Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Lie I Tell Myself No More

Something I've struggled with all my life is the issue of abandonment.  And there is a recurring scenario wherein people leave me.

It started with being given up for adoption.  First my birth-mother gave me away, then I was removed from my foster family after two months.  On a conscious level, I believe bio-mom made a reasonable decision.  And I was taken from the foster family to go to my permanent family.  But experts believe that babies internalize these events, and the evidence is the quiet baby.  I'm told that everyone would comment on what a quiet baby I was.  But they think babies in this scenario are quiet because they don't want to make waves.  On some level, they're thinking that if they just stay quiet, maybe they won't be sent away again.

Next there was my best friend in Junior High.  He dumped me.  We were the best of friends, always doing stuff together.  But one day, after hanging at his house just the day before, he told me he didn't want to be friends anymore.  No explanation.

This sent me reeling into depression.  And it wouldn't be the last time.  Some are more explicable than others. I had a close friend in high school who just stopped hanging out, but I know it was more about her issues.  But still, it contributed to the repeating pattern.

More recently, just in the past few years, I've had several very close friends just stop returning my calls.  They just phased me out of their lives.  Not mere acquaintances - people I'd had deep conversations with and laughed with and cried with - people I was confident that I would be friends with for the rest of my life.

So it's understandable if in my darkest moments, it seems like everyone abandons me.  That's the lie that I start to believe.  But you know what?  It's not true.  OK, yes, there is a sizable history there.  But it's not everyone.  I have a family that loves me.  We're not always that close, but we make it work.  I have a couple of friends, the best of friends, that I've had in my life for over 20 years.  And when I have a birthday or a game night, lots of people show up.

So that's a lie that I'm not going to buy into anymore.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Desire To Shame

I was at Office Depot today.  While in line, the woman in front of me took a corkboard bulletin board out of her cart and set it on the ground a few feet away.  Apparently she didn't want it.  Thirty seconds later, a guy walking into the line tripped over it.  What I wanted to do was pick up the item and carry it to the counter and say to the clerk (in earshot of the woman), "Hi!  I'm not buying this.  This lady here left it on the floor over there, instead of putting back or just giving it to one of you.  Then that gentleman tripped over it.  I'm pointing this out in the hope that in the future she'll display the tiniest amount of consideration for others."

I didn't say that.  After I left the store, I wrestled with whether it would have been worth it or not.  The thing is, we're not an honor/shame based society.  Most likely she would feel no shame.  To her, I'd just be the jerk who made her feel bad.

In general, it seems counter-productive to shame people.  I think people choose to change themselves (if at all) when they are in a place of security, not when they're feeling bad about themselves.  But surely some sense of shame or the desire to avoid feeling shame is healthy?

In reading about Confucius, it sounds like the society he was trying to change was a lot like ours.  A sense of individuality had been awakened, and individuals were more and more just doing what they wanted for themselves, instead of favoring the family or community.  In the Bible you read about times when each person does what is right in their own eyes - again sounding like where we're at today.  And not too long ago, you had to be plugged into a community just to get by, and therefore had to go along with the societal norms so as not to be excluded.  But this has been replaced by, 'Don't judge me!'

Shame and honor no longer keep people in check.  Folks decide what is right and wrong for themselves, without considering a higher power.  And people are free to cut themselves off from the community around them.  It's a shame.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hustle & Bustle

With all of the holiday hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget what Christmas is about.  Yes, Jesus - but what does that mean in practical terms?

Having trouble thinking of good presents?  Maybe think through what that person's love language is.  If it's words of affirmation, a well-thought-out note that they can treasure may be perfect.  If it's quality time, make a plan to spend time with just them.

Take a minute to think through the people you know.  Do they all have somewhere to be on Christmas morning?  Are they able to get presents for their kids?  Can they afford to see Star Wars in 3D?  Just take a minute and really see the people in your life and think about what you can do for them.  And if you're one of those left-out people - reach out.  Ask someone if you can come along and be a part.  Remember that most people get wrapped up in their own stuff, but but when you ask to be included, they realize they want to include you.

Make cookies and give them away.  It's good for the soul.

That person that annoys you?  Talk to them anyway.  They need someone to talk to.  And does it really cost you that much?

And let's take the time to look each other in the eye and really see each other.  Hug warmly and hold on just a second longer than you planned to.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Eyes Have It

This is a follow-up to my last post.  I'd realized that with many people, I had developed the habit of not looking them in the eyes.  Since then, I've been reminding myself to do just that.  The results have been quite affirming.

It's been great to look service people in the eyes.  Like waitresses or bank tellers.  It may sound silly, but I feel a bit more connected to the world.  I think that, especially with women, there's been a self-esteem issue where I wouldn't want them to think I was being forward or thought they were attractive.  But so what if they do?  I'm not being pervy or accosting them!  I'm just looking them in the eyes.  And you know what I've found?  They look back.  And it's nice.  And they seem a little more human.  You can't do it with everyone.  And it's not like each one is going to be my new best friend.  But when they look up and say, 'Thanks for coming' and I look them in the eyes and respond with, 'Have a nice day', for that half-second we are part of a community.  And those moments accumulate and add up to something.

With acquaintances or friends that I'm not as close to, it's also been good.  The thing is, when we avert our eyes, we may be thinking about our own self-worth, but it sends a message to the other person that they're not worth your time.  There's a woman I run into from time to time who is much worse than me.  Her eyes are almost always on the floor and when I say hello she rarely even responds.  She talks to some people, but she usually doesn't even acknowledge that I'm in the room.  I've wondered why this woman has so much contempt for me that she practically deletes me from existence.  But at Thankgiving, after I spent a reasonable amount of time looking in the direction of her eyes when she was talking, twice she looked up and spoke directly to me.  Wow!  So nice to be acknowledged.  I mean, I know her habits likely spring from her own introversion and have nothing to do with me.  But it just feels good to have someone look at you and see you.

There are a couple of women at church that I've made more of an effort to look in the eyes.  And it's nothing romantic, but looking a beautiful woman in the eyes - damn!  Give me a minute of that each day and I think I could fly!

Even with closer friends, I'm making more of an effort to look not at their cheeks or forehead or somewhere in the vicinity of their head, but at their eyes.  My eyes to their eyes, connecting, feeling a little more intimate.

The past several years I've struggled with depression more during the holidays.  But I'm not depressed so far.  And I think it's because I'm connecting to people by looking  them in the eyes.  And the more I do it, the more my confidence is growing.  Plus I have the distinct impression that by doing this little thing, I'm spreading connection and warmth everywhere I go.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Looking People In the Eyes

Once in a while I'll notice something strange in my behavior that I know I need to fix immediately.  Today I noticed that I'd stopped looking people in the eyes.

