Friday, January 30, 2004

The pic-tsar

Looks like Disney and Pixar are parting ways. The Rough Woodsman has a synopsis of Disney's next flick, but I think I've already SEEN this movie.

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    I've got more

    to say, but unfortunately no time left to say it.

    So, I guess it'll have to wait for another day. Y'all have a good weekend and we can talk about Super Bowl commercials on Monday. Or not as the case may be.

    (Speaking of commercials, what's up with the 24 Hour Fitness commercial where the disclaimer says not all locations are open 24 hours? Or the Just For Feet commercial advertising sweats and jackets? Something about harmonic dissonance...)

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    Get well soon

    A couple of my regular reads are under the weather. Dawn is having back problems, and finally gave in and went to the doctor. I figure right about now, she's higher'n a kite on happy pills (and if not, why not?). Rumor has it that Jim was trying to do a quadruple Lutz. Unfortunately, instead of sticking the landing, the landing (or the steps in this case) stuck him. Several bumps, bruises, contusions, contortions and broken ribs later, he's back home from the hospital.

    Y'all go by and wish them a speedy recovery.

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    You know, this blogging stuff

    can be pretty entertaining at times. For some reason, about two weeks ago, the old Aardvark meter started pinging (probably needs the seals replaced. Arrr! Arrr!), going from an average of 30 or so visitors a day to close to 50 per day. What generated this increase? Beats me. I'm still putting out the same old crap as always (hence the official motto "Consistently meeting low expectations since June 2003"). Either I've managed to tap into a heretofore untapped group of the humor impaired (well, ok, maybe not IMPAIRED...maybe just 'twisted beyond all recognition') OR there has been an uptick in the number of desperately misguided souls coming to this site in search of meaningful and useful content. My bet is on the latter.

    As proof, I offer these searches that have reefed some poor electron surfers on the shoals of ALANHA.

    "Aardvark help desk" (If you find it, let me know)

    "viagira" (It's either a fancy name for a Greek shish-kabob, or a jazz quintet, I'm not sure which)

    "donkey hotay" (proving once again the futility of tilting at windmills, peppermills and Hayley Mills)

    "a pitcher of an aardvark" (now with EXTRA spaces! This one came from someone in Australia, which shows to go ya what can happen when you spend all day upside down. Anyway, whatever happens don't tell Professor Reynolds or I may have to start fearing for my life)

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    Thursday, January 29, 2004


    The Aardvark's had company spend the night last night. Kids of some friends from church. Dad is out of town on business and Mom's father is in the hospital in Missouri. The kids needed a place to stay while Mom went to Missouri, and so they spent the night with us. They're pretty good kids. The girl is 17 and is friends with the EAC and the boy is 14, and while everyone is friendly, I don't know that you could call them 'friends', if you know what I mean. After all, he IS a boy.

    I've written about him before (y'all remember Skeeter, right? No? Ok, go here and catch up.), and some of his quirks can be annoying, but really he means well.

    This morning I was on the computer playing Bejeweled, drinking my last cup of coffee before leaving for work, when Skeeter, who had just finished breakfast, came up to stand behind me to watch.

    Smack, smack, smack, "The red ones. Oh. The blue ones. Ok, uh...the green ones," smack, smack, smack.

    "Well, that's it for me," I say, slunge-ing (that's a word, right?) the last of my coffee, "I have to go to work. Skeeter, why don't you take over?"

    My wife says, "Are you going to tell him how it works?"

    "Nah. He's got it figured out," I say about the time Skeeter says, "So, what do I do?"

    The EAC was there by that time and she helped him out.

    I told my wife on my way out the door, "I figured he knew; he was kibitzing me like crazy."

    From all appearances, Skeeter is management material.

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    How'd I get here?

    (And just for Terry's sake. Tradition!) And where are my pants!?!

    This has been one of those days that has just flown right past me. It probably has to do with the concentration required for the project I'm currently working on. One little mistake now may turn into a huge mistake down the road. Anyway, I just looked up and realized it was 12:45 and I hadn't even eaten my lunch yet (or realized I was hungry for that matter, and that IS scary).

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    Wednesday, January 28, 2004

    Another story from the "nevermind" file

    I mentioned last week that the blood center called and asked me to donate platelets ASAP since their supply was so low (and the shelf-live is days, not weeks). I talked with a guy from their central office and he scheduled me (on an old machine, as requested) for an 8 o'clock appointment Saturday morning at the center where I normally donate. That was Thursday.

    Friday I get a call from the scheduling person at the center (the lady I normally talk to), who says there's a problem and the machine I need won't be available at 8 o'clock on Saturday, or ANY o'clock on Saturday for that matter. The next available slot she has is two weeks out (I took it). Now call me cynical, but I see a couple of things wrong here.

    First off, right hand - meet left hand. Either don't let the guy from the central office schedule appointments or keep the computer updated at the branch location. The way it is, it makes one of you look like you don't know what you're doing. I haven't decided which.

    Secondly, there are six machines at the branch location that process platelets/plasma. Every Saturday I've been in to donate, there have been no more than three (usually two) in use. And while I don't know for certain, I'm fairly sure that's what the scheduling problem was all about - not that the machine wasn't available, but that there was no one to run the machine. It seems to me that if you're so all-fired in need of platelet donations, you'd crank every one of those puppies up. But that would require that you staff more than the usual three phlebotomists on a Saturday. And that would require paying overtime and that's verboten. Gotta keep those costs down and all that. Which implies to me there's a disconnect between the mission of the blood center and the execution of the mission.

    Bottom line is don't call me telling me how desperate you are for me to donate and then tell me you can't take my donation for two weeks. It makes you look bad and frustrates me.

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    Tuesday, January 27, 2004

    What color is that exactly?

    Nate and I got together for dinner last night as planned and managed to paint the town red. Well, ok, maybe not red. Pink? Oh, shoot, the truth is we managed to paint the town pasty white, but that doesn't make a good story, now does it?

    I met Nate in the lobby of his hotel and as we were walking out, he spotted one of his coworkers (Craig) sitting there. After the normal, "Hey, I see you made it ok" talk, it was quickly decided that Craig should accompany us to dinner. It was either that or let him go back to his room to try to make tomato soup from some old packets of catsup and some tepid water. So along he came. Turns out, yesterday was Craig's birthday, so I'm glad he wasn't stuck at the hotel eating lukewarm, runny ketchup and stale Toastchees.

    The addition of Craig did change the dynamic of the evening somewhat as he was a total blog neophyte. Nate did a pretty good job of explaining what a blog was (I learned a thing or two in the process!) and Craig soon began to understand that he was in the presence of two totally crazed nutjobs who actually think total strangers might be interested in the minutia of their lives. With that settled, we headed downtown to eat us some barbeque. Found a great parking spot and even managed to parallel park the car on the left side of the street without scraping the sidewalls (left handed is so much harder 'cause you do it so rarely).

