Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GRE, Busy Weekend, and Signs I'm Aging

Well, the GRE is over! The day of was a bit nerve-racking, kind of that nervous/anxious/excited feeling that is difficult to define but makes it difficult to sit down in one place for very long. As one Andrew Freeman already reported via facebook, I did spend the morning watching The Great Muppet Caper while reviewing notecards. I needed something to help me relax a bit, and that was just the ticket! One of the things that I think is weird about the testing is that it is in the heart of downtown: 20 N. Clark Ave. on the 16th floor. I just figured this would be at some suburban community college or something. So, I took the el down, and to center myself/calm down I listened to my hymns mix on my iPod while reading Lord of the Rings. If that doesn't work, nothing will. The actual testing went well. My overall scores were in the range I needed them to be (besides writing, which you don't find out about for a while), so that is a huge relief. The thought of taking that thing again leads to daydreams involving excessive violence perpetrated against helpless notecards.

So, now two worship services to pseudo-plan (I mean, the one on Sunday I'm more than "psuedo-planning"), two classes to prep for on Monday, a conversation with a faculty member at one of my prospective grad schools, a super-fun wedding on Friday, a chapel on Saturday, and then church on Sunday. It should be nice and busy with hopefully some downtime in there somewhere for me to relax (and by "relax," I tend to mean something akin to "hibernating").

What can you say about the Vikings? What's worse than going 0-3 to start out the season? Answer: having big half-time leads in each of those games and then blowing those leads with a defensive meltdown matched perfectly with an offensive collapse. More kids should grow up as Minnesota sports fans because it will teach them how to cope with failure at an early age.

Today I was walking to school in my cardigan listening to Garrison Keillor's Pontoon on audio book, and I thought, "I am 80 years old!" Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Speaking of which, I was listening to the book and thinking, "These vignettes sure are strung together strangely." Then, I realized that my iPod was on shuffle; I was listening to the first three chapters with large chunks out of their regular sequence. The story makes so much more sense now!

I could use some sunshine in the near future. Cold fall days are so much more enjoyable with a bit of light rather than this constant, spitting rain that seems to be the system planted over us the last few days. Well, one more meeting with Aaron for the day, and I am free to work on church stuff for the rest of the night! Later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preaching Typos, GRE Finale, and Elizabeth Warren

So, I'm preaching tomorrow on vocation, which blah blah blah, you should come, etc. However, the point of this: I was practicing my sermon, which means reading it from a transcript that I wrote, and I found a big freudian slip, which i will quote in full. At this point in the sermon I'm explicating how vocation can be lived in various positions, and I continue: "And this doesn't mean have only one perfect position we either find or live in endless ministry." Yeah, I meant misery, but I laughed real hard when I though of the interplay between endless ministry and misery.

The GRE is finally here on Tuesday. I can't wait to take all of these flash cards and cast them back into the pit from whence they came (i.e. the recycling bin).

I love this portion of Saturday evening. I just got back from a run, I have a dinner planned with friends, I'm listening to A Prairie Home Companion, and I have time to kill but don't feel like I have to fill it with busy work because it's Saturday night!

This clip of Elizabeth Warren made me fall in love with her all over again. Awooga! (*moving my glasses away and toward my face*) She may be my new political crush (as opposed to Samantha Power, one of my academic crushes).

What is funny is I could end up voting for her if I end up going to Boston University! One of the four t0 five schools I'm applying to.

Oh boy! Keillor's talking about the new crazy uses of "socialism" and "class warfare," which have nothing to do with what the words actually mean. You know what sounds like class warfare to me? Mary's Magnificat, Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel, the Beatitudes, the last being first and the first being last, actually a lot of what Jesus said seems to fit into how the Republican candidates are using "socialism" and "class warfare." Obviously this is really getting under my skin; I just can't stop talking about it. Okay, I'm going to shower now while listening to the dulcet tones of the radio show. They just sang, "How Great Thou Art" -- one of the many reasons I love this show.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Kinds of People, Leftovers, and Class Warfare

Today I heard on the radio the saying: "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who split everyone up into two kinds of people and those who don't." It made me think of my contributions to the "two kinds of people" discussion. For instance, there are two kinds of runners in this world: those who continue to run in place at stoplights, and those who grab their knees and suck wind, thanking God for small mercies like orange blinking "Don't Walk" hands. I am of the latter. Also, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who walk up escalators and moving sidewalks and those who let the machines do the work as God intended them to. I guess I'm not really one or the other in this scenario; much depends on my time management and overall level of laziness.