It seems like such a simple thing.  But I think between getting to know a lot of new people in the past year (being an introvert, that can be overwhelming), and just a low-level depression (feeling less than other people), I'd stopped.  I'm not sure where I was looking ... maybe just past them.  Or I'd glance at their eyes and then look down, in a thoughtful pose.

The problem with this is that it sends a message.  On my end, I'm feeling like I'm not worthwhile, so I avert my eyes.  But people on the other side of that can misinterpret that and feel like I don't think they're worth my time.

And it really is nice looking into people's eyes.  They're so expressive.  And there's a much greater sense of actually connecting with the other person.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Random Thoughts

Some thoughts ... I don't know that I want to write a whole blog about any one of them, but here they are, in no particular order, just to get them out of my system:


I sometimes make decisions that may appear strange to others based on my own sense of self-preservation.  For example, I know that 10 minutes in the service at my old church by myself will send me into a depressive spiral, where I'll be crying for hours.  This may seem extreme to others, but some situations, like that one, have the effect of magnifying my feelings of loneliness to the point that I can't keep it in check any more.  So unless I can guarantee that I won't be alone there, I won't go.


There is something about a singer belting out a song in a true and emotional way that can make me both laugh and cry at the same time.


Nothing makes me angrier than another driver behaving inappropriately.  This morning, I stopped before an intersection because I could see that the traffic was backed up on the other side.  The lane to my right was a turn-only lane.  But while I was waiting, a car tried to slip in front of me from that lane.  Here I was, doing the right thing - the legally correct thing - by not blocking the intersection, and this asshole decides to take advantage of it.  I was so angry that I laid on my horn and raced forward to block him, then yelled, 'NO!' at him (once he could see me) though my window.


Thanksgiving is a problem.  I've got nowhere to go.  I don't want to go to someone else's Thanksgiving, because I don't want to feel like a charity case (they might not feel that way, but I would).  The folks I've done Thanksgiving with in the past have gotten married or moved away and they're just not available this year.  I could go serve somewhere, but I think that in a group of strangers my loneliness spiral (see above) would kick in.  I'm considering cobbling together other 'orphans'.  But Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two times of the year when when you want to feel like you're with 'family',..  So, I don't know.  I may just sit it out ... cry a little ... move on as best as I can.


A few days ago, one of my Uber passengers asked for my information.  I thought she might be interested in checking out my church.  So it threw me when she called me and invited me to some financial seminar thing.  I politely declined.  I'm not sure what to think.  Was she asking me out?  She was cute, but it seems unlikely.  While we did have a short conversation in the car, it didn't seem like there was any particular connection.  Plus she's in her 20's - why would she be interested in an old, fat guy like me?.  But then what the hell was that?


I have an eating problem.  I didn't used to.  Which is to say that while I've never had particularly good eating habits, I didn't used to have compulsions associated with it.  I find now that I do.  It seems to be threefold.  First, I like to eat until I feel full, sometimes a little over-full.  There is probably some psychological issue there.  But it's not like I eat more than I used to - it's just that my metabolism is slowing down so it takes more of a toll.  Second, I snack a lot.  I don't so much care if it's healthy or not - I'm perfectly happy picking away at a pomegranate - but carrots get old real fast.  Again, I know there's some psychological issue that's feeding my oral fixation.  The third one is the ugliest.  When I diet, sometimes it's for a few months, sometimes it's for a day.  But there comes a point when I want to sabotage it.  I don't just go back to my old eating habits - it's like something in me wants to more than make up for lost time by eating as much unhealthy stuff as possible.  Anyway, I've just started figuring this stuff out in the past year or so and it's frustrating to see that I've developed these unhealthy habits/issues.


I now know why I don't like alcohol.  I'm a supertaster, which means I can taste the bitterness in some foods that others can not.  And all alcoholic drinks have elements in them (I forget what they're called) that are both bitter and sweet.  But I don't taste the sweet - only the bitter - actually it's kind of a bitter/sour taste.  It's funny - it had never occurred to me that other people found alcohol to be sweet.  I just figured they tasted the same thing that I did but somehow liked it.  But if they're tasting sweet, then no wonder everyone loves to drink so much.


Do you ever wonder if God can hear you if you just pray inside your own head?  Because how can God be in our heads?  Isn't there some point of theology that says that He can't be near sin?  But I have a problem with praying out loud when I'm alone.  It feels even more like I'm just talking to myself.


This has been Random Thoughts with Matt.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

In Defense of Swearing

When I was younger, I didn't swear.  Nope.  I was Mr. Conservative Christian.  And my motto was that there is never any need to swear.

But nowadays I do swear.  I'll use it for emphasis or because I'm angry or to tell people that my mother's favorite curse word is shit-damn-fuck.

Some Christians think you shouldn't swear.  And they're welcome to talk in any manner that pleases them.  But they're also welcome to shut the fuck up when it comes to educating others on what the Bible says about it.

Does the Bible say anything directly about using curse words?  Nope.

Does the Bible say anything ... kinda ... indirectly about curse words?  I don't think so.  They would disagree.  But I think they're wrong.  Here we go.

First, what we're not talking about.  We're not talking about swearing oaths.  We're not talking about taking the Lord's name in vain.  Moving on.

Jesus did tell people not to call someone 'raca', or 'fool'.  I think it would be understandable to carry that over to curse words.  I don't think you should call people names, whether they are curse words or not.  And I don't think you should swear at people.  Near, yes.  At, no.

In Ephesians 4 it says to not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up.  Clearly, this does not mean that every word out of our mouths must fit this guideline, or it would become very difficult to ask for directions or talk about the weather.  It's an admonition to not tear others down, and it has nothing to do with swearing.

In Ephesians 5 it says not to use obscene language or make crude jokes.  And this comes the closest to making me think twice.  But I have to wonder what is obscene?  I don't know that language should be considered obscene just because you throw in a 'shit' or a 'damn'.  I think language is much more obscene if guys are talking about their sexual conquests or people are slandering others or throwing about racial epithets.  That, to me, is obscene.

Studies have shown that using a swear word at the right time is healthy.  It releases tension.  Something in our brains feels like it has accomplished something or got something out of our system, so a few moments later we can start to relax.  You know what doesn't have the same effect?  Fake swear words.  Those same studies show that when people say 'Darn it all to heck!' instead of 'Damn it all to hell!', it doesn't have the same positive effect in the brain.

So I'm going to keep swearing.  In moderation.  Not at other people.  Mostly in private when my computer is being a pain, but sometimes in front of others, when I feel strongly about something.

