Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

AAAHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!



I’m back on the roller coaster kick.

The biggest complaint I have about having to have back surgery two summers in a row is that there is absolutely no chance that Wendy and I will be able to get a day to ourselves to go ride roller coasters this year. Between the expense of surgery, the wages I'm losing right now, and the fact that roller coasters aren't great for healing backs, it's just out of the question.

Wendy and I are both roller coaster fiends, although there are really only two parks that are close enough here in Virginia to be practical for us to visit. One is Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, the other is King's Dominion outside of Richmond.

Both parks have some great roller coasters.

My all-time favorite roller coaster is the Alpengeist at Busch Gardens. Here it is.



Alpengeist pretty much has it all, as far as coasters are concerned. It starts with a 170' drop and includes an immelmann inverted loop, a cobra roll, a 106' tall inversion, a zero-g's heartline roll, and top speeds of 67 MPH. It's about as much fun as a human being can have.

Here's that cobra roll:



Below is another look at the cobra roll, on the left. As you can see, it gets pretty close to another of Busch Garden's great coasters, the Loch Ness Monster.



For a coaster that's almost 30 years old, Loch Ness is no slouch, with a 114" drop, a 60 MPH top speed, and two interlocking loops:



I suppose the big draw at Busch Gardens is Apollo's Chariot, the park's latest monster. Apollo has a 210 foot drop, and it's been eclipsed by several of the newest coasters in the country, but when you're up top of the first hill, believe me, you're well aware of all 210 of those feet:



The ride the kids enjoy the most is the Big Bad Wolf. As of our last visit to Busch Gardens, it was the only roller coaster that all three of our kids were big enough to ride. The Big Bad Wolf is basically a kiddy ride; with only an 80' drop and a top speed of not quite 50 MPH. But since it is a suspended coaster, and since that drop is over the James River, I have to admit that the coaster gets the most out of those 80 feet:



The other Virginia amusement park, King's Dominion, has a few decent coasters, too. King's dominion is more of an "amusement park" than a "theme park." That is to say, Busch Gardens has more shows and adult attractions, and King's Dominion has a ton of rides of all shapes and sizes.

One of their coasters, the Shockwave, was the first stand-up looping roller coaster I ever saw. It looks pretty intimidating:



But then, once you ride it, it's a real disappointment. It just has no scare-factor, no real thrills. And, it's over almost as soon as it began.

I am a little superstitious about the Shockwave, though, because about a week after the first time I rode it, a guy got killed on it. That took the fun out of that coaster for me, and I never rode it again.

The smoothest, most mellow coaster I've ever been on is the Anaconda at King's Dominion. This coaster begins with a 144' drop and features a ton of sidewinder loops and corkscrew rolls, but the whole time you're on it, all you can do is smile. I guess it does look a bit daunting...


...but trust me, the Anaconda induces a ton of grins and no screams at all. That's not a slam on the coaster, I really enjoy it... it's a good way to cool off and take a break while you're at King's Dominion.

For my money, the best coaster at King's Dominion is the Flight of Fear. It's stats make the FoF sound a bit tame: It's cobra rolls, corkscrews and loops might sound a bit restrained by the ride's top speed of 54 miles an hour and it's highest drop of only 74 feet. The thing that makes FoF so much fun is that it's an indoor roller coaster, inside of a big, dark aircraft hanger-like building... so you can't tell where you're going, what's going to happen next... or even when the ride is over. The ride has a UFO theme, and when you get on the train, you're launched into a black hole:



And, when I say launched, I mean launched. The ride launches you from zero to 50 MPH in it's first three seconds. It launches you into a dark room and right into a loop. You're literally upside down about four seconds after the ride starts. BOOM! Just like that. By the time the ride is over, your equilibrium is so screwed up that you don't know if you're upside down, rightside up, or backside front. There's one cool part about halfway through that always tricks me... the ride slows down and there's a bit of daylight ahead, so it looks like you're headed for the exit. You have a second or two to start thinking about how much fun the ride was and then BOOM! You're hurling straight down again. It turns out that the ride isn't over at all, and that you were actually at the top of a hill. Wow. The Flight of Fear really delivers.

There is one roller coaster at King's Dominion... and only one... that I'm scared to ride. This is where I draw the line. This is where my own personal wuss-factor takes over. The ride I'm scared to ride is the Volcano. Here it is:



This coaster simulates blasting the riders out of the top of a volcano. Thus the name. Duh. Here's another picture of it... I like this one better, because you can see the "aircraft hanger" from the Flight of Fear in the background:



I'd ride Volcano... I'd ride it in a heartbeat... but here's the problem. I'm terrified of heights. Scared to death of heights. Absolutely scared into paralysis by heights. The reason I like roller coasters is that, while they take you up high, they then immediately drop you back down to earth again. Quickly. That's the whole idea. Now, look at those pictures of Volcano. As you can probably tell, the point of Volcano is that it, instead, launches you up high really quickly and then keeps you up there for a long time, going around and around in circles at the top of that synthetic volcano. No thanks. If you're going to take this fat ol' redneck that high up in the air, you better be bringing me back down again p.d.q.

My first rollercoaster experience ever was terrifying, and I honestly think that it both instilled in me my fear of heights and planted the seeds of my love of roller coasters. In the Roanoke area... in a smaller town outside or Roanoke called Salem... there used to be a theme park called Lakeside. It's been gone for years and years; there's a shopping center where it used to be these days. Lakeside featured a wooden roller coaster called the Shooting Star. I was both drawn to it and terrified of it as a kid. Finally I got up the guts to ride it with a friend of mine. I'll never forget it... on the way up the hill, I clamped down on my friend's arm and said "Just don't talk to me until this is over." I'll never forget the view as we rounded the top of the hill and came to the drop. I was able to find a picture on the internet of the Shooting Star's drop, and here it is:



Just looking at that picture gives me the shivers. All seventy-some feet of the Shooting Star's first drop scares me more than the 210' drop of Apollo's Chariot. I'll never shake that feeling. And, to this day, I won't ride wooden roller coasters. When we hit the bottom of the hill and my neck snapped back, I thought I'd been killed. My neck and the back of my head hurt for a month. My friend had a bruise on his arm from my deathgrip.

It scared me so badly that I wouldn't ride roller coasters again until I was in my early 20's and my friend "The Governor" goaded me into riding the Loch Ness Monster with him. He basically did the old "don't be such a baby" thing, and I'll seriously always be in his debt for that. I had no idea what I'd been missing. Roller coasters rule!!

