Sunday, December 23, 2007

Playing Old

I read a quote recently that I really like:

You don't stop playing when you grow old,
you grow old when you stop playing.

Since I am a firm believer that Newton's first law of motion is applicable to our bodies' level of activity, I can really appreciate this. As I am actually growing older though, I'm finding it more and more difficult to adhere to these convictions about exercise.

This is due to a number of things including the lack of availability of sports, the lack of time and willingness (on both my part and my wife's) to sacrifice my time with the family to participate in a league of some sort, a decent sized house and two cars to maintain, a full work schedule, other hobbies and projects to spend time on, etc.

And now, to top it all off, one of the two guys who organizes basketball games at work just transferred to another facility. So casual b-ball games are significantly less likely to be available, because I won't be able to count on the "regulars" being out there playing every day.

Basically, what I am finding is that although my body and mind are willing and able to continue playing sports, every other aspect of my life is working against it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Observations and Empathizing

Earlier this month (Dec 5th - 8th), Amanda was in Ohio for 4 days to visit her family, especially her ailing grandmother. During this time, I was the sole caretaker of the kids and the house. A few observations and interesting experiences from those days are as follows:
  • Lucas has been potty training for a little while now and very rarely has an "accident", but something changed when mommy left. He went from having almost zero accidents to between 3-4 per day. So I was changing and rinsing his pants frequently, in addition to washing a couple of loads of laundry. Toward the end though, I started realizing that you have to periodically encourage/make him go potty even if he tells you that he doesn't have to.
  • I didn't get a single solid night's sleep due to Lucas' coughing fits, which occurred at least once and usually 2-3 times per night.
  • I have a new understanding of why Amanda's patience with the kids is shorter at the end of the day. After repeating the same things to them over and over...
  • I was able to accomplish multiple projects while Amanda was gone, mostly in the evening when the kids went to bed, but a little bit while watching them too.
  • While Amanda is my favorite person in the world to spend time with, and I was elated to have her return home, I still really enjoyed and can be completely content with an abundance of time to myself. I did a little reading, worked on the computer and some home projects, and even took the kids to see the city's Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Since I have had Amanda to spend time with almost constantly for the last 7.5 years, that was a bit of a surprise to me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Some Holiday Perspective

This holiday is going to be pretty tight financially. For the kids, it will mostly be a Craigslist Christmas, with just a couple of "new" gifts thrown in. Amanda and I aren't even planning on exchanging gifts. But if there's one thing that this holiday season has been teaching me so far, it's perspective.

Probably like a lot of churches, ours has an angel tree every season, where we can pick a person(s) to buy a gift for. Each tag has the requested gift, as well as the age and gender of the child that the gift is for. I was approaching the table nonchalantly, thinking that this Christmas is pretty tough for us, so we probably won't be worrying about getting presents for anyone except ourselves this year.

Then I started reading the info on the tags. The gifts that were being requested were things like pajamas and diapers, and most of the kids' ages were in the single digits. I thought about what it would be like for my children to need such bare necessities as clothes and diapers to wear, or not having enough food to eat - and my heart just broke right there.

Our kids have a playroom - yes, a room full of toys for them to play in. Sure, most of those toys were acquired from friends or from Craigslist purchases (Amanda found a train table with trains and tracks for $30), and sure times may be a little tough right now. But they're likely to improve, and in the mean time our kids still have plenty of toys to play with, in addition to food, clothes, and shelter.

I called Amanda over, and we promptly picked up several tags. Pajamas for one, diapers for another, and a dump truck for someone else - we can do that. Praise God, we can do that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Inner Engineer

I was working out in the gym at work today, and there were two other guys in there as well. One was telling the other (a new mechanical engineer who I've talked to a couple of times) about his Nike shoes that communicate with his iPod to store his speed and other data when he runs.

The new guy (Justin) replies that he should plot the captured data in an Excel spreadsheet. I couldn't help but laugh and comment aloud about him sounding just like an engineer.

Then my inner engineer kicked into high gear, and I thought about how nice would it be to have a spreadsheet to track various aspects of one's life, just to see how they change over the course of time? You could have a tab in the spreadsheet for biological data (heart rate, blood pressure, weight, fat percentage), exercise information (including type, frequency, intensity, duration), stress levels, sexual statistics (drive, activity), financial status (debt, assets), spirituality (propensity to sin, biggest strengths and weaknesses, time spent with God, time serving God), heck even self-rated general happiness, or whatever.

Who wouldn't want to look at these charts and reflect on the highs and lows of your life, and how they compare to the present day? What do you think?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Morning Inspiration

As evident in my recent Venting and Random Rambling post, I have been feeling overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities and generally struggling with my attitude lately.

But I have found a surprisingly adequate amount of inspiration in the past week or so by starting the day singing an old Sunday school song in my head. It's the one that's based on Psalm 118:24.

This is the day, This is the day,
That the Lord has made, That the Lord has made.

We will rejoice, We will rejoice,
And be glad in it, And be glad in it!
This is the day that the Lord has made,
We will rejoice and be glad in it!

This is the day, This is the day,
That the Lord has made.

As short and simple as that song is, it's a great reminder for me to give the day to God. It also helps me to pay more attention to all of the things that God has given me at the start of this day, such as my job (even if it's frustrating sometimes) and my health. And no matter how pessimistic or discouraged I feel at the beginning, God can still make it a great day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two Sides to Terrible

Stories like this and this (from my hometown of Orlando) kill me. Children are completely at the mercy of their parents. At the very least they rely on them for provision and protection. Thinking about these kids getting helplessly restrained and beaten by the people who are supposed to love and protect them just makes me want to scream.

On the other hand, this story is on the opposite end of the spectrum, where the parents do a great job of providing and protecting, but don't give them an ounce of love, attention, or affection.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Venting and Random Rambling

  • Our house now has discoloration from either mold or mildew on the ceiling in the playroom, which is caused by a leak in either the shower or toilet of the master bathroom above it. The problem could require extensive plumbing and drywall repair, not to mention isolating and removing the mold.
  • My car is experiencing excessive vibrations at over 40mph. Originally I thought it to be caused by improper wheel balancing, but have recently realized that pushing in the clutch at those speeds reduces the problem significantly. This leads me to believe that it's drivetrain (transmission, driveshaft, or differential) related.
  • Although all of our credit cards were paid off in the not too distant past, we've been slowly slipping into debt again with them. The home and car problems mentioned above aren't helping the matter any. Not to mention still needing to pay for a rental car during the 10 days of our trip to Florida for Christmas.
  • I haven't been able to make progress on my projects (upstairs projector, gym equipment, web site).
  • Both Amanda and I are lacking exercise and I am getting discouraged and frustrated about not being able to find a way to fit it into our schedule, and/or being too undisciplined to make it happen in the little time that is available.
  • To top it all off, work is frustrating me too.
    • First, earlier this year our company stopped allowing streaming audio (no more Air1 or talk radio through the internet).
    • Now, they are eliminating the downstairs cafeteria, where I have enjoyed eating either a meal or a side of veggies 2-3 days a week. Now I'll have to drive somewhere for lunch or settle for the unhealthy fast food that's within walking distance.
    • I'm also in the early stages of a new project, which requires a bit of learning that is difficult and challenging.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Meet Matt

Our roommate Matt moved in about a month ago.

We linked up with him through our good friends who work for Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Oregon, who met him at a summer mission trip in Lake Tahoe. I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive about having a stranger live with us, but he is quite possibly the ideal roommate for the circumstances. He's quiet (even at 5am when getting ready for school), courteous, considerate, and a genuinely nice guy.

You can see him with his pride and joy in the picture above, a 2001 Honda CBR600 F4i, which I am grateful to have ridden. He also drives a Nissan pickup, and is currently attending automotive trade school at WyoTech.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Torture, and Accomplishing Automotive Impossibilities

I really appreciate and wholeheartedly agree with what Neal Boortz has to say about waterboarding, which is in the news again with the recent nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey for the position of attorney general:

I'm sorry but making someone think that they are drowning is not torture. And if it takes making a terrorist think he is drowning to save this country, then I don't see any reason why it should be stopped.

