Saturday, February 28, 2009

Edible Fungus

I have heard people talk about them. They speak in tones like they have gone through some life-changing experience. One taste and you will never be the same. It is the root of the chocaholics weakness. One sniff, one glimpse and they can be brought to their knees. Left whimpering and shaking. The truffle. According to, a truffle is defined as "any of various chocolate confections, especially one made of a mixture including chopped nuts, rolled into balls, and covered with cocoa power". Now you have to admit that does sound somewhat tasty, perhaps even drool-inducing under the right conditions. I say this now. For many years when folks went on and on about how dreamy these "truffles" were, I could not imagine that anyone would possibly think that these, these things, could possibly be looked on as a dessert paragon or a decadent snacking treat. As a young lad, I would watch cooking shows when I came home from school (yes, it was a primitive, one-room, earthen hut). One of the biggies at the time was a PBS program called The French Chef, starring old bouillabaise herself, Julia Child. She was always hammering away at various cuts of meat with an old broom handle. On more than one occasion, she showed a grainy video reel of a dirty old farmer and pig rooting around the french countryside looking for an edible fungus known as a "truffle". Now can you begin to understand the root of my confusion? The gist of my nub? The dessert taste treat was not a fleshy, edible tuber, but a chocolate yummy. Just when I was beginning to think that everyone I knew was a tasteless, uncouth dolt, I finally understood. With my confession of idiocy now complete, I embrace the simple truffle and call it my friend.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I have been single in spirit for more than 3 years and single by law for more than 6 months. Yesterday I decided to make a move, to reach out for a potentially new and different future. To work to get back on the horse that bucked and threw me off so violently. Sure, my backside and head are still quite painful. Sure, I can clearly picture the incident, almost as if it happened this morning. I can hear the sounds, I can smell the air of that fateful day. I would say, I guess, if you pressed me on the issue, that, perhaps, these sounds and smells are not as sharp, not as distinct as they used to be. But this is life, and the diminishing of the senses and the memory is part of who we are, part of the healing process. So yesterday, for some reason, I surfaced for a breath of air. I asked out a lady at work that I like, that I get along with, that I would like to get to know better. She turned me down. She said that she thought I was sweet, that she liked talking to me, but that she has had a very bad history of getting involved with guys that she works with. Regardless of the reasons, I was still on the outside looking in. Still walking alone on my journey. However, up ahead I noticed there was a fork in the road. One way lead to dealing with my disappointment and hurt in a positive way, with full realization that I am a good person with a lot to offer. The other path led to self-destruction, self-hate, and the downward I'm-not-worth-a-damn spiral. At least for today, I chose the path of light. I reached out for life, and although the outcome was not what I wanted, at least I reached out, at least I spoke up, and I can live with that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Year's Walk

A year has passed and so much has changed. A year has passed and all is now much better with my soul. I recognize what has happened. There has been much progress on my journey, and I know, without a doubt, that it is not mere coincidence. A year ago I was drifting, the search had left me bone weary, frustrated, and confused. A chance encounter and God's plan for where I was supposed to be at this moment became clear. I had been led to an oasis. A place to learn, a place to grow, a place to connect. A year ago I came to Waters Edge Church. Several months ago I related the story of my WEC Journey. I thank God for leading me to where I needed to be. I look forward to the journey ahead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Goodbye is Forever

There is no act more terrifying and affecting to me than saying goodbye. Goodbyes with me are always accompanied by a wave of emotions. The memories of all of the good times that I have shared with the person, the realization that the special things that we did together will be no more, a sense of loss, and an understanding that I will not see this person again, at least not in the same way. Maybe I am affected so deeply by goodbyes because I do not have all that many friends and losing one typically opens up new areas of loneliness in my life. I also tend to have many regrets when saying goodbye as I know that I wanted to get closer and share more of myself, my time and energy, but other things in life got in the way. Things like work, and laziness, and fear, and the belief that time would never run out on our relationship. There would always be a tomorrow. In the last couple of years I have had to say way too many goodbyes. Each lost friendship weighs on me. I think of my friends often and miss them. Friends like Mindy, Paul, Daniel, Brian, Suzanne, Robby, and Elke.