One of the perks of living in the warming center is leftovers! Today I had my third meal of macaroni and cheese and/or barbecue pork left from the meal on Friday. It's certainly helping my meal budget (and I usually use "meal" interchangeably with "eating out" in my budget system).

I know I've talked about this before, but doesn't it seem like political compromise involves, well, compromise? So, if Republicans want entitlement cuts and Democrats want tax increases to help increase revenue, a compromise necessitates a little of both? I don't get how Republicans can think they should get everything and give nothing except a willingness to not cut everything. I think Obama could really get some mileage of of this "millionaire tax," painting Republicans as out of touch who call tax increases back to Clinton levels "class warfare." It's true; by increasing taxes you might as well give out broadaxes, pitchforks, and torches and tell people making under $200,000 that the rich are poisoning their drinking supply. To me, class warfare more resembles setting up a system where those on top - the businessmen (mostly men), businesses/corporations, and independently wealthy - control the levers of government by employing lobbyists, many who were former politicians, to wield unheard of influence on congress while the gap between rich and poor increases exponentially. Luckily, we don't live anywhere like that! (wink wink)

I just saw a plan for an economic stimulus that included forgiving student loan debts. Now that's a stimulus plan that I can get behind! Even thinking about that happening is almost too much for me to handle! And your welcome for using all of these text links.

In honor of my dear sister Jessica (I accidentally typed "Jesus" first instead of Jessica. This is: a. an interesting theological idea; b. a side effect of a seminary education that typing a capital J leads your finger muscle memory to type "esus" immediately thereafter.) I will be attending a meeting on sex trafficking that is co-sponsored (maybe?) by International Justice Mission, the organization she works for. So, I need to shower and get going. Later.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Unnecessary Quotation Marks, Truth in Advertising, and Word Clouds

The other day I saw a coffee table book that compiled photos of unnecessary quotations, and it reminded me of a restaurant I pass every day on Irving Park that announces it serves "breakfast," "lunch," and "dinner," all in quotations. I'm wondering these meals differ from their unquoted counterparts that I am more familiar with.

Do you ever notice that the cast of fast food commercials differs fairly significantly from the normal clientele in the said restaurants? I just saw a KFC commercial that was full of trendy, young adults - people I usually see in Wicker Park or Lincoln Park when someone or something forces me to go to these neighborhoods. I want to go to the KFC buffet that I used to stop at in Fairbault, MN (between Mason City and Duluth) and film a live, on site commercial; you will have a much different restaurant experience via your television screen.

I like how FOX is promoting the 3 p.m. game as the "Game of the Week." It would be better to promote it as the "Game You Fall Asleep During Unless Your Team Is Playing, and Sometimes You Still Nod Off." I mean, truth in advertising.

So, I created a word cloud for the church bulletin using, and as I was creating it, I saw that you could put your blog url in and create a word cloud of your blog; I obviously couldn't resist.

So, you can tell I'm quite a writer/wordsmith because "like," "look," "just," "think," and "one" are my most commonly used words. Add "Father God" and you've got yourself a really bad extemporaneous prayer.

The only good news about the Vikings this week: I didn't have to watch them implode on live TV, I just kept getting the score updates via the scrolling scoreboard at the bottom of the screen. As my friend Treebeard says, "There is no curse in elvish, entish, or the tongues of men for this treachery!" Ahh...the feeling of constant disappointment that comes with being a devotion to Minnesota sports!

Well, I decided to join 2011 and pick up A Game of Thrones. We'll see what all the hype is about.

I'm going to think about what to eat for "dinner." I hope I can come up with something "good." Later.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Public Service Announcements, Fall Weather, and Death

Whenever I see those public service announcements at the beginning of movies with the dark music and deep voice saying, "You wouldn't steal a car," "You wouldn't steal a purse," and then the voice proceeds to guilt trip those who buy or illegally download or buy pirated movies, I always think, "How do you know I wouldn't steal a car or a purse?" I start thinking maybe I should steal a car just to prove the presumptuous voice wrong. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't even illegally download music or movies, I just don't like someone guilt tripping me. I can guilt trip myself just fine, thank you very much. I had to get that off my chest.

