Monday, March 30, 2009

Give me the Brady kids any day...

I love kids. Well okay, I try to love kids. The little delinquents just make it so difficult at times...and for what reason? Do teenagers actually think...deep they actually think they could possibly know as much as I do? I have the benefit of nearly half a century of knowledge and experiences spinned up on my hard drive ready to be processed at a moments notice. Granted, my processor speed isn't what you might see on newer models...but the library of information is vast and comprehensive.

I've read and digested Tolstoy, seen sunrises with my own eyes in distant lands, shook hands with a former President, and attempted to learn the metric system.

I know the strategic importance of Sun Tzu on and off the battlefield, the difference between effect and affect, the uselessness of calculus and Shakespearean quotes in everyday life, and how to change the oil in my own vehicle.

I've had gaping wounds stitched closed (never glued or taped), can start a fire with things found in my backyard, understand the true beauty in simplicity, and know the 1969 Woodstock festival actually took place in Bethel, New York...over 40 miles away from the town of Woodstock.

How could a teenager ever compete with such a reaching wealth of enlightenment? I beg to know how?!?! Yet teenagers, with no regard to humility or self preservation, often spew some of the most absurd, offensive statements know to come from even quasi-intelligent beings. In sure anti-hypothesis to Darwinism, teenagers have managed to dodge certain extinction at the hands of older, more cunning adults based exclusively on social and moral orders... a defining augment for Intelligent Design of our universe by a loving, merciful God.

I make reluctant apologies for my attitude today because I know I will continue to return to this place as sure as my next, interaction...with a teenager (quite possibly my own). Conversation would imply thoughtful input by both parties.

(Maybe I should seriously rethink my rather bold statement circa 1982 about the promising career opportunities available attending Hamburger University...for McDonald's. Sorry mom and dad.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fatuity...Ninja style!

What's a Friday without a little laugh? A no-fun Friday...and we don't roll like that.

Ninja humor is so awesome...just don't let a ninja catch you laughing about it.

Have a great weekend with God all over it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You can laugh if you want, but...

If you didn't see President Obama on 60 Minutes Sunday night, please take the time to watch this 10 minute excerpt. Pay particular attention to around the 3:30 mark when Steve Kroft calls the Prez out for laughing at some of the issues they are discussing.

I don't think you find any of this humorous if you've lost your job, house and/or life savings during the current economic crisis.

He comes across to me as 'in over his head'...but I'll continue to withhold opinion until the situation runs its course.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If a podcast told you to jump off a bridge....

Describing my taste in music as eclectic might be a tad understating. My iPod playlists are a mosaic of genres that even David Letterman couldn't link to a specific stereotype. And, like most people...I just love music. Pop to Pavarotti, rock to religious, Free Bird to funk, classical to country...a little or a lot of each is all on there...and I listen to it all.

Who's Grayson Hugh? Song on my iPod. Have you heard of the Amazing Rhythm Aces? Original version of Third Rate Romance on my iPod. Do you remember Robbie Dupree? Squeeze? The Clash? Ronnie Milsap? The Manhattans? Pablo Cruise? They're all there. LTD or Hot Chocolate ring a sexy thing?

Now before all of you kids born during the Reagan administration or later stop reading, I've got plenty of music released on something other than vinyl too...even that catchy tune by Yael Naim from the Macbook commercial ...'I'm a new soul, I came to this strange world, Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take.' I really like songs with 'la la' or 'hey hey' in them...seems hip.

