Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just 15 Minutes a Day

No, the title isn't a reference to the annoying but memorable Geico slogan.  That's "15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance."  But in some ways I guess you could call this insurance.

When Amanda and I lived in Sacramento, our church home was Horizon Community Church.  One of the activities that I participated in there was a 6:30am Friday morning men's group.  It may sound a bit odd, but the pastor there, Brad Swope, had a few rules for attending this group.  Mostly they centered around being considerate for one another (trying to attend consistently, not being late, being honest in conversations, etc.).  The one that stuck with me to this day though was that we all had to commit to spending 15 minutes a day with God.  The time usage could take any number of forms, including quiet time, prayer, reading the Bible, etc.

It's a simple concept really - even with everyone's busy schedules, 15 minutes seemed feasible.  As important as God is, especially to men who are committed to getting up hella early for spiritual growth, it shouldn't be too hard to set aside just 1/4 hour for Him.  Not surprisingly though, it always ends up being much more challenging than it sounds, especially with all of the responsibilities and distractions that adulthood, home ownership, and parenthood require.

At the beginning of each men's group, we would hold each other accountable to this commitment, and discuss how we did for the previous week with regards to it.  Very rarely did any one of us accomplish spending this time every single day, but I did find that whatever time was spent was certainly worth the effort.

If you truly believe that there is a God of the universe, and you also believe that we can communicate with Him (through prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, etc.), then doesn't it seem worth sacrificing such a small amount of time to dedicate to Him?  So for all you Christians out there, what do you think of this idea?  After all, the 15 minutes you spend with God will save you a helluva lot more than just insurance premiums.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dream on 11/18/2014

I was in a public place of some sort, with a female (sister, friend, unknown, but not romantic), both of us were sitting in white reclining plastic chairs.  There was also a small plastic table between us.  She warned me that "You should get your gun."  I was stunned by her statement and looked at her, confused.  Then she repeated it, but more urgently.  I replied that “my guns are at home”.

Just then three people walked up, wearing white outfits with red trim.  One woman and two men.  They were similar in size/gender to the three villains in Superman 2, but had otherwise drastically different appearances.  They were pointing odd looking guns at me, with multiple vertical slots at the end of the barrel, instead of a single hole.  I was thinking they were going to provide an electrical shock of some sort, like a tazer but possibly more powerful.  That was just a guess though.

I was closest to and facing the middle sized male, who seemed to be the leader.  He was wearing eye glasses (not shaded).  I was trying to decide whether to lunge to the side and rush in on him (hopefully avoiding the direction of the barrel and/or getting to him before he has the chance to pull the trigger), or what else I could do. 

I woke up at 5:20am, realizing that I need to do a much better job of preparing myself for the unlikely event of a threatening situation/attack.  In hindsight I could have grabbed the table and used it as a shield while rushing in.  I could have looked around me and maybe grabbed something to throw at him, striking first.  I should have also positioned myself better in relation to all three attackers, such that I would only have to directly confront the one main attacker first (instead of having all three aimed at me).  And finally, I should have reacted better/faster when she told me to get my gun and when I realized I was under attack (I was stunned/surprised like a deer in headlights).

I know, it was just a dream.  I don't believe that dreams are always foreshadowing, or even that they are supposed to necessarily mean anything significant (although I do think that both options are possible).  I also know that the likelihood of me ever getting attacked in the real world is slim to none, let alone with a scenario similar to this dream.  However, having experienced in my mind the emotions and thoughts associated with this type of event, it seems foolish to not at least be better prepared for something similar, even if it does only happen in my dreams again.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Joys of the Gym

One of the many things I enjoy about working for GE is the benefit of their nearby gym.  At $15/month, the facility and equipment aren't anywhere near as impressive as Gold's or LA Fitness, but they have all the equipment I need, they're rarely crowded in the mornings (I try to get there around 6:30am), and the building is less than a mile from my desk.

Like any gym, there is a wide variety of people you’ll see there, but lately I've been finding myself observing the oddities of humanity more than usual.  This provide a mixture of amusement, amazement, annoyance, and sometimes disgust.  Some examples of the things I've seen recently are:
  • I typically go to the same locker area, mostly out of habit.  But if my usual area of the locker room happens to be crowded, or even if there are just one or two guys in the vicinity, I’ll shift to a different one.  Most of the lockers are empty in the morning anyway, so there are hundreds of options to choose from.  Similar to the shower though, it still surprises me when a man walks in a virtually empty and spacious locker room, then just has to go to his usual locker, which is right next to or just across from mine.
  • My work out partner actually found toe nail clippings on the floor in front of the lockers.  What kind of man would think that this is acceptable behavior?  If I were to see someone in the act of doing this, I would have a really hard time not saying something to him.
  • Sure, aftershaves and/or body sprays often provide decent aromas, but when the entire locker room is gagging from the overpowering stench, how can you not tell that you've used too much?  I mean, how can someone’s sense of smell be that bad, that they would need to use an entire bottle in order to tell that it’s enough for one day?  I feel bad for anyone who is working next to him, or even in the same building.
After using the gym in the morning, I always take a shower before heading to work.  That’s provided some interesting fodder as well, including:
  • There are 18 separate enclosed shower stalls (w/a curtain as the door).  Since a lot fewer people go to the gym in the morning than any other time of day, there aren't too many stalls being occupied when I shower (2-3 at a time maybe).  Why then, when I’m taking a shower, must a man pick the stall directly next to mine?  This may sound a little extreme, but it kinda grosses me out to know that some guy’s shower water could be running down his naked body then splashing on me from under the gap at the bottom of the partition.  If enough shower stalls are available, then can’t you just leave a gap between us?
  • I have seasonal allergies (for a week or two each in the fall and spring), so I know how it can be when your nose and/or lungs are struggling with the blockage that sometimes accompanies these times of year.  I also know how working out can help clear some of this blockage (force the cardiovascular system to expand and open up).  But do you have to spit your cleared blockages on the shower floor?
  • My co-worker/workout partner Chris noticed some of the shower stalls have boogers smeared on the walls.
  • I once found a used band-aid in the shower’s soap dish.  Luckily I didn't see any blood or puss on it, but even still…
  • There is an odd looking man with very fair skin and gray hair.  He’s tall and slightly overweight, (but not obese).  He has a nasally voice and does not look like he has a single hair on his face or his entire body.  How do I know this?  Because he often stands in the locker room air drying for an extended period of time.  Sometimes he shakes his hips with his towel waving in the air behind him, like he’s trying to dry his backside.  But he’s not really trying to dry off – it’s just a sickening show.  I thought to myself “am I being too judgmental?”  But I asked my workout partner about it, and he laughed and exclaimed “Yeah, of course I noticed, and I hate that!”

