Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Fable by William Faulkner

A Fable by William Faulkner, 1954

William Faulkner created a great story in A Fable, unfortunately he wrote it for himself.

A Fable is a novel written in 1954 by the American author William Faulkner, which won him both the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award in 1955. Despite these recognitions, however, the novel received mixed critical reviews and a reputation as one of Faulkner's lesser works [1].

Faulkner spent over a decade on A Fable, which on a Pulitzer prize in 1955, and considered it his masterpiece.

The book takes place in France during World War I and stretches throughout one week. "Corporal Zsettslani" is the central figure and a Christ figure. He orders 3,000 troops through his 12 N.C.O's (disciples) to disobey orders to attack in trench warfare.

The traitorous ceasefire cause the Germans to not attack, and the war comes to a halt when the soldiers realize that it takes two sides to fight a war.

The "old general," who is the head of the Allied Forces, has the corporal arrested and executed but not before trying to convince the corporal that war can never be stopped because it is critical to the human race.

Like As I Lay Dying, written 15 years prior, Faulkner manages to write a book that requires 20 days to read. His stream-of-conscience style makes following the story difficult to say the least.

At one point, the reader is in France and the next in the Deep South of the United States. The dialog is extremely hard to follow especially since Faulkner seldom uses names to identify his characters.

Page-long paragraphs leave the reader begging for a break.

A Fable is like reading 450 pages of poetry, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Yet, the overall story makes this book worth reading as the parallels with Jesus and the Bible are unmistakable and pronounced through the setting of World War I.

The Man Who Desired Gold

The biggest lesson that I took away from this chapter was to secure a steady stream of income. When the merchant lays out a plan to steal the rich man's purse of gold, the other merchant corrects him, saying that such an act will not hurt the rich man because he has a source that will keep filling up that purse with gold. And it will not help the merchant because, soon, the gold would run out, and he would have no source of income to replace it with.

Take away: Secure steady sources of income

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Day 35: God's Power in Your Weakness

  • Point to Ponder: God works best when I admit my weakness.
  • Verse to Remember: My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. -2 Corinthians 12:9a (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: Am I limiting God's power in my life by trying to hide my weaknesses? What do I need to be honest about in order to help others?
Yes. I am liming God's power in my life by trying to compensate for my weaknesses.

One such weakness is my ability to quickly make a mountain out of a mole hill (Dang it, there's the cliche committee again).

One stressor starts making me stress about something else, which makes me worry about something else. Pretty soon, I'm stressing about stress.

Someone much better at handling stress once sat me down and talked me through what I was worrying about. It turned out, that there was nothing to actually stress about, and I was stressing about nothing.

I don't really understand the second part of this question, but if I am honest about my weakness to try to take on too much stuff, maybe I can help others avoid trying to make that same mistake.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, 2009

The 4-Hour Workweek already has eased my workload at work just with its recommendations on handling email.

I can't properly express how excited I am after reading this book.

A lot of the recommendations I already do (mainly live the 80/20 rule), and I am not as interested in traveling as the author.

But from figuring out what you want from life and how to get it, this book has it all. Obviously, I haven't tried out all the suggestions yet, so many may prove wrong for me, but I can't wait to try them out.

I don't know want to give too much away in a book review as I plan on blogging about the exercises from the end of the chapter as I do them.

Suffice to say, you don't want to miss this one.

Day 34: Thinking Like a Servant

  • Point to Ponder: To be a servant I must think like a servant.
  • Verse to Remember: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 2:5 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: Am I usually more concerned about being served or finding ways to serve others?
Honestly, I don't like to be served. I prefer doing things for myself, which, as I mentioned in a previous post, has precluded from God helping me at times.

That said, I can definitely say I am more concerned about finding ways to serve others than about being served. I don't have many wants in this life and am happy to be me. Possessions and being served are very low on the things I value.

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Day 33: How Real Servants Act

  • Point to Ponder: I serve God by serving others.
  • Verse to Remember: If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. -Matthew 10:42 (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: Which of the six characteristics of real servants offers the greatest challenge to me?
Here are the characteristics:

  1. Real servants maintain a low profile.
  2. Real servants do every task with equal dedication.
  3. Real servants do their best with what they have.
  4. Real servants pay attention to needs.
  5. Real servants make themselves available to serve.
  6. Real servants do their best with what they have.

I don't make serving a priority, and I am working on changing that.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, 2002


The Purpose Driven Life is a 40-day devotional that explorers God's five purposes in life for every Christian.

Here's a hint. You're not fulfilling them. Neither am I.

Warren breaks life purposes into five categories, which make up the five parts of the book:

  1. Worship
  2. Fellowship
  3. Discipleship
  4. Ministry
  5. Mission
I must admit, this book, like the Bible made me feel a little bit helpless. Fulfilling these things seems so difficult at times, and I especially struggle with even wanting to take part in fellowship.

Warren doesn't pull any punches. He lays out the purposes and backs them up with scripture and leaves no room for gray.

Reading the book made me realize how underdeveloped my faith was. Yet, I am taking it as a challenge. I am going to do the exercices in the book and, I've done all of the daily devotionals, and they'll be trickling out on this blog.

This book has sold over 30 million copies. Anyone here read it? Really interested in thoughts.

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The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, 1945

Now I know why C.S. Lewis is quoted so many times in Christian texts and thoughts on religion.

The man makes it click.

In the book, the narrator finds himself in a joyless city called "grey town". Grey Town represents hell, but no one living there actually realizes that it is hell.

He finds a bus that will take those desiring to leave Grey Town to what turns out to be heaven. The passengers realize when they arrive at heaven that they are ghosts and the features of heaven are too extreme for them at first. Initially, they can't lift a leaf or stand the sharpness of the grass. Basically, heaven is too real for them.

