Monday, January 23, 2017

binge watching

One thing that has been difficult on me lately is that I want to take part in what is becoming a national pastime of sorts--binge watching shows on Netflix.  My current life situation and responsibilities preclude this possibility, however.  Most of the shows I'd want to watch are not completely kid-appropriate, and there are too many other responsibilities I need to devote my time to in a given week.  This isn't to say I don't watch TV, but it is much less so than at other points in my life.

I remember earlier times in my life when people would say they didn't watch TV because they didn't have time, I would wonder how that could be.  I still wonder that, because I still make time, but I understand better now.  Now what I don't understand is how people who I know are as busy as I am are able to make time for a marathon of Stranger Things or The Crown.  They have time management skills that I still need to master.

This being said, I actually have more time than Golden.  Where I could realistically add a TV series or two to my schedule due to my willingness to give up some sleep, and her more constant responsibilities, it's a serious challenge to get small things added to her schedule.

All of this will change one day.  We're in a busy stage of life.  When the kids are older and some of our other responsibilities are lessened I anticipate us having more time for such pursuits.  This is just an outgrowth of our time of life, and some of our life choices.

This has me asking a few questions, though.  Is this a greener grass on the other side of the fence situation?  Will I look back on this busier time with nostalgia because of the kids' ages, or will I look back with relief that things are slower?  What percentage of adults are in a stage where they can't realistically binge watch a show without neglecting other responsibilities?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

new year, healthier dust

I inadvertently scheduled a physical in the last couple of weeks last year.  The timing was an accident, but it has led to a bit of an odd situation.

Every year I make a point of not making a New Year's resolution.  I know that most people break their resolutions (if they're even specific enough to break) before the end of January, and so making a New Year's resolution always feels to me like an impulsive or a showy move.  I know many people have great reasons for making resolutions, but for me to do it doesn't feel natural.

Since I went to the doctor's office and had the typical blood work done right before Christmas, I got a call over the Christmas holiday that my triglyceride and bad cholesterol levels were consistently elevated enough that I need to start exercising more regularly.  For me this means that I need to start exercising at all.

Golden's first reaction was that we should get a membership to the local community center and work out there.  My first reaction was thinking that I don't want to be one of those guys the regulars see as an annoyance who will give up in a few weeks.

What I have done so far is find a YouTube channel called FitnessBlender and start with some of their beginner routines.  It turns out my boss uses the same channel for some of his exercises, so I'm not the only person I know who uses the channel.  He's more active and healthier than me, though.  I've committed to doing twenty minutes of routines every day, even when I'm very busy.  This sounds great on the surface, but to this point I have primarily proven to myself that I am horribly out of shape because I have a hard time completing anything other than the beginner routines.

My short term goal is to get healthy enough to regularly complete the normal, not-beginner routines without too much trouble.  My medium term goal is simply not to gain more weight, and ideally trim some (five pounds in a few months would be great at this point).  That goal is more psychological than anything.  My long term goal is to not have given up on this endeavor in one, two, five, or ten years.

Thus far, I have not modified my eating habits because I don't want to make major changes all at once that are unsustainable.  To me, this whole thing is pointless if I don't keep this up over the long term.  We'll see how committed I can remain to this since it's now more directly a question of health rather than just clothing size.

Monday, August 08, 2016

nine lives

A couple of years ago we got a cat, and CH fell in love with it.  Since then, a significant part of her identity has been one of a cat lover.  So, once she found out about the movie Nine Lives several months ago, about a man who is switched into a cat's body, she has waited in eager expectation
Nine Lives
for when she would be able to see the movie.  So, we had to watch it this past weekend when it opened.

It is obvious from the trailer what sort of movie it is, so I fully anticipated not caring too much for it.  However, I did find it more tolerable than I expected.  The reason I was largely uninterested was the same reason I didn't care for Click or The Family Man.  It belongs to a specific genre of  movie where the central point is that a dad needs to learn to lessen his focus on work to focus on his family.  That point is not a bad point, but the point is typically made in a way that makes it look like it is less than ideal for a man to be committed to a job that supports his family.  So, imagine my surprise when a Nine Lives subplot almost went the opposite direction.

Certainly, the central theme of the movie is a man's discovery that he has not been there for his kids.  Not to spoil too much, but the protagonist cannot switch back to being a human until he learns that lesson (Surprise!).  This character being mind-bogglingly rich removed most concerns about the portrayal of a man who is just trying to support his family, and the secondary plot in the movie actually goes the other direction.

