a realistic dose of cynicism

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I need a name. for my new toy.

Oh, it’s me. Now what should I name her? If my acoustic guitar’s named Sasha… (look, she’s peeking out from behind)

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I was thinking maybe Natascha.

But I’m going to let the masses decide: what should I name my newly acquired toy?

EDIT: The masses have spoken. She shall be named Jenny. After this.

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25 random facts.

Deleted my facebook account, so here we go:

1. I have a particular penchant for a pen-of-the-moment. For a while it was the Pilot V-Ball, then the Pilot Precise V5,  the Pilot Better Retractable, the Pilot EasyTouch, and finally the Pilot G-2 07, which I still use to this day. When I switch to a different kind of pen, all the old ones get thrown into a desk drawer and are forgotten about. So I have a desk drawer with at least 30-some-odd half-used black pens.

2. When I do laundry, I put my clean folded clothes at the top of the dresser drawer, so I always end up wearing the same clothes over and over.

3. Once I asked the cashier at Panera for an apple, thinking I’d just get it for free. 59 cents later, it wasn’t even that good of an apple.

4. Every time I throw something away into those trash cans at fast food restaurants that have “Thank You” written on them, I always think, “you’re welcome”. Even if I don’t say it.

5. I like to think that there’s humor in everyday life. I prefer puns, actually. Puns are the lowest form of humor. Kind of like FORTRAN… GET IT!?

6. My guitar is named Sasha, after this.

7. I got an iPhone recently, and I’ve had a iPod nano 3g for some time. Even though my car does have an auxiliary audio input, I still prefer listening to my CDs. If only for the nostalgia. And the steering wheel controls.

8. In the morning, I usually eat one or two packets of instant oatmeal, except I shake out most of the sugar powder with a strainer because I’m getting old and can’t handle sweet things anymore.

9. I hate ironing. Like, I really hate ironing. Fortunately for me… the only thing I hate more than ironing? Wrinkled shirts. Thusly, I have a garment steamer.

10. In the front of my Bible, where there’s the page that says who the Bible is from, who it’s being given to, and on what day it was gifted, mine reads: “From: me / To: me / On: today.”

11. I still carry around my college ID in my wallet, because I can still pass for a college student and get discounts at movie theaters, Fire & Ice, etc. And if they ask to see my ID to verify my age? Bam! I’m still 21!

12. I love living in pajamas. Usually the first thing I do after I get home, well, besides feed the velociraptor… is change into pajama pants, a hoodie, and slippers. Heee.

13. I consistently wear only one pair of shoes. And when they get old, they become “lawn-mowing” shoes and then I go buy another pair.

14. When I eat fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, it bothers me if the yogurt isn’t sufficiently colored by mixing up the fruit. Why don’t they call it yogurt-on-the-top fruit?

15. I brush my teeth in the shower sometimes to save water even though I know it actually wastes water.

16. I’m always super-paranoid about lighting my gas stove with a match because I always think it’s going to explode.

17. I’m deathly afraid of heights. Seeing pictures of cliffs and rollercoasters causes my heart to palpitate and my palms to sweat. Even typing about it makes my palms a little moist.

18. I’m kind of a spelling and grammar nazi. Misspelled words and bad grammar are just poor impressions. Except I always manage to misspell the word “tounge”. I mean, “tongue.”

19. When I’m euphorically happy while driving, I blast Coldplay and roll down the windows, even if it’s raining, snowing, or apocalypsing. Even though I don’t like when it apocalypses.

20. My buddy list is divided into four groups:

  • Me (me, of course)
  • People I Talk To (people I talk to regularly)
  • BCEC (people from BCEC I don’t talk to regularly or don’t want to otherwise see online but also don’t want to remove them from my list)
  • Soylent Green (everyone else I still keep in contact with including high school / college era friends)

How do you know you’re in the “People I Talk To” group? Well, if I talk to you online regularly, chances are, you’re there. If you’re not, I’m truly sorry.

