Archive for December, 2008

Dec 30 2008

The Distinct Personalities of A Men’s Bathroom

Published by under Humor

Understandably, female readers of my blog will be thoroughly disgusted by this post, but this must be written. The guys will totally identify.

I’ve worked at my present company for about 18 months now and just realized today that there are many offenses committed in the bathroom every day. I took 10 minutes away from programming to compile this list that is sure to amuse the guys and disgust the ladies.

This is a list of different types of people who come into the men’s bathroom on a daily basis:
The Distinct Personalities of A Men’s Bathroom

Sir Talks-a-lot. The bathroom ain’t Oprah or The View. Say “What’s Up” or give me a head nod, but this is not the time for anything beyond pleasantries. I wish you weren’t in the bathroom at the same time as me. You wish the same. Let’s not pretend we’re happy to see each other there.

Sir Looks-a-lot. When you’re standing next to me at the urinal, it doesn’t matter that the divider doesn’t come up to eye level. There is an invisible wall and you cannot – at any time – let your eyesight cross that line. Don’t look at me. I’m not putting on a show. I’m taking a leak.

Sir Wipes-a-lot. It takes you 30 wipes to get a clean slate. Wow. I imagine you’re looking at some serious chafing.

Sir Gross-a-lot. We don’t live in the remote Alaskan wilderness where running water is at a premium. For Pete’s sake wash your hands. Just wet your hands. I don’t care. Turn on the faucet and make it SEEM like you’re washing them. But please don’t just walk out.

Sir Brush-a-lot. Dental care is important. I don’t fault you for being vigilant. But you’ve got to admit – it’s a little weird to brush in the bathroom. And additionally flossing takes it to a whole different level. That’s why you get a nod on the list.

Sir Rips-a-lot. I don’t know how you do it, but you manage to leave dozens of small paper towel pieces all over the floor just outside the bathroom door after washing your hands. There’s not a shot clock. Take it easy when you’re drying your hands. You’ve got time.

Sir Spits-a-lot. You’ve been saving all your loogies for your trip to the bathroom. Problem is, it sounds like you’re coughing up your lunch and it’s making me nauseous.

Sir Leaves-a-lot. Some people dine and dash. You flush and mush. After filling up the toilet, you have no idea (or just don’t care) that you’re leaving your nastiness for the next unsuspecting user of the stall you’ve departed. What made you think that only one flush would take care of that entire mess?

Sir Leaks-a-lot. What do you not understand about the hinge on the back of the toilet seat? Women get on men and say, “Put the seat back down!” I don’t care about that. Lift the seat UP before taking a leak!

Sir Grunts-a-lot. You make so much noise, I’d think a 2000-lb. world record lift was being made at the clean and jerk in the 3rd stall. Weightlifters dislocate their arms and legs attempting such a feat. You need to be careful because it seems like your colon is being pressurized for a shot into space.

Sir Stinks-a-lot. You, Sir, take the prize. With an odor that could repel a Tyrannosaurus Rex, your stank is rank. Poor souls stroll into the bathroom and are immediately overcome with your noxious fumes, prompting a reflexive request for divine mercy: “Oh, God, please help me.” Like Nerf balls thrown at an Army tank, room freshener doesn’t even begin to make a dent into your stench. Either a dead animal is living in your small intestine or you’ve sold your cornhole to the devil because that smell is truly ungodly.

Perhaps I will add to the list as time wears on.

In the meantime, gents, here’s to hoping we don’t run into anyone on this list next time we’re in the loo.

And in the meantime, ladies, here’s to the fact that you don’t have to use men’s restrooms! There’s nothing restful about them.

3 responses so far

Dec 23 2008

The Cold and The Challenge

Published by under Life

It’s cold here in Motown.

But there’s sad news.

It’s going to rain.

And all my snow is going to melt on Christmas Eve.

I was…

of a White Christmas.

But it looks like all I’m going to get is…


Alright, seriously…

I’ve been studying a lot since I got home. “Studying for what?” you’re wondering to yourself. Well, I study programming stuff a lot and I’ve decided to branch out into a new arena I’ve never learned about before.

