12 September 2009

Leaves of Grass: A (Silly) Song of My Lawn

Sorry, Mr. Whitman...

Leaves of Grass: A (Silly) Song of My Lawn

The verdant lawn outside my house is shimmering with dew,
Glistening with anticipation of the sun's photosynthetic joys!
At dawn it glows and glimmers, standing mightily above the other lawns,
It is the king of lawns, the lord of all the grasslands!
Proudly my lawn stands, a giant among lawns, reigning unquestioned.
Of my lawn I sing.
O how immense is my lawn's stature!
O How limitless its expanses!

The lawn of the old lady next door is a neat-clipped lawn,
A cringing, cowering, dog of a lawn,
Quickened only by the lively excrements of my mighty lawn,
Basking wistfully in the glow of my verdant lawn.
O miserable lawn of the old lady next door!
How I pity your sterile neatness, your shocking lack of biodiversity!
Next to my lawn, how plain, how uninteresting, how deplorably orderly.
O close-trimmed, lifeless lawn, how boring you look!

And yet my lawn grows too much, yes, even for me,
The one whose artful neglect has caused its towering greatness.
O unrepenant lawn! How ungrateful your tall, weedy stems!
How you have forgotten the one who allowed you to reach such great heights,
To be the ruler of all you survey?
Why must you grow taller than the meager mind of man can fathom?
A day of retribution will come to you, my once-proud lawn, yes, has come even now!
My wrath will mow you down; I'll translate your pride into clippings.

Then, O lawn, how low you will be! How piteous! How utterly stricken!
Your shavings will be gathered in lifeless mounds,
Clippings good only for fertilizer.
Even the old lady's lawn will tower over you, O lawn of rebellion.
O lifeless lawn! How still your form, how shapeless your mown self will be!
And yet hope remains, O lawn of my youth, lawn of my vigor.
In the spring, after a deep sleep beneath the snowy blankets of winter,
You will arise again, and shine forth, full of dandelions and weeds, to rule again!

And you will learn at last, when all is done,
When all the lawns around are once more subject to your might,
The truth I always wanted to impart:
You better not get too uppity, or I will cut you.

I had intended to keep this going for about another 140 stanzas, but I really need to go mow my jungle.

13 June 2009

Things That Make Luaphacim Cringe: Car Title Loans

There I am, working on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow, when I hear the following on the TV in the background: "You can turn the equity in your car into cash! Checksmart will help!"

Very little annoys me more than making payments on things. I buy everything with cash if I can swing it, and if I can't swing it, I don't buy it unless it is, like, food, fuel, or utility bills. Paying cash gives me a feeling of security and keeps me from sliding toward that miry pit of slow-crushing minimum payments from which escape is so difficult. I dread arriving at the place where I am forced to live month-to-month, with little or no hope of ever getting ahead financially.

So the very idea of taking a paid-for automobile and signing a note for every cent it's worth (or, in the case of most car-title loans, more), seems like a recipe for disaster to this particular Luaphacim. I know it's probably just a personality quirk of mine, and I know there are probably people who genuinely need the services provided by title-loan places, but it just rubs me the wrong way all over. (Especially when the title-loan place has abusively high interest rates for past-due payments.)

What do YOU think, dear reader(s)? Is Luaphacim just a cranky (prematurely) old man, or is there something to his crankiness?

07 June 2009

Home "Improvement" Tip

Are you tired of the same old look? Need to put a little pizazz into your home's decor? Feel like laying down a fresh coat of paint, but first you want to do a skim coat to hide the irregularities in your wall?

I have spent several hours "improving" my home this weekend, and I would like to offer some simple advice to those of you who are contemplating such projects: "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have." (Heb. 13:5)

That is all for now. I may give a more detail-laden account later, but don't count on it, as I am very, very tired. :-)

28 May 2009

On the Run


I ran this morning, and I made my first mistake before I even left the house: I decided to leave my cell phone behind. My reasons for doing so were two-fold. Firstly, I liked the idea of getting out of the house, completely unencumbered by any connections with the outside world. Secondly, and more importantly, there was no room for the phone in the pocket of my shorts. OK, I guess that technically there was room, but not much room, and I would rather have the phone left at home for a few minutes than have it bounce out onto the street and be crushed by a Mack truck because of insufficient pocket-space.

