Month: October 2015

Exit 79. You have to admire that kind of loyalty.

Sometimes, I have to acknowledge that people I don’t like, or people who support a cause I don’t support, have qualities that I admire.

Last night I watched the Sacramento Kings play the Los Angeles Lakers (that’s basketball, for you non-sports people).  The Kings won.  They led by 31 points at one point, and ended up winning by 18.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Northern California sports fans, like me, do not like Los Angeles teams.  That’s just the way things work.  Also, these two teams in particular have a very tense history beyond the typical North vs. South rivalry.  The Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in the histoy of the NBA, having won 16 league championships in their history.  The Kings have only won one championship in franchise history, in 1951, long before they moved to Sacramento, and when the league only had 11 teams instead of today’s 30.  Los Angeles, of course, gets much more attention from the media than Sacramento.  And the Kings’ best chance to win a championship in Sacramento, in 2002, was cut short in a playoff game against the Lakers that featured so many biased calls from the referees, including no foul on Kobe Bryant after elbowing Mike Bibby in the face and knocking him bleeding to the floor, that it has spawned conspiracy theories about being fixed.

The Lakers have fallen on hard times in recent years, however.  Last year, they had two games left, and they needed one more win to avoid having the worst winning percentage in franchise history.  They finished their season with two games against the Kings, one in Sacramento (which I attended) and one in Los Angeles, and the Kings won both.  Games in Sacramento against the Lakers are always tense, not only because of that history, but because there are a lot of Laker fans up here.  Most fans of visiting teams who show up to watch their team play the Kings are pretty decent.  They’re just there to see their favorite teams and players and see a good game.  Most Laker fans, though, make a point of being the biggest thuggish foul-mouthed jerks possible.  They boo the Kings and their star players.  They act annoyed when Kings fans cheer for the home team, as if we have no right to be there in our own arena.  And they keep rubbing 2002 in our faces.  (Of course, I do know a few decent and well-behaved Laker fans.  The next paragraph does not apply to them.)

As I said, the Lakers looked absolutely pathetic last night through the whole first half, trailing by 24 at halftime.  They started to chip away at the lead later in the game, but the Kings led by at least 15 for the entire second half.  The Lakers have not won yet this season (although they, like the Kings, had only played one game before Friday night’s game).  You can’t spell LAst pLAce without LA.  And yet Laker fans were just as loud and dirty as ever, putting down the Kings and cheering on their team that was getting embarrassed on the court.  There was one two seats over from me, and, had the Lakers actually gone ahead in the fourth quarter, I probably would have had to ask my friend to restrain me physically from punching this guy in the face.

The point I’m trying to make here: You have to admire that kind of loyalty.  Not that kind of behavior or attitude, but loyalty.

I don’t really see that kind of loyalty in a lot of Kings fans, at least not as a group.  The building is rarely packed these days like it was in 2002.  I know a lot of people who gave up on the Kings when the team started to fall apart in 2006, and who refuse to go to any more games because of the way the owners behaved in 2006-13, despite the fact that those owners are gone and have nothing to do with the team anymore.  A few years ago, when it looked like the team was going to be moving, I knew people who called themselves Kings fans who said that they wished the team would hurry up and move just so the drama would be over.  As Inigo Montoya might say, you keep using that word “fan.”  I do not think it means what you think it means.  This all makes me sad.

Real fans don’t give up on their team when the team is doing badly.  And for as much as I don’t like the Lakers, and I don’t like obnoxious trolling fans who show up at the other team’s venue and act like jerks, I can’t deny that I admire them for sticking with their team even when they do badly.

Exit 78. That’s okay, because you can have some leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.

The full trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released earlier this week, and advance tickets for the movie, which opens in mid-December, also went on sale.  I completely missed this.

There was a time, specifically most of my 20s, when I was on top of all Star Wars-related news.  I didn’t exactly grow up with Star Wars.  I remember seeing it on the big screen at one point; I think it was during a theatrical re-release around the time Return of the Jedi was first released.  But I was too young to fully appreciate what was going on, and since I didn’t have a lot of the toys, and I didn’t keep watching it as an adult, I wasn’t really that knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe.  I remember seeing bits and pieces of The Empire Strikes Back on TV over the years, but I know I never saw Return of the Jedi.  I really got into Star Wars during the 1996-97 school year, my third at UC Davis, when I had a roommate who was a huge Star Wars fan.  Coincidentally, this was also the year that the movies were re-released with new footage (and, thus, when the “Han shot first” controversy first erupted).

So what changed?  Why am I not following Star Wars as closely now as I used to?  I really don’t know.  It isn’t because I don’t like Star Wars anymore; that isn’t true.  It isn’t because I was disappointed with the prequels; I’ve said before that my opinion of the prequels is less unfavorable than that of most people I know.  I still don’t know what it is, but I think the major factor is just that I don’t have time to keep up with movies and entertainment franchises at that level.  I have a very demanding job, and I only have so much time.  Also, society has changed.  Activities like cosplaying, binge-watching, and “Geeking Out” (whatever that means) have become mainstream hobbies that also include adults (at least among the people in my world).  I simply don’t have enough time to devote to this.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not going to be like some of my conservative Christian brethren and say that when adults who are into this sort of thing, it reflects a profound lack of maturity that must be fixed and prayed for.  Cosplaying certainly isn’t any less mature of a way to spend one’s time than golf or fishing or shooting or motorcycles or any of the other things that the people who say this think that adult men should be doing.  If being a full-time geek is your thing, good for you.  Have fun with it.  I enjoy hearing your stories and seeing pictures of the costumes.  It’s just not something I can devote that much time to.  And I really don’t appreciate the way some people try to put me down for not being enough of a geek.  That takes the fun out of it and turns those people into bullies.  In addition to all the people who act incredulous when I say I don’t follow Star Trek, or those who think I’m wrong for not hating the Star Wars prequels, or those who get all high and mighty about how dumb sports are when I say I also like watching sports, I’ve also had people put me down for things as ridiculous as saying that pi is my favorite number instead of e, phi, Euler’s constant, or other far more obscure mathematical constants, because liking pi is “too pedestrian.”  Really?  This is how you’re going to treat people?  Asshat.

So back to my point.  So far, I have not bought tickets or made definite plans to see The Force Awakens.  The only person who has invited me along so far is going to a showing late at night as soon as it opens.  I have to work the next day.  It’s not worth the stress to me to call in sick the next day.  With my job, the early morning start time is pretty inflexible, and it’s actually more stressful to plan not to be at work than it is to just go to work (which is why I really hate getting sick).  I’ve told this to my friends before, that I don’t see a lot of movies these days because my friends all go at midnight, and I can’t do that with my work schedule.  Some of my friends have responded by saying that most of them would gladly watch the movie again, another time, and I can go with them then.  Thanks, but this really isn’t helping.  For one thing, most of the time, that never happens (although thank you for those who have in fact followed up that way).  More importantly, though, it still makes me feel excluded.  It’s like my friends saying, “Hi, we’re all going to go out to a great dinner, and we know we’re planning it at a time when you’re unavailable, but that’s okay, because you can have some of our cold leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.”  Gee, thanks.

The problem is that there really isn’t any alternative.  I don’t feel right asking my friends not to have their fun just because of my work schedule.  So if I do see The Force Awakens, there’s a good chance it’ll be either going to be with people who have already seen it, or alone.  And there’s a good chance it won’t be on opening night, since a lot of theaters seem to have sold out before I even heard that tickets went on sale.  But plans could still change.  We’ll see.  Always in motion is the future.

Exit 77. My introvert is showing again.

I had people over this weekend for a night of hanging out and playing retro video games.  I’ve mentioned before that this is something I do every few months.  It’s always a lot of fun.  It’s great seeing friends and reliving childhood memories and introducing younger friends to the popular culture of my childhood.

But sometimes lately I get weird awkward feelings hosting events like this.  For one thing, enough people usually show up that I feel like I can’t possibly spend a lot of time with everyone.  I don’t like having to leave people out, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they came all the way to my house only to be ignored by the host.  At these retro gaming events, I also tend to have a short attention span.  I’ll play one game for a while, then jump to another game, then take a break to eat, then jump to another game, and again, that makes me anxious that I’m leaving people behind when I decide to play something else.

I’m pretty sure all of this is in my head.  None of my friends have ever told me that they feel neglected when they come to my house.  If anything, they tell me how much fun it was and how good it was to see me.  Maybe part of the problem is that I wish I could be in all places at once, spending time with everyone at once.  Some of the people who come to big events at my house are people I don’t see very often, and when I finally get to see them, I have to divide my attention.  I wish I didn’t have to do that.  And I wish I could play all the retro games at once.  Between my collection and those that friends bring over, there are hundreds of games here, each one providing many hours of involved gameplay.

I think there’s one unifying explanation for what’s happening here, though: my introvert is showing again.  Even though I enjoy spending time with my friends, I can’t do it all the time.  I get to know people much better one-on-one and in smaller groups.  Big groups of friends have their place and time, but I need more than that.  And that’s okay.  I don’t necessarily have to feel like a bad friend; it’s not possible for anyone to develop deep relationships with all 20 people when 20 people come over for a few hours.  I just have to get it out of my head that there’s something wrong with the way I do large groups.

Exit 76. I can’t keep carrying around all that regret.

In the past, I’ve always found those who live by a philosophy that involves doing what you want and not having regrets profoundly annoying.  Too many people get themselves into trouble with short-sighted bad decisions, the kind of decisions that are likely to leave you injured, broke, infected, or incarcerated.  That kind of life, act now and screw the consequences, is not for me, at least I always thought.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the other extreme is no way to live either.  I’ve spent too much of my life overthinking things to death and coming up with ways to sabotage myself, to convince myself that something is a bad idea without even trying it.  And now, I’m ten short months away from turning 40 and full of regrets over things I haven’t done in the past.  My past is littered with too many events I didn’t attend that won’t happen again, experiences I passed on that don’t exist anymore, and girls I didn’t ask out who are married now.

How did I turn out like this?  A lot of reasons, probably.  I’ve seen a lot of lives ruined by immature decisions that weren’t thought out well, and I’ve always made it a point that I don’t want to turn out like that.  I’ve noticed some aspects of my personality where I could see myself as the type of individual who could easily fall into some of those traps, so I’ve made a point of staying as far away from anything that might lead to such a mistake.  (Alcoholism, for example.  I’ve never had a drink in my life, because I see myself as the type who would be easily susceptible to abusing alcohol.)  As a child, I feel like whenever I was encouraged to try new things, it was someone else encouraging me to try something that they thought I might enjoy, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but it feels like new ideas that came from myself were often discouraged.  In young adulthood, I came of age spiritually in the late 1990s, when the big fad among Christian youth and college groups was that dating was bad, spending time alone with the opposite sex was inappropriate, and breaking up with someone was generally portrayed as something so painful that it should be avoided at all costs.

But the important thing is to understand where to go from here.  There has to be something in between.  I’m not going to go get drunk in Mexico and hook up with prostitutes, #YOLO.  But at the same time, sitting here refusing to try something because it might go wrong, it might cost too much, I might be disappointed, that leaves me just as disappointed, if not worse, as if things had gone wrong.  I can’t keep carrying around all that regret.  And I might finally be changing.  I’ve done several things in the last month that I thought for a long time might be bad ideas, but so far I’m doing fine.  I wish it hadn’t taken me 39 years to figure this out, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Exit 75. Everything cleared up at just the right time.

I didn’t get a chance to write anything this week.  I have a lot of thoughts running around in my head, and I’m not sure how much of it I want to share with the world.  So I’m posting something I wrote in December 2010, which seems timely again because it’s about a lunar eclipse, which we just saw recently

Monday night [December 20, 2010], there was a total lunar eclipse. I’ve been looking forward to this since June, when I stayed up very late to watch a partial lunar eclipse. (For those of you non-astronomy buffs, this is the one where the full moon turns red.) But as the day of the eclipse approached, I started to think that I was going to miss it. It rained hard all weekend, and it was supposed to continue raining well into this week. It rained during the night, and most of Monday was cloudy, although it only rained briefly, and lightly for the most part.

I was driving home during the early stages of the eclipse. I had the moonroof open (glass closed, but the cover pulled back so I could see up), and every few minutes when it was safe to do so I would look up briefly. I could see that the moon was getting darker, but sometimes it was also covered by clouds so that I couldn’t see it very clearly. I figured it would still be worth watching, but that my view would be interrupted by clouds and maybe reduced to a dull red glow at times.

I got home just as totality was beginning. I looked up and saw clouds drifting across the sky… but something amazing was happening. They were all moving away from me. Within less than a minute, I had a completely clear view overhead in all directions. I could see the spectacular red moon very clearly. And not just the moon, but to the south I saw Orion, with Canis Major and Minor behind him, and the Pleiades ahead of him, and behind me to the north Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Everything was completely clear. I grabbed a blanket, bundled up, and lay on the back patio for an hour and a half just watching the sky. It stayed clear the whole time… not a cloud in sight. And when I finally did go back inside, after about a fourth of the moon was lit again, I could see clouds in the direction of the Big Dipper, probably ready to come back my way soon. But everything cleared up at just the right time.

Yesterday I went into work to finish up all the paperwork to register for a school activity I was a leader for at the time. I was extremely scatterbrained during finals week and wasn’t on top of getting stuff turned in. Yesterday was the deadline to get it turned in, and in order to do so, I was still waiting for two other things to happen. One of the students hadn’t yet turned in his permission slip. I spoke with his guardian the day before and said that I would need it dropped off at school by noon in order for him to participate. Also, another school employee had forgotten to sign his part of the form. I spoke with him on the phone the day before, asking if he would be at the school any time in the next 24 hours; he said he would, so I put the form in his box and told him to give it back to me when it was done. So I got there and checked my box… the permission slip was there, but the writing competition proctor agreement was not. I went through the motions of copying everything I had and filling out my part of the registration form, hoping that he would show up while I was still there… but when I was done making copies, he still wasn’t there. I didn’t want to keep calling and keep bugging him; even though I would be perfectly willing to go wherever he was at the moment, as long as I could still make it to the office where I had to drop off the paperwork and back to my neighborhood in time for my dentist appointment two and a half hours later, I didn’t want to be annoying about this, especially since it was my lack of responsibility and focus that put me in this situation of rushing around in the first place. So I was sitting in the office, debating whether to call his cell phone vs. call the office and ask if it was okay to register without that form and deliver the form in January… and about a minute later, I see him driving up. I got the form signed, drove it out to where I needed to drop it off, and made it back home in time to have lunch before my appointment. Everything cleared up at just the right time.

Paul writes to the Romans that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6). In all the details of the Christmas story [remember, I was originally writing this at Christmas time], it’s easy to overlook the fact that this happened at a specific time for a specific reason. Thousands of years had passed since the time of Adam and Eve. Why didn’t he send the Savior sooner? Why did God choose the time of the Roman Empire over any other time in history? I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but he definitely had his reasons. During the time of the Old Testament, his people had a lot of things to learn the hard way. They went through many periods of turning away from God and then turning back. They had good kings and bad kings. They were conquered by other nations and taken into exile. In all those experiences, not only did God’s people experience their need for a Savior, but when God sent Jesus into the time of the Romans, he was able to use that experience to turn expectations upside down and weed out the true believers from the posers. The posers wanted a Messiah who would kick some Roman ass, but instead he sent one who spoke of humility and faith and selflessness. Had Jesus come at a different time, that message might not have had the same impact. Jesus came at just the right time.

I made a list of goals at the beginning of 2010. Yesterday morning, as I was riding my bike, thinking about how I was coming very close to my goal of biking 1000 miles, I got to thinking about other goals that I had not yet accomplished. One of them, the one I had code-named Phobos in that original post, remained unaccomplished; this was probably the most difficult of all the things I had hoped to do in 2010. I was almost out of time, and I didn’t know if I’d get the chance to do this. (Well, I suppose i could do this any time, but the nature of this activity is such that certain situations are more likely to lead to a more positive outcome than others.) Last night started out kind of disappointing. But then a window of opportunity seemed to open up… and just before it closed, I took the chance.  It was a very awkward conversation that did not lead to the desired outcome, but I tried, and that was really the point of Mission Phobos.*

Everything cleared up at just the right time.

[*In case you’re curious, “Mission Phobos” was to ask a total stranger on a date.  The very act of asking that night led to a very awkward response, we never went on a date, and we really didn’t speak again.  But I tried.  I set the same goal for myself in 2009, and it did happen; it didn’t last to the end of the second date, and the girl is happily engaged now in 2015, but we’re still on Facebooking terms.]