I thought I would end today's post with a few nuggets of truth.
  • The loss of a friend is like that of a limb; time may heal the anguish of the wound, but the loss cannot be repaired.
  • While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet them behind the veil.
  • Sometimes we lose friends for whose loss our regret is greater than our grief, and others for whom our grief is greater than our regret.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Old Man Transition

When did I become a wrinkled old man-hag? Why have my trousers slowly inched up from my waist to above my stomach? Come to think of it, where did all these Bermuda shorts and black socks come from? Some transition has happened and I must have been dozing off or eating luke warm oatmeal when it occurred. Actually I first noticed all of these changes just this morning. I was logged onto my Facebook account. Those of you who use this "social networking" site realize that, based on a 100% scientifically accurate system, they post ads consistent with your user profile. It was these danged ads that revealed my geriatric condition. I see listings for male potency products, walkers and canes, electric scooters, dentures, and ads for elderly women seeking "company". As I realized what was going on, what these ads were trying to tell me, I rushed to study my face in the mirror. Yes, yes, lots of wrinkles, ear and nose hair, wild eyebrows, pasty white legs. My, those Facebook whippersnappers were accurate. I am old, my youth has departed, and would somebody tell me what those hellions are doing on my lawn.

Monday, February 23, 2009

House II

I show up in my usual attire, blue jeans and a polo shirt. I carry with me a small attache case containing a rather sizable amount of money in the form of a cashier's check. Money that I had been saving for this very moment, this opportunity. Am I nervous? Maybe, to some degree. I guess that I have a few butterflies within my gut, but perhaps, this is just to connect me to the moment. I don't want to miss it. It could all too easily melt into a stack of legal-looking documents that require my signature. In reality, it is taking some level of possession of a solidly built brick structure. This structure will be transformed over the coming months from just a building to my home. In the possibly chaotic transition from my old apartment to my new house, I look forward to some of the little decisions, such as choosing where the silverware drawer will be, which shelf to put the bathroom towels on, where to position our sets of wind chimes. I will get to know where the light switches are, the best way into the kitchen, exactly where I want to place the couch. Beyond this period, I look forward to sitting down with our lunches and dinners laid out on the coffee table and just relaxing while watching our favorite shows or talking together. A sense of normalcy and routine returning to how we plan our days. I look forward to the new streets and houses becoming familiar landmarks on my journeys out and back. As of today, it is mine and I look forward to the future in this place and I pray that God will bless our time here.

Part 2 of a moving 6 part series.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tears are Falling

I guess that I am a little less black and a little more lavendar that most guys. I know a lot of men that would dare not admit this, but I am not afraid to tell you that I cry. I certainly do not view this as a sign of weakness or feel it is something that should be hidden at all costs. I do not view this as a feminine or effete trait that marks me as something less than a man. It is how God made me, and is part of the palette of emotions that defines who I am and how I interact with the world around me. I am definitely not a stoic person who plays their emotional cards close to their vest, I am a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve type and I am O.K. with that. I am well aware of the stigmatism of being labeled a "crybaby", I can live with this tag if it comes to that. Many people seem to be truly affected when someone around them cries. The response can be one of emotional bonding with a kindred soul, can be of adding distance and losing respect, or maybe even ambivalence.