All this roller coaster reminiscence was triggered by Cube, who recently wrote about the experience of riding SheikRa at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. SheikRa looks pretty substantial:





Wow. I'd love to ride it.

Maybe.

Just as long as it ain't made out of wood, the drop is over pretty quickly, and the seats are arranged in such a way as to prevent me from bruising anyone's arm.

But not this summer. This summer, I suppose all my roller coaster riding will be of the virtual kind.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

 

Rosary Project



No time to blog today. I'm working on a rosary project for the kids, and it'll take all my free time. If it turns out to be pretty good, I might post some of it here, I don't know. Maybe. Anyway, I'll get back to my usual nonsense after the weekend. Everybody have a good, safe weekend, and no matter what you do, keep your eyes open for ManBearPig. He's out there somewhere, and he's dangerous. I'm totally cerial.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Patrick's Nightmare - My Nightmare



Don't let Patrick find out about this news story:

Hundreds of starfish have been found dead on a beach on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, and a scientist says a nonnative parasite is likely to blame.

Purple sea stars began washing up last week in Trail Bay at Sechelt, north of Vancouver. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been unable to determine why they died, agency spokeswoman Michelle Imbeau said.

Bruce Leighton, a marine parasite expert at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, noted Wednesday that the die-off coincided with the peak of the starfish reproductive cycle, when the creatures are most vulnerable to Orchitophrya stellarum, a protozoan that feeds on sea stars' sperm.


First of all, eeeewww, huh? Kinda gross. Nonetheless, I hope that they figure out what's killing the starfish and are able to save the rest of the little guys. Around these parts, we regularly watch a scientifically accurate TV show with our kids, where we've learned that starfish are comical, clumsy little guys with good intentions who wear Bermuda shorts. We wish them all the best.




That's not what I wanted to write about today, though. I wanted to write about a horrible nightmare I had last night.

Lately I've been having vivid, scary dreams. This happens from time to time, and I'll usually have three or four nights of scary dreams in a row, and then they subside. Last night I dreamed about werewolves.

The werewolves in my dream were really, really, really, really super scary. Big, hulking monsters who enjoyed nothing more than tearing people limb from limb. They were ferocious and horrifying in their destructive power. There were four of them, and they'd come out at night and travel down the river that runs through the county we live in, wreaking havoc on the towns along the river as they went. They were headed this way, and I was worried about them. Extremely worried.

They slept in the tops of electrical towers. I don't know why. They'd just climb to the tops of those towers every morning and sleep there during the day, and it was almost impossible for the authorities to find them there.

One of them looked like Randy Quaid.

Hey, I never said that the dream made any sense... or that it seemed scary right now... but oh, boy was it ever scary last night; big, hulking Randy Quaid werewolf monster coming down the river to wipe out my town. Sheeeez!


So this morning I started wondering about the significance of werewolves with regard to dream interpretation. I don't usually care a lot about dream interpretation theory, but having had a nightmare that scared the pants off of me got my interest up. I found out from this site that werewolves who show up in your dreams might mean the following:

WEREWOLF : Werewolves often symbolize people who have undergone a total change in character usually for the worst. It may link to someone who has suddenly shown you a darker and more scarier side - maybe they lost their temper with you on the day before the dream.


All of which is fine, except that I didn't have any kind of disagreement with anyone yesterday. Nobody lost their temper. Nobody gave me any reason to question their nature yesterday.

Plus, I don't know how much I trust the guy who set up the geocities site where I found that information. His geocities screen-name, after all, is "HairyBobby2000." For all I know, he might be a werewolf himself. Or may have been one six years ago. When I went to Google Image Search and did a search for Hairy Bobby, one of the images that came up was this image here. Those look like werewolf feet to me, and the matter is settled in my mind.

In popular culture, the way werewolves have looked over the years has really evolved. Some of the popular werewolf images strike me as scary. Some don't.


Lon Chaney, Jr.'s classic werewolf look always struck me as kinda comical. It just isn't really scary. I mean, come on! Look at that cute little nose! Don't you just want to scratch his ear?


I've known people who literally considered the werewolf from Teen Wolf to be very scary. I don't know if they had been sniffing glue or not.


The werewolves from Wolfen were kinda scary, I guess... because they were basically real wolves. Not obvious manmade monsters. Real wolves can mess you up if they want to, so I suppose they're not to be trifled with.


This guy is the werewolf from The Howling. He looks like he's part werewolf, part zombie, part vampire. Come on, dude. Pick a monster and go with it. At this point you're all over the board, and I can't take you seriously.


Now this, for my money, is one scary werewolf. The werewolves in my dream last night kinda looked like this, only bigger. This is the werewolf from An American Werewolf In London. Now, the movie is actually a dark, black comedy... but the werewolf itself is really pretty darn scary. The movie is scary and funny. That's a hard combination to pull off.

In the meantime, all I can do is hope I don't have that nightmare again. At least I found out from the net that other people have had these werewolf dreams, too.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

James "Gollum" Carville



Just the mention of his name makes my skin crawl.


He represents everything that is deplorable, hateful, and repugnant about the modern Democratic party. He appears from time to time on the Sunday morning news programs, and he's always shrill, contrite, self-impressed, arrogant..... and what else? It's harder to stop describing James Carville in negative terms than it is to start.

The guy is a reptile. A lizard. He's cold blooded, scaly, and inhuman.

He is the opposite of everything good and pure and right.

He's not even from this planet. He's a space-lizard, sent here by evil aliens to destroy America. In fact, he's a cyborg space-lizard... where he should have a heart and a brain, instead he has two bilge-infested sludge pumps.

He eats babies. Human babies. He eats them with mustard and ketchup. For breakfast.

Given the chance, James Carville will kill you and everyone you love. And burn your house down.

James Carville is 500 years old. He was the real Jack The Ripper.

James Carville planted the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

James Carville kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. And ate it. With mustard and ketchup.

I think I've made my point.

For further reading, click the links below... including the one at The Cafeteria Is Closed, where I first learned about the Carville-Gollum connection.








Aside -

It is with sadness that I remove The Thornblog from my blogroll today. Allen Thornburgh hasn't blogged in some time, and I noticed today that his blog is officially gone. I hope all is well with Allen and his family.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

Penn and Teller (Mostly Teller)



I watch Penn and Teller's obscenely titled program on TV when I can. Sometimes I agree with them regarding the topics that they analyze, as when they take on PETA (idiots), the Endangered Species Act (dangerous and destructive), Cryptozoology (no such thing), gun control (it doesn't work), the death penalty (it's a bad idea) and ghost hunters (nonsense). Other times I disagree with them... like when they attack family values, mock the boy scouts, scorn religion... and when they champion prostitution.

