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.


favorite songs...

When I was about 13 or 14, the song "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. was released and became popular. I have a recollection of riding with my mom in her car when this song came on the radio. And I clearly remember telling her that, though I'd had favorite songs before, that song had become my favorite and I could not imagine liking a song better than it ever again. Of course, I have had other favorite songs to replace it since then. In fact, I don't even really like that song anymore. Not that there's anything wrong with the song, I'm just sick of it and I now find Michael Stipe's voice rather grating.

I thought it would be a fun post to rehearse a chronology of my favorite songs. Now, I don't mean to list all the songs that at any given moment were the songs I liked best out of the ones being played on the radio. I'm just talking about the songs that, even if I didn't say it explicitly, I might have said about them "I'll never like another song as much as this one." Sometimes, I couldn't pinpoint the exact age/year that I favored a song, but I tried to be rougly chronological in order.

  1. "Believe It or Not", theme song from the t.v. show "The Greatest American Hero" -- I think I was barely 3 years old when this was my favorite song. But I know it qualifies because my parents have a tape recording of me from when I was that age and for about 25 minutes of the tape I'm just singing this song over and over again. For the record, I also like George Costanza's adaptation of this song for the message on his answering machine (but that version does not quite make this list).
  2. "Love on the Rocks" by Neil Diamond. I was probably about 4 or 5 years old. This may seem like a strange choice and it was--I was a strange kid. I had a Fisher-Price record player that I could play those Disney record storybooks on. Well, at some point I got a hold of a copy of the soundtrack record from the movie "The Jazz Singer" starring Neil Diamond and I somehow got attached to this song and played it over and over again.
  3. "Beat It" by Michael Jackson. Before he became one of the strangest and most disturbing people on the planet, he was one of the most talented. There is a picture of me holding this album with a wide smile on my face because I had just received it for my birthday (6th, I think). I remember my parents had woken me up to surprise me with the gift, so in the picture I was only wearing my underwear. (Would it be in poor taste to make a joke like, "Michael wouldn't have wanted it any other way!"? Yes, I think so.)
  4. After "Beat It", things get fuzzy for several years. The next song I can be confident about is "Losing My Religion". This was the first song on the list I owned on cassette tape rather than vinyl album.
  5. My confidence in the lasting appeal of "Losing My Religion" was severely misplaced since "Galileo" by the Indigo Girls was released only a year later and it is the next song on my list. The Indigo Girls are a bit of a puzzle to me because there are a few songs of theirs that I absolutely love but many of the others I find exceedingly tedious.
  6. For some reason, I remember definite blocks of time between songs 4, 5, and 6. But, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" actually came out the same year as "Losing My Religion". (I found out the dates for these songs from the site which is really neat and has lots of interesting trivia about hundreds of songs.) If I had to pick one of the last three songs to epitomize this list, it would be this one. (Yes, I know I made the actual comment about "Losing My Religion", but so be it.) This was the first song I can remember that I looked to as an expression of my feelings and concerns that I couldn't articulate myself. Though I am now a Christian and am not as jaded and confused about life and the future as I was as a teenager, this is still one of my favorite songs because it is not just expressing the feelings of non-Christians or even youth in general. I think this song captures a very human spirit of being disturbed with life in a broken world.
  7. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" by The Smashing Pumpkins. This was around my senior year in high school. I wrote a poem that year based on one of the lines from the song, "Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage." Consider this: I actually enjoyed my senior year in high school! This song is from the album "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness", which I think is the best double-album ever produced (better, even, that the Beatles' "White Album").
  8. "This World" by Caedmon's Call. This was the first "Christian" song that I liked, around my sophomore year in college. I actually liked it before I "became a Christian" during a time when I was really struggling with issues of spirituality and what the world was all about and who I was supposed to be. I continued to have a very strong sentimental attachment to this song for many years (I still ave one really).

I can't think of a song since that one which fits the criteria I set forth. It's been a while since then, and maybe I'm just overlooking one. But, certainly there isn't a favorite song I have right now. I'd be interested to see anyone else's list, or just one or two that you remember.


A hard letter ("t") for a hard season (autumn)...

This post was prompted by an assignment from the blog of my internet friend and Spiritual brother, Jeremy. The assignment was:

If you're stumped for blogging material, here's an assignment. Choose one letter from the word "autumn" and either explain its function in the word or justify its necessity. Avoid goofy acronymizing. 500 words maximum.

Though I don't know how well I communicated my answer to the assignment, I think you can at least tell what letter I chose.

