Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Trouble with Arty

So this is the second little story I dug up from back in the day. I like this one. I came up with it while I was strolling through the mall and thought how crazy it would be if that suddenly happened to me. Good times.

High noon found the sprawling shopping mall as crowded as ever. The day had been mostly uneventful, if you could ever call a day at the mall that. People rushing this way and that, in and out in search of something was a totally normal occurrence. No one took something so arbitrary as seriously as Arty.

Sea gulls hovered lazily over the parking lot as Arty eased his small truck into the deserted back lot of the shopping center. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel vigorously as he stared forward through his super tinted windshield. His face was a mask of sheer determination. After taking a few long and slow breaths, he yanked the door open, threw himself out of the truck, and slammed the door closed behind him. His eyes were constantly moving as he slowly crossed the expansive and mostly empty lot. Arty was completely on edge; he trained himself to be so. He was half-way across the lot when his eyes widened with fear. The long high-pitched squeal from airborne gulls sent him from a steady walk to a full blown dash. The car filled portion of the lot filled his vision as the savage war cries of the sea birds filled his ears. He ran as fast he could towards the nearest vehicle, noting the massive V formation diving towards him in the reflection of the window. Arty's lungs burned as he maneuvered towards the front of the small sedan.

Arty vaulted forward suddenly, sliding on the hood of the car as the sea gulls dove on his former position. Arty rolled to his feet and continued running as half the airborne terrors impacted loudly on the windshield and hood. The rest of the gulls arched upwards to continue the pursuit. They could only chase him so far before Arty became lost int eh massive maze of cars. The sea gulls wheeled away angrily, frustrated by the quarry they had lost.

Arty made it to the front of the food court panting. Although he would have liked to take break, he knew he couldn't stop. Not yet. He straightened his clothing, made sure his shoe laces were tight, then pushed the door open. He began to run in a crouch directly towards the nearest trash can. He hadn't been noticed yet. He pulled an empty tray off the top as he took a peek at the massive amount of people consuming their meals. No sooner did his eyes crest the top of the can did he see a volley of fast food impact the other side.

Arty didn't hesitate. Using the tray as a shield; he began to race through the barrage of hamburgers and pizza slices. People growled and screamed through half-chewed food, hurling the rest of their meals as hard as they could at Arty as he passed. Seconds later, he was passed the food court and running head long passed angry shoppers. It was a paradox, really. Arty didn't really understand how he could make so many people furious at him without doing a single thing to them. From an early age, he came to realize that his presence alone drove any living thing furious. This was the case for every person and animal, with the exception of his parents. As far back as he could remember; Arty was always being chased by an angry mob. What skills Arty had to defend himself with had been learned at a price. Regardless of these constant attacks; he was a very kind person. Life this way, however, had driven him to live by the phrase "Strike hard, Strike fast, Strike first." This inspired actions that he was not afraid to employ.

Using his food tray shield as an offensive weapon now; Arty ran by striking people in the back of their heads, effectively leveling them as he raced by. As far as he was concerned: the more people on the ground, the less chasing him. This strategy worked him until he shattered his shield on a hulking beast of a man. The man was bristling with tense muscles and bulging veins as he turned on Arty. With a loud booming roar, the man picked him up and threw him down the mall. Being airborne was not an unfamiliar experience for Arty, however.

With a tuck and a roll; he was back on the his feet and running naturally. His target was in view. Months of rigorous planning were about to pay off. Just then, the angry crowd in front of him and to his left came together to form a raving wall of lunatics. Acting in a split second; Arty rolled into an empty elevator, slamming the button to close the door as he hit the back. Yelling gave way to cheery elevator music as the car began to lurch up to the second floor. As soon as the ping sounded and the doors eased open; Arty was out.

He ran hard to his right, dodging angry shoppes who were swinging at him with shopping bags. Typically, Arty tried not to show any fear, but the particular commotion at the pet shop in front of him changed all of that. Like some crazed animal trainer; the pet shop owner was throwing open the dog kennels, letting loose "the dogs of war." The first wave of frothy mouthed hell hounds to meet him were the puppies. It was a terrible situation for Arty, and he took no satisfaction as he sent the puppies flying away from him with a succession of swift kicks. The situation would have been a lot worse had not a rogue, flying, Jack Russel Terrier struck the pet shop owner in the face before he could let out the big dogs.

Dashing left, and in a hurry, Arty continued his long run. The stores on his right were a blur and unnoticed until he passed the Victoria's Secret. Arty was not blind, after all. He slowed to a trot, staring dumb-founded at a lingerie-clad, super-model-looking woman. He didn't stay long. His gawking was welcomed warmly by a curved mannequin's arm which flew past him just to rip past his face again like a boomerang. Arty mentally noted never to stray past that length of the mall ever again. No sooner did he think that then did he find himself being angled into a sports equipment store by another angry wall of shoppers. Vaulting over a small pitched tent while clothes-lining the manager; Arty found himself caught in a trap. Grabbing a Croquet mallet; he braced himself for the worst.

Never had an angry mob been this organized in the history of Arty-chasing mobs. Using his mallet to bludgeon people to unconsciousness, Arty fended off wave after wave of shoppers. The intervals were getting faster and faster, however. Thinking quickly, Arty found his only means of escape in the form of a gas powered scooter. Arty flew out of the store, yelling over whine of the scooter, smashing the manager's teeth out just as he was regaining his footing.

Arty flew through the cloud like a bat out of hell. He lashed out this way an that with his now cracked and splintering mallet. He was almost completely out of the mob when he was suddenly clocked on the back of the head and knocked off his scooter. The curved mannequin's arm clattered to the floor next to Arty's unconscious form. The mob crowded around, preparing to kick him while he was down. Lucky for Arty; the years of trouble had given him the unique ability to regain consciousness immediately.

In the blink of an eye, Arty was up an in a guarded crouch. He fought the crowd back far enough until he could re-mount his scooter. Seconds later he was plowing through the crowd with refreshed determination. He roared forward until he suddenly stopped on a terrace filled with umbrellaed tables. Coming towards him fast and steady was mall security. The scream of their electric golf cart was annoying and menacing at the same time. Arty would not be stopped though. He tucked his mallet in his belt and yanked free an umbrella. He folded it up neatly and cradled it under his arm like a lance.

It was a showdown of a lifetime. Both combatants tearing forward in their little vehicles. Arty was approaching a little to the left of the rent-a-cops with his impromptu lance, ready to strike. Arty kicked the scooter to max speed as he lunged forward with his weapon. It caught the driver in his left shoulder and caused the whole cart to roll to the right. Arty didn't savor the victory, however. He continued forward, tossing the broken umbrella away, knocking over an angry old person waving their walker at him.

Arty angled the little warhorse-of-a-scooter towards the escalator going down. He knew the layout of the mall by heart thanks to the endless hours spent pouring over floor plans and schematics. He knew his destination was to the right this escalator. His scooter jumped and bobbed down the escalator until he hit some people half way, causing him to fly up and over over them. A quick roll put him back on his feet and running right. There it was. The music store. He threw an envelope full of cash onto the counter as he raced to the rack where his desired CD was. Meanwhile, the angry mob had formed in front of the store, effectively cutting him off from the mall exit to the right of the store.

