21 July 2009



I haven't gone completely away from the blogging, but my busy schedule has gotten even busier. So, I won't be able to update much for at least another week or so.

In the meantime, I bring the following improvisational group to your attention: The No Pants Players. This is West Virginia's Premier Improv Troupe. They are based in Charleston, WV, and perform monthly at South Charleston's LaBelle Theatre.

Rebecka and I went to see them Saturday night (18 July). They are simply hilarious!

13 July 2009

Comments on "Song Time, Part Two"

"Chorus for a Country Song" was very random and involved Rebecka and me making fun of a country/gospel song we had heard on the radio. After many derivatives of random parts of the song, this came to mind.

This song is best understood if you sing it with a twang. "Sometimes" should be pronounced, "Sum-tahms," "washcloth" should be "warsh-clauth," and have a bit of a yodel at the end of each phrase.

Song Time, Part Two

Chorus for a Country Song

Sometimes I think I'm a washcloth,

Then I stop and look at the floor.

I go back to what I was doin',

And wonder what I did that for.

08 July 2009

Someone's Surprising Sarah

Setting: 7:00AM, Wednesday, 8 July 2009, Somewhere, USA

Seated in a chair, our secretary heroine stares contemplatively at a single book setting in the center of the otherwise empty desk. Sarah wonders where everything has gone: her computer, keyboard, notepads, phone, box of tissues. She hesitantly reaches to open the desk drawer to find nothing inside. Searching through drawer after drawer yields the same results.

Suddenly, the book opens of its own volition. Sarah jerked, causing her chair to roll back about a foot. She sat upright again, determined to figure out what was going on here. Scooting her desk chair forward, Sarah peered into the open book. She gasped at what she saw.

Standing in the center of the page, moving just enough to be noticed as something unusual, was a little figure. Sarah leaned in closer to see exactly what kind of thing it could have been. She saw what appeared to be a little man but with three sets of all appendages.

Shaking his fists violently at Sarah, the little man seemed to be shouting, though his voice was much to tiny for her to hear anything. Sarah leaned a little closer, causing the little man to step back and cringe into a shielded position. Slowly he raised up his head as he realized no danger befell him. Sarah began to speak, but his frantic fist shaking began again; this time, she was close enough to hear.

"Shhh--before you speak, listen to what I have to say!" the little man shouted as loudly as he could, although his voice barely reached Sarah's threshold of hearing at the tiny frequency the voice emitted. "Sarah, I have been sent here to bring you a message, and you must promise to listen." Shocked that he knew her name, Sarah's eyes grew wide and her breathing became shallow. She studied the little man's face a while before she realized he had paused, waiting to hear a response.

She stuttered out a quiet and meager "Sure." Sarah listened intently as the little man spoke slowly and clearly.

"Sarah, you may have wondered why your desk was empty, save for this book and, of course, me. Someone in management has sent me here in a very surreptitious manner to tell you this. Sarah, you're fired."

Sarah paused a moment, taking in the little man's words, making sure she got every little word. She jerked her head backwards as she realized finally exactly what he said. She just got fired! Sarah glared at the little man and quickly grabbed the front of the book. Slam went the book as the heavy cover met the rest of the open pages.

Slowly Sarah opened the book to the page where the little man had stood. She was not sure he was even real; but if he was, had she just killed him? Situated on the center of the page, just where he had been standing, was a light colored smudge. Sarah looked closer and saw that the smudge was actually paint, and written in the paint in tiny but discernible letters was the word "Surprise!"

Sarah stood up, confused. Streamers and confetti started streaming down from the ceiling. Salsa music started playing out of invisible speakers. Some of her coworkers started emerging from the walls as if they were at one point part of the drywall, but now back in human form. She looked at the desk again. Standing in the middle of the book where the paint had just been was the little man with three sets of all appendages smiling, waving, and shouting happily.

Somehow a cake rose out of the desk. Scribbled in sugary, blue icing was "Sarah, You're Fired!" Sarah was now very disoriented, feeling the room shift around her like water in a washing machine. She raised her hands to her face and would have screamed had her larynx not been frozen. She started to run away but, as if on a treadmill, she stayed in one place.

Suddenly the world stopped. Sarah found herself falling quickly until, finally, she sat up in bed. Sleeping beside her up until now, her husband woke up and asked if everything was okay.

"Sure, sure...just a bad dream," she murmured sleepily.

"Someone needs to stop eating pizza at bedtime," her husband warned warily.

Sarah nodded in silent agreement and began to lay her head back down to sleep, until she saw something that made her scream--out loud this time. Sitting across the room on her dresser was the little man with three sets of all appendages waving, smiling, and shouting happily: "Surprise!"

07 July 2009

(5) If I Were King of the Forest...

... my Chief Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Lake would be a squirrel, just because I'd like to see a squirrel swim.

