Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Multiple Topics (of course)

1. Priorities
2. Getting things right
3. Futility
4. All or Nothing

What am I thinking? Or rather, what have I been thinking about.
Those four phrases have been floating around in my grey matter off an on for a while. It feels a tad exhilarating, with a dash of frightening to try and maintain one’s balance on the fence of hope and despair.

Now, don’t worry, this isn’t mid-life crisis (too young for that) or teenage angst (too old for that) talking. I just like trying to sound philosophical. ;)

1.
To elaborate: It was primarily a decision of priorities when I decided to give up the band director career. It was difficult, because that was my dream for so many years, and is what I have so much training and experience in. Yet it conflicted with the priority I had developed of putting my family first.

2.
Which leads to “Getting things right”. I don’t like doing things wrong. Whether it’s a major life changing decision, or misspelling a word….it irks me greatly when I attempt something and fail; not because I wasn’t able to do “it”, but I’m capable of doing it right, but didn’t for whatever reason. Perhaps this is why I get so intense when I watch Jeopardy or play a board game or anything else competitive in nature.

This concept can be applied spiritually as well. As with any follower of Christ, I can look back at many times I “got it right”…and of course, there are many examples to look back on in which I got it very wrong. The Enemy will, of course, try to get us to focus on the latter, and the disparity between the two. I think it is an ingrained part of my disposition to allow that…to feel overwhelmed by my failures. That is probably why I respond so well to praise and encouragement. I forget about the good things I’ve done and am capable of, and feel such elation and validation when it is recognized by someone outside of myself.

3.
Anyways….Futility. This is where the balancing act on that fence really comes into play. In my Walk, the whole “seasons” concept is very frustrating and discouraging to me. I have “seasons” in which I am reading the Word, praying, pursuing righteousness, etc. Then there are seasons in which I go weeks or months not reading the Bible consistently, embracing sin instead of spurning it, and feeling completely ambivalent about righteousness. It feels like a cop-out to say that “that’s how it goes.” That we are in a war, and some battles are won…others are lost. The important thing is to keep trying.

Ahem….there I go, down that line of thinking. The ultimate destination of that train of thought is: Futility. So I must remind myself that many of these thoughts/feelings are tools the Enemy uses to discourage me so I become mired in them rather than charging forward boldly with confidence.

4.
All or Nothing – I tend to see myself this way.
• I did the 100 pushup program intensely for about 2 months….haven’t done pushups since
• I was running 2-3 miles every other day and lost 30-35 pounds between Feb-August and haven’t exercised since
• Blogging: as you may have noticed I imply that I desire to be consistent with the blog, but easily go weeks without a post and then BAM! A novella is born.
• Speaking of Novels (sorta)….in November I wrote 55,000 words on my novel…not a lick of work on it since. (To be fair, I have been intentionally following other NaNoWriMo writers’ advice to take a break in December, but still….)
• Jeopardy = I want to hear/read every clue and try my best to get them right, or turn off the TV….I don’t want to only pay half-attention.
• Etc., etc., etc……..

Well, this has turned into a bit of a soul-baring journal. That’s fine. I’m not embarrassed. Those who know me best, know that despite some of the “downer” concepts in this post, ya’ll know how fond of myself I am. My confidence and contentment might pass for arrogance to the casual observer, but at least I gladly give credit to the God who made me, the parents who raised me, the wonderful wife who loves me, and all the other friends and influences that I’ve met along the way for 32 years that have bettered me.

Oh yeah….I forgot…..I was trying to wrap this up, not ramble on.

The end.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Aahhh....it's nice, long 4-day weekends like this that sometimes make me miss teaching. Can't get a better working schedule than that! (Aside from the fact that I became a workaholic and worked on all the days off....)

It's been a great Christmas morning (and why wouldn't it?). My parents (in town from CA) and Steve and Nikki came over a little after 7:30 so they could be here when the kids woke up. It seemed like there would be no end to the presents for the kids! Our family is very blessed...and not just monetarily. The kids and us are healthy. We've not felt terribly pinched by the "economic downturn/recession", and last night Connor was explaining the reason for Christmas: "It's Jesus' birthday. He came to live in our hearts!!" Yes!

Once the carnage from unwrapping settled, me and my bro hooked up the new Wii his wife surprised him with for Christmas. For the last 4 hours or so, we've been taking turns playing all the different sports games. Even mom and Connor had a go at the bowling.

Almost a year ago, I started thinking about how it would be great to make the move to a flat screen HDTV by January, 2009. I was still hoping for it until about a month ago, when it looked like that might not happen. But then....

So many great blessings rolled our way:
1. I was able to work a few extra times at church over the last month or so = a little extra $$
2. We got a nice bonus at work last week! I had gotten $100 each Christmas while I was teaching, so was hoping for something in that ballpark. Very happy to see it was quite a bit more than that!
3. My parents have given so much to my brother and I over the years...and this morning they gave us a nice chunk of cash.

So I'm looking into the differences between LCD and Plasma tv's, brands, and where to get the best deals.

I should have plenty of spare time on a 4-day weekend to blog a little, eh? I'll try. =)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Indecision

Hi, remember me?

I was thinking of doing a post this weekend, when I hit an unexpected Wall of Indecision.
Do I post about the things that have been happening in my life? Or do I discuss weighty philosophical issues I've been kicking around. Or a mixture of both?

Unfortunately, I never decided which to do....soooo...may I impose on you for a moment? I'd like to poll my 4-5 readers and see what you would rather see me post about. I'm hoping that ya'll have my blog in your RSS feeds now, otherwise it might be a while before you decide to check back to see if I've posted yet.

Thanks!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Defeat, Then Victory

Yesterday was what we call a "Bad Beat" - I was a loser.

Today, however, I'm a Winner! I passed 50,000 words on my novel. It's kinda neat how you do your "validation" process on Nano's website, and they address me as "Novelist". Technically, the novel isn't done yet, but it will be, and I gladly accept this feather in my cap. =)




This says 55k because I actually had about 55k words pre-November, and I just hit "Select All" on my word doc and posted it into Nano's word count validator. (Just to clarify)




Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Beat Catharsis

I feel like I have to write this out to decompress and calm down a bit. It’s all poker lingo, so if you’re not interested in poker (or in my thought process of what happened today), you can skip this one.

Not just a bad beat, but the worst beat I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been knocked out of tournaments before. My first time playing at Jerry’s, I had a flush, and Jerry himself knocked me out by rivering a Queen to make a full house. That was a pretty bad beat.

But this was worse for a couple reasons.
1. The stake for the game was higher than what I usually play
2. There were 30 good players in – lots of opportunity for hours of fun and learning
3. Being the first one out is just downright shameful!
4. I completely forgot about the philosophy of “Better to win small, than lose big” I only forgot it for about 30 seconds…but that was long enough.

The game:
30 players, deep-stack – starting with 50,000 in chips
The hand:
We’re about 40 minutes into the tourney, 2nd round of blinds. I’ve won a couple decent pots at this point, and lost one….so I’m about even with my starting stack.

My pre-flop situation:
A-4 clubs, middle position, 3rd to act
I raise 1,200 (3x the 400 blind)
Everyone else folds except 3rd position (under the gun) Steve – he just calls

Flop: 10d, Kc, Qc
Steve checks
I’m 4 to the flush, so I bet into it – 1,600
Steve raises – 3,000 more
I call

Turn: 9d
Steve checks
I check

River: 9c
Steve raises 9,000
(Before his raise, there is 10,600 in the pot)
I put him on a flush….only about 5% of me is worried about the full house possibility with the pair of 9’s
I hem and haw for a bit, acting a little scared because at this point I’m sure I’ve got him beat.
I go All-in
He calls very quickly

He turns over 10, J of clubs – straight flush, 9 to K – he wins, I go home
I didn’t even consider the double gut-shot
If any other club had come, I’d have won.
If any other non-club card had come, I wouldn’t have called his raise (having missed my flush)

Why I’m beating myself up:
There are three points in the game I could have saved myself.
1. Don’t even play A-4 this early in the game!
2. When he raises the 9,000 – I could fold, although it would have been because I’m worried about the full house
3. When he raises the 9,000 – I could just call, still a little worried about the full house, but confident in my (supposed) nut flush

Probably Option 3 is what I could have settled for. I would still have lost, but I would be left with about 27,000…hurt bad, but plenty alive to play tight for a couple hours, only getting in a hand with a monster.

