I'd take it. To me, $50,000 a year is a lot of money. But this is the perspective of someone who isn't even able to pull in 20k before taxes. And the work thing? I don't think I'd miss it. But if I did, I think I'd get more satisfaction out of volunteering out of the kindness of my heart than being paid to be somewhere I really don't want to be.

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mockingjay

As with Catching Fire, I almost feel like the word "wow" should be enough to cover a review of this book.

I'd really like to do this without revealing too much of the plot of the book, but I really can't make any guarantees. So, if you have yet to read Mockingjay, or either of the other Hunger Games novels, go away until you do. Please, continue reading my blog. I love the attention. But I really don't want to spoil anything for anyone planning to pick up these books.

Okay, first of all... Wow.

Mockingjay picks up where Cathing Fire left off. Well, it's actually a short time after the events of the second book. Tragedies seem to keep piling up on Katniss Everdeen after her actions in The Hunger Games. On top of these things, she chooses to accept the role of Mockingjay for the rebellion against the Panem government. In doing this, Katniss becomes the polarizing figure that helps to unite the districts in the war. Of course, this places a more obvious target on her back.

Throughout the book, she discovers that the target isn't only placed by her enemy, President Snow, but also by the leadership of the rebellion, President Coin. Katniss learns as she goes along that once the districts are united, she may have outlived her usefulness to the rebels. And, being such a popular figure among the people, her mere toleration of Coin as leader may not be enough to convince the country to fall in line when the new government is in place.

The war rages on and Katniss finds herself in the thick of the action, and she would have it no other way. After being forced to participate in the Capitol's games twice, she's ready for some retribution, even if that means putting her own life on the line, once again.

As with the previous books, I think that Suzanne Collins does a great job crafting the series' endgame. There are a few elements toward the end that may have been meant as twists or surprises, but I was honestly not surprised. Again, I don't want to reveal too much of the plot, so I won't reveal those twists specifically. I'm not sure why the element of surprise was lost on me.

It could be that I read these books so close together that I formed a real psychological profile of the major characters, especially Katniss. The stories have been told from her point of view, so we have incredible insight into her mind. So if you know what to look for, you can almost predict her reactions to things, based on how she's acted in the past and based on all that she's been through. All the events that have shaped her into the woman she's become by the end of Mockingjay made it easier to see how she would respond to certain stimuli.

And then, of course, there's the sub-plot dealing with Katniss' love life. For the majority of the series, readers were left questioning, "who will she choose?" On the one hand, you have her best friend, Gale. He's the one who's known her for years. They've snuck out of the District together and hunted. They know each other's thoughts simply by being in close proximity to one another. Initially she never considered him as much more than a friend, but she still had that gnawing feeling in the back of her heart. On the other hand, there's Peeta, her fellow victor from the first Games. Peeta is someone that she didn't know well before the Games. But he's someone who's loved her from afar since they were too young to know what love is. He proves this love for her over and over again, in and out of the Hunger Games.

Now, my opinion throughout has been, if it came down to it, Katniss would choose neither of them. She mentioned repeatedly that she had no plans to marry, because she never wanted to risk having children. She never wanted to risk the heartbreak of having her kids torn away from her to participate in the Hunger Games.

Aside from that, Katniss is the kind of person who is able to separate herself from her feelings. I don't think it's always easy for her to do this, but when push comes to shove, she can do it. That sort of thinking wouldn't leave much room for personal happiness, but another aspect of her character is that she's constantly thinking of others before herself. I could see her refusing to choose between them simply to keep from hurting one or the other.

As it is, the choice is made for her in the end. I won't reveal how that choice is made. But I think the way it all plays out makes complete sense. It was an excellent ending to an excellent series. I was very impressed.

Day Eighteen

My Wedding/Future Wedding/Past Wedding

Well, since I'm not married, nor have I ever been married, the whole "Past Wedding" thing is a big ol' not applicable.

And I've witnessed a lot of pain and misery in relation to a number of my friends' and families' marriages. This causes me to seriously consider lifelong bachelorhood. So a "Future Wedding" may be a moot point as well.

But let's assume that I grow some optimism at some point. Let's also take that giant leap and assume that I find a woman who would be willing to put up with me for the rest of her life, which may be harder to come by than my own rare optimism.

