One year down.

I started my blog on a whim one year ago. I was inspired by my friends, Bob and Andrew. I wanted to create a platform. I wanted to improve as a writer.

And so I started my blog (the first post is here).

That would make this map look even better.

How do I get readers in Greenland?

I expected that I might gather a few followers among my friends and family. I didn’t expect to find a blogging community that stretched across the globe.

I also didn’t expect that I would be able to stick with blogging. After all, I’m great at starting new projects, and horrible at finishing them.

And so I will say that my blogiversary is an unexpected success. Not that I consider myself to be a successful writer yet, but I do honestly consider myself a real writer now, a feeling that was rather elusive before my blog.

I owe the lion’s share of that feeling to my beautiful wife, DeAnne Mosey, for her encouragement, her understanding, and the sacrifice of our time together so I can chase down the dream of getting published. Thank you Bunny!

I also want to thank my fellow Weaklings, Bob and Andrew, for your support and encouragement. To Jessie Clemence, who is a wonderful commenter and an old friend. And to my extended family, who have given me so much material to blog about.

Also, to anyone reading this. Thank you for reading. I get a sick amount of pleasure from seeing that people are reading the words that I’ve placed into sentences.

And now for the real celebration: A Giveaway!

To Enter: Just leave comment below with a link to your favorite post from the last year.

The Prize: $25 Gift Card to Baker Book House.

Winners will be notified Friday, April 19th, 2013. Gift card can be used in person and over the phone (not online) and Baker can special order just about any book out there.

I am a polymath’s roommate.

Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Self-Portrait_-_WGA12798Today is Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. If he were alive today, he would have 561 candles on his birthday cake, but he’d probably be too decrepit to eat it. After all, 561 is pretty old.

Da Vinci was a polymath. If that sounds like something terrible, you (like me) probably don’t care for mathematics, but being a polymath has little relation to addition or subtraction. Rather, to be a polymath is to be gifted at a number of things. Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, an inventor, a musician, a sculptor, an architect, and a ton of other things. He was a thinker and a tinker.

He reminds me of one of my roommates from college, Adam Haroff. Adam is a thinker and a tinker as well. He’s a musician, a painter, a woodworker, a computer programmer, a sound technician, and more. But most important to me, he is a friend.

Though it has been years since we shared a room, we’ve stayed close. In college, our friendship was epic. We enjoyed similar things and spurred each other on to achieve great things.

Well, Adam did the achieving part. I like to think that I helped inspire him. But the truth is that I am not a polymath. I am a basic guy with basic interests and rudimentary skills in a few specific areas. And that’s okay.

Probably the best thing that I learned from being roommates to a gifted thinker and tinker was that I can still be great, even if I am not the best.

An author that I like once said that one of the biggest shames of globalization was that people who were good at something stopped doing it because they were not the best. And so, I’ve learned to love my singing even though I am not Elvis or the Beatles. I have learned to love my writing even though I am not Kurt Vonnegut or J. R. R. Tolkien.

Being constantly around someone who is better than you in astonishing ways can either cause you to give up, or challenge you to become better. Which will you do?

The Surprising Mantis Shrimp

So, sometimes when I see something that I want to write about, I’ll open a new blog post, put in a link to that thing, and save my draft so I can come back to it later and expound on the idea. And sometimes, I hit the “Publish” button when I mean to hit the “Save Draft”. So, some people got an unintentional preview to this post.

mantis_shrimp_the_oatmealFor the rest of you, please take a moment and check out this amazing page about the Mantis Shrimp, as presented by The Oatmeal.

Did you read it?

Good.

So, now I don’t feel so bad about my color blindness. In comparison to the Mantis Shrimp, we are all terribly colorblind. I mean, sure, a few of my cones are defective so I have trouble differentiating certain shades of red and green (and occasionally blue and purple). But is that anything to the fact that humans see variations of 3 primary colors and the Mantis Shrimp sees variations of 16 primary colors?

That’s 13 primary colors that we can’t even imagine! Not to mention the variations of mixing all those primary colors.