Today's weather in Chicago was simply delightful! It was the first day of true sweater weather, and if there's one thing I love, it's sweater weather. It's like a day-long woolen hug (or in today's case a cashmere/wool blend. Don't worry; I bought it used). The cold weather just makes me feel better about life in general.

What's with all these Republican debate crowds cheering for death? Creepy and truly not pro-life. As usual, Stephen Colbert nails it:

12 days until the GRE. I hate tests because you can't take them early; you have to wait. With a paper you can work on it and finish it. With a test, you can always study more, go over vocab cards, brush up on atrophied math skills, etc. It's maddening, and I will be happy to have it in the rear view mirror (although we should remember what Meatloaf sang: "Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.").

Yet, tonight I can forget those troubles for the time being and enjoy some time with some of my favorite people at one of my favorite places: Garcia's. There's nothing like chips, salsa, a two taco dinner, and a margarita to cap off a long day. I think I might be the world's most reluctant workaholic (not really...I'm just being dramatic). Okay, this is a really boring post. Sorry. I can't knock them all out of the park.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crazy Dream Alert - I'm Lovin' It

So, last night's REM cycle transported me to a nondescript McDonald's counter with my family and numerous other people who I don't recall (except for one, who will be named in due time). My family went through the line, and I was up last, but for some reason I was paying for myself. This should have been the first clue that it was a dream; if I'm with my family, I'm mooching off my parents for as many free meals as possible. So, I get to the counter and order the 2 hamburger combo, which in my mind should cost about 5 dollars. The guy rings it up and announces, "That will be $10.05." I give him a feigned confused look, thinking he will realize his mistake of his own accord, but he doesn't. So, as politely as I can, I tell him that there is no way that the 2 hamburger meal could cost that much. He rings it up again and gets the same number. I again refuse to pay this much. He now realizes that something is indeed not right and goes to get his manager to help him figure out the register.

At this point, people around me begin noticing problems with their food. Sarah Johnson (my upstairs neighbor for those of you who don't know her), apparently very angry about the quality of her food, takes her tray with two pieces of fried chicken (my dream-mind is apparently confused by fast food menus) and proceeds to walk back into the McDonald's kitchen and disgustedly throw away the meal into the kitchen garbage can. Man, she did not look happy. I, however, can't hear what's going on because I am separated by a glass partition of some type.

Finally, the manager comes back, rings it up, and gets it down to $7. In my dream-mind, I still think this is too much to pay (maybe it's an airport McDonalds?), but I'm ready for this whole interaction to end. Yet, as I pay, the original employee takes my money, looks seriously into my eyes, and asks, "Can we pray?" Before I can answer or even give him a look that tells him this is a weird inquiry, he breaks into prayer: "Dear Lord, we realize that there have been mistakes made today, and we are truly sorry...". As he is praying, my dad comes in and must see the incredulous look on my face (because even in my dream I'm thinking, "This prayer is really bizarre, and I don't want to be standing at this counter. I'm in no need of reconciliation with you or God; I'm not even mad, though now I'm very ready to leave the counter and eat the two hamburgers and fries growing cold on my tray.) and starts laughing, and that of course makes me start laughing, and I spend the next few minutes of the dream trying to hold it together so this earnest Christian McDonald's employee can finish his prayer...

At that point, I woke up and knew I had experienced a great dream. Every time I've thought about it during the day I have either laughed out loud or at least smiled at the craziness of it.

What does not put a smile on my face: the Minnesota Vikings. Donovan McNabb looked terrible in the loss to San Diego. It was almost worse that we took a ten point lead at the half because it made the inevitable collapse all the more painful. It looks like it will be another long season for Minnesota sports fans.

Tomorrow I'm leading my first ever pseudo-small group! I think it's going to be a really good time and hopefully even interesting/spiritually nourishing. Well, that's all I've got for today. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Alison Krauss, Unsalted Peanut Butter, and Clothes

Well, it is Saturday morning, and I am laying in my bed enjoying the peace and quiet, and by peace and quiet I mean the loud droning of my fan punctuated by random alley noise.

Last night, thanks to Kathleen O'Donoghue, I went to an Alison Krauss concert down at the Chicago Theatre with Joe Schupbach. Was it wonderful? Let me count the ways:
1. As Joe rightly pointed out, they were dressed like they lived in the Shire, which is obviously a big plus for me.
2. Jerry Douglas was there on the dobro, and he was amazing!
3. They closed with one of my favorite Alison songs, "There Is a Reason," which brought tears to my eyes.
4. We had these amazing mezzanine seats that made me feel like royalty.
5. She sang Richard and Linda Thompson's (later covered by Bonnie Raitt) "Dimming of the Day," which I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Here's Bonnie Raitt doing it to give you an idea:

The one thing that was kind of bizarre was some of the aesthetic choices made by the set designer. They decided to project pictures on a huge screen behind them, which is fine in theory, but it seems that either one of their kids got a new camera for their birthdays or one is part owner of a stock photo company; they were just boring pictures of appalachia/the farm. And, in between each song, the screen would go blue, like when you shut your VCR off but the input is still on the VCR channel. That was not pleasant. Yet, such a small critique in an outstanding show. Thanks, Kathy!

In other news, about a month ago I accidentally bought unsalted peanut butter, and it is all kinds of bland. It's gotten to the point where I salt the peanut butter on my english muffins, which makes me look like a crazy person.

One of the side effects of working part-time moving furniture is the weird and unexplained bruises that show up. My thighs look like they work part-time as a punching bag in a leprechaun gym. I think they come from resting furniture on my thighs while I scramble to open the door behind me or re-position my hands to get a better grip, and, let's be honest, we could all use a better grip.

Thanks to a gift from my parents, I just went shopping (online) for a bunch of new dress clothes. I got two pairs of dress pants, four shirts, and a bunch of socks; I'm going to look awesome.

Well, today I will be studying for the GRE, reading, hanging out at the Marshfield block party, and maybe watching some college football in the meantime. It sounds like a pretty good day to me. Now I need to go cash a check so I can keep up my lavish lifestyle. Later.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

FOOTBALL! (and other things)

Okay, first you will note that I have changed my poll question that was from last summer at the behest of one Amy Daigle. I think this one is kind of boring, but I'm hoping to be more consistent in my polling questions.

Second, I haven't been this excited for the NFL to start in quite a while. I think there may be three reasons: 1) the change in weather has put me in a particularly autumnal mood (yeah, I've used "autumnal" in two consecutive posts; wanna make something of it?), which naturally leads to football; 2) I've been listening to a lot of sports radio, and I am becoming excited by osmosis (or maybe diffusion since water is not in the equation); 3) With the lockout looming, it looked like we might not have a season for a while there. Nothing makes you appreciate something like the thought of not having it. As they say, "rumors of possible absence makes the heart grow fonder." So, tonight I'm headed over to Matt and Elsa's with some other friends from World Relief to watch Green Bay take on the Saints. A few Packers fans will be there; it will be an interesting sociological/anthropological time of observation. I'm hoping the game tonight will live up to the hype and my excitement.

I think the Vikings are being overlooked. Watch out, NFC North; you overlook Minnesota at your own risk. We thrive when we have almost washed up quarterbacks: Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Brett Favre. We're kind of quarterback bottom-feeders.

We are living in some kind of bizarro world where it is 67 degrees in Chicago and 84 in Duluth. This is unheard of! I expected to see frost advisories up there by now. Don't get me wrong; I am not complaining.

I think this may be the earliest I've ever gotten the bulletins printed and the PowerPoint done. I almost don't know what I'll do with my weekend now. Wowza, that last sentence is a sad commentary on my life.

I accidentally put a square root symbol in Sunday's PowerPoint. I was thinking of leaving it there and seeing what kind of comments I get.

Okay, I need to go for a run. For all of you who complained about my dry spell, that's three in six days, I believe. Be grateful.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jesus loves me this I know, for the weather tells me so...

Yes, I am convinced of the love of God by this beautiful, balmy weather! As soon as this weather hits my mind is filled with images of pumpkins, plaid, apples, football, chili, sweaters, snow, and yes, even Christmas. This September-December is without a doubt my favorite part of the year. My soul is autumnal to its core (with maybe a bit of winter thrown in to keep things fresh). Sitting outside on Labor Day with a chill in the air just brought a smile to my face that would not go away. I know many are mourning the passing of summer, but as for me, I bid farewell to the heat and a warm welcome to the chills of autumn/winter. I'm going to kick it off by taking a pumpkin spice latte bath - non-fat, obviously.

As already mentioned, football season is on the way. While I'm not holding my breath for either the Vikings or the Golden Gophers (although they did hang tough with USC!), Sundays are just better with football to look forward to after church. I'm hoping I'll be able to catch the Vikings game this week since they're playing on the West Coast (San Diego) and will be on after the Bears.

I got a parking ticket yesterday (I know, big surprise). What was different about this one is I wasn't tricked by street cleaning or permit parking, I just parked in a clearly marked metered parking spot and acted like I was a time traveller or Encino Man (one of Brendan Fraser's best roles; I don't know how the academy missed it.) who never had heard of parking meters. I just walked right into the restaurant like I was a foreign diplomat who had parking meter immunity. It makes me wonder how I manage to make it as an independent adult. So, here's another $50, Chicago. If I took all the money that I have paid in parking tickets and gave it as a one-time gift to the city, I think I would at least be able to put a plaque on something.

(I am now starting this post about three hours later - after going out to dinner)

Well, I just went out to eat and about ten minutes in realized I had AGAIN forgotten to pay for parking! Luckily this time I hadn't been ticketed yet, but seriously, what is my problem! Where is my head? I should just start throwing money away, literally taking it and putting it in the garbage or flushing it down the toilet!

I'm wearing a cardigan right now and loving life. I think there is a direct correlation, but I probably couldn't prove it.

Well, I am going to work on a bit more church stuff and then maybe reward myself with a trip to DQ. It's been far too long.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Been a Long Time Coming

So, I know I've been gone a while; get over it. Yet, without further adieu I think we should talk about some things that have been going on over the past few months.

First, I can't even watch the posturing and lying that supposedly represents congressional leadership, not to mention the Republican primary race that seems to reward crazy and punish sanity. For example, I'm no fan of Tim Pawlenty, but how in the world does he have to drop out before Michelle Bachmann! That absolutely boggles my mind. Needless to say, it's going to be a long election year.

Closer to home, I am getting ready for the GRE by memorizing as many words as I can. All the words start bleeding together, especially those that begin with "im" and "ex." So, September 27th will be the day of reckoning before the application process begins in earnest. Obviously, I'm looking forward to the many tedious hours of filling out online applications and sending too much money for someone to evaluate these applications.

I need to go to Minnesota yesterday. So, I decided fall break is as good of time as any! Also, since Garrison Keillor announced that he will be retiring from A Prairie Home Companion in 2013, I decided that I had delayed my pilgrimage to the Fitzgerald Theater for the show long enough. If all goes as planned, October 15th I will go to A Prairie Home Companion. It also happens to be the week that Gillian Welch will be on the show, which is definitely a win-win in my book. Then, I will head up to Duluth for some time along the banks of Gichigami. I come to these points where a trip to Duluth needs to be on my calendar for my life to feel okay; such is one of those times.

I've also been listening to a lot more jazz music as of late, especially those early sax players like Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, and Ben Webster. The loose vibrato and rough sound is in my mind exactly what jazz should sound like. Here's a taste of Johnny Hodges playing with Duke:

Any jazz aficionados out there have some suggestions?

It turns out three part-time jobs keep you busy. Who would have guessed? Right now we are in the busy season at World Relief meaning I am getting a lot of hours and also working on my physique. It is nice to work on academic stuff for a few hours and then go and lift some couches. It is a much more measurable job with instant gratification. I'm also getting really good at putting bed frames together.

Other than that, life remains the same. I'm trying to not be discouraged by this but remind myself that in less than one year everything could be in a great state of upheaval that will make me long for the stability of this time. So, here's to embracing the day-to-day routine!

Also, it's going to be 67 degrees here tomorrow. When I saw this, tears of joy began streaming down my face as I eyed the sweaters and flannel in my closet longingly (my vision being blurred by the excessive amounts of tears). We will meet again, my friends.