Thursday, October 17, 2013

Snark

Photo credit: Mural (Banksy); Aardvark (travelnewsnamibia); Bird on a branch (Dawn Smith); Stars (bitácora de Galileo).

In the dark park sat a lark upon the bark.

Its shadow marked stark against the luminous pockmarked bulwark.

"Hark" remarked the aardvark matriarch set to embark.

"Join me Plutarch, in my arc to the celestial monarch."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Arch linux

I've had to troubleshoot computer issues at work from time to time, and any time I can't handle it I call upon a linux power user who works for our IT guy. He's helped me with installs gone wrong (openSUSE) and when an update resulted in GRUB unable to find the partition table. Now I'm on a Fedora system which should be more stable and has the same libraries and available repositories that I needed. It's also the distribution that the developer of the software I use recommends (I had no experience with it though, thus openSUSE). In any case, we were talking shop about different distributions that we've used, while he was fixing my problems, and he mentioned Arch linux, which piqued my interest.

It's a simple and lightweight distribution (their words) that really teaches you how linux systems/installs work. You need to mount the drives yourself and install the base system, bootloader, users, network and anything else you may want (really useful Life Hacker guide here). One of the best things is that it updates on a rolling release model which is continually upgraded, instead of upgraded by reinstalling for every version.

The first install didn't go well, because I didn't understand exactly how the mounting and base install went. However, the second time through I managed to mount the correct partitions and write the files I needed to the spots that needed them. It was slightly trickier since I'm dual booting with Windows 7 and was installing from a USB key, but I made it work. I also had some issues getting Xorg to work (installed the wrong drivers), but the second time was the charm (Intel drivers). After that it was basically just a matter of installing some fonts and choosing LXDE as my desktop environment.

Eventually my goal is to use this box as an FTP server and be rid of the windows partition completely. I need it for MSPowerPoint in the mean time, so until I can figure out a stable way to display slides I have to keep it. I've been trying to use Wine to install MSPowerPointViewer, but haven't had much success with it yet (guide). It's still very much a work in progress and I'm planning on reformatting the linux partitions I made and trying it again from scratch to get it right the first time.

I'm also still trying to get the hang of the Arch User Repositories for installing things like Packer.

Blast from the CCM past

I stumbled upon a song by the O.C. Supertones from 1999 that I used to listen to on repeat. The song is from their album Chase the Sun.
Nothing catchier than Christian Ska...

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Constantly moving...comes to a halt

My roommates and I just completed one of the last parts of our move last night: arranging the kitchen!

It brings to a near-end the saga which began roughly two weeks ago. Our lease ended on July 27 (Saturday), but the new one didn't begin until August 1 (Thursday)...leaving us with no place of our own for a few days.

My dear brother sent me the most uplifting text at the news:
Haha so you're homeless. bummer
Yes, we were homeless. But not to fear, for our new roommate was the fortuitous renter of a townhouse in the same complex we lived in and happened to have a roommate recently vacate.
  • Stage 1: Move everything from our place in boxes and other such packing shenanigans, to the empty room on Thursday and Friday nights and cram as much furniture as possible into the interstices while still keeping his place livable for his remaining roommate...mostly successful.

  • Stage 2: Apartment preparation and waiting period. We managed to schedule our required carpet cleaning for the morning of the last day we were on the lease, not noticing that we were required to be out and have keys turned over by 10am that day.

    After a last minute scramble, we got an extension from our complex until 4pm (latest possible) and had the carpet cleaned just in time. Other things cleaned at the last minute: oven (probably burned out my lungs with the lye in the cleaner and a too-hot oven), fridge, upstairs bathroom, downstairs bathroom (remembered at 3:40pm) and range. We turned in the keys at 3:59pm.

    Anything we get back on our deposit will be icing on the cake at this point, since we took the lease over after a few years of damage from the previous tenants (fridge was oil-orange, cabinet doors perpetually greasy etc.) and they left us the deposit money.

  • Stage 3: The second move began on August 1, after work. We rented a truck for a few hours, which I had overly much fun driving. It took us just two trips:
    1. large furniture
    2. boxes, boxes, boxes
    with some great help from our new roommate's former roommate.

    The lion's share of the move was over at this point, with all of our stuff in the new location (sans a few boxes).
Since then it's been the slow process of clearing floors and re-arranging. My own room was mostly done last Saturday (day following the mass move), and Nate and I had a good start on the kitchen as well.

This brings us to last night (Wednesday, 6 days post move) with the last phase of cabinet filling and utensil placing, mentioned at the start of the post...I'm just so glad it's over and that I can rest when I get home.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lewis speaks

Its strange to have read a great deal about someone and never heard them speak. Not so strange that it's uncommon, but strange for a figure such as C.S. Lewis. Lewis was a prolific Christian writer and apologist who passed away in 1963. His writing is known by many, but his voice by relatively few.

I found a treasure trove of Lewis audio online though from the Gospel Coalition. If you enjoy his writing and want to hear the apostle to skeptics for yourself I would recommend checking it out.

His accent sounds exactly like what I think of as the prototypical British man in the 1950s. He could just as well be narrating a video clip about some scientific phenomenon or study. I like it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Goodbye again Grandma Split


I said goodbye to my Grandma Split again this weekend. Home for a wedding, I stopped by her room with my mum and sister, to visit her and Grandpa, who hadn't left her side in days. We talked with Grandpa for an hour or so, and I held her hand and stroked it while listening to her labored breathing. She never opened her eyes, and to be honest I was kind of glad, because the lifeless stare would have been through her eyes, but it wasn't her anymore. I told her I loved her, and that I was back from Pennsylvania to visit her. They said she could hear us, so we talked to her, and with Grandpa too.

Alzheimers had already robbed Grandma of her mind years ago and it had now come back to take her life. It still hasn't quite hit me that she's passed and gone now, but when it does I'll grieve again. I'll grieve for the finality and to know that all of which was her is gone, save what lingers in our memories and the pictures that captured her in time.

I can remember Sunday dinner at their home with the pot roasts, potatoes and gravy, beans and corn with pepper sprinkled over them. I can remember going to her house while mum worked and coloring with her, playing in the den with the shag carpet under her watchful eye while she sometimes played the piano. I remember the camping and the crocheting and the puzzles, crossword and 1000 piece alike. I remember impossibly good baked beans at picnics. I'm thankful for all that I can remember, and I remember grieving with her when memory became hard.

