Sunday, October 31, 2010

Band of Brothers

I think by now, this being my twenty-second post, it's fairly common knowledge that my writing tends to be a little cheeky, if you will. Admittedly so... such was the intent. Having embraced that fact, it's with a certain amount of trepidation that I walk into this post. How can I be true to the character of this blog, while simultaneously conveying my utmost respect for the subject matter at hand? Well, let it be known that, while I may insert the usual over-stated dramatic sarcasm here and there, this post is for reals.

Before I go much further, I want to clarify something. In my mind, a good war movie isn't one that sensationalizes war. I'm not interested in the suped up Hollywood action scenes, the cheesy characters and their cheesy one-liners, or larger than life stories of heroism (which more often than not have been glammed up to meet studio's demands). I want to hear the real stories, from real guys who were really there... who became heroes - not because they were trying, but because they did what they had to do. I've identified three movies that I think capture that. I'll give one post to each of those movies.

I remember the first time I saw ads for HBO's miniseries called "Band of Brother." My immediate response was, "That looks dumb! Looks like somebody's trying to remake Saving Private Ryan!" Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. In fact, if I had known then what I know now, I would have punched myself in the kidney for even thinking that. True, there's an obvious resemblance in the styles of the two films, which stands to reason as Spielberg and Hanks collaborated on both projects. And what they were able to do with Private Ryan, they far outdid with BoB. Incidentally, I'd like to point out that Private Ryan did not make my top three.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it follows a company of paratroopers from their training days before the invasion of Normandy, all the way through the end of World War II. Because it's a miniseries in ten one-hour episodes, they had a lot more time than your average movie and were able to tell a much bigger story. But there are a few things that make this movie so stinkin' good, and really put it in a different category among war movies.

First of all, what makes this story so great is how deeply you connect with the characters. As you can imagine, there are a lot of characters to follow. And at first, it may even seem overwhelming. But because of how the story is told, you quickly learn who these guys are as you watch them fight their way across Europe. Guys like Winters, Nixon, "Wild Bill" Guarnere, Lipton, and many others will start to feel like good friends. That's why, with each new campaign, and each new battle, you cringe as you watch these men rise and fall in the barrage. You realize pretty quickly that these aren't just characters in a movie any more...

And that brings me to the second reason why this is such a good movie: Before and/or after each episode, you hear the real guys share their stories. Let me slow down just in case you missed that: You hear the real guys... as in, the veterans who actually fought in this company... tell their stories. What you discover is that these elderly, white-haired men who are telling their war stories to the camera are the real-life Winters, Guarnere, Lipton, and so on. The characters you see on the screen are matched to real-life people, many of whom were still living at the time the movie was made. In essence, you're watching their stories unfold in true-to-life fashion. And just to make sure we're clear, they haven't even changed the names. Richard Winters - the real man - was portrayed as Richard Winters in the movie.

And let me tell you, there's something so deeply touching, and profoundly moving, as you watch these men tell their stories. Many times, even sixty years after these events went down, they break into tears as they talk about it. I'll be honest with you - if you aren't reduced to tears and snot in those moments, there's something seriously wrong with you. I'm man enough to admit that I weep like a girl watching this movie... every time. And that's how you know it's good.

Finally, the icing on the cake is the movie itself. The production, from cinematography, to directing, to the sets, to the realism of the action... all of it is lightyears away from what Hollywood has been able to do. And that, in and of itself, is a big reason why this is the best war movie in the last one thousand years.

Bottom line: If you want amazing white-knuckle epic battles that have been recreated to detail based on historical data and first-hand witness accounts, BoB has plenty. If you want rich character development, and story lines that delve deep into the psychological and emotional effects of war, BoB has that too. If you're all about the realism of war, BoB is loaded with it. If you want a love story... you should probably watch something by Nicholas Sparks.

I've never served in the military or fought in a war. But I have a feeling that Band of Brothers is about as close as you can get to watching it as it really happened. No glitz, no glamour... just history made into a movie. And that's a big reason why it tops my list of best war movies... ever.

You'll forgive me if I forgo on my standard sign-off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Organic Discoveries

I remember hearing a very wise being, who we've come to know as Kermit the Frog, share this bit of wisdom: "It's not easy being green." Well, Kermit, going green isn't much easier.

Now that I've pretended to know what going green actually implies, let me share with you what this post was really intended to be about. Recently, my wife made a decision for our family that has placed us in a whole new social classification. To some, that classification is known as organic. But to others, it's simply known as weirdo. Being that we're now in that social classification, we've adopted the former.