I sing in the car most days. I also keep a pair of drumsticks with quick access for good grooves or rolls coming up in a song. My thoughtful wife got me a new car stereo for Christmas that syncs with my iPod. Good stuff...keeps my hands free for drumming parts. I don't really embarrass easy, so singing and drumming doesn't cease when there's an audience...say at a red light or on the Interstate. The same principle applies when I sing in the choir at church. Can I sing? Doesn't matter...I do it anyway. Hey...make a joyful noise...the good Book doesn't say anything about melody. Sometimes, I sing while I play drums in our church Praise Team, but I don't do it often. The Music Director gets upset because sometimes I forget I'm the drummer...first and foremost.
Being a drummer draws me to different music styles to some degree. I make fun of the Bee Gees on this blog from time to time, yet the groove of Night Fever is mesmerizing to me...and hard to master. Although I'm not that fond of country music, it was Don William's son who helped me with the switch from guitar to drums while I was in college, so I feel somewhat obliged to keep some old school Nashville around...even though Don Jr. played classic rock in a college band. I also went to school with Marty Roe of Diamond Rio...great guy, great voice...but dances like the white guy he really is. (You young people probably need to google Don Williams)

Are we what we iPod? Hmmm...that's a pretty philosophical question that has great points on both sides of the debate. Music touches and affects everyone....good and bad. I don't think, as a Christian, it's a requirement for me to listen to only Christian music. Besides, it's a little difficult for me and the wife to...well...get 'to know each other' with Ray Boltz playing in the background. Okay, bad choice...let's say Mercy Me. Now Boyz II Men or James Ingram, on the other hand...bow chicka wow wow. I do subscribe to the 'garbage in, garbage out' method of parenting, so I don't want to come across a hypocrite either.

I was forever changed one day when I heard my high school football coach belting Maneater...Hall and Oates style...while he showered after football practice. I need a mental Tic Tac.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You'll need a Form ID10T...just ask someone in Accounting.

Don't be late coming back from lunch and you won't need to worry.

I wear a couple of different hats around the most type A personality workaholics. Often, I'm the 'go to' guy when there's a problem...which I like. I'm also the 'Jesus freak' of our group. I don't care for the 'freak' part too much because of the negative connotation associated with the word, but I definitely wear the title Christian or Jesus follower with humbled pride.

There's another hat though that I also enjoy immensely...I'm our company's practical joker. Most of the time, I limit my folly to the 'new guy' with initiations designed to break the ice...well okay...humiliate and punish. But keep in mind after being both an athlete and Marine, rites of passage are just inherently part of my social's who I am.

Now, I would never do anything malicious or harm someone...permanently. I limit my shenanigans to something as simple as giving a new nickname to more complex lampoons that require planning and accomplices...say, getting the new guy to go into the bathroom and sign off on a nonexistent eyewash station training sheet after one of our... shall we say... 'regular' warehouse workers has created a post-tuna salad sandwiches lunch atmosphere in there. Did I mention we lock them in for a few minutes to make sure they take in the full effect? Hey, nothing quite says 'welcome aboard' like being violated by the malodorous air of a new coworker.

I do have a talked about still despite the dozens of pranks pulled since. While working through a network issue one day, I discovered that our CEO's printer was both viewable and unlocked on the warehouse's network. Seeing opportunity, I proceeded to type and print the following note to his printer:

Dear Boss,
I just wanted you to know I appreciate my new job. Even though it's very hot today, we are working very hard. I'm sure you would be proud. I don't see you much in the warehouse, so I thought I'd say hey and thanks again. Let me know if you need ANYTHING.
The New Guy

It wasn't long before the company President emerged into the warehouse, where I posted up on a computer with a clear view of the proceedings. The puzzled look on New Guy's face was priceless as he stuttered for some reasonable explanation. After about an agonizing minute, the proverbial light bulb went off in the Prez's head, and his quick scan of those present found me diligently working at a computer terminal acting completely oblivious to the stunt. Busted...but well worth the lecture on network security soon to follow. Oh...the CEO got a big kick out of it when he found out what had happened. No harm, no foul.

When you work in an environment of nonbelievers like I do, as the lone Christian, I feel it's important to be genuine and transparent. Cutting up and having fun is part of who I am. I keep my jokes clean and my mischievousness in good nature. Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I can't have fun...anymore than it means I won't ever slip up. There are many ways to share your faith, and some require very reverent, solemn moments...I've had a number of those too.