In a sense, my read on Steve was right: I put him on a flush. I just failed to see/fear the possibility of the straight flush. This will probably haunt me for quite a while. But I hope this experience will also make me a better, smarter player. And the next time I’m in a tournament, you better believe I’m going to follow the philophy: “Better to win small, than lose big”

*Sigh*

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Thanksgiving Post

Seems like there's been a lot more activity with peoples' blogs and Facebook, etc. over the last couple of days! I like it. =)

So here's how my week went:
My last post ended with me mentioning I was on my way to poker...and things went very well! Took 1st place for the 2nd time this month. So I'm feeling confident (not cocky) going in to the big tournament tomorrow (more on that later).

The bonus about staying late in the poker game (about 12:30) was knowing that I could sleep in on Thursday. That was wonderful...except for the fact that my body is pre-programmed to wake up, I guess in case the alarm doesn't go off. So after waking up at 6:30, then going back to sleep, I finally did get up at about 8:30. I stayed in my pajama bottoms and t-shirt outfit until about...ohhh...5:00 pm! =)

I spent the morning keeping the kids entertained so they wouldn't disturb mommy's sleep. I dinked around on the computer, watched the episode of Chuck I missed on Monday, and ate lunch a little after noon. My bro, Steve, came over and we played the board game of World of Warcraft that we have. It takes nearly a half hour to set up, and 3-4 hours to play...so we pretty much did that till dinner was ready around 5:30.

Now ya'll know I'm a picky eater, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that I wasn't experiencing the euphoria that everyone else seems to with all the "good" food. If you look on Wendy's blog, there's a picture I took of us eating dinner, and you can see that on my plate there's nothin' but a couple slices of turkey and a roll. BUT!...they were both yummy. =)

Anywho, like Wendy said, we played some other board games (she forgot to mention that I also won the game of Scattegories =P) and I went to bed around 11.

I wasn't terribly excited about going in to work, but was hoping for a slow-ish day and an early release. Both wishes granted! Our awesome new president came by before 9 and said we could leave at noon!

So I've enjoyed relaxing at home....even took a nap for about an hour! (which I rarely do.)

Tomorrow's docket: Accountability group in the morning, little bit more relaxing for a while, then off to my friend's big Thanksgiving poker tournament. I've really enjoyed getting to know him over the past year and a half, and he has taught me a HECK of a lot about poker...and a little about writing! Bonus!

There are 30 players, and a good-sized prize pool, so I'm going to play tight and hang in till the end...which will be a long time, since we're playing deep-stack. I'll probably try to send updates during the tournament 3pm - midnight? (MST) So keep an eye on my Facebook and Tumblr pages.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ramblin'

I don't really feel like I have a focused "topic", but haven't posted in a couple of days, and feel inclined to share something, but this might turn into a disjointed ramble.

I was hoping that they would let us go home early today, but as it turned out, I ended up being pretty busy. Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under you and make the hours go by quicker.

The last couple of days have been pretty slow word-count-wise on the novel. Fortunately I forged ahead vigorously the week before. I'm only about 3,400 away from the 50k mark, but at least 150k away from actually competing the story!

Well, I'm leaving to go play poker with my posse in a few minutes. I love Wednesdays. (Especially when I know I get to sleep in in the morning!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Impossible? No problem

I didn't do very well with the writing on Friday or Saturday. Only 638 and 1,446 words respectively. On Monday, I had set a goal of reaching 45,000 words for Sunday, BBT (Before Bedtime). Having those two "off" days left me with needing nearly 6,000 words needed today. Yipes!

15 minutes ago, I reached 45,007. What felt like an impossible goal got slapped up-side the head and told to obey me. Felt good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Crossroads

There are two sides to a coin.
Heads: My novel feels like it's progressing well, I see lots of potential, but I'm no where near done at 37,000 words. It feels like MAYBE 1/4 of the story.
Tails: NaNoWriMo ends in 9 days, and the goal of MOST people is to have a completed novel at the end (even if it is rubbish).

The crossroads I'm at is:
A) to decide to "hurry up" and finish the story, which would involve skipping around a bit and going back later to finish by filling in the gaps and beefing it up.

B) keep trucking on as feels natural to the story (and to my style of writing), and be satisfied as long as I have reached the 50,000 word goal for November; finish the story "properly" at my own pace.

Even before I was half-way through this post, I felt like I was already leaning towards B, but suffering from a bit of doubt.

Luckily NaNoWriMo has had 1-2 "pep talks" a week, that have been very insightful and inspirational. The latest one by Janet Fitch, author of "White Oleander", has helped me decide to make a decision. (I'm going with Option B)

Here's what she had this to say (if you're so inclined to read her pep talk):

"Dear Author,

It's happening. You're writing a blue streak. You're piling up the pages. You're roaring through this novel like a forest fire. Then suddenly you hit the immovable obstacle. WHAM. Ow. You're flat as a piece of typing paper, your mind as blank. Panic!

Whether you're taking a month or a year, this is always the question. What happens next?

Fiction is all about decisions. Let me give you a personal example. Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn't decide what to do next. I'd try this, try that, but each time I'd get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan's Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.

Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn't commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, "I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all."

So you have these options, but which one to go for? When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don't let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. That's my advice to you now. Make trouble for your character. In life we try to avoid trouble. We chew on our choices endlessly. We go to shrinks, we talk to our friends. In fiction, this is deadly. Protagonists need to screw up, act impulsively, have enemies, get into TROUBLE.

The difficulty is that we create protagonists we love. And we love them like our children. We want to protect them from harm, keep them safe, make sure they won't get hurt, or not so bad. Maybe a skinned knee. Certainly not a car wreck. But the essence of fiction writing is creating a character you love and, frankly, torturing him. You are both sadist and savior. Find the thing he loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character's hands. Having him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.

You'll find the story will take on an energy of its own, like a wound-up spring, and then you'll just have to follow it, like a fox hunt, over hill, over dale.

GOOD WRITING!

Janet"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Process

As I mentioned previously, part of me wishes I was taking detailed notes, and journaling about this whole "writing a novel" process. Partially to look back on and see what I've learned, how I've grown. But I must also confess that there is a small percentage of me that sees that as marketable "wow" factor for when the book is a best-seller, and people are interviewing me about "the process".

I think often of my literary hero, Professor Tolkien. I have read numerous examples of this kind of thing, where Tolkien was writing to his son, Christopher, or his editor, Unwin, or a friend. He talks about how for a long time he was stalled when the Fellowship got to Moria, and he just had no idea what to do next. Or how Melkor (the Vala who was Sauron's master a looooong time before the third age) was originally named Melko. How/when/why did the name change?

I think of these kind of things as my novel already, in just the few short weeks, has gone through a metamorphosis and leaves me balancing on a precipice of "Oh! That's exciting, I wonder what that's all about." and "What the...? That's stupid! I hate this part, gotta change it later..."

In order to keep up with word count goals, I've been trying not to get hung up on thinking up good name choices (which includes a lot of research in linguistics in the 20 or so languages I'm looking at). I'm just quickly coming up with a "place-holder" name that I can go back and fix later. But the vast number of "place-holder" names is starting to overwhelm me. I can't even remember them from paragraph to paragraph, so I'm starting to keep a "continuity log" to keep track of all these weirdos.