The reasons for this new way of life are many, and vary in size, shape and color. And while these reasons have been rising to the surface of our consciousness for a while now, it's important to note that they contain no preservatives or additives. Thus, the reasons themselves are organic. But there have been a few recent realizations that have pushed my wife to take drastic measures. And by drastic measures, I mean to say that my wife is now making a majority of our home cleaning and personal hygiene products. She's even threatened to make our own water... apparently water isn't organic anymore. As for the recent realizations, you'll have to read my wife's blog for that.

Please... try to stay focused for just a few more minutes. As I was saying, in light of this new lifestyle, we found ourselves perusing the local Three Rivers Co-op Natural Food Store. And let me tell you, this was an educational experience on so many levels. I could go on at length on the things we discovered there, but let me share just a few discoveries that were - in many ways - startling.

First of all, before I jump into the first discovery, I need to take you back a few years to an idea I had: Carbonated Tea. Yes, this was my idea. And I must say, it was quite brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that someone stole it! Imagine my dismay when, as I scanned the "junk food" aisle, I discovered sparkling tea. You're welcome, obscure beverage maker. You're welcome.

The second discovery is less offensive, but confusing nonetheless. My gaze happened upon an interesting product that raised so many questions. There on the shelf, like a weird thing that takes you completely by surprise, I saw graham style crackers. Now, this could easily be something you would read quickly, and therefore miss the subtle hidden truth of what's implied: Graham style crackers. They're crackers, yes. Graham crackers, however, they are not. One must simply resign themselves to the reality that they are graham in style and appearance, only - a detail swiftly taken in stride by the average organic veteran. But for this organic rookie, it was a startling reality check of what's to come.

Well, that should do it for now. I won't have time to offer commentary on the cost of organic diapers, or the cardboard appearance of organic baked goods. Perhaps you could make your way to the local natural food store and discover for yourself.

Of course, I said too much.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wisconsin's Glory

Wisconsin. Think about it. Let that word just sit on your tongue until you gag a little bit. Was it worth it? Don't get me wrong, Wisconsin is a fine place. So much natural beauty; so much cheese. For many, it's a dream come true. But seriously... what good has ever come from Wisconsin? ... besides my wife (love you, babe)... and her family who still live there... and the cheese. (And yes, I realize the irony of this statement coming from a guy who's lived in Indiana most of his life)

Well, I'll tell you the one good thing: It is the almighty butter burger.

I know what you're thinking: Grilled red meat smothered in butter... sounds real healthy. You're obviously missing the point. To the Cheese Heads' credit, they figured something out here. I'd like to meet the grillmaster Jedi who was sittin' around his dairy farm one evening firing up some flame-broiled goodness and wondered to himself, "I wonder to myself: How can I make these amazing burgers even better? Gee-wiz, why don't I do something useful with all this dairy product!" I wish I was there when, moments later, the first butter burger was slapped on a bun, then glided down into someone's stomach for the first time. Just the thought of it make me wonder if it really happened that way. Probably not.

While I may have been absent for the first butter burger, I do remember my first. And I remember thinking to myself, "Putting butter on a burger sounds kinda gross, but it tastes really good!" And it's the same feeling I get to this day. It never ceases to amaze me how, when biting into a fresh, juicy, greasy, double butter burger with a basket of fries, I can actually hear my arteries starting to clog - and it reminds me that I'm only a bite away from a heart attack. But man are they delicious.

Thank you, Wisconsin. From the bottom of my grease-stained heart, thank you!

Yep. I said too much.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Make My Coffee Instant

Most people come home from their travels with souvenirs. I came home with a new perspective... and souvenirs. But most importantly, perspective is what I brought home from my travels to Serbia this summer - new perspectives on faith, relationships, and coffee.

You see, in Serbia we discovered that filtered coffee makers are somewhat rare. They might even be considered luxury items that most people wouldn't spend their hard-earned money to buy. And I say, "Don't bother!" I literally just said that... in my mind. "Why?" you might ask. Simple: instant coffee.

It is, in all actuality, baby formula for adults. You just scoop in a little magic coffee dust, add hot water, and then stir until all the little coffee pieces supernaturally disappear. And you're left with a cup of coffee... instantly.  And here's the thing... it doesn't taste terrible! In all honestly, I actually quite like it. Let me share just a few reasons why I've made the switch to instant coffee since I returned home from the land of the Serbs.

  1. You can still run the water through your coffee pot to make it hot, and then use it to make your coffee... but that's not all.
  2. You can use that same hot water to make a cup of regular coffee, decaf coffee, hot tea, hot cider, hot cocoa, or hot water (if you're into drinking just straight up hot water). 
  3. You can use whatever water is left over in the pot to water plants... or just recycle it for your coffee the next day!
  4. You can adjust the "strength" of the coffee per cup to suite each individual's coffee tastes; more magic coffee dust = stronger coffee.
  5. No more having to throw away nasty coffee filters full of wet grounds, which, as is most often the case in our coffee maker, have likely been in there for several days. 
  6. It doesn't taste terrible.

