Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year I Went Backwards

2011 hasn't been a bad year for me. Sure, it started out like most years. When things started, I wasn't exactly optimistic about how the next twelve months would play out. I was in a job that I seriously did not enjoy. I was in a place that I had made into a solitary and lonely place. The best thing I had going for me was my awesome apartment. But even that was empty, because I managed to close myself off from most of the people around me, whether they were close to me or not.

I can't say that this had been a bad year. Though, in some ways, it feels like my momentum this year was somewhat backwards, rather than forwards. I say this mostly because of the fact that when I finally got away from my life in Raleigh, it was to move back to my hometown of Roanoke. I'm not saying this was a bad thing, it just seems like something of an anti-climax.

At the beginning of the year I decided I would set some resolutions for myself. As I look back at this year, I'm curious as to how I did with that list of 11 plans.

1. Read my Bible more. I can honestly say that I didn't do as much of this as I had hoped to when I set this goal for myself.

2. Spend more time in prayer. And this one is a lot like number one. That's not to say that I haven't spent a great deal of time in prayer, just not as much as I had hoped.

3. Stick to a real exercise plan. HA!

4. Read 50 books. I didn't even reach the halfway mark on this one. According to my count, I only read 16 books this year. I can make the excuse that moving in the summer messed up my schedule. But let's be honest, I was way off track by the end of January. To get 50 you have to pretty much have a book a week. That just didn't happen at all.

5. Apply for no less than 2 jobs per week until I'm hired. I can't say that I did this to the fullest extent of 2 jobs a week. But I did eventually find another job. At first it was within the bank, but it was a promotion and it was in a different area. Then I got a completely different job with a completely different company. I'd say that counts as mission accomplished. I guess.

6. Watch all 100 of the AFI's 100 greatest films of all time. Again, this is one that I didn't even get halfway through. I can blame Netflix for part of it. But I just didn't make the time to watch these movies as quickly as I could have either. I'll try to finish them up in 2012. But I've noticed that my posts about these movies are less than popular. So I may just do that one for myself and keep it off the blog. Thoughts?

7. Learn to like coffee. I bought a coffeemaker. I bought coffee. I even got a decent coffee mug. Never brewed a single pot. And then I left my $15 coffeemaker in North Carolina when I moved. Epic fail.

8. Visit, or at least communicate with my family more. I think I was successful with this one. Most of that could be due to the fact that I now live nearer to everyone on Mom's side of the family tree. But I'm gonna count that one as a successful resolution.

9. Visit, or at least communicate with my friends from college more. Also one for the win column. Need proof? Remember the epic road trip? I think that counts.

10. Completely finish writing a novel. HA! Fail.

11. Spend more time doing the visual arts stuff that I loved back in high school. Like the first couple resolutions on this list, I didn't do as much as I had hoped. Some, but not a lot.

Didn't do so well on those resolutions. I think I'll save myself the heartache and just not make resolutions for 2012. I may change my mind if I decide I need something to post in the new year, but for now, I have no plans to resolve myself.

2011 wasn't a bad year. Overall things were pretty good. Up until December. December seemed to come along and kick me in a sensitive spot, laugh while I was down, then decided to kick me again as I tried to get back up. On the bright side, midnight tonight brings a new day, a new month, and a new year. Maybe my resolution should be to be more optimistic.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This Has Lex Luthor's Fingerprints All Over It

Did you see Superman: The Movie? What about Superman Returns? They both have one villain in common: Lex Luthor. And he kind of has the same gag going on in both movies. The crooked land deal.

Now, each time out, he goes about the scheme in a different way. Back in '78, his plan was to buy up all the worthless desert on the east side of the San Andreas Fault. Then, after hijacking a nuclear warhead, he would blow the west coast into the Pacific. This would cause all of his worthless land to suddenly become beachfront property. It was foolproof! And then Superman did his "turn the Earth backwards" trick and foiled his plans.

In Superman Returns, he decided to steal some crystals from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. I'm not too sure how this works, but apparently when the crystals are thrown into some water, they grow. Like Sea Monkeys. His idea here was to create a whole new continent which would take the place of North America. Seemed to be working all right until Superman came along, dug up the newly formed continent, and flew it into space.

Why would Lex Luthor go to all this trouble? Because his father gave him advice about land. He told his balding son that it was the one thing they weren't making anymore. So Lex, being the insecure guy with daddy issues that we all know him to be, spent the majority of his film career attempting to swindle the world into buying land from him. But, as it turns out, that whole "they aren't making anymore land" thing is wrong.

I read an article today talking about how volcanic activity in the Red Sea has caused the formation of a new island. Now, before you get excited and start packing your bags, there's nothing there yet. It's only 500 meters wide at this point. Granted, it is growing, but it may not be the kind of land mass that sticks around forever. The waves in the Red Sea may prove to be too much for the small island. It could disappear as quickly as it appeared.

Besides, I can't get away from the whole Lex Luthor thing. How do we know this isn't some plot being hatched by the greatest criminal mind of our time? I'm just saying. And it's not as if we have a Superman who can fly Kryptonite Island into space when things start to go wrong. So don't go buying your private island just yet.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Looking For a Festivus Miracle

Today is December 23rd. According to Frank Costanza of television's Seinfeld, today is the day we pause to celebrate a Festivus for the rest of us. I'm not saying I adhere to any of Frank Costanza's fictional teachings. I don't have an aluminum pole and I don't sit around with people airing grievances (though that could turn out to be cathartic if one were so inclined).

I only mention it because I'm sick. I've been dealing with this cough since last Sunday night. Not sure where it came from or how I contracted it. I got home Sunday evening and felt find. As I put myself to bed, I found myself needing to clear my throat. A lot. I thought maybe it was just some congestion after eating something. You know how that happens sometimes? So I wrote it off as that.

Then the coughing started on Monday. A lot of coughing. And it hasn't stopped since. In fact, despite a regular schedule of Robitussin, I haven't been able to kick this thing. Yesterday, the boss heard my coughing back in his office. He called me up and sent me home. This morning I woke up with a fever. That means another day off work. This comes after missing three days just a couple weeks ago with the stomach virus from Hell.

It's funny, back when I had health insurance, I really never got seriously ill. Now that I don't have it and could probably benefit from a visit to a doctor, I'm hit back to back with diseases. Not fun.

So I'm looking for a Festivus miracle. This weekend is Christmas. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, I'm supposed to join my family at my grandmother's house for dinner and a gift exchange. It's a chance to see some folks that I haven't seen in a long time. One cousin and her family are coming in from Illinois. I haven't seen them in two years, since I didn't make it up for Christmas last year. Now I'm here in town and I may not be able to go anyway.

After all, I don't want to pass along my sickness when I pass out the gifts to the little kids. That is not how you say Merry Christmas to your family.

As I write this, my head still hurts. Honestly, my whole body hurts from coughing so much and tensing up so many muscles that I don't normally use. I still feel warm in an unhealthy way. Oh, and the coughing really hasn't let up.

So there's a chance that my Christmas may be cancelled this year. Unless that miracle kicks in and I wake up tomorrow morning feeling 100%.

To the rest of you out there in the interworld, I pray that you have a safe and healthy Christmas this weekend.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Season for Slacking

You know, people often ask me, "Aaron, why haven't you been blogging as often as you used to?"

To those people, I usually say, "Hey, get off my case! I'm, like, super busy right now!"

Okay, here's the honest truth: no one ever asks me why I haven't been blogging as often as I used to. No, that was a tangled web of lies. I like to pretend that I'm more important than I am sometimes. I like to pretend that my tiny little blog plays a much more important role in this world than it really does.

And no, I haven't been blogging as much as I used to. I used to make a concerted effort to post something every single day. I don't know, lately I've just been... eh... if I feel like writing something, I'll write something. I promise, it isn't really an issue of apathy. I genuinely care about what I put on here. And that, I think, is my biggest issue. I've been having a really hard time coming up with good topics to post about.

Look at me, I'm ending sentences with prepositions. I'm way off my game.

I could use the excuse that Christmastime makes things pretty busy and stressful. Last year I think I took the last week of the year off from the blog. And then I came back with some pretty good stuff in January. Don't all rush to agree, you can nod silently if you wish.

I won't make any promises about the last two weeks of the year. I won't sit here and tell you that every day I'll post something awesome. But I will do a few things. So don't give up on me. 2011 is winding down and 2012 looks to be pretty great. Despite that whole "end of the world" thing. But hey, we all survived a couple scheduled apocalypses this year, right? Is it bad that we need to have a plural for the word apocalypse? Is apocalypses even correct? I've never been good with Greek. It is Greek, right?

