Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Don't Know How Job Felt (Part Two)

I HATE having to cross this street!

(Part ONE is here)

I have put off writing the second installment for this, but really have little excuse to not start typing right now. At this very moment on Christmas evening, while Amy and the kids are laughing it up and playing cards at the table with her mom and dad (he cheats at them, by the way), I am currently banished to our bedroom by a marvel of modern medicine.

Yesterday, I spent part of Christmas Eve in the ER. This was not my first choice, which was actually meant to be going to the mall and finally buying some Christmas presents while there was still time.

And yet events unfolded and I was sent into the ER by my doctor and suddenly they started getting me prepped for an unexpected day surgery. But then they decided at the last second that I was just barely outside the time window of responding well to it. So they instead put me on nitroglycerin to break up a thrombosis (blood clot) and have me come back for the surgery in either a few hours, days or weeks, depending on how it responds.

If you have never had nitroglycerin before (outside of making your own TNT) and wondered what it feels like, it is easy to recreate the experience. Simply ask a friend or family member - preferably an adult - to stand behind you and carefully but lovingly kick you in the head. You won't get the added benefit of the massive hour long head rush and a couple other cool symptoms, but don't get greedy. The main thing is that within 5 to 20 seconds of taking it, you have a full gown migraine. Enjoy.

My nitro-migraine is barely subsiding right now, but it fortunately has not affected my sarcasm.

The blood clot in question is painful, but no more so than having a lit cigarette pressed against you, so I can't complain. Pain is somewhat relative for me, as I have had chronic nerve pain for over 10 years now. That does not mean it does not wear me down. There are times that it has tested and still tests my patience and faith incredibly.

Pain has long been a great, if not the biggest stumbling block for people on the topics of faith and God.

One of the great apologists of the last century, C. S. Lewis penned his classic "The Problem of Pain" in an attempt to wrestle with some of the questions pain and injustice continually raise in light of a supposedly loving and just God.

In it Lewis suggests that, "In a sense, it (Christianity) creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving."

In his book, "Where Is God When It Hurts?", Phillip Yancey shares the true story of a friend named Claudia who was going through the agony of chemotherapy for a particularly aggressive cancer and the various church people who visited her in the hospital to see if there was anything at all they could do to make her feel worse.

One church goer told her that she had cancer because she did not have enough faith to pray it away. Another said she was supposed to have cancer, so as to be a shining example of love and patience to the lost. Another said that these suggestions were ridiculous and it was obvious that she only had the disease because of some terrible sin in her life. One just showed up and sang.

I'm assuming that Claudia used the last bit of strength she could muster to sneak off one night to another floor of the hospital to get away from her friends. (She fortunately did recover.)

When we Christians are asked how in the world could an all-loving, all-powerful God allow such pain, suffering and injustice in this world, we usually and sadly have responses that make Claudia's comforters look less than rare.

We honestly do not have too many great or satisfying answers for ourselves, let alone others. When we say that "God moves in mysterious ways", we are using a cliche that is not even in the Bible, but most listeners are fortunately far too courteous to respond by slapping us silly.

If you are unsure how to approach, encourage or generally not kick someone when they are down, here are a couple useful things to know about many who suffer from pain:

1) "Why can't the doctors just fix it?" - We have a very unique mentality toward health issues in the Western world that is very closely mirrored to how our doctors treat us. We expect them to be able to figure out exactly what it is with a microscope, x-ray or MRI, and then fix it by either cutting us or doping us (surgery or medication).

With chronic pain, this is most often unfeasible. Different from acute pain, which is short lived, usually traceable to a specific cause and usually will heal, chronic pain can last years, even lifetimes and can only be managed, not cured.

With my own particular type of chronic pain condition, neuropathic (nerve) pain, by definition "the nerve fibers themselves might be damaged, dysfunctional, or injured. These damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to other pain centers."

The pain is just as real as an acute injury, but the pain signals keep getting delivered, long after they should be sent.

Imagine a UPS driver dropping off a package to your house every single day that is addressed to "The Easter Bunny". And no matter how much you swear or throw things at the driver, he keeps bringing the boxes. Now imagine a good friend encouraging you with the practical advice, "why can't you just stop getting the boxes?".

2) "Is the pain just in your head?" - When friends ask me this, I am honest with them and I say "yes". Then I punch them in the stomach and tell them THAT pain is just in THEIR head. Afterward we laugh, but many times they will not call me back.

But the fact is that in both cases, it is true. All pain is nothing more than a perception we have, thanks to our brains. When someone puts their hand on a hot stove, the nerves send signals to the brain, like loyal little UPS drivers, saying that "something is not right here". The brain then takes that info and carefully sends back a message that you might wish to "freak out, flail your arms and scream at this time".

In his aforementioned book, Yancey actually talks a very interesting angle about what he calls the "God given gift of pain" by describing a terrible side effect of those who still in modern time suffer with the disease leprosy.

Many who suffer with leprosy will inflict horrible damage on their own bodies, sometimes deliberately (kids), but most often unintentionally and unknowingly. This is because many are unable to feel pain anymore. So for some, they would not realize the stove's coils were dangerously hot until they smelled something burning.

Chronic pain is somewhat opposite in effect. I have nerve damage in my right arm that almost perpetually makes it feel like I have burned my hand on a stove. Most days, I will have to continually switch fingers used for clicking my computer mouse, as even softly pressing the button feels similar to having a needle jammed into my finger. I wear gloves for almost every month aside from August, because within seconds of stepping outside in the cold, it feels like my hands are being crushed in a vise or stood on by a 250 pound man who does not like me.

Is the pain in my head? Yes. Does that word mean what you think it means? No.

3) "Do you want to pray about it?" - Absolutely. In fact I have been doing so every single day for over 10 years. I sometimes think God is sick of me bringing it up, but I still believe He cares for me immensely.

Oh wait, you meant do I "want to pray about it" with YOU? Um, sure. Wait, who are you? And how did you get in my house?

Actually encouraging or ministering to those who deal with pain is never easy. I feel like my experiences have afforded me a lot more sympathy or empathy (I plan to look up the difference between the two of those words some day) for others who suffer with pain. And I know that the absurdities, pain and injustices of life that people suffer every day and in a million ways often is difficult for me to grasp or wrap my head around.

I have learned that feeling sorry for myself might not necessarily be helpful, but at least it is really unhelpful. I make a point to laugh at myself and others every day, sometimes many times a day. I believe that despite the pain, that I have learned there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy is much more lasting and is a gift that we can hold onto or squander.

I try to make others laugh because it makes me happier to do so and because trying to cheer people up instead with my amazing singing voice can be awkward at the office or supermarket. But mostly because I'm an incurable smartass.

But there also is a time to laugh and a time to cry. And sometimes there is a time to just ask people how they are doing and let them vent. It says in Romans 12:15 to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep".

I believe in prayer. I have been prayed for hundreds of times. Does that mean I will never be healed? No, it just means those hundreds who prayed for me to be healed must have some terrible sin in their lives. Kidding!

The next time you see a friend or loved one suffering, instead of being quick to try to fix them or bring them a message from the Lord they must assuredly not be hearing and yet He just told you on the drive over... rather try just spending time with them, listen to them and care. It will mean a lot.