Oh look! It's 11:42....gotta get up for work in a little over 6 hours, so I'm turning in. Got 6 hours of writing done today! 5,000 words!!! I can sleep well. =)

Cosette

Me: Look at you! You're so cute!
Cosette: Ya?
Me: Ya...you know we love you, huh?
Cosette: Ummm...noo...
Me: What? You know we love you. Of course, it helps that you're so cute.
Cosette: Just a little bit...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Got Nothin'

Apparently, I got nothin' going on in my poker game tonight. I won 1st place last week. And this week I'm second out. And I come home early, a little bummed, but thinking "Hey, at least I have time to get some writing done." But I'm feeling so dang tired right now, I don't want to think any more. I got over 2,000 words done earlier, so I'm actually ahead of target.

That's all. I got nothin'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tangents or Plot Twists?

So I'm starting to make good progress on the novel. (Which, by the way, has a working title: "Exile" - which you'd know if you've visited my profile on NaNoWriMo)
As of "write" now (7:15pm MST), I'm only about 1,500 words shy of the "on-track" number to keep the pace. As soon as I finish this blog update, I'm going to get back at it. I'm giving up watching House and Fringe tonight - two shows I like a whole heckuva lot! - in order to get caught up, and maybe even forge ahead.

On a related note, I made a similar sacrifice today at lunch. Some of the folks in my department were heading out to eat for lunch, and I wasn't terribly excited about the PB&J I had brought, so that was tempting. But I opted to stay, eat my PB&J, and do some writing. It paid off, because I got a lot of writing done! (And saved some $$$ by not eating out)

I was thinking today that I only have 12 days left! And I have close to 22,000 words left to reach 50,000. That *GULP* moment hopefully inspire me to crank out words this week and try to get ahead, so I don't wind up putting my head through a wall at some point.

I really would like to capture some of my thoughts about this process more, but already feel the ticking of the clock. So...back to the novel.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Extreme vs. Mundane

Something I've thought for...well, ever: Extremes are easy, subtle and mundane is difficult. Yet, people fear extremes and seek the "comfort" of mediocrity. Allow me to explain...(or don't allow me. Just try to stop me!)

The most obvious example that I think about most often, is living for Christ. Ever since that story of the girl who had a gun put to her head and asked if she believed in God, I've wondered how I would react in a similar situation. Not to sound cocky about something I most likely will never experience, and can't 100%-for-sure know how I'd react....but...to me that sounds easy. And some guy named Peter, who started the Church even missed that one. I know.

When faced with such a black and white choice like that. And with sin...could I all of a sudden, one day kill someone to take their money, out of anger, etc? No. The sin that I succumb to isn't the hit-over-the-head extreme circumstances, it's the daily subtle mundane choices of everyday life.

Perhaps that's part of what draws me to fantasy/sci-fi fiction. Or even the action flicks I love like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. These fictional realms are extreme black vs. white scenarios. The choices characters make may be difficult, but usually they're clear. They are exaggerations of the mundane choices we make every day.

That's where I fail. The little, subtle, mundane choices. The slow death of the soul. Thinking like this tempts me to seek a life of risk and extreme adventure. I'm not talking about dangerous thrill-seeking like base-jumping or becoming an MMA fighter. I mean escaping my mundane "safe" life and go onto the front lines of spiritual warfare. It's something more than just idealistic romanticism of watching too many movies. There is a sleeping warrior inside me, that is itching for the opportunity and guts to kick some ass. (Spiritually speaking, of course.)

I'm excited about the next study my accountability group is going to be starting next week. We're going to read through "The Way of the Wild Heart" by John Eldredge. I think I read his earlier book, "Wild at Heart" about 7-8 years ago, and it was good.

Whew, got a little heavier than usual. But its cathartic to vent.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Whoopsie...

Just realized that I didn't have a post yesterday. Not my fault! Really! I ended up spending the day in Denver, and didn't get home till about 10:30 pm. Like I mentioned in my Friday evening post (not to be confused with the Saturday Evening Post..lol), I was hoping to get in some quality time with Brian and Tyler who were in town for the night.

It was a blast hanging out with them. Lunch, Opera audition (for Tyler), Nickel arcade, Trip to airport (again...for Tyler), Bowling, then home. I was on fire with the witty banter, and was quite pleased with myself (as were the others). =)

BUT....the consequence: I only got about 500 words written yesterday, and I was already a couple thousand behind. Before my head hits the pillow tonight, I'm "supposed" to be at 26,667. Currently, I'm at 19,581...yipes. I'm realistic enough to know I'm not going to get 6,000 tonight, but I'm feeling optimistic and ambitious enough to at least try for 3,000.

The NaNoWriMo folks are supportive and encouraging, and we get 1-2 "pep talk" emails per week, so they are basically saying: "It's ok if you're behind...don't give up!"

So, I'm going to get off the internet now, and get writing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Plans Change

Since most of my followers also follow Wendy, I imagine you've heard/read by now that the last 24 hours have held 2 very unpleasant events that have impacted Wendy quite a bit.

1. Witnessing a neighbor screaming in despair and crumble after her husband committed suicide last night.
2. Wendy's mom and step-dad rolling over their truck and camper/trailer a couple hours ago in Wyoming

(See her blog for full scoops)

My "plan" was to head up to Denver right after work to hang out with BFF Brian, who's there for the weekend. Then probably stay overnight, and come back to the Springs so he can see our new place and the kids, etc.

While I was on the phone with Wendy, she started to cry and say she couldn't handle the thought of me a) traveling with weather/driving conditions the way they are and b) being away for the night.

I knew the right decision, obviously. But to be honest, a part of me was crushed. I was really looking forward to hanging out with Bri, we always have been really connected, and we have a lot to talk about and catch up on. He's still going to come down for a while tomorrow, but...ya know.

So as I'm driving home, I'm trying to focus on loving my wife, and being selfless, but there's that nagging little voice saying "But...!"

In order to trying and squelch that lil' nagger, I turn up the radio (which I had turned down while on the phone), and the first thing I hear is this line: "I'm letting go of the life I planned for me..." (Song: I'm Letting Go by Francesca Battistelli)

And I'm like, "Woah." That did it. So before I got home God changed my heart and attitude. Aside from the benefit of being in the right frame of mind to not have an attitude and be able to love my wife the way she needs right now, I also saw some bright side points, like: 1) gonna save money on gas and food, 2) won't add to the exhaustion I'm already feeling, 3) get to up my word count tonight for NaNoWriMo, which otherwise I'd have zero words today.

Even though the circumstances are difficult, I'm most moved at how quickly and powerfully God moved in me personally today. Thanks, Abba.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two in a Row!

Yep...it's possible for me to follow through on commitments! I said I was going to try and blog every day, and so far I've made it two days now. (whew!)

I've only written about 500-600 words so far today, and it's already past 9:00. I'm thoroughly exhausted, because two nights this week I've stayed up till 12:00 or 12:30 trying to get caught up on my word count. And then last night (Wednesday) was my poker night. The good news is, I made that worthwhile by winning 1st place...that felt good. The bad news is, I got home at 12:45, and went straight to bed: with ZERO words written for the day.

Tonight, we bid adieu to my MIL who is heading back on the road tomorrow morning. We had dinner at Red Lobster, then they came over to our place for a few minutes. Then I HAD to watch Office, of course.

This week, Brian (best friend/best man) is going to be in Denver. So I'm going up to hang out Friday night, then he is coming back down to the Springs to check out our place and hang out...not sure if we're going to do anything in particular...but I know I won't be writing....putting me even FURTHER behind. I'm running the computer/video for church on Sunday...but have nothing else scheduled for the rest of the day. So I hope to plan to get several hours of writing done on Sunday...there's even an official "write-in" scheduled with other NaNoWriMo authors in the area.

So that's where I'm at right now. Ok, back to the novel...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaNoWriMo

Those are the letters occupying 87% of my consciousness at present. For those who haven't been following my FB updates, on Nov. 1st I embarked on the journey best captured by this sentiment: "It's crazy, it'll never work, when do I start?"

NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writer's Month.
Apparently, for the last 10 years, this has been going on every year in November. A friend from church told me about it when I mentioned to him that I was trying to write a novel. The goal of nano is to write 50,000 words in November. That's about the size of Animal Farm by George Orwell, and other research indicates that an average fiction novel runs 60k-110k. I looked up Riven, by Jerry Jenkins, which Wendy and I read recently, and that's about 145k or something.

