boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

8/29/05

the road goes ever on and on...

There used to be this commercial for some ISP in which a guy was sitting at his computer and a message popped up saying he had come to the end of the internet. He relays this news to his wife and so on. Of course, the commercial ends happily when the couple switches to the ad's sponsor's ISP and they realize there are plenty more kilometers on the Information Superhighway for them to explore. For some reason, that commercial always amused me. If you were a fly on the wall in our house on Sundays after church, you would see my wife on the couch reading a book and me in my recliner watching the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball game and surfing the web. After playing a game of internet Scrabble, I'll check the usual websites and blogs I keep track of and then you (you are a fly on the wall, remember) will invariably hear me say, "Honey," (or "Sweetie," or some other term of endearment acceptable for play in Scattergories, though never "Dear," my wife hates that one) "I think I've come to the end of the internet."

In our household, we are preparing to switch to a new ISP as well, although that is not what inspired this post. Instead, I wanted to let you know, dear reader, that I've added a couple of links to the sidebar. As likely as not, you have paid no attention to those offramps since your first visit to my blog--perhaps not even then.

Under the "blogs" heading I've added Ascendance which I've visited several times and found interesting, though I make no endorsement of the content. Under the "movies" heading you will find Metaphilm, which I've only been to once but found it so intriguing I made an impulse link. And, under the "for reading" heading, the McSweeney's site is accessible, of which I knew about once but then forgot about but of which I have lately been reminded. As always, I reserve the right to begin to dislike or get bored with any particular site and remove it from the list (farewell Philosophical Dictionary).

There you are...and off you go...

body clock...

If you noted the time of this post, then you may have wondered, "Why the heck wasn't he asleep?" If you did, you will not be the first one to ask it, because I have so myself. I mentioned before that I'm working at UPS this year. It's a good job. I don't think I mentioned that my shift runs from about 10:00 p.m. 'till about 3:00 a.m., Monday thru Friday (or, Saturday, depending on how you look at it). I've gotten into a pretty good routine during the week. I'm usually asleep by 4:00 a.m. and I get up between 11:00 a.m. and Noon. That leaves me a good five or six hours to do stuff (or nothing) until Suzanne gets home from work. Then, we get to hang out until I have to start getting ready for work at around 9:00 p.m. Even better, neither of us has homework to do anymore! The problem is, my body is totally screwed up on the weekend, because I try to force it back into a regular human's schedule of being awake during most of the daylight hours. Usually there is one night, however, that my mind and body refuse to shut down until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Often it's Saturday, but--apparently--this weekend it's Sunday. The benefit is, I guess, I get to write this really fascinating post for you.

If you're like me, then you have some standard ways to while away the hours during an attack of insomnia.
  1. You read or blog or watch t.v.
  2. You just lay in bed and glance at the clock every thirty seconds thinking, "O.k., if I fall asleep in the next five minutes, then I'll still get 4 hours and 20 minutes of sleep until I planned to get up...(time passes)...O.k., if I fall asleep in the next five minutes, and I give myself an extra whack at the snooze button, I can still pull off 3 hours and 50 minutes of sleep..."
  3. You do #2 above, but also intermittently scream at yourself (inside your head) with all your might (but silently), "FALL ASLEEP YOU STUPID IDIOT! WHAT IS YOUR FREAKING PROBLEM! FALL ASLEEP! FALL ASLEEP!! FALL ASLEEP!!!"

None of those--especially the last two--have proven to be very successful. So, if you have any tips, I'd love to hear them.

8/27/05

What I like, and don't...

I just wrote several paragraphs. Then I deleted them. I started off talking about how I really like Bandana's Bar-B-Q, a restaurant chain here in St. Louis. Suzanne and I ate there tonight. Then I started explaining what I good tipper I feel that I am. I said that so you wouldn't think I was a jerk when I started complaining about the bad service we got while we were there and how I get annoyed by bad service in general.

I deleted it all because my loathing for myself was growing steadily as I continued to write. There are a million possible reasons why the waitress didn't do the best job. Couldn't I have given her a little grace? I could have...but I didn't. As I saw what I was writing, I felt more and more like some crotchety old fogey complainer. I don't want to be one of those. If I ever let a post get through where I'm being one, please, call me on it.

So, let me conclude by saying: if you live in St. Louis, or plan to visit, eat a meal at Bandana's. You'll have great food and, most likely, great service.