Despite my initial fun, I always open up to new people and offer my assistance in making their transition easier. Not a single person has ever taken my practical jokes the wrong way. I'm not saying it couldn't happen...just that it hasn't happened. Unfortunately, I could see more easily offending someone new by initially approaching them about my faith and love for God. I save that for a little later...when they really get to know me...and God makes the opportunity.

Being a Christian shouldn't be synonymous with living a dull, boring life. We have fun...heck...we have lots of fun. There's a natural, jovial easiness that comes with the security of salvation. You may not be the joking type and shouldn't fake it if you're not...that's perfectly okay. Just don't act like Hell will open up and swallow you if you chuckle at a fart joke...after all, God desires our humility, and He made us flatulent beings.

Oh, sorry mom... for saying the 'f word'.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Fatuity...whoopee!

Works been crazy this week, so I've not been musing much. I have been reading and commenting where compelled (and yes Katdish, I got the monkey/drummer reference) guys are a really talented group!

Here's a funny cartoon I snagged along the way, and a vintage commercial inspired by Lulaville's posted commercial (another classic, although mine is much me). I've got the teenager and toddler repeating the catch phrase from the commercial...I strive for cultured kids...even if it's pop culture. Bonus, there's lessons on economics and manners included.

Have a great weekend with worship services filled with the Holy Spirit!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The fastest way to a man's... do you smell that?

The parking lot at the Tanger Outlet Center in the Great Smokey Mountains this past weekend.

A person would be hard pressed to find evidence of a recession where I was dragged to this past weekend. Okay, dragged may be too dramatic...with apologies to Mrs. Tony C Today. The family loaded up and made the 90 minute journey to the mecca of area shopping...Sevierville/Pigeon Forge. It doesn't take long after leaving I-40 at Exit 407 to figure out your thoughts of outstanding savings, at outlet pricing, on this day are neither original nor unique, as you sit bumper to bumper in traffic inching slowly closer to her...excuse me...your ultimate goal of over 100 brand name stores in one location. One location!

Let me predicate this post by stating I'm not a physical shopper. I'm a cyber-shopper. But, I love my wife, and she is very much a physical shopper. To her, Black Friday is an annual sporting event that requires both planning and preparation. She approaches the day after Thanksgiving with the same zeal and readiness as Hannibal did attacking the Roman Empire. So at her request, I came along for a Saturday of shopping with no least knowing I'd get to pick where we ate.

Packed. No parking. Stores thick with ants on a dropped piece of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. Crazy. I was neither in my element nor comfort zone.

After being pummeled by more seasoned shoppers in a few different stores, I posted up on a bench outside one of the wife's favorites knowing I'd get a lengthy respite. Again, the sheer amount of people was amazing. I could see across the parking lot a line formed outside the Coach store, which limits the number of people inside at a given time. I was close to completing a mental observation when the lady sitting on the same bench broke my train of thought:

'There's sure a lot of people here.'

TC- 'Yes ma'am, hard to see the recession here.'

'We're here from South Carolina. Just got my tax refund check back, so I came shopping with money from the IRS.'

TC-(chuckling) 'Well, it's actually your money, not the IRS's.'

Now, I know what you're thinking...why'd you have to go there? Folks, it's just who I am, and for that, I'm not apologizing...although at times I probably should.

'Yes, but it's money I was expecting or needing to pay bills and stuff. Kinda like free money.'

TC- 'Yes, but you could get that money sooner, in your paychecks, by adjusting your...'

Another lady interrupted.

'I got more back this year than last year. Good thing Obama got elected.'

TC-' But what does he have to do with...'

'Come to think of it, I got more back too.'

TC-'President Obama has nothing to do with 2008 income taxes. He was elected in...'

'All I know is I got more money back from the IRS than ever before.'

TC-'But it's your money!'

At this point, I knew my line of reason was falling on deaf ears. I allowed a comfortable amount of time to pass before giving my seat up to another lady who had just arrived to join the group.

TC-'You ladies enjoy Tennessee. Now, be sure to spend all your money here before you go back to South Carolina. We're still listed behind you in educational know...and need the money more here.' I stated trying to come across light-hearted and drawing a polite giggle from each.

