11/23/09

Feeling thankful just in time for Thanksgiving

I went for a walk this morning, and was thinking about some things that are going on in my life right now, and started to feel pretty thankful. My parents had just called to tell me that they’d bought me plane tickets to fly home for Thanksgiving, so that probably kick started things off. I actually didn’t even realize that it is the Thanksgiving season, until I’d thought through a few specific things that I am very thankful for right now. When I realized “Hey! This is Thanksgiving after all.” I thought, I might as well share some of those things on this blog. These are not in order.

1. Great room mates. I’m not just saying that. I really live with some great guys. I love how we get along, and often do things together and are actually friends. When one of us walks in the door, we great each other, or say something funny, and often get involved in what everyone else is doing. We like eating together, going places together, having parties at our apartment, and even very rarely cleaning together! And joking and laughing. That happens a lot. So thanks Micah, Cory and Robert. You guys are ALL the best.

2. My church. Getting involved there has been one of the best things I’ve done, and one of the reasons I’m still in southern California. I really feel like I’m a part of the body there, and that people care about what is going on with me. We’re trying to figure out what God intends for us here in La Mirada. We don’t quite know yet, but there are a lot of people that do want to serve the Lord through and outside of our church, and I think that is great. And we like spending time together. My community group, men’s accountability group, and New Commandment Men’s Ministry are all very fun and encouraging. I think almost every Tuesday I come back from meeting with the guys feeling encouraged and refreshed, and having enjoyed my time immensely. Through all of the things there, the great worship, the great community, and our attempting a great mission, I have grown a lot closer to God, and become more excited about Him. Really, I think I’m not just saying that.

3. My Family. I’ve always felt very thankful for them. I know most people don’t have it nearly as good as I do in this respect. Having a family that loves each other is one of the best joys in life I think. We always look forward to seeing each other, and talk on the phone quite a bit. I have some of my best laughs with my family. If I had to pick people to be on a deserted island with, they would be in the very top spots. Along with survival experts. I’m quite excited to see them this Thanksgiving and Christmas. One cool thing is that I don’t mean just my immediate family, but also my extended family. Christmas and camping with them in the summer is always the most relaxing, fun, exciting and often meaningful time of the year for me. Not to say that my time in southern California isn’t any of those things, see the above for notes on that. I know my family loves me very much, and that makes life very good.

4. My other friends. I’ve got some good friends. They know who they are. In particular, I’m recently thankful for my friend Greg coming down to surprise me at our reading night this week. That was pretty cool. I’ve got a lot of people that enjoy doing stuff or just hanging out, and are also good for conversation and encouragement.

5. My job. I like it a lot. Its fun to work with people, and do something that I believe is helping people. I never dread going there. I get to have some fun interactions, and some difficult ones that are usually good in the end. My co-workers are pretty nice, fun to talk to, and so are the residents. I feel like I’m getting to know them a bit more, and trying to ask them more questions about themselves. I really feel that God led me to this job, and for that I’m thankful. Its nice to know you’re doing what He intends you to do (I think.)

6. God. Speaking of Him, I’ve felt blessed by Him a lot recently, especially in the above areas. I also think He’s been leading me personally and letting me come closer to him, though I’m not nearly as close as I would like.

7. There’s a lot more. I think I’ve been really blessed in almost every area of my life. I’m very thankful.

11/15/09

10/24/09

The Lord of the Rings

Yes, I'm a big Lord of the Rings fan. I've been re-watching them over the last few weeks with my friends William and Kerri and Robert. Last night Thatcher and Laura also joined us to finish things off with the Return of the King.

I think my favorite character in the movies might be Aragorn. In a lot of movies, I like characters because they're I can identify with them, or I can see their flaws and connect with them as a person. I don't know if I can do that with Aragorn. I think I really like him because he's not like a lot of modern characters in movies. His only real flaw is that he isn't completely confident in his abilities and destiny, and I don't really think thats a flaw.

The thing that stands out in my mind the most is just a random shot in Return of the King when he is fighting some orcs. Really its only because of his contrast with Legolas that I can pinpoint that moment. A little bit before, Legolas is single-handedly brining down a whole oliphant by swinging and climbing up the legs, slicing the supports for the mini-tower of enemies on its back, and finishing it off by sliding down the trunk and landing on his feet. That's cool, but he definitely looks like he knows its cool, and tat was part of why he did it. Soon afterwards, we see a shot of Aragorn battling several enemies at once. Even though he's the heir of the throne of Gondor, he doesn't have the pomp, or flashy moves. He actually looks really tired and kind of sad. He doesn't really want to be fighting, but he's doing it because he knows he has to.

Sometimes when I'm writing a blog post, I feel like I'm back in school, writing a paper. Just now I was sitting here, trying to think of a good conclusion, that re-stated my thesis, and really got at the heart of the issue. I couldn't come up with anything though. And thats whats nice about not being in school.

