Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years Fun

Well, another new year is upon us and I thought I would re-share with everyone a new years eve celebration I had 11 year ago almost to the day. It was in college and it was pretty wild, so be warned.

And back in 1996, it was considered cool to wear your tee shirt inside out, so don;t make fun of my 20 year old self. And we didn't have DVDs either.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas visit with the Mullins

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This Christmas we went to Chattanooga to spend time with my folks...

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And how could I not get together with the Mullins clan while being an hour and some change from them? Fortunately for us, they were willing to come to Chattanooga to see us.

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The meeting was all too short, dinner, a walk, and some tourist shopping, but it was fun and always good to see good friends. Jules walked across the walking bridge and I seemed to have forgotten her fear of bridges, perhaps she was too kind to mention it to us when we suggested the path.

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It's wierd how you can not see a friend for a long time, communicate pretty much only through email, have a long list of things to ask them about and talk to them about, yet when you get together like this, you just shoot the breeze as though the friend lived down the road and you saw them on a regular basis.


Alas, signs of a solid friendship...

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Message


2.5 years into this blog, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Keeping the Faith

So in the past year there have been many roads that the Mullins family has traversed, some I thought I’d never see, none the less we’re carrying on and moving forward on faith. Since I became a Christian in 92ish I have attended Highland View C.o.C. while living in Oak Ridge.
When I started going I was a bit too old for the youth group and too young for college group. I can’t remember one person I graduated with that went to church where I did. I felt a bit out of place but was comfortable there because the grandparents attended; in fact my grandmother was one of the first members of the congregation. My grandfather kindly states, “she came with the building” which is funny because they both helped move the church to its current location.

The gist of the story is that as a young Christian this is where I grew up, my going to church is what prompted my mother to start going again, history, history, history, blaa, blaa, blaa. Through all of this I have always enjoyed the folks but I never really felt like I was called to be there to worship as a family.

Somewhere in the past year Jules and I feel pretty disconnected from the HV family and we start to consider if we can re-anchor or if we should try something different. Jules ends up going forward one weekend and there is the typical hug and support session. After that we get one card. The girl went forward asking for the support of the Body of Christ because she we missing that in a big way. She was pleading to her church family for the past seven years for help. We were out of town the following weekend, nothing not a call. Something came up and we missed the next weekend, no wondering where we might have been. We decide to try another C.o.C in Oak Ridge. For almost the past two months we’ve had nothing but positive experiences.
New York Avenue is an older congregation and fairly traditional, I’ve not seen one Power Point song yet. They don’t have a children’s church and the boys have relearned how to sit in the auditorium. Jules and I really feel uplifted in church, which frankly hasn’t happened in a very long time.

A couple of weeks ago I’m talking to the grandfather and he says that one of the elders had asked about us. We get into the conversation about not feeling like we were getting anything out of HV, admittedly that we also hadn’t put much into it either. We sort of find a stopping point and agree to just agree.
Two weeks ago my mother tells Jules and I, with tear filled eyes, that the grandparents don’t understand how and why we’re not attending HV anymore and that they are really missing us. Mom throws in her two cents and says the same thing.

Now, and I consider this nothing less than confusingly ironic, that I’m getting something out of going to church again, I’m being pulled back into going to the place that I got little to nothing out of. I’m a very unconventional person and consider the whole membership thing (to a specific church not denomination) a bit silly. I mean the Body of Christ is the Body of Christ, not the Body of Christ at 123 Baptism Street versus 456 Holy Roller Street.
I think that we’re going to move our membership (silly idea) to the new place and take one Sunday a month and visit Highland View. It’s confusing because more than anything it’s a test of sorts. Sort of in the way that you will forsake your own family, mother and father for “my sake”. The family has some hurt feelings because we’re not going to HV, Jules now feels uncomfortable because the people at HV haven’t talked to us in a long time (long story short, we brought visitors to HV for Halloween, not only did no one speak to us but no one spoke to the guests one of whom is an award winning film maker who had done more for Oak Ridge recently since the inception of the Manhattan Project) and I’m torn between making those two sides happy and seeking out my own spiritual comfort.

You would hope and think the Christians you have known the longest would be the one who when you are down would be the first to lift you up. Then again perhaps the reason they haven’t is because they either don’t know how or are riding out the inertia of their own discontent, though I hope neither of those are the case.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Brew hits the airwaves! Well, the bandwidth waves...


Go here to listen to Brews gig on the internet radio show!

Click here

Saturday, December 01, 2007

YouTube video of Thanksgiving trip up north.

A short 3 minute video of some shots of the beautiful state of West Virginia and Maryland.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Brews China Trip In Pictures

For those of you wanting more and more photos of Brew's visit to China (like myself) but are too lazy to visit his website ( http://www.themidnightcafe.org/ ... very easy, use your Favorites, and commenting is easy, nothing to register to or for) go here for some awesome pics.

And for cryin' out loud, give brew a shout once in a while. Email sucks, blogs are in!

http://picasaweb.google.com/mathew.brewster

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It Is A Small World After All

Me and some friends took a weekend trip to the small city of Ningbo (population 5 million) this weekend. The reason for the trip gets a little complicated but it is worth the telling.

My wife and I have a friend, Pam, who works at the same school as my wife. Pam has an Australian friend named Lucinda who is also in Shanghai but works for another school and lives more in the central part of the city (we're way out on the outskirts of Shanghai.) A few months ago Lucinda visited the US and on her flight back to China she sat with a young Guatemalan man named Gus.

Gus lives in Ningbo and he is the reason we all went (turns out Lucinda wasn't really interested in romance there, but wanted to see him and figured bringing a half dozen of her friends would ensure he got the point.)

When we arrive in Ningbo we find that Gus has also invited a friend along who is actually from a little city very near Shanghai. I get to talking to Gus and it turns out he has lived in Arkansas for the last many years. Searcy Arkansas. And he went to Harding University.

I get a little excited at this news and mention that I have friends who went to Harding, and almost went myself.

At this point we're both a little 'no way,' and so Gus yells at his friend who also went to Harding. We start going through the whole 'do you know...?' thing but as they are many years younger than me there wasn't any overlap in who we knew at Harding.

Then we start talking about me and I say that I'm in China because of my sister and - holy crap - both boys know my sister and her husband! Actually Gus's friend lives in the same building, the same freaking floor, as my brother-in-laws parents.

So to recap my friend's Australian friend went to America and on her plane ride back to China she meets a Guatemalan. Just for friend the Australian and Guatemalan decide to meet up in a city about four hours from Shanghai. The Australian feels awkward and invites her friend who invites me. The Guatemalan feels awkward and invites his friend. Both the Guatemalan and his friend know my sister and one of them lives very close to my brother-in-laws parents.

Seriously, how whacked is that?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Headphones of steel

I posted this on my techtips site here: http://techtipsforparents.org/?p=59

but thought you guys might get a kick out of it... i know how to tear up some headphones.

Last Christmas, I bought my wife a set of headphones for her iPod. I bought her a pair of Fashion Headphones (Model MDR-J20LIV2) from the Sony store.

If you your your child has an iPod, you know the standard headphones they include are nothing short of worthless. And besides that, they rarely stay in your ear, particularly if you are jogging with them on. These Sony headphones I bought have a loop that goes around the ear, thus enabling her to jog with them.

However, we learned that my wife has odd-shaped ears, and these headphones simply would not stay on her ears. Long story short, the headphones became mine. Which is good because when we had our baby, about the only way I could get a wink of sleep was to upload songs to my PDA cell phone and listen to the music. Naturally, I would fall asleep with these headphones on and I Would wake up with them twisted and mangled beneath me or around my head and neck.

I have posted a photo of these mangles headphones that I still use almost every night because they still sound and work as well as they did when they were brand new.

So if an iPod is on the Christmas list of someone in your family, I recommend trashing the standard iPod headphones and adding some Fashion Headphones (Model MDR-J20LIV2) from the Sony store as a stocking stuffer. They take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’!



Before (new)




After (And still working)



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beyonce In Concert

I saw the pop diva in concert the other night. If you'd like to read a review, shimy on over to the Midnight Cafe.