Since the first time I visited my friends' lake house at Smith Mountain Lake, I've said I would want to get married in their back yard. I think it'd be a great place for a wedding. From the back porch down to the dock, there's a gentle slope, so it would be like having stadium seating. It's kind of a gorgeous view of the lake. Other than the location, I doubt that I could get any of my other ideas by the bride.

For example, I want the ushers to announce which side the guests are sitting on: bride's side or groom's side. And I want a scoreboard. And whoever has the most guests on their side of the aisle gets a prize, to be determined.

I would like to have someone with a commanding voice and a dry sense of humor to read a Deep Thought, by Jack Handey, also to be determined.

I would really like to bring together the folks I sang with in Praise Singers during college to do some song together as a surprise for the bride. So if she's out there reading this right now, I'm sorry, I guess I ruined the surprise.

And if she's out there reading this, it would be nice if she would announce her presence. I have no doubt that she's fallen in love with me based upon nothing but these many blog posts that I've done over the years. And I'm sure it helps that my picture is plastered at the top of the page. That probably caused some kind of head over heels action. Anyway, whoever you are, we need to come to some kind of agreement about these wedding demands. I may be able to give way on the Deep Thought, but the scoreboard is non-negotiable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day Seventeen

An Art Piece

So is this supposed to be art that I've done? 'Cause I really haven't done much art since I was in high school. Back in the day I dabbled in drawing and painting and even some sculpting with the clay. But these days, the most exposure to the visual arts that I have comes in the form of the white boards at work. My manager found out a few months back that I like to draw, so it became my responsibility to come up with creative advertisements for our dry-erase marker boards. They may not be considered "art" in the traditional sense, but they're what I've got.






In Brightest Day...

So there's a movie that's coming out next summer. And judging by the trailer, it looks freakin' awesome. I'm really geeking out about now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day Sixteen

A Song That Makes Me Cry

Well, this is almost appropriate. The Christmas season is almost upon us, and the first song that comes to mind that makes me cry just about every time I hear it is a song by the group Newsong. You may know it, it's called The Christmas Shoes.

It's about this guy who's kind of just going through the motions of Christmas, standing in line at the store, waiting for the cashier to ring him up and send him on his merry way. But there's this kid in front of him in line trying to buy a pair of shoes for his mom, and he doesn't quite have enough money. From the lyrics, it sounds like he broke his piggy bank and is trying to pay with every penny he's managed to save up. But it just isn't enough. So the boy explains that his mother is sick and he just has to buy his mom these shoes so she'll look nice when she goes to meet Jesus. The kid's situation breaks the man's heart and he hands over the money that's needed, and it reminds him what Christmas is really all about.

Of course, that's not the only song that ever makes me cry. There have been others, but there are very few that make me cry each time I hear them. Most of the time, it just depends on my circumstances as to whether or not a particular song will affect me. There have been instances when I've heard a song for the hundredth time and I hear it in a new way or from a new perspective and the tears just well up. It's weird how that works.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day Fifteen

My Dream House

When it comes to my "dream" house, I generally keep it simple. I've always said that I don't want more house than I need. Obviously, I don't need much at this juncture since I'm single with no kids. So what do I need? One bedroom. One bathroom. One kitchen with a breakfast nook. Don't mock, I need a place to sit down and eat my dinner for one.

On the other hand, I always thought it would be cool to have a place with a secret passage.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day Fourteen

A Non-Fiction Book

I don't do non-fiction too often. It isn't that I don't find it interesting, I do. It's just that I'd rather spend my reading time getting into something a little more fictiony. For me, reading is an escape from real life. Non-fiction books tend to have something to do with real life. And if I wanted to experience real life, I'd go out there and experience it. 'Cause real life, all over the place.

But if I'm forced to promote something in the non-fiction realm, I'll promote something by Dave Barry. Maybe Dave Barry Slept Here. For a long time, Dave Barry wrote a humor column for the Miami Herald that was also syndicated across the country. If you haven't read anything that he's done, give it a look. It's pretty funny. But, the aforementioned Dave Barry Slept Here was his answer to a history book. He gives a pretty unique perspective on United States history. I can't say that all of his facts and dates are historically accurate, but they are pretty funny.

Okay, that's all I've got.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day Thirteen

A Fictional Book

The prompt for today in the 30 Day Blog Journal is "A Fictional Book." To me, that seems kind of vague. I wasn't sure if that meant I needed to do another book review for something I've read recently. Typically, I write something about whatever I've read just as soon as I've read it. Right now I'm reading Mockingjay, but I'm not quite finished. I mean, I'm sure if I powered through the last few chapters I could write something today, but I don't want to rush myself.