And because I fucking want to. (You know I had to end with that, right?)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Resolving Cognitive Dissonance Issues in Theology

We all ascribe different weights to ideas based on where they came from or the circumstances around them.  We may believe things more or less based on whether we learned them from our parents or through personal experience or because the Bible says so.  I'm realizing that for me there's another category that adds weight to an idea - if it solves an area of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance is when you have competing ideas in your head that are at odds with each other.  If you wake up thinking it's still night but there's sun shining through your window, you may experience it for a moment.  And I've long had areas of theology where what the church teaches doesn't quite make sense to me.  Here are a few:

1. The God of the Old Testament seems to have a very different personality from the God of the New Testament, but they're the same person.

2. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man.

3. A loving God created people that He knows will burn in Hell for eternity.

Now, I've been a Christian all my life and I've heard all of the arguments on each of these.  Like:

1. 'In the Old Testament God treats humanity like a child but in the New Testament He's laid the groundwork so He can treat us differently.'

2. 'It's a mystery.  There are some things we're not meant to understand.  Embrace the mystery.'

3. 'God loves people so much that He will let them choose to walk away.'

These and other explanations are ultimately unsatisfying to me.  They don't scratch the itch in my brain.  I suppose some issues have been resolved along the way when someone has explained it in a clearer way.  But some issues remain.  And they nag at me.  It's like someone is telling me 2+2=5 and no matter how many different ways it's explained, it just doesn't add up.

So when I find an idea that fixes one of these problems, I give it weight.


1. God came to Earth as Jesus and was able to experience what it is like to be a human being, which allowed Him to fully understand us for the first time.  And this experience affected God so dramatically that it altered His tone or way of dealing with us from then on.

2. We use the word 'God' as both God's name and what He is.  What if we separate them out?  Think of it this way.  My name is Matt and I am a human being.  If I were to step into a transmogrifier that turned me into an ant, I would then be Matt the ant.  I'd be the same person, but a different type of creature.  Back to God.  Let's separate those into Jesus the Deity.  Jesus the deity gave up his deity and became a human being.  So he remained the same person, but became a different type of creature, 

3. The love of God is so great that everyone will come around eventually, in this life or the next.  For some, it may be after a period of time in Hell,

Each of these ideas resolves a conflict for me.  But! you say, what if the idea contradicts the Bible?  Yes, that would be a problem.  If something clearly contradicts the Bible, then I need to take a step back and rethink some things.  But I don't think any of these do.  Some of them may appear to contradict the Bible at first.  But I've experienced time and again that the Bible doesn't always say what the church says it says.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating twisting the Bible around to fit your own taste.  If you know me, you know that's not like me.  If anything, the Bible rings truer to me because there are things in it that I don't like or struggle with - it doesn't placate or condescend to me.  I think the problem is when people in the church decide what the Bible means and then try to interpret it in that way.

I'm not going to explain all of this theology right now.  But here's an example.  The Bible says people will be thrown into hell for 'eternity' or 'forever and ever'.  But it shouldn't.  It didn't used to.  That used to be translated as 'eons' or 'ages'.  Which would be a very long time, but not into infinity.  When the Bible says God's love is 'everlasting', that's a different word (aidios) than what's used for the long period of punishment (aeonios).  So why did the translations change?  Maybe because the church decided on a doctrine and then skewed the text ever so slightly to make it agree.

Not everything is so cut and dried.  On many issues the Bible seems to argue both sides.  Both free will and predestination people have verses they can point to and argue over.  But if I find an idea or a theological construct that solves the cognitive dissonance in my head and I can back it up in the Bible to a reasonable degree, then that weight will tend to sway me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Trying to be Bigger

I really am a very small person.  In the sense that I hold grudges and grumble and want to hurt people back when they hurt me.

Case in point.  As I've previously mentioned, I have one regular customer in my Ubering.  He lives a couple of blocks from me and I pick him up most mornings at 7:45 and take him to Hollywood.  It's a nice way to start my shift because it's a decent fare which drops me into a busier area.

Thing is, though ... I don't think he cares about me much.  Here we've been riding together for a couple of months now, having mostly surface conversations, but a couple of more medium depth.  And it's not like I expect us to be best friends, but I would think he'd care a little.  But I don't know that he does.

Example #1: One rainy day I hit a puddle as I was hitting the brakes and skidded forward, almost hitting the car in front of me.  I said, 'Sorry about that'.  He responded, 'It's not my car'.

Nice, right?

Example #2: Uber has a new thing where if there's a surge price in effect, it will tell the customer how long that pricing period will last, after which it may go up or down or stay the same.  One day he was few minutes late, and I was slightly bummed because the surge pricing had dropped from 2.1 to 1.4.  Not that I said anything.  But then he told me that he saw the price and decided to wait to call me.

This one really bugs me.  He made me wait and then I made less money because of it.  And it's not like he's paying for it - his company pays for it.  And I wanted to ask him what he would think if I saw him hailing me and ignored it and waited until the prices went up?  I mean, most days I let several hails go before he hails me.  That day, I could have had a 2.1 fare  So, to me, this is a real dick move.

Example #3: Some days he doesn't need a ride.  His wife will be going that way or he's taking his kid to the doctor or something.  And usually he doesn't let me know until the time when I would usually pick him up.  Doesn't sound like a big deal - why can't I just get another fare?  Yeah, but I've learned that if I'm going to work mornings, and I don't have a guaranteed good first fare, I need to start earlier.  Most days when you start at that time, you get stuck with several short trips and the end result is I make about half as much for the morning.

Yes, I've asked him to notify me earlier.  But he never does.  On one hand it's understandable - he just forgets.  On the other hand, it's further evidence that he just doesn't think about me.

There's the setup - I know, it took a while.

So, last week, I pulled up at his place and after waiting longer than usual, he showed up next to my car and explained that he forgot to tell me that he wouldn't need a ride that day.  Which was the final straw.  I got small.  I started thinking nasty things about him.  And the next day, I was merely polite as I drove him.  No attempts at conversation, no looking at him.  A mostly silent treatment.

Did he ask if something was wrong?  Of course not.  Either he didn't notice or didn't care.  But this situation was untenable.  I really didn't want to drive him in silence every day.  So I thought about how to proceed.  I fantasized about how I could make him feel bad by telling him the ways in which he's been a dick.  Of course, when you're indulging a fantasy like this, you have to make yourself out to be pure and just and the victim of the other person, even while you're plotting how best to make them feel emotional pain.  Right?

I had the whole weekend to grouse about it.  And during the weekend I had a couple of other situations come up where I found reasons to feel put-upon or under-appreciated or the victim of some slight.  

But there got to be too many.  And while I am often a very small man, I do not like feeling small.  I do not like feeling like I am ruled by pettiness.  And I read again about St. Therese, who was a terrifically unimportant person but who made it a point not to be small.  She looked at others to whom it would have been easy to be small at, and instead chose to be large.  Her compassion was large.  Her kindness was huge.  She didn't do a lot, but the little things she did, she did them with big love.