Hers was the story of a dutch girl from Iowa who moved with her family to Grand Rapids and went to Grand Rapids Christian HS when it was the only 'Christian High' in the area and so deserved the moniker. A beautiful young Maliepaard bride, she married my dashing Grandpa and started a family, raising four children and knowing the heartbreak of losing another. Not an extraordinary story, but a true story and a good story. Her story is of faithfulness, faith and family that she carried on her back in an unassuming manner. Her story is echoed and carried on in the hearts of all the honeybunches that she had and held and loved, and who loved her back, and in Grandpa's heart for over 60 years.

Grandma won't get posthumous awards or prizes (as far as I know). Her quiet story is one of many like it but that doesn't make it any less unique or powerful.

Her confusion is gone now. Grandma's not concerned about when she'll go home, or about where home is any more. She is home now. Her mind is at rest with the knowledge of her Savior and she's in his presence. Her mind isn't worn and torn anymore--it's been fixed and renewed.

We love you Grandma and we miss you. We're glad you have your mind back and that it's better than it ever was. We love you bunches and we remember you as the vibrant, creative woman of God you were always meant to be.


I was able to get the audio of her funeral service in which I read this. It was beautiful and it's still a little hard for me to listen to, but it means a lot, so I think it's worth sharing. My cousin plays the piano starting at 22:20. I try my best to read this post at 24:55 and my brother and sister play piano and viola at 28:25.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The north lawn was a letdown

I saw the President's house on Saturday for the first time in person. I was not impressed.

This is roughly what I saw (mouse-over for expectation):


I guess the north lawn is fine, but I was expecting the south lawn, and not to see a street sweeper on the driveway...It all seemed very pedestrian and not suited for a person of the presidential station. Ah well, all things considered, we put the Executive and family up pretty well.

I learned earlier today that the official residence of the South Korean head of state is called the Blue House (Cheongwadae is literally: pavilion of blue tiles). Pretty cool I guess. The grounds are hella tight (below):

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guilty pleasures on repeat


So...I have no shame, and wanted to share it.

My anthems the last couple of days have been 22 by Taylor Swift, Falling in Love by 2NE1 and Bloom by Ga-In.

I dare you to tell me these songs aren't hooky...ridiculously so. And to be honest, I've needed some upbeat music lately.

Also, who's ever heard a Kpop-Reggae-Hiphop track lately that was better than Falling in Love? Ok, it might be the first of its kind.

This strikes me as something that I shouldn't share...I'll be over there fighting a shark to prove I'm still a man, if you need me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hiphop recommendations Summer 2013 [Part 2]


My favorites don't really have a theme, don't come from one language, and aren't all that alike. But they're some of my favorites. And they're not even all hiphop. Seeed is reggae/dancehall, for example. I don't put much stake in genre designations though since bands can be described in so many different ways (and hate being pegged to whatever genre is generally agreed upon that they are anyway).

I've been compiling some of my favorite songs for years now really, but it's time to write a little post about them and why they appeal to me. I envision this as a series moving forward that I'll update when I hit 7 or 8 new songs I've discovered. Here is the second part of the first installment (Part One):
  1. Cali Swag District -- Teach Me How to Dougie (2011)

    This is a perfect dance number, dougie or not. The west coast knows how to draw the females and make the dudes jealous, that much is certain :P. The song and concept are pretty simple, but it really makes me want to dougie...
    The actual dance is an enigma to me, not really surprisingly I suppose. C-Smoove and Yung make it look so easy and effortless. I wouldn't dream of messin' with Bubba's dougie.

  2. Lupe Fiasco ft. Talib Kweli -- After All (2008)

    Lupe put this out as part of a mixtape with a ton of collaborations. For some reason this track feels a little overproduced, but it ends up working on the whole. The lyrics are pretty deep and draw on a lot of Biblical imagery. I interpret it as a foray into how people derive meaning, drawing on his own thoughts on death and "the end."

    LF is a brilliant lyricist and I particularly enjoyed his work on this track, and on his album Lasers.

  3. The Coup -- Cars & Shoes (1998)

    This seems to be a little deviant from the Coup's typical political rapping, but who cares, because it's hilarious.

    Boots expounds on the fact that though his car is a complete lemon, you can walk or you can get in...his car is still better than your shoes, since you don't have one. The jazz flute really completes the delight that I draw from listening to the hilarious lyrics of this track and its über-funky beat. You might put your foot through the floor, might have to use your shoulder to close the door, but my car is still better than your/my shoes.

  4. A Tribe Called Quest -- Can I Kick It? (1990)

    The Tribe is one of my favorite groups as mentioned before. I think the obvious answer to this song is, "Yes!"

    This track is the epitome of early 90's rap with dat funky beat. The music video has charm in spades. It just seems right that Phife Dawg and Q-Tip would just be hanging around, spittin' and asking the same question over and over...yes, yes you can kick it. Please, please, please continue kickin' it.

  5. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis -- Thrift Shop ft. Wanz (2012)

    My friend and former housemate Adam turned me on to this in December 2012 when I was back home on vacation. At that point it had already been out for a few months (August 28 debut).

    It's got mad hooks, a lively sax part, it's a tongue in cheek indictment of consumerism and the beat reminds me of the Fresh Prince theme song. What's not to love? The man can rap, teach and entertain. Haggerty even uses his music to support causes like equal marriage rights, atypical in the rap/hiphop scene.

  6. The Coup -- The Guillotine (2012)

    Boots is rapping about the power the people have to take down the ruling class, alluding heavily to the French Revolution. He's been clear about his views as a communist, and in search of those pulling the strings behind the Oz-like curtain. He goes after the puppet masters in the track and music video with some very cool imagery.

    My favorite magazine, Wired, did an interview with Riley when the video debuted, talking about how the themes of the song fit with his involvement in the Occupy movement.

  7. A Tribe Called Quest -- Bonita Applebum (1990)

    It's difficult not to include a couple songs from the Tribe on any list...so why fight it.

    Bonita is one of the Tribe's well known hits, about a very shapely and seemingly specific young woman.

    My favorite line from Q-Tip in this is, "Chairman of the board, chief of affections." The poor Tip seems so smitten that, despite his superficial pleading and desire, I just hope she puts him on.

  8. Urbanize (de) -- Glaub an Dich (2008)

    This track is ridiculously positive. It repeats that no matter what the world does to you or throws at you, you're still believed in, and you still got this! You've nothing to lose, have courage. :) Sometimes it's nice to hear folks rapping about more than just how awesome they are.

  9. Ludacris -- Get Back (2004)

    This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I can distinctly remember walking home in high school, after Science Olympiad with this running through my head. I was a pretty angsty teen, so this was probably my anthem, being applied to jocks or something like that.

    The song isn't very compelling, since Luda appears to be merely expressing annoyance at yuppies in the club, since he's soooo cool. Kudos to him for doing this ridiculous MTV video with the huge hands. At very least it's a nostalgia enabler.


