Archive for the ‘Hobbies’ Category

COVID Coping

September 25, 2020

We’re all trying to figure out how to get through this season of COVID. With restrictions on where you can go and what you can do and who you can be with, people are getting a bit stir crazy and I’m no exception. I’ve admitted to being not the smartest guy on the block this summer, an admission some would argue was far overdue and hardly limited to this summer. But as a closing foray into stupidity, last night I took the Paqui One-Chip Challenge.

I’d like to defend myself somewhat. I haven’t eaten Tide Pods or overindulged on cinnamon. I haven’t poured ice water over my head. I’ve never been much of a joiner, and taken more pride than probably reasonable in going against the flow. I’m fairly discerning usually when it comes to common sense. But apparently not always.

Because another source of pride throughout my life has been an affinity for spicy food. The hotter the better. And the more other people back off and avoid it, the more inclined I am to try it. So when I saw a YouTube video for the One-Chip Challenge, I immediately started Googling to see where they could be purchased locally. Just a few hours later I had two small bags of their chips and one of the casket-shaped One-Chip Challenge boxes.

I tried the bag of Fiery Chili Limon chips for lunch. It claims to be Super Hot!, but it was disappointing. I mean, there was some heat to it, but I ate the small bag without the need for water – let alone bread or milk. I make much hotter pico de gallo and while these chips were somewhat respectable by mass produced chip standards, they certainly didn’t live up to the hype.

So when my kids found the box at dinner they naturally assumed I should do it. Right then. And really, why put it off?

Frankly the most impressive thing initially was that this company found a way to keep their chips intact! The small bag of chips was not a bunch of crumbs as is often the case with chips. Almost all of the chips were intact, which was impressive in and of itself. And the One-Chip Challenge was even better insulated to ensure I found it intact. This year’s challenge uses a blue-corn tortilla chip covered in their signature blend of ground chili spices, utilizing the Carolina Reaper chili, the Scorpion Chili, and Sichuan peppercorn. The chip looks black and it’s covered in this black spice. The challenge says you have to eat the entire chip, so I broke it in two and ate it.

Initially it wasn’t terribly impressive. But, as chilis sometimes do, the impact grew over time. Still, it wasn’t really all that painful initially. Eventually it was the sides of my tongue that took the brunt of the burning. The rest of my mouth was relatively unaffected. Or perhaps completely numbed. I’ve longed to take spicy challenges for years, but this is the closest I’ve ever come to actually doing one. Beyond the growing burning on my tongue were other physical reactions I’ve watched in other people but never experienced myself. I began perspiring. My eyes started watering and my nose started running. My hands were shaking and my legs were a bit weak. There was a jumbled sense to my thinking, as my brain rapidly occupied itself almost completely with what was going on in my body and how unhappy it was with it.

The challenge grants different levels of recognition depending on how long you can hold out before eating or drinking something after eating the chip. My goal was to last at least five minutes – the lowest level of Featherweight. It’s what I had seen the host do on the YouTube video, and since we had guests for dinner I didn’t feel like drawing it out indefinitely. And, honestly, it hurt. So the glass of milk I had my kids bring me in advance went down pretty quickly but only provided moderate relief. As with the water after. Ice cubes were more effective at numbing my tongue and easing the pain. And with homemade apple crisp with ice cream for dessert, I found the frozen dairy was most effective in helping neutralize and disperse the oils binding the burning to my tongue. Within 15 minutes or so I was feeling mostly back to normal.

I could feel it in my stomach, as the packaging said I would, but it wasn’t anything bad. Until about 30 minutes later. I was sidelined severely by a terrible burning sensation in my stomach that left me almost completely incapacitated for about 10 minutes. Some cold water eventually helped to ease the pain, and within another 15 minutes or so I was fine again. I panicked a little, thinking perhaps the spices had eaten through my stomach or aggravated an ulcer I didn’t know I had. But a few years ago I had a similar (though far less intense) pain from a particularly powerful chili pepper I ate, so I figured it was basically the same reaction this time and it would pass before long.