Having a fight

Wrestling and goofing off fighting has been a long standing tradition in my family and with mostly boy cousins there’s never been too much of a shortage of willing participants.

Also growing up with my father being a 5th degree black belt in Isshin-Ryu karate there were lots of instances when dad would show my brother and I how to throw a punch, apply an arm lock or why one would twist their hips as a kick flew towards a knee.

Around last March I seized a few things around my life and decided it was time to start doing something for me. A few months earlier my uncle who is also a 5th degree black belt in Isshin-Ryu opened up a ministry based dojo between my work and home. Now at least once a week if not twice I study this karate.

I love it. Like a fish to water this style of fighting was very natural to me, perhaps it’s because for years I watched my dad run his katas (a routine of defensive and offensive movements) before bed. I don’t know why it all seemed to work but it did and does.

Thursdays is usually considered our fun night, that means it’s sparing time. I’m three belts into my training and going as fast as I can to advance but on Thursdays I get to see where my training is taking me.

So it lines up like this the black belts run us through a few warm ups to get loose, we might run a few katas, we have a little devo type thing and then we’re told to “pad up”. We get hand and foot pad put in out mouth guard (you show up wearing a cup and you do need it) and then for about five to eight minutes at a time we have at it. The class cycles through all skill levels lining up black belts against white belts. The black belts know what they are doing so unless you tell them you want to step things up a bit they are pretty reserved.

A few times I’ve lined up against across from the higher belts and we’ve opened up on each other. Man, its fun! I’ve gotten whopped and left class with knots atop my head and bruises across my body but pitting myself against someone else is wonderful. It’s challenging mentally and physically and it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to get completely exhausted.

It’s sort of hard to explain the hows and why’s it feels good to get hit in the face. What’s easier to explain is that it feels great to learn how to defend yourself from getting hit in the face the next time. If you can move past thinking about technique you understand what you can do to defend yourself and your family at any time.

No I don’t live in an area where there are roving gangs of marauders but if a “swollen’ man” were to come up to me now I could handle the situation with much more confidence.

Last week I was grappling with one of the black belts and made hip “tap out” or submit. I had him on his back in a choke and could have made him black out. I felt great and we went another round, after a good five minute fight he submitted me with a leg lock which could have twisted off my ankle.

At any rate this is how I’ve been spending at least one night a week for the past several weeks, hopefully I’m going to get back to two nights a week every now and again.

The time warp of fatherhood

The other night, I shook hands with a man who agreed to buy my little black truck from me for his daughter who is in college. When I envisioned this daughter, going only on the description of "in college" I imagined a girl looking between 24 and 29. She looked like she was fresh out of high school. Perceptions have changed.

Along with that, I have parted with my beloved truck. I have sold 4 or 5 cars in my day, and I was sad to see all of them go (Except the Corvette, I wish to never set foot in another one as long as I live). But selling the truck was especially sad for me. I hadn't done any modifications other than dark limo tint. I just kept it clean. Some of my favorite memories of this truck are me grilling in the driveway, with the tailgate down acting as a sort of "workstation" for my grilling masterpiece. Riding down the road to the nearest pond or river with a boat sticking WAY out the back of the bed. Going over a curb to get around someone who doesn't realize they are sitting dead still in an acceleration lane. And my all time favorite memory, though it was short lived, was me and Sip going to a pond in Luverne. It was down, what appeared to be at the time, a very steep embankment. With a boat in the back, she made it down with no problem, and back up with even less of a problem.

Part of me, it seems, was sold for $7,200.

Later I found myself searching the Internet for a good deal on a minivan. Honestly, I have always wanted a minivan, even before even being married. I loved the idea of the extra room on a long trip. But now, it isn't so much the "make and model" that has hit me in the face, but the social perception of a minivan that has come over me. Of course, this is all in my mind. The minivan no longer looks cool or feels cool to me... now that I am a father, it kind of just feels... dad-ish.

I LOVE being a dad. My son is the coolest. I have Z E R O regrets. But before the child came, the "college days" seemed like only a few years ago. Living in Monticello apartments seems like only months ago. And I still would wake up each day living off the high of graduating college and the fact that I had nothing to study for and no homework!

There is SOMETHING about having a child opens your eyes (Rather, slaps you in the face) to the fact that "You ain't young anymore!" I no longer look over to the "college section" at church thinking "Yeah, I am just a few years older than them, they probably look at me as one of them .". Trust me, the don't. I am seeing kids in college now that I knew when they were just entering the 2nd grade.

I heard a song on the radio the other morning from back in 1997 or 1998. About my junior or senior year in college. It was by Paolo Santos, "Sonny came home." Not the best song on earth, but it took me back to living in the apartments on campus. Being 22. I could have heard that song 4 months ago and still felt like it was kinda new. Today I heard it and realized it was very old. 10 years old. Heck, when I heard it the first time, I may have been goofing off with Stubbs, arguing with Brew about some meaningless topic, trying to get Mullins to email us, or riding in Sips Blazer. Ages ago.

This made perfect sense in my head, but writing it out has become very hard to explain.. I guess what I am saying is before my son was born, the idea of getting together will Mullins to go get some photographs of the alligators in the pond on the golf course in my neighborhood seemed do-able, almost like it was just a phone-call and a weekend away! The idea of all of us guys dressing up in black, and hiding on the grass air strip in my neighborhood so I can finally prove that there is a drug lord living up there seemed like something that only needed me to plan it and invite yall over! The thought that on any given Saturday, it would make perfect sense to drive down to Ryan F's. place in Florida just to watch a few football games, eat chips and order a pizza. Now, it seems like just an imagination I can play with to go to sleep at night.






I even thought about my last trip to Disney World with the Sips. For the first time in my life, I was at Disney World ( I had been 4 times before) WITHOUT ADULTS (Little did I realize I was an adult) but I felt free! I didn't have to get to the bus at a certain time, I didn't have to follow someone else around, I WAS IN CHARGE! Next time I go, I will be the adult. I will be a "rule setter" (Though my son will only be 7 months), and, I will be there with my parents... "Adults". So I guess that one trip to Disney world was really my last feeling of freedom, depending on your definition of freedom.





Of course, fatherhood trumps all of this... but that doesn't mean it isn't just a wee-bit sad. But I don't mind being a slave to the son. I heard a comedian describe parenthood in this way: "Having kids is like being in prison... but you REALLY love the warden."





I guess this is goodbye to the dreams of feeling young again. But hello to living the dreams of youth through the eyes of my son!






I sat over my son's crib one night as he drifted off to sleep. I thought about how sinless he was. How he is the closest, touchable human to Jesus Christ right now. Then I started to think about how much he looks like me and that made me think that I had been warped back in time. My son was actually me. And God had let me go back in time to where i was 5 months old... to make sure I don't make the mistakes I made in the past. It is kind of like, my slate is clean, my life has started over, and I can make things good and better by preventing myself (my son) from making my same mistakes. Makes me wish I could keep him sinless forever.... but, impossible.






Hard to explain, but would make a pretty good sci-fi book.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Decor-laz-tions


Over the past few years, I have begun to notice a trend in the world of holiday decorations. It is that of inflatable decorations.


I can't help but wonder if the kids get to have all that much fun, helping mom and dad decorate the yard with these new inflatable, lazy-friendly devices.


Sure, the tackiness of Christmas decorations have come a few notches down thanks to these things, but I really feel like kids of these lazy parents are missing something. Heck, how much fun can it be to plug in a cord? Boom, your done decorating.


We already have the Christmas trees that fold up like an umbrella, with the lights already in it (Honestly, I do love this) but my entire life growing up I can remember that huge box of a seemingly endless supply or fake pine branches, all color coated, wondering if I will ever be smart enough when I grow up to figure out how to set one of these up.... considering I was and am color-blind...


But this inflatable craze has opened up the doors for these lazy homeowners to celebrate other holidays that aren't normally associated with large, tacky yard decoration.


Take Thanksgiving for example. There is this house in my neighborhood that has a huge inflatable TURKEY that they keep out all November. Whatever happened to the few stacks of hay and a few pumpkins? Some rich folks would take the time to set p a scare-crow! But now it is a huge turkey wearing a pilgrim hat!


