October 08, 2008

Stupid People

I am only posting this for the hilarious shout out to Cubs fans which comes about halfway through the video.



October 03, 2008

Click Click....Nothing

So... I'm in Charlottesville. And my car won't start. Fun times.

The wife had a conference at Wintergreen so she went to that while I bummed around in CVille. Had lunch with some friends, stopped by a few offices, etc. Always nice to see people. Around 2:30 I get the call that the conference is over and I should head to pick up my old lady. I hop in Tracy (that's my car). Put the key in and turn it. Click! Nothing.

Goody gum drops. I probably have a bad starter. Not surprising on a 14 year old car with 172K miles, but still inconvenient. The battery seems to be fine as the lights and stereo still work. But no starting. Sooo I'm hanging out in the old grad school building until the wife arrives and we can pop the clutch. In the meantime, I figured I'd spend the time much as I did during grad school - music - blogging - talking to officemates - and avoiding work.

In other news, my interview yesterday went down pretty well. The word on the street (via my inside source of Columns O'Numbers) is that they're going to make me an offer. Now I have the tough decision to make of whether or not to accept! So many factors. The wife and I have a bit to discuss. OK. Time to go tackle item number one and make my car go!

October 01, 2008

Prescott Oil Loves the Earth

For the last few years, my distaste for car commercials has grown. There's much to complain about, but the thing that bugs me the most is when a company tries so hard to sell itself as environmentally friendly and fuel efficient when in fact it is far from it.

The new Hummer - with the highest EPA fuel rating in it's class.

And we're supposed to buy this. Never mind that it's probably the only friggin vehicle in its class! I mean, how is it that every car ever made has won a JD Power & Associates award for being the best whatever of its class?

Anyway - my point is: As gas prices have gone up, buying more efficient cars has begun to make more sense to the average American (as well as the median and mode American). And it's natural to expect car companies to try to convince us that their cars are fuel efficient and that their company cares about the environment. It just can be annoying when it is flatly untrue (as is often the case). Still, I've started to get used to seeing these kinds of ads (in fast motion as my DVR skips past them).

But lately, a new wave of ads has hit the tube. Energy and oil companies trying to promote the same green-friendly image. Again, this is understandable in the wake of the public outcry at record oil company profits. I just hope most of you catch the severe irony of these ads. And if you don't, our man Stephen Colbert will try to drive it home for you... (in a hybrid of course)...


September 28, 2008

Strike Breakers or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Tie an Onion on my Belt

So I've noticed a trend with the Google searches that lead folks to stumble onto my blog. 80% of them have searched for "onion belt" or some variation of Grandpa Simpson's classic strike breaking story that goes nowhere from episode 417 of The Simpsons - Last Exit to Springfield. This invariably leads them here. But I want more...more...more internet traffic! So here's my devious plan: provide those passers by with the actual clip of this great orator in action. After watching this - they'll have to like my blog. Right?

video

...right?

September 24, 2008

'Maybe' pretty much always means 'No'

I can't remember if I've mentioned that I'm currently job hunting. :-)

I'm sad to say the status of the search is pretty much the same as it was several weeks ago. My application total is now around 60 or so (positions not companies) - of which, less than 10 have responded in any way, shape, or form (all rejections obviously). Still, last week I took to be an encouraging one. The wife had some recruiting to do on behalf of her company at UVA - our old stomping ground. It was a nice midweek break for the two of us. We got free gas, lodging, and 1/2 of our meals (her half) paid for and got to enjoy some pleasant grad-school reunions. Plus, while she was recruiting, I was attempting to do a little ass-kissing of my own at the career fair. Unfortunately there were only a few companies I had any interest in. And yet, conversations with representatives went quite well. I'm actually quite likeable when I want to be. Especially when I'm trying to trick you into giving me money. But like so many other instances, these leads turned out to be mere smoke and mirrors. Despite my follow up emails the next day, I have not heard from any of the recruiters since the career fair. Ah well. Who wants to work for GE Energy anyway? (Recruiter: Should you have stumbled onto my blog - be assured - I want to work for GE Energy!) Anyway, I do have my first official job interview next week with a company in DC (which I only got because I knew someone on the inside - Columns O'Numbers). I'm excited but also a bit unsure that the position is really what I'm looking for. Decisions decisions. So glad I've got the wife by my side during all this.

