Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Little Something for the Old School Fans.

[All two of you.]

The two stood in the vast estate's stone-floored kitchen, leaning over plates on the hardwood island in the center of the room and trying not to drip mustard on themselves. The younger man took greedy bites of his sandwich, all but grunting as he eagerly chewed the perfectly-boiled corned beef. His companion took his time, relishing each bite as if he hadn't been eating this sandwich for the previous sixty-plus years.

They had taken to eating some of their lunches this way. They had an expansive dining hall at their disposal, but neither felt comfortable splitting the cavernous room and continent-sized table between them. And truth be told, the younger man enjoyed the coziness of eating meals in close quarters with his trusted manservant. It made him feel a bit like Bruce Wayne (his still-living parents notwithstanding).

After chewing on a particularly large bite, the young man paused and then spoke.


"Aye, lad?"

"Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that you're being...well, not watched, but thought over? Considered?"

"As if someone greater and more powerful holds you in his thoughts?"

"Something like that."

"Every day."

Louis considered this for a moment. "It happens to me sometimes. I get that feeling. It's creepy."

The older man put down his sandwich and dabbed at his mouth with a paper napkin. "I don't feel that way. It's a bit of a comfort, knowing you're not forgotten. Knowing that somewhere, someone who cares about you still regards you. Has plans for you."

"How do you know this person, whoever it is, actually cares about you?"

After a moment, the gardener laughed, "Well, I guess you're here, ain't ya? Mebbe when you disappear, that will prove contrariwise."

Louis' face fell. "That's not comforting, Felix."

The old man laughed, a wheezing thing that raised a worried chill in the back of his charge's mind. "Oh, Louis, you're still a boy, ain't ya. No, lad, it's fine. As that Jilly-person from somewhere once said: All is well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Which is to say, your story isn't done yet. Whoever's got you in his mind is still working out the details."

Louis shook his head. "I don't believe that. I think we each write our own story."

Felix shrugged, taking up the plates. "Pardon me for saying so, but you haven't lived long enough yet. When you reach the backside of your lifetime, you'll understand that we're all simple players, fretting out our parts on a larger stage. Telling a larger story."

"Wait--was that a Shakespeare allusion I just heard from you?"

The older man paused, then turned, pretending offense. "Well, you're not the only one who reads books--you going to that fancy university there."

Louis smiled. And some part of him hoped Felix was right, and that his story wasn't over yet.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Please Hold.

So this morning, I get a automated-message call from the bank that holds my truck-note. It's the "Please call [bank name] at [number] about an important matter concerning your loan" message. I've gotten this message before. It's what they call you with when they want you to make payments that might be technically just a tad late (35 days... that's not so bad, right?).

Weird thing is, I've already made that late payment over the phone, about 3 days before. It occurs to me, that was a different number; and I didn't call them--they called me! Someone claiming to be the bank called me, and I thoughtlessly made the payment over the phone.

As you'd expect, I panic momentarily, imagining all manner of identity thievery being perpetrated on my bank account (since I so cavalierly handed over my routing and account number, foolish me!). I feverishly tap out my personal bank web address on the computer, and pull up my account, fearing the worst.

It appears all is well, with the proper amount being withdrawn automatically. Everything seems to be in order. Then I remember that they do use both numbers--I've even called the second one before. I chide myself for being too hasty. [Side-note: I just called back the second number, to double-check; all is still well. They are the bank. ...Or are they? Oh dear.]

I immediately call back the first number, the one from the message. Remember, this is not two minutes since they called to reach me. Since I've already made my June payment, I plan on telling them to leave me alone and that my July payment won't go "late" late for another two weeks. (I tend to consider the "your payment's late so give us our money NOW" calls a kind of convenience service, provided by the bank to save me a stamp and the bother of actually mailing a payment.)

The line rings three times, and then I get the following: "Thank you for calling [loan-bank name]. All of our associates are currently busy with other callers. Please stay on the line, and we will be with you shortly." Followed by a canned flamenco song complete with trilly Spanish guitar. I can deal with waiting, so I hang on and start typing something.

I'm on the line for about thirty seconds, when the music stops.

