Friday, April 28, 2006

Briefly Uplifting

Matt recently sent me a brief encouragement, and since my blog has been a bit of a downer this week, I thought I'd share his concise summary of the whole of Christianity:

"We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway."

That gave me a smile.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

On Pride

Pride is a funny thing. You get a lot accomplished in a short period of time, and build walls for yourself. You have done well. You are capable. You are right. You are blind. Sometimes the walls are there for protection, but they add to the walls that pride builds. They make you more capable, right and blind. If someone crashes up against your gates with their pride, they are also right and blind, and you reinforce your walls. But not until someone sneaks in with humility and love do they take the foundations of the walls away. That's when the walls you've spent time creating come crashing down, and you are left sitting in the mess. You no longer feel capable (although you probably still are), you are no longer right, for you are no longer blind.

The "you" in this illustration is me, and I'm right now sitting in a mess of my own making. Heidi was good about helping me out of the worst of it last night. I guess being overcommitted has developed walls of both pride and protection, the voice over thing has developed pride, and a general discontentedness thing (perhaps because of the overcommittedness) has developed a general negativity, which thankfully, has not spilled over much into my relationship with Heidi. But I have hurt some other people that I really love with my negativity. Crap.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On censorship

I'm going to be asked to censor myself. It hasn't happened yet, but someone I care deeply about has called me up to schedule a time to talk to me. I hate censoring myself, but I do care about these people more than I care about spouting off about my own thoughts, so I'll do it. I'm being deliberately vague, but anyone who has been here in the last week should be able to see what has been censored. Let us never speak of it again.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Politics of Fish

I hate politics. I always have. I've never liked the idea that you're constantly fighting against a lot of people who ostensibly have the best interests of the people whom they represent at heart, when they're usually really just doing the same self-serving crap. They're more focused on being re-elected than on doing the right thing. They're more focused on making sure the large companies that have given them lots of money are appeased than that the people they represent get the best thing for them, or that the country gets the best thing for them. I hate how during the last eight months of campaigns all you see is "Campaigner X eats babies and will detonate key parts of the country if elected! Paid for by Friends of Campaigner Y." I hate how politics has stopped being about the people, and has become about the politicians. Maybe it's always been that way, and I have a distorted view of what life was like 100 years before I was born.

So anyway, it takes me quite a while to get to where I am now, because, as I've said, I hate politics. But our current administration infuriates me. Not so much for the war, as what was sacrificed in stability has given the people there some hope of freedom. Eventually. My biggest beef is with Bush's stance on science and the environment. At our present rate of global warming, it's entirely likely that we are looking at extinction of half of the species on the planet within 50 years. This is not alarmist talk, this is a fairly strong possibility. Except that the Bush administration will not acknowledge that global warming exists. And yes, Bush has taken some token steps toward the environment, but they're too few and too far off, and frankly, too stupid (if you want an explanation, ask). George Deutsch had also been appointed to NASA by the White House, seemingly for the express purpose of blocking science. He is no longer there, but for a time, he was effectively rewriting their website. I could go on, but won't. My point is, that the Bush administration is aggressively anti-science, and pretty heavily anti-environmentalist. And this is coming from someone who really doesn't care about politics.

But what I've started thinking, is what my stances would be if I ever ran of office. How would I run a campaign? What would my official stance on the war be? Abortion? The environment? The economy? I never thought politics could save this country, and I'm still not a big proponent of a political solution to all our struggles, but at least I'm clearer on a lot of issues. And maybe, in 20 years or so...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I now have shelves full of VHS tapes

OK, so it's not quite that bad. The whole HD DVD vs. Blu Ray debate hasn't ever really started yet, and both will still be able to play standard definition DVD's, so I'm not dead in the water. I'd like to someday get a Hi Definition DVD player of some kind, but I think I'm going to wait for them to duke it out. I'd like to work through my DVD collection and replace them with higher definition versons, but I'm going to wait until I figure out which is going to establish market dominance. I was in high school when we got a Beta VCR, and that was a bit of a mistake (although the picture was lovely on Beta, and that's why it remained the professional standard for years afterwards). Here's the deal, in a nutshell: Blu-Ray holds more data, but it's more expensive and it's thinner (therefore might break easier). More companies are on board with Blu Ray, but as any good capitalist knows, it's the consumers who decide. HD DVD's are just coming out now; I haven't heard of a Blu Ray release yet. The two formats are not compatible. Certain filmmakers will likely release their classic films on the least desirable format and attempt to use their industry muscle to keep that format alive for as long as possible. So, let's sit back and watch the fireworks.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Science Fiction Fogey

Wow I feel old. Let me 'splain.