    A few weeks ago when I got out of the shower he was doing his usual thing in the locker room aisle, but this time he was standing on one foot and had the other one propped up on the front of a standing fan, so that the fan can blow on his little pink, bald junk.  I couldn't take it anymore and said “Come on!  Really?!”  He looked over at me.  “Do you really have to prop your foot up and dry your balls off in front of everyone?”  He stepped down and responded guiltily “I’m um, drying my toes.  Have you ever had athletes foot?”  “Yeah, I have.”  I replied, calling his bluff.

    I didn't see him in the locker room for a number of weeks after that.  I wasn't trying to be a bully, but blatantly airing your manhood for way more time than necessary is just gross and inconsiderate of everyone else around you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Satisfaction of a Hard Day's Work, Especially When it's Helping Others

I helped out with Habitat for Humanity today, in association with GE.  My co-worker Chris started organizing the event, but then he got overwhelmed with work and also went on vacation.  So I ended up picking up where he left off and doing a large portion of the planning, organizing, and communicating for it.

When the day of volunteering was done, my forearms and hands were (and still are) pretty sore.  It was enjoyable and satisfying work though.  I really like assembling things and putting together projects.  There's just something innately gratifying and therapeutic to being outdoors (though under a roof) and using your hands, especially when (in this case) there were people there to help us if/when our own knowledge and experience was lacking.  Although, I can see how that might not be the case if it was a full time job.

In addition to enjoying the manual labor, I learned some new things about home building and improvement.  I am now more familiar with hanging door frames and closet doors, and also got to work on the bathroom floor (putting down water-proof floor panels in preparation for the ceramic tile).  As a bonus, the lady who is going to be living in the house (with her kids) stopped by to say hi.  So we got to meet the person who's going to be benefiting from our efforts.

The four hours of manual labor really boosted my appetite too.  I was hungrier than usual, and since I brought the lunch to the site (paid for by GE) I got to take home the majority of the leftovers (after asking around and giving some of it away to whoever wanted it).  So I not only got a free lunch, but I got dinner out of it too.

I'm scheduled to help again next Wednesday, and I gotta admit that I'm somewhat looking forward to it.  I'm also curious to see if the conditions (weather, assigned tasks) and end results will be as positive as today's were.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Daddy/Daughter Date to Dairy Queen

On Monday of this week, I took my youngest daughter Clara on a daddy/daughter date to Dairy Queen.  I would rather have done something more extensive and fun, but it's been quite a while since our last time hanging out together, and I didn't have much money to spend anyway.  Besides, who doesn't love their Blizzards :-).  It was sweet time of hanging out, holding her tiny hand to/from the car, and sharing a blizzard while talking together.

I also learned something new about her, that she is completely ambidextrous.  I asked her which hand she writes with in school and she said "both".  She said that neither is her favorite and that she switches between them when one gets tired.

According to internet statistics, 1% of the population is ambidextrous.  I thought it would be much lower than that, since in my 43 years I've never known anyone who has indicated they didn't have a right or left hand preference/dominance.  Unfortunately, one article also said that:
"Children who are ambidextrous, using either hand with the same ease, may be more likely to have mental health, language and academic problems than their peers,"

Time will tell whether there is any truth or relevance to this study for Clara.  So far though she seems very smart to us, but maybe we're just bias as her parents.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What do you Stand For?

The other day an advertisement for Doc Marten shoes played before a movie trailer that I was trying to watch, and I couldn't help but think about it.  Here is the ad, along with another similar one for their campaign.
Their question and ad slogan is "What do you Stand for?"  Here are the answers given in the above videos.  I stand for...
  • distortion
  • the crowd
  • making classic contemporary
  • punk rock
  • youth frustration
  • rising against conformity
  • keeping things simple
  • the youth
  • being unique
  • getting shit done
  • putting myself out there
  • keeping people guessing
Some of the above answers are silly, or even pathetic (distortion, really?).  Many of them though are at least admirable character traits that I try to portray myself, especially the last four, or even five.  But to "stand for" something implies not just a personal characteristic, but a statement about what is the #1 most important thing to you.

For those of you who know me, or even if you've just been reading my blog for a while, hopefully my answer to the question of "What do you stand for?" is obvious:  I stand for the almighty God of the universe, and His son Jesus Christ.  They not only make life much more enjoyable (providing peace, love, joy, strength, depth, meaning, contentment), but they are the only things that truly have eternal implications.  Therefore everything else pales in comparison.

What about you?  What do you stand for?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Mind or the Multitasking - ADHD version of "The Chicken or the Egg"

I read an article last week (see link) that talked about the negative effects of multitasking on the human brain.

Unfortunately for me though, my current job requires multitasking, to a large extent.  I have somewhere between six and ten tasks to accomplish at any given time, and the urgency of a particular task varies based on external events and who is making the request.  Often times I find that just when I start to focus on a specific task I get interrupted by a new request or question about the product I'm responsible for, or something related to it.  If not that, then it's a co-worker discussion around me, a phone call from my wife, or a random email.  Most of the time this doesn't bother me much - I'm pretty used to it and it keeps me from getting bored.

Lately though, I feel like I've been having a harder time staying focused on just one work task.  At home too, I have so many projects and things to get done that I find myself often challenged to decide which one to work on and then once I'm engaged it's not uncommon for me to get distracted by someone or by another priority that I want/need to make progress on.  I even had a hard time the other day sitting down to read the Bible and write in my journal, as I was thinking about various reasons to get up and get other things done.  I don't recall having this problem nearly as much before though, and after reading the article I couldn't help but wonder if maybe my brain has been adapting to the continuous multitasking that work and/or life has required of me.