Why, you may ask, was it a mistake to leave my cell phone at home? Because, I respond, I have the time sense of an especially slow-witted jungle sloth. Which is to say a very bad time sense indeed. Consequently, I have need of some time-keeping device for my workouts, and my cell phone is the best choice, because I am a chronic loser of watches. (But I need my cell phone, so I manage to find it each time it becomes lost.) Thus, deciding to leave my cell phone at home threw me upon the tender mercies of yet another stunted faculty in my possession: my sense of distance. This, my dear reader(s), was my second mistake.

If possible, my sense of distance is even worse than my time sense. Really, it reminds me of the passage in one of Peter's epistles where he talks about how a day is as a thousand years to the Lord -- to me, a hundred meters is like a 5K, and a 5K is like a hundred meters. It should be no surprise, then, that I got it into my head that a certain main intersection not too far from my house was about a mile off, when actually the distance was a lot more like two miles. I had intended to give myself a fairly easy run (two miles, round-trip) since I haven't been running much lately, but instead, I ended up giving myself a run that was very nearly four miles. I arrived home about 35-40 minutes later (I didn't know exactly because I seemed to have forgotten my cell phone), panting with exhaustion and vague imprecations directed at my belly in specific and the universe in general.

My knees are killing me at the moment -- I'm used to running three miles on a treadmill, not four miles over terrain -- and I'm worn out. So that's the reason for the "Ouch" at the beginning of this post. I can only hope that my pain has brought you some small amusement at my expense. If, perchance, it has, I shall count it well worth the anguish I have borne this morning.

Happy Thursday! :-)

26 May 2009

Yet Another Reason to Love Mrs. Luaphacim

Excerpted from a conversation we had this evening:

Me: ...as you are aware, my love, past performance is not an indicator of future results.

Mrs. L: Yeah, but how else would people decide how to invest in the market? Seriously, you have to rely on past performance.

Me: That's true -- I suppose it's just an elegant fiction created to ensure that investors won't be able to say, "Wait, wait, I totally didn't know this wouldn't make money."

Mrs. L: Which reminds me... I've been seeing a lot of commercials on TV lately where companies are telling people how they've been around for years, and they're still doing things the way they've always done... so we should trust them.

Me: Yeah?

Mrs. L: I don't think I'd trust them - "Come buy from us! We've been around since the 1890's!" I'm not sure it's very profitable to barter goods and services for cows.

Me: *snorting with laughter, I try to prevent the nachos I'm eating from being forcibly ejected through my nose*

23 May 2009

Peter the Great

I'm at a coffee shop right now, and there is a free computer with internet access. On it is someone's project on Peter the Great. I thought you might enjoy learning some more about this most fearsome of Russian czars... enjoy. :-)
Peter the Great was born in 1672 and died in 1725.
Peter was Tsar of Russia from 1682 until 1725 when he died. His self given title was Peter the Great even though he was officially Peter the I.
Peter Centeralised government, Modernised the army, created a navy and increased the sublugation of the peasants.
His domestic policy allowed him to excute an agressive foriegn policy.
Peter the great was massivley powerful, "loud-mouthed, violent,ruthless, and impetus."
Peter always wanted to learn how to learn,and was very actice.
Peter learned to be a carpenter,talked to mathmetisians and learned how best to train soliders, including how to torture people.
Peter formed a small army out of his servants and used them to play war games.
Peter personality has been the cause of much debate and discussion in the 300 years since his death.
Its been said the peter is a very cruel unliked man.

21 May 2009


It has been a really difficult few days. Thanks to all who called, e-mailed, and generally showed sympathy. I feel very blessed to have so many caring friends!

My older sister learned on Tuesday that she lost her baby -- I believe she was about 16 weeks along. It was especially hard for them because she had also lost a baby during her previous pregnancy.

Early Wednesday morning, as my younger brother and I headed back from our hometown, where we had been celebrating another brother's birthday, I wept for what seemed to be a very, very long time.