Anyway, try not to stress out about the holidays. It'll be 2013 before you know it. Unless Melancholia happens.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Question of the Week: Dressed Up for Nothing

Sorry I'm a day late on this, folks. Yesterday was a really long day. Right after work there was the after work Christmas shin-dig. It was this whole thing. And then I didn't get home from the next county over until after 10. And by then I was about exhausted and headache-y. So I put off posting the Question of the Week. To the three of you who may have noticed, I apologize. On with the head scratcher...

Would you generally rather be overdressed or underdressed at a party?

Well, it would be a much more comfortable situation to be underdressed. And I mean that in a physical sense. Who isn't more comfortable wearing a t-shirt and jeans as opposed to wearing a tuxedo? Am I right? But it's a party. And, as Jack Donaghy once said, "It's after six. What am I, a farmer?" So when it comes to a party I'd much rather be overdressed than under. Besides, have you seen me in a tux? I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I look... well... adequate.


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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Moderately Awaited Road Trip Post

Where were we? Oh yeah, Columbus. Before leaving for Indy, we needed to stop and eat lunch. Four grown men with the appetites that we have? Yeah, we're not skipping any meals. In fact, we didn't skip any snacks between meals either. Which reminds me... A quick thanks to JMitch for providing us with our snacks for the road. Particularly the Rice Krispies Treats. 'Cause it's not a road trip without Rice Krispies Treats. Just ask anyone in my family. Anyway, without her snacks we would have grown cranky and irritable mere minutes into the long drive. Seriously, thank you!

So we stopped for lunch at The Ohio Deli, known for its legendary Dagwood Challenge. Man vs. Food even did a show there and took the challenge. I can't remember the exact challenge, but it involved a gigantic sandwich, a gigantic plate of fries, and a drink. I think. I could be confusing that challenge with the challenge we came across the next day leaving Indianapolis. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

None of us took the challenge that day. We were too excited about the day that lay ahead of us. So we simply ate (some pretty good sandwiches) and then hit the road. And the road we hit was long and straight and boring. I've always said I'd love to drive across the country someday. But I'm here to tell you that the drive between middle Ohio and middle Indiana is incredibly dull. No bends in the road. No hills. Just rolling farm land as far as the eye can see. I'm not sure, but I may have been able to see the curvature of the earth at the edge of the horizon.

Eventually we reached Indianapolis. We checked into our hotel, which was overrun with fans on both sides of the Big Ten Championship. Judging by the license plates seen in the parking lot, however, this particular hotel was leaning towards the Wisconsin side of the Championship. As we made our way inside, some girls from Wisconsin invited us to the party in 104 after the game. Sounded like a good time. We all got high fives out of it.

We were only at the hotel long enough to drop off our things before heading back to downtown Indianapolis. The city, by the way, was gorgeous. And, bonus, we didn't come across any crazy rules like "You can't make a U-turn anywhere! Ever!" This was a nice change of pace from Columbus. Yeah, I could live in Indianapolis.

After a drawn out dinner at Penn Station East Coast Subs, we made our way over to Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the first ever Big Ten Championship Game. The entire place was alive with excitement as fans waited to see Michigan State and Wisconsin go head to head.

It was a phenomenal game. Now, we had all pretty much decided that we would be pulling for Wisconsin. And then we found out that our seats were nestled in between a gang of rabid Spartans. I was seated directly to a fairly drunk girl who demanded that I cheer for Michigan State. I decided to do just that, fearing for my life. Honestly, I didn't care much which team won. I just didn't want to get cut by a drunk girl.

History tells us that Wisconsin won in the end. Russell Wilson was named MVP. And the drunk girl left disappointed that her team lost, but seemed satisfied that her stadium neighbors shared in her disappointment. We were all just excited that it was an exciting game.

We didn't go to any parties that night. Though we did get a little lost trying to find our way back to the parking garage where we left the car. Shut up, Indianapolis is a big place.

After a good night's sleep, and apparently some heated argument about the BCS system (which I missed because I allowed myself to fall asleep pretty quickly), we started the long drive back home.

Before leaving Indianapolis, we found our way to the Mug 'N Bun, Indy's Oldest and Finest Drive-In. Andy and Mark decided to accept the Mug 'N Bun Challenge, which did involve taking down a gigantic sandwich, a large basket of fries, and a large root beer. Oh, and it had to be done in half an hour. I'm sorry to say that neither of my friends completed the challenge, but they put up a good fight. Andy will argue it 'til the day he dies, but I'm certain that Mark got a lot farther in the challenge than he did. Yeah, I'll hear about that one later.

This was followed by about 9 hours in Half-Pint as we made our way back to the Commonwealth. It was a long trip. It was epic.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a huge football guy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching a good game now and then. But I really don't pay attention to all the statistics and wins and losses of colleges across the country. So this trip, while the destination was a pretty awesome football game, was more about the journey getting there and back. At least, for me it was. Because it meant I got to spend a weekend with three of my best friends. It's not something that happens very often. So it's something I would do again in a heartbeat.

Rumor has it that we're planning a trip to see the PAC 12 next year. Sign me up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Long Awaited Road Trip Post

Okay, maybe I should have titled this "The Moderately Awaited Road Trip Post." I haven't really heard any complaints about not having written anything about the epic road trip to Indianapolis that I had been promising to write about for the last two weeks. But I am a man of my word. And here is my summary of an epic road trip and an epic weekend.

It was decided before the trip began that we would take my car. Half-Pint apparently gets the best gas mileage out of all our cars. I was really okay with this because I genuinely enjoy driving places. I can't call driving relaxing, what with the road rage I suffer from, but I do still enjoy it.

So when I got off work on Friday, I met Andy (who had already driven from Richmond) and Brandon at my apartment. From there we headed for Bluefield where we would pick up our final passenger, Mark. Then came the long, night time drive to Columbus, Ohio.

For the most part, the drive that night was uneventful. Please, don't make the mistake of thinking that when I say it was uneventful that I mean it wasn't fun. These guys are three of my best friends, so hanging out with them in any situation is always a good time. We talked and got caught up on each others' lives. We listened to music thanks to our friends at Spotify and Pandora. And then we hit our first pit stop.

Somewhere in Nowhere, West Virginia, the low fuel light started blinking. It was time for our first fill-up of the trip. By the way, this was one of only three fill-ups for Half Pint. Impressive, no? So we pulled off at the next available gas station. The signs on the highway indicated that we would come up on an Exxon, so we took the exit and then got scared. There were no street lights and no other commercial buildings at the exit. And there was no Exxon station to be seen. At first we all panicked a little and thought we were about to die. Let's just say that several references were made to that movie Wrong Turn. I followed the arrow to where the Exxon was supposed to be, and there it was just around the corner. We survived our first stop relatively unscathed.

And we drove on. And on. And on. Thanks to GPS, we crossed the Ohio border in relatively good time. It wasn't long after this that we made an unscheduled stop at Ohio University in Athens. At first I didn't stop. And I got yelled at. Look, I had one voice yelling at me with GPS directions and I had two other voices telling me to TAKE THIS EXIT. I got confused. But we got to the campus. We stopped at the Ohio football stadium and took a quick look around. Let me just say, midnight in Athens, OH during the first weekend in December is wicked cold. But I will say this, Ohio University has a beautiful campus. They've got a lit walkway that runs right next to the Hocking River. It was pretty nice.

Eventually we made it to Columbus. And we pretty much collapsed. We were all tired. It was about 2am. I'm told that I snored. Loudly. But it didn't bother me. I was unconscious for the whole thing. The morning came and we were ready to face the world. We were ready to hit Indianapolis hard.

But before we left Columbus, we made a stop at Ohio State University. We took a look around their ginormous football stadium and got a few pictures. That campus, by the way, is huge.


What's that spell? Yeah, it's O-H-I-O. Get it? I thought the silhouette thing turned out pretty good. While in Columbus, I did come to the decision that I could never live there. I'm glad you asked. It's because we came across a sign that told us that U-turns were prohibited everywhere in the city limits. Really? No U-turns anywhere? That seems a bit excessive.

Indianapolis, now that's a different story. Come back tomorrow for the rest of the weekend.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Common Enemy

I'm gonna catch a lot of flack for sharing this video. But George Takei does raise some very interesting and incredibly accurate points.

Monday, December 12, 2011

AFI 65 - The African Queen

The African Queen
1951
Directed by John Huston
Netflix sleeve: Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart), the booze-guzzling, rough-hewn captain of a broken-down East African riverboat, teams with a straitlaced, iron-willed missionary (Katharine Hepburn) to take on a menacing German gunboat during World War I. A classic study in star charisma and pitch-perfect casting, The African Queen was nominated for four Oscars (for actress, actor, director and original screenplay), with Bogart winning a Best Actor statuette.