One more thing about torture ... just so there is no question of where I stand (as if it matters). If we know that there is a nuclear bomb in downtown Chicago set to go off in hours; and if we have somebody in our custody who can tell us where that bomb is, we can (you might not want to read this) drive bamboo shoots up under his fingernails, nails into his eyes, crush his knees, and then, for good measure, drive a glass rod up his bin Laden and break it into tiny pieces, and then cut off anything we don't' think this guy is ever going to need again in his entire miserable life just to get him to talk ... if that's what it takes. Let's stop this asinine moral exhibitionism on the issue of torture. If you wouldn't torture some worthless piece of human debris to save the live of someone you love .. .than step aside and let someone else do the job.

==================================

Also, here is a very interesting article about a man who is accomplishing feats in the automotive world that are supposedly impossible - combining high performance and high gas mileage, all while using biodiesel fuel. And here is the longer, more detailed article.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mine Is Probably Longer Than Yours

I'm talking about my list, and it's not one to be proud of either. It's a list of every one of the car accidents that I have been in, whether they were my own fault or not. So read it and weep (for me).
  • Rear ended someone in my 77' Camaro on Tuskawilla Rd in Winter Park. They attempted to make a U-turn right in front of me after swerving to the far right side of the lane. I was in a hurry and, thinking that they were turning right, was in the process of swerving around them on their left side.

  • Hit a Wal-Mart sign with my Camaro along 436 in Cassleberry. I was racing another car with my buddy Nathan, when I decided at the last minute to stick with the original purpose of the trip and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the turn into the Wal-Mart parking lot. Amazingly, neither of us were hurt and I fixed the car from junk yard parts in a weekend.

  • Rear ended someone in downtown Orlando (on Garland Ave) in my Camaro. It was raining and I hydroplaned helplessly (no anti-lock brakes) into another car.

  • Was rear ended in my Camaro along Alafaya Trail in Oviedo while trying to turn into the church parking lot. The cop that showed up really liked the other guy's Toyota truck and decided to give us both tickets. My dad (also a cop, but for a different department) raised hell about it and got my ticket overturned.

  • Was hit in the right front corner of my Dodge Daytona, along 436 in Casselberry. Traffic was thick and I was trying to turn left and cross 436, coming from the other direction. I was negotiating my way slowly through the cars and across the lanes to the far right turn lane. When I finally reached the lane, a car was driving down it to surpass the traffic and clipped my front end.

  • T-boned on the right side of my Grand National, crossing Winter Park Dr in Casselberry. It was Valentines Day and I was exiting out of my subdivision. It was early morning and hazy out, a bit difficult to see. I looked both ways quickly and hastened across the intersection when SLAM! - I had somehow completely missed seeing the car on the right side. Maybe they didn't have their headlights on. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. Fortunately no one got hurt, but my car was very nearly totaled.

  • Right front corner of my GN, at the corner of Chapman Rd and 426 (Aloma) in Oviedo. I was originally planning on going straight, but decided instead to turn left onto Chapman Rd. I could have sworn the arrow was green, but it must have just been a regular green light (to go straight). I turned left right into the path of an oncoming Mustang. I think she hit the brakes and swerved toward Chapman also, because her left front corner hit my right front corner. Again, no one was hurt, but my car was nearly totaled.

  • Rear ended another car while in my dad's van, on Colonial Dr close to Alafaya Tr. Believe it or not, I had actually borrowed my dad's van while I waited for my GN to get fixed from the previous accident. I was on my way to my first day of work as an intern at Lockheed Martin. The light turned green and traffic started to move when I looked down to fiddle with the radio, then traffic stopped again. Not too serious, but still needed repairs and boy did it hurt to tell my dad that I wrecked his van after having just wrecked my own car. Not a good month, or six, or was it twelve...

  • Rear ended in my Bronco II on Colonial Dr. I was driving along Colonial Dr in front of Wal-Mart (near UCF), when another car hit me from behind. Not much damage done to my car, just compressed the rear bumper inward.
So there you have it. It's been many years since my last accident, but I think I've had more than enough of my share to last a lifetime already. And I didn't even mention the numerous close calls.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Giovanni Pays Us a Visit

I received a visit last week from a friend that I've known for about 15 years now. Giovanni Ucciferri is probably the most interesting person that I know of. He is an actor and a martial artist currently studying Jiu Jitsu under Rigan Machado, hoping eventually to fight in MMA.

He used to study opera intensely. He gave his first public performance at my wedding, and intended to make a career out of it. However, he eventually became disillusioned with the opera industry and I believe he injured his voice a few years back when yelling at an ex-wife.

He currently lives in Los Angeles (for about 5 years) and we don't see each other often, but when we do it's always easy to pick up right where we last left off. Pictured above are Giovanni, his girlfriend Sayuti, her dog Lulu, and of course my family. A picture from three years ago is on the left below, and on the right is from our early days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Manly Metphor for "Works"

At last Friday morning's mens group meeting, I think God gave me (it just popped into my head) a metaphor to use as an example of why we serve Him by doing works as Christians. I really like it, so I figured I'd post it here too.

Ever since I was young, I remember my dad working on numerous projects around the house. Sometimes he would fix the cars, often he would be repairing or improving on our house. Whatever the project would be though, more often than not I wanted to help him. I don't remember ever being commanded or forced to assist, I just truly enjoyed watching my dad and being by his side.

But the real treat was getting to participate. Sometimes it was just running to the garage to get him a tool, or maybe I would hand it to him if it was just out of his reach. Other times he would let me actually use the tool(s) myself and get to contribute to the tasks relating to the job. In fact, my parents nicknamed me "Mikey do", because even before I could say complete sentences I would want to help him and/or do it myself. And when I was old enough and my dad finally let me use a dangerous power tool, it felt like I was taking a step toward transitioning to manhood.

I think helping God in His works is like that. It's not that we have to do it, or that our salvation depends on it. It's that we get to. It's a joy just being by His side and watching Him do His thing. But if He lets us do some of the work, if He hands us a tool and says "Now you try it" then it's an added bonus. And I imagine that performing a healing or a miracle of some sort would be similar to the joy of my dad letting me use one of his power tools.

Sure, it's "work", but it's great just to be there with Him, if for nothing else then to build our relationship further. And it's a genuine honor and privilege if He actually wants to use me to help Him in the project, whatever it may be.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Inspirational Skit

In case you haven't already seen it, check out this video of a skit performed to a song called 'Everything' by the Christian group LifeHouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyheJ480LYA. Be sure to make it full screen too (the button on the far right, below the video).

I thought it was really moving.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Weekend Recap

Recipe for a great weekend:
  • Friday family movie night, which included the movie Aladdin and pizza (although the pizza was average at best).
  • Very productive chore day on Saturday.
  • Nice, long midday nap on Saturday (better if on both days, but one day is still nice).
  • Saturday date night! We reserved our usual babysitter and went out to enjoy coffee at Starbucks, then bowling and the arcade at Strikes Family Entertainment Center.
  • Church on Sunday morning.
  • Headed to San Francisco for Fleet Week after church.
    • Stopped at Pluto's in Davis for lunch along the way.
    • Enjoyed watching the Blue Angels from Treasure Island. I love seeing Lucas' reaction of amazement to things like monster trucks and fighter jets.
    • Ate dinner and dessert in Ghiradelli Square.
Crossing "to-dos" off of the list, enjoying family time, and having quality time with my wife. Oh yeah, and to top it all off, I also got to take our roommate Matt's motorcycle out for a ride. It's a 2001 Honda CBR600 F4i - very fast and fun.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Inspirational Stories

I really love stories like this, real life ones of people having faith and of God responding to it. In this case, it's about making a movie called Most.