OK, the migraine is mostly gone. I'm gonna go watch Despicable Me with the family now.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thou shalt call His name Jesus...

A few years after I became a Christian, my great-aunt in New York shipped me some of her late husband's Bible study reference books. I had never met my late great-uncle, as he had passed away before I was even born.

The first to arrive and my still favorite books were a four volume set of every New Testament scripture based sermon preached by C.H. Spurgeon, published and printed decades before my time.

I opened it up and just started from the very beginning and will never forget that first time reading the words he preached more than a hundred years earlier.

As the four volumes have his sermons listed not chronologically, but rather in order of the New Testament verses he used, the first one was titled simply, "Jesus" and was based upon the first chapter of the book of Matthew's announcement of the pending birth of our Savior and the name He was to be given.

The following are a couple selected passages from that sermon:



Delivered on Lord’s-Day morning, September 15th, 1878, by C.H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England.

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:21.

“Savior” is the meaning of the name of Jesus, but it has a fuller sense hidden within, for in its Hebrew form it means “the salvation of the Lord,” or “the Lord of salvation,” or “the Savior.”

Do you want saving, brethren? Has the Holy Ghost taught you that you need salvation? Let your hearts be encouraged. This is the character of all His people; He never had a chosen one who could do without washing in the Savior’s blood.

If you are righteous in yourself, you are not one of His people. If you were never sick in soul, you are none of the folk that the Great Physician has come to heal. If you were never guilty of sin, you are none of those whom He has come to deliver from sin.

Jesus comes on no needless errand, and undertakes no unnecessary work. If you feel yourselves to need saving then cast yourselves upon Him, for such as you are those He came to save.

Notice, yet again, the very gracious but startling fact of our Lord’s connection with His people lies in the direction of their sins. This is amazing condescension. He is called Savior in connection with His people, but it is in reference to their sins, because it is from their sins that they need to be saved. If they had never sinned they would never have required a Savior, and there would have been no name of Jesus known on earth.

The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins.

I pray you rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed name, for Jesus has come to save you, even you. Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and cry, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, for I need your salvation.” Doubt not that He will fulfill His own name and exhibit His power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Tips

This Christmas, why not get together
with your loved ones and shoot stuff?

A lot of people get stressed out this time of year, when it can easily be avoided by keeping a couple simple things in perspective and these handy tips in mind...

1) The Presents

Carefully planning the right gift for each loved one and allowing plenty of time to get them is paramount.

With 6 days left til Christmas, I actually have not bought any presents yet myself, but I am obviously going to run out of time here eventually.

Yes, I now have the benefit of way less people in the stores, since everyone is probably done. And sure, those few who remain in the stores are more laid back and pleasant to shop around. Oh, and now there's likely much greater selection, since they are restocking for January, but I still recommend buying stuff sooner.

This allows for way more stuff under your tree, which makes you feel better when you see the piles of loot for weeks on end. And that brings me to...

2) The Tree

We have not bought our tree yet, but that's OK. We might get one today and it will only take a couple hours of work in the rain and the cold to find the right one (maybe even one still semi-alive and with needles), drag it home and try to dry it off on the back porch enough that we don't get electrocuted while stringing lights around it. No wonder they call it the "most wonderful time of the year"!

So, maybe 6 hours of work total, but we get to enjoy the beauty of it for at least 6 more days before we drag it to the curb and throw it away, so we can recycle or whatever and give back to the community and stuff. (YOU'RE WELCOME PLANET EARTH.)

But we'll take a couple pictures of the tree to put on Facebook, so we can show it to one of the real reasons for celebrating the holidays, which is...

3) The People

Joking aside, friends and family are really what it is all about, along with having to get together with them on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of them could very well be less annoying than last year and several will be the source of some of those presents we discussed earlier, so try to be nice or you will have to answer to....

4) The God

Holidays is a word that actually once meant "holy days" and people who try to take "Christ" out of "Christmas" make me mad enough to hit them. Hit them with some truth, I mean. And love and stuff.

The fact is that Christmas is about the baby Jesus. The baby Jesus was born in a nativity scene, complete with manger, donkey, etc. This is where the cute, "close the door, were you born in a barn" saying got started.

And His being born in a stable, which was practically being born outside is why we cut down and drag a tree into the house. The three wise men brought him really expensive gifts when they came to worship him and this is why we now spend money we don't have on maxed out credit cards. Tradition.

Actually, now that I think about it, Christmas isn't so much about the presents we get each other or even the gold, murr (sp?) and frankenstei... phranckinsse... other stuff baby Jesus got. The greatest gift ever has already been given and a thousand years from now, the only present that will still matter is this one.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Computer Guy

A fellow Network Administrator emailed me today to let off some steam about how he felt set up to fail because his office has him doing Marketing research online.

Did I mention he is a Network Administrator?

If that went in one eye and out the other, then this blog might just be for you.

Of course my friend should not have complained, because:

A) he has a job (so be grateful, you jerk)


B) he is a "computer guy". If electronics can be associated in any way with any thing at any time, he should be able to do it.

Here is something you may or may not know in this wild and wacky world we live in:

IT specialists are usually just that… specialists who… wait for it… specialize in particular IT sectors and/or technologies.

And yet no matter what their title is, they still call them the “computer guy” or the “IT guy” and expect them to be able to do anything and everything computer related.

He needs to be able to do everything from recovering a dead Windows server... to unsticking a key on a keyboard they dumped coffee and fingernail clippings into... to explaining why a non-existent email that someone sent is not here yet... to solving why piece of crap program ‘A’ crashes when you run piece of crap program ‘B’.

Yeah... why can't you do all that, computer guy?

You don’t hear about people scheduling a colonoscopy with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and then complaining, “but I thought you were a ‘Doctor Guy’…? Can't you just take a look around?”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Don't Know How Job Felt (Part One)

(Part TWO is here)

"Always remember, things could be a lot worse!"

I love it when friends encourage me with this old saying and it barely even makes me want to hit them.

Look, I don't know how Job felt when he went through his painful tests, but if you want to know better why we suffer or just receive encouragement in your trials, the book of Job in the Bible is definitely a great book to stay away from.

In all seriousness, it is actually a very important book on the topic of suffering, but "answers" and "encouragement" are not its strong suits. In fact, if you study it carefully, you realize that is kind of the point it is making.

You have 37 chapters of some of the most horrific suffering ever written about one good man enduring and Job demanding, "WHY ME, GOD? WHY?!" and then 4 chapters of God finally showing up and saying, "Dude, I made the whole universe, I don't have to tell you!".

So, all in all, very inspiring and heart warming.

(I joke, but there are some great lessons within it.)

I certainly have never endured the intensity of pain and loss that Job experienced, but I think there is a lot to be said about suffering a trial that eventually ends.

Theologians are unsure how long Job suffered, but they know from certain things said and written in the book, that it was more than a week. Estimates range from several weeks to months.

It is amazing how quickly you can forget about the worst trials imaginable, after they have finally ended.

After I had suffered with chronic nerve pain for over 10 years and it finally struck me that there was a very strong chance I would be in pain every single day for the rest of my life, I remember thinking to myself, "well, shoot".

Or something along those lines.

The American Chronic Pain Association recently documented that more than 50 million Americans suffer chronic pain.

