Friday, November 23, 2007

Wildlife and Soup Kitchens

Today began like no other day in my life.

I started house sitting two days ago at a remote north Atlanta home that is situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. I've been taking care of 'Joe', a friendly, yet instinctual canine. We've wandered the rather large property together several times for some exercise, played fetch with a large stick in an expansive field (though I'm usually fetching the stick from Joe's mouth as he doesn't quite get the concept), and napping in the house.

Joe startled me awake this morning with some rather ferocious barking. I bumbled sleepy-eyed toward him and when I looked out the window I saw a canine-shaped specter drifting across the backyard. Joe kept barking at the top of his lungs, and clearly the creature heard him, because its large ears perked up and its head turned to look at the two of us as it continued to cruise across the yard.

Before leaving, Joe's owner warned me that the remote property had wild visitors from time to time, and among the most recent sightings were coyotes. The owner told me I would usually only hear them and that they would either howl or sound like dogs fighting. Of course it's a bad idea to let Joe out when they are around because his territorial instincts would kick in, he'd chase them down, and then find himself completely outmatched.

So, here I am at five o'clock in the morning with Joe barking his head off, staring out the back window with a coyote staring right back at me. The coyote trotted off to the left and disappeared into the woods. Joe was on high alert for the rest of the morning.

My encounters with wildlife had just begun, though. After I fed Joe and took him on an observed walk, I walked out to my car for an appointment. I had just cranked my car and headed up the driveway, when a LARGE buck crossed in front of me. I just stopped and stared.

My 'appointment' was with a soup kitchen where I have been volunteering lately. Since my friend Ashley asked me to go with her a little over a month ago, I have been (almost) every Thursday to the Open Door Community on Ponce de Leon Avenue near downtown Atlanta. Today was a Thanksgiving meal, which was quite a bit more elaborate than usual. For starters, there were at least three times the usual amount of volunteers. As you can imagine there were quite a bit more people to be served than normal too, so the place was packed to the gills with people. I think the final number served was 316. The food was also much better. I don't know where it came from... probably a local church, but it was all the traditional Thanksgiving food. Turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, green beans, dressing and gravy, and much more.

As usual, after all of the homeless people were served, the volunteers cleaned up, and then shared the leftovers together. Our meal is always preceded by a time of prayer, scripture reading and reflection. Today we learned that one of the regulars was found dead this morning outside a homeless shelter. No cause was given, but we prayed for him, his family, and the all other homeless people who live like he did.

I came 'home' to find Joe giddy and excited to see me. We immediately went on one of our long walks and as we were strolled along the Chattahoochee, I saw a beautiful crane. We came back to the house, where we chilled out and watched some TV (some show about how to survive in the Sahara desert, where the host gutted a camel and used it for shelter [yuck!]), when I heard very soft howling through the living room windows. It seems the coyotes are still around.

Links of Interest

Two Dollar Trick

Drumline Meets Revenge of the Nerds
Save the Paper Towel Forests
The Elevator of Conformity. How would YOU react?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Please help!!! Creative interview questions needed.

Tomorrow I am getting together with my family for a Thanksgiving meal, and I am planning to interview my family members for a kind of video time capsule. The interview will be taped and then stored away for viewing on a later date.

My plan is to write down questions on a bunch of different scraps of paper, put them in a "hat", and draw 5 or six for each person interviewed.

The trouble is I am having difficulty coming up with creative questions to ask (mainly because I procrastinated on coming up with the questions until tonight). I could really use your help in making up questions.

What are things that would be meaningful for you to ask your family members? If you could ask a deceased family member or friend a question, what would it be? In regards to family history, what would you ask your older relatives? Think outside the box. Off-the-wall questions are welcome. Please submit your question by posting a comment below.

Thanks for your help.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Highland Games

Last weekend I went with a group of friends to The Highland Games at Stone Mountain Park. It's an annual Scottish festival with lots kilts, bagpipes, and beer.

Some year I am actually going to watch the games. I know there's all kinds of competition, but somehow I never get around to seeing it. I did see one caber toss from a distance this year. That's pretty much where a guy tries to flip a telephone pole (okay, I exaggerate a little) end over end.

I had my first (and probably last) experience eating haggis. It wasn't as bad as the hype, but it still wasn't fantastic. I can do without it.

By the end of the festival, we all decided we would save up for a kilt (well, at $1,000 a pop, maybe not) and go back again next year. Next time I really, REALLY will watch the games. I promise.

Check out some photos here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Star Trek Role Reversal

Recently there has been a good bit of buzz in the sci-fi world about a new Star Trek movie set during the era of the original series. Clearly the original actors can't play the roles at this point, so the characters have been recast. That's right! As sacreligious as it may sound, someone other than William Shatner will play Captain Kirk. And our pointy-eared friend Spock? Well, let's just say Leonard Nimoy can finally rest easy about not being Spock.

A good part of the buzz has revolved around which up and coming actors will play these famous roles. Over the last few months the parts have been doled out to some familiar faces. I have to admit the choices seem pretty good. I am most interested in the casting of Zachary Quinto (of Heroes fame) as Spock.