In other news, the wife and I are actually presently on yet another mini-vacation sponsored by her generous employer. She is attending a training session in Hampton on roundabouts. She's been enjoying it. And I recommend you all read up - because my wife is going to be a part of the roundabout revolution here in the United States. Look for one in an intersection near you coming soon! As for me, I've been killing my time in a local St. Louis Bread Company (that's Panera to the rest of you). Last night we went and hung out at the "beach" for a while. (I use "s because it was high tide and there was very little beach to speak of. The trail leading to the beach dead ended into the waves.)

I guess that's about it for now. Does anyone else think my blog posts aren't that funny anymore? Wait. Don't answer that.

PS. Yes. My post title is from a Jack Johnson song. I'm sorry. It was on the iPod when I was posting and seemed to fit. Friggin sue me.

September 15, 2008

Saturday Morning Credit Fraud

A funny thing happened on my way to an otherwise perfect weekend. Saturday morning I wake up to my cell phone ringing. The call is from some Delaware number I don't recognize, so I don't answer. Ever since I first got my cell phone I've been a screener. Basically, I figure that unless I recognize the number, the person can either call back enough times that I finally answer, or leave a message so I know who they are. This time, no message. I think nothing of it and set about cooking breakfast with the wife. We make some very delicious turkey breakfast stacks (recipe below) and our usual yogurt parfait of vanilla Light'n'Fit, blueberries, and granolla. As we finish the meal, Delaware calls again. I decide to screen a second time. No message.

I finally get to checking my email for the first time that morning and discover who has been calling: Bank of America's Fraud Protection service. Apparently there is some irregular credit card activity with my account. Thirteen separate transactions by PayPal - none of which I conducted. I go through a series of verifications online with BofA and soon my troubles are over. The account has been closed, new cards have been issued, and an afidavit is on its way to me for my signature. Although the charges have not even posted yet, BofA assures me that once they do, I will immediately be reimbursed. Unfortunately they offer no hints as to how it is my credit card information has been stolen or who might have done so. They recommend I call Pay Pay (which I plan to do this afternoon).

All in all, the thing I was most surprised by was how calm the wife and I remained during the process. You would think that such a credit scare would be cause for great concern and worry. But honestly, with BofA catching things so quickly and rectifying the situation, things were fixed before we ever knew there was a problem! Kudos to Bank of America for protecting our monies. Or rather... our ability to buy things using digital monies instead of real ones. Also, congrats on the whole Merrill Lynch thing.

And now, a delicious recipe:

Breakfast Turkey Stack
1 pound ground turkey breast
4 teaspoons sugar-free pancake syrup
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 thick slices
4 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Combine turkey, syrup, sage, cayenne, salt, pepper, and ginger in a mixing bowl and mix well. Divide into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook patties until well browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Lay tomato slices in a single layer in a baking dish; season with salt and pepper. Top each slice with 1 turkey patty and 1 cheese slice; broil in the oven until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Serve hot. (Note: Patties can be individually wrapped and frozer for up to 1 month; just defrost and simply reheat in the oven or microwave!)

To answer your question: No, I don't have a job yet. And yes, I am spending lots of time cooking.

September 09, 2008

Great bars in RIC: Capital Alehouse

I decided I would borrow a play from Quantum's book... er... blog... and cover some of the fine dining and drinking establishments here in Richmond. And what better way to start than with the locale that is possibly the greatest beer house in town. The Capital Ale House has three locations, but I've so far only made it to one (Innsbrook). The beer list is exhausting. It features 77 beers on tap, 2 cask conditioned "real" ales, and over 250 bottled beers. Here's the menu for those interested. In addition to it's extensive selection of libations, the atmosphere is generally exactly what you hope to find at an alehouse. Dark. Cool. Brick. Or for those pleasant evenings, an outdoor beer garden area right next to a pond. The best part of the outdoor seating is that the ducks have gotten rather used to being fed fries by the alehouse patrons. They're not too shy and tend to weave in and out of the tables as you dine. Last night I asked one to bring me a Bells Amber Ale, but I guess he didn't hear me because it never came. I can't speak too knowledgeably about the food as we frequent Capital on Monday nights for $1 burger night. You can't beat that. I believe they have other specials during the rest of the week as well. Last night I also decided to make the Capital Ale House my base of operations for this year's Oktoberfest celebrations. How can a man resist advertising like this?...
I wonder if she'll be at Oktoberfest :-) I can't wait to get my complimentary stein. It looks to be a good chance to sample some fine german beers, do a little singing, and maybe even a polka or too. Prost!

