Monday, March 17, 2014

Why Wasn't I Warned?

It was late in the afternoon and kind of a gloomy day. I headed into the parking garage and started walking up to the roof level where I had left my car. Somewhere on the second or maybe the third floor I encountered one of my professors. She was carrying the a pile of books and papers to take home for the weekend but she was able to quickly find my essay. 

"Here. I thought it was well written, but honestly it was far too short. I was very disappointed."

I was feeling rather self-conscious and a little contrite so I didn't say much other than to mumble a thank you and politely wish her a good weekend. She got into her car and as I headed up to the next level I could hear her car start behind me.

There were no other cars in the lot when I reached the top level and headed across to my car parked over in the far corner of the lot. I don't know why I parked so far away, it's not like I'm driving an expensive car or anything, yet here I am on the top level in the far corner.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the keys unlocked the door while balancing my own stack of books. It was at that precise moment that the wind decided to pick up and snatch my essay and throw it over the parking garage wall and down several stories to the ground below. I stood there forlorn watching it fall and come to land on the grass.

I didn't even bother complaining. Somehow it seemed par for the course based on how this day was going. I threw the rest of my stuff into the car and headed for the stairwell not knowing just how much worse this day was about to get.

I descended two flights of concrete steps when I heard a heard a low moan and suddenly found myself confronted by a shuffling figure in torn clothes, torn skin, and snapping teeth. My hair stood up on end as I realized I had almost walked right into a zombie. I shoved it away and turned around and started racing back up the steps. As I looked up, I realized to my horror that a whole pack of walking dead were coming down the stairs toward me, cutting me off from my only escape. I turned back around to face the one below me only to find that he was now suddenly joined by a number of friends, all reaching out with filthy, bloody hands, each with drooling mouths filled with snapping teeth anxiously looking to take a bite out of me.

I was screwed and I knew it. I started punching and shoving desperately trying to get free, to find an opening to dash through. But it was hopeless. My last memory was of a dead twenty-something guy with no nose opening his mouth to take a bite out of my face while I fought off four other mouths.

As I started to make my way through the fog of sleep back toward consciousness, I was really, really upset with myself. Two thoughts burned in my mind. First, "How could I be so stupid as to be caught without a weapon?!" No crowbar, no shovel, nothing to protect myself from the hoards of undead. But then the second question hit me. Why wasn't I given any warning that this was a dream about zombies?! I thought I was simply having a dream about school! This was totally unfair! Had I known this was a nightmare I could have been better prepared!

I awoke this morning breathing hard and pissed off.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shot Wheels

I'm on the verge of a temper tantrum right now about toys.

Not the kind of temper tantrum that a 4-year old might have because he wants to play with one. No, this is much worse. This is the kind of temper tantrum that full grown adult man has when he's thrown down good money for the children that he loves on a toy that fails to work.

I've spent a whole lot of hours (more than you can guess) putting furniture, games, and play sets together for the boys. I've had to interpret idiotic Ikea-like instructions written in Chinglish by people who have never actually seen the toy themselves.

Sometimes, if things click together well, I'll occasionally comment on the excellent engineering that went into the design of a given toy. Other times I want to catch the guy that designed it and ring his neck. But nothing infuriates me like a toy that once put together properly doesn't even come close to working as advertised.

Case in point with the Mattel Hot Wheels Carcade that I spent almost two hours working on last Christmas. It's basically a pinball game that uses Hot Wheels cars instead of a ball. You load up a car and fire it up the ramp to hit the targets. Except for one small problem: The motor doesn't even come close to having the power to shoot a Hot Wheels car up the incline, let alone to give it enough force to strike any of the targets with any effect. Brand new quality batteries (a LOT of them) were installed in this piece of crap and it barely farts out the cars that came with it, let alone any of the myriad other Hot Wheels cars it claims to work with.

I put a book under it to give it some help. And then another. And then another, until I virtually had what was supposed to be an incline level with the floor. What I had successfully constructed was a $99 piece of garbage. The only thing that worked was the constant, loud sounds that emanated from this thing. No, there is no on/off button. Once you touch it, it continues to play music and shriek at you for 5 minutes -- unless you touch it, which resets the clock back to zero.

