Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tell me all your thoughts on God

After my last post here, I received lots of different responses. Phone calls, facebook messages, in-person "how are you doing"s. The one thing they all had in common, though, was that they focused on one particular line in that post: "I don't believe in God." The first thing I want to make clear is that I didn't mean that I believe that God/gods/god doesn't/don't exist. I have no idea, and that's the whole point of the post. I'm looking for answers. Despite the fact that it has a nice, lyrical ring to it, I can no longer accept "for the bible tells me so" as a foundation for a world view. But that's not what I want to focus on. I want to know why that line was singled out from everything I said in that post. I suppose it's because for most people I know, the belief in a higher power informs all their decisions. Is that the right way to look at the world? Clearly, if the Christian God exists, it's a great world view. But what if he doesn't? Is it still a good thing? The case could be made that, right or wrong, living a Christian life is better than nihilism. Maybe I should just stick with the Christianity thing and hope heaven is real. That seems like an awfully ignorant way to go through life, though. I'm not satisfied with accepting things based on faith or tradition or upbringing; I have to know how things work. "God works in mysterious ways" is not anything resembling an answer.

Out of everyone that responded to "Adult Life" only one person asked me about the relationship I alluded to. Talking to him about her was much more cathartic than I could have imagined. Why did everyone else focus on the spiritual side of things when it was clear that I was/am having much more tangible issues? I certainly don't mean to insult the people who wrote me about my belief in God, because I really do appreciate those discussions. But, again, why focus on that? Would I have avoided that relationship or those problems with a firm belief in God? Would a stronger faith have prevented me from being in that situation? I really don't know.

This post is rambling and incoherent, but it mirrors my thoughts in that way. Like I said last time, I have a lot of questions. I honestly appreciate everyone who has talked to me about these things, and I hope to continue those discussions. I know that no one has all the answers I need (or no one can give them to me, at least), but I want to hear how you answers these questions for yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Adult Life

I've lived in Houston for more than a year now. I've done lots of adult things, like buying a car, figuring out how insurance works, renting an apartment, doing my taxes. I've dated a lot, too. A woman 6 years older, a girl 3 years younger. I said "I love you" for the first time in years. I heard it repeated back to me for the first time in even longer. I've said, done, written, and thought things that I'm not proud of. Things I would take back given half a chance. I've missed opportunities and blown second chances. My phone number has been blocked. I've been slapped across the face. I stopped going to church. I don't know how to tell my parents that I don't believe in God. I've lost friends. I've gained new ones. I've shouted and cried and begged and fought but never for the right people or at the right time.

I don't know how to be an adult. I don't know how to sustain relationships. I'd like to think that I act with the best of intentions but I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm actually incredibly selfish. On the other hand, I seem to need someone to be infatuated with. How do I reconcile those things? How do I get what I want? How do I know that what I want is what I need?

These questions pile and pile on, and I just don't have any answers for them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Technology and the Modern Road Trip

I spent this past weekend driving around the state of Louisiana, collect counties (or "parishes" as The Bayou State calls them) for Carey's collection of intangible things he's done or places he's been to. Before you get all huffy and say that you're sick of these "trip report" posts, let me just say that what we did and saw is not the point. The pictures can be found here if you're interested in that sort of thing. What I want to talk about is how technology has changed the way we travel. This was my first long car trip since the advent cellphones with internet access, and it made for a very different experience.

The three of us (Erick came too) set out Friday afternoon, packing 2 laptops, 2 cameras, 3 GPS-and-internet-enabled phones, an AC adapter, and a powerstrip to plug it all into. With the exception of the occasional cellular dead zone, we were never without immediate access to the all the incredible resources the internet has to offer. Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, maps, news, traffic reports, or the answer to any question was just quick dig into a pocket away. When someone said "I wonder...", we didn't have to discuss or argue the issue in question, we just looked it up. Getting lost is completely impossible when you have a device that tells you where you are. When we were hungry, our phones told us not only what restaurants were nearby, but how good they were according to other travelers' reviews. At one point, while we were at an ancient Native American settlement, I pulled out my phone and showed Erick and Carey a satellite view of field we were walking in. Read that sentence again. A satellite view. I looked at a display that I held in my hand and saw myself represented as a glowing blue dot on a picture from outer space. That is just incredible.