    Walked the block and a half to Riscky's only to find that it was closed for a private party. Remember when I said my old company served a lot of Riscky's food. Yep, they were the ones who had the restaurant for the night. We thought briefly about crashing the party, but the thought of spending the rest of the evening sitting at a table with guys I didn't know didn't appeal to me. (Heh)

    So, it was back down the street to Razoo's. We got the cutest waitress in the place (but alas, none of us could remember her name afterwards, so I'll call her the PYT from here out), but more on that later. Beverages were ordered and then the hard work of figuring out what to eat commenced. I had had my mouth all set for ribs, so I had to recalibrate it for Cajun. Fortunately, I've learned how to do this over the years and was able to switch gears several nanoseconds after seeing the Razoo's menu.

    Nate selected the crawfish etouffee, Craig had the jalapeno catfish and I went for the Cajun combo skillet. Like I said before, anything served in a cast iron skillet has to be good. We had a good time talking and eating with several visits to the table from the PYT. Her only mistake of the evening was trying to take my skillet from me when there were still edibles in it. I scared her off with my fork (not really) and she was kind of skittish about taking things off the table after that (for some reason).

    Things started getting a little bizarre when the PYT came to the table to tell us she was going to be unavailable for the next five minutes or so as her insulin pump had come all discombobulated and she needed to go get it hooked up and working again. Hey, no problem for us, since by that point we were mostly done and were more into taking up table space than eating. We realized just how strange things can get with type 2 diabetes when she stopped by a little while later to see if any of us birthday boys needed some free dessert (we said no, believe it or not) and then said she'd go get the check. When she came back to the table, she laid a handful of bills and some change down on the table and thanked us for coming in.

    "What's that?" we asked, pointing to the change.

    "That's your change." she said, looking at us funny.

    "No, that's not ours, you haven't brought the check yet."

    "Yes I have. And you paid cash. And that's your change."

    "Nope. Not ours."

    At which point she is looking around at the other tables just a wee bit frantically.

    "Y'all are lying to me!" (Would three ornery old cuss' do that to a sweet young girl? Well, yeah. But THIS time we were innocent!)

    "No, really, we aren't."

    I don't know if she ever figured out who's change that was, but we did finally get a tab. Turns out her blood sugar was more out of whack than she thought. Before we left, we managed to get a picture or two taken as proof that we were there. The PYT sat on Nate's knee and we all scrunched up to get in the frame. I remembered just in time that, just maybe, it would be a good idea if BOTH of my hands were visible in the picture, otherwise there could be some WILD SPECULATIONS of just where that other hand wound up. You can see the picture here (hope Nate doesn't mind me co-opting his bandwidth). That's me on the left and Nate in the middle and Craig on the right. I think you can figure out which one is the PYT.

    Nate is a pretty stand-up guy and even bought me a truck for my birthday. 'Course it IS a little small and all, but I figure if I buy seven more of 'em I can duct tape 'em to my shoes and have roller skates. The picture for that is here.

    After leaving Razoo's, we walked another whole block to the Flying Saucer (I was going to link, but with the abundance of scantily clad women on their site ... well, you can just Google it for yourself. And no, none of them were there.), where the beer menu is larger than the food menu by several orders of magnitude. We spent about another 45 minutes having an after dinner libation and then it was time to call it a night (beauty sleep and all that). We piled back into the car and headed back to the hotel. I made it back to the Aardvark burrow by ten after ten. That's a late night for me. (Wild and Crazy - or least one of those)

    I think everyone had a good time. I know I did. We did spend just a minute or two speculating on how we could finagle a trip to Birmingham to meet up with the Big Daddy Possum, but without too much success since none of us had any particular reason we could use as a cover, nor money to get there if we did.

    We all got a good laugh out of how both our wives first comment upon hearing about us meeting up was, "He's not some sort of weirdo, is he?" I think the answer for both of us is, "Yes, definitely." But we mean that in a good way.

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    Monday, January 26, 2004

    Fortunately, Mrs. A is the only one who heard me.

    There was a Youth Council meeting after church yesterday. The meeting was well attended by the Aardvark clan (four out of four). We were going over the calendar for the next four months, cussing and discussing (well at least ONE of those) the scheduled events and activities. In May, the church has a revival scheduled. How you schedule THAT is something that still confuses me, but it's a Baptist church and it's a tradition. (TRADITION! Can anybody tell that I watched the first half of The Fiddler on the Roof this weekend?)

    The youth minister is getting married the Saturday prior to the Sunday kickoff of the revival, so when he was discussing the activities for May, he said, "Y'all will be doing some spiritual stuff during this week, but you'll have to do it without me."

    To which, I said (out loud no less), "Oh, he'll be having a religious experience all right."

    The Missus seemed to think that was funny.

    "What's so funny?" asked the youth minister.


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    They're so, well ... juvenile.

    The last Aardvark birthday was back in October. As some of you may recall, there are certain, shall we say "traditions" (The PAPAs, the PAPAs. Tradition!) that coincide with these occasions. One of these, you can read about here (in fact, I recommend reading it, as it will help the rest of what I'm going to say make sense. And y'all know that any help making-sense-wise of what I write is a good thing).

    A certain Aardvark father, who shall remain unnamed (ACAF,WSRU) is having a birthday tomorrow. He made sure to bring this up over the weekend. The conversation went something like this.
    ACAF,WSRU: "There are only 3 more days until my BIRTHDAY!"

    Youngest Aardvark Child (YAC): "Dad. Didn't we tell you? We've called off your birthday this year."

    ACAF,WSRU: "Nuh, uh. You said that LAST year too."

    YAC: "Yeah, well, THIS year it's true."

    ACAF,WSRU: "Nuh, uh again. I talked to Mom and she told me you're just teasing. So there!"
    Oh wait a minute...this was supposed to be a post on why kids are so juvenile.


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    Don't these people

    know it's a Monday? You're not supposed to have to work on Monday's. Isn't that the rule? What? Oh.

    It's not?



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    Friday, January 23, 2004

    Help wanted

    The blogs on the right are 'must reads' for me. Who's on your 'must read' list that I don't have on mine?

    Comments appreciated.

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    Blog roll additions

    I've added several new blogs to the sidebar.

    The Rough Woodsman is a group blog that I've been enjoying.

    MaltaGirl runs a blog called I have not been called to the wisdom of this world. Of all places, she lives in Malta. Who'd a thunk it?

    Lee Anne Millinger has such small hands. Warning. She tends to stay pretty up-beat, so if you're looking for a woe-is-me type read, you'll probably need to keep looking.

    I don't know about Joe Bob, but LittleA says, "Check 'em out."

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    Is that a light up ahead?

    There may be an end in sight to my two day pile on. Or not.

    But in any case, I am taking a lunch today, late as it is.

    I've run across a couple of things in the last few days that made me laugh. Lee has a great recipe from Chef Pincotti that I absolutely MUST try some day. I might have to go to that upscale Central Market place, though, to find fresh iguana. Alberson's only carries the frozen variety.

