Archive for 2010

If Only

Posted by on Monday, 27 December, 2010

I had a dream, several weeks ago now, that I witnessed an (unspecified) miracle that made it absolutely impossible to doubt that Jesus was truly Lord and Savior. And my having accepted that allowed someone who really does not talk to me anymore to completely forgive me, which was essentially a second miracle.

It was the sort of dream from which you wake and take in your usual surroundings with a very dissappointed, “Oh.”

I have witnessed no miracles since.

Faith to Move Mountains

Posted by on Wednesday, 27 October, 2010

I am not much of a “sports” guy, but if there was one sport about which I cared even a little, it would be baseball. I do not now recall the exact timing of events, but the facts are these:

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies made it to the World Series for the first time since the team’s formation in 1993. (They lost.) Around this time, and likely inspired by this, I researched and discovered that there were still four teams that had never been to the World Series. This number was reduced to three when the Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series the very next year. The Rays were an even younger team, established in 1998. The oldest team that had not yet been to the World Series was the Texas Rangers, established in 1961.

Being the fan of the underdog that I am, I decided that the Texas Rangers were my team. This was probably sometime between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. As it happened, the President of the United States at this time had previously been a managing partner for the Rangers, so I felt a little extra sympathetic for them because of that.

It is now 2010, today the Texas Rangers are playing game 1 of their first ever World Series and I could not be prouder.

Yet, ever the skeptic, I try to look at it objectively. There are thirty teams in Major League Baseball, two of whom face off in the World Series every year, so the odds a team chosen totally at random being in the World Series in any given year is 1/15 or about 6.67%. However, MLB is split into two leagues, with sixteen teams in the National League and only fourteen in the American League. The Rangers happen to be in the smaller league and the odds of a particular team winning that league at any point in the last three years, if I did the calculation correctly, is about 20%. Not particularly good odds to bet on, but far from mind-blowing that I happen to have been correct.

However, baseball teams are not random numbers. Certain teams are objectively better than others, and though there are considerable factors involved, I think that generally speaking, a team’s record is not expected to change dramatically from one season to the next. In 2007, the Texas Rangers finished last in their division. In fact, they had only had one winning season (in which they won more games than they lost) by that point in the decade. Three years ago, no one would have thought they were a championship team. No one but me, that is. I willed it to happen.

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually predicted a Rangers-Cubs World Series, and I wanted it in 2009. I was off by a year on the Rangers. That is not too bad, really. I was completely wrong about the Cubs. Momentarily going back to random guesses again, the odds of correctly predicting a World Series match-up is about 0.45%. (Or put the opposite way, if one announces such a match-up, there is a 99.5% chance of it being wrong.)

But again, I did not choose the Cubs at random. As I said, I love a good underdog, and the Cubs famously have not won a World Series since 1908, and have not played in the World Series since 1945, when a gentlemen showed up to one of the games with two box tickets, one for himself and one for his goat. When the goat was removed from the stadium for, well, being a goat, the man claimed, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” And they haven’t.

Clearly that man was more powerful than I. But it does not trouble me, because I did not really care about the Cubs. As I said, the Rangers were my team. There is a picture of me taken on my birthday last year that I find amusing for a number of reasons, one of which being that I am wearing an my Official MLB Texas Rangers hat along with my typical t-shirt and jeans ensemble, and I suspect that the hat cost more than everything else that I was wearing combined. I am generally neither a “hat-wearing” nor a “spending-money” type of guy, but here I was in my expensive hat, to show solidarity with a forgettable baseball team, apparently as part of some elaborate joke.

An elaborate joke that paid off, of course. Because I am powerful. This is hardly the first time that something like this has happened either. Many years ago, I was reflecting on my life and realized that I had a very effective method of obtaining things:

1. Want it. Want it so much that I can hardly think of anything else.

2. Stop wanting it. Move on.

3. [Somewhat optional] Decide that I was better off without it anyway.

