Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekly Weigh-In

Current weight: 285.2 lbs

After six weeks it is apparent to me that this experiment is not working. Time to try something else. It was fun while it lasted.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Glaring Omission

The title of this post is a dual reference. It refers to the event described in the post itself, but also to the fact that it took me so long to write about it. So much stuff has been going on in the world and I've just been too lazy to write about it. But it's a quarter to eight on a Sunday morning, and Mandy is still asleep, and I've just got no excuse.

So, have you guys heard about this film, Expelled? It's a "documentary" that claims there is a bias against creationists in the scientific community. Part of me would have to agree with that basic premise: There is no evidence to support creationist claims; proper scientific inquiry is based upon evidence; therefore, a person who claims as fact that a creator-being exists or existed cannot be a scientist. Sure. But the film apparently goes on to claim that Hitler based his designs for the Holocaust on Darwin's work — a claim that is as false as it is offensive. Hitler's ideas were based, more than anything else, on the writings of Martin Luther, who predates Darwin by about three centuries. Furthermore, the notion of a Hitler-Darwin connection implies that pogroms did not exist before Darwin published Origin of the Species in 1859. The truth is almost the exact opposite. Darwin observed that the culling of species, pogroms, eugenics, and genocide — behavior observed in human beings for thousands of years — also occurred in nature. There is no evidence that Hitler ever read Origin of the Species, although he was an intelligent man so one could reasonable assume he was at least aware of Darwin's ideas. There is, however, overwhelming evidence that Hitler was a Catholic, and that his anti-Semitism stemmed more from his religious beliefs than anything else.

So the film itself is fundamentally flawed, which only exacerbates the hilarity surrounding the producers' attempts to market the thing. A couple of weeks ago in Minnesota they held a screening. Attendees had to register in advance online. Among those who registered was my favorite biology professor, PZ Myers. The registration process allowed him to bring guests, but did not require him to identify them. So he did.

While waiting in line to enter the theater, a security guard approached Professor Myers and informed him that the film's producer was barring him from attending the screening, and furthermore that if he did not leave post haste the police would be called. Professor Myers left without incident, and made his way to the nearby Apple Store, where he reported the incident on his blog.

While the good professor waited outside, the guests he brought with him were admitted into the screening. These guests included his daughter, her boyfriend, and Richard freakin' Dawkins. How such an oversight could occur I have no idea, but at least it provided fodder for a hilarious, no-holds-barred review of the film. Professor Myers' daughter Skatje, a skilled and passionate defender of Atheism in her own right, provided an equally withering review of the film here.

I do really want to see this movie, just so I can roast it with authority. By all accounts, however, it is as poorly made as it is informed or informative. I'd say we should expect more from narrator Ben Stein, of "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" fame. But then again, the guy wrote speeches for Richard Nixon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


As I may have mentioned before, it's strange having a job that keeps me busy for the full work day. Satisfying, in a way, but definitely strange. I am reminded of Roland Abu Habee, a character in the great Tom Robbins novel Skinny Legs and All, who, after leading a life of reckless indulgence, purged himself through the labor of washing dishes at his family's restaurant. I kind of feel that way with this filing gig I've got right now. I leave work every day feeling like I've been scoured from the inside out — but in a good way.

There is, of course, a downside. At my old job, the endless down-time was where I blogged. It was almost easy to squeeze out three or for entries per week, because I literally had nothing better to do. These last couple weeks I have had to reserve my creativity for after work, when I want nothing more than to sit on the couch and watch the third season of Battlestar Galactica which I just procured on DVD. I missed the first several episodes when it first aired, as I did not have the SciFi Channel at the time. I was able to figure out through references what occurred, but it's not the same until you see it. So when Galactica jumped into the atmosphere above New Caprica and launched its Vipers while being engulfed in flames from the air friction? Holy crap, that was awesome. And when Pegasus collided with the basestar? Frackin' hell. And Colonel Tigh and his wife? Don't tell me you didn't almost shed a tear there. And Jammer, in the launch tube after the Circle sentenced him? Yikes, dude.

Where was I?

Oh, right. The point is, I've been lax in my writing. I've been trying to outline this idea for a novel that has been bouncing around in my head for about six months or so, but that has been slow going as I really don't know how to outline a novel. Part of me thinks the outlining is just a way of putting off the actual writing. But part of me also thinks that this story idea could really use an outline. Either way, progress has been minimal.

I have the day off today. I took the day off because this afternoon I have to go down to Roosevelt University and take an assessment test to figure out what type of Gen-Ed classes I need to take. I haven't taken a test in over eight years, and I'm a little nervous. I've been looking at the sample questions they have online. Some of them stress me out a bit, mostly with the math. I was never that good at math.