Arty was not about to let his journey end there. He casually strolled over to the store speaker system as the crowd stared at him him through blood-shot eyes. They waited patiently as he selected a song and walked back to the center of the store to face them. The opening notes of a heavy metal song roared through the store sound system. Arty gripped his mallet with white knuckles as he took a long breath. He bellowed loudly as he raced forward, brandishing his mallet like a powerful, vindictive Norse god. A face-melting solo squealed away away as Arty began to hack and sweep through the crowd. By the end of the song Arty had made it to the exit, leaving a living, albeit beaten and unconscious mob in his wake. The afternoon sun greeted him warmly as he walked through the parking lot exhausted. He lifted the CD to admire it in the sunlight, smiling until he noticed the V formation in its reflection.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Root Beer Connoisseur

Aaaaaah YEAH! Look what I picked up at Bev-mo the other day! That's right. I'm going to be familiarizing myself with root beer this winter break! Sounds like a good way to recover from a mostly crappy semester. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I led discussion for the Burn this past Sunday morning and brought up the difficult question of suffering. I was hoping for a Theodicean discussion in some form, but sometimes the kids don't have anything to say for one reason or another. I don't blame them. Suffering is a tough thing to respond to, and the question of God being good in the face of all the suffering in the world is an even more difficult question that gives some expert scholars pause. In any case, I wasn't expecting perfection, just some thoughts/questions. I did my best to make the questions as friendly to highschoolers as possible. I don't really expect them to be as brilliant as me, after all.

I'm working on a blog post on Job at the moment, but It's a little more research intensive than my normal blog posts, so I thought I would discuss some similar ideas for now. I also thought I would blog my notes because I thought they were blog worthy.

I started out by posing the question: "What is Suffering?"
I was hoping for students to describe and define suffering. At least question whether or not there are different forms of suffering. I myself thought a discussion regarding whether or not there is a difference between suffering and punishment would be very good. It's something I've thought of myself. I tend to believe there is a difference. (I'll get to that later.)

I also asked "What causes suffering?" I was hoping for some good questions and answers. All I got were blank stares. In addition to the rest of the questions, I thought this one was particularly important to consider. Is God the cause of our suffering? Does he visit hardship upon us, or does it just happen naturally as a result of life. Does suffering happen because the world is imperfect, or is it a natural part of the world, totally inseparable from it. Is all suffering a result of evil? Does suffering happen because of our sin? All good questions to consider.

I tend to believe suffering happens. Sometimes it's just a result of the way the world works. Sometimes earthquakes happen. Sometimes natural disasters happen. It sucks, but it happens. I don't think it means that some people or country deserved the wrath of God that was visited upon them. I also believe that sometimes suffering is a result of evil. By the evil of actions of an individual or a group of people. Evil does cause suffering. I think that point is rather undeniable. I have a problem believing God causes suffering though. (I'll get to that in a minute too.)

This brings me to the Theodicean discussion. "If God is good, why does suffering happen?" furthermore: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It's an awful difficult question to ask. There are usually two feel-good Christian answers that one is bound to encounter when asking the question. The first being "God's in control." The second is different by stating "God allows us to suffer so that we can learn." Now I believe they are both theologically sound, I just think they ought to be unpacked instead of taken at face value.

With the first answer, I can think of a few few verses that can attest to this right off the bat. My favorite to use would have to be Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, which states: "Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." I love this passage as much as I love Ecclesiastes. Both are responding to this question of suffering in the world. People tend to use this first answer as well as this passage to say that "we can't possibly comprehend what God has in store for us, so let's leave it at that and not pursue the question any further. Just know that God is in control" I disagree. I like the answer, but I don't think that's how it's supposed to be used. I believe the author is commenting on the difficulty inherent in the question. The Author is not suggesting we disregard the question, they are merely suggesting we not allow suffering to bog us down and restrain us from living life to the full. At least that is where the book of Ecclesiastes seems to be going. (As I interpret it.) To say we shouldn't bother to ask why suffering happens because we couldn't possibly comprehend the reason, seems ridiculous to me. Even if it were true (which it probably is) that we as humans couldn't possibly understand why suffering happens, I think it's still very important for us to ask the question. I think we can learn from just asking that question. (I want to elaborate in my blog post on Job, so I'm being quite brief.)

This second answer is obviously attractive, so you are bound to hear it a lot. "Suffering happens so we can learn" or "God allows us to suffer to enrich our lives." At this point, I would like to make the distinction between suffering and punishment. I believe they are totally different things. I'm going to straight out say that I have a problem believing God makes me or anyone else suffer just so I can learn. I think that's bull. I don't think God kills people or hurts people to cause other people to learn or enrich other people's lives. I believe that the second answer is more of a brilliant "cop-out" than the first answer. It gives no consideration to the Just and Good character of God. How just is it for our creator to eliminate his creation for the betterment of the rest of his creation. It sure does wrap the whole problem up neatly though. I don't have a problem believing we can learn and better ourselves from our suffering. I think we all can learn from suffering. It can provide us with valuable insight and life lessons sometimes. I just don't think God causes us to suffer for that very reason. I think by using this answer, we are confusing suffering for punishment.

Punishment gets a bad rep. That's probably because as children we despised it. We didn't want it. We still don't. I do believe God punishes us, just as our parents punished us (or should have) when we were younger. It's not because they hated us. It's actually quite the opposite. Our parents and God are concerned for our well being. They want us to develop and live good/righteous lives. They punish us in order to teach us how to do just that. God punishes us in order to lead us to a life worth living. He, like our parents, knows how we should live. I suppose Punishment can then be a form of suffering, although more personal in nature. Our punishment has nothing to do with other people. It's our business. We bring it upon ourselves. I'm not saying punishment is any easier to deal with though. I just think there's a difference between punishment and suffering.

This brings me to another point I made: "Why do we suffer?" Is our suffering a result of our sins? Do bad things then happen to everyone as a result of the wrong they do? I believe suffering does happen sometimes as a result of our sins. In this sense, by doing evil, we can cause suffering. Hitler caused suffering due to his hatred towards the Jews, among other people. Suffering can definitely come about as a result of our actions. Sometimes we are punished as a result of our actions though. This is for our betterment, and would be a result of God trying to steer us clear. This doesn't mean that suffering always happens as a result of our actions or the actions of another person. Consider John 9:1-7: "As he went along, he (Jesus) saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man;s eyes. "Go," he told him, "was in the Pool of Siloam." So the man went and washed, and came home seeing." I like to think Jesus is saying this guy just happened to be born blind. Christ used his blindness though. This brings me to my next point.
I think Christ is showing us that as Christians, it is our duty to respond to the suffering in the world. I believe our response is more important than any answer. More importantly, I believe God responds to suffering through our response to suffering. We are called to do his work. It's important to understand that we aren't alone in the world. There are other people going through the exact same thing. We are in it together, I guess. Jesus tells his disciples that they will continue to suffer even after he dies. John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things , so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." In the end, it's important to remember that Christ is bigger than this world and all the suffering that happens. Christ suffered for us so that we would have relief for our suffering. It's nice to know that we aren't alone in our suffering. That Christ suffers with us. Perhaps Christ's sacrifice and suffering also illustrates that we are supposed to be with those who suffer so that they, like us, don't have to be alone in their suffering.

