Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Higher Education

I guess this was a timely subject considering a new Student Aid bill was signed into law today.

For the record, I went to a university for one year and a business college for almost five more years. In my defense, the year at university kind of put me on the right track with what I wanted to specialize in and only four of the five years at business college were considered full time. In the end, I did earn a Bachelor Degree.

I hope the changes made in today's bill make things more affordable. Cost scares far too many people away from furthering their education. I know it can't be free, but it seems like the cost of college goes up every year. It did for me when I was in school. My first year at a university ran me around $7,500 and that was after my scholarships and financial aid. My first year at business college was almost totally covered by financial aid, and the following three and a half years I barely received any.

As far as the employment value is concerned, I think higher education has taken quite a hit in the past few decades. When my parents were college aged, a degree was a guarantee that you'd earn an upper middle class salary or higher. You'd never have to worry about needing a job. Things have surely changed. A degree today doesn't guarantee you much of anything. It looks good on a resume, but experience can look equally good.

I think a degree does still show potential employers that you're willing to voluntarily commit to something that betters yourself. It shows that you've put in two to four years of determination and effort.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that a lack of a degree should keep people from being hired for professional work. I've worked with many talented people over the years that never set foot in a college classroom.

I do, however, find great value in a college education despite it's lack of guarantees. What I find of such great value was at first a stumbling block for me. I majored in Graphic Communications, heavy on art and creativity. When my college demanded that I take tons of seemingly unrelated classes, I initially felt that I was wasting my money. It seemed to me that they were simply padding the degree to collect extra funds. By the time I earned my Bachelor degree, I felt very different.

I now see that all of those group dynamics, psychology, and social science classes helped teach me about people's motivations, a handy set of insights to have when designing advertising. Learning the basics of micro and macro economics, statistical methods, creative writing, not to mention the myriad variety of people I had worked, learned, and studied with, it all makes me much more well rounded. My focus isn't so small that I miss bigger concepts.

Okay, in statistics class the more I understood the more my head hurt, and every writing teacher I had tried to talk me into a different career path. In hind-sight, it was all worth it, and I highly recommend it.

I also learned to love learning. I loved discussing literature with fellow students, especially when the instructor was challenging us every week. I loved picking topics for papers and learning everything I could get my hands on about that subject. I miss a lot of these things about college. I think I understand the professional student more clearly now.

I hope we can turn things around a bit. I hope a college education brings more guarantees in the future. I hope things get more affordable. I hope these things because I believe that you emerge a better person on the other end of your educational experience. I think it makes you a more open minded, eager learning, well rounded individual. Our world can surely use more people like that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Randomness: March 29th

  • My wife and I are both currently uninsured and sick. I guess this will be our benchmark to see how well we (or should I say our immune systems) can handle this set up.
  • I've been scouring the internet for home remedies to sinus infections. Drinking apple cider vinegar isn't fun, but it does seem to give some relief.
  • Tons of praise for Restaurant.com. If you're in any way on a budget but crave that sit down restaurant experience, they can save you a ton of money. If you're lucky enough to have the 80% discount code, even more so.
  • We ate out at a Mexican restaurant Friday night for $14 including tip. Without the coupon we purchased from Restaurant.com the bill would have been about $39. A $25 gift certificate was only $2, we had to spend $35 at the restaurant.
  • On a related note: Ground beef, guacamole, and shredded lettuce - one of my favorite trifectas.
  • My wife has persuaded me to read a vampire novel. No. Not that one. It's the series that the True Blood HBO show is based on. In my defense, I love horror fiction anyway, and this series is a little less teeny bopper, but still pretty female-point-of-view oriented. I found it a bit uneven. It started really quirky and comedic, but didn't carry through with that. I still enjoyed it. It was still pretty well done, but it was no Anne Rice.
  • Started another Brennan Manning book last night. I love that he doesn't sugar coat anything, and points out things many wouldn't even think to point out. Case in point, when talking about Jesus' lineage, he points out that there were prostitutes, people pretending to be prostitutes, and adultery that ended with murder. His point? God doesn't prefer Saints. Not a huge revelation. Just nice to see it brought up with less gloss.
  • I've signed a few petitions lately (online). I love that my state representatives are at least acknowledging me, but I'm not too crazy about the extra attention I'm getting from "related" causes. I've always loved wolves, so I sign a petition to keep them protected, and a few weeks later I get three different wildlife groups emailing me asking for donations. Worse is the actual snail mail I get that's fear mongering. Who needs more fear? I don't need DVDs about nuclear war or the threats of terrorism. I haven't been in a coma for the past thirty years.
  • I love that there's a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, but there's no way it could live up to all the expectations my imagination comes up with based on the title alone.
  • My wife started a new job today. Set in stone hours. Full-time. Eventual benefits available. Hopefully less stressful for her.
  • We had a new accountant do our taxes this year at half the cost of our usual people. We signed a release form after paying them, but the lady working the check out desk mistakenly shoved the form in with our taxes. After waiting four weeks for our return, I decided to contact the IRS to see what the hold up was. They, of course, had no record of our taxes being filed. A quick call to the accountant cleared that up. Turns out that paranoid little voice in the back of my head was right this time.
  • Riding around with me this weekend, Owen hears the lyric, "in a worn out suit and tie," and asks, "Why is the guy in this song telling us to die?" Even when you give them clean lyrics, you have to be concerned that they're getting the wrong message.
  • The Pokemon cartoons are strange to me. My son likes to watch them, but I don't think he understands that they're based on a game of some sort. What's with all the I'm a winner, you're a loser talk. Seems like that could be giving our kids complexes.
  • Higher education soon to follow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Illegal Immigration