    Also adding to the laugh track is Brian. He has a new pen pal and has been posting his correspondence for all to see. Here, here and here. Stay tuned for the next installment from the Applesauce King.

    If you're not laughing after reading that stuff, you're suffering from a serious humor deficiency. (Just to make sure we're clear, that's a serious humor-deficiency, not a serious-humor deficiency, 'cause that wouldn't make sense now would it?)

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    Thursday, January 22, 2004

    Hey! Where'd everybody go?

    Well, I'm still at work, burning the six-o'clock oil (followed by the seven-o'clock and eight-o'clock oil, I'm sure). Just got a phone call from the spouse saying that the blood center called and they desperately need my platelets. I called back and am now scheduled for another 8 AM session this Saturday. On an old machine (hopefully it'll work better for an old guy). So we'll see how it goes. I don't know that I was really well hydrated the last time I tried so I'll work at tanking up on the fluids Friday night. (No, I didn't say I was planning to get tanked on Friday. That's different.)

    I'd better get back to it. Bon soir.

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    And on the fourth day the boss did say
    Yea, tis been decreed from on high, that the results from the previous Year of Our Lord be updated forthwith. Wherefore let us hasten our endeavors to comply with such a beneficent request with all our might; lest the pallor of unemployment fall upon us.

    Thus we find ourselves, within the confines of these walls, diligently working out the vagaries of what hath been wrought, to enumerate thereupon so that our days may be long and fruitful as vassals of so great a master; having no time, therefore, to engage in the idle sport and frivolity of riposte and repartee.

    Anon, I say. Anon.

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    Wednesday, January 21, 2004

    Dinner with Nate

    Is scheduled for Monday. Here are a couple of our dining options.

    Angelo's - Angelo's is a Fort Worth institution. It's been a while since I've been, but my taste buds remember it well. I recommend the Combo plate.

    Riscky's - Now normally I wouldn't eat at a place called Riscky's (even if there is an extra letter in there), but my former employer held many a meeting where Riscky's food was served. I recommend the All You Can Eat Ribs. We used to joke that afterwards you could pick your teeth and make a chopped beef sandwich. (Sorry to those of you I just grossed out.)

    Razzoo's Cajun Cafe - Aaayieee! Dem folks from de swomp sure know how to eat. This is an old menu, but I recommend the chicken wings from hell (you'll pay tomorrow, ah guarantee!), the chicken tchoupitoulas or the Cajun Combo skillet (anything served in cast iron has to be good).

    Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen - Another good Cajun menu, although a little more upscale. But the portions are upscale too. I recommend the Crawfish Platter (mmmm...dirty rice).

    So Nate, what's it gonna be?

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    The SOTU viewing

    at the Aardvark house was kind of humorous this year. The EAC watched it with me and she's old enough now that she actually followed along on most of it.

    The president would make a statement and people would clap and she'd ask, "Is that good?" She definitely made it more entertaining than it would have been otherwise. We had fun making up commentary when they cut to the crowd.

    There were three big entertaining moments for us. The first was when GWB set the Democrats up on the Patriot Act. He HAD to know that his first line would draw some support/applause from the other side of the aisle. And they went for it, thinking they had caught him in a faux pas (as opposed to a REAL pas, I guess), and then hoisted them on their own petard.

    The second was seeing Ted "He hasn't died of cirrhosis yet?" Kennedy sitting glumly stroking his jowls with the back of his hand. For all I know he could have been checking his shave thinking, "I gotta get me one of them new Schick Octos."

    The third was seeing Charlie Rangel snoozing with his chin on his chest there towards the end. Looks like SOMEONE had one too many cocktails after dinner if you ask me.

    It was somewhat strange to see the rank-and-file military guys in the First Lady's box seem so disinterested in what was going on. I wouldn't want to be in their (well shined) shoes this morning as their CO's can't help but be just a little on the pissed side. "PAY ATTENTION, MAGGOT! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?"

    The Democratic response was worthless as usual. In all fairness, the Republican responses to Clinton's SOTU addresses were equally worthless. I don't know why they call them responses, since Nancy "I can stare YOU down, bub" Pelosi and Tom "Let's label the lettuce" Daschle didn't seem to hear the same SOTU speech I did. Instead of calling it the Democratic response they should just call it what it is, the Democratic rhetoric. Then again, I guess that would be a little TOO honest and straightforward.

    We started out with ABC, but had to switch over to FOX because I couldn't handle any more of Peter Jenning's smarm. My dad would say he'd like to buy that guy for what he's worth and sell him for what he thought he was worth.

    Then again, my dad says a lot of things. He always told me, "Son, all my other kids I had to pay to be good. You were always good for nothing." Ummm. Thanks dad. I think.

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    Oh, NOW I get it

    You mean all that "State of the Union" talk yesterday wasn't about my previous post? I thought y'all wanted to hear about the state of my ... oh. Well, nevermind.

    Seriously, I am always surprised by what generates comments and what doesn't generate comments. I don't know why I'm surprised, because in my own blog surfing, I'm as fickle as the next person about leaving comments - well except for the couple of blogs who can't get me to shut up and go away, that is.

    Anyway, as they say on the playground, "No blood, no foul."

    Play on!

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    Tuesday, January 20, 2004

    Now you're speaking my language!

    What is love, you ask? (What? You didn't? Why not?)

    It's easier to start out with what it isn't. Love isn't warm, fuzzy feelings and tingling up your spine. Love isn't the desire to be with a particular person 24/7. (that's stalking, it's easy to get them confused) Love IS a conscious decision. It's an act of the will. It's a commitment. It's a dedication to the welfare and well being of another. It's the willingness to subjugate your own needs and consider another's as your own. (It's a lot of hard work, that's what it is)

    My wife and I both have the same view of love. That's one of the reasons that divorce has never been an option for us. Even in those times when we were miserably unhappy, the idea of divorce was completely off the table. We pledged our love to each other and to God when we were married. It was a covenant not entered into lightly and with no back doors or escape hatches. Now, with that said, let me also say that love is also better when you HAVE those warm, fuzzy feelings and tinglings and such. Nothing wrong with those as long as you don't mistake them for the real thing.

    I've mentioned before, that there was a time in the early '90s that my wife and I were like two strangers living together. I was at work (constantly) busily trying to climb the corporate ladder and she was at home with an infant and a preschooler. Those were difficult days filled with what she and I both thought at the time was indifference. In hindsight, we really weren't indifferent to each other, we just didn't know how to communicate our love for each other. As the Righteous Brothers would say, we'd "lost that lovin' feeling."

    It took some difficult conversations and quite a few miserable days and nights before we realized that we either had to make some changes or we had to resign ourselves to living together unhappily ever after. We made changes. One big change is that we started talking again. We also attended a marriage retreat weekend. We started scheduling time for just the two of us. Over the course of a couple of months, we discovered that we still liked each other. And slowly but surely we climbed up out of the relational purgatory that we had created. One of the things we decided to do was to make the marriage retreat an annual event.