And yet amazingly it remains one of the most poorly understood and outright misunderstood medical conditions. It is both telling and tragic that one of the most Frequently Asked Questions on the ACPA's website is:

"How can I make my family understand how much pain I'm in?"

While I am not an expert on chronic pain, I am a pretty good resource on what it is like to suffer chronic pain. I know what it is like to be in pain for every second of every day of every week of every month of every year for over a decade.

I have seen a lot of doctors, read a lot of books, done a lot of complaining like Job and have even been blessed with a few "comforters" like Job.

If you are unaware of "Job's Comforters", they were a group of friends who showed up to inspire and uplift him with direct assurances that his suffering was probably his own fault. And they also were pretty sure that God told them to tell Job this. Good people.

It is amazing how much our compassion for others' suffering will move us to try to help them by saying something truly stupid.

"Could it all just be in your head?"

"Why can't the doctors just fix it?"

"Are you doing it just to get pain medicine?"

"How can I extricate my head from my backside?"

These are all very important and inspiring questions you should go out of your way to never ever ask someone suffering chronic pain.

Again, I am no expert. But I have learned a lot over the years. Because of that and the fact that large numbers of people I know also suffer chronic pain, I am going to write a little bit about it. It will be a good chance to vent, but more importantly do a little informing for those who are friends or family members of those who suffer chronic pain in migraines, fibromyalgia or any other of its forms.

I don't know how Job felt. And nobody knows exactly what I have both gone and am now going through. That's life.

Feeling isolated in your trial is often in and of itself a great source of anxiety and depression. Feeling helpless is particularly frustrating, especially if you are a control freak, like some people I know.

Accepting that although one may always be in pain, we still can and must do our best to manage it as well as possible is a crucial breakthrough point for sufferers.

If you know someone who suffers chronic pain, you may have felt compassion for their situation but also have been unsure how to approach them with some kind of truly useful encouragement or support.

I hope to shed a little light on this before I get to the end of this 20 part series.

(OK, maybe 10. Fine... no more than 3. I promise.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Making of A Prince", by Bruce Butler


Last week, I finished reading an new book called "The Making of A Prince", by Bruce Butler.

A friend on Facebook whom I went to church with a hundred years ago (I am very aged, like... "Gandalf" old) posted a link to her dad's book, so I decided to check it out.

It made it even easier to order, because it was also available in Amazon Kindle format.

(With my Kindle, I get books within seconds and don't have to pay money for them. I just click a button that says "Give Me This Book" and voila'... once a month or so, the wife gets mad because of some new "statement in the mail" or something. Very convenient.)

I first met Bruce many moons ago at New Beginnings Christian Center in Portland Oregon. His involvement then and over the years with prison ministry adds an interesting sense of realism and inspiration to the related chapters from the book.

The Making of A Prince is an intriguing story of faith and redemption, somewhat reminiscent of tales by Victor Hugo. The newborn crown prince of Sabothenia, a European nation mostly untouched by the corruption of the 20th century, is tragically kidnapped and thought by many to never be seen again.

With nice attention to detail in creating a fictional European nation and its personas, the story forces you to ask what is the depths of depravity a person can be forced into by unseen hands and can the worst of the worst in society be redeemed.

Full of biblical allegory, it's an enjoyable read for Christians and non-Christians alike. It is the first in a series and it will be interesting to see how the story develops.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Real Christianity

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

I am a real Christian and if you believe the same exact things I do, then you are too.

Otherwise, thhhhppppbbbttt~ ~ ~ !

I have been a Christian for a little more than 25 years. Before that I was a Methodist. Well, I was "born" a Methodist slash Catholic, so I was pretty conflicted. In some parts of the world, Methodists slash Catholics for real, and vice versa.

And then I became even more confused when I threw in some agnosticism. And pot.

But my belief system was not very complicated and could be summed up as "ME FIRST". Not surprisingly, this is still the same core value of many Christians, atheists, hippies, Republicans, gamers and weirdos in general.

After many years of people-watching, I have discovered that selfish, overbearing Christians and selfish, overbearing atheists always have at least one thing in common, and it's not that they are Democrats.

It's that they are human beings (most of them).

And this is obviously difficult to cure, but some of them, regardless of their religious belief or non-belief, actually do a commendable job overcoming our human, lifelong and often destructive 'ME FIRST' natures. This is a fancy way of saying they somehow are good people.

There was a recent article on CNN about a book warning parents their teens might be "fake Christians". I immediately posted a link to it on my Facebook page, knowing how much unity and harmony it would bring about to those who read the article. Several are still speaking to me.

There are quite a few books purporting to define and describe "real Christianity" and many of them start with the beliefs and practices of the authors and work outward from there. Surprise!

In other words, those books take my first sentences to this blog post and just remove the "thhhhppppbbbttt" part.

I am still waiting for one in which the author says, "here is the myriad of aspects to true faith in Christ and here is the long list of ways I personally am not even close to observing them like I should". Aaaaaaaand... nope, still waiting.

This is pretty normal, actually. Even if we don't admit it, almost everybody is certain that the way they do things is the most "right way". This is also human nature.

Almost a thousand years before Christ, Solomon told us that, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts". And we're certainly no less sure of ourselves today.

One of the greatest comforts of many of the devout is how righteous (right) that we are. We may not be 100% right, but we are certainly more right than others. In a faith that should foster unity, love and harmony, there has long been an embarrassing amount of infighting and factions.

The "National Every Church In The City Gets Together Day" celebrations are somewhat rare in the sense that they never, ever happen.

Jesus famously said that, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." And that verse is so important that we Christians definitely talk about it on a regular basis. Sometimes we even print it out in a really nice cursive font and frame it.

The popular expression, "if there's one thing true about Christians, it's that they always love one another"... has not exactly caught on yet. But it could. It should.

Until then, we will have to take comfort and refuge in our bells, whistles, incense, stained glass and distractingly loud noises (ever since the hippies were allowed to bring electric guitars into the church services).

This is the part where I play the hypocrite and say that I really do have the definition of a real Christian, but I'm sure you saw that coming.

Most self proclaimed believers would say one should start with the base requirement that we believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And this is certainly necessary, but also is surprisingly easy to do when compared to other requirements of the scriptures.

I'm'a just leave these two things here:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. - 1 John 4:7-8

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:37-40

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thank You Letter To Verizon

Dear Verizon,

First of all, thank you. It has long been said that for a man to feel childbirth, he would have to pull his lower lip over the top of his head. This is not true for two reasons. One is that I tested it out on someone else once. The second is that to feel the agonies, horrors and pains involved, a man must now merely try to buy a phone from you.

Now, I realize you would go out of business if every customer experienced this and you were thus forced to create a lottery for the salespeople. This takes their hatred and contempt for all customers and instead of spreading it to everyone, focuses it like a laser upon one unwitting person. That was a really good idea and I won it today.

I also realize that you work very hard at corporate to make purchasing phones as confusing and time consuming as possible, but I was fortunate enough to get a salesperson who was able to take the few remaining easy steps and make them just this side of impossible.

He was magnificent. He was a master artist whose mediums were incompetence, slowness and general screw ups. Several people wept openly to see him perform.