This is one that I had never seen. Honestly, I'd never given much thought to watching this one. Not that I had any special aversion to seeing it. I've just never considered myself a particular fan of Katherine Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart. Though I will say, I've seen and enjoyed more of Bogart's films than Hepburn's. Her voice just kind of grates on me. But then, so does his. Just not as much, I guess. The African Queen wasn't bad. It just wasn't the kind of thing that managed to hold my attention for the entire hour and 45 minute run time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fairytale

Once upon a time, there lived an okay-looking prince named Hank. Sure, he wasn't as handsome as that charming upstart across the border, but he made up for it with a sense of humor. Okay, really he used the humor as a defense mechanism. He knew he wasn't as good looking as the guys in the rival kingdoms. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, the fair maidens in the nearby towns would only rank him a six. They might be generous enough to give him a seven if the lighting was right.

Most of the time Hank didn't care what anyone thought of him. After all, he was a prince. He was heir to the throne of a small but distinguished kingdom. But there were times when he just felt inadequate. He could generally trace those feelings of inadequacy to the parties that Prince Charming liked to hold.

Every couple months or so, Charming would have a big party in his daddy's big old palace, just so he could show off his latest conquest. Last year it was some girl named Snow White. Hank was almost convinced that was just her stage name. Apparently she ate a bad apple that nearly killed her. She slipped into a coma and Charming came along and supposedly woke her with a kiss. The only witnesses to this alleged miracle kiss were a group of miners. They were conveniently missing from the prince's party that night.

That very night, Charming met another girl. Hank was pretty sure that Charming had a bit of a commitment issue. Anyway, that night, at Snow White's coming out party, there was a blonde girl in glass slippers. When Hank heard about her, he couldn't help but think how impractical glass slippers would be. But he knew how women were with shoes. As long as they looked good, it didn't matter how uncomfortable they were. This girl was a peasant that snuck into the party. Her mother and sisters called her Cinderella.

Turns out that wasn't her real name. That's just what her family called her because they were using her as a slave. Oh, and she wasn't really related to her family. They were her step-mother and step-sisters. In reality, she was the heiress to some fortune that her step-mother hid away from her when her father died. Hank felt sorry for her, he really did. Especially after Charming got his hands on her. One more romance that Hank knew wouldn't last. And whatever happened to Snow White?

A few months later, it was another girl. Something about a chick with really long hair. Hank wasn't too sure about that one. He skipped that party, so he only heard about it through others who had been there.

So he sat in his room, kind of feeling sorry for himself. And then he heard the trumpets blasting outside. Who were they announcing? No one was scheduled to visit the kingdom this week. Hank stood and looked out the window and saw Charming riding up the road on his white horse.

Hank rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. "Ugh... this guy..." He turned around, walked out of his room and headed toward the main entrance.

"Hank!" yelled Charming as he walked into the foyer. He gave his fellow prince a hug. "How charming it is to see you!"

Hank nearly vomited. Why did this guy have to use his own name as an adjective all the time? It's one thing for your heralds to announce you in that way, but really, come on.

"You seem down, Hank," Charming said, holding the depressed prince at arms length. "Is this because you missed my party last month?"

"Yeah, I'm sure that's it," said Hank.

"Well you don't have to worry. You didn't really miss anything. In fact, the girl I had there, Rapunzel, she's history."

"Already?" Hank asked. He couldn't believe the attention span on this guy.

"It's the hair. I couldn't handle getting tangled up all the time," said Charming as he paced back and forth. "And do you have any idea how much shampoo that woman goes through in a week? Seriously, my kingdom for a bottle of Herbal Essences!"

Hank rolled his eyes again. Yes, yes, you're so funny! "So what brings you here, Charming?"

"I'm here because I want to set you up with my sister."

The offer was tempting. Princess Charming was a classic beauty. But Hank didn't want any of Charming's charity. "I don't need to be set up, Charming."

"Are you sure? I haven't seen you with a fair maiden at any of my parties."

"I'm sure. I may not have as much luck with the ladies as you do, but then again, if I looked like you, I'm sure I'd have damsels in distress knocking down my door all the time."

"You think it's just my looks that helps me out?" Charming was taken aback. "That sounds like a challenge to me."

"It wasn't a chall--"

"I will ugly myself down," Charming started, "No, wait. I'll make myself positively beastly. And I will still manage to have a beautiful woman fall for me. Do you want to impose a time limit on me?"

Hank snorted, "No, take all the time you need."

"Very well! I'll see you next month with a beautiful lady in tow!" Charming shouted as he mounted his horse and rode off into the sunset.

Hank laughed out loud. "Beauty and the Beast? That'll never work." He then made the long walk back to his room.

A month later, Hank received an invitation to Charming's latest soiree. Apparently he would be introducing a French woman named Belle. Cute, her actual name was Beauty. Hank sent his RSVP. He figured he should make an appearance. He was curious to find out how Charming was able to pull off his "beast" routine. He figured he would go and see how they would start their happily ever after. Or, at least, their happily until Charming gets bored.

This prompt brought to us by Sunday Scribblings.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Question of the Week: Future

Given the ability to project yourself into the future but not return, would you do so? If not, would you change your mind if you could take someone along? How far would you go?

I can actually get behind this theory of time travel. If time travel were possible, my thought is that it would only be possible to move forward in time, not backward. And I absolutely would want to make that journey, whether I could take someone or not. Sure, it would be nice to know someone once I got to the future. Either way, I think it would be fun. In fact, I'm in a pretty good position to go by myself anyway. I don't have a wife or kids that are depending on me to be in the present, which means I won't miss seeing my own children growing up. I'll miss the friends and family I have now, but I would be sure to say my goodbyes before I made my quantum leap.

Can I go ahead and assume that if I can make the jump ahead in time once that I can do it multiple times? 'Cause here's what I'd like to do: Before I leave, I'd put all my savings into an account that would gain a great deal of interest over a long period of time. This is the part where I'm planning ahead. First I want to go ahead a few months and see if Community gets a chance to finish the season, or even gets picked up for a fourth season. Then I'd jump ahead a few more years, stopping to see how all of my friends are doing and find out what I've missed in the last few years. Then I'd go ahead and jump 100 years into the future. By then I should have some pretty good interest built up. I'd say I'll have enough to retire by 2111, but with inflation being what it is, I may not be able to. I'd travel a little, read up on the rest of the history of the 21st century, but eventually I'd probably want to keep going. My curiosity would get the better of me. I'm not saying I'd want to go all the way to AD 802,701 like the guy in The Time Machine, but I think it might be cool to see what the 31st century looks like. Is the Price is Right still on? Do people even still watch TV? Are the Yankees still playing? Does baseball even still exist? These are the questions that will haunt me now until I figure out a way to make this trip into the future.

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Viral

Wow! It has been a crazy couple of days here.

Now, you probably read that with a note of enthusiasm. Don't let the exclamation point fool you. It was false bravado.

I've been really sick for about three days. Today I feel like I'm finally pulling myself up out of the valley of the shadow of death. Well, the valley of kinda wishing I was dead anyway. It's been rough.

I'll spare you the details. Thank you notes can be sent via the comments section below.

I know I promised a recap of the epic road trip that I experienced last weekend. It will come. I promise. But, for the better part of this week, all I've been able to think about was how sick I've been and how I wished it would just go away and let me feel better.

These viruses are not to be taken lightly. I took it lightly when I went to work on Tuesday. I wasn't feeling great, but I just wrote it off as not having caught up with myself from the weekend. You know how you can get when you spend three days on the road, right? It's not quite the same as having jet lag, but it can still be pretty rough.

And then they sent me home. That's right, I had people at work telling me how terrible I looked. When more than one person suggested that I should take a half day and leave early, I started to think it was a pretty good idea. I'll be honest, I was feeling pretty miserable. And it was starting to move beyond just being tired and lacking sleep.

So I left. And I haven't been back since. Which really sucks. Because it means that I had to quarantine myself to my bedroom for the past 48 hours. I'm sure my roommates appreciate me staying in my room and only emerging to make a dash for the bathroom.

I've made sure to keep a can of Lysol handy. I've tried to disinfect wherever I've been. I don't want my roommates to come down with what I had. 'Cause here's something I've dealt with in the past. I would be the first person in the house to get a cold, then it would make its way through my various family members, and by the time they were all done with it, it would mutate just enough to be different and then infect me all over again. That's not happening this time.

I got sick. I'm getting over it. I'm going to work tomorrow and I'm not gonna get sick again. I'm done for this cold and flu season. Do you hear me common cold? That's right, I've got your number. This flu may have kicked my butt, but I kicked back.

On the plus side of things, I did manage to get myself in the shower today. I shaved. Because I looked in the mirror when I finally crawled out of bed and realized that I looked like I was about to audition for the role of Ghost of Christmas Future. All I needed was a heavy black hood to complete the look.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Scene From the Weekend

As a glimpse into this past weekend, I'm giving you a taste with a scene from Saturday night.

During the Big Ten Championship game, the Charlatan and I decided to head down to concessions to get a little something to quench our thirst. While we were there, the Charlatan decided to get a soft pretzel. The exchange went a little something like this:

Charlatan: Can I get a Coke in the souvenir cup and a soft pretzel?