Sure, instant coffee may not pack the flavor of a well roasted and freshly ground bag of Maxwell House. But once you experience all that instant coffee can do for you, I think you too will be willing to make a small sacrifice on flavor in exchange for a lot of versatility. And in case you're wondering, we enjoyed Nescafe in Serbia. Unfortunately, the Nescafe here in the states just doesn't taste as good, for some reason. So we prefer Foldgers instant coffee - regular and decaf.

Now I've said too much.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pour. Cool. Reheat. Repeat.

This blog post probably won't amount to much. Even as I write this, toys are strewn about the house as though rabid raccoons - also known as our children - tore through each room leaving behind the kind of devastation more commonly seen in the aftermath of a tornado. That's not to mention the dishes that are stacked in the kitchen waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. At this point, there's no escaping the reality that a good husband would have taken care of these issues before taking time to write a blog. Of course, in the time it took to craft the wording for this paragraph alone, the house could have been thoroughly cleaned.

So, in honor of my lovely wife, I will honor her with a post dedicated to her. This is, of course, an attempt to abate her wrath. I have every reason to expect that it will fail.

In the eleven plus years that I've been married to her, and thus lived with her, it never ceases to amaze me that I still learn something new about my wife's personality, her preferences, or behavior patterns. One such behavior pattern has inspired this post - namely, her morning coffee ritual.

Day after day, my wife goes to great lengths to prepare her coffee just the way she likes it: Enough coffee to technically declare it coffee, then massive amounts of cream and sugar to completely mask any hint of coffee flavor. This sometimes takes several minutes, as she wants to get the mixture just right.

Next, my wife then sits her coffee, which has been prepared in her favorite hand-crafted coffee mug, down in a non-disclosed location somewhere inside our house. This is where the coffee will sit for roughly 45-90 minutes.

Sometime later, my wife will rediscover her coffee with great joy and zeal. At this point, seeing as how the coffee has cooled, she places her mug in the microwave, and will reheat the beverage to a desired temperature. Then, once again, the coffee will sit - more often than not inside the microwave - until just a hint of warmth remains. Inevitably, only half the cup of coffee will be consumed before it is thrown down the drain.

Observing these trends each day, without a doubt, has brought new joy and meaning to my life.

But I'm afraid I've said too much.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Too Young to Know, Too Old to Change

I have pretty strong opinions about music. So much so that I will often be heard saying, "I don't like that song." Or, "That song was pretty cool." It could, in fact, be the same song. I should also mention that I'm somewhat schizo in my musical intrigues, which is more of a recent development. But occasionally there's a song that comes out of no where and says something or strikes a melodic tone that touches somewhere deep within the fiber of my being. In those moments, I'm swept away in harmonious bliss. Music has that hold on me... and has for a very long time. 

I recently discovered a band that surprised me with such an occasion. It's a song by the band Loney Dear from their album Dear John - and the song is titled Summers. I don't know much about this band. I discovered them while sitting in Starbucks, and had to use my Shazam app to identify it. I'm so glad I did. I doubt my life will ever be the same. One thing's for sure... my iTunes library won't be.

In the opening verse of this song, these lyrics emerge: I'm too young to know, but too old to change. Those lyrics flittered about in my soul like doves bathing in a puddle of angels' tears.  It would be a stretch to say I wept... actually, it would be a blatant lie. But you have to appreciate the ironic dichotomy expressed in that statement: Too young to know... too old to change.

It hits a little close to home for me, I guess. I feel like I'm in that stage of life where I'm still young. I have so much still to learn. And yet, I'm old enough that it's easy to feel a little set in my ways. Like the fact that I'm probably always going to leave the toilet seat up... or throw my jeans on the chair in the corner of my bedroom... or leave home projects only mostly finished... or write my blog while my wife is out with a friend and I should be cleaning up the kitchen. Hey... I'm just too old to change. 

Of course, with the right motivation, anything is possible. 

If you get a chance to listen to this song, I think you should. You may not like it. In fact, chances are you have pretty strong opinions about music, too. But if you listen to this song and you don't like it, then your opinions are dumb

I'm sorry... I said too much.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Button Pushing Deficiency

There's a tragic affliction affecting today's young adult that I fear many of us are largely unaware of. I, myself, was oblivious to this ailment until just recently. If you do nothing else today, please take the time to read this entire post. Educating the public is my number one concern.