I mourned for my sister and brother-in-law, two of the nicest people I know, and for their children, who wouldn't have a chance to hold, care for, and get to know their new little brother. I mourned for the fragile life, so quickly snuffed out, and for my own fragile life, which could end just as unexpectedly. I mourned for lost potential, lost affection, lost time. I mourned this world's injustice, its needless pain, and the suffering it brings to the innocent.

Christ says in Matthew 5 that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. But in the middle of the anguish, the doubt, and the hurt, those words are difficult to comprehend, and even more difficult to believe.

I suspect that a good portion of the comfort that is promised in Matthew 5 comes from realizing how much goodness still remains in our world. Wednesday, as I went to work, and played in the park with my nephews, and drove them to the hospital to see their parents, I was overwhelmed by how painless most of my existence is, how blessed I am with material things, and how much love surrounds me.

I know that this experience will remain with my family and me for the rest of our lives. Every time we receive an invitation to a baby shower, every time a baby cries in church, every time a child takes his first steps, we will remember the one who didn't make it. In September, when three of my sisters-in-law have babies, we will be painfully aware that we had been expecting a fourth one to be born in October.

Nonetheless, in the pain of this experience lies an opportunity for comfort. In my mind, it mirrors my spiritual redemption: If I had not realized my sinfulness, become keenly aware of how it was hurting me, and mourned the death and destruction that it brought, there would have been no repentance, no salvation, and no commitment to choose life instead of death, blessing instead of cursing. My mourning of my sin has brought me salvation, and continues to bring me closer to God.

Despite my lack of understanding of the sufferings of the past few days, I do have genuine hope that God will use them to strengthen and encourage my sister and her family. It still doesn't make any sense to me -- my sense of justice cries out that they, of all people, didn't deserve to have this happen. I know that God has control over the universe, but this seems like some kind of cosmic mistake. In the end, though, I still have to believe it will all work out to the good of us who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Death and pain are in the world because of sin, not because God wanted them to be here. And yet, through His divine alchemy, God transforms sorrow into comfort, fear into strength, ashes into beauty. My prayer is that my sister, our family, and I will be able to trust Him more each day, and to seek our strength from Him alone.

20 May 2009


It is a curious thing:
right smack in the middle of my life
something happens
to make my heart
feel it wants to stop
and I don't know whether it will
start again.

Now, for example.

I have a favor to ask of you...

Please pray for me and my family, if you pray.

If not, please do whatever you do that is closest to that.


09 April 2009

We Are All Going to Pay (Or Possibly Already Are Paying)

I have been increasingly impressed of late with the marvels that surround me.

Take milk, for instance. I want a fresh, icy cold glass of it? No problem; I just get up off of my bed (which is engineered to be hypoallergenic and is packed with springs to keep my back from getting stiff at night), walk down the clean floorboards of my home to the kitchen, and open the magically cold box there. (Of course, this box isn't REALLY magic, but I know so little about refrigeration technology that it may as well be. Whenever an evil spirit possesses and afflicts it, causing it to spew water or get uncharacteristically warm inside, I call a shaman who casts a spell on it while I am away and bills me $40 per hour plus parts. Bam, magic box fixed.)

Upon opening said magic box, I remove from it a custom-made receptacle which is lightweight, yet sufficiently strong and durable to hold my milk without buckling or becoming soggy. This receptacle is so durable, in fact, that if I threw it in my backyard, it would remain there for years and years without decomposing. Which is why I take it to the magic receptacle-recycling location instead.

The receptacle has a lid on it to keep it airtight, thus effectively insulating my beverage from the evil spirits (called "germs" by some) which inhabit the world all around me. The lid, too, is doubtless made by shamans (unionized ones, I hope. If there's anything I can't abide, it is a scabbing shaman). The lid twists easily off and on and is reusable to an extent which is, for all intents and purposes, limitless.

I open the container and pour perfectly chilled, homogenized milk which is exactly 1% fat by volume and disease-free (the shamans also run the dairies these days) into my favorite cup, which is made of a material similar to that of the milk container, but, unbelievably enough, more durable and also a lovely shade of violet.