Tonight, I finished putting together a Spider-Man motorcycle play set. I was impressed by the quality of most of this thing until it came to the final linchpin that held it all together.  That’s where I noticed the problem. This thing was way too complicated to have any hope of working. Spider-Man is ejected out of the hand-cranked launch pad into a little stall that is lifted up and then circles around a central hub; reaching the top, the cycle flies out around a bend; triggers a little mechanism that captures the Green Goblin; and then Spider-Man must himself grab a safety hook with one hand and is swung to safety while his cycle crashes into a pit below.

It almost worked the first three times. The whole thing proceeded to deteriorate with each subsequent attempt until I was ready smash the whole thing and throw it out the window. The kids, who had not-so-patiently waited and endured my mutterings for 45 minutes of trying to assemble this stupid thing were disappointed with the results and then thoroughly astonished as I suddenly turned green, grew to a size of 8 feet tall, split all my clothes off, smashed through the wall, and then demolished the local toy store.

Before I ever buy another toy, I’m going to design my own. Using NASA specs. Then I’m going to stress test it under military conditions. I’m going to expose it to flame throwers, the impact of freight trains, and days on end of time/use simulations. The parts are going to fit together so damn well that as you open the box it’s going to seem as if they jumped out the packaging and locked themselves together without you having to so much as unfold the instructions.

And you know what? It’s going to be fun. Not just fun, but like mind-blowing, phantasmagorically, holy-Santa’s-Workshop-Batman-where-did-you-get-that-toy fun. And it’s going to last. In fact, it’s going to outlast all the kids who use it, the neighborhood kids who try to break it, and all the cockroaches who survive World War III. The EPfreakinA is going to bring a law suit against me because the toys I create are not only not going to be biodegradable, they’re going to be downright indestructible. The Department of Defense is going to try to hire me to design their next generation armaments.

And I’m going to tell them all to kiss my paternal butt. This is for my kids and they alone are worth the absolute best. Mattel and all the rest of them can go rot in a landfill somewhere.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Surch for Church

I started to try to write this on my Facebook page, but frankly that was near impossible. Facebook has its uses, but trying to vent thoughts and feelings that aren't likely to be commiserated by others is not one of them.

As you know, I've been looking for a new church home for me and my family for about six months now. A lot of people have told me that they are praying for us and I really appreciate that. I'm not sure that I'd be able to make any headway at all if it weren't for the prayers of virtuous friends. But frankly, the whole search process has been very frustrating. Sometimes it's hard to talk about without sounding negative and critical -- particularly on Facebook which is where most of these virtuous friends have come to learn about my search. As I've visited one church after another, I've felt the urge to write about my experiences, to discuss aloud what I've seen and experienced, and to compare my notes with other people's opinions and advice. That's just sort of how I am. They say that most men don't talk all that much, that they don't share their feelings. I never seem to shut up.

And so, since pretty much everyone has strong opinions about their church or their church preferences, when one person says something that disagrees with them, people bristle. That's completely natural. Without question, some people may be offended by some of my posts. (Read "all people, one way or another".) I promise that is not my intent. In fact, there has been a lot that I've wanted to get off my chest but it just hasn't been possible because there was no way to vent the frustration without sounding like a jerk. I can be pretty blunt normally but I'm not one of those who pretends that it is acceptable to disguise rudeness as "honesty". So, as much as you've already wanted to slash my tires, I'm sure you'll be incensed to know that there was more that I held back. (No need to thank me.)

Now, before you start thinking that I'm some kind of malcontent who is never happy, I want to assure you that is definitely not the case. Probably. Maybe. I really don't think I'm much different from any other guy who attends church on Sunday; who wants to hear doctrinally sound preaching; who wants to be uplifted by spiritual music; who wants to see each member of his family ministered to; who wants to engage in true fellowship and friendships with other like-minded believers; who is jaded by past negative church experiences; whose attitude sucks; and who is in need of a good schiaffo in faccia.

Don't stand too close to me. When the lightning strikes, I don't want you to become collateral damage.