The stuff I’m studying reminds me of what it was like to be in college – namely, chemistry or calculus.

Certain topics are outside the course of our everyday lives. And when our lives DO intersect with that topic, there are lots of problems. We’re introduced to whole new vocabularies and concepts for which we don’t have any frame of reference. It’s like groping your way through the dark in a haunted house – you’re kind of tense and mostly confused. And every once in a while you want to punch someone.

The topic I’m currently studying, Domain-Driven Design (DDD), is very technical. It’s also very abstract. All kinds of new words and concepts. In DDD, the goal is to come up with a really tight domain model. That makes no sense to you, but stay with me. To get a great domain model, you have to think a lot about the domain (or system) you’re dealing with. You have to talk with domain experts (users) and have them really explain their jobs to you and then distill that knowledge into a model that is easily replicatable in a system and, ultimately, software architecture that is easy to understand, scale, and maintain – regardless of the complexity of the project. Here’s what the author, Eric Evans, says about this process…

“Keep in mind that such a design does not emerge in a single step. It would take several iterations of refactoring and knowledge crunching to distill the important concepts of the domain into a simple, incisive model.”

So exciting, isn’t it?

I was about 80% done with the book when I realized something. The quote absolutely applies to the process of learning new things – not just to DDD!

See, so often in life, we learn new things, but we have prior knowledge and categories and frames of reference by which we can understand those new things. It’s not tough for us to grasp them. Certain classes in college weren’t that way. It was like Man vs. Wild or Survivorman. Call it SurvivorBrain. It’s like we got dropped off in the cognitive wilderness with nothing but a canteen, a flint, and a knife.

What did we do in college? We slogged through and eventually understood the material. This memory of college gave me hope tonight. Because DDD is hard to understand. And, quite honestly, it is only going to get harder. But that will only last for a period of time. How do I know? Because Evans makes another point about DDD that can be abstracted to learning. A point that is confirmed by my experience in college…

some of the most important insights come abruptly and send a shock through the project.

How many times had I worked on a chemistry concept – writing formulas and punching numbers in my calculator and really wondering what a mole was – when all of a sudden (abruptly), a “shock” was sent through my brain. Some neurons inside my head made a connection and I got it. It happened so suddenly.

This is interesting to me because this is HOW learning happens. In a difficult subject, we make incremental progress by learning vocab and understanding bits and pieces but then, sometimes, after a long struggle to understand, there’s a breakthrough.

Oh, but the frustration and discomfort of being in the cognitive wilderness can be overwhelming. It doesn’t feel good. It isn’t comfortable. Sometimes we can even feel really dumb for not understanding things right away. And while those feelings CAN be an indication that we’re not well-suited for the subject matter, they are also well within the normal experience of other people. We’ve got to FIGHT to get smart. We need only be lazy to remain where we are.

I have a question for you now, reader. When was the last time you tried to learn something really hard? Is NOW a time when you should try to do so? If yes, what do you want to learn? If you’ve been out of school a while and haven’t exercised your brain in a really challenging way, why not try it out?

Maybe the weather’s not that great where you are either. It’s going to be rainy tomorrow. I’ll be reading about domain-driven design. What are you going to learn?

3 responses so far

Dec 21 2008

I Love Snow

Published by under Me,Uncategorized

I came back to Michigan on Thursday night. It’s chilly up here – highs in the mid 20s. But it’s totally worth it. The night I got back, it snowed about 8 inches and it’s snowing as I type this. When I was younger, my brothers and I would play in the snow for hours. We built some of the coolest snow forts you can imagine. If I remember, I will dig up some old pictures of our forts.

Normally, we weren’t allowed to play tackle football, but for some reason all the neighborhood kids’ parents said it was ok for us to play in the winter. So we’d get all our gear on – huge, bulky snow pants, moon boots, hat, gloves, Starter jacket. And we’d go to town – annihilating each other for hours.

As I worked inside today, I heard the sound of kids playing outside. I looked and the backyard neighbor kids were sledding down a hill in their backyard. The 10-year old girl was trying to ride the sled like a surfboard and fell off every single time. It was a real treat to watch them. I wondered back to my youth at who might have watched us and gotten a kick out of it.