My first Challenge response. Today's subject: Illegal Immigration. I'm going to approach this from the standpoint that we're talking about people that either sneak into our country or don't exactly leave when they're expected to. I'm giddy to begin writing because it's such a controversial subject. People have strong opinions. Allow me to dive into mine.

I think we over react to this subject most of the time. My feelings on this can be divided into two separate influences: First, I was raised and educated to believe that America is a country that thrives on diversity giving people from all over the globe the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. Secondly, my spiritual convictions back up the idea that we should value all people as equal no matter where they're hailing from.

The First Influence:

I often wonder if my more liberal leanings weren't picked up in early grade school. We used to sing these songs about America being a melting pot, that everyone was welcome. I believe there was even a Schoolhouse Rock! animated cartoon-o-merical on during Saturday morning cartoon marathons.

These ideas have left me open to the idea that what sets our country apart is our welcoming nature, our passion for being diverse. We also proudly refer to ourselves as the land of opportunity. In one way or another, I think the outside world often perceives that about us to. We throw these vibes out there, and then we're upset when people do desperate things to get here.

The Second Influence:

Even in the Old Testament, we have scriptures that tell us to care for the foreigner, the alien. There are instructions not to take advantage of them.

Of course there are scriptures that also tell us that we are supposed to follow the powers and principalities dictated by the lands we call home. We're supposed to follow the law. It's illegal for people to sneak into our country based on our country's laws.

In this conflict, law versus care, I have to think about Jesus. To me he's the living embodiment of love trumping legality.

I know that we have official, legal ways of obtaining entry into our country. I know there's a process for citizenship and even a process to just kind of hang out for a while. I also know that these processes aren't free. I'd do just about anything for my family. If I had grown up in a less hospitable country and perceived that America had a better life to offer, I might do desperate things to get here. Is it ideal that people are sneaking in? No. But it's happening, and it's sometimes a more realistic way for some people.

I don't think putting up a wall is the best solution. People would still find a way in, and it kind of sends a negative message. Not to mention, it just plain would look odd. We might try to make the legal entry into our country easier or offer added aid to those that might not have the monetary means. I think that's pretty unrealistic though.

So what do we do with all of the illegal immigrants that have made it in and are found out? I think we have to take the time to look at every case. I think that's the humane thing to do. I think that carries more of the melting pot, come make yourself a great life in the greatest country in the world vibe. I know it's hard to ask judges to weigh each case. That's kind of why we have blanket laws, but I think there are things to consider:

Do they already have established families here?

Have they committed any criminal acts?

How are they assimilating?

Are they contributing to society?

Will sending them back put them in danger?

That last one is a big one to me. I think the blanket law ignores that possibility too often. I remember reading about cases of African young women facing horrible mutilation upon returning to their homeland. I think we need to be a safe haven.

Do I think illegal immigrants steal American jobs? I think outsourcing does far more harm. I won't go into my entire rant here, but that alone is likely far worse of a drain on American jobs.

I also read multiple reports on businesses in the U.S. that rely on immigrants for their livelihood. I think it's fair to say there are many jobs in this country that most Americans simply won't do especially considering the wages offered for such work.