This afternoon I got to thinking about how strange it is to see these old, familiar roles filled by different actors. Then I wondered what it would be like if the tables were turned. What would it be like if the Star Trek actors took on the roles of the up and coming actors? Here's the result:

Here's William Shatner starring opposite Lindsay Lohan in Just My Luck (in lieu of Chris Pine, our new Captain Kirk). Yeah, that looks awkward to me too.

Watch out! Sinister power-stealing Sylar is now being played by Leonard Nimoy. This is going to be a major upgrade from the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Next up, DeForest Kelley as Eomer from The Lord of the Rings movies. He graciously stepped in to fill Karl Urban's armor. (He's our new McCoy!)

Fan favorite Scotty is slated to be played by English actor Simon Pegg, who was recently in Shaun of the Dean and Hot Fuzz. So naturally James Doohan has been cast as top cop, Nicholas Angel.

What would the bridge of the Enterprise do without our favorite Asian helmsman, Hikaru Sulu? Never fear; the role will be filled by John Cho from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. I have to say that Kumar's "come hither" stare at Harold makes much more sense now!

Give me an "A"! Give me a "T"! Give me an "L"!

Lately I've been spending a lot of time at Stone Mountain Park. Specifically on the mountain itself as I have been climbing it nearly every day (except this week because I am house sitting... something I am coming to realize is the bane of my fitness).

I've noticed all sorts of things from the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey marker that is firmly cemented in place at the peak (which I ritualistically tap with my toe every time I get to the top) to the 20-foot, faded yellow letters that spell "ATLANTA" in front of the building at the summit. Though I have no proof, I assume it was put there in the early days of aviation to guide pilots to the Atlanta airport. Indeed there is also the number "19" and an arrow that points just south of the city, which is where the airport is. I think this is incredibly interesting.

Sadly, this label is deteriorating rapidly and there is likely no record of it ever being there. So, I guess this is my attempt at preserving this information for generations to come. Check out the images to the left. One image shows how I imagine the label must look from the air. I found the image of Stone Mountain on Google Maps and then superimposed the letters on top. The letters themselves are not visible in the aerial photography. Another image shows how the last "A" in Atlanta appears if you are standing at the top of the mountain (it's animated with an outline to help you see it).


Links of Interest

10 Bizarre Ancient Artifacts
Windows Vista Explained
The 10 Most Sublimely Scary Scenes in Cinema
Apollo 11 moon panorama

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Opera at the new Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

My mom recently got tickets for the opera Turendot and asked me to join her. I am not normally a fan of opera, but one of my favorite pieces of music is a movement from this opera. It's called Nessen Dorma, and was famously sung by Luciano Pavarotti. I gladly accepted.

We stopped off first at Top Spice, one of my favorite Thai restaurants. The mango chicken was just as good as I remembered it!

Then we were off to the opera. Cobb county's new performing arts center (or as they spell it, "centre") is the new home of the Atlanta opera, and is a fantastic building. My mother later shared with me that one of our old church members was the architect and wanted to know what we thought. Well, simply put, it was fantastic. I was greatly impressed by the use of some type of stone that was back lit. It reminded me of the alabaster from Egypt that vendors would shine a light through to show that it was genuine. Very beautiful.

The show itself was much like I expected an opera to be. There really isn't much action on the stage. It's more just a bunch of folks singing, which just doesn't hold my attention. (Hey I'm from the internet generation. Having a short attention span is pretty much an epidemic at this point.) However, the fantastic costumes, sets, and lighting did catch my attention. They were fantastic! What really saved me in this opera were the projected translations. Thanks goodness for the translations, or I would have been lost. Then came the precious Nessen Dorma, the wonderful Tenor solo I was looking forward to. It was great, but it seemed so short compared to the rest of the opera. It was over before I really had begun to enjoy it.

All in all it was a good night. As we left I got my mom to take this jokey picture of me holding a "light saber". It is really just one of the lamps on the sidewalk in front of the center.


Links of Interest

Internet People - An animated compilation of wacky stuff from the internet.
Wilhelm Scream Compilation - Hollywood's most famous stock-audio scream and all its uses.
Lunation - One photo of the moon every day during the lunar month - notice the "wobble" called libration. Source
25 Reasons You Might Be A Hardcore Graphic/Web Designer - This is so true it's not funny.

Nana & Dindaddy's 60th Wedding Annivarsary

A few weeks ago I joined my grandparents and a few other family members on a trip to Augusta for a trip down memory lane. My grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and my mom thought it would be great to revisit a few of those years. My grandparents live in August in the late forties and into the fifties before moving to the Atlanta area because of a job transfer.

We visited their old, small house, their church, my grandfather's Tri-State Tractor office (which is now a church), the home of my mom's childhood piano teacher, and one of their favorite restaurant destinations; Luigi's. It seems Luigi's had changed quite a bit over the years. While the food was good, apparently it used to be GREAT! I heard them remark so many times about how much times had changed. They remarked on how Augusta used to be a pretty good place for opportunity, but is now a rather depressed area.