To drive this point home, they brought out a chimpanzee - obviously untrained, I think it was his first day on the floor - and he proceeded to sell 4 phones in the time I tried to purchase mine, and 1 of which was to someone who could not speak a word of English.

(No, the chimp did not speak a word of English either, but obviously understood it and at least one other language, whatever Pietro was speaking.)

Before I left, I was handed a customer satisfaction card to fill out. This was a good idea. When mine arrives at headquarters, you will spot it right away. Under "would you buy a phone here again", mine will say, "no, I will walk in, beat the shit out of the nearest salesperson and take theirs".

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Doesn't this mean you would lose your current cell number?"

Yes. But walking back out with a new phone in less than 4 hours still far outweighs losing all my contacts and the probable felony.


Your loyal customer until this damn contract runs out in 2 years,


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sin is FUN! (Part Three)

(And it all started with Communion wine)

(Part ONE is here)

(Part TWO is here)

Sex can lead to far too many abuses, such as adultery, cheating, perversions and the like. It is best that we just avoid all sex altogether from now on. I mean, why even take a chance with something so potentially harmful and dangerous? If we don't ever even go near sex, then we can never misuse or be hurt by it.

Sound silly? Now you know how I feel about your assurance that my beer upsets Jesus.

Christian drinking has long been a bone of contention in the church, which makes no sense because most of us have no idea what "bone of contention" even means.

But the nice thing is that with diligent study of the Bible, you can discover exactly what God thinks about Christians drinking. Well, in YOUR mind, at least. (But for many, this is plenty.)

If a Christian makes a personal choice to never drink, I totally respect that. I certainly don't insist that they should drink, and many mature ones will not insist I must teetotal with them.

I am far more frustrated with the logic that some use that it should never be touched because if misused or abused, then it can lead to terrible things. So "total abstinence from alcohol is just safest", is the reasoning used.

Aside from the whole "use God's word for our standard" being thrown aside while we make up our own guidelines as we go, the logic itself is still poor.

We could apply that thinking to those just as deadly cars and never drive them again. Guns and sharp knives will have to go. Ironically, many anti-gun people do use this same reasoning for wanting to get rid of them altogether (they kill people!) as we Christians use for alcohol.

We Christians took this goofy logic to its ultimate endgame with Prohibition in America, between 1920 and 1933. And aside from little snags like the Saint Valentine's Day massacre and mobsters like Al Capone rising to power, it was a rousing failure. (If we do it again, we need to hand out more fliers this time. Education is paramount!)

Invariably, someone will have a horrific drunk driving story or a growing up around alcoholism experience (as I have) to prove it is only and always wrong. But this still glosses over the subject.

If you think I am going to argue that drinking is OK for everybody, I'm not. It is not. If we use the Word as our guide (which Christians should), then does the Word say drinking is a sin? No, no it does not. Does it say drunkenness is a sin? Why yes, yes it does. And for some, never touching it at all is absolutely for the best.

But I still prefer to focus on talking about being responsible and not applying knee jerk reactions to our moral convictions. I also think a lot of Christian kids end up over the deep end with it (as with many other things), because they were never shown that it can and should only be used responsibly and in moderation.

If it's a "sin" to even touch it (forbidden fruit is so tempting), then might as well go all the way and get hammered.

Our two kids might have the best of both worlds, having a mom who has never had anything to drink and a dad who only drinks in moderation. They see it is not scary and dangerous, but it is also cool to choose to never drink, if that's what you want. (Drinking does not make you look cool, as obviously only smoking does that. Duh!)

Kids will mess up and make mistakes, whether they are Christians or not. The main thing is to teach them they are both capable and expected to become mature and responsible, without creating artificial and largely useless safety nets to shield them from the world.

Ironically, many Christians retreat further and further away from all other people of the world, into the four walls of their churches, where they ramble on at length about loving and reaching the world for Jesus.

Yeah. We're nothing, if not consistently ironic in what we say and do. But maybe acknowledging that is a first step toward changing it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joy versus Happiness

. . .

It is almost as if our stunted capacity for thankfulness and true joy has also robbed us portions of moments of our happiness.

. . .

I have suffered severe chronic pain for over 10 years now and have had times when it wore me down to the point that I didn't think I could go on. A few unexpected, unintended good things may have come from my condition, and one of them is a clearer understanding of the difference between joy and happiness.

Happiness seems to be the be-all, end-all that many Americans strive for in life, but if one does not understand happiness' transient, fleeting nature, then one will surely find themselves disappointed and frustrated on a regular basis.

I believe happiness is best defined as something we experience or "happens to us", whereas joy is something we own and is "part of us". You either have joy or you do not. It does not show up and disappear with regularity. That is happiness.

When I get in my nice, semi-new Nissan with its MP3 stereo jack each day, I probably feel a little happy about it. And yet, if I were to lose it and be relegated to a junker, I might be unhappy about it, but I would not lose my joy over it.

Happiness comes and goes. Joy does not.

A friend told me about a time lived in a poor European country where a teenager was overjoyed, simply because he finally got an animal which would allow him to work harder and produce more on his dad's farm. His father was heartbroken, because he felt his son had no real future or escape from their poverty.

Contrast this with many American teenagers who are briefly happy over their new iPod or computer and yet so quickly afterward lose that excitement and the dichotomy is striking.

It is almost as if our stunted capacity for thankfulness and true joy has also robbed us portions of moments of our happiness.

The joy of the Lord is my strength and it is persistent and abiding, both when I have good days and when I have bad days. Hardly a day will go by that I do not laugh and do my best to make someone else laugh. This does not stem from "happiness".

What brings me joy? Things like my relationship with God and that with my wife and my two children. These things which alone truly matter and will last forever.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Lose Friends And Alienate People

Did I mention I'm smarter and better than you?
Here child, let me list the ways.

Dale Carnegie first wrote the currently 15 million copied bestseller, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" way back in 1936. Think about that for a second! That was well over a century ago, if you're terrible at math, and yet it is still one of the best selling books in the world today.

It remains very popular and is supposedly effective. I don't know. I might even read it someday. I understand that it encourages respecting people, listening more than just talking and other weird stuff.

Since I thought I was clever at making up the anti-title of, "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People", I was seriously annoyed to learn that someone already wrote a parody of Carnegie's book with my exact awesome title, literally just one year later in 1937. I didn't realize they even had smartasses back then. Cool!

Gradually I have come to realize that for the most part there are only two different types of people in the world, especially when it comes to their opinions, convictions and comments.

Those who belong to the 1st type seem the most populous. Or maybe just pompous. ("Pompulous"?)

Sometimes these self made philosophers, political and legal experts are “right” and sometimes they are “wrong”. But this really is not pertinent. "Right" and "wrong" are silly and irrelevant concepts for them. This is because they also are perpetually one dimensional. Their dimension. You are invited to visit, but you may not stay.

You may have seen or heard one or two of them. Trust me, they are not hiding. Some of them even have their own radio and TV shows, God help us all.

You see, they rarely persuade even a single soul or change a solitary mind, but no worry... that’s perfectly OK with them. They honestly have no intention or desire anyway to do so.

Sadly for us, they and their opinions were once, in the not too distant past, wonderfully confined to yelling at squirrels in their back yards or schooling that ignorant sheep of a cashier at the local Safeway. But the Internet has miraculously changed all that. (Thanks a lot, Al Gore, you jerk.)