It's not a family show. Between the subject matter, Penn's consistently vulgar language, and the occasionally gratuitous nudity, the show almost always crosses the line into bad taste.

The thing is, the show's also almost always smart, challenging, and thoughtful. Oh, from my point of view the show is frequently wrong... but it's never dumb.

Penn and Teller seem to approach the topics they take on from a coldly analytical, atheistic, libertarian point-of-view. They're hardly ever predictable, and I'm always interested in what they'll have to say. Plus, whenever I watch the program, I learn something. And I always laugh my head off, even when I'm offended. I don't always agree with Penn and Teller, but I'm always interested in what they have to say.

Well, I'm always interested in what Penn has to say. If you watch their program, or if you're familiar with their magic act, you know that Penn does all the talking and Teller never speaks. On their TV program they continue that tradition, with Penn ranting and raving and swearing and basically coming off like a funny, smart, profane lunatic. Teller, as he's always done, remains silent.

Teller is quiet. Teller is an unknown. He's an enigma. So I was interested to see what I could learn about him from the net. Turns out, there's plenty of information out there. The only time Teller remains quiet, it seems, is during the act. Otherwise, he's happy to talk to anyone about anything.

Interesting Teller facts:




 

The WOW Factor: St. John Of The Cross



I had occasion this morning to look back over some of the poems of St. John of the Cross. I read some of his work for the first time after Christmas, and what I read blew me away. I'd love to have the words and the eloquence to write something about St. John's work, but I think the best thing I could do would simply be to post some of it.

Of course, with poetry, anyone who reads it will get something different out of it. I'm not typically a poetry kind of guy... but I suppose that I'm predisposed to like this kind of thing. The verses below are my favorites; they're from an untitled and uncompleted work:

I entered into unknowing,
and there I remained unknowing
transcending all knowledge.


I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.


That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.


I was so 'whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.


He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.


The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.


This knowledge in unknowing
is so overwhelming
that wise men disputing
can never overthrow it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to the understanding of not
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.


And this supreme knowledge
is so exalted
that no power of man or learning
can grasp it;
he who masters himself
will, with knowledge in
unknowing,
always be transcending.


And if you should want to hear:
this highest knowledge lies
in the loftiest sense
of the essence of God;
this is a work of his mercy,
to leave one without
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.



Sunday, April 23, 2006

 

The Celebrity Look-A-Like MEME



Alright, if you're a fellow blogger who's ever tagged Wendy or I with a MEME, consider yourself tagged as of right now.

Our friend Otis told us about this website, and we thought it was pretty funny... so it's not a real MEME, per se. It's not making the rounds in the blogosphere. It's just something that we stumbled across.

Here's what to do:



As you can see below, the resemblances they come up with are often a bit confusing.

Wendy wasn't that into the idea, but finally she let me take a quick picture of her and upload it to the site. This is the picture, right here.

The grid below represents the celebrities that MyHeritage.com says that Wendy looks like:


Just a few comments on my part: I can kinda see Anjelica Huston and, maybe, Amy Lee just a little bit. Wendy's Mom actually looks a bit like Geri Halliwell (just a little bit), so maybe they're onto something with that one. Melanie Griffith? Pam Anderson? Come on! Both of those women have had so much plastic surgery that they don't even look like people anymore! My wife doesn't look anything like those two freaks.

And it goes without saying that the best way to get me to punch you is to tell me my wife looks like Hillary Clinton.


The results for Wendy weren't that promising, but I went ahead and had her take a quick picture of me. That's it to the left. It's an awful picture, so right away my hopes weren't very high. By the way, there was a time when my hairline wasn't on the top of my head. Oh, well. At least I'm not doing the comb-over thing. Anyway, with clinched teeth and a belly full of dread, I went ahead and uploaded the picture, and this is the list of celebs that the good folks at MyHeritage.com came up with:


My reaction:

Gene Hackman, Johnny Depp, and Gary Oldman are all great actors. Gary Oldman, in fact, is just about my all-time favorite actor, so I'm cool with those guys.

Mr T? Well, what the hell. Why not?

Tom Green? No way. I look more like Al Green than Tom Green.

Now for the ultimate irony: My friend Otis looks EXACTLY like Matthew Lillard. People are always telling him that he looks like Matthew Lillard. In fact, he once told me that the very first words his wife ever said to him were that he looks like Matthew Lillard. So did MyHerritage.com tell Otis that he looks like Matthew Lillard? Nooooo. When he ran his own photo through, MyHerritage.com told Otis that he looks like Denzel Washington.

So, there ya go. That's your MEME challenge, should you decide to accept it. Upload a photo and post a list of the celebs that this website thinks you look like. If you feel particularly ambitious, post some of the pictures. Then, leave a comment here so we'll know to check it out.

We tried to upload a photo of one of our favorite bloggers ourselves... but the software at MyHeritage.com had some trouble coming up with a match:




 

Another Big Weekend



All three of our kids were baptized this morning, and the two older ones were also confirmed. Here they are, bringing up the gifts before communion.



It was a big day for our family. Now we're all Catholic!

I look at that picture above and I can't believe how big my son's getting. It seems like yesterday he was running around wearing an applesauce-covered bib. Now look at him... almost as tall as our parish priest!

I took a few pictures this morning at church, and while I was experimenting with our camera... getting it set up to shoot without flash, etc... I took this spooky, misty looking picture:




Is it a photograph of the Holy Ghost coming down upon the Church?

Nah.

It is kind of a cool, spooky looking picture though.

That thumb in the lower left, by the way, probably belongs to me.


Friday, April 21, 2006

 

Just Go Read Pastor Scott



There are a bunch of good blogs in my blogroll and I try to read them all as frequently as I can. Lately, when I only have a brief amount of time for reading, I always jump first to one blog in particular. The Burr In The Burgh, the blog of Lutheran Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer, is just about the best blog I know of these days. Pastor Scott's stuff is consistently smart, interesting, insightful, enjoyable reading.

Read him as often as you can... and don't miss his current post on the meaning of "Doctrine." You can read my thoughts on the subject in the comments at the bottom of his post, too.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Hat Trick: Three Idiotic News Items






 

Flash Tribute: The American Soldier



This is a well-produced little Flash tribute to the American soldier. Click the graphic and make sure your speakers are on for the theme music.



Hat tip to Willow and Liam's grandmother for the link.

But remember... watching well produced Flash tributes isn't enough.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

Basset Hounds Are From Outer Space



They HAVE to be from outer space. Nothing from this planet grows this quickly.