It's late, and I pretty sure I missed a ton of stuff, but I plan on addressing a lot in blog post on Job so I'll call this one done. In any case, I like to think about this stuff. I think we all ought to give it some thought too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Warrior Cat of Battle Street.

I was digging through my drawer full of notebooks and things the other day when I came across some old stories I had written back in the day. (it probably wasn't that long ago.) I recognized some that I had blogged, but I found some good ones that I didn't. I thought I would share them with you. I'm spreading them both out into two separate blog posts though. I'm lazy. sue me.

This one is called the "Warrior Cat of Battle Street." I guess this requires some back story. There is this street in my neighbored that is literally named Battle. It's the coolest thing ever. Tom's been threatening to steal that sign for years now. In any case, I thought it was cool enough to write a weird story about it.

The soft and steady cadence of rain on pavement seemed to lull the residents of Battle Street into lethargy. Nothing exciting ever happened on the small street running perpendicular to Brink. This was from a human's perspective, of course. To the animals of the neighborhood, the street was as it was named: a battle street. It was nothing impressive by itself; spanning only a few houses in length at most. It was lore and tradition that made this street legendary.

Since the street was first paved, it has been the site of struggles of the most epic proportions. Surely, no one can forget the conquest of the Cat Lords of Lakeland over the Gutter-Rats of Kenney. Since those heralded days, Battle Street has been the proving grounds for only the toughest of warriors. Among those few, the protectors of Battle Street have stood as symbols of the greatest of warriors in the whole neighborhood. Their reputation has spread far and wide, penetrating even the dark depths of Downey.

Leonard the Warrior cat sat on the porch as he recalled the history of his most hallowed stalking grounds. After the Great Canine Exodus, he had moved in to fill the power vacuum. He was not a cat of astounding stature; the raggedy Siamese was rather small for his breed. None of his features dictated he was especially ferocious. The scar running across the bridge of his nose was the only indication of his experience in battle.

Leonard shook himself from his stupor to track a trio of tabbies casually walking down the street. From the get-go, the tribe of striped alley cats had encroached on his territory without care. This did not stand well with Leonard. He had never been one for unwarranted violence. He wanted to be feared and respected, but not hated. With a yawn and a stretch; Leonard was on his feet and cautiously easing into the pouring rain from under the stoop. It was time for an example.

Hearing his approach; the trio stopped and turned towards the slow-coming warrior. Leonard could tell by their looks that these cats occupied the top-most tiers of the tabby tribe. Being half their size, and wanting to display respect, Leonard eased forward slowly. Being amused by his diminutive behavior, the trio recognized him with a low hiss. Leonard kept his cool the whole time. He needed to have his wits about him if he wanted to walk away from this encounter.

The Tabbies became a little more gutsy as the minutes passed, darting forward at Leonard sporadically to taunt him. It didn't work. Leonard stood there and soaked up the humiliation like a sponge. Their darting drew closer and closer, tensing Leonard's muscles with each approach. But Leonard still took his time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He didn't have to wait long. The larger of the three tabbies darted in too close, giving Leonard the perfect opportunity. With razor sharp reflexes coming to bear, He brought his paw down on the Tabby's head like a hammer.

The pounding stunned the cocky tabby, giving Leonard the opening he needed. He leaped upon the next closest cat, tearing into its side with his deadly sharp claws. He easily transitioned into a strike to the front legs, causing the cat to lose and fall forward. Taking hold with his fangs, Leonard lifted the tabby and flung his unconscious form across the slick asphalt. No sooner did he do that then he was bull-rushed by the other tabby. Leonard was sent sprawling from the powerful strike. The surprise assault gave the larger cat time to get back on its feet and join the other tabby already engaging Leonard. Trying to regain his footing while fighting at the same time, Leonard swung his paw at the face of the oncoming cat, sending it rearing backward. The precious seconds he gained gave him just enough time to side step the large and ferocious feline charging him headlong.

The two attackers regrouped and began to slowly stalk around Leonard with clearly malicious intent. The fact that it was hard to get his footing on the wet black-top was only icing on the cake. Once more, his tactic of "Separate and Annihilate" would be useless now, since the tabbies had witnessed it first hand; the tabbies were stuck together like glue. Leonard did not express his distress, however. He knew half the battle was psychological. His calm composure would be unusual to the alley cats since they were used to seeing the fear in the eyes of their victims. This strange behavior would unnerve them, which led Leonard to do something even more unexpected.

The best defense is a good offense after all. With all the speed he could muster, Leonard charged the two cats. The speed and the growling made the tabbies hesitate, which was their fatal mistake. He was between the two cats in the blink of an eye, slashing the front inner leg of the larger one; knock it over. The other cat had jumped in surprise, and was back-pedaling away from the sudden assault. Leonard leaped as high as he could, bridging the gap and coming down like a furry lightning bolt on to the cat's back. Fur flew, as Leonard began to hack and slash away at his opponent. The cat tried to shake the small bundle of feline fury off his back but to no avail. Eventually, the cat succumbed to wounds delivered from the furious melee and fell over unconscious. He would live, but the scars and bald patches he carried would be a constant reminder of the consequences of reckless stupidity.

Leonard stood upon the wounded cat triumphantly, sighing deeply just before air was knocked out of his lungs. The massive paw of the large cat sent Leonard flying off the back of his wounded tabby comrade. Leonard lay in a heap several feet away hacking and coughing. "Some cats never give up." he supposed, as he regained his composure and prepared for a fresh assault. He should know; he wouldn't be around if it wasn't so.

Leonard's brilliant blue eyes stared intently as the large tabby lumbered over. He hissed defiantly in the face of his attacker, savoring the fair fight that had been denied him earlier, that had finally arrived. The large tabby didn't hesitate for a second. He rushed forward at Leonard; a tactic that would have worked, and had worked before when Leonard was distracted by another cat. Leonard easily dodged the attack choosing to use it to his advantage and bit his attacker's tail. The large cat screeched in pain and reared back on its hind legs. Leonard didn't skip a beat; he was instantly around the cat. With a great burst of strength, he threw himself at the cat, slamming it back off its hind legs and onto its back.

His attacker could not figure out what was going on. One second he was charging, the next he was on his back. Leonard put a paw on the cat's chest to pin it before it regained its senses. With his paw raised high and claws extended; he was prepared to deliver the Coup de Grace to the Tabby's unprotected throat. Just before the killing blow was struck, Leonard retracted his claws. He didn't think killing the cat was necessary. He was a warrior after all, not a cold-blooded killer. The rain came down heavy as the small Siamese stepped off the battle-field, leaving three dumbfounded cats licking their wounds. The warrior stepped out of the downpour and into the cover of the porch overhang. he laid down to rest once again, at ease knowing Battle Street was safe for another day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Should we forget?

I understand that this blog will most likely be finished in early hours of the 12th, but I started on the 11th, so I'm sticking by that.

I don't think I need to remind anyone what day it is today. I'm sure most of us remember what we were doing today, back then. Thinking about that day still gets me all shook up. Not nearly as shook up as it has now though.