Residents of heaven, spirits, approach the ghosts and try to convince them to repent so they can experience the fullness and joy of heaven. These spirits are the souls of people the ghosts knew on earth.

Most of the ghost choose instead to go back to Grey Town, which is more familiar to them and reject heaven even in the face of untold joy.

The narrator meets his mentor who, like in Dante's Paradise, guides him through heaven. They observe interactions between ghosts and spirits and discuss the reasons the ghosts turn back. The guide reveals to the narrator that hell is so small that the ghosts must actually shrink to the size of invisibility to go back to hell.

Heaven's dwellers are too big on heaven's joy to even fit into hell.

The allegory and metaphors in The Great Divorce are almost over powering and the interactions between ghosts and spirits strike a chord.

One such interactions reminded me of Girl Book Geek and just how rare and special the joy she has for other people is. Coincidentally, it is a spirit (angel) who exhibits the same traits as Girl Book Geek.

Lewis puts forth what I've always believed. We condemn ourselves to hell. Whether in this life or the next, the doors to hell are locked from the inside, and we choose to stay there.

God doesn't damn us. We reject Him and His love, thus damning ourselves. And rather than repent, we grow more and more bitter, burying ourselves further into hell when all we have to do is repent, release that bitterness and accept God and we can live in endless this world and the next.

Day 32: Using What God Gave You

  • Point to Ponder: God deserves my best.
  • Verse to Remember: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: How can I make the best use of what God has given me?
I can make the best use of what God has given me by using what God gave me and daily refining those abilities through practice.

If that sounds like a load of bull, it is. I have no idea how to answer that question.

What has God given me? Hm...Well. A lot

  • Good sense of humor: Make people laugh?
  • Strong dedication: dedicated?
  • Focus: Make sure I focus on His purposes?
  • Determination: Be determined on things that please him?
  • Athleticism : Go to the gym?
Sorry, Mr. Warren. This one didn't do much for me. Could be my fault. Just being honest.

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The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, 2009

As the 12th book in the series, I thought The Gathering Storm would conclude Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Before Jordan died, he swore he would wrap up the story line in one more book. Unfortunately, Jordan died before he was able to finish the novel. Sanderson finished the novel, but couldn't finish the series in one book, so he split the finale into three novels to be released one year apart, with the next scheduled for November 2010.

As for the story, I feel Sanderson did an admirable job, considering the legendary figure he stepped in for.

This chapter of the Wheel of Time largely focuses on Rand al'Thor and his acceptance of his role as the Dragon Reborn and his acceptance and rejection of that role. Additionally Egwene al'Vere works to repair the White Tower.

In comparison, The Gathering Storm doesn't stand out as being better or worse than the others. It's just different. As Sanderson says, he doesn't try to copy Jordan's style, and while Sanderson's style does differ, it enhances characters, specifically Mat, who provides comic relief as he grows accustomed to being married.

The story, like it's name mostly is just a build up. The story lacks a lot of action but does build suspense.

Not realizing that the book was not the finale, I started scratching my head with 100 pages left wondering how Sanderson was going to wrap up the story so fast.

I recommend reading this as it is a Wheel of Time series, which is one of the best fantasy series in print.

I'm torn because I really wanted to read the ending but knew I would be bummed when I flipped the last page.

Now, I have 22 more months of anticipation.

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Day 31: Understanding Your Shape

  • Point to Ponder: Nobody else can be me.
  • Verse to Remember: God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings. -1 Peter 4:10 (LB)
  • Question to Consider: What God-given ability or personal experience can I offer to my church?
Leadership. I've always had strong leadership qualities that I think would benefit my church. But I have to get off my butt and get more involved to be able to help my church with that ability.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Prayer Works

I know prayer works. This is nothing new to me, but I was reminded of it just today.

Now, whether prayer actually worked in this case really isn't the point, but if it did, great, and if not, great.

Anyway, a friend of mine had a hurt neck, and I promised I'd say a prayer for Jehova Rapha, The Lord our Healer or the God Who Heals, to heal my friend of all physical ailments.

And while the neck pain wasn't gone today, my friend told me out of the blue they could see perfectly clearly with glasses or contacts and that nothing like that had every happened to them before.

I hope and pray the vision stays that way but even if it doesn't and even if my prayer had nothing to do with the healing, the event still reminded me that prayer works and even when it doesn't, it's still important.

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A swim in The Duck Pond

Today will go down in history as perhaps the most productive day and most disgusting day of my life.

Sunday will be the last day of a two-week workfest from my parents' house in Stuart, FL, which happens to be my hometown.

Now, this trip wasn't all about working, so I obviously had some things I wanted to do with my family while I was here.

  • Hang out with my sister as much as possible - Check
  • Haggle at the flea market - Check
  • Get my certificate of incorporation - Check
  • Watch the cartoon versions of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Return of the King. Check
  • Hang out with my dad. We went to see an old friend at a comedy show. And went to the gym together most days. Check
  • Get new shoes. Check
  • Talk with my mom about nothing. Check
  • Go to Santa Fe Grill (formerly Dos Amigos). Check
  • Go to Moe's Southwestern Grill at least five times. Check
  • Drink way too many Monsters. Check
  • Go shopping with my mom. Check
  • Check out a new church. Check
  • Buy a tennis racket. Check
  • Teach my dad how to sell on eBay.
  • Go paddle boarding.
  • Race remote control boats with my sister.
A careful (and bored, by now) reader will notice that the last three remain unchecked. I'm going to show my dad how to sell on eBay tonight or tomorrow, but, I got the other two checked off today and checked something off my life list in the process.

After my sister got back from lunch with my mom, I got us all together with our remote control boats and we headed to "The Duck Pond." The Duck Pond is simply that. A pond for ducks. It's oval-shaped and about two hundred yards long and one hundred yards wide. Oh, it's also about as clean as a prolapsed bowel. I'm sorry, but it's true. I mean, it's filled with ducks.