In a new age where every person's opinion not only "matters", but can even be equally inane and still be shouted at fullest volume, their computer chair is so much higher than any soapbox of old and now they can abuse thousands at once, even on coffee breaks.

If you have spent even a little time on message boards trying to discuss politics or religion with strangers, you discover the anonymity of the Internet makes it much more appealing to roughly 90% of people to tell you that you are a stupid moron, rather than to engage or address your ideas. And these people vote.

Oh my god... these people vote. OK, let's try not to think about that.

These self made web gods sadly prove that the cheesy TV commercials about students happily interacting with other kids from the other side of the world on their huge classroom monitor are absurd. If adults can't act like adults on the Internet, who do they think they're fooling with this "it's a small world after all" crap?

If you've never spent time discussing religion or politics on the Internet with those of differing opinions, I encourage you to take at least a few hours to do it. You will walk away with a much greater understanding of human nature and the added benefit of probably never wanting to do it again.

I mean, think about it, why spend a lifetime influencing, informing or winning over anybody, when you can so, so much more easily just criticize, demean or "beat" them in an argument with a one line put down? For this 1st type of “communicator”, this is a no-brainer. Pardon the tautology.

But finally and gratefully we have those others in the 2nd group, this albeit frighteningly small and odd minority. Many of them do not have TV shows, but that is OK. They have friends who actually like them.

These rare 2nd type individuals, regardless of their loving, hating or maybe even only weakly and half-heartily agreeing with some of the other countless differing, interesting opinions and thoughts out there in the world, can still somehow occasionally opine with purpose.

In a rare instance, their words can even be ones that are actually adding to a constructive and evolving dialogue, informing and expanding the understanding of others or truly just interacting with them on a meaningful or at least harmonious level, however small or large that may prove to be.

Thank God for this 2nd group.

In closing, a very wise and beloved man once said something like (I am paraphrasing): "treat others the way you wish they would treat you".

Do you want people to listen to you? I wonder if people also want you to listen to them? Hmm. Weird, I know, but maybe worth looking into.

Unfortunately for most of us, this remains terribly counter intuitive advice. Both my flawed logic and nature dictate that I should rather, "demand others treat me the way I expect to be treated, and I'll treat others however I think they have it coming".

This selfish method works very poorly, of course, but is probably not going to be abandoned any time soon.

So, to those rare, 2nd type individuals, I just want to say that I know you are out there and would like to thank you for making the world a vastly more interesting and valuable place. Someone has to do it and I'm trying to be more like you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sin is FUN! (Part Two)

(Typical reaction to church)

(Part ONE is here)

(Part THREE is here)

First of all... holy crap... two blog posts, two days in a row.

Second of all... doing a Google image search for "sin is fun" to put a picture at the head of this post? Probably not my smartest idea in a while.

But I don't know why I am even remotely surprised that there is a T-shirt for sale with those exact words.

To clarify for the unsubtle of mind, I wrote in the last part that "sin is fun"... not that it's awesome, cool, etc. The title was not flippant, but rather a very specific jab (too unclear for some) at those who strive to persuade themselves and others that sin is in fact not fun.

Is sin fun? You bet your ass it is. Does it come with a price? Always. And sometimes a terribly steep one.

Ironically, those who go to extremes to convince their kids that sin is NOT fun are usually the same ones who loosely define sin as anything you would consider fun.

Hmm. Go figure. Who would have thought that misguided religious nonsense might have a couple contradictions in it.

The overarching point of the blog post was to address the many different methods Christian parents use to raise their kids to make the right decisions later in life. BONK.

("Bonk" is the sound of me having to hit some over the head with unsubtle, unfunny direct statements.)

Many who raise their kids for 18 years (or up to 30 in a bad economy) try exceedingly to shield their precious snowflakes from the evils of this world, and the same kids then unsurprisingly move out and dive into those said evils head first. I say 'unsurprisingly', but many things which I assume are obvious are not so to everyone.

Just one example is Internet filters for kids. For little kids, I think they're great. Once your kid gets in their teens, if that is your solution to protecting them forever and ever from porn, you're not exactly thinking ahead. When little Johnny moves out and no longer has filters on his Internet, don't act surprised that he doesn't have actual self control to fall back on, when he never had the chance to exercise it.

Are you really convinced you are trusting your kids to do the right thing, while never allowing them a chance to do the wrong thing? How does that work, exactly? Magic? Cool!

In some religions, where women's bodies are apparently the most beguiling and tempting thing on the planet (awesomely close, I'm sure), their solution is to cover all of the women from head to toe... except for eye-slits, of course. How else are they gonna see to go to the kitchen and make us men a sammich?

And of course this fixes everything. If you can't see women, you can't lust after them. Why rape remains rampant in countries that practice this, they have not yet figured out. Those beguiling eyeballs, I guess.

Sound to you like a disgusting, tasteless joke to insinuate it is still the woman's fault? Well, you're right.

What amazes me is when Christian parents emulate this mad method, but just to a smaller degree. They protect little Johnny (poor guy) in his holy bubble, perfectly insulated from alcohol, tobacco and firearms... and cussing... and R-rated movies... and mostly importantly... BOOBIES!

One nipple sighting and the world will literally end. Heaven protect us from them. Amen.

Why so many of these same kids move out and end up over the deep end, we are still trying to figure out.

Part of it might... just might... be related to the fact that as a parent you don't cuss, smoke, drink, listen to "secular music" or watch racy movies and have never once missed a church service in your life, but you're also a self centered ***hole.

I have quite a few atheist friends who are considerably less ***holish, to be frank. (I'm serious... I do.)

It's not a mystery. If you base your "religion" on how much more perfectly spotless and clean you are (at least than "the average"), instead of doing something abstract and useless, like say... oh, I don't know... treating people right and talking to them with respect and kindness, then chances are when your kids leave the nest, they will explore to find and test other ways of being selfish than just being a super religious turd. Just a theory.

I can always tell when I meet a genuine, sincere Christian, before they ever even tell me. They usually have considerable self confidence, while clearly not acting or thinking they are better than me. And damn are they rare.

If you can pass THAT kind of value on to your kid, then you just might not have to try so hard to shield your precious snowflake as much from the gross evils of this world... like HBO, Lady GaGa and my blog.

I just realized that I never got to the topic of Christian imbibing, so I guess that will be part 3 of this 2 part series. (I always try to give 150%.)

If I sound angry and bitter, I assure you that I'm not. Not even close. I just forgot to insert enough inane jokes between the serious stuff. Next time. :)

(Next... Part Three: I stop rambling and get to a point of some kind)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Communication Breakdown

Every once in while, I think I should write a post that makes it look like I am spiritual and love Jesus and stuff. We'll see if this qualifies.

This is a 5 part series with a close look at many of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible. No, actually it's just something I thought of on the way to work.

Communication is one of the most important things that separates us from the beasts. Businesses could not exist like they do without communication and relationships regularly die when it is poor or lacking altogether. And long distance communication is just as important as up close and personal. Fortunately, as critical as communication is, we have long since mastered doing it half-assed.