At some point today between now and when I leave I need to call the financial aid office, or at least spend some quality time going over all of the correspondence I've received and try and make some sense out of it. I think that schools make their procedures for such things deliberately obtuse as some sort of screening process. Every time I complete a step, someone tells me where to go next. But when I go to that next place, I am invariably informed that there were intermittent steps I missed, so I have to backtrack and complete those first. Which is why I am taking this test today. See, I was told that the next thing to do was to make an appointment with an academic advisor, and I was given the number to call. I called that number and (after a brief trip through call-transferring hell) I spoke to a very nice young woman who informed me that no, I was not ready to speak to an advisor. First, I need to take this test. So now I'm gonna do that.

And that's fine, really. But I don't see why this is so complicated. Why can't I have some kind of checklist with every single step laid out in front of me, and then I can go through them one by one instead of having to make embarrassing phone calls every couple of weeks wherein I explain to some nice work-study undergrad who is, minimum, ten years younger than me that I have no idea what to do next?

Same with financial aid. I know that tuition is going to cost so much. I know that books are gonna run me a few hundred dollars per term. I know there will be fees. They obviously know that nobody just has that money ready. That's why they have a financial aid office. But I really feel like I should just be able to fill out one or two forms saying, "Here's how much money I need. Whatever you can get me in grants, swell. Whatever I have to pay back, just let me know what the interest is gonna be." You'd think that's what all that FAFSA crap would accomplish, but it doesn't really.

Frustrating as it is, I know it will be worthwhile. I've hemmed and hawed about finishing school for years now, and I'm still terrified of, well, everything having to do with it, but it occurred to me recently that in my entire circle of friends I am the only one within ten years of my age in either direction who does not have a college degree. Not all of my friends are using their degrees, or are even working in the fields they studied, but most of them seem to be pretty satisfied with their lives. Some of them are buying homes, having children. Some have jobs that let them travel the world. I don't know if my lack of a degree is what has been holding me back, but it certainly hasn't helped.

Last July I wrote about how this was my Jesus Year, and that it was time for me to accomplish something. What I hoped was that I might, I don't know, publish a book, or get that breakthrough acting job. But if my major accomplishment this year is just managing to point myself in the right direction, that'll be good enough.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekly Weigh-In

Current weight: 281.2 lbs
Weight lost to date: 2.4 lbs

Moving in the right direction again, in spite of yesterday being Easter. In fact, I probably would have done even better if Mandy and I hadn't spent the weekend out at her mother's where we really did little but eat the whole the time. But it was worth it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 — 2008

I have had many favorite authors. They never fall out of favor; new writers get added to the ranks of the elite. I don't rank them in any particular order, and I lost count years ago. But I will always remember which one of them came first.

I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010, before I knew the name of Arthur Charles Clarke. And then for Christmas in 1984 my stepmom gave me a paperback copy of 2010: Odyssey Two. I read that thing backwards and forwards probably a hundred times. It was my first experience with science fiction that put a real emphasis on the science part. From there I immediately backtracked and read the novel version of 2001, and tore through the sequel, 2061: Odyssey Three. The Sentinel, an amazing collection of short stories, kept me entertained when I was supposed to be doing homework. The titles of his books thrilled me all by themselves, and the stories inside blew my mind. I still remember the first time I read Childhood's End, Rendezvous With Rama, Songs of Distant Earth, Against the Fall of Night, and The City and the Stars.

And did you know he created the concept of the communications satellite? The ring of comm satellites that orbit the earth today is called Clarke's Belt. How cool is that?

A Moment of Silence for Arthur C. Clarke:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekly Weigh-In

Current weight: 283.0 lbs
Weight lost to date: 0.6 lbs

Son of a bitch! Okay, this last week was entirely my fault. Although you know who has to share some of the blame? Jesus. Damn Easter candy. Mandy has this thing for pastel-colored M&Ms, and we've gone through like four bags of the stuff in the last week. And Oreos. I'm not sure how that happened, but there were quite a few of those too. Also, yesterday the family celebrated Mandy's grandmother's ninetieth birthday at Maggiano's in Schaumburg, so you know we ate well.

The goal for this week: Lay off the damn candy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Everyone should go see Faster by Adam Rapp. It's playing at the side project through April 6. My good friend Joanie Schultz directed it, and therefore it is pretty awesome. She has become the go-to director for Adam Rapp in Chicago, and this show just proves why that is the case. This play makes you realize that however much you thought was possible in theatre, you can always do more. The show features a top-notch cast and some of the best technical design elements you'll ever see in a storefront theater space. The sound in particular will blow you away.