Yesterday, I got to snow blow – something I haven’t been able to do in years. When we were growing up, my dad had this incredible Ariens orange beast-of-a-snow-blower that looked like the picture above. It wasn’t a snow blower. It was more correctly called a snow THROWER. It took a 300-pound man named Lars to pull start it. None of this electric start rubbish on today’s snow blowers. The auger on the front could be used to slice many types of deli meat (and decapitate your hand and/or leg — at the same time). One of my favorite features was the snow chute. If you stood in the way of thrown snow, it would knock you over if you weighed less than 50 pounds – a perennial favorite of the 3 little Merrick boys.

However, maintenance on such a machine is intensive. Far more than my mom desires. So she has a little Toro snow blower, but they’re still fun.

Tonight, I went over to my dad’s (I stay at my mom’s when I come home because my pops got re-married). Anyway, we had a good time. We put up their 2nd tree and got a couple surround systems working in his house ahead of the huge Polish party on the 27th.

But the drive home was the best.

I can’t remember a recent time when I was happier. My dad’s place is about 40 minutes from my mom’s. I left my dad’s at about 1am and it was snowing. The roads were covered in snow. And it was just awesome! On my About page, I mention how much I love snow – especially snow on roads. And I got about 45 minutes of driving on it. It reminded me that I’ll always be a Michigan boy. Sometimes the cold is….well, cold. But the snow somehow warms my heart.

One thing I love about snow in Michigan is how normal it is to people. In Nashville, everyone jokes about how many people freak out about it. There was about an inch on the road and everyone who was driving was still doing 55-70. That’s not a macho, I’m-going-to-drive-fast-in-the-snow-so-people-think-I’m-cool thing. It’s just an I-love-Michigan thing. :)

Most of my drive home was spent singing loudly (and harmonizing poorly) to Christmas music my mom had put on a CD.

The whole thing made my heart feel like a put-together puzzle. I wasn’t worried about anything. I wasn’t angry about anything. I wasn’t sad about anything. I wasn’t looking forward to anything. I was just happy to be driving my mom’s Edge, sharing the road with a few other people, and deeply enjoying the snow. It sounds strange, but it may have been the best night I’ve had in months.

5 responses so far

Dec 17 2008

31 Days: Proverbs 15

Published by under Proverbs

The Hip-Hop-Opatamus and a Big Statistic
One of the curiosities of my life is that I love hip-hop, rap, and R&B. While I am mainly attracted to the beats and rhyming artistry, it’s impossible to ignore the content. Typical rap songs revolve around getting money, chasing girls (porn stars and strippers, preferably), and basically letting everyone know how much better you are than everyone else. It is this last subject I’m interested in today.

I keep saying this, but in the coming months (assuming I live that long), you’re going to hear more about what I am planning to do with my life. At base, it involves working with the urban poor. And while not all urban poor are into rap music, many are.

Did you know that violent crime in America has been decreasing for about the past decade? One notable exception to this trend are black males aged 14-24. Among this demographic, violent crime has risen 52% from 2002 to 2006. Rap music may have some kind of influence, but it is also true that poverty, lack of fathers/male role models, and other factors contribute to the trend. None of that is the ultimate cause. To me, at base, this is a spiritual problem. All of these other things (music, poverty, parents) help to build the spirit of the boys/men committing these crimes. And when you’re inputs are bad, so, too will your outputs. Garbage in, garbage out. This is NOT about bashing rap music, though.