    It was a couple of years later, at one of those retreats, that we first heard of Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages. All of a sudden, the lights went on in both of our heads. Duh! This is EXACTLY what we needed before. Life would have been SO much different had we just known.

    You see, Dr. Chapman's premise was this: not everyone expresses love in the same way. Seems kind of obvious when you think about it, but let me tell you, it was news to us. He identified five major ways (he calls them 'languages') that people us to express love. He also observed that the way a person expresses love is also the way they expect to RECEIVE it. But most people marry partners who don't express love the same way (don't speak the same language), which is what leads to a huge chunk of marital problems. I don't know about everybody else, but he sure was right with us.

    The five languages are

    Words of Affirmation People who speak this language need to hear that they are loved on a regular basis. Love notes, poems, kind words, praise (extra points for praise in front of others), pet names and encouragement are all things that float their boat.

    Quality Time People who speak this language need to spend time together with their loved ones regularly. Working on projects, vacations, being accompanied on trips to the hardware or grocery store, watching TV together - it doesn't matter what the activity is as long as it's TOGETHER.

    Gifts People who speak this language need to receive tokens of love frequently. A card, a hat, a note, photographs, vases, diamonds, books, movies, flowers. It's not so much that the gift has to be big or expensive (although those are good too), but that it is personal and given from the heart. These are the people who keep EVERYTHING they've ever been given. They are also the ones who give you things and are hurt if you don't use them or display them prominently.

    Acts of Service People who speak this language like doing things for others and expect the same in return. Mowing the lawn, putting gas in the car, washing dishes, windows or laundry, cooking dinner, making a bookshelf. These folks are always busy and usually can't sit still for long. They never "just" watch TV, they watch TV and iron or watch TV and fold clothes or watch TV and get up to change the spark plugs during commercials. The expression, "What have you done for me lately?" was probably spoken by someone with this love language.

    Physical Touch People who speak this language need to feel the touch of their loved ones regularly. Ok, well the obvious one is sex, but this is more than that. Holding hands, hugging, smooching, throwing a leg over your partner's when seated on the couch, skooching up close when there's plenty of room. All of these things are typical for someone speaking this language.

    Nobody speaks just ONE language to the exclusion of the others, but people tend to have one or two that are predominant. My wife is an Acts of Service (or Axe of Service, depending) kind of gal. She doesn't know how to goof off because there's always something to be done. If the laundry is done and the beds are made and dinner is in the oven and the dishes are washed and the bathrooms cleaned and the den painted and the yard landscaped, THEN she'll relax. But she does it 'cause she loves us. I didn't understand that for the longest time. You see, I'm a Quality Time/Physical Touch kind of guy. I thought she was always busy DOING things as a way to avoid spending any time with me. My complaint was that she always had a list of things to do and being with me was always at the bottom of the list. Heck, cleaning out the garage was ahead of me! She, on the other hand, couldn't figure out why I never did anything for her. Couldn't I see what needed to be done? If I loved her, why wasn't I out there cleaning out that garage so she wouldn't have to?

    I couldn't understand why, when I came home from work and she was fixing dinner and I snuck up behind her and smooched her neck SHE GOT MAD and didn't want to be bothered. She was busy you see, trying to show me how much she loved me by fixing me dinner. All I saw was that she didn't like me to kiss her and didn't want to be hugged. We didn't speak each other's language and the worst part was, WE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT.

    Like I said, the first time we heard this, the lights went on. I looked at her and she looked at me and we both said, "Now I get it."

    Life since then has been so much easier. I make an extra effort to do things before she asks. Showing her how much I love her is as simple as saying, "Hey honey, leave the dishes. I'll do them." or "I noticed your car was low on gas, so I took it and filled it up." She on the other hand, makes an extra effort to STOP working and just sit with me on the sofa or give me a hug and a kiss when I get home from work. Let me tell you, there are some really big advantages to being "bilingual."

    And it helps with the kids too. Our oldest is a Quality Time/Words of Affirmation kid. The youngest is a Physical Touch/Gifts kid. Each one is motivated differently. Each one is corrected differently.

    If you haven't heard about this stuff before, I strongly recommend the book.

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    Date night

    Was a smashing success. Razoo's (Cajun) was the restaurant of choice and we went slightly off the ol' diet, with Tchopatoulas for the wife, and Andouille sausage, red beans and rice for yours truly (vegetables? what are those?).

    Not feeling especially rowdy, we went straight home after dinner, much to our children's chagrin. "Your home already?" Which translated means, 'we were going to goof off for another couple of hours and then run around like crazy right before you got home to make it look like we'd been doing our homework the whole time.'

    Chores were done, homework was completed and there was still time enough left for them to goof off too. Life IS good.

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    Monday, January 19, 2004

    At the intersection of blogging and life

    Waiting for the light to change, as usual.

    Way back the the early days of this blog (Heh. That's like having a six-year old tell you, "Back when I was just a kid."), I had only told two people about it. Neither of those was my wife. (one is still a regular reader, the other never mentions it, so I figure he's forgotten all about it, which, now that I have YOU, dear reader, is ok with me)

    One of the reasons I didn't tell my wife about it is that, given my track record of starting things and not sticking with them and being the poster child for good intentions (but few results), I didn't want to have yet another failure added to the man-I'm-in-love-with-who-drives-me-crazy-sometimes list. (Not that she HAS such a list, but if she did it'd be hard-bound and set in small type, and she'd currently be working on Volume 4.)

    Another reason is that it gave me a little virtual space to collect my thoughts and see if there was any pattern to the randomness (there isn't). I blog under a pseudonym mostly because, in the early days, I didn't want to be discovered accidentally. I continue to blog under a pseudonym because a) inertia is our friend b) I don't want my computer savvy kids to Google dear ol' dad's name and discover all the things he's told the world about them. At least not yet.

    But that's a side track, let's get back to the main point (and yes, I do have one). It's been some time now, at least several months, since I told Mrs. A that she, in fact, WAS Mrs. A. By default. Since I am LittleA and all. It was somewhat of a relief to tell her, mostly because I don't like keeping secrets from my wife. I'm not ashamed of anything I've written (embarrassed maybe, but not ashamed) and I've ALWAYS written with the understanding in the back of my mind that my wife and kids (someday) would be reading everything I wrote. (Why they'd WANT to is another question entirely) Anyway, Mrs. A pokes her nose through my pointless ramblings from time to time.

    I have received the requisite kitchen pass to entertain Nate at a restaurant (unless it's barbecue, then it's a "joint") yet to be selected one week from tonight. That's good. But it's also bad. You see, I have committed the number one deadliest sin of marital omission: I took her for granted. It's bad enough that I have this blog and get to write every day when Mrs. A WANTED to be a writer and has no outlet (or time, according to her) for her creativity (other than the annual Christmas letter...yeah, we're one of THOSE families), but now I went and scheduled a COMPLETE STRANGER for dinner when I haven't taken her out in forever. She didn't yell or make a big fuss, but she did tell me that it hurt her feelings just a little.