When I was a kid, I read a lot sci-fi; specifically the Star Wars expanded universe stuff. The books would describe things similar to ipods and laptop computers, things that seemed so far-fetched and impossible at the time. If I could travel back in time and give my 10 year-old self my iPhone, his head would explode. Maybe we accept things like that today because the change has been so gradual. Maybe the iPhone isn't mind-blowing because we had car-phones first and worked our way up, but I think it's important to step back every once in a while and try to get some perspective on the role that technology plays in our lives. I belong to the last generation that grew up not having the internet, but my kids will have all the world's information at their fingertips just as soon as they can operate a phone or computer. Will the next generation even want to go on road trips or will they be satisfied with the YouTube version?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Houston, as seen through a cellphone camera

I've lived in Houston for 4 whole months now! Can you believe it? I, for one, cannot. Time has been going by really quickly now that I have a normal, 9-5 job. This comes in really handy when waiting for new movies or games to be released: "When is that Wolverine movie coming out? Oh, Today?"

I've got some thoughts bouncing around in my head that I will be committing to this page soon, but for now I thought I'd just post a few pictures of what I've been doing the last 4 months.

We're out of space at our current location, so I share my "office" with the test lab.

My desk, and some test models of the equipment we make

Sometimes they let me touch the insides

This thing will kill you in a variety of ways

The Southwest Petroleum Conference in Lubbock. It was about as exciting as it looks.

The Dogfish Head Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Great weekend.

This picture was taken just seconds before they were surrounded by black SUV's, never to be seen again

Stay tuned for actual content!

Friday, February 13, 2009

OwlCon 2009

The last few weeks, I've been having a great time hanging out with some people that I met through the Something Awful forums. Having seen so many PSA's on the subject, I was understandably nervous about meeting up with strangers from the internet, but most of them have turned out to be (relatively) normal and a lot of fun. Last weekend, I went with Carey, one of the guys I met the first night with the goons, to OwlCon, a board gaming convention hosted annually by Rice University. I only attended 1 out of 3 days, but really enjoyed being there and playing games with people. Between (and during) games, I walked around a took a few pictures to show the rest of the world what a board game convention looks like. Click for the large versions!

These guys were playing something really generic-sounding and forgettable, like "Witchmage" or "Dragonspire" or something like that.

Note the tape measures

Probably the nerdiest thing I have ever seen in my life: Playing World of Warcraft while sitting inside a MechWarrior simulator while also attending a board gaming convention

Some sort of large D&D style game

DM at work

This is one of the games Carey ran that weekend, Order of the Stick

I'm the one with the beard

It took about 4 hours to play, and that was using the Quick Game rules

This was a critical battle toward the end of the game. Carey, the one in the glasses, ended up winning it all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Aaaand We're Back...

It's been so long since I've posted that I'm having trouble figuring out how to start. I typed and deleted about 4 different sentences before settling on that one, and I'm still not happy with it. I haven't written anything here since August, and I have a lot to tell you about, so I'm just going to hit the highlights for now, and (hopefully) elaborate later.

August through November was pretty uneventful. Since it was my last semester at Harding, I only took 7 hours of classes, which meant that I spent most of my time watching movies and playing video games. I went to a few parties with my roommate, but that whole scene didn't really appeal to me. The only major event that comes to mind out of that whole period of time was finally getting back down to a reasonable weight after months of running and dieting and lifting weights and saying "no" to taco bell (170 lbs, down from 220 at the first of the year). Oh, and I can't forget "sailing" with Grant...that was fun.

