Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A cooked cultivar can lead to many different outcomes...

I couldn't quite bring myself to eat left-overs for lunch today, so I treated myself to a quick trip out to McDonald World. Let me say for defensive purposes and to avoid questions most assuredly to come later, fast food is a rarity for me at lunch. But, that cooked cabbage just didn't have the appeal it did last night when I was shoveling it down, and the gastrointestinal workings that resulted from the consumption of heated, leafy-green vegetables was still fresh on my mind.

Moving on...so I drove through Mickie D's for a double-death bomb, double cheeseburger and a sweet tea with lemon (my fruit allotment). I know, definitely not the healthiest meal for an aging, middle-soft man with the medical history I carry, but I was hungry folks! For $2, it's also really hard to beat.

As I pull up to the drive-thru window, I'm met and overcome by a familiar aroma that immediately rushed me back 30 years like a mental time machine.

McDonald's was my first corporate job. I started when I was fifteen years old on the opening crew of a new store that has since been torn down and replaced by a newer version...ouch. 30 years. Yet the smells coming though the window lit my limbic system up like the operating control board at a nuclear power plant. The nostalgia was euphoric as I mentally drifted back to a time in my life that is now more clearly defined by the oft heard phrase 'Enjoy it young man...these are the best years of your life.'

Science tells us the olfactory bulb is intimate with the amygdala (which processes emotions) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for associative learning- think Rosetta Stone). But despite all the close wiring, it still takes conditioned learning for smells to trigger a memory. The link is formed when you first smell a new odor and it becomes closely associated with a person, event, place, or even a specific moment. The connection is unlike any other connection in our marvelous, wondrous bodies.

Testing this tidbit of biological hypothesis is really quite simple. If time allows the very next time you take in an odor that triggers a past memory, stop what you're doing and close your eyes. Try to recall all the association with that memory building up layer after layer. It's truly amazing how much detail you can recall from your long-term memory. Be sure to do this with a good memory too. No sense in going and reopening old wounds...hey...that probably explains why there are times Mrs. Tony C is ticked at me, and I don't have a clue in the world what about.

I need to keep the same candles from our honeymoon burning at the house all the time. I've worked her amygdala and hippocampus overtime on many other occasions with my hakuna matata attitude. God love her...

(If you're waiting for it, I'm not elaborating on cooked cabbage and any associated odor memories...I'm just not that crude people.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Landon Donovan's never been on a box of Wheaties...

I really don't hate soccer...but then I also have a vested interest in the sport.

That's my teenager playing her favorite sport in the photo. She's been hard at it all week starting her day at 7-9 am conditioning drills with her new high school teammates and ending it with a 3.5 hour soccer camp around 8:30 pm.

Oh to be young again.

My daughter has been playing soccer since age 5 when the Saturday morning festivities consisted of twelve preschoolers kicking feverishly at a lone ball moving up and down the pitch in a cluster more resembling a rugby scrum than soccer. I called it 'amoeba-ball.' There were no keepers, and the goal/nets were made by Fisher-Price. We've come a long way.

Now the astute have already noted my post is starting to litter with strange, foreign-sounding words like pitch and keeper. I assure you this isn't to try to impress you with sports-specific terminology or present an air of sophistication often associated with the sport known by our Latin neighbors as futbol. I accept and acknowledge football is played on a field, basketball on a court, baseball on a diamond and soccer on a pitch. But, I came to that place kicking and screaming...if you'll pardon the pun.

The world is in a frenzy of World Cup madness today. The tournament started with 32 teams and is now down to 16. What? You're not keeping up with it? Well, you're not alone. The United States has never really embraced the sport of soccer. There was a time when soccer was the game of rich kids because it was just so much safer and less malodorous than polo. While the rest of the world's poor children used the game to briefly escape the miseries each day brought, we thumbed our noses at soccer in preference to the domestic sports of football, baseball and basketball.

That's right...the 'holy trinity' of recreational and professional sports in our country. All three games were created here, and we love to wallow in the fact each is American as Ford, Apple (i not pie) and tobacco. Sorry hockey fans. You too are on the outside looking in evidenced by trying to pronounce the names of any current NHL roster. It's just who we are in this country. If we didn't invent it...how good could it really be?

