Saturday, December 30, 2006

"This is a SICK world we're living in! Sick people!"

(Two points for the movie reference...)

No, nobody did anything weird or mean to me. No sociopath slashed my tires or threatened to remove my eyeballs with his elbow. (Okay, I thought of LOTS of gross ways a sociopath could threaten to remove my eyeballs, but I've got a wide divergence of readership, and thought it best to edit out the uber-gross descriptions.)

So why the title?

I am really, REALLY sick.

Severe chills and fever, muscle cramps, headache, outrageous neckache, unproductive cough from lungs of iron, and worst of all, I feel stoned out of my gourd.

I seriously haven't felt this way since I used to smoke pot. The last time I did that was about 1988 I think, but suddenly I remember the delirium. Only this time, laughing would aggravate my neck and head, thus hurting really bad. So I promise not to enjoy this at all.

Keep in mind, too, that I'm not griping, I'm just saying.

No "woe is me because I'm alone," because saying it doesn't change it. Actually, if you think about it, saying it makes you more alone, because people really don't like to be around complainers. (And at this point, at least one person in the world is saying, "Sure! NOW he gets it!")

There have been a lot of changes for me in 2006, which I think would have to be the understatement of the year (pun definitely intended there). But if I dig deep enough, I know that every one of them is my own fault - even the ones that on the first few layers could be blamed on others.

It seems rather fitting to be stuck in bed with the flu or walking pneumonia or whatever this is as the year draws to a close. Alone in my apartment with no one so say, "Oh, you poor thing! What can I do?"

While I clutch my head in pain with every attempted cough, elsewhere people will be singing "Auld Lang Syne," which in Latin means,"Old acquaintances should be forgotten and never brought to mind. Should old acquaintances try to talk, it'll only bring up old anxieties." At least this is how some have been interpreting this since I sort of disappeared in June.

In reality, it's old Scottish and means something like "times gone by," but nobody really knows for sure. So I'm sticking to my translation as being the authoritative one. After all, if enough people repeat it, it'll become truth. That's what happened with evolution, right?

So, if you happen to read my blog and want to send me a cheery "hello," this weekend would be a good choice for that gesture. In my imitation-stonedednessosityism, it might even make me giggle and make 2007 start a whole lot better than 2006 ended up. (I promise to giggle quietly.)

Oh, and here's your "sick world" clue:

Happy New Year, folks. Emphasis on the "happy."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Presidential Peace

I just now heard Gerald Ford died yesterday. That made me a little sad - probably because he was the first President I really remember from my childhood.

I have a memory from 1976 of getting into a fight with some kid at the Day Care Center because he was pro-Jimmy Carter and I was pro-Ford. At the age of nine, we weren't exactly students of the intracacies of presidential qualifications. The true source of the conflict was that his dad was going to vote for Carter, and mine was casting his ballot for Ford.

I'm nowhere near as passionate about politics as I was then - quite the opposite. Frankly, I can stand neither liberal fault-finding nor conservative conspiracy-theorizing. I hate politics in their entirety - both because they are so ludicrous, and yet are so necessary.

But the one thing that really bothers me is that ever since Nixon's fiasco of criminal activity in Watergate, the press has viewed the office of the President with disdain. In the last few decades, it's been open season on the man in the White House. (Insert Dick Cheney joke here if you must.) Yes, being in the public eye makes you fair game. But poachers who will kill at any cost are a danger to any society.

I remember that one misstep on the steps of Air Force One turned Gerald Ford into being portrayed as a klutz. He was lampooned on Saturday Night Live to the giggles of millions, but the press began broadcasting every one of his golf and tennis gaffes.

Not one of us could live up to the scrutiny of being on camera 24 hours a day. Never mind that Ford was a college football All-Star. He was a clumsy oaf because the press said so.

Today, George W. Bush is portrayed as a brainless chimp. I've never been behind the scenes as he discusses the war in Iraq with his cabinet members and advisors, so I can't explain all of his decision-making rationale. And I've never personally met the man, so I can't speak to his character.

But I CAN say this: You don't get to the most powerful office in the world by being an idiot. Whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, the President of the United States of America will always have my respect because of the office he holds, the responsibility he bears, and the authority with which he has been entrusted. I may not always like him, I will rarely agree with him, but I will always respect him.

My encouragement is: Debate the issues, stand up for your rights and beliefs, operate within the boundaries of the laws of our nation. But do it without using childish and uninformed insults like "idiot." We'll all be better off. As the apostle Peter said, "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1Pet. 2:17)

And to Gerald Ford, I say, "Rest in peace, Mr. President."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Comic Marvel

Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed both comic books and drawing. Naturally, I thought it would be a pretty simple thing to combine those two loves into the ability to create my own comics.

