Saturday, December 1, 2012

you don't really like geeks

Photo: Nils Geylen

Is being a geek really cool now?  Having been a geek my entire life, I don't think so.  I believe this despite the growing number of t-shirts that express an affection for nerds.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but sometime between my adolescence and adulthood (i.e. in the last 15-ish years), it supposedly became "chic" to be a geek.

It probably had something to do with Bill Gates becoming the richest man in the world for a while.  Then the dot com era solidified the idea that computers can make you rich.

Perhaps this uptick in acceptable nerdery led to the Spiderman reboot, which in turn caused the barrage of superhero and comic book movies that rule the box office today.

Then there was the merchandise.  From gadgets to throwback Star Wars t-shirts, the market evolved to capture all of this newly prospected geek gold.

But liking technology and going to see superhero movies hardly makes one a geek.

Geekdom is to today what metrosexuality was to the early-to-mid 2000s.  That is, a small segment of the population swayed the market enough to make nearly everyone think they were part of the club.

Ladies, here's how you can know if you really love a geek or not:
- If there are no photos of him from some hygienically-challenged (i.e. bad haircut, greasy hair, oily face, awkward facial hair, etc.) point in his life, he's not a geek.
- If he works with computers but doesn't enjoy them as a hobby, he's not a geek.
- If you understand everything he talks about, he's not a geek (or you are too).
- If he hasn't taken care of at least one problem in your home (mechanical, medical, logistical, etc.) by consulting the internet, he's not a geek.
- If you haven't yet learned to appreciate the story of at least one superhero or space-themed movie/tv series that you never would have watched otherwise, he's not a geek (or you don't love him).  (Note: "Appreciate the story" does not mean finding enjoyment in ogling Robert Downey, Jr.; Ryan Reynolds; Chris Pine; etc.)
- If one of your romantic gestures towards him hasn't been giving in to watching one of the aforementioned types of movies/tv series, he's not a geek (or you don't love him).
- If you have always had an easy time navigating entertainment devices in your living room via remote control, he's not a geek.
- If his wardrobe hasn't become at least 20 percent more fashionable because of your influence on his life, he's not a geek.
- If his wardrobe doesn't still have at least 20 percent to go to actually look stylish, he's not a geek.
- If he has to read the manual to set up a new gadget, he's not a geek.
- If you've never complained about the number of wires in your living room, he's not a geek (or he's also a contractor who buried them in the walls).
- If you regularly watch anything in standard definition or without surround sound, he's not a geek.
- If you haven't gotten yelled at for not knowing what standard definition or surround sound are, he's not a geek.

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Two questions for my readers:
- If you watch The Big Bang Theory and enjoy it, do you laugh because they're so geeky and weird that it's funny to you or because you can relate?
- What else belongs on this list from the geeks you love?

Friday, September 21, 2012

What if there was no God?

photo: Ann Douglas


"If today you were confronted with absolutely undeniable evidence that there was no God and thus no reason to continue living as a Christian ought to live, what would you change?"

A friend posted this question on facebook a few weeks ago.

After taking some time to think about it, this is how I responded:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ESV)

One of the few things about which the Bible in unequivocally clear about is that if Jesus did not raise from the dead, Christians are fools worthy of pity.

While I believe that many Christians would continue living a fairly Christian lifestyle, even in the face of absolute evidence disproving God, the Bible itself says that would be foolish. I would guess that some would do it out of skepticism (i.e. "just in case the evidence is wrong"). 

Others would probably do it believing the old adage that "Even if Christianity isn't true, it's still the best way to live." This argument is based on concepts like generosity, kindness, selflessness, etc., saying that Christianity best instructs these concepts. A correct understanding of Christian theology, however, states that Christians perform moral behaviors out of reverence for Christ and because of his sacrificial atonement. In fact, the Bible teaches us to expect that absent the working of God's Spirit in our lives after having been made new creations in Christ, we would be quite sinful and bad as people.

I will grant that the Christian concept of sin would have to be thrown out the window because such proof would undermine the entire Bible, but following that line of thinking, all Judeo-Christian morality would have to be thrown out the window as well.

Presuming Jacob's [a previous commenter] accuracy in saying that morality is an inherent human trait, we would all be faced with the task of redefining our morality, as Jacob correctly reasoned. I like Jonny's [the poster of the original question] idea of remaining generous to friends and family because that makes sense. Beyond that, I think my moral code would be this: get away with whatever I could get away with, that would benefit me or those I care about, without getting caught or having significant negative ramifications. 

With that definition in mind, on account of a lack of moral absolutes, I would either purposefully or through atrophe loosen my moral standards so a lot fewer things offended my sensibilities. Much like an acquired taste for wine or weird smelling cheese, I would learn to embrace some of the "rotten" based on what level of enjoyment or benefit I took from it. I would seek out autonomy, benefit, and pleasure, opposing any law, person, or structure that stood in the way of this pursuit.

I know this to be true because this is how I lived before I began to follow Jesus.


------
Though this post is similar to the one I wrote about what my life would be like without Jesus, it is different in that it assumes that Christianity itself were untrue, not that I had simply departed from it or never espoused it.

Additionally, I was struck by my own phrase: "I would seek out autonomy, benefit, and pleasure, opposing any law, person, or structure that stood in the way of this pursuit."  This is what I see happening in our country today, and it grieves me.  I do not mourn it because other people aren't following my rules or because America is no longer legislating Judeo-Christian morality.  Rather, I mourn it because I truly believe that Christianity is true, that it is the best way to live, that those actively rebelling against the truth are pursuing their own misery and demise, and they are doing so believing they have found freedom.

This is not a haughty position of moral superiority.  Instead, it is the grief of a humble sinner who has been set free.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

on being the father of a daughter

That being a father suits me does not surprise me at all.

I always desired marriage, preferring it overwhelmingly to "the chase."  I value stability and reliability over impetuousness and indulgence.  Because of this, I am disinclined to suggest that my love of fatherhood is based off of any inherent personal virtue.  Rather, I have quite likely been an old man from the time of my birth.

Though it is a cliche mocked by our contemporaries, we didn't care whether our baby would be a boy or girl - we only cared about his/her health.  After two miscarriages, that sentiment actually carries some weight.

When we found out that our first viable pregnancy was carrying a girl, we were, at first, elated by her health and development.  Subsequently, I was almost immediately melancholic at the idea of having to one day give her away in marriage.  I am not much one for "living in the moment."

Much time has passed since that downcast moment in the ultrasound exam room.  Our daughter was born healthy and has now spent a vibrant six months on this planet [outside the womb].

While I am sure that I will love having a son, should God ever bless us in that way, in the time since our daughter's birth, I have realized that being the father of a daughter plays perfectly to everything I want to be as a man.