21. When I need to fall asleep, I try to stay awake. It always works.

22. I have a little hobby of making resistor men such as this one. And this one. And this one, which has a 555 timer that makes the LED blink at 2Hz. It’s my little way of reminding myself that I still know what electrical engineering is, even though I haven’t practiced it since graduating from college. Also, they make good gifts.

23. I enjoy words that have atypical plural forms. Such as antennae, radii, octopodes, hippopotami, and velociraptors.

24. I get really bothered when people are joking crudely or making inappropriate remarks around others. What’s especially heinous is when said people are watching an offensive video on YouTube around others.

25. I’m an introvert trying to become an extrovert. Totally stolen from another list-of-25 but I think she’ll forgive me because I’m linking to her. Also, I need not fear physical retribution because she’s hundreds of miles away. If I stole from this list… well, bad things would happen.

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God’s plan, providence, and predestination.

Warning: long post ahead.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21, ESV

We’re human beings. Naturally, we like having power, we like having control of whatever situation we’re in. In fact, having control of your own life is something so fundamental to today’s culture that it seems ludicrous to even suggest otherwise. I’d like to be able to control what school I go to, what I study, who my friends are, where I’m going to work and live after college, and who I’m going to marry. Those sound like basic human rights, don’t they?

The Bible teaches that it’s God who has a plan for us. I’m sure I’ve lauded the praises of Jeremiah 29:11 before, but this time I won’t stop short by simply stating the verse, but examining what it practically means for us.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

The way I see it is that God already has your whole life planned out for you, down to what you chose to eat this morning for breakfast. And that good and perfect plan is hand-crafted for every person. Every single decision you make has been pre-planned by God, and he’s got his own intentions for every little fork in the road that you take, no matter how trivial. Then I ask myself:

If God already has a plan for me to prosper me, and that plan is good and perfect, is it possible to make a wrong decision?

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? If you believe that the Bible literally teaches predestination, and that God is all-loving and all-powerful, then you can arrive at the conclusion that no matter what decisions you make throughout the course of your life, you’ll never make the “wrong” choice. A friend of mine will make a decision in the next few months about which graduate school to go to, and where she’ll live for the next few years. Knowing Jeremiah 29:11, I’ve thought to myself that whatever choice she makes, it’ll be the right choice.

Now it really sounds ridiculous. Are you saying that no matter what path in life I choose, that I can do no wrong? If I choose to go to a grad school that doesn’t really offer the best program for me, or if I end up moving to an expensive city and I end up going broke, that those choices are still the “right” ones? Even though technically they’re not the “best” ones?

I think so. I believe that God orchestrates every little thing in your life to build you up, to draw you nearer to him, to make you know and feel more of the glory, grace, and infinite love that he gives out so freely. Every good or bad thing that happens in your life is just another step that you’ve taken toward preparing yourself for God’s eternal glory, whether it feels like it or not. So, whatever choice you end up making… what grad school you go to, where you choose to live and work, and even who you marry… those choices have been deliberately orchestrated in advance. And God uses the circumstances surrounding these decisions to draw you nearer to him.

An anecdote:

I recall my reasoning for going to WPI. It was because it was close to home, and that I had friends who were going there. Little did I know that four years there would cause my spiritual life to ultimately suffer the greatest blow it’s ever experienced. After college, I started going to a small group regularly.

I realized how much my spiritual life had been lacking, and found such great joy from getting to know God more for the first time in years. So much so that I began serving there in the fall. In retrospect, that single decision has altered the rest of my life forever. In spite of all the pain and suffering, I felt God drawing me nearer to him, even now.

The fact that I went to WPI and my spiritual walk suffered for four years… seems terrible. Why would God allow me to make a decision with such a cost? It’s because ultimately, something great and matchlessly wonderful became of it. In some ways, starting to really walk with God again was such a breath of fresh air because I didn’t have that for four years.