    I'm fixing that tonight. I just called up the Mrs. and asked her what her plans were for this evening. Since she had none, I told her that WE are going to dinner. Without the kids. (Thank heavens they're old enough to leave home alone) It was hard to tell (NOT!), but I think she liked the idea.

    As to her writing, I have been suggesting since I told her about the blog, that SHE should get a blog of her own. She could post during the day when the kids were at school. She keeps saying, "Nah" in that 'aw shucks' kind of way, but I think deep down she really wants to. I think part of her reluctance is that she is intimidated just a little by the technology (she's the least computer savvy of all the Aardvarks), but I'm going to keep working on her. If she DOES decide to start a blog, I'll be sure to let y'all know so you can go say "hi". (What are you saying!?! What if they like HER more than YOU?)

    Anyway, we'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

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    Friday, January 16, 2004

    Yet more proof

    That age and cunning will beat youth and vigor any day.

    Gotta keep those young pups in their place.

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    I must say that as a child, the Gypsy option was offered to me on more than one occassion.

    Hang in there Jordana. Cut fingers are par for the course (and cut chins and split lips and smashed fingers and burned fingers and ... well, you get the idea).

    Our kids were pretty much guaranteed a trip to the Emergency Room/Doctor's office the day before they were scheduled to have their pictures taken. As a result, we have quite a collection of pictures of bumped, bruised and battered children (Hey, another option for B_____, B_____, B_____ ). People who don't know us might think we abused them. "Hey, what's that blue stuff on my chin?" says the Youngest Aardvark Child. "Those are the stitches you had put in the day before."

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    What I want to know is, what do penguins know about architecture, anyway?

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    A Plan!

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    We have a plan! The Eldest Aardvark Child has committed to studying her driving materials for one hour every Saturday plus an extra hour every other weekend. She has 12 hours of course work left, so she should finish up in eight weeks. Wow, that really wasn't hard at all. And the best part was, I didn't have to prompt her.

    Now, as was mentioned in the comments below, the challenge will be to get her to actually DO IT. But at least we have an agreed upon plan of action that we can hold her to.

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    Rough 'n' ready

    I noticed today in the ol' referrer logs that somebody got here from The Rough Woodsman (which is a nice looking blog, by the way).

    I've never heard of this blog before, but I did a little looking around and I think it's one I'll keep an eye on.

    Anyway, in a weak moment, they (Swamphopper, Dogman, Inkling and Theroughwoodsman) added a link to yours truly on the sidebar. Hey fella's (I'm assuming), thanks for Roughing me up!

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    Some days are like that

    Sounds like Jim is having one of THOSE days. I've had a few myself.

    So far, I've spent most of my day in meeting purgatory. Maybe this afternoon I'll actually get some work done.

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    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    Are your hands clean?

    I don't know why, but I was thinking about my dad a little bit ago. You might say, he's somewhat of a character (and if you did, you'd be right).

    When I was 10, we lived on a bulb farm (daffodils, gladiolas & iris mostly) and he would come in after walking the fields and say, "Son. Are your hands clean?"

    If I said yes, his next comment was, "Well come here and take my shoes off for me." And of course, they would be caked with dirt and mud and so I'd wind up with dirty hands that needed washing when I was done.

    And if I said no? Then my dad would say, "Well go wash your hands and then come and take my shoes off for me." And I had to wash them and let him inspect them before he'd let me take off his shoes.

    You'd think I'd have grown up to be bitter and resentful about it, but thinking about it always makes me smile and laugh.

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    You can't make this stuff up

    The Dallas city council has postponed a vote on condemning the Patriot Act until AFTER the mayor makes a trip to Washington to ask for more Federal money.

    That's what I like to see in public officials: principles.

    The other thing I like to see in public officials? Why, grandstanding on issues outside the scope of their control, of course. Why talk about street repair, the water supply, sanitation needs or tax revenues when they can be talking about the Patriot Act or international relations? (oh yeah, and free Mumia)

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    The Saga Continues

    Are you tired of this yet? Just askin'.

    So bedtime rolls around again at the Aardvark burrow, and not a peep to be heard from the Eldest Aardvark Child. Some lessons are harder than others I guess.

    So with the Youngest Aardvark Child safely ensconced in her bed, the subject is broached. By me. Again.

    "EAC, I'm very disappointed that I haven't heard anything from you about your driving. It's been three days since I asked you to figure out how you're going to finish up your course work so you can get your license, and you haven't said a word about it unless I bring it up first. At a minimum, you should at least tell me that you haven't forgotten about it and tell me when you plan on thinking about it."

    "If I don't hear a plan from you by tomorrow, you will lose all your TV, computer, GameBoy and book (the deepest cut of all, believe it or not) privileges until further notice. If you can't come up with a plan, I'll come up with one for you."

    Looking at her face as I was saying this was like looking in a mirror. I remember well that 'deer-in-the-headlights' look. The fact that she's hearing this from me instead of her mother (who was sitting right there) made it all the more shocking. I'm the "Hey, whatever" parent not the stern task-master.

    When I kissed her good night, I told her, "Avoiding things doesn't make them go away. I know 'cause I'm the biggest conflict avoider in the world. You are WAY too much like me, poor kid."

    Then Mrs. Aardvark and I plotted our plan of action for today. For a change, Mrs. A gets to play the "Good Cop." Normally SHE'S the heavy. I told her that I thought part of the problem was that the EAC didn't really know what I wanted when I talked about a plan (Hey, part of the goal is getting her to ASK for help when she needs it, instead of trying to fake her way through life like her old man), so Mrs. A should take the opportunity in the morning to ask the EAC, "Do you know what dad wants?" If she says, "No," then she can ask, "Do you want me to help?" and offer her advice/insight.

    So that's what happened this morning. Come to find out, the EAC WAS confused and didn't know how much detail I wanted (heaven forbid she should ASK). They had a good talk, and I'll be shocked tonight if the EAC doesn't initiate the conversation.

    All I'm looking for is something as simple as, "I'm going to work on it for an hour every Saturday afternoon until it's done."

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    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    Some days

    Are easier than others.

    Blogging-wise, that is. (As opposed to wise blogging, which is another thing altogether)

    You see, I have this employee who sits in the cube next to mine. And she's real, shall we say...chatty. Especially when she knows I'm at lunch (the food on my desk is a dead giveaway).

    Before I blogged, I used to read the newspaper at lunch. When I moved to this cubicle, I had to give that up as everytime the newspaper came out, she turned up. Now at least if I'm typing, she might think I'm working and not bother me. (Well, she MIGHT)

    Most of the time, I don't mind lending a sympathetic ear. Unless, like today, it was just a repeat of everything she told me yesterday.

    I could say something, and if it were a real problem (as opposed to just an annoyance) I would, but she's one of these types who gets her feelings hurt and pouts. And she can't let go either, so two years from now, out of the blue, she'll remind you of how you hurt her feelings by not wanting to listen to her while you were at lunch.