Blessedly, it did. I was able to sleep without any other side effects and, other than a slight tenderness in my stomach today, I appear to be fine.

This challenge is not for the faint of heart. Visit the web site to see different reactions from customers. I have a good tolerance for heat and rarely find something uncomfortable, but this certainly was. Paqui doesn’t indicate what heat level the chip is, but the Carolina Reaper chili clocks in at 1.5 million on the Scoville scale (a typical jalapeno clocks in at 2500-10,000). So it’s a serious heat!

I’m glad I did it. That being said I feel no need to do it again. And I’ll probably let the small bag of Paqui Haunted Ghost Pepper chips lie untouched for a little while. I know it won’t be anywhere near what the One-Chip Challenge felt like, but still. I’ve had enough heat for the time being.

A Few Statistics

October 26, 2018

Not including this post, WordPress informs me that I have made 2,791 blog entries since August 24, 2006.  In addition, I have 25 entries in various stages of preparation that I haven’t published, either because I lost interest, lost steam, or reconsidered whether I really wanted to publish it, yet didn’t want  to delete it.  I have one unpublished entry from 2017 that is counted as deleted and never published, but I could restore it and start working on it again if I wanted to.

Readership levels have fluctuated over the years.  So far in October, I’ve had visits from people in 32 different countries, though the overwhelming majority of my visitors are from the United States.  I average between 450-500 visits to my site per month.  I have 160 WordPress users that follow my blog.  Many of these I suspect don’t actually read what I write.  I often am told that people start following my blog.  When I go to check out their blog to see what they’re writing about, it’s frequently a site designed to accumulate users and followers by offering positive thinking quotes (not quite sure why they are following me!), advice to writers, etc.  A lot of blogging is now focused on gathering followers and subscribers to reach levels where you can sell advertising, and I assume they’re hoping that I’ll reciprocally follow their site.

I don’t.

Thanks to all of you who are regular or irregular readers over the years.  I hope I’m helpful in generating thought and reflection.  You may not agree with me, and I’m always open to being challenged (though it rarely happens here).  Frankly I always hoped this place would develop into a forum for discussion but that remains a hope to be fulfilled.  Some of you I know and interact with in real life on a regular basis and we discuss in person what I’ve written here.  I love that!  But feel free to post your reactions here.  My goal is civilized discourse, whether we agree or not.

Hard to believe it’s been 12 years.  It will be interesting to see how long God lets me continue!

No Microwave

July 15, 2016

We don’t own a microwave, so will somebody else please try this for me and let me know if it really works or not?  It sounds (and I assume smells) amazing!  I gotta believe this would help my dogs fetch better, though I doubt they’re going to return it to me.

Opening Up

July 8, 2014

Here’s a great post from my friend Sarah.  It hits on a variety of issues that it’s good to remember many (if not most or all) people deal with at one level or another.

Perception.  Sarah posits the question as to whether or not she (and the rest of us) tailor our online social media personas to highlight our best moments and minimize our normal moments.   Facebook seems to show that we do, and blogging isn’t much different.  If you only know me from my online presence, you know a fair amount about me, but you don’t know the whole enchilada, as it were.  Relationship – that buzzword of the digital age – is about more than one-way broadcasting of our noblest thoughts, our cherished victories.  Relationship is about getting to know us on our off days. Keeping up with someone on Facebook isn’t the same as relationship.  It’s more akin to digital voyeurism and exhibitionism.  There are great dangers in mistaking the thrills of peeking in on people’s lives or revealing snippets of our own for actual relationship and engagement.

Standards.  We’re awash in photos and blogs and status updates and Pinterest shares about ideal, perfect, gorgeous lives.  Children who are always well-scrubbed and well-behaved.  Homes that are unfathomably gorgeous and apparently devoid of any form of life, human or dust-related.  It’s easy to assume – based on the little that we share with one another – that life should be one constant happy-hour party.  It should be joyous and carefree and easy and simple and beautiful and perfect.

