Monday, February 28, 2011

Life Story: Chapter Fifty Three

And now we come to my senior year of high school. Like so many of my other high school experiences, much of the 12th grade has somehow been blocked out of my memory. But I'll do my best to find a key that opens the door to that past.

Nothing really happened during that summer before senior year. Mostly, I just spend my days working. At the time I was working for my aunt and uncle's company. I worked as part of an assembly line that put together small gift items. So, yeah, let's hear it for nepotism!

I decided I wanted to take it easy in my last year of school. Not that I worked myself to the bone in my previous high school years. Thanks to the counselors I was forced to see during my unfortunate incarceration in the hospital, I had discovered that I didn't have to work too hard and still pass with Cs. But I had still been taking honors level classes. Senior year, I decided to put an end to that nonsense. I mean, where was the extra work really going to get me?

It's not a decision I really regret. However, if I had it to do over again, I'd have probably applied myself just a bit more. Once I got to college, it would turn out that I was .01 of a GPA point away from a scholarship from the school. I guess it all turned out all right anyway though. Nothing wrong with owing 50,000 in school loans, right?

Anyway, that's a story for another time. I was still in high school. And I was taking it easy. For the most part. I took regular English and Government classes. The Center for Humanities that I had been a part of for the previous three years wasn't available for seniors. The kids from the Center that wanted to continue pushing themselves applied for City School. Being one of the kids who didn't want to push himself, I have no idea what City School entailed. All I know for sure is that the City School kids got to go downtown for their English and Government classes (I think). If anyone wants to correct me on that, feel free. I have no idea what I'm talking about there.

I also decided it would be a good idea to take college level Biology. It was a dual-enrollment thing with Virginia Western Community College, also known as the University of Colonial Avenue. You remember how I said I wanted to take it easy? How I just wanted to do the minimum amount of work and coast with a C? Yeah, college level Bio was not the way to do that. There were some fun moments. But for the most part, that class kicked my butt.

Now, let's include the fact that I discovered that I didn't need to take a math class in order to graduate. So I didn't. Who needs math in every day life anyway? (This coming from a guy who currently works as a bank teller)

So I had an extra class period on my hands. What did I do with that extra time? I took an extra elective. My electives senior year involved a year long stint in Advanced Photography (which was awesome), and a semester each of Drawing II and Painting. So much excitement to come.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Jason stood in front of the place that used to be his home. His hands were buried in his pockets as he surveyed the damage. He was sad to see that the damage was total.

He moved into what had once been his living room. All around him on the ground were charred and blackened pieces of furniture. Jason kicked around debris searching for the remnants of anything that could be considered salvageable. He looked up and around him, taking in the skeleton of a home and the beams that used to be wall studs.

For a brief moment, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and wiped at his eyes. He wasn't sure if he was getting emotional or if some ash or smoke had gotten in his eyes. Jason safely assumed that both could have contributed to his sudden tears.

This was his house. And now he had nothing. The fire had consumed everything that he had come to identify as home. Yet he continued to sift through the remains.

Jason made his way over to the area that had been his bedroom. There was no longer a bed. There was no longer a dresser. There was no longer a closet holding his clothes and shoes. He wondered if he was wasting his time by looking through this place. He wondered if he was simply pouring salt on his open wounds.

He looked down and caught a glint of something that reflected the sunlight for just a moment. He bent and cleared away the soot and ash, revealing a photograph in a cheap frame. It was a picture of his parents who had died nearly ten years earlier, victims of 9/11.

His tears came again. This time there was no stopping them. How had this photo survived? It made no sense and defied all logic that this one thing would survive a fire that had taken away so much from him. But he closed his eyes and he thanked God. If this is all he could take away from this ruined place, it was enough.

Today's writing prompt is brought to you by Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cycle of Bullying

I saw this earlier this week and it made me laugh. So I'm sharing it for this week's YouTube Saturday. See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Question of the Week: Regrets

If you learned you would die in a few days, what regrets would you have? Were you given five extra years of life, could you avoid those same regrets five years hence?

I'm not really the kind of person who has regrets about things. The things that happen in our lives happen for a reason. The choices we make shape us into the people that we are and the people we're becoming. Now, if I could go back in time and do things differently, sure, I'd do some things differently. But I don't think that's the same as regretting what I've done.

It's no secret that I'm unhappy with my life at the moment. But that's not to say that I'm not where I am for a specific reason. I don't regret the choices I've made, even if those choices have led me to a certain amount of heartache. That's just the way it is. There's no point dwelling on the past and regretting what I've done or haven't done.

And if I've still got a few days, then I've still got some time to make sure the people I care about know how much they mean to me. So I don't think I'd even need the extra five years to avoid any regrets.

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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Single Guy Gets Coffee

If you thought you were about to read the incredibly true story of how the Single Guy went to get coffee with someone of the opposite sex, you're going to be very disappointed.

Sadly, this is merely about the Single Guy's attempt to fulfill New Year's Resolution #7: Learn to like coffee.

The Single Guy decided that it was time to make strides toward that one. The first step, of course, was to buy a coffee maker. Luckily, Target has them for cheap. All the Single Guy needed was $14.99, plus tax.

This is the Single Guy's newest kitchen appliance. The only problem he now faces is, what kind of coffee should be his first cup?

Grocery stores carry many varieties and brands of coffee. But the Single Guy has never actually bought coffee before. So he puts the question out there, what coffee should he be drinking? And once the brand is chosen, what sort of things should he add to that coffee?