I'm going to try and add a nano widget that shows my wordcout, I've got that going on my FB profile already. Right now I'm just under 16,000. I never woulda thunk it! Before embarking on this nano experience, I spent 6-8 months to come up with 5,000 words. A lot of that time I spent doing research, day-dreaming about what kind of story I wanted to do, and creating a map of the world it would take place in.

I've felt bad for neglecting the blog, though. And a lot of advice I've been hearing from people, and reading on the internet, is related to the blog experience.

1) It's important to try and write every day, even if it's junk you throw out later.
2) It's important to update your blog often so that you develop web-presence, establish a following, and eventually help market yourself.

If you would like to see my nano profile, and read an excerpt, etc. go to the website and register. It's easy and free, just need an email address and password. Then click on the "Authors" tab and enter my user name: realdealneal

Friday, October 31, 2008

Goodbye, October

Sorry for taking so long for another post. (Not that I've heard any complaints!) And this isn't gonna be an audio one, because I'm doing this one from work on my lunch break.

It's pretty loose around here today. I guess cuz of Halloween. There was a potluck and several people dressed up. Today I'm 3-hole-punch-Josh (ala "The Office").

So, I'm on my last day of my cleanse program. Or maybe yesterday was...I caved and got some food here at lunch, and we're going out for pizza tonight cuz a friend is moving away. I don't think I'm cut out for a lifestyle of HUNGRY-ALL-THE-TIME, so this isn't going to be a regular thing for me.

But I was still pretty surprised when I got on the scale this morning to be greeted by a number combination I haven't seen since I was 17: 182. Really? I've been faithfully drinking the shakes, taking the pills, drinking the cleanse drink stuff; but a couple of times I've had to get "real food" on my way to church straight from work or whatever. So I thought that might've messed things up, yet somehow I lost 2 pounds since yesterday (184 yesterday morning).

So I'll finish drinking the stuff today, and that'll be that. Glad I did it....maaaaybe would do it again in a year or two or three if it feels like good timing. Otherwise, I'm gonna stick with keeping portion sizes down, minimal soda, exercising. As one of my favorite profs from Biola, Jerry Gruendyke, used to often say: "That's what we call 'A Good Deal'."

(p.s. Jeri - is that punctuation right? with the period where it is?) =)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Audio Blog Attempt

Just changed where the file is hosted...and confirmed with Wendy that it works now! (Although she says I talk to slow.)

Audio Blog Post

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ack...

Went back to work today...so this was my Monday....and boy did it act like one.

First of all, major bummer: Godspell's been cancelled. Vanguard is pulling back a bit to get expenses under control. Too bad I bought the CD and an audition book last week. I've been getting pretty psyched over the last couple weeks, but I guess I'll just put that on the shelf and hope they try again next year.

Second, I'm still sick...so that's fun. I'm gonna try to suck it up and go run tonight, though. Mental toughness....yea, dawg!

Third, Today was my first day on the cleanse program. Shake for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, just finished my shake for dinner. I'm gonna be dreaming about steak and fried chicken tonight. I also drank about 90-100 ounces of water today (so far), and peed more often than I remember ever doing before! Tomorrow is another "shake day" and then Thursday I switch to the cleanse drink stuff.

I'm probably gonna sack out early tonight. I'm only about 50 pages away from the end of Two Towers, so I might power through that and start on ROTK tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lazybones*

*name of a sweet jazz/blues song (on Harry Connick's "25" album)

I feel a bit like a "Lazybones" 1) because I haven't updated my blog in 9 days, and 2) because I stayed home from work today cause this cold is kicking my butt...but I didn't accomplish anything. I did what I was supposed to do when you're sick: I rested. I actually have a hard time sleeping during the day, but I spent several hours in bed, and actually slept! That's a sure sign that I'm sick.

I'm going to be in a few minutes (it's about 10:45 as I type this), and am actually feeling a bit better. I'm going to continue taking my over-the-counter meds, but I'm going to try going to work tomorrow. I know there are people out there that like to "milk it", even when there's a legitimate reason for skipping work, but I've always hated missing school/work/etc. I think I missed maybe 2-3 days of school during my 4 years in high school. When I was teaching, we had 10 "sick/personal" days allotted to us each year. The only time I used any of those days, is when Connor was born I took a week off. Other than that I had maybe (again) 2-3 days that I "stayed home sick" during the 4 years I taught.

Anyways, I haven't mentioned this on here yet, but in another phase of attack on my body, I'm starting a "cleanse" program tomorrow. It's called Isagenix. A guy at church that I met on the men's retreat in August has done it a few times and signed me up. Weight loss is more of a side-effect with this. The main purpose is to "cleanse" the body of all the toxins, chemicals, etc. we've got in our bodies. I'll be sure to give updates on how that goes. I'm not going to talk about it on Facebook though, just here.

I'm also less than 100 pages away from finishing The Two Towers, which I'm "scheduled" to finish by Thursday for the Tolkien Reading Quest. Yay me!

I'm auditioning for Godspell next week! I'm hoping this cold goes away soon so I can practice full voice and be confident physically. I'm not 100% on a song yet. They only want 16 bars (industry standard), and I'm leaning towards auditioning with a non-Godspell song. I'm thinking "Any Dream Will Do" from Joseph or (if I'm ballsy enough) "Who Am I?" from Les Mis. I kind of like the idea of belting out: "2-4-6-0-OOOOOONNNNNEE!!!" =)

That's all for now. Come back again. (When your RSS feed reader tells you I've updated)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time = Dime

Most people probably aren't familiar with this phrase (since I'm making it up right now), but "I've got the time, so I'm gonna drop a dime" and give ya'll an update on the haps. (Nice blend of urban jive and country drawl, eh?(Canadian))

It's only been one week, so this still counts as a regular update...I just decided.

Anyway, since I'm rigorously boring and rooted in structure, I'm gonna skip intelligent-sounding prose and go for list format. To wit...

1. I'm so close to being productive. I can't believe it's actually been more than 2 weeks since I last played Starcraft (only one mission away from completing the Zerg missions), and have been tackling other projects. I've scanned 650 photos so far (mostly high school and years 1-2 of my Biola years.) Also, I'm want to get all the Biola Chorale and Winds concerts I have into digital format so I can share them with everyone.

2. TRQ (Tolkien Reading Quest) So far, it's going splendidly. I finished The Hobbit a couple days ahead of schedule...and as of right now, I am on the last chapter of FOTR - which is "due" by Monday. No sweat.

3. High Quest - I don't think I've shared about this yet on my blog. Over a year ago (August, 2007) on the Men's retreat, I met a couple guys with whom I started an accountability group. 14 months later, we're still meeting...every Saturday at 8:00 am. It's awesome. For the majority of the time, we had a loose structure: each guy share's what's going on with them, then prayer. At this year's men's retreat in early September, we decided to "step it up a notch" and go through a study together. A lot of guys in the church do the High Quest thing, so we're doing it...and it's been good.

4. Work: lots of changes - hopefully for the better! It's a long, complicated story (especially for those not familiar with the government contracting industry) but let's see if I can sum it up briefly and clearly. Here's the corporate structure: Nana Development Corporation -> owns 4 management companies (of which my company, KPSG, is one) -> each management company has under it anywhere from 4-15 subsidiary companies.

Basically, almost a year ago, to help improve performance and cut costs, Nana (top of the food chain) decided to merge it's 4 management companies into 2 management companies. So, we (KPSG) are being absorbed into one of the larger platforms. Due to many unknowns, they can't guarantee us job security, but they're saying 99%, because the contracts we manage are still active and need support...so we're logical choices, already being in place.

Whew! That's a mouthful, and I don't blame you if you skimmed all that. Essentially, this "re-org" is to take place over the next year. So we'll see how things sit in September, 2009. At least I recently got a 6% raise to help this next year out!