I already know that I am a sucker for the swelling music and often contrived pathos that makes up many movie or book endings. I cry when the hero wins the girl and rides off into the sunset (even when I knew well in advance the outcome), I cry when I have to say goodbye to people I care about (even if only for a little while), and sometimes I cry tears of joy. I have known people who take pride in never crying, those who feel that if someone saw them with tears in their eyes that everyone would immediately lose respect for them and think them some sort of a pansy or an emotional train wreck. I feel that tears are a sign of connection with our own human condition. They serve to bring release and relief. They help us to heal and to celebrate. Sometimes we might feel that we can never let the world know who we are, that we must always be under full control when we are among others. Sometimes though, being who we are, tears and emotions and everything that comes with us, is so much more important and genuine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Changes in Attitude

Have you ever had a responsibility that you initially thought was cool or impressive only to later view it as a burden? One aspect of my current job is that often I am on-call for 24 hours a day for months at a time. When I was a young, hot-shot postdoctoral researcher, I used to take a certain pride in having to carry around 2 or 3 pagers and a portable phone. Along with these items attached to my belt, I also usually had my own cell phone, a knife, and a tool called a "leather man" (the tool the professionals use). My running joke was that I was trying to put together the full bat-utility belt ensemble. I would never admit this at the time, but I revelled in the attention all of this hardware brought me. Hey, look how important I am. Look how indispensible I have become. Now these same pagers and cell phones are like a huge weight strapped around my waist. I can never relax when I have these devices with me. I am afraid to start cooking dinner, to go to the movies, to do the normal things one does in life, as these danged things could go off at any moment. I think, if I am so darned important and powerful, how come I couldn't get someone else to carry these things? I notice that the uber-senior folks at my lab are rarely seen with a pager or cell phone. Somehow they have figured out how to side step this annoying responsibility. Not me. The hardware attached to my belt serves no longer to build me up, but only to bring me (and my pants) down.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

House I

And so it begins ... again. It starts with the first box. Packing up your stuff.
Filling one box, then another, and this followed by dozens more. The reality is, a single box is filled with odds and ends. To many people, it may look like junk or matters of little importance. However, this box, and all the others together, make up your home. The special candles you got for her fifth birthday, the Barbie princess plates you gave her for Christmas that year, the picture that she drew for you, the juicer that you picked out together. I have moved enough times in my life to know the mix of feelings that are to come. They will contain a mix of hope for the better place that we are moving into and a sadness that we are leaving behind something that we have known for so long, where our lives unfolded. I still hear the echoes of our laughter and our cries in this place. It has been our home. From working together on a puzzle on a cold and rainy day in our dining room, to sharing movie night together with our popcorn and special drinks in the living room, to watching T.V. together in my bedroom, to reading stories in her bedroom, to making lemonade in the kitchen, to our long walks around the bike path over to the goldfish pond. This place has been ours in a unique time of our lives. I think of the many memories and shared experiences. I dwell too long on the missed opportunities and regrets. I think about the passage of time. My mind stirs around so many thoughts that I feel weighed down and confused. One thing that I cling to with the tightest grip is this, no matter where we call home, what stuff we have around us, we will always find ways to make new memories. In our new place we trust that the Lord will be present to help us remember the laughter more than the tears and will bless us with the greatest treasures in this world, love, harmony, and peace. Part 1 of a moving 6 part series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Lois Anecdote

I had my first "girlfriend" when I was in the first grade. I was living in Portsmouth, RI at the time. I don't carry around many memories of my early life, they all seem to have escaped into the aether, but this one is worth the brain cells used to keep it intact. Anyway, I have a memory of putting my arm around her during reading time. I even remember her coming over to my house and me going over to her house for play time. For the sake of this story, I will call my girlfriend Lois (actually that was her name, and I suspect that it still is, but I have no hard proof). I remember Lois lived with her mom and dad in a small, one-story, red and white cottage. By the time the second grade had rolled around, Lois had moved away, to a different town, to a different school. I even went to visit her in her new home shortly after her move, about 10 miles away, to the neighboring town of Tiverton, RI. In time, I forgot about Lois, and my little second-grade heart got over the loss. Actually, as a second grader, I don't remember feeling sad over losing Lois, maybe because I had my eyes on another, who knows. This story occurred when the earth's crust was still cooling. The scene fades to black.