The Single Guy assumes that he can't just dive in drinking coffee black. In fact, his assumption is that he'll need lots of sugar and lots of some kind of creamer. But should it be flavored creamer? The Single Guy is a fan of vanilla. Does that kind of thing go good with coffee?

And these are the questions that plague a man who has no idea what he's doing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Real Book Fair

Last week as I was driving home from work one day, my assistant manager sent me a text message about something he had just seen on the news. He was informing me that there would be a huge book sale happening at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds over the weekend. He said it sounded like something I'd be interested in.

Okay, I guess I've been pegged as a guy that likes to read a lot. Whatever. You know, I don't like to be painted with a particular brush. I like to think that I'm more than just the guy that reads all the time because he's bored at work and hates his job. There's a lot more to me than that.

For instance, I like to kick things when I'm inconsolably frustrated. Usually these objects are an immovable kind of thing that could realistically break my toe if I hit it the wrong way. Also, I enjoy chasing after women who are way out of my league. I find them challenging and I enjoy the inevitable heartbreak that comes when I get shut down.

So I like to read. Big deal. A lot of people like to read. I've found that literacy is a very handy skill to have in today's world. So yeah, I was interested in a ginormous book sale at the fairgrounds over the weekend. Books are great. And they're even better when they're cheap.

What it was, was this big annual sale put on by the Wake County Public Library. It went on from Thursday until Sunday with prices decreasing each day. I got there Saturday morning, when prices were $2 for hardcovers and $1 for paperbacks. This was a pretty amazing thing to see.

Saturday morning saw a pretty large crowd at the book fair. I had never driven to the fairgrounds before so when I got there, I was a little confused as to where I should go and where I should park. Turns out I parked about as far away from the exposition building as I could. This was not on purpose. And I would find out later that it was a pretty substantial mistake on my part.

I walked about a mile to the expo center and immediately saw the long line of people waiting to get in. It was like that time I tried to get in to try out for American Idol. I went by myself, so I was surrounded by strangers. Waiting in line to buy cheap books with people you don't know can be an experience in itself.

There was this high school girl behind me who had an E.T. watch. I thought that was interesting since I've been living under the impression that kids that young refuse to watch movies made before 1998. Directly in front of me was a small family consisting of a married couple, the wife's parents, and their very small child, who was carted around in a wagon. The wagon would have been a great idea for carrying around the books that they would be buying if the kid wasn't occupying all the usable space.

At one point, the small child in the wagon was complaining about the sun being in his eyes. This led to them covering him with a blanket. Then he complained it was too hot for the blanket. So they took the blanket off and he got out of the wagon. Then he complained that he wanted to get back in the wagon but didn't want the blanket there. His mom told him it would be dirty under the blanket. The kid said, "I like it dirty." It was all I could do not to shout, "That's what she said!" But I remembered where I was and who I was with. I was not with friends. I was not with my assistant manager from work who says that all the time, even when it makes no sense. No, had I said it, it would have been highly inappropriate. This is what separates me from Michael Scott. Common sense.

The fun in line doesn't end with an inappropriate joke that was never used. Somewhere in the distance we began hearing some loud shouting from what I can only describe as a drunken, redneck woman. When I searched the crowd and found the source of the shouting, I saw a woman desperately clinging to a stop sign in the parking lot. She was asking people in line if they needed reading glasses. I'm not sure what her concern was about people's vision. I'm not sure why it would have been any of her business. Maybe when she's sober she's an optometrist. I wouldn't let her do anything with my eyes though. A man in his 70s with a uniform that was labeled "Public Safety" approached the woman and asked her to leave. I'm not sure how intimidating he actually was to her. But she did stop yelling and walked away.

Finally, after waiting for what felt like hours, I got to the front of the line. Space Mountain was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Oh... wait... that's a different story. This is the book story. Got to keep that straight.

Inside the expo hall was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. That's an exaggeration. But it was pretty cool to see so many books in one place. Table after table lined with books on every subject imaginable. It's like all the libraries in the area just decided they didn't want their books anymore. So they shipped them to the fair and let the public at them. It was bigger than I thought it would be and I knew I was in trouble. See, I didn't bring a box or a bag of any kind. All I had were these two hands. Don't get me wrong, the hands are good enough most of the time. But I was ill-prepared for the task set before me.

I checked my wallet to see how much I could afford to spend on all these used books. I gave myself a $30 limit. That meant, at the very least, I would walk away with 15 hardcover books. I like hardcover. They just look better on the bookshelf. That's right, I'm a book snob.

So I browsed. A lot. I haven't picked up a Stephen King book since I finished The Stand last summer, but I still want to read all of his work before I die. I know I have a long way to go. Next on that particular list is The Dead Zone, so I sought that book out. I also bought a bunch of other King novels that I knew I would have to get eventually anyway. At one and two bucks a piece, why wouldn't I get them at the fair?

I didn't just hit the horror section, though. I went to general fiction and literature and even the young adult sections. I didn't find anything I wanted in young adult, which surprised me. It could have just been that by that point I was fatigued by all the books I was already carrying around in my exhausted arms.

When all was said and done I walked away with 14 books for a grand total of $23. Not too shabby. I found an empty box and made the mile long trek back to my car. By the time I got there I wanted to die. I haven't carried books like that over a great distance since college. And even then it wasn't nearly that many all at once. But it was worth it.

At this point, the story is over, but if you'd like to continue reading this post, feel free. Because here's a list of all the books I bought...