I want to be more like that.  So, I decided not to confront my regular.  And I decided to smile and make conversation and generally let go of my pettiness and anger.  And who knows?  Maybe that's what he really needs - someone to just accept him as he is and to smile and be nice to him.

But I'm pretty sure it's what I need.  For my own good.  And the last couple of days, I've felt ... a little bigger.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Maybe God Doesn't Know Everything

Interesting tangent in my men's group last night.  We're studying Romans, but got sidetracked into discussing Adam and Eve.  One question that came up was whether free will inevitably led to sin.  And the idea that followed was that perhaps it was all part of God's plan for us to sin and then to redeem us later.  Because, after all, if God knows everything, surely He knew that Adam and Eve would sin.  Right?

I'm not so sure.  Maybe God doesn't know everything.  Maybe God knows everything that it is possible to know, but there are things that can't be known, because they haven't happened yet.

I mean, are we saying that God, before anyone had sinned, had already imagined mass murder and violent rape and shooting up heroin and every other ugly thing you can think of?

I think maybe God knew that with free will there was the possibility of sin.  But God, being holy, may not have known what that would look like until people actually did the bad things.  So many times God comes across sin and seems genuinely surprised by it.  After Adam and Eve sin, God seems perplexed.  When Cain kills Abel, God seems shocked at the discovery.  So many times with the Israelites, God feels like he's tearing His hair out, trying to figure out how these people can keep doing these awful things.

So maybe He didn't know what sin would look like.  Maybe it took sinful people to create sin first.

Some may respond that God is outside of time and therefore knows everything.  Yeah, well, that's a trendy, fairly new way to look at how God operates, but I'm not convinced that God hasn't maybe confined himself in some way to operating within time.  But that's a debate for another day.

Maybe we SHOULD be a Chipotle Church

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook: Chipotle Church and the Problem of Choice.  What it boils down to is that we're a consumerist culture and in a world where we can order our burritos (or sandwiches or TV shows or what have you) to be built any way we like, catering to our own personal tastes, we expect the same of the church.

The article takes the tack that this is a bad thing.  Because church is not only about getting our needs met - it's about showing up to spend time with God.  And if the church doesn't suit us perfectly, then that's a good thing because it will stretch and challenge us.

I can see how our culture has spoiled us a bit, so we then expect the church we choose to be more to our liking.  Certainly there are a lot of whiny Christians lining up to tell their pastors what they do and don't like and expecting the church to conform to them.  And that's not good.  

But hold on. Didn't Paul teach us to be all things to all men?  If the culture has changed, shouldn't we change with it?

I work for a church plant in Santa Monica.  It's in an area where 95% of the people have never gone to church.  And to attract those people, we've tried to make ourselves into a church that would appeal to the people in that area.  So we meet in a theater, not a church.  We do artsy stuff like having guest artists during the service and having gallery events.  We do community outreach stuff like collecting clothing for the homeless and cleaning up the beach. 

Still, we're not growing very fast.  We have a handful of dedicated people and then a bunch of folks who drop by once or twice a month.  What gives?  Why aren't people sticking?

On the other hand, when we did Coastal Cleanup Day, lots of people showed up.  When we do artsy events, people show up.  People who don't normally show up on Sunday mornings.

I keep hearing about how traditional churches are losing people.  So we're not alone.  It's not like we're doing something wrong, exactly.  But the same old thing isn't working.

Maybe we need a paradigm shift.  Something new.  Or something old that's tweaked to fit new circumstances.

Here's what I'm thinking.  What if the church didn't meet every Sunday morning to hear a message and sing songs?  What if we tried to be a bit more like ... Chipotle?

So here's what I see.  You've got one group that meets every other week to do artsy stuff, like painting and drawing and so on.  You've got another group that meets once per month and plans social-justice related activities around the prevention of human trafficking.  You've got 2-3 regular Bible studies, each doing their own thing.  Maybe a game night every other month (but that's just me).  A group that only talks about deep, serious theology.  Another one that volunteers at an animal shelter.  And each of them finds a way to make it holy.  The artists discuss what it means to be a Christian and an artist.  The social justice people put together a prayer chain.  The Bible studies ... study the Bible.  And so on.  And then, once per month, there's a bigger meeting where there's a message and singing and everyone comes together at once.

It's Chipotle.  Choose the parts you like.  Go to as many or few as you like.  Wanna start something new?  Great.  Find a partner and put together a plan and run it up the flagpole.

What's that?  There's not enough prayer?  Or time in the word?  Or fellowship?  Or whatever?  Then bring it up.  Make it happen.  Start something new.  Besides, I believe all of life is holy - it's just about taking the time to acknowledge God in our midst.

Is it practical?  Maybe not.  Maybe it would be too hard to support a whole full-time staff.  But maybe that would be a good thing.  Maybe people need to step up and not expect professionals to do the work for them.  Talk about something being challenging and stretching.  How about we expect people to do more for themselves?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Uber's Dishonesty

So, here's a lesson on how Uber really works.

You may have heard that there is a debate over whether Uber drivers should be independent contractors or employees.  At the heart of this issue is what kind of company Uber actually is.  Uber claims that they don't provide rides for people.  They just connect drivers with people who need rides.

OK.  Here's some info.  As a customer, when you open the app, you see all those little cars on the map?  Well, some of them are real, but some of them may not be.  Because Uber sometimes adds extra icons to create the illusion that there are plenty of drivers around.

The driver's side is worse.  We see 'surge' areas on our maps, which indicate a higher rate if you book a trip in that area.  This is to encourage drivers to head to those areas.  My assumption was that if there are more customers than drivers in a given area, then surge pricing pops up to alleviate that problem.  But this is also not quite true.  Surges shown on the map are actually projections of where drivers will be needed, not the current reality.  But they've essentially admitted to me that a driver is not guaranteed the rate shown on the map.  If I'm staring at the screen and there's a x2.4 surge and I get a call, I have no idea what the rate will be for that trip.  It might be x2.4, or it might be x1.2 or it might be the normal rate.  

Note that Uber tells the customer about surge pricing and asks them to confirm it when they book the trip.  But the driver is not told the rate - we don't know the rate until after the trip is completed.  And the rate shown on the map can not be trusted.

What this adds up to is a false marketplace.  So while Uber claims they are just connecting riders and drivers, they are also providing false information on both ends.  And that is why they could be running afoul of the independent contractor laws.