PS. Went to see Traitor last night. I enjoyed it. Kept my heart running at a reasonable clip for much of the movie. And even when I predicted the ending, I was still excited to see it unfold. I love me some Don Cheadle.

September 05, 2008

Let me tell you a story

about a family I know in western Ohio. Vicram recently lost his job at the manufacturing plant. His wife, Lyleen, has had to pick up extra shifts at work to make ends meet. Meanwhile the two must care for their 7 children. Children with diseases. Their 5 year old daughter, Maxine, was recently diagnosed with an incurable illness. And yet they still find time to attend PTA meetings. If I am elected, I will restore Vicram's job, get Lyleen a raise, obtain corporate sponsorship to supply for their family needs, and heal Maxine's horrible disease.

Why do politicians feel the need to tell these types of stories in their speeches? Every single one of them does it. And every single time I hear such stories, I feel I'm being pandered to. I'm not saying these stories are necessarily fabricated. And I don't mean to suggest that the plight of average Americans is inconsequential. But there's something oddly exploitational or perhaps insincere about relaying such stories on a national stage. These types of stories don't prove to me that a candidate is "in touch" with ordinary people. The real proof that a person genuinely cares about others is in his (or her) deeds, not in his ability to rehash stories from Chicken Soup for the Politician's Soul.

September 04, 2008

The Summer of Dr. Church continues

Attention Readers! As you yourself may presently be aware of, my grammar sucks. But that will not hinder my return to the blog'o'dome - or, for my Spanish speaking readers, the casa del blogging. What a summer this has been. Allow me to give you a quick, month-by-month run down.

May: Completed work on dissertation and printed that sucka. Trip to Chicago. Saw Boomshaka's spring show. Paid some kid to go buy me White Castle at 2 in the AM (actually, the Expert paid him, but I helped devour the Crave Case). Gradumamated. Enjoyed libations and went streaking on the lawn at UVA with Fuoco's roommate and my former officemate, JN. Packed up my apartment and moved most of my belongings to my future residence - TinRoof's apartment. Drove Tracy home to BVille for the summer.

June: With my newly minted Ph.D., I took a part time position at a vocational services place. I spent the following 6 weeks attaching company logo faceplates to plastic mounting bezels. The company typically employs physically and mentally disabled people for such jobs but, due to increased demand, took on a few regularly abled part timers for the summer. It was the sweetest irony for someone who just completed a Ph.D. in uselessness. Enjoyed the summer at home. Welcomed a new member into the family as my brother Nodnarb and his wife (mostly his wife) gave birth to baby Kaya Grace (real name). She's basically the greatest thing ever and I miss getting to see her. Hopefully someone will start posting pictures for Uncle Church to see! Hinty hint hint hint.

July: Wedding planning continues. I continue to stress out about it all. Cousin Halbert takes me to a Cubs-Cards game on the 4th of July. On the 5th of July, we enjoy some grand family time and the traditional holiday exhibit of patriotic exothermic reactions accompanied by the emission of photons of varying wavelengths - I mean, fireworks. Finally, the wedding week arrives... arrived.... arrove? So much good times that I will leave it for another post. Post-wedding, the new wife and I head to Jamaica.

August: 10 days at Couples Negril in Negril, Jamaica. Glorious. It was the most relaxed I've been in years. With the dissertation and the wedding planning behind me, I was able to breathe easy for once. That is until we returned home and I remembered that I remain unemployed. A minor detail. And yet August was terribly exciting. TinRoof and I greatly enjoyed settling into our apartment. I have especially enjoyed making use of the kick ass knives we got as wedding gifts. We are enjoying every second of newleywedness. And to cap the month off, we took a trip to that good ol Chi-town to catch Be The Groove's first full length professional production, Embrace The Fire. We spent much good time with the Expert and his wife, visited Millennium Park, caught Aimee Mann at Ravinia, enjoyed some tasty smoked meats, oh, and I was sick the whole weekend. Good times indeed.

Which brings us to...

September: Having slowly recovered from illness, I hold high hopes that this month, I will receive a response regarding at least one of the more than 40 job applications I submitted in August. If not, I shall continue my current plan of attack: Attempt to wake at 6:30 with my wife so I can make her breakfast, job hunt the morning away, shower around 1pm, eat lunch, job hunt some more (maybe a little blogging), cook dinner for beautiful and hard working wife, relax and enjoy evening with said wife.