10/12/09

The Cloud

I think I know what is going to happen with computing in the next few years. I don't usually write posts like this, but I've been reading about it, and thinking about how much we use the internet and computers now, and it interests me a lot for some reason.

More and more our computer experiences are being routed to the internet. We do almost everything on here. Our pictures used to be locked away on just our hard drives, now we instantly upload them to facebook or that photo website I don't know how to spell. Some people still mostly use an email client (you can tell I've been reading) but others like me have switched to a browser based system like gmail.com. If you want, you can even write papers, make slide shows, keep track of your calendars all online, in the browser thanks to google's suite of applications like google docs and google calendar.

Speaking of google, I think that is where this is all going. Google is working on a new operating system, Google Chrome OS. According to them, its supposed to be really lightweight, and it is designed primarily to get you on the web. And it makes sense, most of the time when I, or any other casual computer users I know, turn on or open up their computers, it is to go online. I think they've got the right idea.

But I think Google Chrome OS won't just get you on the internet, it will be just the internet. I think when you open it up, it would make sense that you are instantly in the browser. No desktop where you have to click on the internet (I should write a post later about how impatient the digital age is making us) to open it up, it is just there. It might open to a home screen like Google's browser Chrome has right now, which would have your favorite websites along with any applications you might use. I say use, not have, because I think they will be all based on the internet eventually. Why have separate applications? There's really no need, if we've all got wireless, and Google has some really big servers out there somewhere to store all of our stuff. When you put your pictures online, they just go right to the internet. You save your documents there, play your games there, record your music there. The internet is getting fast enough that anything done on your computer could soon be done just as quickly online.

Most people probably still want a copy of their files and things on their own computer, just in case they're ever out of the range of the internet. I think the future operating systems will accomodate that, and still allow you to save your stuff on your own hard drive. But you won't even know you're doing it. The primary place you save them will be in the browser, and it will quietly also make you your own personal copy. If you're ever away from a router, you'll still go to the same place in your browser, but it will recognize that you're not connected, and bring up the local file instead. Any changes you make will be saved, and then the instant you're back online, they'll be updated on Google's server.

The whole point of the "Cloud" is that you'll be able to get all your stuff anywhere. If you don't want to bring your computer on the plane, no big deal, just use the one built into the back of the chair in front of you, and you'll be online with instant access to everything. The computer disappears, and the information becomes what is important.

I don't know why that makes me excited. I think I just like technology. I hope its not unhealthy. There are a lot of science fiction books in which something like the above scenario leads to a totalitarian regime where people aren't allowed to have feelings anymore. I don't think that is going to happen. If people don't have feelings, it will not be because the government is going to make them take pills every day to suppress them, it will be because they gave them up for a cheep laugh at a "fat kid gets pwned" video on youtube. I don't like the idea of that. I don't really like the internet at all sometimes. But for some reason, we all use it more and more every year.

I have other thoughts on where the internet will go in the more distant future, but I think Cloud computing is the next step. It may be a rainy day for humanity, or there might be silver dollars in that silver lining.

10/11/09

I really like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Its really funny and exciting and pirates are pretty cool.

Something that I've been thinking about in the last few years, is why I like or do not like things based on the masses. I really liked the movie when it first came out, and so did just about everybody else. Then they came out with the other two movies, which weren't as good, but were really popular and made a lot of money. I don't think I mind that, but there's something in me that wants to be original and like things that aren't popular, and dislike things that are. Pirates of the Caribbean makes me swing all over those feelings.

I like the first movie a lot. But everyone else did too, so then I wasn't as big of a fan. Then the other two movies came out, and those were really big in the box office, so, even though I think there were parts of them I did like, I mostly said they weren' very good. But it quickly became popular to not like them, and that sort of makes me want to.

So I feel very mixed. I do like the first one a lot. I think it is genuinely a great movie. Most people tend to roll their eyes at it though, and part of me then thinks I shouldn't like it. But I do. I also like parts of the other two, just not as much.

I may still be operating under my popularity/uniqueness principal. It is really hard to tell sometimes. But I at least think that I like Curse of the Black Pearl for genuine reasons.

7/27/09

They mysticism of an orange light

I think about a few things a lot, things that don't have anything to do with what's going on around me. Little things out of my childhood. One of those is when this guy came to our house when I was 12 or so and tried to sell us a vacuum by showing us how it worked on our floor. There's also the time I pretended to plant corn with some cousins around a tree out back. Another is the orange light from the radio in my Dad's old rusty green Ford. I liked that light.

4/30/09

Your vote doesn't count

Look over on the right and you can see a little place that you can vote for the thing that "is the best." I have to tell you, probably only about 4 people have voted on that. Every time I visit my own blog, I vote again, and I vote for mistletoe. That is why its winning by so much.