The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
Timeline - Michael Crichton
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Red Dragon - Thomas Harris
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
The Dead Zone - Stephen King
Fire-Starter - Stephen King
Misery - Stephen King
Needful Things - Stephen King
Pet Sematary - Stephen King
The Tommyknockers - Stephen King
Under the Dome - Stephen King
Left Behind - Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins
At First Sight - Nicholas Sparks

I want to read more classics, hence the classics that I got. I'll get around to those other King books eventually. Left Behind I got just so I could have the entire set. A couple years before Dad passed away I let him borrow my copy of that first book in the series and never got it back. Even after he died and we were cleaning out his house I couldn't find it. Not sure what happened to it. Anyway, if I complain about not having anything to read at any point in time, would someone please remind me of all these books that I now have sitting in a box on my coffee table? Thanks.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AFI 94 - Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Netflix sleeve: A burger-loving hit man (John Travolta), his philosophical partner (Samuel L. Jackson), a drug-adled gangster's moll (Uma Thurman) and a washed-up boxer (Bruce Willis) converge in this sprawling, comedic crime caper fueled by director and co-writer Quentin Tarantino's whip-smart dialogue. Their adventures unfurl in three stories that ingeniously trip back and forth in time, resulting in one of the most audacious and imitated films of the 1990s.

This is one of those movies that I heard a lot about but wasn't allowed to see back when it was first released. If I do the math right I was 14 when Pulp Fiction hit theaters. If I were a parent, I wouldn't let my 14-year-old see it. If you've seen it, then you know exactly why. It's not a kid-friendly story. For me, Tarantino's stuff is okay, not great. Some of it I really like, some I don't. This one, I could take it or leave it. I will say that I loved the Kill Bill movies and Inglorious Basterds. Pulp Fiction does give us a lot of classic moments and lines, so it's fun watching it for those scenes. And what's in the briefcase? Really? My 10th grade English teacher once took a class period to explain to us that it was Marcellus' soul. Not sure what that had to do with The Iliad, but it was a memorable lecture.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Single Guy and the Noisy Neighbors

The Single Guy lives in a low rent kind of apartment. It's an awesome apartment, especially for the price he pays. But there is a drawback: neighborly noise.

The walls are pretty thin. And there's really no barrier between the ceiling on one floor and the floor on the next. So to hear the folks upstairs walking around, or hear the neighbors next door playing guitar are issues that the Single Guy has learned to live with. And really, it's not that bad.

Except for one night a few weeks ago. The Single Guy is used to sleepless nights. For years he's dealt with an on-and-off relationship with insomnia. But on this particular night, insomnia was not what kept him up.

Around midnight, the Single Guy began hearing raised voices from the apartment above him. At first he couldn't make out any of the words being screamed. Then, only the cuss words could be understood. Soon, everything became clear.

The couple upstairs were having a knock-down drag-out fight that lasted for several hours, well into the pre-dawn of night. The Single Guy heard yelling, mostly from the lady of the house. This told him that her fella must have done something really bone-headed.

There were several times that the man upstairs was heard begging. He was pleading while she was screaming for him to leave. Whether it was true or not, the man told her that he had no where else to go. And then the desperate compliments began. He showered her with praises along the lines of "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever met..." Things of that nature.

Eventually, things quieted down. The Single Guy can only assume that the status quo was returned to normal because he still hears the same TV shows through the ceiling all the time. The man upstairs may have an unhealthy obsession with all things Law & Order. If he had a nickel for every time he heard the classic BUM-BUM, the Single Guy could afford a 2-bedroom in his building.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


"I am so freakin' hungry!" screamed Hannah as she threw herself down on the couch.

"Calm down, little girl. The pizza will be here any minute." Cam was trying desperately to get his girlfriend to relax. She had been stressing out for weeks about issues at work. Hannah had explained these issues to Cam several times, but he still had a hard time grasping what those issues really were.

Cam was pretty sure that Hannah had been using food for years to help him calm down whenever he was on the verge of meltdown. He figured she believed in the old cliche about the connection between a man's stomach and his heart. Either that, or it was just a weird coincidence that she cooked him dinner whenever he was angry or upset. She did like to cook a lot. Cam, however, couldn't boil water. So he was hoping that inviting Hannah over and ordering her a pizza would help to better her mood.

Hannah looked across the room and the look on her face was not a positive one. Cam wasn't ready to panic yet. He sat down on the couch and put his arm around her. He pulled her to him, trying to playfully give her a hug, but her body language told him that the hug wasn't a move in the right direction. Cam looked at his watch and rolled his eyes. Where is that pizza?

Cam turned to face his girlfriend. "Talk to me," he said, trying to get Hannah to open up.

"I'm just stressed out about work. I'm sorry, I don't mean to take it out on you," she said, turning her head toward Cam. "It's really not a big deal. Nothing I haven't complained about before."

"It seems like a big deal."

"It's not. I'm just making a big deal out of nothing." Hannah sighed and looked back toward the door. "And it doesn't help that I'm fighting starvation."

"I promise, your green pepper and mushroom pizza is on its way from Gino's," Cam said as he grabbed her hand and squeezed.

"You hate mushrooms," she said quietly.

"I know. But you don't." He smiled at her and leaned in to kiss her forehead. Suddenly the doorbell rang. "See, I told you it would be here soon."

Hannah smiled as she watched Cam move to the door to pay for the pizza. She couldn't help but laugh when she thought about how quickly her mood seemed to change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Close Encounters

It's Saturday and recently that's meant a YouTube video. Today is no different. A couple weeks back I saw this video of an alleged UFO sighting in Jerusalem. The occurrence happened on January 28 of this year. There have been several videos posted of the event, one of which has been discredited as a hoax. I don't know about the other videos, but two that seem genuine are posted below. If you have any information leading to the known existence of extra-terrestrials, please contact Special Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI. Cue the creepy music...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Someone Else's Blog

Hey everyone, Elizabeth over at i seek with all my heart is having a giveaway. She's celebrating 50 followers and is holding a contest to give away a Target gift card. I'll be honest, my reason behind mentioning it on my own blog is because in doing so, I get a second entry into her drawing. I like Target.