The very first instance of long distance communication was probably a one syllable cuss word scraped on a rock and hucked at someones head. Then it moved up to much more nuanced profanities on arrows, spears, etc. Shortly after this the Indians invented smoke signals and communication briefly stopped altogether, as nobody can read smoke, obviously. This was the "dark ages". (I am a history buff)

Then we invented paper and pen and everything changed. Then, getting a letter even once a year delivered by some random guy on a horse was a huge deal. Like, "bigger than Christmas" huge (although Christmas gifts did suck more in old times).
Then everything sort of exploded more and more rapidly over the last 100 years, like bam bam bam. Telegraph, radio, telephone, cell phones, email, instant messaging, and then ultimately texting. Then it went backwards a tiny bit with Facebook, but not too bad.

I got to wondering what our average conversations with God would be most analogous to?
A rushed voice-mail? A garbled, blurted out shout while sprinting past? Or maybe a poorly scrawled Post-It note quickly slapped into one of His nail scarred hands? OK, I went too far with that one.

My favorite scripture is in Matthew 22:37-40, where it tells us the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and the second greatest is to love our neighbor as ourselves. And that upon these two commandments hang ALL the law and prophets.
So essentially, nothing is more important for us to do than love God and other people. Pretty complicated religion, huh?
And as nothing is more important than our relationship with God and others, nothing is more important for nurturing them than communication.

Here is a fun test to try at home: only communicate with your spouse for a week or two with hastily scribbled Post-It notes. If you are single, try it with your boss at work. In the end, you will both get a huge chuckle out of it. Or fired or something.

How we talk to others defines and determines our relationships with them. So it never ceases to amaze me when I witness married couples speaking to each other with any less respect or kindness than they would afford a friend or even complete stranger. I don't care how "many years you've been married", why would you do that?
And if marriages are hurt by poor communication, how do you think it affects our most important relationship of all?

There are certainly a lot of different praying "styles". I have heard some people sound like they're rapping with a surfing buddy and others sound like they're nervously talking to a head of state from a foreign country we are on poor terms with.

Some people like to actually write their prayers out in a journal, just like letters, to focus better and not forget anything. It's not a bad idea, really. I have never done it myself, but I know a couple rambling, incoherent people at church that I would like to try it.

The next time you pray, stop for just a second to pay attention to not just how much time you set aside for it or what you pray, but how you pray it. How does it come across? How would it come across if you spoke to others that way?

Can you and do you speak with God for who He is, among other things a King, Father and friend? Do you pray with reverence, respect, boldness and love?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

REAL 3D Animation

This is some of the coolest art you'll see in a long time. BLU is a street artist from Italy whose identity remains anonymous. I first saw some of BLU's work more than two years ago and his work was amazing then.

Now he is incorporating 3D objects into this latest work of his, such as orange beach netting, sand, plastic debris and even a live girl model who is blown off her feet and swept away.

I honestly can't even imagine where he finds the patience to do this kind of art, but we're very lucky that he does.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sin is FUN! - (Part One)

(Not to scale)

(Part TWO is here)

(Part THREE is here)

Wheeeeeeeee! On a scale of 1 to 10, sin is really fun. This has been known for literally hundreds of years.

People who say it isn't fun are lying. If sin was not fun, it would be like vegetables and most Americans would already avoid it like the plague.

As a Christian parent, I have wrestled with the conundrum of hiding this fact from my kids as well as wrestling with other big words like "conundrum".

But how much should we hide it?

Just this last year my wife and I have seen our daughter enter her first year of college and our son become a senior in High School.

At their age, I studied diligently and worked very hard at how best to get into trouble and do things I shouldn't. I had straight A's in dumbassery and about a D or D minus in life skills.

So, how did my kids turn out so differently? Their mom. Hallelujah. OK, not JUST their mom, but still... thank God for her. But there is more to it.

My wife and I somehow got on the topic this morning, as we just recently have been observing more and more kids the same age as ours dabbling in this ancient fine art of dumbassery.

It gradually brought me to something I like to call "thinking". I schedule this uncomfortable activity at least once every month or so. And I came up with some surprising conclusions. Or opinions or something.

The Mrs. and I have very similar and in some cases divergent views on child rearing.

For instance, I felt that their practicing with firearms as soon as they could ride a bike was sensible and she was maybe a little more... hesitant of the idea. (No, I didn't let them use firearms while ON their bikes. Give me some credit.)

I also told her last night that our son agreed that he would be willing to join me in jumping off the world's highest controlled jump, if we ever go back to Las Vegas. Her opinion was a little more reserved and she shared with me, "No, no you're not".

Back in the day, we parents-in-training both agreed our little girl could not paint her room dark purple.

But then we again butt heads a little when it came to the issue of "adult" content in movies, especially as our precious snowflakes got older.

We actually agree more than we disagree on this topic, and certainly both respect and understand the merits of each others standpoint immensely. And we have articulated our opinions and even their differences to the kids, so they also know them quite well.

We didn't flip a coin to see whose belief would win and be "taught" and I opted out of claiming physical dominance or some kind of biblical authority over her. She is incredibly wise and that is partly why I married her.

My beautiful bride probably tips more toward the traditional "American Christian" belief concerning nudity than I do. And this oft described "Puritanical" slant on this topic has obviously taken a much more pivotal position in our society lately.

Especially with the glut of super easily obtainable pornography. Apparently there is some on the Internets. For free.

(My wife would probably also be OK with getting every single bottle of alcohol out of our house. I am in complete agreement, I just want to empty them into my belly first. More on that in Part Two of this exciting series.)

But back to the topic of boobies. You know what... lets just call it "sex and violence". Lump them together for brevity sake. And because using the word "boobies" probably made some of you uncomfortable. Boobies.

I have a very simple philosophy that might be summed up as this: boobies are awesome and violence is not. But they won't let me say this at church. Anymore.

But if I were to forced to say it like a grownup, I think I could.

I would simply say that God created the human body as one of the most beautiful things ever (unless you're 800 pounds, I suppose) and He specifically called it "very good". He also said that He literally hates violence.

(I think if I left out the snark about "800 pounds" that TOTALLY would have sounded like a grown up.)

Between sex and violence, I think it's pretty clear which topic makes God more "uncomfortable" and apparently it is not the same one as many of us.

If you came home to discover complete strangers naked and/or having sex in your living room, it would shock and probably offend you. But it would be something to laugh about down the road.

If you came home to someone being murdered in your living room, you would probably need years of counseling.

Yeah. Go ahead and let that soak in.

And yet most people, certainly Christians included, will more than welcome both of these visuals into their living room with most R rated movies.

(I'm a Christian and own many R rated movies, so bear with me.)

The stark irony is that many Christians are somehow more comfortable with two hours of Hollywood violence, bloodshed and murder than they are with two minutes or even two seconds of a lady's nipples on the screen.

This has always confused me a little.

But to try to get back onto topic, what is a proper and healthy balance for viewing and addressing these huge, age-old "twins"? (I mean "sex and violence", you pervs.)

Call me biased, but I think God's opinion carries a lot of weight.

You could probably argue that He is equally as shocked and uncomfortable as we are at the sight of a woman's breasts as He is to violence. And yet, I somehow doubt that.