A hard letter ("t") for a hard season (autumn)

I’m only 27 years old, so I wasn’t around before Adam and Eve chose to be motivated by ambition and pride rather than love. Thus, I don’t know what it’s like to live in a world without sadness and loss. And, I only know what it’s like to live in a world in which the autumn season reflects a sense of that sadness and loss. I’ll admit that my view of autumn is influenced by my upper-Midwest provenance. I’ve always disliked this season because I’m simply unable to hold an optimistic perspective. I’m not overwhelmed by the beauty of leaves of a hundred colors but by the drudgery of spending four hours on a Saturday raking them from my yard. I’m not relieved by cool weather after the heat of summer but depressed by windy gray days. I don’t enjoy the starlit skies during dinner-time because I’m still annoyed with the early sunsets that blind me while driving home from work. And as the leaves are falling, the birds leaving, and the flowers withering in autumn, I’m reminded that beauty and life and abundance are often fleeting in this world.

I offer these thoughts [grumblings] as preface to my contention for why there is a “t” in the word autumn. I am well aware that words are only arbitrary symbols, which are connected to objects or ideas by cultural agreement. The same season is called otono in Spanish, Herbst in German, and it’s even sometimes called fall in English. Yet, I submit it is remarkably apropos that autumn has a “t” that interrupts its otherwise smooth flow of sound. Consider: the “t” is a hard, jolting sound. In the midst of the easy “au-” voiced from the back of your throat, and the smooth “-umn” made with your mouth peacefully closed, the “t” can only be sounded by touching your tongue to your hard palate and then violently forcing air through to break the connection (phonologists describe the sound as a plosive).

Just as the “t” is jolting in the midst of pronouncing autumn, so the season of autumn is jolting in the midst of the yearly cycle. As I’ve described above, it not only entails real loss—of green, warmth, and daylight—but it also reflects and reminds us of greater losses. Beauty fades. Life and relationships end. Abundance recedes into scarcity. Therefore, the “t” serves as a pointed interruption in the word that is connected with the season that is a pointed interruption in the year. And that season autumn is itself an illustration of the pointed interruption that sadness and loss cause in our experience of this world. While we might wish that the beauty, life, and abundance of spring and summer last forever, autumn’s arrival—along with its jolting middle phoneme—forces us to accept that they will not even make it to the year’s end.

Surprise random link of the week...

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


can't sleep...

It's 3:15 a.m. Normally, I'm getting home from work about now. Since starting the night shift in July, I've pretty well trained my body to sleep at the appropriate times in order to accommodate such a schedule. Today, however, I received my promotion to become a supervisor. Yet, before I can start real "supervision" I have three weeks of classroom training to endure. Even worse, they just yanked us out of our usual schedule and we have to sit through the training during the evening (5 hours a night, 5 days a week). So, at the time I got home tonight, I'm usually just getting warmed up loading trucks full of boxes. The result is: I can't sleep because even though this is my usual bedtime, I haven't spent the last 5 hours in intensive physical labor so I'm not that tired.

I'm glad I got a promotion (along with a significant raise). But I hate not being able to sleep.



As I write this, I'm watching the first game of the World Series. Into the 8th inning, it's a terrific game--good pitching with some home runs and base hits and scoring sprinkled in for good measure. It was a bit sad to see Roger Clemens knocked around in the early going and taken out after the 2nd inning. I am rooting for the White Sox, though, so it's not too sad.

The rookie closer for the Sox just sent a nasty 99 mph fastball right through the center of the plate past an empty swing by Jeff Bagwell.

One of the best things about baseball is that it is filled with moments in the game when there are confrontations of competition between two individuals. Between the pitcher and batter--who does their job better. Between a fielder and a baserunner--who does their job better. In every play of a baseball game, (except, maybe, during an intentional walk), there is a test of skill versus skill taking place.

Bagwell just struck out on another 99 mph burner. This time the pitcher was better.

At the same time those individual confrontations are going on, the game remains in essence a team sport. There are many times when a player must consider the game from a larger perspective, remain patient, momentarily lay aside his competitive instinct, and trust that his teammates will be able to win their individual confrontations, in order to achieve the overall best results for the team. The most obvious example of this is a hitter who chooses to take a walk rather than try to get a hit off a ball out of the strike zone. Sure, he could look heroic if he sends a tough pitch into the gap or over the wall. But, it's probably a better bet that he'll serve his team better by simply ensuring that he doesn't make an out and then give his teammates a chance to bring him home. Barry Bonds is the case-in-point of this principle. Regardless of his probable use of illegal performance enhancing drugs, Bonds became the most powerful offensive force in baseball since Babe Ruth not by increasing his home run numbers (though that was obviously a factor) but primarily by becoming so patient at the plate that he began receiving record numbers of walks every year. Because of him, the San Francisco Giants are among the league leaders in runs scored every year, even though nobody but Bonds is much better than an average major league hitter.