Counter Girl: Okay. Do you want some cheese to dip the pretzel in?


Charlatan: Is it any good?


Counter Girl: Oh, yeah, it's good cheese.


Charlatan: Sure, why not? (Counter Girl puts the cheese in a tiny dipping cup)


Counter Girl: Okay, that's another $1.25 for the cheese.


Charlatan: WHAT?! I thought the cheese was free!


Counter Girl: (laughing) Yeah, it's $1.25 for the cheese.


Charlatan: I see what you did there. Well played, Counter Girl. Well played.

The above exchange is not verbatim. But it pretty much went down like that. Stay tuned. There will be a more complete story of how the weekend went in the coming days. Spoiler alert: it was freakin' awesome.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Unorthodox

This week has been a little unorthodox for me. And if you haven't enjoyed reading my thoughts on all those AFI Top 100 movies, I apologize. It's just that, well, I made that New Year's resolution to watch all 100 of them and I know there's no way that's going to happen at this point. I'm not even halfway there yet. So I figured that I would make a dent in it by spending a week watching and writing about them.

And then there's the fact that I skipped the Question of the Week. Not that anyone ever leaves their answers, but I always have fun responding to the questions.

But here's the thing, I'm kind of out of town at the moment.

Right after work yesterday, I drove back into Roanoke, picked up the Charlatan and Subway, headed to Bluefield to get the Other Single Guy and then made the long drive to Columbus, Ohio. Why? I'm glad you asked. Because Columbus is our midway stop on our way to... wait for it... Indianapolis.

Tonight is the first ever Big Ten Championship Game and the four of us decided to pile into Half Pint to come up and see the game. Expect a full report once I've gotten back home and had time to process things. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend. It's about time for a continental breakfast.

Friday, December 02, 2011

AFI 66 - Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark
1981
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Netflix sleeve: When Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)--the tweed-suited professor who just happens to be a celebrated archaeologist--is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he finds himself up against the entire Nazi regime. Creative minds Steven Spielberg and George Lucas created a classic with this all-time favorite, which spawned a series of commercially successful sequels and a short-lived TV show.

Is it wrong that I already considered this to be one of the most awesome movies of all time? If it is, I don't care. 'Cause I do consider this to be one of the most awesome movies of all time. The guy teaches a subject that a lot of people would probably consider boring. I wouldn't, because I love history. But history classes tend to go under appreciated. But he also walks around wearing a fedora and carrying a bullwhip. Yeah, I dare you to call his class boring. To his face, I mean. And if you think you can outdo him with a sword, don't try. He'll just shoot you.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

AFI 67 - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1966
Directed by Mike Nichols
Netflix sleeve: On a serene New England campus, emasculated professor George (Richard Burton) and his rancorous wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), turn an evening of cocktails into an unrelenting onslaught of wrenching disclosures and bellowed epithets. Soon, the couple's guests--junior professor Nick (George Segal) and his wife, Honey (Sandy Dennis)--get sucked into the vortex of the warring duo's unbounded fury. Taylor nabbed an Oscar for her role.

Sorry, I just didn't get this one. Maybe I wasn't fully paying attention as I watched, but to me, it just seemed to be about a highly dysfunctional couple who only added to their gross dysfunction by ingesting mass quantities of alcohol. I did feel sorry for their friends who were forced to spend the evening with them. This film just didn't do anything for me. I won't be adding it to my "must buy on blu-ray" list.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AFI 68 - Unforgiven

Unforgiven
1992
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Netflix sleeve: Retired gunslinger William Munny (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly takes one last job--and even more reluctantly accepts a boastful youth (Jaimz Woolvett) as a partner. Together, they learn how easily complicated truths are distorted into simplistic myths about the Old West. Gene Hackman (who won an Oscar) and Richard Harris stand out as old foes who have an unhappy reunion. The film also earned Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Eastwood).

There are few westerns that I can actually say that I like. This turns out to be one of them. Maybe it's just that I like westerns better than I believe I do, I just never give too many of them a shot. I liked Tombstone. I liked 3:10 to Yuma. But in all, I'd bet I've only seen about a dozen westerns. Anyway, Unforgiven is one of those movies that I always said I would get around to seeing and I just never got around to it. Until now. And I'm glad I did. Not landing in my top 10 or anything like that, but still, a movie worth seeing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AFI 69 - Tootsie

Tootsie
1982
Directed by Sidney Pollack
Netflix sleeve: Few actors go as far to bag a part as Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), who transforms himself into a woman to prove he can get hired on a soap opera. But Michael has an enviable problem when his alter ego, Dorothy, becomes daytime television's hottest ticket. His pretty co-star (Jessica Lange) has no idea that her dear friend Dorothy is a man--and neither does the actress's father (Charles Durning), who falls for Dorothy hook, line and sinker.

My mother couldn't believe that I had never seen this movie before. I think it may be one of her favorites. I mean, it was pretty good, but it won't be one of my favorites. The disc for this one actually came to me while I was still in North Carolina and preparing for my move back to Virginia. So mom was there with me when I watched it. She kind of insisted that we watch it, actually. Not one of the ones on this list I was particularly looking forward to, but you know what? It was better than I expected. I mean, what's not funny about Dustin Hoffman in drag?

Monday, November 28, 2011

AFI 70 - A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
1971
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Netflix sleeve: In this Stanley Kubrick classic based on Anthony Burgess's novel, teenage miscreant Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) wanders aimlessly amid a bleak, futuristic urban landscape, drinking drugged milk and listening to Beethoven with his fellow "droogs." But he also spends his time stealing, raping and beating innocent people in nihilistic orgies of violence, all in an attempt to get his nightly kicks.

Uh... That movie was effed up. I think that I was ill prepared for just how disturbing this picture was. Before this, my earliest exposure to Malcolm McDowell was when he was the bad guy in Star Trek: Generations. His Star Trek villain pales in comparison to the psychopath he plays in this thing. I need to figure out some way to get the shower to reach my brain so I can scrub out these images.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

AFI 71 - Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan
1998
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Netflix sleeve: As U.S. troops storm the beaches of Normandy, three brothers lie dead on the battlefield, with a fourth trapped behind enemy lines. Ranger captain Tom Hanks and seven men are tasked with penetrating German-held territory and bringing the boy home. Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski paint a harrowing picture of the price of war and heroism--one that netted them Oscars for Best Director and Best Cinematography, respectively.

This is another one that I've seen more than once, and I've loved it every time I've seen it. This movie is epic and gritty and, I assume, incredibly realistic in its portrayal of life on the frontlines of Europe during World War II. Not that I can authenticate its realism, I wasn't actually there. I saw this in the theater when it came out, and was actually on a blind date at the time. That really didn't help me to appreciate the film at the time. Mostly I was just hoping it would end soon so I could get on with my life and not have to deal with the awkwardness of that date anymore. I didn't fully enjoy the movie until it came out on video several months later. Still, a very moving movie.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Further Proof

I've written a number of times about how awesome Community is. If you haven't seen this show, the first two seasons are out on DVD. Buy them, rent them, whatever... just watch them.

The other day I came across further evidence which proves that this is the smartest comedy on television. Watch the clip below, and I'll come back...




Did you catch that? As soon as Annie said the third and final "Beetlejuice," the ghost with the most walked through the background.

The first clip was from an episode in the first season. Next was an episode in the second year. Finally, the Halloween episode from this year. The writers of this show planned from their freshman year to have a joke that wouldn't pay off until junior year.

Yeah, tell me this show isn't awesome now. I dare you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Question of the Week: Touch

When you are with your friends, do your interactions include much touching--for example, hugging, kissing, roughhousing or rubbing backs? Would you like to have more of this?

No. Absolutely not, no. And I'm perfectly okay with not having more of this. I'm the kind of person who really enjoys that personal space. You know, that protective bubble that surrounds the body. I like that. I'm not a touchy-feely kind of guy. Now, I really don't mind the occasional hug. In fact, I'm fine with hugging a friend in greeting or when saying good-bye. Beyond that, I grow uncomfortable. I knew this guy in college who would greet people sitting in the cafeteria by coming up behind them and squeezing their shoulders while saying hi. I cringed every time he walked into the room, because I knew what was coming.

Maybe, someday, I'll be able to open myself up to being a little more touchy-feely. But I have a feeling that's a long way off and it will involve some significant help from a significant other that is yet to enter the picture.


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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving a Little

But I really didn't give that much. Really, it was just a little.

When I look back at most of the Thanksgivings that I've survived, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed them for selfish reasons. Sometimes those selfish reasons involved getting to see family. Sometimes those selfish reasons involved staying away from family and simply relaxing alone. Just about every time, those selfish reasons have involved eating more than a single person should have the right to attempt to shove down one's gullet.

