Thursday, March 31, 2011

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode XCVI

Here's another example of something that kind of drives me crazy concerning some of my customers. Shocked that something else would drive me crazy? Yeah, I thought so.

It's a rainy day. It's dreary and it would have been a swell day to sleep in. But I had to come to work. Sleeping late was, sadly, not an option. When the weather is as it is today, people drive around with their windshield wipers on. This is how it should be.

However, I find it a little annoying when they pull into the drive through with their wipers still going. It would be nice if they would turn them off while they're next to my window. If they're on, the wiper blades fling water all over the glass. And since I slide that drawer out for the customer when they pull up, rain water makes its way into that as well.

First of all, do you really need to keep your wipers on high, even while you're driving around out there? It's not as if we're having a typhoon. From where I'm sitting, it's not even raining that hard. It isn't exactly a drizzle, but when you have the wipers going full blast, you kind of look like a spaz.

Also, when you're at my drive through, you're sitting in a well covered area. Rain is falling five feet to the right of my drawer, but it's dry as a bone where your car currently sits. Turn off the wipers. When the drawer gets wet, your paperwork gets wet. It's not a dire thing, just an annoyance.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Last Battle

Title: The Last Battle
Author: C.S. Lewis
Published: 1956

Ladies and gentlemen, I am 31 years old, and I have finally read each of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. I probably checked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out of my church's library a dozen times. I probably read it once as a kid. And though I looked at the covers of all the other books, and was intrigued, I never got them to give them a read.

And now I've made my way through all seven. Erynn said that she ranked The Last Battle somewhere near The Silver Chair. I have to disagree. This one was far better than The Silver Chair.

It's the story of Narnia's end. There are a lot of very obvious parallels with the biblical book of Revelation. We begin with an ape, named Shift, who has his donkey friend, Puzzle, masquerade as Aslan after they find an old lion skin in a pool. Puzzle is manipulated and made to do this against his will, while Shift forces the Narnians to do his bidding and causes them to question the true Aslan.

The last King of Narnia, Tirian, finds himself captive of the false leaders and cries out for help. That help arrives in the form of Eustace and Jill (from The Silver Chair). They set him free and join him in the final battle for Narnia's freedom.

In the end, the true Aslan reveals himself and ushers in the end of Narnia while welcoming true Narnians to a new Narnia. It's the very picture of the new Heaven and the new Earth as described in Revelation. I think Lewis does a great job in his attempt to describe the difference between the world we know now and the world that is to come. Compared to what will be, the world we know is merely a shadowy reflection.

I am going to ask a question, and please help me out with this in the comments. I haven't read much of C.S. Lewis' other work (though I really plan to eventually), but after reading this, I have to wonder something. Did he believe in a sort of "all roads lead to Heaven" theology? I only ask because of a particular scene near the end.

In the new Narnia, Aslan and the children from the previous books come across a Calormene (from the country to the south of Narnia). He asks how it could be that he would be in Aslan's Country when his whole life, he served Tash (the god of the Calormenes). Aslan told him that in serving Tash, he was really serving him. Every good thing that this man did in Tash's name, he was really doing in Aslan's.

The conclusion I draw from this is that Lewis believed that people of other religions, as long as they adhere to that system the way they should, then it's as good as accepting Christ. Maybe I'm misreading Lewis' intent here. But I always took Jesus' line of "No one comes to the Father except through me," kind of seriously. That's John 14:6, by the way. Like I said, I could be wrong in how I'm reading the novel. Help me out in the comments.

And now, I give you my list in order from favorite to least:
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2. The Magician's Nephew
3. The Horse and His Boy
4. The Last Battle
5. Prince Caspian
6. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
7. The Silver Chair

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's Gonna Happen?

Let's take note of a few things.

Fact: Due to scheduled vacations and various staffing issues, I've been allowed to work 40 hours for two weeks in a row. Typically I only get 35 hours a week, which gives me that wonderful Wednesday off. But 40 hours means a slightly beefed up paycheck.

Fact: This week's paycheck will include a bonus thanks to last month's perfect customer service scores.

Fact: In my last shift of delivering pizza, customers were abnormally generous with their tips. At one stop I got $14. At another place, they had already put a tip on the credit card, but at the door the guy handed me a few more bucks. I'm not saying I can retire now, it was just a very good night.

So I'm coming into some unplanned cash. Now I'm just waiting for something bad to happen. Why so pessimistic? I'm glad you asked.

I can't remember a time in my life when I've ever been allowed to actually get ahead of things. So I just have this feeling that something will happen to cause this newfound windfall to go away as quickly as it's come. Maybe my transmission will fall out. I really hope not, I didn't get that much money.

But this is me. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Monday, March 28, 2011

AFI 88 - Bringing Up Baby

Bringing Up Baby
Directed by Howard Hawks
Netflix sleeve: Love runs wild for a hapless scientist and an unstoppable heiress in Howard Hawks's classic screwball comedy that ranks high on the American Film Institute's list of the funniest Hollywood films ever made. With her eye on paleontologist David (Cary Grant), heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn) lures him to her home. But the hilarity begins when Susan's dog steals David's prize dinosaur bone and her pet leopard, Baby, is mistaken for a zoo escapee.

As romantic comedies go, I won't say this has become one of my favorites. I don't even, really, have that much to say about it. I mean, it was all right. There were some funny moments. I'll even admit to laughing out loud a few times. But it really wasn't the raucous, screwball comedy I was expecting after reading the description from Netflix. Not in my top 100.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Stan looked at the gauge in the dash and saw that he was nearly out of gas as he sped down the interstate. He was mentally kicking himself for not filling the tank the day before when he had the chance. Now there was no time.

His sister, Sara, had gone into labor. She was already on her way to the hospital, being driven by a close friend whose name Stan couldn't recall. He needed to get there. He needed to be there for her. He had made a promise.