And then the message repeats. And the music starts again.

It takes me a few passes to realize that the music never actually resolves. It's the same 30 seconds of canned music, over and over and over and over again.

After a solid five minutes or more, the music stops, and I get a new message.

"Weeeeee're sorry. Our offices are currently closed for the day."


"Please call back during our regular office hours--Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."


"Thank you. Have a nice day!"



What kills me is that they called me. They told me to call them. And I doubt they were sorry one bit for making me wait.

Makes me mad enough to mail a payment in, just to show 'em. Here's some more paperwork, jerks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.

Subtitle: "Love me, love me / Say that you love me..."

It's about a half-hour past standard quittin' time. I've got at least three hours of work ahead of me. I'm tired. I'm hungry. My throat hurts (onset of something icky, I suspect). It's threatening more rain outside, but I'm willing to risk the rain to get some grub. Yes, I'm feeling generally whiny.

Call me selfish, whatever, don't care. I want attention. Gimme some love, kids.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No alarms and no surprises.

1. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't post until tomorrow. But I felt like posting tonight. *shrug* And whaddayou care, anyway.

2. "Lisey's Story" is turning out to be a tremendous S-King book. I'm about halfway and just eating it up. All I'm waiting on now is for it to turn "Dark Tower" on me. There was already a glancing reference to "the Territories" but I'm hoping for more.

3. It's the ten-year anniversary of Radiohead's seminal album "OK Computer." Stereogum is celebrating with some interesting covers. I'm sure I could try to write something intellectually stimulating about the album and its importance in the history of alternative music, but I'm too lazy. Keep an eye on Mr. Jones' page. He's always good for top-notch musical criticism. As soon as he stops going all "Woody Allen" about the mainstream-ing of Wilco, I'm sure he'll provide a nice little Radiohead lovefest.

4. That's really the crux of it--I'm an inordinately lazy writer. To the point where I hesitate to think of myself as a "writer." Are you an artist if you don't create anything? Or does that leave you as just a "dreamer"? Maybe I am, but (like ol' John says) "I'm not the only one..."

5. Once I find my literary mojo, I've got some good ideas. I've got a bunch of lousy ones, too, in case you're interested. But I have some good ones. A few quirky characters. I'm still punching around the Redux project in my head, and I'm trying to think through the next step on "Taylor House" (is it just me, or do I keep saying the same things over and over?).

6. The diet started and stopped again. Lost 4 pounds, gained them back. Darn these office luncheons. They'll be the death of me. Figuratively speaking, I hope. Though, once you hit my particular plateau, that old phrase becomes too eerily possible.

7. I'm not sleeping enough these days. My temper's grown shorter as a result. And I've gotten both more uptight and more loosey-goosey, at the same time. If you've ever been consistently tired for a period of days or weeks, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. There is no even-keel or balance with my mood right now. I swing between Ben-Stiller-angry and Owen-Wilson-pseudostoned. It's bizarro.

8. I'm craving Chipotle. Yes, enough for it to get its own point.

9. It's weird how you can be nostalgic for things you never had in the first place. I was driving home from a little get-together (made up mostly of my married friends and their kids) last Friday night, and it was around ten o'clock. I was listening to the radio (my stations of choice are the classic rock, oldies, and 80's stations, in case you were curious), and I said to myself, "I need to go do something." Like, I was worried that I was wasting an opportunity of some kind because I wasn't out living the nightlife. I almost called up some friends, but knowing these particular friends, we would have ended up at a poolhall, a Starbucks, or at one guy's house playing XBox. That's not what I was looking for. And I thought to myself, "What happened to me? I used to be so..." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I used to be exactly like this. In college, I never went out dancing at clubs, or to parties (almost never, anyway), or on the town (as much town as you get in central OK, anyway). My college "nightlife" consisted of sitting around on couches in the lobby of the girls dorm, hanging out with folks, or maybe going to an all-nite diner and eating a cinnamon roll the size of my face (or the "Grilled Cheese Supreme"...boy howdy). I was not Mr. Nightlife, by any definition. Yet somehow, on this past Friday night, as I drove to my folks' house to say hi, I still felt like I was letting myself down. (Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've written something like this before.)