2/5/09

What really happened.

I was always rather large for my age. I don’t know why it was; both of my parents were quite small. When I was seven years old, I was as tall as my mother, and passed my father up quite soon after that. It made things a bit difficult since my father had built the house thinking it would only be filled with people near his own height. He never thought he’d have a son almost twice as tall as he was.
If you’re not particularly big, you might think that being larger than everyone else would make things easy in life. That may be true for some, but it wasn’t for me. It just meant that I was a bigger target. My friends around town at first looked to me to be their protector and or champion, but that slowly changed when they would find me out in the meadows instead of pushing other kids around in the town square.
I rather liked the meadows; the grass growing up so high you could hide in it, and the myriad of little insects parading around on the soil and plants like some kind of royal processional. There were rabbits and birds and moles and squirrels, all minding their own business and not even really paying attention to me. I loved being near the animals, but even more I loved the flowers.
One of the worst beatings I ever got was when I was seven. I was walking into the town from being out in the meadow, my arms full of several different bouquets I had plucked and arranged. I hadn’t really thought of what I would do with them all, I just enjoyed making them. Some of the older, bigger boys didn’t think that was what I should be doing with my time however. They let me know by punching and kicking me until I bled from several different places. After that, I never again made the mistake of bringing any of my creations back with me, and I tried not to let anyone see me going in and out of town.
My free time grew more restricted as I got older. Normally a boy follows in his father’s footsteps for a career, and if that had been the case I would have been a quite happy carpenter. But my size made me an obvious candidate for conscription. I was drafted into the army at the ripe age of fourteen; at which point I already towered over most of the men. It was alright at first. Most of the other soldiers respected me for my height and strength. That didn’t last long when we began the training however.
Most of combat training involved running, which I was good at, and practice combat, which I was not. My first day of sparring, everyone avoided me like the plague. Finally near the end of the day however, one brazen older man with a bald head, thick bare arms, and a scar from his cheek to his throat said he’d have a go. The fight ended rather quickly, with me down on the ground pleading with him to move his spear away from my throat. After that things got more difficult.
I never really understood the camaraderie that I would see between some of the other men. They never seemed to be kind to each other. They were always mocking one another, and the closest thing to a hug was a punch on the arm or in the stomach. But they would laugh together at others or each other. My closest friend was a wild dog that I found near the restroom area in the woods one day. At first he was afraid of me, but when I gave him a few pieces of dried meat, he followed me back into the camp. After that he stayed by my bed while I slept, and at the outskirts of the camp during the day, waiting for me to find a few free moments when I could sneak away and play with him. Those times grew fewer and further between when our company got on the move and headed east however.
There was some age-old enemy that we were going off to fight. I didn’t really understand it, because even though I was twenty, I didn’t much care for that sort of thing. When we’d all gather together to hear an inspiring speech, or get some instructions, I was usually thinking of being back at home, or I was being poked and punched so much by the tightly packed crowd that I couldn’t concentrate on what was going on.
As we made our way to the east, I started to grow worried. I knew there would eventually be some sort of fighting, and I didn’t want to be around when it happened. I tried running away one night, but didn’t make it very far. Its hard hiding when you’re over nine feet tall and the only foliage around is short grass and trampled flowers. After my beating, I didn’t try running away again. I figured if I was going to die, it might be easier to be stabbed in a battle than beaten to death by a crowd. Quicker anyway.
After a few weeks of marching, we finally stopped and made a more permanent camp. I kept hearing that the enemy was nearby, but I never got a chance really to see them. That is, until they made me yell at them.
I suppose its a good strategy, and it makes sense if you want to conserve manpower. The general had this idea when he saw me while on the march one day. I wasn’t filled in until a few hours before my performance was to begin. Their idea was that I would go and stand in front of our army and put on a show of being tough and scary, and frighten off the enemy. Sometimes in battles, the opposing generals would send out their champions to fight each other, and whoever's champion was left alive, well that side would declare victory for the battle or the whole war. From what I heard, it rarely actually worked out that way. Usually the opposing force, when seeing their champion cut down, would rush forward, and the battle would engage as normal. I tried to point this out, and explain how I wasn’t all that great of a fighter anyway, but they wouldn’t let me back out. The general’s idea was that I would scare the enemy into submission, because of my size, and then we wouldn’t have to do any fighting at all. Some of the men looked disappointed when they heard that.
There were others however, who didn’t really want to fight. It wasn’t that they didn’t enjoy killing other people, it was more that they didn’t want to die. The night before I was supposed to go out and do all the scaring, I was woken in the middle of the night by a spear butt to the stomach.
“Hey you, you’d better do a good job tomorrow,” they whispered roughly. “‘Cause we’ve got your little dog, and if you don’t we’ll make him howl for days before we kill him.” To emphasize their point, they cut the dog across the back with a spear. They’d roughly hobbled him with thick rope so he couldn’t run.
I didn’t bother pointing out the lapse in logic of their threat. If I didn’t do a good job, there would probably be a rather large battle, and they most likely wouldn’t care about torturing my dog as much as they would care about keeping themselves alive. I thought it prudent to do my best anyway though, for my life as well as that of the dog. I was really getting rather panicky myself at the possibility of my eminent death, so I resolved to be as tough and scary looking as possible, to frighten off the enemy.
Things went rather well the first day. I put on a very gruff voice and some heavy armor, and went out to have a yell. I stood at the top of a hill in front of our ranks. The enemy was across a valley through which ran a beautiful little stream. The commanders had given me a few lines to say, things about defying them, and how I would kill any champion they sent out to fight me. I did my best to sound scary, because I just wanted them all to leave so we could go home. Fortunately they didn’t send anyone out to fight me.