There was a dairy farmer in Wisconsin that claimed that he'd go out of business if his immigrant workforce was taken away. He needed people to work long, hard hours on his farm for minimum wage. He was rarely able to find anyone other than immigrant workers, and he required a constant, large group of people.

When asked what he did when he found out workers weren't legal, he had to pause. They were using a pretty strict screening process, but sometimes they were duped. Sometimes paper work was forged or misrepresented. In other cases, people wouldn't complete Citizenship before their green card expired. In most cases, he explained, people were deported. He got a bit emotional then.

The problem being, he worked shoulder to shoulder with these people. They become his friends. He had often helped them find affordable homes. He often helped them in setting up a stable living environment for their families. He said that he and his family had started working as closely as possible with their workers to make sure that they were able to obtain Citizenship legally. He was pointing out that, sometimes, even when people arrive here legally, they aren't given enough support to operate effectively in our society.

Are there horror stories? Sure. Like anything in this world, nothing is perfect. There will always be bad apples. That's the known risk we take when we portray ourselves as a welcoming nation. We can't pick and choose who gets the invite.

I think that's what we need to keep in mind. These are people. If they're trying to better themselves, raise families, contribute to our country, I think we need to offer second chances to do things the right way. I think that's the kind of country I want to live in, a country of second chances, a country that values people over laws. We've got a long way to go, but I'll take mercy over legality any day.

From a more spiritual standpoint: I don't think God intended our world to have so many borders. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile how you feel about your country with how you suspect life was really intended on this big rock of ours.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Business/Leaves Me Confused.

Well, no one has challenged me by asking me to write about something difficult yet. Come on guys. So, I guess I'll jump into what's on my mind today.

I earned my degree from a business college. Stop laughing at me. It's not nice. I didn't really major in anything too business heavy, but I like to think I learned a thing or two about business, profits, customer satisfaction, supply and demand. It seems like some of it is pretty common sense anyway.

So, I don't get the actions of some of the struggling businesses out there right now. Two really stick out to me: The U.S. Postal Service and Blockbuster Video. It seems like they're using the same business model lately: The demand for their services is waning, and they counter this by raising prices and cutting perks. That makes no sense to me.

To be up front, I've always been hard on the Postal Service. I'm sure their infrastructure is very complicated and demands lots of man power, but email has been around for a long time now. I know that making mail delivery cheaper wasn't much of an option, but regularly making it more expensive just makes no sense to me. Now they're talking about dropping Saturday delivery all together.

In business, you look at your competition's strengths and weaknesses. You try to do better at the things they're weakest at and counter the things they're strongest with. Email is free and available 24/7. I'm scratching my head that they increase prices and cut back on days.

Blockbuster's strategy for competing with Netflix and online rentals was to seemingly drop late fees. Technically, if you read the fine print, they simply chose to let you keep the movies a certain length of time before charging you an inflated retail price for the DVD, effectively selling it to you. The problem they didn't fix was their already inflated prices. In their hay day Blockbuster was worth the extra expense because they offered a much better selection. Netflix trumped that easily.

Their newest effort to save themselves, from what I've heard is… to raise their base prices and re-instate late fees. On top of Netflix and the online rentals, they now have the one dollar Red Box company to deal with. I'm scratching my head again.

Another big part of business is determining what people are willing to pay for a product or service. That price can change and even lower. The companies I've listed don't seem to get this point, and I know it's a hard point to swallow for any business. Ignoring the market trends won't work for too long. This just seems like common sense to me. I'm scratching my head.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Challenge You/Challenge Me

I've been wanting to do this for a while now. I want you to challenge me. I want you to ask me questions that I can respond to. I think it will help my writing. It'll give me some things to chew on a bit. I'm not promising I'll respond to all of them, and if I can't I'll try to at least respond to anyone asking the questions.

Don't hold back. (wow I might regret that line)

Ask me the hard stuff: Why aren't dinosaurs in the Bible? How do you feel about the abortion issue? How come your wife doesn't paint her toe nails? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Okay, I probably won't answer the personal ones. My wife's toe nails are off limits, but let's hear from you.

A few further statements: I don't know much about physics, your trig homework, or auto mechanics.