Ah, real life... sorta.

May 09, 2008

Goin' to Chicago

You keep your New York joys
I'm going to Illinois
just as fast as I can

Not much to say this evening (or rather too much) but thought I'd let ya'll know that I'm off early in the mornin' tomorrow to my little Chi-town. Going to spend the week visiting friends (The Expert and his wife, MLE, Sameezy, etc.) and family (my sister Arbusta and her husband Cpt. Smith). The other main events include checking out a Be The Groove performance Monday morning and of course - the impetus for the trip - the Boomshaka spring show Thursday night. Am very excited. After the stress of the dissertation, in conjunction with other exceedingly stressful life events, I am quite looking forward to a vacation. Will be sure to update from the road (figuratively) if anything noteworthy goes down.

It's the best in the mid-west
it's a real darn city full of good folks who come from home
and when I get back, I'll never roam far
from my little Chi-town
well goodbye farewell
I'ma see you later


----------------
Now playing: Kurt Elling - Goin' To Chicago
via FoxyTunes

May 02, 2008

One time, OK, see, one time (part 9)

OK, see, one time, in the cafeteria, Randy Beaman was eating a baloney sandwich, then Jason made this gross noise -- thpt! -- and Randy Beaman laughed so hard baloney came out his nose!

Really!
'K, bye.

May 01, 2008

Just Call Me Dr. Church

I did it!!

I am no longer blogging as Doctor Church. Now I shall blog as Dr. Doctor Church! (Or perhaps Dr. Church Ph.D.) The committee put up a good fight yesterday, but I could not be denied. The papers have been signed and my Ph.D. is finally complete.

The presentation went for about 45-50 minutes with minimal interruptions (certainly less than my proposal presentation). Afterwards, a freakin third of my audience (of 15) asked questions. I was a little surprised at so many questions from the public - but I handled them well I believe. Next, the committee chair kicked the public out and the sparring session began. I immediately reminded myself that in order to be granted a Ph.D. I had to exhibit true American academic elitism. In other words, in response to each question from my committee, I endeavored to make the person feel foolish for asking such a meaningless question regarding my impeccable, indisputable, irrevocable work. (I'm sure Dubs will be great at this part when his time comes.) Finally, after about an hour of questions I was dismissed as the committee deliberated. Ten minutes later I was congratulated and asked to sign the final forms...oh yeah, and forced to undergo some Ph.D. hazing at the hands of my committee. I can't say much as I've been sworn to secrecy, but I will say it involved a paddle, several laboratory mice, a CO2 laser, and several shots of s'more flavored schnapps. It was kind of like this.

The hard part being over, the rest of the day was beautiful. I went to lunch with TinRoof, my officemates Fuoco and Phlogiston, my advisor H-bomb, and my dad - who had driven in from StL the day before to surprise me. After lunch, my dad, TR, and I visited a few local wineries as it was a b-e-a-utiful day here in Virginny, had a delicious dinner at Downtown Thai, and dessert at the Melting Pot. The plan had been to hit up The Corner that night for some celebratory revelry but we were so exhausted and full that we called it a night. I suppose I'll have to wait for another night to streak the lawn.

I must say, it feels incredible to be done - especially given my distaste for research. And don't worry, I may not be bored in grad school anymore, but I'll still be blogging - maybe more - as I currently have no job. Speaking of that....uh... can any of you spare some change?

April 18, 2008

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Two posts in one day? Unheard of! But check it. I was reading this article about what the world will be like 50 years from now. Just a bunch of random people guessing about scientific inventions and advances in medicine, etc. I enjoy pondering that from time to time (after all, I enjoyed Star Trek back in the day). But what makes this article blog worthy is that someone predicted that having cats as pets will be a thing of the past! Glory! This article gives me more hope than Obama!
Diseases ranging from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder will be shown to be caused by infectious agents that take advantage of genetic predisposition, says psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center. Researchers will be surprised to find that many of those infectious agents are being transmitted from animals to humans. As a result, it will be uncommon to keep cats, birds or hamsters as pets - but we'll still have dogs around, because they've been "man's best friend" for so long that we've already adjusted to their infectious agents.

Wait for me... while I tie my shoe.

While I'm waiting for my defense slides to compile (stupid LaTeX) I thought I'd work on a post.