I did find out that my grandmother was a rather feisty young lady in those days. She explained how my grandfather's coworker kept telling her that one of the office secretaries was putting the moves on my grandfather. She became jealous and even walked a few miles to confront her in person about it. Fortunately the secretary wasn't there because my grandmother said she was going to berate her so bad my grandfather might have lost his job. As it turns out, the secretary was not flirting with my grandfather. She was messing around with my grandfather's coworker though... the one who was getting my grandmother all riled up in the first place. Turns out he was trying to get some of the guilt/pressure off of himself.

We also visited the grave sites of two of my uncles. One of them, Michael, died in infancy in the 50's, and the other, Joe, passed away in 1995 in a car accident.

Sadly we were unable to locate Michael's marker and were afraid it was lost. However, this is a "perpetual care" cemetery (something I had never heard of) and these sorts of things are not supposed to happen in a perpetual care cemetery. My grandfather, my uncle Ronnie and I went to the office and asked the undertaker about it. He sifted through a file and found the original sales slip for the marker, confirming that it was supposed to me there.

We all headed back out to the plot where the marker was supposed to be. The undertaker surveyed the site for a few moments with a rather perplexed look on his face before pulling a ball point pen from his pocked. He stabbed the ground with it repeatedly. After a few stabs we all heard a metallic "clink". He found the marker, which was buried beneath two or three inches of sandy soil.

The undertaker claimed that the marker was originally placed on a cement slab, which over time disintegrated and sank into the ground. I think that's a bit fishy, but my grandfather decided to upgrade to a granite slab anyhow to prevent this type of thing from happening again. None of the other markers that were placed on granite seemed to be sinking, so perhaps there's some truth to his story.

Anyway, it was good to spend time with my grandparents and hear their stories. Some of them I had heard before, but it was great to hear them in context, at the places where they actually happened.


Links of Interest

California fires from the space shuttle
American Consumption - An artist's visual representation of our wastefulness
God's email inbox
Harvard goes Halo - Reminds me of the R2-D2 prank someone did at MIT in 1999.
Stephen Colbert Announces Run for White House! - I can't wait to see how this turns out!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ann Coulter... HACKED!

Bwa hahahahahahaha. How funny. Someone hacked Ann Coulter's website yesterday and posted this article. Priceless! Though it's sad that it isn't true. Click the image for a larger version.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unexpected connections

Last week I did something I've never done before. I met somebody in person that I only previously communicated with through the internet.

A guy named Justin contacted me through my website a few weeks ago and told me that he was working as a part of the CUBIT Foundation, which is a non-profit humanitarian organization that works all over the world. He mentioned that he had passed through Egypt and several times and wanted to know more about Garbage City, a place where Egyptians make their living by sorting through garbage. He found my website through a web search and likely found this page.

In Garbage City they literally have garbage piled up in the streets, and often in the first floor of their apartment buildings. I personally saw people sitting on the piles sorting through the refuse. Unfortunately I didn't really have any solid connections to the organization, I was just a visitor myself, so I couldn't really help him.

It turns out that in addition to going to Egypt a good bit, Justin is also from the Atlanta area and was going to be nearby over the next few days. I figured it would be okay if we met up in a public place to chat about our experiences and that way I could learn more about the CUBIT Foundation.

Justin is a really bright young man. While he has worked all over Central and South America, he has made connections with people in Egypt in ways I could only dream of and is really living an amazing life when he is there. He told me that next year he would be spending an extended amount of time living in Giza, which I think is great! What an experience!

Justin, if you read this: keep doing what you are doing. You are definitely going places, seeing things, meeting people and living experiences that few ever do. I can't help but admit that I am a little envious.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Painting the Narthex: Part 2

Today after church a group of about eight or nine of us started the second phase of the narthex painting project. Previously we had done several base coats of the various colors along the wall, but today we got to add those funky, ribbon-like lines that run the length of the hall.

On Friday I did some test painting on the first section, which represents Advent, and then chalked out the rest of the design so others could help by filling in the lines. It is amazing what a few hours difference makes. In no time this project was finally taking the form that we had originally envisioned. The curving lines add so much activity to what was once a bland, boring hallway.

I think my favorite part of painting today was painting with red paint to represent Pentecost. The red is just incredibly bright and stands out like a beacon, even in the midst of the other vibrant colors. Unfortunately the red paint was thinner than the others so it's going to take several coats for it to look right. My friend Scott commented that the Pentecost column looks like a candy cane, but that will soon change as we will also add orange and yellow to complete the flame appearance.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mended window

Got my car window replaced. In the mean time the Honda place gave me a rental car. It was a Ponticac Grand Prix. I had never even driven a Pontiac before. It was pretty nice. That is all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kick Cancer's Butt!

So, Friday night my friend Sara and I went to this benefit that I have been preparing a PowerPoint presentation for. Scratch that. Make it presentationS... plural... with an S on the end. It was a good bit of work. Fortunately work that I (or my company technically) am getting paid for. Of course, that check has to arrive in the mail for me to actually get paid.