If you live in North River Shores, like my parents do, and I did for 16 years, The Duck Pond is legendary. And is the chosen site of our boat "races," which are more like collisionaloza, but anyway....

The last time I was home was for Christmas, and my parents gave us the boats as presents. We promptly went to The Duck Pond to race them, and I got mine stuck in the center of a 150-foot long drainage pipe. We recovered it after about two hours, in which my dad wadded into the pond with a pole cobbled together from tree clippers, electrical tape, a paddle, a pool net and the help of our neighbor.

Lesson learned, this time, we'd keep the boats away from the drainage pipes.

So we kept our boats near the middle of the pond. I was using my sister's because it was acting up and sputtering out sometimes.

Like the good sibling she is, she kept my boat near the center of the pond where there is a manmade platform that is attached to the bottom of the pond. This platform is affectionately known as "Turtle Island."

Screw Turtle Island, I says.

Like the kite eating tree that haunts Charlie Brown, Turtle Island snagged my boat. At the same time, my sister's boat was on its last legs, but I tried to knock it off Turtle Island anyway.

Yes...I got her's stuck right next to mind.

On to pinecones.

I threw pinecones at the island until I ran out.

My mom had another idea: Unopened water bottles.

I must take a break at this juncture to ask the PITA folks to keep their leaf underwear on. We fully planned on recovering the water bottles -- all of them. And we did.

But it took about 40 bottles. Yup 40. My arm is still sore.

I actually knocked my sister's off pretty easily and I managed to coax it back to shore before it died. It would not be part of the rescue mission.

Back to water bottles. After many close calls, I literally hit the dang boat dead on. It could not have been a better throw.

So it came loose? Nope.

The dang top flew off and into the water, but the actual boat didn't budge.

That's great, you say? But what does that have to do with paddling boarding, you ask?

Right, so seeing a flotilla of Zephyrhills water bottles did nothing, my sister thought about the paddle boards.

Great. So back to the house we go to get the paddle board.

This was the perfect idea. I wanted to try one of them out, the house was close and my dad says you never fall off even in the ocean. (Cue the foreshadowing music)

Great. I could safely get the boat, the top and all the water boards from the comfort of a perfectly stable board and not have to worry about falling into raw sewage. (Foreshadowing music grows louder)  

I decide to kneel on the paddle board rather than stand, and quickly make my way out to Turtle Island.

I grab the boat, and put it on the paddle board. I get the top and put it back on the boat. Now I'm putting the 40 water bottles on the paddle board. I get all but about five and toss them ashore to my mom.

My knees were hurting and kneeling was slow going, so I decided to stand. Much better. Paddling was so much easier when standi....oh s***.

Poop water. Meet Cody. Cody. Poop water.

I emerge and see the board is a good distance away, so I swim like a cyborg Jaws is after me. The water is freezing, but it's better than the smell.

Safely back on the paddle board, I get the rest of the bottles. Throw the paddle board in the van, and my mom rushes us home where I make myself throw up to vacate the fecal festival that entered my mouth and then chuck myself in a scorching hot shower.

Paddle boards? Check

What's the thing from my life list? Well, ever since I can remember, I always wanted to see someone actually swim in the duck pond.

Check. FML.

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Day 30: Shaped for Serving God

  • Point to Ponder: I was shaped for serving God.
  • Verse to Remember: God works through different men in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purposes through them all. -1 Corinthians 12:6 (Ph)
  • Question to Consider: In what way can I see myself passionately serving others and loving it?
I can see myself passionately serving others and loving it through example and leadership. I want my life to serve as an example to others. From the people I know in the gym to my co-workers to my friends. I want to serve them through small daily activities that are just the right things to do.

Additionally, I would love to build web sites for God's causes.

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Day 29: Accepting Your Assignment

  • Point to Ponder: Service is not optional.
  • Verse to Remember: For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: What is holding me back from accepting God's call to serve Him?
I don't know how to serve Him. I am in the process of freeing myself from school work (I get my MBA in April) and work work (The 4-Hour Workweek, anyone).

But I still don't know if that's the best way for me to serve Him. Do I have to be physically present for it to count as service? Can I run my group and business according to his Word and that counts? Can I give more money to causes and that counts?

I know it's not about what "counts." It's about loving God, but reading this book makes it sound like Time and Presence are required to serve. And I just don't believe that's true. Some of God's children are blessed with Time and delight to work with other people. Others are blessed to make money and set examples through leadership. I don't think the latter is any less valid than the former if the tools are used out of love of service for God.

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Day 28: It Takes Times

  • Point to Ponder: There are no shortcuts to maturity.
  • Verse to Remember: God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. -Philippians  1:6 (NCV)
  • Question to Consider: In what area of my spiritual growth do I need to be more patient and persistent?
Man alive. I feel like I'm getting asked the same question a million different ways again. Not that that's bad.

I need to be more patient with my growth period. I think I can do it all at once by just jumping in. Serving. Memorizing Bible passages. Fellowship. It can be overwhelming. I need to just take it slowly. But stay persistent.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 27: Defeating Temptation

  • Point to Ponder: There is always a way out.
  • Verse to Remember: God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. -2 Corinthians 10:13b (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: Who could I ask to be a spiritual partner to help me defeat a persistent temptation by praying for me?
Done and done. You know who you are ;)

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Corona Budgeting and Resource Allocation

For my marketing class, we had to analyze a Harvard Business Case Study on Corona Beer (sorry, you have to pay for the whole thing).