It's 12 days till my defense. I can't help but feel I should be more nervous and much busier than I currently am. I turned in my dissertation to my advisor early last week. He's dodged me since then. I saw him this Tuesday and the conversation went something like this:

Advisor: Well, I finished that grant proposal I've been working on. I'm pretty happy with it. I guess now I need to read your dissertation. When's it due to the committee?
Me: Tomorrow.
Advisor: Hmmm. Well, let's see. You defend April 29th?
Me: April 30th.
Advisor: We can turn it in Monday. That will still give them plenty of time.
Me: If you say so.

So, yeah. I still haven't received his final edits. I am tempted to be worried about this as he could swoop in and propose tons of changes - but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the document is tight enough. In the meantime, as I've said, I'm working on the slides for my defense. It's actually frustratingly difficult trying to decide what to include. Describing 4 years and 135 pages in 45 minutes is not simple.

In other news - I went to a Graduate Engineering Keg Kill last night. It was essentially Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers versus Biomedical and Systems Engineers. I am ashamed to report - MAE lost. I admit though, I personally wasn't playing to win. (I needed more motivation than winning bragging rights.) Still, props to Rookie and Duda for hosting an enjoyable evening. After all, how could I graduate from an institution such as UVA without having helped kill a keg of crappy, crappy beer?

Afterwards, I headed home and caught the new episodes of 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs. For those who care - I'm still freaking out about The Office episode. Soooo incredible. I have long been worried that the writers would try to force Pam and Jim into some sort of Ross & Rachel, overly dramatic, tumultuous relationship. After all, the tension between P & J essentially drove the series for the first several seasons. Creating more push-pull or negative drama between them would keep us all glued ever week. But honestly, I've never felt that's what we all wanted. For once we'd like to see the happy couple get together and stay together. It does happen in the real world you know. And the show will still be funny. I'm ecstatic that it appears the writers aren't afraid to walk down that road (though I admit I am still suspicious as it seems too good to be true.)

OK. The new slides are done. I'm going to mock-defend to see how much I've got so far.

March 26, 2008

March 25, 2008

The Dissertating Goeth On

For those of you keeping track I thought I'd offer a quick update on my progress (i.e. my prospects for departing graduate school). As you might have surmised from my post at the end of last month, things have been busy and tense. Just a few weeks ago my advisor suggested the possibility of pushing off my defense (thus preventing me from graduating in May). I attempted to make it clear that the suggestion did not thrill me. Well, either I got through or he had a change of heart. I am happy to report that things are finally on schedule. My defense is scheduled for April 30th - which means my dissertation is due 3 weeks from tomorrow. The dissertation itself is starting to take shape and my advisor has now made a first pass through editing the body chapters - without proposing major changes. (I have yet to decide whether this is because my work and writing are good - or simply because he realizes we don't have a lot of time for major revisions. I hope it's the former.) I've been working some fairly long hours and the weekends have begun to disappear but on the bright side, I can truly say I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am finally letting myself get my hopes up that, yes, I will become Dr. Church Ph.D. in the near future. Then begins the next big challenge... becoming gainfully employed...

March 06, 2008

Smoking to the Glory of God

by Jamey Bennett

Note: While this is an anecdotal defense of smoking, its implications carry out to drinking as well.

"I have to laugh when I think of the first cigar because it was probably just a bunch of rolled-up tobacco leaves." - Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey


Many of us Christians have an uncanny ability to maintain unbiblical taboos that suggest that we are much holier, wiser, and more spiritual than God Himself. One such taboo is smoking. Though the Scriptures never utter a word to denounce moderate smoking, I grew up in circles where it was not uncommon to hear things like, "I can't believe he smokes; I thought he was a Christian." I probably said it myself. As if the Christian life could be summed up in the phrase, "Don't smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do."1 Many churches bind the Christian's conscience when God has not.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), the noteworthy British Baptist preacher, was very much a lover of smoking. Some estimate he enjoyed a cigar a day. Between 1826 and 1830, England went from importing 26 pounds of cigars per year, to 250,000 pounds!2 This over-night popularity of cigars did not go unnoticed by the legalists of his time. One man, who was rather disturbed upon hearing that Spurgeon was a smoker, asked him if this was the truth. Spurgeon, always wielding a sharp wit, replied, "I cultivate my flowers and burn my weeds."3 I suppose Spurgeon would gladly affirm what G.K. Chesterton said somewhere: "I will submit to cigars."