I really like the idea of Uber.  I like the flexible hours and just the fact that I'm able to pay my bills by doing it.  And I would do it even if there was never any surge pricing.  But it's become clear to me that they are at best disingenuous and at worst dishonest in how they deal with people.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Going Uphill and Downhill

After my book group tonight, we were standing around and talking and someone mentioned the idea of a bike hike on a particular freeway.  And I thought to myself that it sounded like an easy ride, because it would be basically downhill.  But I don't know this particular highway so I had no basis for thinking that.  So why did I?

I quickly realized that I have a construct in my head - not a belief, mind you, but a vague idea - that if you're travelling from North to South, you're going downhill.  Sure, there may be various ups and downs along the way, but it's essentially downhill.  And vice-versa: if you're travelling South to North you're going uphill.

Of course this makes no sense.  But I grew up in an area where the mountains are always to the North, so North has always been uphill.  And when we give directions, we use the words that way: you travel 'up' to Canada or 'down' to San Diego.

Thinking about it, I'm sure there have been many times when I've been travelling upon a more or less flat stretch of the 5 while in my head I felt like I was going either uphill or downhill.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Ubering with Joseph

I've had an interesting development with my Ubering.  The evening rush wasn't working as well as it had been, so I decided to try mornings again.  And the first day I picked up a guy just a couple of blocks away, going to Hollywood.  His name is Joseph.  He Ubers to work every morning, and upon hearing that I lived close by, he proposed an arrangement whereby I pick him up as my first ride every morning.  He'd suggested it to another Uber driver who wasn't interested,

Now, I've had a few customers (and friends) ask if they can request me specifically, and I usually politely explain that it's not possible to request a specific driver.  And it wouldn't really make sense, as once I get my first customer in Burbank, I could end up anywhere in L.A.  Plus, one of the nice things about Ubering is that I set my own hours, and I frequently adjust my schedule.  So the likelihood of me being available when someone wants me isn't very good.

But difference here is that he's close by and he leaves for work at the same time as I do.  So I was reticent for a few moments, but then agreed to it.  I park outside of his apartment each morning so that I'm the closest driver when he hails an Uber.  And it's been great for my Ubering, as I get a decent fare into Hollywood, which is almost always surging (higher fares) when I get there.  So my mornings have been decently profitable.

But I wondered what was in it for him.  He's a nice guy.  Married with kids, nerdy, works doing software stuff.  He's not a great conversationalist ... I'll bring stuff up or comment on things we're passing and try to be my charming self, and he engages to a degree, but you can tell he doesn't have terrific social skills.  When he starts the conversation, it's almost always something about Uber or the drive.  So, its not like we're laughing and making jokes and playing off of each other.  And if not me, then he can easily get another Uber driver each morning.  So why the desire for the same driver each morning?

It was when he told me that he has a photographic memory that it clicked for me.  He's Sheldon.  And apparently I'm Leonard.  They're the roommates on the Big Bang Theory.  Sheldon has an eidetic memory (which is similar to photographic except photographic pulls up images while eidetic can pull up entire experiences, as Joseph explained it to me) and relies on Leonard to drive him to work every day.  He could get there another way, but he just likes and feels more comfortable with the consistency.  And I think maybe Joseph is similar.

So, it's been interesting getting to know someone with such a completely different personality.  Because he's a perfectly normal guy with the wife and kids and job and everything.  I think he just views the world through a different lens than I do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thought Experiment: If There Were No Afterlife ...

Here's a thought experiment.  Say God appears to you, in a way that you're completely convinced it's legit.  And He tells you that He loves you and He wants to help you to have the best life possible.  But, sadly, there is no afterlife.  When you die, that's it - you cease to exist.

Does this change the way you live?

On one hand, you've still got God in your corner, and if you're living for Him, surely that will mean some solid perks or a helping hand along the way.  But sometimes that helping hand makes life more difficult, as God seems to be more concerned with building character than with plain old happiness.  Still, surely, there are benefits to living as clean and good of a life as you can.  If you treat your body like a temple, you'll live longer (usually) and stay healthier.  If you're good to the people around you, they'll tend to be good to you.  And so on.

On the other hand, there are a lot of fun things you might be more inclined to try (or continue), if there were no eternal consequences.  Solomon said that all is ephemeral, and if that's true, that life is fleeting and that's all there is, why not live for today?

How much would it matter if God loved you and did stuff for you?  I mean, you've got family and friends who love you and do stuff for you, but you don't always adjust your behavior for them.  Your mom had a hand in your 'creation', but you don't live your life just for her.

I've always thought that my behavior wouldn't be that different if I weren't a Christian.  For example, I don't drink because I don't like the taste or being out of control.  I don't sleep around because I think we're wired for sex to have an effect on us.  I don't lie to people because I believe the golden rule is a good principle to live by and I don't like it when people lie to me.

But if there is no afterlife?  It's hard to say I wouldn't be swayed by that information.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's About Freedom

Let me start with this disclaimer - that I think each person should figure out what they believe and what that looks like.  And I understand that that may be different based on the culture or background of each person.  That said, here’s a quick story related to the topic.

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammed took a trip to heaven.  Once there, he asks Allah how often he should tell the people to pray.  And Allah responds that the people should pray 50 times per day.  Muhammed takes this answer and is about to leave heaven when he runs into Moses.  He tells Moses about the 50 times per day, and Moses goes, ‘Whoa, hold on there.  I know these people – they are not going to go for this.  You should go back and see if you can get a better deal.’  So Muhammed goes back and Allah lets him have 40 times per day.  But once again Moses thinks this is way too much, so Muhammed goes back again.  This happens over and over.  Allah goes down to 30, then 20, then 10, and finally only 5 times per day.  Moses still doesn’t think the hardheaded people will go for it, but Muhammed disagrees.  So he goes back to earth and tells the people they should pray 5 times per day.  Which is why Muslims do that.

OK, here we go.  I’m involved in a couple of things right now.  One is at the church I work for.  We’re doing this thing called the 60/60 Experiment.  The idea is that you set an alarm to chime on the hour throughout the day.  And each time you stop and pray for a minute.  And the whole thing goes on for 60 days.  Right off, I was trying to be open-minded, but with my own healthy skepticism.  I can see where it would be good for people to pray more consistently, and I like the idea of our whole church joining together in a sustained amount of prayer.  But I personally tend to rebel against any ongoing thing that I feel like I’m ‘supposed’ to do.  And I don’t care for the one-size-fits-all mentality that so many Christian authors have, which seems like the case here.  But, like I said, trying to be open-minded, and what can it hurt, right?

At the same time, my men’s group is reading a book about different world religions and right now we’re reading about Islam.  One of the things Muslims do is pray 5 times per day.  And not just a quickie shout-out to God.  They face Mecca, get on their knees and fervently pray as they lean further and further forward, until finally their foreheads touch the ground.