Younger generations probably have it even worse, since they are inundated with multimedia and multitasking for the majority of their life. I know there are other factors to consider, but how much impact does this have on the increased diagnosis of mental disorders such as ADHD.  I'm not the only one to notice this coincidence either.

So how should we address this modern problem then?  If our minds are being forced to adapt to constantly switching between tasks and doing multiple things at once, then would it help to force ourselves to at least periodically and purposefully pursue behavior to combat this?  Here are some ideas of activities for this:
  • Meditation
  • Prolonged prayer (including not just talking, but also listening)
  • Writing
  • Turning off multimedia
Maybe I'm mistaken though, and it's all just genetic.  And perhaps the only thing that will help an excessively restless mind is to keep it engaged, active, and/or medicated.  I can't help but want to err on the side of discipline, determination, and deliberate behavioral modification though.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

We All Want to be Remembered

I read this article (link) earlier in the week about a college student named Kendall Wernet who died while on a cruise ship.

Before that fateful day, Kendall had some great questions and introspective statements on his company's website when reflecting on the death of Robin Williams:
This got me thinking: How will the world react when I die? Will my face be on the news? Will people say it was a terrible occurrence? What will they remember about me?
Ask yourself these same questions.
Suddenly, you start to get this weird feeling inside of you that makes you question what you are doing with your life. Because, the truth is that we all want to make a difference and leave a mark on this world. We want to be remembered.
From the article it appears that Kendall Wernet was hoping/trying to make his mark on the world and to be remembered by (a) being successful at work and (b) helping others to do so also.  Now that he's gone though, and his face is on the news, is financial and occupational success what really matters?  If there is indeed an afterlife, then the answer is "not a damned bit".  Because right now the only thing that really matters to Kendall, and Robin Williams too, is whether or not they made it into heaven.  In addition to that #1 priority, here are the most important questions to me, regarding how I impact the world before I die:
  1. Did I make it to heaven?
  2. Did I help others to make it there (to heaven)?
  3. How much spiritual impact did I have on the world (encourage others, speak truth, etc)?
  4. Did I leave a memorable legacy for my family?
    • Remain true to my wife.
    • Raise my kids with all of the skills and knowledge that they need.
    • Have a solid, loving relationship with all of the above.
    • Provide a good (as close to ideal as possible) example of what/who a man should be?
  5. Was I a good friend to those around me?
All of the other things that the world looks at as successful are mostly useless.  Because all of the other "marks" you can make on the world won't last very long after you're gone from it.  And since none of us know when we're going to die (on a weird cruise ship accident, or when you're 100 years old), isn't the smartest approach to first address priority #1 in the list above?  If so then the way to do this is by turning your attention and affection to Jesus, who is the key to getting to heaven.  That way no matter when you die you'll meet this objective.

Luke 23:32-43 mentions two thieves on the crosses next to Jesus - one on each side.  One of them said "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Jesus assured the thief that he would indeed make it to heaven.  And that is how we should all hope to be best remembered.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weekend Update for Sept 19-21

I know very few people would care to read the following long post about my weekend escapades, but I still want to blog about it anyway, just for the sake of posterity.

FRIDAY NIGHT
Friday night I had just gotten home from a bonzai trip to Ft. Wayne Indiana.  I had driven up on Thursday evening, visited our supplier on Friday, the driven back Friday night.  I have no idea what Amanda and I did that evening and neither does she. It's not too surprising for me to forget, but it's unusual for both of us to have no recollection.  We might have watched a South Park episode.  Before bed though I got to play the tooth fairy for Emily, who lost one of her front teeth that day.

LITTLE GREY MOUSE?
Saturday morning I got a couple things done around the house before Lucas' soccer game.  Just before we were ready to leave for the game, the kids and I were waiting in the car for Amanda to come out of the house.  Then Emily yelled "look, a little grey mouse!".  I thought she might have seen it scuttle somewhere, never to be seen again, but she could still see it so we all got out of the car to have a look.  Sure enough, there it was roaming around in the mulch area near out garage door.  Then I realized and proclaimed "That's not a mouse, it's a mole!" We have been encountering a few piles of dirt in our yard and we had suspected it was due to moles.  When it ran onto the cement and started heading toward the opened garage door I instinctively stepped on it.  I had only meant to trap it though, until I could figure out what to do with it, but when I lifted my foot it looked like I had squished it dead.  

Well, the kids started freaking out.  Emily started crying (she's and Lucas was definitely upset too).  I really didn't think I had stepped on it that hard (I was surprised at the results), and if it was only injured then I didn't want it to be suffering with internal bleeding and pain.  So I decided in all my brilliance to fetch a machete with the intent to chop off its head.  When the kids realized what I was doing, then started freaking out more.  Amanda came out of the house at that moment and convinced me not to continue with my plan of mercy.  So instead I simply scooped it up with a small shovel, placed it in a ziplok back, and threw it in the trash.  Needless to say, the kids were still upset in the car, but I apologized and explained that I didn't want to hear it anymore and that's just the way the world works sometimes.  It probably wasn't the best reasoning, but it surprisingly seemed to help.

LUCAS SOCCER GAME
I insisted on bringing our dog Hope to the game with us, and she did pretty good for the most part.  I kept her leash reigned in close, but I'm glad she got to get out of the house a bit.  The weather was great for Lucas' soccer game too, and the coach kept him in it for ~3/4 of the game.  He's definitely getting better.  Amanda's parents joined us there and also to Penn Station for lunch (yum!).

WRETCHED FAN PROJECT
I worked on Emily's ceiling fan project for the rest of the day, and found yet another unexpected obstacle in the wiring.   This project has been taking me months to complete, and now it will be at least another week or two.  Ugh.