So I decided to write about this book, Left Behind, that I read back during the college years. It's another one of those books that spawned a ridiculously long series of novels, to which I wasn't introduced until the fourth one was published. And this isn't so much a review of a book that I haven't even picked up in 10 years. It's more of a reflection.

You've probably heard of Left Behind. Even if you're not into Christian fiction, there's a chance you've come across it in one form or another. After all, it was made into a major motion picture starring the incomparable Kirk Cameron. Yeah, the movie really wasn't that good. And neither were its direct to video sequels, one of which added Lou Gossett, Jr. to the cast. It didn't help.

There was also a pretty controversial video game that came out a few years back. I don't remember all the controversy over it, but I remember it made plenty of headlines. I think it was something about the violence involved inside of a Christian-themed game.

But I really didn't plan on slamming the movies, the games, the graphic novels, or the line of action figures. Actually, I didn't plan to slam Left Behind at all. Let me just say, I thought the books were pretty good. They were decent stories. But, for what it's worth, they shouldn't be taken at more than face value.

When the series was at the height of its popularity, I remember hearing a lot of people talking about the events of the novels as if they were fact, not fiction. Walk into an Christian bookstore, or any Barnes & Nobel for that matter, and you'll find Left Behind safely tucked away in the section known as fiction. It may escape some people, but the truth is, these books were written by authors who are, yes, biblical scholars, but they are just people who are interpreting scripture for entertainment value.

I won't sit here and claim that the biblical book of Revelation will or will not happen the way Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins plotted it out. I seriously doubt that they've gotten it all right, step by step. But Revelation is open to a lot of interpretation. And to say that it's open to a lot of interpretation is a severe understatement.

That being said, I think the Left Behind books were pretty good. But I also think they became a bit too commercial after a while. Did they really need to write and publish 16 separate books to tell their story? And that's not even counting all the "young adult" books that were published alongside them. And did I mention the movies? The video game? Someone made a lot of money off one man's interpretation of biblical prophecy. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day Twelve

Something I Am OCD About

There are actually a couple things that cause the OCD in me to come to the surface. Sadly, one of those things is strongly tied to work.

At the bank, in my teller drawer, all of my cash has to be facing the same way. It all has to be face up with the bottom of the portrait nearest to me. It's just how it has to be.

The other has to do with the order of my CDs and DVDs. They have to be in alphabetical order. DVDs are a little easier. They're alphabetical by title. CDs are alphabetized by artist, then by album release date, assuming I have multiple CDs by one artist, which I do.

The DVD thing is pretty bad though. And it extends beyond my personal collection. Once, in college, I was helping a friend move back into the dorm after she had been at home all summer. She had just thrown all her DVDs on the bookshelf in no particular order. I couldn't stand for that. So I dropped what I was doing and immediately alphabetized them. It's a sickness, I know.

Question of the Week: Date of Death

Would you like to know the precise date of your death?

No, I wouldn't. There are certain things I'd like to be surprised by. That's probably one of them.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day Eleven

A Photo of Me Recently
This is probably the most recent picture of me that I've got. From my trip to Smith Mountain Lake back in September. I was the host of our Bluefield College trivia game and this was the beginning of the tie breaking lightning round.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day Ten

A Photo Taken Over 10 Years Ago of Me




Okay, so this is a picture of me from well over 10 years ago. More like 25 years ago. But the rule was over 10 years ago. I was going to try and post something of me from the 90s, but I don't think I allowed myself to be photographed too often back in that decade. Like I said yesterday, I took a lot of interest in photography during high school. So more often than not, I was behind the camera rather than smiling in front of it. So you get a picture of me around the age of five. I'm pretty sure this is before I acted as the ring bearer for my aunt's wedding. Imagine my disappointment when I realized I misheard everyone when they were saying ring bearer. I could have sworn they were all saying ring "bear." Somehow, dressing up in a snazzy mini-tux seems less exciting than pretending to be a bear when one is five.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Soup

I thought about starting this little story out with the phrase, "When I was a kid..." But really, I don't think I was a kid. It just feels like the following events took place so many years ago, that in my over 30 mind, I was a kid. Whatever the case, I think I was in college when I was introduced to Howard's Soup Kitchen. The possibility exists that I was still in high school, but somehow I doubt it.