This, to me, is creepy.  I mean no disrespect, but the thought of millions of Muslims praying at the same time 5 times per day, every single day, just feels … offputting?   

I spent some time thinking through these two things.  On the one hand you have Muslims devoutly praying multiple times per day.  On the other you have my church asking us to pray every hour of the day.  And both of them are rubbing me the wrong way.  Why?

One of the differences between Christianity and Islam is that Jesus doesn’t go into a lot of specifics about how we should live.  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  And a good number of other guidelines, but really Jesus spends a lot of time trying to get rid of laws.  Paul says all things are permissible but not all things are profitable.  Islam, on the other hand, has a ton of rules for every aspect of life.  Including when and how to pray.

It seems like I should be in favor of more prayer.  Not just for Christians, but even for Muslims.  Don’t I want people to try to draw closer to God in whatever way they think is best?

Only …

Only … well, to put it simply – we’re not robots.  God didn’t create us to blindly follow.  I don’t think that’s what He wants at all. 

It’s about freedom.

Now, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, then you’ve read every other word of my blog up until now and remember it all.  Right?  So you know that I believe I’m wired a bit differently than some other folks when it comes to hearing from God.  While many people ‘hear’ from God in a variety of ways, from a direct voice to an inner prompting or what have you, I don’t tend to get those directions.  And while I remain open to hearing from God in a more direct way, I believe that in my case, He knows what He’s doing and He just wants to see what I’ll do with as little direct involvement as possible.  He wants to see me make decisions, for good or bad, knowing that I will eventually choose Him in all things.

For good or bad.  I think that’s important.  Because I make a ton of bad choices.  Too many to list here.  But I suspect that in some strange way, even those bad choices are somehow … sacred.  Because they’re part of working out my faith.  They’re part of the process of sanctifying me.  They’re part of the journey God wants me to be on.  Does He enjoy seeing me hurt myself?  No, of course not.  But He enjoys watching me find my way, even with the missteps.

So, back to this whole 60/60 prayer thing.  I’ll go along with it, in my own half-assed way.  But I don’t care for it.  Different strokes for different folks and all that.  God values our uniqueness and wants us each to come to Him in our own way and in our own time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Favorite Movies

A girl at church asked me to make a list of my favorite movies (she hasn't seen a lot of movies) Being a geek, that's what I did.  Here they are.
The Princess Bride – Funny fairy tale with derring-do.  Extremely quotable.
Groundhog Day – Bill Murray at his absolute best as he’s stuck in the same town, on the same day, day after day after day.
City Slickers – Billy Crystal’s one great movie where he leaves the city and visits a dude ranch to try to find his missing smile.
Ghostbusters – one of the funniest and most quotable movies of all time.  Careful – quote one line and people around you will s tart quoting a bunch of others. 
Monty Python and the Holy Grail – the other funniest and most quotable movie of all time.  King Arthur and his knights travel the land seeking the holy grail and acting very silly.
Arthur (the original) – also one of the funniest movies of all time.  This Arthur has to decide if he wants millions of dollars or true love.
Joe vs the Volcano – just a silly treat with Tom Hanks and multiple Meg Ryans.
Wayne’s World – I saw this in the theater more than any other movie.
There’s Something About Mary – shock comedy – must be watched with a group for full effect.
Harold and Maude – one of the quirkiest comedies I’ve ever seen – a young man and an old woman strike up an unlikely relationship.
Romantic Comedy
Love, Actually – Romantic comedy with multiple, intertwining storylines, each of which will move you.
My Best Friend’s Wedding – I call this the anti-romantic comedy.  It’s one of my very favorites.
Much Ado About Nothing – Joss Whedon shot this on a shoestring budget in his own house.  If you like Shakespeare, this is the good stuff.
Science Fiction
Star Wars – the original (which is episode IV) – because it’s a permanent part of our pop culture.  And while the first half hour can seem a little slow by our modern sensibilities, this is the movie that changed the pace of all movies that followed it.  If you enjoy it, move on to episodes V and VI.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan – if you’re going to see one Star Trek movie, this should be it.  Yes, you can skip the first one.
Back to the Future – wacky time travel adventure that never takes itself too seriously.
Independence Day – an action adventure alien invasion story with kick-ass Will Smith and dreamy Jeff Goldblum.
Serenity – sci-fi western about a roguish captain with a heart of gold and his fascinating crew.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - goofy guys.  Time travel.  What's not to love?


Aliens - space marines hunt for aliens.  Then the aliens hunt the space marines.  And Sigourney Weaver kicks serious ass.

Poltergeist (the original) - this, to me, is the scariest movie of all time.  I think because it marries horror with that Speilbergian sense of childhood familiarity.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – also a permanent part of our pop culture.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – yes, all three.  Once you watch the first one, you’ll want to watch the rest.
Die Hard – this is the action movie that all other action movies are trying to be.
Memento – Creepy (but not scary) vibe and it tells the story in a way no other movie does - backwards.  Our hero can only hold on to memories for a minute or so at a time – so how does he solve his wife’s murder?  Should have won best picture …
The Sixth Sense – supernatural thriller about a boy who sees dead people.
Moulin Rouge – Gorgeous cinematography, crazy dancing and singing and a love story for the ages.
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – OK, it’s not a movie, it’s a 3 episode web series.  But it may be my favorite bit of entertainment ever.  Seriously – ever.
The Sound of Music – pretty much the greatest musical ever made.
Mary Poppins – she’s practically perfect in every way.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut – if you’re OK with profanity (a lot) and crass humor, the guys that made this are, frankly, geniuses.  Four cartoon kids save the world from their moms and Satan.
The Muppets (2011) – heartwarming and funny – the muppets try to save their theater by putting on a big show!
Singin’ In the Rain – just singin’ and dancin’ in the rain – the best of the early musicals.
The Incredibles – my favorite of the Pixar movies (which is difficult, because they have so many good ones) gives us superheroes and familial love.
Frozen – I love the positive messages in this one.  I devoted an entire blog to it.
Goonies – a bunch of kids on an adventure looking for a pirate ship.
Speed Racer – candy-coated visuals and action adventure fun.  With a monkey!
It's a Wonderful Life - a man gets to see what the world would be like if he'd never been born.

The Wizard of Oz – gorgeous to look at, this is the moment when the movies switched from black and white to color.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing the Culture War and Why that May Be Okay

In light of today's Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage, I have some thoughts.

I am a Christian.  In some ways I'm very conservative and in others I am somewhat progressive.   But there are things in our culture that I do not like.  There are issues on which a bunch of us are on one side and a bunch of us are on the other side.  Things like abortion, sexual identity, global warming, and on and on.  And on a lot of these issues, lately, the other 'side' has been gaining traction.