Forget the fact that the Mantis Shrimp is possibly the world’s most frightening killer (a nightmarish mix of an aquatic centipede (arguably the most terrifying bug in existence) with Wolverine from the X-Men). Let’s just focus on their ability to see colors we can’t even imagine.

I’ve mused in the past about the existence of some sixth sense, not like ESP, but another way of experiencing our present world in addition to sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. I mean, can a person born blind really understand what people mean when they say that something is red, or bright, or beautiful to look upon?

So what if there was another sense that humans lack? One that, to us, would be like red to a blind person. I’ve wondered what life would be like if we could be granted that mysterious extra sense.

And now I find out that there is a creature on this planet that already experiences life in a sensory way that humans can’t even hope to experience. I’m kind of jealous.

But maybe I shouldn’t be. After all, those same creatures are terrors that people won’t even risk putting in aquariums because they will kill all of the other fish and then break the glass of the aquarium tank to get out. Maybe I am happier because I don’t experience the world in such detail.

Maybe I’m even luckier because I’m colorblind, and experience less than even most humans do. After all, dogs only see two primary colors and they are usually pretty happy as a species. Did I really just compare myself to a dog as a proof that I am happier than most people? Sure did.

Anyway, have you ever thought about what kind of thing we’d experience with a sixth sense? Share those thoughts in the comments! I’m dreadfully curious (and I need some reassurance that I’m not the only one who thinks of such things).

Thanks for reading!

Basement Editorial | The Parable, Valentine’s Edition, Part 2

Back in college, when I was living in the middle house of the campus ministry, His House, my roommate and I put out a newsletter called “The Parable”. In addition to actually useful information, it was a vehicle for our creativity. My roommate did the graphics and I supplied the humor. I ran across the Valentine’s edition as I was cleaning out the basement and thought I’d share. I’m sorry in advance.

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Photo by Stefan Wernli
Photo by Stefan Wernli

Tree Game by Rupert Hickman

Here’s a fun game for road trips! Reach back into the depths of your memory. Root around back there, past the time you fell down the stairs, past the time you pooped your pants at a friend’s house, a little to the left of torturing your siblings, and gaze upon the “Childhood Games” section of your brain. Having a little trouble getting there in your mind? Let me refresh you: Slug Bug, The Alphabet Game, Looking for License Plates, Jeep, Tree, etc.

What’s that? You don’t remember Tree? Well, I guess I’m not surprised. It is relatively new. In fact, my friend and I ripped off the Jeep game and gave it a twist only a few short years ago. Jeep, if you remember, consists of counting every Jeep you see on the road and calling out before others can. The game of Tree follows the same format. Every time someone sees a tree, they yell out, “Tree!” Two people cannot yell for the same tree. The winner is the person who boasts the highest number of trees by the end of the trip.

This is a game everyone in the vehicle can play!

I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, “Why this is such a good idea, I’ll steal it and tell others that it was my good idea, and maybe I’ll even sell the good idea to some important company, and then I’ll get rich off the good idea that I stole! Mwa Ha Ha Ha!”

Well, that is just a bad idea. Believe me, I’ve tried to sell it, but no one seems to understand just how good a game Tree is. Oh well, their loss. Happy Hunting!

Basement Editorial | The Parable, Valentine’s Edition Part 1

j002Back in college, when I was living in the middle house of the campus ministry, His House, my roommate and I put out a newsletter called “The Parable”. In addition to actually useful information, it was a vehicle for our creativity. My roommate did the graphics and I supplied the humor. I ran across the Valentine’s edition as I was cleaning out the basement and thought I’d share. I’m sorry in advance.

Bad Advice with Chico Martinez

This one goes out to all the muchachos out there. Are you a loser at love? Adverse to affection? Disgusting to dames? Loathsome to ladies? Are you trying your hardest but getting nowhere? Well, I’m here to help.

If the average female finds you repulsive, there are precious few things you can do to improve your situation. Fortunately for you, I’ll share what those precious few things are.