Head to Part One if you're interested.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Yesterday...

all my troubles seemed to never leave
now it looks as though they've partly gone
Oh, I believe in each new day.

It was kind of comically hilarious how badly yesterday went. It started with a meeting in the morning, frenetic work in the afternoon, couldn't see my girlfriend, was punctuated with an awesome respite celebrating a birthday, then sunk to a super-low immediately before bed, when I realized that I had to present at group meeting in the morning, and hadn't prepared anything yet...

I fell asleep dreading the early morning prep.

The prep came, the prep went, and the presentation went better than expected.

I'm alive, no worse for the wear, and here's a delightful video you should watch.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lazy man changes bike tube!

Last October I was riding my bike to campus, like I had finally gotten in the habit of, when my rear tube popped due to puncture, going up a hill.

Fast-forward over many months of laziness to this evening, July 7, 2013 (I finally went to the bike shop last week and picked up a couple of tubes and borrowed some tire levers from an office-mate this week). I was ready, if I wanted to actually take the time. Strangely, I had never changed my own bike tube before, despite having toured Michigan by bike on the Five UP route of the DALMAC in 2010.

It had actually been hanging over me for a while, that pesky little fact of ineptitude in bike repair. No matter though. With some extra time on a quiet Sunday evening, punctuated by the patter of rain on my back porch, I got to work. To youtube!

Inexperience and laziness had conspired to deprive me of many cycling moons...but that ended tonight thanks to the amazing and oh-so-practical video embedded below.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lucius -- How Loud Your Heart Gets


Radiolab was at the Solid Sound Festival recently and discovered the Brooklyn based band Lucius, which they shared in a recent update to the podcast.

Give them a listen, they're fantastic and soulful and only have one mustache, to their credit, as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Hiphop recommendations Summer 2013 [Part 1]


My current favorites don't really have a theme, don't come from one language, and aren't all that alike. But they're my favorites nonetheless. And they're not even all hiphop. Seeed is reggae/dancehall, for example. I don't put much stake in genre designations though since bands can be described in so many different ways (and hate being pegged to whatever genre is generally agreed upon that they are anyway).

I've been compiling some of my favorite songs for years now really, but it's time to write a little post about them and why they appeal to me. I envision this as a series moving forward that I'll update when I hit 7 or 8 new songs I've discovered. Here is part 1 of the first installment (Part Two):
  1. Rammellzee vs K-Rob -- Beat Bop (1983)

    I came across this song more recently, on an episode of Bullseye with Jesse Thorn and Andrew Noz (#8 is also from this episode). This track is seminal and has a story concerning an argument between two graffiti artists, which you can get from wikipedia if you're interested. The thing I love about it initially is the unusual syncopation and eclectic beat borrowing from disco.

    Digging into the lyrics we hear K-Rob first, rapping about life in New York city and the "moral joke" that some make out of life. He speaks in his verses about the prospects for young people and the pervasiveness of crime. Yet despite all the prostitution, violence, gang life and substance abuse Rob mentions, he concludes hopefully that "it's not too late to straighten up so give [him] a break."

    Rammellzee on the other hand plays the role of a pimp and represents the darker side of New York life. His verses are seemingly much less organized, though still strongly thematic. Ram is constantly drawing attention to his prowess as a lyricist and street cred though in a very scattered, battle-esque fashion, fitting for his rivalry with Jean-Michel Basquiat. His stream-of-consciousness style contrasts with K-Rob's verses, gives the track a twist and lets the listener decide for themselves what to make of the interplay between the two.

  2. Eric B. & Rakim -- Paid in Full (1987)

    I'm not sure where I heard this one first. My guess is from Bullseye or the Sound of Young America, but I can't find a reference to it anywhere on MaxFun, so I'm going to attribute it to a random youtube related video find.

    I really like Paid in Full because of the large variety that it samples from. It sounds like "World" music, yet has a sweet 80's beat circulating throughout and grounding the lyrics. It feels like a complete cultural experience, more than just a song. Plus, you've got Rakim spitting.

  3. A Tribe Called Quest -- Check the Rhime (1991)

    I originally got into the Tribe from listening to an interview by Jesse Thorn (again) with Michael Rapaport, who made a documentary about the group.

    This was one of the first Tribe songs I listened to over and over again. The track opens with a jazzy riff, into a discourse between Q-Tip and Phife that's not overstated, and expounds on the lyricism that sets them apart from other MCs. "So just clean out your ears and just check the word."

    [Michael Rapaport interview]

  4. The Cool Kids -- Mikey Rocks (2008)

    Mikey Rocks was my one of my first forays into rap on my own. One of my college roommates heard me listening to it one day and turned me on to Nas, B.I.G. and a host of other amazing MCs and hiphop artists.

    At the time, Mikey Rocks had one of the simplest yet most intriguing beats that I had heard, which is what drew me to it. It drips with distortion and gives Reed and Ingersoll ample shelf space to deposit some intricate rhymes.

  5. Killer Mike -- Reagan (2012)

    I got into Killer Mike when my cousin Matt (I love his taste in music, so I usually check out anything he's listening to) mentioned that he was coming, or had done a show in Grand Rapids (my hometown). He had a longer list of bands, but Killer Mike appealed to me most, based off the tracks from those artists I listened to.

    Killer Mike is often called a political or even hyper-political rapper. Mike himself says,

    "I’m a social commentator and at times people have politicized the things I say, but I don’t care too much for any political party. I care about people."
    I would tend to agree with him. His rapping in Reagan is very political, but he comes out against both sides, criticizing Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton and Obama for attacking Qaddafi and for being pawns in the hands of those that hold the real power.

    Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, this song is how I learned about the Iran-Contra affair (gulp), so it may be worth a listen on that fact alone. The lyrics punch, carried with a beat that builds in complexity and depth...and conspiracy.

  6. Seeed -- Dickes B [de] (2001)

    I first heard this song in my German 101 class in college. Peter Fox later became my favorite German musician. I love the work he does with Seeed as well.

    He sings/raps about his love of Berlin on this track--the dark, rough beauty of the concrete city. It truly is a beautiful place, in its own unique "concrete jungle" way, and this song does justice to the artists, people and culture that call it home.

  7. Talib Kweli -- Ms. Hill (2005)

    Ms. Hill has a very R&B feel. It also samples Ben Kweller pretty heavily without giving credit...oops.

    Kweli is heavily supportive of Lauryn Hill in this album, while still poking fun at some of the things she's said and done (insisting on being called Ms. Hill). He chronicles some of the important moments in her life on tour and expresses concern, wishing he could be there to help her. It was written at a pretty low point in Hill's life; the positivity is in stark contrast to the criticism she was receiving at the time from Fugees bandmates and for her erratic behavior on tour.