Today, probably for the first time in my life, I spent my Thanksgiving participating in an event that was designed to help our fellow man. Here in Roanoke, there's an annual event called the Drumstick Dash. It's a 5k run/walk that's held each year to benefit the Rescue Mission, a ministry that helps those who need a place to stay and a warm meal. The tagline for the event: "Move your feet so others can eat."

I can't say that I ran the 5k. I didn't even run for one block. I walked the entire way. But at least I can say that I've participated in a 5k. The first place finisher crossed the finish line in 15 minutes, 31.34 seconds. I finished at just under an hour and 10 minutes. And now, I'm setting a goal for myself. I want to run the Drumstick Dash 5k next year. I won't shoot for a crazy time like 15 minutes. But I would be happy if I could do it in under half an hour.

Please don't think I'm trying to toot my own horn. I'm really not trying to say that I did much. I donated a little time and a little money to a worthy cause. There are people out there who do so much more in working with this worthwhile ministry. I'm just glad I was here in town this year to take part in something more important than focusing on myself during a holiday that often celebrates greed and gluttony. After all, as Barney Stinson has described it, it's called Thanksgiving, not Thankstaking.

After the walk this morning, I came back to my apartment and relaxed. There wasn't a big meal this year. And the only family I saw was my sister, who sort of talked me into doing the Drumstick Dash in the first place.

This is one of those days during the year when we remember how much we take for granted. There's so much in my life that I have to be thankful for. And, aside from the things I can consciously acknowledge that I'm thankful for, I'm certain there's so much more that's buried somewhere in my mind. I know it's only a matter of time before I start taking these things for granted all over again. I just hope it's not a long time before I receive another reminder.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Single Guy and the Smarter Phone

The Single Guy has wanted a smartphone for a while now. It isn't that he was unhappy with the phone he had. It did everything he needed it to do. He could send text messages. He could make the occasional phone call. He could even play Tetris. But he couldn't check Facebook. He couldn't post his every thought on Twitter. And he learned to live with it.

Then the Single Guy got a phone call last Wednesday. It was a telemarketer from Verizon, who we'll call Marta. Now, the Single Guy was at work and was actually in the middle of a task. In reality, he probably shouldn't have even answered his personal phone, but he had been getting calls from the cable company on and off for the last few weeks and he really just wanted to tell them to stop calling. Answering the phone to tell them to stop calling turned into a longer conversation than he anticipated.

Marta was kind enough over the phone and the Single Guy is sure she was very knowledgeable. Again, he was kind of busy, but he's pretty sure the conversation went as such:

Marta: May I speak with the Single Guy?
Single Guy: This is he.
Marta: Blah blah blah, blah. Blah blah early upgrade blah. Blah blah blah?
Single Guy: Yeah...
Marta: Blah blah phone?
Single Guy: I kinda want a smartphone.
Marta: Blah. Blah blah blah. Droid blah blah blah?
Single Guy: Mmm-hmm...
Marta: Blah blah bill your account blah blah.
Single Guy: Great. Thanks.

And that's how it went. Verbatim.

Soon after, the Single Guy received an email letting him know that his new phone would be sent to him via FedEx and he should expect it by Friday. Unfortunately, this meant that he would have to wait until Monday to actually get his phone because he would be leaving for North Carolina directly from work. So the waiting began.

Monday came and he was finally able to hold his new phone in his hands. It was everything he dreamed it would be and more. Finally, he could partake in a device that the rest of the world discovered back in 2006. Finally, he could play Angry Birds.

He took a break from blogging over the last few days. Mostly it was because he was trying to learn how to use his new handheld device. The Single Guy has since discovered that, two days later, he's still pretty much in over his head. And he's also pretty sure that this device will soon reveal itself to be yet another way to be rejected by women.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breaking Twilight

So, I'll be going to see Breaking Dawn, Part 1 tonight. Now wait. Before you go and demand that I hand in my Man Card, be aware that I probably had to turn that in a long time ago. You know, back when I took a trip to see High School Musical 3 or when I openly admitted that I enjoy the song stylings of those kids from Glee. That's right, I said it.

But with the Twilight phenomenon, I figure I'm in too deep to quit now. I've read the books, which, of course, were better than the films. And I've seen the first three. I may as well finish the movie series, right? So there it is.

Oddly enough, voluntarily seeing this movie does not necessarily mean that I'll like it. Of the books, I think I enjoyed Breaking Dawn the most. There's a lot going on and it gets pretty interesting, especially toward the end. Which apparently won't be seen on film until next year. I digress.

You may ask why I'd go see something if I don't think I'll enjoy it. It isn't that I won't enjoy it. I think I will... to a degree. But I've made it no secret that I can't stand Bella Swan. She's weak and pathetic. When comparing the series to other books, I think Stephen King said it best: "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."

I had a conversation just last week about the character of Bella in relation to other literary figures. I flat out told the guy that Bella is an awful role model for all these girls out there who have devoured these novels. She idolizes this one guy and makes her entire identity about him and what he does for her and how he makes her feel. When he leaves her in the second book, she crawls into the fetal position and is inconsolable for months. Oh, and then she throws herself off a cliff. Because that's always a good idea. Is that what we want our teenage girls to do when they have a guy break up with them?

The guy on the other side of this conversation then used the argument that the books promote sexual abstinence before marriage. I'll concede that point. However, that's still not an argument for the character of Bella Swan. The whole "we're not having sex until we're married thing" was Edward's deal.

So yeah, I'm seeing this movie tonight. I'm not gonna write a review about it. I'm fairly certain that it isn't going to rock my world. I'll walk out of the theater and my friends will ask what I thought. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to sum up my thoughts with a simple, "Meh..."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Question of the Week: A Van Gogh Kind of Life

Would you rather be happy yet slow-witted and unimaginative or unhappy yet bright and creative? For example, would you rather live the life of a brilliant yet tortured artist such as Vincent van Gogh, or that of a happy but carefree soul who is a bit simple-minded?

I'm pretty sure I'd rather be a happy idiot. The thing is, if I was slow-witted and unimaginative, I wouldn't really realize it, would I? There's a reason they say that ignorance is bliss. If I'm a brilliant kind of person and I'm unhappy about it, I'm only going to become more unhappy due to my awareness of my unhappiness. It would be an endless cycle of depression. Give me the simple life.

As it is, I'm pretty happy with my current state of brilliance.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Son of Neptune

Title: The Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: 2011

I've decided that I don't like being caught up on book series. I didn't even pick up The Hunger Games trilogy until Mockingjay had already been published. It was nice to have the ability to read all three of them back to back to back, no waiting.

I remember the agony that came with waiting for each new Harry Potter book. The anxiety isn't quite as bad with Riordan's series centered around the world of Percy Jackson, but it's still somewhat felt.

The Son of Neptune is the seventh novel to be set in a world where the old pantheon of gods from Greece and Rome never really went away. They just moved along with the center of Western Civilization. As was explained in the first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Greek gods now call New York City their home, and the myths and heroes surrounding them have been updated for a modern world.

This book follows directly from last year's The Lost Hero, which introduced Percy Jackson fans to a few new characters and left us all wondering, "What happened to Percy Jackson?" The Son of Neptune answers that question right at the start. But not all at once.

The action follows Percy as he is simply trying to survive. Nothing new for the young demigod. What is new is that he really has no clue who he is or why he's being hunted down by mythological monsters. All he knows for sure is that he's spent the better part of the last eight months in some kind of deep sleep, and his life before that is a complete blur. All he can really remember is some girl named Annabeth, and that she means a great deal to him.

He is quickly thrown into a world that is unfamiliar, not only to him, but also to anyone who has been keeping up with the adventures of the campers from Camp Half-Blood. He finds himself at Camp Jupiter, a refuge for demigods where they can train and be safe from attacking monsters. Sound familiar? It should, that's pretty much what Camp Half-Blood is for. Except it's a camp for the descendants of Roman gods. As we learned in the previous installment, these two camps have co-existed, but have been kept separate because there's a lot of bad blood between the Greeks and Romans.

So Percy's arrival at Camp Jupiter is met with a great deal of suspicion. But when Juno gives her seal of approval, and he shows off his water manipulating powers by destroying a couple Gorgons, he's somewhat accepted. He soon grows close to two other campers, Frank Zhang and Hazel Levesque. Both have complicated back stories and carry their own fair share of secrets that come out as they set out on a dangerous quest together.

The quest is a continuation of the quest that Jason, Leo, and Piper were on in The Lost Hero. Gaea is waking up and is bent on destroying humanity. Her children, the giants, are putting her plans into motion. This time around, the heroes must journey to Alaska to stop a giant and free Thanatos, the embodiment of Death. Without Death, the monsters that are slain by the heroes are able to continue fighting.

While I didn't find this novel to be as exciting or interesting as previous Percy Jackson books, it was still a pretty decent read. What can I say? I'm a sucker for mythology, whether it's ancient or modern.