And then whatever it was would come to me. This method has been known to work on everything from toys to specific girls. I had not put this into practice in a number of years, though. Perhaps because I somehow became convinced that I needed to rely on an external god. This baseball thing does not fit the pattern though. Which brings me to the weighty question:

How do I seemingly have such power over such inconsequential things that logically would seem completely beyond my control, yet I remain paralyzed when it comes to taking even simple actions that effect the course my day to day life?

Year Seven: Weightless

Posted by on Wednesday, 30 June, 2010

My Year Six post was an explanation of why men go to church. (Hint: it is for the same reason that they do anything else.) I intended to follow up it with thoughts on why women are attracted to the church. It is shame that I never got around to it, because I can not remember now what I was going to say.

Anyway, I was trying to find a scientific term for failing to achieve escape velocity to use as a title. “Weightless” was the best I could come up with; the moment when you have stopped going up, but have not yet started going back down.

The number of church/mission related functions I have attended in the past few months is truly unsettling. I spent a lot of years in the church, so maybe it is not a surprise if I still go to an occasional event or two… but nine? (One of which was a six week class, so technically: fourteen.) That seems like quite a lot for someone who is supposedly over this whole church thing. Some will say that that is proof of God trying to get my attention. I do not think so. I went to church for such a long time that now, basically all of my friends that see on a regular basis these days are Christians. Obviously Christians are going to want to do Christian-y things. I see it merely as proof that I have nothing better to do.

The thought of fully returning to the Church lifestyle is actually sickening to me. The frustration, the intellectual dishonesty, the pretending to be something that I am not… I did that for six years. Six. Years. I do not want to do that dance again.

In Which the Author Searches for New Music That Does Not Suck Balls

Posted by on Thursday, 24 June, 2010

Day 1:
Sick of the bland, overproduced drivel that I hear everywhere. Does not anyone know how to rock anymore? Listen up kids, I am going to teach you how to rock:

Step 1:
Turn up the drive on your amp. It might also be labeled “Gain”. What, I lost you already? For the love of… Alright, let me back up.

Step 0:
You will need an electric guitar for this. Look, they have been around since before your parents were born; they are really not that hard to come by. I know they are not as portable as acoustic guitars but… what’s that? Will they still help you get laid? Of course. Probably. Maybe. You know what, I am not sure actually. Interesting point. You probably do attract a much higher caliber of groupie with your acoustic ballads as a matter of fact, but you did not become a musician just for the ladies, right? I mean there is also the… uh… you know the… look, just humor me for a minute here, will you?

Step 2:
Play faster. Or harder. Or both. You know what, forget it. I already lost this fight, I can tell.

Day 2:
Looking for a website that will introduce me to the latest and greatest upcoming artists. Lots of websites and blogs that seem to have this goal in mind, but the results are bland, unoriginal, uninspiring.

The website showed some promise, but after listening to a number of the bands in the “rock” category, I gradually came to the unsettling realization that they all sounded rather the same. Not just stylistically, I mean that it almost seemed as if all the bands actually had the same lead singer. Weird. Upon further reflection, I finally realized… they all sound like the guy from Relient K. Have none of these kids hit puberty yet? Where are the MEN?

I speculated, judging purely based on their man-boyish vocal quality, that all of these guys are white, middle class, college boys. Listen up kids, a college education is NOT going to help your music career. You need to drop out of school, live in a van on a steady diet of booze and cigarettes, and then see my guide on how to rock.

Day 3:
Disappointment at the waste of potential.

I never saw the movie Avatar, because, well, I just did not care. Anyway, when the music video came out for Stylo by Gorillaz, I concluded that Avatar could not possibly be any more visually stimulating than this. (Also it was shorter, and free to watch.) The song, unfortunately, was rather forgettable. As it happens, Gorillaz released another video just this week. All I can say is that I wish that Gorillaz would only make some decent music to go with these mind-blowing videos. Do not get me wrong, it is not like Black Eyed Peas bad or anything, it just is not very interesting. And they have had a few good tunes in the past, so I know on some level that they are capable of it. I understand that Gorillaz is the brainchild of two guys, one a musician, the other a graphic artist, and it seems to me that one of these guys is not pulling his weight.

