A promise

Sometimes waiting is forever,
holding on to a fleeting promise
in one moment is beaten and blown away.
Every day a lifetime of memories
and hopes and dreams
not quite a handle to grab on to,
but maybe enough to fill me with desire
of something a little more tangible.
These minutes feel like lifetimes,
and this year looms ahead
an unending chasm.
But soon it is over and I’ll emerge
again to survey my surroundings
perhaps a familiar marker
something set aside but remembered
and treasured.

Time is running out

So here it is, Christmas day, and I’ve got a few thoughts running through my head, keeping me from sleep.

Next week is my last week at the intern job I’ve had over the summer/fall, and a week after that I’ll be starting up another semester of school. Only two semesters left… I had so many plans for this summer, and almost none of them happened.

Today I realized more concretely, while planning the moving-back-to-school, that I was almost done here, and starting school will once again cut me off from my friends here. And as I thought more on this, I felt more and more alone. I’ll be living in an apartment with a friend, and I’ll still see most of these friends about the same amount, but during the semester I always feel so cut off and distanced. Probably because of the distance.

But general friendships aren’t why I’m still awake at 2am, it’s a very specific relationship.

And a real fear that I’ll lose the friendship by the cold forces of time and distance.

But when I say “lose”, I don’t mean how it’s normally meant. I mean that, by time and distance, and the inevitable changes about to occur in some of my circles of friends, that the relationship will be… Well, I guess maybe “lost” is the best word.

Set aside and forgotten.

Displaced with other interests.

“It’s a sad thing to lose a friend”, he said.

With all my heart

[Every year, around my birthday, I reflect on who I am, where I've come from, and where I'm going, and then I pour out my heart in this blog. This year is no different.]

Can you remember when you were six? Some people can, especially if they are still six, but my memory slips in and out and I can only remember bits and phrases. One piece goes like this:

My fathers friend, who was also my friend, died when I was rather young, and I remember going to the funeral. This man was a friend to many, and he brought happiness into many people’s lives, so there were many people there, and lots of them were crying.

I didn’t cry then.

As far back as my memory goes, I don’t recall ever being a person who cries easily. I felt pain, I was incredibly sad many times, but I’ve always been good at putting away my sadness, hiding my sorrow behind a stone wall. A barricade to keep people out.

“Good fences make good neighbors”

Only a short number of years ago, I met someone who I thought for sure I would marry “a promise in time, shadows of memories…” When that relationship didn’t work out, I was overcome with grief, but I did not cry much. I was silent for days, my heart was heavy in me while a called out to God, “save me or I perish”, but I did not weep.

Do you remember when you were six? Do you remember what made you cry then?

When I was younger, probably ten or twelve, I was learning math (Algebra) and it was so difficult that it made me cry. But even at that age I could see the golden treasure behind the veil, and I persevered, and now (years later) I’m wrapping up a degree in engineering.

But I didn’t want to talk about “perseverance”, I wanted to say that I wasn’t six then, I was much older.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)

Why does Jesus say this, that the kingdom of God “belongs to such as these”?

When I was six years old, I hardly knew how to read, if I recall correctly. The world was becoming a strange and dark place to me, I was becoming aware of what pain was, of why people cry, of right and wrong, of love, and of death.

A child hears everything you say, and is thinking about it more than you realize. Parents know this when the thing they said several days ago comes out of the mouth of their five year old, sometimes with comedic results.

I recently watched a movie where a young child is told that the sun is going to get bigger and bigger, eventually burning up the earth and the entire solar system, and it didn’t matter to the child that it would be billions of years down the road. What mattered is that, quite suddenly, the child realized a bigger truth, that everything and everyone around you will someday die.

Probably by now you are wondering what this is all about, because it sure seems like I’m going somewhere. And you are right, but I don’t think I can summarize in a nice simple paragraph.