    Continuing to read what's on the internet, or typing up an off-line blog entry isn't enough for her to get the hint. Usually the only thing I can do is, after listening for an appropriate length of time, excusing myself to make a trip to the break room for more coffee, or to the rest room to get rid of some. Generally (but not always) when I get back, she's gone back to work and will give me some space.

    It could be worse, I guess.

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    Maurice Clarett

    Agreed to plead guilty to a lessor oops, make that lesser charge, which won't show up on a criminal record and paid a fine of $100 instead of facing charges for filing a false police report.

    He is also talking to The Ohio State University about rejoining the football team.

    Boy howdy, that'll show him there's no future in lying and cheating.

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    Oil on Mars

    When I first heard about Joe Conason's statement about Halliburton being all gung-ho to drill on Mars, I thought, "Hmmm. Something doesn't sound right here."

    As I recall, I learned in elementary school that oil was formed from the decayed remnants of plants and animals, and last I checked, we haven't found any plants OR animals on Mars yet (John Carter could tell you for sure. Now THERE's an obscure reference). So where would the greedy-Halliburton-wanna-get-there-first oil come from? (Reminds me of a bumper sticker: "Earth First. We'll strip mine the other planets later")

    Sure enough, turns out that the NASA wanted to do some core samples and needed someone with expertise on drilling and drill bits. Enter Halliburton.

    As the Puppy Blender would say: Heh.

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    Keeps on slippin'.

    No word from the Eldest Aardvark Child last night. Tonight we begin doling out "consequences".


    I TOLD you she was like her father.

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    Tuesday, January 13, 2004

    More platelet fun

    I tried again on Saturday to donate platelets. Got hooked up to the same machine as last time and this time it seemed to go well. Until about halfway through when my vein gave out (the new machine returns much faster and so creates more pressure than the old machines). I have a nice 1" circular bruise now to show for it. I am going to give it one more try in a couple more weeks (but NOT on that machine) and if that doesn't work, I think I'll just go back to giving whole blood every eight weeks or so. I hate to give up, but I hate having a sore arm too.

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    In case you ever wondered

    I can vouch for the sharpness of the blade on the Pampered Chef Food Chopper.

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    The lights are on, but ...

    So I waited patiently last night for the EAC to bring up the subject of driving and her plan to finish up the work she needs to do for her drivers license.

    And I waited.

    And waited.

    As I kissed her goodnight (you never get to old for a goodnight hug and kiss), I told her

    "So, I didn't hear any plan tonight."

    "I know. I meant to, but I didn't have time today to think about it."

    "Ok. But I didn't hear anything about NOT having a plan tonight either. I can't hear what goes on inside your head."


    As I turned off the light, I told her, "You'd better take care of this soon before it comes back and bites you."

    We'll wait and see.

    Any bets on whether we'll hear any driving plans tonight?

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    Monday, January 12, 2004

    Once more into the breach

    A belated addition to the blogroll over there on the right.

    I've been reading Paul Baxter's Every Blog Needs a Title for some time now and have not linked him out of sheer laziness on my part. He went and upped the ante the other day by linking me, so now I feel guilty and all.

    Anyway, Paul is one of them there "thinkers" or as we say in Texas, "thankers," and he seems to read a lot too. Being a shallow swimmer, I don't always follow, but I usually know when to nod and say, "hmmmm."

    Y'all check him out.

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    Man, that stinks

    Nate and his BSU (Beloved Spousal Unit) were on their way to a fun weekend when calamity stuck. He rolled his truck. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but it sure did make for a lousy weekend (that's carrying over, I'm sure). Y'all go give him a word of encouragement and hit the PayPal button if you can.

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    Hello? Are you in there?

    The Eldest Aardvark Child (EAC) is very much like her old man. Too much for her own good at times.

    Quiet? Check.
    Introverted? Check.
    Passive-Aggressive? Check.

    What she hasn't figured out yet is that some of the things I get by with (being the dad and all) she can't. That doesn't mean she doesn't try.

    This morning's drive-to-school conversation went something like this:

    LittleA - "Do you ever think sometimes that most of your life happens inside your head?"

    EAC - "Yeah, that's true."

    LittleA - "It's like other people would be shocked if they knew all the things that happened inside there."

    EAC - "Totally."

    LittleA - "You are too much like me. That's scary."


    LittleA - "You know there's a downside to living inside your head, don't you?"

    EAC - "There is?"

    LittleA - "Yeah. What happens is that since other people can't see what's happening in your head, all they have to go on is what you say and do."

    EAC (sensing this conversation is going somewhere) - "Oh."

    LittleA (not letting her off the hook, now that it's set) - "Yeah. Take this weekend for instance. I KNOW that you have good intentions and stuff, but all I have to go by is the results."

    EAC - "You mean like my driving stuff, right?" (she's supposed to be finishing up the course work so she can actually GET her license - something we talked about just last week)

    LittleA - "Yeah, that, and ..." At which point I listed about five things she was supposed to do/should have done over the weekend. Most very minor, but indicative of the larger problem nonetheless. "The way I see it, there are only two solutions to the problem. You either have to let some of what's in your head out by talking to us. I mean, if we're being unreasonable you should tell us, right? Or you have to actually DO the things you're supposed to do."

    EAC - "Yeah, I know."

    LittleA - "I realize that I don't always set the best example when it comes to getting things done, but that's not an excuse for you not doing things. I get by with things that will get YOU in trouble."


    LittleA - "Your mom is starting to talk about 'consequences' and I think we should handle this before it gets to that point. I've been able to put her off until now, but I don't know how much longer that will last. I suggest you spend some of that time inside your head developing a plan to share with your mom on exactly how/when you're going to finish up your license stuff. This evening wouldn't be too soon to have a plan." Hint. Hint.

    Now, the EAC has taken all of this very well - no pouting, no sulling up (I'm telling ya, she's too much like her dad). As she gets out of the car and reaches into the back seat for her French horn she says, "I don't know why I brought this home, I didn't practice it. I was going to yesterday, but we had that meeting after church and I didn't have time."

    LittleA - "No. You didn't have time then, but you DID manage to read THREE books this weekend, not to mention playing on the computer several times."

    EAC (grinning) - "Yeah."

    I don't know WHERE she gets it from. Really.


  • |

    Friday, January 09, 2004

    Keith Green

    The single biggest musical influence for a particular young Aardvark was a guy by the name of Keith Green. His first album, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, was released in 1977 and in a very short time, he became the 600 lb. gorilla of the early CCM scene. Keith didn't play the piano, he romped on it. You just hung on for the ride. What made Keith stand out from the rest of the artists (see my list from Wednesday) was that they were musicians with a message. He was a preacher with a song. Big difference. No, huge difference

    His second album, No Compromise, was released in 1978 and while still being fun to listen to, had a much more serious tone to it. He took a stark look at everyday issues and pulled no punches, many times writing songs from the perspective of a heart-broken and disappointed God. His most controversial lyric appeared in the song To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice
    To obey is better than sacrifice.
    I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights,
    Cause if you can't come to me every day,
    Then don't bother coming at all.
    His producers thought the "don't bother" was too strong, but Keith insisted that it remain unchanged.