Dead and Gone
One of the most incredible things to me is just how little it takes to set people off – myself included. About two months ago, the rapper T.I. (the self-proclaimed King), came out with a new album called Paper Trail (“paper” is a slang term for money in case you didn’t know). The final track is a song called Dead and Gone, featuring Justin Timberlake. Check out these lyrics (forgive the language if you’re offended by that kind of thing)…

Every had one of them days wish you would have stayed home?
Run into a group of niggas who gettin their hate on,
You walk by – they get wrong,
You reply then shit get blown,
Way out of proportion way passed discussion,
Just you against them pick one then rush them,
Figure you get jumped here – that’s next,
They don’t wanna stop there now they bustin,
Now you gushin, ambulance rushin
You to the hospital with a bad concussion,
Plus you hit four times, bullet hit your spine,
Paralyzed waist down and ya wheelchair bound,
Never mind that now you lucky to be alive,
Just think it all started you fussin with three guys,
Nigga pride in the way but your pride is the way you can f**k
around get shot down anyday,
Niggas die everyday,
All over bullshit, dope money, dice games, ordinary hood shit…

“You reply then shit get blown.”

How many times is this happening in our country in this age 14-24 demographic? A reply – maybe as simple as two words – f*** you – and someone ends up hurt or dead. T.I. sums up the whole thing with some sense of clarity: “Your pride is the way you can…get shot down any day.”

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

As I thought about this verse over the last two days, I remembered Jesus’ brother, James, wrote this:

…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
(James 3:5-6)

But do our tongues really set the whole course of our lives on fire? And are they really set on fire by hell? That seems a little melodramatic.

Titanic Sinking
Verses like these are one reason the bible impresses me so much and why I can believe, practically, that God inspired it. On page after page, there are notes about what it means to be human. Since God made us, He knows how we’re wired. Violence in urban areas is a great example. When people speak harsh words, anger is stirred up.

What if, instead of mouthing off, people were able to restrain themselves and either give a gentle answer or no answer at all? Well, that’s the real deal sealer for the bible.

Walk up to someone and tell them to give a gentle answer and what response will you get 90% of the time. “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.” In other words, they don’t have control over themselves. James points out just how the tongue can control us:

…take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
(James 3:4)

He continues…

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire…
(James 3:5)

There are 14-24 year-old males killing each other because the whole course of their lives is set on fire by their tongues. Was James really so melodramatic in saying the “[tongue] is itself set on fire by hell?” I don’t think so. Because Satan and hell, in general, are interested in one thing – destruction. The more discord and jealousy and anger and, even killing they can influence, the better. This T.I. song is a real life example: if you control your tongue you literally control your life. And if you lose control of your tongue, you may well lose your life.

The Suburban Din
For 5 minutes this afternoon, I totally trashed on a person with a couple co-workers.

In situations like this, we justify ourselves by saying, “Well, they’re super annoying, of course I’m going to talk trash about them with friends. It’s fun because they’re crazy.” But something more is going on. Our tongue is steering our lives. In the midst of the conversation today, I didn’t feel right, but I didn’t stop. My tongue was in control. And I wonder if we’re not, in some small way, losing our lives when our tongue is controlling us.

As I wrote about the urban violence above, I thought about how some (or all) of it would be curbed if everyone living there could just remember that we’re all made in God’s image. Why try to take someone’s life who’s made in God’s image? Oh, but soul, why gossip about someone who is made in God’s image? But hell doesn’t think like that. And if my tongue is set on fire by hell, why should I imagine I can control it?

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
(Proverbs 15:28)

And here is an insight. The righteous “think” with their heart. Answers are weighed and carefully considered. Not so the wicked. They gush evil. Can you imagine that? Their mouths are like a fountain of evil just constantly bubbling. Jesus said this:

…out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
(Matthew 12:34-35)

What is stored up inside us? Today, I was shown a good bit of evil is in my heart. And that really bothers me. I want to be like Jesus, not like Satan. I don’t want Satan setting my tongue on fire. So I end with what I hope will be my increasing appeal – Jesus. That He would help me store good up in my heart.

The stakes of most of our lives are not so high that an ill-spoken word will cost us our life, but we are paying a high price. Think hard about this. If we are not able to reign in our tongues, how can we ever expect that anyone else will be able to? Why should we think that an urban landscape so dominated by the fire of the tongue can be quenched with righteous speech when we can’t even stop ourselves from gossiping? In simpler terms: how will I EVER be able to help someone practically walk with Jesus if I can’t walk with Him myself?

The matter of our tongues is no small issue, suburbanites! The stakes are higher than we think.

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