By the way, I'm failing at this part of my New Year's resolution. I wanted to read 50 books in 2011. If I'm correct in my count, this book is only number 15. That's pretty much a fail on my part. 'Cause I really don't think it would be possible for me to read another 35 books in six weeks. Unless they all come from the "I Can Read" section of the library.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Soon Is Too Soon?

I love Christmas music. I really do. There are a lot of songs that are played during the holiday season that make even my heart grow three sizes thanks to some pretty incredible nostalgia.

But I was a little concerned when I turned the radio on this past weekend and heard the local station was already playing the non-stop Christmas music.

I immediately switched to a CD.

But wait, didn't I just say I loved Christmas music? Yes. Yes, I did. But I am certain that if I listen to the Christmas music non-stop for two months, I'll grow tired of it before Christmas actually comes.

Look, there are only so many Christmas songs that these radio stations play. And of those songs, there are only so many different versions from different musical artists. As is the case with the current songs topping the charts, you end up hearing the same 10 songs 30 times a day.

So I'm boycotting the radio for a couple weeks. At least until after Thanksgiving. At that point I think I'll be better prepared for Christmas music on a regular basis. I'm cynical enough as it is. I don't want to become tired of something that's supposed to be joyful, that seems counterproductive.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Community Outreach

Yesterday was quite the roller coaster for my geeky soul. First I was treated to the incredible high of the first full-length trailer for The Hunger Games. Have you seen it yet? 'Cause it's awesome. Go back and watch it if you haven't yet. I'll wait.

Are we all back? So you can understand why I was excited. But then I read the news that NBC (henceforth known as the Evil Empire) has made a decision on their upcoming mid-season schedule. Quickly, I want to say that I'm glad 30 Rock is making a comeback. But even the awesomeness that comes with Liz Lemon and her wacky crew is not enough to make up for the travesty that has occurred.


The Evil Empire has put Community on hiatus indefinitely.

Let that sink in... Indefinitely.

Now, according to the reports that announced this mid-season change, this does not mean the show has been canceled. It just means that the rest of the season has been put on hold while they give other shows a chance to shine. A part of me gets that, or at least wants to understand it. But when one of those other shows is Whitney (in my opinion one of the worst half hours of TV on the air this year), you're making a huge mistake.

Community is, in the words of my good friend Brandon, the smartest comedy on TV. Sure, he's not a television critic, but he's right. And it isn't just because the show takes place within the walls of a community college. The writers of that show find a way to spoof just about everything, and they're able to do it in such a way that it isn't completely ridiculous or outside the realm of possibility. Just look at the stop-motion animation Christmas special they did last year. Sure, the claymation thing was a gimmick for one episode, but they explained the reason behind it in a way that made sense in the real world. And the cast is a brilliant combination of people who bring the characters to life and make you want to be a part of their study group.

Community doesn't have the highest ratings in the world. Nothing on the network of the Evil Empire can make that claim. But it does have some pretty rabid fans. You've seen us at Comic Con. You know what we're capable of. We're the same people who took arms against you when you threatened to cancel Chuck. We managed to get a couple more seasons out of that one, didn't we? And if we have to, we'll do it again!

There's a petition floating around the internet asking people to help save Community. I'm confident that we will see the rest of Community's third season. But I'm a little afraid that season four will never come. I would argue that a fourth season would be vital to the life of this show. The Evil Empire can't end the show when our study group has one year left before graduation. It would be cruel beyond words. It would be like ending Smallville without seeing Clark Kent become Superman. It would be like ending Buffy without seeing the Slayer destroy the Hellmouth. It would be like ending Quantum Leap without seeing Dr. Beckett make it back home... oh, wait, NBC actually did that!

To the cast and crew of Community, maybe it's time to shop for a new network. If the Evil Empire drops you, maybe the CW will pick you up. I promise you that we will follow you wherever you go.
How can I make it without seeing this face week after week?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hungry

I was really going to write something for the blog tonight. But then I saw this. And I'm sure a lot of the people who care have already seen it. But I still wanted to post it here. I want to see this movie right now. And by right now, I mean last week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life Is Good

Not too long ago, my sister asked me if I would be willing to come and speak to the youth group at her church about eating disorders. The idea was that it would be better to hear from someone who had actually been through it than to just give them information that they would probably forget as soon as they got home. So, of course, I said yes.

What follows is just about what I said...

When I was in the 6th grade, I weighed 135 pounds. By the time I reached the 7th grade, I weighed 85 pounds. Over the course of the summer between those school years, I lost 50 pounds.

Believe me when I say that this was not due to a conscious effort. At first, there was no explanation for why I lost so much weight in such a short amount of time. Of course my family noticed that I had zero appetite, but no one could understand why. And so I was taken to see a doctor. Actually, I was taken to see several doctors. Between Lewis-Gale and UVA, no one could find a physical reason for my weight loss. If there was a test for it, they put me through it. And test after test ruled out so many possibilities. They couldn't find any issues with any of my glands. They decided that I didn't have leukemia. Eventually my regular doctor decided that my problem could be psychological.


And that's what the problem was. Eating disorders are psychological in nature. Whether the problem is anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating, the root issue can be traced to a person's emotional and mental health.


My doctor referred me to a counselor that specialized in adolescent eating disorders. Over the course of the next year and a half, I met with her on a regular basis. I would talk to her about the things in my life that were bothering me. And each time we met, I stood on a bathroom scale and checked in to see if I had gained or lost anything. Generally, it was a good visit if I had put on a couple pounds. It should go without saying that pounds lost resulted in a pretty disappointing time. Through my therapy sessions, we discovered that my issues stemmed from my being a perfectionist. I was always very hard on myself when it came to my school work. Add to that the normal pressures of being in middle school among kids who could be very cruel. Sidebar: words hurt, so be careful what you say to people. Even if they don't show it, it could be killing them inside. And that's what happened to me when all of the weight loss began. I was an emotional wreck, but I buried it deep inside and didn't deal with it. Eventually, it literally began to eat away at me.


For the most part I was able to maintain a steady weight throughout the rest of middle school. While it was good that I wasn't still losing weight, it wasn't good enough. In those early teenage years, it's vitally important that we are receiving proper nutrition. That's when a lot of growth is happening. And when you aren't taking care of your body the way you're supposed to, things just stop developing.


See, when the body isn't able to turn the food we eat into energy, it begins using what's been stored up. It begins by using up fat. Then the body puts a stop to unimportant functions. Fingernail growth slows. Hair stops growing and starts falling out. Eventually, the body begins breaking down muscle and bone in order to keep itself alive. And this is where I had my real wake up call.


I reached high school and found a new definition for the word stress. This added stress did nothing to help my condition. Unfortunately, I started slowly dropping weight again. My hair was falling out and I had no strength. I was terrified. Just after Thanksgiving of 1994, I volunteered to be admitted to St. Alban's Psychiatric Hospital in Radford. I say I volunteered, but if I hadn't gone voluntarily, I would have been forced to go for treatment. I was told it wouldn't be that bad. I was told that I would be there for about three weeks. I figured I'd be home for Christmas and I'd be all better.


At first I hated it, but then I became comfortable with the schedule of group therapy and private counseling and art therapy. Actually, comfortable is the wrong word. Let's just say I got used to the routine. And I made progress. Then, after Christmas, I started taking steps backwards.


I can't explain why I started doing poorly during my last weeks in the hospital. But my time there reached the lowest point when I had a seizure. I was never sure what triggered the seizure. It could have been a lack of nutrition. It could have been a combination of the medications they had me on. Most likely, it was a little of both. Whatever the case, the powers that be decided that there was nothing else they could do to help me. Basically, they sent me home to be with my family before I died. And they made it no secret, they expected me to die.


But I knew better than that. The whole time I was in the hospital, I kept questioning why I was going through all this. I wasn't a bad kid. But that's where my mind immediately went: I was being punished for something. So what had I done that was so bad that God would see fit to put me through this. It wasn't until I got out of the situation that I realized God wasn't putting me through it, He was bringing me through it.


It's taken me a long time to figure out that all those things I worried about and stressed out over, they don't matter. In the eternal scheme of things, they never did. God is bigger than all of it. I've learned that, no matter what is going on in my life, God wants me to give it to Him. It's a lesson I'm still learning today.


I wasn't a typical anorexic. For one thing, I'm a guy. Anorexia is found 10 times more often in girls than it is boys. That's why it took so long for a doctor to come to the conclusion that my problem was psychological. For another thing, I knew that I looked like a skeleton with skin on. Most of the time, someone suffering from an eating disorder will have what's known as a distorted body image. The other anorexia patients that I met in the hospital described the overweight people that they saw in the mirror. I never saw that. I saw exactly what I was when I looked in the mirror. My disorder was not caused because I was desperate to lose weight. It was caused because I didn't know how to be open and honest about what I was thinking and feeling. I didn't know how to deal with stress in my life and it took its toll.