December was when things got real. I realized that I would be graduating at the end of the month without a job, so I kicked the job search into high gear. I had been applying for various positions online, but that turned out to be an incredible waste of time. Do people really get hired from sites like Monster or CareerBuilder? I started asking around, trying to make real life contacts instead of firing my resume into the black hole that is internet job-searching. One of my professors had sent around an email with names of people who were interested in hiring Harding students, so I found one on the list that looked interesting ("Houston? Payton lives in Houston!") and sent him my resume. The next day I had a phone interview, and the next week they were flying me to Houston to interview in person. After two nervous weeks of waiting, they offered me the job! This is where things get crazy. I accepted the job on December 19. They wanted me to start on January 5. Between those two dates, I finished my final finals, packed up my apartment, graduated, went to Zach and Beth's wedding, moved all my stuff to Oklahoma with my grandparents, had Christmas there, moved my stuff to Lubbock, had Christmas there, flew to Houston to find an apartment, celebrated the New Year in Lubbock, celebrated the New Year in Dallas, moved all my stuff to Houston, unpacked into my new apartment and started work. It was, uh, hectic, to say the least.

But now I'm in Houston and absolutely loving it. I'll write a longer post soon about how incredibly rad Houston is, but for now just take my word for it.

I broke down and got a twitter account, which I have really been enjoying. Follow me at

Finally, here are some things that I've been enjoying lately that I think you might enjoy as well:

-Blitzen Trapper
-Delta Spirit
-Electric President
-Janelle Monae
-MF Doom
-Old Crow Medicine Show
-Ra Ra Riot
-Sister Nancy
-The Walkmen
-Titus Andronicus
-Wolf Parade

-Battlefrigginstar Galactica
-8 out of 10 Cats
-Lost (yeah, I know...)
-The Big Bang Theory
-Flight of the Conchords
-30 Rock (seriously, you should be watching this)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Artificial Intelligence Review

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt

I'm a sucker for intelligent science fiction, but I'm not a huge fan of Spielberg's takes on the genre, so I had avoided AI until I learned that Stanley Kubrick (one of my all-time favorite directors) was involved in its pre-production before his death in 1999. I popped this in last night without much knowledge of or preconceptions about its story or themes, hoping to see his hand at work.

AI is the story of an android or "Mecha" child named David (Osment) who, unlike all other Mecha, is built with the ability to love. He is adopted by a family whose only child is stuck in a cryogenic freezer until medical science catches up with whatever ails him. Soon after David's acceptance into the family, his formerly-frozen step brother is cured and returns to find a slightly larger family unit. Sibling rivalry ensues, and David, who is seen as a threat to the safety of the home's humans, is unceremoniously dumped in the woods. He then embarks on a journey to find Pinocchio's Blue Fairy, whom he believes can turn him into a real boy.

I just don't even know where to start with this mess. I'll grant you that science has progressed to the point where they can create a completely life-like android and that they can even create one who can love. Fine, disbelief suspended. The rest of the movie's plot contrivances are so ridiculous that they destroy any belief or emotional investment in this particular future. Why is David, the pinnacle of human technological achievement, so incredibly stupid? Why does he not know when he is putting himself or others in danger, even though the first 5 minutes of the film establishes the fact that this behavior is common in androids? Why can David jump in a pool and come out just fine, but eating something means a total meltdown and a trip to the robo-emergency room? Why does David believe that someone from a fairy tale is real? Why does he think she can turn him into a real boy? How can he operate for thousands of years at the bottom of the ocean without any power source? WHY ARE THERE ALIENS IN THIS MOVIE? How can they magically regenerate a dead person from DNA at any point in their life, and with only their plot-convenient memories intact? Why do these reanimated humans cease to exist when they fall asleep? I'm sorry, that's just way too much disbelief to suspend. There are plenty of other non-plot-related problems with this movie, but I think these alone should be enough to keep you away.

There were, admittedly, a few things that I liked about AI. These are by no means redeeming, but I don't want to be completely negative here. Jude Law is really enjoyable to watch in his role as a robo-prostitute, and David's robo-teddybear Teddy is actually pretty funny as the voice of reason. I could identify with Teddy more than any other character, as we both seemed to know that the plot of this movie is complete bullshit. The film does raise some very interesting philosophical questions about the nature of love and companionship, as well as the role of technology in our lives. Unfortunately, these questions not only go unanswered, but are brutally sacrificed to the almighty god Plot Progression.

If you think any of this sounds interesting, please just go watch Blade Runner.