The curtain reopened seven years later when I was a freshman in high school. It just so happened that my family had just moved to Tiverton, RI. This was my first year attending school in this town. On my first day, the roll of students was called out. One by one, each person called out his name (or her name if the person was a female). One by one, the teacher marked the students off his master list. By some crazy chance, the person sitting two seats in front of me was Lois. She did not remember me and I only remembered her when her name was called out. Lois and I remained in the same homeroom for the next four years. Each year I would tell her something about herself from her distant past. She had no idea how I knew this information and it drove her nuts. I played the whole thing very coolly from the outset. I never let on how I came to know about her past. The fact that I was her first boyfriend I did not reveal until graduation day. When I told her, I thought her head was going to explode like the fembots in the old William Shatner Star Trek series. She stood speechless for a moment before she had to sit down to recover. It was a wonderful, slow-burn torture of another human being. I recommend this form quite highly. I have lots of ideas along this line, so send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope for my complete catalog of deliciously evil suggestions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Frozen in Panic

The other day I was in the parking lot at the bank. I got into my car, put on my seat belt, and then started the car. Before backing out of my parking space, I checked my mirrors. As no cars were approaching, I started to back out. When I was about half way out of my space, the person in the car right behind me started to back out of his space. I assume that he went through all of the same preparatory steps that I had just gone through, well, all except checking his stinking mirrors before shifting into reverse and putting his foot on the gas pedal. I saw this and hit my horn to alert the other driver. The horn had no affect and he kept right on backing out until he drove into my car. No damage was done to either vehicle due to the low vehicular accelerations involved. However, what disappointed me in the end were my own actions, or should I say inactions. I have replayed the scene several times in my mind. I saw this person coming, I had time to remark about what was happening, I had time to lean on the horn for about 3 seconds. Why did I not just put the car into drive and pull back into my parking spot and thus avoid the whole contact? I was certainly left more than a bit disappointed with myself. I think that I was frozen in panic. I surmise that the reason for my disappointment is that I would like to think that I would act cool in a pinch, handle myself under pressure. I sat frozen and scared. Is it possible that I am not who I think I am? Is the calm, in control persona just a mirage? An image of who I would like to think I am and not who I really am inside? What characteristics do you think describe you but in reality may not? Does this affect how you think about yourself?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Scared of my Shadow

Me and my shadow
Strolling down the avenue
Me and my shadow
Not a soul to tell our troubles to ...

I am a very jumpy person. This is a condition that I have known about since I was a very young person. If anyone comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder or makes a loud noise, my first reaction is to make an odd-sounding yelping noise and my second reaction is to soil myself. I assure you that both reactions are immediate and totally involuntary (most of the time). My reactions seem like those of a man on the run from the law. I can't explain the feelings that come over me. My pulse rate instantly triples, I turn pale, I jump through the roof in a very cartoonish manner (think Shaggy whenever he was suddenly face to face with a gh-gh-gh-ghost!!!). I know that my clearly audible yelps have caused those that witness my odd over-reaction-type behavior to walk away shaking their heads at me. Try as I might to condition myself to act more controlled in such situations, I cannot. Nothing ever seems to change (except my pants, of course). Just moments ago I was pushing opening a door to walk outside and someone on the outside was simultaneously pulling open the door. I let out a distinct gasp that echoed in the entryway and I reached for my chest. The person's response was "scared ya huh?". There was no way that I could recover my cool and suave demeanor. Man I hate that feeling. What can I do to get past this? Any advice would be most appreciated.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Round Number