Just remember these tips:

  1. Eye contact is very important. If a girl notices you looking at her, she may look away playfully. Keep looking. Some may call this ogling, but what it does is let the girl know that you are interested. But if she leaves the room, don’t chase very far. There are more fish in the sea.
  2. Never stop complimenting a girl. Notice everything and tell her how nice it is, from the shade of the make up covering her acne to the way her feet remind you of little pieces of that expensive cheese that you can’t pronounce. Chicks dig details.
  3. One word: Dollar Store Presents.
  4. Did I mention cash? This may seem a primitive way to operate, but it can be very effective. Every woman has her price. Most are a lot higher than I can afford, but the principle stands true.
  5. Women love a man who isn’t afraid to grovel. I’m not kidding. For a good last resort, beg. As much as we can’t stand a crying woman, they can’t deal with a blubbering mess of a man. The bigger the tears, the better your chances.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a valentine! Follow these few techniques and you may be hearing wedding bells before you know it. Either wedding bells, or the sound of handcuffs clicking shut behind your back. Good luck guys!

Another story about Erin and Pablo Farias

Shortly after she married, Erin invited my wife and I over to their apartment for dinner and a movie. Erin was kind enough to draw me some directions on how to get to their place, which was supposed to be very close to my home. But after 20 minutes of driving, trying to follow Erin’s directions, we had to call and have Pablo guide us in. We learned that night how terrible Erin is at drawing maps.

We also learned that night how wonderful Erin is at making pies. Oh my goodness. I’ve never had as good a pie crust as we had that night.

But I digress. At dinner, we all got to know each other a bit better. Erin I knew from work, but neither my wife or I knew Pablo all that well, aside from the things that Erin shared. What we knew from Erin was that Pablo was a musician and that his grasp of English left a little to be desired, though that always led to humorous “Pablo-isms”. Conversation turned to our schooling, and I told Pablo how I went to WMU and graduated with a degree in Recreation. I shared how I learned how to juggle and tie knots, but also how to manage people in a municipal parks and recreation setting.

The next day, Erin told me that after we left, Pablo couldn’t stop laughing because he thought I went to Clown College. I’d like to say that there was something lost in translation, but I can definitely see how he came to his conclusion given our conversation.

548288_196248677165513_112464352_nIf you haven’t had a chance to read yesterday’s post, please do. Erin and Pablo just lost everything they own in a house fire, and with twin babies under two months old, they could use some help.

For more details about what they need, please visit http://littlesmilesfund.org/. Thanks!

I am asking you to help a friend of mine.

When I first met Erin, I didn’t like her. It wasn’t that we didn’t hit it off, although we didn’t. It was more true that everything about her grated on my nerves. She was loud. She had a short attention span. She was more interested in everything and everyone else than the things I was trying to train her to do.

Erin was hired into Baker Book House when I was the store’s trainer. It must have been my somewhere around 2005, because I remember coming home to my wife and spouting off about how much Erin annoyed me. Perhaps because we had been married for less than a year, my wife had never seen me speak badly about someone like I did about Erin. So after I ran out of steam, my wife calmly stated something truly offensive.

“Maybe you don’t like her because you are too much like her,” she said.

I was aghast.

“What?!” I said.

“I think some people might see you as loud, with a short attention span, and more focused on people than the task at hand.”

“But…”

I had nothing. She was right.

“Maybe you should just try being nice to her,” said my beautiful and wise wife, DeAnne. “You’d probably like her more.”

“Okay,” I said.

And I tried. And I did like her more. All of Erin’s eccentricities started to grow on me. Before long, she was one of my favorite co-workers. Once I let go of the things that I allowed to bother me, I saw Erin’s sense of humor and how she put a smile on everyone’s face.

farias_familyNext thing I knew, Erin was moving on from Baker Book House. She got married and opened a daycare which she ran out of her home, and in time, started her own family. Erin Farias and her husband, Pablo, just had twins a couple months ago.

And then on Saturday night, April 7th, 2013, their house (and daycare and van) burnt down. Erin and her family all made it out safely, but the house and all that was inside was lost completely.

So I’m asking for your help. Please consider praying for Erin and contributing to her family in some way. For some practical ways to help, please read this excellent article by my friend, Alison Hodgson, who also lost her home to a fire some time back. She has some great practical things that people can do for those in Erin’s situation.

548288_196248677165513_112464352_nAfter you read that, please check out the website that Erin’s brother-in-law set up with more information about the fire and a link to a Paypal account to help her here. And if you are on Facebook, consider joining this group.