Upon a recent visit to a mexican fastfood chain that urges us to head for the border, I was helped by a young man who was having a difficult time. I was bewildered by his challenges and, like many people, mistook this fine lad for being... well... lacking in effort. After pulling up to the window and handing him my card, however, I realized with horror what was actually going on. And I was shocked.

The young man - who's most noteworthy quality was his "punk-rock" hair style - revealed to me, as an older employee stepped in to offer assistance, that he "sucks at pushing buttons." And while I realize that a certain number of readers (assuming anyone reads this blog) may be offended by the use of the word "sucks," these were his exact words; I chose to keep it raw to impress the gravity of this situation. Please forgive me.

Having said that, I don't want you to miss what just happened. This young man, barely out of his teens (presumably), has a serious condition, and we need to consider the implications. The inability to push buttons may not have many professional implications; there are any number of career paths, with fastfood being the obvious exception, that don't require the pushing of buttons. But think of this: How will he text message his friends? How will he facebook? How will he play Xbox for hours with all the other kids his age? How will he microwave food, which, as we know, is the primary food source for many young adults? He very well may starve. Don't even get me started on riding in elevators, changes stations on the radio, or using a remote control.

So the next time you get frustrated in a fastfood line because it's taking longer than the phrase fastfood implies, just remember this: The person helping you may suffer from Button Pushing Deficiency. Cut 'em a little slack, and appreciate all that the button pushing ability affords you.

I fear I haven't said enough.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Your Dreams

In high school, I became well acquainted with the phrase "in your dreams!" Whether it was my career in athletics, or my romantic pursuits, this phrase always seemed to apply. Not to mention the fact that there was rarely a missed opportunity to remind me of such wisdom - be it from the class jerk, or my parents. It's ironic, then, that even as an adult, on occasion, I relive those high school years... in my dreams.  

Dreams are funny little things. It's like Bethany Dillon once sang in a song, "I am a dreamer." Or Jack Johnson, when he sang, "Girl, let your dreams be dreams." And while I haven't figured out how to directly apply those lyrics, they are decent songs.

You see, dreams have a way of taking something that's tucked away ever so neatly into our subconscious, and bringing it to the surface like a giant white-head pimple (something else I was well-acquainted with in high school). Of course, dreams are also often coded and symbolic - to such an extant that you need a prophet (or a therapist, if a decent prophet is hard to find) in order to really know what they mean.

Well, over the years I've a had a recurring dream in which I'm back in high school - a more specific depiction of these dreams would be nightmare. The school, classes, and schedules are different with each dream. But the common thread in each one is that I'm completely confused about what my next class is, where it is, or whether or not I had a homework assignment the night before. So I walk into each class unsure of whether or not it's even the right one. I survey the faces of my fellow students to try and peg which one will be the first to make some fun at my expense. Then I wake up in a pool of my own sweat. (the last statement was inserted for dramatic effect)

Usually I come away from those dreams with a deep sigh of relief that I will never have to attend high school again. But recently I've had a new variation of this dream. I'm sure all the prophets (therapists) out there will have fun with this.

So in this recent dream, I'm stressing about my schedule and all that. Then it dawns on me: Just put my schedule in my Android smart phone. Brilliant! I'll never have to worry about when or where my next class is again! I can even put my locker combination and assignments in my "notes" and "to-do" apps. What a relief! Never mind that when I was in high school, cell phones, which could only make phone calls in those days, were roughly the size of a shoe box. Just let me bask in the newfound comfort of my two worlds - adult me, and high school me - colliding to bring order and meaning to a once chaotic time.

Of course, as the dream goes on, and just when I start to think that I've got a handle on things and I'm gaining some confidence, I look down to realize that there's a giant hole in the heel of my sock... that I'm wearing under my Birkenstocks...

It was the '90's.

I've said... too much.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Better Parenting

Recently, our church hosted a parenting conference. It was a big deal. They had all kinds of people on hand to lead workshops on everything from how to discipline to your child, to how to adopt a child. In their planning, however, a major oversight occurred - they failed to ask me to lead a workshop. Well, everything worked out fine, as I took it upon myself to summarize my would-be workshop in this three minute video. Watch it, and become a better parent... instantly.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dunkin' Do-NOT

Even at the writing of this title, I feel a bitter rage welling up within from the depths of my being in the pit of my soul. That's not a happy place. And trust me, this has nothing to do with the fact that I just served a tour of "target practice" duty in Call of Duty - sadly, I was the target that provided the practice for the other three players. But honestly, this has nothing to do with that.