I also came across a guitar player named Orianthi. She was to be the lead guitarist for Michael Jackson’s This Is It shows. I watched a few clips of her on youtube. I must say, I am not normally a fan of the “shredding” style of guitar playing, but I will still tip my hat to an attractive young woman who could absolutely smoke you, me, and any guitar player that either of us could name in a single sitting. She also has a solo album out now, yet for some reason, her hit single According to You sounds just like every other overproduced American Idol alumnus or Disney lab creation style pop song out there today.

New Year’s in July

Posted by on Friday, 18 June, 2010

I was in the back room of a house of a famous person. “What’s in there?” I asked, pointing to a door that had caught my eye.
“Nothing,” the man grunted. “Telephone directory.”
“I would think that even a telephone directory owned by Hitchcock would be valuable?” I questioned. The wife forced a smile. The man left the room. I knew that they were hiding something.

I went home. J~ was throwing a party in my house and had invited a bunch of her friends whom I did not know. I was annoyed, but tried to remain calm. I tried to explain to a group of people some concept that I had discovered, by making an analogy to ants. “You know how on an ant trail, the ants walking in opposite directions will always touch heads before they pass each other?” I demonstrated with my hands. Touch, pass. People did not know that; they don’t spend much time looking at ant trails. Someone moved a piece of furniture to reveal the floor behind it was teaming with ants. Unfortunately, my pleasure at having this visual aid was greatly overshadowed by, well, the fact that the floor was teaming with ants. The people lost interest and moved to a different room, and I had not even made my point yet about whatever it was that I had been trying to explain.

I had had enough of the party and decided to leave. I went outside and opened the garage door and was surprised to see three strange vehicles besides my truck. The drivers were already in them, and they began to pull out one by one even though I was still standing in the drive way. As each one passed I punched the bumper or fender leaving a sizable dent, all the while shouting about how you can not just show up at a man’s house to a party he did not know about AND park in his garage without even asking. They did not see why it was a problem for me, since there was obviously plenty of room in the garage. I finally got into my own truck, but as I was leaving, a woman jumped out and punched a dent into my bumper. “How do YOU like it?” she screamed, but I did not care anymore, I just wanted to get out of there.

However, I could not go far. The city was in chaos. It was midnight now, and everywhere I looked, people were shooting fireworks, and children were running and playing among piles of debris in the middle of the streets. I tried to drive slowly at first, but quickly decided simply to return home for fear of running over a child. “This isn’t even a real holiday,” I frustratedly exclaimed. “It’s New Year’s in July!” someone answered jubilantly. “That doesn’t make sense… and besides, it’s still JUNE,” I responded, mostly to myself.

I went home and went to bed. I do not know how long I was asleep, if at all. When I got up again, G~ was standing in my room playing a keyboard, and he had dropped an unlit cigarette on the floor. I picked it up and handed it to him, and it was then that I realized that he was not really there. There was a rift in space, and when I turned I could see the crowd for whom he was performing. “Where are you?” I asked. He told me which bar downtown.

Then I was downtown, and it was wall to wall people. While making my way through, I came face to face with a familiar-looking girl and her friend. She knew my name, but could not remember where we had met before. I was certain it was from 20Somethings a long time ago, but did not want to admit it. “Is your name Courtney?” I asked. She told me that it was not, but did not disclose her actually name. I noticed that she had “Carol” tattooed on the side of her neck, but people do not get tattoos of their own name, do they? They usually do that in honor of someone who died, or perhaps a lover, right?

I made my way to a less trafficked area. An audience of Storm Troopers and Darth Vaders with assorted other other cos-players had gathered in an amphitheater in the graveyard to watch the midnight show. “But there will no be midnight show,” I thought, “The hour has already past.” But just as I was climbing into a tree to see what would happen next, the leprechauns arrived dressed as characters from the works of Dr. Seuss and the play began.