Anyway, the assignment was as follows:
  1. Read the case carefully. 
  2. Analyze the case. 
  3. Prepare written answers for the case questions (as listed on the syllabus and below) and submit it by the due date. This submission should include one Word file and one Excel workbook. Title this file as follows: your name and case name. (e.g. JohnSmithCorona.doc or JoanSmithCorona.xls) 
  1. What is the recommended amount Corona should spend on advertising in order to achieve the #1 import status? You should use data that can be extracted from the case and the competitive parity budgeting model discussed in the lecture to address this task. You do not need to do a share point analysis. 
  2. A modified version of Exhibit 6 in the Corona case is posted in the attachment below. Note the new column on the far right, "Corona Sales". These data are crucial for you to address the following task: determine the most promising states for Corona to allocate its promotional resources, using both the BDI/CDI framework discussed in the lecture and other case data as inputs to your decision. 
Your deliverables are one Excel workbook with two sheets and one Word document (place your cohort and team # at the top of each sheet and the top of the word file):
  • For Question 1: 
    • An overall budget recommendation, including 
    • Computations showing how you arrived at the budget (one Excel sheet) 
    • Explanation of any qualitative adjustments you made to the computed budget that resulted from the competitive parity model (150-word maximum) 
  • For Question 2: 
    • BDI and CDI values for each state (one Excel sheet) 
    • Considering all the data in the case, which are the three most attractive target states and why (200-word maximum) 
Here is what I came up with:

Question 1

Despite the fact that a share point analysis indicated that Corona would need to increase its advertising budget by more than 100%, we believe Corona can surpass Heineken with a 75% increase. This is mainly due to the large gap between the two's existing budget. Heineken spends more than any other imported beer brand by nearly 50%. Corona is sixth with less than a third of Heineken's budget but second in market share. Additionally, Heineken has stumbled in the U.S. market despite a longer tenure and more investment. Anecdotally, we see Heineken on the maturity portion of the life-cycle curve and Corona still on the growth portion. Finally, Heineken has churned through marketing firms and executives, looking for its sweet spot while Corona appears to have a more stable plan for advertising and marketing that has resonated with customers.

Question 2

After reviewing the results from the BDI and CDI analysis (see spread sheet), I determined that Florida should be the focus for a strategic promotional market. Florida provided the highest BDI and Beer CDI and showed a sizable increase in recent demographic size. This is the largest in the sample provided. 

This means that Corona is important in this state, and the potential impact of the area relative to national sales is continuously growing. Florida also is experiencing success in sales when compared to other areas, yet the imported beer market is rather small in the state. With this in mind, promoting in this market could allow the imported beer market to prosper with Corona as its leader.

California and Texas are key states for Corona and I would also consider Georgia a good candidate for a promotional market focus. Georgia has low per capita beer sales and a significant rise in demographic percentage (10.4%). With this in mind, a successful Corona marketing campaign in Georgia could help Corona secure future dominance.   

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Day 26: Growing trough Temptation

  • Point to Ponder: Every temptation is an opportunity to do good.
  • Verse to Remember: God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. -James 1:12 (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: What Christlike character quality can I develop by defeating the most common temptation I face?
Trust in God. If I defeat the common temptation to control my life and try and do everything myself, I will grow more Christlike in my trust in God.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 25: Transformed by Trouble

  • Point to Ponder: There is a purpose behind every problem.
  • Verse to Remember: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?
My divorce. More specifically, the end of my marriage. That was a hurtful process that taught me a lot about myself and helped me change some bad habits and traits and to look more to God.

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Day 24: Transformed by Truth

  • Point to Ponder: The truth transforms me.
  • Verse to Remember: If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indee; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -John 8:31 (KJV)
  • Question to Consider: What has God already told me in his Word that I haven't started doing yet?
To trust Him completely and to serve others.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Day23: How We Grow

  • Point to Ponder: It is never too late to start growing.
  • Verse to Remember: Let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of you mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God -- what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. -Romans 12:2b (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: What is one area where I need to stop thinking my way and start thinking God's way?
My way says I must do everything myself because no one else is going to do it for me. My way says the weak ask for help. My way says I'm in control.

God's way says trust in Him. God's way says "Ask Me for help." God's way says he's in control and He has plans to prosper and flourish me.

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Day 22: Created to Become Like Christ

  • Point to Ponder: I was created to become like Christ.
  • Verse to Remember: AS the Spirit of the Lords works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. -2 Corinthians 3:18b (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: In what area of my life do I need to ask for the Spirit's power to be like Christ today?
I need the Spirit's power to keep me free from anxiety. I'm undergoing a process to unhinge me from my work email and not checking my phone every 15 seconds is stressing me out. Also, I have more spare time because I've streamlined my work, ad I feel like I have to fill it with busy work!

I know it'll pass, and I feel great about it, but the change causes a little bit of stress

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 21: Protecting Your Church

  • Point to Ponder: It is my responsibility to protect the unity of my church.
  • Verse to Remember: Let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony and the growth of our fellowship together. -Romans 14:19 (Ph)
  • Question to Consider: What am I personally doing to protect unity in my church family right now?
Well, hm. This one is a head scratcher.

There was a bit of disharmony in our church about a year ago now when a few of the church's staff left. I was in the middle of it because one of the staff members who left was leading a men's ministry that I was a part of, and our senior pastor let everyone in that group know that membership in that group would preclude us from positions of leadership inside the church.

At first, this caused a mini rift mainly with the members of this men's ministry, who felt like they had to choose between the church and the ministry, which seems like a choice no one should have to make.

Fortunately, everything turned out great and our senior pastor leads an excellent men's ministry.

During that time, however, I talked to both parties and tried to calm my brothers down from acting out of emotion without getting all the facts straight.

Yes, Mr. Warren. I kno that's not right now. But right now, our church is unified.

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Day 20: Restoring Broken Fellowship

  • Point to Ponder: Relationships are always worth restoring.
  • Verse to Remember: Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. -Romans 12:18 (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: Who do I need to restore a broken relationship with today?
Well, Mr. Warren. Aren't you the over achiever? Restoring a broken relationship in a day, huh?