The night started off with some unexpected excitement. This story basically starts back in college when my car was broken into while I was parked at a Wal*Mart late at night. The passenger window was replaced by my insurance company, but a few years later the window started to act weird. When rolled down, it would sort of pitch forward and it took quite a bit of work to roll it back up and shimmy it into place. For the last few years it has done this.

I'm usually quick on the draw about telling people not to roll it down. This particular evening I wasn't so quick. I picked up my friend Sara, who had graciously agreed to go with "big hair". More on that later. Anyway, I picked her up and before I even thought about telling her not to roll the window down... she did. And the window pitched forward.

"No big deal," I thought. I'll just shimmy it back into place when we get where we are going. When we arrived, I swung around the car and casually went through the ritual I have done so many times before. I grasped the top edge of the window with my right hand, while I rolled the window up with my left hand. I applied the slightest amount of pressure to the window crank, then "pop", shattered glass sprayed everywhere. The window just disintegrated in front of me. My right hand still held a few chunks and was just stunned for a few seconds. Sara shrieked when the window popped and seemed just as stunned. This was a fantastic show for the two event workers that were on their break and just happened to watch everything.

I laughed it off and thought, "Well, what else can I do but go have a good time?" I did just that.

Kick Cancer's Butt!, the organization that I have been working for, was holding a Texas Hold'em event to raise money for the Georgia Cancer Foundation. The dress code was cowboy sheek (sp?), which, I was told, meant cowboy hat, tux jacket, tux shirt, bow tie, blue jeans, a big belt buckle and boots. With the exception of the belt buckle, that's just what I did.

Of course the ladies were supposed to dress up like cowgirls. Sara humored me and dressed up in a cowgirl hat (tiger striped), rhinestone covered blouse, a tiger striped skirt, and, of course, the big Texas-style hair. She had a lot of fun with it.

Yea, fun.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nerd Land

Every year over the Labor Day weekend, nerds from all over the world descend upon Atlanta for the annual Dragon*Con sci-fi and fantasy convention. I try to go every year because it is such a feast for the eyes. So many people use their talents to make amazing costumes that they wear all over the sprawling three-hotel convention.

This is the first time I've gone in three years. The gap exists not because I didn't want to go, but because I was either out of the country, or recuperating from being out of the country. This year I settled for just going to the parade instead of actually paying to get in. You know.... starting a business... limited budget. Priorities have to be kept.

Anyway, I have posted what are some of my best Dragon*Con photos yet. Take a look at them here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dark Crystal sequel

I just learned through an internet forum that a Dark Crystal sequel is going to be made. It will be called "The Power of the Dark Crystal". If you would like to read more about it (though there isn't much to read yet) go here and here. Too bad it doesn't come out until 2009.

Friday, August 31, 2007

New Website Design

I have spent a few weeks overhauling my website for the first time in nearly two years. Primarily I have been using it as a testbed for trying out different CSS (a type of website code) techniques and learning new applications for website design. Take a look around the site and let me know if you see any glitchy stuff. I've already found some in Internet Explorer and fixed them.

At some point I'm going to go back and edit some content too, because I found some weird things, like pictures that weren't loading correctly. I've also been meaning to go back and edit my journal entries from Egypt because I know there is some factual information that is wrong here and there. So, watch for those changes as time goes by.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The creative malaise is broken, but there is no outlet

It is late. On Saturday night. I have had A LOT of coffee. When I have lots of coffee, my creative brain won't stop. Usually it means I am up all night uncontrollably developing crazy ideas for artwork. That is EXACTLY what is happening now. Unfortunately I have no outlet. I have no studio space. I have no way to execute my ideas. So the ideas remain locked up. My brain spins and spins. Ideas churning. No outlet. Blah.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Painting the Narthex

A buddy of mine at church named Scott came up with this great idea to paint the Christian year down the length of the narthex, a long hallway, at my church. I immediately got ideas in my head about what it might look like and eventually opened up Illustrator and laid out my ideas

First the idea went to a committee for approval. I thought it was going to be too wacky and expected resistance, but much to my surprise people seemed to like it. Essentially the narthex is divided into seven sections with eight pillars spaced evenly. The idea was that the spaces in between pillars could be seasons of the Christian year, and the pillars themselves could represent special days with some sort of icon at the top of the pillar. Three curvy stripes, representing the trinity, flow the entire length of the wall. Check out the image to the left.

The Christian year, as represented in this piece goes in this order: Advent, Christmas Day (a pillar), Christmas Season, Epiphany (a pillar), Ordinary Time, Transfiguration Sunday (a pillar), Lent (with two icons in the middle of it, one for Ash Wednesday, the other for Palm Sunday, Good Friday (one side of a pillar painted black, which really isn't obvious in the illustration), Easter Day (a pillar), Easter season, Pentecost (a flaming red pillar), some more Ordinary Time, and Christ the King Sunday (the last pillar).