AWESOME DATE NIGHT
That evening was awesome!  Our friends, the Tipton family, watched the kids so Amanda and I could go on a date.  We take turns returning the favor for them also.  We started our date with dinner at a restaurant that was part of a hotel.  We never would have chosen it, except for a gift certificate that we had for restaurant.com (I think).  We had to pick from their selection of restaurants, and this place sounded OK.  Well, it turned out to be way better than we expected.  The food (and glass of wine) was uniquely flavored, very tasty, and mostly healthy too.   The ambiance was ok (nothing exciting, but clean and pleasing), and the service was great also.  Overall we were very pleased.  We followed that up with dessert and tasty decaf coffee at Starbucks (pumpkin spice latte and salted caramel mocha).  Then lastly we went to play outdoor putt-putt at Fairfield Fun Center.  Finding an outdoor place was harder than you'd think here, presumably because no one would want to play outside during the winter season.  We were the last people on the course before they closed.  Between the good food, perfect weather, and deep and thoughtful conversations it was a perfect date night.

SUNDAY'S BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, FAMILY RUN
Sunday morning we attended church as usual.  Then after lunch I got to watch the Bengals stomp Tennessee (33 to 7), and Amanda went climbing with Clara at Lifetime Fitness.  Clara did much better than we expected, considering how little she is!  Before dinner, we went for a jog as a family, stopping halfway at a small pond in the adjacent neighborhood..  Well, Amanda and I jogged, the big kids rode their bikes, and Clara rode in the stroller.  But it was still good exercise and we took our lazy dog along too - she surprisingly ran for almost the entire way!

When we returned home from the run, Clara wanted to stay outside and enjoy the weather.  So I grabbed a baseball and a small kid-sized glove and we both played catch for a while.

ULTIMATE FRISBEE
Finally, after dinner I went to church to help out with the high school youth group (like most Sunday evenings).  Before the worship/talk/small groups though we played Ultimate Frisbee.  More outdoor exercise is just fine for me!

It was a fantastic and memorable weekend.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dart Board Project

I bought an electronic dart board shortly after college, when I was living in an apartment with my brother, who was in high school at the time (how we ended up living together is a long story).  Since those apartment days I've lived in four houses before this one, and have mounted it somewhere on the walls of all of them.

In this current house though, the room I really wanted to place it in is a 3-season room that's attached to the back of the house, in which 3 of the walls are all windows.  Placing the dart board on a windowed wall would not only block the view, but also risk a window breakage if a dart should miss the board.  The fourth wall is made of brick and is actually the back of the house (from before they added this room) and also has one window and a sliding glass door.  Mounting the board on the brick would require making holes in it, as well as ruining the tips of any darts that might miss the board.

So the solution I came up with is to make the dart board mount in the window that's in the brick wall, but also make it removable.  It could slide in and out of the mounting brackets that were previously used for the screen (when the window was exposed to the outside).  The end result can be seen in the pictures below.













This allows the walls to remain unmarred, but we can also still use the dart board (with minimal effort).  The height is regulation, and it's in a location that suits the room perfectly, both functionally and aesthetically.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Spiritually Speaking

Last Sunday evening I had the opportunity to speak to the high school youth group at our church.  I've done it quite a few times before at Horizon church (in Roseville, CA), but it has been several years since then.

I could probably spend a couple hours on a lesson/discussion and put a decent one together that way, but I can't help but try my best to pursue perfection with it.  I pontificate and pray over which topic to pursue.  When I finally make a decision about a topic then I write a basic outline.  Next comes collecting information and researching Bible verses.  Then reorganizing and rewriting several times.  For this topic I also put together slides and downloaded video clips to include with them.  At Horizon we didn't have a projector or computer in the youth room, so this is the first time I was able to make slides to go with the discussion.  While I love the extra dimension that multimedia provides, it also adds additional preparation time, especially since I reorganized and edited the slides as much or more than I did the verbal portion of the presentation.  When taking all of the steps and also my perfectionism into consideration, it becomes a long and painful preparation process.

In the end though, I was pretty happy with the result.  I think/hope the topic was interesting and relevant, and I felt comfortable with the presentation.  I think I spoke loudly enough, moved around a bit while I was speaking, hopefully avoided the ugly filler words (um, uh, etc.), and I issued a challenge for the kids that can not only grow their faith further but also impact the world more.  My biggest self-criticism is that it may have gone a little long in duration (although I'm not sure what I would have eliminated from it).

I still need to get feedback from Brian, the youth leader, but overall I think it went well.  It took a lot of time and effort, but between this speaking experience and the other ones that I've had, I would venture to say that public speaking may be one of my favorite things to do in life, especially when I have a topic/idea that I am passionate about (which is always the case with my faith) and a presentation that I'm happy with.  I absolutely love the feeling of imparting a new perspective and having the potential to positively influence people spiritually.

Special thanks goes to Brian Rogers for trusting me enough to speak to the 2-3 dozen kids at our church, and to God for giving me the topic/ideas to speak about.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Unexpected Date Night


The original plan on June 3rd was for me to attend a Reds game with a co-worker.  He volunteered to be a solicitor for ArtsWave, which is a charity organization dedicated to local artistic events and causes, and this was GE's demonstration of appreciation for his participation (say that three times fast).  It was supposed to be for GE employees only, since they were providing the tickets, which is why he invited me to go instead of his wife.  

The game was at 7pm, so I brought a change of clothes to work and was looking forward to going straight there after my workday was done.  However, at around 4:30pm, my co-worker informed me that he wasn't feeling well and was going to have to skip the game.  He was going to give me the tickets so I could still attend with someone else though.  I tried to find someone at work to go with me, but most everyone I knew was either gone for the day or unavailable, especially since it was so last minute.  So I called Amanda to see if she wanted to go and whether she could arrange for a babysitter.  

Her mom didn't want to give up taking her class at the gym, so Amanda called a few kids in our neighborhood.  Meanwhile, I drove to John's house to get the tickets from him.  He was kind enough to meet me at Kroger to reduce the drive time, but now it was 6:30pm.  I had the tickets in hand, but no sitter and no plans to actually attend the game.  I headed home to enjoy a normal night with my family.  

About halfway home, Amanda called my cell phone to inform me that someone just returned her call saying they were able to watch the kids.  We ended up getting to the game around 1/2 hour after it started, but we had free entrance, drink tickets, and great company.  