5. The Novel - ach...now I feel sheepish. I've had 2 people so far send me back some great feedback/suggestions. Perhaps I erred in deciding to wait to write more until after receiving feedback from most (if not all)...for I fear the "bug" has left me. I haven't added a word to my story in a month!! It is in no danger of being abandoned. In fact, if anything, this TRQ I'm on is inspiring and stirring me to dive back into my own world.

6. Lastly, just for fun...a guy is building a model city of Minas Tirith out of matchsticks! Looks pretty cool!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Week Wrap

(Or is it a weak rap?)

So, I was thinking today that other than the couple of people I've shared with this week (Wendy and Jonah...that's about it!), everyone else that knows me probably has no idea what I've been up to recently. So I'm going to go out on a limb here, and assume someone cares, and tell you. =)

Work-wise, I was pretty busy. Lots of stuff happened that I won't bore you with, but can be summed up with these three point: 1) I got to visit Peterson Air Force Base to out-process employees on a contract that was ending (including free lunch at Chili's!); 2) I almost had an opportunity to got to Ft. Knox, Kentucky to help in-process 17 new employees for a new contract; and 3) it was generally a very busy, somewhat-stressful week...and I was quite exhausted.

On top of work, I'm running sound for church this week, which includes running the Wednesday night service and the practices for Sunday. This week included extra rehearsals on Thursday night and today (Saturday). So...more time not at home.

On the funner side of things....via Netflix this week I watched the re-make of "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Golden Compass". Also, I've been scanning like the Dickens...something I've been wanting to get done for years. I started with high school photos, and am well into my 2nd year at Biola now. I know some folks are eager to finally see them after years of teasing about doing this. It's coming.....soon.

Though most friends/family may not care, I'm also doing very well in Fallen Sword. I'm a high-ranking leader of an established guild, and things are going swimmingly. I'm also just one mission away from completing the Zerg missions on Starcraft.

So, I've gotta leave in about a half hour to run sound for rehearsal at church. But hey, I finally did an update! *pats self on back*

Friday, September 26, 2008

TRQ and Unbreakable 2?

So far the Hobbit reading has been going well. I've also enjoyed the Hobbit-related status updates I've been doing on FB. =) I'm about half-way through now.

Just came across this article that hints at a possibility of a sequel to Unbreakable...definitely one of Shyamalan's best. Sounds like it's still a bit too ambiguous to get excited about yet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Serenity

I finally got Serenity via Netflix today. There will be spoilers in this post.



My reaction: thanks a lot, you sadists who convinced me to watch all 14 episodes of Firefly, and then this movie. Now I shall be haunted by the desire for a show that was canceled well before its time.

As for the movie itself, I think I had to squelch a little of the temptation I get to scold the makers of movie-from-a-tv-show for having to spend part of the movie "explaining" a lot of things that are already common knowledge, in an attempt to help it be a "stand-alone" film. Other than a slightly slower, slightly frustrating pacing during the first 30-45 minutes I was ok with it. Some of the writing wasn't quite as good as the tv show either...not as much playful banter. I suppose they were intentionally going

The only other negative factor I felt was that the characters seemed a little different from the series. My understanding that the movie was supposed to basically pick up where the series left off, but maybe I have that wrong. Mal was a lot meaner and antagonistic (especially with Simon) then he eventually became in the course of the tv show...so that seemed a little "off" to me.

One thing I thought was kind of interesting was what the writing process for the movie must have been like for the creative team, knowing that it was the end of the road; no going back to carrying on the tv show indefinitely. I'm guessing that's what freed them up to make choices like killing off main characters.

I especially liked the twist of bringing the Reaver fleet on top of the Alliance fleet. I think I giggled a little bit. There was a tad too much unbelievability in Mal's ability to fight such a highly-trained assassin, and to take such a beating/shooting/stabbing, and still be 80-90% functional, but that's what makes him the heroic archetype, I guess.

All in all...a good movie, darn it. I'm left wanting more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Multi-topic Update

I've been pretty lazy about sharing what's going on in my life, mind, heart, DVD player, etc....I know many of you are in anguish, wanting...nay, NEEDING to know what's going on with me. Fortunately I'm uploading a photo to Tumblr once in a while and sending a quick FB update often, so it's not a complete vacuum.

Topics: Marriage, Novel, TRQ, Pushups, God stuff

1. Marriage
Wendy and I are coming up on magic #7! Now let's see, what is it they say happens at 7 years of marriage? Oh...right: you get itchy. So far, no rash or other like symptoms...no itch for me. =) We had grandiose dream-anniversary events flitting through our minds: Royal Gorge train ride, B&B somewhere in the mountains, weekend in NY? But practicality reigns...we're going to "splurge" and do dinner and a movie. We're gonna do a nicer restaurant of course, but we're not above using coupons to do so. =)

2. The Novel
I've gotten some Fan-tastic (if I may presume to call you fans) responses from a couple people so far, with great comments and much-needed corrections. I haven't worked much on the story in the last couple weeks. Maybe the same laziness/procrastination applies here as well. I'm looking forward to make some edits and then pressing on.

3. TRQ = Tolkien Reading Quest
I knocked out the first two chapters of The Hobbit during lunch today, so I've officially begun "The Quest"! Hopefully it doesn't distract too much from "The Novel."

4. Pushups
Oy....this parade got rained on, flooded and trampled. Week 5 kicked my keister. I've been in the 3rd (read=tough guy) column the whole way through, but couldn't do week 5....twice!!! Grrr...I'm starting my third try of week 5 tonight, I don't know what's going on, but I feel so freaking weak now...hopefully this is just a "normal" plateau that I'll get past soon.

5. God stuff
I shared with a friend from church recently, that the term I'm feeling like applying to my life right now is: Awakening (or perhaps Re-Awakening). I think I was an "asleep" Christian for a good number of years after graduating from Biola. Just on cruise control. This last year has brought so many paradigm shifts in my thinking, it's as though I'm discovering God and life as a Christian for the first time. Any arrogance or assumptive thinking I had developed as Christian who had thought he'd arrived at a "comfortable" position of knowledge has been gradually getting stripped away.

"Brokenness" is a term I've always disliked. I think I always had put it in a context of being "broken" by life circumstances, sin, etc....an emotional basket-case kind of image. Bug recently I've been applying it to myself in the sense that God has broken down everything I thought I "knew" about him, life, relationships, holiness...the list goes on. Duh. I've never been a very emotional person, so it makes sense that my "brokenness" is intellectual and spiritual.

Ok, I feel like I'm rambling now...so let me bring it to a close.
Wendy has been a real inspiration/teaching-agent for me as well. I thought I was the reader of the family! She's been voraciously devouring (and applying) book after book...and not sci-fi/fantasy fiction(which is what I usually devour), but heavy, life-changing non-fiction books by some of the greatest Christian authors! We're starting to talk more openly about our spirituality...and other aspects of our relationship with each other and with God.

It's a good place right now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

House...and TRQ

Ok, my brain must've gotten zapped...cuz I completely forgot that House premiered on Tuesday. I missed it because I was running sound at church for a special event ("Would Jesus Go Green?"), but I had intended on watching it online asap. So, guess I'll do that tonight. I also got Hitman from Netflix...that's for after the kids are in bed.

TRQ: Tolkien Reading Quest

Several Tolkien aficionados are planning on reading through about 22 books related to Tolkien and Middle-earth, starting on 9-22 (Monday). It's actually been a few years since I've re-read The Hobbit and LOTR...and I've never read several of the HoME series, so I think this is a good opportunity to do so, along with the camaraderie and motivation of discussion.

I don't expect any of my half-dozen regular readers to join in this "Quest", but I'm thinking about creating a separate blog (quick-update format, like Tumblr) to make posts directly relating to the reading quest. Although, I barely have a few readers here as it is....we'll see.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dharma Wants YOU!!!

I've been taking the recruit tests on www.dharmawantsyou.com and want to ask everyone I know to sign up as a recruit. Why? Because I just created a multiple-choice test as a part of the Dharma Initiative's Volunteer Recruitment Program.

Name of the test: Language Appreciation Appraisal

There are 10 multiple-choice questions for you to answer.