Here's what Chester looked like when we got him in October. He was about six weeks old.



Cute, right? Not quite five pounds. He could sit in my palm. He was about the size of a softball.

Now, less than six months later, he looks like this:





I took those pics last night as the kids were getting ready for bedtime. As of now, he's more than 40 pounds and, according to Wendy, still growing. Using our PC and an abacus, we've come up with mathematical estimates which indicate that by the time he's done growing, Chester will weigh two hundred and twenty pounds.

Our other dog, Tilda (a Britney Spaniel), grew fairly quickly... but nothing like this.

If you're interested, here's Tilda at three months:



And here she is as of last night, napping after a bath:




It took Tilda more than a year to hit 40 pounds.

I'm afraid that before he's done growing, Chester will eat Tilda.

Last night, my main concern was that he'd eat my camera:




 

Scary Time!



So I'm sitting at the doctor's office this morning and I see this issue of Time Magazine. It's fairly recent. I don't read Time, but the cover caught my eye:


That's a legit headline? "Be Worried?"

Is that what passes for journalism these days?

Time has always been a liberal magazine... and they're all too happy to jump on board with the latest liberal cause... that's nothing new.

And, granted, the Main Stream Media's only way of remaining afloat these days is to try to scare us into thinking we need to follow their version of the news.... but are that not even trying to hide that anymore?

Honestly, a headline like Be Worried. Be Very Worried." ... that's only a notch or two above the supermarket tabloids.

There was a day, I suppose, when the MSM actually reported news stories... rather than trying to make or shape the news, and rather than trying to manipulate their marketplace. Those days are over. These days, the MSM doesn't even try to hide their liberal agenda, and it isn't ashamed about it's scare-tactics and manipulation. You don't need me to tell you how shameless the MSM is. They'll print or broadcast anything if they think it will scare you into watching, subscribing, and reading.

Time is one of the worst offenders. Consider these recent Time covers that came to mind:



Here's a few I made up... it's only a matter of Time, though, before we see these covers in waiting rooms everywhere:








Monday, April 17, 2006

 

The Passion Of Showtime



The Curt Jester makes a good point today:

"I was thinking that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has also gone on to set another record. It is the only international blockbuster that gets zero television, cable, or subscription cable replay. While channels like HBO and others run the same movies over and over as far as I am aware TPOTC has never appeared on any of these channels.


Hmmm, I thought. I looked into it.

Turns out that Showtime, in fact, did recently show Mel Gibson's brilliant film. It also turns out that the Curt Jester's point is still pretty valid. Consider this, from the story linked above:

Apparently, Showtime was the only premium network to have much passion for Gibson’s film. Despite its box-office success, Home Box Office passed, saying it didn’t have room for the Icon Distribution Inc. title within its huge Hollywood library, according to HBO VP Jeff Cusson

Starz Entertainment Group LLC’s decision not to acquire the title was purely financial, senior VP Thomas Southwick said. He noted that with much of the potential audience for the film having already seen in the theater or owning the DVD, Starz felt it wouldn’t draw many new customers.


HBO doesn't have room for the movie in it's library? Oh, don't tell me they're still storing their films on video cassettes in a cardboard box under their CEO's desk! I mean, geez! Get a DVD player, HBO! DVDs are slim and easy to store.

They don't have room? Did they even try to come up with an excuse? Do you get the feeling that some Public Affairs underling got caught by surprise with that phone call?

And as for Starz and that network's unwillingness to show The Passion because it's already out on DVD... well, that makes sense. After all, Starz is currently devoted to showing films that didn't get a theatrical run or a DVD release. You know, underseen films like Con Air, The Alamo, and that long lost art-house gem Tank Girl.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting Christians boycott Starz or HBO. Showtime, after all, wouldn't be showing the film without it's commercial reasons.... so it's not like one premium cable network is more Christian than any other.

I just think it's interesting.


 

Rick Warren's Marketing Driven Life



Rick Warren's book the Purpose Driven Life has been a topic of some debate for a while now at The Burr in the Burgh. Pastor Scott posted his opinion of the book a while ago, and there were a few people who felt that they should clobber him for it.

Anyway, I just gotta jump in with my two cents worth. This is a topic I have strong feelings about. Now, keep in mind... I'm no theologian. I'm no serious student of scripture and I'm absolutely not a member of the clergy. I'm just a lay-Christian with an opinion, and you shouldn't get any more worked up about my opinion than you do about anyone else's.

A few years ago, my wife and I were having a hard time of it, still getting used to our new marriage, trying to work things out, grow together as a couple, grow spiritually and individually, etc. It was a desperate time for me. I was searching for meaning, looking for anything that might be a clear indication of what God had in mind for me.

We were attending a nondenominational Fundamentalist church and the preacher there was, to his credit, doing everything in his ability to help us. Once, during a particularly tearful, confessional meeting on my part with him, I asked him to recommend a resource for me, and he suggested that I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.

I'd never been a fan of the kinds of books that were popular with the members of our congregation, the kinds of things that they wanted to study. I didn't like Max Lucado, Bruce Wilkinson, etc. I thought of their books as silly, Halmark Card theology. Christianity-and-water, as C.S. Lewis might say. But I was willing to try Warren's book because the title seemed to speak to my problems. This might be the book, I hoped, that pointed me in the right direction.

I think I finished half of it.

Warren's book struck me as smug, superficial, self-congratulatory, and absolutely pointless. It seemed like the kind of thing that was designed to soothe rather than provoke. It seemed like the point was to avoid offending, to avoid challenging, to simply lull the reader into sleep. When I noticed that Warren also had books about the "Purpose Driven" church and "Purpose Driven" journals and devotionals, etc, it became clear to me. From what I could tell, Warren's "Purpose" was one thing and one thing alone: Marketing. Rick Warren had found his niche in the publishing world. Rick Warren was making an appeal to the pocket-books of the same "Wal-Mart Christians" who had bought so many of the "Left Behind" books and the silly, sappy greeting-cards of Lucado, Wilkinson, et al.

I was disgusted. Heart broken. Is this what Christianity was in the modern world, then? A marketing gimmick? A commercial cult? Drive-thru salvation? A large order of McDevotion and a side-order of fries?

I examined the church we'd been attending, and allowed myself to really face what I knew to be true about it. What was the focus of our church? What were the things that mattered to our clergy, our elders, our Sunday school teachers and our congregation? Two words came to mind: Church Growth. If I'd had a nickel for every time I'd heard that phrase used at our church, I'd have been able to build my own cathedral. That was all they cared about. Church Growth. Bigger. Better. More. Every Sunday, the attendance was posted on a sign in the front of the sanctuary, along with the number of people who'd been there on that Sunday one year ago. There always HAD to be more. More people in the pews. More people in the groups. Grow. Grow. GROW. GROW.