If I could be completely honest with you - and I hope I can be - I will tell you that it has everything to do with the consistently poor service I receive at a certain establishment that prides itself in serving donuts that can and/or should be dunked... dunked in what is irrelevant. I personally don't dunk my donuts in anything. I don't know why anyone would. You only end up with a soggy donut, and a beverage full of floaties. What's the point? For those of you who love to dunk your donuts, they should make a specialty item on the menu. Just throw a donut in the blender with the beverage of your choice: Milk, coffee, Mt. Dew, or whatever. Blend it up, and serve it with an extra wide straw. There you go.

Now back to the point: We have one of these "establishments" just around the corner. My wife and kids love it, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't a time or two when I got suckered into going there completely against my will. And each time has been a disaster for me.

Let me ask you something. You don't need to answer this out loud, as it may startle the person sitting near you. How hard is it to listen to someone and retain what they've communicated to you - very clearly, I might add - long enough to provide the specific items they so eloquently articulated? Did you understand the question?

How hard is it to hear, "Large coffee with caramel and extra cream - no sugar, just the caramel," and then actually produce the item specified? Assuming you're resourced properly, it shouldn't be that hard! On two recent visits to this establishment, however, it proved to be a tall order, indeed.

The first of these visits, upon ordering the large coffee with caramel and cream, the intelligent young man behind the register gave me coffee with just caramel... that was it. No cream, just caramel. The next visit, though the order was the same, this nice fellow - same as before - gave me pumpkin spice. When corrected on our actual order, he simply poured out the erroneous coffee, and without wiping off the cup, refilled it with the correct, however illusive, coffee, caramel and cream. Thus, upon receiving my cup, I then had to wipe off the coffee that was left streaming down its sides.

Perhaps that's acceptable in a place where the defilement of perfectly good coffee by dunking is encouraged. But for this coffee lover, it is not.

I'm afraid that if I go much further, I just might say too much. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adult Peer Pressure

We all remember those bygone years of yesteryear when our loving parents warned us of the inherent dangers of "peer pressure." They would recite modern proverbs about friends jumping off bridges, and others that I can't recall, just to engrain in us this understanding: Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean that we have to do it. For me, however, being the sheltered child that I was, that included all kinds of things... like staying up later than nine o'clock, or using the cheat codes on Contra (up, down, up, down, left, right, left, right...). What they should have been teaching us, however, is that this whole idea of pressure from the peers doesn't go away. Oh no... it just changes focus, and suddenly becomes acceptable. Well I cry foul, sir... I cry foul!

Now that I'm in my adult years, I may not have "friends," so called, who are trying to turn me on to the latest drug on the streets. But that doesn't mean the "peer pressure" beast doesn't show it's ugly face, from time to time! At the risk of being a little graphic, let me share two specific examples that have happened to me in the past eighteen months - both involving food.

The first example that comes to mind happened at a Christmas party. The host made a "delicious" - or so she would have me believe - desert that involved peanut butter and something crunchy. Incidentally, both of which are things I'm not particularly fond of. She offers. I respectfully decline. She insists - asserting that it was the "best thing ever," and that I "had to try it." I caved. Even now, I hang my head in shame.

The second example isn't unlike the first. At a friend's house playing an obscure board game, said "friends" offer me a brownie... a brownie to end all brownies, and will most certainly change my life. Knowing that I only care for box-mix brownies covered with cream-cheese icing, I declined. They threatened me with idle and harmless threats. Again, I caved. Yet another victim of Adult Peer Pressure (APP).

Even now, I'm reminded of the timeless advice we received under the Reagan Administration when we were encouraged to "just say no." Well, I tried, Nancy... Lord knows I tried. But they just wouldn't listen.

I've said too much.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Splendor That is Chick-fil-a

Once in a gazillion years (according to the Mayan calendar) heaven touches earth - if but only for a brief moment - and leaves us with a flaky residue of its glory. Such is the case with the Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich - and, arguably, the infamous waffle fries, as well.

If you've never had the opportunity to enjoy one of these savory morsels, I would strongly urge you to stop what you're doing (unless, of course, you're in childbirth), and high-tale it to your nearest neighborhood Chick-fil-a. Before you go, however, here are a few things to keep in mind:
  1. Order extra pickles. You won't be sorry.
  2. Say thank you. Hearing them say, "It's my pleasure," is more soothing than you know. 
  3. Remove your chicken sandwich from the NASA-designed thermal insulated pouch - designed to keep your sandwich at a mouth-melting temperature for hours - and let cool.  This is where your waffle fries come in handy, as they provide a nice distraction. WARNING: This step is vital to ensure that all functions of the facial area remain in tact.
  4. Once your sandwich has cooled to a reasonable temperature... enjoy. 
On a side note, I would argue that reading a blog of any kind during childbirth is not a good idea.