I'm 36 years old. That's not so bad. I was born in late 1969. My mom was pregnant with me when man first landed on the moon. These were the days of adventure. I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, and pretty much every other science fiction piece of crap I could get my hands on. There was a dry period there for a while in the early and mid '80s until Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, and then producers wised up and realized there was good money to be made in science fiction.

But I'm 36. I remember those days. I remember having an afro because that was the style in the '70s. I remember VW's back when the reliable ones were in production. I remember a time before computers, ATMs, the internet, or even FM radio (or at least FM radio's popularity). I remember Han Solo shooting first. I think what gets me the worst is that I know a few people in their early 20's, and have been watching them get exposed to the new Battlestar Galactica. They have no idea what it used to be. They have no idea THAT it used to be.

When I exposed Esther (Heidi's 20-year-old sister) to BSG, she was having a hard time pronouncing the word Cylon when it was printed on the screen. That was a completely foreign concept to me. When I first saw the word Cylon printed on the screen, all I could hear was Dirk Benedict's voice in the back of my mind saying the word. Esther had never even known this show existed prior to the Sci-Fi Channel's retelling of it. I think what got me even worse was Nate's (Heidi's cousin, who I believe is 23) . In the linked post, he talks about the miniseries being like a "wannabe scifi movie." OK, ouch.

Perhaps it's just because I know from what depths of mediocrity this particular show arose. I have been quite pleased to hear that for quite a while Esther was hiding away watching the first season whenever she could, but in her case, I was returning the favor (she got me hooked on Lost). Y'know, it was a crappy show in the '70's, but I was 8. I hadn't developed my sense of critical appreciation yet. For me it was all, "Ooooo, spaceships! Laser guns!" and I got obsessed. As an adult, I've tried to sit through an entire episode, and have managed to do so I think once, and that's only because I was trying to get Heidi to remember the show she last saw when she was 3. So I'll admit, I'm a bit biased. To hear such lack of knowledge pains me, and to hear such harsh criticism even more so.

Monday, April 17, 2006

So long, Farewell, Auf Wedersehn, Goodbye!

I realized recently that I was so upset with the system issues with World of Warcraft that I hadn't logged on for a month. I also realized that I didn't miss it. So, I figured it would just be wiser to drop the mild drain on my income, and get rid of the thing altogether. I still have about a week of "leftover" subscription before it runs out, so I could have a change of heart, but I think I'm pretty much legitimately done with this particular online obsession. Keep in mind that the expansion comes out this summer, but so does Middle Earth Online, so no decision is final, just that I'm done with this one for now.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone! Today was a busy one for me. I acted and did stage hands at church for both services, and then Heidi & I helped build a set for the upcoming play. Nothing really festive, but It was good to help out friends, and I did get to feel manly, playing with powertools. And I retain the use of all 10 fingers! Woohoo!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Please note: If you're linking here from a goal update, this is our second trip. Our first is here.

Today is the one-year annivesary of when Heidi and I met in person. She came to see the play I was in, and we hit it off over a Belgian beer with Matt, Lisa and Cori. Anyway, what we did to celebrate was go to Galena. We stayed at the Irish Cottage Hotel, which was amazing. I've very rarely had such splendid service at a hotel, to say nothing of the entertainment. They had a (moderately) authentic Irish Pub connected to the builidng. The pub-ness of it was authentic, but most pubs in Ireland aren't quite so big. We got to listen to a whole mess of fantastic Irish music by a few different folks, the lead of which sounded freakin' exactly like Chief O'Brien from the Star Trek series (Next Generation and DS9). He was the lead, but the star of the show was this 15 year old kid who was wailing on his fiddle, while the guys with decades more experience were just barely keeping up with him. In the morning, we went right back to the pub to have probably the most authentic Irish breakfast you can get in Illinois, and then headed into town for a bit of shopping and fun and cool stuff. We had scoped out the places the evening before, but a lot of the stores close early in Galena, so there really wasn't a lot to see or do the previous evening (except go back and drink and listen to Irish music). Anyway, a couple of our choices for the first places to hit were a chocolate shop and a cheese shop (yes, I was making today my free day from the diet instead 0f tomorrow). The chocolate shop was expensive, but exquisite. We both liked everything we had from there, but the wine-based chocolates (the port and the bordeaux) were stunning. The cheese shop was less impressive than we thought it would be, but Heidi managed to find Wallace & Gromit Wensleydale Cheese. Rock on! We did a little wine tasting at a sparsely-but-interestingly stocked wine shop, and then we stopped in to a toy store. This had all the kitschy old toys that people had grown up with, and a few newer things. I was tempted to get their Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots game, but didn't succumb. We ended up getting some "Bubb-a-loons," which are little tubes of highly toxic-smelling gel, that you blow up into balloons. Heidi had grown up playing with it, and I had never heard of it, so we got some, so she could school me. When we got back to her parents' place, we made a small balloon sculpture that smelled like a cross between model glue and gasoline. Anyway, we ended the day having satay over at Heidi's folks house, and enjoying the fact that we could tolerate and enjoy one another's company for a whole year.