Is this all Christianity was about now? Did it come down to attendance numbers?

There had to be more. In fact, I KNEW there was more. I'd felt it. I'd had moments of prayer, contemplation, and meditation that were deeply real, deeply meaningful. There was more to Christianity than the Cult of Personality. Somewhere, there had to be a church that wasn't so caught up in the modern world.

As I've documented ad nauseam, Wendy and I found what we were looking for in Roman Catholicism. Now, I'm the first to admit that, had Wendy and I looked elsewhere, we might have gone a different way. Wendy came to our marriage with Lutheran (LCMS) roots, and from what I've learned, the Lutheran church has a rich, appealing history. We decided, though, to start our in-depth search for a church by "going to the source," if you will... and in Roman Catholicism we both found exactly what we wanted and more. We found what Wendy and I have come to believe is a kind of "fullness" of Christian faith.

And so, in a way, I've come to believe that writers like Rick Warren might do more harm than good for their own cause. At least, in my instance, his book served to push me away from his kind of faith, rather than draw me toward it. I got Warren's book during a time of desperate searching... and what I found in it's pages was so light-weight, so amateurish, that I actually felt mocked by the book's author as I read it. I wanted meat. He gave me milk and smirked at me.

The experience did have positive effects, though. For one thing, it played a role in the process that lead our family to a Church where we're happy. And besides, Warren's book did motivate me to dig deeper into the "real" theology that I'd only tasted before. C.S. Lewis, already my favorite writer, became more and more important to me. Honestly, I can't recommend Lewis enough to my Christian friends. I'll put it this way: If popular theology were music, C.S. Lewis would be Mozart and Rick Warren would be The Spice Girls.

Other theologians, like Scott Hahn, Richard Foster, and the amazing G.K. Chesterton helped me find answers... and helped me find more questions. I specifically want to mention Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost Of Discipleship as an incredibly important book to me, because in Bonhoeffer's work I found exactly what I'd hoped to find when I originally read Warren. Bonhoeffer's book is absolutely amazing; it's honest, intense, provocative, demanding, and (in the best possible way) haunting. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has lead me to more probing self-examination and stronger devotion to my Savior than a thousand Rick Warrens could ever do.

Most importantly, though, I actually started reading my own Bible. If you're looking for guidance, direction, and... well, purpose, there's really only One Book you have to have... and if you're anything like me, you already have a copy of it, and it often gathers a lot more dust than it should.




Other points of view; other bloggers who've written about Warren's book:

A Brick In Dave's Wall

Crossties Ministries







 

Baptized, Confirmed, Contented



Saturday night was a huge night for Wendy and me. I was baptized, and Wendy and I were both confirmed as members of the Roman Catholic church. We both also received our first communion as members of the church. I've written plenty about our studies and experiences over the past year, so I won't write too much here about how much it meant to us. I think I've probably made that clear. I will record a few memories, though, while they're still fresh.

If there was one disappointment about the evening, it was that my mom and stepdad chose not to come to the service. I'd hoped that my mom would be there when I was baptized. However, mom's a fundamentalist, a Southern Baptist, so naturally she and I don't quite see eye to eye on a number of issues. In fact, that afternoon, my mom called and tried to persuade me that only baptism by immersion is valid. This is a typical Fundamentalist belief, based on a certain rigid interpretation of Mark 1:9-10. No argument against that rigid interpretation from the Catholic viewpoint will convince many Fundamentalists otherwise. My mom is one of those who can't be convinced. It was a little bit of a downer; this eleventh-hour reminder of the bullheaded mentality that caused me to leave behind the Fundamentalism of my childhood in the first place.

Service at our church begain at 9:30, and although I wasn't very nervous this past week, I was sweating and trembling by 9:15 Saturday night. The service was two hours long, but it flew by in what seemed like half an hour.

We had four readings from the Old Testament, and three of them were read by some of the people who were so helpful to Wendy and me during RCIA. That meant a lot to us, and made the night more memorable.

Three of us were baptized Saturday night, by having the holy water poured over each of us as we knelt before a baptismal pool. I went first, and I tried to brace myself for the possibility that the water would be cold. For whatever reason, that was one of the main concerns in my mind: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be cold... The main physical memory that I have of the baptism itself, though, has nothing to do with the temperature of the water. The main thing I remember is how loud the water was. Leaning into that pool must have been just enough to cause me to catch a real echo as Father poured the water over my head from above, and the water sounded to me, at that moment, like a waterfall. It was surprising, and really caught my attention. I think it's good, really, that I'll have a memory of my baptism that incorporates a loud sound. Kind of like an alarm: Wake Up.

After baptism, my case of nerves went away and I was just on cloud nine for the rest of the night. It was simply a matter of absolute joy. When Wendy and I were confirmed with the oil of Chrism, it was almost like being married again. We plan to have our marriage blessed, and that will be really nice... but coming into the Catholic church together, hand in hand, really meant a lot to both of us. It was a major milestone in our marriage.

First communion was another experience involving tangible memories. I'd planned to receive the host on my tongue, in the old-school way, but before I got in line to receive I noticed that the inside of my mouth felt like sandpaper. My mouth had dried out like a desert. I got nervous about the host dropping off my tongue, so I decided at the last minute to receive the host in my hand. The experience of drinking from the Lord's cup was tangibly memorable for me, too... since it's been years since I've tasted wine. All in all, receiving first communion was really intense. Intense, but not unpleasant in any way. I just had an extremely strong sense of the... well, the communion of it all. I felt that I was in communion with the Lord and the angels and saints, with everyone in the room and with every other Catholic who is alive or who's ever lived. OK, yeah, I guess that might sound a little hokey, especially to non-Catholic ears. It's the only way I can explain it, though. I felt not only that I was part of something larger than myself, but something that welcomed me, forgave me, accepted me and was glad for my presence. Yeah, it was absolutely communal.

If there's one bad thing about having been confirmed, it's that RCIA is over. Wendy and I absolutely LOVED RCIA. It was wonderful to get to meet and spend so much time with such a wonderful group of like-minded Christians. It was a learning experience, but it was also a lot of fun. It's not very often that you get a chance to do something that's as enjoyable as it is good for you. That's what RCIA was for us.