    By his third album, it was clear that Keith was different from everyone else out there. In those days, there were three big record companies: Word, Sparrow and Myrrh. Keith was with Sparrow and wanted to do something that was unheard of at the time (or since, for that matter). He wanted to GIVE his music away. For some reason, the label didn't think that was a good idea. Middle ground was reached and Keith was allowed to form his own label and issued his third album, So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt, in 1980. You could purchase this album, just like any other, or if you didn't have the money, you could write to Last Days Ministries (an mission organization started by Keith and Melody Green) and they would SEND YOU ONE. FREE.

    For some reason, Keith had this crazy idea that what he was doing wasn't a job or a way to make a lot of money (although it was both of those things), he felt like what he was doing was a MINISTRY. It wasn't about him, it was about the MESSAGE. And if he could get the message out to more people by giving away his music, then that's what he thought he should do.

    I was able to attend a Keith Green concert in Vancouver, Washington. It was in the Hudson's Bay High School Gym/Auditorium which seated about 3,000 people. You had to have a ticket to get in, but the tickets were FREE. There were no tables with Keith Green T-Shirts and Keith Green key chains and Keith Green coffee cups and Keith Green posters. None of the normal stuff you would associate with a concert. There was a table where you could get information about Last Days Ministries and sign up for their newsletter. You could make a donation too, but it wasn't required (or even 'suggested'). I got inside, and there he was, on a platform with just him and a piano and a microphone or two. The concert lasted for about two hours and I think he preached more than he sang. But that was ok. He challenged people to examine their lives and quit playing games with God. When it was time to leave, everyone got up and filed out quietly - what he had said had made such an impact. I've never witnessed anything else like it.

    Keith Green died in a plane crash in 1982 (on an overloaded sight seeing trip with some visiting friends). CCM has not seen anything like him since (although Rich Mullins is sometimes compared). And while it may not be fair, I can't help judging (a little too harshly, I'm sure) the current batch of CCM artists against the standard set by Keith. How much is it about the message and how much is it about them? (T-Shirts! Get your T-Shirts!) Like I said earlier, they're musicians with a (hopefully) message, not preachers with a song.

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    Gracias, Merci, Danke

    Thanks to all who have left comments the past several days. I didn't expect it to "strike a chord", as Nate would say (how dare he beat me to it!), but I have enjoyed the discussion. Music is something that everyone has an opinion on (mine's right, by the way), so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by the volume and quality of the responses.

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    Thursday, January 08, 2004


    The nerve of these people I work with, expecting me to work when I have a blog to write. This is (probably) it for the day.

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    Wednesday, January 07, 2004

    Can of worms, part two

    Well, this might as well be music week around here.

    I didn't listen to a lot of "my own" music until I was in high school. Prior to that, most of what I listened to belonged to my parents (classical, southern gospel, Mantovanni) or to my older siblings (folk, light pop). We didn't own any rock 'n' roll stuff. My parents were against it. Too repetitive was one of the things they complained about (and my mom certainly didn't appreciate me pointing out the 'theme and variations' motif of her classical music either, for some reason). Anyway, I didn't have my own transistor radio to listen to until I was about 15 (and then it was turned WAY down low and placed under the pillow at night.

    So a lot of what I know about 60s and 70s music has been stuff I filled in towards the end of that time period. When I did move out and start buying my own music, I tended to buy a little jazz (Maynard Ferguson, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock) and a lot of what has come to be known as Contemporary Christian Music or CCM: Steve Camp, Amy Grant, Chuck Girard (solo as well as part of Love Song), Scott Wesley Brown, Chris Christian, Kelly Willard, Phil Keaggy, Dan Peek, David Meece, Petra, Fireworks, Sweet Comfort Band, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green, Terry Talbot, The Pat Terry Group, Dogwood, De Garmo & Key, Parable and Candle. That was the bulk of it.

    Not all of these folks are/were what you would call great musicians or great singers for that matter (but there were SOME: Phil Keaggy is an awesome guitar player, Keith Green rocked the piano, Brian Duncan's smooth vocals carried Sweet Comfort Band and Amy Grant is still Amy Grant). Most of them had some success in spite of their talent. Some succeeded due to the limited number of people who were in the CCM scene at the time. Most succeeded because the music they made had a message. If these same people were starting out today they would fail miserably. Would anybody be able to get past the warble of Don Francisco's voice today? Not likely. Pat Terry wrote great songs, but a great singer? Nah.

    Over the years as CCM became bigger and bigger, more talented folks began to be attracted to the niche. Today, I think you could easily say that the quality of music being produced by CCM artists is on par with the rest of the music world (how good THAT is, is an argument for another day). My biggest complaint about CCM today, though, is that the CCM artists in many cases are indistinguishable from the mainstream folks because they've left the message behind. Not all of them, but IMO too many (I know I'm painting with a broad brush). The alarm clock is set to KLTY at the Aardvark house. Many days, it might as well be set to KVIL. Some of the songs are the same.

    I can't remember the last time I was really challenged by the lyrics of a CCM song.

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    Close encounters

    Of the blogger kind. Looks like Nate is coming to town in a couple of weeks. This will be my first face-to-face encounter with another blogger. I'm looking forward to it, but my coworker (the one who's creeped out by the idea of blogging) thinks meeting someone from the internet is especially creepy. I told her she was welcome to come along, but for some reason she declined. ::shrug:: Anyway, just to be on the safe side, I thought maybe I should ask Nate a question.

    You're not some sort of creepy weirdo, are you?

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    999 points of light

    Meredith has stopped blogging. Unlike some who threaten and then relent, I think she's serious seeing as how she's even deleted her blog from off blogspot. Needless to say, I have removed the now defunct link from the sidebar.

    Her reasons for stopping were sound. She's an art student at Auburn, and the time she spent on the internet was undermining the time she should be spending developing her art. I'm sure it was a tough choice for her to make. She will be missed by those of us who enjoyed taking a peek inside her artistic brain. As talented as she is, I'm sure her name will resurface at some point, probably attached to a fantastic piece of art/design.

    Best of luck, Meredith. Via con Dios.

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    Tuesday, January 06, 2004

    Changing my tune?

    Well, I finally found a subject that got people talking. And as usual, I think I've put my foot in my mouth.

    Nate left a comment that said
    When its Christmas eve, I want to sing the songs in the way I grew up with them, not the way some high faluting music director thinks will justify their music degree.
    To which I replied
    Couldn't agree with you more, Nate. I've had this music discussion with our church organist (a woman in her mid 60s). We usually have a Christmas and an Easter musical and for the last number of years, I haven't really cared much for them. "Whatever happened to pieces like the old John W. Peterson cantatas?" I said. "They were so 'singable' I still hum them 30 years later."