And, you can bet that this month, my neighborhood is littered with air-filled Halloween fun. One house has an inflatable snow-globe with witches and bats and such inside... a SNOW GLOBE!


Easter bunnies with air pumps up their rear have replaced the colored eggs hanging from trees (thankfully I guess) and Christmas? Forget about it. They are everywhere. I am just waiting to see who will be the first person in my neighborhood to put up an inflatable Uncle Same on July 4th.


I will say one good thing about the inflatable decor... it comes down fast an easy. No lie there are two homes in my neighborhood that has large Christmas wreathes with lights on them hanging on the side of their home until April, and another came down in June. Some decoration is so hard to put up, homeowners don't feel like bring them down.

Monday, October 15, 2007

the origins of the Midnight Cafe

I found this on Brews page, http://www.themidnightcafe.org/. It was on his "About" page and it reminded me of a time gone by. And I had forgotten the origin of the name "Midnight Cafe." It was one of the many things Mullins said one night... many of which can't be repeated, all of which had us glued to his every word... Here is the text of Brew's "About" page...

Gather round my friends, and hear a tale of the great Midnight Cafe. A tale so sacred and mysterious it has never been told before. It is a story so profound it may just change your life!

Like so many things, it started when I was in college. Most nights, starting anywhere from about 11 until about 1 in the am and often running well into the wee hours, me and some buddies would congregate into our friend, Mullins’, dorm room. We would sit on the bunk bed, or his variety of old, broken down chairs, or flat on the floor. Candles would burn, music would play, things would be done that can never be repeated.

Mainly we just sat around talking about the things that college boys talk about - religion, philosophy, music, movies, and girls. Mostly girls.

Then there was the food. We were always eating. Every now and then one of us would bring back something good - say leftovers from a fancy restaurant if we happened to have a date, or good home cooking if one of had recently gone home - but mostly we ate really cheap crap. There were the typical vending machine junk like Snickers bars, and Twinkies, but we’d often make a grocery store run and get some cheap Carl Buddig ham with some cheddar cheese and a loaf of sour dough bread.

It wasn’t good food, but we made it a feast anyways. There is something very communal and worshipful about eating with your bare hands as a group on the floor of a college dorm room. We bonded there, us men. It is impossible to describe just what happened on all those nights, but somehow we became all intimately connected.

We had fun. Tons of fun doing all sorts of goofy, childish things. We made movies and watched movies and played all sorts of music at all sorts of volumes. And laughed. We were always laughing. But it was more than that too.

As the night would draw onward, conversations would often turn serious. Sure the talks were still about girls most of the time, but as young, single men, conversations about girls are often quite serious. We were all looking for something more in life, and the desire to share that life with someone was quite heavy on our minds.

We talked about God and religion and spirituality. We talked about life and careers. We talked and talked. And in that talking we shared. In that sharing we connected in ways I’ll never be able to explain with the feeble words such as I know. It was something important. It was something meaningful.

I’m still friends with those guys. Even though we’ve all moved out of the dorms and across the country, and world. We’ve all gotten married and started families. Yet we still talk and blog and visit one another as often as we can. I suspect they will remain my friend for as long as I live. I suspect we’ll see each other in the next life too.

One night, while we were all gathered around on the floor, eating Carl Buddig and sourdough bread the phone rang. Well, really the phone would often ring. Nearly every night. And when it would ring Mullins, in his own goofy, lovable way would answer with some lame joke.

“Mullins house of fun.” he’d say. Or “Mullins dance emporium with plenty of naked ladies, where clowns are always welcome.”

That night as he answered the phone he gazed upon all of us with mouths full and said “Midnight Cafe, can I help you?”

And it stuck. From then on we were the Midnight Cafe. It was so obvious. So right. Of course we were the Midnight Cafe. What else would we be? Not only would we gather around midnight and eat, but there was a certain quality to it. There’s something about a cafe that conjures so many images up. The dim lights. The smoke. The friends gathered around greasy food. And when you are in a cafe at midnight, well there’s something special about that. There’s something magic about staying up late with good friends, bearing your hearts and souls.

Since that time I’ve always kept the name tucked into my pocket. My user names have almost always been some variation on the Midnight Cafe. Whenever asked for a company name - say for a form or some such thing - I inevitably call my made up company Midnight Cafe Productions. As I thought about the name for my blog, no other name would fit.

It had to be the Midnight Cafe.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Christopher Walken Has A Blog

And it is.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

Ok, it really isn't written by Christopher Walken, but it is hilarious.

Waking up at 4:44am with no hope of ever getting back to sleep thanks to the new love of your life can be fun!

Wait... no, it can't.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Substitution

This week I played substitute teacher for a fifth grade science class. It was my first foray into the world of substituting, but hopefully not my last.

For many years of my life I believed I wanted to be some sort of educator. Some sculptor of young minds. I toyed with the idea of being a youth minister, a college professor, or a high school teacher.

Instead I became a corporate, working schlub. I’m not really complaining about that as I’ve made some good money, gained a lot of experience, and had a lot of fun. I’ve been doing that for so long I kind of gave up the idea of being a teacher.

Truth is, I don’t really know how to relate to young people anymore. I’m not an old koot who sits around talking about the kids today and how we did things “back in my day.” I just realize that I have my own life and interest, and those things are not shared with the youngsters.

So it is kind of strange that I am now finding myself as a substitute teacher.

I got the call early Monday morning. The teacher was stuck in Taiwan due to the typhoon and I was needed to substitute Monday through Wednesday. I arrived a little while later with no more information. I walked into the administrator’s office, was given some lesson plans the teacher had e-mailed over, a key to the office and was shoved in the general direction of the class.

That’s it. No instructions on discipline or class times or anything really. Here’s your key and your lessons, now go teach.

I arrived a few minutes before the kids and quickly looked over the plans. Homeroom is first. They come in for twenty minutes in the morning then scatter off to their first class. I was instructed to talk to them about typhoons.

The kids came in, loud and rambunxious. Immediately there was a chorus of “where’s Mr. Homestead?” Quickly though they settled down and took their seats. I explained where there teacher was and we started talking about typhoons. For the most part the class was really good. They were attentive and quiet and they all wanted to talk.

That first twenty minutes went by quickly and I was relieved that it went so well.

The bell rang and the kids got their stuff and lined up at the door. I sat at my desk and looked over the notes for what I was supposed to do next. I had no idea what was next, actually. I assumed a class would come in, but I didn’t know when and I didn’t know for how long.

Lost in those thoughts my kids got really quiet. Then there were whispered arguments. Finally someone piped up “are we dismissed?’

Oh, I guess I’m supposed to dismiss them. And so I did.

A few minutes later a new boy popped his head inside the classroom and asked if they could come in. Once I said yes, the whole lot of them came bustling in. I guess I’m not only supposed to dismiss class, but give the new ones permission to come in.

We were supposed to discuss different study techniques and they best ways to prepare for an exam. My notes were pretty well laid out, and so it was easy to follow. Again, these kids were mostly good. They were a little more involved with each other, and a couple of times I had to ask some of them to be quiet, but mostly they were attentive and wanted to talk.

One boy seemed intent on bragging. When I asked him where he usually studied, his answer came out “in front of my 27” widescreen LCD television.” Later when I asked when he studied he said something like “after watching a really funny movie, and playing a really violent video game.” Everything he said seemed designed to show how much cool stuff he had.

Later he mentioned that his parents lived in Canada and he was staying with his grandparents. Suddenly this made sense. I suspect his grandparents didn’t have the slightest idea how to control him, and his kept sending him expensive gifts because they felt guilty for shipping him to China.

Mostly though, the kids were good.

Another class ended and this time I dismissed them and invited the new bunch to come in. This class too was good, and I was getting the hang of maintaining control while encouraging everyone to talk.

It was after this second period that my wife came to visit. She also pointed out where the schedule was. Finally I had some idea of who was coming in and when.

The rest of my classes went really well. Fifth grade seems amazingly well behaved. There was only one other problem child, and he wasn’t that bad. Mainly he just wouldn’t pay any attention to either his classmates or me. He doodled, he did other homework, he chatted with his neighbors.

