My friend and I have challenged ourselves to a “365photo” endeavor – we take one random photograph a day for an entire year. I’ve never done this before and I suspect I’ll fail spectacularly. But it’s worth a shot!
I know the goal is to shoot exactly one image a day but I’ve allowed myself some wiggle room: I can take photos and upload them one or two days later if things are slow or I’ve been busy with work or an emergency or something.
Another thing: I’ll be working almost exclusively with my iTouch.
I’ll post all my images on this blog but if you’re interested you can also follow my Flickr stream.
So there, a positive resolution for a positive new year. What are you gonna be up to this 2013?
The last time I got hit roundly in the crotch was 5 years ago. I remember it vividly; my son was reaching for something on the shelf and my privates just happened to be in the way. It felt like a Nazi bayonet being shoved up my abdomen and I went down like a peasant paying tribute to a king. I remember vowing through gnashed teeth never to let something like this happen again.
Tough luck. I woke up this morning to the vibration of a different alarm clock, one in the form of a toddler’s heel crushing my bagpipes. My three-year-old daughter, sleeping beside me and perhaps dreaming of football, shifted in her sleep and accidentally hit me in the babymaker. I woke up the way they do in the movies when an actor has a terrible nightmare and bolts upright to the sound of clapping thunder. Except the lightning was in my bladder, my shriek as dull as the gray morning.
“My balls…!!!” I managed, clutching the family jewels to make sure there were still there.
The pain was like a killer tsunami. It began as a wave of unbearable hurt, much like watching an Adam Sandler movie. I assumed the fetal position and made some distant connection with my feminine side as the anguish gained momentum, looming large and bitter, making me wince and wish I’d written my last will and testament. I was engulfed in such a paroxysm of pain, it’s all that kept me from consulting the dictionary to check what “paroxysm” means.
My wife tried to help me by giving me a forlorn look and some words of consolation. Not that I could hear her; I was too busy trying not to drown in my own drool.
The pain eventually subsided and the sun came out. I gave up concentrating on dancing sheep and my glowing inner core. I turned to look at my still-sleeping daughter, wondering whether I should wake her and tell her how close daddy had come to enlightenment.
Any annoyance or remaining pain simply flushed away at the sight of my snoozing child. It’s hard to be angry when faced with a purring baby, especially one that smells like milk and morning sweat. I’ll miss her when she’s old enough to have her own room and Dora-themed bed sheets.
Parenting. I guess the occasional whack in the groin is worth it.
This is an old post. I don’t know why it’s not on this blog; perhaps I forgot to migrate it when I updated my website a few years back. No matter – the timing is great. Not only is my wife egging me to join her on the treadmill but I’m also in need of a blog update after being inactive for so long. It’s cheating, I know. But this is a golden oldie. Indulge me.
How to find out whether you’re fit or not?
Easy: go run in one direction for 20 seconds.
Done? OK, how do you feel?
If, like me, you experience shortness of breath, shooting pains in your shins, and generally feel like dying at the mere thought of running for 20 seconds then you, like me, are definitely out of shape.
Once, my wife and I went to the bank to pay a traffic violation fine. The security guard informed us we needed to present a photocopy of the violation ticket to the teller. We didn’t have a photocopy. I looked at the wall clock – 15 minutes to closing time.
I asked the guard where the nearest photocopying machine was. Somewhere down the street, he mumbled. Great.
So I left my wife and made a dash for the photocopy shop before the bank closed on us. At first, I walked briskly. No need to panic, I told myself. It can’t be that far.
I was right; it only took me five minutes to get there. I whisked myself to the counter and presented the ticket. Unfortunately, the owner was busy trying to figure out certain photocopying settings and, with her back to me, her head buried in the machine, she told me to hang on a sec.
I’m a polite guy and I hate rushing people. But “just a sec” turned into at least a minute. I started getting antsy. The bank would be closed in less than 10. I’m a paying customer – I’m not forking over P1.75 for this!
Soon enough, however, she photocopied the ticket. I bade farewell and returned to the street which suddenly seemed strangely long, as if stretched by unknown forces, warped forever in every direction. The time was about 2:55… I knew that a brisk walk back wouldn’t cut it.
So I ran.
Well, it was more of a fast jog than a bid for Olympic gold. But those 20 seconds of sudden energy were all it took to make me realize that 20 seconds was all I was gonna do. For not only were my shins exploding into tiny fragments with every pounding step but my belly was climbing out from under my t-shirt making people on the sidewalk wonder how on earth a man so skinny could actually have a gut the size of an American football.