Will was Sara's husband, and he was a marine. He had been deployed to Iraq just three months earlier. Stan promised his brother-in-law that when the big day came for his child to be born, that he would be there to hold Sara's hand since Will wouldn't be able to.

And now Stan was running late. He got the call from Sara when her water broke. She told him not to rush. She said that Linda would get her to the hospital and that she would be fine. But Stan didn't know about these things. Sure he understood that TV wasn't exactly reality, but he remembered that when Mrs. Belding's water broke, Zack had to deliver her baby on the elevator during an earthquake. And that was in a matter of minutes. So he drove as quickly as he could, praying that he wouldn't get stopped by a state trooper.

The low fuel light taunted him silently from the dashboard. He wasn't far away now. He just needed to go a little further. And then his engine started to make some odd noises. He cursed into the steering wheel as his motor choked. As his car died, he drifted to the shoulder and turned on his hazard lights.

He got out of his car and slammed the door in anger. Stan pulled out his cell phone and dialed his sister's number, ready to let her down. In the soft glow of twilight, he looked ahead of his stalled car. Half a mile ahead was his exit. He was nearly there after all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another Disney Themed Video

I swear I didn't plan this. Two weeks in a row with Disney related YouTube videos. This one I caught earlier this week though and thought it was kind of cool. This guy is singing all the parts of some medley of Disney songs. I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one that sings along with each part while watching those old Disney movies. I mean... what? No. I don't do that. You're thinking of someone else.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Question of the Week: Shelter

If you had to spend the next two years inside a small but fully provisioned Antarctic shelter with one other person, whom would you like to have with you?

It would need to be someone that would be fun to talk to. Someone who can share in making sure we stay entertained and don't go crazy with cabin fever. Now, it's been a while since I summered in the Antarctic. Do they have internet access down there these days? Would we still be able to pick up Netflix? Can we Skype with our families back home? That would at least offer some relief when we inevitably get tired of seeing just each other. I mean, there's only so many games of War that a couple of people can play before one of the two screams in a fit of rage and runs out into the blinding snowstorm on the ice shelf.

As for whom I'd like to have there with me, I'm really not sure. I know a lot of you probably expect me to choose the Girl in the White SUV. But let's be reasonable. When she was still coming around, I had a hard time stringing three words together. Would that work for two years straight? I don't think so. And really, as much as I love my closest friends, could any of them really put up with only me and my sarcasm all that time? Besides, most of them are married with kids these days. So I'd probably be best off with a random stranger. Someone who fits a profile after we fill out questionnaires. Kind of like how large universities match freshman roommates. Or Alison Brie, of television's Community and Mad Men. What? She's hot, okay?

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things to Say When You Want to Get Punched in the Face

I've sort of been sitting on this one for a while. Actually, it's been nearly a year since I decided that it would make for a good blog post. I had initially planned to compile a list of the top ten things to say if you wanted to be punched in the face. I haven't been successful in coming up with anything beyond the one that I experienced personally.

My experience wasn't one where I said something that deserved a punch. No, something was said to me. I refrained from violence, but I really think a fist to the face would have been justified. Read on to see if you agree.

Roughly a year ago, I found myself in an uncomfortable position. I was asked to appear in court in support of a friend who was being falsely accused of some pretty ridiculous things. For the privacy of those involved, I won't divulge names or details. However, I will admit that there were several former friends and acquaintances on the opposite side of the aisle.

At the end of that court day, one of those opposing acquaintances was exiting at the same time as I. I held the door. After all, despite being on two different sides of this argument, I wasn't going to let that change the way I treated people. Not that I'm the nicest person in the world, or the greatest at keeping up my side of a conversation, but I'm decent enough to hold the door for people.

As this opposing acquaintance passed through the door, he looked at me and said, "You know, Aaron, I'd really like to think that your dad would be disappointed in you right now."

On the outside, I didn't let that statement affect me. My facial expression didn't change. I didn't respond with any words or gestures. I continued on my way, ignoring him and anyone that was with him. Inside, however, those words hit me hard.

That man's words didn't hit me hard because I thought there was any truth to them. It hurt because this opposing acquaintance didn't know my father. He had no basis for claiming that my deceased father would be disappointed in me. Therefore, he was calling into question not only my integrity, but my father's as well. That's what hurt.

I held it together until I was alone at lunch with friends and family. At that point I couldn't hold back anymore. I broke down into tears. This former acquaintance had accomplished his mission. I'm certain that this man only said what he said in order to get a reaction from me. My honest, gut reaction was to punch him in the face. He had no right to say what he did. He didn't know my dad, other than by reputation. And it's clear to me now that his view of my father's reputation is severely skewed, especially if he thinks that Grayson Peck would be, in any way disappointed in his son.

But I didn't give this man the satisfaction of a response. I didn't punch him. Mostly because we were in a county courthouse surrounded by sheriff's deputies. Also because I really didn't want to become one of their supposed antagonists when all I was doing was standing beside a person that had been wronged.

Let me say this: I love my Dad very much. He's not with us anymore, but I know the man that he was. I may be disappointed in myself from time to time, with decisions I've made or with where I am in my life, but I will never doubt the fact that Dad was proud of me, and would be to this day. I'm sure there have been times and there will be times when something I do or say would have caused him to disagree with me in some way or another, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't still love and support me as his son. And in this situation that I found myself in last year, I believe he would have been standing right beside me in support of this friend.

So, a little advice, if you ever want to get someone to punch you in the face, feel free to insult the memory of their deceased parents. I'm sure it's a quick way to get a broken nose or a busted lip. Unless you happen to do it in the foyer of a courthouse and the person whose skin you've tried to get under is man enough to take the higher road and walk away.