These are the kids I have no idea how to handle. Most kids realize that when they are talking they aren’t supposed to and thus a little talking too quiets them up. Most kids recognize an authority figure. This kid was either oblivious or didn’t care. I wanted to punch him in the face. I wanted to shake him hard. Mainly I left him a lone unless he got disruptive to the rest of the class. Then I’d ask him to be quiet, and he would. For about two minutes.

For day two I was to give them an assignment. They were to divide up into groups and prepare part of the chapter for a presentation. This was to help prepare them for the exam next week.

That was easy. I split them up, gave the instructions and then simply made sure they kept the noise levels down.

There were no problems at all in any class.

Wednesday was tougher. They had to give the presentations and I had to grade them. I don’t know how to grade. I don’t know what is a reasonable presentation for a fifth grader. I was lenient.

I have to admit I’m a little sad today not being in class. It was an exhausting, irritating experience in many ways. Sometimes I wanted to scream, storm out, and set fire to the bunch. Most of the time though they were a joy to talk to and laugh with and get to know.

Three days isn’t a very long time but I think I connected with some of those kids and that’s pretty special.

**Comments**


Sorry Jamison I cannot comment on the shanghai blog either. I can only comment on my midnightcafe blog.

The kids are mostly made up of employees from the company that built the school. It is an international company and thus the kids are very international. They have an english track and a chinese track. I taught at the english track so all of the kids spoke english. A lot of them are Chinese Americans, some of just regular Americans and a few come from other countries but have learned English in one way or another.

The New Midnight Cafe

After I just wrote a comment saying that the blog is dead and that I won't be writing anymore, here I am writing. This is really just a pimp for my new blog, so don't get too excited.

After talking and talking and thinking about having my own webspace and url, I finally went and done it. The Midnight Cafe (http://www.themidnightcafe.org) is now formally open for business.

I had hoped to get some midnightcafe.org action, but unfortunately that url has already been taken. After more consideration I decided to add the "the" to the front. It is a little more awkward, but hopefully easy enough to remember.

I won't be writing any random personal bits at the Cafe (that still belongs to the Shanghai Cafe.) Basically I'll be writing my reviews and pop culture essays with a strong sprinkling of random links that I find interesting.

I like it, and I hope you guys will too.

PS Thanks to Kellie for working on the banner. Though it will probably still be worked on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baby born

I got a call at 2:30pm yesterday (Tuesday) that Jodi's water had broke. I presume by this time a baby has been born. Pray for Chuck, Jodi, and baby. No news other than that.


**The following was written by Brewster who cannot make comments on blogspot blogs, and thus must make an addition here.***


Apologies to Charles and Jodi and the new baby. Don't mean to take up space on the announcement. But I did want to comment on Ryan's comment.

Basically Jamison got it right. There were only four of us who really ever did a lot of posting in the first place, and it seems we all have other things to do right now.

I hate to say that I told you so about this blog, but I kind of did. (PS Jamison I just used the "labels" to find that link.)

I really can't make any comments here anymore, well mostly. Every now and again China lets me view/comment on blogspot blogs, but it is random and rare. So as a general rule I simply can't. This makes me have no desire to post anything discussion worthy. This eliminates anything on politics or religion. That leaves either random fun links or personal things.

I have the Shanghai Cafe for personal things and The Midnight Cafe for the fun links.

I suppose I could post the personal stuff here too, but it seems redundant. If anyone is interested in my life in China just go there. If I thought there was a chance of revival here, I'd still double post. But really, at this point we're basically dead. Without the return of at least a couple of major players we'll remain that way.

So sorry Ryan, I don't know what to say. You are welcome to write posts here. And anyone else still reading is encouraged to write.

*****************

Keep it alive Jamison! I'll try to add some things soon. Not being able to comment sucks. I think I may just do it this way, or maybe I'll add a comment posts after the original post. Does adding comments to the post totally suck to everyone?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A new bully is in town

Not sure how many of you even read this blog anymore. Hopefully, you are all lurkers, just not posters or commenters...

There is a different kind of bully at schools than the ones we were used to. And I have learned this from working at a school and it is kind of sad.

Gone are the days when a furrowed-brow bully would pick on a 'nerd' at school. At least in those days, the bully was 'brave' enough to confront someone face to face. Today's bully hides behind a keyboard and computer screen. Blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and the like are the new "playgrounds" where bullys pick fights. And why not? No parents, no teachers, no rules, and a host of other cowardly kids backing them up all the way.

No holds barred is the one rule on this playground. Language so harsh Jerry Springer would have to think twice before having them on as a guest on his show.

What happens these days is that one bully will decide one kid is fat for example), and say so on their page (whatever kind of page that may be). Parents are usually not as involved in their kids' lives as they once were, so parents don't see it (And some don't even care, as my experience has been), teachers and administrators only hear about it through other kids and parents (who wish to remain nameless as they prefer to fear a child bully rather than help a bullied child from being bombarded with self-confidence-destroying words), and so the cycle continues.

News stories abound about this kind of stuff. Just Google the words facebook bully school. You may find a story where some kids got expelled from posting horrible and horrific words and phrases of teachers and faculty members. The school felt justified as it was not only a private school, but in a round-about way, it violated their rules of conduct. However, many kids protested. Skipping class, pulling fire alarms to get more kids out of class and into the protest, and forcing the police to get involved.

So you have several ways to look at this. Protect children, or protect "Free Speech", But would my democratic friends consider "Hate Speech" to be "Free Speech"? It seems you can't say anything about homosexuals, African-Americans, or Latinos anymore in this country without losing your job. In essence, you are not allowed to be racists but more realistically, you are just not allowed to use certain words when refering to certain social groups... We are either confused about the phrase "free speech" or it no longer exists. I think it still exists, but there is a line. Kids ages 11 to 16 are venerable more than we remember ourselves being. Words DO hurt. It was one thing for us to be made fun of in class, or on the playground, but today, kids are being made fun on on the W O R L D wide web. And others who, in the past, would have stood idly by and let the bullying occur, now get into the act. Again, why not? No parents, no teachers, and they are hiding behind mask of, what they believe to be anonymity. I personally don;t think it is wrong for a school to get involved if students or faculty member are the target of hateful speech. Especially if the school is private.

Though, there is nothing anonymous about a private blog or networking site page. If ONE person can see it, it is no longer private. Printers can work miracles today, and so can pressing that handy little "Prt Scr" button on your keyboard. You know the one, the one you have probably never used?

On a related note, kids are just now starting to realize that employers and colleges that they seek to enter search the web for these applicants. In some cases before the first interview. See my latest articles on this subject here and here. Even if a kid wrote some "bully" type 5 years ago once they apply for a college, Google has this cool thing that can "cache" sites. I am afraid in the near future we will have a generation of hateful kids, many of which didn't get into the college they wanted to get into, or didn't get a job because they couldn't resist putting that video of them dancing drunk when they were 15 on YouTube.

Sorry for the downer, just raise your kids to be nice folks. Maybe we can beat this thing one family at a time.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Vent vs fan, silent film

A comedic take on my sons new love


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Deep and sweet thoughts

If Starburst were to make a chocolate flavored Starburst, I bet it would taste just like a Tootsie Roll.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Awesome Picture Of Shanghai


I didn't take this picture, and I'm afraid I don't know who did, but man, that's a nice shot.

A little history (since you asked.) The Huangpu river is a natural divider of Shanghai. I live in the Pudong are of the city which is east of the river (pudong literally meaning east of Haungpu.) This area is also known as the "new area" as it is a relatively newly developed part of the city.

Quite literally in the early 90s most of Pudong was in fact nothing more than rice fields and farm land. It was then that the city decided to give foreign investors something to do and it has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two decades.

This picture was taken from Pudong looking towards the main city. The tall glittery buildings you see in the foreground is the commercial district of Pudong, and the rest of Shanghai is across the river.

The big tower in the center of the picture is the Pearl Tower which is a very famous landmark in Shanghai. The area just beyond the river is known as the Bund which is a long stretch of buildings that is now mostly known for lots of shopping, but also contains many old school China architecture.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

The skyline in Shanghai is absolutely gorgeous (when you can see it, for it is often obscured by the smog.)