Next Sunday, all three kids will be baptized, too... and Willow and Hailey will receive first communion. The kids have each spent Easter with their other parents, and it is a little weird for Wendy and I to officially be Catholic (!!!) Before them. Nonetheless, it feels good.

For five years, we've tried to find just the right church home for our family.

We've finally found it.

We're home.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

 

Any Similarities To Actual Persons Is Entirely Funny



Wendy found this at the Onion this morning... My day began with her shouting Look! You made it to the Onion!" Click the screen-grab for the whole item.



The thing that makes it down-right creepy is that the guy actually looks like me. Right down to the position on the couch and the bag of Sun Chips. Oh, how I love Sun Chips.

The Onion is always so smart and so funny... but lately, it seems like they've been at the top of their game more than ever. Did you catch this story?




Friday, April 14, 2006

 

No More Template Tweaking. I SWEAR. Maybe.



OK, I Swear, this is the last change.

And I always mean that, right?

Anyway, the last template change wouldn't load in IE... and since there are still some people who surf with IE, I wanted a more "universal" template. I customized one of Blogger's standard templates and came up with something I think is OK. It's fairly clean, it looks decent, I'm leaving it alone. Really. This time, I'm done.

I suppose that the next time I blog I'll officially be Catholic. Wendy and I will be confirmed (and I'll be baptized) at tomorrow's Easter Vigil mass.

I wrote plenty about that last year. I intended to start a new series after the first one ended, and my intentions were to blog about the RCIA classes... but, ya know what? RCIA turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It was completely positive, completely fulfilling, and I just kinda wanted to "preserve" the experience for myself. If that makes sense.

Wendy and I met some really amazing people in RCIA, and learned so much. We're both sure that the Catholic church is the right spiritual direction for us, and that it's something we both need very badly.

And in a surprising way, this has helped me get past the bitterness I felt about my Southern Baptist and Fundamentalist upbringing. Here's what I mean: I never felt "at home" in a Baptist church. I honestly believe that I was born with a Catholic heart in a Baptist/Fundamentalist culture. I was always resentful and spiteful about the people I knew who were so at-home and at-ease in the Baptist and Fundamentalist churches I attended. They were so happy about their experiences in Church, and I was totally unhappy.

Now that I've gotten moving in the right direction for me, I think I better understand the protestants in my family. At least, I finally know what it feels like to be happy and at-home in church, the way they always have. I don't share all of their beliefs, but I finally do share their enthusiasm about church... I just had to go to a different church to find what I needed.

Anyway, it's a big weekend coming up. Happy Easter to all my Christian friends... and Happy Passover to our Jewish older-brothers in God.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Fixing My Blog, Fixing Me



It still looks like crap in IE, doesn't it?

Oh, well... been working on it all day and I just no longer care.

I suppose the hardest part was removing so many blogs from the blogroll.

It had to be done, though. The blog looked like crap, the blogroll had become a mile long, and I couldn't look at it anymore.

I hope I actually leave it alone for a while... not tweaking it, not messing with it, just letting it sit. This is the cleanest that SouthCon has looked in more than a year. I'm not going to mess with it. I hope.

Seriously, though, cutting so many of those blogs from the blogroll was hard. I guess I've just gotten too easy about giving away links. Everyone who asks me for a link gets one, and every blog I read that I like ends up added to the list. I have to use some self control. The blogroll has GOT to stay manageable.

That's not really want I wanted to write about today. I wanted to gripe and complain about my back.

If you're one of the few who're kind enough to read my meanderings regularly, you might know that I had back surgery last August. Here's the latest. About a month ago, I started having problems with my left leg. I started to think that something might be wrong because of three things that were happening:



Example three listed above wasn't ALL bad, I guess. My co-workers thought it was friggin' HILARIOUS. I got sick of being the Buster Keaton for the whole mill, though, and finally decided to go to a doctor.

Long story short, my doctor sent me to an orthopedic guy who told me that my leg was fine, the real problem was my back again. He said he suspected that the disc I'd had worked on last year was acting up again, or that I might have a problem with scar tissue.

I didn't want to hear that. I can't afford to miss another three months from work, and I mean... come on, man! It's APRIL! It's just now getting warm outside!

Flash forward to last week: I'm sitting down at home and I notice a sudden pain in my back. So I stood up and, allasudden, it's like somebody is behind me hitting me with a shovel. Except when THAT happens, I know exactly what's going on and it's usually because of something I've done to deserve it. Nope, this wasn't shovel-pain, this was my back going to pieces again. No mistaking it.

So I spent a couple of days in bed and called my doctor to have an MRI done.

If you're not familiar with the MRI process, it's like a super X-Ray machine or something. That's what I call it, anyway... and unless you're a doctor or something, that definition is probably good enough for you.

OK, look, I'll pull up Google Image Search and see what I can find.

OK, here ya go... this is an MRI machine. And, whattayaknow, it looks EXACTLY like the one I had my MRI done in.

An MRI machine is a machine wherein you lay down flat and get rolled back into this tiny little tube where you marvel about the fact that you didn't used to be claustrophobic... but, by gosh, all you can think right now is that you want to wiggle out of this damned thing and run down the hall screaming "You'll never catch me again, you fools!" Except that your back is screwed up and you can't walk, much less run, and therefore you know damn well that the fools WILL, in fact, catch you... and fairly quickly, too.

An MRI machine is also a machine that requires the patient to lie as flat and as still as possible for what seems like about seventeen years... and if you forget that, there's an MRI technician who's job is to yell "HOLD STILL, PLEASE" into a mic somewhere that makes her annoying voice come out of a speaker that sounds like it must be DIRECTLY ABOVE YOUR HEAD. So you lie as still as you can, and while you're being as still as possible, a vent of some kind in the machine blows a slight breeze across your face that makes your nose itch like absolute hell.

Before you can have an MRI done, you have to answer about eleven billion questions about whether or not you have any metal in your body. It is very, very, very important that anyone getting an MRI be made EXCLUSIVELY out of meat and blood and bones and hair and guts. If you're made out of ANY METAL AT ALL, you could possibly explode (I suppose) during your MRI... and then the hospital's cleaning team would have to work over that evening and the shop steward must be a real SOB because the MRI technician was DETERMINED to find out if I had ANY metal in my body at all. He asked me questions about surgery and about implants and about my tattoos and on and on and on... and all the while, he was giving me this evil eye, like he thought I might be lying to him. Like it was secretly my goal to shove a nickel up my butt and smuggle it into the MRI machine, just so I could make my butt explode and then HA HA HA HA HA the JOKE'S ON YOU, TECHNIC IAN!