A few weeks ago we started out by prepping the area to be painted by cleaning off dust and drippy stains. Apparently there was a leak in the roof at one point a nobody bothered to clean up the stains. After that we applied painter's tape to mask of the areas for the base coats. I missed out on the first painting session, in which the first coats were applied, but the members that volunteered did a great job.

Today, Scott and I applied the first coats of green for Ordinary Time. I was thrilled that this was actually becoming a reality. Our church has been in a color rut for about a decade now, so it is exciting to see a color other than white or beige on the walls. And besides, I just love to paint.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Christianity in Iraq

Something that gets completely glossed over in the news media, amidst the reporting of Shia on Sunni, and Sunni on Shia violence is the fact that thousands of Christians live there too. Unfortunately they get caught in the crossfire and are the subject of violence all the time.

My Iraqi friend that I met in Egypt recently sent me a link to a video that highlights this fact. I will warn you that there is some graphic content in this video, but I think it is important to know how our Christian brothers and sisters are being treated there, so I encourage you to watch it.

Here in the U.S. we largely enjoy religious freedom while these people are constantly persecuted for their religion, which I think should give us a better perspective of the freedom we have.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Atlanta Tour - Civil War Style

I have never been very good at exploiting the attractions of my own fair city. I am great at traveling elsewhere and taking in the sights. I've just never been good about doing that in Atlanta.

I have always wanted to take a tour of Atlanta's famous Civil War battlefields, so when my dad asked me if I wanted to go on a tour of the Battle of Atlanta, I jumped at the opportunity. The tour was held by a local man in the city of East Atlanta (yeah, who knew there was actually a city called East Atlanta. I just thought that was everything east of I-285). It became a family affair since my Dad, my brother, my mother and I all went, and it turned out this was the 143 anniversary of the battle itself.

We came to find out the "Battle of Atlanta" was actually confined within a small area east of town, near the modern-day intersection of I-20 and Moreland Avenue. The organizer gave us a packet of maps with positions of different army groups juxtaposed with modern days streets and highways. I was amused to find out that modern-day Flat Shoals Road is actually a native American trading path. That street existed in some for or another long before the original European invasion.

Unfortunately the primary map the organizer gave us, while read right-side up, had North at the bottom. This confused me all the way through the tour. I was so confused in fact, that I thought the attacking group was the Yankee army, when in fact it was the Yankees that had dug in and the Rebel army was making a flanking move to take them out. I'll have to go back again next year, and get it all sorted out, finally knowing which way is up.

Another fantastic sight we got to see is Atlanta's historic Cyclorama. The Cyclorama itself has quite a history, but it is its subject matter that makes it so special. It is a LARGE painting in the round depicting a part of the Battle of Atlanta. The audience begins by taking a seat in a darkened theater, and when the lights go up the entire seating area begins to spin clockwise. Your initial view is as if you are standing in the middle of the battlefield facing East, and in fact you can see the small spires of Atlanta on the horizon. A fixed moment of the battle is raging all around you as gray clashes with blue. A narrator points out historically documented events that are depicted in the painting. The seating area completes its 360-degree journey, and you are back where you started.

Dinner with high school friends

Myspace is a neat thing. You can get reconnected with old friends from a different era. Truly amazing. Recently I got together with my friends Tara and April both of whom I hadn't seen in years.

Tara and I figured it had been at least 8 years since we last saw one another. I was amazed to learn she had a child and was enjoying motherhood. She is also on the verge of completing her massage therapy education, so if you are in the Conyers, GA area and you need a massage, I can refer you to her.

April (the same April I wrote about two posts ago) is now a school teacher. Though I thought it hadn't been long since I last saw April, it has actually been three or four years. She seems so sweet most of the time, though she does have a fiery personality that lurks just below the surface, the one you rarely see. I presume that is what enables her to put up with a classroom of kids for a whole year I am sure. She claims it's a part of her Sicilian heritage. I won't argue. She is living in Loganville now.

We chatted and gabbed for quite some time; so long in fact, our waitress practically kicked us out. (FYI it was at the new Chili's in Snellville)

R2-D2 Mailbox

Oh, and when Curt, Joan and I went to lunch at the CNN center, we found the one and only R2-D2 mailbox I have ever seen. In addition to memories about band camp, I think we can add this and safely say I am a dork.

DCI Southeastern Championship

On July 14th, I went with my friends Curt and Joan to see the Drum Corp show that was here in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. What a show! It has been years since I really reflected back on my marching band days, but this one event brought back so many memories.

The sweat, the sunburns, the welling-up feeling you get at those big hits in the music and drill, the camaraderie and hours and hours of teamwork that culminate into a show that you will remember for a lifetime. Sometimes you just need something to jog the memory.

There were flocks of high school students that swarmed the place, their eyes wide, eagerly awaiting their favorite corp to perform, perhaps dreaming of being on one some day. That ship has long since sailed for me since you "age out" of drum corp eligibility at the ripe old age of 21. I can look at those teenagers and remember feeling the same way though.