And that's your lesson about the picture.

**Edit** I can't make comments so I'll just add an addendum here, and maybe someone will read it. Mullins I have talked about food. Several times. But it is over there on my shanghai blog. I tend to not post my China adventures here as I already post them there and it seems silly to double post. I mean, if you are interested just drop by there.

I guess if everybody would rather me post that stuff here, I can double up a few more interesting pieces.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tech Tips for Parents

Boy oh boy, talk about a quiet midnight at the cafe!
Well, thought I would share with ya'll what I have been working on.
I do a weekly e-newsletter for the parents of the school I work for. It has some basic computer tips and occationally, some ways to protect your kids better from online dangers. I will also include a relavent news article sometimes and I always provide a Dell coupon or special link (Dell sends me coupon codes and such that are actually pretty good deals. I pass it on to the parents... and now, you).

To save myself some time (and try to earn a few Goggle bucks) I now own and operate www.techtipsforparents.org

There you will fine a rough idea of what I am trying to accomplish, along with the archives of my last 10 or 15 articles.

Soon I will have a few how-to videos posted up on there.

The parents rave about this and love it, yet I can't get ANY of them to send me questions and concerns that they would like addressed :(

It is using WordPress code if anyone was wondering or interested.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Stubbs pay a visit

Our good friends the Stubbs paid a visit to central Alabama this long weekend. It was wonderful to see them and spend time with them. My only regret was that we were not able to spend MORE time with them. With the Sips having two boys, the Stubbs having a new boy, and us having a new boy, schedualing and visit times were limited. Plus, my in laws were in town staying at our home.
Even so, we were able to have dinner with them Friday night, cook out with them at the Sips Saturday night, and go to church and lunch with them Sunday.

Here are some videos made during the visit. The first video has a few greetings to our friends the Brews over in China...






Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Midnight Cafe

For about a year now I have been saying that I am going to buy some real webspace and get a regular URL for my blog. The reasons for this are many stemming mainly from my desire to have some real web real estate. My blog has grown to have a very decent hit count (I generate anywhere from 200 to700 unique visitors a day) and I think I can gain even more when I get out of the whole wordpress/blogger free spaces.

Now of course I won't be making mad money with it anytime soon, but a professional look coupled with some targeted writing could pay for my web space plus buy me the occasional Coke product. That's good enough for me.

I am super serious this time about getting web space this time. For about eight bucks a month I can get a .mac account which has more than enough space and add-ons to make it worth my while. I am telling everyone this because I need your help in the design department.

The first thing I need is a banner for the top of the blog. I am going to keep the name "Midnight Cafe" and as such the banner should reflect this. I am thinking maybe something in a dark blue (to represent the night sky) for a background color with yellow writing. I think maybe having some little stars mixed in would be good, and even that we could make the "c" in cafe look like a crescent moon.

I might like some little cocktail glasses and a baguette or something in there as well. I'm not all that set on that idea, but something to represent the cafe part of Midnight Cafe would be good.

I'm not really a design guy and I totally suck at drawing this type of thing, which is where you guys come in. Any of you creative types that has a moment of free time I would absolutely love it if you would make up some banners for me.

I know some of you could do it, and do it awesome, but I also realize you may not have the time.

Since China makes it impossible for me to comment on this blog, please submit the banners or ask any questions to my e-mail. Also, if anyone has any interest in helping me create the entire blog let me know.

Thanks gang.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Confession of a Work-At-Home-Mom

I am guilty. I let the TV babysit my 3 year old son. Now don't get me wrong; I know what he's watching, and it's all educational, good stuff. Mostly PBS, Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer. But the poor kid is literally transfixed by the magic box.

I used to be able to leave the TV on while he played and he'd glance up at it once in a while, but mostly he'd play with toys. But lately he's grouchy and wants nothing but TV. He doesn't even want to get dressed in the morning in case he'll "miss something."

I'm worried. But I don't know what to do. Luke is a high-maintenance kid. He doesn't play on his own very well or for very long. Even the baby (1 year old) plays on his own for longer and is much easier to take care of. And I have to work. So what's a mom/employee to do?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't Hold Your Breath

I love my refrigerator. It's actually not as nice as the one in this picture here, but I'm not picky. I like my refrigerator so much that we brought it to Alabama when we moved from Georgia. And that's when we broke it.

Fortunately, we only broke my favorite-but-pretty-much-unnecessary feature, the in-door water & ice dispenser. For some reason, after we installed the refrigerator in our new home, getting a glass of water also necessitated wiping up a puddle of water from behind the fridge. So, we stopped using the water part. Goodbye, cold, filtered water. You will be missed.

So eventually I decided we should take a look at the leaky plastic tube to see how bad the damage was. We took off the front grill, wiggled the tube a bit, and lo-and-behold, it was simply loose from its fitting. Yay! We have cold filtered water again!

So now we get to the ice part of the equation. It works, to be totally honest. Always has. But it's not completely reliable. See, I have this quirk. Well, I have a lot of quirks, but let's stay focused here. I hold my breath while I'm waiting for that first kerplunk of ice into my glass. And this has become a problem, because sometimes that fridge just won't give up any ice. None. It does its grindy-groany thing, and even teases me with a little falling ice chip sound occasionally, but leaves me with an empty cup and unhappy lungs for great stretches of seconds at a time. I eventually give up and breathe. And then I really humble myself by opening the freezer door, reaching in, and actually physically gathering the ice myself! The humanity!

Well, at least I've thought of a new function for my fancy in-door ice maker. As often as it actually gives out ice, I'm thinking it would make a great slot machine.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dr Katz does radio


Jonathon Katz does a podcast you can download here for free:



http://www.jonathankatz.com/wkatz/



The first bit is about a word dominatrix... it will give a giggle to you English majors...


It should be a monthly thing. It is well worth a listen for us who love dry, dry, dry, dry, dry humor.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

eBay reminds me why i won't have 6 kids...

Here is a link to a real eBay item. The description is super entertaining. I think the price went so high just because she got so many hits. LOT OF POKEMON CARDS THAT MY KIDS TRIED TO SNEAK BY ME

Not the best post ever in teh blog, but good for a little laugh...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sipper Speaks




For all who might care to listen, here is a link to the Dalraida coC Website which contains a lesson I delivered on a recent Wednesday evening for the Summer Series. It's titled "The Gift of Song".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Everything Old Is New Again










I think all of you have been to our house at sometime or other. Recently, we added some space onto our kitchen and knocked out some walls to make a nice, open layout between the family room and the kitchen. Here are some pics to show how the progress went, how much work was done, and how much space was added. My Dad was instrumental in most of the work. However, Rachel did quite a bit of the work, too, especially with installing the floors. We did this ALL ourselves, in other words.






Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Me playing a trick on my son...

I was bored, work was slow, and he was awake and in a good mood... you would have done the same...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Crossing over

The wife, myself, and the boy went to Chattanooga this weekend. No problems that would be considered unusual for travels with a 6 week old occurred. In fact, the drive up took only 30 minutes more than usual. The drive back, however, took a good 3 hours longer.

Being that we were so close to Knoxville, I would have considered it a crime to not at least invite the Mullins family to have dinner with my wife and I Saturday night. Being that we had grandparents to babysit our son, we figured we would go on a date.

I won't lie that at first, I was hoping the Mullins' would find a sitter for their boys. I wanted a little adult time. However, plans didn't pan out like I had hoped. Thankfully!


They came to my folks' home and took a look at Tyler. But only after Issac had peed in my parents front yard. The boys were with them and on their best male-Mullins-behavior. Afterwards, we all went to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Not much to do there but look at real life trains that are no longer in use. Some fun restaurants there, including one that had singing waiters. But entertainment aside, the menu looked like any Ryans Steakhouse menu and wasn't anything special.