Like I said, I had planned to make out a list of things that fall in this category, but as you can see I only had the one example. Do you have any examples of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AFI 89 - The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Netflix sleeve: When young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) inexplicably starts seeing dead people, he lands in the care of child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who is determined to uncover the truth behind Cole's remarkable paranormal abilities. M. Night Shyamalan writes and directs this plot twist-filled chiller, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Olivia Williams and Toni Collette co-star.

I remember seeing this in the theater when it originally came out. I went to see it based solely on the previews I had seen. I don't remember catching any word of mouth from people who had already seen it. I had no idea who M. Night Shyamalan was. But I knew who he was after I saw The Sixth Sense. I remember walking out of the theater thinking about how awesome it was. I remember how great that twist was at the end. Spoiler alert: Bruce Willis was dead the whole time! I turned to my friends and said I had to see it again. I wanted to see if there were clues throughout the movie that let us know he was dead. Didn't he interact with anyone other than the kid? I didn't see it again in the theater. But I had officially become a Shyamalan fan. The problem was, he set the bar for himself really high. I know this isn't a post about him or his other works, but his other movies have been hit or miss for me. Mostly miss. But The Sixth Sense is definitely not a miss.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Perils of Pizza Delivery, Part 9

I had taken some time off from the pizza delivery game. A week of it was definitely by choice. When I schedule a week off from the bank, I like to have the same time off from the pizza joint. What's the point of taking a vacation from one job if you have to work another? But that week off turned into more than two weeks away from driving around with hot pizzas in the back seat.

The week before my official vacation was to start, I was only scheduled to work one night. That one night, I went into the store after a long day at the bank, and the place was pretty much dead. So before I even clocked in, the powers that be asked if I wanted the night off. So I said sure. Never look a night off in the mouth.

So last Thursday I finally returned to delivering pizzas. I put the sign on top of my car, I lit it up, and I started making my rounds. It turned into a pretty long night, causing me to stay an hour past my scheduled time off. Even though I was tired, I try not to complain about that kind of thing anymore. The money helps. Sometimes.

There are times when staying late doesn't pay off. There are times when I just happen to be the one unlucky enough to get the neighborhoods that are notorious for not tipping well. Or at all. There are plenty of areas in Wake Forest that drivers like to avoid. Again, it isn't because they're considered dangerous, the residents just tend to not care to give that little extra to the guy that's bringing them dinner. It could also be that they care, they just don't have the extra to give to the guy that's bringing them dinner. A rule I've made for myself, especially after being the guy on the other side of the door, is that if I can't afford a decent tip, then I can afford to go and pick up the food myself.

Anyway, I digress. I was delivering to this apartment complex on the edge of our store's map. In the year and a half that I've worked with this pizza chain, I have never received even a dollar in tips from anyone living in these apartments. And I've never delivered to the same apartment twice. The folks in that neck of the Forest just don't tip. Every time it's either been exact change in cash or they sign the credit card receipt while leaving the tip line blank. And if that's how they want to do it, so be it. Maybe they think that two dollar delivery charge is my tip. It's not, by the way. There's even a disclaimer on the box that tells them the delivery fee is not the driver's tip. I'm just saying.

So I get to the address and knock on the door of apartment 101. This guy answers the door and makes like he's about to grab the receipt so he can sign it. But it turns out it isn't his apartment and it wasn't his credit card that paid for the pizza and wings. This girl appears from nowhere shouting about how she needs to sign for it. So the guy moves back toward the kitchen where there are a couple other guys standing around having a swell time. Meanwhile, in the background, the Signing Girl's boyfriend is shouting and laughing, asking who's at the door. She starts laughing and I start thinking I'm missing out on some amazing joke.

Out of the corner of my eye I look into the darkened room to where the Shouting/Laughing Guy is sitting on a couch waving a gun around. I act like I didn't notice, hand over the pizza, grab my copy of the receipt, and wish the Signing Girl a nice evening. And then I leave.

When I got back to the car, I thought back on the moment. And I said to myself, "Pretty sure that dude had a gun." I drove away, never to return again.

I didn't have a panic attack. In fact, at no time did I feel like I was in any danger. It's possible that I was in some danger. Not that the Shouting/Laughing Guy with the Gun meant to do me any harm. But accidents happen. Idiots waving guns around cause them to go off all the time. But, as you can clearly see, I lived to tell the tale.

I also learned a valuable lesson that night. Don't tweet about coming in contact with idiots with guns. Apparently this can cause all sorts of people to become concerned over your safety. Especially if your mother reads said tweet.

But, let me state, for the record, that I'm fairly certain that my job at the bank could be considered slightly more dangerous than delivering pizza. This is based solely on statistics. How many banks were robbed at gunpoint last year? How many pizza dudes? I don't know the answers to those questions. So if you want to do the research and let me know, there's space for the comments below.

I was not shocked that I did not receive a tip from that delivery that night. I assume that my tip was that I got to walk away with both my kneecaps intact.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Magician's Nephew

Title: The Magician's Nephew
Author: C. S. Lewis
Published: 1955

You know, once I got past The Silver Chair, this series has really taken off for me. I've now read six of the seven Chronicles of Narnia and I think this one is my favorite thus far. And I've heard from several folks that The Last Battle is a favorite. Is it better than The Magician's Nephew?

There are some that would argue this is the first book in the series. However, it was published sixth. Lewis begins the book by referring to Narnia as if the reader was already familiar with the magical world. The reader could only possibly be familiar with Narnia if he or she had already read the earlier installments. I think from that first paragraph, it's clear that C. S. Lewis meant for this to be a prequel.

It's like the Star Wars movies. If we begin with The Phantom Menace, do we have any reason to care about meeting some annoying kid named Anakin Skywalker, played by some annoying kid who can't act? But if we start in the order in which the movies were filmed, we're introduced to Darth Vader, the biggest bad guy in the whole galaxy. Turns out he used to be this annoying kid called Anakin. The story of his journey to the Dark Side is an expansion on the story of his redemption told through the original trilogy.