I moved to the back of the audience to take a seat with my mother, who was not my mother at all, because they all thought I was someone else; someone they had nicknamed “Mr. Dweebey”, because when he was small his mother would put him in the case where they kept the pipe organ keys, and he would crawl along and hit them with his knees.

And I raced home to write this dream down before I forgot it all. I brought my convertible skidding to a halt sideways in my driveway. And I noticed that the red light was lit on the dashboard, indicating that the LoJack had been activated, and the police would be arriving soon. Only they probably wouldn’t, because I had stopped paying the bill. But just in case, I decided that I had better take anything important out of the car before the police arrived. I had already started making notes as the dream was rapidly fading. How do you spell “Dewebey” [sic]? I thought there were more ‘e’s? Then the phone was ringing, and at this hour, it could only be the police, but it was actually a recorded telemarketer, with an interesting tale to tell. I had to reconnect my answering machine so I could listen to it later. I went back out to the car and noticed that my iBook was still on the seat. That would have been a great loss indeed had the police impounded the car.

Fire Sale

Posted by on Friday, 4 June, 2010

I am posting for the third time this week as a surprise for readers who only check back every few months.

I have been thinking a lot in recent times about how much I regret what was probably the most morally upstanding decision that I have made in the past several years.

That would be when you went to New Orleans to help with cleanup from Hurricane Katrina, right?

… I have been thinking about how I regret the SECOND most morally upstanding decision… But you know, since you bring that up, I think it is important to address that I did that for entirely selfish reasons. At the time, I was so utterly miserable in school and in the direction that my life was headed that when the opportunity presented itself to be “anywhere but here”, I jumped on it. I feel that the fact that shoveling a foot of mud, trash, and unidentifiable filth out of some strangers’ living rooms was a better use of my time speaks not so much as to the quality of my character as it does to the dismal state of Cal Poly Pomona.

Similarly, I would frequently fantasize about running away to join the Marines, who often had a booth set up on the quad. However, these were recruiters for officer training, and my thoughts were, “What the f#%! would I want to be an officer for? Just give me a gun and ship me somewhere interesting.” Because I would rather be shot at than go about learning Fourier analysis or whatever. I was sad when I finally got around to looking at their web page last year and discovered that I was too old to join the Marines. It was also somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not having a bachelor’s degree disqualified me from enlisting (as opposed to becoming an officer.) I do not see why it would, but even if not, then the website seems to be based on the assumption that no one with a college degree would WANT to be a simple enlisted man. Also, when I mentioned this topic to my family one time, my sister specifically forbade me from joining the Marines. Also, the fact that I am generally anti-war and unquestionably anti-gun might be an issue. As it turns out, I am not too old to join the army yet… but that probably just shows why they are not Few and Proud.

You Must Have Me Confused With Someone Else

Posted by on Wednesday, 2 June, 2010

In recent times, I have had several opportunities for insight into how other people see me. And they are all wrong.

The first was last year, when for a brief period, I was regularly interacting with an ex-girlfriend again. In conversation with a third party, she mentioned an opportunity years prior which, according to her, I had dismissed with a moping, “I dunno… I dun wanna.” Which even at the time, I had to admit, I could see that happening. Yet I was troubled. I can see now how my non-confrontational nature, coupled with my general tendency toward vagueness and privacy could easily result in poorly articulated reasons for declining something, but that does not mean that I do not have them. Realizing of course that one should always take criticism from an ex with a grain of salt, I was still saddened that she should think me so shallow all this time.

I have also become reacquainted with one of my junior high math teachers, in a different context, later in life. He was recently relating his impression of me as a student as, “I know I’m the smartest guy in the room, and I’ve got the system figured out so that I can get by with the least amount of work.” I admit that I am a path-of-least-resistance kind of guy, and his interpretation might have accurately described my behavior, but nothing like those thoughts ever crossed my mind. For one thing, a good friend of my who is way smarter than me was also in that class. More importantly, I did not then, nor have I since had any “system” specifically figured out; I am really just lazy.