As my wife exited a door pushing the stroller with the 13 year old in tow, I steered us in the direction of Harry and David's and met no resistance. We strolled around the sidewalk window shopping and talking at a leisurely pace. As we approached the Coach store, I kicked back into analytical mode.

'Look at the line outside of Coach. I'm not waiting that long to go in there,' said my wife.

'I'd love to look around, but no way I'd stand in line,' piped in the teenager.

Do what? Now, I'm thinking my wife has, at a minimum, a million or so purses or pocketbooks...whatever you call them, and the teenager has more than any 13 year old deserves or has necessity. But, I also wanted to keep my position of choosing to eat at Cracker I remained silent and avoided the argument...for the moment. The friendly confines of Cracker Barrel seemed a more logical choice for this brewing verbal joust.

As we approached the waiting Coach shoppers, the jubilant atmosphere of money spending drastically changed and became one akin to people waiting in line to eat at a soup kitchen. It was...eerie. Heads where down, people looked tired and detached...and yet, most of them were well-dressed, blue-blooded looking folks.

'I can't believe we're waiting in line to shop at a discount, designer handbag store. This is ridiculous. Hope people are happy with Obama now!' I overheard one lady fuming to another in the line.

I remained silent and didn't stop and remark...Harry and David's was just ahead. I really love those chocolate covered Bing cherries.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

An Open Letter to Mr. Michael Steele

Dear Chairman Steele,

Congratulations on your election as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and I wish you much success as you take on the task of recharging the Republican Party...the Grand Old Party...the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan. It absolutely amazes me how it's near impossible to say or even think Republican and not immediately picture President Reagan. Yes...those were the good old side economics, battling the 'evil empire', busting up labor unions and bombing Muammar Gaddafi back into the Stone Ages. I still remember, as if it were yesterday, the electoral vote map after the 1984 Presidential landslide election showing every state red...well except Minnesota and Washington DC which are self explanatory...but I digress.

Mr. Steele you have an unenviable task to say the least. Republicans are disoriented, confused, perplexed and just down right lost. Sure, it's easy to blame all the party's ills on poor G.W. or even Karl Rove, but is that fair? Congress was controlled by Republicans for six of W's eight years, and our government grew at an astounding rate. Republicans acted like Democrats, Democrats talked like Republicans. How can that be? Isn't the GOP the party of conservatives? Of less government is better government?

As a conservative, a true conservative, I feel...well...somewhat abandoned. I must confess to being a Blue Dog Democrat in my younger days, but I began to see changes in the Democratic Party platform that didn't reflect my own values. Either from a misunderstanding of the Republican Party or believing the Democrat's propaganda, I didn't feel successful enough or wealthy enough to be a Republican. Plus, I was raised in a blue collar family of staunch Harry Truman Democrats...pre-Camelot stuff. Changing parties was an unpardonable act to the heritage. I know, to some extent, you can empathize with my feelings of isolation. The alienation you must feel having Oreos thrown at you in certain crowds with the implication that you're 'black on the outside, but white on the inside.' It's deplorable, despicable and denigrating (at the risk of sounding like Jessee Jackson). But for me, Ronald Reagan changed all that...again though, I digress.

Mr. Chairman, as Republicans, are we conservatives? Understanding your recent tiff with talking-head blowhard Rush Limbaugh, I don't mean do we speak conservative...but are we to vote, lobby and govern as true conservative? You will play a major part in defining the party's platform, and unless you 'man up' a lot more than you did after waffling on the Limbaugh call out...well...the Log Cabin Republicans may end up with more say in the party than I'm personally comfortable accepting. What Rush said was wrong...plain and simple. If President Obama completely fails, a lot of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, will be hurt even more financially. If the Commander in Chief fails, military men and women die in service to their country. That, sir, is unacceptable to say... much less accept as a premise.

There are other ways to win back the White House and Congress without malicious talk and vindictiveness. Please start the process by defining what it is to be a Republican. If that is synonymous with conservative, then hold elected Republicans accountable in the public forum. Call them out and stand by your convictions...Republican convictions. President Reagan governed by his convictions, right or wrong, and Americans followed. Mr. Steele, be a Ronald Reagan...lead the charge to win back the White one for the Gipper.