Also... I have to admit... I'm a little envious. I want 50 followers. Not that I'm complaining about the 37 I have. You're all great. Hey... tell your friends that I think you're great. And if they become followers on here I'll tell them they're great too. See that? Incentive.

No really, go to her blog. You could win a gift card. See that? Real incentive.

Question of the Week: Value

What do you value most in a relationship?

Trust. As far as I'm concerned, trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. Without trust there can't be love. There can't be loyalty. If you don't trust the other person in the relationship, whether that's a friend or significant other, then you can't be open and honest with that person. Being in a relationship requires a certain amount of vulnerability. Without trust, you can't allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Things don't always work out for the best. We hurt someone who trusted us or someone we trusted has done the hurting. Whatever the case, it wouldn't hurt so much if trust hadn't been broken or violated. And if it doesn't hurt, it wasn't real. And then you have to ask, was there any trust there to begin with?

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

When I Don't Desire God

Title: When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
Author: John Piper
Published: 2004

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was having a hard time finding joy in this season of my life. A friend and fellow blogger/writer, Erynn, left a comment suggesting that I read this book by John Piper.

It took me a while to get around to it, obviously. And the reasons are several. First of all, I'm not a big fan of reading non-fiction. Not sure what it is about me, but when I'm taking the time to look through someone's words, I like it to be entertaining. It wasn't that I didn't take her suggestion seriously, I just didn't think I would enjoy reading an instruction manual on how to find joy.

Secondly, I knew it would be a book that I would have to spend money on. If you know me at all, it should be fairly apparent that spending money is not something that I enjoy doing. Even if it is for an instruction manual on how to find joy.

But I got around to it. And I want to thank Erynn for suggesting it. It was a good book with a lot of good insights into a lot of my issues. Okay, not really insights into my personal issues, but insights into the roots of those issues.

Here's the thing: this book didn't change my life. I didn't go into this thing expecting a miraculous turn around. I didn't think that I would read a few magic words and then suddenly be Mr. Sunshine. And that's not what's happened.

Honestly, most of what I read I already knew. In fact, a lot of the things that Piper writes about in finding joy, I briefly mentioned in that post about not having joy so many months ago. But what I read in this book served as an excellent reminder and gave a few added tips.

There's a part of me that wishes I had taken notes as I made my way through the book. It isn't that I have a horrible memory. It's just that, again, sometimes it helps to have reminders when it comes to these things. Kind of like the situation where you're able to dispense advice to friends or family, but you can't seem to follow that advice yourself. Hearing the words from someone else can sometimes be a real wake-up call.

The biggest thing that I'm taking away from Piper's book is right there in the subtitle: How to Fight for Joy. Piper spells it out very clearly, that joy doesn't just happen. Joy is something that we have to fight for. Every single day. He also makes it clear that it isn't a fight that we can win on our own. The strength it takes to fight for the joy that God wants us to have can only come from God.

Repeatedly, Piper throws out the line, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." What this says is that God wants us to find our strength, our hope, our joy in Him, gaining true satisfaction in this life. In doing so, it brings glory to Him.

I said that this wasn't a magical book that changed my life as soon as I finished it. The fight for joy will be a daily battle and I'm hoping that Piper's suggestions have put me on the right track. Some of the things that I know I need to do will be difficult. Some of the issues I need to face will really take a lot of work. These are things that I won't get into right here and right now. But I'll keep you posted on how this whole joy thing works out as we go along.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Fair

When I was driving to work this morning I passed by a local middle school that had signs out front advertising a book fair. Those signs got me kind of nostalgic.

I know I've said in my About Me facts that I love to read, but that that love didn't develop until after college, when required reading became a thing of the past, and reading for pleasure was actually something I could enjoy. But I remember being a kid and being so excited when the book fair was coming to our school. I remember more from the elementary school book fairs than the ones we had in middle school. And really, the memories I do have are faded at best.

My mind pictures something like a traveling book store that showed up in the school library for a couple days. I know I always begged my parents for some money that I could bring with me so I could buy a few new books. And it isn't as if the books offered were deep or anything. They were children's books. The novels that you'd find were generally around 100 pages long. Though, these days, I'm sure you'd have more of the books aimed at the Harry Potter audience.

The book fairs are what introduced me to Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books. I loved reading those stories over and over again. Also, in those days, for some reason, I was into Garfield comic strips. So the book fair usually gave me the chance to buy whatever the latest collection of strips was. These days, Garfield just doesn't do it for me anymore. I mean, come on. He pushed Odie off the table. Didn't see that coming. It just keeps on getting funnier every time.

I also have a vague memory of buying a book about a substitute teacher that turned out to be an alien. I think the alien may have been an early arrival of part of a future invading force. Why would anyone try to take over the world beginning with some random 3rd grade classroom? Now that I really think about it, the plot of that book is kind of pathetic. If anyone knows the book I'm talking about, back me up here. I think the title had something to do with the teacher glowing in the dark. Like one of those Cocoon aliens, only not as nice or floaty.