Any guy who has ever let out a satisfying whoop while watching Taken or Bad Boys II (during the "first date" scene) can testify, we have a bent to protect the ladies in our lives.  I swiftly squish spiders and mean-mug flirty toddlers at church in defense of my daughter.  Gun ownership seemed overly soaked in machismo before I had a daughter.  Now it seems fairly sensible.  In 10 years, it may become a necessity.

The boy or man who wishes to do my daughter harm will face a nemesis who makes Saddam Hussein look like a Care Bear.  Consider this your warning.

Thankfully, providing for my family in this day and age does not mean slugging out of a cave with a club in tow, hoping to bring back some Kentucky Fried Brontosaurus for dinner.  Still, it is never difficult to find motivation to work these days.  Her pretty blue eyes may make it difficult to justify leaving the house, but the drive to put pureed food in her yet-toothless mouth gives purpose to even loathsome tasks while on the clock.

Then there is levity.  Perhaps the best thing about being the father of a daughter is the increased quotient of silliness in our home.  Don't get me wrong, there was a reasonable amount here before, but now it has reached absurd proportions.  Singing, dancing, silly voices, impromptu puppet shows, and a host of undignifying noises and tactics are all on the table for inducing smiles and laughter from our tiny tyrant.  The world gets the defender, provider face, and she sees it enough to know she is safe.  Only she gets the clown-in-chief face, the quietly desired reward for the labor of my hands.

While I am honored to be a source of strength for her, I do those things so I can also be a source of her joy.

I want to be a picture of God and godliness to her.  She will see in her life that mommy is capable of taking out the trash, but she should see that daddy takes joy in serving his ladies.  She will know that discipline and tenderness flow rightly from the same hand and voice.  She will be loved and cherished without condition, and she will be taught and corrected because this is what love does.

I am the father of a daughter, a trustee of a sacred duty, unworthy and unrelenting, but she can just call me "daddy."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

you can't go home again

photo: Raj Lulla Photography - taken with VSCO Cam

We moved back to Nebraska this week.  I called this place home for 21 of my 28 years of life so far.

Technically, we do not live in Omaha-proper, but I cannot bear to update my facebook "current city" information to reflect such a fact.  Metro area counts, right?

This morning, we will attend a church that my friend Ben started a few years ago, not the church of my childhood.  I have a hard time feeling like that church exists anymore.  Only two of the original families still attend there, and I hardly recognize anyone when I visit.  The pastor who started and led the church for 20-plus years no longer preaches there.  That may seem insignificant, but I heard him speak over 1,000 times when I was younger.  For me, his voice and those original people are the identity of that church much more than the building and sign out front.

Omaha (and its outlying areas - of which I am now a part) has changed a lot since I left five years ago.  New and bigger freeways and highways were erected.  The population nearly doubled.  A democratic presidential candidate took one of our electoral votes in the last election - something that had never happened in my lifetime.

I am working at the college I attended, but it relocated to the Omaha-area from the city where I matriculated 100 miles from here.  This move has provoked no small amount of jealousy in me, and I frequently remind current students how good they have it.

My living room, in addition to not being located in my childhood home, has a sock monkey, an ExerSaucer, and other various baby items and toys in it.  I was neither a husband or father last time I lived here. These roles have fundamentally and joyfully redefined the word "home" for me.

When I left as a young bachelor, home was a place I had to visit on vacation from my new residence in California.  Now it is defined by wherever my wife and daughter dwell with me, no matter the address.  The confluence of my city of origination and the home God has built around me still seems somewhat surreal.  I never really imagined the two would or even could coexist.

For all the ways in which everything is familiar here, multiple counterparts exist which are equally new and strange.  To say I "moved home" would be like putting on a red cape and calling myself Superman.  It may look strikingly similar, but the realities could not be farther apart.

I brought my home with me to the place where I grew up.  Not the items that filled 16 feet of Budget truck but the people who are the gravitational center of my universe and the identity that they help form around me.

"Going home" is no longer an option for me, and I am thankful for it.  I don't miss the aimless and lonely  subterranean existence in the quarters of my parents' home.  Thankful as I am for their generosity and renewed proximity, I have no desire to go back to the way things used to be.  Plus, my daughter brings them more joy than I possibly could, so I am quite sure they would never want it that way.

I have one of the rare joys in life: making a home in a place that is familiar, filled with happy memories, surrounded by loved ones, and brimming with potential for more.  The good life, indeed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

we're moving

photo: Thomas Beck

Lindsey and I moved to Salt Lake City almost exactly one year ago to love people and hopefully show Jesus to some of them.

From the beginning things were not exactly how we had planned.  Our church had pulled its support over philosophical and theological differences, Lindsey was just entering the second trimester of her pregnancy, and neither of us had jobs.

But that is the nature of steps of faith.  If they go according to plan, then they are really just steps.

We both got jobs, enrolled Lindsey in Utah's fantastic medicaid program, and we made some really great friendships.

In our time here, we have had conversations that I never even dreamed were possible in the United States.  For some of our friends, we are the only (non-Mormon) Christians they have ever met, which allowed us to have very real and honest conversations about our faith.

Were it only for the friendships and serving people, we would certainly stay.

But in March, my dad had heart surgery.  Two days afterwards, he asked me to move back to Omaha.  He wanted my help.  

My dad has never asked for anything from me.

Most importantly, this move will allow me to be near my dad at a unique time in his life.  His last child moves out of the house on Friday.  He has never had the opportunity to live near one of his grandchildren.  And he is just coming off of life-saving heart surgery.

Additionally, it will provide us with some much needed financial stability.  After Charlotte was born, Lindsey stopped working, and my two jobs and a struggling small business don't leave any margin for luxuries like doctors' visits.

We started this journey wanting to obey God's calling on our lives.  While it would have been glamorous and adventurous to start a successful church in a state that is only 1.5% Christian, it is humble and right to honor my father and his request.

We look forward to what God has in store for this next chapter of our lives.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

tips for new dads from a new dad

photo: Raj Lulla Photography

1. If she's quiet in the car, she's either sleeping or pooping.  Grab the gloves and tongs if her eyes aren't closed when you open the car door.  Hazmat suit if she's smiling.

2. Six [plus] weeks is a long time to wait for happy-fun-married-time to resume, but your wife just had dynamite go off in her ladyparts, so be generous and understanding.

3. Take the baby out with you: on walks, to the grocery store, on errands.  Your wife deserves a rest.  You need to build memories with your child.

4. If your wife stays home, she is starved for adult conversation all day.  Call on your breaks, and make sure to talk to her (not just the baby) when you get home.  Encourage her to take the stroller to the mall (or wherever) with other moms, and loosen up a little cash so she can.

5. Just because the baby is out doesn't mean that her body is going to just snap back to pre-pregnancy mode, especially if she is breastfeeding.  Plan on spending some money on a transition wardrobe, and smile while spending it because nobody watched you "allegedly" poop, scream, and swear while a human being emerged from your body.