Whoa. Easier said than done. Every foray into creative comic making was difficult, pitiful, or both.

Eventually, I broke down and bought this book:

While it certainly gave me an appreciation for what goes into the composition of comics pages and the creation of characters, it didn't help me actually make anything.

But lo and behold, tonight I discovered Plasq's Comic Life 1.2 on my Mac.

As soon as I fired it up, I loved the interface. Learning curve? Ha! Zero. Inside of three minutes, I'd made this:

Yeah, it's not exactly a creative, award-winning piece, but you get the idea. If you've got a Mac, check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Some of you who keep in contact with me via Verizon text messaging might be having hurt feelings right now because I seem unresponsive. It's not me - I'm only getting about half of the texts that people tell me they've sent. So, please don't be offended or think I'm dissing you. If I don't respond to a text or two within a reasonable amount of time, leave me a voicemail or email or something.

So I'm guessing this means it's probably about time to switch over from Wyoming to Indiana, phone-wise. Don't worry, I'll let you know when I make the change.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Busy, Nerdy, or Both?

I am running on adrenaline at work.

Imagine just learning to juggle and finally getting to the place where you can keep three tennis balls in the air. You're thinking, "I can do this, this is going to be possible," when someone throws in a bowling ball. Hmm... can I do THAT? "Yes, I'll adapt. I'll adjust."

Then another bowling ball is added...

and another.

Wow... am I doing this? I think I am...

Just think about one thing at a time as it comes... don't worry about the other four spheres in the air, all different sizes and velocities but each one requiring the same amount of mattention.

Suddenly, a chainsaw enters the mix...

Anyway, so maybe you've guessed I'm a bit busy. However, not so busy that at 6:30am that a little icon on someone's web page proclaiming their "Nerd Score" can't distract me.

I am nerdier than 10% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Distracted I was, the test I took. (That sentence sounds pretty funny if you read it aloud with a Yoda voice.)

With total honesty I answered the questions. I was sure I'd be told that yes, I was a nerd, but one of those cool ones like Steve Jobs. Not the poindexter pocket protecter kind of nerd, but the one who is smart, makes good money, and can still get the girl because he's a great cross between nerd and cool.

The test was tabulated, the score provided.

And I was disappointed.

"Not nerd."

I think they just didn't ask the right questions, maybe.

The computer's conclusion was: 90% scored higher (more nerdy), and 10% scored lower (less nerdy). What does this mean? Your nerdiness is "Not nerdy, but then again maybe not all that cool either."

A great way to start the day. Not nerdy, but not cool. Not Steve Jobs.

Yeah, maybe not, but at least I'm gonna be BUSY for the rest of the day...

Note: By the way, if you want to take the Nerd Test yourself, just click on the icon with my nerd score.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Chicken Jerky

You'd think that by the time you reach the age of 39.5, there wouldn't be much more to experience in life that would take you by surprise. "Been there, done that" by now, right? Well, I'm thinking there's still some tricks left up life's sleeve.

For example, tonight I ate at Taj Majal, a local Indian restaurant. Yep, you read that right: Indian food. The first time I partook of that Asian cusine (in preparation for a trip to India that was cancelled due to Taylor pretending like she was going to be born), I thoroughly disliked it.

I've now tried four or five Indian dishes, and they've ranged from mildly unpalatable to pretty okay. But tonight I had Chicken Tikka Masala, extra spicy. Man oh man oh man was it awesome! This could very possibly be my favorite food ever. At very least, it's in the top five.

This is what it looks like:

Yes, I know that this photograph looks remarkably similar to vomit. It's not just the picture... the food really does look like this in real life, too.

But it's goooooooooood....

And it's great to have a new favorite something, you know?

Did you see Steve Martin in the 1979 movie "The Jerk"? He was a white man (with absolutely no rhythm) being raised by a poor black family.

But one night, he heard nerdy white big band "music in a mellow mood" on the radio, and his feet started tapping. His fingers started snapping. This man, who had complained to his family about the blues ("There's something about those songs. They depress me.") finally found something that spoke to him.

Excitedly, he exclaimed, "Well, if THIS is out there, think how much MORE is out there!"

That's kind of how I'm feeling about Chicken Tikka Masala.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Call Me Phil

I don't know where people are hearing about my blog, but it's been picking up quite a bit of traffic in the last couple weeks. It's weird, because other than a small handful of folks from Cheyenne who keep in touch (as much as you CAN keep in touch with me, since I work all the time and rarely have time to respond), the traffic is coming from elsewhere.