So let's come back from that tangent. I think book fairs are cool. I just don't think I'd get as excited about them if one came to the bank where I work. They would probably only offer boring books about finance and statistics. I think I'm better off just browsing Amazon these days.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fortunate Son

On the way home from work the other night, I decided I was craving some Chinese take-out. I had actually been craving it for a few days. Apparently there was a new place in Wake Forest that had just opened up. I knew this because the proprietors of this new restaurant were kind enough to send me a menu in the mail. I'm not sure how they knew I would be hungry for sweet and sour chicken in the near future. Maybe they got the memo in a fortune cookie.

The food was okay. Nothing too special and nothing to write home about. Certainly nothing to warrant a rave review on a blog that's read by over ten people. No, the interesting part of this take-out experience came with the fortune cookies. That's right, I said cookies... plural. I didn't get the family size meal. It was just for me. But they saw fit do give me three fortunes. Maybe they thought I needed a little extra help. But the thing is, none of the fortunes inside those cookies were all that helpful.

Fortune 1: Everyone has ambitions. Really? That's not a fortune. It's a statement of fact. At least I assume it is. I guess it's possible that there are some people out there with absolutely zero ambition. But come on, I'm one of the biggest slackers in America and I have ambition. Even if it's the ambition to "work" from home and never have to wear a tie again, it's something that someone aspires to. By the way, that's not necessarily my ambition. But I wouldn't turn it down.

Fortune 2: To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. Okay, who's the motivational speaker that came up with that one? Be nothing? The slip of paper may as well have said, Your life is worthless, you big waste of space. These fortunes are just giving off a really depressing vibe. The third one has to be better, right?

Fortune 3: You will do well to expand your business. Now that's a little more like it. A fortune cookie that tries to tell me a little bit about my future and the success I might have if I expand my business. Granted, I don't have a business to expand, but if I did, I sure would go out tomorrow and expand it. Why? Because the paper inside the pastry told me to. But really, what does the fortune cookie know? It could have said, You will do well to buy a lottery ticket. That doesn't mean I'm gonna win.

So the fortunes weren't that great. At best I was left feeling a little down about my possible future. But then I thought about that old joke. I think the first time I heard anyone say it was in college, back when we hit the Chinese buffet a lot of the time. You know, one of those funny things you do with fortunes. You take the paper, read it aloud, then add the words "in bed" to the end of it. Sure, it can sometimes lead to a pretty crude mental picture, but that immature kid inside you is probably laughing his or her head off. Let's try that with these really crappy fortunes, shall we?

Everyone has ambitions... in bed. Okay, that's a little funny.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing... in bed. Wow... that's a little hurtful, I think.

You will do well to expand your business... in bed. Yeah, if you're a hooker.

And there you have it. The three worst fortunes to ever come from some really cheap cookies. I kind of want to stop at this restaurant again soon. I'm hoping to get some more cookies from the same batch, just to see what other bad fortunes are out there. Have you ever gotten a really cruddy fortune?

Monday, February 14, 2011

AFI 95 - The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Netflix sleeve: There's not much to do in the windswept Texas hamlet of Anarene, where the town's only cinema is about to close forever. So high schoolers Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) lust after incorrigible flirt Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) while trying to chart their uncertain futures. When Duane heads for Korea after joining the service and Jacy gets shipped off to college, Sunny is left behind in a veritable ghost town.

This is one of the ones on the AFI list that I'd actually seen before. I rented it several years back because it was mentioned on Dawson's Creek once, helping to illustrate the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle. Dawson tries to boil down the entire movie to the Duane-Jacy-Sonny love triangle when explaining the plot to Joey. I really don't think that's all this movie is about. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure what the whole thing was supposed to be about. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. Maybe I'm suffering from a hazy memory thanks to the cold medication I was on all weekend. To me, it just seems like a random string of events that take place in the lives of these high school kids over the course of the year. A lot of it has to do with sex. But I think a lot of it, too, has to do with these kids just trying to figure out what they're going to do with their lives. Especially when they don't have a lot of options laid out in front of them in their tiny town. I really wasn't all that impressed by the movie. But I did find out recently that a sequel was made in 1990. Texasville was done by the same director and reunited the cast from this one. I'm just curious enough, I'll probably rent it one of these days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Thousand Years

My story began a thousand years ago. Okay, not my story, exactly. I mean, I was born in '87. But for the purposes of the story I'm about to tell, it began a thousand years ago. It began with a monk named Byrhtferth and his Manual.

See, a lot of people haven't even heard of Byrhtferth or his work. But he was kind of brilliant. Most of Byrhtferth's Manual is just a computus. Basically, that's a calculation of when Easter should fall in the year. But if you ask me, that's just what's seen on the surface of this great work.

Scratch that surface, and you see that it was written by a man who had an incredible grasp on how our universe works. The man could use mathematics and simple numbers to explain the order of things in our world. Things that we see as chaos can be explained through equations as a part of that universal order.

Byrhtferth lived and worked at Ramsey Abbey in England. I've visited what's left of the old place, hoping to find even a little more evidence of the man's genius. Each time I've been there, I've come up short. But I'm undeterred. I have no doubt that there is more to what he left behind.

I'm not crazy. I have no grand notions that I'll find some key to unlock absolute power. But I do firmly believe that it will be possible to come up with logical ways to predict future events for our planet, and even our solar system. I just need to get inside the mind of a man who died so long ago.

Think about it. Equations that can tell us when and where the next major earthquake will strike. Equations that will predict the force and exact path of a hurricane. What if we could predict when and where a tornado would touch down? What if we knew exactly how bad the next wave of solar flares would be? We could have foreknowledge of all these disasters and be better prepared to face them when they come. The possibilities are endless.