Now I've said too much.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If All Goes According to Plan

I would like to start off by posing a question. In actuality, I just started off by making a statement, which, incidentally, introduced a question. It's a minor technicality, and hardly worth noting... and yet here we are. Nonetheless....

Have you ever found yourself using the same word or phrase repeatedly in a short span of time? If you haven't noticed it, your friends and/or co-workers no doubt have. Just ask them, and they'll tell you. It's probably driving them nuts. In college I once had to give a speech in "Public Speaking" class. They made us video tape it and then watch it in fast-forward to exaggerate our nervous habits. But, sadly, that really doesn't apply here.

Let me tell you something. Last week I couldn't help but use a common phrase over and over again - and even I was starting to go crazy from hearing it. The phrase was simply, "If all goes according to plan." It's harmless, really... no real danger in uttering such words. But after using it darn near a million times, it dawned on me that I was using it far more than any decent person really ought to. And for that I apologize. 

The truth is that last weekend was a big weekend for us. I won't bore you with the details, but it involved my wife leaving town, my kids staying with their grandparents, and me playing some video games. There was also some other stuff going on at church, too, but like I said... I won't bore you with the details. And everything was hinging on the fact that my kids would be with Grandma & Pa... and virtually the only thing that would keep that from happening would be some kind of sickness... of which, our children are frequent harborers. 

It was with this nagging feeling that something would go wrong in the final moments before everything was about to transpire that I would oft remark with this very phrase. I would say, "I'll be there... if all goes according to plan." Or, "It shouldn't be a problem... if all goes according to plan." Or, "If all goes according to plan..." Sigh. I'm doing it again. 

Well, I'm happy to say that everything went according to plan. And I must admit... I love it when a plan comes together. 

And I nearly said too much. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Fumbled Curse

Call me startled... and I'll answer with a wide-eyed, teeth-gnashing jolt. Why? Because I've just become aware of something that very well could be (but probably isn't) true... and I'm ready to blow the whistle.

I was locked into a conversation earlier today when I heard an interesting, and seemingly innocent, comment from a respected colleague. My "friend" was relaying the weight of the responsibility his role carries within our church. It was at this point he used an interesting phrase. He said, and I quote, "Lord, I don't want to fumble this."I remember it because it struck me as an interesting choice of vocabulary. Little did I know the ripples that would be set into motion with those careless, and yet somehow deplorable, words.

My "friend," who has openly expressed his longstanding fondness of the "Bears," and is therefore a presumed hater of the "Colts," uttered this very phrase just hours before the "Colts" would narrowly conquer the "Redskins" Sunday night. "So what?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you what: The "Colts" nearly lost that match because they fumbled... [pause for dramatic emphasis] the ball... [additional pause] four times! Intriguing, isn't it?

I'm not saying he tried to curse the "Colts"with his "clever" and "heartfelt" statement... and I'm not saying he didn't.

But I've said too much.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's Up with Google Reader?

Every once in a while in this journey called life, there comes a discovery that has the power to revolutionize the way you define revolutionary... like Facebook, or Trapper Keepers, for example. Google's free online RSS and Blog "Reader" may not be one of those discoveries... but it's pretty darn close.

First of all, it doesn't matter what anyone is talking about; as soon as they say Google, you generally don't need to go any further. Whatever follows will likely be the next big thing... with one glaring exception. Of course, I'm referring to Google Buzz, which was a day late and a dollar short in the social networking game (in my opinion). And then there was the failed Google Wave, which... I'm not actually even sure what that was or what it did. But it's gone, now, so it doesn't matter.

Those minor missteps aside, Google is doing a pretty awesome job at taking over the world via the internet. Even now, you're reading a blog hosted by Google. You may even be reading this on a mobile device powered by Google's Android, or in Google's Chrome browser. Pretty soon, you'll likely be able to do all this, and much more, with Google TV. Yes, it's happening. And what's more, Google has a vast array of free online apps that could very well change the way you approach following and reading blogs, news headlines, web design, and even desktop productivity. And all of it is freely available to anyone with a Gmail account.