I stopped before my heart crapped out on me. If the bank closes, the missus won’t be happy. But at least I won’t need bypass surgery. I turned a corner, breathing as if on Mars, and saw the bank in the distance. The security guards outside were craning their necks in my direction.
What, you’re gonna close? This very minute?? I began to pick up speed.
When I got to the bank the guards courteously opened the front door, which is just as well because I would’ve careened right through and had a spasm on the marble floor. I managed to find my wife, thrust the photocopy into her hands, and watch her scram to the teller while I curled into a sweaty ball on a nearby chair.
Fitness First beckons.
My love affair with books began when I was a little boy sprawled on the living room floor.
I was lying on the carpet, peering at a strange world of chair legs, fingernail clippings, and dead hair when I noticed something alien propping up the sofa.
It was a book. A small beaten paperback, valiantly subbing for a sofa leg that had died and gone to sofa leg heaven. Its hard work was unnoticed from the world above but from my ground-level advantage I could see that it was putting in the hours.
Somehow I got my hands on this book. I remember its wounded midsection, crushed by the nightly weight of a family bloated with dinner, settling down to watch TV. Did we care more for electronic entertainment than we did for reading? The injured book would have said so.
These are patchy memories of course. I don’t remember what the book was about (I think it involved a talking otter named Olga); neither can I remember what I did with it after taking pity on its broken chest.
What I do remember is that I enjoyed opening its pages, looking at the amusing illustrations, and trying to understand what all the words meant.
It was a strange book. You’d think a talking otter would be enough to capture the imagination of a 5-year-old wouldn’t you? Well, it didn’t. Mr Otter was bizarre and his conversations were lost on me. But his world, the literal pages in which he lived, musky and brown with age, were certainly alluring. It was nothing like the bright-colored Dr Seuss books in infant school. No, this was a different vehicle with a different universe. Were there others like it?
There were. I soon discovered another musty paperback lying around the house, a dog-eared book about Robin Hood. Like Mr Otter it had an aged, neglected feel to it and looked ready – almost eager – for prop-up duty. Luckily, I caught it before it could be shoved beneath a wobbly table.
This book captivated me. It was a definite improvement over Mr Otter; I could actually understand some of the sentences. Of particular interest was when Robin Hood dueled with Little John over a small river in the middle of Sherwood Forest. I could practically smell the oak trees and feel the autumn air gnawing at Robin’s face. I could hear their clashing staffs and echoing grunts. And I could truly sense Little John’s paradoxical joy of being felled into the cold waters by an impish yet fearless stranger. I knew they’d become friends. Indeed they became comrades.
I didn’t have the faculties to finish the book (it was clearly geared for young adults) but it had sufficiently awakened me to the power of the written word. I would dip again and again into my favorite portion of the story, the river duel, and reveled in my fragmented understanding. This, coupled with the book’s weathered charm, reinforced my belief in realities greater than my own.
Books were journeys, adventures in imagination. The people who wrote them, they had the best jobs in the world. Their tales were gardens of wonder; the price of admission was simply belief. All I had to do was open their books and enter the gates.
This was when I knew I was going to be a writer.
Thirty years and countless books later here I am, a product of all I’ve read, a lover of words. Ask me what my favorite tomes are and be prepared to wait in vain; there really are too many to mention.
From Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, Steven Mosley’s A Tale of Three Virtues, to John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel, my loves are like the mismatched patches of a cherished quilt.
All I can say with certainty is that my first books are the ones I love the most. I know I can scarcely remember them and for this they tease me in the night. But they’re the ones responsible for my overloaded bookshelves. They’re the ones that keep me reading and writing, trying to recapture the smell of oak, the cool of the forest, the strangeness of sentient animals.
Mr Otter and Mr Hood, I owe you.
Today I opened up my Facebook news feed and felt my skin crawl.
A friend of mine had posted a link to an adult video, complete with a pornographic thumbnail for everyone to see. Or rather, some malicious code had infiltrated his Facebook account and done the dirty work for him.
Now I know my friend would never do something like this and I emailed to tell him about the dirty post. He probably clicked on an innocuous link which led to a site with malware waiting to be activated. It’s a common hacker trick and can happen to the best of us.
The danger this poses, however, is immense.
What if my son (or any other 11-year-old for that matter) accidentally saw this online? What if he clicked through and actually watched this thing?