----------------------------------

I recently finished reading a great fiction book. I decided to purchase it when another blogger (In the Midst of It) described it as one of the best books that she has ever read. Since she seems to be an extremely avid reader, I took her advice and gave it a shot. It was excellent indeed.

The story was unique and compelling, as were the characters. It had a strong underlying Christian theme, but I don't think that it was a "Christian" book. Or was it? The way the narrator described observing his father's relationship with God was really interesting and inspirational. I can only hope and pray that my children will see my Christian life with some semblance to it.

The book is Peace Like A River, by Leif Enger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How Not To Handle the Following Situation

Wow. Unbelievable. Sad. Check out the video in the link below:

I don't know for sure what I would say if I were the parents in that situation, but I do know this - that is probably not the best way to respond.

My first thought was to be critical of Catholics, since the mom can be heard telling her son that he must believe in God, because he got confirmed and he said so to the Bishop. As you may remember from my previous post (and comments on Amanda's blog), I'm not very fond of the Catholic church and its practices. Generally (not always, mind you) Catholics aren't very knowledgeable about the Bible or general theology, nor are they encouraged to be. So it's not too surprising that these people can't rationally explain to their son why they do believe in God and/or reasons why he should also.

The funny thing though is that while Protestants can more often tell you what they believe, many (most?) still can't tell you why they believe in God. In fact, I wasn't able to get an immediate answer to this question even from a few Christians whose faith and Biblical knowledge I greatly respect.

Going back to the video, instead of talking to her son about why he now thinks or believes this way, the mom blows up and starts cursing at him. This makes me wonder, how well does she or has she listened to her son? Has she ever talked to him rationally before? Does she even respect or care about his opinion? Or does she just tell him what to do and expect him to obey?

Then I thought "What the heck is the dad doing?" Sitting there keeping his fat mouth shut, which leads me to believe that he's not much of a leader or a role model for his family, spiritually or otherwise. But then again, maybe he's being wise and waiting to talk until he's had a chance to think about what he really wants to say, instead of just blowing up like the mother is doing.

The clip is pretty short, so maybe these parents' reaction improved after the camera turned off. Truthfully, these people got hit upside the head with some news that was obviously upsetting to them (as it should be), so they were probably at their worst and therefore easy targets of criticism. I'm actually really glad to have seen this video though, because it gives me the chance to ponder exactly what I would do and/or say, instead of potentially being blindsided one day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

As Much As I Miss My Family...

I periodically have conversations with my family in Orlando that contain statements like this from them: "So if you end up back here someday.", or "I heard your company has a location in the area.". Sometimes it's a simple "We sure missed you on _____ (insert holiday here)." But even the suggestion of moving back to Florida makes me cringe, and my instinctive response is to scream "NEVER!" at the top of my lungs.

But why? I was raised there and lived there for 30 years! It's my old stomping ground that I have so many memories from. My wonderful family is still there too, not to mention plenty of friends that I still care about. I shouldn't feel like this, should I?

I must admit that before I received the job offer to move out here to Northern California, I never thought that I would leave Florida, nor did I ever want to leave it. I have always stated that what makes life great isn't the area that you live in, but the people that you share your life with. I was wrong, kinda - it's both. But which one is more important?

Amanda and I have been here for just over three years now. I can make a pretty long list as to why I much prefer life here in Northern California over Central Florida (maybe I'll make that another blog post someday). On the other hand though, family is so very important. I wish my children would know their aunt, uncles, cousins, and grandmere better. In fact it grieves me sometimes that they don't. It would certainly be helpful for us to have all of these people that I love and trust to watch our kids once in a while.

But we would probably only see my family once or twice a month. And then it would be just for an evening or a day at most. Even the friends we had back home were starting to scatter about town and even about the country. The ones that were still there we would also probably see only once or twice a month, especially since having kids seems to significantly reduce your social life.

So for every other minute of our lives, which drastically outnumbers the time with family and friends, we would be tremendously happier here. And that is why we have no plans or desire to ever move back to Orlando, unless of course God works in a mighty way to persuade us otherwise. And even then we would probably be kicking and screaming the whole way back.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Passion for Performance Promotes Impracticality

Amanda and I have been pondering selling my 300ZX. If and when this happens, then I would drive our Ford Escape and we would get a minivan for her to drive the kids around in.

Since our two kids both need to be in car seats, my Z currently only serves three purposes - 1) for me to drive to work in, 2) for either of us to use when accomplishing tasks by ourselves, and 3) to drive when we're on a date. Besides the limited use, if I get tempted to drive it too fast then tickets are freakin' expensive (I have only received one in it though).

So why do I hesitate to sell it, or why did I even buy it in the first place? I was thinking through this and coming up with various questions such as: Am I trying to maintain a last desperate death grip on a rapidly escaping youth? Do I have too much pride to drive an 'uncool' vehicle? Am I not responsible enough and/or dedicated enough to my family and wife to give up what might be typically considered as a bachelor's car?

The most accurate and honest answer that I can come up with though is this: Ever since I was old enough to make a "vrooom" sound with my mouth, I have been fascinated with cars. I played extensively with Matchbox Cars (and Hot Wheels of course). I built numerous plastic scale models of them. I made cars out of Legos. I loved TV shows and movies that featured some sort of car. I pretended to drive them fast, slow, jump them off ramps, and skid around turns. I have enjoyed all three The Fast and the Furious movies, and I'm pretty sure that it wasn't because of the stellar plot. Hopefully, you get the picture by now.

I know other family men who have given up their aspirations of performance for a sensible sedan, SUV, or spacious minivan. But whenever I have seen it happen, I always feel sorry for them, especially if they're intense about their automotive appreciation. No, it's not the end of the world, but it's the end of a dream, and the day that your dreams die is a sad one indeed. So basically, even though it makes all of the sense in the world to sell my Z, it would mean giving up on one of my lifetime passions. And frankly, until I either see a need to part with it, or can afford a acceptable substitution for it (like maybe a Subaru WRX or a Mitsubishi Evo), I think I'll just hold steadfast to this hobby/project/passion of mine, as impractical as it may be.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mind or Spirit?

Recently, after struggling for a while with some frustrating emotions, my wife had a phrase pop into her head - "Bloom where you're planted." On her blog, she called it a realization or an epiphany. But hearing phrases in your head or having them pop into your consciousness doesn't happen very often, or at least not to me (and not to her either that I'm aware of).

I once had a similar experience when we were trying (for many months) to sell our house. After a long emotional struggle caused by contemplating ideas such as foreclosure and bankruptcy, not to mention the stress of maintaining two houses, I juice fasted for 3 days. At the end, I had the phrase "It's an adventure." pop into my head. Although it's a ridiculously simple phrase, it really helped me to turn around my attitude and look at the situation differently. Of course I still wasn't happy about it, but I thought of how boring life would be if everything turned out exactly as I wanted it to, if there were no challenges to overcome. It was just what I needed to hear at the time.

These experiences cause me to ask a fundamental question - Could these epiphanies actually have been God speaking to us? Or were they just thoughts that our minds produced as it mulled problems and frustrations over?

To an atheist, the answer is probably going to be completely obvious - that we arrived at our realizations by using our somewhat abundant (especially in Amanda's case) mental resources. Well, I can certainly respect the power of the human mind, and I have no problem believing that we can use our own (God given) mental ability to solve our problems . But these weren't problems that required a logical conclusion that could be arrived at by calculating numbers, weighing pros and cons, pondering options, doing research, etc. These were issues of attitudes and emotions. Not only that, but the solution wasn't a slow realization, but a succinct, instant phrase that contained abundant wisdom, even in its brevity. In Amanda's case, the statement was heard as if it was directed to her from an outside voice, not her own mind speaking to herself (Bloom were you're planted).