Short Note

I just got back from a quick trip to the grocery store with the boys (ages 2 & 4). Before I can even unpack a grocery sack, Owen is demanding that I turn his DVD back on. I ask him to chill out for a few seconds, and he starts whining that I had said he could continue it when we returned. I repeated that I just needed a few seconds, and he continued to whine. I said (in a calm, understanding tone), "Can you just relax? Can you just have a little patience? You get to do what you're asking. I just need a few more seconds. Chill out. Okay?" And then the thought hit me: Is this what I sound like to God?… like a whining son that wants something trivial to his father who's trying to do a few essential tasks?

Brought a smile to my face despite the fact that I was the whiner.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I thought we were all Americans

It seems to me that America isn't a country that's set up to make 100% of its people happy all the time. It's set up so that the majority opinion dictates. I know this is a simplistic breakdown, but I think we need to acknowledge that some of us are sometimes going to be in the unpopular section of opinions. Some of us are going to come out on the losing end of a vote. It doesn't mean that we're less American or that the winners are more American.

People just seem so outraged when there are people that disagree with their viewpoint. You often hear, "But I'm an American, and we didn't want this." In most cases, especially considering those debates and elections that were very public, someone out there did want "this" to happen, and those people are of course equally Americans too.

I've learned in recent years to try to see the other side, and to especially recognize the other side as people that aren't all that different than myself. It's not easy. It's easier to believe that my opinion is the majority, but that's not always or even often the case. I think the hardest part about our entire system is that we don't really see one another often enough. We take on that old 'them' versus 'us' attitude. We believe that there's some conspiracy against us when our group doesn't seem to come out ahead.

I was talking to a politician one day. I don't remember which one. It was likely someone pretty local. I was telling him about a few of my concerns. He told me that I should always keep in the habit of writing my representatives letters in some form. He said that politicians operate under the assumption that every letter they receive represents around 5,000 people. I don't know how accurate that is, or how well they react to opposing view points, but I started regularly contacting my Senators and Congress People. It's really pretty easy online, and to my amazement, they respond - quickly! They respond even when they disagree.

If you think someone was elected or a bill was passed because your representatives didn't act they way "the majority" wanted, I'm not so sure you're being realistic. The truth is, there are people out there that don't see things the way you do. They're Americans too. They care about the future too. They're not stupid, uneducated, or uninformed. They just live in different circumstances than you do. They don't want the country to fail. They just see a different path than you do. No one is saying either path is wrong or right.

I think we need to learn to see one another. We need to care about all of us instead of just those that agree with us. One election, one bill passed, that won't likely bring down our country. What'll bring us down is our inability to remember that we're all people, and that it's okay to disagree. It's okay to win sometimes, and it's okay to lose too. That's kind of what made us different all those years ago.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Randomness from my Weekend: March 22

  • We had a great day last week with high temps. I took the boys to Meijer for a few things and ended up taking an out-of-the-way on purpose detour on the way home. It was just too nice of a day. I rolled the windows down, turned the radio up a bit, and just enjoyed riding around with my boys in the fresh air.
  • I think this thing over here is called a Squirtle, which seems highly inappropriate for a children's cartoon character.
  • A few quick movie reviews:
  • The Crazies remake was fantastic from a horror fan's point of view anyway. No offense to George Romero, but the original was… well it sucked.
  • Finally caught Baby Mama. I want to have a bike accident.
  • Alice in Wonderland was amazing. Don't get me wrong, Avatar was a great movie, but the 3D on Alice was a bit more impressive.
  • Free passes to IMAX are awesome.
  • Trailer Park of Terror had so much potential. I mean, come on, the title alone is a horror fan's dream come true. The creature effects were great, but they should have spent more on the script.
  • On a very related note: forms of fiction that "quote" the Bible should really just quote the Bible instead of making up verses that don't even exist. The internet is full of free Bible resources. If you want a scarier verse, stick to the Old Testament. The New Testament is full of all that pesky hope and freedom stuff. If you want a non-sensical verse that talks about fire and brimstone, you'll be surprised to find the text lacking in most cases, especially if you keep things in context. Just sayin'.
  • All last week, my kids didn't sleep in one single day. They were up before the sun. Sunday morning, I had to wake them up to get ready for church. They were both nightmares until they took naps. Gage cried going into church and when we had to leave. Owen even cried when it was time to go. Ugh.
  • Owen is in another stage of bodily functions obsession. This one causing him to jump on the toilet every time he has the slightest flutter in his stomach. So, he's on the toilet like five times a day. He can't stop talking about digestion… and excretion.
  • He's also convinced that he can find wild chipmunks, feed them, and make pets of them. Thanks a lot Chip and Dale.
  • I watched an episode of The X-Files last week staring Giovanni Ribisi and a very skinny, young Jack Black. The soundtrack for the episode included Filter's Hey Man Nice Shot. The next episode had Peter Boyle playing a psychic that could see everyone's death. It was a grisly episode, but it was hilarious (on purpose) at the same time. I don't care what you say… BEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER! (Season 3 if anyone was interested)
  • March has way too many birthdays in it for us. We've finally got our mothers' out of the way. April is full of fathers' birthdays.
  • I love my wife.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Down in the Park