Update: I just realized, two days after I posted that, that the beer mentioned in the first thought was misspelled. It's Belgian, as in from Belgium, not Beligan, which could be mistaken for an obscure local brand.

Friday, April 07, 2006

More Strange and Wonderful Net Stuff

Y'know one of the Big Questions of my Star Wars obsessed existence is this: Just what the hell are the people singing when Darth Maul starts the fight in the hangar in Episode I? Well, I just found out the answer:

(By the way, if you're viewing this at work, turn the sound down or wait till you get home)

OK, this is not actually something I think about often, but it was funny, so I thought I'd share.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Stick Figure Hilarity

Does anybody else find these stick figure danger signs incredibly hilarious? I always think of this one guy who's having a really bad day. This one right here is on a gate I walk by every day, and then there's the classic (below) you find on nearly every water heater in every basement in America. I know other people have found the humor in these as well, as when I ran around the web I found not only a website devoted to them, but a flickr pool devoted to them as well. Classic humor, if a bit sadistic.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Old Habits Die Hard

This has been a rough week so far. Maybe it's been the change in Daylight Savings. Maybe it's just the overcommitted thing creeping up on me moreso. I'm sure those things have a hand in it, but what I really think it is is my old habits in (lack of) nutrition and activity coming back and saying, "OK, you've had your fun, now let's get back to the real world." I skipped my workout yesterday. I was even halfway to the gym, and decided to turn around and go home. Eating right has been a huge pain in the butt all week, and I haven't bothered to actually make anything healthy this week (I've done a lot of chicken and tuna sandwiches). Last night, after the skipped workout, I realized I needed to do some work on me. Battle the needs over the desires, or at least one level of desires over another level. And I realized that in Genesis, when Jacob wrestles with God, this must have been what he was doing. Because after this, he was no longer "the deceiver;" he had a changed nature. This got me thinking (OK, thinking more). We, as Americans (not saying that other nationalities have it nailed, just that I've been an American for 36 years and I've understood my relationship with Christ for half that long, so that's my perspective) have too narrow a view on what sin is, or rather we have a skewed perspective on what it is. Sin is far to often considered a checklist we have to measure up to, but when I skipped my workout yesterday, I was sinning against God's plan for my life right now. I had to repent, and turn the whole thought process around (which is usually a wrestling process).

Hunaphu recently has been discussing the American Temperence Movement of the late 19th/early 20th century, which was all about the "evils of alcohol" and ultimately led to prohibition. I think that is one of the worst examples of the skewed American perspective on sin in recent memory. That thought process states, "Well, evil has been done by alcoholics, therefore the source of the evil must be alcohol." This is an extreme example, but it's far too simplistic to really nail down the truth of the matter.

Admittedly, much of a Christian life is getting to the point of understanding how to go through life without the obvious stuff: hate, lust, selfishness, etc, and most Christians build a "maintenance mentality" that promotes the checklist thinking. But once you understand the relationship aspect (and, admittedly, I didn't understand this very well prior to spending time with Heidi... ask me about that later), the whole Plan becomes much clearer. At present, I would be sinning if I was to not deal with the Voice-Over stuff, I would be sinning if I was to not work out and eat healthy. But, as Paul says in Romans, sometimes I do what I don't want to do (I'm paraphrasing). The truth of the matter is this: God has a plan for us and wants to be in relationship with us; when we are walking in that relationship we understand that plan on a basic level; when we are walking in that plan we are at our most comfortable and things seem to "work;" we understand on a core level when we've stepped outside of the plan or the relationship; God is cool about helping us back on track; it ain't necessarily easy.

Incidentally, I got up early and back in the gym this morning. It wasn't as intense a workout as I'd like, but I was there.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Goal Update 3

In keeping with the whole continued accountability thing, here's how I'm doing with the goals:

1. Get Married: Still happening. Yay!
2. Move to a new place: Today we're looking at a place that starts on August 1 in Skokie. We probably won't start looking seriously till June.
3. Get a different job: Done
4. Get back in the gym, and establish a regular routine: I'm back in the gym, but I want to wait a while before I can say I've "established a regular routine."
5. Get at least one Voice-over gig: Started recording my demo, and it's going pretty well. I'll likely continue with the recording for over a month.
6. Brew at least three batches of beer: I still need to get some decent shelving for the kitchen before I feel comfortable starting this out. That will happen in the next couple weeks.
7. Travel at least four times: 1 down, 3 to go.
8. Write a script: No progress. I have to seriously consider that if I don't do something soon, this might not get accomplished.
9. Read the Bible from beginning to end: Slow going.