    The song is technically from a mixtape, though it was pretty widely distributed.

  8. DJ Quik ft. Ludacris -- Pacific Coast (remix) (2005)

    I'm not going to even try to analyze this one, because Jesse and Andrew Noz already have better than I could due to their knowledge of the scene.

    I do like the very West-coast feel of the track, and Quik's descriptive, darker version of L.A. It's very real.

  9. Urbanize (de) -- Warten auf Dich [de] (2007)

    This track has a very different sound from the rest that I've listed. It's very melancholy and about someone pining after their lover/partner. They'll always be there waiting.

    Is this track a little sappy? Yes. Do I care? Not so much. Sometimes you need a corny sappy song. This is that song.

    Also, Urbanize is pretty on point with their fan interactions. I sent their page a facebook message (below) asking who the female vocalist was in "Warten auf Dich" since they've worked with a couple of them, but nothing is said about anyone at the beginning of their career.

    Ich hab, bitte, eine Frage fuer euch ueber "Warten auf Dich."
    Wer singt mit euch? War's Candy Hammerschmidt, oder?
    Vielen, vielen Dank. Finde euch ganz toll!
    Von U.S.,
    Steve
    Roman sent me a very nice response (below) within 2 hours!
    Warten auf Dich war nicht Candy, nein.
    In der Pitchversion war's ich selbst (Roman), in der Vocal Version eine Sängerin, aber nicht Candy.
    Vielen Dank für deine Mail, ist toll sowas zu lesen :)
    LG Roman
    He didn't give her identity, but confirmed that it was neither of the two well known singers, so my guess is she was a background singer that the producer Martin de Vries brought in after their original single received chart attention. Kudos to Urbanize. LG an euch alle.


Head over to Part Two for the second half.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm no fisherman, but I'd love to be fishing, man

This memory of mine does not take place at Lake of the Clouds, pictured above. That lake is some miles west, in the Porkies.

The point of fishing is rarely ever about the fish themselves. Granted, the taste of pan-fish in the fryer after a long day is enough for me to toy with remaining north of the Bridge for the rest of my days. Expansive, clean, clear woodlands lie in the U.P., constantly calling to trolls such as myself.

One of many chances I've been given to explore the exquisite north was during high school, on a fishing trip with a good friend of mine and his father. Outside of traveling and camping with my family I hadn't spent much time with friends or classmates on trips. The feeling of being invited was fantastic in itself, pristine location notwithstanding.

Typically, when traveling long distances, my constant companion was the Gameboy Advance--an electronic siren. Our drive through the lower peninsula consisted of copious amounts of Advance Wars 2 and Super Smash Bros. thanks to a robust cigarette lighter. This combo got us through much of the nondescript farmland in mid-Michigan. Until you get roundabout Cadillac, there's not much special to observe on the interstate, but boy-o does it increase in majesty northwards. There is something magical about the drive up north. I've done it with many people over the years: family and friends, during the summer, winter and spring, but each time it feels like I'm going back to a place of special belonging, where more exists than can be observed. The unseen is the history and lore, the French, Natives and British, our family's camping over twenty years, the experiences that pile high and anew, during each unique foray...and the Gameboy.

The energy, building in the aether, climaxes at a very specific point, some miles south of the peninsular apex. Necks crane, non-driving activity stops and eyes strain to behold the sight of sights. We've been trained over the years for one task alone--to see the Bridge first. I have it down to which overpass I need to start paying attention at, and wait patiently for this concrete signpost to show me the way to victory. It rarely fails (provided you remember which overpass it is). I remember craning to see the bridge on this particular trip and being overzealous in my prediction of when it would appear. So anxious to show that I knew the area well, I fell flat on my face. The feeling faded quickly though, because while I was wrong, we were still on the way north.

We passed through the city fairly quickly, stopping briefly for some KFC, before our passage over the deep-emerald, diamond encrusted waters that are the Straits. The shoreline is rocky and sandy, beige in color--clean and transparent, sand covered over completely by myriad stones. It deepens near the first tower, changing from jade to malachite and back again, passing over the span, beneath which barges and freighters travel on their watery highway.

The land rises quickly into St. Ignace proper, the last bastion of civilization and ubiquitous fast-food, before the vast nothing, dotted by towns named after French explorers, missionaries and colonialists. Mere minutes on the road and the city is left behind, miles of pine bordered highway ahead to gaze at, and wildlife to scan for. The trees rise as sentinels along the road, home to bird nests and cover for deer to bed under during the heat of the afternoon.

Once you're in the U.P. and driving along, the miles tend to look alike, and you drive along very, very straight stretches of concrete. The car sets a constant, ceaseless beat as the tires pass over each separate segment of road. There's very little to cause the road to bend along its trajectory. The occasional lake and pond will cause some deviation, but little else is in the way of whatever destination you might have in mind. And it's flat. Until you meet the Porcupine Mountains in the west, you might confuse the U.P. for a Nebraska, producing large Christmas trees instead of corn and grains.

Towns (more properly villages) dot the road, appearing just when you think you had already passed the last bit of tamed land in the world an hour ago. Many are merely collections of hunting and fishing cabins, but true Yoopers you will find in and among those who call civilization in the south home.

We walked into a tiny diner in town to "pay da Yooper who mows da lawn in da summer, before headin' to da house, eh?". My friend's dad asked to whom he owed money, and the whole diner lit up, each man there making the same claim to the money. There were no women if I remember correctly. Yooper women are like the Entwives, they cannot be found.

We could have been doing anything at all in the U.P. for those few days. It so happens that of fishing, hiking, disc golfing, biking, swimming, canoeing or any of a host of pursuits common to the area in the summer, we had chosen to fish. Fishing, of the sort we did, consisted of sitting in a boat on a beautiful lake all day (often falling asleep), in the sun and in the shade, waiting for bluegill, bass and other sun/panfish to happen upon our lines. We would routinely bring in 15-30 fish per outing, from the littler lakes, and have delicious fried supper of them at night. I can't underscore enough how delicious some fresh perch, bluegill and bass taste, after you've spent the day catching them on an inland lake in the U.P. with tall pines rising up next to you on shore, and a fresh breeze cooling your sweat covered face on a sunny afternoon.

The spruce, jack and white pines unfurl their spiny umbrellas and carpet the ground with prickly rust that feels soft beneath your feet. It's carpet for a king and queen and whole court of woodland creatures.