John Piper recounts another humorous situation that the Prince of Preachers found himself in.4 Spurgeon said to a Methodist critic, "If I ever find myself smoking to excess, I promise I shall quit entirely."
"What would you call smoking to excess?" the man asked.
"Why, smoking two cigars at the same time!" was the answer.

One day Spurgeon was to go on "an excursion" with some of his young students from his church. The men arrived happy and early, cigars and pipes lit, "looking forward to a day of unrestrained enjoyment." 5 As Spurgeon hopped into his seat, he acted astonished, and said: "What, gentlemen! Are you not ashamed to be smoking so early?" Each student, looking rather dismayed, put out his cigar or pipe one by one. No sooner had they put away their treats than Spurgeon pulled out his cigar case and began puffing away delightfully. All were confused and astonished. One brave soul spoke, "I thought you said you objected to smoking, Mr. Spurgeon?" Spurgeon had them where he wanted them, so he dropped the punch line. "Oh no, I did not say I objected. I asked if they were not ashamed, and it appears they were, for they have all put their pipes away."

Spurgeon's smoking encounters were not always full of such amusement, however. One Sunday in 1874, Spurgeon preached a sermon on the "sinfulness of little sins." He had a guest minister in the audience that night, visiting from America, and so he asked the preacher to come to the pulpit to give a life application of the sermon. To Spurgeon's dismay, the preacher spoke voraciously against "the sin of smoking tobacco, especially in the form of cigars." After kindly listening to this lamentable sermon application, Spurgeon arose and addressed the issue more sanely. Here are his words:

Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.

If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, "Thou shalt not smoke," I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.

The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.

Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.

This statement of Spurgeon's actually launched a huge controversy in London. The influential pastor was on the receiving end of not a few attacks from friends, foes, and newspaper goofballs. But Spurgeon believed one cannot bind another's conscience where God has not.

I've often said that when a fundamentalist pastor comes to the house, it's time to hide the beer. But when a reformational pastor pays you a visit, you'd better get out the ales! The same thing could easily be said about cigars. Offer a cigar to a fundamentalist and you're likely to get kicked to the curb quicker than Jackie Chan. Offer one to a reformational minister and you'll be the guest of honor at the next church potluck.6

When he invited a minister from America to say a few words, Spurgeon was quite disappointed with the man's legalistic stance on tobacco. Spurgeon's words launched a widespread controversy that he thought was rather unnecessary. Because "the matter was widely discussed both in the newspapers and in private circles," "Spurgeon addressed a letter to the Daily Telegraph with a view of scattering any misapprehension which might arise."

In his letter, he wrote:

I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin. … There is a growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men: to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God. … I am told that my open avowal will lessen my influence and my reply is that if I have gained any influence through being thought different from what I am, I have no wish to retain it. I will do nothing upon the sly, and nothing about which I have a doubt.

What these unbiblical taboos are can be summed up in one word: legalism. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger argues, "There is nothing in Scripture which teaches that one must discontinue the use of alcoholic beverages or tobacco in order to become a Christian. It is simply not anywhere in the text."7 Riddlebarger is operating on the assumption that we have no right to impose any moral standards, whatsoever that are not "either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture."8 The Scriptures seem to have a huge problem with adding to or taking away from the commandments of God. Riddlebarger continues, "We're putting false obstacles in the way of unbelievers when we put these man-made rules in their path and tell them becoming a Christian is stopping doing this that and the other. That's a false gospel."

The Westminster Confession of Faith booms loudly the truth of this point:

God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are—in anything—contrary to his Word, or which—in matters of faith or worship—are in addition to it. Therefore, anyone who believes such doctrines or obeys such commands out of conscience betrays true liberty of conscience. The requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, destroys both liberty of conscience and reason.9

It would be wise for Christians to avoid upholding the commandments of men as the commandments of God. God has granted us a liberty to be free from the commandments and precepts of men. The Apostle Paul told us that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free! He goes on to admonish us not to submit to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1). Peter also warned of putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples (Acts 15:10). Why should we accept a yoke of slavery when Christ has set us free, especially for something that God has not forbidden? We must be diligent in our obedience to the word of God, in both observing the law and maintaining our liberty in things indifferent.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking; and if God has blessed us as such, we should too. We should delight in the gifts of God! When we smoke our cigars, our hearts should praise the Lord and giver of all good things. We ought to be grateful to God in our smoking and careful to avoid excess; as we should in all things indifferent, be they Twinkies, Trix, or table salt. Paul advises us to glorify God in all that we do, including our eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). "No Christian should do anything," says Spurgeon, "in which he cannot glorify God: and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life."