Honestly, I can't think of anyone I have a broken relationship with. My ex-wife and I are on as good as terms as can be expected. And I don't really have any enemies... I'd like to have a better relationship with my dad and a stronger one with my sister, so I can work on that.

Wait, I just thought of someone. I won't name him, but done and done!

On an aside, there is someone in my life whom I admire greatly for following this advice even when she was not at fault for the broken relationship and the other person was not receptive to restoration. Well done, you!
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Just get your butt to the gym

I turned 28 this month, earning me the affectionate title of "Old Balls." (Use your imagination)

February also marked my 13th anniversary of having (and using) a gym membership. This means that I've formally been lifting weights longer than any other activity. Baseball falls to second as I regularly played from 6 years old to 18 years old.

I've been consistently busting my hump in a gym me entire adult life. I don't see this as a great accomplishment, however, as it is what it is.

Excuse me while I get off the floor after being knocked down by the cliche committee, but I honestly mean this.

Do I like working out? Only when I like to work out.


You see, I've realized that people have this wild notion that I love to work my tail off every day in a gym (OK, six days a week now).

And I do love going to the gym, but there are days when I hate going to the gym and would like nothing better than to pull the covers back over my head and pull a Rip Van Winkle.

The only thing that prevents me from doing so on those days is the habit of going to the gym.

And that's what it takes.

I've gotten to the point where I simply can't start a work day without sweating it out first.

And you can, too. It's easy after it's really difficult.

Trust me on this. Going to the gym is the same as anything else. If you can just do it consistently for two weeks, it becomes a habit, and your body will crave it.

So here are my suggestions:
  • Go before you go to work, school or whatever. Start your day with a workout. If you do this, and then you try to stop, your mind and body will fight you to keep going. If you do it at night, your mind and body can't fight you if you stop because you can just end the day by going to sleep and not thinking about it.
  • Just Do It. (Here's a 20, Mr. Knight) Seriously. Get up two hours earlier than you usually do. Even if you just get to the gym and pedal on a bike for 30 minutes. Even if you just get to the gym and sit in the steam room for 30 minutes. Even if you just wake up and stay awake. Train your body to adjust.
  • Don't worry about results. Seriously. Even if you go to a gym for a year, and you don't see any muscle gain or lose an ounce of weight. Your body will push you when it's ready. And you'll push your body when you're ready. Let me make this clear. There will be days when you go to the gym and you won't want to be there and neither will your body or mind, and you'll ghost walk through workouts. As frustrating as this is, it's fine. Then there will be days when you body just doesn't want to be there, but you and your mind really want a good work out. It's then that you'll push your body. Finally, there will be times when you're mentally not there, but your body will be bored with your workouts. Then you'll try something newer and/or harder to satisfy your body.

That's it. Three stupidly simple steps. Just make it a habit. Get consistent. Don't worry about nutrition or anything else. Just get to the gym consistently. You'll learn a lot and grow out of just consistency. You'll want to know how to get more serious as your workouts get boring.

And if you can find a partner, more the better.

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Day 19: Cultivating Community

  • Point to Ponder: Community requires commitment.
  • Verse to Remember: We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. That means we must give our lives for other believers. -1 John 3:16 (GWT)
  • Question to Consider: How can I help cultivate today the characteristics of real community in my small group and my church?
First, can I just say, I like John 3:16 much ore than 1 John 3:16.

OK, cultivate today, cultivate today. Well, nothing really since I'm 3,000 miles away from my church. Batta bing!

That said, I think these are all small things. Greeting others. Offering to help. Smiling and, at least, pretending to be glad to see the members of your church. These are all things members of a community do.
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Day 18: Experiencing Life Together

  • Point to Ponder: I need others in my life.
  • Verse to Remember: Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: What one step can I take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine, heart-to-heart level?
Push my chest up against theirs? I keed. I keed.

Seriously, though. I think this goes back to my previous post about getting more involved with Oasis Christian Center. I should join a Connect Group. I should go on more Social Justice trips. Anything to get to know the members of the church better.

And this is hard for me because, like I said, I kind of prefer to be a loner. But I'm willing to try.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 17: A Place to Belong

  • Point to Ponder: I am called to belong, not just believe.
  • Verse to Remember: In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. -Romans 12:5 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: Does my level of involvement in my local church demonstrate that I love and am committed to God's family?
No. It doesn't. You happy Rick Warren?! Just kidding. This is something that I have struggled with for a while as I am primarily a taker from Oasis Christian Center.

Yes, I tithe. And yes, I have been on some local Social Justice trips. And yes, I have gone to some men's events. But other than tithing, I haven't done those things on a regular and consistent basis, and I am committed to starting those things as soon as I get back to LA.
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Day 16: What Matters Most

  • Point to Ponder: Life is all about love.
  • Verse to Remember: The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself". -Galatians 5:14 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: Honestly, are relationships my first priority? How can I ensure that they are?
Yes, my relationships are honestly my first priority, which is probably why I avoid making new ones. Relationships require a lot of work. Yes they are probably the most rewarding experience one can enjoy, but they can be stressful and draining, too. This is why I avoid having more than a handful of friends. I believe you can't actually be a true friend to more than a handful of people.
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It's not what you know. It's why you know it.

I've launched this rant twice in month's span, which means I have to put it down on paper.

Yes, yes. You in the back?

"Isn't this a blog? I don't see any paper."

Sir, remove yourself from my face.

As I was saying, to avoid having the rant on this subject again, I thought I'd, hm, blog about it.

I'm not interested in people's opinions.

No, no. Seriously. Hear me out.

Opinions are so limited and mostly unoriginal.

Take for example universal health care. To have or not to have? That's a lame question.

What are you going to learn about the person based on that singular opinion.

What interests me much more is why someone feels we should or should not have universal health care.

Is it an original thought?

Is it regurgitated from a talk show host?

Is there a personal story behind it?