Even to many Christians, it probably seems overly assumptive to say that it was God's voice, and it certainly is more natural and comfortable to classify the answers as simply having been obtained by our intellect and wisdom, combined with years of experience, education, and upbringing. Heck, maybe we heard the phrases somewhere or from someone else and our minds were just recalling them in our moment of need.

I personally believe though that our attitudes and emotions are what demonstrate the spiritual portion of our humanity. And when a distinct and random answer or statement is heard out of the blue that directly addresses a problem or attitude that you have been struggling with, especially during prayer or fasting - to me, that's clearly God. So while it may not be an obvious miracle that I would run through the streets proclaiming to others about, I'll see it and say it for what it is - a simple but amazing blessing, a communication from above.

Monday, September 03, 2007

An Unusual Quantity of Quiet

Last Tuesday, my friend Brian asked if I could watch their kids while him and his wife went out to celebrate their 8 year anniversary. I was more than happy to oblige, especially since he has done this several times for us.

Since I was anticipating spending some time alone after the kids went to bed, I came fully prepared with ways to entertain myself, including a book I have been reading, my journal, my Bible, and my laptop. Not only that , but there was also had a Jet Li movie at their house that I hadn't seen yet.

Thankfully, they put their children to bed just before leaving for the evening. Not that I would mind doing it myself, but since I didn't have to, I was able to spend the entire three hours that they were gone in utter silence. I was able to pray, finish my book, think, pray some more, listen, and write in my journal. Not once did I crack open my laptop or turn on the TV.

There was once a time in my life when that would have sounded like sheer torture. But now I have a wife, two kids, car pooling (which I enjoy, but it eliminates what is normally alone time in the car), and a long and continuous "To-Do" list to deal with. So any quiet time is extremely rare and oh-so-cherished, let alone three solid hours worth.

While Brian and his wife Tammy were gracious with their thanks, the appreciation of the evening was definitely mutual. So to you both I say "Your welcome.", and in all sincerity "Any time guys." Any time indeed.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Global Conclusions

A recent blog by Eric the Family Guy has inspired me to complete my trilogy about global warming. So here it is:

After looking at and thinking about both sides of the issue, my general conclusions are as follows:
  • Changes in the overall climate of the Earth naturally occur in a cyclical fashion, fluctuating in both directions - warm and cool (1).

  • Humans are having some affect on the Earth. Between burning fuel and removing foliage that would otherwise produce Oxygen and remove CO2, it's hard to argue that we aren't. While I think man is contributing to the temperature fluctuation, I don't think that it is significant. And certainly not devastating.

  • Even if the temperature is increasing slightly, that doesn't mean all of the affects of it are catastrophic, or even all negative for that matter (2).

  • Don't believe everything you read, or all of the movies that come out, or all of the politicians spewing their hot air while they do little or nothing themselves (Al Gore is far from alone on this). There are plenty of impressively reputable people that disagree with whatever paper/movie/politician you are reading/seeing/listening to. Heck, even allies of the same cause can disagree with each other about various climate claims and solutions. For example, the recent climate-themed movie by Leonardo DiCaprio (The 11th Hour) is being passionately disputed - by a Greenpeace co-founder (3)!
  • The pastor from a church I used to attend in Florida (Northland Community Church) summarized it well by saying "Wherever you stand on the issue, as a Christian our job remains the same - to take care of the Earth."
To sum it up, we should do our best to be good stewards of the planet that God has given us. But DON'T PANIC! Ultimately God is sovereign and in control.

(1) Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says.
(2) Global Warming Benefits May Exceed Risks.
(3) An Inconvenient Fact

Friday, August 24, 2007

Inappropriate, Unsanitary, or Just a Personal Peeve?

For some reason, I have always found it annoying and a little gross when people cut their nails in public places.

This realization became evident when I would periodically see men in the locker room at Bally's gym, sitting there on the bench and cutting their toe nails, letting their clipped fragments fall to the tile floor.

In my workplace, over the cubicle walls I occasionally hear nail clippers taking care of their business. It even comes from different directions, so obviously numerous individuals think that this is acceptable. Granted, I'm sure they aren't clipping their toe nails, but for some reason it still strikes me as something that should be done in the privacy of one's own home or bathroom.

Giving it further thought, I think it would also annoy me if someone were using an electric shaver on their face while in their cubicle too. Or flossing their teeth. Maybe all things that entail personal preening in public annoy me. Or maybe it's any personal preening that drops pieces of that person in a public area.

Am I just unreasonably phobic about this, or is it a valid annoyance?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Self-Reminder for My Marriage

I read an article this morning (full article is here) about a woman who sought a divorce after 15+ years of marriage. While I was reading it, some key ideas and feelings of this woman stood out to me and made me take note, because I want to make sure that Amanda never feels that way, or at least very rarely. Her key ideas/feelings are below:

-------------------------------------------
On the surface, I have everything a woman could want, beautiful clothes, a stunning home, an enviable middle-class lifestyle.
But inside, I feel empty. The passion has gone from our relationship and we are more like intellectual friends. We still talk to each other - we have long, intense discussions into the night. We both care deeply about the environment and world issues. But, to me, this isn't a marriage.
I see friends coming round for dinner, touching each other, hugging, and I envy that warmth. We have lost that physical intimacy and, while we have still been sleeping with each other, it is more out of habit than passion.
Declan and I met on a film set where we were both working. It was 1991 and we just clicked. Both in our early 30s, we seemed to want the same things from life - a lovely home, a family. The following year, we had a big, lavish white Catholic wedding with more than 100 guests. I thought we'd be married for ever.
The sad fact is that he's done nothing wrong - he's still the sweet, intelligent, generous man I first met. But I've changed. I'm bored with looking after my horse, meeting friends for lunch, buying clothes.
I want passion, excitement and adventure.
-------------------------------------------
After reading that little excerpt into the female psyche, I have to wonder - do I provide enough passion, excitement and adventure to satisfy my wife's desires? What am I doing or what can I do to ensure that?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why I Play That Way

I rolled my ankle last Tuesday playing basketball. I was guarding a black guy who's at least my height and a good 20-30 pounds heavier than me. He attempted to shoot, but I went up too and STUFF - I flat out rejected his shot. Now, before I go sounding like a braggart, let me say that I generally suck at basketball and I'm definitely and consistently the worst player on the court (half-court actually). HOWEVER, I'm getting better. Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm getting a little better at a time.

Anyway, back to the story. The block that I executed felt really good. It was the first time that I had encountered the feeling and I certainly liked it. But it also emboldened my opponent (Percy is his name). He retrieved the ball again after I blocked it and now he had a new resolve to push his way to the basket for the shot. So he drove, and I resisted. Then he went up to shoot and I jumped up with him again.

I didn't block it this time though, and to be honest I don't even know if it went in. All I know is that when I landed my left foot rolled sideways and I dropped to my butt. It's not too bad, probably just a sprain or pull. In fact, I expect the limp to subside sufficiently to play again next week. Maybe I should get high-tops (instead of general cross-training shoes) first though.

But here is the rest of the story, the introspective part. After explaining my limp to a co-worker who used to play ball, he said "That's why I don't play anymore". I thought about that statement for a little while, I came to this conclusion. That's why I do play. Not to get injured mind you, but because there's a risk of injury. It's a contact sport, with pushing and muscling and driving and jumping. There's a risk of not only twisting my ankle, but getting my ribs bruised, my chin elbowed (that happened to me before), and whatever else.

Perhaps it's worth repeating that I don't want to get injured, but I like testing my strength. I like the feeling of exercising my will against another man's, of trying so outsmart and outmaneuver him and vice-versa, even though I regularly am on the losing end of the battle. And I like the fact that there's risk and contact involved, that it's not like tennis or golf where opponents have a safe distance between each other. And if I get injured, at least I have a good, manly reason for my limp.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Greatest Greeting

Yesterday, I arrived home from work to find Amanda and the kids sitting at the kitchen table. Lucas was sitting in a regular chair closest to the entry (not his usual one with the booster seat strapped to it), so I said hello to him first. He told me a few things that he had done that day or that he was currently doing (I forget which) and of course I responded with unabashed interest.

