Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart

Today is my fourth anniversary. My wife and I have been married four years today.

Time flies.

Here's a picture of our wedding attire.

Girl Meets World Promo

This makes me squee. I just can't help myself.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Would You Learn if You Could?

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by CollegeDegrees360 of Flickr
Sometimes, I think about school and how I spent so many years trying to get out of it. When they say youth is wasted on the young, it always makes me think of school. I spent most days completely miserable being there, and--especially high school--it was such a tumultuous time in my life that I was more worried about the emotional roller coaster going on inside my skull than I was about the deeper meanings of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

That isn't to say that I wasn't interested in learning. I made good grades--A’s and B’s consistently--and I loved English class. But there are so many things that I wish I’d spent more concentrating on. I took Spanish in high school and college, and I still have virtually no ability to speak it. My math skills are pretty bad. And I’m borked when it comes to a basic understanding of the sciences.

I keep a wishlist of things that I can’t afford to buy now, but would like to get someday. On that list are a couple of textbooks for algebra, biology, physical science because someday I’d really like to get the time to brush up on those subjects. I just feel everyone should be well informed in the basic subjects.

However, that got me to thinking about what I’d like to learn if I could go back to school and just study whatever.

I’d love to take some survey courses over specific topics. In college I took some survey classes on Edgar Allan Poe, Mythology, and slavery, but I’d love to take some classes heavy on, say, just the Reconstruction period of the US with a focus on the racial politics. I’d love to take a class over the suffrage movement and really get into some details about other suffragettes than Susan B. Anthony. I’d also love to take a class that examines gender classifications in different cultures throughout history. I know not every culture was as binary as we are currently. Even the Greeks had gray areas here and there. I’d love to learn more about that.

In addition, and assuming that I was able to brush up on my sciences some, I’d like to take classes on astronomy and quantum physics. I know that would be a huge jump, especially quantum physics, but that’s what really gets my nerd brain pumping. Concepts like multiple dimensions bumping causing the Big Bang, what existed before time...that stuff sounds so damn cool!

Finally, I’d love to learn some languages. German would be great to help me understand and appreciate English. Spanish is practical where I live, and at this point it just feels disrespectful not learning it. But I’d also love to learn Hindi, as there are tons of people from India or of Indian descent that live in my area.

I try to learn stuff as often as I can. The more informed you are, it seems like the better choices you can make. And the more I learn about other cultures and other people, the better I can relate to them and empathize. Which hopefully makes me a better person, and probably a better writer. Mind you, that last part would just be an added bonus, not my soul reasoning.

What would you learn if you had the opportunity, assuming time and money were not constraints?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Settling in at the New Casa

Springtime should be when everyone starts shaking off their winter blues, going outside, and getting frisky...or at least, I assume that’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s what my dog does, anyway. It’s when my birthday falls, so I have a particular affinity for it. I haven’t reached that age yet where the years feel like water slipping between the fingers of my cupped hands, so I don’t really mind birthdays, and spring seems an appropriate time for celebrations of birth.

Spring in Arkansas has a special meaning, however. It means storms. The old cliche “April showers bring may flowers” is true, but only if a tornado doesn't come and rip your poor bed up by their spindly roots.

The first night in our new house, we experienced a special treat: a thunderstorm. I decided to record the moment for posterity, because my new backyard looks into a cemetery. I was too perfect to pass up.

I tried to snap a picture of a lightning flash, but I couldn't time it right.

But it seemed the picturesque moments didn't want to end. Because about an hour or so later, i went out back to let my dog out and managed to snap this beautiful shot as well.

So that’s nice.

We’re settling into the new house just great. I’m fond of our backlot neighbors. They’re quiet, and keep to themselves. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

John Pinette: March 23, 1964 - April 5, 2014

Image from: dbking of Flickr
One of my absolute favorite comedians died yesterday.

John Pinette was in some goofy-ass movies. They were usually pretty bad. But he was also one of the funniest people I've ever seen. Someone who could spin a story like no one's business. He was a large man, and while he indulged in self-deprecating jokes about his weight, they weren't jokes that indicated he was ashamed of his size. And that was beautiful.

He had a love of food. He liked to eat, and he liked to eat well. He often lambasted the concept of eating things that were good for you but tasted like shit.

He was one of the few comedians that I found almost unadulterated joy in watching.

The world is definitely a darker place now. Let this video bring you some light.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Things I Learned Buying a House

Photo from Mark Moz of Flickr
As I've mentioned before, my wife and I were in the process of buying a house. We can thankfully say that we closed yesterday, we're moved in, and we can really get settled in. In dealing with this whole process, however, we've come away with a few lessons.

1) It’s difficult to get a loan.

I don’t know what they were doing back when the financial crisis hit. They must have been giving out free house loans with every ten Big Macs you get at McDonald’s or something, like a manic Oprah standing in front of the loan officers office, dazed and screaming, “YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN! YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN! YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN!!!!” Because it was goddamned difficult to convince the bank that my wife and I were the type of people that should be given money for a house.

Our real estate agent was regaling us with horror stories of failed house-purchasing-attempts--and some of them were tragic. People that had everything going for them, and lost it all because they weren't aware just HOW picky the bank would be. One guy apparently had to reapply for his loan because the bank declined it because he got A NEW, BETTER PAYING JOB. Youch.

2) Often, there’s a reason houses are cheap.