The big lake has fish in abundance as well, and different customs by which she's approached and fished in. We go north to Superior for the day to catch walleye in a bay near the Keweenaw peninsula. Walleye are a completely different animal from the small panfish we were hunting before. They're larger and live nearer the bottom, in deep water. Not caught merely by dropping down a line and hoping they'll see it, we troll for them. Our boat constantly, slowly, smoothly moves, back and forth across the water. The surface is grey, like the clouds above. The overcast sky is welcome to burned skin, though the life preservers still chafe, even over shirted backs. Our lines go deep, weighted by a variety of sinkers in all sizes and shapes, to keep the thin translucent cord in the deep water. Again, I fall asleep. At the time I'm a little ashamed to be falling asleep, but my future self wishes to be back there, asleep in the boat, floating on one of the greatest lakes, without a care.

My friend catches a walleye that day. It's exciting! The fish is much greater in size and feisty on the line. It took a few tense minutes of fighting and clever line work to reel in and must have been 5 feet long! The aquatic craniate's will is not honored that day and we pull it into the net alongside the boat...success! (In addition to the success that having the time to spend fishing for fun already is.) We spend hours out on the water, but have only one big hit, one dose of excitement to punctuate the wonderful monotony. His dad later filets the finned beast to freeze at home for delectable winter meals.

After a few days, our time north comes to a close and we must leave. We must go back to our lives and our jobs, the suburbs and the cities, the cars and the noise. However, no matter how far south one may go, the North, her fish, her timber and her lakes ceaselessly beckon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the day when everything fails

That day sneaks up on you in seeming delight. It finds you after you've actually eaten breakfast, maybe worked out a bit at home. The day lies in wait above your head as you sit in group meeting, giving advice to a new graduate student, about their candidacy presentation they'll give in August.

First, the air conditioner isn't working in the cell culture room. "No matter" you think, we'll just flip the breaker like usual. "Aha!" shouts the day, "not so easily, this time."

"Well" you muse, "maybe I can use the hoods later if the humidity decreases..." Responding before you can catch your breath, the refrigerator/freezer cries out "I'M NOT GOING TO WORK TODAY!! YOU NEED TO EMPTY ME AND LET ME THAW! H4H4H4!"

That escalated quickly...suddenly a day of work turns into damage control. "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!" you shout, as your feet leave the ground, leaping into the air from atop the precipice of productivity. And you pray for an updraft. And wings. Pray for the wings first.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We were never millwrights


The sun's rays penetrate the oak's boughs into the glade, and play gently with the pine needles carpeting the ground. Their edges gleam dully as though they are tiny chipmunk foils. My brown leather boots, scarred by close calls with saws and hammers, brush aside leaves from past autumns now forgotten. They scuff the dirt, pushing aside soil transplanted here from receding glaciers.
Yellow-green leaves look down on me, batted about gently by the breeze, waving as though we were best friends. The land here lives and breathes the stories of forgotten men and women. It has lungs but no tongue, leaving me with the sense of great untold history. The loam tugs at the strings holding the purse of history, tied tightly by men too afraid to share.

I feel a connection to the wide sweeps of timber before me, harsh mistresses that have no ties to the soft middle class boy, naïvely tramping about. Don't regale me with tales of your camping, the living you do in the luxury of your warm portable houses, pulled about by monstrous machines.
The stones can tell you stories of men and women camping for months in the deep snows relying on naught but layers of birch bark and thatch. You reside here now, but it was not your hand that tamed the land. Your ancestors were not even here to see the timbers fall and industries rise from grassy fields.
Take my admonitions gently, coos the Old Mother. The trees spreading their limbs are for you to take shade from and rest beneath. I ask only that you think of, and remember, your place. Remember those before you and think of those that will come after. You all rest on my bosom.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

bearD


Beards are relentless. A bearD is just a bear standing ferociously on your mouth, daring those around you to look you in the eye.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sloats and Frains: Preface

I'm playing with the idea of releasing this as a series of vignettes; I want to write it as a reflection and anecdotal account, in addition to the more thorough account I wrote while in Europe.

Preface
Slow boats and fast trains hold the key to my heart. The two mark a time in my life when I didn't have to be somewhere punctually, mostly, and when I could savor moments spent with scenery and thoughts. A summer counting car rides on one hand, and writing a book with train ticket stubs. A new pair of sneakers stepped off the plane into a Mercedes wagon in May and left dilapidated and broken, by train to the airport in August.

MittelrheinBahn is my favorite. It snakes from the Mainz main station, along the glittering Rhein, bends north past Bingen am Rhein at the Knee, up through Koblenz and Bonn, to Köln. Little castles dot the landscape, some sit in the middle of the river--having taken ancient tolls they now smile with age upon the young generations passing by. The slopes above the Rhein are home to expansive vineyards, providing the leaves with a second dose of sun, reflecting off the water. It was this stretch of land that I explored, with two compatriots, most thoroughly in Rheinland-Pfalz during the South-African-World-cup summer of 2010.

I was joined by fellow foreigners, tourists, business people, drunk soccer fans, school-children and families on trips near and far, now scattered to the corners of the globe. That summer changed me. I became more independent, confident and added a language to the bag of things that nothing but time can strip from me (at this point I would like to apologize to everyone that didn't want to hear stories from "when I was abroad" because that can be ever so annoying). I was given time to connect with my ancestral roots and meet distant relatives in the Fatherlands. Summer dripped gold over the sheep speckled hills, chemical reaction mixtures and crumbling castles.

This was inspired by #93 on this post from red Ravine.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"just expressing an opinion belief" [Rant]

We tend to value the fact that people have opinions and beliefs, but not how well thought out or constructed they are (perhaps due to the rise of social media and the ubiquity of simple tools to publish content).

I'll give an example. Recently, with respect to the same-sex marriage controversy, someone commented on a facebook post,
"just expressing an opinion",
in response to
"I'm interested in hearing why you think that...",
about their stance on the issue. Opinions are important. However, in this case opinion was confused with belief. It's important that people think. I love to hear a well thought out belief that conflicts with my own. It makes me evaluate merit and do one of three things: reject the stance due to weakness, change my position completely because of the strength of the argument, or modify my belief based on thoughts I hadn't considered before.

I respect having strong beliefs on the nature and existence of truth, but you should be able to defend them in at least a basic sense. It's difficult to value belief that hasn't been thought through. If your beliefs are based on the Bible, be able to give a reason as to why it's authoritative, and why your interpretation of it supports a belief you espouse. Credence isn't dispensed for free; "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).

Just "expressing an opinion" in the guise of sharing a belief is weak, and I don't want to hear it.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Pleased to make your acquaintance

It's a weird morning, when you're using something, and someone else is trying to fix that thing, and they don't realize you're using the thing in question.