A couple of bonuses for the evening were (1) the team we played against was The San Francisco Giants, which was one of the closest teams to Sacramento (where we moved here from), and (2) the Reds won 8 to 3.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May's Musical Musings

TURN DOWN FOR WHAT!!
Four words, out of the 12 total words in the whole song.  But man do those four words stick in your head.  I first heard this song at the UFC event I attended here in Cincinnati, played between fights over the incredible U.S. Bank Arena sound system.  I leaned over to my friend Chris and asked "What is he saying in this song?"  He had to repeat it several times before I understood it.  Then I noted it in my cell phone so I could look it up to download when I got home.

The video for it is partially obscene and partially hilarious.  You absolutely MUST listen to this song with a system that has good bass, otherwise it just doesn't do it justice.  I had to look up the lyrics though, to understand what the heck Lil Jon is singing/rapping about.  You can read the complete lyrics here, but the 12 total words consist of:

Fire up that loud
Another round of shots...
Turn down for what?

"Fire up that loud" means to light a joint.
The meaning of "Another round of shots" is pretty obvious.
And "turn down for what" means this.

It's a great song musically (man is that beat catchy), but the lyrics basically mean to get drunk and high, and let absolutely nothing stop you from continuing to do so.  From a Christian (or even responsible adult) perspective, I wrestle with whether to turn it up and just enjoy it (just party music at its finest, and therefore OK to listen to?), or to avoid it because it's morally corrupt garbage?  My tendency is to crank it up, but not without at least a little deliberation/hesitation.

LORD GIVE ME A SIGN
UFC fighter Chris Cariaso walked out to the ring to this song.  It had hard hitting bass and a catchy hypnotic rhythm.  The chorus sounded like it could be a Christian song, but it was hard to tell in the short duration that it played during his walkout.  When I looked it up and downloaded it, I was surprised to learn that it was DMX who wrote it.  Not only that, but the lytics quite accurately captured the spiritual walk, struggles, and theology of Christianity.  Now this is music I can crank up without question - a sound I can fully enjoy and lyrics I can fully appreciate.

DARK HORSE
I can't help but think this song is catchy and sexy.  It's also a bit ironic though, if you think about the lyrics.  Here is the chorus:
So you wanna play with magic
Boy, you should know what you're falling for
Baby do you dare to do this?
Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse
Are you ready for, ready for
A perfect storm, perfect storm
Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine
There’s no going back

Wait a minute though, isn't Katy Perry in an unofficial competition with Taylor Swift for the largest number of guys dated or in a serious relationship with?  So how does the whole "once you're mine there's no going back" statement work?  Was she just expressing wishful thinking, or maybe threatening the next guy who ponders leaving her with drastic action if he should become the next on the list?  Either way it seems ironic to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Fight Fan's Fulfillment

I've been a fan of mixed martial arts for over 20 years.  Ever since my friend and then-roommate Giovanni and I discovered the early Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) videos at a VHS rental store.  Whenever we noticed a new release we would rent it and gorge on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (2 at a time) while watching.

Since those days I've had trusty UFC viewing partners in every place that I lived.  After Giovanni moved away it was Rob Hughes and/or Andrew Hass.  In Sacramento it was Mike O'Brien.  Now, here in Cincinnati it's Chris Waklatsi.  But through all this time of being a fan and enjoying the events I've never actually attended a live UFC production, until now.

When I learned that the UFC was coming to Cincinnati for a "Fight Night", I marked the date on my calendar that the tickets would be available.  The first day I could purchase them I reserved pretty decent seats, along with Chris and another co-worker.
When the night finally arrive, the other co-worker (not Chris) had a stomach bug of some sort and had to cancel his attendance.  Chris and I both tried to find someone to fill his seat, but had no luck with it being so last minute.

Chris and I were originally supposed to meet at a bar called The Yard House at 7pm, but parking downtown was scarce due to (according to one of the parking lot attendants) four events going on at the same time that night.  I don't know what the other two were, but in addition to the UFC there were plenty of fans walking around headed to Reds' baseball game.  So after 20 frustrating minutes of driving around the city in circles I finally found parking and texted Chris to let him know I'd be late.  I was equally relieved and annoyed when he responded that he was just then leaving his house, especially since my cell phone battery was rapidly depleting (the display was yellow).

So with a sigh I walked to The Yard House and sat down to have a beer.  The bartender mentioned a local IPA called PsycHOPathy, so I gave it a try.  It was an excellent tasting brew.  So there I sat, at the corner of the bar, in my "Jesus Didn't Tap" t-shirt.  After finishing my beer I walked outside and stood by the door waiting for Chris.  While it was kind of a bummer that I had to wait an hour and a half for my friend to arrive, it was also kind of nice to just hang out, people watch, and to unexpectedly be a human billboard for Jesus.
After Chris arrived we made it to the U.S. Bank Arena sometime after 9pm, but the preliminary bouts were proceeding until 10pm, so I didn't mind getting there a little later than originally planned.  As we made our way to the seats I realized that our view was pretty freaking good.  We were right on the aisle seats, just one section away from being directly in front of the octagon and in the first section up from the floor.  the picture above was taken right from my seat.

This event was a "UFC Fight Night", so the caliber and name recognition of the fighters wasn't as high as a pay-per-view event.  The arena was far from full too, with the entire upper section being empty and a surprising number of seats in the lower section still vacant too.  I had to wonder if the attendance was smaller because it was only a "Fight Night", or if the UFC didn't make this a pay-per-view event because Cincinnati doesn't typically have the high attendance that would make it worth using their higher quality fighters.

Either way, I was still giddy to be there.  It was interesting to see the production aspect of the event - the fighters walking out through the crowd, the camera men standing around the cage, the press sitting ringside, and familiar faces walking around like Bruce Buffer, Herb Dean, and Dana White.  It was exciting to hear the booming walkout music, Bruce Buffer's voice, and the smacking of leather gloves on skin.  The main event was a phenomenal fight too, with Matt Brown (who fights right here out of Cincinnati) decisively winning it.