All it takes is one dirty image or video to awaken unholy passions in a child.
I really want to prevent that from happening, with all the practical power I have.
Which explains why my wife and I have chosen not to allow our son an FB account. We’ve talked to him about it and told him that while some of his friends are on Facebook, a lot of stuff can happen on there that can damage the soul, especially if you’re a kid.
He can be on Facebook when he’s older.
I don’t expect him to fully appreciate this right now but I’m grateful he accepts our counsel and decision.
I’m also happy that he cooperates with our attempts to monitor his internet usage. Maybe he secretly resents me in some way for this (it doesn’t look like it, thank God) but even if he does, I’m not gonna sit on my thumbs for the sake of popularity. I know “brooding cyber-fascist” isn’t one of the more cherished job descriptions of a loving father, but I’ll willingly take the heat.
You see, my son’s mental and spiritual health – and perhaps entire future – is at stake. I know this because I know the effect porn can have on a young mind.
I was first exposed to pornography when I was about 9 or 10 years old. My friend had unearthed a couple of adult VHS tapes buried in his dad’s cupboard which we watched, unattended, stunned. It was inexplicably beguiling; shock, intrigue, and lust instantly coursed through my veins.
We knew we had seen something forbidden. But I had no idea of the long term effect it would have on me: my perception of sex, future relationships, and very pursuit of God would all be seriously tainted. I thank God for His gospel of grace which sets us free and cleanses us from sin. But boy, I wish I had never seen those tapes.
I feel sorry for my tender, young self whenever I think back to those days. I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back and redeem the younger me. To cover my eyes, destroy those tapes, and point me in a different direction.
But I don’t have a time machine. All I have is present time. And the eyes and minds I can protect are those of my two kids.
Which is why, in the battle for my children’s purity, Facebook can definitely wait.
Four months between blog posts is obscene.
I put it down to depression; I’ve just spent the last four months away from my wife and kids – 9000 miles away in gloomy England to be a little more precise.
What an agonizing, restless period. No wife and kids to share my days with. I can’t say I was inspired to write much. Apart from a bunch of corporate scripts, I produced practically nothing.
But now I’m back and thrilled to be in the company of my family again. And slowly, the urge to blog is returning too.
I just hope the creative juices start kicking in soon.
Writing is certainly like physical exercise; the less you do, the more your muscles atrophy. Right now I feel drained just typing these few words, like a man trying to wake himself up after a long night of binge-drinking. I WANT to get up and drag myself into the sunlight but it requires every ounce of energy just to open my eyelids.
This is going to be tough.
Nobody will bother to read this anyway.
In effect, I’m talking to myself.
Which is OK, come to think of it. It might even be the whole point.
Wake up Daniel. You’re home now; you can start writing again!
Note: this post uses portions of an old article you may have read but can now no longer find on my site. Forgive me. I’ve always wanted to reword that article. This is the (better) update.
I miss drinking tea.
“Well get up and make some you dopey fool!”
Yeah but I don’t feel like it. I haven’t felt like drinking tea for a few weeks now.
Something must be wrong.
I’m English. And like every other scraggly-toothed, stiff-upper-lipped yeoman I like my tea – nay, NEED my tea on a regular basis.
Tea is how we start/get through/end the day as well as react to football matches/deal with strange election results/conclude funerals.
In Britain, people drink an average of 1,550,600 cups a day – just over 7 Olympic-size swimming pools – a stupendous amount of tea. Hooray for India.
English tea consumption, like the mathematical equation Pi, is constant, bankable, and woven into the very fabric of the universe.
So why am I not drinking?
It’s not like I don’t have the right brand. Some people won’t drink tea unless it’s of a very special quality, grown in the magical hills of some faraway third-world country, protected by rebel insurgents and tree fairies, touched only by virgins, transported down to civilization one sack every six months and doled out to the rest of the world on a gold barter arrangement. This tea is usually sipped out of a small porcelain thimble held between the thumb and index finger with the pinky extended as far away in the other direction as humanly possible.
That ain’t me. I also dislike anything that pretends to be avant garde but is actually the product of some unholy union between Earl Grey and a dubious sounding fruit. Bergamot Orange is one such example. It’s as clear as ant’s blood and tastes like mouthwash. I’d sooner use it to scrub my car than let it slip down my throat.