And before I go to bed tonight, I shall smoke a cigar to glory of God.

This article originally appeared on the old RazorMouth.com.

February 27, 2008

Lemon Poop

I've railed before against restaurant waiters putting a lemon slice in my water when I did not request it. After all, had I wanted lemonade, I'd have ordered it. And I most certainly wouldn't order watered down lemonade - which is what it tastes like when my water is polluted with a lemon slice. Well it turns out, lemon may not be the only pollutant that comes with this slice. A health study recently came out (admittedly, by a researcher at a community college) which examined the rind and pulp of 76 lemons served on water glasses at various restaurants in New Jersey. Some of her findings....

A total of 25 different types of germs were found on 53 out of the 76 lemons that were sampled. Some were fecal in origin (either from dirty fingertips of the restaurant employees, or from meat-contaminated cutting boards and knives), while others were types commonly found in saliva, on the skin and in the environment.

One sample had six different microorganisms on it, three of which are found in fecal material. Although some lemon slices had germs either only on the rind or only on the pulp, 29 percent had germs on both sites. In 15 instances the germs on the pulp were completely different from those on the rind, indicating that the pulp had been in contact with a contaminated surface as or after it was sliced. Sometimes when more than one lemon was sampled during a single restaurant visit, different germs were found on each.

Perhaps I will admit defeat and begin requesting "water with no lemon" even though I'll know inside I should not have to utter the words "with no lemon". I'd rather speak up and have less poop in my water.

February 26, 2008

One time, OK, see, one time (part 8)

OK, this is scary. See, one time, Randy Beaman was asleep and he heard a "scratch scratch scratch" on the window and he woke up and nothing was there, so the next night he heard a "scratch scratch scratch" on the floor and he woke up and there was nothing there, and so the next night he heard "scratch scratch scratch" on his bed and he woke up and you know what it was? His mom's Lee Press-On Nails had come alive, and they were after Randy Beaman! Aaaaah!!!

'K, bye.

Confession

I have a confession to make:

Last night, I watched the last fifteen minutes of Deal or No Deal... and found it somewhat exiting.

I hope you won't think less of me for having admitted that.

February 25, 2008

What He Said / What He Meant

It's becoming clear that my advisor is either a very keen and sly man capable of manipulating graduate students in unthinkable ways, or he simply has a poor memory which allows him to continually contradict himself. Therefore, hoping he isn't reading this (even though he has a good enough sense of humor to know when I'm just blowing off steam), I offer a look back at some key moments in graduate school.

What He Said: Don't waste time getting your masters, you can skip it and work directly on your PhD.
What He Meant: If you get a masters, you'll most likely be content to leave it at that and get a job - meaning I won't get any publications out of you.

What He Said: You should be able to finish your PhD with only an extra year and a half or so.
What He Meant: I run out of funding for you after three and a half years, so you had better finish in four or be prepared to work for free.

What He Said: As soon as I'm finished with this other paper/research proposal/lecture preparation/meeting slides, you will be my first priority.
What He Meant: As soon as I'm finished with this other paper/research proposal/lecture preparation/meeting slides, I will have another paper/research proposal/lecture preparation/meeting slides to work on which will take precedence over your trivial work in which I am no longer interested.

What He Said: This is fantastic! You're going to be famous! (He actually said that...about a plot I showed him once.)
What He Meant: No one is famous for this type of work; and by the way, I'll find minor problems with the work 2 years from now right before you attempt to graduate.

What He Said: It's no problem if we have to push your graduation off until August.
What He Meant: You may not want to drag this out and work for free this summer, but it's no sweat off my back.

February 22, 2008

Frail

Two quick videos to share with you all today. The first is a recording of a solo I sang at church a few months ago. I just got around to posting it on YouTube the other day. The first half of the lyrics were written by Jars of Clay, the second half is my own personal addition. Following that, since I never posted about the Super Bowl (which was awesome by the way, though I hope Brownsox will get over it) or, more specifically, its commercials which I thought were relatively good this year (see: E-Trade baby and Doritos mouse), I wanted to share my favorite commercial of all time. Enjoy.