I'm arguing with myself over frame of time, when that really doesn't matter. The point is Howard's Soup Kitchen. I'm fairly certain that the restaurant no longer exists, but when it did, it was amazing. It was this place in downtown Roanoke that served, surprisingly enough, soup. That's not all they had, but that was their focus.

Howard's was only open for lunch during the week and featured certain soups on certain days. Of course there were some stand-bys that stuck around five days a week: Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, French Onion, that sort of thing. But the one that I always looked forward to was only served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That, my friends, was the Chicken & Dumplings. There were few meals I looked forward to more than a bowl of Howard's Chicken & Dumplings with a sandwich on the side.

In those days, my Mom worked downtown. So when I was in town from college on what happened to be a Tuesday or Thursday, I would constantly make plans to have lunch with her, just so we could make that trip to Howard's Soup Kitchen. I had to have that bowl of Chiken & Dumplings whenever I had the chance.

At some point, Howard's closed down. It was thought that I would never get to enjoy that steaming bowl of deliciousness again. But then I moved back to Roanoke after college and I heard that Howard's had reopened under new management. And they still had their Tuesday/Thursday helping of Chicken & Dumplings. I made one trip to Howard's under the new management, and that was all it took. The new management apparently had a new recipe. It was different. Maybe I was different. Either way, things just weren't the same.

Howard's has since closed for good, at least that's the rumor I heard a few years back. I have searched for a reasonable facsimile of Howard's Chicken & Dumplings (the good version) but have come up short every time. Until yesterday, that is.

Near my workplace, in Raleigh's Cameron Village, there's a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place called The Community Deli. From what I've heard, it's kind of legendary. But I'm hearing that mostly from Barney Stinson, who sings this restaurant's praises any time he gets a chance. His choice meal is the steak and cheese sandwich, which I tried on my first visit. It was pretty good. Upon further examination of their menu, I noticed that they have a selection of soups, which Barney also says are phenomenal. He had never tried the soup known as "Chicken & Pastry" but was willing to have me be the guinea pig. Chicken & Pastry, from what I've heard, is about the same thing as what we called "Chicken & Dumplings" where I grew up.

So I made that leap yesterday. I was hungry. It was cold out. So I felt that trying this soup would be a good idea. And may I say, it was well worth the three dollars. It isn't exactly like Howard's, but it's the closest I've found in these many years. The dumplings, or pastries, are different, but I can get past that. Now that winter's approaching, it's nice to know I'll be able to have a warm meal on those cold days. If you make your way to Cameron Village for lunch, go check them out. It's pretty good stuff.

Day Nine

A Photo That I Took



I took photography for two years back in high school. For a long time it was something I enjoyed enough to consider making a career of. However, Bluefield College, being the small school that it was, didn't offer a whole lot when it came to photography options. It wasn't as if I could sign up for a photojournalism career path. So photography became the kind of hobby that sat on the back burner.

Luckily there was a yearbook in college. And since the staff was nearly non-existent, there was ample opportunity to take pictures for said yearbook. And the best part? I got reimbursed for money spent on film and developing. Since then, I've made the switch to the digital camera. Mostly because buying film and having it developed is way more expensive than the digital photos. But I don't like using my digital camera as much as I liked my old manual film camera. It's just not as fun to me.

So I haven't taken many photos in the last few years. But back in the day I took a lot. And a lot of those I was able to scan into the computer thanks to my fancy all in one printer/scanner thing. So I picked this picture of two kids that I took while I was on a mission trip in Brazil. There's nothing deep about it. No hidden meaning. It was a random, candid shot that I just like. Have a good day kids.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Day Eight

A Photo That Makes Me Angry
So I've been thinking about what kind of picture I could come up with that actively makes me angry. As someone with a number of anger issues that have yet to be fully dealt with, there are plenty of people and things that cause those angry and upset feelings. But when it comes to real photos of people, things, events, etc., I was having a hard time coming up with something that really ticks me off.

Then I remembered the pictures that kept running in the papers and on the internet in the weeks following the Gulf oil spill. Pictures like the one above, showing animals that were experiencing the after effects of one of humanity's biggest screw-ups in history.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the greenest person there is when it comes to taking care of our homeworld. I don't recycle at home. I live in an apartment with one dumpster for all waste. So I just don't think about it when it comes to dividing paper from aluminum cans from plastic bottles. I'm sure if I did the research, I could take one for the team and drive my recyclables out to a specific drop off point. But the sad fact is, I'm lazy.