Then while I was standing behind his chair I put my hands on his little shoulders and playfully swiveled him from side to side, followed by a pat on his chest/stomach (one of my hands covers his whole midsection) and an affectionate tussle of his hair.

I then continued on my round of greetings, heading over to where Amanda was feeding Emily so I could say hello to them too. As I was making my way over though, Lucas said "I love you". I looked up and said that I loved him too, but this simple unsolicited statement of affection was really potent and I must say that I was moved by it.

What is the big deal with saying "I love you"? Because it wasn't a ritual statement of love when going to bed, or a response to my saying it to him. It was out of the blue, just because he was feeling enough love at that particular moment to let it spill out of his mouth. And frankly, moments like that just don't happen very often.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Prayer Campaign

In a previous blog, I mentioned and made a link to the website called Parents Behaving Badly. I can honestly say that in all of the years that I have been surfing the internet, I have never come across a single site that stirs my emotions more than that one.

I boil with anger and frustration for parents being so stupid, unconcerned, brutal or just plain evil. Then I simultaneously feel intense sorrow, sadness, sympathy, and care for the children that have no choice but to suffer at the hands of these foolish and/or violent S.O.B.s.

So, recently I have decided to make it a point to go to this website on a regular basis and pray for each of the individual articles. My prayers are for divine guidance and eventual salvation of the parents, and for healing and protection of the children (that haven't perished yet).

Monday, July 23, 2007

36th Birthday

Saturday was my 36th birthday. I don't know if that officially qualifies as being old yet, but I do know that it most definitely isn't young. Well, I've heard it said that getting older is certainly better than the alternative.

Highlights of the weekend included:
  • Getting to go out for coffee and a movie with Amanda on Friday night. We watched (and I really enjoyed) the latest Harry Potter movie.
  • Spending Saturday morning with my best friend Brian and his family, which included:
    • Eating cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera (they're mouth-gasmic I tell you!) along with a fruit salad that Brian prepared, at a picnic table near the American River.
    • Watching athletes transition from the biking stage to the paddling (mostly kayaks) stage of an untraditional triathlon called 'Eppie's Great Race'.
  • In the evening, we had a few friends over for pizza, games (foosball, darts, etc), and a dessert consisting of 7-layer bars and rumcake (my sister's phenomenal recipe). It was a great time and my only regret was not taking any pictures of it.
Special thanks to Bill, Michael, and Heath for helping me move the treadmill upstairs, to Brian and his family (with us in the above picture) for the morning idea and for helping me feel appreciated, and to my wife Amanda for her hard work preparing for and during the party. I only wish I could/would have made her feel as special for her birthday last month.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The (somewhat surprising) Response to Discipline

I was cleaning Emily up after a meal last weekend, and during this process she was fussing and trying to pull her hands and face away from the washcloth that I was using. Since there was no discernible reason for this and since I definitely needed to get her clean, I sternly (with a firm voice and slightly elevated tone, but definitely not yelling) said "Hey! No fussing! I don't want to hear it!" She looked up at me with big eyes, not really frightened as much as surprised.

And then a couple of things happened. First of all she cooperated and stopped fussing. More surprisingly though, was when Amanda held her afterward, she looked over and reached out for me. Then when I was holding her, she seemed happier to be in my arms than she ever had before. She was smiling away and repeatedly burrowing her head into my shoulder.

But why? First of all, Emily has yet to even speak her first word, so I can be relatively certain that she didn't understand anything I said. So maybe I just scared her. But if my sternness inspired only fear, then I would think she wouldn't want to be near me, but would instead prefer to keep her distance.

The only answer that I can come up with is that I honestly think she has more respect for me because I was fulfilling my role as her parental authority. I haven't really exercised it much with her yet because she is still very young. But kids want us, no need us to be in control and in command. I kinda knew this already, but this was more of an obvious demonstration of it than I have seen before. Especially since a) she didn't understand my words, just my sternness and b) she reacted so undeniably positive, even affectionate to it.

Another question now surfaces though. Why do children want/need us to demonstrate and maintain our authority? Even though I'm not a child psychologist, I can still think of a couple reasons.

1) They depend on us completely (see the previous post about Lucas) for their protection and provision. And protecting them and providing for them both require us to be in control of the outside world, at least to some extent. I think children actually feel more secure seeing that we are capable and willing to be in control of them, because it demonstrates that we are capable of being in control of the outside influences that are required for their very survival.

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control. -Tom Landry

2) Children know that we are far more knowledgeable about the world than they are and they also know that they need us to show them the ropes. So while the molding process is difficult, they still know that they need it. If we as parents are so weak as to let our kids mold us to their own will, then perhaps deep inside (subconsciously?) they know that they are never going to learn about and become all that we could otherwise teach them and mold them into.

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. -Tom Landry

Since I'm quoting Tom Landry (a former Dallas Cowboys football coach) I'm going to continue using sports as an example. If you are a younger athlete on a sports team, then you may have a substantial amount of natural speed, strength, and skills. But despite your abundance of natural talent, you know that under your own direction (or under the direction of a weak coach) that you are never going to reach your full potential. It takes a strong leader to instruct, train, mold, encourage, and teach you the meaning of discipline, sometimes using discipline to persuade you.

I guess Emily, even at only 9 months, is old enough to start understanding this now.

Feeling Lucky at Lowes

This weekend I was walking around Lowe's with my 2-year old son in tow. I looked back at this little person following close behind me and realized for a moment what an incredible responsibility that I have as a parent. This little person would have absolutely nothing without me. No shelter, no food, no protection, none of the many things I'm teaching him, no life even.

This realization wasn't a source of pride or boastfulness in any way though. I just feel honestly and incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and joy. To look at this little boy and realize that he depends on me so heavily, and to see him happy and not scared or worried about these things that I am supposed to be providing for him. I guess I'm just very grateful a) for having children to take care of, b) for having the means to take care of and provide for them (material and otherwise), and c) for the joy of watching and participating in their growing and learning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Before I Die...

...there are a few things that I would like to do, and just today I added a new one.
  1. Travel overseas (I have never been outside the continental U.S.) - preferably Italy.
  2. Attend a live Ultimate Fighting Championship event.
  3. Hang glide.
  4. Obtain a pilot's license.
  5. Obtain a black belt in martial arts (not sure which style yet).
  6. Participate in a Dream Car Tour (just added today).


Things on my list that I have already accomplished:
  1. Bungee jumped.
  2. Sky dove.
  3. Obtained a Master's degree.
  4. Read the whole Bible.
  5. Got married.
  6. Have children.
  7. Living somewhere other than where I grew up (OK, this wasn't on my list before I moved, but now that I'm elsewhere I think that it should have been on the list).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Are Combat Sports and Chrstianity a Contradiction?

Well, I finally finished writing a response to a comment from i eat dentists that was made to my blog on June 8th about UFC stuff. Specifically, the part where he said "as a Christian, I can no longer support this type of violence". As usual for a controversial topic, my response is just too long to make a comment out of. In this case it's too long for a blog too, so I posted a web page about it in the Thoughts section of our family website.

Let me know what you think (if anyone is brave enough to read the whole thing).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

More Random Stuff

I realized a couple of new things yesterday about where we live.
  1. Independence day is much more celebrated as a community here compared to Orlando. It's really neat to see so many people out and celebrating the holiday together as a neighborhood.
  2. A large percentage of the population here are from one of the larger neighboring cities (San Jose, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe) and/or they visit them regularly. So when one of those cities, or their resident(s) are in the news for some reason, there seems to be an unusually large emotional attachment to it by association. For example, the recent fires in Lake Tahoe, accomplishments of nearby sports teams (Sharks, 49ers, Raiders) and even the victory of Joey Chestnut (from San Jose) as the new hot dog eating champion.
These are yet another couple of reasons why this big town, and the other nearby bigger towns, still somehow have a smaller town feel to it.
---------------------

FARK, one of my favorite web sites, actually linked to this story on the 700 club, about a man who first embraced Satanism, then ended up becoming a Christian. I thought it was pretty interesting, but FARK labeled it with a "Stupid" tag. So do they think the guy was stupid for heading down such a dark path, starting with using a Ouija board? Or are they saying that the article is stupid, perhaps because they think it's too unbelievable and just a bunch of B.S.? What do you readers think about the article and/or why FARK chose to label it as stupid?
---------------------

I read a great quote from Thomas Jefferson today: "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." How very true that is. The statement would have been really interesting if Jefferson would have accompanied it with some predicted numbers for the increase of government's size, like Gordon Moore (Moore's Law) did for transistors.
---------------------

A recent study discovered that contrary to the popular notion of women talking significantly more than men, the two genders are actually equally talkative. This really doesn't surprise me though, since in almost all of my dating relationships before Amanda, I was usually the more talkative one. So my life experiences had already taught me the article's revelation that "Some men are more talkative than others, and some women are more talkative than others."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Random Stuff

Home:
I was able to edge, weed-eat, and mow my lawn this weekend in 30 minutes. What a great contrast to our old house where the yard took about 1/2 of a day to complete. Sure, we have less yard to play in and look at, but we still have all that we really need, at least for now.

It's been really great having a couple of normal weekends to make some progress on home projects. Now that an extended weekend and holiday are coming up, I'll have to seriously resist the temptation to spend the majority of it getting more accomplished around the house (or should I?).

God:
Last week I participated in VBS (vacation Bible school) for the first time. As the team leader for four kids, it was both fun and tiring. The songs, Bible points (God is: real, with us, strong, awesome, and in charge), and the "YA-HOOO!" response will be stuck in my head probably for weeks, especially since we bought the DVD for Lucas to enjoy.

Our church worship has recently included a song called Bless His Name (link is to mp3), written by Tony Sanchez. I LOVE IT! It's loud and rockin', yet still beautiful and singable (that's an actual word) as worship. It sticks in your head and melts your brain toward God!

Our pastor mentioned in a sermon that all of the members of a men's prayer group that he is a part of are trying to spend 15 minutes each day with God. It was only a side note in the sermon, but it really stuck with me. That sounds so easy, but why is it so difficult? How many little things in my day take up 15 minutes? I'm planning on being part of a similar men's group starting up in August, so I guess I'll find out.

Relationships:
Amanda and I were blessed to have our friends Aaron and Eun (and their two boys) over for dinner on Sunday evening. I can't remember when we last had dinner guests, but it's been too long and I really enjoyed their company.

Misc:
Here is a website that makes me cringe and pray every time I read it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Where Did My Funny Go?

I remember a time in my life when I used to be much funnier. My mind would sometimes come up with absurd perspectives about whatever topic was being discussed - sort of a reactive type humor. I was never stand-up comedian funny, but I definitely had more of a sense of humor and was more fun overall.

But why the change? Now I cringe whenever I make an attempt at humor, because inevitably it will go over like a lead balloon. So is it the audience, or is it me? If it's me, then is it from so much responsibility, whereas my mind is just distracted by all of the requests and requirements being placed upon me on a daily basis. Am I just never fully relaxed enough to let my mind wander to places of absurdity, since I'm constantly bombarded now by so much reality?

Maybe I have had so many moments of regret from the words that I've spoken (without thinking through their potential effect) that I just think too much now before speaking. While that actually sounds good at first (thinking before speaking), perhaps now I don't let my mind and tongue be free enough to just let some comedy roll off.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I AM the Weakest Link

I occasionally play basketball during lunch on a half-court that is next to my work building. Last week we played two games of 3-on-3. After the team I was on lost the first game, me and another Mike switched teams. Then my new team (you know, the one that had just won the previous game) lost too. I believe that makes me the weakest link (say it with drama like on the game show)! Ugh.

Not only was my playing bad, but I was exhausted, especially after the first game. I tried to come up with excuses, like for starters, it was freakin' hot outside. But there were six of us, so it shouldn't affect me any more than anyone else. Plus, I have less fat to haul around than most of the other guys, and I'm from Florida so I should be plenty used to the heat. So there goes the heat excuse. Maybe I should be drinking Gatorade or some other sports drink to compensate for the sweating.
-------------------------
Today, we played two games of 2-on-2 and the team I was on won both games. Of course, the other team had a girl on it but hey, she was pretty good! I did drink Gatorade this time, and maybe I scored a couple more baskets than last week. It's so easy to improve on pathetic though.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cinematic Silliness when Searching for Some Classics

Since Amanda had never seen it, I was hoping to rent First Blood (Rambo 1) a couple of nights ago. But I couldn't find it in either of the video stores near us, although they both had Rambo 2 and 3. She has never seen Rocky either, or Escape from New York, Mad Max, Christine, Jaws, or Smokey and the Bandit. All classics that we will have to rent someday, especially since it seems like it's getting harder and harder to find good movies in the new rental section.

But I ended up renting Death Race 2000. I found this gem under the "Sci-Fi" category and remembered seeing it on a list of The Top 40 Best Car Movies on DVD. It was made in 1975 and depicted what the U.S. would be like in the year 2000. Sylvester Stallone was in it, but his name wasn't even in the opening credits since he hadn't made a name for himself yet.

The plot was about a transcontinental race where the winner must not only get to the finish line first, but must kill the most people with their car along the way. I am certain that this movie inspired the video game "Carmageddon", which was actually a very fun game.

It's always interesting to see how people predict the future to be, especially now that it's already in the past. Unfortunately, there were a few scenes with gratuitous nudity in them, and the special effects of the movie were hilariously outdated. Ok, so the movie more or less completely sucked, but it was still kinda fun and silly too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Letting Go - An Observation

I worked in the toddler room (1-2.5 yrs old) on Sunday at my church. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. When numerous parents dropped off their children though, I observed something interesting.

After I would entertain and distract their child so that they would no longer be crying (usually not an easy task), instead of the parent sneaking away undetected, they announced their departure to the child's back "OK, goodbye Geoffrey (or whatever the child's name is)." At that point, the child would turn around and be reminded that mommy or daddy is leaving them all alone, and thus start to cry all over again. As if that isn't annoying enough, this cycle would then be repeated yet again, perhaps even two more times before they finally leave to attend the service.

Of course, this makes me wonder "What is the cause of this behavior?". Is it too difficult for the parents to admit that their child is OK with them leaving? Do they desire being needed by the child to the extent that they actually want to see their child cry every time they depart to make themselves feel better? Are they still debating in their mind whether or not they trust the people in the room to take care of the child, and maybe making the child stop crying numerous times will prove that the child-care workers are capable enough? Or is it just difficult for the parent themselves to be separated from the child, so that they linger their goodbyes way longer than necessary?

Whatever the reason, it's more work for me and more trauma for their child. So here's a tip to all of you parents with separation anxiety - the minute that you see that your child has stopped crying, especially if their back is turned toward you, take a deep breath and say a little prayer if you must, but then just let him/her concentrate on the activities in the room and get your lingering butt out of there!

Friday, June 08, 2007

UFC Stuff

UFC 71 occurred while we were in Oregon for Memorial Day, during which Quinton Jackson beat Chuck Liddell to become the new light-heavyweight champion! It was the first UFC that I have missed in several years and yes, I unsuccessfully checked first to see if any sports bars would be showing it near where we were staying.

I must admit that for a long time I really didn't like Chuck Liddell, mainly because he is such a one-dimensional fighter. He just throws bombs with his fists while standing, even if he is one of the best in the business at it. But the more I read about him, the more I grew to appreciate the man behind the belt. Nevertheless, Quinton Jackson whooped him - twice even - and is a most interesting character himself. While he was previously a ghetto mouthed thug (I knew of him and watched interviews of him back then), he experienced a really strange experience that led him to become a Christian. For more information on Quinton check out the Wikipedia entry about him.

On TUF (The Ultimate Fighter - the UFC's reality show) a couple of weeks ago, two of the fighters got in a personal fist fight while at the house. Afterward, I was a little surprised at Dana White's (president of the UFC) reaction to it, but I also really appreciated and admired it. From Sherdog's review:

This time however, Dana's words seem to sting everyone since when he said "For the last six years I've been busting my f______ ass to prove that this wasn't what this sport was about." He explained that this would have the non-fan thinking what they've always thought, that this sport was full of "a bunch of goons." Dana decides to kick Marlon and Noah off the show and includes Berube as well, since he was the instigator.

I really hope that I will be able to watch UFC72 this Saturday. It's occurring at 8pm in Ireland, which unfortunately equates to noon here in the pacific time zone. Since my in-laws will be here visiting us this weekend, the big question is whether or not I should disappear to the bar for a few hours in the middle of the day to watch it. Who am I kidding, they'll probably be happy to lose me for a little while.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Random Thoughts and Interesting Art

Things that look modern and/or artsy in appearance used to be advertised as having a "space age" appearance, or as using "space age" materials. But what do you call modern looking things now, especially since space exploration has been gasping for breath since the Columbia disaster in 2003?
---------------------
I read a great article from the founder of XXXchurch, titled Opponents or Teammates. I really admire the way Craig deliberates about some of the issues he recently faced. I also appreciate his position on relationships with non-Christians, focusing on sharing meals with them and meeting them wherever they are at spiritually.
---------------------
For Memorial Day weekend, we had a great 5-day getaway to the Oregon coast, where we stayed in a cabin with Amanda's aunt and cousins. With all of the fun events and beautiful scenery of the trip, I'm inspired to begin updating our family's web site again with a new entry in the "Events" page. I usually make thumbnails and resize the pictures manually using GIMP, but with over 100 pictures, I think it's time to find or make a batch script for the task.
---------------------
The battery on my other Timex watch is now dead too (see previous post). Interestingly, my significantly older Casio watch is still running just fine. Although they do look nice, Timex watches are annoying to operate and drain the battery too quickly - I'm switching back to Casio.
---------------------
I clicked across (found the article in FARK) some really sweet LEGO art the other day. Make sure you browse the pictures.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Uncommonly Cool

A female friend of ours and fellow blogger recently posted about how shooting guns is becoming a hobby for her. I can't help but think that this activity is high up on the list of things that are really cool when girls do them. The idea of it inspired me to make a list of activities that causes a female to automatically jump up a rung on the coolness ladder when she participates in them.
  • Shooting guns (as mentioned above)
  • Riding a motorcycle - at least as a passenger, but if she rides by herself then that's even cooler (Amanda rode with me regularly).
  • Driving:
    • Fast (Amanda's friend Susan impressed me with this).
    • A stick shift (shifting gears at only 2000 rpm almost doesn't count though).
    • A jacked up 4x4 (my brother's friend Lisa had a sweet Toyota pickup).
    • A sports car or powerful muscle car, especially if it's customized (Amanda's Miata was pretty darned cool).
  • Knowing how to kick ass - trained and competent in some form of self-defense.
  • Participating in board sports - surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, etc.
However, the catch is that while doing the above tasks that are typically associated with men, women still have to look sexy and feminine. In other words, for women to be considered cool, they must still look hot.

But what makes the above activities cool for females? Besides being mostly male-oriented, I think the common thread to the above list is that most of the activities are either somewhat dangerous, or they require a certain degree of strength and/or fearlessness, or they are a display of the woman's strength and power.

Anyone have any other activities to add to the list? Would the list for men be the same?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Music For Married People

I ran across another gem when listening to my mp3 collection at work that I had forgotten about, titled Love Cocoon and written by a little-known Christian band called Vigilantes of Love. One of my college roommates told me about it.

Listen here.

Read the lyrics here.

Here's a quick review from Parting Shot:
Described by Bill [the writer] as "a Biblical Song of Solomon set to a Rolling Stones sort of groove," this song was released as a single off of Slow Dark Train against the wishes of the band. This same song caused the album to be banned from many Christian bookstores.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Watch What?

I primarily have two watches that I use, one of them has a black band and the other a brown one. This is so that they can also be an accessory for my brown and black shoe/belt combinations, because I'm fashionable that way. Unfortunately, my fashion sense ends not too far from there.

Although the battery for my black one died with the hands stuck at 9:15 about 4 months ago, I still keep wearing it as a fashion accessory when I'm wearing my black shoes and belt.

Yes, I have been asked for the time since then and yes, I instinctively still look at it myself with the hopes of finding the correct time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Boycott This, pt 2

This post is a result of Jen's comment to part 1, because my thought is that when a comment grows to four paragraphs then it should probably just be a post.

I really wasn't trying to point out that California gas is more expensive. That just happened to be the first chart that I came across that broke down the a gallon of gas into its individual cost components. What I was actually trying to show is how very little of the gas price is actually profit for the oil company. It's probably a very similar percentage for all of the other states too. California just has higher taxes and higher processing costs because of the stricter environmental requirements.

I know it sounded like I was trying to criticize people who don't reduce their usage, but to be honest I really don't care much about it. Personally, I carpool mainly to save money. If it helps the environment or decreases the demand then that's just an additional bonus to me. I was mainly speaking to people who complain the loudest, but don't take any action themselves (Al Gore types).

The reason that gas prices increased after Katrina is the same as why they would increase for plywood or fresh water or anything else. I hate to beat a phrase to death, but in a capitalist economy it's either increased supply or decreased demand. "By shutting down 20 percent of the country's oil- refining capacity in a single day - and boosting prices nationwide by more than 45 cents a gallon on average in a week - hurricane Katrina has exposed just how stretched the nation's refineries are. Now industry and Congress are looking at how to boost capacity." [reference].

And yes, gas prices do differ greatly, sometimes even right across the street from each other, which actually helps to further promote several of my points. First of all, that helps to demonstrate that gas companies obviously aren't coordinating their prices. Secondly, that's the glory of a free market economy - you can go wherever the heck you want to get the gas! I personally prefer Chevron because I have talked to several mechanics and other knowledgeable car people who state that their gas is the best for your car (due to the Techron additive). But generally if there are two stations next to each other and one has significantly cheaper gas, then most likely the more expensive station is going to have to lower their prices eventually - otherwise their pumps won't have any cars parked in front of them. That's the beauty of competition for the consumer!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Boycott This

So yesterday was apparently a national gas boycott day. While I didn't fill up my car yesterday, it was only because I still had gas in it. I'm not a big fan of boycotts and I'll tell you why...

Here is a breakdown of what determines the price of a gallon of gas here in California. Scroll down to see the current month.

As you can see by the chart, the oil companies really don't make much profit off of a gallon of gas. And the chart doesn't even show their costs for further research and exploration.

Although it feels much better (and easier) to point the finger at the oil companies and yell phrases like "price gouging", the only real way to make prices go down for any particular product, including gasoline, is to a) add competition b) increase the supply or c) decrease the demand.

Since there are already plenty of oil companies that are competing with each other to get your business, I don't think adding new competition will change anything. And I think the idea of them coordinating together on the prices are ridiculous, especially since there are regulatory bodies in place to ensure that this doesn't happen.

Ways to increase our supply include offshore drilling, exploration in ANWAR, building more refineries, etc. The primary reason that most methods of increasing the supply have not been pursued is because of the strong political pressure of environmentalist groups.

Ways to decrease our demand are basically either a) driving less or b) using more fuel efficient vehicles. Truly, while paying such high gas prices really sucks, in the long run the high cost will cause our consumption to decrease. This is not only because we'll make more efforts to car pool and maybe even ride the bus, but also because manufacturers will continue to make more of a concerted effort to build cars that consume less gas, since people are putting a much higher priority on gas consumption when they purchase a car. This is supply and demand again.

If you really want to point a finger, then I would suggest pointing it at your local environmentalist for not allowing the supply to increase. And maybe yourself for not reducing the demand.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Attitude Adjustment (Unanswered Prayers, pt 3)

Well, we finally sold our old house last Friday (5/4/07)! For almost the last eight months though, I have been wrestling with the lack of an answer to our prayers for this. It sounds like a silly thing to wrestle with, but the potential consequences were financially disastrous. Ugly words like foreclosure and bankruptcy were beginning to surface.

While we knew we were taking a risk in this house endeavor, we felt we had God's blessings on it, especially since He seemed to answer our prayers when all of the necessary pieces fell into place for purchasing and moving into our new house. After paying both mortgages for a few months though, we began to question our decision, and more importantly to wonder if we were mistaken with what we perceived to be God's direction. And if were not mistaken, then why would we be led here only to be allowed to fail through circumstances beyond our control?

A few months ago, I decided to go through a three day juice fast about it. At the end of the fast, a phrase popped into my mind that really helped to turn around my attitude for a while. It wasn't an audible voice, but it did clearly pop into my head out of nowhere, as if a voice had spoken. It simply said "It's an adventure!"

It's the challenges in life that make it exciting, even though I may not understand or appreciate the purpose behind them. How boring would life be if it was always predictable, if there were no struggles to overcome and everything you wanted was just given to you.? How would you learn and how would you grow if all of your prayers were instantly answered?

Of course, I would never purposefully choose these challenges intentionally, but I hope to remember the words that popped into my head and to retain this attitude (although I'm admittedly skeptical) the next time I'm in the midst of another difficult circumstance(s).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

There is Hope for the World Yet!

Less people watching TV!

The conservative candidate (Nicolas Sarkozy) won in France!

Here is the best article I have read yet about global warming, tilted Not the End of the World as We Know It. The author covers so many angles about not only whether it's factual, but also what the consequences would or wouldn't be even if it is factual.

When Power Tools Attack

Wow, two stories in the same day pertaining to power tools and purposefully self-inflicted injuries.

In La Habra, Calif

In Cologne, Germany

So what can we learn from this? When secluded and/or reclusive, it's a good idea to stay away from power tools, especially if you live with your parents.

Monday, May 07, 2007

My Kind of Weekend

Friday:
  • Sold our old house, met the buyers and handed them the keys, appliance manuals and garage door opener.
  • Hired a baby-sitter and went on a great downtown date (and celebration). First we ate dinner at a nice restaurant. Then went to a nightclub for dancing to a band called Wonderbread5.
Saturday:
  • I finally reconquered the yard at our new house (I had been spending all of my weekends maintaining and fixing up our old house).
  • Attended a surprise birthday party for a friend of ours.
  • When the kids went down for a nap, we did too.
  • Had dinner at our neighbor's friend's pizzeria while watching some fights, even though they were only boxing.
  • Rented a good movie called "Invincible" with Mark Wahlberg, based on the true story of Vince Papale.
Sunday:
  • Church in the morning.
  • Took a short afternoon nap.
  • Replaced the spark plugs on my car. It was missing a cylinder, but now it runs fine.
  • Attended a birthday party for a friend's son from church.
  • Paid bills and balanced checkbook (to me, ridding the bulletin board of financial obligations and getting rid of our stack of receipts is a good feeling).
  • Watched the latest episode of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter (downloaded the bittorrent).
To summarize, we finally jumped the hurdle of a major challenge (house sale), had a really good date night together, accomplished some major chores, got some sleep, spent some good times with friends, enjoyed the outdoors during beautiful weather (at both parties), relaxed by watching a good movie, and enjoyed a tv show too. Life is good, if even just for the moment.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Us on Easter Morning

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Prayer to Share

I meet with a couple of guys from my work every Thursday morning for prayer. Last week (4/19), we prayed for a high school principal who has bone cancer of some sort. After a significant amount of attempted treatment, he has been sent home from the hospital to live however many days he has left, because there is nothing more that doctors can do for him at this stage of the disease. He is about the same age as my dad was when he died and has an 8 year old son, as well as a couple of grown children.

In the years between when my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma and when he passed away, I remember him saying how hyper-aware he had become of the little things in his life. Knowing how limited his remaining time was caused him to notice and appreciate everything so much more intensely. I am sure that the man we recently prayed for feels the same way.

So I am praying not only for the man whose life is being cut short, but also for me to purposefully enjoy and to be aware of the little things in life. To pay attention to life's details and not take them for granted. From moments spent with loved ones, to every little breath that I am still allowed to take. If I can truly look at life that way, then I think even difficult circumstances will be more bearable, feeling grateful for the chance to overcome them and looking forward to their hopeful conclusion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Limited Laughter Lately

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my carpool buddy in front of our work building, I smiled when recalling the moment with Lucas again that I blogged about yesterday. Then I tried to remember before that, when the last time was that I really laughed heartily. When I drew a blank, I realized there are very few moments in my life now that I all-out laugh. Sure, Amanda and the kids illicit plenty of smiles and more than a decent amount of chuckles. But I very rarely laugh uncontrollably anymore.

Have I gotten too serious? Or does the stress in my life usually overcome the joy in it? Or have I just heard so many jokes and experienced enough of this world so that there is very little I see that takes me by surprise? Or do we not get out enough and/or spend time with other people to hear jokes and be surprised? Maybe I need to seek and encounter more comedy in my entertainment (books, movies, etc)? Or maybe I'm just a normal 35 year old? Any thoughts, suggestions or comments are welcomed.

Laughing With Lucas

Sunday afternoon, I was holding my son Lucas while we were going through our normal routine of praying and singing before bed (a nap in this case). Instead of resting his head on my shoulder like he normally does though, he put his face right next to mine and was just smiling really big.

When I turned in his direction, all I could see were his big eyes and smiling face just barely inches from mine. I paused and smiled back at him, then he put his head on my shoulder. A few seconds later I looked to my right and there he was again, smiling and staring at me before we both chuckled and turned away. The next time he did it he kept his head a little bit lower, so that I could only see his big brown eyes when I turned in his direction. It was so darned precious and playful that I couldn't help just cracking up, which made him bury his head into my shoulder and crack up laughing too. It was a really sweet moment.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Musical Misunderstanding

I don't understand people who listen to smooth jazz, elevator music, or R&B while working out. I have a hard enough time getting moving and motivated without having soothing, mellow music lulling me to sleep.

I personally prefer something loud and fast to get me energized. If the music inspires dancing, boosts my energy, or increases my intensity then it seems logical to me that it would translate to more motivation for muscular movement in the gym (or running, etc). Even if they don't like rock, there is still rap, techno, and numerous other faster-paced options to utilize. Wouldn't you think at least one of them would be more enjoyable for exercising?

---------------------------------------------

Another musical mystery is people who solely listen to classic rock. There are only two causes for this phenomenon that I can conjure. One theory is that listening to the songs of yesteryear brings the individual back to days of their life that they would prefer to still be living in, maybe when they were happier and more content, maybe freer of responsibility or whatever. So they are basically living their lives in the past as best as they can.

The other is that they are mentally too old to "get into" new music. Even if it sounds strikingly similar to the stuff they grew up with, their brain is past the point of absorbing the speed and intensity of it. But since they already learned to appreciate the oldies (their brains were in the right "mode" back then) they can still enjoy it. Does anyone else have a theory or explanation for it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Car Pooling

When it's my week to drive, my car pool buddy actually takes Dramamine (for motion sickness) before riding with me. No joke.

When it's his week to drive though, I have to listen to music that makes me want to stab sharpened pencils into my ears.
counter stats