    Her answer? "John W. Peterson was greatly loved by the congregation, but was considered too 'lowbrow' for the seminary trained music directors. And since they pick the music ..."
    Which led the Grouchy Old Yorkie Lady (GOYL) to leave this comment
    And in defense of committed and hard-working church music directors, I have to take exception to the idea that they choose "different" music to justify their degrees. I can't speak for other churches, but our music director puts in enormous effort rehearsing the various bands and selecting and praying over the music for that week's service.
    Which leaves me in an awkward (there's that word again!) position of saying we're both right.

    I have to agree with her that Nate's comment and my comment come across as a slam against ALL music directors. I can't speak for Nate, but that certainly wasn't my intent. I have known close to two dozen different music directors over the years. With the exception of one or two, ALL of them were as the GOYL described: committed, hard-working, dedicated and sincere. So, in this regard, she is spot on. However, my comments were not intended to question any of these qualities, only to point out the problem of bias when it comes to selecting music. (which in hindsight could have been worded much better, as I seem to have left the impression of malicious intent)

    I don't think it's too hard to argue that WE'RE ALL biased when it comes to music. Taken as a whole, most people wouldn't like my music collection (certainly not the way I do) and I wouldn't consider theirs ideal either - probably more for what is excluded than for what is included. Music directors/ministers are not any different in this regard. They have writers and arrangers they like, and others they avoid.

    I also don't think it's too hard to argue that to at least SOME extent, the degreed music directors gain some of their bias from the professors and teachers they study under. If Dr. X prefers antiphonal chants and I really like Dr. X, I'm probably going to listen to more antiphonal chanting than I would have otherwise. (I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Cleveland Browns as a result of a college professor who happened to be a diehard fan.) Likewise, if Dr. X thinks composer Y is a hack, I'll not be as likely to select songs written by composer Y or view him favorably.

    As with any institutionalized group, there is also a certain amount of snobbism (for lack of a better word) towards those who are not part of the group. As a result, degreed music ministers tend to select music which is acceptable to their peers (whose tastes are not necessarily those of the lay people). In the vast majority of cases, I don't think that this is intentional, nor is it mean spirited. In my experience, music directors without formal schooling tend to be more sensitive to the desires of the congregation. Then again, maybe I'm just more sensitive to this since I've spent the last 23 years in a seminary town.

    To be fair, there is also a bias that runs the other direction which says that if the hoi polloi (which actually means common people, but is used to indicate the opposite) like a thing, then I'm against it. Which is probably more indicative of MY bias. Hmmm. Problems with authority, I see. Yes. Well.

    I wonder if I cleared anything up, or did I just muddy the waters?

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    Monday, January 05, 2004



    How I Prove Once Again What An Out-of-Touch Old Fart I Am
    (HIPOAWAOTOFIA: pr. Hip-o-ah-wah-o-toe-fee-ah. Amerind word meaning "Humor the old man, he found the shaman's stash of fermented beet juice. Again.")

    Can we talk about church music for a minute? Thanks.

    It seems like most churches have yielded to the greater desires of their members and have started using 'praise and worship' music predominantly (or exclusively) in their services. Now, I have no problem with a church that seeks a form of worship that satisfies the majority of its members (excluding the child-sacrifice rituals of the Church of Molech, of course), but I have to tell you, I just "don't get" praise and worship music.

    There are a couple of things that bug me, but the biggest is the music itself. Many times, the music strives too hard to be 'different' and in the process becomes more difficult than different.

    I don't know how to explain this well. Maybe it makes more sense if I say that most melodies follow familiar patterns. When this happens, you can start humming along, even if you've never heard the piece before. Your mind has grasped the pattern and you just 'know' the next phrase will end with THIS chord or on THAT note. Follow me? Melodies that follow patterns have phrases. A phrase is a group of several measures that form a distinct section of the melody. For instance, the first part of Amazing Grace, "Amazing grace how sweet the sound" is a melodic phrase. The next phrase is a natural extension of the first and ends on a note that begs to be resolved (you know when you hear it, it cannot be the LAST note of the song). And sure enough, the next two phrases have a similar metering and rhythm (pattern, anyone?) and end on a note that is clearly the last note of the song. On a side note, the lyrics also follow a similar pattern,, which is the number of syllables in each musical phrase.

    A lot of praise and worship music doesn't do this. They intentionally alter the musical phrase to keep the music 'fresh' either by lengthening or shortening (mmmm. shortening) them to accommodate lyrics which don't follow a pattern, or by crafting phrases which don't end on an expected note (hey! that went up when it should have gone down), or by inserting extra phrases for a single use lyric or just a musical 'gotcha!'.

    The end result is that you wind up trying to sing a piece of music that doesn't follow any of the "traditional" (can't have THAT) rules which makes it more difficult to learn. No problem, right? After all, if you read music like me, you can just follow along with that. Wrong. You see, music on paper that you hold in your hand is SO last week. Instead, figuring that most people can't read music anyway, you get just the lyrics (either on paper or projected on a screen). The thing is, even people who don't read music can tell if the next note goes up or down (as my wife can attest) if they can see the music. But no, ze people have no need of ze music. Zey will sing vat zey are TOLD and be happy.

    Being patient, I figure it's just a matter of singing the songs for a couple of weeks before they are familiar enough to not be a problem. There's just one small problem with that. You CAN'T sing the same songs three weeks in a row! What are you thinking? People will get BORED. So every week, we sing a whole new crop of songs that I've never heard before. Which leaves me trying to sing songs with no clue of what the next note might be. Which I find very frustrating. Which puts me in neither the mood to praise OR worship.

    I think I just need to find the First Church of Geezer and join it.

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    Friday, January 02, 2004

    More awkwardness

    It's ironic that one of the words I find most awkward to type is 'awkward'. Something about the 'wa' coming so close to the 'aw' just makes me have to stop and think about the word instead of just letting my fingers do it on their own. ("fingers do it on their own" - now THAT explains quite a bit, don't you think?)

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    Starting out right

    Well, it is a comfort to know that I'm still as socially inept in 2004 as I was in 2003.

    I was talking to a coworker this morning and for some reason my thoughts were extra jumpy. (Rabbits! Let's chase 'em!) After a couple of minutes, I was getting the crinkled forehead - one eyebrow raised - head tilted askance (as opposed to askew) look that I've come to recognize as the "Stop now. You're scaring me." look. (I always think of Spock raising one eyebrow while saying "Fascinating")

    "Right. I'm babbling, aren't I?"

    And I'm thinking, "Well, THIS is awkward. How do I extricate myself from this?" I'm having an internal debate on whether it's more awkward to just leave and go back to my cube, or more awkward to hang around for another little bit in the hopes that I'd say SOMETHING coherent (giving me an opening to leave gracefully). In the meantime, I'm still babbling. I'm stuck in a geekazoid loop with no off ramp in sight.

    "Are you on drugs?" asks my coworker, coming to my rescue.

    "No, and that probably explains a lot. Gotta go."

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