How many people do you know with lives like that?  How many homes have you been in that match that?  How many children have you met that are like that all the time?  Come on, man.  Let’s be real.  

As a homeschooling family my wife is often particularly concerned about the state of our house, particularly because she spends a lot of time there.  But there’s also a ton to do each day in teaching and cooking and relationships.  It’s easy to assume that our house must be the dirtiest in the whole of our home-schooling community.  Yet on those rare occasions where she is able to see other people’s homes, she usually comes away relieved.  They’re human, too.  They have piles.  Not all of those piles are clean.  They’re human.

In that recognition and relief relationships can be built and strengthened.  Our vulnerabilities and shortcomings can also be powerful building blocks for real, actual, relationships.  But we have to be willing to be vulnerable, to take that first step, and to risk the possibility of being judged.

Ministry.  Ministry rarely happens on a schedule.  Outside of Sunday worship, I don’t know and can’t predict when the meaningful moments of connection will occur in a given week.  

What holds you back from ministry?  Not the guilt-ministry that we’re so often force-fed.  The ministry of feeding orphans or becoming a full-time missionary – neither of which are bad things in and of themselves and both of which are necessary aspects of Christian community, but neither of which are the only, best, or necessarily your form of ministry.  Just as hospitality may not be your form of ministry, even though it’s Sarah’s.

What are you good at, and why aren’t you doing it?  What way do you best serve your neighbor and create the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the middle of it?  Anybody that knows Sarah would know that hospitality and food and atmosphere are right up her alley.  Yet fear of inferiority and judgment may have kept her from putting those gifts to work.  What gifts are you afraid of putting to work?  

Remember that this isn’t just about you and I.  We can psychoanalyze and muse and self-examine all we want for answers to the above questions.  Those tools may be helpful.  But they also ignore the fact that Christians believe we have an enemy who wants to keep us ineffective and bottled up.  He might do that with a dirty bathroom or piles of clothing.  He might do that with feelings of inferiority.  

Don’t let him keep your gifts bottled up!




Road Trip

May 19, 2014

I may have to see this.  Soon.

If my kids discover this, it might have to be very soon.

Butterfly Update

March 29, 2014

We now have two chrysalis’ and nearly a third.  The kids report seeing one of the tiny new caterpillars, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Apparently it takes 9-14 days for butterflies to emerge from the cocoon, so sometime in the next few days or week, we’ll have butterflies to release!  

New fact learned – the chyrsalis is not something the butterflies spin around themselves, rather, it is what emerges from beneath their last skin shedding!  Fascinating!

Spending Time

March 25, 2014

A brief update on some of the ways I’ve been spending and wasting time.  I’m not necessarily proud.  I’m never gonna get some of those hours back….