Why do we like round numbers? What is so special about those that end in 0 or 00 or 000? Something inside of us recognizes these as milestones. 500 home runs, 30000 points, 100 goals. On the talk-radio sports outlets I have heard many commentators remark that 300 wins for a pitcher in baseball is the new threshold for enshrinement in Cooperstown, the baseball hall of fame. What about the poor schlep who ended his career at 299? I know it's not fair, but somehow, this isn't quite the same, not as special, not deserving of the same amount of respect or glory. So today you are reading a special milestone for this blog. This is my 100th posting. To the casual reader, yesterday's blog and tomorrow's blog entries will not been seen as that big a deal, but today's deserves a hearty congratulations. That's O.K. with me. Each entry that I have made from #1 Here's a Start to #99 Hare Raising is important to me. Each is a part of me. I have tackled a wide range of topics, some deadly serious, some humorous, some inane, some controversial. Several posts were aimed at others and several were just for me. My mind is full of ideas and topics, things I want to challenge myself with, things I want to share. Thanks to those who got me started, to those who encouraged me, to those who took the time to read, and to those who weighed in with their thoughts, opinions, and wisdom. Much more to come in the days ahead. Blessings my friends.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hare Raising

It's tragic really. There is a group among us that has fallen, fallen into a deep despair. A despair of a sort that cannot be quelled. This group is a forgotten minority. I detailed the plight of these poor souls in a blog entitled Hare Seppuku about 1 month ago. Nothing has changed since then. The extinguishing of souls continues, and I am afraid that there is nothing that can be done to end this horror. Nothing expect, perhaps, laughter. Here it is folks, your moment of Zen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Melancholy Views

I believe I understand why most folks love taking photographs or videos of the big moments in their lives and the lives of their family members. It's fun for them to find some time down the road to sit and flip through the pictures or watch the movies and relive happy times and to rekindle memories. However, this has never been the case with me. I have purposefully avoided taking pictures along the road of my life as looking back at these memories and times always seems to bring me a deep sadness. These special moments are gone and will never come again. I will never again get to kiss my wife for the first time, share my wedding vows, hold my daughter for the first time, relive my daughter's first steps, see her little baby face stare back at me in amazement, or share any of her special birthdays. Photographs and remnants of these times only seem to serve to mark for me the passage of time. Just after my daughter finished opening her Christmas presents this year, I was overcome with intense feelings of sadness as the special moment in time was gone and would never come again. All that was left were scraps of paper that for me meant gifts that I had worked hard to plan for and purchase, and then wrap neatly with hope and anticipation. I get the sense that most folks don't have these intensely negative, melancholy feelings. I have trouble living in the moment as I can feel it slipping away even as it is unfolding before my eyes. Maybe this is why I have trouble looking back. It results from an acute sense of my own mortality. Do you ever experience sadness looking back, even if the times you are looking back on were filled with love and laughter?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Set and Met!

Several weeks ago I posted a blog entitled Mr. Puddin' Belly about my effort to lose weight. My goal at the beginning of this long road was to get my weight down to 195 lbs. Well, it happened this morning. I stood on the scale and saw the reading, 195.0! I was finally there. I had reached my destination. What seemed impossible just 24 lbs and 210 days ago, had finally occurred. This was cause for celebration, recognition that determination, will power, hard work, and dedication had paid off. A clear ringing message that goals can be set, and by working with purpose and dogged effort, they can be met.

Throughout my life I have set goals for myself. I think for the most part that I have been able accomplish what I set out to do. However, I have never really taken the time to stop and celebrate my accomplishments. Maybe I thought that the goals that I reached were nothing to get too excited about because they were just stepping-stones to an even bigger, more important accomplishment that laid ahead. I now understand that taking a step back and celebrating with your friends and loved ones is important. It is not a moment for prideful boasting or to set yourself up on a pedestal for those around you to kneel down to. It is a moment to reflect on the journey, to be satisfied with hard effort and honest work, and to give thanks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Make it Stop

The Brits have done it again. They have taken the scientific method to the next level. They have done the painstaking research, set up the control groups, spent hours developing complete databases and analyzing scores of intricate data. The results are, in a word, really astounding. As reported in the USA Today of the UK (better known at The Guardian) earlier this week, they have managed to publish a list of the world's 10 worst sounds. Without further ado, let's take a peek. Where do your favorites come in?