So I asked a gift store employee of some local favorites and he pointed me towards the Aquarium where there was a fine assortment of restaurants, including the one we ate at; Easy Seafood (Chefs nick name is Easy). The wait was 15 minutes, so we walked a block to the aquarium where there is a wide assortment of fountains, pools, and waterfalls that kids typically play in. One look at this from the Mullins boys and that's all she wrote. With their mother saying "don't get your shorts wet!" it seemed to only dare each of them to see how close they could get without getting water on their shorts to the point where Caleb was simply running straight through the fountain.
10 or 15 minutes later we go back to Easy and are seated. The food was great. Not a place I will make a bee-line to go to each time I go to Chattanooga, but if I have kids with me, i will. VERY kid friendly. Chalkboards, goldfish snacks for the kids, etc...

Afterwards, we found this huge waterfall of steps that loads of kids and families were cooling themselves off in. My brother takes his daughter here often. The kids loved it, to the point where my wife was telling me to take off my shoes and run down the stair of water to get Caleb before he hurts himself as he ran down these stairs without fear.

The night ended appropriately... as Larissa and I were leaving the parking deck, we passed the Mullins only to see their youngest completely naked by the car and loving every minute of it.

All in all I was very happy to have had their boys with us. Caleb is a hoot. He purposely will not look at a camera when you take his photo, which had me laughing alot. I have crossed over I think... from a childless guy who prefers to be with my friends without their kids around, to a parent who doesn't mind it so much anymore.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Shanghai Cafe

I created a new blog for my China adventures. After much deliberation I finally decided on the fairly lame name of The Shanghai Cafe. It seemed fitting as it is both where I am living and a nod to the old cafe.

It is a little sparse right no, obviously and won't be updated to much until we get internet in our home. But feel free to read and comment.

PS if the link doesn't work properly just click on my name and you'll find the blog. I'm working on a barely working connection and the site isn't pulling up for me at all.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is it just me?

Something hit me the other day and it kind of made me sad...

This whole parent thing has turned my world upside down. More so than I expected. But one thing I didn't expect would be that my social life would plummet to a near-zero level.

I mean, I expected the first few weeks to not go hang with folks, but he is 6 weeks old now and still a part of me just wants to stick close to home base.

I mean, after the Sips had Noah (If I remember correctly) they were happy to have us over to their home! I keep thinking in my mind all the peoples homes I want to go to and take Tyler along, or to invite people over, but when Friday or Saturday come, and I see that dishes need washing, clothes need washing, the house is a wreck, and not to mention the baby needs feeding in a few hours, I give up the thought, slip into my pajama pants, and roll up my sleeves (Assuming I am wearing a shirt) to get to work. And if we get to eat our meal along the way, that's just a plus.

Believe me Sip, we want to come to yalls home. We want to go to several folk's home and we want to have people over. But when does the fear of leaving home base end? Am I a freak for feeling this way? I mean, I have never been Mr. Socialite, but I do like to hang with my closest friends from time to time and it frankly feels like ages since I have done so!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gross

Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for a woman to share with her infant. This, however, is just wrong.


Travels abroad

With Brew leaving for a first-time traveling experience in literally hours, I thought I would post a blog being that I am in a somewhat similar "First time travel experience" situation as well...

My wife, child, and myself will all be going to my parents home in Tennessee this weekend. The idea is so that, of course, my mom and dad can spend time with thier grand son, and that my wife and I can go out that night.

Those without kids do not realize what a task this will be. Even as my wife and I decided yesterday that we would go take our son to visit them, the fullness of the situation didn't hit us immediately. And before I had this child, I would have just thought "Toss some diapers in a bag, a bottle, a jug of 1% milk and go". After having some dinner at home, we began to think it over. Thoughts turned to paper and pen, paper and pen turned into hands on head eyes widening.

Eventually my wife spoke up and said "Do you remember how Josh and Rachel had an entire suitcase for Luke when we went to Disney World and how we couldn't understand how a baby could need so much?" I agreed, and we both began to feel like the Sips actually packed light for their child on that trip...

So, rather than go in alone on this, I would take suggestions from the panel of experts at my disposal. I know there are a great many men my age with kids reading this. Those who frequent this blog, I expect nothing less than advice. Those lurkers out there, feel free to comment. Women, of course, are welcome to comment just as much as the men.

It is becoming all too clear in my mind that it will be alot more convenient for my parents to visit us for the next year or so than for us to visit them, though, the drive must be made, and often... adults can turn insane when they are turned into grand parents.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Research and Development gone lazy...

If you have seen any commercials for cleaning products these days, you know the buzz word is "Disposable". Everything is disposable and everything makes cleaning "Easier". Which is all well and good for me. However, we still live in the dark ages in my home. We have an up-right vacuum, a broom, and a dust pan. We took a huge leap and recently bought a dust mop.

Waste and environmental concerns aside, this is fine and good with me, but I saw one product on TV today that absolutely blew my mind...

Endust disposable dust cloths. Or, as I like to call them "Paper towels". I could understand if there was, like, Endust built into it, but there isn't. The commercial instructs you to "Spray on Endust, wipe with the disposable cloth, then, just throw it away!"... just like I do with paper towels.

Here is the claim:

For $5 you get 10 12x12 cloths that the company doesn't even pretend to claim are reusable... How many rolls of paper towels can you buy for $5? The marketing campaign is to "Hold on to your favorite tee shirt" assuming people dust with a tee shirt. I can;t tell you how many times I was found curled in the fetal position of my closet by my wife, hugging my favorite shirt, hoping that there would be someone to invent a way that I could dust without this shirt. And God forbid that we had to (gasp) throw the shirt in the washing machine after we were done! "Endust Dust Cloths eliminate the need to store and wash dirty rags for dusting" And we all know how much room a dust rag takes up, what with how contractors are making homes SO much smaller.

I mean, am I missing something? Do they do something that I am not aware of? Are paper towels damaging my bed side table? Is it no longer fashionable to dust with a washable rag, much less keep washable rags in the house at all?

I mean, how dumb can we get, people? If anyone has bought these, they must make themselves known.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Four Days

Four days from this moment I will be flying over some part of Canada heading north and west. We leave Tulsa in the wee hours of the morning to Chicago. From there it is all the way to Shanghai. Twenty odd hours of travel, 14 from Chicago to Shanghai.

That's a long time no matter how you shake it. I've loaded my carry on with books and magazines. I've checked the airline for what movies will be showing. The iPod contains some 18,000 songs, several audio books, two movies and a television program. I'm going to carry some Tylenol PM with me so that I might sleep a few hours, and heavier prescription sleep medicine in case I decide to knock myself out.

We are mostly ready to go. The bags have been packed and repacked and repacked. We have a box of winter clothes to mail. And some reserve books in boxes in case we need to mail those. We have scanned a million articles and books to help Amy with her research. We have loaded every song we've ever heard on to the hard drives. We have chosen books and movies to take. We have had long debates over which clothes to pack, what toiletries we'll need, etc.

We already have an apartment there. Brian and Bethany took a gander at it and said it was ok, it even has an American toilet and a real bathtub. They have bought us a bed, couch, comfy chair, kitchen table and other things. We will stay in a hotel for a few days while all of this is moved in, but soon should be settled.

The school pays for the hotel, will reimburse us 80% of our flight and give us a grand to help settle in.

I'm nervous. Nervous as crap. And yet I am so ready to go and get it done. This waiting around is killing me. I know we will have a good time. I know it will be a meaningful experience. I have no idea what to expect.

I plan to create a new blog just for my daily ramblings about china. I'll keep my regular blog up for the pop culture explorations, and the occasional long form essay about life, but I figure it's better to have a separate one for the normal day-to-day activities.

Any suggestions on what cool, quirky, ironic name I should give this blog?

Of course I'll keep you guys up to date here as well, even if it is just a link over to my place.

Also I don't know when I'll get an internet connection over there, so I may be intermittent for awhile.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

HP7: Spoiler Warning!!!

OK, Jamison gave us the go-ahead to discuss HP stuff within the comments. On your mark, get set, Expeliarmus!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Love Note: A Rock

On our trip (mentioned in my last post) we picked up a couple of souvenirs for family members. One of the gifts we bought was a small bag of colorful rocks from the Native America store in downtown Athens. Luke, as most three-year-olds do, loves rocks, so we thought he’d love them. We were not disappointed.