As some may know, I am a comparative religions major. I would be remiss in my duties as a student if I didn't have some sort of an appreciation for the religions. You could understand then that I would be deeply disturbed by what's been going on lately. If you haven't heard about any of what's been going on, I'll fill you in real quick.

- Some Pastor in Florida said he would burn some copies of the Qur'an on 9/11. He got his 5 seconds of fame. He backed down.

-Plans to build a Muslim interfaith community a couple blocks away are met with outrage. People are calling it a "ground zero mosque" and think it should be no where near ground zero. People went as far as to protest for and against it today. Like they couldn't find a better time to do it...|aim|dl1|sec1_lnk3|170002

One of the big slogans about September 11th is "never forget." Based on what I've been seeing and feeling, I dare say: should we "forget?" I'm not saying we pretend it never happened. I'm not saying we forget about the sacrifices. I'm not saying we shouldn't appreciate those sacrifices. Quite the opposite, actually. I'm saying we shouldn't besmirch the sacrifices that were made on that day.

9/11 was a momentous tragedy in the history of our great country. There's no denying that. It served to unite the country in our time of need as well. I believe that time has come and gone. 9/11 has transformed from a symbol of unity and fidelity to a symbol of division. The Anti-Muslim sentiments that have spawned as a result truly disturbs me. What disturbs me even more is that Christians are openly fanning this disaster into flames!

Take for example the Florida Pastor. This guy decided he would publicize the fact that he was planning to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11. Small time Pastor from a small church decides to spark all of this unnecessary controversy. Of course he gets all kinds of flak from it, which he should. That doesn't mean he ought to have sparked such controversy to begin with. He goes on to claim he never intended to burn copies of the Qur'an, but instead wanted to bring to light the radical elements of Islam. He even flew out to New York to meet with the Imam of the project to build an interfaith center in New York, probably to help convince him that it was wrong to build such a thing. There's a ton of kickers here.

First and foremost, what ever happened to "Love your neighbor as yourself?" Have we as Christians forgotten? Christ wasn't just talking about fellow Christians here, guys. Are we not all human beings, created by God, in his image? Does he not love us all as his creation? What ever happened to us being the light of the world? Now, I understand this guy has as much right as any one to say whatever he feels like. That doesn't make him right though. As a Christian, I don't think we should be sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, letting the rest of us get a bad reputation for what this guy does. Actions speak louder than words, after all, and I think it's about time we started combating ignorance instead of going along with it.

Another thing I'd like to dismiss; that same Florida Pastor went on to compare his current struggles with that of Abraham. Going as far as saying God stopped him from burning the Qur'an just as he stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son. There is a tragic irony about this. Let me serve to educate those who care about it. Abraham isn't known as the Patriarch for nothing. Abraham is seen as the Patriarch of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. All three! He is revered by all three! He is the father of Isaac, who would have a son named Jacob, who would have his name changed by God to Israel, who would continue to spawn the Israelite nation, who would give birth to Judaism, which would evolve into the Judaism that we know today. Without Judaism, there would be no Christianity. We can't really get around that fact. We read the same Old Testament which they call the Tanakh. It is the exact same thing. We seem to forget, or just ignore the fact that Abraham had Ishmael first, who would come to be the father of Islam.

Abraham has come to be a unifying factor in interfaith talks. As he should! Did you know that the Qur'an speaks highly of Abraham? The Qur'an even has it's own version of Abraham's potential sacrifice, this one involving Ishmael of course. The same point is made. Did you know that both the Bible and the Qur'an record that Isaac AND Ishmael buried their father together? That speaks volumes. The prophets of the Old Testament, as well as other outstanding Biblical heroes, are viewed as prophets within the Qur'an. They also view Jesus as a prophet. Christians would, of course, disagree, but that's not the point here. Even Allah (basically meaning God) is the same God of the Jews and the Christians. The same God of the Bible who created everything. This is not something new and unheard of. This is not some well guarded secret! In short: Islam isn't evil. Islam is not of the devil. Islam should not be hated. Islam should be understood.

As Christians and Americans, should we really be upset that Muslims want to build an interfaith center blocks away from ground zero? I think it should be quite the opposite. I think Islam was injured on 9/11 as much as, if not more than the American pride. Not to mention it isn't as if they are building on the site of ground zero itself. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think we're allowed to keep them from building an Interfaith center blocks away, let alone a Mosque. Instead of getting in the way of its construction, I think we, as Americans and as Christians, should get behind it. It's an Interfaith center. What better way to dispel ignorance. Not to mention this would be long strides toward peace in the middle east. I really doubt that radical Muslims are going to use this interfaith center as a forward base of operations to the downfall of the Americas, or whatever far-fetched claims people care to make about it.

We all want to see stability in that part of the world. We all want to see our soldiers home. The fight starts here. The fight starts where it all began. If we want to see change, it ought to begin with us. We should stop treating ground zero, and 9/11 by extension, as some kind of an open wound. Let it heal. We need to let it heal. Nobody wants to see conflict over here either. As Christians and Americans we need to forgive and forget. Should Christ be the only one to provide Grace, Forgiveness, and Love to all? Should we allow such a tragic event in U.S. history become synonymous with hatred and intolerance, or, like the survivors and surviving family members of the tragedy, heal and recover? Should we let 9/11, in its current form, drag us down, or should we as a nation grow from it? 9/11 should continue to change the way we all think, but for better, not for worse.

So much of these issues are about pride. We got sucker-punched by a group of people. Get over it, America. Islam did not do this to us. They were radicals. We have our fair share. 9/11 does not justify such hatred against Islam.

I think it's about time we "forgot" about 9/11 and remembered the principles which this nation was founded on, and as Christians, we should remember the sacrifice our Savior made for humanity. Remember that all human beings were created in God's image and should be respected as such wonderfully made creations.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shanah Tovah!

Today marks the first day (starting at sun down of today) of the Jewish high holiday, Rosh Hashanah(heb.:head of the year) I'm pretty interested in Jewish tradition (I guess that explains why I'm minoring in Jewish studies) so I figured I would blog about it. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the birth of the world. It's supposed to be a happy time, but begins a 10 day period of self-examination ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of atonement. It is a time for renewal, where one looks back on the past year and figures what they can do better on. I've always relished the prospect of self-examination, so I figured this would be right up my alley.

Lord knows this last year was pretty crazy. There are plenty of things I screwed up on that I wish I hadn't. There are even some things I wish I could go back and change. I can't say that I say that often about anything because I believe there is a lesson to be learned from everything, regardless of how tough and terrible it was. Rosh Hashanah isn't about that though. It's about starting over and approaching the new year as a blank slate. It's time to celebrate! This upcoming year has all new surprises in store for all of us!

It's hard to step back sometimes and realize living is a gift in and of itself. Just being able to see the coming of a new year should be cause for celebration. To reflect on your life this past year, regardless of how crummy it could've been is a blessing. Personally, its just understanding and realizing how I've encountered my Creator and what I can do better in the year to come.

I love setting goals for myself. This past year, I said I would go on more adventures. I can safely say I got a good number of adventures under my belt, especially this summer! I think this year it will be less about adventure and more about slowing down and appreciating what God has given me. Also, understanding how I have been blessed with great friends and family, regardless if the former may be in shorter supply than usual.