10. Tasmanian devil
9. Mains hum
8. Argument in a soap opera
7. Whoopee cushion
6. Poorly played violin
5. Squeaky seesaw
4. Train scraping on tracks
3. Wailing babies
2. Microphone feedback
1. Vomiting

After studying this scientific-looking data, I am left deeply confused about two of the entries. What is a "Mains hum"? Maybe this is some charming little British-type expression like cheeky bugger. As for "Argument in a soap opera", all I can say is "huh"? I should think any dialog in a soap opera rates as terribly annoying. Reading a bit further into the research, it is clear that the scientists involved in this work spared no expense to reproduce the sounds to their test subjects. For the sound of vomiting, they found a keen likeness was had by pouring baked beans into a bucket with the obligatory retching sounds made by a professional actor. It's work like this that makes me proud to be a scientist.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Take my Advice

I want to consider the advice that we receive. Sometimes two friends that seemingly have the same sensibilities can give us completely opposite opinions on what we should do or how we should proceed in a given situation. I have noticed that I tend to brush off the advice that people give me, especially when it is unsolicited, and do what I was originally doing or what I originally had planned. Who wants to spend time thinking and pondering and running things through in our mind? I tend to be rather stubborn in my approach to many things. Sometimes this works in my favor, sometimes not. What got me started on today's blog is the advice that I have gotten from friends through the years and what I have done with it. Sometimes I take advice that I am given and trample all over it. Sometimes I do this because I have fooled myself into thinking that I have everything under control. Other times I scoff at advice because it is not something that I want to face or to deal with. When things fall apart or don't go our way, we can sure kick ourselves really hard when we were given plenty of warnings along the way. I suspect that many of us have these self-inflicted bruises from past episodes. Perhaps good advice can be tossed aside because we don't care for or don't respect or don't know those that are dishing it out. I think this is an important point. I have a couple of friends that I can talk to about pretty much anything. They have a way of listening without prejudice or revulsion. They respond with love and respect. No judging or sentencing. When they give advice, it is a wonderful combination of reasoned, wise, and non-hostile. This is not to say that their words cannot be quite convicting. Friends like these are a blessing and should be embraced.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


When I think of an addict, I think of someone slinking around in the shadows. Someone who makes whatever moves are necessary to fulfill the insatiable craving that eats at them. They no longer fit into normal society. They are dirty, homeless, desperate folks whose life has spun out of control. They are certainly not the sort of person that I would be involved with. The overriding cravings, for drugs, alcohol, crime, overeating, gambling, pornography, or sex, ultimately turn to a physical or psychological dependence. Several recent studies have indicated that in the addict, there are definite and quantifiable changes to the brain chemistry. The addiction, in time, involves so much more than force of habit, weakness of character, or rebellion. Some behaviors, such as addictions to sex or gambling, can result in chemical imbalances in the brain on the level of heroin users. The difficult thing to fully grasp, perhaps, is that my mental picture of an addict is a poor caricature. There are addicts all around us. Folks who, on first look, seem just as normal as the rest of us. Folks who go to our church or maybe work at our company or have similar interests as our own. These people may have spouses and children. They may be well dressed and well groomed. They may have positions in the church. Yes, my initial thoughts were a poor reflection of the addict, but one thing is likely true. Namely, the addict engages in behaviors that they would go to any length to conceal from others in their life. The problem is that most addicts cannot move to recovery on their own. They need people in their life who know the intimate details of their addiction, who will not turn away from the horrifying and graphic reports, and who can wisely and honestly counsel them and keep them accountable for their actions and their behavior. Getting past our addictions takes no small amount of courage and effort either. Believe me when I tell you that I speak from personal experience. If you are under the control of a substance or a behavior or a state of mind, please find someone who you can open up to and let everything out. It can ultimately mean the difference between life and death.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Anal Retentivitis