Despite my lack of motivation in saving the world, those pictures did make me angry. And honestly, I'm not sure exactly why. Obviously, the whole disaster was, and still is, a ridiculous situation that should have been avoided. I'm assuming that it very well could have been avoided. I don't know the details since I tend to avoid the news.

Maybe I got angry because of the animals that were pictured. They're defenseless. They're innocent victims of our mess. But really, that reasoning doesn't make sense when you look at my feelings toward animals historically. I mean, it's not like I'm a vegetarian. I don't fight for animal rights. I think animals are delicious and were created for mankind's benefit. But that doesn't mean I want to see them killed off in a senseless accident of mankind's creation.

Great. I'm gonna get letters from PETA now. I just know it.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Never Alone

I spend a lot of my time feeling pretty lonely. This is no one's fault but my own.

I'm the kind of person who does enjoy his alone time. I keep myself busy doing my own thing. But usually it's my own thing around my apartment. More often than not, I will spend a day off work inside my apartment, not even leaving long enough to go downstairs to check my mailbox. Generally, I tell myself, What's the point? It's probably just junk anyway.

I make excuses for myself. I'm not outgoing. I'm an introvert. I'm not very good when it comes to making new friends. It's a cop out. I'm better at making new friends than I give myself credit for. I kid myself into believing that I'm bad at meeting new people and eventually that lie becomes the truth. And so I maneuver myself into situations where I have no choice but to be alone.

And then I sit in my apartment and feel sorry for myself. The pity party doesn't happen often, but it does happen. It usually consists of a short bout of depression followed by an inappropriate nap when I could or should be doing something more productive.

But I really have no right to feel sorry for myself. As I said, it's my own fault that things are this way. Yes, I have friends. These are people that I know love me, but I keep them at arms length. I shut people out because of an irrational fear of being let down. I know that people will let me down. I know that I will let others down. It's an inevitability that cannot be avoided. That's what makes being afraid of it so irrational.

But even so... Even though I shut people out and attempt such a solitary existence, why should I ever feel lonely? I spent some time in church today. It's the first time I've been to a church in several weeks, maybe even a couple months. More than hearing about what the pastor had to say, I was really there to reconnect with God. Because I came to realize, I've attempted to cut myself off from Him as well.

In the process of being let down by people, it's easy to be let down by churches too. Since the church is made up of people, again, this proves to be an inevitability. But that doesn't mean that God wants me to stay away from church altogether. It certainly doesn't mean that He wants me to lose my connection with Him. So while the pastor today was talking about suffering, I was listening to God welcome me back into His arms.

He never lets go. I can turn my back and run as far away as I want, but He's still there, more faithful than I could ever dream to be. But it isn't as if I've attempted to run away from Him in these past weeks or months. I've been indifferent. I know the argument is that that's just as bad, maybe even worse, than blatantly turning one's back on God. But the comfort I found this morning is in the fact that He's always there.

I may not surround myself with people, but that doesn't mean that I ever have to be alone. I may be sitting in my apartment by myself, but that doesn't mean that I ever need to feel lonely.

Day Seven

A Photo That Makes Me Happy
This is the view from the back yard of my friends' lake house at Smith Mountain Lake. A trip to that house means I'll be spending time with some of the best friends I've known in my life. We're all people from the same college and it's a real blessing that we've been able to stay in such close contact in the years since we all graduated. It's one of my favorite places in the world.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Catching Fire

Well I was finally able to get my hands on Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. Am I allowed to just say "wow" and be done with this review?

Okay, so there's more to it than just "wow." But I do want to start off saying that, by the time I finished the book, I felt that I enjoyed it more than the first one. Again, I warn, there are spoilers ahead.

Overall, Catching Fire isn't as action packed as its predecessor. But that really doesn't make for a less thrilling story. I did think the book got off to a bit of a slow start, but that lack of speed in the beginning was just a cover for the suspenseful journey that was to come.

We come back to our protagonist from The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, fresh off her victory with her fellow District 12 tribute/winner, Peeta. The two are living comfortably in their own homes in the Victor's Village along with their mentor, Haymitch. Katniss has returned to a somewhat normal life before the anticipated tour that she and Peeta will be expected to take of the districts and the Capitol. On the surface, the victors' tour is to celebrate the winners of the Hunger Games. Scratch the surface, and the victory tour is just another way for the powers that be to rub the Districts' faces in the fact that the Capitol has all the control, that the president holds each of their lives in the palm of his hands.