It's park/playground season again. At the beginning of last summer, I became a stay at home father. Two or three times a week, I would take my boys to one of the great parks in our county. I observed a lot of things, some of them trivial, but some of them a little disheartening.

Some of the fun or funnier things: Parks are full of discarded band-aids. People will knowingly bring their unfriendly dogs to child infested areas, which makes me think they want to be sued. People usually won't make any effort to clean up messes made by their children's leaky or explosive diapers. I'm not the only stay at home father. The number of men accompanying their children seemed to increase as weeks went on.

I also noticed that people don't tend to teach their kids to be more social or even nice. Owen is our oldest at four years old. He hungers for social interaction, and we love to take him to these public places because he gets to interact with a wide variety of children he doesn't know. As the summer progressed, he got steadily better at introducing himself and making quick friends.

Unfortunately, not every kid wanted to play with him. Some were quite rude about it. When I would notice this, because it was usually pretty easy to overhear, I'd call Owen over. I'd explain to him that not everyone wanted to play with him, that he should probably just avoid those particular kids.

Now, I'm not saying that children shouldn't have the right to pick and choose who they want to play with, but it still surprises me that, to this day, I've never had another parent call their children over to ask them to be more accepting of Owen. No one has told their kids that we're in a fun zone where everyone should be encouraged to join in together.

There was one day where I heard an older kid run up to his father complaining that a younger kid wouldn't leave him alone. The father advised his kid to get forceful if he had to, even telling him to give the kid a little shove if he had to. To be honest, that angered me, which is probably not the healthiest response in and of itself.

These public places offer a great opportunity for our kids to interact with different ethnicities and cultures. We're sort of proud of the fact that neither of our boys has ever pointed out another person's skin color or distinguishing attributes. When they played with Jewish and Muslim kids, they didn't even point out their unique attire. Okay, we have had Owen recently point out a few people that are tall and large, but it had more to do with him being impressed than judgmental. We love that they get to interact in this way.

I just wish that more of us were willing to pull our kids aside and instruct them to interact. I wish playgrounds were areas where our kids would get a starter course in acceptance, that they were encouraged to include everyone so that everyone walked away with a fun experience.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Random Randomness from the weekend: March 15th