Mr. Chairman, I leave you with a single visual to emphasize my plea. Who will be the face of the Republican Party under your watch?

I'm afraid if it is the latter, I will be forced to change yet the Libertarian Party.

Most Respectfully,

Tony C Today

P.S. That very picture of President Reagan still proudly adorns my walls. I have more than one.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A stitch in time saves nine...and maybe even a soul or two.

' I should have paid closer attention in Temporal Mechanics class at the Academy, Number 1. Just once...maybe we could avoid this kind of trouble!'

I took a trip back in time last night. No, I’m not flashing around through the time/space continuum like some of the characters on Lost or what seemed like every episode of Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation…my time travel was more an empathic journey back to a time in my life often referred to as the Dark Years in my writings.

After church services last evening, I was drawn to an open discussion among a group of 6 or 7 about the defined Biblical roles of women in the church. The discussion, however, took a drastic sharp turn when the central, commencing pperson began to question the validity of the Bible. The ‘If the Bible is written by man, and man is fallible…’ argument surfaced rather quickly and steered the exchange onto a completely different path.

My history with this person is fairly deep. I’ve known the young lady for most of her life, and I’m very good friends with her parents…best of friends. She is going through that period in life where, mostly as young adults, we begin to question things…seek answers on our own. I have a very healthy respect for this often troubling period in life. I could clearly see evidence of her internal strife…and it began to weigh very heavy on my heart.

Let me back up…I stated ‘mostly as young adults’…but that may not be accurate. There are a number of credible studies showing the drastic drop off in church attendance when young people get to a certain age, but I’m curious how the hypothesis applies to older adults in a period of spiritual struggle too. Today, there are far more sources of antagonistic information pertaining to Christianity. Some are subversive little digital invaders into our very homes. Although there are many, I believe one of the more inconspicuously dangerous sources in also one of the most popular…The History Channel.

(GASP)…’But I love The History Channel!’ Well, you’re not alone. Many Saturday afternoons have been served (or wasted depending on your point of view) by yours truly taking in several episodes of Modern Marvels or a Dogfights marathon. The shows I finding troubling, however, are the ones like Banned from the Bible, How the Earth was Made, and The Universe. There was also a lengthy fascination on The History Channel with The Da Vinci Code as well. The placement of these programs among shows of hard-fact, historical events lends a deceptive credence...though the shows are unfounded and opinionated.

For mature Christians rooted well in their faith, such shows rarely present a challenge, but for a person at a point of struggle in their spiritual walk… programs like these can be extremely undermining and dangerous. Yes…as Christians…we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help with discernment, but never underestimate the power of our enemy. Satan is powerful and uses moments of insecurity to plant seeds of doubt. Seeds that can eventually grow and completely disrupt the balance in our personal spiritual garden…okay that metaphor was a little too much on the Zen-ish side…sorry.

Faith can be hard enough without the constant tug of the world wanting us ‘to come out and play.’ I called this young lady after we left church and offered her a few words of encouragement. ‘You are not alone in what you feel. Doubt is something all Christians experience. You will work through this and be a stronger Christian.’ All of these came out…as you would expect…but maybe a few you wouldn’t.

I encouraged her to go back and look at how the Bible was canonized in depth, the processes involved in translating the versions we have today, and even the events around the Protestant Reformation (she seems to be struggling with differences among church denominations too).

I also steered her away while she struggled from the New Age thought that ‘we can all be right’ and prosperity gospels like Olsteen and Dollar with their ‘little gods’ messages. I warned her of the dangers of websites and television programs that could either be misleading or just malicious in nature. ‘Know your source’…that might have been the best advice I gave…unfortunately, I found that one out the hard way on my own.

Please pray for my friend…but also for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling with their faith. And thanks… to those of you who prayed for me… during my Dark Years. My love and appreciate for you could never be overstated or enough. God is so great.