Unfortunately, they didn’t leave either. That was forty days ago, and we’re still here, camped across from them. Every day for the past forty days I’ve gone out and yelled the same thing, and they never send anyone to fight me, but they never start packing up either. They mostly just stand and look at me rather frightened. I think I must be doing a good job, because there’s some tough, battle scarred looking men over there, and even they won’t come out to have a go.
I’m walking out to the field now. My armor weighs almost five thousand shekels, so it is rather a bother to put on every day. I’ve also got a huge spear, and there’s a young man who carries my shield for me. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he doesn’t really want to have anything to do with me. I have, however gotten a little bit more respect from the men around camp since the enemy appears to be so frightened. The ones who are holding my dog told me that if I could frighten the enemy off today, they’d give him back to me. I’m going to try and be extra fierce.
Now I’m out in front of our lines. I’m giving the usual bit about defying their god and how they should send out their champion. The enemy’s lines seem a bit different today; I think I can even hear some of them near the middle laughing. That’s disconcerting. Hold on, somethings going on over there. They’re making way for someone to get though. Why its just a young boy, quite younger than me. He’s making his way down into the valley towards the stream. He’s just got a staff and sling. Still, I’d better say something tough sounding, maybe I can frighten him off. “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” Oh, that was pitiful. Maybe if I curse him by my gods.
He stopped at the stream in the middle of the valley to pick up some stones. Its such a nice stream. There’s a lot of lilies growing nearby, and some other flowers I haven’t seen before. Now he’s coming towards me again. I’ll try the some more cursing. That was a bit better. He seemed a bit taken aback. Now I’ll threaten him personally. “Come here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” That was better. Not bad at all actually. Maybe it’ll do the trick. No, he’s saying something. I missed the first part, its something about God being on his side. I wonder which one he means. Now he’s saying he’ll give MY carcass to he birds of the air and the beasts of the field. I wish I’d thought of saying “carcass.” He’s saying a bit more about his god, and how he’ll deliver us into the boy’s hands. He’s rather ruddy, and I have to admire his courage. He’s only half my size, but walking towards me with quite a bit of confidence. He must really believe his God can do amazing things.
I just heard a dog yelp from behind my lines. Probably meant to be an encouragement. Now the men are yelling. They’re saying I should rush the boy. Well maybe it’ll work, maybe when he sees me charging him, he’ll turn around and run. He looks pretty determined, but its my only chance. I don’t want to have to fight him. Maybe I can just nock him over and pin him down or something.
I’m running at him. Blast this armor, I can hardly move in it. He’s put a rock in his sling, and is starting to twirl it around. No fear, I’ve got a rather thick helmet. I’m getting tired very quickly, trying to run in this armor. Oh, I’ve tripped and there goes my hat. He keeps spinning the sling. Looks like he’s about to throw! I’d better duck.

1/20/09

Perfect Timing

I watched the inauguration this morning. I turned down a couple of substitute teaching jobs so I could. It was fun. And it turned out to be perfect, because I got another call right after it was over, and went in to sub starting at 10:30, but getting paid for the whole day. It was perfect timing.

Or maybe it wasn't. Almost the second I walked into the classroom, a voice came over the intercom simply saying "Attention faculty and students, we are entering a code red lockdown. Students on the playground, please go to the cafeteria." Fortunately, almost all of my 20 kindergarten and first graders were already inside.

We stayed inside for 4 hours. We weren't allowed to go outside for anything; not lunch, not recess, not even, sadly, to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, I only had one little boy poop his pants. Unfortunately, bladders are harder to control, and about 7 of the kids ended up having to go number one in  a trash can.

Everyone seemed to have a pretty good time though, and to be honest, it was one of my better days subbing. I had an aide that was a lot of help, and the kids were quite good for being locked in a room for 4 hours without a hint of sunshine, and no lunch until the end. I think I'm actually thankful for the whole thing. Especially that I hadn't drunken a lot of water earlier.