I don't know how it happened, but I suspect that it crept in slowly over time. I can tell you that I didn't know that I was afflicted until I was wrapped up tighter than a piggy in a blanket (which frankly are delicious). Some might liken my situation, my condition, to the aging and fermenting of a fine bottle of wine. However, my condition can at times be a curse. What am I talking about? I am talking about being completely anal retentive (and yes I know, this is disgusting terminology) about grammar, syntax, and usage. I used to be able to read a book, a magazine article, a newspaper, or even a bumper sticker and appreciate it for its message, humor, or point of view. Now it seems that I cannot see past the words and punctuation. I have lost sight of the forest for the trees. I start to develop hives and intense endocrine problems when there are inappropriate verb tense changes. I become agitated when people leave out simple articles (i.e. words like a, an, the) in their writing or are ignorant of the usage rules for "who" and "whom", or worse, "that" and "which". I have gotten to the point that no matter what I read, I am constantly making editoral notes.

According to wikipedia, the true fountain of all knowledge, the term anal retentive is used to describe a person with such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others. While I am sensitive (at least to some level) of annoying others, I am more concerned about how much this trait is annoying to me. This blog has me harkening back to an old Barney Miller episode in which a man is arrested after he goes into a public rampage over the pervasive misuse of the english language. "Free gift! Is there any other kind? Square-shaped, as opposed to what, square-colored?" Sergeant Dietrich listens carefully, then wryly drives the man insane with a single word response, "Irregardless".

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Comfort Shows

You may have heard the term "comfort food". According to the fountain of all recorded human wisdom (aka wikipedia), comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarlity, emotional security, or as a special reward. The reasons a dish becomes comfort food are diverse, but often include pleasant associations with childhood. Adults eat comfort food for a sense of continuity. Today I was pondering something very close to this idea with old programs on television, sort of "comfort shows". These are movies or maybe even television shows that take us back to a less complicated, perhaps more comfortable time in our lives. Watching them is like wrapping yourself up in a thick warm blanket on a cold winter's evening. The kind of program that lifts you up when you stumble across it while surfing from channel to channel. For me my favorite old movies to stumble across are the first few James Bond thrillers starring Sean Connery or the old Matt Helm spy movies starring Dean Martin. On the television program side, I always stop when I find the old Wild, Wild West reruns with Robert Conrad. What are your "comfort shows" from yesteryear?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Sometimes I am minding my own business when somebody comes along and turns up the heat. They tell me something that I can't face or maybe don't want to face. I was doing just fine, doing things the way that I have always done them, but what they tell me is so convicting that the spotlight of guilt and shame is focussed straight at me. I cannot escape the light no matter which way I turn or try to escape. However, the truth is that this is exactly what I need. When we pray to God to reveal to us the areas in our lives where we need to direct attention, do not be surprised when your prayers are answered. It's vital that you find a way to come to grips with what you learn and address the affliction to the best of your ability.

This week I have been called out in an area that I have historically been reluctant to think about. The ultimate reason is that I am inherently selfish and inwardly focussed. I have limits to my boundaries of trust. I am talking about the idea of giving away my "hard-earned" money, giving what I have for the betterment of others in the body and, ultimately, to honor God. God tells us to Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. (Proverbs 3:9). This means that we are to give the best of what we have, not the leftovers, to take care of others before we take care of ourselves. The money that we receive for our labors should first be considered from the standpoint of sharing it with those in need (Ephesians 4:28). Talk about convicting scripture. How many of you think about others first with your paychecks? How many of you think about giving from the standpoint of fitting within your budget, after all other bills and accounts are settled? How many out there seriously considering tithing? I can honestly state that I have never been generous with my money in this area. In fact, only in the last year have I even made an effort. I now give more than I ever have, and I give with a glad heart that I know pleases the Lord. However, there is so much more that I know I could do, but loosening the chains is so scary. I still feel that it is my responsibility to take care of my family first. I have made a solemn oath to ensure that they are taken care of. How can I square this away with what scripture is telling me? I close with some words that, at least, can be used as a starting point for letting go.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Company of Nerds