06 July 2009

Fireworks Etiquette

Scores of people lined the riverbank as several different fireworks shows lit up the cloudy night sky, reflecting a distorted but beautiful light show in the river below. Bright, colorful bursts of sparks and fire arrived noiselessly until two seconds later when the sound finally caught up with the light that had already disappeared from view. Cheap snappers and sparklers popped and sizzled all around us, filling the pauses with peripheral sight and sound while the sky prepared for another rocket to pierce its blackness. One could be mesmerized in the awe of these moments.

That is could be mesmerized, if it weren't for several factors making the experience at times uncomfortable and generally annoying.
  • Huddled in a tight circle in the prime fireworks viewing spot, a group of about seventy teen girls (and I may be exaggerating: they could've been preteen) loudly, incessantly, and somehow simultaneously held conversations with themselves, punctuated by laughter that made even the exploding projectiles of fire form a finger and pair of lips to shush the girls, which made them laugh scornfully and even more loudly. Though their merriment may have held true with the spirit of the Independence Day festivities, I'm sure they were less concerned with patriotism and enjoying the fireworks than they were with, say, the Jonas Brothers or making fun of their parents.
  • Small groups of people on either side of my wife and me kept inching closer and closer to us, not unlike those rusty, spike-laden walls that creep insistently and horrifyingly inward toward the hero of an action/adventure movie. Except, in our case, we were less likely to procure tetanus or unwillingly obtain body piercings and more likely to get lung cancer because...
  • ...everyone in this area smokes! When I say "everyone," I do not actually mean to imply that absolutely everyone here smokes. I do mean to imply that the proportion of smokers to nonsmokers in any given outdoor event is about 25:1. The parents, their adult children, and some of their underage children huffed and puffed to their (and our) alveoli's discontent, being ever so careful to make sure they either stood upwind of us or turned their faces toward us when they exhaled.
  • The fireworks themselves were impressively unimpressive. At a rate of about one firework every 30 seconds, the audience's very short attention spans caused them to wander off mentally and physically. (In particular were some people (possibly inebriated) getting a little too close to the dropoff point of the riverbank.) Whoever directed the fireworks did not use a lot of creativity, unfortunately. Some of the 'works themselves were beautiful and appropriately loud, but there was no theme. By the time the finale came (which I think was more about getting out of the park before the rains came than actually completing the show), my wife and I were walking back home.

Thus ends my curmudgeonly report on the fireworks.

05 July 2009

Sunday Night Service

I do not recall ever experiencing a church service quite like the one tonight. People came to the altar and prayed. Several different people sang. Many people testified.

This morning, our Sunday School class (for which I was pretty late) was talking about the need for prayer in a Christian's life. Someone mentioned about how groups of people from the Bible would pray together for God's healing or protection or deliverance from the enemy.

In the worship service, a little girl was baptized and a teen rededicated her life to God.

In the evening service the choir, instead of staying up in the choir seats like normal, all came down and prayed.

The preacher preached 2 Chronicles 7:14, urging people to keep themselves from pride, pray and seek God's face, and stop doing things contrary to God's will--stop sinning. He urged us to pray for our country and our leaders. Someone from the congregation stepped up and walked to the altar, urging everyone in the church to come up and do just that.

The evening service lasted 2-1/2 hours, a short time when you consider some other types of churches who may begin at 10:00AM and stay until 3:00PM; but for our church, it was a welcome change from the ordinary.

I believe God blessed our service because people obeyed the Spirit and prayed like they had not done before.

02 July 2009

Biology Lesson of the Day: Arm Hair

Biology Lesson of the Day

Arm Hair

Adaptation to one's environment and habitat is essential for all creatures, from archaebacteria to humans, viruses to Sequoia trees. Otherwise, changes in those environments or habitats could prove fatal to the creature and spell doom for its species.

Today's Biology Lesson deals with an adaptation that we see in humans: arm hair.

There is no great debate that I am aware of over the origin and necessity of arm hair in human males. In fact, a quick keyword search of "why do guys have arm hair" will bring up mostly results regarding hair removal products, commentary on national and cultural differences regarding shaving, and, for some reason, pictures of Julia Roberts. Still, very little dispute can be found about the purpose of arm hair.

Arm hair is a result of the same stuff that causes other body hair: androgens. In fact, body hair in general is scientifically referred to as "androgenic hair." Androgens are those hormones (including testosterone) typically found in more abundance in males than in females and are, in fact, what stimulate the growth and appearance of all male secondary sex characteristics. A female can also have excess androgens in her system leading to the development of some of these same male characteristics. Contrariwise, a male can have too few androgens and not develop those characteristics.

Now that you understand where arm hair comes from, chemically and biologically, let us now turn to why I believe human males have adapted arm hair.