Sadly, what you'll find a lot of the time is that most people don't have a reason behind their opinions, and these people then carry this nebulous opinion into voting booths and elect people based on those opinions who then run our country.

I digress.

My point is, it's easy to have an opinion. But much harder to know why you have an opinion.

The latter is what I'm interested in.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 15: Formed for God's Family

  • Point to Ponder: I was formed for God's family.
  • Verse to Remember: His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by brining us to himself through Jesus Christ. -Ephesians 1:5a (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: How can I start treating other believers like members of my own family?
That's easy for a hermit like me. I can start partaking in fellowship. I don't like socializing. I'm not uncomfortable doing it, I just don't like it.

So what do we do to stuff we don't like? Avoid it. Everyone together now. What do we do to stuff we don't like?

Very good. That said, in other areas, I feel I do treat other believers like members of my own family. The one area that is hard is criticizing without judging. Striking the balance between rebuking your brother and condemning your brother is very hard for me to discern, so I generally don't say anything directly.
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Do you want to go with me to the mall?

Pretty straightforward questions.

A legitimate response would be "Yes."
A legitimate response would be "No."
A legitimate response would be "Go to Hell." (although, that would be pretty harsh)
A legitimate response would be "What are you going to the mal for?"
A legitimate response would be "How long do you think you'll be there?"

This would not be a legitimate response "Fine."
This would not be a legitimate response "Sure."

I didn't ask you "Would you do me the favor of accompanying me to the mall?" I asked you "Do you want to go to the mall with me?"

If you want to go, great! Unless I'm asking you for some weird reason, I probably want to go to the mall as well, and we can both head off together.

If you don't want to go, great! I don't have to go with someone who doesn't want to be there.

Don't act like you're falling on your sword and doing me this huge favor. You're not. I don't want to be there with someone who doesn't want to be there.

So grow a pair and tell me you don't want to go.

Trust me, I can handle it. I could even handle the "Go to Hell" response.

Let me stop for a second, I understand the "sure" hang up might be a bit neurotic. Although, like obscenity, I can tell when someone is saying "sure" as a synonym for "yes" and when someone is saying "sure" as a synonym for "if you want me to go."

If I want you to go, I'll tell you.

We need to grow up as a society, or perhaps grow down. Children have no problem saying "no." Yet, somewhere after age six, "no" becomes a four letter word.

It is not selfish to say you don't want to do something! That's called, *gasp*, honesty.

Speak the heck up!

If someone takes your "no" personally, that's a them problem, not a you problem.

This should illustrate my point:

Do you want to continue reading this blog?

Will you please continue to read this blog?

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 14: When God Seems Distant

  • Point to Ponder: God is real, no matter how I feel.
  • Verse to Remember: For God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never abandon you." -Hebrews 13:5 (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: How can I stay focused on God's presence, especially when he feels distant?
Maintaining a blog or journal that talks about all the blessings God has given me and all the times he has been there for me will help me stay focused on God's presence.
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Twelve O'Clock High, Developing Leadership Skills

I watched Twelve O'Clock High as part of my MBA through the University of Florida. The class is MAN 5141, Developing Leadership Skills. I really enjoyed the class and its unorthodox material, including this DVD, Machiavelli's The Prince and Cialdini's Influence.

Our first assignment for this class was to review and answer some questions about Twelve O'Clock High and our last assignment is to revisit it.
I want you to go back to the first 3 assignments that you submitted about the film. Now write a two-page paper about how you would answer the questions now, having seen the film. I don't want you to work on all of the questions, just those that you think are (1) most important and (2) the ones which you think about differently.
  1. Why is the 918th Bomb Group in trouble?
    The 918th is in trouble because they are unprepared and poorly trained. Initially, I fell for the same trap that they did and blamed their trouble on the conditions under which they were operating. They were precision bombing and intended to destroy specific targets, rather than the common practice of randomly dropping bombs over wide areas. The conditions aren't causing their "hard luck" and casualties. They're unpreparedness for a new tactic due to poor leadership is the reason they are in trouble.
  2. Watch Colonel Davenport’s leadership style. Why isn’t it working?
    My initial response was that he was too close to his men, and he started focusing too much on their feelings and not enough on their mission. I still believe this. However, I don't believe this would always be a problem. It is in this situation because his man lack sufficient training and are in such an emotional funk. They need a kick in the pants; not a hug.

    But there are times when good leadership is being sympathetic. We saw this with Savage. He recognized the 918th lack of focus and ability and whipped them into shape, but then shifted his leadership style to one that was more sympathetic.
  3. What is the purpose of the practice missions?
    I read too much into this on the first go around. I thought Savage had some deeper meaning to get his men to stop focusing on themselves and their "luck" and more on hating him. Anything to get them out of their "Whoa-is-me" attitude. But it was much simpler than that. Because Savage wasn't as close to the men as Davenport, he could see his men simply lacked the training necessary for their style of missions. He, like a coach with a struggling player, took the men back to square one and had them build the fundamentals needed to complete their task.
  4. What is the major difference between Savage and Davenport?
    Again, I feel I whiffed on this one, too. I pointed to leadership styles, focus and stability. But now, I feel the major difference was time. We don't get to see what Davenport was like when he first took command of the 918th or any other group. Savage and Major General Patrick Pritchard have great respect for him and feel he is a capable leader, so maybe, at one point, he was and the time he spent with the 918th broke him. We saw this happen to Savage, too.
  5. Why did he break?
    Savage "broke" because he began to see himself as solely responsible for the 918th. This is seen when Pritchard tries to get Savage to return to a staff job, but Savage refuses, claiming the 918th can't fully function without him. So, when the loses begin to mount, Savage takes them upon himself and falls into the same trap in which Davenport fell.
  6. Why was he able to turn the Group around?
    Savage turned the group around because he equipped them emotionally and physically to take care of themselves. He empowered them with the responsibility and tools needed to complete their missions. He was able to identify what they needed because he wasn't close to them yet, and like a business consultant, he had no personal or emotional attachment to the men.
  7. What can we learn from Ben Gately?
    This was my favorite part of the movie. Gately went from being arrested for being Absent Without Leave to flying three missions with a cracked vertebrae. Savage transformed Gately from the spoiled son of a general who failed to live up to his talent into a man who sacrificed himself for his comrades and lead them to victory. Gately taught me that people can be inspired and often need to be challenged in harsh way rather than given up on.