I just need a little more time, a little more study. I know I can unlock these numbers. The secret of life is almost within my reach.

Today's writing prompt is brought to you by Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Superman Classic

For today's YouTube video I give you a new Superman cartoon done in the classic style. Remember those old cartoons from the 40s? This kind of has that style. The short itself is actually only about a minute long. The rest of the video is credits and an explanation from the animator as to why he decided to do what he did with it. And here's some extra trivia, just to make you all aware of how extra-geeky I am this morning, the voice of Clark Kent/Superman was provided by John Newton, who played Superboy in the 80s syndicated Superboy TV show.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Question of the Week: In Touch

While arguing with a close friend on the telephone, she gets angry and hangs up. Assuming she is at fault and makes no attempt to contact you, how long would you wait to get in touch with her?

I guess that depends on how close "close" really is. If it's someone I'm in constant contact with, I'd probably wait 'til the next day. By constant contact, I mean at least daily. If it was someone that I spoke with around once a week or just a few times a month, I'd wait longer.

Whatever the case, I wouldn't bring up the argument again. That kind of thing is petty and childish. It's in the past. Whatever it was, it was bad enough to make one of us angry enough to hang up on the other. It isn't worth bringing up again. Well, in most cases I would say it isn't worth bringing up again. Sometimes there are arguments that need to be hashed out and need to come to some kind of conclusion. You need to either reach a point where you can agree, agree to disagree, or sever ties.

We're friends with the people we're friends with because we have something in common. But we never have everything in common. There are always going to be certain issues that no two people will always come to an agreement on. And that's okay. It's the mix of sameness and difference that make these people so much fun to be around. But then there are rare occasions when a difference can mean the end of a relationship. Those times are sad, but they happen. It's why we have certain friends for certain seasons in our lives. How many of us are still friends with the people we knew in grade school? high school? college? that first job?

Some friends stick around for the long haul. Those friends put in a lot of time and energy and work into the relationship. More often than not, though, we have friends who are with us for a while, then one day we look and realize we haven't spoken in years. Crazy how that happens. I guess that's why Facebook is such a great thing. It's a quick way to check in on someone you haven't talked to since 1987. Everyone should send a thank you note to Mark Zuckerburg.

Did anyone really know Mark Zuckerburg's name before The Social Network came out? Just wondering...

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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

31 Is Coming...

In just under a month, I'll reach the ripe old age of 31. I won't just be 30 anymore. I'll be well into my 30s. I think I dealt pretty well with hitting 30 last year, 31 shouldn't be a problem. You know what I think will help? Presents. And so you, my faithful Carp Dimers can be prepared, here's a list of things that I would like to receive for my birthday.

Kindle - Don't judge me. Print is a dying breed. And those things can hold thousands of books. I can't fit thousands of books in my apartment.

Community Season 1 on DVD - I've Netflixed and Hulu'd the crap outta that show. I want my own copy.

Electric Razor - I haven't used one since I was a freshman in college. I'm not sure whether it would be better to use than a disposable razor, but it'd be nice to have the option.

Gym Membership - I don't really care where. Someplace close would be nice. I was a member of a local gym last year and had to quit because I couldn't afford it. That hasn't really changed, but I did feel a lot better when I was working out regularly. And it was a great stress reliever. That's probably the best part.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i - I know, I don't really need a new camera. I have a digital camera, but it really isn't that great. I got it pretty cheap several years ago. The only really decent camera I have still uses film. And being on the budget I'm on, getting pictures developed isn't really cost effective. So I want a really good digital camera.

Flip UltraHD Video Camera - Another one that I don't necessarily need. But I really have been wanting to make a transition to some video blogs here and there. I'm not saying I want to be the next YouTube star. I just think it'd be fun. And the webcam that's built into the laptop just isn't gonna cut it.

Aside from the DVDs, I realize that these are likely to cost a lot of money. Which would be the sole reason why I haven't gone ahead and bought them for myself. But, you know, several of you could go in together, pool your money, that kind of thing.

P.S. - Nothing says "Happy birthday!" like cold, hard cash.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cut Her Some Slack

I like to think of myself as a pretty patriotic kind of person. I'm all about some apple pie and the Fourth of July. But can we stop filling news websites with headlines about how Christina Aguilera messed up singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl?

She flubbed a line. Deal with it. Move on.

Look, The Star-Spangled Banner isn't the easiest of songs to begin with. It's got a crazy range. Singing it in the shower could pose a problem for a lot of people. Imagine singing it live in front of tens of thousands of people, not to mention the largest television audience in recorded history.

And do some man on the street interviews. I really do wonder how many people in the country could recite the lyrics of our National Anthem word for word. How many of them would know what a rampart is?

Speaking as someone who has performed the National Anthem in front of an audience, I can say it's kind of nerve-racking. It's a song that carries a whole lot of meaning for a whole lot of people, so that adds a lot of pressure. Anyone who loves this country would want to make sure they got it right. But mistakes happen. She got lost in the moment and lost her place in the song. And she carried on like a professional. Do we stone meteorologists when they get the forecast wrong night after night? No. One singer messes up one time and it becomes world news.

So to Christina Aguilera, wherever you may be on this chilly February morning, keep your head up. You're catching a lot of slack from a lot of people who probably wouldn't even have the nerve to sing that song in front of a dozen of their closest friends, much less the world stage of Super Bowl XLV.