Sorry, I didn't mean for this to turn into an analysis of the Star Wars saga. My point is, it's a lot easier to understand this prequel if you're already familiar with the world that C. S. Lewis has created through the previous five books.

Remember the Professor from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Well, he's the title character here. Only he's not the Professor yet. He's just a kid named Digory Kirke. He's got a friend and neighbor named Polly and a crazy uncle who claims to be a magician. Uncle Andrew is no more a magician than Oz was really a wizard. Uncle Andrew just happens to be messing around with things he doesn't understand and accidentally sends Digory and Polly out of our world and on an adventure exploring others.

The first world the children encounter is a place called Charn. It's a world that's nearing its end. The only living person they find is Jadis, the witch who eventually rises to power in Narnia and is conquered with the help of the Pevensie kids. The witch manages to follow the children back to our world, and in a desperate attempt to get her back to Charn, they accidentally carry her to a world that has yet to be formed. On this second trip out of our reality, they carry Uncle Andrew, along with a horse and the Cabby that drives him.

If you haven't guessed yet, the unformed world is what becomes Narnia. They all become witnesses to Aslan the Lion's creation of Narnia. They help to set things in motion that set the stage for all the previous stories.

All in all, I thought it was a great story. And it's a great parallel to the Creation story in Genesis, including the temptation and the fall of man. I'm kind of excited about reading the final book of the series, but a little sad that I'm getting to the end of it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


"The coupon says the coffee is free! That means the coffee is free!" Evan yelled at the boy in the doughnut hat. All the anger that had been building up for the last few weeks was finally finding its release. He didn't mean to take out his frustration on the poor customer service kid at the Donut Emporium. It just seemed to be happening.

"Sir, you have to read the fine print," the kid said as calmly and as monotone as he could. "The coffee is free with the purchase of a dozen assorted doughnuts."

"Well," Evan began, looking for the kid's name tag, "Carl, my wallet was stolen yesterday. I have no money. I cannot afford your dozen assorted doughnuts."

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir," said Carl. "My hands are tied. Also, do you really need the caffeine at this point? I'm sorry, but you seem kind of high strung as it is."

Evan sighed heavily and looked up at the ceiling, fighting the overwhelming urge to scream. "Who are you to judge how high strung I am?!"

"Sir, I work in a doughnut shop that specializes in several different award-winning coffee blends. I know what someone looks like when they've become over-caffeinated." Carl was still attempting to remain calm, but the look in the customer's eye was beginning to scare him.

Evan grabbed the coupon off the counter and balled it up and threw it on the floor. He turned around and stormed out of the Donut Emporium, nearly tearing the door off its hinges as he flung it open. He had no cash. He had no driver's license. He had no debit card. And now he had no morning cup of coffee. As Evan walked down the sidewalk, he stuffed his hands deep into his coat pockets and decided that his day couldn't get any worse.

And then it started to rain.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Disney Punch

So what if someone took the audio from the Sucker Punch trailer and cut in scenes from a bunch of Disney's animated classics? It'd look a little something like this. The damsels aren't playing the distress card anymore.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Question of the Week: Indecent Proposal

On an airplane you are talking pleasantly to a stranger of average appearance. Unexpectedly, the person offers you $10,000 for one night of sex. Knowing that there is no danger and that payment is certain, would you accept the offer?

There's a part of me that wants to say yes. But I know myself better than that. Odds are, in that situation, I would decline the offer. First of all, taking money for sex would turn me into Rob Schneider. Secondly, it isn't something I've ever done before. I'm sure my first time wouldn't be worth $10,000 to the person paying for it. And for me, I'd rather it be with someone special, not a stranger on a plane. Even though I'm sure that scenario has played through the minds of countless guys throughout the history of aviation.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AFI 90 - Swing Time

Swing Time
Directed by George Stevens
Netflix sleeve: In this classic musical, Fred Astaire plays Lucky, a gambler who misses his wedding to a young socialite and must come up with $25,000 for another chance with her. But after meeting lovely dance instructor Penny (Ginger Rogers), he forgets about his old flame. Often cited as the best of the 10 Astaire and Rogers movies, Time Magazine named it one of its All-Time 100 Movies. Songs include "The Way You Look Tonight."

Before this, the only movie I'd actually seen Fred Astaire in was The Towering Inferno. Sure, I'd seen clips of him dancing with Ginger Rogers, but I'd never seen a full movie with the two of them. Now that I've seen this one, I kind of want to see others that they did together. At the start of it, it kind of looked like Astaire didn't stop dancing, even when he was walking from one place to another. I guess someone like that just has a natural rhythm. I really liked this one. It's the movie that introduced the world to a great song. And aside from the singing and dancing, it's all very When Harry Met Sally in a "will they or won't they" kind of way.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Single Guy and the Newborn

While the Single Guy was on vacation, he got a chance to meet the Caldwells' newborn daughter. In all honesty, he was nervous about this meeting.

The Single Guy wasn't too worried about making a good first impression on the kid. After all, at this point, she was only eight days old. He was pretty sure the baby wouldn't even remember this encounter.

His anxiety came from the fact that the kid was being watched and cared for in the NICU at Roanoke Memorial. For the Single Guy, anything with the letters ICU spell "Restricted Zone." But both of the parents were there and invited him to go back to the unit with them while they spent time holding and feeding their new baby.

The invitation didn't really alleviate his anxiety. The fact that he wouldn't be allowed to hold the baby did help though. Upon entering the quiet and dimly lit nursery, the Single Guy was told he needed to wash his hands up to his elbows for two minutes straight at the sink just inside the door. Afterward he would need to don a hospital gown to cover his street clothes.