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Day 13: Worship That Pleases God

  • Point to Ponder: God wants all of me.
  • Verse to Remember: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind and will all your strength. Mark 12:13 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: Which is more pleasing to God right now -- my public worship or my private worship? What will I do about this?
I would say my public worship. I was just talking with someone about this, and I try very hard to set an example with my ministry in the things I do in public around others. In private, I often just sort of zone out or read for the sake of reading. I should start giving God more praise and attention in my private time.
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Day 12: Developing Your Friendship with God

  • Point to Ponder: I'm as close to God as I choose to be.
  • Verse to Remember: Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.James 4:8a (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: What practical choices will I make today in order to grow closer to God?
I will refuse to listen to gossip, and I will not spread negativity by complaining to those who need help.

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Day 11: Becoming Best Friends with God

  • Point to Ponder: There is more to life than just here and now.
  • Verse to Remember: This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. but if you do the will of God, you will live forever.-1 John 2:17 (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: Since I was made to last forever, what is the one thing I should stop doing and the one thing I should start doing today?
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 10: The Heart of Worship

  • Point to Ponder: The heart of worship is surrender.
  • Verse to Remember: Surrender whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.-Romans 6:13b (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: What are of my life am I holding back from God?
OK. Is it just me or do some of these questions seem repetitive? Maybe they're supposed to be. And I'm supposed to think about them from different angles.

I'll assume that's correct, and say that I'm holding my finances from God. While I probably tithe more than 10% of my disposable income, I feel like I try to control this area of my life too much.

I have no problem giving and spending on other people, but I'm almost paralyzed to spend for myself out of some sort of misplaced guilt or something. Then again, I don't really want much. But I think the point is, I'm so scared to spend money on myself.

I feel I should invite God more into that situation.
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Day 9: What Makes God Smile?

  • Point to Ponder: God smiles when I trust him.
  • Verse to Remember: The Lord is pleased with those who worship him and trust his love.-Psalm 14711 (CEV)
  • Question to Consider: Since God knows what is best, in what areas of my life do I need to trust him most?
Finances. Period the end. I need to trust God to flourish me if I'm financially responsible with my money.
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Day 8: Planned for God's Pleasure

  • Point to Ponder: I was planned for God's pleasure.
  • Verse to Remember: The Lord takes pleasure in his people.-Psalm 149:4a (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: What common task could I start doing as if I were doing it directly for Jesus?
Some of these questions are frustrating. What's a common task? Riding my bike? Driving my car? Making food? How do I ride my bike directly for Jesus? Or drive my car or make food?

The other things I think of, Running a business, working out, etc aren't what I think of as common tasks.

So let's take driving my car. If I were driving Jesus in my car, I would not lose my temper with other drivers. So, that's my answer.
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Day 7: The Reason for Everything

  • Point to Ponder: It's all for him.
  • Verse to Remember: For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory.-Romans 11:36 (LB)
  • Question to Consider: Where in my daily routine can I become more aware of God's glory?
I don't understand this question? What time of day? What can I do? What does where mean? I'm not exactly sure what the question is asking, but I guess I could answer it by saying I could become more away of God's glory when dealing with others. Every one has been infused with it, and if I look for it in the people I deal with on a daily basis, I can become more aware of God's glory.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 6: Life Is a Temporary Assignment

  • Point to Ponder: This world is not my home.
  • Verse to Remember: So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.-2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
  • Question to Consider: How should the fact that life on earth is just a temporary assignment change the way I am living right now?
Again, I think this goes back to my negativity. Given that this is a temporary assignment, I should not be so negative about the hardships of this lifetime.
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Day 5: Seeing Life from God's View

  • Point to Ponder: Life is a test and a trust.
  • Verse to Remember: Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones.-Luke 16:10a (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: What has happened to me recently that I now realize was a test from God? What are the greatest matters God has entrusted me?
My divorce settlement is my ultimate test. God is testing me to see if I can trust Him to take care of me.

God entrusted me with helping my sister and running a group.
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Day 4: Made to Last Forever

  • Point to Ponder: There is more to life than just here and now.
  • Verse to Remember: This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. but if you do the will of God, you will live forever.-1 John 2:17 (NLT)
  • Question to Consider: Since I was made to last forever, what is the one thing I should stop doing and the one thing I should start doing today?
Worrying. I need to stop worrying so much. The fact that this life is temporary and only a testing ground for the eternal life that is to come, I need to stop worrying myself sick over some of the seemingly important problems of this life. That's not to see I should ignore my problems, but keeping in mind the old saying, "What does it matter in the light of all eternity?" is something I need to consider more frequently.

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Day 3: What Drives Your Life?

  • Point to Ponder: LIving on purpose is the path to peace.
  • Verse to Remember: You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.-Isaiah 26:3 (TEV)
  • Question to Consider: What would my family and friends say is the driving force of my life? What do I what it to be?
This one is easy. Anyone who has spent more than two minutes around me knows that I drive myself harder than anyone or anything possibly could. I know the answer I'm supposed to say. I'm supposed to say, "I want God's purpose for me to be the driving force in my life." And I do. I do want that. The problem is, I don't know what that purpose is.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 2: You Are Not an Accident

  • Point to Ponder: I am not an accident.
  • Verse to Remember: I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.-Isaiah 44:2 (CEV)
  • Question to Consider: Knowing that God uniquely create me, what ares of my personality, background and physical appearance am I struggling to accept?
I don't really struggle with the personality, background or physical appearance that God gave me. I wish sometimes I wasn't such a recluse and wasn't so regimented, but I have accepted that, now, need to learn to balance my personality with living life.