Scott Podsednik just hit a triple in the bottom of the 8th. The triple is the most exciting play in baseball except an at-bat with a game winning run on the line.

Baseball is also a game of beauty. The infield is a diamond stretching into a semi-circle outfield. And the whole field is simple, natural grass and dirt. (Artificial turf is a crime against baseball and is thankfully almost gone from the major leagues.)

That kid pitching for the White Sox is amazing. It's the first time I've seen him (and them) play this year. He can throw gas.

Even better, the field has a minimum of artificial markings, unlike a football field which is covered in chalk lines and numbers. Every baseball diamond simply has the two lines heading out from home plate to mark the foul lines. Yet, every field is also unique. They have unique dimensions and shapes for the outfield walls and even the way the grass is mowed creates a distinctive visual pattern that distinguishes every ballpark. What's more, the action is beautiful. It's amazing to see a baseball travel 60 feet from from the pitcher's hand at 88 mph and find out in the final 15 of those feet that the pitch was a curveball as it falls from the level of the batter's shoulders to just above his ankles. And, there's nothing more graceful in sports than to watch a smooth left-handed hitter like Will Clark or Ken Griffey Jr. take a long swipe through the strike zone. And, there are few things as awe-some as a right-handed power slugger like the aforementioned Jeff Bagwell (in his better days) or Albert Pujols crushing a fastball 400 feet into the leftfield upper deck.

The Chicago White Sox just beat the Houston Astros in game one of the 2005 World Series. I'm glad; especially for my uncle who is a lifelong Sox fan even though the last time they were in the World Series was the year before he was born. That's a long life of futile fandom.

My final comment is that baseball is a game of precision. Baseball apologists often make the claim that hitting a round baseball with a round bat is the most difficult skill in sport. I don't know if that's true--but it's gotta be up there. Especially if you consider the fact that the baseball is rarely coming straight toward the strike zone. Usually, even with a "straight" fastball, it is moving left or right, up or down (well, not up). I've even seen balls that started off moving right toward a right-handed hitter, but then finished up moving down and left away from him. And don't forget, as I mentioned before, most of the movement takes place in the last fifteen feet while the hitter has to decide whether and where to swing at the pitch. There's precision outside of batting too. Fielding a ball, turning a double play, and throwing out a runner all require careful skill. One of the most amazing feats I've seen in baseball was accomplished by Mark "Hit'n" Whitten, who is best known for once hitting four home runs in one game. But that's not what I'm thinking of. Instead, Whitten, who always had one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball, once threw out a runner at home plate from about two steps in from the warning track in right field. That would be incredible enough. But he actually threw the ball on the fly (i.e., without having it touch the ground) from where he was into the catcher's mitt.

There's lots else I could write about baseball. And, I hardly did it justice by what I've said (or how I've said it) here. If you want to read some fascinating stuff about baseball, I suggest The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James. It begins with the most interesting (if not the most exhaustive) history of baseball I've come across. But, James is primarily a statistician (he now works for the Boston Red Sox) who has helped a lot of people think differently about what stats can tell us about baseball and baseball players. I certainly have a different view of baseball after reading the book (and other works by James and people in his circles like Rob Neyer). The book then explains how James uses stats and through the bulk of the text rates the top 100 players in history at each position. But, it's definitely not just a stats book or a book of lists. James has written a little (or large) blurb on every player. Sometimes they explain a statistical fact or principal, but most often they give personal or historical insight into the player and thus into the sport. Often they are amusing, sometimes they are touching, and always they are well-written and interesting.

So, let me sum up by saying: 1)read the book; 2)watch baseball.


Surprise random link of the week...

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



The internet is a weird thing. I was listening to ESPN radio on the internet today and, at the same time, cleaning my laptop computer screen and keyboard. While I was applying the "Convenient pre-moistened swab" to the crevices between the keys, I wasn't paying attention to what was going on on the screen. My computer, however, thought I was doing a Yahoo! search for "asdfghjkl". Who would have thought that 73,300 results would turn up for such a search, but they did. If you're interested--and I don't know why you would be--click on the link below.


good stuff...