Or you could assert (the more popular Christian view) that breasts are just SO super awesome, God demands they almost always be kept under lock and key. Maybe. But again, I tend to question the balance and truth behind it being quite that simplistic.

(If I sound like a hippy, I am not. I was raised by hippies and we stay in touch, but I barely let them influence me. OK, they were a terrible influence, but I mostly recovered.)

I could go into a long rant about how Christian mores and values toward nudity were enormously different in centuries past, evident in over a thousand years of traditional Christian art.

Keep in mind that most of all recorded Christian history happened in a place called "not America". No, I'm serious. Google it.

I think it's called Europe or something and they still have a much more casual view of the topics of sex and nudity than we do. I think with their topless beaches, something like our "Girls Gone Wild" is just redundant, indulgent and silly looking to them.

But that is not really my goal or overarching point here.

I guess I am not trying to stir up a debate per se about sax and violins on television and in movies. I'm not even saying Europe's values are "better". Just throwing stuff out there for consideration.

If you thought my point is lobbying for more sex and nudity in our media and culture, then you missed it. Big time.

But what if our kids were constantly told that sex is beautiful, natural and healthy and should be respected and highly valued, versus it being treated as "dirty", simply because it makes us so uncomfortable to even talk about it?

Just an idea.

At this point, especially if you are not a Christian, you might be looking at the sensational title I gave to this blog ("Sin is FUN!") and be thinking to yourself, "hey wait a second, jerko, nudity and sex do not equal sin!"

Maybe that's my point.

Can sex be used to sin? Can it be casually misused and maliciously abused to horribly hurt others and damage ourselves, often permanently?

Yeah. Obviously.

But I also think our reaction to this reality can either be mature and constructive or knee-jerk and destructive. Taking a minute to really think about it certainly couldn't hurt.

Especially if you happened to do the deed yourself at some point, made some little humans in your likeness and you plan on passing on your opinions and values to them.

(Next... Part Two - Booze: "Yummy" or just "An aphrodisiac"?)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bingo! - by Steve Miller Band

On this Father's Day, I am reminded of how lucky and grateful I am that my dad and mom both listened to so much great music when I was growing up. Stevie Wonder, The Moody Blues and Steely Dan were regular fare when I walked in the door from school each day.

To this day, I still can picture myself excitedly asking dad one afternoon if I could put on the The Joker record, at our home in Hampton Bays, N.Y., when I was still in grade school. Again, I consider myself lucky that dad bought and played records by artists like Joe Walsh and doubly so for ones by Steve Miller Band, who remains one of my all time favorites.

On June 15th, Steve Miller released Bingo!, his first studio album in 17 years and I just had the chance to listen to it several times. If you are already a fan of Steve's vocals and his literally lifelong infatuation with the 12 bar blues, you will love this album.

Although it is being touted as a tribute album, with no originals, there are certainly some benefits to that. He caters directly to his strengths and doesn't attempt to reinvent himself for 2010 or even meld his blues/rock strengths with the bubble gum pop trends of the day, like so much of Abracadabra (1982).

Stylistically, I think it is most reminiscent of the sincere effortlessness of the many blues songs on The Joker (1973) with only rare and very subtle nods in songs like Come On to the psychedelic staples of Fly Like An Eagle (1976).

Steve Miller himself described the album as, "... a party record, man. It's about getting up and getting ready to dance. It's like the fraternity party gigs I used to play in college. I went through and picked all my favorite tunes that I really, really loved. I wanted to make this record forever; it started off as just kind of a goof, and then it got real serious."

Though he hasn't had a studio release in almost two decades, he has remained fairly active touring and you can tell he had his mind largely toward songs that would work well in concert.

Typical for a Steve Miller BAND release, he goes out of his way to let others shine, sharing some of the lead vocals with Sonny Charles of the Checkmates and even intertwines some guitar solos with Joe Satriani, of all people.

Fortunately, Satriani is very reserved and controlled for this obvious blues (more than rock) album. If you didn't know he guested on the CD, Joe's riffs might even go unnoticed against Steve's equally great guitar work, aside from maybe some sharp, well done lines in Sweet Soul Vibe.

The album has 3 covers by Jimmie Vaughn (yes, Stevie Ray's brother) as well as B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" (1964), Earl King's 1960 "Come On" and Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talking" (1957).

Steve's own guitar work is as tasteful and warm as ever, incredibly smooth and precise without being cold or overproduced. It you're already a SMB fan, get this CD now and get a head start on playing it over and over this summer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How To Tell If Facebook Is Right For YOU

Our Photos - Happy AND fulfilled!
Photo 1 of 237

It is already halfway through 2010 and by now you almost certainly have had friends and family tell you about some of Facebook's many useful benefits and features such as, "why aren't you on Facebook" and "everybody is on Facebook".

If you just recently joined or you feel pressured into checking it out, this is perfectly normal, as we all want people to like us and we want them to think that we like them.

But jumping in feet first without more information has left some people dissatisfied and so these following helpful, easy to remember tips can let you know beforehand whether or not the world of Facebook is the right fit for you.

1) Friends

Not unlike real life, friends are the foundational concept of Facebook. What it is really "all about". The first thing you will notice after a day or two online is that you still only have about 20 friends and each of them have over 300. This is fairly normal at first. If you want to know how many friends you "should" end up having, then use this simple formula:

Count the number of real (touchable, humanoid) friends you have in life. To make it easier to decide who qualifies, just ask yourself if they would come to bail you out of jail at 2:00 in the morning for public indecency. No? Then don't count them. Same goes for family and relatives. Now multiply the number you arrive at by 100.

This is the number to shoot for. Do not feel frustrated if it takes a while. You will break the 100 mark, 200 mark etc. before you know it, since sending friend requests to every single one of your 20 friend's friends will expand your list exponentially. That means it will grow faster and faster. And sending friend requests will be the only thing you do for the first month or two. Besides agonizingly watching your friend count like it is the very measure of your soul's worth.

2) Communication

When you are in line at the movies or the Jamba Juice at the mall, do you ever blurt out things like, "I love this weather!" or "my kids are driving me nuts!", to nobody in particular? Good. One of the basic premises of FB is blurting out things, sort of an electronic Tourette's outlet.

As you sit before the screen, just type the first thing that comes to mind, however illogical, visceral, inane or cryptic. If you decide later that your irritable bowel or parking ticket were less than stimulating conversation (zero comments or replies), then you can always just click the 'X' and delete it! You will notice right away that almost everyone doesn't use that handy feature at one time or another.

But if you are one of those type personalities that is much more reserved and compelled to fitfully weigh how the average reader or the majority will judge your every word, then Facebook is still a great place for you.

In fact, believe it or not, most of FB is made up of people who are equally reticent and silent. They are called "lurkers" or "creepers" and spend most of their time online reading the strange ramblings of the same exact 20 or so of their 300 friends. They almost never post anything new or original themselves, except for the occasional, "don't you hate people who make <fill in the blank> their status update?!" type complaints.

Some assume that since FB is a "social networking" site, that networking socially will be commonplace or expected. Not always true.

Ever notice how dinner parties usually have people break into the same small cliques of 2 or 3, with the occasional solitary stragglers here and there who are eavesdropping? Life imitates art and the Internet imitates life, albeit awkwardly.

Obnoxious jerks are still obnoxious jerks (just more vocal) and wallflowers are still wallflowers (just more lurkier).