The hand washing commenced. While the parents made their way to another sink, the Single Guy pressed the pedals under his sink to start the water flowing. He applied the soap to his hands and arms (up to his elbows) and began scrubbing. The only problem was, he forgot to check the clock to time his two minutes. So he just kept washing. After a few minutes of washing, Mr. Caldwell returned from around the corner and said, "Dude, I think you're good."

"Has it been two minutes?" the Single Guy asked.

"Yeah... It's been five!" He laughed at the Single Guy and tossed him a gown.

"I think I can safely say that my hands have never been this clean before," he said as they made their way over to the baby's crib/incubator where the Single Guy would get his first look at Baby Caldwell. And she had her back to them. The Single Guy wasn't worried about his first impression on the baby girl and, apparently, neither was she.

Mrs. Caldwell opened up the crib/incubator to get the baby turned so we could see her, but the baby didn't seem to like this idea very much. A quiet cry escaped her tiny mouth in protest, but soon her complaint was forgotten and she was once again snoozing.

For a few minutes, the three of us sat around the crib/incubator talking quietly, trying to catch up on each others lives a little. Then it was feeding time. Mr. Caldwell settled in while a nurse got everything ready for them. It was his turn to offer a bottle and the baby responded well. It took a while, but eventually, she drank it all down.

During the feeding, the nurse needed to change some of the IV fluids. For this procedure, we all needed to wear masks. We weren't allowed to breathe while she made these changes. So, rather than all of us holding our collective breath, she gave us the masks instead. The Single Guy decided to keep his as a souvenir of his visit. He also thought it would be fun to wear it around and make people think he had some kind of strange communicable disease.

At the end of the evening, after much laughter and several "awww" moments, the baby was returned to her bed and the grown-ups left her in the care of the capable nurses of the NICU. Before they left, however, Mrs. Caldwell asked the Single Guy if he wanted to give the baby a kiss on the head.

"Am I allowed to?" he asked. Immediately he knew it was a stupid question. The mother of the child wouldn't have offered if it wasn't allowed. So the Single Guy gently kissed the baby on top of her head and said a silent prayer for the little one.

The Single Guy isn't one to get emotional and he isn't one to think of things as cute or sweet or whatever. But when the proud parents asked what he thought of her, his honest answer was, "I think she's about the most adorable thing I've ever seen." After saying that, he felt the need to explain that he wasn't being sarcastic. The Single Guy's heart may have grown a little bit that night.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heir to the Empire

Title: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
Author: Timothy Zahn
Published: 1991

I was reading this at work one day last week and my manager walked by. "Aaron," he said, "do you really need to perpetuate your own stereotype?"

"What stereotype is that?" I asked, not sure what he meant, exactly.

"A Star Wars book?" he asked, and laughed. I think his implication is that I'm kind of a geek. The kind of guy who plays video games and reads comic books. Granted, these things are true of me, but I don't think that it should necessarily be a negative thing that I like Star Wars or Playstation. And, may I remind my boss that his ringtone is the theme from Superman. Who's the geek now?!

For the record, this is the first time I've picked up a Star Wars novel in years. I was still living in Virginia the last time I read one. I'm never really sure if I ever want to get into these books that comprise what's known as the expanded universe. These are books that Star Wars fans have come to embrace as canon, despite the fact that the events occur outside of George Lucas' movies.

Heir to the Empire isn't the first novel to bring fans into this expanded universe, but it was the first of a wave of novels that has only grown more popular and has grown in the number of books published ever since. This one came out in (year?) when I was in middle school. I remember seeing it in the public library and being kind of excited. I checked it out because the back cover promised the continuing saga of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. But, at the time, I wasn't the reader that I would eventually grow into.

To a kid in middle school, reading becomes a chore. Even if it is something as awesome as Star Wars. I know that's not true for every middle school kid, but in my experience, those 7th graders that love to read are hard to come by. I got a few chapters into this novel and took it back to the library. My thought was, why read Star Wars when I have Empire Strikes Back on video tape?

Years passed. More than a decade passed. We've entered a new millenium and we now live in a world where Star Wars prequels exist and define the series for a generation. I had friends in college who shared a love for Star Wars. It was a love, but not an unhealthy obsession, and I think it's important to make that distinction. These friends convinced me that some of these books are really good and are well worth the read. So I've read a few, but I've never come back to the Timothy Zahn books that kick started the franchise on the literary level.

Until now. Heir to the Empire is the first part of a trilogy that takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Emperor is dead. The Death Star is destroyed. The Empire is in tatters. But the remants of the once galactic superpower are now being led by the mysterious Grand Admiral Thrawn. He's organizing what's left of the imperial forces to strike back, once again, at the Rebellion, now running the show as the New Republic.

Zahn introduces several characters who play an important role in the lives of our heroes. Mara Jade, I've heard, plays a very important role in Luke Skywalker's life for many years to come. As for the other new characters, like Grand Admiral Thrawn and smuggler Tallon Karde, who seem to be great characters, but I have no clue as to whether they survive the rest of the trilogy. Do they go on to have a part in other books by other authors? Guess I'll find out at some point.

I'm glad I gave this book another shot. It was pretty good and I look forward to the next two books in the trilogy, if only to find out if Thrawn's plans are thwarted. I have a pretty good feeling that they will be. I mean, who writes a Star Wars story and lets the bad guys win in the end? Things might look bleak at the end of part 2, but I'm confident that Luke will save the galaxy by the end of part 3.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AFI 91 - Sophie's Choice

Sophie's Choice
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Netflix sleeve: Aspiring author Stingo (Peter MacNicol) shares a Brooklyn boarding house with winsome Polish emigre Sophie (Meryl Streep) and her mercurial lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline) - a union unsettled by Nathan's violent behavior and Sophie's disturbing recollections of her wartime experience. Stingo uncovers the truth about Sophie, however, when her accounts of her stint at a Nazi concentration camp unravel, laying bare the real source of her torment.