10. I'm doing pretty good, truth be told. I'm busy, and tired, and stressed out, and not eating right or exercising, and not brushing my teeth enough, and I've got a short temper sometimes, and I don't spend enough time practicing spiritual discipline or serving others. But I'm okay, overall. Can't complain. (Ha.) Really, my main problem is that I feel restless. Like I'm not living up to my potential. I'm missing the mark. And it's annoying, because somewhere deep inside beneath the years of "good enoughs," the midget overachiever in me is screaming that I'm capable of more than I'm producing now. But when it comes to putting one foot in front of the other and building up a head of steam to actually accomplish something, I find I can't muster the willpower. I'm too tired. So I (both metaphorically and sometimes literally) grab something bad for me from the fridge, flop down on the couch, flip on the Cubs game, and zone out. My life these days, it seems, is measured in workweeks I've survived. That's no way to live, but it's an easy rhythm to fall into.

So there's my Wednesday night post, kids. No alarms, and no surprises. Silent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday Video View--Covers Edition

I'm gonna be AWOL tomorrow, so here are a few treats to tide you over until Thursday.

Chris Cornell sings Michael Jackson

Damien Rice sings Elvis Presley

Obadiah Parker sings Outkast (a classic)

Jars of Clay sings INXS (rough A/V--handheld vid)

Elvis Costello sings U2

And I'm so tempted to drop some classic Fergie covers on you, but I'll refrain.

See you on Thursday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Say that to my face.

If you know me at all, you know I love the internets, and I read blogs all the time. It's my bag, baby. But I can never get over how utterly ruthless commenters are. (Not here, of course; you beautiful babies always treat me nice, say-thankya). I was reading this list of mostly-underrated actors, and it seemed to me pretty fair. The author was obviously looking for people who weren't necessarily headliners (with the exception of the always congenial Dr. House), but who brought depth and quality to their characters. While I didn't agree with all of them, a couple of the choices were pretty dead-on (Ben Linus from "Lost"? Bill Buchanan from "24"? Good calls, Larry.)

Fool that I am, I then clicked on the "comments" section. Wow. The first few entries were polite and engaging, offering alternate suggestions of actors they felt were overlooked. Then it devolved into "I'm sorry, but your list sucks." Mild enough, but from there, a few of the comments got really personal.

[Side-rant: A pet peeve of mine that is steadily gaining ground is the "I'm-sorry-but" formation. If you go on to say something insulting, degrading, rude, or confrontational, than your "I'm sorry" is a friggin' lie, and you just don't have the...guts to stand behind your statement. If you were "sorry," you probably wouldn't say it. Your "I'm sorry" really means "I know what I'm about to say crosses the line, but I still don't want to be called out on it." Grow some backbone, and say what you're gonna say, but don't gimme this bullcrap wannabe-polite backhanded insult stuff. It's weak, it's childish, and it's one-hundred-and-ten-percent transparent. Rant over. Continue.]

How can a person feel comfortable about telling a complete stranger that their personal picks for best actors is a "self-indulgent wish list" and then implying the author is picking "second-string" actors because he's not a "real" writer for a news publication and has some kind of subliminal nerd vendetta?

And then there's the commenters who took the cheap shots like, "Hmm, 7 are white males. Interesting." As if there needs to be some quota of minorities and women on a list of favorite actors for it to be "legitimate"? What is that about? Just come out and say it: you think the author is a bigot. (One of them did, calling the author a sexist.)

These comments are completely tame and almost laughable, compared to what I've seen on other sites. Really. Those are nothing. The incidents I've seen on other sites ranged from obscene and attacking comments to hate-filled, threatening emails (CONTENT WARNING) to even full-on death and torture threats from strangers (see the Kathy Sierra ordeal). And don't even get me started on political blogs and news-sites. It can sometimes reach the level of restraining orders and further legal action.

What's going on here? How did it get to this point? When did civility die, and how did I miss the funeral?