When I mention most jobs, for example, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, it is immediately clear what these jobs are all about, how these folks earn their paychecks. There are no mysteries. A butcher sells various meat products, the baker makes breads or desserts, and the candlestick maker deals in pork futures. When I tell people that I am a physicist, they immediately shudder with flashbacks to their high school days, thinking of how much a pain in their gluteous maximus this class was or how folks who enjoyed this class sure needed a good beating. However, beyond that, they have no idea what this area of science is all about. If instead of physicist, I say that I am a research scientist, this tends to register a bit deeper with folks, however, I have provided no more information on my vocation and what it is all about. When I was a professor of physics at Ohio University, people would shake their heads and offer me their condolences. They had a vague idea of what a professor did (teach students), but what we taught was murky.

Fear not my friends. What I do is really easy to explain. I study what holds the universe together, from the scale of the very small (50000 times smaller than a human hair) to the very big (think the scale of galaxies). It is all about understanding the forces of nature, the glue that keeps everything together, the very structure of matter. From your smelly old sneaker to that flicker of light in the night sky that you can just make out. The tool that people like me use to probe matter is a particle accelerator, and we have one of the crowned jewels of all accelerators located right here in little old Newport News, VA. The facility is called Jefferson Laboratory, named after our third U.S. president, Herbert Hoover. This place is to me, like a fully stocked candy store to a child. This facility uses tiny particles called electrons to probe inside the nucleus of the atom. It is a microscope just like the one your doctor uses except that it operates with the tiny wavelength of the fast-moving electron instead of the long wavelength of light. We use precise detector systems to see what comes out of the interaction, your doctor uses his eye to see what happens when light hits your sample on his slide. The smaller the wavelength (i.e. the higher the energy of the particle), the deeper into the system we can "see".

Jefferson Lab is energetic, modern, and rife with new discoveries and dynamic people. Although hundreds of scientists from the around the world visit our laboratory every year to carry out their research, we still have a very special feeling of community. Although we may study different things, we have a common set of overall goals that binds us all together. The few, the brave, the nerds.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Foul Emanations

Are you someone whose breath is continually fetid, whose exhalations smell like you've had a dead possum decaying in your mouth for more than 3 months? Is it possible that you do but don't realize your condition? You might be going around the office or your home offending everyone that you come into contact with. Think back over the past week. Have you been offered lots of mints? You must understand that when these offers are made, it is not because people are feeling generous and want to give their hard-earned mints away to just anybody. They are really saying to you, please, for the love of Pete do something about your foul aura. Are you too thick to understand these subtle gestures? If you don't do something about your halitosis, your family and/or co-workers will have to move beyond subtle ploys and silent prayers. They ultimately will be forced to call in the Hazmat team to deal with you. I can assure you that this experience will be most unpleasant. Two big goons named Moose and Rocco will hold you down against your will and scrub out your malodorous, loathsome, putrid pie hole with a long-handled scrub brush while you gurgle and coo your obvious displeasure. I suspect that you will be burping soap bubbles for the rest of the week. So take heed and note the warning signs. Do flowers wilt when you breathe on them? Do babies scream in terror as you approach? Do hobos run away from you? If so, then stop and think. You might need a tic-tac brand breath mint.

To make today's lesson really hit home with a real-world example from my own life, I want to share the story of how bad breath can impact those around you. I was scheduled to take an oral exam in college in the office of my professor. The scheduled time was 1:00 p.m., just after lunch. My professor showed up reeking so horribly, my eyes watered and the colors in my shirt started to bleed. I could barely get the answers out as his foul countenance worked to liquify my brain. It was a tortuous hour I can assure you. So please, before another innocent life is marred, be sensitive to those around you, brush after every meal.