Let me be clear here.  I don't hate people on the other sides of these issues.  While there are always going to be extremists on both sides who do spew hate, what these mostly come down to is a difference of opinion in how the world should be or what is actually best for people.  Folks on both sides really do want everyone to be healthy and happy - they just disagree on what that looks like and how to get there.

But the more conservatives (religious or political) lose ground, the more I wonder if they're fighting the wrong battle.  

Allow me to zig here.  I'll be back.

One of my favorite people is Saint Therese.  She wanted to be used by God in big ways - to go out into the world and convert masses of people.  But she ended up as a nun in a little convent, feeling like she wasn't doing much.  But God showed her that she could have a massive impact right where she was ... that she could change countless lives - just by taking the actions of love with the people right around her.  So that's what she did.  She loved on everyone, even the ones who were difficult to love.  And she brought light into their lives.  And because of her selfless attitude, countless people have been inspired by her.

And zag,

I've been reading about Mohammed and I was struck by the similarities and differences between him and Jesus.  When the city elders came for Mohammed to stop his religion from spreading any further, he snuck out of town.  He then raised an army and eventually crushed the city which had tried to stop him.  Over time, he became the ruler of a huge empire, taking huge territories by force.  When they came for Jesus, he let them take him.

And another zig.

Two of the people I respect the most in this world are Alan and Debbie.  They're raising four kids with good, solid values.  They're normal people doing their normal thing like all of us do, but they're thoughtful and deliberate about raising their kids with good morals and respect and good judgement and decency.

And we're back.  Getting to my point.

I don't think this is a war we can win.  I don't think that we can work the system to legislate how we want the world to look.  I don't think we can shame people into behaving the way we think they ought to behave.  And I'm not not at all sure we should even want to.

So what to do?  Go smaller.  Go smaller to go bigger.

I believe that Alan and Debbie are changing the world in an epic way.  By doing the ordinary, everyday work of raising kids right, I think they are actually sending ripples out into the world that will be felt by all around.  And I think we all need to make some similar small splashes.  By loving one another and doing good.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that if we each do our part then together we can have a big impact (although that may be true).  I honestly believe that the little things ARE the big things.  The small acts of love and decency and goodness ARE the epic things that change the world.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

What does Chris Pratt do in Jurassic World?

OK, first off, I totally enjoyed Jurassic World and I'm a huge fan of Chris Pratt.  But as I thought back on the movie, I realized there was something amiss.  What exactly does Chris Pratt's character accomplish?

Spoiler warning.  If you haven't seen the movie, you should turn back now.

OK, what does he do?  Well, first he lets the Indomitus Rex out of it's cage.  Not that I can blame him, as he was saving his own skin.  But if he'd just let the dinosaur eat him, then it never would have made it out of the pen.  Remember?  The Indominus chases him towards the door as it's closing, and the dino is able to wrench it fully open.

Next, he warns the folks in the control room, but they don't listen and kick him out.

Then, he goes with Ron Howard's daughter to save the kids.  Only they don't save the kids.  They don't even find the kids, and the kids end up saving themselves.

I believe his next big thing is when Bryce Dallas Howard saves him from the flying dino.

He tries (not very hard) to stop them from taking out the Raptors.  Instead he does the cool scene where he's riding the motorcycle alongside the Raptors to go take down Indomitus.  But the Raptors turn on him and he runs away.

Next you've got the scene with the Raptors chasing the van.  The van with Bryce and the two kids.  Chris Pratt doesn't even show up until he's zips up at the end of the chase.

And in the climax, who saves the day by letting out the T-Rex and leading it over to fight with the Indominus?  Not Chris Pratt.  Nope, it's Bryce Dallas Howard to the rescue again.

Plus, he doesn't even get any good one-liners.  I mean, come on.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why I Love Games

I love games.  Group or party games in particular.  Here are a few reasons why.

First, it’s social grease via structure.  I’m an introvert and I hate small talk.  I want to interact with people, but the bigger the group, the more uncomfortable I feel jumping into the conversation.  But throw in a game and presto!    Now we all get to interact!  And afterwards,  hopefully there’s some new common ground on which to converse.

Second, I love figuring things out, like puzzles.  And a good game is like a puzzle, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.  Even something as un-puzzly as charades still has that aspect – as the clue-giver, you have to figure out how to get your team to guess the correct answer while staying within the limits of the given rules.  That’s fun for me.  And, as a side note, I hate playing with people who bend or break the rules.  The fun, for me, is in figuring out how to do it within the given limitations.

Third, I’ve always felt that games can be a microcosm of life.  People (hopefully) get caught up in the fun of the game and forget about ‘acting’ or behaving how they think they ought , and just have fun.  I think playing games on a date is a great idea, as the date personas can drop away.  I think people who cheat while playing games are less likely to be trustworthy in real life.  And I think it’s wrong to bend the rules for just some people – I think that in the game and in life that diminishes the person for whom you bend the rules and makes the entire enterprise pointless.

A few more reasons.  Competitive games teach you about being a good winner/loser.  Cooperative games build your teamwork skills.  Some games let you lie through your teeth (as provided by the rules), and I think it’s both fun and healthy to have that outlet for my dark side.  Monopoly teaches you commerce.  Chess teaches you logic.  Trivial Pursuit reminds you that you’re not as smart as you think you are.  

Strategy.  Intuition.  Reading facial cues.  Learning new things.  And all of this alongside honest-to-goodness human interaction.

So, I love games.  And  all of us should play them more.  With me … come play games with me.  Just not Apples To Apples – that’s a terrible game.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris

I just finished Neil Patrick Harris' book, 'Choose Your Own Autobiography'.  And it is brilliant!  It is one of the funnest and funniest books I have ever read.

I've long been a fan of NPH, from Doogie Houser to HIMYM to Doctor Horrible.  So when I happened upon his book, I thought it would be interesting, at least.  But it's completely, hysterically insane.

It's modeled after the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books that I grew up with, where every few pages you have to make a decision as to where the story goes, and turn to a specific page to see the result.  Oh, and it's all written in the 2nd person, so while you're reading it you are Neil Patrick Harris.  It's impossible to read straight through, even if you have a fairly good knowledge of his career.  I found myself going back and trying other choices to find the sections on Rent or HIMYM.  Plus, it has hidden pages and fake endings where you die horrible deaths.  And several magic tricks he has you perform on yourself.  One of them really has me stumped.

On top of that, there's a solid laugh on almost every page, whether from a bad pun or a silly footnote or just because of the sheer insanity of having to keep flipping back and forth to try to read the whole thing.