It's going to be fun injecting a little more Jewishness into my life with this period of self-examination. I'm not really going to go and practice any dietary laws though...In any case, Shanah Tovah! A good year to everybody!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jackie's first range trip.

I took my new handgun (Jackie) to the range last Sunday with my good buddy Andrew. Man do I suck. This is no fault of the hardware, of course, I just need a ton of practice. I think I'm starting to get the feel for gripping the gun right with both hands. I never thought using guns properly would be this difficult in order to get the results I want, but it isn't that bad. It's encouraging me to do some major work! Here's some pics from the range trip:

As you can see; I was all over the freaking place.

Andrew did that with my gun. So I'm obviously the guy with the problem.

My shots are all the bottom left going up towards the center. I was walking it up. At least I was consistent...

In any case, I am still determined to master my firearms. All I need is some practice!

I figure I ought to get a list going, because lists are magical. I need to work on the following:






I think I'm going to start practicing all of this with all of my guns. It's nuts how fast you get tired pointing a gun at a target, so practice should really help me at the range. It's good to have goals!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A new addition to the family

So I finally went through with it. I bought my handgun the day before camp. I went and picked it up a couple of days after I got back from camp. I've been meaning to puts so picks up of the beauty. I've been neglecting my blog a bit anyway. I ended up settling on (as if it were a bad thing) the HK USP Compact in 9mm.

Next to my iphone

I like the feel and the fit, which is important when picking out a handgun. It also looks pretty cool in my opinion. I haven't fired it yet, but I'm hoping to take it down to the range soon. Apparently, you're supposed to give guns girl names, so I figured I'd settle on Jackie because it's close enough to Jack Bauer and it's not Kim Bauer. I'm confident my handgun is going to have a better track record than Kim anyway. I think I've got almost all the essentials to staving off an army of the undead now!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Foam Philosophy

The other day, I had the opportunity to attend the 11th annual Socal nerf event named "Armageddon." It has been, and probably still is the biggest nerf war hosted within the United States. This year, we had a rough attendance of around 50 or so people. This event is pretty famous for bringing in people from around the country. This year, our Norcal brethren decided to show up once again, in addition to a new guy from Utah who made the trip by himself! This year happened to be the first year I've actually be able to attend in my 3 or so year old nerfing career. It's probably one of the best nerf wars I've ever been to.

At the war, the host said something to another player that kind of stuck in the back of my mind. He was describing "West Coast" nerfing style in comparison to "East Coast" and then went ahead and elaborated with what nerfing means to our little community in Southern California. He said something along the lines of " Socal Nerf, like Jeet Kune Do, is more of a philosophy than a style." Let me explain. The world of nerf as I know it is filled with a ton of posturing and bragging and trash-talking; regardless of the fact that we are actually playing with toys. The point the host was trying to make was that our little group isn't about showing off or being the cool kids on the block. Nerf isn't about belittling people or being the ultimate master of all things foam to us. Nerf is about having fun, making fools out of ourselves, and enjoying the company of like minded individuals who aren't afraid to look dumb and goofy while shooting darts at each other out of glorified toys.

That quote kind of got me thinking about my life. I've always been so concerned about how people see me. I'd be worried about people thinking less of me when I'd go out and interact with people and just operate in my day to day life in general. So concerned that it'd keep me from enjoying myself and actually living. In these past 3 years, I've been learning to let go and realize that sometimes I'm going to look like a complete idiot. Sometimes I'm going to be so embarassed that I'm going to want to hide under a rock until everyone forgets. Sometimes, I'm going to screw up so bad that I'm not going to want to wake up the next morning. I'm totally not just talking about nerf any more. I'm talking about putting one foot in front of the other even after screwing up because I know life keeps going and I ought to keep living it. I'd like to elaborate in the form of a blog post later, so I'll just leave you all with some goofy nerf pics.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Updates from Grand Isle

I came home today to find out my dad was on TV this past week! Channel 9 Baton Rouge did a thing on air quality in the area. They zoomed in on some of the machinery my dad was using and actually got some footage of him at work. I thought that was cool enough to do a blog post on. I could never quite explain what my dad was doing in Louisiana, so now I have a little video to do it for me! So watch it if you want and enjoy. My dad is the big guy wearing the boonie hat. The ads before and after the video are kind of funny/weird/stupid too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup time!

* please ignore the incoherence of this post. I had 3 wisdom teeth removed earlier and I'm still pretty messed up from it.*

So if you guys are down with things going on, you'd know that the most important game of the year is going down these next two months. It isn't baseball, and it sure isn't basketball. It's soccer. The world cup is upon us! I've been waiting for four years since the last one to see my team, the Azzurri, the Italian national team. Today marked the first day the Italians played in the 2010 cup. I have to admit I wasn't too surprised with the results. The defending champs ended up tying 1-1 against Paraguay. Paraguay has won one world cup compared to the Italians four. The Italians are ranked second over all in world cup victories; one less than their big world cup rival, Brazil. The Italians have a rep for starting out pretty bad, but growing stronger as they progress. Considering they have often lost their first matches before going on to winning a cup; I'm not too worried.

I was originally skeptical about the new line up that Coach Lippi decided to put in. My favorite player, Francesco Totti, initially came out of retirement in order to play in this years cup. Totti is recognized as one of the best soccer players around. After the 2006 cup, he decided to retire and continued to play in national games alone. Although it's not completely known why Lippi decided not to allow him as well as some of the other vets play, it is believed it is because he's been out of the lime light for four years now.

Francesco Totti

In any case, the new line up doesn't seem to be too bad. Regardless of the tie score, the Italians started off pretty strong. The Italian players were able to take on the Paraguayans 1 to 2 and kept the pressure on for pretty much most of the game. After Paraguay scored, the Italians came back, changed strategies and tied it up a few minutes into the second half. There are still some vets on the old team though, among them my favorite players such as their Keeper, Gianluigi Buffon who is regarded by many as the best keeper alive. They've also still got my other all time favorite player Andrea Pirlo, though he's been benched due to a calf injury. Probably why we couldn't follow up all of the great plays we made. The Paraguayans played hard though. They deserved the tie, but I don't expect them to get any farther. The Italians are just warming up! In any case, the world cup has been pretty lackluster so far. mostly 1-1 ties and 1-0 victories with one or two 2-0 victories in there so far except for Germanies victory over Australia which was 4-0. They really brought the hurt. I like the Germans. Their game against the Italians in 2006 was pretty much my favorite. They play hard! Along with Italy, I'm rooting for them, the US team, as well as South Africa. I wouldn't mind if the any of those guys took the cup, although I do want the Italians to control the cup for another year.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Range trips!

Dang, what a week! I've been a busy guy this week with two range trips. On Thursday, I took Tom and his neighbor down to the insight indoor shooting range in Artesia. I'd never been there, and I heard they carried the handgun that I was interested in. So, I went down there in hopes of trying that gun out before purchasing it. Sadly, they didn't have the exact model that I wanted, but they had a similar model. I rented an HK P2000 in 9mm to try and see how it handled. We started out with 50 rounds of 9mm as well.