8/26/05

Plans...and no plans...

In May I graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary with a degree called Master of Divinity. Somehow, I feel as though I have far less mastery of "divinity" than I felt I did when I began at seminary. But, that's a discussion for another time. Anyway, for several weeks before that my wife and I were planning to move to Charlottesville, Virginia so I could begin another Master's degree. But, those plans changed just a few days before I graduated when I found out I was accepted into the Ph.D. program in Historical Theology at Saint Louis University.

Since I was in high school, I've wanted to be a teacher. I went to a very good public high school with very good teachers--I'm sure that has something to do with my ambitions. At first, I planned to be a high school history teacher. (My favorite teacher was a history teacher and the football coach. He was also the dad of the girl I had a crush on [or, the girl on whomI had a crush].) After a year or so of college, I decided to change my plans to become a high school English teacher. (I don't know if I noticed it at the time, but that change coincided with the time when that same girl on whom I had a crush moved from my college to another, so she could go to school with her boyfriend [also a high school friend of mine]. They eventually got married, and last I knew they lived in Colorado where she was a high school history teacher.) After another year or so, I was sick of all the hoops I had to jump through and red tape I had to fight through in order to be certified to teach in the state system. So, I decided I would like it better to spend six or seven years in graduate school in order to become a college professor of English.

About the same time, however, I became a Christian. It's pretty common that when one becomes a Christian in college, especially when influenced by a particular Christian college ministry, one goes through a stage of planning to devote their lives to working for that Christian ministry. I went through that stage. Eventually it passed, but not the idea of working in Christian ministry as a vocation. (Is that the right word, "vocation"?) By the time I graduated from college, I was married (for a week) to a woman more beautiful and wonderful in every way than the Colrado high school history teacher (no offense to her, of course, but my wife is nearly perfect). And, I was considering going to seminary to pursue theological education in greater depth and discern whether vocational (I'm still not sure about that word) Christian ministry was my calling. If you read the first sentence of this post, you know that I did go; it was a year later.

Through the course of my time at seminary, my wife and I decided that pastoral ministry was not God's calling for our family. Instead, I realized that what I really wanted to do was what I've wanted to do since high school: teach. My hope is to teach theology or Christian Church history in a large public university where I will have the opportunity to interact with students and faculty peers who are from diverse backgrounds. I want to see how God can bring the Gospel to bear in the lives and community of those people through my life and place among them. Unfortunately, while I got good to very good grades in seminary, they weren't grades that will knock your socks off. That limited my choices and options for pursuing further graduate school. Fortunately, I made a very good score on the GRE exam, so I did have some hope to enter a good program at a good school. I decided I didn't want to pursue admission to any low caliber schools since that would limit my marketability after graduating. In the end, I applied for entry to a Master's program at one top tier school (Notre Dame) and at one very good school (University of Virginia), and I applied to the Ph.D. program at another very good school (Saint Louis University). The thinking was, if I didn't get accepted into the Ph.D. program I could spend two years pursuing a second Master's degree, get very good grades, and raise my academic profile so that I would have good hopes for acceptance into a good school. To make a long story slightly less long, I was accepted at Saint Louis University.

The problem, however, is that due to problems with my application packet that were out of my control (well, I probably could have controlled them, but I didn't know I needed to) I did not receive an assistantship for this year. At SLU, an assistantship includes full tuition remission plus about $1000 per month as a stipend. My wife and I have lots of student loans already since we've both been pursuing Master's degrees for the past few years and we weren't real excited about taking out $20,000 more for this year's cost of tuition and other expenses. After considering many options, we've decided that I will defer my admission for a year. The chairman of the department of theology thinks I won't have any problem getting an assistantship next year.

I'm kind of glad to have a year off from the rigors of full-time academic study. A couple months ago, I began to work at United Parcel Service as a package loader during the night shift. It's real hard work, but I don't mind it. And, it's a good workout; I've lost about 15 pounds since I started (which puts me down about 25 pounds since my highest weight at the beginning of the summer). With my wife's encouragement, I also want to use this year to pursue writing, not only in this blog but also creative writing, particularly short stories. During my last year at seminary, I got together with a group of people who enjoy writing and even wrote a story for a year end compilation, which I also posted on this blog a couple months ago. In order to write well, one needs to read too. So, I'm enjoying reading fiction for pleasure on a regular basis for the first time since before seminary.