If you need any extra incentive, I should mention that I provided the fight choreography for the show. According to Randy Hardwick at, the fights are "reasonable." I have decided to accept that as high praise, considering that the physical violence is a relatively minor element of the show.

Anyway, go see it. Especially since Journey's End has closed, so there's no way to check out any of my theatre work until June. And I know that's what you live for. Don't lie.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Office Skillz: I Has Them

On Wednesday I returned to the world of office temping after a seven-year hiatus. I find myself with a renewed desire to do a good job — a need that had faded during the time I spent with my previous employer. When the daily tasks your position requires are completed before ten o'clock in the morning, after a while it's hard to dig up to motivation to do anything more than the bare minimum. The full work day is something I have not experienced in quite a while.

I have gone from a situation where there was nothing to do and find myself on an assignment where there is one thing to do, but that one thing needs to be done over and over again for eight hours a day. It is monotonous, yes, but not as bad as you might think. There is a sense that what I'm doing is necessary, and important. I'm temping in a human resources department, going through checklists to make sure employee files meet certain criteria. People's paychecks depend on my accuracy. It helps to keep that in mind at around 11:30 when my eyes start crossing for the first time. (They get a break at lunch, and then start crossing again at around 3:00.)

This assignment is only set to last a week or so, and then I'll move on to something else. It's taking a little getting used to, this being busy for the full eight-hour day, and I've been pretty tired upon my return home in the evenings. I'm sure I'll get used to it soon enough. Plus, one of the perks of temp work is that when you complete an assignment, you can, if you are so inclined, take a day or two before calling in for the next one. On the down side, you can't really take a day off in the middle of a gig like this. Not that I'm itching for vacation time already, or anything like that. But if, say, you needed the cable company to send a repairman because your internet connection went down yet again, you can't just take a morning or a day off to get that done. You have to wait until the assignment is over. But that's a complaint for a whole different blog entry.

I'm still on the hunt for something permanent, because I'm uncomfortable not having health benefits anymore. But in the meantime I think I'm gonna enjoy the freedom of temping in a way I never really appreciated back when I was doing it before. I realize now that I'm actually very lucky to have the skills that allow me to get this kind of work — especially now, when, frankly, everything related to the economy really kinda sucks ass.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekly Weigh-In

Current weight: 280.6 lbs
Weight lost to date: 3.0 lbs

Damn it. Took a step in the wrong direction this week. There were many factors that contributed to my backsliding, but the main one is me being lazy. No excuse. Time to get back on the horse.

Friday, March 07, 2008


If you're anything like me, you find that the less stuff you have to do, the less stuff you are willing to do. Since I got laid off a week and a half ago I have found it increasingly difficult to get off my ass and actually get things accomplished. I have managed to spend some time every day combing the want ads and sending out résumés. In the first couple of days I got some cleaning done. I worked out a little. But every day I find myself waiting a little longer to do necessary things like take a shower. I have not been eating well, nor have I called any of my friends who are available during the day, because I am absolutely paranoid about spending money until I have another job.

And, obviously, I have been neglecting this blog. It's not like there's nothing to write about. I'm just having difficulty making myself sit the hell down and do it when just a few feet away there is a TV, a DVD player and a big-ass bowl of M&Ms. My Weekly Weigh-In on Monday is gonna be embarrassing.

On the plus side, at least now I'm aware of my inherent laziness. I can see it in action, so to speak, and I can work to counteract it. There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when I would have reveled in this. I'd have rolled around in my laziness like a dog in a pile of garbage. Now I look at all this free time in front of me and I feel guilty. I need to fill it with something useful, and soon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax, 1938 — 2008

Gary Gygax co-created Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson in 1974, and founded the pioneering role-playing game publisher TSR. Basically, the guy invented the modern role-playing game.

In many ways my interest in writing can be traced to the fun I had creating D&D adventures for my step-brothers and myself. The joke was that we never got around to actually playing because we were always so busy preparing to play. So much work went into the creation of our fantasy world and characters that we ended up with very little time to actually role the dice and kill some monsters. For me, though, it was the creation part that was the most fun.

A Moment of Silence for Gary Gygax:

Monday, March 03, 2008

Weekly Weigh-In

Current weight: 280.0 lbs
Weight lost to date: 3.6 lbs

Last week turned out to be rather stressful, and frankly any thoughts of diet and exercise went out the window after Wednesday. Fortunately I still managed to make a little progress. Hopefully this week will go a little better.