It's very similar to the HK USP compact so I wasn't complaining too much. I liked the way it felt in my hand so I went ahead with it.

I happened to be aiming at the center of center mass, so my shots hit a little low, but I think I did pretty good for the first mag through a new gun.

Tom tried his hand with the P2000

He was aiming for the head.

I didn't do nearly as good the second time around. I was aiming for the head. I forget what I was doing wrong in order to group down and to the left. I seemed to do that consistently at the range. The ones on the right shoulder were from Tom's neighbor, Albert.

The end result of 50 9mms out of the P2000

Next up was the Beretta 92fs in 9mm.

I wasn't too happy about that. still down to the left, but not as tight as before. Probably because the Beretta's grip was really big and not nearly as comfy as the P2000

Tom shooting the beretta

Tom was aiming for the head again. He didn't do so hot either.

Tom's neighbor, Albert shooting the beretta

Albert was aiming for the head too.

My second go at center mass with the beretta.

The end result of 50 rounds of 9mm through the beretta

We were all pretty upset about the Beretta, so we decided to end the trip with a big(ger) bang. I got us a Rock Island 1911 in .45 ACP. I was pretty happy with it. I've always liked the feel of 1911s. The last one I fired just sucked though. It was a nasty piece that threw brass into my face. Not so this time.

Not super good, but I got a group. It's a .45. a lot different than a 9mm.

Tom shooting the 1911

Tom was aiming for the head once again.

We had a target left over, so Tom and I collaborated in making use of it with the 1911. HEAD SHOT!

The trip to the indoor range was good. I paid an arm and a leg to rent guns and buy ammo plus range time for 3 guys, but it was worth it. I think I'm going to end up purchasing the compact just because I really enjoyed the P2000.

Yesterday, I went up to Burro Canyon with Greg and Jen to shoot with them and their Swiss shooting club. Last time I was there, I was trying to sight in the rear sight on my AR15. This time, we finally did it!

We set my AR15 up on the rest and I started putting rounds down range at that target set up at 50 yards.

I was having problems at first, as you can see since all of my shots hit above paper and before that totally above the target. My tool for adjusting the front sight which managed elevation didn't work last time, but I got it to work this time, so I was able to adjust till I started getting groups on paper. I was happy about that. Now it just comes down to more practice with the doggone thing.

Apparently Jen or someone got a hold of my camera while I was shooting off the rest and snapped some pics of me. They turned out pretty good.

My grouping after like 2 or 3 mags. I was shooting off the rest, standing up. I need practice, but at least I made it on paper. It's a start.

Greg was getting set up with his shooting jacket to start shooting at some targets down range with his vintage Swiss rifle. That thing kicked like a mule! My shoulder still hurts from putting a few rounds through it!

Greg after popping off a round.

Jen shot that big vintage rifle too. She says she just doesn't enjoy shooting a .22 any more since she started shooting it. That's pretty freaking awesome.

All in all it's been a pretty good and productive week. I've kind of figured out what I need to do. Time to get more practice in with my AR15 and do some breathing practice and dry firing at home. I also need to buy myself that handgun and practice the same thing with that too. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Power Hour

The last season of 24 has ended tonight. I must say, I'm a little saddened by the loss of something that's been a big part of my life. I've been watching 24 since it first started 8 seasons ago. I'm not ashamed of saying that Jack Bauer has always been, and always will be my hero. It's been a long, amazing run. I'd like to celebrate with some awesome Jack Bauer facts:

There has not been a terrorist attack in the United States since Jack Bauer first appeared on television.- Apparently, some Muslims are really offended by Jack Bauer's overly zealous treatment of terrorists. From what I've read, some people think Jack Bauer gives Muslims a bad rep. No lie. I think if they actually bothered to watch the show, they'd see that the only bad rep that these "Muslim terrorists" get on the show are the fact that they are almost never masterminds.

Ordinary people have panic attacks. Chuck Norris has Jack Bauer's attacks!

Kiefer Sutherland drinks to forget all the terrible things Jack Bauer has done.

Vin Diesel can be rearranged to say "I end lives." Jack Bauer can be rearranged to say "Jack Bauer," which means the same thing.

Jack Bauer made a brief cameo in the film "Stand By Me" as the local bully. His character got so pissed off when the boys didn't let him take the dead body that seven years later, he killed River Phoenix. Jack Bauer never forgets.

Jack Bauer could get off the Lost island in 24 hours.

If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.-freaking Nina Meyers!

If Rosa Parks was in Jack Bauer's seat she would move to the back

The Boogieman checks his closet for Jack Bauer

There were originally five horsemen of the apocalypse. Jack Bauer said he would travel by foot.

When Kim Bauer lost her virginity, Jack found it and put it back.

The Dinosaurs laughed at Jack ...

Nostradamus once predicted in his journal: "In the century 21st, the one known as Jacques will be the savior of the world... five seasons in a row." Moments later, Jack Bauer knocked down the door, shot Nostradamus in the kneecaps, and yelled "WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?!"

Every person in authority who has ever decided Jack Bauer is wrong and a loose cannon who needs to be arrested is dead. Coincidence? I think not.

Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.

Jack Bauer doesn't dodge bullets. Bullets dodge Jack Bauer.

If you ever tried to tell Jack Bauer to go to hell, the Devil would silence you before you finished the sentence.

Jack Bauer was removed from Counter-strike by Valve because the counter-terrorists always won. Always.

There is no such thing as Evolution. There are the animals Jack Bauer doesn't kill.

Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer once got into a fight, the event is commonly known as the Big Bang. If you want to know who won, just ask yourself when was the last time
you saw a new episode of Walker Texas Ranger?

Jack Bauer understands the teacher in Charlie Brown.

The only correct answer to the question, "Who's your daddy?" is "Jack Bauer". No matter who you are.

Jack Bauer let the dogs out.

Jack Bauer has two speeds: Walk and Kill.

Jack Bauer caught all the Pokemon.

Jack Bauer once wrote a book. You might know it. It's called The Bible.

For 137 pages of this goodness:


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Life without facebook/why I love my blog.

it's been 20 days since my facebook went offline and I must say it's been an interesting journey so far. At first, I didn't think it'd be such a big deal, but after a while, I realized how much of a psychological effect facebook had on me. Quite unexpectedly, I've been over come with almost this sense of loneliness, which I think is positively ridiculous. I attribute this "loneliness" to the lack of "connection" now that facebook is gone, or what we believe is connection. Now that instant access to everyone and there mother isn't on a screen, I can't get a hold of them. I can no longer facebook chat, or cruise over to somebodies page and leave a comment. This is positively silly because none of that is what I would define as an actual connection, but more of an artificial connection. I never even seriously used facebook chat to begin with anyway! It really is kind of scary how facebook seemed to trick my brain into thinking that I was interacting socially with people online, when in actuality I wasn't doing very much interacting at all.

You may be quick to point out that facebook may not be the cause of such loneliness, but I respectfully disagree. I got along fine without facebook, talking to the same number of people on aim as I do now, which is a meager few, but if anything; I interact with more people now on a regular basis than I did before. I have deeper conversations and connections now with people who play a bigger role in my life than I did then, and these are person to person interactions. Not over the phone or in front of a computer. So, honestly, I don't think this is actual loneliness, but may be this "false loneliness," if there is such a thing, that has resulted due to loss of such a big part of life up to now.