There are a few veteran corps though that perform as exhibition corps (as opposed to competition corps). The one pictured above is Corp Vets (Yeah, that's right. When you say it it sounds like Corvettes. Ha! Clever, huh?) They seem to have a blast!

April, a friend of mine from high school who is now a school teacher, recently wrote in her blog about being nostalgic about this time of year because this is when we started up band camp (Yes, band camp!). She wrote about this call-response thing we used to do to make sure we were in the correct marching posture. I had completely forgotten about it. It was pretty rapid-fire and went something like this:

How are the feet? Together!

Stomach? In!

Chest? Out!

Shoulders? Back!

Elbows? Frozen!

Chin? Up!

Eyes? With Pride! Eyes? With Pride! EYES? WITH PRIDE!

Thanks for that memory, April.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sabatasher Yooleeyoo.

"Sabatasher Yooleeyoo." That means 17th of July in Arabic. That's a date that will stick in my head forever because it was the day I returned from Egypt. I said those words over and over during the weeks leading up to my departure as people asked when I was leaving. I can't believe it has already been a year since I returned from Egypt.

I haven't had many things to say about my experiences there recently, but I did have one of those monetary conversion flashes the other day. I was at the Georgia Dome for a DCI competition (more on that in another post) and bought a jumbo dog and a medium drink at lunchtime. It cost me $8.50. That one meal could feed one Egyptian for probably two weeks, if not more. I then spent another $8.00 at dinnertime at the CNN center.

Granted the prices were inflated. Perhaps that's why I was suddenly jolted into thinking about conversion. I used to do it all the time when I lived in Egypt. "Let's see..." I would think. "How much does this tameya sandwich cost? 17 cents? Wow!" Now I am on the other end of the conversion, when things seem ridiculously expensive.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Republicans "diss" the NAACP

Check out this fantastic blog entry by a guy named Jeffery Feldman about how the Republicans completely alienated an entire demographic.

My "Order of the Phoenix" review

I went with two friends to an opening day show, and overall I am pleased. The only negative comment I have is this: it was really rushed. That's quite a statement because while The Order of the Phoenix is the longest Harry Potter book to date, it is the shortest movie. In hindsight, I wish the filmmakers had made it slightly longer so as to flesh out some of the abbreviated scenes.

My greatest disappointment was towards the end. [If you don't know the ending of the movie, and you don't want to just yet... skip this paragraph] In the book there were so many fascinating, strange rooms at the Ministry of Magic that I was looking forward to seeing, and the movie left out a hefty portion of them. Among the missing were the rotating-doors room, "brain room", and the scene where one of the death eaters gets his head caught in a time loop - all very memorable to me.

However, the scenes that were cut made way for a very well-done battle scene at the end. Great special effects, great acting all around.

The jewel of this movie is Professor Umbridge, played by Imelda Staunton. Physically, she barely resembled the character I had envisioned from reading the book, but she won me over with the subtlety with which she portrayed her. Just the quiver of her cheeks spoke volumes. The cheery-sinister mix of personality reminded me of a high school English teacher I had that would speak in a happy, lilting voice, but would stare you down with an ice-cold glare if you crossed her. Not that I did that on a regular basis... not intentionally anyway.

Overall a great experience. Simply too rushed. Like going down a water slide. Just when you are getting to enjoy it, it's over.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Frosty Treasures

I made this wonderful dessert tonight. It's a recipe from my childhood called Frosty Treasures. It's made of Crispix, a chocolate mixture that you pour over the Crispix, and finally a (not-so) healthy coating of confectioner's sugar. Mmmm. Good stuff.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A new site completed

I picked up a job from a fellow church member who does massage therapy. I just completed the project today and the site is now live. Check it out at:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Create your own Simpsons avatar

I created this Simpsons avatar (it looks like me, right? I mean, it even has khaki pants!) at the Simpsons movie website. Create yours now!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Apple's new iRack

This is perhaps the funniest sketch from MadTV I have ever seen.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Harry Potter theme park

My only question is, how are they going to make the ceiling of the great hall reflect the weather outside? I am really excited about this. Thanks to Mandy for sending this.

Click here for news on Universal's Harry Potter theme park.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Down on the farm

This week I wrapped up my part-time job at the church. I believe the job is in capable hands and I am satisfied with the work I have done there.

I also wrapped up a week-long house sitting gig, which provided me with some new experiences. Oftentimes I house sit and I take care of dogs and cats. I've even taken care of a rabbit and some chickens in the last few years. But this time I actually stayed on a bona fide farm, which included some wicked-cool goats.

Misty was a sweetheart with light brown fur who affectionately nuzzled me because she always wanted more food. Angus was a skittish black goat with enormous horns. The man I house sat for calls 'em "Harley handlebars". Ha!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yet another reason...

Yet another reason I'm glad I don't live in New Jersey anymore:

Many of the beach towns on Long Beach Island, one of New Jersey's most popular summer vacation spots, have laws prohibiting people from digging deeper than 12 inches in the sand. They stem from an accident several years ago in which a teenager died when a deep hole he was digging collapsed, burying him.