Speaking of President Snow, the leader of the future nation of Panem, he makes a secret appearance at Katniss' new home and delivers a not-so-subtle threat. Apparently Katniss' double suicide ploy that allowed for both hers and Peeta's victory in the arena has sparked some talk of a rebellion among the Districts. The president wants Katniss to convince the world that her attempt at subterfuge in the Games was merely the act of a girl who was crazy in love. By the end of the tour, the president lets her know that he wasn't convinced. She failed in her mission to quell the rebellion that was beginning to spread like fire throughout the country.

In the meantime, the 75th annual Hunger Games were fast approaching. It was time for Peeta and Katniss to prepare to be mentors for the next tributes chosen to participate from District 12. But we learn that 75 is a special year. Every 25th Hunger Games contains what's known as the Quarter Quell. It's a special rule or event that's introduced into the games to exhibit just a little more of the Capitol's power. This year's Quell was supposedly decided 75 years prior, but it seems awfully suspicious when the president finally reads it. The tributes entering the arena would be chosen from previous Games' winners. For our heroes in District 12, this means that Katniss is definitely going back into the arena, as the only female victor in District 12's history. Peeta volunteers to go with her, leaving Haymitch to once again mentor the duo.

The 75th Hunger Games are remarkably shorter and quicker than the previous year. And this year, there are a lot of people in place and events set in motion to make sure that Katniss is removed from the Games. The rebel movement needs Katniss alive and well. Katniss is the symbol for the people of Panem who want to desperately take down the Capitol. She has become the symbol of the mockingjay. It's the bird whose image was on the pin she wore as a token into the arena. It's a bird that was never meant to exist; a bird that descended from a Capitol genetic lab animal that bred out of control. It's the symbol that inspires the public and lets them remember that the Capitol cannot control everything.

And so the book ends leaving the reader wanting more. Luckily there is more. The third book, Mockingjay, is already out and I got it at the same time that I bought Catching Fire. So yeah, I'm pretty psyched about reading it now. So really, if I haven't spoiled the story for you too much in this summary, go out and read it. After you read The Hunger Games of course.

Day Six

My 20 Favorite Things
I feel like this should be at least a little redundant. After all, I did spend the last five days posting favorites in particular categories. And now I have to come up with 20 more? Way to not demand much 30 Day Blog Journal! Well, anyway, I came up with a list. And these are in no particular order.

1. Books - I kinda like to read.
2. Bluefield College - I have a soft spot for my alma mater.
3. The box fan - It keeps me from relying on the A/C so much. And I like the noise as I drift off to sleep.
4. Cinnamon Toast Crunch - It was a toss up between this and Frosted Flakes for the title of Favorite Cereal.
5. My sofa - This isn't an exact picture of my sofa, but it's pretty close. It's really comfortable.
6. Hulu - Have you used this website at all? Who needs cable anymore?
7. Singing - While I don't do this with a microphone so much anymore, I still love to sing. I just usually do it in the car these days.
8. Mapquest - I have to ask, what did we do before the internet? 
9. Mountain Dew - I'm sure I drink too much of this stuff. And I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to caffeine.
10. Naps - This needs no explanation.
11. Netflix - Again, what did we do without the internet?
12. Writing - I've said it before and I'll say it again, if I could do this for a living, I would in a heartbeat.
13. My laptop
14. My old dog - Back in the 90s we had two dogs. This one, Duchess, was my dog. Because of a psychotic, animal-hating neighbor, we had to give them both new homes. I question the quality of the home in which Duchess was placed, and I miss that old dog.
15. Snow - Something I don't see much of living in this part of North Carolina.
16. Superman - Ever since I was a little kid.
17. Super Mario Bros. - It's simple. It's classic. The original is still fun, even after 25 years.
18. These people.
19. These people.
20. And these people.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Question of the Week: Vacation

Would you rather spend a month on vacation with your parents or put in overtime at your current job for four weeks without extra compensation?

Hmm... That's a tough one. No, really, it's gonna take some thought to answer this one. On the one hand, vacation with the parents for an entire month. I have to think back to family vacations when I was a kid. Usually, those lasted a week, and by the end of that week, we were more than ready to get back home and into real life so we weren't constantly crammed into the same cramped hotel room together. A straight month of close contact like that can lead to some exposed nerves and some pretty severe annoyances. On the other hand, I hate my job. So putting in overtime and not getting anything extra for it is equivalent to covering me in paper cuts and then bathing me in lemon juice. I vote for the vacation.