Thanks a lot, AFI. I really appreciate you putting this movie on your list and making me cry. This was my first time seeing this movie. Of course it's been referenced countless times, both in serious and comedic situations. And even though I knew what Sophie's ultimate choice would be (thanks to Patton Oswalt spilling the beans during an episode of King of Queens), I admit I still cried. It's hard not to cry when a film's subject matter is that dark and depressing. Through flashbacks we get a glimpse of one of the darkest times in human history. Emotion coming into play is inevitable.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


All Paul ever wanted was a normal childhood. But normal was the one thing he couldn't experience. He wasn't able to play with the other kids on the playground. He was always afraid he'd hurt someone or break something. But, even if that wasn't a fear for him, he didn't want to deal with all the teasing that came with being around his classmates.

Paul was a big kid. And it isn't the kind of big that most people think about these days. Paul wasn't a victim of childhood obesity. No, Paul was just the closest thing one could find to a giant outside of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Doctors couldn't explain the boy's size. When he was born, all signs pointed to the fact that he was a normal, healthy baby boy. Then, somewhere over the course of the next 10 years of his young life, he grew. His parents loved him dearly, but weren't quite sure how to deal with a child of Paul's size. The boy was taller than his own father by the time he reached the fourth grade. By that point it was clear that his name seemed to be a cruel joke, as all the kids would refer to him as Paul Bunyan. For Paul, it stopped being funny a long time ago.

But Paul tried to stay happy about his situation. Sure he couldn't run around and play tag with the kids who were half his size. He couldn't jump on the swing set or go down the slide. But he was smart. Even at a young age, Paul understood the importance of making good grades, and he never came home with less than an A. He worked hard and knew that one day it would all pay off.

He looked forward to a time when he could be in high school. He'd still be bigger than the other kids, but they'd catch up to him. At least a little, anyway. And then, maybe he'd be able to play with everyone else. Maybe he'd be able to go out for the football team. He'd watched enough football on TV with his dad, he knew that no one would ever be able to take him down. He'd be able to play basketball. By then, he'd be able to dunk the ball without ever leaving the ground.

Paul knew there would be struggles, but he smiled when he thought about what his future held.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Today just seemed like a good day for some classic SNL and some classic Phil Hartman. Have a great weekend kids.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Question of the Week: Sacrifice

Would you be willing to make a substantial sacrifice to have any of the following: your picture on a postage stamp, your statue in a park, a college named after you, a Nobel prize, a national holiday in your honor?

Maybe I'm just not ambitious enough, but none of these things really appeal to me. The way things are looking for the post office, stamps may become a thing of the past. Why would I want to become a statue? One more thing for pigeons to rest and relieve themselves on. Not cool. The only good thing I could think of that would come from winning a Nobel prize is that I might become a clue on Jeopardy someday. And do we really need another day off? Okay, yes, we probably could use that.

Maybe my ambition is just dampened by the fact that I'm on vacation right now. Stop making me think about making sacrifices for the greater good.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

AFI 92 - Goodfellas

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Netflix sleeve: Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro chew plenty of scenery, but the focus of this gripping Martin Scorsese opus is real-world mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a gangster who dreamed of making it big but landed in the Witness Protection Program instead. Nominated for six Oscars (including Best Picture), the film's only win was Pesci's Best Supporting Actor statue for his scene-stealing portrayal of ticking time bomb Tommy DeVito.

Violent. Gritty. Based on true events. I read somewhere that the F-bomb is dropped more than 300 times. I'm pretty sure 250 of those came from Joe Pesci. I actually watched this a few years ago and I was glad I did. It prepared me for Community's Mafia movie tribute episode from last season. I actually haven't seen too many gangster movies. I've seen all the Godfather films, but that genre just isn't my cup of tea. So, I thought this movie was okay, but it wouldn't land in my personal top 100.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

'Cause I Wonder Where You Are

Monday was a busy day, and it started kind of early. Not really that early for a typical Monday. But this Monday was no typical Monday. It was a vacation Monday. Vacation Mondays are meant for sleeping late. Well, they are if you don't have a job interview at 8:30 in the morning.

More back story...

Around the beginning of February I applied for a couple open social worker positions back home in Roanoke. I've been trying to get out of banking almost the entire time I've worked in banking, this is no secret. Things just haven't really panned out for me thus far. Now, for selfish reasons, I would love to find a job in or around the Raleigh area, making the need to relocate a non-issue. However, jobs are difficult to come by these days. So when one opens up and I have a shot at it, no matter where it is, I'm gonna take the shot.

Applied. Resumed. And went several weeks without hearing anything. So I wrote it off as a negative response. And then I checked my mailbox a couple weeks ago.

I received a letter saying that they wanted me for an interview. The only problem was that the interview was scheduled for the day I received the letter in the mail. Not a great system they have there for letting their potential interviewees that they're wanted for the interview. I mean, there's this little invention called the telephone. I hear it's caught on pretty well. Oh, and the kids keep talking about this "electronic mail" that apparently sends messages instantaneously. You don't even need to pay postage. I don't know if that will catch on. We'll see.

Anyway, the letter informed me that if I wanted the interview, I needed to call by the previous day to confirm my time. So I did what any sane person would do. I hopped in my Wayback Machine and made the phone call. I confirmed my interview, scheduled that Thursday off, then drove into Roanoke to meet and greet my interviewers. But wait, if I did that, then I wouldn't have been there Thursday to receive the letter in the mail and I'd be stuck with a universe altering paradox.

Scratch that. I did not travel back in time.