I highly recommend reading this book.  And don't do it on kindle or audio book - I think you're going to need a real, physical copy so that you don't miss anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Taking a Break

I think it's good to take a break from anything that you're 'into' once in a while.  Some examples:

Politics: After the last presidential election, I made the choice to step back and not pay as much attention.  I still browse the headlines and usually have talk-radio on when I drive somewhere (which isn't that much), but I don't as much click on those headlines or read all of the different blogs and editorials.  And you know what?  I'm happier for it.  I realized after a while that it was nice not to get amped up over stuff that I have virtually no control over.  I'll still pay attention and vote as best as I can, but I no longer get bent out of shape over political stuff.

Church: Several times in my life I've taken a break from going to church, for several months.  And when I went back, I felt better able to appreciate what was there and better able to see it for what it is - a bunch of people trying to make things work as best as they can.

Geeky Pop Culture: I don't buy a lot of stuff these days because I'm poor.  I have a 'say no to almost everything' policy, from video games to movies.  Don't get me wrong - I go to movies once in a while, but I try to make it a matinee and I try to make it only movies I really want to see.  And I buy 1 or 2 video games per year.  So I get my fix.  My mother buys us season passes to the Falcon Theater, so I get some good culture there.  And like most people, I watch too much TV.  I love The Flash and iZombie and American Ninja Warrior.  But it really isn't that important, is it?  It's ephemeral.  I cancelled my Netflix subscription a while back, and it led to more ... book reading!  Yea!   

None of these are bad things.  They're all fine to enjoy in moderation.  But I do think that Christians often get too caught up in things that ultimately distract them from God.  If it's politics, you can start to think that some of the answers to people's problems lie with the government (or in less government) more than in the warmth of personal relationships and relying on God.  If it's church, you can become sheltered and forget to mingle with people outside of your comfort zone.  And spending all of that time and money on pop culture instead of things that will truly last forever?

Just a thought.  Consider taking a break, so you can pull back and see things clearly.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Some Hard Work To Do

I have some hard work to do.  Tell you about it, shall I?

I've been depressed.  And I know why.  It's because I don't have more intimate, fulfilling relationships.  And why is that?  Welllll ... there are a few reasons.

One is that certain relationships have just changed.  Some people in my life have gotten married.  Or had kids.  Some friends just decided to unfriend me.  People change, stuff happens.

Another is that I haven't replaced those people.  But that's complicated.  I mean, I do have some newer friends, but I'm realizing that, more than I used to, I hold people at arm's length.  I don't get that close.  With some folks it's because I'm perfectly fine with the level we're at.  But with others, I think maybe I'm afraid of getting burned.  

And there's also my love language, which is such that I feel loved when people take the initiative to spend time with me.  So, I generally wait until people call me.  

But I was sitting here tonight, after not having gone to a movie night where I could have socialized with some nice people.  And I was thinking through things.  I'm not happy.  Life seems pointless without people to be close to.  But I seem to have a lot of it left to live.  So, I'm going to have to do something about that.  I'm going to have to be better about initiating with people and trying to hang out.

Ugh.  That might sound simple to some of you.  But for me, it's not.  I've let myself devolve and become ingrown and antisocial.  And the further down the track you go, the more you just don't feel like making the effort to hike back the other way.  Plus, people are stupid.  I hate people.  They're annoying and difficult and rude and hurtful and don't behave the way you think they ought to behave.

But still.  Unhappy.  Need people.  

And I am, despite what you all think, not perfect.  Yet people put up with me.  And I know that if I spend more time with people I will re-develop whatever that is that makes it easier to get along and not mind (as much) a lot of the stuff that people do.

Alright.  Let me see if I can't make an effort.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lessons from Ubering # 3: Reesy

Reesy is from Seattle.  She has two chihuahuas.  There's the adorable one that constantly misbehaves and there's the mean one that barks and nips at everyone but is quite obedient.  She loves them both dearly.  She has four kids - there's the older two that are adults and the twins that were unexpected surprises.  She's divorced from her husband, but they still live together with the kids and they'll probably get remarried at some point.  He's not as mean now that he's switched from tequila to wine.  They like to go skiing on family vacations.  And Reesy is in L.A. on a mission of mercy: her niece has suddenly developed MS at the age of 32 and is experiencing paralysis on her right side.  She's rushed down to help her sister figure things out.

Reesy is in her early 50's and is quite pretty.  She says she can be mean, but based on her time working as a nurse and on our 45 minute conversation, I think she's an absolutely lovely person.

I don't get to know most customers.  Many just sit in the back and we barely talk.  With some I have conversations, but it's just to pass the time.  But once in a while I get one that I connect with.

I don't visualize.  When I close my eyes, I can't picture my mother's face or the house I grew up in.  So when I think of friends or family, I don't picture them so much as a have a 'sense' of them.  It's part feeling, part knowledge, part something else.  And after Reesy got out of my car, I had a sense of her.  Which was nice ... but sad.  Because I like her.  I would enjoy having her in my life.  But she's gone - I couldn't track her down if I wanted to.  So on one hand, I had a terrific 45 minutes getting to know someone really cool.  But on the other hand, she's gone forever and in a small way I had to grieve that loss for a few minutes.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is here.  I would rather have had the experience of getting to know Reesy than not.  But it felt like a tiny little piece of me got pulled away at the end.

Numbers: A Love Story

I just got back from my yearly Dead Poet's Retreat.  Sooo good.  In an email preceding the retreat, we were encouraged to watch this:

Embrace the Shake

It's a Ted Talk where the speaker explains that embracing limitations helped open up his creativity.  Very cool and worth watching.

While on the retreat, we had a writing session - you go off and write whatever you want, be it poetry or a story or stream-of-consciousness.  But I wasn't feeling the creativity flow.  Afterwards, I was thinking about this video, and wondering how I could give myself a limitation to possibly spark my creativity.  And here's what I came up with.  What if I had to write a story using only numbers?

Well, that seems impossible, at first.  I quickly decided that common math symbols were also fair game.  And then a story came into focus.  I spend the next 45 minutes writing it in my head.  And I spoke it aloud that night at the big anything-goes bonfire.  I'm sure it's not the most amazing thing ever written, but I'm pretty pleased with it, especially because it was the creative burst I needed.  And, bizarrely, it truly does move me.  I think it's better heard than read, but here it is:

Numbers: A Love Story





1 .... 1 .... 1

1 ... +1?


1+1 .... 1+1 .... 1+1

1 ... > ...1


1 .... 1 .... 1

1 ... +1?

1+1 .... 1+1 .... 1+1

1 ... x1 ...

1x1, 1x1, 1x1

1 < 1



1-1 ... 1x1 ... 1-1 ... 1x1 ...


1 ... / (divided by)

<1 .... <1 .... <1

1 .... 1 .... 1

1 ... + .... 1?

1+1 .... 1+1 .... 1+1


2 .... 2 .... 2