You see, some things can’t be summarized into bumper-sticker slogans, or nice paragraph summaries. Some things in life are so deep, and so meaningful that to even try to put it in words seems to trivialize the very thing you are trying to say. But I will try to say it here:

The love of God is greater than tongue or pen can tell. If I were to fill the ocean with ink, and write all that ink onto paper, describing the love of God, I would drain the ocean dry and still be on the first chapter.

Walls to keep her heart

Every day she waits,
that queen of a desolate kingdom.
Desert filled with sand
of a thousand years,
no flower blooms there anymore.

Stone walls, built high,
and years pass by
turning walls into fields of sand,
empty and forgotten.

As the sun sets on her desert
she cannot remember the walls,
but beyond them now
is only emptiness.

Queen, high above the ground,
she does not notice others
because there is only one.
Only one man is her rose,
and that rose is a king.

Some thoughts on Food Service

I did not go to culinary school. In fact, it’s my personal opinion that culinary school is mostly a waste of time (more on that later). Instead I worked for several years as a lower chef, and passively gained experience until I moved up the proverbial ladder.

Working in food service was fun but tiring, as a chef you’ll always be on your feet. Be prepared to have a tired back for quite some time, until the muscles get conditioned to the 12 hour standing up routine. The enjoyable part of food service to me was twofold:

1) You get to make things! Depending on what you specialize in and where you work, you get to make more or less interesting things. For example, if you work as a salad chef on a buffet line, you probably won’t get to make those cool plates and awesome cakes, but you can add a little personal flair by carving flowers and things out of tomatoes and radishes.

2) You get to spend time with people, in a very unique environment. It’s sometimes high stress, but a lot of “boring” time spent together, talking about any old thing. Don’t let this frighten you if you aren’t really a people person, you can also be pretty quiet if you want, but after you spend some time in the kitchen you’ll open up. It really is a blast.

The correlations are true:

1) If you don’t enjoy making simple creative things, food service probably won’t be something you enjoy.

2) If you work somewhere with un-friendly people, you will get burnt out really quickly.

Anyway … I loved making food (still do, actually), and I loved running the kitchen even more. I loved it enough to start putting a business plan together to start my own restaurant.

However, the one issue with food service is that it takes a lot of time, and is higher stress than an office job. From what I can tell, through experience and visiting other kitchens, this is true from the lowly fast-food shop to the high dollar restaurant extraordinaire. Food service is always a hurry-hurry-hurry, wait-wait-wait kind of job, so it’s not always high stress, but the peaks of stress can be pretty high sometimes.

In the end, I realized I could make a career using the intellect God has blessed me with, and realized I would rather do that than continue down the path I was on.

I suppose it was part of my “growing up” years, because I also realized I had gotten into food service passively. What I mean is that I didn’t actively pursue personal education of food stuffs, of how to run restaurants, but I had taken this career path because it was easier.

And that’s another thing: Food service doesn’t really give you much money per hour, so it’s really hard to justify spending 2-4 years at culinary school in the hope that you get a better job. Unless you are prepared to really go at it, culinary school is a high cost, low return investment.

Not that it wouldn’t be fun, because I’m pretty sure it would be, but you’d better count your fun-per-dollar and see if it’s worth it. I’d say 90% of the time it’s not.

The Way of Children

When I was a child, I acted as a child. I still do, actually. But as I grow older, I put away childish things.

Years ago I read a book that changed my thinking, and greatly shaped several years of my life. The book was a story about a man who meets a child, and the child changes the mans life. The child reminds the man of the innocence of youth, and how as adults we grow out of that innocence and become adults.

Become more jaded.

More cynical of life.

As we get older we realize that people don’t always mean what they say, and even our friends will lie to us. We start to notice that there are a lot of people who don’t care about us, and they’ll deceive us to make a few more dollars, and they’ll hurt us inside, where we thought we could be safe.

There comes a point in our lives that we realize there are things that can’t be deflected by our pillow forts and can’t be stopped by a blanket. Someone says something that hurts us so deep, and even the kisses of someone we love cannot drive away the pain and the sorrow, and that pain and sorrow we will have to carry alone for the rest of our lives.