Especially if that thing is the showers at the pool.

And the water turns off when you're still all soapy.

And the repair guy walks in.


And then you bargain with him, naked, for a few more minutes of scalding hot water since the cold water got completely turned off.

If this happens zero more times I won't be mad.

Monday, April 29, 2013

brothas dig the lyrics

How important are lyrics in music? I'm still developing an opinion on this. I consider language an important and powerful tool, that has been increasingly undervalued and ignored in favor of saying anything at all. This is something I struggle with personally: using imprecise language or being content with weak statements that don't adequately convey my meaning. Poetry counters this in me completely, because it is the act of playing with language, bending it to one's will and surprising the reader with spice, bite and nuance.

In the last couple of days, I've been listening to a couple of my favorite albums by the band dredg. A friend introduced them to me in high school, and I've followed them since, listening to their albums and enjoying their sound as it twists, wiggles and ultimately retains a consistent voice over the years. The band has written several concept albums, with themes of questioning belief and religion, a Dali painting and a man seeking to cure his moral disease.

I listened to them for a long time, into college years even, without thinking seriously about the lyrics and simply enjoying the music (which is exquisite and vibrant and different than anything else I had heard--calling it art-rock seems appropriate to me). Looking back, this is kind of ironic, considering the themes of the albums. I've been content to experience and appreciate the music solely for its aural quality, to bask in the sound washing over me, purposely ignoring the worldview of the artists.

It turns out that the way the members of dredg see the world is very different than how I see it. I identify with their sense of questioning belief and religion, but we've come to different conclusions. At first I considered this and came to the conclusion that it wasn't appropriate for me to listen to music that was advocating a position in opposition to my beliefs. Looking back on that initial thought though, it seems hasty.

I have plenty of friends with whom I disagree on many things. We're still friends though. We enjoy each other's company and discussion and spending time. I've come to this realization about music as well. It's a friend that I enjoy being around. I respect her opinion, though I don't necessarily have to agree.

In fact, I've learned something from this friend and seen things in a different light.

I was trying to decipher the meaning of the lyrics from one of dredg's songs recently: I Don't Know (live) [music video]. At first blush it seems to be a strong statement of agnosticism, but I don't know if the message is inherently anti-religion or if the writer is merely frustrated and is giving up on searching for meaning apart from himself. There were a lot of interesting takes on the lyrics, but one from Qohelet caught my eye:
Flowing, powerful song; the vocals almost force you to pay attention to the lyrics.

Concerning the anosticism [sic]:
Well I don't know what to believe anymore
But every now and then I feel a moment of awakening
But then it's gone, then it's gone, then it's gone
I'm blanketed by the warmth of ignorance

Apparently, the moments of awakening have enough value to create frustration that they don't pan out to more. It seems like the writer is embittered that the awakening is fleeting because although his blanket is warm, he calls it ignorance.

I totally agree with:
Cause there's no guarantee
Of a god or longevity
Admit you don't know anything
And give it up

although the "it" may mean more than one thing. It is interesting that we communicate as if a possible-god is obligated to guarantee us anything, as if such a being is on trial by us instead of vice versa. Speaking agnostically, if there really was some ultimate, all-knowing being able to guarantee us longevity, a special place, etc., would it be more realistic to suppose that he must prove himself to us or that we must prove ourselves to him? If the latter, then we may well be in a state without all the answers so that this possible-god can assess what we are really interested in finding out / becoming.
Qohelet takes a stab at what makes agnosticism frustrating...the moments of "awakening" and not only being unsure of the existence of a god, but unsure of how we might be supposed to interact. I don't know if this is exactly what dredg meant or not, but the song engaged me and provoked a deeper thought.

Maybe that's the story to hear from this song, an agnostic's view of agnosticism, and how they understand/struggle with/define it. Words like these are enough for me to keep listening. Enough for me to wonder at the meaning behind carefully crafted verses.

The point, via drawn out case study, is that lyrics in music do matter. At least they should. They matter to me even if we're not in accord.
Title inspiration

Friday, April 26, 2013

Animosity, made ya speak but ya spoke

Rap isn't poetry. Poetry is poetry. Rap is rap.
Rap is musical performance. The emcee, as Rakim, one of the best rappers ever put it, is the microphone soloist.
A poem might be sonorous, lovely to the ear, but it--it's still a completely different form. It's not a song.
But just as some of the best poetry has great musicality, some of the best rapping is as densely, tightly packed with figurative language and surprising meaning as a poem.
Often the layers of allusion and secondary meanings are hidden, intentionally so in fact--a marginalized culture is incentivized to speak a language its oppressor doesn't speak.
--Jesse Thorn
Jesse is the host of some my favorite podcasts. He's a thoughtful culture critic as well, and I've gotten many good recommendations from him in the last few years.

He develops the statement above by using as an example, a verse in Jay-Z's song "Threat". The lyrics are explicit, and I won't quote them here, but the way Jay-Z incorporates symbolism and meaning into his verses is pretty incredible. I don't understand many of the references (thank goodness for rapgenius.com), but I do understand a well crafted verse. I understand the desire to be lyrically dominating and to use words fiercely. I'm not looking to "build The Sands on you", but "y'all [will] wish I was frontin'" with my pen...

In the latest Bullseye episode (23 April 2013), Jesse works through some of the lyrics of Threat by Jay-Z in his outshot (9th Wonder on the production). If you have any interest in rap or lyricism, I would suggest a listen below.



Some lyrics may seem prosaic at first blush, but read deeper and appreciate meaning and thought (even if it's about how someone might be threatening violence explicitly).
I'm not going to try and downplay the violence and sexism that exists, much less condone it, but remember: Nickelback makes rock music.
If you don't appreciate rap music, that's fine. But be aware that you're missing out on some delightful word play and electric rhythm.

I stand by Jesse's thesis:
"Rap's not poetry, but that doesn't means it's not worth a close listen."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nice to meet you, I'm me

I really needed to read this post today.

Things at work haven't been going particularly well, and I feel in danger of my fellow classmates outpublishing, outworking and succeeding in ways that I'm not ( all still true :D ), but I know that doesn't really matter. Not to say I've given up, but I know in my head that I don't need to worry. My heart will catch up eventually, by God's grace.

This morning I got a "thanks", after sending a file to someone who hasn't shown me a lot of patience lately. It felt like a weight had been lifted even though it was just one word in an email. I need to dispense that person some thanks as well. Because I mean it, and because it feels good to reciprocate feelings that are, even in a small way, mutual. It reminded me that even small progresses are good. I underrate progress in small packages, when really, those progresses make a Ph.D. eventually (I hope).