This was only the 2nd time that the UFC has been to Cincinnati, with the first time being back in 2007 for UFC 77.  If/when they come back for a 3rd event though, then I will definitely plan on attending it live again.  As a long-time MMA and UFC fan, to me it's money and time well spent.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bruises, Bumps, and Basketball


I played basketball during lunch today, for the 2nd time in 10 days.  I like to play a pretty physical game too - not dirty (throwing elbows or fouling excessively), but I'm just not afraid to battle for the rebound, attempt to block a shot, or stand in the way of a drive.  Unfortunately, my shot still needs a lot of work though.

The last time I played I jammed my left ring finger.  It wasn't disgustingly swollen, but didn't seem to be healing very quickly either.  I think it's because my wedding ring is on the finger, and it's irritating the swelling by constricting it.  I tried to take it off (I normally leave it on 24/7), but no matter what I tried - soap, hand lotion, my swollen knuckle was too big for it to slip over.  So on it stays.

Although my knuckle wasn't fully healed yet, I decided to play again today.  As expected, I smacked my swollen finger numerous times during the games (I played for 2 total).  In addition to that though, I backed into someone who was running and their knee nailed my calf, bruising it pretty good.  I also got smacked or elbowed in the outside lower corner of my right eye, creating a bruise there.  And finally, I stood in the path of a big guy who liked to power his way under the basket and took what I think was one of his elbows to my nose as a consequence, which cut it (slightly visible in the above picture).  It was bleeding a decent amount, which necessitated someone else to substitute in for me on the last play of the game (I was willing to play, but no one wanted my blood all over them or the court).  At least I got a "good defense" comment out of the guy whose drive I blocked though.

As the icing on the cake of injuries, a couple of weeks ago I dropped a weight bench on my right big toe at the gym.  So now I have a blackened toenail too.  But here's the thing - I don't mind any of it.  Not one bit.  As long as the injuries can heal without any permanent damage, I would rather live a life with bumps, bruises, and cuts if that's the necessary consequence for being active and physical, for playing sports with determined aggression, and for feeling fit and manly.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Airframe - Book Review

After a recent reshuffling of desks around our office, this book was left behind at a co-worker's desk (along with a stack of others).  The new cubicle resident placed all of the vacated books on her desk for anyone to take.  The pages of this one were yellowed and slightly crispy with age (it was first published in 1996), but I grabbed it because it looked interesting.

The plot of this book revolves around a fictional mid-air commercial airline incident that caused multiple injuries and deaths.  Since I've been working at GE Aviation for almost two years now, I found myself relating to and appreciating much of the terminology and details that were used throughout the course of the plot's investigation.  Because GE's primary product is only the jet engines for the aircraft, there was a lot of information about the airframe itself that I was unfamiliar with, but still really enjoyed learning about.  The book was written and published in the 1990s though, so some of the technology that was used in the story (faxes, microfiche, no email, no cell phones) was simuultaneously entertaining and also slightly annoying.

The main character, Casey Singleton, was enjoyable to follow, as she was somewhat of a working class lady who was climbing her way up the Norton company ladder (which was the fictional airframe company presented in the story).  What was even more appealing about her though was that she wasn't necessarily trying to get to the top, but because she was smart as a whip and hard working, she was naturally being given more and more responsibility.

The answer to the plot's mystery was revealed in various stages through the story, but the answer still wasn't clear until the very end of it.  I guess that's normal for a good fiction mystery/drama, but I really enjoyed it.  In addition to being a well executed suspense novel, a bonus was revealed when I read the Wikipedia entry about this book - that this plot's accident revolves around a combination of various real-life airline crashes.  Overall it was a great story, and one that I would recommend for most readers, but especially for fellow aviation employees or enthusiasts.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Bad Dream

I had a dream on the morning of 2-27-2014 that woke me up earlier than I expected to. In it my family and I were on vacation and staying in a cabin of some sort. We couldn't find Clara for a little while (my 4 year old girl). After a little while we realized she was out on the front porch. But she wasn't alone - there were other people there with her. I somehow knew they were nearby residents - a redneck looking guy, four of his sons (middle school aged I think), and a female too. Clara is normally very cheerful and happy, but now something was very wrong. She looked sad and forlorn and wouldn't even look me in the eye. I knew something had happened and I feared the worse. The last thing I remember is that i had a medium sized camping knife and I was rapidly determining what the best way to use it would be, and on whom. Then I woke up.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review of "Joyland" by Stephen King

I've read numerous other books by Stephen King, including The Dead Zone, Pet Cemetary, Christine, IT, The Tommyknockers, Needful Things, Rose Madder, and two of the books in the Dark Tower series.  I was surprised though to find that this work of his was not too far off from a normal drama/suspense story.  A few minor supernatural moments here and there, but they seemed minor in the overall context of the story.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though.  Overall I thought this book was great - a coming of age tale of heartbreak, self-discovery, heroism, tragedy, and mystery.  The characters were interesting, enjoyable, and believable. Now that I think about it, the main character in this story seemed to be about the same age and stage of life as the main character in "The Catcher in the Rye".  In my opinion though, Mr. King did a much better job of transporting me into the shoes of a character that I'm interested in and want to actually read more about.

Note: This is on my book review web site too, which is here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Clarification of Mental/Spiritual Classification

I’ve said this before, but it seems worthwhile to restate it and provide additional clarification regarding my previous post about demonic possession.

I do believe that mental illness exists.  I don't want to over-spiritualize everything and say that every human flaw is due to “evil forces”.  I believe in scientific discoveries that lead to progress with medical diagnosis and solutions.  I fully accept that there are people that suffer from chemical deficiencies in the brain and/or other mental anomalies.  Some examples of circumstances that I am comfortable categorizing as mental illness could be slightly irrational thinking, emotional instability, lack of mental clarity/focus, difficulty functioning in everyday life or carrying out certain tasks, etc.  Other examples of legitimate mental issues are those that arise because of some traumatic experience, such as post traumatic stress disorder (soldiers after war).

However, there are also many stories and cases that I’ve either read about in the news or heard from first-hand accounts that it does not make sense to assign to the category of mental illness.  Examples of these are where people deliberately cause sexual or psychological harm to innocent victims (children or other people who have done nothing wrong to deserve it), those that contain elements of physically impossible feats (child walking up a wall, man walking around in fire without getting burned, etc.), people who clearly “hear voices” that tell them to do evil things, or people who act in a manner that is consistent with displaying what would be expected in the case of demonic possession (shrieking or recoiling upon hearing the name of Jesus, speaking in a different voice or multiple voices and with a completely different personality, etc.).  Yes, those are actual news stories, and there are plenty more examples near the bottom of my web site here.

