Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Real Play by Play of the Week

Alright, this will pick up after church on Sunday
-Went to Margaritaville for lunch. Jimmy Buffet's restaurant is as bad as his music. Alright, the food was pretty good, a bit overpriced, but still good. If the atmosphere weren't so cheesy it would have gotten a thumbs up. My thoughts: There are different levels of cheesyness, good and bad. If you're going to be that cheesy, be extremely cheesy until its sort of endearing. Don't be cheesy to the point of annoying.
-Since just about everything was closed for Easter Sunday, the fella's and I hung out playing Smash Brothers more or less all night.

-Pushed off the beach since it was a bit chilly out.
-Made a huge breakfast for everyone: bacon, eggs, toast. It was a winner and we served it the next couple days.
-Watched movies and played Smash Brothers until night started settling in. We then went to Ron Jons (since it was a hit the first time) and drank and played pool until two-ish where I turned in for the night once we came home.

-Ate lunch at Sushi/Restaurant called Soho. I was served hot food. Matt, Sal, Rob, and Jake were served hot food. Pershing waited twenty minutes for 10 fried shrimp and cold fries. We witnessed a server cursing at the kitchen staff. Apparently they were new. We didn't hold it against our server, but left with a bad taste in our mouth.
-Played mini-golf at a place called Mount Atlantis Minotaur Golf. Yes, not only was it three stories tall, featured a somewhat Atlantis theme, but also had an 18 hole Minotaur course. Pretty good course. Unfortunately we were stuck behind a couple that doesn't get to date often. They played every hole twice as if they weren't going to get to have fun again until the next paycheck. The last three holes left something to be desired. Essentially the hole was a straight shot from the tee only six feet away. They did however build an intricate design all around the hole, but nothing that was going to cause your ball issues. Rob and I tied for first, Matt in a close second, with Pershing barely behind him, and Jake trailing by 10.
-Came home, drank beer, watched movies.
-Eventually ended up going back to Ron Jons.

- 12:10 P.M.We decide weather be darned, we're going to the ocean.
-12:45 P.M. After bravely sticking our feet into the ocean and removing our shirt, we decide its four pitchers of margarita's and one shot of Soco too cold for us. To remedy this, we head to Boardwalk Bill's to consume aforementioned drinks.
-1:30 P.M. Feeling fairly good we again remove shirts and head for the ocean. The ocean was a sobering experience, not only because of its beauty and the sense of insignificance it instills in humans but because of the seemingly 40 degree water immediately removing any hint of alcohol that was once on us.
-1:40 We splash in the waves like eight year olds, screaming, splashing, and dunking.
-2:20 We notice we've been washed 500 feet down shore and none of us can feel our feet.
-2:23 Removing our bodies from the ocean reveal pure white, bloodless, feet.
-2:45 We stop on the way home to pick up more liquor and fajita food.
-7:00 Fajitas good, liqour good, life good.
-10:00 Ron Jons for cheap beer and pool
-12:30 AM Sallie joins us. We drink until 3.

Thursday: Woke up late, most feeling somewhat hungover.
Beach day again. Much warmer. We devour food at our new favorite place on the beach. They have foot long hotdogs with slaw, mustard, and chili on them. Your mind has created what you think is a footlong hotdog, but trust me, you're underselling it. We all agree to return tomorrow for more hotdogs and nachocheese fries.
Medieval times for dinner. We bought beer from winches, cheered on the black and white knight, and gave two small girls in front of us many new vocabulary words.

More footlong hotdogs.
Lots more beach. We all end up sun burned, but happy.
Hibachi grill for dinner.
Cigars for celebratory after dinner smoke.
We turn in early

Boys leave at 5:20 our time.
I start removing the "dude" smell from our house at 10. All in all they are the only guests I haven't wanted to shoe out by the time they left. I had a great time and would do it again.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Long time no post, warning I tend to go on a religious rant

I've been meaning to update this little hobby of mine most of the week, but just haven't gotten around to it because the boys have been in town and every waking moment has more or less been spent "bro-ing" out.

They got in late Saturday night and I half expected them to immediately want to go to bed since they'd been up for 16 hours in a car, running on almost no sleep. But in true "bro" fashion they wanted to assault the beer supply I'd proudly built up, and decimated it immediately. We ended up going to a favorite bar of ours, Ron Jons, to introduce them to our new favorite beer (there are no Boulevard or New Belgium beers here) Yuengling. They loved it, and what they loved more was that at this bar you can buy 22 ounces of the beer for $3 flat.

Sunday, Sal, Matt, and I woke up (I was already up, stupid job has trained me not to sleep past nine) and went to Easter Service at a non-denominational church called "Beach Church." The church looks like a warehouse that you could fight Batman villains in from the outside, but the inside is full of large high definition TVs, a full band set up, and props on stage. All in all I have to give it a thumbs down. They band started off playing a U2 song which is an immediate strike against you, but then they proceeded to play a glorified concert for about the first half hour of the service. Then the church leader started talking about bridge building, and how it relates to religion. Although he started several great ideas, he never finished one complete thought before he stuttered a bit and then moved onto another somewhat unrelated idea.

The service was weird to me, completely foreign to what I was used to. I hadn't been to an Easter service in a couple of years, but its because the Catholic service has literally made me vomit before. At Catholic service, you go through the stations of the cross normally on Easter. Each of the 14 or so stations you alternate between standing and kneeling and are bombarded with incense (it's supposed to symbolize the incense Jesus is covered with in the tomb) for the 2-3 hours service. There was one time where the incense were so intense that I started feeling light headed around the 8th station and had to run outside and vomit. Thus, I haven't wanted to go to an Easter mass since.

Even though the Catholic service is a pain, I didn't feel right being at this non-denominational service. It's a weird loyalty I guess you're instilled with as a child, and even thought I tend to immediately start questioning the motives of the church when I enter, (that has to be the cynical don't accept anything at face value, everyone is somewhat corrupted, attitude my uncle instilled in us) especially the Catholic church which has the longest Christian history of waging wars, selling sin, and keeping ridiculous rules and traditions around much longer than they should have, I felt I had betrayed my brothers. I'm not necessarily bitter about it because I'm sure Sallie would feel the same way if I told her we need to go to Catholic church. Although she would go because she's awesome like that, I know there would be a voice in her head screaming, we need to get a healthy Baptist dose of scripture. Since she enjoys the organized religion and community of the church much more than me, I feel better about making her happy with where we go. I know as soon as we entered a Catholic church, I would feel uncomfortable about something else. (Probably the way that most churches seem to block out a large portion of light and filter in darker light that cast shadows over the dark gloomy wood decor in most traditional Catholic churches.)

Why do I have Cynicism toward organized religion? It started when I was really young. I was going to PSR class (basically a bible study school for kids who couldn't afford to go to a private Catholic school) and the priest there came to talk to us and said "you can ask me any question, and if I can't answer it, I'll buy you a soda." I don't know if I asked a question because I was and always have been more of an observer in those situations, wanting to take in everything the other person is saying. I like finding out what people feel and believe. Someone asked "Do animals go to heaven?" The priest gave a dumbed down, "no because they were put here on Earth for human's enjoyment." Something exploded in my head. I couldn't wrap my thoughts around how out of all the animals on the planet, we are the only one with an immortal soul. We, humans, that start wars in the name of religion, only to later find our leader wanted more land. Us, the people that daily shout curse words from our car windows at strangers and find ways to cheat, connive, and steal from each other to get what we want, are the only things God created that could make it to heaven. I left that night with a bad taste in my mouth, and being one to never just take what people say at face value, I started doing research and found so many things I didn't like about the Catholic church: evil dictator like Popes, leaders twisting bible passages to fit their own agenda, the selling of indulgences in the middle ages, the handling of the Protestant split, the stagnant nature of the church wanting to hold onto traditions that had no bearing in a modern world, ect ect.

Then I started researching other denominations and religions and found similar problems with them all. I had a Luthern friend who openly hated the Catholic church, and so did his family because of events that happened hundreds of years before any of them were born. I went to an Evangelical youth group where the pastor focused his full attention on me, and trying to get me to join their group, yet he wouldn't give me any real definition of what he believed because he was trying to recruit. Then a friend of mine died in my freshman year of highschool and the pastor from his Baptist church did the Eulogy and talked about how much Ben came to church, and loved his church, and was going to heaven because he participated in every activity he could at the church and we should all follow in his footsteps and help the community with the church. For the three years I knew Ben, he rarely went to this church and he never once participated in anything else with the church. I started to feel that many organized Christian groups were more concerned with recruiting through fear of hell than actually helping a person's spiritual growth.

Then on the other side of the spectrum were the people that treated going to service as a chore, something to be mourned. They would go to church every Sunday, zone out for an hour, feel good about themselves, and then curse people out in the parking lot immediately afterwards. Or there were the people that went to the big two services, Easter and Christmas, and would only talk to god when they wanted something.

I know that not every religious person is like this. I've met a lot that aren't. But these are things I experienced when I was young, and they are hard things to shake in adulthood when they are so ingrained in my DNA. I don't know if I'll ever truly have a sense of belonging to any of these groups, only because god is infallible, but humans are not. I will listen to what people have to say, and what they believe, and look at the evidence, but I feel I have my own personal beliefs and attaching a name to them doesn't feel right. A relationship with God should be such a personal thing, and I don't want to force myself to go to a place that I don't feel right in to just zone out every week.

Sorry I went on this rant. It was going to just be an update of this week, but Rob, Pershing, and I got into this debate last night, and after a night of sleep, I was still thinking about it in the morning and it sort of came out. I will catch all of my listeners up on my spring break (WHEW!) activities tomorrow.

Peace, love, and empathy

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

21 Hours of Training and the Daydreaming that comes Along

This week has been spent crammed in a small room with 31 other individuals for 9 hours a day watching pathetic sexual harrassment videos and great driver safety tips. Most of this training has nothing to do with the education department and more to do with the nursing and res tech staff. Basically 1 out of 9 hours a day pertained to me.

So a little more about these training videos. I found out that I work for a private health care company that makes 2.5 billion dollars a year and are expanding at all times. (Basically confirms that I will be a just number to anyone in a suit) Our training videos even had a healthy amount of product placement thanks to the fine people at Staples and Lays potato chips. Really? Does a multi-billion dollar company need to sell advertising in their low budget, horribly performed, 15 minute training videos?

Today was the third day of training and I could tell. Around noon, one of the higher ups was discussing research and patient care and I started zoning out, daydreaming a fantasy of mine. Somewhere deep below our facility lurks the weapons developement and biological experiment labs... a.k.a. ZOMBIE FACTORY! These guys talking to us know their dark secret but share none of it with the lowly employees. There is no zombie disaster training. No mention of Basement Levels Alpha 5 or the need for Security level 5 clearance. No, they give you a ring of keys saying you have access to everything. At least everything the shareholders need to know about.

Then one day the facility is rocked by what feels like an explosion from the core of the Earth. The lights flicker and the backup generators flip on. Soon, the res techs are shouting to round up the children on the bus and get to safety, but its too late. The zombies have killed all in the labs and have made their way to the surface. Fire alarms are pulled, 911 called, but nothing will contain the disaster short of divine intervention. My guess is God watches, slapping his forehead, turning to J.C. who shrugs his shoulders and says, "I told you they would bring the apocalypse on themselves."

Luckily for my place of employment, I know how to take zombies down. After I've finished saving about two dozen employees and patients I unhook the fire axe from its resting place and descend to the lower levels. I turn one last time toward the scared survivors, whom all stare on in awe at their hero, who know wears a ripped black undershirt wielding the axe like it was just another day. The flashing red alarm bounces off my face as I give them a wink and click the button that says Basement Level 5. The heart of the facility....

Then I wake. I desperately need to get out of the last day of training on Friday. I make up a story about how I have friends coming in Thursday night and would like to spend time with them. The lady running the thing likes me because I've helped her figure out how to work her videocamera. She instantly feels empathetic and tells me I can just borrow the videotapes of Friday's training. I'm free...

Kind of. I need to take the cats into the vet to get their nails clipped and to get Sliders second set of shots and Crash's nose looked at. Then I need to get the oil changed in the car and work my Sun News job. Just another day off in the life of Dan.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Achy Breaky Eyes

Today I just want to talk about how much I hate the most recent Disney phenomenon, Hannah Montana. I remember my days in high school where Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire ruled the Disney airwaves. Both shows were intelligent, legitimately funny (I skipped my SCC classes one day to see the Lizzie McGuire movie... in Theater) and had good characters. Then some show with Ravon Samone came on the air, and Disney became home of the lazily written, obvious plot, slapstick trash comedy. Soon Zack and Cody were running amuck in a hotel (accompanied by a horrible theme song to the melody of the classic Sweet song "Ballroom Blitz") and the Cheetah Girls were lip syncing their way through a boring playlist.

I remember when Disney produced Grammy award winning soundtracks and Academy Award winning movies like the Lion King, now the commercial breaks are filled with the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Ally and A.J. (I think thats their names, but they are disgustingly sweet for their ages. Come on, the world should have corrupted you at least a little bit by now girls)

But onto my subject. I hate Hannah Montana. I don't necessarily hate Miley Cyrus, who is now a 15 year old Millionaire and her annoying father Billy Ray who wrote that extremely annoying "Achy Breaky Heart" song, but the amount of whoring Disney has done... it's maddening.

Wal Mart for example (I've already ranted about how much I loathe Wal Mart, but still return for those rolled back prices) has Hannah Montana sticker kits, dolls, coloring books, movies, video games, cereal, sandals, shoes, clothing, books, dvds, temporary tattoos, and tonight I even found them playing an episode on the ole' high definition tvs. She always either has the "I'm pretending to sing in a microphone in my pleather pink jacker" or the "I'm pretending the camera isn't there by rolling my eyes up and to the left while wearing my blue and black nylon stretchy shirt." I just want to punch her in her crooked teeth sometimes.

My last item of discussion is I was giving a similar rant to Lacy at Wal Mart a couple nights ago. Less than two seconds after giving the rant, whilst (good word, I high-fived myself) standing next to a Hannah Montana impulse buy display or all the aforementioned (another good word) products a little girl came running up with bright eyes, "Mom, look at the Hannah Montana stuff." The mom rolled her eyes and said, "yes." So, my theory is Hannah Montana is creating a generation of alcoholic parents trying to blur the amount of Hannah in their lives, and dooming the younger generation to a life of hair extensions and football to the nuts type jokes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Growing up is hard to do when you dont know where to start

Yesterday I got a notice in the mail about interest on my student loans I've acquired from the past four and a half years, which more or less but a small dent in the weekend because its a fair amount. (At least I think it is, this paperwork never makes much sense. Why can't they just have one line on their somewhere saying "You owe this..." instead of each years loan, interest, interest rate, time due, ect ect.) I then tried to get online to find out how much I owe total, but of course I need a name and pin number I set up four years ago. God knows where that information is. I also don't know where else I have loans with. When I went to St. Charles Community College, I used UMB Bank for my loans. Then Mizzou made things more complicated since I had much more I needed to borrow I had to get some loans through Mohela and for some reason I could no longer get my loans through UMB, so I started taking them through another loan company. So the last year I knew I had loans from three different places until Mohela sent me a message saying they've acquired some of my other student loans. WHICH ONES!?! Still haven't figured it out, but since I don't know my pin number, I don't know how much I owe. Why do things have to be so complicated?

Second thing I have to decide, if my job isn't renewed for next year (it hasn't been approved by the budget yet) what do I do? Do I start grad school and get my education masters degree? Do I attempt to get my certification through South Carolina? Do I take a break and just find a job that pays? Damn this uncertainty.

Lacy has been in town for a couple days now. It's nice to see a friendly face. I think it's lifted both Sal and mine spirits. We both miss having friends around us. Thus far we haven't met anyone that we would call every weekend and I don't know where I would meet this kind of person. Everyone at my work is either a juvenile delinquent or old and with a family. Sal's newspaper people seem to be more drinking buddies than anything else. So what is a man to do?

The boys are heading down here next week and I'm off work all week so it should be lots of boozing, bro-ing, smash brothers, and pizza. I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another day in the almost school

Yesterday was my first real rough day at my new job. Computers were going down, my administrator was stressed to the max, teachers were missing. I also was given the crap news that part of my Spring Break is getting cut into because I have training all next week from 9 in the morning until 5. Training that is meant as orientation for a job I've already worked at for two weeks. We are supposed to have next Friday off as the first day of Spring Break, but this training, since the school doesn't schedule it, goes into Friday. So while the other 8 teachers enjoy their 10 days off, I will be the only one in the building getting oriented at a place I've already figured out. Then I spent two hours talking to various customer service reps, tech support , and browsing FAQs about our software and internet explorer. Both of which aren't working right. I figured some stuff out after talking to customer service and ended up just downloading firefox, because frankly, its just much much better than Explorer.

Today was much better. Reports indicate that my one week with the program has yielded great results. Participation is up 30%, attendance up 15%, and grades up 25%. So all in all, it appears I'm doing a great job.

I have much more to talk about, but currently I'm disgustingly tired. So I promise, someday soon, I will properly update.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I no longer feel sorry for the cats

Maybe a week or so ago I pondered if we ruined cats lives by domesticating them. I wish to now formally retract that statement. I've realized that cats have domesticated us. I figured this out yesterday when I was elbow deep in cat poo and litter. The pan liner that is supposed to make it easier to clean up was shredded thanks to Slider, allowing all fecal matter to slip through the cracks to the bottom of the plastic kitty port-a-potty.

This was after the cat woke me up early to feed him, complained that I didn't give him meat, figured out how to get on top of the bathroom sink and knock everything off. I open the windows so the cats can bask in the sunlight. I let them sleep in my favorite gaming (or Bro-ing out) chair instead of me getting to use it. Play with them for 15-30 minutes a day. Pet them. Let them sleep in my lap during the day, and then in my bed at night. I drive them to any vet appointments they have and pay for them. Then on special occasions I give them a sweet dose of catnip. So I ask, who is domesticated? The cats are living like kings and I am taking back my kingdom. The squirt bottle we purchased to learn them lessons has been in heavy use the past three days. Unfortunately Slider doesn't learn. He gets soaked, cleans up, and then continues with said "bad" activity.

This weekend I didn't accomplish too much. Wifey wasn't feeling well. I did rip off EB Games on accident. Sal and I bought an off brand X-box 360 controller so she could play some games with me, but it wouldn't stay connected to the Xbox. So I brought it back to Eb Games and returned it for a much better one. The thing is, we originally bought it from Wal Mart. I had forgotten, happened to be in the store at a very busy time, and caught the manager off guard, who simply assumed they just stopped carrying that controller. We found a new game we both love. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is your basic beat-em-up game, but with one difference. It's unleashed a fighting beast within my wife. I never knew she loved these types of games so much. She was yelling out one liners as she sent bad guys against the wall and muttering cool under her breath every time she found out a new move. It was yet another affirmation that this marriage is going to work.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I am no longer known as Dan, I'm now known as MR. DAN!

It took 4 business days, but I finally got used to kids screaming Mr. Dan and that meaning I need to turn around so I can tell them "No, you can't do that." (That's usually what I have to say because when they scream my name it is usually because they're bored.) So far the job has treated me well. 90% of the children seem to be doing their work and I've finally gotten organized enough to where I can start looking at the files of some of the stragglers and try to figure out why they aren't performing as well.

So today I looked into one of the kids file. This kid seems to be a loner and bored with the program. He constantly applies chapstick and while most kids make 1,000-2,000 points a day, he usually hits 500-800. I looked into his file to find one of the most heartbreaking things ever. This kid has been bounced from Orphanage to Foster home his whole life and has depression, self esteem issues, mild retardation, sexual and aggressive behaviors. This kid has slipped through everyone's fingers to land in a class full of boisterous, behavioral disordered kids. I don't know what to do for him, but next week I'm devoting a bit more attention to getting him going.

Other than having a good first week I get to come up with something for the kids to do after they finish the program. (By spring break I will have 5-10 kids that have finished, and two months to fill) I was told they could just read or play a reading game on some of the computers, but most of the kids want to learn more. It doesn't seem that anyone has devoted attention to these kids interests before. Two of them want to become tattoo artists eventually. They bring in sketches for me to look at everyday and I tell them what I think. I've given them some pointers on how to get the proportions of the human body and skull right or what they need to get good at to become an artist as well as tell them stuff about tattooing they didn't know. (Different gauge needles, mixing ink to get new colors, styles of tattoo art, ect) Another kid wants to learn how to type faster and use Power Point, so I'm going to develop a power point training booklet and probably one for word and excel too, because if I don't help these kids out I feel like they will be passed over until finally they hit adulthood. Some basic knowledge of these programs can make their lives so much easier.

Now on a less serious note, today Wifey and I tried an experiment with the cats. We dunked each one into the bathtub. Slider just tried to find his footing and then walked like something got shoved up his cat butthole once he was out. Crash freaked out, with eyes wide and took off to immediately start licking herself dry. It was adorably entertaining.

Anyway I don't have much more to update. I've gotten some writing done this week. I've been dressing nice all week for my job. (Though I still don't like it) And I've watched some movies and played some videogames. Tonight Sal called in sick. Her throats been bothering her, so we're watching some "My Name is Earl" and eventually we'll watch "30 Days of Night" and probably play some Zak and Wiki later.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The new job

So I started my new job today. (The one where I teach "Dangerous Minds" type students that are left behind in the school system) First, let's rewind to last night. I had a splitting migraine from about one in the afternoon until oh three in the morning or so. This was the kind of headache that blurred the vision, caused sweat, and made me somewhat nauseous.

The new kitten Slider decided that he wanted to snuggle from about seven in the morning until I finally got out of bed at 8ish. I showered, ate my oatmeal in silence, and to my surprise Sallie woke up early and made herself breakfast and mostly stayed awake. I was too out of it for talking, so it was one sided breakfast talking.

I arrived at the job, not nervous, but not knowing what my job was exactly. A nice lady named Mary shows me the computer system the kids use and then after an hour or so, takes off to other tasks, leaving me with little or no information. For the next couple hours I keep the kids in line and try to teach myself the Fast Forward program.

The students are surprisingly well behaved for supposedly being the bad boys, rift raft, and forgotten ones. There's one that fought doing anything, but he didn't bother anyone else. Another kid told me that he and his friend wrote a computer virus and leaked it onto Limewire. My first thought was "wonderful, I'm in charge of the computer lab and if I ever anger this student, he can unleash virtual hell onto the network." I think I won him over with my knowledge of rock bands he listens to, and I think I won others over when I let slip that I had tattoos. Hopefully this scores me leeway as far as when they want to misbehave.

The job itself seems fairly easy and rewarding, but the organization of the whole system is mind splitting. I'm one that likes to have everything where I want it and clean and I can't even find proper training manuals for the online program.

My other gripe is the program they use. Several of the kids complained about some things being too hard and some things being too boring. I tried the game that was hard. It emits a series of 5-8 high or low pitch beeps that represent the "up" or "down" keys. After a couple the beeps speed up and I was lost. A person with a college degree was having trouble with a game that I can't figure out the value of in a persons education. According to one of the manuals its supposed to teach them how to listen to directions. I think it just hurts the ear drums. Then I started taking some of the other tests and found them to almost insult the intelligence of these kids. I feel the program suits elementary school kids, not the seventh to eleventh graders in the program.

So I think there's a chance I will like my job, it just depends on if I get the support I need. Things such as training and an outline of what exactly I'm doing would also be nice. At least for now its a paycheck and I get all normal school holidays off. (Spring Break! WHEW!!!) I'm sure updates will follow.