  • When we were first married, my wife and I would lose things… a lot. I'm mainly talking about paper work, important documents. We just weren't organized. We'd misplace something (a tax form, a bill, a rebate check) at least once a month or more. We've gotten a lot better. We're down to about once a year, and it has much more to do with how hectic life can get than poor organization at this point.
  • We misplaced this year's tax return. The federal and state forms were e-filed, so no biggie. We wanted to check something yesterday, and neither of us could remember what had happened to the packet. It wasn't in the "Taxes" folder in our filing cabinet. I hadn't sent in the city return yet. We panicked a bit. Searched for about an hour.
  • We found them, and the truth started to take shape. I remember, two weeks ago, bringing the packet home and leaving it out so Heidi could see it. Shortly after she got home, we decided to leave the house for some reason, and we were in a hurry. Not wanting to leave the packet out in plain sight (burglar paranoia), I scooped up the packet and put it with a stack of unimportant mail in a more out of the way location. I could have taken the extra thirty seconds and put it in the "Taxes" folder, but that would have been out of character for me.
  • Kind of a leftover from last week: Put the kids to bed as usual one night. An hour or so later we hear Gage kind of whimpering, whining. After a few minutes of this off and on, we both decide to investigate. Upon entering, we find him not in his bed, not in his brother's bed, so we try to find him based on the occasional noise he's making. I determine that he's somewhere in the closest corner of the dark room. We find him sitting in the cloth clothes hamper. The only sane explanation being that he climbed on top of the toy box and down into the hamper thinking that he was getting into his brother's bed. We still can't figure out how he didn't knock the entire thing over.
  • Parties are fun. I don't care what you say.
  • Dancing is not my thing. There may be lessons in my near future. My wife got way too much enjoyment out of that three minute time span for me to ignore it.
  • Laura should be our church's cow bell player. Every church needs a cow bell.
  • Law Abiding Citizen was a great idea for a movie, but it tanked toward the end. The director tries to flip things on you in the middle, make your sympathies pass from one side to the other. The problem is, you start the movie feeling strong feelings against that side of the conflict, and that faction of people never really have a transforming moment in the film. It's implied that they should or could, but it never seemed to actually happen. No matter how I feel about the original protagonist in the film and how shocking he gets, I never feel sympathy for the person he's trying to change. Can you tell I'm trying not to say too much?
  • Sometimes when I'm in the grocery store, I start to think about all the things I'm picking up and the reasons behind them. Yesterday it made me realize how much I really care about my wife and kids, how every little decision is about trying to make life better or healthy for them. Yeah. I over think the grocery store.
  • I really wish Mulder and Scully were still stopping evil on a weekly basis on my television screen. Watching full seasons of the X-Files for the first time. That show wasn't as sci-fi centric as I thought it was.
  • I've been listening to Hank III (Hank Williams the 3rd), mainly his older stuff. I like the old country feel with the modern, gritty themes. Reminds me of Johnny Cash. I'm not really into his newer, heavy metal, country fusion stuff. I like heavy metal. I like some country, but I need them to keep a distance from one another.
  • I love it when Meijer puts strange seafood on sale. By strange I mean new to me. I picked up muscles for the first time a few weeks ago. It's fun to try new things, expand the horizons a bit.
  • My wife has me reading vampire fiction.
  • No. Not the Twilight novels.
  • I'm an Anne Rice fan from way back, so the whole glittering vampires thing is going to take me a while to get used to.
  • On another note: I highly recommend Anne Rice's Jesus novels. Her knack for historical mood setting is unmatched.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Random Randomness from the weekend: March 8th

  • No offense to those who loved the movie, but Transformers 2 took the Razzie award for worst movie of 2009. That really doesn't surprise me. I couldn't even stand to watch the entire thing.
  • Fell down last week. Yes, I'm only 35, and yes it was inside the house. I know. Klutz. Grapefruit sized bruises really hurt too.
  • Bill Maher doesn't like religious (spiritual, however you want to put it) folks, and his comments often piss me off. I also agree with him on a lot of other points. I think tomorrow's post will have something to do with that.
  • Really connecting with our new(er) small group. Loving that. Perhaps there'll be a post about that later this week too. I'm sure some of you are going, "What's a small group?"
  • I can't wait for the whole Day Light Savings Spring Ahead to get here. My youngest gets up with the sun. I've been trying to block out the sun from our home for a few weeks now.
  • Am I the only person on the planet the enjoyed Terminator Salvation?
  • I know it wasn't as "epic" as the first one, which was really only epic for its time. To be honest, the second one was okay, and the third one… well… that was just one long car chase wasn't it?
  • I loved that they just computer generated Arnold in the movie. So, they don't even have to pay actors anymore. They should just get them to sign some sort of likeness licensing clause when they star in the original film. If it becomes a hit, they can just CGI them in the sequels. No more hundred million dollar contracts.
  • Where the Wild Things Are was a great movie. Like a lot of critics said, it wasn't really for kids, but for the kid in all of us. If you look for the symbolism, it really was good.
  • There goes Buckley again with his symbolism.
  • Brennan Manning setting some of my wrong-thinking right. God doesn't need me to do anything. Like the Bible says, what does God need with cows and goats and graphic artists? Okay, I threw in the graphic artists. In other words, the things God inspires me to do aren't for His benefit, but for my own and those I hopefully help. Perhaps this line of thinking will get me out of my funk.
  • Owen yesterday: "The good guys throw the bad robots into the sun where they get hot and dead."
  • He's been asking about the concept of death lately. Hard territory to cover, including the, "You and Mama won't ever get dead right?"
  • I know he's four years old, but I really don't want to cover too much of the subject. I'm not ready for his innocence to take such a hit.
  • Nothing unites little boys like rubber lizards.
  • Texas Hold'Em Poker.
  • Nuff Said.
  • It's Gary Gnu.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jesus and Rob Zombie

I've said before, music is a very spiritual thing to me. The following piece surprises even me, but every time I think about the song Scum of the Earth by Rob Zombie, I think of Jesus. When I hear this, I see him up there, straining against the nails to beckon us forward, gritting his teeth against the pain, screaming to those of us that count ourselves among the scum of the earth. In his pain, he's calling to us to come to him.