This year, the prohibition is for a different reason: More than 1,000 pieces of unexploded World War I-era military munitions were unwittingly pumped ashore during a winter beach replenishment project decades after being dumped at sea. Authorities say they've removed everything they could, but can't guarantee more munitions don't remain hidden.

Read the full text here.

A real post

My posts have pretty much been fluff lately. I know that. I won't argue. The thing is... I really don't have an excuse. I haven't been terribly busy.

My job as the temporary secretary at my church (The pastor has taken to calling me "Mr. Secretary", which sounds supremely important. Ha!) is winding down. The personnel committee hired a new guy that will serve both as the music director/organist AND secretary. Both positions were open and the committee feels that his qualifications make him suitable for both jobs. I am thrilled that a new person is coming on board.

Now I can get back to focusing on my own business, which has pretty much stalled during the last few weeks. I've been doing some work here and there, in fact this job for the big downtown church has blossomed into a real opportunity, but I haven't done anything as far as generating new business. I still haven't made up my mailer cards, but in my procrastination I have learned a few things about my own mail-opening habits as the church secretary. I've noticed a few things about what kind of "junk" mail I throw away immediately, versus the mail I at least linger on before throwing away. It's given me a few ideas about how to increase my visibility at that critical moment.

I recently finished a book I had been meaning to read since I was in Egypt called Blood Brothers, the real-life story of Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian who was a young boy at the time of Israel's occupation. It is a must-read book that will help you understand the situation from a new point of view.

Here in the west, we get an incomplete view of the Israel/Palestine dilemma and this helps fill the gap. Chacour details the trials and tribulations he and his people went though in those early days, but instead of responding with vitriol and violence, he speaks from a place of peace and justice. He doesn't hesitate at all in telling us the horrible things that have happened to the Palestinian people, but talks of bridging cultures and healing before the book is over.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this book is how the European Jews (as opposed to the Palestinian Jews that lived there long before the occupation) came into Palestine then deceived and murdered Palestinian Muslims and Christians in order to remove them from the land. They themselves had just gone through similar deception and murder in Europe. If any group in the word understood these grievous crimes, it would be the European Jews, right? Why, then, did they perpetrate the same crimes? Better yet, why did we, the rest of the world allow it to happen and then collectively sweep the situation under the rug?

The answer comes in one word: guilt. Western nations felt guilty for what happened to the Jews in Europe. So what did we do? We "gave" them land to form their own country. We gave them free reign to do whatever they want there, including displacing thousands of people through deception and murder. The situation from there has spiraled out of control with so much anger, hatred and confusion, that it seems unlikely that there will ever be peace. Elias Chacour has a different take though and for that, you need to read the book.

Now, the one interesting thing I left out until now is that I got to hear Chacour speak in Egypt. He went on a speaking tour and I was at one of his presentations. You can see my picture of him on this page. Seventh photo down.

Tomorrow is Pentecost and I have been recruited to read a bible passage in Arabic. Every year at this time my church has always done some sort of service where people read aloud in different languages, representing the part of the bible where God humbled his little people by giving them different languages. I will be reading John 14:15-17 from my Van Dyke Arabic bible. I'm not very good about proper pronunciations, but that's okay, because I found this great website with audio recordings of a native speaker reading the bible in Arabic. It's been essential to learning these verses.

Friday, May 25, 2007

30 years ago today, the world changed.

That's right. Thirty years ago today, on May 25th, 1977, a phenomenon was born. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, X-wings and droids all became apart of the American consciousness. Happy birthday Star Wars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A heroic conclusion... or was it a conclusion at all?

So is Sylar really dead? Hmmm. That was quite an ending to last night's Heroes. It provided as many questions as it answered. I guess that's what keeps a good show going though. I am curious about this person that is worse than Sylar that Molly spoke about. Methinks is it the new villain for season two.


Whoa! I woke up this morning, went about my usual routine and didn't notice anything different until I got in my car for the 25-mile trip to work. The morning was somewhat chilly, so at first I thought the air was just filled with fog, you know, just thick, condensed moisture.

As I drove a few miles the fog didn't clear. In fact, it got thicker. In broad open areas, like the Wal-Mart parking lot I drove by, the air was white and dense. The sun overhead was a pale yellow, much like it looks an hour before sunset, instead of the intense white it normally is by 8:45 in the morning.

Then somewhere along my trip I finally noticed a smoky smell. My mind started racing. Was there a large fire nearby? I could only think of the people in South Georgia whose houses were going up in flames. Was my house at risk? Should I turn back and collect my most precious possessions?

I put that thought out of my head pretty quickly. I wasn't going to overreact. So I drove all the way to church and the same white, thick smoke accompanied me the entire way.

I checked first thing when I arrived and right on the front page was a video entitled, "Smoke Covers Atlanta." The description of the clip explained that the very same fire I thought of in South Georgia was the same fire that was causing all this smoke. That's a LOT of smoke and it's traveling a looooooong way. That must be some fire!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Just... wow.