Today, I'm Steve. There is no one else that I have/want to be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

nothing rhymes

I've been eating oranges a lot lately because they're absolutely, incredibly delicious. The formatting was kind of an afterthought, but I like how it turned out. I initially useD capitals at the end of verbs to distinguisH them, but it waS too confusing and didn't differentiatE them clearly. In other news...I'm glad I learned HTML once upon a time.
The formatting is still kind of meh...and I feel like my ad/verb usage is weak, but for a first runthrough I liked the result.

rubbery and pliant, almost waxy in Texture--it slides smoothly, rolls easily, in my Hand.
Thumbnail pierces Skin, releasing a pungent, aromatic Spray, transforming the Room.
Flesh trapped in a protective webby Prison releases pleasant, fierce limonin counter Attacks.

the Orange sits on the Desk taunting me, daring me to open it up and taste its sweetly-bitter Juices.
it promises that my Beard will be wet and sticky by the end.
the Beauty of an Orange lies as much in the Anticipation of those saccharine wet Bites as in Consumption.
my Teeth poke fiercely through the Membrane and my Brain conducts the sensory Orchestra.
notice first the crisp Notes that the Nose picks up, proclaiming, "we have Purchase!"
the Tongue enters boldly like the bombastic Tones of a trombone Section blaring loudly and brightly!
dribbling out the Corners of my Mouth, Nectar is snatched up by eager Fingers, a suspended Cymbal resounding.
i notice the Mess i've made of my Surroundings. it dries quickly, leaving sticky Steps for Mice to meander o'er.
quarter-at-a-time the Carpels are consumed with abandon.
over before it started, Hands lay limply at my Side, drenched and drying.

Makin me ta wanna rite

My friend is an English professor who reminds me of John Keating from the Dead Poets Society. She is a prolific writer and blogger too. Her love of Jesus and of those around her oozes out of her writing and conversation.

It seems to take friends like this to reignite my love of writing. We were talking a few weeks ago, and she suggested a short writing idea. It felt so good to write again--to write about a memory, to write about anything.

I like to have ideas and drafts waiting for me to poke at, to prod, to contribute to and prune.

This afternoon, I decided to eat an orange outside in the sun for a few moments, and I thought about the verbs and nouns around me. I felt the sun beating down on me and the black bench outside my lab. Heat radiates to me directly from our star, and from beneath me through the energy contained in the metal bench, warming and washing me from head to toe. Somehow today brings the cleanest warmth imagined, so I sit, and I munch. The plump navel orange peels easily, leaving me with sticky sweet hands while I eat.

My lightly freckled, blonde haired hands soak it in, pale and white after the bitter, refreshing winter. They bring each plump bit of pale citrus from its place on my juice dotted lap to my lips, waiting with breath abated.

With each bite I'm tenuously satisfied, yet have the desire for more, to jump into a pit of pulpy orange juice and let it saturate my pores, inhale it deeply and breathe it.

The moment is brief, but delicious. Busyness will squeeze the enjoyment of a moment like this from our lives, so I enjoy it while I can.

I'm determined not to be squeezed out like my snack, unless it be into the maw of the worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Friends, Redditors, summonermen, stack me your tears;

Friends, Redditors, summonermen, stack me your tears;
I come to bury Bronze, not to be n00b.
The games that summoners throw live after them;
The wins are oft interred with their bone-tooth-necklaces;
So let it be with Bronze. The noble Silver
Hath told you Bronze were feeders:
If it were so, it was a grievous wound,
And grievously hath Bronze QSS'd it.
Here, under leave of Silver and the rest -
For Silver is an honourable tier;
So are they all, all honourable tiers -
Come I to speak in Bronze's promotional series.
It was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Silver says they were feeders;
And Silver is an honourable tier.
He hath brought many n00bl0rds home to Jesse Perring
Whose firstbloods did IE's from the shopkeeper buy:
Did this in Bronze seem feeder?
When that the n00bz have cried, Bronze hath wept:
Lucker-dogs should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Silver says they were feeders;
And Silver is an honourable tier.
You all did see that on the Rift
I thrice presented him Trondomodere's crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this the promo-series?
Yet Silver says they were feeders;
And, sure, he is an honourable tier.
I speak not to disprove what Silver spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did feed there once, not without rage quitting afkers:
What cause withholds you then, to rage with them?
O judgment! thou art fled to Dunning-Kruger,
And men have lost their reason. Volibear with me;
My heart-of-gold is in the coffin there with Bronze,
And I must pause ere I come back to feed.

I made it from Bronze I to Silver V last night, in my favorite game (League of Legends), so Shakespeare seemed appropriate. This means I passed from a lower rating into one with better players, which is hopefully where I belong if I continue to win games, for the uninitiated.

Monday, April 01, 2013

That's Mr. Prosaic Confabulation to you...

A good friend told me about how excited she was to teach college students the next unit in her writing course: memoir. Her students write about their favorite memory in as much detail and nuance as they can. Their stories pop with detail, bubble over with spicy particulars and sizzle with meaning when she's through.
It got me thinking about some of my favorite memories, one of which is completely fabricated. I'm not delusional about this memory--I know it never happened, but it feels as real as if it had. In fact, it seems more real than some memories which actually happened. Brains are so funny sometimes.

This memory is about time with my grandfather at my grandparents house, bordered by a small crick in the back yard. There's an old, rusting, wrought iron and cement bridge which crumbles at the edges in places and spans a very shallow sandy bed no more than 10 feet wide. Neighborhood kids have taken a dirt path to the bridge and crossed to school for generations. It's very unassuming, with simple chain links running along its profile, room enough for two children to pass, perhaps. Growing up, the boy cousins made boats from sticks and leaves to drop from the bridge and race until the end of the property, a mere 50 feet downstream.

One day when my little brother and I stay with my grandparents for the day, while our mum is at work, we decide to make boats with Grandpa. It means we get to go downstairs and work with him in his shop. Grandpa's shop had nearly everything in it. This is by virtue of the fact that a good dutchman throws away nothing if it can be of some use later, real or imagined. Waste not, want not, he always says. The dark side of this is his pickle "juice" drinking habit, balanced by the beautiful grandfather clocks my aunts and uncles all sport in their houses, which he constructed from kits he saved from dumpsters over the years. Grandpa's shop also has Werther's candies.

The boats we make are simple and flat, made in a boat-shape of course, with little keels on the bottom. We sand them down together and Grandpa helps us glue the keels to them. With the keels attached, we're faced with a decision, sail the boats now in the sofly burbling crick, or paint them and wait for them to be christened. Funnily enough, in the part of the memory that transpired in real life, I don't remember who made the decision, but we paint them. Mine is painted red and black; the little bro chooses blue with red. He writes our initials on them of course. That way they match every other item in our toy chest back home.