Oh, by the way, a rampart is a defensive wall. In case you were wondering.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

AFI 96 - Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing
Directed by Spike Lee
Netflix sleeve: What begins as an uproarious comedy evolves into a provocative, disquieting drama as directory Spike Lee chronicles trivial events that bring festering racial tensions to the surface on a sweltering day in a largely black Brooklyn neighborhood. After a number of minor misunderstandings--and an effort to boycott the local pizza parlor--a young man (Bill Nunn) lies dead, the pizzeria lies in ashes, and the racial schism is wider than ever.

This is a new one to me. At the time this movie came out, my only exposure to life in Brooklyn came from The Cosby Show. And the Huxtables did not live in the neighborhood depicted in this movie. Stories about race relations are always a touchy subject. More often than not, they're pretty controversial. From what I've read, this movie was no different when it was originally released. Having seen it now, I think it's a pretty good movie. I usually do like the sort of thing that shows a slice of life like this one does. It all takes place in the span of a day when everyone is just trying to deal with a summer heat wave. I'd be lying if I said that I totally understood the message that Spike Lee was trying to get across to the audience. I can only assume the reason for that is because I'm just a white kid from Virginia who's sitting in his living room watching a movie. The acts taking place in this movie are nothing I've ever experienced. But all it takes is to turn on the news every now and then to see that this can and does still happen from time to time.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Single Guy and the Paper Crane

The Single Guy sometimes gets bored at work. It's probably something that happens to everyone from time to time. Sometimes he'll pick up a book and read during his down time. Sometimes he'll look through the newspaper and solve that day's crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Sometimes both. One day last week, he decided to learn how to make an origami crane.

And so he did. The Internet is full of all kinds of information about all kinds of things. So finding the instructions for folding a paper crane weren't too difficult to find.

The Single Guy grabbed a sheet of paper from the printer and got to folding. Turns out it wasn't that hard a thing to do. All he had to do was look at the directions, and a few minutes later, he had a paper crane sitting at his station. He showed it to the other tellers and joked that he was going to name the crane Frasier.

One of the tellers looked at it and seemed to be impressed. "How is it that you're still single?" she asked.

At the time, the Single Guy laughed at the question. The fact that he could make an origami crane didn't exactly make him Raleigh's most eligible bachelor. He left the crane sitting in his window for a week, and there were approximately zero single women who stormed into the bank to try to snag the Single Guy while they still could.

But the Single Guy got to thinking. There's one important thing to note about this origami crane. Remember, the Single Guy didn't just create the thing out of thin air. He had to find out how to fold it. So maybe that's something for the ladies out there to know about the Single Guy. He can follow instructions to the letter.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


"Tell me a story!" the kid said to the old man as they walked down the dirt road.

The old man stopped and looked down at the boy. The kid had his hand wrapped around two of the fingers on the old man's left hand. He reached up and scratched his head and got a confused look on his face.

"Kid, I don't think I've got any good stories you wanna hear."

"Come on, grandpa!" the boy whined. "Daddy said you fought in a real war. You've just gotta have some stories to tell!"

They started walking down the dirt road again. The old man looked up into the sky and let his mind wander. His mind carried him back nearly 40 years to a dense jungle. He could still hear the bullets flying by as he sought cover. He could still see his fellow soldiers falling around him. He could still feel the joy mingled with guilt after having survived when so many others died.

"I can't tell you about war, boy." The old man let out a heavy sigh. He looked at his grandson and saw the disappointment written all over his face. "What if I tell you about when I got home from the war?"

"Aww, grandpa," the boy started whining again. "That's not exciting. Daddy said you came home and met grandma."

"Sure I did, eventually," the old man began. His imagination started working. Could he come up with an exciting story for the kid? "But first I spent a couple years as a spy."

"Really?" This got the boy excited again. "Who did you spy on?"

The old man had to think fast. "I went to Russia to keep an eye on a bad man named... uh... Rasputin."

"Did you just make that up grandpa?" the boy asked.

"No, it's just been a really long time. Some of the names and places are kind of fuzzy."

"So what did Rasputin do?"

The old man thought some more. "Well, he was a tricky fella. He had plans for a secret weapon that would have caused a lot of damage if he'd gotten a chance to build it. Luckily, your old grandpa was there to mess things up for him."

"What'd you do?"

"I snuck into old Rasputin's office over in Moscow and went through his files. When I found the plans for his super weapon, I dropped them into the trashcan and set them on fire." The old man was starting to feel guilty for lying to the boy. But his grandson looked happy with the story he was hearing.

Eventually the boy would figure out that Rasputin was someone completely different in history. He'd figure out that the old man led a boring life after the war. He was no spy. He was a husband and a father. Eventually, he was a grandfather. That was the real story. And it was a story that the kid would learn on his own someday. But today, the story the kid heard was one of complete fiction.

Today's writing prompt is brought to you by Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Most Awesome Commercial Ever

Apparently this is an upcoming Super Bowl ad, but I saw it posted somewhere last week and thought it was great. It's always nice when a father can help his son continue to believe that he can actually use the Force to make things happen.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Question of the Week: Television

Would you be willing to give up all television for the next five years if it would induce someone to provide for 1,000 starving children in Indonesia?

On the one hand, there's a lot of crap on TV these days. I mean, it's a stand-up comedy staple to talk about how there are 500 channels but nothing's on. It's kind of true. So five years of no television means you probably wouldn't be missing much.

On the other hand, there are some pretty good shows that are still on too. I won't go into the ones I like here, because I'm sure there would be plenty of debate about what I think is good as opposed to what I think is crap.

However, most of what I watch is available to be streamed online. The question only said television. It didn't say anything about the internet. While something like Community is a television show, does it really count as TV if I'm watching it from my laptop? If I can keep watching Netflix and Hulu, sure, I'll do it.