And do you notice there is also always that one person at the party who had too much to drink and is in the middle of the room yelling out something indecipherable to nobody in particular? They will be your daily "News Feed". Enjoy.

3) Photos

If someone you have not seen for a while walks up to you at Bed, Bath and Beyond or say, your local yummy Jamba Juice™ and says hello, do you immediately, without saying a word, pull out a wallet full of pictures of your grandkids? Perfect!

Then you will truly love the free picture upload feature of Facebook, just as soon as one of your grandkids shows you how to use it for the 4th or 5th time and you finally write it down. Imagine being able to whip out entire albums of photos and forcing people to flip through every single one before you have to say hello (or goodbye). Pretty cool, right?

Another great feature of FB pictures is to convey things of great value and importance to us, like the notions that we truly look happier than others in life and can afford to take expensive vacations.

Did you know that in olden times, to prove they were more fulfilled than their friends and families, people used to be forced to do the same thing with something called "slides"? This was back in the 1800s and 1900s. But those friends and families could also simply make excuses for not coming over to see them. No more.

4) Politics and Religion

While these are two proverbial off limits topics for parties and the workplace, the Internet has finally provided an outlet for people to have a civil, carefully thought out conversation on both issues.

Nobody has used it this way yet, but it is nice to know we can. In the meantime, blurting out things about "those damn liberals" and "oh god, I got an F in Math!" is a stumbling start in that general direction.

One of the ways that FB is most like real life is the ability to truly and permanently offend and alienate people with your opinions about politics and religion. If this is something you already enjoy, then you will definitely appreciate the ever fluctuating size of your friends list.

Few things are as effective in estranging others, except for maybe asking a girl who is not pregnant, "how many months along are you?". But remember, thanks to Facebook Photos feature, you can now do that as well.

5) Games

As the world's most popular social networking site, it is only normal for Facebook to have a side feature which eats up all the time you could spend actually socializing or networking. The graphics are undeniably between OK and mediocre and some of the games are now even virus free.

These time swallowing monsters also create the perfect opportunity to get other family members signed up on FB, so they too can connect with friends and family.

Just kidding! This is so you can secretly log on as them and send yourself Farmville gifts. But don't forget, this is confusing when their friends try to Instant Message them, so always log out of the IM portion when you are not really you.

One of the other benefits of games is that they are truly an enabling tool for the silent majority online, the aforementioned lurkers. Instead of feeling guilty about only reading and silently criticizing how stupid other people's posts are (while almost mustering the courage to post something themselves), now lurkers can just tell themselves they had to connect and feed their stupid llamas anyway.

6) Wisdom

Some people are truly far too wise for this world. We do not deserve them or their life changing parables. So, now we get to read them every day. Do you like to read the Bible? Good, 'cause you're gonna. Two to three verses every morning.

Wanna "HIDE" that godly Christian friend who just wants to love your soul and use scripture to save it (and 290 of his 300 friends' souls)? Go ahead, you foul sinner. Just "HIDE" the only person who really cares about you. Hope you sleep well at night.

It's like having 4 or 5 Dalai Lamas (not the kind you feed) lovingly send you a precious, golden nugget of magical truth to your Inbox each and every day.

Born and raised in Tibet, I am sure he has an equally weak command of English spelling and grammar. Just dig past those typos for those golden nuggets! There'll be more tomorrow!


Facebook is certainly not for everybody, but if you are not already on it, you might be really weird, a social misfit, etc. You were probably picked on a lot at school for dressing funny, for instance. But honestly, don't be afraid to check it out. Especially if you like making fun of people.

The good news is that guilt and awkwardness will force many people to accept you as a friend on Facebook. At least 300 people. Even if most of them would never bail you out of jail at 2:15 AM for peeing in your neighbor's hydrangeas. They still count. And out of those 300, at least 20 will faithfully blurt out something random every single day and 1 or 2 of those might even say something you find funny or mildly interesting.

If that's your idea of a good time, then Facebook might be for you. You can always "HIDE" the super religious and political friends. Plus, the games are OK, I guess.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why I Love Norton

You're way smarter than me, Norton. You just tell ME what to do.

Here is a typical conversation between me and my best pal, Norton:

Me: *right-click* - "Disable Norton Firewall".

Norton: WHOAH. Do you want me to disable my Firewall? Click YES or NO.

Me: Um.... WTH? *click* - "YES".

Norton: Disabling the Firewall is stupid. Last chance to not do it. Disable Firewall? Click YES for dumb or NO for smart.

Me: Dangit! *loud click* - "YES"!

Norton: Warning - you have just disabled your Firewall. Click OK to confirm.

Me: ARGH!!!! *Pat smash mouse* - "OK"!

Norton: That was just retarded. We wanted to hide the disable option altogether, because of dummies like you, but were not allowed. We will remind you it is disabled every 10 minutes. Or maybe 5. OK, every 3 minutes.

Me: ....................... !

(1 minute later...)
Norton: Did you know your Firewall is disabled?

Me: $%*&^*^$ !!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Emotion & Commotion - by Jeff Beck

Just finished and loved the first listening of the new release, "Emotion & Commotion" by Jeff Beck.

This is one of those CDs you immediately know you will hear and enjoy a hundred subtleties you missed, once you listen to it the 2nd and 3rd time.

Beck's first studio album in seven years, it is an interesting and well blended mixture of blues, mellow rock and classical.

Long known as a veteran rock guitar virtuoso, Beck has you wondering what you'll even hear at first. You half expect a barrage of distortion and blistering scales to break out any second, but it remains controlled and deliberate.

I am not as much of a fan of the more orchestral, "musical" parts (recorded with a 64-piece orchestra) as I am the bluesier instrumentals, but you have to admire the sheer scope of merging them so seamlessly.

The crying guitar over strings on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" might be the album's best crafted example of this combination of the genres.

The four tracks with guest vocals were well placed, particularly the subtle take of "I Put a Spell on You" with Joss Stone, that certainly does justice to the Hawkin's classic.

The two later threaten to throw off all previous restraint with the building intensity of "There's No Other Me", only to see Beck bring it right back down again with the sad wail of the last instrumental, "Elegy For Dunkirk".

Unsurprisingly, Jeff's signature, melodic and understated solos effortlessly shine above the rest.

Monday, April 5, 2010

04/05/10 - Where were YOU when it happened?

Tiger works the crowd

April 5th . . . 2010 . . . a day . . . that will live in inferiority. The fact that Tiger Woods went out and played golf again today is the LEADING story on, and

Most people are less concerned about it than belly button lint, but there are reports of ONE man that was overjoyed when he woke up and saw that Tiger was hogging the headlines (hint: he works in D.C. in a "big white house").

Forget the fact that oil (and tomorrow's gas) just hit it's highest price since October 2008.

And pay no mind to the crisis that the unemployment rate for "workers ages 16 to 29 was 15.2% in March, the highest rate since 1948"....

These things have to wait, America. Somebody who cheated on his wife is swinging a golf club. I'm ****ing riveted.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sausage Dirt McMuffin

A disheveled hobo came toward me and asked me for a dollar. I felt bad when I shooed him away and he then walked over and offered me his only

Sausage Dirt McMuffin