If you've never heard it, this song is a heavy metal anthem. It's got a fast, heavy drum track with electro synth beats added in. It's thrashy. Rob Zombie growls and shouts. What Jesus did with his life, whether you believe he was divine or not, was not often clean, easy, or dull. His message was radical enough to get him killed. I think that deserves a heavy metal anthem.

Scum of the earth

Come on


Run and kill

Destroy the will

A hero that doesn't exist


Smoking gun

Well I am the one

A bullet hole

In your fist


Hey, I'm breathing

Hey, I'm bleeding

Hey, I'm screaming

Scum of the earth

Come on


Wake up dead

Bleeding red

A world that doesn't exist


Heaven waits

With the gates

Rusting in the mist



Hey, I'm breathing

Hey, I'm bleeding

Hey, I'm screaming

Scum of the earth

Come on

Do all the lyrics fit? Does it ever matter? Each poem or song can mean something completely different to any given reader. It doesn't even matter what the writer's original intentions were. At least, that's my opinion of music and poetry.

Let's break it down a bit (no pun intended).

The song repeats "A hero that doesn't exit," and I think of what the Prophet Isaiah said about Jesus' own people denying him, harming him. Jesus wasn't often treated as a hero while he was alive. Heroes don't end up on crosses.

"Smoking gun, well I am the one, a bullet hole in your fist." Jesus on the cross wanted to be nothing but guilty. That's what the cross was about, Jesus paying the price for everyone else's wrong doing. To me, a fist is the universal symbol of violence, and Jesus, time and again, symbolized and spoke out about non-violence being the best way to do anything. Holes in fists also remind me of the holes left from being crucified.

The parts about "a world that doesn't exist" and "Heaven's gates" remind me of the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus said was closer than we thought, it was upon us, and it was also coming. All mysterious statements about a world that doesn't quite exist yet, but then again, every time we try to make the world a better place, Heaven appears.

All this might seem like a stretch to you, gentle reader, but I have a very active imagination. This is what goes through my mind, this is what I feel when I hear this song.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Feeling Lost but Carrying a Work Ethic, or Willing to Work While Sick

When I was four, my mom and I would often get up with my dad as he prepared for work. We were up before the sun. At that time, my dad would have been low seniority at the Pontiac plant, working for GM. In no way the comfy job many envision when they think of working for GM. What most people don't realize is, the 'comfy' only settles in toward retirement. I'm not sure GM in the 70's even had comfy.

For the first twenty years of my life or more, I can't recall one day that my dad ever took off for illness or voluntary vacation. He would get up, often before the sun and return in the afternoon. If we were lucky, he'd come inside the house before heading to the garage to tinker or do more side work to earn more money. We still had vacations because dad got laid off a lot (low seniority), and GM typically has a mandatory shut down in the summer months for something they call "change over."

There were good and bad points to having a hard working father. He wasn't perfect. But, I always felt, and still do, that he was doing what he was doing for my benefit. It was to keep us secure. He went to work sick, never took days off, so they'd never get the impression that they could do without him.

The reason I know this? In recent years, while I was employed, I'd call him in the middle of a vacation day just to chat. He's immediately ask why I wasn't at work. If I took more than one vacation day off in a row, he'd make sure to tell me, "Don't go missing from your job long enough for them to realize that they might get along just fine without you."

I inherited my dad's work ethic. I never considered it a bad thing, but it did have some negative aspects. When I started working in an office setting, they didn't appreciate me showing up for work running a fever or spreading contagious illnesses. I was very sternly told one day to stay home the next time I thought I wasn't feeling well.

Not taking vacation time didn't make supervisors too happy either. It was okay most of the year, but when it came to November or December, my vacations would have to be crammed in last minute. I'm not complaining about what my dad exemplified. It bites at me every morning because I'm currently unemployed. I also live in Michigan. I believe we have the highest level of unemployment in the country.