A while back, I wrote about my current (at the time) obsessions. What follows is a brief list of things that are not quite obsessions for me, but which I'm really into right now.

  • The Killers: this neo- dance-hall / pop music band is releasing the catchiest music on the radio right now
  • DSL internet: what a revolution
  • Husker football: they're ba-ack (and I get to go to the game next Saturday...YES!!!)
  • Playoff baseball: October is the best month of the sports year (closely rivaled by March), with playoff baseball competing with the beginning of the college and pro football seasons
  • CSI: now that Grissom has brought the team back together, the relational interaction is once again the drive of this great show
  • Johnny Cash: I bought one of his double-album greatest hits CD a few months ago because I knew I liked a few of his songs and it was on sale. Now, he may be in my top 5 all-time favorite musicians. I can't wait for the movie on his life to come out.
  • Wafer cookies: if you don't know what I'm talking about, I don't know how to describe them to you. They are long, thin cookies (think the shape of a piece of chewing gum) made of three very thin wafers sandwiching two layers of cream; usually available in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Vanilla is my flavor.

I'm sure there's more, but that's about all I can think of.


paperwork, forms, etc.,...

My life right now is full to overflowing with the filling out of paperwork, forms, and questionnaires.

  • Foster care: I've spent many hours describing my childhood, getting doctors and employers to fill out forms, explaining why I want to become a foster parent, securing references from friends and family, and hurrying to finish "homework" from class so that the state can make sure my wife and I are just regular people who want to have kids and not wackos. Hopefully, the worst they will realize is that both are true.
  • Buying a house: Last Sunday, a friend from seminary who I hadn't seen in several months came to our church. As we were catching up, he mentioned that since he hadn't taken a call to the pastorate yet, he decided to take a promotion at the bank he worked at to become a loan officer. That stroke of providence led to our meeting with him this morning to get our pre-approval for a loan so that we can buy our first house. It's even more complicated, though, because we are buying a house in an area of the city that the county is trying to renew. So, there are lots of incentives (including the county picking up about a third of the loan) but also lots more paperwork and redtape to cut through that the usual home purchase.
  • e-mail: Since we now have a new ISP, we have to get a new primary e-mail address (different than the one connected to this blog). Of course, that means the hassle of letting all of our friends know that we have a new address and urging them to change their address books--if only it were that easy! In this age of the convenience of technology, almost every company or organization we have any involvement with has our e-mail as their primary means of contacting us. So, I've spent multiple hours today contacting everyone from credit cards to IMDb to ebay and changing my e-mail contact info. While I was at it, I changed all my passwords since it had been a (long) while since I'd done so.
  • Work: I've applied to be promoted to a supervisor position at work, which meant filling out a new resume and writing a letter of intent. It also meant taking a 100-question test with questions concerned with management style, personality, and math ability. I've also taken a second part-time job, which is much more tailored to my gifts. A new job, means W-2's and all the idiosyncratic paperwork that companies require their new employees to fill out. I'm working at Covenant Seminary in their Writing Center helping students become better writing. We are not a proofreading service, but instead we aim to guide and tutor students in better writing skills for the long-term. It's a bit of a slow point in the semester, so, in two weeks (working 9 hours per week) I've only conferenced with 4 students. But, as midterms and eventually finals approach, I've been assured that I'll get much busier.

I guess that's all I can think of for now. If that doesn't sound like a lot--tough cookies. It feels like a lot. But, it's for mostly exciting and hoped-for things.


into the 21st century...

Last spring, I started this blog. But, I knew a change was in the air a couple of months ago when we got a cell phone. Now that we've got DSL internet, there's no doubt about it. Suzanne and I are finally introducing ourselves to the technological capabilities that the rest of the country is already bored with. True, we only have one cell phone between us, instead of one each. Sure, we don't have cable t.v., so we have to catch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on DVD from Blockbuster. And, we're not yet a wireless household (though that's coming soon I hope). But, it sure is nice to be able to visit and not have to go make a cup of coffee while it's loading.

I've not been very faithful with posting lately. My laptop has been in the shop for the past month getting the dvd/cd-rom replaced. A word of friendly advice to you: never, never, ever, ever buy your computer from Best Buy. If you don't know what's what, then you end up with a piece of junk like I got that has to be serviced every four or five months. And, even if you protect yourself by buying the extended warranty, you have to deal with the horribly, terrible service that Best Buy offers. To sum up--Best Buy is bad. But I degress... My point was I plan to be more active on the blogging front. So, stay tuned.


Surprise random link of the week...

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

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."