Everyone needs to find a release. Everyone needs someone to talk to. Remember, it isn't always about finding someone who can give you great advice, it's also about finding someone who will just be willing to listen. And never forget that Jesus was called "Wonderful Counselor" long before He was even born, and He was called that for an excellent reason. He wants to take on our burdens.


I don't mean to be preachy. But the only explanation I have for why I ever recovered from an eating disorder that nearly killed me is an act of God. That's the only way I can imagine going from having no appetite for more than three years to suddenly having a normal, voracious teenage appetite.

Sporadically, I've posted "Life Story" posts on the blog, taking a look at my life to try and determine why I've become the man I've become. The conclusion I've reached after examining life through the end of high school? There's really no point in worrying over things. Throughout our lives, good times are going to come just as well as the bad. There will be days when we won't feel like smiling. There may be weeks or even years when we won't feel good about life. But everything is going to turn out okay. Somewhere, at some time in all our lives, there will be reasons to smile again. We just have to know where to look.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just One Wanted to Know

Just one question for me? No one else wanted to play along? Where are my 47 followers? Did you all jump ship? Have I become that boring? No... it's fair. I have become pretty boring. Anyway, thank you to Brandon for being the one reader to take me seriously.

He asks...
Do you have a thought as to what we might experience the weekend of December 3rd? Tell me how you think the weekend's going to go...

For those who are unaware... which would be just about everyone because it's not something I've written about on here yet... During the first weekend in December I'll be going on a road trip with three of my best friends from college. I, along with Brandon, Mark and Andy, will be getting into my car and driving to the far away and mysterious land of Indiana. We'll be making the long trek to the fabled city of Indianapolis to witness the first ever Big Ten Championship football game in human history.
I believe that the four of us will experience an epic road trip, the likes of which none of us have ever seen during our years of being friends. I believe that it will be as entertaining, nay, more entertaining than the times experienced by the foursome in The Hangover, and we will be able to remember every moment of it because, unlike those guys, we won't be suffering from the effects of "floories." But, at least we'll be prepared in the event that we bump into a tiger somewhere. Thanks to Zach Galifianakis we'll know that tigers love pepper, but hate cinnamon.

I believe that we'll thoroughly enjoy watching a live football game that will be thrilling to see, but it's difficult for me to say what teams we'll be watching. That's mostly because I really haven't been paying attention to what teams in the Big Ten Conference are doing well. Now, some of you may be asking, if I don't pay attention to the college football, why would I care about paying money to go to this game?

No, I don't pay close attention to the wins and losses in college football each fall. I like watching football, I just don't get into it as much as my friends do. But that's okay by me, I mean, if it's okay with them too. To me, the important part of this trip isn't who's vying for that championship. It's about spending an awesome weekend with three of the best friends I've known in my life.

I believe that, by the end of the weekend, we'll be incredibly exhausted. I believe that that exhaustion may lead to some fairly severe arguments. Nothing serious, just those ridiculous disagreements that come up when close friends spend a lot of time together in close quarters. But I also believe that we will have laughed more in those three days than any of us have in a very long time. And I believe that we'll end up laughing about any of those possible disagreements that may come up, as well.

All in all, I believe it's gonna be epic. Now... everyone sing along...

And we're the four best friends that anyone could have...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Question of the Week: Impact

Do you feel you have much impact on the lives of people you come in contact with? Can you think of someone who, over a short period of time, significantly influenced your life?

Of course I impact the lives of the people around me. In fact, I'd bet real money that 86% of the people I've ever met would list me among their top 10 most influential people in their lives. True story. As for people who have influenced me, well, there have been a lot. But I can't say that I'm necessarily influenced by people who are in my life for a short amount of time. It's the folks who stick around for the long haul that really influence me.

*Don't forget to go back and ask me a question! I'll be answering tomorrow!*

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Single Guy Signs On

*Don't forget to go back and ask me a question!*

A few months ago, the Single Guy decided it would be beneficial to sign up for an online devotional that delivers daily words of wisdom to his inbox. He was right. It was a good way for him to be reminded at the start of each day exactly why he should be thankful for all that he's been given. Not that he wasn't grateful, he just has a tendency to take things for granted. But that's really off topic.

Anyway, at some point while receiving these daily devotions, the Single Guy received an e-mail advertisement for an online dating site with Christian tendencies. At first he ignored it. Why should he sign up for a dating site, Christian or not? But then he thought about it. It's not as if he was still working the drive-thru at the bank where an endless line of attractive women would flock to him begging his help and his financially savvy mind. Or something like that.

So he signed up. Now would be a good time to point out that the great P. T. Barnum once said that "there's a sucker born every minute." Actually, he never said that, but it's always attributed to him, so let's just go with it. Again, way off topic.

Signing up for this website seemed to be a waste of time. Occasionally the Single Guy would get an e-mail alert letting him know that the magical gnomes inside the internet had possibly found "the One" for him. Generally, he ignored these e-mails. And then one day he decided to open one of these e-mails. And he was taken to the profile of a woman to whom he felt oddly drawn.

He saw her pictures and read her profile and kind of wanted to take a shot. But he couldn't really explain why. After all, she lives two hours away and has two kids. Would it make sense for a Single Guy who has never been in a grown up relationship to try to connect with someone who obviously has been in a grown up relationship?

Okay, looking back, there is something that the Single Guy is aware of. One specific thing about this woman that draws him in. He's pretty sure her smile reminds him of the Hostess. Remember her? Yeah, it's been a while. Anyway, he's probably a sucker, but he decided to take a chance and send a message. All based on a nice smile.

Let the mockery begin.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My Boring Life

Hey kids. I need to address something. It's come to my attention that my blog posts are not as entertaining as they once were. No one has actually brought this to my attention. I'm just making that assumption by the fact that I have fewer visitors these days and, for the most part, have fewer comments on the things that I post.

I've mentioned before that I thrive on getting attention. Not in real life, just on this blog. I'm not saying I need your approval or affirmation in order to make it through my day, but it sure doesn't hurt.

The truth is, I'm having a hard time coming up with interesting things to write about on a daily basis these days. I think it could have something to with the fact that my career has so severely changed. I don't have any more Legends of the Bank Teller to tell because, well, I'm not a bank teller anymore. And these days, I still really enjoy my job. So does this lack of conflict mean that I've become a more boring person? I certainly hope not.

So I have this problem. It's the same one I mentioned a while ago, in case you weren't paying attention. It's that problem where I have a hard time coming up with things to write about. So I'm open to suggestions.

No, really... I'm open to your suggestions. What would you like to see me write about? I sincerely want your opinions on this. There's a handy comments section below this where you can share your thoughts.

Also, don't forget about yesterday's post where I put the call out for your questions. You have until Saturday, at which point I'll answer all the questions I get. So far I don't have any questions in the comments. Pretty sure if I don't get any, my feelings will be kind of hurt... I don't think I'll cry or anything. Ever since I had my tear ducts removed, crying has been a non-option.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Who Wants to Know?

It's been a while since I've done something like this. But it's happened a couple times in the life of this blog. I'm giving my readers the opportunity to ask me any questions that you would like to have answered. They can be personal questions or they can be trivia questions. I promise, whatever the question, I will answer it to the best of my ability.

All you need to do, assuming you want to play along, is leave a question in the comments. I'll accept any questions between now and Friday night. On Saturday I'll give my answers.

Simple enough? So, who's gonna play along?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse

I've never really considered myself a fan of the zombie sub-genre of the horror genre. I've never seen the original Night of the Living Dead or any of the copy cat films it spawned. In fact, I'm fairly certain the first traditional zombie movie I saw was probably Shaun of the Dead a few years back. And I thought it was okay, but it really didn't rock my world or make me crazy about zombie movies in general.

And then I saw Zombieland a few months ago. I kind of thought it was awesome. But that's not the point of this post.

The point that I've been trying to get to is the awesomeness that is AMC's The Walking Dead. Have you seen this show? Okay, if you don't like zombie stuff, you probably won't like it. But do you know for sure that you don't like the zombie genre? Give it a shot, maybe you'll like it.

The thing is, it's not just about a zombie apocalypse. It's about the people trying desperately to survive a zombie apocalypse. I guess it could be argued that most zombie movies are about the regular people that are still around when the dead rise. But with a TV series, we're able to really examine these people's lives and how they react to the world falling apart around them.

The show is based on a comic book series. Of course, this speaks to the comic book geek that resides somewhere inside my soul. Apparently, this series has been around for a while, but since it's published by a company that isn't DC Comics, I really didn't know it existed. Now I know and I kind of love it.