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

Day Five

My Favorite Quote
This one is pretty easy. See, on my Facebook page, I have an available list of quotes that I like. That being said, it's gonna be hard for me to pick one favorite quote. And since I didn't choose only one song as a favorite the other day, I choose to post several of my favorite quotes. They are as follows, and in no particular order.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. -Dr. Seuss

If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prays for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other? -God, Evan Almighty

I like to go walking at night. You can see into people's windows. It's better than TV man. -The Charlatan

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who will mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. -Dr. Seuss

If you have friends, you have family. -Jeff, Community

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Day Four

My Favorite Book
This would have to be The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It's a classic that I've probably read more than a dozen times. I usually find myself picking it up and spending a day or so just reading through it about once a year.

Some of my earliest memories have The Wizard of Oz etched into them. Of course there was the movie. This was back when CBS would air the movie annually, and each year when it came on, it was a pretty major event. It was for me anyway. I know it wasn't like having the Super Bowl come on, but you know there were families out there who looked forward to that Sunday night when Dorothy would travel down the Yellow Brick Road, desperately trying to find her way back home. Maybe your family looked forward to it, and you all sat together and lost yourselves in the fantasy, technicolor world of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz still comes on TV, but it just isn't the same these days. Usually you can find it on TBS or TNT every few months. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. It just doesn't feel as special as it did when I was five and I got to stay up late to watch the whole thing.

Aside from the movie, there was the cassette soundtrack. But the soundtrack wasn't just the songs from the movie, it had clips of the dialogue as well. One of those stories that my parents always liked to tell was how I would listen to that tape each night when I went to bed. Dad said that I would get through it one and a half times before I finally fell asleep. When the end of side 1 hit, I would yell for him to come in and turn the tape over. I'd do the same thing at the end of side 2. But that was usually when he would stop hearing from me. They liked to show me off to their friends sometimes, all because of that tape. Since I listened to it every night, it gave me ample opportunity to memorize it. And at 3 years old, I didn't always pronounce the words correctly, and hilarity would ensue.

For my 6th birthday, my aunt and uncle gave me my own copy of the book. I've since lost the dust jacket, but the binding is holding up pretty well, especially for a book that's more than 20 years old. I actually just read through it again a few weeks ago. I'm pleased to report that Dorothy still made it to the Emerald City. She still defeated the Wicked Witch of the West. And she was able to magic herself all the way back to Kansas, thanks to those spiffy Silver Shoes that she got when she landed on the Witch of the East.

Some of you may be saying, "Silver Shoes? I thought they were Ruby Slippers?" Well, kids, in the book, the shoes were silver. But silver just doesn't pop on the big screen like red does. So, in order to show off that amazing new technicolor technology, they tweaked the story a bit and made the shoes into the famous Ruby Slippers. Isn't that nice? You get my favorite book and a little history lesson.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Day Three

My Favorite Television Program
I'm gonna go ahead and assume that this is favorite television program of all time. In which case, I would absolutely have to go with the first season of Flavor of Love. How could you not love Flavor Flav's classic search for love?

Just kidding. The correct answer is really Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Honestly, when I first started watching in high school, it was simply because I thought that Sarah Michelle Gellar was hot. And I really don't think I'm too far off base in that opinion. But then I started really watching the show and quickly realized how awesome it was.

There are, I'm sure, hundreds of websites out there where people have deconstructed every little thing about Buffy. They cover each individual episode. They cover each season's story arch. They cover how high school is a metaphor for hell and how teenagers face personal demons, while Buffy actually goes out and fights demons.

You have to respect the show just a little though. Think about the origins of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It started out as a really cheesy movie from the 90s starring Luke Perry and Pee-Wee Herman. Who could take that seriously? But then Joss Whedon, the character's creator, came back with his original idea and developed an awesome TV show. This time around, he wasn't forced to turn Buffy into a comedic version of itself. Sure, there are funny moments, but they were worked into the action and the drama kind of seamlessly.

The first two seasons were aired while I was still in high school. For a while, Monday night meant Buffy. And then The WB switched things up and moved Buffy to Tuesday during the major fictional event in which Angel, Buffy's vampire boyfriend, lost his soul and became the big bad for season two. It was kind of heart wrenching to watch Buffy have to learn to hate the person she had come to love most. I may have cried during that season finale. It's been a long time since the first time I saw it though, I can't really remember that far back.