So after I convinced the Technician that I was NOT the bionic man and that I didn't have any metal parts at all, they did my MRI... and seventeen years later, they pulled me out of the machine, resulting in the most orgasmic nose-scratching experience anyone could ever have.

So, anyway, it turns out that what I've done is herniate the disc directly below the disc I herniated last year. That's right, lucky me, I get to have back surgery twice in eight months.

I was able to get one of the MRI pictures so I could show everyone what my back looks like.

First, here's a picture of a healthy, normal back:



Looks great, doesn't it? Looks fit and spry and rarin' to go. I bet that's exactly what YOUR back looks like, in fact. And, if it does, I really hope you appreciate it. If I were you, and if I had a healthy, happy back like you have, I'd go outside and jump up and down right now, screaming "Wheeeeeee!" Go ahead. I'll wait here.

Didn't that feel good? Good for you. Honestly, I don't begrudge you your health at all.

Anyway, now here's an MRI picture of MY back:



Yeah, it is gonna need some work.


Monday, April 10, 2006

 

The Gospel Of Judas



Last night I watched the National Geographic Channel's program about the "Gospel of Judas." You may have seen it, or you may have read one of the many news stories about the program and the text it scrutinizes. Here are a few observations and comments about the program... and about faith in general.

One of the best things about the program is that it functions as a pretty good informal education on the so-called "Gnostic Gospels" in general... so you can watch it knowing nothing about early pseudo-Christian Gnosticism and learn some of the basics. If you're unfamiliar with Gnosticism, check out this great, short primer at Burr in the Burgh.

There were things I enjoyed about the program, but I have a few complaints as well. If you read this blog from time to time, you probably know the position from which my views are formed. If not, you should know up front that I'm a church-going Catholic convert. I won't try to camouflage my own personal bias at all.

First of all, I'll say that I don't believe that the Gnostic Gospels are spiritually authentic, nor do I think that they're historically accurate. I do believe, though, that it's probably good for a practicing, studious Christian to read them. Don't get me wrong, the "Christ" that they present most assuredly isn't the Jesus Christ of Christian tradition. The Gnostics believed a lot of things that are alien to Christianity. They saw the physical world as evil, where as Christianity sees it as a good creation of God (albeit one that is currently occupied by an enemy). They also saw physical existence as a trap, a prison... where as Christians believe that our physical, temporal lives are crucial, and that the way we live this life determines the way we live in the next sphere of existence. Gnosticism is fundamentally at odds with traditional Christianity... as a faith practice, as a philosophy, and as an instruction for our lives.

No, the reasons that a Christian should read the Gnostic gospels aren't because they're valuable to our faith. Not at all. So, why do I think that Christians should read them? For one thing, it is a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the attacks on Christianity that are being made by secularists, new-agers, and others who oppose our beliefs. If we understand the positions and opinions of those who oppose us... and if we are as familiar with their sources as they are... then we are better able to argue against those attacks with knowledge, eloquence, and kindness.

Another reason to read the Gnostic gospels is because, if you're like me, you're constantly guilty of casting Christ in your own mold. I'm constantly guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain in the most meaningful and damning way. That is to say, I often find myself arguing that my own predispositions are valid because they are shared by God and the Savior. It's easy (for me, at least) to become couched in personal beliefs and to grow assured of personal righteousness simply through mental laziness. Because the Christ portrayed in the Gnostic gospels is so radically different from the Christ of Christian tradition, I find it impossible to read them without having my own ideas about Christ shaken and stirred. I think that's good for me. I think I benefit from this kind of introspection and reflection. To put it simply, I don't think that it's enough for me to simply ask What would Jesus do? I also have to ask myself Am I right about what I think Jesus would have done... or am I fooling myself? The picture to the left, the one of Christ laughing, is one of my favorite images from popular culture... it presents the humanity of Christ in an undeniable way. Christ's humanity is as important as his divinity... and he was fully human, just as you and I are. It's easy to forget that. It's easy, for example, to think theologically about Christ performing the miracle at the wedding in Cana. It seems strangely foreign, however, to contemplate the likelihood that he also had a really nice time with his friends and family at that wedding.

So, yes, the Gnostic gospels do have some value for the practicing Christian, in my estimation. If nothing else, they provide a little spiritual exercise for Christians readers. They provide us with a chance to get in contact with our traditions, our history, and the reasons why we believe what we believe. If I might be so bold, I'll suggest that they also provide the reader with a chance to connect in a very real way with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when I'm reading something from the Gnostic texts, I'll come across a passage so bizarre and outrageous that a cold chill will run down my spine. Could that be confirmation from the ultimate Authority that what I'm reading is NOT, in fact, the inspired word of God? I certainly think it's possible.

The most frustrating thing, however, about the National Geographic program was how little it concerned itself with Judas himself. That was a disappointment to me because I'm fascinated by Judas. Above all else, here was a man of striking contrasts. He was called to be one of Christ's twelve apostles, and yet he was Christ's betrayer. His betrayal was a shocking act of disloyalty, and yet my religion proclaims a salvation that was only possible because of that betrayal. I feel mixed emotions about Judas. Sometimes I think he got a raw deal, that he was only doing what had to be done. Yet Judas, like all of us, has to be held accountable for his own actions. Judas chose treachery. His sin, the very action that made Christian salvation possible, was in-and-of-itself an inherently and obviously unchristian act. Sometimes I wonder if Judas was what we'd call bipolar these days. Sometimes I wonder if he himself was puzzled by his own actions. These things cross my mind because they are the same things I wonder about myself when I examine my own actions and confront my own betrayals of Christ. Like every other Christian, I have been Judas from time to time. Maybe more than I'd like to admit.

Last night's program wasn't concerned with Judas at all. It was concerned with proving the "authenticity" of the supposed Gospel of Judas, and it aimed to offer that proof in scientific terms. By means of expert examination, carbon dating, and other scientific measures, the document itself was determined to be as much as seventeen hundred years old. In the view of National Geographic, this was proof enough of the document's authenticity. The problem with that is that proving that the document is actually very old and proving that it's ideas are valid and accurate are two different things. Words like authentic can seem to mean a variety of different things.... especially when they're applied to texts like the Gnostic Gospels.