In this subplot this man's passion in life, to own the tallest building in North America and have his name on it, is ultimately presented as more of a positive than a negative.  This would go over the heads of most of the kids watching the movie, but the story is presented in a way that idealizes rather than demonizes a man who is willing to squander other peoples' investments for what amounts to a vanity project.  This is ultimately a minor quibble I have with the movie, but it was a surprise.

The movie itself was enjoyable enough for what it is--a kid's movie that is complex enough to entertain adults.  It isn't ridiculous enough that it would be embarrassing to watch without kids, but it isn't a movie I'd seek out if I didn't have kids. Now that I think about it, that describes almost everything I see in the theater these days.

Friday, July 29, 2016

song of songs

FYI, the topic below is somewhat adult in nature, but it is Biblical.

Along with teaching Sunday School, I also alternate with someone else teaching a men's class at church.  I could take the easy way out with video series, and I am leaving myself open to the possibility in the future, but I have been doing expository teaching through different books of the Bible.

What I hate teaching (or sitting through a lesson on) the most is something that everyone in the room already knows.  If I know a passage or a topic has been taught repetitively and I don't have something new to bring to the table, I really don't enjoy teaching the lesson.  Because of this, I am drawn to teaching things that others have not focused on, for one reason or another.

All of this is to say that I decided a while back to teach the Song of Songs in the men's class.  I used two books in planning my lessons (The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy by O'Donnell and Exalting Jesus in the Song of Songs by Akin and Platt). I am going to be wrapping up the series in early August, and so have pretty much gotten through the entire book.  I have included some thoughts I have about teaching the book below.
  • I never appreciated the true spiritual value of the Song.  Marriage represents the Church and Christ, and so the quality of union we have with our spouse reflects how we value the relationship between Christ and the Church.  The purpose of the Song is to celebrate and promote Godly marriage that properly reflects the relationship between God and His people.
  • I never appreciated the context and target audience of the Song.  This is probably a song (or series of songs) meant to be sung at a wedding celebration, and targeted to unmarried girls.  One can imagine singers taking the roles of husband and wife, and a choir of girls singing the "friends" parts.  Who the target audience is explains a lot of the content in the book, not the least of which are the three commands in the Song to not forfeit one's virginity too quickly.
  • I did not appreciate that reading this song literally is a relatively recent approach.  For centuries commentators assumed that the book is a metaphor for God and the Church or God and Israel.  The Song couldn't be about intimacy between a married couple because that would degrade the Holy Scripture.  This is a perspective that seems laughable today, and it is a ridiculous position, but it was the de facto position of all of Christianity and Judaism for over a millennium.
  • Some weeks were flat-out awkward because my sources assumed that if something could be describing a very intimate part of the body or intimate action that was probably the correct interpretation.
  • I used to have a real problem with the Song because I believed that the man in the Song was Solomon.  One of my sources (Akin/Platt) believes that this is true, but my other source (O'Donnell) believes that Solomon is only introduces for comparison purposes.  This is appealing for a few reasons, one of which is that it solves the very difficult challenge with the book that the Song does not describe a polygamist's marriage.  This would conflict with the mutual ownership that the woman expresses throughout the Song (Song 2:16; 6:3; 7:10), as well as with the fact that polygamy was not God's perfect ideal for marriage.  I agree with O'Donnell that Song of Songs is written by Solomon to describe a different, idealized couple.
  • I did not realize that the Song was written very much with the intent of praising the value of virginity.  Apart from the commands to wait for love in the Song, there are a couple of clear indications that the woman (This song is targeted to girls) saved herself for marriage.  First, in the honeymoon chapter her husband refers to her body as a locked garden and a sealed fountain, indicating that she has closed herself off from men until this time (Song 4:12).  Second, in the conclusion the woman describes herself as a wall in comparison to a door, which likely establishes her virginity because a wall is not entered but a door is (Song 8:10).
The most practical lesson I have gotten from teaching Song of Songs is that a husband has a responsibility to praise his wife's beauty to her frequently and in detail, and see her as his standard for beauty, Likewise, a wife has a responsibility to periodically make herself physically available to her husband.  Those points sum up about half of the book.

I am looking forward to being done with this series.  That is less about the awkwardness of the topic and more about the time I have to spend in preparing these lessons.  I'm ready for a less-involved series.

Friday, June 03, 2016

like edison

When I was a kid I dreamed of being an inventor.  The idea of taking materials that weren't all that valuable on their own and assembling something valuable out of them was extremely appealing.  As a result, stories like that of Thomas Edison's were very appealing.