I called the next morning to see if anything could be arranged. And luckily a phone interview was arranged for the following Monday. So Monday's phone interview came and went. I didn't think it went very well. I really don't like phone interviews. You can't read people's faces so you don't know what they're really thinking. There are long moments of silence while the interviewers are writing things down and you can't help but wonder if your stupid cell phone dropped the call. Very frustrating.

But this past Wednesday I received another call asking if it would be okay for them to check my references. From this, I assumed it was a good sign. And from that, I can assume that my phone interview went better than I initially thought. They called my manager at the bank, who gave me a glowing recommendation. I asked him how badly he had to lie. In his words: "I'm not Catholic, but I did have to go to confession for all the lies I told." He was joking, of course... I think.

And Thursday they called me again, this time to set up an in-person second interview. I'm pretty sure they don't just give second interviews to everyone who fills out an application. I'm taking this as another good sign. This brings us to this vacation Monday. Isn't it great how all this worked out? I just happened to be in Roanoke on vacation at the same time that I was needed for a job interview. It's a little thing I like to call "meant to be."

I'm not trying to count my chickens. I mean, don't get me wrong, the interview went well. I suited up and gave some pretty good answers. I was open and honest and even got a few laughs out of the room. I'm not sure when I'll know if I got the job, but it should be within a couple weeks, I'm sure.

That was the beginning of my Monday. This was followed by some running around. I met Jessica for a breakfast that stretched into lunch. It's great catching up with a friend like that when you haven't seen each other in so long. I visited my grandmother and drove her to pick up my cousin from school. And to top the day off, Mom made chicken and dumplings. And I ate. A lot. I collapsed into a food coma, from which I finally awoke about an hour ago.

All in all it's been a pretty decent trip to the 'Noke.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hello... Is It Me You're Looking For?

I feel the need to play a little catch up here. I have 38 followers now and that means that 38 people out there have gone three days without seeing anything new from the Carp Dime. If you've had your hopes up all weekend, crossing your fingers, thinking that at some point, maybe late in the night, the Single Guy would post something new, I apologize. I didn't have anything.

Actually, it isn't that I didn't have anything. As you'll see from the following paragraphs, I had plenty. I just didn't have internet access. But to set the stage for the story of this weekend, I have to give some back story. So, please, bear with me.

Back in September, I got together with a group of college friends for a weekend get away at Smith Mountain Lake. Heather's folks have a pretty snazzy house on the water that they let us use from time to time. At the time I wrote a little about it here, but it was more a serious reflection on the importance of these friends in my life than it was a summary of the good times we had over the weekend.

During that weekend, it was announced to the group that our friends Brandon and Kara were expecting their first child, due in April. The months passed and a few of us decided it would be a great idea to have what we have referred to as a "Bromance Baby Shower." The original plan was for the guys of our little group to get together at Mark's house in Bluefield (hometown of our collective alma mater) and throw a pre-fatherhood party for BrandoCommando.

Well, the baby girl decided to make an early appearance. Things are going well for both baby and mama at this point, though being a few weeks early, the baby's still at the hospital 'til she gets a little bigger. But this sort of put the kibosh on getting Brandon to a weekend party in a town two hours from home. So we adjusted the plans.

The guys who were still able to make it went, instead, back to the lake house. Since the house is closer to Roanoke, it made it easier for all of us to meet Brandon and still have a great time. Saturday evening we all came into town and met for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Afterward, we hit the bowling alley for a game (and remind me to tell you about the messed up system they've got going on), followed by some ice cream. Yeah, we're getting pretty wild at that point.

Honestly, we can't get too wild these days. We've embraced the fact that we're all either in our 30s or quickly approaching them. And half the guys in our group Saturday night are fathers. Yeah. And here I am, the immature guy who has a hard time just talking to women. A story for another time...

Anyway, after the festivities in Roanoke, all of us (except the new dad) headed back to the lake house. Cards were played. Old school Nintendo was played. SNL was watched. It was a good time.

Sunday was a cold and rainy day. No fun to be had on the water, but we still had a great time sitting around catching up, the way friends do when they've spent some time apart. After a quick lunch, we said our good-byes and went our separate ways.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention... Sunday was also my birthday. It's 31, so not really a big deal. But I did have a good birthday. Josh brought along a cake that Heather had made for me. It was Funfetti (with no chocolate, thanks for that). For me, these days, birthdays don't need to be a huge blow out kind of party. Any birthday spent among friends is a special one and is memorable.

I got back to Roanoke Sunday night. Since I had vacation this week, I decided to spend a few days with Mom. I haven't spent any significant time in Roanoke since last summer. Come to think of it, it may be longer than that. So I had internet access Sunday night and Monday. But Sunday night I was pretty exhausted (I told you, Saturday was wild) and Monday was a pretty busy day.

I'll post my Monday story tomorrow. There you go... something to look forward to.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Question of the Week: Judge

Do you judge others by higher or lower standards than you use to judge yourself?

I'd say that I judge myself much more harshly than I judge others. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely judgmental of others. More so than I have any right to be. But I think that's human nature. We're constantly looking at people, comparing them to ourselves or others. I'm not excusing that behavior and I'm not saying it's right. It just is. Meeting someone for the first time, it's the easiest thing in the world to make a snap judgment about them, especially if you don't really know anything about them. It'd be nice if that was one of those things we could just turn off.

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

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Horse and His Boy

Title: The Horse and His Boy
Author: C.S. Lewis
Published: 1954

Once again, I feel the need to explain that I'm reading this series in the order in which the books were originally published. That's how I roll. Even if the set I own tells me that this is supposed to be book 3 in the series. Balderdash!

I don't know what balderdash really means. I just like saying it sometimes. Sounds British. And since I'm writing about a book written by a British writer... Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that. That's what I like to call "going off on a tangent."