I'm not talking about fair criticism on a personal blog. Heck, I'm not even talking about unfair criticism on a personal blog. Would I be embarrassed if Bono asked me about the post where I bashed some of his recent music? Sure. Should I stop posting about it? No. Because this is my dumb little nothing blog, they'll never see it, and I don't think that stating my opinion of their music is wrong.

Who I have a SERIOUS problem with are the masked men who go on other people's websites and threaten and insult them. The people who harrass and slander. The people--the animals--who threaten and initimidate and stalk perfect strangers because of what they wrote on a friggin website. That makes me sick inside. And it embarrasses and stains all bloggers, the vast majority of whom use the medium for fun and information (or to bag on their 7th-grade classmates).

I don't have a solution for this. But I really needed to get it off my chest. No one--not you, not me, not anyone--has the right to go onto someone's personal blog and treat them so badly, so offensively. That's like being invited into your neighbor's house, and then spitting on the floor, insulting his wife, and punching him in the throat. No member of a civilized society can justify that. Yet so many do, hiding behind the seemingly-impenetrable veil of ones and zeroes.

Admittedly, the comments that sparked today's rant were absolutely nothing. It was mild, and instantly forgettable. In and of itself, unworthy of comment. But I think it's also symptomatic. The person who feels they have the right to directly question the education and abilities of a writer on a major website, to try to cheapen and belittle them based on their OPINIONS, is simply the predecessor of something darker, scarier, and more dangerous.

(And seriously, what kind of short fuse do you have to have to go from "zero" to "insulting," just because someone didn't mention Vincent D'Onofrio on a list of good actors? High-strung, much?)

Just something to think about. If you find yourself heatedly exchanging comments on a website, no matter what the subject, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable saying that comment to the person's face. Standing toe to toe, looking them in the eyes, and making that comment. If not, then you probably should just hit "cancel" and take a walk. Even if you think you're right. Because "winning" isn't worth it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Don't Have a Cow, Man.

I'll be back as soon as I can with more interesting and/or useful content. In the meantime, feel free to patronize our sponsors by enjoying the links to the right, there.

Now, if you'll excuse me, some kid just called my desk looking for a Mr. Mike Rotch, so I need to go ask around for him. If you've seen him, let me know.

[image idea hat-tip: Rick]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hunka hunka burnin' Dave

Hope your July Fourth turned out swell, and that your fingers aren't too badly burnt. Thankfully, mine aren't.

And, for those of you who still care, the beard (as such) is now gone. And for those of you who are prone to make fun of facial-hair-related blogging, all I have to say is--

"Don't be cruel."

I'll try to have something discussion-worthy posted in the near future. In the meantime, be excellent to each other, and enjoy some nice peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.

Shuffleblog 4.0 (Recycled Post Edition)

(I found this unposted shuffleblog in the PBB archives. It comes from the end of this past March. Quite a bit has changed since then. And then again, not as much. The first three are from this old post; the last one is from tonight.)

Shuffleblog. You know the score, now hit the door.


1) "Love, Reign O'er Me" by The Who

I'm reminded lately that I'm really crappy at loving people. Not in the "lurv" sense (though I'm not so slick on that tip), but in the God-love sense. I find myself struggling to care about the people in my Sunday School class who've quit showing up. The visitors who disappear after two weeks. The med students in my apartment complex who may not have any connection to the beauty and compassion of God. The man with the outstretched cup and the wary eyes. I just don't care enough about the people around me. I pay lipservice to it, sure do, double-pay. But when it comes to spending shoeleather, getting out into "the world" with "the lost" who don't think they're lost, I'm just...unmoved. Truth is, I'm so lost in myself sometimes that I can't care enough to reach out to anyone, even people clearly in need of feeling the arms of God wrap around them, the hands of God lift them up from the dry and dusty road.

What I need most, what I need most often, is for the compassion of God to rain down on my life. Not for me to absorb, because I've soaked up so much of it. But I need Him to fill my cup to overflowing, so that I can pour it out on others. I need my eyes to be transformed, so that I see need. I need Him to remove my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Because I am so often unmoved. I've become numb to the needs of others.