Picture this: a group of early era males is seated in the cold, shivering against the wind. They have taken care to cover their cores in loincloths (made from the skins of the animal they last killed for food) to block as much of the cold as they can. In an effort to keep their weapon use agile, they have not added sleeves to the loincloth. As a result, their arms are ready but freezing. Some of the men are bigger, hairier. Their bulk and extra covering from the hair keep them warmer for far longer than the smaller, smooth men. If anyone dies from the cold, it will be the latter.

They make their kill and take it home. They prepare it for their families and eat healthily. They feel the grease and other particles of food that stick to their mouths and facial hair. Napkins having not yet been invented, they reach up their forearms and wipe.

This happens year after year, generation after generation. The more hairy of the males outlast the less hairy, both because of protection from the elements and because of having extra food left over on their advantageous arm hair. The ones that outlive the others live to produce offspring likely owning the genes predisposed to growing more hair.

Today, we have sleeves and houses and jobs that typically don't require facing bitter wind to get food. The arm hair seems superfluous. However, we (and I am speaking mainly about males in the first person plural here) have learned to use this adaptation for another purpose. This new purpose is not entirely as necessary for survival against hunger and wind, but it is worthwhile.

This new purpose? Picture this: a guy is out cooking on the grill. He's got his sleeves rolled up (or if he's from Lincoln County, no shirt whatsoever) and the smoke is rolling off the grill. He goes to wipe his brow with a handkerchief? No! He wipes off his brow with his forearm, which is covered with (say it with me) arm hair.

Arm hair, once used to shield man against the elements, is now little more than a napkin. That is why still, to this day, men will always forget to get a napkin when they eat and instead prefer to wipe off their mouths with their forearms. It is just one of the advantages that have carried on through the millennia.

01 July 2009

Oh: Canada!

In keeping with my timely recognition of holidays, it is my duty to present to you today's holiday of choice: Canada Day. As many of you may know (but probably more of you do not), the First of July is Canada's Fourth of July. In much the same way that Americans celebrate Independence Day, Canada and Canadians around the world celebrate with fireworks, parades, and the annual arrival of the Canada Bunny to deliver sparkly treats and maple leaves. The celebration commences with a public singing of the Canadian National Anthem "O, Canada!" which is hummed along wordlessly around the country since, just like in America, the people don't really know the words to their anthem either--unless they happen to be acquiring or have a music degree.

Canada was officially born in 1867 as a result of the Canadian Confederation and a carefully designed delivery room. After a little bit of epidural and some parental coaching, Canada burst into the world to a room full of appreciative and happy people (and the father passed out on the floor). Like many new parents, the Fathers of the Confederation were not certain what to name this new creation. One of the great grandfathers of Canada, Jacques Cartier, had started calling the area "Canada" (based on the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata" meaning "village") in the 14th Century. The name stuck like a hair in a biscuit (or a cheveu in a bannock), until it came time to officially name the country. Then, every Canadian cousin, uncle, great grandneighbor, and sisters' ex-brothers-in-law showed up with suggestions, such as:
  • Victorialand,
  • Tuponia,
  • Superior,
  • Frances ("It was your grandfather's middle name. You do want to honor your grandfather, don't you?"),
  • Borealia,
  • Hochelaga, and of course
  • Steve.

Although I am partial to "Superior" for its anatomical accuracy and "Borealia" for its astronomical allusion (the Aurora Borealis would make much more sense to people nowadays), I wasn't around to give my suggestion. So: Canada it is!

Excited to have a new name, Canadians evidently forgot one of the most important parts of becoming a nation: conquering a foreign country. No, I'm sorry. I mean: making a flag. It was nearly one hundred years later before Canada had its own flag. Before 1965, Canada still semi-proudly waved the Union Jack in the corner of their flag. Prime Minister Mackenzie King ("King Mack" to his friends) tried to get a new flag created in the '20s and the '40s, but a couple of wars broke out (not related to his flag-making attempts) and he became too busy.

Finally, in 1964, Prime Minister Lester Pearson ("Pierce Lester" to his pointy stick-wielding boyhood bullies) established a committee featuring fifteen members of all different parties (conservative, liberal, social democratic, and ice cream social) and gave them six weeks to design a new flag for the nation. For five-and-a-half weeks, the committee labored and debated over what kind of sandwiches they should order for the next meeting. Finally, around the Thursday afternoon before the deadline, someone stepped up and suggested they all bring their own lunches so they can get down to the business at hand: how to celebrate their successful sandwich-ordering accomplishments.

Somewhere in there the red maple leaf (with 11 points representing the fact that a maple leaf typically has 11 points) and the red and white stripes were suggested and put on a sample flag. In 1965, the flag was accepted and has been flown proudly as the national symbol of Canada since.

So, happy birthday, Canada! The world wouldn't know what to do without you.

I close with the following tribute to Canada:

"O, Canada! Our home and native land.
Something something something all thy something hmm...
O, Canada! O, Canada!
God shed His grace on thee.
O, Canada! O, Canada!
How lovely is thy maple leaf!"