This installment of The Chronicles of Narnia was so much better than the last book, The Silver Chair. Even in the first chapter I knew this would be a better story. Something about it was just more exciting, more gripping. I actually got invested in these newly introduced characters and genuinely wanted to see what happened to them in their adventures.

We meet a boy named Shasta. He doesn't live in Narnia, but he's not from our world either. He's from Calormen, a country far to the south of Narnia. After eavesdropping on a conversation between his fisherman father and a Calormene nobleman, he discovers that he's not really the fisherman's son. The nobleman's horse turns out to be a talking Horse from Narnia who was kidnapped years before. So the two form an unlikely friendship and decide to escape to Narnia, where they are apparently both from.

Along the way, they meet up with another talking Horse and the daughter of another Calormene noble, Aravis. They, too, are escaping to Narnia. For a while they get separated in the Calormene capitol of Tashbaan. Separately they discover that the prince is plotting against the lands of Narnia and Archenland (a small kingdom bordering Narnia). Once they meet up again, they race across the desert separating the countries and help to save the kingdoms in a battle against the Calormene prince and his small army.

Aside from the typical children's book adventures that the main characters have, there is also the underlying theme of the book. I could be misinterpreting things, but I think a message that comes across in The Horse and His Boy is that everything happens for a reason. Aslan makes several appearances to our heroes and each time he reveals a little about himself and them as well. Each event that happened in Shasta's life happened to get him to where he was for a reason. Everything that happened to each of these characters happened by Aslan's design.

C.S. Lewis is pretty famous as a Christian apologist. And it's so easy to find the story of God's love for His children within the pages of these fictional children's books. Aslan's design for a greater purpose, I believe, parallels God's own design for us. Shasta couldn't see the big picture when he was treated so poorly living with the fisherman throughout his childhood. Bree (the Horse) couldn't see the part he would play in bringing Shasta back home to Archenland when he was kidnapped from Narnia. All these characters could see was the small piece of the puzzle that was right in front of them. They had trials and tasks that they had to face, but they couldn't understand the whole story.

It's the same way with God in our lives. And, yeah, I'm talking to myself here. We can't see the big picture. We can't even fathom it. All we can see is what's right in front of us. But God knows the beginning and the end of it all. The things that we face each day are just one tiny thread in the middle of an enormous and beautiful tapestry. God knows the design and he knows the importance of each thread that makes up that design.

Like I said, so much better than The Silver Chair.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


I don't have the cable. In some ways it's good. It means I don't watch that much TV anymore. Which, I guess, is a good thing.

But, due to having no cable options, I resort to using Netflix instant viewing to watch TV when I sit down to watch something. This is a very good thing. Because Netflix has the rights to stream lots of those cable TV shows that I've never taken the time to enjoy in the past. Even when I had cable, I had the tendency to stick with network TV for my entertainment needs.

I have friends who have tried to get me involved in some of those shows from the USA network. I've heard good things about Burn Notice and Psych. Both of these are available online. And I hope to get around to them soon.

Recently I've been watching the ABC Family program, Greek. Mock if you will. The show features Kelsey Grammer's daughter, Spencer, as one the leads, and revolves around the lives of several members of several fraternities and sororities on the campus of the fictional Cyprus Rhodes University. It's really not that bad. I think it's kind of a fun show. And you know, Spencer Grammer, kinda easy on the eyes.

The whole fraternity/sorority thing got me thinking about Greek life at my own alma mater. I never got involved with a fraternity at Bluefield College. I toyed with the idea once or twice, but decided not to pledge anywhere. It just wasn't for me. My reasoning was pretty simple. Bluefield was a small school. And when I say small, I mean tiny. There were only so many people populating the campus. So for me to pay dues to hang out with guys I was gonna see all the time anyway seemed kind of a waste to me. I'm not judging anyone who did join the Greeks. I have several friends who were very active in their respective fraternity or sorority.

It just wasn't for me. Now, if I had been at a larger school, the odds of my getting involved would probably have increased. From what I've seen in movies and on TV, it seems pretty cool to have a house that you can go to to hang out with these friends that you've managed to form a real bond with. I can see the appeal of that sort of thing in a large university. At a small college, like Bluefield, there were only so many people to go around. As introverted as I am, I didn't want to limit myself to one group of people.

And then there's the argument that you form brotherly relationships. Or sisterly relationships where the sorority is concerned. That kind thing would hold a lot of appeal for me as a freshman in college. You're away from family for the first time in your life, so the Greek system would be a great way to find people with whom you have a lot in common.

I don't think I missed out on anything by not joining a fraternity. I made friends in college. And these friendships have grown and have lasted long past graduation. These are people I considered to be my family while I was at Bluefield College and they're people that I still consider to be family, despite the distance between us. We still keep in touch and let each other know what's going on in our lives. We share in the joy of a new birth and the grief of the passing of a loved one.

I can't speak for Greek alumni and how well they keep in touch with other members of their pledge classes, but I think we've done okay without knowing the Greek alphabet.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

AFI 93 - The French Connection

The French Connection
Directed by William Friedkin
Netflix sleeve: Violent, foul-mouthed detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) pursues a suave French drug dealer (Fernando Rey) through New York City with Captain Ahab-like zeal. Featuring a legendary car-vs.-train chase scene that stands the test of time, the film won the Best Picture Oscar. William Friedkin's groundbreaking crime drama that portrays cops and thugs in a similar light took the genre down a gritty, realistic path that influenced filmmaking for years.

Before now, my only exposure to this film was from the movie Big. Tom Hanks was watching it in his hotel room not long after the 13-year-old turned 30 and went to the city. And now, having seen the movie, it's one I could take or leave. It was all right, but not great, in my opinion. Although, that car chase that the Netflix sleeve talks about was pretty fantastic. Not that I'd ever heard anyone talking about the great chase scene from The French Connection before.