Ignore the guy speaking French long enough to see some really cool stuff: real time rendering and tracking. Truly amazing!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New jobs on the horizon

So, I've had some luck in the business department over the last few days. I've gotten connected with one of the largest churches in Atlanta to do some graphic design. They are celebrating a big anniversary next year and want to do a kind of campaign starting with a logo, which will be used on letterhead, envelopes, greeting cards, t-shirts, and vinyl banners. The logo is based on artwork a member of the church did. She is a liturgical artist and has designed three fantastic cut-paper banners. She gave me a preliminary design as reference for the logo, and the other two will follow as they are completed. I'll post more on this as the project progresses.

I've also gotten a few nibbles in the website design area. Nibbles sometimes don't turn into anything, but sometimes you get a catch. We shall see.

My business is growing up as it now officially has a checking account. Next I am putting together some mailing cards and letterhead/envelopes to promote my services. I'll send out a mailing of about 1000 pieces and see what kind of response I get.

I'm terrified of two possible outcomes. One, that nobody will respond and I will fail before I get started. Two, that the response will be so overwhelming I won't know what to do with myself. I guess the second option is better than the first though, eh?

This is all timing out just right because my church, where I have been working part-time for a few months now, has filled not only the vacant music/choir director position, but also the secretary position (which I was temping for) so I will be moving on at the end of May. Let's hope that business will come along as I need it!

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Name in Fëanorian Letters

I've been reading Tolkien's Silmarillion, the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, and kept wondering how the odd words were pronounced. I remembered seeing a chunk of text on pronunciation in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, so I cracked open my copy of Return of the King to do some research. I ended up getting sucked into not only Tolkien's pronunciation guide, but also the elaborate history of Tolkien's made-up languages and the level of detail with which he created them. I started looking at the Fëanorian alphabet and decided I would try to translate my name. The result is in the image to the left. Yes, I had a nice relaxing day today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Easel Inauguration

I painted my first painting using my new easel last weekend. It's my first effort in several years, but I am pleased with it. I think I need to work on the bottom left though. It looks a little flat. I've discovered that trying to paint translucent things that are back lit is pretty dang hard. I scraped off the middle cloud and repainted it probably four times. This is a fairly large painting for me at around 52 x 40 inches.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Major Life Change

I've been putting this off for a week now mainly because I've had to take this in in waves. You see, the more I tell people, the more it is real, and as much as I knew it was the right decision, it's still hard.

Last week I broke up with Teri.

There, I said it. It's completely official in my head now (well, maybe after I click the 'publish' button).

It was a hard thing to do because I still love her very much, because we have such an amazing history together, and many, many other reasons. What I've come to realize over the last few months though, since we've been separated by a great distance, is that I already have roots here.

I still love her and I always will.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Homemade Easel

A few years ago I made a gigantic easel in the basement but when I finally tried it out this year the fumes from the oil paints I used filled the house. Not to mention the fumes were strongest near a furnace... not a good combination. So the basement easel was a no-go. After all the hard work I had put into building it, I got discouraged and it was several months later before I sat down at my computer and designed a free standing easel (the previous one was mounted to a wall) so I could take it outside.

I reused as much of the materials from the previous easel as I could. And the result was a fantastic easel that I can haul out to my yard in two pieces and set up within ten minutes. It's incredibly sturdy, and on windy days I can throw bags of sand over the boards that form the base to keep it from turning into a gigantic sail.

On the left you can see the schematic I made on my 3-D design program and me with the finished product.

I'm itching to paint so if any of you would like to commission a painting, or know someone else who would, just let me know.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What a lady! Nana's 80!

My grandmother turned 80 on March 25th! We celebrated with a surprise party at the Blue Willow Inn, a fancy restaurant waaaaaaaay east of Atlanta. It's in an old plantation house.

I think we actually surprised her too! It was a good time had by all!

Happy Birthday, Nana!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Buds from Valdosta

I got together with some of my old college friends recently. Unfortunately it was under a pretty sad circumstance. We all gathered together in Valdosta, GA to pay our respects to Valerie Fisher, who passed away unexpectedly in mid-March.

Valerie was a vocal student at VSU at the same time I was an art student. I didn't know Valerie well, but we hung out in the same circles. I was in marching band my first three years of college, so I hung around with a bunch of band geeks (pot calling the kettle black, I know) in the music department. Music folks are a tight-knit group, and in hindsight, I was honored to be around such a fine group of people. I only wish you could have heard the congregation singing at Valerie's memorial service. It was so beautiful! Having musical people in your life enhances it beyond imagination and it was clear that Valerie enhanced many people's lives.

The colors of springtime in America

I have a much greater appreciation for spring this year. My experience of spring in Cairo last year was a rather dreary one. There was barely any change other than the weather warming. There really wasn't any change in vegetation; no flowers and no greenery.

So this year the colors and scents of spring are magnified. The popping spring green is vibrant, the cherry and apple blossoms produce a wondrous fragrance, though I have to admit I could do without the vast quantities of pollen.

Here are a few pictures I have taken over the last two weeks. Check out the massive caterpillar I found. I put a quarter next to it for size reference.