I remember hearing about all of the things Edison created, with over 1000 patents to his name, and the underlying philosophy that was part of his persona.  He is credited with the assertion, "Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."  I remember visualizing him sitting in a dark room trying material after material in his light bulb until something worked.  This whole ideal perfectly fit the philosophy of a nation where most would at least claim to believe in meritocracy.  Intelligence is just hard work, and intelligence that doesn't work can't be called genius.

While I don't fault the focus on effort, as it is a necessary ingredient to success, this philosophy misses a ton of what made Edison successful.  Because the story has historically stopped here many have been led to believe that his secret was simply trying hard, when there was a bit more to it.  Edison brought a bit of intelligence and a lot of elbow grease to the job, and that's all it took to get all of those patents.  So, all that is stopping you is the elbow grease.

In more recent years Edison's reputation has taken a bit of a beating due to what is viewed as his mistreatment of Nikola Tesla.  While I don't know enough to know whether this new reputation is deserved, what I do know is that it shines light on where that perspiration came from.  Edison was right that the genius of his success was in hard work, but it is not appreciated that he hired a lot of that work.  There isn't anything wrong with this, except that the team and their work is always forgotten in order to give credit simply to the guy who hired them.

Also, this illuminates (Ha!) that sometimes one guy working really hard isn't enough.  Some jobs require a team to be successful.  This doesn't fit into a narrative that celebrates our individualistic ideals, so it is scrapped.

I wish I understood all of this earlier, because this is extremely helpful to understanding how the world works today.  If you're fortunate you could be successful as some guy working by himself, but it's unlikely.  You're certainly not going to emulate Edison levels of success that way.  To be successful like Edison isn't just to work hard, but to get others to work hard as well toward that same goal.

I don't actually feel the need to be as successful in this world as Edison today, but since I did aspire to that in my youth I wish I understood what that really meant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

provide a boy

Golden and I both always wanted a boy and a girl because that is what we both grew up with.  We didn't, and I still don't, think of either as being easier or harder to raise, or more or less fun to have around.  Golden had another pressure that I never understood, though.  She felt that she needed to provide me a boy.

I wish she never saw this as a burden, because I always considered the idea silly. Since I never got the impression that it was a big deal to my dad, and it isn't a big deal to me, I always assumed the idea of having someone carry on your name was a dying artifact of a bygone era that modern people didn't care about.  While we did have a boy--and a wonderful one at that--I wouldn't have cared if we only had girls, other than that I would have felt bad for Golden for the burden.

In the past few years I have actually heard a few men make comments about this that have shocked me.  They implied that having a boy was much better than having a girl.  There are actually men who care about this!?  And not only that, I've heard this from some who consider themselves "progressive"! Unless I felt pressure from my parents on this I cannot fathom it being a huge deal what gender my kids were.

We're happy with our boy and our girl.  I can honestly say I would be just as happy if we had two boys or two girls, though.  We love them both!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

social needs

My pastor has gotten much of his education in Psychology and Counseling, so has taught a few times that there are six dimensions under which people's needs can be defined.  Those are spiritual, emotional, social, sexual, family, and financial.  I don't know if this is based on any real research, but it is indeed a convenient way of categorizing needs.

There are times that I feel like most of my needs are atypical.  I don't know what really counts as typical or atypical, though.  A great example, and most of what has been on my mind, are social needs.  I just seem to have different social drives than many other people I speak with.

While it has happened, I have very rarely in my life experienced a need to be out among people.  Usually when it has that is because I have been home alone for more than a day.  When I was fourteen living with my family at my grandparents' house I remember wanting to get out to social events, but that was more an issue of circumstance than a reflection of a strong social need.

I do have a strong social need, but that is for people I can have in-depth and analytical conversations.  To do something like this, though, requires a connection.

Something I have noticed is that I can get standoffish to people I detect have strong social needs.  When people start talking about wanting to get together on the spur of the moment, and I don't already have a strong connection with them, my gut reaction is to view them as stealing my precious time resource without paying me something I can use.  I feel overwhelmed very quickly around those sorts of people.

This is a problem because I am starting to understand that to maintain friendships you have a good connection with you need to care about others' needs as well.  I can understand those characters who get older and shut in and don't want to interact with others because that is one of my tendencies.  It's easy to think in the short term that I should only do things that directly align with my needs, but then eighty-year-old me will have few close friendships.