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Day 1: What on Earth Am I Here For?

  • Point to Ponder: It's not about me.
  • Verse to Remember: Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.-Colossians 1:16b (Msg)
  • Question to Consider: In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?
The word religion has become synonymous with rules. I prefer to think that I have a relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ. That said, rules, or guidelines can help remind myself that life is really about living for God.

I feel the question isn't a great one. I guess advertising is supposed to make me think that I'm supposed to live life for myself. I agree advertising can be a distraction, but not the biggest one. That distinction belongs to me alone.

That said, I like to surrond my self with physical reminders of my relationship with my Lord and Savior.

I have a tattoo shaped like a cross made out of the words and letters from John 3:16.

I wear a crucifix.

I have clothes and merchandise.

I make sure I can see my crucifix at all times at work.

These things aren't for showing off or shoving Christianity down others' throats. They are to remind me who I'm living for. I need to start taking it a step further and perhaps stop to pray any time I come across one of those reminders and ask God to make sure I remember that.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Security Deposit

As a tenant of the Academy House, I have to let Angie know if I'm going to have guests over. Especially if they are going to spend the night.

Putting aside the fact that I wouldn't try to squeeze a ferret into my room with me let alone another human, I thought this was odd.

"Utilities free," said Angie, who read my quandary. "They use shower and not have to pay."

There it is. Makes perfect sense to me. Who wouldn't want to share a shower with Crazy Eyes, who greets me in his boxers, dress socks and slippers?

Ah, but never fear, wayward guest.

"If they stay more than 10 nights, they must pay 20 dollar a night," Angie said.

Oh, Academy House. Who said you weren't a business.

This arrangement highlighted a rather odd exchange I had with Angie before signing my $400 security deposit.

Assuming I don't trash my room, insert joke here, I get my full deposit back, minus $40.

"What's that for?" I asked Angie.

"Carpets must be stinked," she replied.

I agreed, the carpets did stink, but I didn't see why that would cost $40. I mean, I've stunk up whole houses for less.

"Before you move in, your carpet get stinked," she said.

Thank heavens. What perspective tentant doesn't want to hear that their carpet will be stinked just before they move in?

Angie, once again, perceptive to my quizzical look made hand gestures.

"Stink your carpet," she said while making sort of a mopping motion.

Wait. I got it.

"Oh, STEAM my carpet," I said.

"Yes, yes, stink your carpet," Angie agreed.

The rest was pretty standard until we haggled over my ability to keep cats in my room.

"Rule say no pets," Angie opened the negotiations with.

"But they'd be small," I said. "You'd never know they were here if I didn't just tell you."

I had backed the old sage into a corner. She clearly didn't want to lose a tenant, but she's a slave to the rules.

"What kind of cat?" she asked.

"The small kind," I replied.

"Cats have claws and ruin apartment," she said.

"I will get claw covers for mine," I quipped. "They won't ruin anything."

"Cats stink," Angie said. And this time, she didn't mean "steam."

"Not mine," I shot back. "Mine won't smell at all."

"Mmmmmm," Angie mused out loud. "They make noise. Wake other tenants."

"Mine won't make a peep," I said.

And then it happened. Angie broke.

"OK, you have cats," Angie said. "But any tenants complain, and you don't have cats."

"Deal," I said.

"Write on contract," she said.

"Of course," I said and wrote in chicken scratch. "Cody Swann can have cats in his apartment, but if any tenants complain, he will give them to his parents."

Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

Things were looking up for me at the Academy House.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I almost made it a year. Two more months, and my office would have been the closest thing to a home I had for an entire year.

After bumping around from friends' houses and offices and cars for nearly a year after my marriage ended, I got the news.

"You can't stay in the office anymore," my boss said. "Someone told us you've been living there."

I'd been expecting this. Yet despondency crept over me immediately.

"What am I supposed to do?" I asked.

My manager's cube, with its roofless space and comfortable queen-sized air mattress suddenly seemed like a palace.

"I don't know," my boss said. "But it's unacceptable to live in your office. It's against company policy."

Ah, good old company policy. The policy of the old, big company, which didn't mind me staying in the office when I was producing 14 hours of work per day, now had a big problem because it couldn't turn a blind eye to it.

I'm not sure anyone with a cushy salary a year would be so heartbroken about being pushed out of his office, but I was. (Remember boys and girls, cushy ain't so cushy when you live in Los Angeles and give about half your take home to your ex-wife).

Yet, somehow, in a battle of pride versus big corporation and government, pride will lose every time, so I swallowed it and jumped on Craig's List.

Glorious Craig's List. Where you can find a piece of paper or a gay meetup time at one of the stalls at your local gym.

That's where I found Academy House.

Academy House: Where the rent is $595 a month.
Academy House: Where Internet is included.
Academy House: Where utilities are free.
Academy House: Where I can bike less than a mile to the gym and work.

Academy House: Where I wouldn't let me girlfriend come over without a kevlar vest.
Academy House: Where I have a shared shower.
Academy House: Where the carpets smell like urine.
Academy House: Where I have to tell management if I'm going to have a friend over.

On my tour, I met Angie the property manager and Englishly-challenged Korean, who introduced my girlfriend to my dorm room complete with a TV the size of a bread box, a mattress-less single bed, a sink, a toilet and about 200 square feet of brown.

"SOLD!" I thought to myself.

Outside, my girlfriend said it best.

"I started to think, 'I could live here.'," she said. "But then I smelled the room and realized I wouldn't be able to leave the building."

That building, Academy House, would become my home.

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