The most important thing to remember about the "Gnostic Gospels," however, is that these religious ideas are not what the media would have us believe that they are. These aren't really ideas that have been suppressed and hidden for almost two thousand years, and there's nothing startling or new in their passages. Gnosticism, at it's heart, is no different from many other non-Christian religions. Gnostic pseudo-Christianity shares many attitudinal presumptions with Buddhism, New Age faith, etc. Like those religions, Gnosticism denies the inherent goodness and value of the physical human experience. The Gnostic Gospels present a Christ who sees our earthly lives in largely negative terms. How strikingly different from the Jesus of John's Gospel, who wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. For the Jesus in John's Gospel, Lazarus hadn't been freed from an earthly prison by dying. Rather, Lazarus had lost a precious and holy gift; the life bestowed upon him at his conception by God.

It is my belief, after a great deal of prayer and reflection, that the Jesus of the New Testament clearly valued human existence. The goal of his ministry was not to transcend human life, but to redeem it. To perfect it. To remove the stain of sin and to restore each of our lives to it's intended condition: A divine endowment, worthy and pleasing in the eyes of the Creator.






Other bloggers respond to the National Geographic program:

Burr in the Burgh: Ignorance Is Not An Option


Inheret The Whirlwind: Christians Riot Over "Gospel Of Judas"


Catholic Apologetics Of America: Experts Skeptical Of New "Gospel Of Judas"


Faith and Freedom Network: The Non-Gospel of Judas


Friday, April 07, 2006

 

SouthQuiz



While I was away from the PC, several of the bloggers I read took part in the whole "Quiz Your Friends" thing. Seems like everyone was doing it, including MCF, Jerry, Jamie Dawn, my wife, and my blog-free friend Jamie.


I know it is bad form to try to rekindle a dead fad... but I'm sure nobody expects me to ignore a chance to talk about my favorite topic: me.


So here's a link to my quiz, if anyone cares:





Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

The View From My Ridiculous Cross



Well, I started out with the best of intentions.


I've always heard about giving up something for Lent, and since Wendy and I are new Catholic converts (we'll be confirmed in little more than a week), I decided I'd try it. I started out with intentions of giving up some kind of food. That's what most people do, right? Give up chocolate, give up cola, give up coffee, etc. Go forty days without something you crave and enjoy and become a better person in the process. Sounds good, I can do that. Right?


When I first started talking about giving something up, Wendy challenged me to abstain from using the PC for Lent. I balked at first, but then I thought about it. Wendy didn't think I could go without using the PC. I decided that I'd show her. I'd prove that I can go without the PC, or anything else for that matter. I'm my own man! What's the old phrase from Seinfeld? I'm Master of my Domain! Yeah, that's it. No PC? No problem! I can do that easily.


So I posted a blog entry the day before Ash Wednesday, declaring my intentions to be PC-free until after Easter.


The first week wasn't bad. I'd subliminally find myself going to check the e-mail or making a note to myself to look something up at Google News... and then I'd remember my Lenten fast from the PC, chuckle to myself, and congratulate myself on my amazing will-power and self control.


By the second week....


OK, you want to know the truth?


By the second week, I was feeling kind of stupid.


The thing is, it really wasn't that bad. Friends would phone or send Wendy an e-mail asking how I was "holding up," and she'd kinda shrug and say "He's doing fine." She'd leave it at that because... well, that really was all there was to say on the matter.


I wasn't going out of my mind with boredom. I didn't feel "out of the loop." I wasn't going through withdraw or overcome by cravings. I hadn't resorted to lurking behind the couch, watching Wendy check the e-mail, saying stuff like "My precious... terrible wifsey has it... and I wants it back!" None of that. I was just living my life like a normal person who doesn't use the PC.


Yes, it's possible to skip the e-universe. Not only that, it's easy.


Now here are the caveats:


There were a few times when Wendy printed out news stories or e-mails from friends for me. She knew I'd want to know about the South Dakota abortion law, so she printed that story for me. She also printed a few articles about topics I'd developed a sudden interest in. I took the printouts to work with me and read them during my spare time.


She also kept me informed about the kind comments some of you left at that last post. Thanks, guys. Jerry, Rhodester, MCF, hearing that you guys had stopped by just to leave a comment now and then made me all... what's the word, Dave? Verklempt.


Wendy told me that MCF got a kick out of the fact that I'd given up computers but I was still playing the Xbox. Well, I didn't say that I was giving up everything computerized. If I did that, I wouldn't be able to drive my car, use our microwave, etc. I was just giving up the PC... mainly because of my compulsive blogging, blog-reading, and news-following. I never intended to go "computer-free" for all of Lent. I just intended to skip out on using our old Dell... the one I'm typing on right now.


So, yeah, I did use computers "of a kind." I did play video games and watch DVDs and yadda, yadda, yadda. But I didn't use the PC, and I congratulated myself repeatedly on my self control. Every time a friend or co-worker told me how "strong" I was I'd puff my chest up a bit and say yeah, it ain't easy, but it's worth it because I'm becoming so much better, getting so much out of it, etc, etc.


And the ugly truth is, it was all BS.


It hit me today like a ton of bricks. I have gotten NOTHING out of skipping PC use. In fact, if anything, it had a negative effect on me. I actually allowed this trivial bit of "abstinence" to turn into a point of pride. Somehow, I managed to turn myself into my own personal Jesus. Big, brave me... I haven't looked at the daily news at imdb in more than a month.


Man, I feel so stupid. I ascribe to a religion prescribes kindness, charity, and love as the cure for the world's ills... and I've thought I was doing my part by getting my news from the TV instead of the PC.


Now, I will admit that I did do a few things right over the past month. I have gotten into a bit more of a regular routine of prayer, and I've really learned personally about the positive meditative effects of praying the Rosary. I've also spent more time with the family, and that's always good. But, for the most part, what I "gave up" for Lent amounted to nothing. I skipped out on one of my hobbies and indulged the others all the more. I played video games, watched movies, read books... and I congratulated myself on how selfless I am.


There's a couple at church who Wendy and I have really gotten to know and like. John and Debbie. We were talking to them about Lent a week or two ago and John told us that Debbie never gives up anything for Lent. Instead, she tries to take on something extra... some sort of act of kindness and good will toward others that she normally tells herself she doesn't have time for.


It's noteworthy that it was John who passed on this little fact about his wife. Debbie didn't tell us herself. If she had, that would have defeated the purpose. She isn't doing her Lenten good deed for personal glory. That's the whole point.


And so, shamefacedly, I return to the blogosphere, having benefited in no real way from my PC abstinence. I'm making a point of returning BEFORE Lent is over, lest anyone congratulate me on actually pulling it off. I don't want to be congratulated on having done nothing worth mentioning. I don't deserve even light-hearted congratulations. I deserve to be mocked. Picked on. Made fun of.


So commence with the ridicule... but please keep it fairly light, huh? As of this second, I feel pretty stupid as it is.


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