Also, if you can feed 1,000 starving children, can you not do a little better? I haven't looked at the statistics, but I'm sure there are more than 1,000 starving kids, and not just in Indonesia. Come on, wealthy, TV-hating benefactor. Let's step up the game a little.

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

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Why the Flying Car Is a Bad Idea

I'm sure most of us have seen Back to the Future Part II by now, right? If you haven't seen the entire Back to the Future trilogy and you're still reading this blog, how have you made it this far? I'm sure I reference the movies all the time. Okay, I know what I'll do... I'll make a list of essential movies for you to watch. That's not today's post. I'll get to that eventually. Just something for you to look forward to.

Anyway, Back to the Future Part II has it's flaws, but it's a pretty decent movie in its own right. The greatest part for me, when I was a kid, was the glimpse we got of the future. It was awesome to see a holographic shark attack Marty in the street. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wanted a hoverboard when I left the theater, even though I would never even have the ability to master a skateboard.

And then there's the flying car.

On the surface, a car that hovers and takes off into the air seems like a really neat idea. Imagine soaring through the clouds in your Mustang convertible. Isn't that a nice image?

Now think about all those people in traffic that piss you off by being inconsiderate or not giving turn signals or running red lights. Imagine that every one of those irresponsible drivers has a license to soar through the sky right along with you. 'Cause you're just driving a car, so it's not like there would be a special law in place to require a pilot's license, right?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website, there were over 30,000 fatal crashes last year. Could you imagine how much that number would grow if those crashes occurred thousands of feet above the ground?

What kinds of safety standards would have to be enforced? I don't think airbags would cut it at that point. Would every passenger in the car need to wear a parachute?

What about people who don't pay attention to the gas gauge? You see them pulled over on the side of the road and out of gas. What happens if they run out of fuel while in mid-air? It's not like you can just cut the engine and wait for AAA to come by in a helicopter to tow you to the nearest airport. That whole gravity thing would probably get in the way of your patient wait for the tow.

I guess one good thing would be the elimination of having a tire blow out because you ran over a nail. No nails on the invisible roads of the skyway.

But that also means that if you doze off at the wheel and you drift toward the shoulder, there's no rumble strip to wake you back up.

So, to anyone out there who still thinks a flying car would be a swell idea, think about the danger that it poses to the general public. Let's just focus on getting everyone a pair of shoes with power laces. We waste so much time in the morning by tying our shoes.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Single Guy and the Facebook Friend

The Hostess accepted the Single Guy's friendship on Facebook. For a few days after he initially tried to add her, the Single Guy was a little afraid that he had crossed some kind of line, that he would never see or hear from her again. That fear came from a logical place. It had, in fact, happened before. Not necessarily with Facebook, but there was a certain incident involving a certain Girl in a certain White SUV. Let us not speak of it.

But the Hostess came through. Well, she came through the drive-thru at the bank where the Single Guy works. There was nothing deep about the visit, just business as usual. A normal transaction with some light conversation. Pretty typical for a Friday afternoon. A few minutes after her business was completed and the Hostess drove away, the Single Guy received a message on his phone letting him know that the Hostess had accepted him as a friend on Facebook.

Now, the Single Guy isn't one to get irrationally emotional. Well, not often anyway. But it would be a lie to say he wasn't excited by this development. Unfortunately, his phone was only capable of letting him know about the friendly addition. He wouldn't be able to properly respond to this new friend until he was at home, sitting at his own computer.

The day passed and once he was at home, he went to his new friend's Facebook profile. And as quickly as his excitement had appeared, it deflated just as fast. The Hostess was in a committed relationship.

So the Single Guy hit a dead end on that particular road. Because there was no way he would attempt to pursue a woman who was already involved with someone. The Single Guy felt bad enough that he had developed a crush on someone else's girlfriend. Though, to be fair, he didn't know she had a boyfriend the first time he saw her.

Also, for the record, the Single Guy's been holding onto this story for a while. He's been unsure as to whether or not he should post it, since he links all his posts on Facebook. But here's the thing, he gets an average of 30 visitors to his blog each day. Statistically, the odds that she's one of the few people that come to the blog from Facebook are pretty slim. So he kind of felt like he couldn't post anything else about her for fear of embarrassment or ridicule, but why should that matter? He's not posting anything negative about her, right?

Though, the Single Guy does tend to exaggerate when he tells his stories. Also, he talks about himself in the third person, which could cause him to come off as a crazy person...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

AFI 97 - Blade Runner

Blade Runner
Directed by Ridley Scott
Netflix sleeve: In the smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles of 2019, blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is called out of retirement to snuff a quartet of "replicants" -- androids consigned to slave labor on remote planets. They've escaped to Earth seeking their creator and a way to extend their short life spans.

Okay, I'll be honest. I wasn't looking forward to this one. I've seen it before and it really didn't do anything for me the first time around. I know, a lot of people love this movie. It's what you call a cult classic. I'm not in that particular cult. When I was a kid, my Dad had this movie on VHS. It's one he owned even after making the switch to DVDs. But for a long time, I never watched it. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that he ever really watched it either. It may have been one of those movies that was sent automatically because my folks were members of Columbia House or something and they forgot to mail the card back in. I remember asking Dad about the movie and he may have actually said he didn't care for it much himself. Maybe that tainted my view of it. Eventually I relented. I watched it about a year ago and, like I said, it didn't do a lot for me. So on this one, I have to disagree with the AFI. Not in my top 100, but I don't make the decisions.