When we brought them home to him, he immediately pulled out his treasure box and began placing them into it. Then he started picking out his favorite rocks and pretending they were different food items. One looked like a plate and one was red like spaghetti sauce. One of his favorites was a beautiful chartreuse color and was shaped like a glass. He held it and played with it and pretended to drink from it.Yesterday at work, I was sitting at my desk, eagerly anticipating time to leave and go to the zoo with my family when I felt something poking me in my left butt cheek. I reached in my back pocket and pulled out the rock Luke had placed in there, unbeknownst to me. I immediately began to laugh/cry with joy at the beautiful little way my son said, “I love you, Daddy,” with his favorite rock.

My First Massage

My wife and I took a trip last weekend. We had been planning a getaway for practically since Luke was born and finally got our chance. My wonderful wife booked the nicest room in a new hotel for us with a hot tub, king-sized bed, right next to the pool, etc. She also, after asking me my opinion, scheduled a couple’s massage for us at a nice spa just a mile up the road from our hotel.

Before I go any further, I need to make it known that I have never had a professional massage before. I am the sort of person who doesn’t particularly care to be touched by someone I don’t know. So, I felt a little weird about going in for something like this, even though my wife would be receiving the same treatment in the same room. Another item of note is the fact that I have an extremely high tolerance for pain, so I don’t feel things the way most people do and I have to be careful about how I do things since I will hurt myself and not realize it.

So, Friday morning we wake up refreshed, hit the free breakfast bar, and head out for our massages. We arrive, fill out forms explaining any ailments, medications, or recent surgeries (I noted my vasectomy on the sheet) and then waited a couple of minutes while the therapists prepared to work on us. We were almost immediately greeted by our therapists and taken back to a small, dimly-lit room with two massage tables. They looked comfy and soft. My therapist was a slightly overweight woman named Amber. Rachel was to have her muscles smooshed around by a bearded fellow by the name of Jim. They both smiled warmly and reassured us of their desire to make us feel comfortable. Then they told us to take off our clothes and left the room.

Rachel and I disrobed quickly and slid into the smooth warmth of the massage tables, face down. We both commented on how nice it was to use the face cradles and lie flat. It was very nice. Then, the therapists entered the room. New Age music was immediately audible at their entrance. It partly annoyed me at first, then relaxed me once I decided this was not the time to be anal about music.

Amber began. She squirted an odorless oily substance into her hands and began work on my back. The first touch was fine, but my initial reaction was to laugh because it tickled so much. Rachel had signed us up for a deep tissue massage instead of the more, circulation/relaxation driven Swedish massage. But, I wasn’t feeling the deep-tissue feeling I expected. However, being it was my first massage, I waited and let her continue.

Unfortunately, I found myself under a type of tickle torture I had never before experienced. Every touch was like a feather being dragged along my sensitive spine. At first, I tried to hold in the laughter. My body tensed and skook. Amber stopped, “Are you alright, Josh?” “Oh, sure. Fine. Feels great! I just feel like I want to make sounds.” “Oh, um, ok.” For the entire back portion of the massage, I held back my laughter: something I am not used to doing, ever.
Finally, she moved to my legs. My right leg was bared. She oiled her hands. The moment she made the first rub, I cackled, jerked, rolled. I couldn’t control myself. Laughter cascaded from me as urine from an ACPO member. Amber and Jim initially seemed confused, but Rachel’s laughter seemed to give them confidence that I was just like that. Finally, I told Amber that she needed to press harder and that she had been tickling me mercilessly the whole time. She apologized to the inadvertent torture and proceeded to press harder. She pressed as hard as she could for the rest of the massage. And I laughed as hard and long as I have laughed in a long time.

Afterward, we went to the front of the parlor to pay for the relaxation. The receptionist was smiling and asking what exactly we were doing back there. Everyone in the lobby had heard my laughter from the back of the place. I doubt I will get another massage for a long time. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was worth the money. I expected the therapeutic effects to last at least a week, but alas they lasted only the rest of that day. Not good enough for what we paid. But, the effects of the laughter on my spirit and the relaxation and buoyancy I felt may have been.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My night with Hydrocodone

A few months ago, I had an ingrown toenail removed. The surgeon did not give the medicine enough time to fully numb my toe so I was screaming in pain through most of the surgery.

As a result, the doctor felt sorry for me and gave me a perscription for Hydrocodone; a stong pain killer that blocks the pain feeling from the brain. It turned out that my toe healed nicely and I never used any of the pills. It was interesting that at the pharmacy, they asked for my social security number because of the highly addictive nature of the pill.

I have kept the pills, since you never know when you may really hurt yourself, but have never used them. I gave some to some friends suffering from neck and back pain that their chiropractor was not able to fix, but mostly they have sat unused.

Saturday night, i decided to take half of one. They are easy to break in half. My justification was that we had driven to Birmingham that afternoon for someones baby shower. The drivers seat in my wifes car kills my back after an hour of sitting in it. In addition, holding a baby can stress ones muscles out more than you would think. I took hald of one at about 10pm and laid down to sleep. Here are some things I noticed about it...
Dreams; I remember NONE of my dreams that night. This is HIGHLY unusual for me. That is no sign of deep sleep for me. In fact, I woke up often hearing the baby cry. And when I got out of bed to walk, I was not dizzy or confusded or 'drunk' like I get with a muscle relaxer.

Thirst; I would wake up with the DRIEST mouth I have ever had. I could have drank a gallon of water if it was near me. My skin also felt very dry.
Dizziness: I wasn't dizzy at all. Nor did I feel "drugged" throughout this period.

Numbness; The interesting thing is that my body did NOT feel numb and it did NOT feel relaxed. As I woke up to pee around 2 or 3 am, I tested its effectiveness. I have a fever blister in my mouth. Always hurts to touch it with my tounge since it formed a few days ago. I touched it with my tounge as I walked to the potty and an immediate 'numb' feeling took the place of the normal pain. When I stopped pressing the sore, the numb feeling went away. I tried to pinch myself with my long index fingernail that I had yet to cut off. No pain, just a quick numb feeling.

It was kind of scary. Got up, went to church, and in church, I tried a few pain tricks again and the numbing thing still happened. This went on till about 10 or 11am Sunday.

So for about 12 hours, half a hydrocodone kept me from feeling any pain. I mean, I KNEW I was hurting myself (relatively) but the pain wasn't there.

So in case you care to take any Hydrocodone for pleasure, I am here to tell you that it really isn;t that fun. And not as relaxing as a muscle relaxer is. Or even an anti-inflamatory for that matter. And no, I don't have any left to give you. All trashed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Long And Dirty Tale Of The 35" Televison

32604765.jpgShortly after my brief affair with graduate school I landed myself a well paying job. I was young. I was single. I was making a lot more money than I had ever made in my life.

I bought a large, bulky 35" Sanyo television. This was long before flat screens and wide screens and easily lift able televisions. The thing was massive, weighed a ton and because of the shape of the tube it was incredibly difficult to hold onto.

But it showed a wonderful picture and it was nice and big to look at. I loved it.

Well I loved it, until I had to move anyways, and then I cursed at its weighty bulkiness. My poor father in law has helped me move it half a dozen times and every time he threatens to drop it accidentally-on-purpose.

With the China move I decided to sell it. I was tired of moving it, we had no room to store it and I figured with the money we'd make over seas I could afford a new one when we got back.

I posted it on local boards and a few national internet places as well. I put the price low and promised I could go lower for the right story. As I am forgetful and lazy and a procrastinator, none of this happened until about three weeks before we had to move.

Desperate is the word.

About a week into it I got an odd phone call. The call was from a third party operator who told me he had someone on the other line who was making the call, but who was on a keyboard. This person would type something, and then the operator would read it to me. I then responded and the operator typed out what I said.

At the end of each statement I made I had to say "go ahead" as the signal that I was done talking.

Sounds easy enough, and it was, except I kept forgetting to say "go ahead" and there would be these long pauses interrupted by the operator asking if I was done. Or sometimes there would be a long pause where the other guy had expected more out of me and he would ask me if I was still there.