Other than that, I don't have a lot of plans for the next year. I want to do some things around the house that I've put off for four years or so. I want to brush up on my theological languages (Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, etc.,). I want to play lots of Scrabble and Madden 2005. I also want to work toward entering the next World Series of Poker, though I don't think my wife will let me.

8/24/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

8/22/05

Obsessions...

I have always had a bit of an obsessive personality. It's partly genetic. There are histories of addictions to both alcohol and gambling on both sides of my family. The summer after I graduated from high school, a group of friends and I started playing cards for money. We played with quarters. At one point in the summer, I was up $80 through the course of many games. By the end of the summer, I was down $100. For those of you not inclined toward math, that means I went on a stretch of losing $180--in quarters. That taught me two things: 1) I could easily become a gambling addict; 2) I suck at cards. For Christmas, I got a computer game of Texas Hold-'Em poker. That has effectively quelled my desire to play cards. I spent many, many hours playing the game, and now only play occasionally. Even though I know it's only pretend money, I'm still sick enough to experience the thrill of winning and the devastation of losing. But, my chief intent in this post is not to discuss gambling. Though, I would like to, some day.

I have more current obsessions to fill you in on. The first, an on-going and long running obsession is baseball. You may recall from my quiz (if you took it) that baseball is my favorite sport to watch. In another post, I may explain why baseball is the perfect sport as well as the best spectator sport (especially in the stadium). Actually, however, the inspiration for this post came from my discovery that a large community shares my disdain for baseball announcer Tim McCarver. McCarver really is an awful announcer, who constantly makes the most absurd comments. The link above is to the site I recently discovered. I particularly recommend that you try out the link to McCarver Gems that lists just a few of the ridiculous things he has said during broadcasts. McCarver is tolerated because he is a former very good ballplayer, and because he has been doing it so long. Now, maybe you're saying I shouldn't be mean to someone who doesn't intend any harm. But, why should McCarver get to inflict the baseball watching nation with frustration? If he's bad at his job, it's not like it is his right to continue. Am I off base on this? If so, let me know.

My second obsession, which is also long running, is the video game "Madden NFL 2005". I believe it is the best selling video game series of all time. And, it is by far the best, most advanced sports video game ever. The graphics, game-play, and play options are amazing. The best option is the "franchise" mode. In that mode, you can play with one team through 30 years of games and playoffs. And, you control all the off-the-field things like rosters, trades with other teams, setting ticket prices, and drafting new players and signing free agents in the off-season. You can even build a new stadium or move the team to a new city if you want. Actually, I like those off-the-field tasks as much as playing the games. A new feature this year is the "superstar" mode. This is similar to the "franchise" mode, except instead of following a team through time, you follow an individual player as he progresses through a career. It is quite thorough. You start by choosing his parents, which sets his DNA. (I guess we know where John Madden stands on the "nature vs. nurture" debate.) Then, through his career, you choose the players agent, accept or decline endorsement deals and movie roles, and otherwise control his public image. Along with, of course, playing games with him and his team. Anyway, the new version came out a couple of weeks ago, and I've been playing non-stop.

The third obsession that I'll bore you with is with on-line Scrabble. A few months ago I joined the "Internet Scrabble Club". It's free to join and it's really cool that I play with people from all over the country-and the world-at all hours of the day. You can choose the length of time for a game(usually 25 minutes), and the quality of your opponent. I've become a much better player in the time I've played. I suppose it won't really mean much to most (or any) of you, but right now my rating is 654, with a record of 52 wins and 41 losses. The very best players are rated around 2000. Most player are rated between 300 and 600. I've discovered that there are a few keys to Scrabble. First: two-letter words. You can get a list of all the acceptable two-letter words, and I've pretty much got it memorized. Second: search and plan for bingos, don't just hope for them. Bingos are when you use all 7 tiles from your rack and get a 50-point bonus. Even when you're looking for them, I don't find them that often. But, they're worth it. Anyway, it would be great if any of you are interested in joining. You could create buddy lists, so we could look for each other to play now and then.

O.k. I guess that's enough for now. My laptop has been in the shop for a couple of weeks, which is why I haven't been posting much. We've been using our desktop, which is ancient, and the old modem in it is absolutely enfuriatingly slow.

8/8/05

Another quiz...

How well do you know my wonderful wife? (She's the ketchup.) Here is your chance to find out. Take her new quiz. Or, check the scoreboard to see how others have done.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."