You can access the test here

For each registered recruit that completes the test, I'll get 50 Dharma Points to help towards my overall result.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Uh-oh

Remember that Large Hadron Collider that had potential to do some damage? Check out the live webcam to see what's happening: LHC webcam

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodbye, Life As We Know It

I wanted to take this opportunity to bid a fond adieu to planet Earth and its inhabitants, on the off chance that the world ends tomorrow, Wednesday, September 10. If you hadn't heard yet (a direct relation to your level of geekiness, I suppose), the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been completed, and will fire up in about 5 hours from this post. The project started in 1995, and cost somewhere between 4-6 billion euros.

I'm not scientific-minded enough to accurately explain exactly what it does (and you probably wouldn't understand if I could), but basically what I understand is that it's going to explore theoretical particle physics...and (here's the kicker) could possibly create a small (tiny?) black hole.

Ummm...black holes. Those mysteries of science that no one really knows what they are, how they're created, or what would happen if one suddenly showed up in Switzerland.

Here's a CNN article that describes it better. (And denounces the black hole danger as "baloney")

[Update: 3 hours later]
Just saw one of my regular online comics following the same train of thought!:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall TV Premieres

I have plenty of interests that I don't feel like I have time for (reading, Starcraft, poker, writing my novel, etc.), but I still want to give some of the new shows a chance. Some of them actually look pretty interesting. There's a scary caveat here, though: every new show that I've liked and started to really get into...gets cancelled. Like I'm some sort of fan-curse. (Blind Justice, Day Break, Journeyman)

So here are the new shows I'm interested in giving a chance to see if they're worthy of me dooming them to cancellation (in chronological premiere date order):

Fringe (X-Files-ish?)
The Eleventh Hour (Yay, Rufus Sewell!)
My Own Worst Enemy (Slight reservations about Slater's acting ability to pull off the dual-identity)

**Special new show notes: I did watch the Knight Rider pilot last February, and was mildly interested, but the acting and writing was pretty bad....so not too keen on following as of now.
Also, I've watched one or two episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which I was pretty excited about when they first released trailers for the show) and the jury's still out on this one too. I might Hulu this series, to get caught up and feel whether I'm in or not.

And of course, there are my returning favorites that I'm also looking forward to their premieres: Office, House, Chuck, Life, CSI:Miami, Numb3rs, Lost

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Funny

Here're a couple pics that made me lol. They're from a series by my favorite online comics guy Drew. The pics are from here, but be warned, some crude stuff is mixed in. (Although some of the crude stuff is pretty funny too!)



Friday, August 29, 2008

Men's Retreat (Week late post)

I know I only have female readers (or at least, no guys ever post comments - other than myself, of course). But, a blessing is a blessing, and perhaps the female readers would be interested in hearing how Men's Retreat was this weekend? I'll take your silence as a "yes." [EDIT: I wanted to post this the very next day (Monday), but for some reason it's taking me all week to type a little at a time for this post! - probably doesn't help that I'm going into a lot of detail....loooong post!]

The theme for the retreat was "Obtaining Integrity Amidst Our Sin".

Since I think in chronological terms, let me break it down that way....

Steve and I were driving up together, so Wendy dropped me off at work so she could have the car for the weekend. Steve picked me up around 5:30 and we got some BK for din-din on the way up the mountain. Check-in time was 5-7, and we arrived at 7:05; so we were probably the last people to check in. We barely had time to throw our stuff in our room and get down to the campfire circle as worship was starting at 7:15...and Steve and I were to start speaking at 7:45!!

Oh, background on that for those who don't know....Last year at retreat (obviously our first with Vanguard) Steve and I shared some personal struggles, etc. (I'm being intentionally vague) at a group session that radically changed us for this past year. A month or two before retreat, the men's ministry leader, Scott, asked us if we would speak at the opening session. Apparently, all of the church leadership were really impressed and moved by our sharing last year and felt we would be a good kick-off for this year's retreat! I had no idea.

So, back to our timeline....Steve and I hadn't really felt like we had time to decompress from work, but we stepped away briefly before as worship was starting and prayed together, asking God to speak to the men's hearts, since we didn't feel like our words were much. So, we shared, and then another surprise: Scott asked all the men to surround us, lay on hands, and pray over us. It was pretty incredible.

All of that wrapped up by 8:45, and then everyone headed over to a gym for Rec time! There were two options: Basketball or Dodgeball. On the first Monday night of each month, the men's ministry has a BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) where we grill up dinner and then do something fun. Often that has included dodgeball...which has been tremendous fun....and exhausting! When you get 20-40 men (half on each side) with 15-20 balls going nuts trying to bean everybody, it's chaotic and a lot of fun. We did that for 2.5 hours!

Needless to say, we were all very tired and sore the next morning. I didin't get to sleep until a little after 1 am, but still got myself up at 6:00 so I could have a nice devotion time watching the sun rise before 7:00 am breakfast. The morning plan was to have the 60-70 men break up into 3 groups and rotate to the three different break-out sessions. All three were very impacting and meaningful. (I'd go so far as to say better than last year's sessions)

Lunch was some half-decent tacos. Then after lunch....more Rec time! The plan was to choose Volleyball or Ultimate Frisbee. I chose volleyball (like I did last year), and I don't think the Ultimate Frisbee happened, because I thought I noticed guys playing horseshoes and kickball instead....not sure, I was pretty focused. I think volleyball is a sport that I apparently really enjoy, and wouldn't mind doing more regularly. (And I'm pretty decent at it too!)

Rec time was supposed to be 1:30 - 5:00, but at 3:00ish we got sent indoors by high winds and rain! At the tail-end of our volleyball session, we noticed funnel clouds forming, and later found out that tornadoes had been spotted in the area! So a lot of guys opted for naps or other such relaxing. I did a little reading, some crosswords, and my pushups. I was 100% convinced I wasn't going to be able to complete my set for the day since I was reeeeeally sore from dodgeball and volleyball and lack of sleep. Somehow, I forced myself to do it. (I also took longer breaks in between each set) I was pretty fried at the end though; for some reason I seem to be really insistent on pushing my body past it's limits with this pushup program....Wendy can attest to the times I've groaned and screamed and collapsed at some of my sessions. I've even had to take advil the next morning on a couple occasions when my muscles/joints hurt so much. But I digress.......

Dinner was some mediorcre meat (pot roast and pork)....I don't think I ate much. Then more worship and sharing around the campfire. We wrapped up around 10pm, and many guys opted to hang out, talk, play games, etc. But I opted to read a little bit and hit the sack early (If you can call 11pm early).

Sunday I got up early again for Devos....after breakfast we had our "God Stroll" time. I took off, and headed for the hills. I had a nice little hike, and made sure I was not with in visual/audible range of anyone. Good time, but when I got back to the lodge for our communion time...it was deserted! No one at the lodge, no one at the campfire circle, no one in the dining area.....fortunately a camp staff person pointed me in the right direction. I was a little late getting back I guess, and the group had gone to a little outdoor chapel area in a part of the camp I hadn't been to yet.

They had already started when I got there. The tradition for Sunday morning communion at men's retreat is to take a piece of bread and "shot" of wine to someone and share something with them about how they impacted you this weekend, or some other sort of encouragement. Apparently, a couple people had been looking for me (since I was late) and I got approached by four guys in a row! So that was neat. Then I had time to grab some bread and wine, and go share with a couple guys too.

After that, a little prayer, a couple announcements then: go home! It was kinda cool being done early. Steve and I loaded up and left around 11:00. Originally, Steve was just going to drop me off at home, but I realized that Kelly (our pastor) would just be starting his sermon around 11:45, so I had him drop me off at church. Wendy was surprised when I sat next to her about half way through his sermon. It was cool, because even though I felt a bit drained from the weekend, I still was able to plug into the worship time after the sermon and really enjoyed it.