I believe it’s important to bring attention to the effects/actions of evil – because my hope is to shine a spotlight on what I believe is a real, plausible enemy who wishes pain, frustration, and ultimately destruction upon each human being.  Because only upon realizing that you have an enemy can you see his/her/its deeds for what they are and try to defend against them.  Also, my hope is that the realization of this unseen enemy helps to promote our need for someone who can assist us, who is not only our spiritual advocate but also the ultimate conqueror/ruler of this unseen realm.  That person is Jesus.

In addition to recognizing the existence of evil, my desire is for everyone to look at each negative news story individually and determine whether they can be categorized as a simple human flaw (mental anomaly of some sort), or if it’s at least remotely possible, and in some cases highly probably, that the root cause could be something supernatural.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Discussion About Demons

On January 29, 2014 I posted a link in Facebook to an odd USA Today story.  The FB post led to a lengthy but interesting discussion about personal experiences, demons, possession, and belief (or lack thereof) in all things supernatural.  Similar to the Mega-churches discussion, I wanted to capture the key points and stories of the discussion in this blog, for posterity sake.

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

Most of the time the source of negative news events can be excused as either (a) crimes of passion, (b) misunderstood and/or emotionally scarred people, (c) victims of upbringing/culture, (d) desperation, (e) mental illness, or whatever other (perhaps valid) reasons.

But every once in a while, I read or hear about a story for which the only conclusion that can be reached about it is the existence and engagement of evil - the supernatural/spiritual kind. This is one of those stories (the picture links to the article): 
Strange events lead Ind. family to resort to exorcism
Robert:  If u believe in The Lord how come so many disbelieve in stories like this ... Really makes me wonder why people don't believe that true evil exists and is always around us ...  

Joel:  When I read ghost stories like this, my only thought is "yawn. So another group of liars or people with over active imaginations". In today's age, digital proof is pretty easy to get. They didn't bother though because it is bs. They know it, I know it

Anyways I will admit they did a good job on the music. It for sure creepy and sets the mood.
 
Shelley:  Joel, all due respect, unless you have come face to face with a demon, you HAVE NO CLUE! God gave me the discernment of Good and evil, not something I would wish on anyone,not a gift I asked for, because with it, comes great responsibility, and it's something that will rock your soul. I've spoke with demons that filled my brothers body, he spoke like someone from a freaking movie. He was possessed, also a drug addict for many years on and off. Believe me, you have no idea!. After God laid it on my heart to stay and pray with him,(which I refused, yet, as I turned to leave the apartment, God grabbed me by the shoulders and told me to stay and pray for him.) I fought those demons. He screamed, his body did awful things, his eyes went black, he couldn't breathe. Imagine coming to tell your brother goodbye (possibly for the last time, because you knew he was going to kill himself) and hold him, tell him you loved him, and that Jesus loved him, only to have his eyes go black, look you in the face and growl, say "god doesn't love me!" Then, with the help of your mother, get him onto the bed, pray for him, and watch him writhe in pain, and then, reach under the covers to find a three foot machete hidden under perfectly folded clothing. They wanted him to kill himself. I fought for hours with this demon. I literally went home and slept for over 24 hours for fighting them. So yeah, they DO exist. God be the glory, he is free and we are going to work on writing a book about his years of drug addiction, demon addiction and freedom in Christ.
Now, clean and sober, he recently told me, without me praying for him, he was going to take his life that night.  

Michael:  Shelley, that is a crazy story, but I believe it. No Joel, that doesn't make me gullible, because (a) I trust Shelley as a reliable/sane source of information and (b) that fits with the stories/information in the Bible, as well as my theology and understanding of the supernatural. Steve, when are you going to tell your story about the mental institution?  

Paul:  Joel, I am a retired police lieutenant and a close friend and police captain lived in a very haunted house at one time. He had to leave it. I experienced it also. I also have had my own experience with the super natural as an older teenager. I guess if you haven't had the experience then you cannot understand the reality. I kind of feel sorry for you. I won't waist anymore time on this with you. You probably don't believe in multi dimensions or the fact that an object can be in two places at the same time. Those are no longer theories but facts of quantum physics that have been proven. Have a nice and secure life in your limited reality.  

Steve:  Mike L -- Ok, for what it's worth here: I was a physics/geology major in college. I, like Joel, love science and enjoy quantum physics, astronomy, cosmology and the scientific method, etc... I truly value and appreciate where Joel. is coming from. We all should understand and appreciate Joel's points. But here's the trouble: In Feb 1982, I met a student on my floor (Oswego State College) who evidenced remarkable characteristics and (in my presence and the presence of 7 others) upon reading the Bible fell on the floor into a trance-like state and spoke with a completely different voice, and began cursing Jesus in the most intense way. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The voice responded in great fear and screaming agony to the words of the Bible or to the name of Jesus Christ. The 32 guys on my floor all heard the screaming in another voice while he was in the trance-like state. This event was repeated on 3 other occasions in the Mental Institutions first, and when they were unable to do anything, the pastors in various churches came in to help by Biblical exorcism. This event was both witnessed by 15 or more people and documented by professors at the college. Yes, Joel, under very controlled situations, this was repeated as the "demonic" being would manifest itself, identify itself, respond to questions and scream against JC. The scientific method could have been applied and would not have mattered. The scientifically trained personnel actually ran out of the room and that's when they asked the pastors to do "something." I am sorry if this sounds like hyperbole. It is not. I have it all documented by Professor Knapp. But this forum is not the place to discuss this as the situation was far more graphic than I can detail here. Yes, I still love mathematics, rationality, science and logic and these are great tools for the world we live in. But they have their shortcomings too.  