February 18, 2008

3 cities - 1 weekend

This was an exhausting weekend. Friday night, TinRoof drove here from Richmond after work so we could attend GCF together - after which Team Awesome dominated in some Trivial Pursuit. And I mean dominated. We filled half our pie on our first turn. I may have lost some friends during the game. Thankfully TinRoof - who was on the other team - quickly forgave me. After GCF, we turned around and headed back to Richmond (leaving TR's car in CVille).

Saturday morning we had our first pre-marriage counseling session with a couple from our church in Richmond. It was our first time meeting them, but we had a great time. Hopefully it will be helpful meeting with and talking to them about what's ahead of us. As soon as they were out the door, we cleaned up and headed up to DC. For lunch we met up with The Expert's sister, husband, and their kids for some pizza. They're a friendly couple with super cute kids. We even got one of them to sing for us. And though she made us close our eyes, she must have known we were peeking since as she sang, she slowly moved to the corner behind a big chair to hide. I have to admit, it was also funnier than it should have been when the 1 year old slammed the kitchen door on the 3 year old like he was a tiny mobster and she owed him milk money.

Leaving the family, we headed to our next rendezvous. After chilling at Bridesmaid#1's apt for a while, we headed to dinner where Bridesmaid#2 met up with us at a great Italian place. (Note, the numbers are not ranking but rather are listed in order of appearance.) I decided to make use of the birthday money donated by my parents (I turned 26 last Tuesday) to enjoy a braised lamb shank with saffron risotto. Good lord. I hardly said a word during dinner. I let the girls talk as I lost myself in a world of deliciousness. The wine wasn't bad either.

After dinner we headed our separate ways. TinRoof and I began the uber long journey to the house of Bourbon Samurai. The stupid DC Metro was running very late due to repairs and greatly slowed us. Further, once we got off, there was a good 25 minute walk ahead of us in search of Bourbon's house. Finally, we arrived and the reunion commenced. If memory serves, it had been nearly 2 years since I last saw Bourbon and Quantum. True to form, I had yet to sit down before I was handed a glass and a bottle of Jameson. The NYC crew was relaxing after a long day of script-editing. As the evening wore on, random movies played (some involving a creepy young Natalie Portman), the whiskey flowed, and Quantum regaled my fiance with tales of old NU. (If she has a favorite, perhaps she'll add it to the comment section.) As he did so, I was reminded how awesome and unique a man is Quantum. Truly a friend I have missed. The evening came to a close with the grilling of ground chuck in Worcestershire. Delicious.

By this time it's probably 2:30 in the am. And unfortunately TinRoof and I have to haul ourselves back to the Metro. In retrospect, the walk was much more pleasant than the Metro ride. My distaste for the Metro primarily stems from its idiotic and non-intuitive ticket process. It is not - as most subways - a flat fare, but is dependent upon the distance one travels. To further complicate the process, you not only have to swipe your fare card before getting on the train - but after getting off. This way, if you put the wrong amount on your card (very easy to do as the rates are also dependent on the time of day), you have a chance to rectify the situation by paying more money (often being forced to pay more than what you owe due to the machine's retardedness). However my tango with the Metro this evening had as much to do with the driver - who seemed intent on not only swaying side to side more than any mass transit system I've ridden (this truth can be corroborated by others - such as TinRoof - who were not under the influence of Jameson and Old Crow) but also continually speeding up and slowing down causing me to pitch backward and forward. Not an enjoyable ride in the slightest.

We made it back to Bmaid1's apt by around 4am (after another long walk) and enjoyed the hard earned sleep. Sunday consisted of a brunch in the city (following another dizzying ride on the Metro) at a place that offered one of the best breakfast burritos I've ever tasted (and I know the inventor of the breakfast burrito). TinRoof and I spent the late afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery which was actually quite enjoyable. I was especially excited to see the Colbert Exhibit near the bathrooms. Finally, it was time to make the long drive back to Cville. TinRoof had today off and hung around for the day so we could have dinner together. It's nights like tonight that make me happy to be a grad student who can show up at the office whenever he pleases.


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Now playing: John Coltrane - Giant Steps
via FoxyTunes

Whiskey Math

Yes, yes, I've neglected my blog. Attempting to write a dissertation tends to suck the life out of a person - not to mention, provides no fodder for a blog entry. This weekend, however, was different. Will write more later - but for now, here's what you should know...

Jameson Irish Whiskey = delicious.
Jameson + Old Crow Kentucky bourbon whisky = delicious + inebriating.
Jameson + Old Crow + DC Metro = bad idea.