And then season three was upon us. And I was in college. In Bluefield. A town that had no WB affiliate. What was I to do? Luckily I had a friend that was going to Radford University, a college that was a mere hour's drive from my own dorm. So every Tuesday evening, I made the trip to Radford to watch Buffy with Jessica and her roommate, Miranda. I'm pretty sure they even convinced me to stick around for Felicity. I only made those trips during that freshman year.

I was still in Bluefield for the remaining four seasons of Buffy. And Bluefield still had not been deemed worthy to have a WB affiliate. So Dad, being the kind and thoughtful person that he was, would record the show for me. This was back when we recorded things on bulky VHS tapes on something called a VCR. He would send a few weeks' worth of shows on a tape through the mail and, about once a month, I would get caught up on what was going on in the Buffyverse.

As with Back to the Future, I have written about this subject before as well. In fact, I even came up with a top ten list of my favorite episodes. So if you get a chance, check the show out. If you have Netflix, you can watch all seven seasons instantly, as well as all five seasons of its spin-off Angel.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Day Two

My Favorite Movie

Should it really surprise anyone if I say that my favorite movie is Back to the Future? I mean, I've written about the movie enough times that it really should not be a shock. But really, what's not to love? As I'm sure I've mentioned before, it's got some action, some comedy, some sci-fi shenanigans. And Marty McFly invents the skateboard. Uh, you're welcome Tony Hawk.

It's the movie that made the flux capacitor a key component whenever anyone thinks of time travel. It's the movie that explained to the world exactly what a jigowatt was. And, I know, it's really gigawatt, but Doc Brown said "jig" so that's what I'm going with. Would you dispute Dr. Emmett L. Brown? The man invented time travel!

There are other movies that I have deemed to be very good. Some day I should compile a top ten list or something. Maybe I should do my own top 100 like the AFI tends to come out with every few years or so. I don't know though. That's a lot of movies. Stay tuned, that might come about.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Day One

My Favorite Song

You know, I'm not sure that I have a favorite song. Don't get me wrong, I love music. I sort of play the guitar, but not very well. I wish I could play the piano, but that's a dream that I wish I had embraced as a kid when I still had the opportunity to learn. So I'm not good with the instruments, but I've been singing since I was old enough to speak.

I'm not the kind of person who can spout off the names of lead singers and guitarists in obscure bands. I can't tell you what track number 4 is on any particular album. All I know is if the song is something I can sing along with, there's a good chance I'm going to like it. That being said, I guess there are several songs that could be classified as "favorites." And my reasoning for liking these songs above others aren't necessarily because they're catchy or historically awesome songs. The songs I love are just songs that I've associated with people I love over the years.

Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
This song should be considered historically awesome. If you don't feel that way, deal with my opinion. This is my blog and my post about my favorite songs. This song is my ringtone, assigned specifically to anyone of my friends from college whenever they call me. I don't know where it started or why I decided this song was awesome. One day a few years ago, it just did.

We Built This City - Starship
Another 80s song that, okay, isn't that great of a song. But it reminds me of a family that I've become very close to over the last few years. Whenever the Most Awesome Person I Know calls, that's the song I hear from my phone. I know she can't stand the song, but I can't help it if that's the song I associate with her and her kids. When I first moved to Wake Forest, this family took me in and accepted me as one of their own. And, at the time, we were kind of obsessed with the game SingStar on the Playstation. The 80s disc had this song on it. It was kind of a big deal.

Lucky - Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
This is probably my favorite song of the moment. I like Jason Mraz's stuff and I have fun singing along on his music. And, I have to say, there's a very good chance that I'm in love with Colbie Caillat. Try not to make that awkward. I haven't had a chance to tell her how I feel yet.

It Is Well With My Soul - Horatio Spafford
Being one who was raised in church, I grew up singing lots of hymns on a regular basis. That's just what Sunday morning in a Baptist church meant in a time before they allowed us to have guitars and drum sets. Of all the hymns that I was exposed to, It Is Well With My Soul is my absolute favorite. Spafford, the man who wrote the lyrics, experienced a great deal of tragedy in his life before writing this song. The words are a reminder that no matter what happens in one's life, God is still in control. I've always found this hymn to be powerful and inspirational.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.