So we watch with fake enthusiasm trying just to globally fit in with everyone else as the world celebrates the pinnacle of sporting events. The Olympics? Sorry, not even close. Over 715 million people watched the final match in the 2006 World Cup between Germany and Italy. Last years Super Bowl didn't break 100 million as a matter of comparison. Mention that fact alone in the wrong place of the US South and be prepared to rumble. Football is spelled with two o's down here and must have at least one player named Bubba (nickname, not Christian name...usually).

Yes...I know...concussion is also spelled with two o's. But that's completely different!

Well, at least it looks like the toddler is interested and apt in the All-American sport of gymnastics. Wheaties box here we come!

Greek?! Are you sure about that? But Mary Lou Retton was from West Virginia! For the love of...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sometimes the speaker is actually talking to you...

Father's Day this year turned out to be very enlightening for me. I rarely post about a Sunday sermon because it's too easy to take a point out of the context of the broader message intended. I have too much respect for my pastor to risk that possibility...not to mention he has his own blog over at The Heavy D Daily if he feels compelled to follow up on a message or share with a broader audience.

However, we had a guest speaker Sunday who delivered a very insightful message to me personally. No, the message wasn't specifically for me, but the whole 'if the shoe fits' cliche was bouncing right off my forehead...please excuse the mixed metaphor.

In a summarized version, the speaker was trying to point out to fathers that they have a spiritual influence over their families that reaches far past just their children. A father not only influences his children and grandchildren directly in matters pertaining to their spiritual life, he also has an indirect influence on the great-grandchildren as well as the great-great-grandchildren. The passing of godly influence from generation to generation forms a continuous chain of influence that is anchored by God Himself...in the ideal situation of course.

But what happens if the chain is broken? What happens when a father messes up, or worse yet, turns away from a close relationship with God? It was about here in the sermon the proverbial shoe busted me in the forehead. Have I been the cause of the spiritual chain being broken in my family? If so, how do I fix it?

The sermon took us to the story of David, Solomon and Rehoboam and a popular sermon on the Chairs of Faith. In the lesson, there are three chairs of faith- commitment, compromise and condemned. David, being described as a man after God's own heart, sat in the Chair of Commitment. Solomon was far to comfortable in the Chair of Compromise while his son, Rehoboam, never progressed from the last seat, the Chair of Condemned.

King David had it all and nearly lost it. After he committed the terrible sins of adultery and murder, David repents and ask God for mercy and forgiveness. His throne passes to Solomon who God had bestowed wisdom. But Solomon couldn't follow God's directions, and his compromise leads to God tearing Solomon's kingdom in two under the incompetent rule of his son Rehoboam, who completely abandoned God and the ways of his grandfather.

David didn't break the chain despite his sins. Solomon broke the chain because he refused to move from the Chair of Compromise into the Chair of Commitment. Rehoboam never left the Chair of Condemned.

The Chair of Compromise can become far to comfortable for Christians unfortunately. Part of that rest in the fact we are often slow to let go of our past transgressions and seek God's forgiveness through repentance. I think this is especially true for fathers that are charged to be the spiritual lead of the family. Too many times, a father messes up and feels his testimony is forever damaged and he is no longer useful to God, so he continues to drift away as if it possible to run from judgment.

That's when the second shoe hit me...

God gets all the glory when we mess up and repent, because at some point, we are all in that Chair of Compromise...if but only for a moment. Admitting mistakes is a particularly difficult task for most men, especially fathers. It demonstrates weakness, and that's a trait we don't want on display for our wives and children. But in the presence of God, we are weak and we do depend on Him for the most basic of needs. What better way to demonstrate to our families the love and mercy of our Father than to openly admit our weakness in relation to God, and confirm our place in the Chair of Commitment by surrendering to His mercy.

Guys, that might mean admitting when we are wrong to our families and apologizing. Ouch. That's when you scoot forward and sit on the leading edge of the Chair of Commitment...the part made from the Wood of Humility. It might not be the most comfortable position but sure beats changing chairs and breaking that chain.