When I was a child, I thought friends would never hurt their friends. When I was a child, my best friend told her friends that I was a nobody. That’s when I first realized that people could hurt other people on purpose. That a person can say they are a friend, but still hurt you.

Many times people will say wistfully that they wish they could have the innocence of youth, that they could be free from the cares and worry of life. To be free of the hurry and bustle of life. To have the intense joy of something as simple as someone giving you an ice cream cone.

When I was a child, I acted as a child.

I hurt people deeply, and I continued doing it because the end result was enjoyable for me. I didn’t understand that I could hurt someone so deeply, and affect their life so negatively, and even though I knew the thing that I did was wrong, I did it anyway. This is the way of a child.

In the innocence children, there is pain much deeper. Where there is no worry, there is no care for others. As a child, love is only selfishness.

The spring blossom of youth soon fades, but not to be jaded by the harshness of life. The innocence of youth is lost to the realization that we humans are cruel and mean. We hurt each other, and we usually do it on purpose. But it is not enough just to see that other people hurt you. This does not make you an adult.

As I grow older, I put away childish things.

Wanting to return to the innocence of childhood is to cause others pain. As children we were ignorant of the pain we caused others, and we were ignorant of how our actions would hurt people. But as we grow older, we put away the selfishness of childish things.

Things on my heart

There’s a lot on my heart tonight: I’ve finally reached a point where I can see the end of school and I have a reasonably good job mostly lined up for when I’m done, so I’ve been thinking of how the next “stage of life” will be starting shortly. Here is what I’ve been thinking about mostly:

Some people say men are afraid of relationships, afraid of commitments. One lady told me that, but at the time I didn’t realize that what I was afraid of was being vulnerable. It’s not the decisiveness of a commitment that I was afraid of, it was the vulnerability that the commitment required.

When I was younger I quit my job because I wanted to know what it would be like to have all the time I wanted to finally read books. (I haven’t always been a planner, as you can tell.) Another time I left a job that would have turned into me owning a restaurant, so I could volunteer for a couple years at some camp. Then when I left the camp, only a few years ago, I abandoned a solid career to go to school and try to get into an industry I knew nothing about.

I never wanted to make a serious commitment to a job or a place or even, sadly, to friends.

But over the past three or four years I have been having a change of heart. A change of focus. I guess that’s part of “growing up”, that now I am making plans for a hundred years from now. My carefree spirit has changed quite a bit. Now I have commitments.

I’m not complaining: I have been blessed with an opportunity that I would never have dreamed possible, and blessed with many good close friends. I guess I’m just getting impatient to be done with school so I can move onto what I can see waiting right in front of me.

Many years ago a friend told me what love is, but I forgot what was said–at the time it was very meaningful to me, but now I don’t think it would satisfy.

These days I think love is more about being vulnerable to someone. Caring about someone enough to drop the veil that guards your face when you normally talk to people. Dropping the veil because it makes it harder to see the other person.

I guess what I really want is to be vulnerable again.

Listening to Phoenix

I’ve been listening to “Phoenix” lately, a techno-ish sort of music that is easy to listen to. In one of the songs he asks “do you remember when 21 years was old”, which I thought was an interesting question.

So I asked it on Facebook. To my friends.

Many replies later, I got to wondering: What was I doing when I was 21? It was a few years ago, but thankfully, I was able to peruse my journals and remember.

When I was 21 I was in love with a girl. Cowardice and immaturity were (are?) my strong suits, so here I am. Alone.

And when I thought of that relationship, I got stuck in thought: Why do women say men are “afraid of commitment”?

One time I was working with an older lady who had been divorced, and she asked me that. “Why are men so afraid to commit?” It took me a while to think of what she said, but I realized: Men aren’t afraid of commitment, but rather of rejection and failure.

Freud often took his personal analysis and extrapolated it to say that everyone felt just like he did. I guess I’m going to be guilty of the same thing, but I’m going to say it anyway: Men lower their goals because they don’t want to fail at meeting those self-imposed goals.

It’s silly, in a way, but basically we think “I’ll never reach goal A, so I’ll set my goal lower to make sure I achieve it.” If a man lowers this goal to “nothing in particular”, they’ll be the lazy couch sitters that this culture is so familiar with.

And men also don’t want to be rejected. I have a hard time deciding if this is pure pride, or a different topic, but I lean toward the latter.

I think I didn’t want to commit to that relationship because of fear of failing at developing a real and lasting relationship.

I’m still learning, I guess.

Music is Dead

Thesis: Modern music is dead.

Evidence: Lyrical depth is limited to “Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah), Fun, fun, fun, fun, Lookin’ forward to the weekend.”

Some of you may argue that I am really just linking to “singers” that are products of the ARK Factory (Wikipedia), an establishment that is comparable to the “Song Poem” days of music. You may hold these types of musicians as the minority in modern music, so I will present more evidence:

And yes, I am basically just running down the Billboard top 100 chart.

Programs I use in Windows

These are all the programs installed on my computer currently. All of them are free, and almost all of them are open source.

  • WAMP server: Setup a complete environment for doing web development work. I find this implementation to be one of the easiest to use.
  • VLC Media Player: Used for playing any individual media file. For my music playlists I use foobar2000 (see below).
  • Virtual Clone Drive: If you have an ISO or other disc image, you can mount it like a real disc.
  • Tortoise SVN: Any developer that doesn’t use some form of version control should not be taken seriously. Some use GIT, but I use SVN.
  • Sumatra PDF: The first time you open a PDF with Sumatra you will be blown away by how insanely fast it is.
  • SQLyog Community: An amazing tool for MySQL work. My roommate uses it instead of phpMyAdmin, but I still use both.
  • PuTTY: A basic SSH console for Windows.
  • LaTeX (ProTeXt – MiKTeX/TeXnic Center/Ghostscript/GSview): A better way to write professional documents. I use it for research papers and such.
  • Pidgin: Instant messaging, with many handy options.
  • PeerBlock: Security tool that blocks connections from known bad ports. Mostly used by people who torrent, but a good tool even if you don’t.
  • Paint.NET: An excellent image editing program. It’s somewhere between MS Paint and Photoshop, leaning towards the Photoshop side.
  • VirtualBox: Virtual computers. I use this to run true Windows XP and Linux environments without needing to reboot or have a secondary computer. Apple OSX should also work on it, but I have not been successful.
  • OpenOffice: Complete office suite, with the normal document, spreadsheet, etc., programs. Easy to use, and makes good documents. It will read MS Office .docx files, but they aren’t rendered exactly correct.
  • Notepad++: Text editor, used for editing code. Syntax highlighting for hundreds of common languages comes prepackaged. Other useful features.
  • Mozilla Firefox: My web browser of choice. Used for browsing and web development work. I have 11 add-ons I use, more on that later.
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 (x89 and x64): I don’t know if I even need this. It might have installed with some other program I tried…
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Client Profile: Same thing here…
  • Java: Auto-installed by OpenOffice (used mostly for their database program) and used by a few other programs.
  • Google Chrome: Secondary browser. I block all access to Facebook on Firefox, and use Chrome instead. Also used to verify web design.
  • foobar2000: The best music player around. Plays pretty much any music file, and has some plugins to do other work to, if you need it.
  • FileZilla Client: An awesome FTP client.
  • Dropbox: A file backup program, one of the best. It’s free for a couple GBs, but I like it so much I pay for it. If I could convince you to use any one of these programs on this list, this would be it. Seriously.
  • Adobe Flash Player: A necessary evil, but seriously, it’s not that bad…
  • 7-Zip: The absolute best for zip files, and for any other compression method as well. You can even take apart exe and docx files as well.