Joel:  I appreciate the comment Steve. And what I will say is that I typically always reevaluate the world around me, and try and characterize how the events I witness fall within this distribution. As I said, I believe the events I experience in life follow a Gaussian distribution. The events you or others are describing are well outside of that distribution, and thus is something that wouldn't cause me to reevaluate what I believe is true. I think in general if I witnessed the events you described, I'd probably want to seek the assistance of biologist and chemist and do an analysis of their chemical balance. I'd want this person connected to brain electrodes such that we could measure and chart brain wave activity. I'd want all interactions video taped, audio taped, and carefully documented to capture the maximum amount of data I could on the situation. I wouldn't need to make any quick conclusions, but my main goal during this time would be to capture any and all possible data that could exist regarding this event. I wouldn't want this event to just be retold as 'trust us... we were there and you wouldnt believe what we saw'. You're right, I don't believe it. Show me. Why would you expect others to put faith in you, when you could have been more diligent in your documentation of this event? And let me just say I realize that my question is unfair to you in this case because this happened back in 82 before all the things I am talking about exist. However in a more modern situation, that could be done now. In Mike's link, the produce no evidence and rely and the viewer trusting that it isn't a hoax and to make it more believable they added a creepy sound track. Do you get what im saying? If this is such a common thing, where is the evidence? Where is the scientific analysis? Back to your example... How do you know for 100% scientific truth this this person you think was demon possessed wasnt actually screwing with you. Do you not think people can change their voice? Are you sure this person was of complete sane mental health? Do you have any real evidence here that supports what you believe about this event. If I knew you better I might honestly believe that you really saw all the events you described... but how do you know that what you saw is in fact what was really happening? Finally I just want to add... you say the scientific method wouldn't have been useful in that case but it is always useful. It's how we define the world. It's how we document, gather data, prove guesses, and refine our thoughts! It's always useful.  

Steve:  I really enjoyed reading your post Joel. My wife would be glad to know there are others like me that realize all of life falls on the Gaussian distribution! I'm always telling her that given a large enough population, most things fall on the distribution curve. Anyway, your questions about my "experience" are valid, very reasonable, thoughtful and fully appropriate. I would not suggest you or anybody "trust me" instead of following documented scientific methodology on researching such things. Having said that - in 1982 there were no cell phones or video cameras to document it. I wish there were. He was completely evaluated physiologically and mentally for 2 weeks. he was in superb health. He had no history of mental health. He was also in the ROTC program. Anyway, he had more than one voice emerge - there were multiple voices coming out at the same time. It sounded like a deep angry group within him (I mentioned in my earlier post that it was more complicated). Each voice was different, spoke different languages but all screamed at the name of Christ. Too bad this wasn't taped and analyzed. It went on for a few weeks. About the scientific method I mentioned earlier - I was obliquely referring to Thomas Kuhn's landmark book ("On the Structure of Scientific Revolutions") on the function of paradigms controlling what scientists actually "see." The Scientific Method is not as objective as people think. It carries with it an implicit subjective perspective that tends to "color" the evidence into supporting the prevailing view. Thus, some of the same "data" and scientific methodology for light as "wave" was also used for light as "particle." Einstein's 1905 work (photoelectric effect - where light functions as a particle) was not accepted originally by most scientists, not because the data wasn't there, but because their paradigm didn't allow for it. A better example would be the quantum mechanical revolution that proposed a radical break from a Newtonian deterministic worldview. (Space permits a more adequate treatment of this subject). At any rate, any data on the "demon" experience if caught and repeated (and it was) on tape with all the electrodes and scientists probably would help - but it's questionable that they would want to conclude that a "spirit being" actually exists. It would be ruled out by the fact that the prevailing paradigm of naturalism does not entail any possible spirit reality. That's what I was getting at. Your points and questions are superb. I do appreciate the logical rigor with which you are approaching this....By the way, I have NOT seen the video at the top of this post. So I can't comment on it. I know, I know, ... why am I posting if I have not seen the video? Because I am not that interested and it may be a hoax Joel - so I too am skeptical about such things.  

Jeffrey:  too many people that had nothing to gain by corroborating the story have done just that. When CPS and law enforcement say it happened but they have no idea how.... then it more than likely happened. One thing you have to understand are laws concerning digitally recording children. The CPS worker would not have been videotaping or recording with a cell phone the child in the hospital. She wouldn't have had a reason to. CPS gets involved to make sure a child isn't in an abusive/neglectful situation. This happened in NW Indiana, where I am from, and I'm still in contact with the people I worked with when I worked up there, and while I didn't know the particular CPS worker that witnessed this, those I know that work with her all say the CPS worker is known as honest to a fault... I know a few other things that tell me she was telling the truth, but I can't share them without putting my own job at risk due to privacy laws. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of it.... everything can be explained away by something logical except the wall walking... and that is the part that was witnessed by others that have nothing to gain by saying they saw it. Also, the police officers refused to go back into the house after an investigation because of things that happened that they couldn't explain. The whole thing is bizarre, and I can't help but believe this may be one of the few instances when one of these stories is true.  

Joel:  Interesting comments jeff. I drove through Gary a few years ago (stopping at MJ's childhood home) and that is a very unusual town in general. Based on your comments I went back and reread without watching the video, and that would be pretty creepy if it was even half true. I wonder how much of the real documentation I can find on this event? Does seem like there might be more to this story than my first impressions. I still think it's absurd they added music to their video, but now I wonder what real documentation I can get regarding this event. Perhaps the freedom of information act might turn up something?  

Michael:  Thank you all for your comments and participation in this discussion. I think we mostly managed to keep it surprisingly civil.  Joel, I hope you didn't feel ganged up on, but you seem to handle it with grace, which I appreciate. You never did reply to Steve's last comment though (thank you for expanding on it Steve), but maybe there isn't anything more to say about it. Jeffrey, thanks for your addition - it's always great to get input from someone who is closer to the story.  

Jeffrey:  Joel, there is a copy of the report involving cps with names edited out (because they are minors). The easiest place to find it is on tmz, but it is legit. You can find it elsewhere but tmz makes access easier 

Joel:  I talked with Steve offline. I don't think Steve and I have much more to discuss on this topic in a facebook setting. It's likely that he and I have similar viewpoints with different data sets. We might even make different conclusions on the analysis of the data, but I think we have similar approaches for processing data.
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