A few of you may know that my birthday was earlier this month. May 11th to be exact. Facebook definitely impacted the way I experienced that. On my birthday, the only people to actually wish me a happy birthday were my family members. Now, I'm not crying about this or anything. I honestly don't advertise my birthday, so it wasn't really that big of a blow. (I haven't thrown myself a bday party since I was in elementary school.)It was different though. Usually, thanks to facebook, you are bombarded with a barrage of "Happy Bdays" from everyone and there mother who happened to see the notification on facebook. I always thought that was annoying though, since I would always suspect that they needed facebook to tell them when my birthday was. It wasn't just bad things that came out of this though. One of my students, who does not have a facebook (to my knowledge), wished me a happy birthday a few days before it actually happened. I was stunned/happy to find out that someone actually remembered without having to be told! And this kid wouldn't be categorized as the brightest either! I guess I may be able to categorize a text by a student on the day of as a "happy bday wish," but all she called me was an old man. I guess I'll take it. In any case, that's what I've been looking for. Fostering real, meaningful relationships with out the use of a stupid computer.

I think people categorize these new little social interaction apparatuses as a requirement nowadays. That's dumb. I shouldn't have to have a facebook in order to connect with a person. I was talking to a student of mine last night about dating. He couldn't seem to understand the idea of dating without texting being involved. It was a foreign concept to him. As he put it, "it kind of makes you cherish all the time you have." He went on to say that he and the girl he is "dating" enjoy each others company. Shenanigans. I'm not saying that they don't, I'm just saying that that's kind of funny when the only time they ever see each other face to face and hear each others voice is at school. This is just an example, that of a 17 year old to be exact, but I've found myself thinking and acting the same way before too.

I think people honestly underestimate the power facebook and even texting. I think it's kind of scary. It's integrated itself into our daily lives. It's become a ritual for some people. That's nuts. I would never have guessed how much of an impact facebook had on my life until I got rid of it.

This is where my blog comes in. I've been using this free time to think up stuff for my blog. I love it. I've also come to understand how important my blog is to me. A while back, I came to the conclusion that I'm actually quite forgetful, especially with the important stuff that I've experienced. It's hard for me to recall particular circumstances that have impacted my life. I can only ever recall the emotions, the impact on my life, and the results. I didn't really have material to "tell a story" with. I could just relate feelings. I understand that an easy way to solve this is by recording stuff like that in a journal. I own a journal and I've tried using it on more than one occasion. I just couldn't do it. Then I realized that this blog of mine actually has some pretty deep, life changing stuff on it already. For some reason, I blog about my experiences freely when it feels like pulling teeth when I try to write them down.

I don't hate writing. I love writing actually. I enjoy using big words and forming deep sentences and messages. For some reason though, I just can't keep a journal. I guess this has developed a new found appreciation for my blog. I guess it may be slightly hypocritical of me for being dependent on this virtual collection of writings on the internet when I just severed all connections with facebook, but I think facebook and my blog are two different beasts, and my blog surely isn't replacing my interactions and shaping my world-view at all.

It may sound like I'm crusading against our little social interactions over the web and the phone, but I'm not. I'm promoting awareness, and recording what I've learned while struggling with this stuff. I honestly believe we take this stuff too lightly. I'm not saying we should stop using any of this stuff. Not at all. I'm just saying we ought to be mindful of how we use them and how they are impacting our lives.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who's got two thumbs, two trigger fingers, and the right to own a handgun? THIS GUY!

I got my Handgun Safety Certificate today! I'm pretty psyched. I had to take a test in order to receive the card so that I will be able to purchase handguns in the future. It was pretty much 30 true and false and multiple choice questions that were all pretty common sense. It was pretty awesome. I passed with flying colors! BOOYAH! Now the question is what handgun I will be purchasing first. The million dollar question. I've singled out a few guns that I want to check out before I make a decision.

At the top of my list would be this bad boy! It has the style and intimidation factor that I require. Who cares if the gun flies out of my hand and into my face after I fire it. If it hits something, then it's game over!

I'm very much kidding about that. As cool as a Desert Eagle is, I'd much rather purchase a Baby Eagle which has similar style and would be a lot more practical, not to mention affordable. Some day I'd like to purchase one of those, but they don't seem to be widely available so they're off the list.

At the top of my list would have to be the USP Compact. It's a pretty good sized gun that comes in 9mm, .357 sig, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. I got to handle a model in .40 S&W today and I must say that I really like the fit. I would like to fire it in 9mm and may be .40 before I make a decision though.

Second on my list would have to be the Beretta PX4. It comes in 9mm, .40 S&W, and I think it even comes in .45. Apparently one of the awesome things about this gun is the barrel rotates slightly when firing to reduce recoil. I am not sure exactly how that works but apparently it does. I'm still doing my homework on that. Also, the grips on this gun can be changed out for small, medium, and large grips to fit your hand the way you want it. That's a plus. You want a handgun with a good fit. Then, of course, it's Italian. All in all, the Beretta is high on my list.

Third, and finally on my list will have to be the XD 9. It's the cheapest of these plastic fantastics. There is a pretty broad selection in the XD department. I've never been too happy about their looks, but they definitely beat those ugly glocks in my book.

I'm sure other guns will present themselves, but this is what I've got so far. I'm sure I'll post the end result eventually though.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Halo Reach: Beta!

The beta test is finally open for Halo: Reach. Us die-hard halo fans have been waiting since news of it's availability was announced. I've been psyched since playing Halo 3: ODST.

Too bad I'm in class right now and can't be enjoying it like the rest of the drooling masses of halo fans. But that's what my night is going to look like tonight! After 24, which ranks higher than the beta to me, I'm going to be all over that. I might just fall asleep to gun fire! OR Tea-bag the night away!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mr. Nice guy

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and they asked me: " when do I ever do nice things for other people." To be honest, I thought it was an interesting, but random question, and they assured me that they were not trying to offend me. The thing is, that's not a question people ask me very often. It's not even a question I ask myself, so I thought it would be interesting to try and answer that. So I got thinking, and I came to the conclusion that, regardless of whether or not people think I'm a jerk (That's a matter of opinion, I'm sure.), I'm actually a really nice guy. Mind you, I'm not saying I'm the image of generosity and humility; the perfect bearer of Christ's example, but I try. As I thought about it, I realize I do behave myself pretty well. I'm not saying I reach out to every homeless person and feed every orphan, but I comport myself quite well in relation to other people. I hold doors open for people, I say "bless you" to random strangers, toss some change in the salvation army can, stop to help a stranger in need on the occasion, and so forth. Now, I'm not saying this to brag, I'm just saying this because I think it's important to understand whether or not we are really nice people. I may not be perfect, but I do understand that people are as frail and helpless as I am at times and if I have the power to help them, I ought to. Again, I'm not saying I'm a Saint, and I'm not saying that we are only required to do the small things like holding doors open and so forth, but they mean a lot too, because If you don't skip over the small things, you surely take notice of the big things too. Not saying I'm perfect at that either, but I sure as heck try. Just something to think about. I think it's a question we ought to ask ourselves every now and again. How often do I do something without my best interests in mind?