I enjoy the traditional English cuppa, also known as Builder’s Tea, which is strongly brewed Ceylon with milk and sugar mixed in. Forget green tea, herbal tea, or whatever medicinal tea your local
shaman alternative doctor is hawking you. They may be able to cure cancer, promote brain activity, and enhance sexual performance but do you really wanna chastise your taste buds to be a virile, intelligent lothario?
Wait, don’t answer that question.
Back to my current tea-totalling (pun intended). Maybe it’s the unbearable Philippine heat? It’s hard to drink tea when it feels like the earth’s been stuffed inside a giant leather jacket.
Or maybe it’s because I tend to drink coffee most of the time at work. Now that I have a real job with real deadlines and a real coffee machine in the pantry with tons of gourmet grains in stock, coffee has become, well, a lot easier to prep and drink, that’s for sure.
I know there’s a theological lesson buried in here somewhere. Maybe if I flip the kettle on and drop a teabag into a mug, it’ll all become clear.
Like Bergamot Orange, only better.
I am not what you would call an athletic person.
I rarely play sports. The most involved I get with anything that requires me to stretch and exercise my muscles would be running, which I only do when it rains, I’m late for work, or if I’ve eaten too much curry and the men’s room is a considerable distance.
Even then I don’t run that often. So it came as no surprise that I almost had a seizure playing badminton the other night.
OK, so “seizure” is a bit much. But it sure felt wrong. When your sweat transforms your t-shirt into cling wrap and you’re gasping for air like someone sealed you in a giant ziplock bag, something is amiss, no?
I must admit, I strolled onto the court feeling fairly confident. I mean, come on, it’s badminton – how hard can it be? You just hit the shuttlecock back and forth until it falls to the floor, gets stuck in the net, or smacks you in the face because you thought you could hit it with a fancy forward swing but, uh, you thought wrong (aka “epic badminton fail”).
Look, ice hockey it is not. The thing is, a sport is a sport and at some point will require you to do the unthinkable, like move your arms, bend your knees, or explain that sweat in your eyes always messes with your contact lenses. I was hoping there wouldn’t be much of that, like perhaps I could hit incoming shuttlecocks with sheer mind power instead of actually having to use a racket, imagination, and some ol’ fashioned human strength.
I played my friend and comrade in the Lord (who also happens to be my boss), a big-framed Finnish software developer who looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman except that instead of starring in Oscar-quality films he makes world-class software for a living. He’s the kind of guy who, when thinking, frowns hard and tucks his chin firmly between his thumb and index finger. He speaks with a sophisticated European drawl and regularly dispenses professorially profound observations on technology and theology, his twin passions, while peering over steel-rimmed glasses and sipping ridiculously strong coffee.
He’s also something of an expert at badminton (as far as I could tell anyway) and approached the game with such stoic calculation, such efficient, self-assured Finnishness, I felt I was playing a James Bond villain who kills his enemies by making them sweat to death on court (“Do you expect me to lose?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”) He basically stood in one place, effortlessly returning my volleys, while all I could do was scramble to and fro to pick up flaming shuttlecocks before they melted through the floor.
At one point, after stooping for the nth time to retrieve a smoldering projectile, I stretched, recalibrated my spine, and let out a parched sigh that reverberated throughout the court like an unholy echo from the bowels of hell. I then turned to my friend to see him sniff. That’s right, he sniffed. No cracking of the neck, no wiping of the brow with his forearm. He wasn’t even sweating. He just sniffed and stared at me, waiting for my serve.
Needless to say, I lost the game. We didn’t actually score it but from the way I dragged my sorry backside off the floor (and the way my friend stayed on to play a few more games in quick succession), I knew who the better man was.
May I give a few suggestions to anyone like me whose gut is the size of an American football, has zero legs muscles, and thinks he can totally kill at a round of badminton when all he’s ever mastered is Scrabble?
Learn how to do CPR on yourself.
And it helps to play someone just as clueless at sports as you are. If your opponent is calm, extremely intelligent, and grew up in a country that feeds this to their kids, steer clear!
Now if I can just learn how to breathe without swallowing my tongue, things might be better next match.
I can’t wait to have my own car.
A year ago I was singing a different tune.
A year ago I was a learning driver, a very reluctant motorist thrust into the pilot’s seat by the sheer will of my wife who, tired of being the family leadfoot, insisted I learn how to drive or have something akin to invasive surgery without anesthetic. My response, after acknowledging it’d be a lot easier for her if I relieved her of driving duties and took to the anarchic streets of Manila instead, was to mope around every day for the next few months hoping she’d have amnesia and forget the idea altogether.