Another friend has repeatedly suggested that I possess a photographic memory, and recently gone so far as to accuse me of “pretending NOT to have a photographic memory, when [I] really do.” I do not quite understand why. I occasionally remember details quite clearly. There are other details that I routinely can not remember at all: names, where I parked, the location of my cell phone or my glasses case, the current day of the week… Perhaps I am just not understanding what a “photographic memory” is, and those things that I can never remember are simply not “visual” enough for me. Yet, my understanding of a photographic memory is that you can recall details in your head as vividly as if you were actually seeing them at that moment. I definitely do not have that. Some things happen to stick in my mind more clearly than others. Is that not how everyone’s memory works? Or do we want to consider the connection between memory and autism? No, we do not.

Finally, last week a friend declared that my philosophy toward life had become “defeatist”, and how that was “not like [me].” Really? Because I feel that I know myself fairly well, and I think it sounds a whole lot like me.

But Then Again, Too Few to Mention

Posted by on Monday, 31 May, 2010

I have spent the last few days watching the first season of Being Erica. It is a Canadian show about a 32 year old woman with a string of failed relationships and dead end jobs not suited to her level of education, and, most importantly, a long list of life decisions which she regrets, who is approached by a “therapist” with the [as yet unexplained] ability to send her back in time to relive and redo past decisions. Admittedly, it is a rather girly show, and the SOAPnet logo tag is certainly cause for concern, but if it is not obvious why such a show might still appeal to me, then I am not going to spell it out.

Curiously, while most time travel stories are based on the “Butterfly Effect” philosophy, where changing even one detail in the past has drastic consequences on the present/future, this show takes the opposite approach, where attempting to alter or avoid one incident only leads to circumstances with essentially the same consequences, so that the heroine returns to the present to find (in most cases) that hardly anything has changed at all. However, she now has a fresh perspective and a healthier attitude that allows her to move forward in her life and her interactions with family/friends/coworkers in a more positive direction. Therapy. It has also been established that other characters do remember specific details of the “new” timeline, and also that the therapist is at least visible (though unassuming) to other observers, ruling out the possibility that the experience is all in her head. The ultimate result is that the show seems to be promoting the idea that we are a product of our choices and that an understanding of the past leads to a better future, yet simultaneously implying the completely contradictory idea that fate is essentially self-correcting in a way that would apparently render free will irrelevant. (Look, it’s a soap opera that happens to have time travel. I am not necessarily recommending anyone else should watch it, it just so happens that I have watched a lot of crappy TV shows in recent times and this is not as bad as some, okay?) [Edit: Since this writing, I started watching the second season. While there were some questionable moments in season 1, there has been a decidedly unwholesome shift in the tone of this show in season 2, and I would like to withdraw my already half-arsed endorsement.]

Anyway, as someone who has quite a list of regrettable life decisions, it is interesting to think about what decision I would go back and change, if I had the opportunity. Surprisingly, I could not come up with anything. I am the product of my choices, and if I could somehow go back and change something, invoking the classic “if I only knew then what I know now”… yet that is not possible. Not just physically impossible, but philosophically impossible. For if I made alternate decisions in the past, I would then be the product of different choices, and I would no longer “know now” what I know now, as it were.

However, lest anyone mistakenly think that I may have said anything profound, this is merely a character flaw thinly disguised as wisdom. Looking back, I do not make decisions, I make excuses to stay within my comfort zone. Some of which sound better than others. I can look objectively at any choice that I have made that lead down an undesirable path, and logically infer that the other choice would most likely lead somewhere better, but even given the completely hypothetical opportunity to take the road not traveled, I still prefer the comfort of life as I know it to the uncertainty of the other option. In short, I would not change anything from my past, because it is easier not to.

State of the Blog

Posted by on Wednesday, 28 April, 2010

Blogger has discontinued support for externally hosted blogs such as mine, and is requiring everyone to switch to their server. So I switched… to WordPress. It was not quite as smooth a transition as I had hoped for as I wanted the new blog to be installed into the same location as the previous one, and I also wanted all of the posts to have the same names as before, since I do a fair amount of back linking. (WordPress and Blogger use different conventions to generate Permalinks.) I believe I have that all sorted out now. Another problem is that most of the old comments did not make the transition. The importer actually stated, “60/247 comments imported”, without any explanation as to why it could not be bothered with the other 187, so I do not know what, if anything, to do about that yet. I am not totally happy with this current layout and “theme” either, but I did not want to spend all day on that.