6. Start early praying for/with your baby. It was difficult during the first couple of weeks because she was a light sleeper, but it got easier. It helps you focus on what you really hope for their lives.

7. Her hormones are on a roller coaster.  If she's not a danger to you, herself, or the baby, just ride it out.

8. Sleep in whatever arrangement works for the first few weeks (couch, etc), but after a little while, suck it up and get through a few tough nights in bed. You'll be able to sleep better soon enough. Invest in coffee or strong tea.

9. Practice random acts of chocolate.

10. You will not be able to defeat the tsunami of dirty diapers, dirty laundry, etc. but an extra load of laundry or trip to the curb makes everyone feel better.

11. Call once per week and ask if she would like you to pick up dinner on the way home.

12. If, on the day your wife your wife confides she is ready to resume happy-fun-married-time, you do not buy her flowers, you're an idiot.  You'll be tempted to hire a skywriter.  Resist that urge.

13. Love used to be spelled "t-i-m-e."  Now it's spelled "d-i-a-p-e-r" or "S-t-a-r-b-u-c-k-s."  (Who am I kidding?  It has always been spelled "S-t-a-r-b-u-c-k-s," just moreso now.)

14. Things that used to take five minutes (i.e. leaving the house) now take 20.  Plan accordingly.

15. You will miss your baby when she is asleep the same way you used to miss your wife when you dropped her off at home after a date.  This is natural and does not make you a woman.

16. When she starts sleeping in her own room, check on her every night before you go to bed.  You will never regret this, even if you accidentally wake her up and (oh, darn) are forced to cuddle with/rock her until she falls back asleep.

17. If you have a daughter, buy a gun and practice your aim.  You are no longer a pacifist.  If you have a son, start teaching him self-control, or learn first aid.

Friday, June 1, 2012

sometimes my heart

photo: Gopher KC

Sometimes my heart breaks.

I almost cried on the way home tonight.  I rarely cry.  I hate crying.

But sometimes, it's too much.

A little boy was told tonight that he would be torn away from the most happiness and stability he has known in his short life.

Two friends' marriage is in trouble and on the brink of divorce.

People at work strive for more than they can reach, get stuck, and become frustrated and mean.

A friend's infant daughter grapples with an inoperable tumor that presses on her nerves and causes her near-constant pain.

Families squabble out of love, anger, and dismay.

The son of a good friend requires surgery on his skull.

Bills pile up.  Paychecks do not.

And these are only the things I know about.

I hear about more.

About a friend's family member being unspeakably attacked.

About injuries to innocent children.

I pray, and it helps, but prayer by nature admits powerlessness.

And yet, the same power that conquered the grave lives in me.  Some days it feels easier to summon than others.

Once I sat in a room with an atheist who claimed he doesn't believe anything is wrong with the world.  Apparently, he has never seen Born Into Brothels.

I hate having my heart broken for these hurts and not being able to do anything about them, but I also know that if my heart did not break for these hurts, I would certainly be causing some of them.

I hope and wish for more for some family, friends, and others than they even hope or wish for themselves.  I hope that God answers prayers for us even despite our own desires.

The same power.  The same.  If it conquered the grave and lives in me, how do I get it out?  Not out of me but more onto others?  I'm not a very good vessel sometimes.

Though the burden of seeing right from wrong, good from evil, just from unjust is heavy, I would not trade it for ignorance or apathy.

After all, the same power that conquered the grave lives in me.

I hope that C.S. Lewis was right in saying that "Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory."  I need an active heaven that spreads like a virus - one that reaches down and mops up sinful, broken messes, not an escapist fantasy with harps and clouds.

Joy, if it is going to be real joy, has to be stronger than the pain known apart from it..  Please God, give us joy, and let us be a source of joy to others who need it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

advice for moms-to-be from a new dad

photo: Raj Lulla Photography

Pregnant ladies, before you tear my head off and use it as a very furry ice cream bowl, please remember that this advice was solicited on facebook by my friend Haley before she had her little boy.  Another friend found it helpful, so I thought it was worth posting here.

Most of this advice is straight up stolen, not even borrowed, much of it from my sister who has four children.

I wrote these things in a sleep-deprived stupor five days after Charlotte was born.  There were originally 18, but then my friend Tonia pointed out that I had skipped number 12.

Without further delay, here are 17 helpful tips for you ladies who are about to have babies:
‎1. If you're planning on breast feeding, get easy snacks like trail mix and granola bars, whatever you like, that can be eaten one-handed and don't need warmed up.


2. Put diapers/supplies in the two or three places you most often sit or sleep.

3. Butt Paste and gas drops. Buy them now.

4. Buy a night light.

5. Your milk doesn't come in for about four days. No one tells you this. Your baby will be hungry and fussy because of this. Good luck sleeping those first few days.

6. Babies get a weird rash from being exposed to all the new stuff. Don't freak out.

7. Epidurals are awesome. Don't be a hero. 
(Before you get all hippie-granola, please remember that my wife was induced.  If you can handle Pitocin-induced contractions without drugs, then you are an impressive she-Hulk that I never want to make angry, meet in a dark alley, or challenge to a pie-eating contest.)

8. Feed then sleep. Let your husband and whatever family do the rest.

9. Buy extra pad things for yourself for your ladyparts. The aftermath is not pretty.

10. Get a swing and/or a bouncy seat. Set everything up now.

11. Don't just be parents. Be married too. Don't forget about each other. Try to spend at least a few meaningful moments together everyday.

12. The first week flies by. Pay all bills, etc. beforehand. You won't get anything else done, and you won't want to.

13. It's all totally worth it.

‎14. Reassure your husband he's a good dad, and the reason he can't stop the crying is because God didn't give him boobies.

15. Sleep however works. Bed, recliner, couch, etc. Same goes for your husband.

16. Prepare to have your heart stolen.


17. Post pregnancy hormones are intense. Added with no sleep, you will feel like a crazy person.

What other tips would you add for new mothers?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

four years of marriage by the numbers


One blog comment started it all.

One hundred eighty-six pages of e-mails starting four and a half months before we ever met (three months before even speaking to each other).

Two ten-digit phone numbers that connected us across fifteen hundred miles for six weeks before we met.

One iced vanilla latte and one iced chai that sealed our fate.

Eight months of dating.


Seven seasons of The West Wing watched and enjoyed (many times).

Countless burritos shared at Chipotle.


Six months of engagment.


Four years of marriage.

Three Cities.  Two states.
Four Apartments: Three one-bedroom.  One two-bedroom.
Two cars. Then one.

Twelve jobs:
Three jobs for her.
Three full-time jobs for me.
Six part-time jobs for me.

Three pregnancies:
Two miscarriages.
One beautiful baby.

Two guinea pigs. Then one. Then five. Now three. Soon zero?

Four churches. Two heartbreaking departures. One reconciliation.

One goal and purpose.

One love that will last a lifetime.

I love you, Lindsey!  Thank you for the four best years of my life!  Happy anniversary!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

in defense of television

The West Wing

I like television.  Some television, I love.

Maybe some day I will be as disciplined as John Piper and not even own a television, but I doubt it right now.

I read all the time about how TV is a "mindless distraction" and that we are all better off doing other, more valuable things with our time.  It peddles sex, drugs, and Glee to our children.  This box of evil must be destroyed before it destroys us.  Etc., etc.

But I also read about how stories help us process the world around us, giving us a sense of meaning and order in an a chaotic world.

Here's the truth: some television is bad.  It entertains but does not inform, titillates but does not inspire.  Some TV is to your brain what junk food is to your body, and both expand the size of your butt.

I believe, however, that some television is good.  Just because we don't gather around the town square to hear minstrels and bards tell stories anymore doesn't mean that we've given up on shared cultural stories.  In fact, I will bet that some teenager was scolded in the 1590s for attending a Shakespearean production because "that stuff will rotteth your brain."

For me, watching The West Wing has caused me to consider how to live out my values in public, that is whether following Jesus is best done by legislating my morals or by living them out authentically and persuasively.  Watching House, M.D. raised issues such as honesty, integrity, work ethic, humility, and self control.

Jersey Shore is unlikely to make you any more virtuous, but Parenthood might.

You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of entertainment they consume.  What do they find funny, objectionable, immoral, meaningful, insightful, etc.?  In fact, Lindsey and I had our first serious conversation because I asked her what kind of music she liked.  Television is both an influence on and a reflection of who we are.

Television is our modern oral history.  We shouldn't burn our books and bow down to the tube, but maybe we should calm down, throw our arms around the family and enjoy new epics, romances, dramas, comedies, and satire being beamed into our homes.  Then, we should have lively discussions around dinner tables about what we saw and what we believe and how stories should change us or give us resolve to stay the course.

It's time to come out of hiding.  What television do you like?  Or hate?

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Author's note: As a family, we do not currently subscribe to cable or watch many over-the-air programs.  Nearly all of our television consumption is through Hulu.  DVR and Hulu cut way down on advertisements and time spent in front of the television.  They're worth considering if you want TV to be a part of your life, not controlling it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

photographers

As an aspiring photographer, I look up to a great number of artists in the field.

My friend Bryce, also a photographer, suggested I do some photography reviews on here, but I hardly feel qualified to critique others at this point.  Instead, let me introduce you to some people who I think are doing work worthy of notice.

- Zach Hodges: I had the privilege of working alongside Zach over the last couple of years doing music at our church.  He taught me nearly everything I know about working a camera, but don't let that negatively impact your opinion of him.  Zach also works for Visual Supply Co., which I cannot wait to get.  (Hey Zach, if VSCO needs beta testers for T2i support, give me a call.)

Zach is based out of Southern California and takes beautiful sun-soaked natural light pictures.  My favorite thing about Zach's photography is how he is so stinking creative with his use of the scene.  I don't know if he's an incredible location scout, ridiculously creative on the fly, or both, but I love that aspect of his photos.
photo: Zach Hodges Photography
- Peter Schweitzer: Peter was doing the "photo-a-day challenge" long before anyone else I know was doing it.  I don't know exactly where Peter would consider himself on the hobbyist-to-professional spectrum, but I think he does "slice of life" photos better than anyone I know.

Peter shot our wedding and did a wonderful job capturing candid moments, which is what we really wanted.  He is also an airplane mechanic, is restoring his house, and is awesome to hang out with (as is his wife).
photo: Daily Photo Fix
- Troy Grover: Troy and I briefly attended the same high school.  We each went our separate ways, but I discovered through facebook a few years ago that we both ended up in California.  At that time, I also discovered that Troy was on his way to becoming a hugely successful photographer.

He he shot campaigns for Nike and other major businesses.  In my humble opinion, everything Troy shoots looks like it belongs in a magazine.  Seems all the wedding websites (Grey Likes Weddings, et. al.) agree.
photo: Troy Grover Photographers
- Trevor Hoene: I have only met Trevor a couple of times socially, but my wife went to college with him.  From his recent work, however, you would hardly know that he has any connections at all with ordinary (i.e. not famous) people.  Lately, he seems to be booked entirely by magazine shoots and album covers.

In addition to his fabulous work, the best thing about Trevor is his continued work with 31 Bits.  31 Bits is a jewelry company that teaches marketable skills to internally displaced Ugandan women and connects them with an audience wanting to buy their products.
photo: Trevor Hoene

As with anything, I'm constantly being inspired by other up and coming photographers.  I will try to mention them as I come across them.

Whose photographs do you like?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

photo: Inara Studios

I had a dream last night that one of my friends who has served overseas with the military died in combat. Thankfully, he's back home and not eligible for deployment again, so it was just a dream.

Nevertheless, it struck me that I have many military friends, and I am grateful that I have never lost one. It is easy to let that lure me into a false sense of security for me friends.

Movies make it seem our friends our invincible but nameless "extras" are expendable. Tell that to the guys who come home and hate fireworks, almost wreck the family car to avoid a shopping bag in the street, or wake up screaming with night terrors.

In my dream, the smallest things brought tears. Handwritten reminders or old voicemails. A life cut short doesn't depart with tearful goodbyes, it leaves behind scraps of paper and unfinished plans.

Regardless of the geopolitical mess we find ourselves in during any given year, there is great honor in choosing to serve, protect, and defend. Selflessness is never wrong, and devotion and discipline are praiseworthy.

I am so thankful for my friends who are safe back home, that their families are still whole and their sacrifice is done. I pray for my friends who have not yet completed their tours. May God ever be your rear guard.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

a future letter to my daughter explaining why I wept at her wedding

photo: Raj Lulla Photography

Dear [Future] Charlotte,

If you are reading this letter, it is because I bawled and blubbered at your wedding, and I would like to explain why.

Right now, you are almost four months old.  A little over three and a half months ago, you and I spent the first hour of your life together in the nursery at the hospital.  They whisked you away because you had a little fluid on your lungs and were not crying very much.  The fluid cleared up, but you wouldn't give in on the crying, even after they gave you a bath.  Stubborn, quiet, and crazy black hair sticking up all over your head, you were definitely my daughter.

We brought you home, and even though everyone said that your calmness would not last, it has.  You are sweet, smiley, affectionate, and rarely fussy.

By the time that you are reading this, you will know that I hate cliches, and I avoid them whenever possible.  More than once have I rolled my eyes once the father of the bride took the microphone and explained that in his eyes the bride was still his four-year-old little girl.  Well, now I understand, and while I am still not one for histrionics, I probably just gave a speech that sounded like that to everyone else.

So why did I weep?

For the past nearly four months, I have checked on you in the middle of the night, especially if you got fussy after your mom went to bed.  When I go in to put your pacifier back in, you wrestle me a little bit because you like to suck your thumb (adorably), but I know that it won't keep you asleep.  After I finally win, and I always do, you grab my thumb with one of your hands and my pinkie with the other as though you are trying to steer me like a car.

Everything you do, from the way you smile at me and babble when I come home from work to the way you rest your hand on my chest when I rock you to sleep, connects with my deepest nature as a man to protect, grow, serve, and lead.  When I hold you, your tiny fist grabs my t-shirt so tightly that you don't let go even after you fall asleep, reminding me that I am needed in your little world.

We have prayed every night since you were born for the man that you will marry, and I assume that you found him.  As your dad, this is bittersweet.  I can no longer be your protector (unless he slips up and I need to end him, of course), and I am glad for that but also sad.  You have never existed in this world apart from our family and never lived except in our home.

I hope the adage is true that a father never loses a daughter but instead gains a son, and I hope his family doesn't mind when we steal the two of you away as often as possible.

I love you.  Congratulations!

Love,
Dad

Friday, May 25, 2012

"two a-holes" no more

Saturday Night Live has been pretty stale for a long time, but they did at least one thing right in recent years.  That one thing is the "Two A-holes" sketch.

Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis played, well, two a-holes in different scenarios.  If you have ever worked retail or really ever been out in public at all, you have met these people.  He is the guy who is always wearing the Bluetooth earpiece, probably more to show off his importance than to take calls - only slightly classier than the guy who hangs two fake testicles from the bumper of his truck.  She texts constantly while smacking her gum and half-heartedly listening, even after having asked a question.

This sketch doled out a sweet measure of justice on behalf of those of us who must suffer these self-important people, their outlandish demands, stingy tips, and arrogant impatience everyday.  For a couple of minutes on Saturday nights, America was the judge and jury, finding these "a-holes" guilty and sentencing them to public mockery.

Sadly, Kristen Wiig's last episode was last Saturday, so it's unlikely we will see the "a-holes" again except when she hosts or makes a cameo.  Here is some of their finest work:







Thank you for the laughs, Kristen.  We will miss you on the show.

people I admire

photo: Robert Goodwin

I often feel like an ant compared to the giants of strength, courage, integrity, and redemption God has placed in my life.

Today, I don't want this post to be about me.  Instead, it's going to be about people I admire.  You'll probably be able to identify some of them, but I'm only going to use first names and vague details because I didn't ask permission to talk about them.

I admire:
Dan - He just welcomed his fourth child into the world.  Only two are biologically his, but I didn't know that until several months after meeting him because it's impossible to tell the difference by the way he fathers them.  Dan is an incredible picture of how God has adopted us into His family after we separated ourselves from Him.  He is also ridiculously smart and expertly bearded.

Eric - I learned a few weeks ago that Eric carries around a much heavier load than I ever imagined.  He doesn't grumble or complain.  Instead, he volunteers and makes other people laugh.  I also learned that his razor-sharp wit is backed up by a profound intelligence which makes him about one hundred times cooler than I had ever realized.

Ben - Ben started a church a few years ago.  When I visited that church a few months ago, I saw people who had been friends with Ben long before he became a pastor sitting in the front row learning the Bible from him.  This clearly meant to me that these people see that Ben is truly being changed for the better by what he believes.

Joseph - Joseph may, in fact, be the smartest person I have ever met.  You probably don't understand what a compliment that is, but my circle of friends includes people who have gotten near-perfect scores on all of the standardized tests that matter, philosophers, biologists, physicists, engineers, etc.  He recently decided to dramatically alter his career path because his family is more important to him than the title.  I cannot even express how much I want to be like this guy.  I am challenged to grow my intellect, be a harder worker, discipline myself physically, and be a more faithful follower of Jesus every time we talk.

Phil - He is at once the gruffest, funniest, and most soft-hearted father I have ever seen.

Dan - He taught me to be sarcastic many years ago, but now his life models deep sincerity (while still being uproariously funny).  This year, he will welcome his fourth son into the world.  We don't talk about it a lot, but I know that Dan fights to have a faith devoid of cliche and fluff.  I can't wait to see what a clan of mighty men he raises.

Please know there are many other men I greatly admire, and had I the time or space, I would give them each their due tribute.  Perhaps in time I will.

Who do you admire?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the MRS degree

photo: Vernon Swanepoel

At Christian Colleges, a curious phenomenon known as the MRS degree program exists.

The MRS degree takes its name from the abbreviation "Mrs." Young women who have no intention of finishing college undertake this endeavor in order to meet an eligible Christian young man, marry him, and begin producing offspring as soon as humanly possible.

Some of these girls are beautiful, sweet, and get snatched up quickly, wasting only a minimal amount of their college fund (so it may be reappropriated into a wedding fund). Many others, ahem, "have a good heart." By "have a good heart," I mean they harbor chips on their shoulders so large they would have to be dipped in an Olympic-swimming-pool-sized vat of guacamole.  Imagine the movie Teen Wolf if Michael J. Fox had a bridezilla inside rather than a werewolf.

Those chip-bearing MRS ladies make up the majority of the "major," often garnering enough credits for multiple degrees while waiting for unsuspecting new classes of fresh meat . . . er, coeds to arrive.  While most of the ladies who move through Christian schools are there to learn about the Bible and lead productive and generous lives, these MRS women are ruled by a ruthless biological clock.

When I worked at my small Christian college's bookstore, I was tasked with writing letters to announce monthly specials to each group of majors our school offered.  January was ten percent off for youth ministry, February for music majors, etc.  During a period of writer's block for one of these assignments, I began to feel bad for the MRS ladies at our school, so I wrote a letter announcing a sale just for them.

Sadly, it was never sent, as it was a bit awkward trying to ascertain which ladies were there to study and which ones were there to poach.  This probably ensured my safety as well. (Please note, all perceived misogyny was the result of a couple of bad relationships/break-ups and does not reflect my view on the wonderful and precious gift that is the female gender.)

Nevertheless, with college far behind us, I present to you the letter for MRS degree appreciation month from our bookstore:


September 27, 2005


Dear Ms. MRS Degree Student,

                At the bookstore we think that just because you’re here to lure a man into your clutches shouldn’t mean that you don’t get a discount like everyone else.  Therefore we hereby proclaim this as MRS degree month at the college bookstore.
                Hungry for the latest dating/snaring advice?  Check out our “Relationships” section.  You’ll receive 10% on those and all other books this month.  That discount is on top of the already low price for our featured item this month, the latest book in the I Kissed Dating Goodbye series.  It’s called I French-Kissed Dating Until I Found Someone that I Could Guilt Into Marrying Me.  If that doesn’t hit you where you live, nothing will.
                Even if you’re not in a relationship yet, it’s never too soon to start stocking up on collegiate children’s apparel.  Lucky for you those items and all other apparel are 10% off just for you special ladies.  Buy a new sweatshirt for that special guy you’ve been stalking – oops, pursuing since you stole his while he was sleeping and smell it every night before you go to bed.
                While you’re here, pick up a new Devotional Bible at 15% off.  That way, when your roommate hoodwinks some unwitting young lad into a blind date with you she can at least mean it when she says that you’ve “got a great personality.”  All other Bibles are 15% off for you as well.  Might as well get something thick to read – you could be waiting a while.
                Also this month you can pre-order the latest work by Gary Chapman (author of the bestseller The Five Love Languages).  For just $17.99 you can order his new book The Six Love Animals of Desperate Women.  If you pre-order before November 1st, you’ll receive the study guide companion for free when the book arrives.  The study guide offers note-taking sections and quizzes to help you determine if you’re a Vulture, Lioness, Barnacle, Leech, Black Widow, or Great White Shark as a lover.  Critics call Chapman’s latest work, “genius” and proclaim that men are “dropping like flies or at least like disoriented hikers” thanks to this book’s advice.
                Hurry in!  Last one down the aisle is a rotten egg!

                                                             Your Tag-Em and Bag-Em Bookstore Staff,
                                                             Ann Landers and Dear Abby

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

all things together for good?

Ebenezer Parry 1877 - photo: Waen

I became a Christian in 1996 at the age of 12.  Since that time, I spent many hours in youth group and church.  I studied the Bible for four years at Nebraska Christian College, and I have worked in full-time ministry off and on for the last five years.

Sadly, it wasn't until about four years ago that I really started to wrestle with my unbelief.  I had a general belief in God that was unshakable - too many unexplained things out there (i.e. even if there was a big bang, where did that come from?, etc.).  Also, I believed that the God of the Hebrew Bible and subsequently the New Testament was most likely the true God (based on archaeology, history, etc.).

What I doubted about God was His goodness.  You know that verse that annoying Christians like to trot out when you're going through something difficult, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 ESV)?  That never seemed to happen to me, and it only made me want to choke people who brought it up - in Christian love, of course.

I committed my life to Jesus in junior high and apparently all things working together for good looked a heck of a lot like me still being a chubby loser, sporting a Pedro-from-Napoleon-Dynamite "mustache," and being ignored by girls like I was a math textbook.

But it got better.  I felt called to full-time ministry in high school, so I committed that I would do it.  This decision met patronizing, "That's so great (for you)!" comments from nearly every friend and teacher.  I got my heart broken my freshman year of college by a girl whose main reasoning was that she couldn't "be a pastor's wife."  (This ended up being fair reasoning because she enjoyed smoking pot much more than is usually acceptable for the woman occupying the front pew.)

Thankfully, it got even better.  My first ministry position out of college required me to move 1500 miles from my hometown, which I loved, to Riverside, California, which misery loves (sorry, Riverside friends, I couldn't resist).  That position lasted nine months.  In fact, had it been a gestation, I would've been a preemie on the way out.

It seemed to me that the God who was supposed to be working all things together for good in my life was sleeping on the job.  The more I followed Him, the less attainable good (i.e. girls and a couple of dollars in my pocket) became.

It was almost as if His definition of good and mine were different.

Now, as I look back, I see that His "good" was actually good, and mine, well, was not.

I see that in junior high, He wanted me to start learning to be content with who He created me to be, even if I didn't look like one of the boys from that @%$ band Hanson.

I see that through broken relationships He wanted me to learn that He desired better for me than I even wanted for myself.

I see that in failure He wanted me to learn humility, diligence, forgiveness, and resilience.

Since then . . .

I've seen in the heartbreak of miscarriage that we live in a broken world that highlights the joy of the one to come.

I've seen in job loss that I am not really the Provider.

I've seen in the tragic loss of a loved one that second chances are sometimes born out of grief.

I've seen that He is good but that my heart must be tuned to sing His grace.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

you're (probably) not doing it right: girl scout cookies edition (with a guest appearance from ice cream)

photo: Jay Cox

Eating Girl Scout Cookies out of the box is wrong.  That is, it's wrong if those cookies are Thin Mints or Peanut Butter Patties.

When I was younger, my mother introduced me to a hybrid.  No, this wasn't an early prototype of the Prius, it was a cookie or rather two cookies to be exact.

After you have been harangued by the tiny girls in green, ordered more treats than your waistline can afford, and received your tiny, expensive boxes of joy, do this:
1. Open both the Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties boxes.
2. Empty the cookies into a gallon-sized freezer bag.
3. Place bag in freezer and leave for a couple of days.
4. Enjoy your peanut-butter-flavored Thin Mints and your mint-flavored Peanut Butter Patties.

They're the best.  Trust me.

You're welcome.

By extension, there is something else that you have probably been doing wrong your whole life.

Conventional wisdom says that the best way to adorn mint ice cream is with chocolate chips.

When you want to get really crazy, you can add Oreos to mint ice cream.

Let's play a little logic game.  Peanut butter is good with chocolate.  Mint is good with chocolate.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that peanut butter, mint, and chocolate are all good together.

It turns out that the perfect items to mix into mint ice cream are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups - all the better if you can find the Dark Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  (Reese's Pieces are okay but too sweet to really strike the ideal flavor balance.)

If you are one of those freaks who don't like mint or peanut butter or chocolate or ice cream (or fun or puppies or Jesus or happiness), please don't bother commenting on this post disagreeing with me.  Just sit there and ponder silently by yourself how your life has gone off the tracks so badly.

For the rest of you, go enjoy the best bowl of ice cream you've ever had.  Feel free to send a picture of your smile afterward.

P.S. If you frequent TCBY as we do, get the Peanut Butter frozen yogurt, mixed with the White Chocolate Mousse, the mint chips (that look like little cut up Andes Mints), and the crushed peanut butter cups.

Monday, May 21, 2012

five programs you should start using (if you haven't already)

photo: Raj Lulla Photography (special thanks to Azina*)

If using your computer makes you want to beat your brains out, you aren't using it right. Or your computer sucks.

This post will help you with the first. Email me if you want help with the second.

Here are some programs and websites I use that will make your life infinitely better and your face better looking:
1. Google Chrome
If blog stats are accurate, the majority of you still view this blog on Internet Explorer. Please stop.

Why should you use Google Chrome? It is lightning fast. You can sync your bookmarks to any computer. It is clean, minimal, and sexy, much like myself.

While IE9 is vastly improved, I still think Chrome is the fastest, simplest, and most usable browser out there.  Even my wife likes it.

2. Evernote
I call Evernote my own personal Google. It saves articles, websites, pictures, quotes, and notes for you. You can use it for anything from dissertation research to grocery lists.

It syncs across all of your devices (computer, phone, tablet, etc.), and it is fully searchable. Evernote is good for those times when you're reading a fascinating article and then you hear explosions in your infant daughter's diaper as she sits smiling in the swing across from your perch on the couch - not that I would know anything about that. If you've installed the Evernote web extension for Google Chrome, all you have to do is right click to "clip to Evernote," go deal with the poopocalypse, then come back to your computer and finish reading in Evernote. No more filling your browser with bookmarks or forgetting where you read something.

Just visited their website and noticed that now you can even search text within images on Evernote.  I'm going to have to try this.

3. Mint.com
Don't fight about money with your spouse anymore. Use Mint.com.

Mint works like many personal accounting softwares, but it does it better and for free. It pulls all of your information from your bank, credit card companies, and even student loans to give you a complete picture of your finances. It is secured with the same level of encryption that your bank uses, and it doesn't actually store any of your financial information.

What sets Mint above the competition though is its completely awesome interactive graphs. I know it sounds boring, but this is what provides marital bliss. Now you can show your wife or husband where your money is going and what changes need to be made. Chart trends over time, plan budgets, or view a realtime meter of how much you have spent in different categories so far this month vs. what you have budgeted. Put it on your phone, and you won't have to call from the store to see if it's okay I buy something (or face a frustrated spouse when you come home).

4. Dropbox
Emailing things to yourself is so 2010.

Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage for free and increases every time one of your friends joins (from your invitation - I'm almost up to 5GB already).  While Google Drive offers more storage at sign-up, there are concerns that Google may use your files however it wants.  Microsoft Skydrive offers more too, but I've found Dropbox to be much easier to use across multiple devices, users, operating systems, etc.  It just works.

I use it for a job that I work remotely the majority of the time, for sharing photos with family, and for backing up iPhone photos and videos of my darling daughter (it's easier to access on my computer than iCloud in my opinion).

5. Picasa
It might be surprising that an aspiring photographer would still use a free, fairly basic photo program.

I love the way that Picasa organizes pictures, and sometimes I don't need the power of Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop to do a simple crop or lighting adjustment.  In fact, the image at the top of this post was edited on Picasa.

My favorite thing about Picasa is that it incorporates a lot of features from Picnik, which Google acquired in 2010 and has since merged into its products.  Picnik was a great what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor, and it lives on in Picasa.

Facial recognition is cool too, though it is occasionally a little racist (not all Indian people are related) or confused (boys and girls are not the same).  It's a huge help when you're trying to find pictures of someone for a tribute video or just a stroll down memory lane.

-----------
What are some of your favorite programs, apps, or websites?  What should I start using?


*Azina gets a partial photo-credit for yelling at me to take the picture of this graffiti in LA before the stoplight changed.  I almost missed it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

why voting for Romney isn't the same as voting for McCain: a Christian perspective

photo: Dave Lawrence

I had a hard time deciding whom to vote for in 2008.  As a minority, I wanted to support the first black president, but I hated his politics.  As a conservative, John McCain left me wanting . . . a lot.

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath in the voting booth and pushed the button for McCain, ultimately deciding that McCain, though undesirable, would have made more decisions I agreed with than Obama would have.  Granted, it was an electronic vote, so I have no guarantee it actually counted the way I voted.

McCain was not pro-life enough for me, but he was more pro-life than Obama, who opposed the Illinois Senate's version of the Infants Born Alive Act on the grounds that it would endanger abortion rights.  Senator McCain also advocated a larger federal government than I would prefer, but again, it was still drastically better than Senator Obama's position.

By contrast, Mitt Romney, while still not conservative enough for my tastes, seems to line up more with me on the issues.  Though, he is so slick, I would bet nearly everyone, even from divergent camps, feels that way.

So I should feel better about Romney, right?

Unfortunately, I don't.

With McCain, my differences were political and occasionally philosophical.  I have come to expect these in politics.  Short of electing a Christian minister such as Mike Huckabee, it is unlikely we will ever have a president who is as socially conservative as I am.

With Romney, my differences are on a worldview level.

As a Mormon, Romney believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who translated an additional testament to the Bible.  I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not true.

I mean no offense to my Mormon friends, and on most days, this difference doesn't affect our relationships much.

But, I don't have to vote to give them the nuclear launch codes.

For the first time, I understand the vitriol that secularists spewed against George W. Bush.  If you believe someone is so powerfully deluded, the possibility of giving them first strike capability is positively nauseating.

Assuming that the evidence against Joseph Smith is accurate and that he was a fraud, I don't think I'm comfortable with the decision-making skills of one of his adherents when it comes to the the ability to start a world war of apocalyptic proportions.  Mormons are great friends and neighbors, but that's different from commanding a nuclear arsenal and the most advanced army in the history of the world.

The difference between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney is that 2 billion people believe the same as GWB, whereas only 13 million believe the same as Romney.  Even my non-Christian friends who have researched Mormonism see a distinction between the two faiths.

By the way, this is also why Reverend Jeremiah Wright matters too.

As Americans, we need to abandon the notion that faith is meant to be personal and is therefore unassailable.  Warped beliefs can do incredible amounts of damage, and one's personal faith should be open to scrutiny when running for public office.

At the risk of being guilty of reductio ad Hitlerum, the Nazi genocides were based off of a dangerous belief in eugenics mixed with equally dangerous fascism. The Crusades were based on a twisted understanding of Christianity, the idea that people should repent or let God sort out their bodies.  Terrorism happens because of deeply entrenched beliefs.

Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wrote that Christians should vote based on values rather than religion this year.  My problem is that in addition to my socially conservative values, I highly value the truth. I don't believe Romney has a firm handle on what is true.  Because of this, I have no way to accurately gauge the values underlie his decisions.

I know that this won't make me very popular with some of my friends or with those who blindly preach tolerance, but I honestly don't believe I can vote for Romney with a clear conscience. I can't vote for President Obama either.

P.S. If you think my position is extreme, read up on Brigham Young's prediction that America will fail without a Mormon saving the Constitution.
P.P.S. I reserve the right, as always, to moderate comments on this blog. Please be respectful of me and others, whether you agree or disagree with the position taken in this post.  Disrespectful comments will be deleted.

Friday, May 18, 2012

please, please stop misspelling these words

photo: Didi

I realize that not everyone can spell well, but I think that we can all try a little bit harder on some rather common words.

If you are a spelling offender (or will realize you are once you're done reading this list), then please start spelling the following words correctly:
1. Definitely.  It is not "definately" or (even worse) "defiantly."  "Definately" is definitely not a word (and according to the NSFW Oatmeal, it may have other implications).  And "defiantly" definitely is a word, but it's a word that means you defiantly chose to not to study for your spelling test in third grade and still can't spell.

2. Congratulations. Graduation and wedding seasons are upon us, which can only mean that facebook will be lighting up with hundreds of misspelled "congradulations" hitting my newsfeed.  I can only imagine that "Congradulations" was the clever pun of some dillweed at Hallmark that apparently 93% of the country didn't realize was a pun.  There is no "grad" in "congratulations," and if you graduated junior high, you should know that.

3. Your, you're.  It almost feels cliche even mentioning this one, yet sadly I must.  If you're still spelling these wrong, then I'm not going to be your friend much longer.

4. There, they're, their.  "There" is a way to tell how smart people are.  If they're still confusing these words, punch their stomach until they figure it out.  The more times a person has to puke before they learn their lesson, the dumber they are.

5. Than, then.  Few grammar mistakes annoy me more than when people screw this up.  Then, it makes me want to step on their birthday cakes.

6. Obese.  While this one isn't as commonly misspelled, my students often used to write it as "obeast."  Yes, because doctors were trying to put into words how beast-like extremely fat people are, and then it dawned on them: "obeast."

7. Intents and, intensive.  This is maybe stretching the misspelling theme a bit too far, but I don't care.  For all intents and purposes, don't say "intensive purposes" around me unless you want me to take you to the duck pond and duct tape bread to your shirt until you have had this lesson pecked into you.

Bonus: 8. Fewer and less.  This is not a spelling mistake (which is why it's "bonus" - get off my back).  Use "fewer" when referring to things you can count.  Use "less" when referring to something you can't.  I.e. After I showered, I was less dirty (because you can't really count dirt).  After I ate two pieces of pizza, there were fewer slices for everyone else (because you can count pizza slices unless you're pregnant).

I'm certain there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.  Any others I forgot (besides the ones The Oatmeal mentions)?

the invisible minority

photo: D Boyd

I didn't even know I was considered an invisible minority until my friend Deanna mentioned it the other day.

In fact, I had to look it up.

Apparently there is some debate which ethnic group makes up the invisible minority, but people generally agree that it is Asians because, as a group of Americans, they do not suffer from the widespread ills with which other minority groups contend.

The crime rate is low among Asians. The employment an earning rates are high, and we tend to be well educated.

Many of us identify with white culture. We sometimes call ourselves "twinkies" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), though in my case you might have to go with oatmeal creme pie.

So what has my experience as an "invisible minority" been?

First of all, let's talk about the label.  "Asian."  Asia is at least 30% of the land mass in the world, and it is home to over half of the world's population.  India and China each have over one billion people.  An Asian can be a communist or capitalist, fascist or democratic, wealthy or impoverished.  Do we really only get one box on forms?

Asians represent 5% of the US population and 15-16% of Ivy League college admissions.  Sounds good right?  Except schools who have race-blind admissions policies admit nearly double that percentage of Asians.  Why? Asians are the highest scoring ethnicity on the SATs.  While I can't prove that I have been discriminated against because of my race, I know that my parents advised me to just put "Caucasian" down as my ethnicity when applying for scholarships and such.  It's a sad day when being a white male is better for you on quota-based applications.

Since I don't look "Asian," I often get spoken to in Spanish or treated as Middle Eastern (aka anti-American).  Again, I look like a billion other people in the world, but because I don't have almond-shaped eyes, people don't assume I'm good at math or have strict parents.

I've been followed around Wal-Marts in small towns in Nebraska before.  I don't know if they thought I was going to steal or buy suspicious amounts of fertilizer, but they definitely seemed to think something was up.

Probably the worst thing about being an invisible minority is when people think they are funny.  Since I tend to identify with majority culture and am frequently self-deprecating, white people, especially younger ones, tack that as a license to trot out borderline (or not so borderline) racist and hackneyed joke material.  Here's a clue: if you're going to make a race-based joke, be sure that it is a) original, b) funny, and c) something that won't get you punched.

I can promise you that I have heard every slurpee-hocking, camel-jockey, towelhead joke you can throw at me and all of them from people I like a whole lot more than you.  Political correctness can eat my curry, but obtuseness is always offensive.  Your permission to make racially themed comments around me depends entirely on the closeness of our relationship, not on how hilarious you find Apu from The Simpsons.

The high school I graduated from had a 98% white population.  My college was not much different.  Needless to say, my photo made it into several yearbook spreads and brochures.  Yet, I didn't get an extra scholarship for multi-cultural-ploitation.

While I'm not a fan of government-sponsored "leveling" of the playing field, I often find myself wishing that my brown skin and funny-sounding name would either afford me similar perks to what other minorities receive or not get noticed at all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

what I've learned as a new dad (#1)

photo: Raj Lulla Photography (please remember to remove children from clothing before sticking onesie in between drawers)

1. They grow really fast.
This is good and bad. Good because the difficult, still figuring out how to be outside the womb days don't last forever. Bad because my darling daughter is already asserting her independence and reminding me how much of my heart she has an how little control I have.

2. All babies are different.
Charlotte didn't even cry in the hospital and rarely cries at home. Our neighbor's baby cries a lot. A. Lot. Parents get the joy of both shaping who their baby becomes and getting to know this unique little person who lives in their house and drools on their stuff.

3. Babies like mommies better because they have the food and spend the most time with them.
Daddies have to wait their turn.

4. Let them cook as long as possible.
They seem to work better when they come out.

Charlotte was born at 41.5 weeks, and she's a baby genius who generally sleeps at night.  I imagine if we had let her go even longer she would've debunked string theory by now.

5. Babies are NOT cute when they come out.
They are a weird blue/green/grey/godzilla color when they are first born, and they usually come with a healthy smattering of what I call "baby cheese" all over them. They also commonly poop inside mommy before making their entrance. Birth is a real freakshow. On a related note ...

6. Jamming down a cheeseburger right before delivery is a very bad idea.
No matter how hungry you are.

7. Having a baby makes you want to buy every children's book and cute toy in the world, even if you can't afford them.
It also makes you use the word "cute" dramatically more often.

8. Having a baby is a lot like falling in love.
I loathe being at work away from her all day. I often contemplate quitting just so I can go home and snuggle her. I resist the urge so we can have a home to snuggle in.

9. Dads have to help moms fight "mom guilt."
It is instantaneous following birth and does not seem to go away. Even normal, previously sane women are affected by this psychosis. No, you are not a bad mom for putting her to bed in her room. She can't sleep with us forever, and I promise that it is very unlikely that a giant falcon will swoop through her window and carry her away.

10. Moms get crazy paranoid during the first month or so.
If your wife is expecting, expect to get woken up by the baby. Then, after the baby goes to sleep, expect to get woken up by your half-asleep wife who is panicked that she can't find the baby (who is asleep in the Pack and Play) next to her.

More to come ...

Any additions of your own?

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