Earlier this week I discovered something that has simply become a "game changer" for me, and I wanted to share this new joy with you. It is, of course, Google Reader. I know this has been around for a while, and you may have been using this little gem for quite some time. For me, however, it was as if the heavens opened up and a loud voice bellowed, "Partake, and find that it is good!" As a chorus of heavenly beings provided the soundtrack, I discovered a single application that can manage all my blogs and news feeds in one place that follows me wherever I go, no matter what computer I'm using.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy reading a variety of blogs. It's like the advice someone once gave me, though I really can't remember what he was talking about... but he said, "Diversify." And I believed him. And it's with that timeless truth in mind that I approach blogging. Some of them are just for fun, while others are professionally & spiritually enriching. In all, I'm currently following eleven... and the list is growing. And following a variety of blogs like that can be challenging. Not all blogs can be followed in your Blogger Dashboard. Most email clients, like Outlook (crap) or Mac Mail (awesome) will also subscribe to RSS feeds, but that means you have to be on that computer to read them in one place. If I'm away from that computer, that means I have to go to each blog individually and sort through what I haven't ready yet. And let's just face it... that's too hard.

Well, for those of you like me who need their world neatly packaged in a simple, yet easily accessible - and if possible touch-screen - world, then Google Reader is the solution for you. The beauty of Google Reader is that it will automatically sync all your blog feeds into one interface. The newest posts appear first, and as you read them they are automatically marked as read; kind of like email. And the best part is, you have access to your Google Reader anywhere you can login to the internet. The other best part is the fact that this is something you already have with your gmail account (assuming you have one). So next time you login into Gmail, check out the links at the top left. Find "Reader" and give it a whirl. Make sure you include this blog in your subscriptions... it's the least you can do.

As I look back over the length of this post, it's becoming all too clear... I've said too much.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Brief Life In the Navy

Occasionally, life throws a little curve ball at your face - like, for instance, when the other day my wife dropped a glowing ember of knowledge on my lap that rocked me to the core. As I recall, we were perched at one of the many fine dining establishments we frequent - of course, I'm referring to the food court. And as I'm enjoying my Chick-fil-a, the wife of my youth - so alive and so carefree - whimsically reveals her affinity for a man in uniform - specifically, a man in a Navy uniform.

Immediately my mind starts reeling about how I can acquire one of these fancy garments to impress this fine lass sitting across the sticky simulated green marble laminate table. But as far as my finite mind can figure, the only way is to actually join the Navy. Hmmm. 

I did a lot of thinking in those brief moments, and the shocked expression on your face isn't entirely unwarranted. You see, my mind immediately went to the many various - and dare I say sometimes daunting - duties that a life in the Navy would no doubt impose. 

For instance, consider the standard deployments for six months at a time. That's a long time to live on a metal boat as you sail around the world. And all that for a uniform?

But if that wasn't bad enough, now consider the fact that Navy guys have to occasionally fight in wars. That's a big scary deal. And had I joined the Navy and been placed in harms way on the high seas, there's no telling what that might do to me. It's very likely that one day my grandchildren would have looked me, and upon seeing me in my Navy uniform, asked me sincerely, "But Grandpappa, weren't you afraid?"

Of course, I would tell them that fear is a silly beast... a bull that one must simply grab by the horns. And when you've grabbed the bull named "fear" by its ugly death horns, you twist with all your might; you twist that fear bull's head until you hear a loud "SNAP!"

And as you stand over that bull's lifeless body and look into it's blank expression, you declare with a bold swagger, "I'M HAVING FEAR STEAK TONIGHT!"

Well, the important thing to take away from all of this is that there are likely a number of novelty stores where you can find a Navy uniform. That's probably the safest bet for a land-lovin' scalawag like myself.

Wow. I've said too much. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Radar? No.

Look. There's a serious debate that is currently waging in the small, but fiercely devoted, segment of our society who regularly engage in multi-player combat simulation video games. And by "small segment of our society," I mean a vast majority of males between the ages of 6 and 45. The debate is centered around a critical philosophical issue that may, to the untrained observer, seem trite and inconsequential. I can assure you, however, it is anything but.

Imagine you're in the game. Your weapon is at the ready. The landscape resembles something you've seen in a movie like Blackhawk Down, but this time you're controlling the action. You hit the "circle" button to crouch and take cover. You scan the horizon with your head on a swivel. Then, out of no where, you're knifed down by a player you didn't even know was behind you. Shocking? It happens more often than you might think.

Why didn't you know the player was behind you? Simple: The radar was turned off. The truth that may surprise you is that some players actually prefer this... and yes, I'm one of them.

Some players rely on the radar - like a metaphorical crutch - as this allows them to see where every player is on the board. This enables them to approach the action with a sense of knowing and readiness. They lurk around the corner fully aware that you're hiding behind a dumpster on just the other side. The benefit of this injustice is that it speeds up the game, and provides more opportunities for the frenzied exchange of bullets and explosives - thus raising the kill counts well into the double digits (in a 10 minute game).