May God bless our fathers with guidance and strength.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If time goes faster the older you get...I'll soon be at warp speed.

What you see is the best science fiction could offer for a space vehicle my generation could dream about. Pretty sad when you think about it.

A disk or saucer and three cylinders fixed together with flimsy looking pylons. Yet, millions of young people in the late 60's started dreaming just how far we could reach as human beings as we watched Apollo 11 touch down at Tranquility Bay with two of our own riding aboard. Man had reached beyond our world and galactic lifeboat...things would most certainly never be the same.

Today, I complete my 46th revolution around the heat source of our solar system we call the Sun. Almost 41 one years after that historic moment for all of mankind, it seems beyond imagination that the moon was as far as we could reach with our quickly advancing technology back then. Just look how far we've come.

Wait a stinking minute...

We've not gone ANY farther! How did that happen? We should be at least be making regular visits to Mars with an establish outpost on the Moon. How did we lose all that momentum of breaking free of our planet's gravity, and just whose bright idea was that billion dollar space bus that on a good day might make it far enough from the Earth to actually see it has curves?

Well...at least we've solved the problem of world hunger finally.

What? That's not the case either? But I can get six different cuisines with five miles of my house! How can people be starving on one part of our planet while I throw food away almost daily?

At least we've conquered the life-robbing plagues of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's just to name a few.

You've got to be kidding me! Not a chance? But people are living so much longer today and seem so much healthier. Childhood obesity? How did that happen to such a health conscience society like ours?

Well, I'm not exactly sure what my generation considers our greatest accomplishment. It's not like we've been sitting on our hands since the 70's and 80's. At least we gave the world the cell phone, personal computers, cable television and world peace.

Oh for crying out loud...3 out of 4 is a passing grade people! What do you want from me on my birthday? A Flash Gordon-esque videophone wristwatch?

Seriously? 3 years ago? But I thought Steve Jobs hated flash...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Okay. I just stink at that...

Blogging has been a tremendous blessing to me. Before I started pecking muses on a keyboard coming up on two years now, I struggled with finding a release for the inner-Dave Barry bottled within me. Don't take that wrong. I would never be bold enough to state or claim my writings to be at the Pulitzer level of Barry, but I needed a venue to express what I had to say without the stresses of it actually being my job to say it...or something like that.

Blogging has become my exercise when it comes to stress relief (yes, I know I still need to actually physically exercise...just go along with the metaphor). Writing a post is my time...a sanctuary. I personally know very few people who blog, yet I've made dozens of new friends and acquaintances in the process. While I write for myself first and foremost, I also feel there is a part of me that writes for you just because you take the time to stop and read what I have to say. Some of you even comment...

Comments. There's an area I seriously find lacking on my part. The question though is 'why?' I completely enjoy the vast majority of post I read each week. Yes, some aren't to my liking...but that's just me! If you take the time to share, I can at least take the time to thoughtfully comment. Not one of those generic 'great post' comments either. I'm talking about a heartfelt moment of appreciation always mindful not to try and be cute or overpowering.

I just finished up my lunch as I write today. Mrs. Tony C does me right on the days she packs my lunch each and every time. Today, my tucked away surprise was a couple of strawberry Newtons. Now what's not to love about that! I absolutely adore her thoughtfulness of making sure my lunch isn't just another boring moment to stuff my face... there's a little newton of joy waiting to say 'I thought about you today and wanted you to know it.'

There's a lesson in my lunch. Maybe that's exactly how I need to approach making comments on the blog post of other bloggers. I mean, if you can take the time to lay out your thoughts and ideas, to share moments from your life with complete strangers, and to provoke emotions ranging from sorrow to reverence...the least I can do is be a strawberry Newton for you.

Not the actual meal...just a tasty little nugget of joy to let you know I care.

I promise to work on that...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vlog #2 answers the probing questions...but probing where?

...and the top four questions from my Facebook survey were...

* This video has proudly been block from being viewed in some countries on YouTube.