2) "Low" by Coldplay

I hit one of my low days last week. I almost treated you all to an incredibly dark and depressed post. Hopeless. It was the product of my frustration, exhaustion, and emotional nature. When I don't sleep enough, when I get stressed out, I turn into a giant walking nerve, and I feel everything in extremes. Fortunately, I had enough good sense to not post all of it. Unfortunately, I sent what I didn't post to two friends who got worried for me. I love that they care that much, but I'm sorry I worried them.

I'm not sure I've ever been actually clinically depressed. If I have, it hasn't been for several years. But I'm a very sensitive person. I'm also very vain, and think myself very clever. So instead of internalizing the Sturm und Drang of my less-rested days, I tend to exhibit it, like a child throwing a tantrum to get attention. But in my gradual journey toward maturity, I guess I'm learning that maturity isn't stifling your feelings; it's putting them in context. And that's my next personal goal: on my Crows days, I'll avoid posting entirely. If I just have to write, I'll type out an electronic diary entry of sorts, and save it. If a day or three later I still want to post it, I'll drop it on the site. But at least having that sort of lag will discourage the type of posts that result in awkward, worried phone calls. I think we'll all be better served that way, yes?

3) "Just What I Needed" by The Cars

A friend tried to set me up with someone they knew, and it didn't work out. While I made peace with the way things ended, my friend (you know who you are!) won't give up hope. Let it go, kid. It's okay.

Here's the deal: I'm not looking for the fireworks-explosion, music-swelling-to-a-crescendo, Hollywood-slow-motion-ending kind of love. I'm really not that picky. What I'm hoping for, what I'm praying for, is someone who I feel at home with. Someone I feel safe with. (Yeah, guys need to feel safe with their mate, too. We need to have someone whom we don't feel we have to wear 'armor' around.) I'm looking for someone who will make me feel wanted. Needed. Not in an obsessive or personality-destroying way. But, I want to feel missed. To know that I'm being thought about by that person, when I'm away. Shoot, I don't care if she likes country music, organic vegetables, AND the St. Louis Cardinals. (Because in each case, there's still hope she can be converted from darkness to the light... Just kidding. Sort of.)

You know, I always joke about having my "list." The "must-have" qualities, the "can't-stand" idiosyncracies. But as time wears on, my list has gotten simpler. That she loves Jesus, and that she loves me. Much past that is negotiable.

Except maybe the baseball thing, because that's practically religion.

And now, from tonight:

4) "Rebirthing" by Skillet

Heh. Figures. Okay, so I was listening to Mark Driscoll's talk to a men's group about maturity, and his admonition to "reverse-engineer" your life--decide who you want to be in five years, ten years, and then work backwards to figure out what specific, focused steps you need to take to get there. (Not to say that there is no room for God in this; quite the opposite. But this is one of those "consider the cost of building the tower" issues.) Basically, he was getting at the idea that you don't become a purposeful, successful person by accident or by feinted half-steps. You don't stumble into integrity, nor do you wander into financial and vocational security. You must plan, prepare, and act, while always being willing to be flexible under the better plans of the Almighty.

How does this relate? Because I keep trying to start over, when it comes to things like budgeting and dieting and being generally "more responsible." All these building-block things that will help make me into who I want to be. But my history of personal improvement is a constant cycle of "resolution, initial action, distraction, collapse." I feel like I have to keep starting over. I'm in a constant state of rebirth, with some cosmic doctor always trying to smack me in the butt.

I guess what I'm getting at is, I'm having trouble relying on God's guidance and strength for the everyday-grindy-type things that so often trip me up.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"You've got the touch..." (UPDATED)

"...You've got the power!"

This is me, checking in to let you know that I haven't forgotten you. I've just been doing that whole "prioritization" thing and actually working at work. (Isn't that CRAZY?!)

But I wanted to check in and say hello.

On today's agenda: a quick meeting at ten, and then a special "super-serious" group outing. What is this very professional outing, you ask? Well... it may be related to these:

UPDATE: I won't give you any spoilery info here, but I have to say it right off the bat:

Transformers was flippin' sweet! EASILY the movie of the summer.

If anyone wants to go with me, I would gladly see it again.

Happy Fourth of July!