By turning the radar off, as most purists and skilled players prefer, you level the playing field a little more. With a little stealth and patience, even rookies have a chance against the veteran-psychos, who we'll call "Jared." As you can imagine, however, there's a lot less action, as most of the time is spent with players carefully navigating the map in search of their enemy... and their next kill. Granted - the kills are fewer. But there's also an increase in satisfaction with each one.

Radar on or off? Which side will you take in this heated debate? I don't care.

But I've said too much.


Monday was a Monday. Forgive the redundancy, but it was intended... and much needed. If you don't mind me saying so, it was perhaps even quite clever. But that's another post for another day. Let's just say it was a Monday of Mondays, if you will...

Suffice to say it was a long day. It was, in fact, one of those days that leaves you with the intense desire to enact some kind of violence on your fellow man.

Here's the problem... I'm not really a violent man. The thought of causing anyone real physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual pain ... well, it pains me. And it so happens that I'm a big fan of the sanctity of human life. I love life... I live for it... it's what gets me out of bed in the morning. So I could never do anything that would jeopardize the lives of those around me.

That's where the Nerf guns and video games come in.

There's really nothing quite like a little multiplayer action with some good friends - or perfect strangers - as you engage in some friendly fire fights. Games like Call of Duty, or Halo provide the fix you need. If you want to go old school, you may try some Golden Eye (affectionately known as Bond on the streets), or Perfect Dark.

Let's say you're too cool for video games (one might call you a jerk). Don't worry about it... there's something for you, too. The fine folks at Nerf have spent years working in conjunction with washed up youth pastors in development of what can only be described as "pick your blown mind up off the floor and place back in your head amazing." I'm referring, of course, to their complete lineup of dart guns. I've long been known for using such "soft" weaponry against my children... and I'm not ashamed.

All I'm saying is that - regardless of which route you take - there's unbelievable and therapeutic satisfaction waiting on the other side.

But I've said too much.

Boy's In the Hoody

I was heading out yesterday to engage in some wholesome revelry with the boys. Full disclosure: We had a date with a PS3, a 47" HiDef, and a little game we like to call Modern Warfare 2. That, in and of itself, has inspired a slew of other posts... but I digress.

So I'm getting ready, and I realize that the trees outside are completely orange and red. I pause - gaze contemplatively out across the horizon - and relish for a moment in admiration of their beauty and radiance. And then it hits me - it's going to be a little chilly tonight; I better put on a comfy hooded sweatshirt. To my horror I am reminded that I have but one lone hooded sweatshirt that must solely bear the wearisome burden of warming me through the fall. This won't do.

Look, I have something to say, and I'm not afraid to say it. When a dog has a bowl on a hot day in July on the back porch by the moonshine, it better have some water in it... am I right? Is that too much to ask? Am I being unreasonable? No... I should hope not. All I'm trying to say, people, is that it's pointless to have fall without having a good hooded sweatshirt to wear. How else are you supposed to rake your yard, or sit comfortably at an outdoor football game, or cozy up next to a bonfire in the throws of late October? Don't even get me started on hayrides!

And yes, I have a hooded sweatshirt. But this is America... I need at least a dozen more before it even counts (there was an added measure, or twelve, of sarcasm in that statement - and I hope, for goodness sake, that it wasn't lost on you).

... I've said too much.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My "Blog Within a Blog" Experiment

If this doesn't trip you out, I don't know what will. It's a blog... within a blog!

I've said too much.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reflections While Mowing the Yard

This afternoon I spent roughly three hours mowing our yard. That's a lot of time to yourself, which for me always includes a lot of inner monologue. Here are just a few of the things that lingered in my thinker for a moment or two.
  1. I need a bigger mower... perhaps one that moves by itself. Last year I bought a push mower. I told myself it would be a great form of exercise. As it turns out, it just meant that I would be mowing my yard less.
  2. I need a smaller yard. Our house sits on just a shade under an acre. Thus the extended mowing time.
  3. I enjoy listening to music while I mow. I was a little thrown, however, when a Garth Brooks song somehow managed its way onto my iPod. Imagine my further shock when I knew every word... and sang along loudly hoping the mower would drown it out to anyone who happened by.
  4. I'm thirsty.
  5. I'm glad it's October and mowing can be checked off my seasonal to-do list.
  6. I strongly dislike raking leaves.
  7. I hate shoveling snow.
Well, I've said too much.

I Need a New Venue

My other blog is a place for me to write on a more professional note. This, on the other hand, is a place where I can write about whatever the heck I want to. And that's exactly what I intend to do. This may very well be a place where all your perceptions of me will become shattered pieces on a cold tile floor.

You've been warned.