Thank you.

And Erin, if you read this, DeAnne and I are praying for you. We are sorry for your loss.

Look at a million paintings

My wife and I recently rented Les Miserables. We had seen the stage version (thanks to DeAnne’s company Christmas party) and wanted to see how the film stacked up. It was good. We were both surprised by Hugh Jackman’s performance and both disappointed by Russel Crowe’s, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

While we were at the video store, my wife suggested that we grab something new for our oldest daughter to enjoy. The place where we rent videos from has free kids movies, so it was a good way to show her something new without breaking the bank. After some discussion a while back, my wife and I decided to allow our oldest a half hour of video time each week. This way, she can be exposed to new things without totally melting her brain.

The video that we grabbed for her was the animated “classic”, Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. I hadn’t seen it before, but I knew that my daughter loves the book version, so we thought it a safe choice. After all, I was familiar with the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas with its catchy songs and half hour length; this had to be as good, right?

Wrong.

It was terrible. The plot was only semi-related to the original story. The songs were just awful. It was a half hour that none of us will ever get back. But here’s the thing. My daughter didn’t care how bad it was. She watched it all the same. And she might even have enjoyed it.

How is that possible? How could she not know how bad it really was?

Well, for one thing, she’s two. She likes anything on a computer or television screen that moves. And for another, she has so few things to compare it against to know how good it was.

As we were watching the travesty that was The Cat in the Hat, I was reminded of a passage in a book by my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut. The following is from Bluebeard.

Circe Berman has just asked me how to tell a good painting from a bad one.

I said that the best answer I had ever heard to that question, although imperfect, came from a painter named Syd Solomon […]

“How can you tell a good painting from a bad one? […] All you have to do my dear,” he said, “is look at a million paintings, and then you can never be mistaken.”

It’s true! It’s true!

What’s great about this passage is that it applies to all areas of art, not just paintings. The more books, music, art, films, food, whatever we consume, the better equipped we are to tell the good from the bad.

This also answers how some books can become bestsellers when the writing is so honestly terrible. It is because the people who are reading it are not typical book readers. They don’t know it’s bad!

Anyway, if you are ever tempted to watch The Cat in the Hat, don’t waste your time. But if you want to ignore my advice, feel free.

Are there any things that you liked at first, but after expanding your repitoire, you realized were actually pretty bad?

Basement Editorial | Children’s Book Project with 4th Graders, Part 4

As promised yesterday, here’s the final product. If you want to save it and read it again and again, feel free to download it (bob_the_union_robot).

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Is it the greatest story ever? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Thanks for reading!

Basement Editorial | Children’s Book Project with 4th Graders, Part 3

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Me (right) licking a pan of brownies while Chris (left) works on our project.

As promised in yesterday’s post, here’s my journal entry regarding the letter that Chris wrote to me.

If you haven’t read it, go back and do that first. It’ll help.

Journal Entry #1

I got a letter from Chris. He fights with his sister and claims to be able to beat her with one hand behind his back. He must be very strong indeed.

I wonder why his favorite colors are blue, silver, and black. I find that a little strange, but to each his own I guess.

He likes to water ski. I don’t know how to water ski. He makes me feel inferior. No he doesn’t. I am not jealous. I’m not.

Chris also has a Nintendo 64. I wish I had a Nintendo 64. I’m not jealous though.

I lied to Chris and told him I was manly, but I’m not. I am really more of a band geek than a manly guy, but he doesn’t need to know that.

We didn’t really get a whole lot done other than some lame introductions. I’m not saying that Chris is lame. I’m just saying that making new friends can be hard sometimes. I don’t know how natural it is that a fourth grader and a senior in high school to be good friends, so if Chris and I aren’t, that’s okay.

He doesn’t need me anyway. He has his Nintendo 64 and his water skiing abilities. I’m not jealous. I’m not.

Back in high school, I had a real self-deprecating sense of humor. I think that was cute of me. Today, my humor tends to be on the other end of the spectrum where I enjoy projecting a false aire of confidence. Anyway, come back tomorrow for the story that Chris and I worked on.