First in film.  A few restless nights over the past couple of weeks have found me disappointed by and large in my continuing capacity to choose lousy films.
Idiots and Angels – I remember discovering Bill Plympton’s animation in college.  It’s very stylistic and compelling.  This was an entire movie of it, and while it was at times visually stunning, the storyline itself was unfortunately inadequate to the task.  It follows the misadventures of the thoroughly dishonorable and unlikable anti-hero, Angel.  There is no speaking or intelligible dialogue in the entire film, so I wouldn’t have known that was his name if not for IMDB.  Angel finds noble sentiments stirring in his body – against his will.  While it’s a faintly curious visualization of this, the story is very inadequate and uncompelling.  You won’t like Angel, either at the beginning or the end of the movie, though you’ll be pretty sure that something is supposed to have happened to him so that he is likable.  If you can figure it out more, please fill me in.
America’s Sweethearts – This is a fairly shallow romantic comedy, and while there is plenty of acting firepower in the house, they’re all mostly on cruise control playing their most common stereotypes.  The deliriously gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones is the pampered screen diva.  John Cusak is the bewildered guy with the heart of gold.  Billy Crystal is the fast-talking wise-guy, also with a heart of gold, and Julia Roberts is the sweet wallflower with a heart of gold.  You know what’s going to happen pretty much in the first 20 minutes or so of the film, and you won’t be surprised.  While there are a few humorous moments, most of this is quite forgettable, which is a shame.  Some profanity.  
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – I loved the trailers I saw for this film.  The idea seemed fresh and full of potential.  Unfortunately, like many action films the emphasis is on special effects rather than story line or characters.  Nobody in this story is original, and you can pretty much read the ending a mile off.  There are a few cute moments, but overall it prefers to catch your attention with fairly graphic violence and computer graphics.  The characters have a lot of potential, and while I think the actors & actresses were capable of delivering a compelling performance, they weren’t given anything to work with.  There is some pointless nudity in here, along with profanity.
The Final Cut – Robin Williams does a great job with dark characters, and the setup on this movie is fantastic.  In the indeterminate future, apparently in a parallel universe, people can have a biological implant that stores every second of their life’s audio and visual experiences.  Upon death the implant can be removed, edited, and played back for a remembry service.  Robin Williams is the best in the business, but finds himself in the center of a complicated effort to undermine the entire industry by activists looking to exploit the damaging details of one of the technology’s inner-circle members.
It’s a fantastic premise, and the story is laid out rather well.  But it goes nowhere.  There are pointless encounters and relationships.  Pointless resolutions to lifelong hauntings.  By the time the movie shifts into overdrive to wrap up, you’re left wondering what the point was, and why none of the obvious dots were connected in a way to bring closure.  Once again, more emphasis on character development and storyline could have made this a fantastic movie.  Some profanity.
How about books?
There’s really only one that I’ve finished recently, a gift from a colleague of mine that I finally got around to reading, George MacDonald’s The Curate’s Awakening.  My colleague is a huge fan of MacDonald, who might be known to some readers today because C.S. Lewis considered him his theological and literary father.  
Unfortunately, I’ve never been a fan of 19th century literature on the whole.  I can deal with Dickens and Poe, but most of it leaves me bored.  While this book wasn’t that boring, the emphasis is clearly on providing the opportunity for theological dialogue and reflection among the characters.  The characters are all interesting enough on their own, but it’s all so stiff and formal and forced.  There are two more books in the series, and I don’t think I’ll continue on to them.  MacDonald isn’t a bad writer, and his theological observations and insights are very good, it’s just that he’s not my literary cup of tea.

Parenting as Hobby

January 4, 2014

Yet another broad-side at marriage as it has been historically understood by just about every culture at every time on earth.  Legal guardianship of a child is now essentially a hobby.  A judge recently ruled that two unrelated friends (not married, not intending to marry, not dating, not anything other than close friends) are able to both be listed as the parent of a child that they together adopted from Africa.