She didn’t. Not after she endured a pregnancy that had her driving herself to her OB-GYN on a regular basis, halfway across treacherous and heat-drenched Manila, even as she entered her eight month of conception and battled contractions with every step on the gas.
So I finally learned how to drive.
Or, to be more precise, I learned how to dodge maniac drivers, avoid lunging jaywalkers, evade corrupt traffic enforcers, and prevent myself from slashing my wrists every time I got mired in traffic, which is pretty much run of the mill here in the Philippines and far more common that I care to admit.
Anyway, to celebrate my newfound ability after 32 years of being a non-driver I’m eager to get my own car (instead of borrowing the mom-in-law’s wheels every time we go to church or do the groceries).
I can’t help but think of 2 Timothy 4:7-8. We run the race to win the prize, right? We sprint with all our might, darting our spiritual course, hurdling obstacles, shirking opposition. We twist, we turn, we ache, we burn, we live out our salvation in Jesus. And the reward? A crown of righteousness and eternal company with the good Lord Himself.
Nothing could be better than to endure the race of faith, make it across the finish line, and collapse in the arms of the Savior who embraces us with joy and pride.
The car I’m aiming for, it’s not a brand new, top of the line, gas-guzzling, wallet-busting vehicle with 20 cup holders and a television screen in the back of each seat. It’s a simple deal with good air-conditioning, a reliable engine, and comfortable seating for a family of four. Lord-willing it’ll be easy on the budget and will last a good many years.
But what I’m really excited about is being able to avoid the daily mixture of tropical heat and intense urban pollution that so plagues my city. I’m also excited to give a lift to my friends every now and again and not be the one always in need of a ride.
I endured my training (which, in the Philippines, means braving the mean streets until you’ve mastered the skill and haven’t killed anyone, yourself included, in the process) and now I eagerly await my prize.
The race of faith is a lot more complex than having extended driving lessons and is fraught with greater challenges and temptations. Heaven will be much, much sweeter than buying a second hand car (Psalm 16:11).
But life has its teaching moments and today, as I ponder a possible car purchase, I’m reminded just how lovely heaven will be for those who endure in Christ to the end.
I seriously love our new coffee machine.
My wife and I recently bought a Braun Coffee Maker so we could start consuming a huge cask of ground coffee sent by my mother-in-law from the US. We didn’t want to let the coffee go to waste and had always wanted to ditch instant coffee anyway. So we invested in a simple unit and began brewing.
So far, so addicted. I’ve always enjoyed coffee but to now wake up to the pleasant aroma of freshly brewed coffee hanging in the clear morning air, well it’s pure joy.
To be able to warm the house with a pot of coffee in the afternoon while the world outside endures a cold and relentless downpour is also a real treat.
Reading a good book over a swirling mug of steaming coffee is further proof we made a decent and crucial investment.
I’m loving every minute.
I’m also wary of the shakes.
Not that my increased coffee intake has suddenly turned me into a sunken-eyed, trembling madman (homeschooling my son takes care of that). It’s just that whenever I amplify my flirtations with coffee I always undergo a heightened sense of awareness that seriously impedes my ability to function like a normal human being.
In other words, coffee plays on my nerves.
I can remember several occasions when this hasn’t been a good thing.
One was when I was shaving.
I was at the kitchen sink and had laid aside a small stand mirror to rinse my razor. Now anyone who knows me is aware that I abhor rats and anything else that crawls rapidly and without remorse. You’ll also know that I once lived in a house that had a serious rat and cockroach problem.
I was at the sink when I saw some quick movement in the mirror, something that resembled a lumbering rodent headed in my direction.
Naturally, I freaked. After a few seconds flailing about the kitchen like a donkey having a spasm, I realized that the “rodent” in the mirror was merely a quick reflection of my arm.
My current caffeine intake, although elevated, has so far produced little in the way of similarly erratic behavior. But I do feel it’s fast approaching a level where paranoia is a virtue and regular gesticulation is the mark of a true coffee hero.
I’m sort of code yellow at the moment, approaching code red, if you know what I mean. I’m more prone to fiendish outbursts whenever my son jumps out from behind me, more liable to type a hundred mistakes a minute when speed typing (or whatever you call rapid typing with four fingers while salivating over the keyboard).
I don’t want to regulate my coffee, although that’s probably the best thing to do at this point.
It’s a good thing there are no rodents where I now live.