I'll share more of what God's been speaking to me at, and since, the retreat in a separate post since I'm reaching the limit for a novella here. I'd like to try and get more readers, but this post might be too daunting for first time readers? So, enjoy: Wendy, Jeri, Jenny, Kristen! (And maybe 1 or 2 lurkers?) =)

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Apologies

I must apologize ahead of time for this post. I'll give the warning disclaimer here, don't read on if you're squeamish. I'll try to take up some more space so you can avoid the punchline if you wish. Still reading? Ok, don't say I didn't warn you. I briefly scan my spam folder in email to double check that nothing's in there that I actually want. I couldn't help but giggle quite a bit when I saw this email subject title: Paris Hilton's vagina bites mailman.

What the...?

(Jeri, please share with Ric, as I'm sure he'd giggle with me.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Athleticism Post

Remember that really good swimmer from the Olympics? Here's a funny Onion Headline.

Also in the world of athleticism, a 100 pushups update.
Last night was poker night, so after dinner, I did some more photo organizing on the computer for an hour or so until Wendy got back from her class at church so I could take off. I ended up chopping/winning at around 12:30, and went to bed pretty soon after getting home....and forgot to do my pushups for Week 3, Day 2!

I realized it this morning, and went ahead and did them right after getting up. Uuuuunnngggghhhhhh.....I don't know if it's just because the program doesn't "plateau" at a comfortable level, but keeps pushing you past your comfort zone, but I actually felt a little nauseous afterwards for a while. My five sets were: 27, 19, 19, 15, 27(max) for a total of 107.

Now I'll be playing it by ear to see if I go back to the "schedule" of doing my next day's worth of pushups on Friday night....or just do them on Saturday, and push my whole 6 weeks back a day? Either way, I'll be doing them while on the Men's Retreat with church, so I'm sure I'll have some explaining to do. =)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Specific Goals + Consistency = Success

I found this Lifehacker bit pretty interesting. (Especially since 2 of the 3 bullet point examples apply to me right now.) I'll let the article do the talking:

Success Secret

Friday, August 15, 2008

Puuuuusshhh!

So far, so good on the 100 Pushups program. Tonight was the end of week 2. Here's my nerdy spreadsheet that I'm tracking on:



(I know it's kind of small/hard to see, so basically for the 6 days of doing it so far, here have been my totals: 58, 56, 73, 62, 75, 82)

The 100 Pushups Website says at the end of Week 2, you do another exhaustion test, where you do as many as you can in one set. It doesn't say when, and since I'm spent from just having done my Day 3 set, I'm going to do the test tomorrow, and hope I'm ok to start Week 3 on Monday.

How are my workout buddies doing? (Maybe only 1 buddy)

Red Dawn

HAHAHAHA.......this had me laughing and having to explain to the person I share an office with: Russians invade Georgia

Monday, August 11, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes

I've noticed something pretty exciting: I'm disappearing!
For my next trick, I will make my neck disappear. I'm providing two photos, one from our end-of-the-year band banquet in June, 2007. The second from tonight. I tried to mimic the first photo, including the angle to really capture how big a difference there is in my face and neck.

Wheeeee:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Reason

As I started writing (and researching) the story I'm writing, I've always told myself to try and enjoy, and study, the process of discovering what this kind of endeavor is like. Obviously, I'm what's called a "rookie" in the writing gig. So I'm allowing myself a little slack in my expectations for myself.

Part of what I've learned (so far) is The Reason why it takes so long. Research. One of the the things I've done a lot of research on is how much research to do, how much is too much, why is it necessary, how does one go about it, etc. I've even had the privilege of being able to have conversations with bona fide successful authors to answer some of my questions. (Notably, David Anthony Durham - who wrote Acacia, which I loved! and Jerry Jenkins - author of the Left Behind series, and poker buddy whom I see nearly every week.)

The feedback I've received from them (and the general consensus that I've found online) is that yes, research is essential, and it's absolutely OK to do lots of it early on when writing a novel.

[Incidentally, I think I'm going to begin transitioning from talking about the "story" I"m writing and actually referring to it as a "novel". For some reason, I've been very reticent to do so, and I can only assume it's because I'm cautious about setting up unrealistic expectations for myself. But the more I work on this project, and the more the vision unfolds for me, the more it "feels" like a novel.]

OK...now to the point of this post: what I've discovered in my research today: God. I'm working on a deity and religion for the world I'm creating, and part of that research led me to a scholarly paper on the origin of the English word "God".

This gets into linguistics, and as I started to describe it to Wendy, I realized that it's possibly not that interesting to someone....not interested in linguistics. (So I'll assume that at least "McSwain" will continue.)

I'll give a nutshell, and then link to the rest. Essentially, in the Old Testament, we learn of the twelve tribes of Israel, one of them being that of Gad. I've only ever heard it pronounced with a flat "a" as in "sad". But apparently the correct Hebrew pronunciation is "Gawd" as in...."God". I found that very interesting. Especially in that the descendants of the tribe of Gad became the Brittons and Celts....where English was born. Here the rest of the essay.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fun Times

A few nights ago, I decided I wanted a more recent photo of me with my kids, so I just decided to have them on my lap and use the isight cam in my macbook to take one. Here are a couple good results:





Once that was done, I started playing with the special effects you can do with PhotoBooth....and they thought it was hilarious! Several times a day now it seems like Connor is asking to do funny faces on the computer again.

I linked in FB, but here's the link again anyways to the Flickr set I made:
Photobooth Phun

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Slap You In The Face With My Gauntlet!!!

In keeping with my recent fitness trend of the past few months, I want to do participate in a special challenge, and I'd like people to join me!

It's called the One Hundred Pushup challenge. I've kind of always been partial to pushups anyways, and this program says they'll help you get to the ability of doing 100 CONSECUTIVE pushups!

Check it out:
one hundred push ups

Friday, July 18, 2008

Borderline Personality Disorder

Ok, I know it's a bit twisted, but this made me laugh today:
Drew's comic

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birthday Present

Hmmm...dad's birthday IS coming up. Maybe...?:
The Uro Club

=)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Norse Followup

AH-HA! This is sweet. After dinner, I'm pouring over lists of Old Norse names and their means, pronunciations, -a changes to -u in the genitive, etc.

I end up liking a name I see: Kormak. Investigation leads me to Wikipedia, where I find a recording of someone speaking poetry from Kormakr's saga.

I'm not 100% sure why, but I started giggling and bouncing in my chair from giddiness I was so pleased.

Go listen for yourself...(click on the "Read Aloud" link):
Wiki-Kormak

brain...huurrrt!

I'm currently studying a dozen or so archaic languages for a "special project" I'm working on. Currently, I'm on Old Norse/Old Icelandic (essentially the same). A little while ago, I read this paragraph (several times), trying to voice some of the pronunciations. Oy! That's a tough one:

Doubled consonants, as in the classical pronunciation, are usually held longer than their individual counterparts. The doubled consonants kk, pp, tt are pre-aspirated in Modern Icelandic. This means that the same puff of air which follows p in American English 'pot' actually precedes kk, pp, or tt in the modern pronunciation. The consonants k, p, and t are also preaspirated when they immediately precede l, m, or n. The double consonant ll has a peculiar pronunciation. Many speakers articulate this as the cluster tl, but where the l is unvoiced. Thus there is a dental or alveolar tap followed by lateral expulsion of air around the tongue, but without any of the vocal chord vibration an English speaker normally associates with l. When consonant clusters exceed two, alteration or deletion may occur, so that, e.g., rigndi is pronounced more like "rindi", barns more like "bass".

Hmm...seems a bit long for someone not "into" this like I am. I wonder if anyone will a) read that paragraph, let alone b) attempt it like i did! =)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Funny Guy

I'm funny without even trying:

A little while ago, I emailed someone at work telling them to use the form I attached to the email. They responded that there was no attachment. Sure enough, I had forgotten to attach it. (We've all done that, right?)

So I responded (attaching the document this time) saying, "Whoops! There it is."