With that, I can understand why God put me through four years of spiritual atrophy in college. It’s because in his providence, he had something immeasurably greater planned for me. I can say I’ve reached the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and I’m simply in awe of how I got there.

Filed under: thoughts on christianity, , ,

The art of the high five.

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High-fiving is an essential life skill. Right up there next to breathing. Every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be high-fiving you. Strangely enough, it seems that a substantial chunk of the population (accuracy +/- quite a bit) suffers from the inability to make a good high-five. What’s in a good high-five? I’m glad you asked.

A good high five: should create a sharp clapping sound. Both hands should connect palm-to-palm in a smooth, fluid motion. A good high-five should produce a momentary stinging sensation, but shouldn’t produce so much pain that both participants are clutching their wrists, screaming in pain, and writhing in agony a few seconds later. The participants should be facing each other, ideally smiling or expressing some degree of happiness. The high-five should end with a smooth follow-through, whether the hands continue in their natural forward arcs or in a graceful recoiling motion.

Let’s examine the five (fortuitously alliterated, pun intended) components of a successful high-five:

-1. The Provocation.

The appropriate moment requiring a high-five must arise. It must be relatively universally understood and celebrated. Some good examples: if you passed Calc 3, Differential Equations 7, or Irrational Quantities e. Bad examples: when your neighbor is devoured by a velociraptor. Do not high-five the velociraptor.

0. The Position.

Both parties to be involved in the high-five should ideally be facing each other, close enough so that the high-five location occurs within 50-65% of their overall arm reach. This allows for maximum force to be applied on a direct impact. But you knew that already. A demonstration. If your high-five partner looks like this… it’s about right.

High_Five-1600x1200

This, on the other hand… is kinda too far. Please don’t pay attention to their giant hands. It’s only a distraction, to avert your eyes from the TRUTH.

highfivehands

1. The Primer. (if so desired)

The primer is a step that’s not quite necessary for a successful high-five involving good contact and good follow-through. For younger or less-experienced high-fivers though, the primer may soon usurp the title held by your best friend. It’ll become senior project manager at Initech.

The primer… is quite simply, multiple canceled high-fives in preparation for the ultimate high-five. To see what it looks like… ask Calvin. Go up to him, hold up your right hand, palm facing outward, and say a number, be it 5, 17, or 87. He will immediately respond by priming the high-five the specified number of times. Don’t be intimidated by the colors.

Maybe I’ll put up a video to clarify later.

2. The Performance.

Initiate by raising your palm and yelling, “high-five!” Especially if you’re a guy. Guys are called to initiate these kinds of things. And other things. But if you’re a guy and a lady says to you, “high-five!” and presents their palm and forearm in a high-fiving manner, please just run with it. No one wants to be lectured for 15 minutes about the impropriety of female-initiated high-fives. Some people take high-fives too seriously. I mean, come on.

If the other participant raises their palm in response, then that’s just excellent. Everything’s going according to plan. As your high-fiving partner swings their arm forward to engage in the most complex and wondrous of human interactions, WATCH THEIR ELBOW. Examine the speed at which the elbow pivots. Your brain uses the vector created by their forearm along with the angular rotational speed of the elbow joint to calculate and predict where their hand will be. Or something.

And once you’ve gotten that part down, the rest is… well, I don’t want to call it magic. Let’s call it…

magic.

Let’s review. Good:

gorilla_shark_nice_high_five_lg

Bad:

tiger_high_five

3. The Postscript.

Follow through. Once the high-five is set in motion, there’s no going back. So even if it ends up missing… follow through. Swing the arm around, trying not to strike the other person in the face, tempting as it may seem. Although no one would blame you if you did. That, or smoothly draw the palm back after the high-five, whether it happened or not.

And if the high-five doesn’t happen? Rookie mistake: they don’t let it go. Just let it go. It wasn’t mean to be.