Monday, April 26, 2010

I think I'm done with Facebook.

I've had this long-standing beef with facebook for the longest time. Not enough of an issue to get me to stop using it on a regular basis, but a beef nonetheless. I've never been the biggest proponent of social networking sites to begin with, but it didn't really bug me so much until facebook. My first intro would have to be xanga, back in the dark ages, but that worked more like a blog. Then there came the advent of Myspace, which I opted to use since everyone else was. Thinking about it now; it was a very silly thing. Then came facebook, which seemed more exclusive since it was a college only thing at the time. I guess I was captured by the allure of being part of a special elite of the social networking scene. That didn't last long of course. But that wasn't so bad. I came to be connected to everyone. Seriously, EVERYONE! I was connected to people who went to school with me who I never talked to/never would. It was ridiculous. But I guess it wasn't something a purge couldn't fix after all. I'd have to say that those accursed facebook apps and their endless stream of invites turned out to be the first thing to make me consider getting rid of the stupid thing.

We've been going over the effects of Social networks on relationships and written language in my American Culture class, and we were giving a surprisingly good book to read on the subject. That book really galvanized me to take another look at facebook, figure out why I have one, and compile a list of it's pros and cons in my humble opinion. The following will be a list of MY pros and cons. You may disagree with me, but then again, you may not be considering ridding yourself of facebook.

You're "Always on."
"Always on" is the title of the book I was assigned to read. The author used the term to basically state that we are always connected with everyone else within our social networks. We are always online. People know what we are doing and we also know what they are doing. We can reach them whenever, and they can do the same with us. I don't think it is so bad to be available, but when do we stop being available? When do we focus on ourselves alone, or get some one on one time with other people. I'm straying away from facebook alone here, and addressing Aim and texting as well, which each bug me in some way,shape, or form. But seriously, when do we turn off? I know that when I get home, I turn my computer on and navigate to facebook, open up AIM, and make sure my cellphone is within reach. What is up with that? I figure it is because we are social creatures, and demand interaction with other people, which is natural and important for a human being to survive. Do you ever think that may be this flood of interaction between ourselves and other individuals over the web may be detracting from the importance of our interactions with other people? Can you really have a legitimate heart to heart over the internet?

It's totally public.
Facebook is remarkably public. Now sure, you have privacy settings, but there are still scores of people who can view you page, who get that notification of your actions of facebook, or receive you status update over the news feed. Likewise, you receive these notifications from other people. You can hide those notifications, of course, but how man people honestly hide every single notification they get? I'll touch again on the hiding notification thing later on. Honestly, there are some notifications I don't want to see. I can't stop everyone from updating with something that I don't approve of. It'd be a lot easier just not getting any updates at all.

Now, some people can be crying out in pain through a status update. I guess you are then notified by a friends plight over the web. You can then wade through the morons who respond with something stupid or try to provide some kind of advice. Honestly, the whole idea of appealing to the masses of facebook friends for relief is silly. I'm kind of upset when my friends replace my personal advice and the opportunity to share the weight of a situation with a person privately with the masses of faceless facebook cretins clambering over each other, trying to prove they are the greater friend, or just trying to provide the best advice. I think if you really cared about getting help, you'd use your mouth instead of your fingers.

I'm sure I've done the same thing at some point, but I hope to stop that. I find that status updates, facebook chat, and aim really detract from my relationships and the possibility of growing closer to a person. I would much prefer a deep discussion face to face with a person rather than through some kind of screen. Sure, you can't do that all the time, but a conversation over the phone would be even better than staring at some stupid set of text on your computer screen. I guess a lot of it is just principle. How do I know you are completely available to listen to me pouring my heart out? How do I know you didn't walk away for a minute or two to chit chat with someone down the hall or something? Just something that nags at me.

It's all show.
I think most of facebook is about "the show." Throwing up some funny one-liner in a stauts update, posting pictures of you doing some awesome stuff, inflating yourself through your profile. It's dumb. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that we all do it. Every single one of us. We all try to make our friends see how awesome we are and thereby feel good about ourselves. I think that's shady. I think if I got rid of facebook, I wouldn't be so much worried about that. I'd be a little more genuine and wouldn't be hard pressed to impress the numbers on my friend list. Being genuine isn't just something to deal with in response to facebook, but in general. If I want to happy with who I am, I think that encompasses all things in my life, so facebook will have to go for that reason.

"turning down the volume on people"
I was talking about hiding notifications and status updates from people on facebook earlier. That would be "turning down the volume" on a specific person. You don't want to hear what they have to say, or see what they are doing, so you turn the volume down on them. Why not just turn them off? Why be their friends on facebook if you just don't care what they have to say? Seriously, why do we string all those people along with our silly "friend lists?" I'd say 75% of the people on my friend list on facebook are people I don't see on a regular basis. 50% of my friends on facebook are people I never even talk to. Why do I still have them around? I guess for some reason I haven't brought myself to purge them. Why should I even have to purge people on my list? Do I honestly do that with my actual relationships? Sometimes I wish I could literally purge myself of a few people, but that'd be incredibly violent and would definitely look bad. But it's ok over facebook, though, right?
I guess that begs the question whether or not friendship over facebook is tantamount to actual friendship. Personally, I don't believe it is, but why deal with all of the show if they aren't my real friends to begin with? Then of course, you'll find a couple of people who get butt-hurt about being purged and guilt you with that "so, we aren't really friends then since you deleted me on facebook?" crap.

Do you really care about me, and Vice versa.
I think we feel like we can effectively nurture a relationship over AIM or facebook. I totally disagree because nurturing a relationship over facebook often turns into the occasional "how are you?" posted on the wall, or the occasional comment on a persons activity. Totally not so. I guess we feel like since we said something, they know we care, but do you really care about a person if you believe you can satisfy the needs of a relationship with just a few lines of text? I don't think so. I've been thinking about that idea for ages now. It has even convinced me that I shouldn't do any sort of intensive texting with a possible girl I'm interested in or anything like that. You confuse a real relationship with that digital ghost of a relationship that exists through facebook and or aim.

As far as I see it, removing facebook from my life will be more of a benefit then a detriment. It'll encourage me to be more genuine with myself and my relationships, well at least my real ones. Now, I know facebook can help me to connect with people, but if I really cared about connecting them, I could rely on something other than facebook and really show I care by writing them a letter or calling them. A short little post on the wall of their facebook shouldn't be good enough. Honestly, the cons with facebook far outweigh the pros in my opinion.

What will I do without facebook you may ask? Good question. I'll be getting my school work done, focusing on nurturing those relationships that I choose to, or at least try to, and paying more attention to my good ol' blog. And ya, I guess you can argue that I can be doing the same things I have been crying out about with my blog instead of facebook, but I don't think it's exactly the same experience. I'm not really blogging to expect some notice by everyone since my blog followers are pretty much only people I care for and people whose opinions I care about. Not to mention I have a record of things I've struggled with a grappled with, in text form at least. Not to mention I get to work on how I write, which is something I do enjoy. So that's that. Love facebook, or hate it. I'm totally getting rid of it.