Long time fans might recall that this is actually the THIRD implementation of this blog, and I have joined all of the posts from both prior versions into a single archive. What fun. I also started to categorize the old posts, which actually was a feature that Blogger added after I had already been blogging for awhile and I never bothered to implement. I did not get terribly far in that effort, because reading through the archives made really me want a stiff drink. And a gun. Whatever else might be said, my search for God has… not been rewarding.

I was thinking about how I have been blogging pretty much since the day I first heard the word “blog” six years ago. Most of that time I have been bothered by the feeling that I was not posting quite often enough, but I actually did the math and it averages out to about one post every ten days, which I know is hardly awarding-winning , but I am still rather impressed with myself. Not that it matters. I read not long ago about how the kids are really into the “social media” these days, but it is mostly only people over 30 who blog anymore. Which sadly, is about the only instance that I can come up with of me actually acting my age. I really do not know if “mommy blogging” is still popular, as that simply is not my scene.

In any case, here we are, with a blog rebuilt from the ground up, ready to stumble on.

Thoughts On Acoustic Guitars (Part II)

Posted by on Friday, 9 April, 2010

I started thinking about my own repertoire, and while none of my songs are particularly great, or even what one might call “good”, it occurred to me that all of my truly bottom-of-the-barrel material was written on an acoustic guitar. Later, it occurred to me that maybe the whole problem is simply that I have never had a really nice acoustic guitar. I do love my $160 Ibanez, but I think that it is largely in the same way that I love my $10 bicycle. It is not a particularly great guitar, merely a great value. If I had payed twice as much, I would probably not be nearly as happy with it. Also, the $160 is rather misleading, as I have replaced the nut, saddle, pickguard, bridge pins, and even some of the frets – pretty much everything that can be replaced other than the tuning machines. And when I say “I replaced”, I literally mean that *I* personally pulled the old part off and (in most cases) hand made a new one myself. So it is probably worth more than YOUR theoretical $160 Ibanez would be, (depending on your estimation of my skills in this regard) and obviously highly sentimental, but still, not a fantastic guitar. I have a couple of other acoustics as well, but they have issues of their own which have prevented either of them from coming out of their cases in some years.

There is a scene in the movie It Might Get Loud where U2’s The Edge is show-and-telling about the first guitar that he ever bought (which in his case was electric). One thing he said was that when he first picked it up, he knew that “there are some songs in this.” I have definitely never felt that way about any acoustic guitar that I have ever played. Although something similar happened when I bought my main electric guitar. I had done a lot of research and pretty much settled on a certain model from a well known manufacturer. I went to the guitar megastore, not even with the intention of buying that day (because that is not how I generally do things), but merely to try a few different ones out to make sure that it was what I really wanted, then go home and think about it. While there, I noticed an unusual looking guitar on clearance, and I thought to myself, “That sure is funny looking… I wonder what it sounds like?” I ended up leaving the store with it.

I was tagging along with a friend to the guitar store again last week and I realized that that was what I was looking for, a guitar that I would pick up an immediately know, “This is the one.” Which did not happen that day, and I have been to a couple of others stores since. I did find an interesting* Martin that I thought would make a nice addition to my collection, but I am not looking for merely another “addition.” I think that by now I have been playing long enough that I owe it to myself to get a quality American-made guitar, preferably from a store that cares enough about its customers to actually make sure their guitars are set up properly rather than just trying to move product. Ultimately, I am not actually in the market for a new guitar at all at this point, as I have several other large purchases further up the “to buy” list that I am also avoiding. But a boy can dream of expensive toys.

If there was a point to all of this, I can not remember what it was.

*I would like to go into more detail about exactly why I thought it was so interesting, but considering that I already cut this post in two due to length, I will refrain.