Common mistakes to avoid:

If the high-fiving moment is based on a relatively obscure reference, one party might be left hanging. Here’s an example of that NOT happening:

highfive-small

Props to anyone who gets this one. And here’s an example where someone’s left hanging… how sad. Don’t be this guy. Or let anyone else be this guy, for that matter.

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Just heed my advice, and soon you’ll be quickly on your way to social acceptance without succumbing to peer pressure. I mean, all the cool kids are doing it.

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Remember. Provocation. Position. Primer. Performance. Postscript. See? Wasn’t that easy?

Filed under: how-tos, , ,

Moving day. (moving night.)

We’ve moved! from our free host at wordpress.com (remmeh.wordpress.com)… to a new domain (thecynicalrealist.com)! Oh, and we’ve gained a new visual theme and a new title =)

Still trying to fix the RSS feeds. But only Melody reads those, so I guess it’s okay for the time being.

EDIT: RSS Feeds are working! check this puppy out.

EDIT2: Adsense is working! hoorayyyyyyy

EDIT3: Okay. I’m mentally exhausted, but the switch is complete. I have 4 (four!) drafts for post ideas sitting in my draft box but I am too exhausted to expound my knowledge and analysis on any one of them. I need a break of sorts.

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we’ve moved…

a realistic dose of cynicism is now moving! to a new home!

the cynical realist (thecynicalrealist.com)

update your links and your RSS feeds accordingly =)

thanks!

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Embracing suffering.

This week’s sermon was on 2 Corinthians 4:6-18, about suffering: why God allows suffering in our lives, and how God enables us to endure suffering.

Why does God allow suffering in our lives? Well, there’s suffering that results from you doing something wrong… and then there’s suffering that results from you doing everything right.

Sometimes, as a Christian, God still allows suffering in our own lives, even though we may have done everything right. Just look at Paul… he dedicated his whole life to spreading the gospel. And look where it brought him: several of the Pauline epistles are written from jail cells. He was beaten and flogged, berated and ridiculed, jailed and tortured, and eventually died for his faith. Paul certainly suffered, didn’t he? He suffered not because he did anything “wrong”. He was certainly a sinner, but he suffered for his faith. He suffered for being a Christian.

But what does this have to do with me? I can say that God has been putting me through various trials and tribulations for the last month. And these sufferings… I deserved every last bit of them. And I still deserve more. But is that good enough for me? God’s allowing me to feel sadness, pain, anger, jealousy, rage–suffering–because and only because I deserve it? Aren’t God’s motives supposed to transcend mere human emotions like retribution and revenge and mere human justice?

Paul compares Christians to jars of clay, filled with the treasure of the gospel. And when those jars crack, the grace of the gospel (the light within) shines through to others. Suffering is akin to slowly dying to ourselves, breaking those jars of clay. When those jars break, the radiance of the gospel–Jesus’ death–shines out, and through that death, we have life in Jesus. Kind of paradoxical. Kind of confusing. But think about it.

We suffer so that God’s glory can shine through us, to draw us nearer to him, to prepare us for the eternal kingdom of God. v.17-18a say it best:

17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18a, ESV

Paul makes light (pun intended) of our sufferings here on earth! You know that problem you’re going through? the pain you’re in? how monumental that feels? that it feels like it’s crushing the life out of you? Well, Paul’s saying that it’s light! and momentary! compared to God’s eternal glory.

It’s in our times of greatest despair that God teaches us the most about him, that God draws us even closer to him, that we see the most of God’s glory. Why? Because in those great sufferings, it feels as if everything that you know and love is crumbling at your feet. And there only remains God, everlasting Father, who will never crumble or perish. He’s always there, and it’s in these sufferings that we come to rely on him most. Even better, when we finally get through it all, we recognize that it’s God’s hand that has guided through this, giving no credit to ourselves.

I’ve been able to praise God for my sufferings, for drawing me ever nearer to him. Seems weird, doesn’t it? It seems completely counter-intuitive. I’ve been told by someone that they envied my current situation, with so much suffering ahead. And I didn’t believe them; who would want to put themselves through pain? To embrace suffering? It’s ludicrous.

But now, after enduring the brunt of the assault, I completely understand. God uses suffering to grow your faith like you wouldn’t believe.

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV

Filed under: thoughts on christianity, ,

My evolution of social networking.

Note: I realize the following post is both sad and pathetic. Social networking is like Alzheimer’s… mentally (and sometimes physically) crippling, and once you get it, it follows you to the grave…

A few years ago, I had a Xanga, a blog service that my readership is undoubtedly familiar with. I’d write anything in it… posted up for all the world to see. Actually, quite often I wouldn’t have anything to post but I’d still want to post something new, so I would post song lyrics or something deep like that, to express how I was feeling. Remember that teenage angst phase? I sure do. Anything and everything went into my Xanga, thoughts, feelings, love, hate, jealousy, betrayal, anger, all topped off with a healthy dose of vague thoughts and pensive song lyrics. All these things were chronicling what I was going through, and I thought it might be nice to have a history-of-my-life of sorts. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake.

I ended up deleting my Xanga after having it for 3-4 years. There was just too much that had transpired that I didn’t want to be reminded of, ever. I didn’t want to see any of it again; I just wanted the past to stay the past, and I just wanted the future to slowly become the present. It was gone. I just wanted to move on.

Life has a history of repeating itself. A few years of being blogless later, I signed up for Facebook, which was a cool, hip social networking site exclusive to holders of .edu email addresses. We’re all familiar with where it is now, adding photos, videos, apps, the Wall, groups, you name it, it’s there. The worst thing, though… is tagging people in photos, notes, videos, whatever.

I recently ditched my Facebook account. Deleted. Forever. For similar reasons as my Xanga – just too many bad or painful memories there, and I just wanted to be rid of them forever. Rather than going and untagging myself from every one of those photos and having to relive each of those memories as I erased them, I just opted to shut it down permanently. My favorite Anberlin song says it best:

just burn those new leaves over.

I wanted no part in those memories – I’d almost prefer to forget completely.

As I lived my Facebook-less life, I itched to update my “status” somewhere. What I was doing. Something viral about social networking had reinfected me. I wanted to be networked – almost simultaneously effortlessly and forcibly. And my thoughts quickly leapt to Twitter, the microblogging service that had been subject to my prejudgment and denouncement. I’ll admit, on the surface, it seems kind of stupid. And you know what? Below the surface, it’s just as stupid. But that didn’t stop me.

Well, I have a Twitter account now, and exactly one person is following my updates. Twitter’s pretty much a more evolved version of Facebook’s built-in “Update your status…” Perhaps I’ll get the rest of you hooked, and get you to ditch Facebook too. Probably not, but a guy can hope, right?

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the War on acne.

Yesterday, I was going through my regular war-on-acne routine, and I realized I’m pretty obsessive about it. (I wasn’t before, but am now, probably due to a certain someone whose name shall not be mentioned.) So… what is acne? Acne is a plague that adversely affects the social lives of 99.7% of teenagers worldwide. How, you ask? Well, imagine your face was covered with multiple volcanoes that have all started erupting. Simultaneously. Yeah, you do not want to be anywhere near that. I just ate dinner, so I won’t google up any images of acne. I’m sure that image of your face cratered in magma-spewing volcanoes will have done the trick anyway.

acne2

Well, in short, I’ve got a lovely bunch of acne-fighting chemical weapons. You could call them WMDs for acne. It turns out that I’m the equivalent of… a really bad guy with weapons of mass destruction of acne.  Here they are a-standing in a row. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your… well, actually, they’re all roughly the same size. Bummer.

acne11

I’m not sure why I put them in this order. It makes absolutely zero sense. Anyway, we’ll start going down the list in descending frequency of use.

#3 – Clearasil
And in this corner… #3 – Clearasil! daily face wash. Pretty standard stuff, really. Use twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Actual retail price (read in Bob Barker’s voice): about $5

#1 – Olay Complete
Next, #1 – Olay Complete facial moisturizing lotion. (yes, you may call me a girly man as many times as you wish. I moisturize. Sue me. Just kidding, don’t sue me, especially when your face falls off.) It keeps your face happy, supple and smooth… so that your skin doesn’t produce so much oil so that it clogs up your pores. Yes, blackheads. Actual retail price: $8

BLACKHEADS?! on MY FACE?!

#5 – the astringent stuff.
Next in frequency of use… probably #5, the astringent stuff. This assumes that you pop your pimples like I do. I love popping pimples. It’s like… you’re cleansing yourself. In the face region. But don’t hurt yourself or create any scars. Basically, use as needed, soak a cotton swab with one and dab around a recently popped pimple. Heeeeee. Man, this sounds gross. I’m beginning to regret typing this post. But by Spartan law, we march. Actual retail price: ~$4.

#2 – Biore pore strips
Finally, we come to the last two, which are used more sparingly because of their extreme power. Don’t underestimate the power. Especially not #2 – Biore pore strips, or as my college roommate referred to them so affectionately, “nose things.” Use every 2 weeks or so. Instructions:

  1. Wet nose.
  2. Dry hands.
  3. Apply pore strip to nose.
  4. Wait 15 minutes.
  5. ???
  6. PROFIT!!

Unfortunately at the time of this writing I was completely out of pore strips (but had an empty box). I therefore dug up this reference/stock photo:

nosething

This illustrates the proper use of the “nose thing”. Remove after applying for 15 minutes, and PROFIT!! I assure you. Especially if you’ve never used one before. Disclaimer: it is GROSS. Just ask Denice. Actual retail price: $8 for 6 strips.

#4 – Facial mask
If you didn’t belittle what little masculinity I had left after talking about using a daily facial moisturizer, you may so harass me now. Use every month or so… applying a thin, even layer to the face, avoiding the eye area. I just did a mask yesterday… but due to my sheer dedication and devotion to my blog, I’ve dug up yet another reference photo:

mask

Not my proudest moment, no. But it’s undoubtedly my face’s cleanest moment. Actual retail price: ~$10

Well, that just about does it for my acne-fighting regimen. If you do decide to adopt all or any part of my regimen, please leave a comment! Also leave one if you think I’m an idiot and my acne-fighting methodology needs a tweak or is just plain wrong. I’ll challenge you to an acne-fighting showdown. You do not want to know what that entails.

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A transcendental God.

Reading 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 today…

God is a transcendental God. His attributes and persona challenge the limits of our very perception. He is beyond anything we could ever know. The confines of this world and the very dimensions we live in prevent us from realizing and receiving his unconditional love, his tender mercies, and his amazing grace. It reminds me of the concept of multiple dimensions; everything we experience in the three dimensions of space is merely a point in the fourth dimension of time. All that we know about the human capacity for love, mercy, and grace… there’s a whole ‘nother dimension to it, so-to-speak.

The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor 1:25) Or, as I like to think of it… the wisdom of mere man cannot even dream of matching the foolishness of God. The strength of mere men cannot even fathom the weakness of God. It’s just a whole ‘nother level. God just transcends us, in every way we could possibly imagine.

And I go and think about some of the strongest human emotions we have here on earth, shared among mere men (and women). The strongest among these, is love. It can be a familial love, a brotherly/sisterly love, or it can be a romantic, heart-fluttery type of love. As satisfying and mutually fulfilling as the strongest of these mere God-given human emotions may be, they pale in comparison to what God offers.

That’s mindblowing! I think of the strongest love I’ve ever felt, and it pales in comparison to what God offers? That’s like, take the limit as love goes to infinity… it hurts to think about it. Literally.

The strongest human love I’ve ever felt is like a drop in the bucket of God’s love. It’s matchless, infinite, and unconditional.

Filed under: thoughts on christianity,

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