Not being productive, in a more traditional sense, has proven to be very hard for me. I haven't adjusted well to a more domestic, stay-at-home status. I don't mean that as a strike against those that do. It's just not proving to be me.

I feel like I'm failing as a provider. I'm not securing my children's security, if that makes sense.

The worst part though, is the feeling of being lost. My profession has morphed a bit. I always worked for newspapers, and now there are few of those to choose from.

I originally thought I'd roll my creativity into web design. I soon found that creativity comes after programming in many cases, if at all. The creative process isn't as quick and free. It has more to do with code and organization, less, if anything, to do with art. Web Design didn't "feed my soul," as my pastor likes to say. It actually seemed like more of an added offense in light of the career path I left behind.

So, every day the Michigan Talent Bank website shoots me a list of possible jobs. It's usually a pretty short list, if I get any at all. I've applied for many. I've applied for jobs I was over qualified for, jobs I was under qualified for. I applied to places that weren't hiring. I even started applying for jobs that I never really thought about doing. I'm more than willing to take something that isn't related to my previous field.

Politicians and Pundits keep telling us that things are going to get better. The jobs will come back. It's hard waiting on that, especially knowing that any job will likely not involve what I've grown so comfortable doing. I feel like I'm stuck in Career Limbo.

We get college pamphlets in the mail, and I think, wow, Medical Billing. Surely that's a secure career bath. It doesn't sound exciting or even mildly entertaining, but it would be a paycheck, maybe some benefits. Maybe there would be some security in it. But, then again, who am I to go back to college when my wife hasn't had the chance to go yet?

So, I think about what does feed my soul. I didn't really have a recognizable, active faith when I was younger. I have an intense love for God now. I love to read about Him, talk about Him, and honestly, write about Him. My faith dominates every aspect of my life. But, how do you turn that into a career… at my age… in my situation?

Giving up on my old career, coming to terms with the idea of doing something less inspiring or natural for me, hasn't made my job search easier. Instead, it's even more depressing to look for ANY job that would pay a decent wage, because they are proving just as hard to find.

I know I sound like a whiny, broken record. I just can't decide what I want to do. I don't see a clear path in front of me. I don't see any road signs pointing the way. Perhaps putting this down in written form will open some pathways of thought.

When I first found out my job was disappearing, I went through a rough time. For lack of a better way of putting it, I felt like I was screwed, that things were grim. After a few weeks of that, I had a moment when I felt/knew that I didn't need to be so worried. I felt/knew that someone had my back no matter what. Most of my anxiety over the situation was much more manageable after that. Lately, I'm feeling like I need at least a glimmer of a road sign, something to point in some direction. I don't want to flip a coin on what to do next, and I'm feeling like it has come to that.

I know I shouldn't be afraid, but fear is a tricky habit to break. I'm praying that the guy who has my back (and I don't doubt this really) will soon grab my shoulders and turn me in the right direction, maybe give me a little shove.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Randomness Inspired by My Weekend - March 1st

  • If you discover a director that you like, you might want to wikipedia each of their movies before renting them. Specifically look for the phrase "wanted his/her name left off of the movie."
  • On a related note: Don't watch Cabin Fever 2. Ti West is a horror genius, but movie companies can really mess up a movie with reshoots and focus groups.
  • Had a Date Day with the wife yesterday. We went to see Dear John.
  • On another related note: In a youthful act of rebellion, I burned my Man Card years ago. It makes life easier in some ways. Whenever I can't fix something around the house - Hey, no Man Card.
  • Never tell a teenaged girl refilling your popcorn that you want extra butter. They tend to misunderstand that you're not completely looking to have a heart attack before age 40.
  • Trying to convince a two year old that V is not X.
  • Gage is saying "Hi" now… every time he looks at you.
  • We discovered Arrested Development last week. I remember watching the pilot episode when it first hit TV years ago. I didn't like it then. The same thing happened with Scrubs. Now I love both shows.
  • I highly recommend reading anything by Brennan Manning. He's not saying anything new. He's just saying it in a way you rarely hear. Be warned, some people don't like what he has to say.
  • I'm reading my first Tony Jones book. I hear some people don't like what he has to say either.
  • Do you see a trend?
  • I like authors that can point out some unnoticed aspect of a story that I've read or heard fifty times before, totally missing such little tidbits. It's humbling and exciting all in one.
  • I'm finding that tickling works as a good deterrent to whining in small children. I wonder if it would work in adults.