I've started reading the trade paperbacks collecting the early issues of The Walking Dead. The story is slightly different from the way things have progressed on the TV show, so I'm able to read things without really knowing what's going to happen next. And, when I get caught up to where they roughly are on the show compared to where I've read in the graphic novels, it's different enough that the show will still surprise me with each new episode.

BTW... Last night, after the new episode of The Walking Dead, I watched the live reaction show, Talking Dead. One of the guests was a guy from the Zombie Research Society. Yeah, it's a real thing. And yeah, they truly believe that a zombie apocalypse is a true threat to humanity. The way governments and researchers mess around with viruses and biological weapons, apparently it could happen.

Time to start preparing, people. My plan: rent a storage unit nearby and start filling it with useful things like bottled water, canned goods, candles, flashlights, batteries, etc. You know, end of the world stuff. Also, it's time to take that archery class I've always wanted to take. It will be nice to be handy with a weapon of some kind when the attacks begin.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Question of the Week: Do What You Say

Sorry this is a day late. Got busy yesterday... ended up staying out late...

Can you be counted on to do what you say you'll do? What does it take for you to trust someone?

I'm pretty sure I can be counted on doing what I say I'll do. I don't have a perfect memory, so there will be times when I'll screw up and forget to do something when I've said I would do it. But I wouldn't tell someone that I'll do something and then purposefully not do it. I'm not that big of a jerk.

As far as trusting people, it's not something I'm very good at. That whole "opening your heart" thing, I'm not good at that either. It's on my list... I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I figure that will tie in real close with the trust issues.

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Deflated

Have I mentioned that, since moving back to Virginia, I've been sleeping on an air mattress? It's true. I've been sleeping on an air mattress. For five months.

It hasn't been great.

At first it wasn't bad. But I'm now of the belief that air mattress are meant to be used in moderation. Those rare occasions when one goes camping or needs a place to crash when visiting relatives out of town. But every night for five months? I'm not entirely sure that these inflated wonders were designed for such prolonged usage.

As I said, at first it wasn't too bad. In fact, for about the first two months, I never had to re-inflate it. It stayed firm and full of air all day and night without the need for a refill. These days, I have to blow it up every day.

Don't get me wrong. I'm appreciative to my mother and step-father for the use of the air mattress. After all, it belongs to them. And they've let me use it all this time, rent-free. But I'm pretty sure I'll owe them a new mattress by the time I'm done using this one. Not sure that I've actually done anything to it. But considering the fact that it once stayed fully inflated on a constant basis and now it absolutely does not, they'll be needing a working air mattress.

But before that can happen, I really need to get a big boy bed. Oh, to sleep on a real bed again. To lie down on a soft mattress that cradles me as I drift off to sleep. My dream is to make it through an entire night and wake up in the morning, fully refreshed and without an aching back.

I pray that this dream can become a reality.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

1700

According to legend, November is a magical month. At some point in ancient times, it became known as National Novel Writing Month. It's the time of year when a challenge is issued to writers everywhere. That challenge? Write an entire novel within the confines of November's 30 days.

The rules are fairly simple. Novels must reach a minimum of 50,000 words by 11:59 the night of November 30. So, if one does the math correctly, that means that each day a writer must get approximately 1,667 words on paper... or on the screen... whatever.

I tried to accomplish this task last year. I failed. I came closer than I've ever been to completing a novel. But I didn't quite finish it. And it was crap.

But the point of NaNoWriMo isn't to write a sparkling, polished bestseller. The organizers of this event emphasis quantity over quality. A lot of novels that are churned out during the month of November will never see the light of day. But some do. Ever heard of a little book called Water for Elephants? It was recently turned into a movie with Reese Witherspoon and the vampire from Twilight. Yeah, it was written as a part of NaNoWriMo. That tells me it's possible to get this done.

So I'm trying. And I've challenged myself to write 1700 words a day. That way I'm overshooting the minimum just a little. And in 30 days, I guess we'll see where I end up. And we'll see what happens.

Wish me luck. Oh, and along with this, there may be days that I won't feel like coming up with something to post on here. There will probably be a lot of days when coming up with 1700 words will be a struggle. So by the time I hit my goal for the day, I may not feel like racking my brain anymore. But I'll do my best. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Injustice

It happens all the time in this world. Criminals get off on a technicality. Natural disasters strike and leave people without homes. Bad things happen to good people.

Today, a very dear friend of mine experienced a pretty severe taste of injustice. I don't have a lot to say about this issue. It wouldn't do any good. My words couldn't effect the outcome of this situation three years ago, they won't change things now.

But to my friend, I can only share the advice that was given by my campus minister to my fellow students in the days following 9/11...

Don't stop living your day to day life. If you do that, then the terrorists have won.

And yes, I'm blatantly referring to your opponent as a terrorist. The point is, you know the kind of person you are. God knows the kind of person you are. With His grace and through His faithfulness, you'll be able to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and keep on fighting the good fight. Never forget that you have friends and family that love you and are praying for you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Operation

Justin arrived late to the party. He usually arrived late to things. He did it on purpose. He was hoping for a spot in the yearbook as the senior who was most likely to show up late to graduation. He could have gone for friendliest or class clown, but those awards seemed too obvious. He also supposed he could have gone for best legs, but he really didn't feel up to shaving them. Really not worth it.

He made his way through Staci's house and went down to the basement where all his friends would be talking and dancing and playing slightly inappropriate games. None of them could get into too much trouble since Staci's folks were watching reruns of The Cosby Show just upstairs.

Before Justin reached the bottom of the stairs, he stopped to take in the view of the room. He shouted a quick, but loud, "HEY!" His friends responded with shouts and waves and raised glasses. Staci made her way over to him and laced her arm through his. She had a thing for him and he knew it, he just wasn't sure how to let her know that she wasn't his type.

"So what've I missed?" he asked.

"Not much," said Staci, "but we're already out of chips."

"I should go then. Those chips were really the only reason I came."

Staci let out a girlish giggle and slapped Justin on the arm. "I'm sure I can find another reason for you to stay!"

"Is Tim playing Operation?" Justin asked, noticing Tim alone on the couch.

"Yeah, I had some board games out," said Staci, "I'm really not sure why he's decided to play that one by himself. For that matter, I'm not too sure why he even came here tonight. Tim's always keeping to himself."

Justin looked back over at Tim. He was hunched over the classic game, his brow was furrowed in deep concentration. "He's a good kid, just a little introverted, that's all. Come on."

Justin and Staci walked over to Tim's corner. Justin sat in a chair across from Tim and Cavity Sam, while Staci stood with her arms crossed. "Hey Tim. Whatcha doin?" Justin asked.

"I'm training," Tim said, never looking up from the game.

Justin noticed that the look on Staci's face was not a happy one. He silently nodded at her, trying to convince her to sit next to Tim. She rolled her eyes. "What are you training for?" Staci asked as she sat next to Tim on the couch.

"Ah! You made me drop the Adam's Apple!" Tim yelled as Sam buzzed at his error.

Staci immediately stood back up. "Sorry! Geez, it's just a game!" she shouted and stormed into the crowd of her friends.

Justin watched as she walked away and he couldn't help but laugh a little. He looked back at Tim, who was still huffing in frustration. "No, really, what are you training for?"

"I'm gonna be a surgeon someday."

"And you think that playing Operation at age 16 will help to prepare you for that?" Justin asked. It may have sounded like he was being sarcastic, but he genuinely wanted to understand Tim's thought process.

Tim set down the game's tweezers and looked up at Justin. "This game helps to improve dexterity."

"Dude, you're at a party and you're sitting in a corner playing Operation by yourself. That's something you could do at home."

Tim sat back on the couch and crossed his arms. He looked at his classmates around the basement with a look on his face that could almost be described as disgust. "These people don't like me," he said. He looked back at Justin, "I'm not even sure you like me."

"I don't dislike you," said Justin. "But I don't exactly know you, either. And I'd be willing to bet, not many people in this room do know you. You have to admit, you do kind of close yourself off from others."

"No I don't--"

"Says the kid playing a board game alone in a room full of his peers."

"Point taken," Tim said.

"Look, it's obvious you don't want to be alone," Justin said as he stood. "If you wanted that, you'd have stayed at home."

"The truth? I came here tonight because I have a crush on Staci," Tim said. "Don't tell her," he added quickly.

Justin couldn't help but laugh again. "You know, yelling at her for dropping an apple-shaped piece of plastic is probably not the way to win her affections."

As if suddenly realizing what he had done, Tim leaned forward and picked the tweezers back up.

"Oh no," Justin said, "Don't pick those things back up. Operation: Wingman is about to commence. You and I are going to work together to get Staci's attention. In a good way, this time."

Tim looked up, his expression unchanged. "I mean it. Stand up," Justin ordered, "And try smiling a little. It's a party."

With that, they moved toward the crowd and approached Staci and a group of her friends.

See how others interpreted this week's writing prompt at Sunday Scribblings.