I love to bargain hunt because I’m a cheap bastard that will probably need to have my last penny pried out of my long-dead, clenched fist. I was really poor growing up, which means my knee-jerk reaction to any spending is to say, “Yeah, but do you really need clothes? Can’t you just tie some garbage bags together and shoot for the “post-apocalyptic New Rome” look?”

However, when looking for houses, I low-balled how much it would cost and how much I was willing to look for by quite a bit. And boy-howdy, y’all. Some places are cheap for a reason. If it looks like the last time your house had anybody do any repairs was during the Carter Administration, you’re not going to get a lot of potential buyers.

3) Do NOT judge the house by website pictures alone.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, sometimes those thousand words are the best cherry-picked words out of a 5000 word hate-screed that screams RUN AWAY NOW! In that same way, some houses look absolutely adorable on screen. And then you go visit.

Some houses are perfectly nice as long as you don’t mind living in front a roadway as clogged as Ronald McDonald’s arteries.

Some houses are fine if you ignore the giant, sludge filled drop off just to the side of it.

Some houses are perfect for you, if you can ignore the gigantic Wal-Mart industrial shipping complex in your backyard.

In the same vein, while some houses only look nice in photos, some houses don’t look that impressive in photos, but are actually awesome in person.

I mean, try to get the full impression of the Taj Mahal in a photograph and you’re going to miss a few things. And I’m not comparing my new house to the Taj Mahal (actually, I am. I live in the Taj Mahal. Don’t let the guards know--I've been stealing their cable), but when I first saw a picture, I thought, “Meh. Not terrible, but nothing great.” Then, my wife convinced me to go check it out, and I wound up loving it.

4) Clean your room. NOW!

As we were packing to move, I was amazed at the sheer amount of junk that we had amassed in a few short years. That, however, wasn't the half of it. Sure we had a lot of junk that we started gathering up to throw away, but I was astounded by the amount of dirt and grime everywhere.

My wife and I, we’re not neat people. But we tried to keep the house clean. The living room and kitchen were picked up (most of the time). The kitchen, we took the trash out, tried to keep the dishes done up, the table cleaned off, the floors mopped. But y’all, that bedroom almost never got touched.

Sure, we’d pick up the clothes, put them in the hamper, do laundry, that kind of stuff. We occasionally made the bed, took our dishes back into the kitchen, the usual. But sweep? Rarely. Dust? Ha! If dust being comprised mostly of dead human skin is true, my wife and I should be walking, pulsating nightmares straight out of Lovecraft.

So, if you made it a habit of ignoring your mothers, just...y’know...give that ol' sleep space a once over with a broom or vacuum once a month. You’ll be glad you did when the time comes to leave it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Tolling of the Quarter Century Bell

Today is my birthday! Happy birthday to me! Release the streamers! Release the clowns! Release the stream of clown--ghastly grinning, pearl-white faces gazing into the blackness of your immortal soul, smiling, smiling, smiling in the face of oblivion forever!

Or something.

My birthday has pretty much arrived. I'm getting myself a house. Extravagant, maybe, but I think I'm worth it. My wife got me a set of those nifty ceramic non-stick pans, which go nicely with our kitchen and will be super exciting to cook on.

She also got unexpected.

This might require some explanation.

Chuck Wendig wrote a post a while back about how self-publishing's lack of gatekeepers is both a blessing and a curse. On the bad side of it, he wrote:
"I can literally write the word 'fart' 100,000 times and slap a cover of [a] baboon urinating into his own mouth, then upload that cool motherfucker right to Amazon. Nobody would stop me. Whereas, at the Kept Gates, a dozen editors and agents would slap my Baboon Fart Story to the ground like an errant badminton birdie."
This guy, Phronk, did exactly that. He literally wrote a book that is the word "fart" repeated 100,00 times. Holy Christ, you guys.

The thing is, I appreciate the sort of biting critique of the self-publishing thing that Phronk did, but this book is actually much much more than that. And no...I'm not actually joking. Because I took the time to skim through the book. I mean, I didn't literally read it word for word, as it's just the word "fart" 100,000 times (Seriously, holy shit, my wife bought me a $12 book that just says "fart" over and over again. This is why our marriage works, people), but it's the formatting that kills me.

It's clear that this guy didn't just spam the word "fart" over and over again. There's formatting. There's mechanics that mimic the English language--commas, quotation marks, periods, semicolons. There's dialog lines broken up like conversations of statement/response patterns, a seemingly...dream-sequence type thing. Chapter names. It's pure and glorious madness of the highest degree.

There are also a few deliciously hilarious hidden jokes.


But enough about Baboon Fart Story. I want to dwell a moment on turning 25.

In my quarter century of experience, I've seen my share of ups and downs. I've seen some shit. I've also met the woman of my dreams, married her, we've got a house, a dog, two cars. I'm damn close to living the quaint American dream so many pursue. I also see how easily it could be ripped away from me.

We've got some things coming to us soon. They're some big scary changes, and buying a house is only the start. This is a year of us making Big Plans and hoping those Plans aren't soap bubbles in a sneezing child's palm.

Birthdays when you're a kid are times to get excited. Birthdays when you're old are times to get all clammy and shifty-footed as you see the Reaper queuing up to shake your hand. But birthdays when you're in the middle? I think they're times for reflection. A sort of personal New Year's Day. And so far, I've done okay. I have places I'd like to improve, but I'm doing okay.

But I want to take a moment to thank you, Dear Reader, for following along with me. Thanks.

Now grab some cake, try the punch, and try to keep your pants on this time. I barely had enough Lysol to get your butt-prints off the copier last time.