Only once I hit "Send" did I realize that that was a well-known song! xD

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ignorance

Ok, since our company has gov't. contracts overseas in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, once every year or two, my boss (V.P. of HR) has to travel there. So as she's leaving for Afghanistan yesterday, one of my co-worker's says: "Be safe! Don't let the Israelites or whoever get you!" !!!!!!!!!!?????????

I smacked myself in the head in a "You Idiot!" gesture before I could restrain myself. Boss's reply was a little more gracious: "Well, I think I'd rather get captured by Israelites than any of the other options, since they're our friends."

Wow.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday 13 Bandwagon

Thanks to Heather for the inspiration to post something...

13 things on my mind:

1. Why is my left eye twitching every once in a while? And I answer...get more sleep, doofus!

2. Still a tad steamed at myself for playing somewhat poorly at my poker game last night.

3. I really liked dinner last night and am looking forward to the leftovers I brought for lunch.

4. I'm eager to get started with the MMA program, so we can pay off our house in half the time!

5. Mornings are a little more fun these days...Connor gets up and I get him some breakfast and we watch cartoons while I get ready for work.

6. Still a little amazed at how smart Cosette is for not-quite-2-yet!

7. I'm still trying (and mostly failing) to worship in the car on my way to work. =/

8. I love that I love my family, and hope I tell/show it often enough.

9. I hope I can get a work-out in tonight, I've missed the last 3 days due to busyness/obligations

10. I'm still waffling on the Wii/PS3 decision (I've ruled out Xbox)

11. I need to get back to reading Jerry Jenkin's new book, Riven

12. I've really been enjoying re-connecting with people from my past on Facebook.

13. I'm pretty sure my wife will do this to...and will expect me to take that quiz thing on Facebook in return!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crisis of Capitalization

Those who know me that I’ve got more than a couple hamsters running in a wheel in my head. I’m a fairly educated, smart guy…and sometimes can be a stickler for spelling and punctuation.

but then again ive spent a lot of time in internet culture (bubbs, blogs, game forums, etc) where things like capitalization proper speling and and grammer arnt as important or prevalent

I think partially for fun, partially for culture immersion, and partially for laziness, I enjoy not capitalizing or being as picky about spelling in those scenarios. But I’ve noticed how it has affected my typing when I want it to be correct. I’m using the delete key more now than I did a few years ago…not because I don’t know what I’m doing, but because of that muscle memory that I slip into.

I’m not making a decision just yet as to whether I’m going to start using proper grammar, spelling, capitalization, complete sentences, etc in the blogosphere. I’m just saying.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Melinda Day?

Weird...I came across this article on the 'net today:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

California

I'm sitting in the living room of my parents' house in California now.
I'll outline the week's itinerary as I learn what it is. I will only have cell phone pictures as I left the camera with wendy so she can get nice shots on the train ride and zoo day.

Tonight's flight was one of the easiest trips I've ever taken. CoSpgs airport was veritably deserted. It's small in comparison to most major city airports anyways. I was on of 4-5 people in the entire check-in area. I got a hot dog at the A&W inside (since the other 2 eating options were closed). I used the free wireless to hop on the internet for a while while talking on the phone with a couple people.

The flight itself was ahead of schedule/making good time. I had an empty seat next to me (not full flight), so room to spread out. I read Tolkien's sequel to The Lord of the Rings. I had a decent (but alas, cold) "Texas Chicken Wrap" sandwich. I waited barely 5 minutes at baggage claim for my suitcase.

The plane itself was of the smaller variety:


















Here's what I enjoyed during the flight:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Life Snip #30

Connor eating spaghetti at Zio's Italian Kitchen

Friday, May 9, 2008

ROTFL of the day!

On Facebook, ads show on the left-hand side. One that I've seen a few times always cracks me up. It's none other than our beloved Ric!! I'm honestly on the fence as to whether or not it could be him! (Jeri, make sure you make him check this out):

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Life Snip #29

Dodgeball at church with about 20 guys.
(Not shown: the 14 balls, anyone throwing/getting hit, or anyone you know....hmm...capturing action on a camera phone is less than effective.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Life Snip #28

Awwww yeah. Mah boy is gettin' him some smarts.
I don't even need to tell you what he wrote, cause it's pretty obvious:

ROTFL

This dating site ad made me chortle...because the girl totally looks like Kira, the girl gelfling from the Dark Crystal:



Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life Snip #27

The rest of the tech crew at church rehearsal tonight:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Life Snip #26

Sorry about the lapse...Acacia has been consuming a lot of my time lately.
340 pages down...235 to go!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Life Snip #23a and 23b

Oh yeah...that's nice...














Coupled with this sky overhead and a nice breeze made a perfect lunch reading time:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Life Snip #21

Our view of Clyde Cook's memorial service via webcast:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Life Snip #20

(Getting this in just before midnight so it counts for Friday)
Tried Good Times Burgers today. Meh.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Life Snip #19

Hm...skipped Spring, Summer, Fall and right back to Winter?
(Bonus: you can see the picnic table I ate lunch at on Tuesday, covered in snow)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life Snip # 18

Wendy having a chicken salad thing at Rumbi


I had the teriyaki chicken rice bowl. It was OK. Reminded me of the Orange House on Whittier Blvd. near Beach Blvd. for anyone that knows it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Life Snip #17

I had a picnic lunch by the creek that runs by my building.
Jealous? =)



The only negative to a beautiful, breezy 78-degree day was that some lady also on her lunch-break lit up a cigarette. Thanks! Not like I was enjoying the fresh air or anything. I moved to a different table so I wasn't downwind of her.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Double-whammy

Life Snip #16a and 16b:
The kids were in a hat-wearing mood




Sunday, April 13, 2008

Life Snip #15

"Can you put this on my head, daddy?"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can you handle a LifeSnipalooza?

I'm home with the kids today while Wendy is up in Denver for a MOPS Summit. (I'm sure she'll describe it in detail on her blog after she gets back.) So I've taken a few phone pics of them today, and I'm gonna hit you with Life Snips #12-14.

Life Snip #12
As I was putting laundry away, the kids were pretending to sleep:














Life Snip #13
Wendy will probably be a litte jealous that I had such an easy time getting the kids to eat lunch:


















Life Snip #14
After lunch, the kids were drawing and Connor made an excellent stab at writing his name. Just gotta turn that K into an R:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life Snip #11

Snowy Spring
You can't see it very well, so I'll describe:
It's been blowing snow for the last couple hours, and when I ducked outside for a minute to take it all in, I was struck by something odd...

The juxtaposition of snow, barren trees, winter, etc. with birds flying and chirping and singing all over the place! I guess they decided it's Spring whether it looks like it or not.

Anti-Social

How anti-social am I?

This morning, I start walking down the hall towards the kitchen to get my ice water. (Gotta have my ice water) I notice this one lady by the copier, whom I know to be super-friendly, and requires social interaction with anyone in her radius. I actually paused and considered going back to my desk to wait a few minutes before going to the kitchen just to avoid the obligatory "Good Morning!"s.

I shrugged it off in no more than a 2-3 second pause and tried to just hustle by, but sure enough: "Good morning, Josh!" Expectant look on face. "Morning," over my shoulder.

Whew! I'm exhausted from all this social interaction!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life Snip #10

Mmmmm...Water...

Happy Happy! Joy Joy!

And the heavens did open up, and the angels did rejoice in loud praises, saying:
"L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Baby!!"

One of the many things that was hard to leave in Cali, was the awesome, yummy goodness of what had become a favorite eatery of mine: L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

A teacher friend of mine at WCHS turned me on to it, and I even had their food catered for my band's "Name That Tune" fundraiser dinner/concert.

When I knew I'd be moving to Colorado, I checked their website for CO locations, and was sad to see the only one was in Aurora (a suburb of Denver). Yesterday, Wendy asked me to pick up some dinner on the way home from work, and I drove through a shopping center near our new condo that I hadn't explored yet. Lo and behold: I found it! I was giddy, and of course that's what I got for dinner.

Thank God for happy surprises like that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Life Snip #9

Not her favorite picture, but my baby was tired from moving stuff:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Life Snip #8

Me after coming home from work yesterday: