Squeegees and Lyrebirds

Birds Header

I have a wide, white squeegee* in my shower.  Occasionally, although not often enough for me to avoid feeling guilty, I will remember to use this squeegee to get the water off of my shower tiles after bathing.  I suppose that this is intended to keep the shower clean and mildew free, but that isn’t really why I have the squeegee at all.

My grandfather had a similar squeegee in his shower when I was a kid.  The shower was small, but had large mint green tiles.  Nothing else matched that color in the bathroom.  I always wondered if he had the shower done all in green as some secret surprise in an otherwise bland earth-toned bathroom.  People would use the restroom and never know the wonderful secret that lurked hidden behind that frosted glass door.  But I suppose in reality, the shower had always been that color and was just not updated some time before my birth when the bathroom had been remodeled.

I remember when I was a child, old enough to not only take baths but still young enough to be instructed on shower basics, my Granddad told me the importance of the squeegee, and showed me how to use it.  He used meticulously placed downward strokes, with even pressure through the whole motion with the care that my grandfather used in almost everything he did.  It made that beautiful shhthwhack sound that every squeegee makes.  It is a pleasing sound, maybe just to me, but I suspect everyone likes it.

That is why I always have had one in my shower, I suppose.  All because my little brain tape recorder was fed the instruction that after a shower the tile must be dried, and that every shower must contain a squeegee.  When I am in a hotel I often feel a little bit robbed when I don’t see one in the shower.  I don’t know why.  It is obviously the maid’s job to clean it, and that is far more often than anyone’s home shower would get any such attention at all.

I got to thinking about this kind of thing recently while visiting a really odd church on some anonymous Sunday morning.  Some of the people were friendly enough, but the service had a lot of weird things that nobody explained.  They weren’t weird in a cultish way, but in some cultural expressions that they didn’t bother explaining.  It was like celebrating Christmas with a family other than your own, and at dinner they serve Hot Pockets.  Even though it seems really odd, but you feel too shy to ask.

Anyway, during the church service I saw a mid-twenties aged man in the front row.  He had one son with him, probably about 5 years old.  The man got down on his knees in worship and his son knelt quickly down next to him.  The man raised one hand in worship then two, and the son followed suit each time.  The child kept his head pointed toward his dad the whole time so that he wouldn’t miss even some small motion.

He was learning how to worship, and some day 30 years from now, he’ll be in the front row of the church on his knees and he won’t know why, other than that this is the best way to worship God.  It will be stuck in his little recorder, part of his functional DNA, and he also won’t understand why some other dude only worships in the back bobbing his head.

There is this bird in Australia called the Lyrebird.  It is different than the birds that congregate outside my window and wake me up in the morning.  Each spring morning I hear the chip-chirp-cheeee of the Warblers repeatedly until I either submit to the headache or wake up and shower.  But that is the only song that they know.  They do it repeatedly throughout their lives.  They are programmed to sing that.

But the Lyrebird doesn’t do things that way.  He takes the sounds of other birds in his forest and repeats them, weaving them all into his own little song.  He mimics them perfectly.  If he hears a chain saw or a camera, he does those sounds too.  You’d swear it was the real thing.  All these sounds put together into a song.  It is the life of the forest in one medley-remix.  The camera and chainsaw aren’t that melodious by themselves, but the Lyrebird makes it melodious.

I hope I’m kind of like that Lyrebird.  When I swim I think about the time as a child that my dad explained to me how sound travels faster in water than in air.  When I cook I repeat actions I learned long ago from my mom and grandma.  And there is a squeegee in my shower.  I want to believe it is my beautiful song with my own spin on the melody.  I don’t want to be just a Warbler, repeating the same thing endlessly.  I think we are pretty inventive as people, but in a beautiful way, we’re often just repeating the forest sounds of our youth. -Ryan

*I have recently discovered that “squeegee” is a very fun word to spell
copyright-notice

Insensitivity

Insensitivity Header

I worked in management for Sears throughout college.  It was a good job that treated me well and gave me a great opportunity to build a business management resume that has benefited me throughout my whole adult life.  But that was a very different Sears that I have seen over the last 10 years.

Last week, I was on lunch and decided to pull up a YouTube video of Chris Tomlin (a Christian worship music artist) singing a song I’d hurt at church the weekend prior.  As most of us know, YouTube regularly plays videos of sponsored content (a.k.a ads) before your chosen video.  It is part of the monetization that Google brings to all of its products.  When a company pays for an ad to run, they specify all of the criteria that will determine who sees the video.  This includes thing like the geographic location of the watcher, the viewer’s history, and the specific thing searched for, as well as everything in between.  I’m simplifying the process, but it is nearly infinitely customizable, ensuring that the only people who see your video are the exact people you want to see it.

So, I search for Chris Tomlin and the title of the worship song (I don’t remember right now exactly which song it was) and I click on the video.  Before my video starts to play, this is the ad I see (feel free not to watch the whole thing):

I skipped the ad when it gave me a chance and watched my worship video, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became.  I can’t think of a YouTube history on my account that would have been pertinent or anything else that makes sense…unless either they were putting that out to everyone, or they were specifically targeting people watching worship videos.

So, I took to Twitter, incredulous that Sears would be so insensitive.  The screenshot from my Tweet, and Sears’ response not long after, are below.

Sears Tweet

It is 2014,  know.  I am not surprised by a company supporting homosexual marriage.  I don’t like it, but I know it happens.  I don’t support the homosexual mafia attacking companies like Chik-fil-a simply because their CEO said that he believes a marriage is between a man and a woman.  But most of all, I can’t support the incredible rudeness of a company deliberately attacking the morality of Christians in this way.  Whether their Tweet to me was an automatic response to mine or not, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not one to start a boycott and get worked up over anything secular.  I think that secular complies not guided by Christians will not act Christian.  However, companies that deliberately attack Christians is another story altogether.

You know why they do it?  They do it because they know that they will insult us and treat us disrespectfully in whatever ways they choose, and we will buy their products just the same.  We might post a Facebook complaint and feel like we accomplished something, but as soon as the next sale comes along, we will open up our wallets again.

For me, it stops here.  I have drawn a line in the sand.  I have a lot of Craftsman tools and a Sears credit card.  I’m canceling the card and have bought my last tool from them.

—-

Incidentally, if you want the story behind the video (which I actually haven’t seen in its entirety), Sears sponsored a float in the recent Chicago homosexual parade.  On that float they had 4 homosexual couples getting “married” and this video was celebrating that.

Next time you buy a Sears product, know that is where some of your money is going.  If you support that, then great.  If you don’t, you are supporting it anyway with your money.

 

A Cool Excerpt

I am not saying that I agree with this completely.  I am saying that it is inspiring of deep thought.

  So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun…

Do you wish to know whether that day is comping?  Watch money.  Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.  When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.  Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality.   It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half loot.

Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence.  Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper.  This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values.  Gold was an objective value, and equivalent of wealth produced.  Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it.  Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims.  Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.  Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral.  Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded.  Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?”  You are.  

-Francisco d’Anconia

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 4

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

12 Gripes of Christmas Header

4. For the fourth gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly

All of these interesting plants represent the Christmas season in some way.  We have all seen bright red Poinsettias in every house or church, kissed under some mistletoe, or sung the words, “deck the halls with bows of holly.”  They are pretty green plants in the middle of Winter.  But did you know these plants also have something else in common?

All three are poisonous.  Yep, that is right, they will make you go poo-poo something awful.  That is, if they don’t kill you.  The one you have probably heard the story about most is actually the least deadly.  Poinsettia can give you a pretty painful stomachache, but that is about all.  The other two can put you in the hospital with some serious vomiting and a case of the fire-pigoo.

Add to the mix that mistletoe is a vampire.  Mistletoe grows as a sap-sucking parasite in tree branches.  Of course, that inspires you to let your loved one suck on your own face as you stand beneath it this yuletide.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 3

12 Gripes of Christmas Header

3. For the third gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Neighbors crappy Christmas lights.

Christmas lights are actually one of my favorite parts of the whole season.  When it comes time to set up the tree and other decorations, I enjoy heading outside and getting all the lights up on the outside of the house.  I like driving through the streets of town and seeing other people’s houses decorated as well.  It can be beautiful.

But, then there are displays like this, and every neighborhood has one—one wonderful family that ruins it all for the whole block. I know, because this video was taken in my own neighborhood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhj1ghyq44Q
About a mile from my house is an area of a few blocks where all the houses are decorated with a common theme.  One of the highlights of the season is driving down that block.  It is peaceful.  It is serene.  There are houses with lighted reindeer, houses with lights on almost every square inch of the roof, and there are homes with cardboard cutouts of snoopy and inflatables all over the lawn.

You know what you won’t see in that neighborhood?  Blinking lights.  That’s right.  No one has ever said, “Wow, that house with all the blinking lights really makes me feel all warm inside and peaceful.”

The blinking lights send a different message entirely: “Gamble Here!”  When anyone turns down the main street to my neighborhood, the first sight they see is much less O Holy Night and far more Live Dancing Girls.

There is a reason that light red blink-inducing bulb comes in a hermetically sealed bag when open your new stringlights.  It is a warning.  If you want your lights to cause seizures, keep it inside your own house, and stop terrorizing your neighborhood.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

12 Gripes of Christmas Header

2. For the Second Gripe of Christmas, I will Give to Thee: A mall Santa in front of JC Penney.

I generally like Saint Nick, particularly the German version who either rewards good children with fruit or takes them to sell into slavery.  But as I don’t want to sound too much like Dwight Shrute, I will let that be.

My issue with Santa is actually quite extensive.  First, there is the typical complaint that Santa is a huge distraction from the whole point of Christmas, and while that is definitely true, I am not a big enough grinch to advocate kicking Santa entirely out.  But there has been a clear effort to kick Jesus out of his own birthday party.

When I was a child, my mom told me that Santa was good, but that Jesus was the real reason to celebrate Christmas.  Now we have “progressed” to the point where even acknowledging Christmas at all is frowned upon generally.  Instead, we call it Holiday.  But, while Jesus has been largely thrown out of the party, Santa is still allowed.

The problem is that Mr. Claus is pretty much an anti-Jesus figure in many ways.  Santa makes a list and checks it twice in order to separate the good children from the children whom Santa’s NSA network has built a strong enough case against.  The children who have acquired enough good karma are rewarded with gifts.

The story of Jesus is that He came to give free gifts to those who especially don’t deserve it.  Jesus is specifically showing the message that God is not making a list and checking it twice.  This is especially true when you exegete the song a bit.  If he is “making a list and checking it twice,” then he is specifically doing it to properly identify the bad kids.  If he were only checking his list once with the kid’s behavior, then some kids who were naughty might actually get gifts anyway.  Instead, he is making doubly sure to weed out the bad.  But God in Christ, is sowing grace prodigally.

But Santa is even more confusing than that.  In my childhood, we lived in a house for a while that had a fake fireplace which had been boarded up years ago.  I was very concerned about how Santa would get in.  My mom offered to keep the door unlocked, a proposition that I felt was unsafe.  She told me that Saint Nick had his secret ways.  That led to a realization, and many sleepless nights.

Santa is basically the same as a cat burglar.  He sneaks in through the chimney or some other weak point in the home.  He brings a giant bag, and only enters if everyone is properly asleep.  He has the perfect getaway vehicle.  At the end of the night he will sneak out of the country.  He goes by several assumed names, and he has been casing your family for a long time.

The fact that Santa leaves things instead of taking them is a minor detail he may work out at any time.  And how do we know he hasn’t actually been stealing stuff for years.  You know all those socks you think the clothes dryer has been swallowing?  You can’t prove that he hasn’t been taking them all along.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series12 Gripes of Christmas

12 Gripes of Christmas Header

I know that I might upset a few people with this one, but really when has that ever stopped me…

I have always been kind of a bah-humbug type when it comes to much of the Christmas festivities.  I could do without most of it, and skip the entire month of December entirely.   And I am not alone.  Many people feel this way.  We are all just afraid to say it.  Why, you ask?  It is because all of the Christmas Nazis out there will shame us as if we threatened all of existence by not liking the holiday.

Now, let me make myself clear.  I love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ.  I like spending time with friends and family, and I have some fond memories from my childhood.  I also do not wish to ruin other people’s joy in any way.

But that being said, there are a few things I need to get off my chest.  Let’s call them my 12 Gripes of Christmas:

1. On the first gripe of Christmas, I will give to thee: Awful Christmas melodies. 

Christmas music is terrible.  There, I said it, and I won’t take it back.  Yes, yes, there are some really good songs that are emotionally powerful, and some fun to sing.  But the only reason that any of us enjoy most holiday songs at all is that we have heard them every single year for our entire lives…every year…for a month straight.

Think about that.  If you imagine your five favorite songs of all time, would you really want to hear them every year for a month non-stop?  Would you like to hear the Beatles Day in the Life as an all-instrumental version in every mall?  How about Billy Jean done by the cast of Duck Dynasty?  And these are actually good songs.  Instead we get to listen to:

The 12 Days of Christmas: A twelve-verse hymn consisting of a lover gifting his beloved with wildly inappropriate items such as farm animals, overly expensive jewelry for every finger, and apparently slaves.  I don’t care who you are, if you love me please do not gift me with maids-a-milking.  I do not need that much cow juice, I have nowhere to put the accompanying cows, and owning another person has been illegal since the Civil War.

No one knows all the words to this song, and no one wants to hear this song all the way through.  It should be permanently banned and used only for torturing terrorists.  If you think about it, there is nothing even remotely Christmas-y about this song except that the writer wants to inform you that the obsessive stalker is using this particular holiday as the cover for his psychotic behavior.

Baby It’s Cold Outside: This is a more recent addition to the songbook, after people started looking frantically for years in desperation for a new Christmas song that is halfway decent.  “Decent” is probably the worst word to use to describe this song.

All one has to do is read the lyrics in order to see that this song is about a man trying to use every means at his disposal to get this somewhat unfamiliar girl to stay with him overnight, including: giving her a spiked drink, bribing her with cigarettes, frantically changing the subject, flattering her, and indirectly threatening her life.  If a man talked like this to your daughter, there would probably be a homicide.  And we listen to this on the Christian music station.  Also, this song doesn’t mention Christmas even once.

We Wish you a Merry Christmas: This song does get bonus points for mentioning Christmas—over and over and over again.  Essentially, that is all the song points out, at first.  The bulk of the song is just “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”  It is a festive sentiment, meant to evoke the idea of some carolers coming door-to-door singing.

But once the listener opens the door, we realize that this is actually a home invasion robbery.  The second verse demands, now that we are successfully inside, that you bring us plenty of food (and everyone knows how much we love figgy pudding) or else we will trash the place.–Ryan

Gun

Gun Header

Today I ended a two-week marketing contract for a major cellular phone provider that had me spending most days in my car, driving from one location to another.  This meant that as the events of today’s school massacre in Connecticut unfolded, I was listening on the radio.  I heard all happen right before my ears.

Events like this usually don’t inspire a strong reaction for me.  While I am passionate about current events as they pertain to politics and world events, things like the OJ Simpson murders, Casey Anthony, and Virginia Tech just don’t impact me as much for some reason.  That is just how I’m geared, but this case is different.

We have heard lately about mall shootings, football player murder/suicides, and the Movie Theater mass shooting in Colorado.  Some people, like Bob Costas, have used these opportunities to talk about increased gun control.  That may be a good conversation to have, although I personally do not believe that more gun regulations will be the solution.

As the radio told me of the teachers that hid their students in closets and bathrooms, police making the kids leave the school with their eyes closed, and a room full of kids gunned down by hundreds of rounds of ammunition, I became enraged.  I can’t think of any other emotion to feel when that kind of evil is present, and I don’t think any other emotion is appropriate.

The Bible says to “be angry, yet do not sin.”  It also talks about God’s fury at sin, and particularly those who intentionally hurt His little ones.  Yet we live in a world with increasing evil.  I don’t care to debate this with anyone: murder rates, violent crimes, and corruption cases are telling, but the simple fact is that evil is becoming far more evil than ever.

I mourn for our country and it’s people.  Christians must stand and say, “enough.”  We cannot be blamed for things like this.  It is not the church’s fault that things like this happen, but evil triumphs when good men do nothing.  And that is what we have done.  We have hibernated and cloistered while the gates of Hell have advanced, laughing at the impotence of God’s people.  We don’t fight our wars with guns or fists, but on our knees and making all else but the gospel secondary.  This has not characterized God’s people of late.  More church programs and laws won’t stop this advance of evil.  More steadfast men of faith will. -Ryan

Vancouver: Chinese Tour – Part 4 (Bee Factory)

bus header

This is Part 4 in a series about my recent tour in Canada.  Click the links if you’d like to catch up on Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of the series.

Generally, all Chinese bus tours work the same way.  You meet each morning between 6:30 and 8, and the bus leaves for its journey.  Every 2 hours or so, the bus stops at one of those roadside restroom areas, or some sort of small sightseeing place.

Some of these small sightseeing tours were not much more than gift shops with overpriced trinkets, which the “tour guides” (not Thomas) would try to prod you into buying with grandiose explanations.  I never bought any of these.  Thomas told the Bohemians not to.  The rest of the people on the tour were spending money like rap stars makin’ it rain.

One of these “tours” that we went on was the “bee factory” as Thomas described it.  I was excited because I like bees and have always wanted to know where they were made, although I assumed Thomas actually meant it was a honey processing plant.  Either way, I have often thought about keeping bees myself, although I doubt my bedroom would be big enough for more than one or two hives.

At the Bee Factory, we were greeted by plywood cutouts that were painted like bees, the kind with little holes that you can put your face into and take a stupid tourist picture which makes you look like a bee with some genetically engineered human face.  My one regret of the whole trip was not getting a picture with me in one of those cutouts.

The Bee Factory turned out to be the best tourist trap of the entire trip.  Inside the Factory (read that, “gift shop”), the guide stood up to give us “the exciting bee experience…and afterward you can buy some bee pollen to take home to your honey.”  His talk was filled with puns, and not much else.  Basically, it was just like bee-ing (see what I did there?) in the audience of an infomercial.  I am not sure if there was anything made in this location at all, or if it was simply a gift shop.

It is easy to think of visiting these types of places as extreme rip-offs on the tour, and if you buy things there they are.  But they do serve a couple of purposes.  First, we would only actually spend about 30 minutes there, and we only visited a couple of these places.  They gave you an opportunity to stretch your legs and use the restroom.  It was better than just using public toilets on the side of the road.

Secondly, and far more valuably, they gave the Bohemians things to laugh about back on the bus.  Bee Factories turn out to be much better stories than anything else.

When I was a kid, my family took a road trip through Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.  Along the way, we stopped at The Amazing Dinosaur Experience. Billboards had warned us about the danger of missing this “once in a lifetime opportunity” for many miles, so we stopped.  It turned out to be cave that the portly owner had “covered with plaster and painted white” with a few half-fake dinosaur bones painted glow-in-the-dark and stuck under a blacklight.  We still laugh about it to this day.

The Bee Factory was that type of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. -Ryan

Vancouver: Chinese Tour – Part 2 (Cast List)

bus headerThis is Part 2 of a continuing series.  If you’d like, you can catch up and read Part 1.

During the course of the tour, I only actually got to know 3 other people’s names: Thomas, our tour guide; and Sherman and Yale (more about them later).  Most other people spoke very limited English, and I had to give them nicknames to identify them.  I didn’t do this to be mean, but mainly to keep them straight in my head.

Sitting across the aisle from me was Golf Shoes.  Knowing that she would be doing some hiking in the Rockies, she must have decided that wearing golf shoes the entire time would provide her the best traction for mountain climbing adventures.  This meant that almost everywhere she went her shoes made a click-clack noise on the sidewalk.  I never did see her walking through any open fields.

Further up the aisle were Fred and Ethel.  They were both well advanced in years, but quite peppy and adventurous.  Ethel never talked much or even acknowledged me, but was a constant source of conversation as we tried to figure out whether her jet-black hair was a wig.  It turned out that it was, although I’m not going to tell how we found that out.

Fred found me to be far more interesting than the scenery.  Almost any time I looked his direction, he was looking at me.  This didn’t bother me, actually.  I was often observing him.  He was a very cute old man and a smile was permanently etched on his face.  Every day, he looked ready to wade into the river for some fly-fishing, with his khaki fisherman’s vest and Gilligan hat.  I tried to ask him once if he wanted to fish, but he thought I was asking if he liked sushi or something.

Finally, there was Angry Asian Guy.  We didn’t interact much, except for the times when he’d throw a disapproving look in my direction.  I wasn’t quite sure what I had done to upset him.  It could have been for being the only white guy on the tour, or maybe he wasn’t getting enough dietary fiber, but I can’t really speculate.

There was one time that AAG did talk to me.  I had a camera sling bag with a small collapsible tripod lashed to the side.  It wasn’t very bulky or cumbersome, but I did have to be careful when moving through the aisle.  On the second day, as I entered the bus he loudly said “Be careful, your weapon!” as I passed.  I hadn’t come even close to hitting him with it, but my fleshly side thought about being less careful in the future.

There were others on the bus, but they took more minor roles in the events of the week.