The painting was the point at which events passed from fact into the realm of fiction, constructed from desires in a child's mind. I don't know at which point the following became entrenched in my memory, vivid as the sun on the dull red brick outside my window, but my tangled mess of neurons holds onto it tenaciously and naïvely.

In my memory, we take our painted boats to the back yard instead of piling into our old and worn, red minivan. We drop the boats in the crick with Grandpa and walk along the bank through neighbors' backyards as the boats slowly drift along the current. The sun shines through the pine trees leaving dappled patterns on the brown, soggy leaves that are left in the spring after the snows finally melt. The afternoon feels golden, lit like the artificial set of a movie. My little brother isn't even part of the memory at this point, poor fellow. In fact, no boats float in the stream, we just walk. It ends there--my Grandpa and me, strolling along the bank. A simple pleasant memory.


The detail about the lighting is probably what tipped me off initially about the falsity of the memory. That and the speed of the crick. In the spring, the crick becomes a creek, moving swiftly and bone-chillingly from the snows dripping in; wade after boats at the peril of your warm tootsies.
Though it's fraught with errors and inconsistencies, I treasure this memory of my Grandpa. This is the memory I wanted to have with him. I wanted it so much that in my mind, it happened.

I shelve it in my brain along with the real memories of my Grandpa. It sits next to us fishing for catfish with my cousins on the side of a channel (We ate those terrible, bottom-feeding fish later. Boiled. I didn't have fish for years because of this.), sits next to camping trips with him listening to Rush on a picnic table with kids cavorting loudly around him, next to uncles and aunts skiing behind us in his ancient, rickety, underpowered fishing boat, next to Sunday afternoons eating pot roast, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes, and hearing him pray for the "lost and sorr'ing (sorrowing) ones".

I don't know why I fabricated this memory, or even if it was on purpose. I'm going to leave it there though, because if I had asked him to, Grandpa would have walked that crick for miles with me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Meemeemeemee ABC 123

I love visiting cities for all the voices you hear during the course of a day. Some voices speak languages I don't know, some speak in tones that are vibrant, others harsh. Voice tells me something about your attitude currently, and when I've gotten to know you, about your worldview. Listening to voices is an incredible joy: accents twist, cadence tickles, pitch pinches and pace asserts. Some people who study voice and speech can even tell where you're from, very specifically--we share parts of our voices, while retaining the part which makes it ours.

Difference in spoken voice is so salient and delightful. Written voice is also an incredible phenomenon. I didn't have much of an appreciation for it until a few years ago when I began to think more consistently about how my writing sounded, and what it was trying to communicate. Blogging poetry is easy, you sculpt each sentence carefully and with meaning. Each word is chosen carefully to evoke a specific image in the mind of your reader. For me, poetry is the most intentional of writing styles...but this is because I overvalue poetry. Poetry is not the only style with a voice. All writing has a voice and it is up to the writer to clearly enunciate that voice in each word she pens, be it in narrative fiction, poetry, persuasive essay or research paper.
My "poetic" voice in high school was incredibly angsty. Parts of that voice stuck around, but it matured, in the way that my squeaky high voice deepened through puberty. It's fun to read what that early voice had to say, but only in moderation.

My ninth grade high school English teacher really encouraged me to write in my own voice. He loved the zany stories and essays I would write. I really tried hard to be descriptive and let my words drip with savory juices. My vocabulary was growing, and I explored each new word I was learning, trying to fit them in appropriately, and more often humorously. Writing in high school was new and fresh and I loved it. I was finding my voice.

A friend of mine blogs regularly--for the moment. That's not a criticism, it's just acknowledging the reality of this blog, which had regular posts for some time, before going fallow for about 2 years. It happens. In any case, she's blogging, and writing about her life. She writes about God working in her life, about giving up control, about finding her place in her field, about scones and tea. It's fun to read and get insights into what she thinks about. Her voice though is still developing. I hear someone else's voice in her words.
A mutual friend of ours blogs every day. She has a brand, a style and a consistent readership. Her voice is incredibly consistent and vibrant. Few people I know write in this way, and it's clearly hers. This is the voice I hear in my other friend's blog. It's a good voice, but it's not hers (that I know of). I haven't read enough of the first friend's writing to say what her voice might sound like, but I know the voice she speaks with in her blog is nearly identical to the other familiar voice I'm used to reading. I like that voice, but I want my friend to find her own voice. Her writing is good, but I think it can be so much better if she can find that voice, and speak comfortably with it. I want to hear the spunk her spoken voice has, but written. I could be wrong, but I think there's another voice hiding in there, waiting to set words on fire.

I want to hear that voice too.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

EDIT: I posted this three days ago, but Blogger apparently disagreed with my request. Well, it's published now...

It's snowing now. We're supposed to be in for a helluva storm, but I'm skeptical. It's fear that the news stations and weather sprinkle into their forecasts, so we'll pay attention. We need some fear, to make sure we take care, to keep our priorities straight, to live life instead of watch it go by. Fear loses its usefulness past these (maybe more) functions. Fear is what would have kept me from working abroad when I was in college, from traveling by myself and exploring places with strangers become friends. Fear is what keeps me from sharing my Jesus with the people around me. Fear is what kept me, at Calvin College, from living the life that Jesus would have. There was no growth there, but several years of contented inaction.

Fear was all I knew as a child. Fear that my parents would die in an auto accident and I would be left with my younger siblings, to try to provide for them, or be separated among our larger family. Fear was always there, lurking, wondering with an overactive imagination, "What if?"

Fear has a hold in inaction, I've found. It delights in the status quo. Moments of spontaneity crush fear.
Asking a crush from high school to dance with me for the first time started to liberate me from my fear (maybe fear of rejection) of women. I can count her as a friend now.
Taking the initiative to step into Prof. Nielsen's office and inform him that, yes, I would like to travel overseas to take a job in Germany, knowing no German, and knowing I would earn no money to put toward my tuition.
I'd like to say that it was faith which propelled me through those decisions and on that course, but it was probably adrenaline in the first case simple curiosity in the second.

My life changed significantly from these two experiences, from taking a pass on fear, taking a chance that it might not be as bad as I could envision. I left the superfluous thinking in my head, and let my feet lead me to a slow dance in a sweaty gym, and to an amazing experience in culture, friendship, language and chemistry.

So take that weather station, I'm not afraid of your banal weather warnings. I'll boldly take to the roads on my way home tonight.


P.S. When you see my grey Vibe in a ditch tonight, kindly call me a tow truck when you get home.