Elsewhere. An interesting word. Where? Somewhere else. Elsewhere. Why doesn't it work for the other important questions, like "Who?" Someone else. Elsewho.

Some words are more expandable. Take, for example, "yesterday." It also works for "yesteryear." So why don't we utilize "yestermonth" or "yesterweek"? Because it's stupid, just like the idea of writing to a worldwide audience when you don't have anything to say.

It's kind of like the comic strips. Have you noticed that what used to be your favorites just seem like newspaper filler now? I may be wrong, but I remember Dagwood being funny when I was a kid.

Speaking of filler, have you noticed that you're still reading, but aren't really enjoying it? This blog entry is like the sawdust in the dogfood or the pig snouts in the hotdogs.

Why do you keep reading? Maybe you're hoping that some great comedic insight is just around the next paragraph. Sorry, it's not.

Others like it when I spill my guts about the constant turmoil that's resulted from my life choices. These folks are likely hoping that the sputum of my regrets will be hawked up in this virtual sink. (Nice. You gotta admit, that was a good metaphor right there.)

Some readers only respond when I quote Scripture and say they can see glimmers of "the old me" in there somewhere.

You know what? The old me is pretty much the current me - just in a different setting. I've always been teaching people what the Bible says ever since I started learning interesting things to be found in it. I still do, but lately my opportunities have been very small and largely inconsequential.

Lately, I've been thinking of this whole thing as being like a powerful creature being put in a zoo. Think of the animal who lived on the African plain, hunting for its food, while trying to avoid its natural enemies. It flourished in that environment, because its life was being lived the way it should be lived. But put it in a zoo, where there's a feeding schedule, no danger, and no stimulation, and what have you got? Same animal, same potential, but no opportunity to display it.

Is any of this making sense? Doesn't matter. This entry is like the song on the album that you fast-forward through to get to the next one. And if it's a good album, that next song will be worth it.

Note: This one was so dumb, I almost didn't post it at all. And you read it anyway. Four minutes of your life you'll never get back. Ha!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Office Life

Adjusting to life in cubicleville is proving a tad bit difficult. It's mostly culture shock - I've spent a good number of years having total mobility and flexibility of location and schedule. Now suddenly, I'm chained to my phone with the three-foot cable of my headset. Confined to the two walls and 20 square feet of my cubicle. All that's missing is the dumb pointy-haired boss.

Thank the Lord there's none of those here (my numerous bosses are neither dumb nor pointy-haired (and I'm not just saying that because this is a public forum (do you like my usage of nested parentheses? (I learned how to do this when I was a computer programmer (you also do it in algebra))))).

Office life in general is more difficult than other employment surroundings I've experienced. A trip to the bathroom (which thankfully frees you from the cubicle for a minute or two) becomes an exercise in how many different ways you can say "hi" to - or make small talk with - a guy throughout the day. Yes, there are 90 or 100 of us, but there seems to be a biological "schedule of need" (to put it politely), and so you tend to see the same guys on your visits.

At least the inertia of walking with a purpose keeps those conversations somewhat short. The difficult times are when you're a captive audience, trapped in your cubicle like a cornered animal.

Then there are the ocassional flurries of comedic quotes that grow old quickly. Steven Wright is the quintessential one-liner guy who people love to repeat. To death.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, or if you really feel the need to join in to one of these conversations and have no participatory ammunition, here are some of my favorites:

- Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

- I was arrested for selling illegal-sized paper.

- It doesn't matter what temperature the room is, it's always room temperature.

- He asked me if I knew what time it was. I said, "Yes, but not right now."

- My girlfriend asked me how long I was going to be gone on this tour. I said, "the whole time."

- I hate it when my foot falls asleep during the day because that means it's going to be up all night.

- I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

- I have the oldest typewriter in the world. It types in pencil.

- If you can't hear me, it's because I'm in parentheses.

- When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.

- Last week the candle factory burned down. Everyone just stood around and sang Happy Birthday.

- In my house on the ceilings I have paintings of the rooms above... So I never have to go upstairs.

- I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography.

So those are my favorites. At least, they WERE my favorites the first twelve times I heard them. Now, they're more like sharp stabby things with which a child might poke his little sister.

(But sometimes even THAT can seem funny... if you're the kid doing the poking.)

So what is going on in my brain besides that? There is a dull ache in my heart that longs to teach again. But I know it's going to be a very long time before that opportunity arises, if it ever does. I often wonder if I'm already teaching my final study:

I used to dream about teaching at the Calvary Chapel Bible College. Today, I happened to get a customer that works there. It was a poignant reminder that many dreams can be put permanently out of reach by bad choices.

So in the meantime, I'm guessing I'm going to have to learn what Paul somehow figured out:

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:11-13