At the time I thought he was just using some internet dealie instead of calling, perhaps to save on long distance, but now I guess he was hearing impaired.

Still we agreed on a price, and we arranged to set up details via the e-mail.

I sent the pricing and instructions on how to deliver. And waited.

And waited.

Just as I was getting perturbed, he e-mailed back. It sounded like all things were go, but to be honest the e-mail was so full of spelling and grammar mistakes, I wasn't sure what he was really saying. There was something about him needing to locate his shipper and something else about Western Union. To be honest again, it started to sound like a scam, but again it was so horribly written I couldn't be sure. I wound up replying that it was all ok and to simply let me know when he was ready.

More days passed and I sent another e-mail explaining I was leaving very soon and needed to get the sale completed by the next week. He e-mailed me saying he was sorry and that I would have the payment early the upcoming week. Again all the e-mails were poorly written and didn't make a lot of sense, but again I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I got a few other responses but ignored them as I hoped this original one would come through.

About Wednesday I gave up and offered it to the church. After much discussion they arranged to have some stout fellas pick it up. We hobbled it down the stairway, nearly dropping it twice and I was finally done with the TV.

On Saturday, after we were already in Indiana I received an e-mail from dude asking me if I had received his payment. Suddenly his words were very clear and the deal he had tried to make with me was that I would cash his check and contact his shippers. For some reason he said he was unable to get his payment to the shippers in time so he sent "extra" to me. I was supposed to then go to Western Union and make the shippers payment via that service out of my own money - the payback was already in his check to me you see.

Scam city. I'm certain his check would have later bounced and he'd be walking away with my good payment to the shippers. I even suspect he would be the shipper and the whole weird phone call is so that I would not recognize his voice when he arrived for pick up.

I decided to not respond to his e-mail. The only things I could think of to say were rude, rude and socially unacceptable. As I had already given him information about me I didn't want to piss him off and make him do something harsh or illegal to my personage. There was also a small nagging part of me that thought maybe he was hard off and on the up and up and I didn't want to crush the poor guy.

He e-mailed me again the next day and I decided to write a polite letter explaining he was too late, that I had given it away, and that I would never pay his shippers as it sounded like a scam. Then I said don't contact me again.

He hasn't, but I still feel mad and dirty.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Let them eat cake


For my birthday, my wife surprised me with a strawberry cake... but not just any strawberry cake...

Back when my Granny was still alive and when I was much younger, she would bake me a homemade strawberry cake. Everything was homemade, right down to the strawberries that she grew herself (I fear memories like this will belong to fewer and fewer people as the years move on, but that's an entirely different blog.)

Granny never had a recipe for this cake. She never had a recipe for anything, but they always turned out wonderfully.

An aunt of mine managed to recreate Grannys strawberry cake and commit the recipe to paper. When I found this out, I asked for the recipe and we have had it for many years.
Larissa made said cake for me for my birthday. Sure, she didn't grow the strawberries, and the actual CAKE was from a box, but she did make the divinity icing from scratch.

Thought I would share the wonderful beauty of this cake!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pictures Of World War I

picnic15.jpgI've recently become fascinated with World War I. There have been so many movies made, and words printed about World War II that it seems like the first one gets over looked. Perhaps thats because the reasons behind fighting WWII are more compelling and understandable, while the Great War is kind of muddled. Perhaps it is because more people are still alive that survived the second one. Maybe it is due to some other reason, I don't know. Whatever the reasons it is certainly more easy to find information on the second war than the first.

However, whenever I read about the first war, in some ways it seems even more horrific, disgusting and hellish than the second.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Photographic Hieght/Weight Chart

Very interesting and kind of cool little chart. Basically they have a graph breaking down a group of heights and weights and then anybody can add a photo of them self for that particular weight/height. It is kind of a cool way to see what other people in your own category look like. I wish they had a way where you could look at a picture and then guess their height/weight, but I guess this is a more serious exercise.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter Speculation

I just went back and read Sipper's post, "Harry Potter Must Die" from October of last year. I must admit at the time I skipped that post entirely, and any comment about Harry Potter as I had not yet read any of the books or seen the movies (though I did read comments about other subjects.

I now want to comment on that post, plus add a few of my own speculations to the pile. Obviously I have now read all six available books and I watched the Order of the Phoenix last night.

Harry Potter shall not die. Sipper speculates (and I'll not comment on the fact that this speculation was coming from a man who had not yet read the books and could have only seen the first four films at that time) that Harry will, and in fact must, die by the end of the last books. His main points are that Rowling is writing in the tradition of Tolkein and Lewis and that they both knew, and therefore Rowling must also know that the only way to end a great fantasy is to allow their characters to die or go to heaven.

Now I have not actually read any of the Narnia books all the way through, and I am only familiar with the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so I cannot comment too much on him, but I have read the Lord of the Rings series.

However I must immediately differ in opinions with Mr. Sipper. In the famous Lewis book, it is true that the main character, the lion king Aslan dies. However, like Jesus he comes back to life to save the day by books end. I think it is safe to say that Harry won't be resurrected in these books as he is not the Jesus figure. Perhaps I am missing something from the other books, and feel free to argue that out with me.

In LOTR though, almost everyone lives. In fact there is a long prologue discussing the long lives they all live after Mordor is destroyed. I suspect the argument is that the elves and Gandalf, etc all go away into some mystical land that is really heaven. Good arguments can be made for that allusion, and I don't want to argue them, but I don't see this as a real death finishing off the characters, but a way for them to move on and have a happy ending. There is a lot more too that, but I'll leave it vague for now.

Mainly though I don't think Rowling is in the same league as Tolkein and Lewis. She simply isn't as good a writer. Tolkein was writing very serious literature in the vein of a fantasy novel. Lewis was writing religious allegory. Rowling is writing pop fantasy. It is good pop fantasy, but I wouldn't really elevate it to great literature status.

She writes for the reader, and her readers will revolt if Harry dies. And even though her readers now include millions of adults, her books have always been essentially for children. Death of Harry is a very big blow to the kids. Having him die in battle will bring no real victory for him, and though she makes mentions of ghosts and a vague afterlife, there has been no strong foretelling of a heaven like place as in LOTR.

The prophecy also essentially says that Harry and Voldemort must battle and that only one will live. That's a crummy prophecy if both of them wind up dying. No, I think Harry will live to see the end of the book. I will say he might wind up living a difficult, sorrowful life after much like Frodo. But I kind of doubt that too.

But this long diatribe isn't just about Harry, but some of his gang too.

Dumbeldore shall rise again. Rowling has stated she is a fan of Lewis and partially modeled on the Narnia books. Dumbledore is the obvious leader and is a God-like character so he is a good choice to rise from the dead. Although I've never seen any official acknowledgment, he has always reminded me of Gandalf, whom as we know also came back from a grave, of sorts.

Then there is the phoenix, Dumbeldore's pet bird. It constantly dies and is reborn in a bit of fire. Remember then Dumbeldore's funeral where a great big fire arose out of his grave and the bird also flew over. Seems like a good allusion to Dumbeldore coming back.

He was also very interested in learning all he could about Voldemort, and especially his ability to be reborn so to speak. I think Dumbeldore has learned that magic and will come back from the grave just as Harry most needs him.

Snape is totally a good guy. His killing of Dumbledore was not only intentional, but demanded by Dumbeldore himself. When you read the end of the sixth book it read as though Dumbeldore was surprised by Snape and was overpowered by him. But if you read it in the context of Dumbeldore wanting to die, then the conversation reads more like Dumbeldore demanding Snape kill him while Snape tries to get out of it.

Sirius, I think is dead for sure, but I suspect he will come back in some form. Maybe as a ghost who helps Harry out in some way, like giving information. Though he might be more like Yoda in Star Wars.

I'm also going to state for the record that Ginny is going to bite it. We need another main character death, but we've come to love the rest of the Weasleys too much. Ron and Hermione have to fall in love so they are out. But Harry and Ginny will become much closer, she will fight bravely but will get smited. That way we have another good death, Harry suffers even more, and the fans can still take it.

Well, that was long, and it was written in two sessions, so my apologies if it seems disjointed. Mainly I wanted to get some HP discussion going.