The intention is to raise the child in two separate households with two unrelated groups of relatives.  This isn’t seen as a difficult necessity, as it is with divorce, rather it’s the goal.  And of course, as these good friends date and are involved with other people, the child will be introduced to perhaps multiple other ‘moms and dads’, eventually (ironically perhaps, hopefully?) having another mom and dad if both the child’s current parents marries.  
Which raises an interesting question about their future spouses.  I wonder how thrilled they will be at the idea of playing second fiddle to another parental figure?  It often seems to provide challenges when the parental figure is an ex-spouse.  I wonder how it will be when the other figure is just a close friend?  I imagine this will be a formative issue in who each of these parents is able to date.  Can they transfer their parental rights if they cease to be good friends and a better friend comes along?  
And what happens if they get married, and the spouse(s) decide to sue for the right to be listed as parents as well?  What if they then attempt to get custody, in the event the relationship doesn’t last?
Ahhh, but that’s all hypothetical, you say.  What really matters is that the friends are really committed to this child.  Nobody knows whether a married couple will stay together either – the risks are exactly the same.
No, they aren’t.  Or more depressingly, perhaps they are – now.
When marriage was the institution permitted and charged with raising children, because it was obvious biologically and socially that this is how things are supposed to work, the expectation was that the family should stay together to provide the maximum supportive environment for the child.  For many years this included familial, social (and perhaps political) pressure (and/or support) to parents to stay together.  That’s why marriage has historically been such a clearly demarcated and separated institution.  There is nothing else like it.  Others might fulfill aspects or functions of a marital relationship (sexual relations, raising a child, etc.) but these duties were only and always viewed as of far secondary appropriateness (at best).  And all of these aspects and functions were seen to be integral to the process of creating an environment that was best for the child.
Now, since marriage is being destroyed as this historical, biological, and social institution, and instead turned into an arbitrary arrangement about the happiness and whims of the adults rather than about the expectation of raising future citizens, all of this is jumbled further.  The next step is logical – to have multiple friends or acquaintances or strangers be granted parental rights to a child, each person contributing their particular gift or preferred role.  One might be very nurturing.  Another might be very good at field trips.  Another might be good at potty training.  Another might provide the funding (or zip code) necessary for access to good schools.  Raising a child becomes a consortium effort based not on the child but on the parents.  
Frankly, I think this opens the door for children who are corporately sponsored.  Corporations can ask for parental rights for orphans, and then require the children to become walking billboards for the company’s products and services.  Silly, you say?  What is philosophically different between that and having unrelated, unmarried people raising a child as a hobby, as something they feel like doing together regardless of the complications that it will pose for the child?  Isn’t the child in this case a walking billboard for these two people’s insistence that they ought to be able to do what they like, even when another life is directly at stake?  
All of which pales against the other possibility this continues to open the door to – the insistence that it is not parents (married, gay, or otherwise) who are best fit to raise a child, but rather the State.  
Marriage is no longer about children.  It’s about us.  And if children come along as part of it – or are intended from the start as part of it – more and more they are testimonies not to the sacrificial love of complementary parents that are both necessary to raise a well-rounded child, but rather testimonies to the social stances and sexual preferences and trendy definitions of their parents.  Every bit as much as buying hipster glasses when you can see fine.  Children continue on their march to being accessories ultimately raised as statements about their parents, rather than with their own interests at the forefront.  
And, just so I’m not misunderstood, this isn’t about whether the friends involved in this case are good people.  I trust they are.  In fact, I pray they are.  Their desire to raise a child is commendable.  But they are misguided, I believe.  As is the judge who decided that this would be a good thing for the child in the long run, rather than right now while the child is young.  As is our culture that continues to insist that marriage is first and foremost about the people involved – regardless of how many of them or their gender.  

I Can’t Drive 55

October 31, 2013

…so I can empathize with Sammy Hagar.  But I can’t drive 155 either.  Well, I suppose in my current vehicle, I could, but age and common sense and a variety of other factors practically ensures that I never will.  

Those factors don’t appear to be at play for this guy.  Impressive.  Truly impressive.
And, of course, um, reprehensible.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Oh, the Humanists

September 10, 2013

Our local Humanist Society placed a full page insert in the local newspaper recently, seeking to attract like-minded people.  They have a list of qualities that, if the reader has, might lead them to consider joining the group.  Three that I find interesting and on the verge of contradictory or at least great irony:

  • Do I favor reason and logic over blind faith and irrational belief systems?
  • Do I get turned off by hate speech, irrational prejudices, cruelty, religious bigotry and political hubris?
  • Do I tolerate diverse religious beliefs in other people, but hold firmly to my own convictions?
The part I find particularly humorous is that they park in our parking lot for their meetings.  They meet next door at a senior living facility, which in turn rents access to a good chunk of our parking lot.  Fortunately, our “blind faith and irrational belief systems” are not so outrageous as to blind us to the “reason and logic” of this rental arrangement.