But as I sip my perfect beverage, which is collected, prepared, and stored via a series of mundane miracles, I can't help but wonder about the price. I know it must have one -- nothing comes free, and especially nothing that's any good. Is there a day of reckoning on the horizon? A fiery day full of retribution and affliction and famine and measles that will serve as the just recompense for all the wonderment that surrounds me each day? And what of the other miracles I have not even mentioned in this post? What of the magic of cell phones and freeways and airplanes and the Internet? What cost will there be for these marvels? I shudder to think of it.

Then again, perhaps the cost isn't all that bad after all. It could be something as simple and pain-free as missing out on the "genuine," if you will. Insulated by my climate-controlled house and car and job, freed of the barriers of time and space by my cell phone and the Internet, entertained by my DVD player and the myriad of shows on cable television, I no longer have time for much.

For instance, I have no time for standing in line. I have no time for walking to work instead of driving. I have no time for running outside instead of on the speed- and slope-controlled treadmill at my gym (while I alternate between watching CNN, ESPN, and two other channels full of talking heads) on the TVs overhead. I have no time for just standing still outdoors and listening to the wind -- if I could hear it over the sound of passing cars and distant sirens. I have no time for the chatter of squirrels, chirps of birds, or long, slow conversations on a porch swing.

So maybe there is no fiery day of judgment. Maybe the cost isn't so bad after all. But is it WORTH it?

07 March 2009

Meme Me Up, Scottie!

Again with the lack of substance -- I have other irons in my metaphorical fire at the moment. I am blogging, just not here. I might link to my efforts if the appropriate parties will give me permission. And by "appropriate parties," I mostly mean Mrs. Luaphacim, who is the primary focus of this other blog but doesn't know it yet because she is taking a Lenten fast from the Intarweb. More on that to come, perhaps.

But now for the meme: Google "*my name* needs" and look at the first 10 results. (But instead of *my name*, put your name.) They apparently tell you something deep and important about yourself.

1.) Luaphacim needs a ministry philosophy.
2.) Luaphacim needs to take better pictures on flickr
3.) Luaphacim needs Your Address!!
4.) Luaphacim needs to read up on the scriptures of comedian ron white
5.) Luaphacim needs music to dance
7.) Luaphacim needs a name for his future network of QSAs on christian campuses
8.) Luaphacim needs home, a male domestic shorthair
9.) Luaphacim needs to expand my business, and am looking for small businesses that cannot afford the going rate for most designers
10.) Luaphacim needs an accepted phrase that broadly covers all these near-alternatives to avoid the danger of confusion and delay in our meetings while we debate the merits of each.

Apparently I am either a homeless animal or a very eclectic ministry-minded person... so, really, not too far from the truth, I suppose. What about you, dear reader?

21 February 2009

What I was (probably) doing in 1984

What were you doing in 1984?

A good friend of mine recently asked me this question as part of our church's 25th anniversary. It was founded in February of 1984, and most of the people who he asked that question of had to dig a little bit, but had good answers for him.

I, on the other hand, was two years old, and have little to no memory of 1984. So I cheated. Starting with the assumption that I was a typical two-year-old (which is a fairly safe one, I like to think), I came up with the following description of my activities:
In February of 1984, I was a little more than two years old. I can't really remember very much of what I was doing at that point, so I have enlisted the aid of a child development chart to determine what I would be likely to have done at the age of two. I imagine that most of my energies were probably invested in:

  • Running around (my mother says I could run long before I ever learned to walk; conservation of momentum came much more naturally to me than balance did)
  • Beginning to throw, kick, and catch balls (like a girl even then, no doubt)
  • Standing momentarily on one foot (having been around a lot of two-year-olds, I can say it is a triumph to get them to momentarily stand still on any number of feet, so this is quite the prodigious feat. No pun intended. Really.)
  • Climbing on playground structures (Some of my earliest memories are of going to the park and getting my fingers crushed on one of those slides that have the rollers on them)
  • Possibly jumping awkwardly (as if I have ever jumped any other way)
  • Developing right-handedness (how does one do that, exactly? Are there classes or something? I can't remember.)
  • Turning doorknobs and opening lids (I bet a lot of parents wish this ability was developed a little bit later. :-) )
  • Turning pages in a book, one at a time (which I have found is the best way to do it, unless the book is exceptionally dull and/or required for a class, in which case it is acceptable to turn multiple pages at a time)
  • Growing teeth -- all teeth appear by three years old (and then the right upper central incisor is knocked out when your friend Zachary knocks you down and you slam your mouth against a concrete front porch and your mom freaks out and you are without that tooth until the age of eight or nine)
  • Having a reduced appetite; weight gain tapers down to about 5 lbs. during this year (I was very skinny as a young child, my mother tells me. That sure didn't last long.)
  • Beginning to have bladder and bowel control; sleeping as much as 10 or 12 hours per night (a couple of the few bright spots during the Terrible Twos)
And I imagine that's about it. A two-year-old's life is simple and easily confined within a bulleted list. What the list doesn't -- and can't -- contain is the amount of affection that a parent has for her two-year-old, nor the joy she receives every day as he continues to learn new things and become more and more unique. She doesn't mind that he runs around screaming like a banshee all the time (well, doesn't mind that much) because, if she's wise, she knows it will be over all too soon.

The list also can't contain the wonder of a two-year-old who, as soon as he learns how to syntactically form questions, is asking them. The world is a wondrous place full of mysteries and things to be discovered. It's a magical time, both for children and parents, even if they don't know it.

So what were you doing in 1984, if applicable, dear reader?

13 February 2009

Adventures in Weight Loss, Or How to Get a Head Full of Crazy in One Simple Step

It's been a while since I've posted, and I apologize for that. Basically, I have been dumping most of my disposable free time into church, friends, and exercise (though not necessarily in that order).

I now weigh about 195, which is 40 pounds lighter than I did on Halloween. So that's nice, except it is causing some clothing-fit problems. This morning, as I was jogging on the treadmill, I almost lost my shorts, which fit me fine a couple of months ago. Ah, well.

I will have more to post in the next few weeks, hopefully, on dieting, exercising, gyms, and losing weight. Maybe even some work-related things, such as a new Turing Test for artificial intelligence that a caller to our Service Center ingeniously developed. It's all been marinading in my head, so I am planning to dish it out once it is thoroughly cooked and the juices run clear.

But I digress. The reason I am writing this is because of something horrifying that happened to me the other day...

As near as I can tell, one of the main downsides of the gym is that they play classic rock there. Don't get me wrong; it's fine for working out, and more than once, songs like "We Are the Champions" have helped me to finish my set on the bench press.

The problem is when I get the songs stuck in my head. The other day, for example, I found myself drumming incessantly on my desk at work and humming "Sweeeeeeeeet Emoooooooooooootioooooon" to myself all day long. Do you have any idea how annoying that is? And I think my co-workers noticed, even though I kept catching myself and reducing my volume, because a couple of them asked if the fan on my computer was OK.

But the worst part is when I get a song stuck in my head and then I am reading a recipe that seems yummy, but then I get to this part:
In a blender, combine the pistachios with the basil, mint, lime juice, vinegar, mustard, cayenne and olive oil. Blend at low speed until pureed. Add the ice cubes and blend at high speed until the sauce is very smooth. Scrape the basil emulsion into a small bowl and season with salt and black pepper.
and all of a sudden the song in my head changes to "Sweeeeeeeeeet Emuuuuuuuuulllllllsioooooon," and the world suddenly tilts all wrong on its axis, sending me plummeting into an abyss of craziness from whence there is no escape.

Ah, well -- I guess it could be worse.

20 January 2009

An Invention I Can Wholeheartedly Recommend

Courtesy of that excellent Christian publication, The End Times:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, — Christianware, Inc., a supplier for Christian bookstores worldwide, today announced a new product that will enable born again women to convert the secular romance novels they once used to gratify the desires of their sinful nature into romance novels that will encourage more heavenly desires.

“I am excited to introduce the Christian Romance Novel Converter," said Jedidiah Thomas, president of Christianware, "You simply place a worldly romance novel into the converter, wait 10 minutes for the book conversion machinery to perform its function, and then open up the converter to find a Christian romance novel much better suited to women of a Christian mindset."
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is correct! Make haste to read this article before you are consumed with sinful fleshly passions!!

17 January 2009

In Which I Learn I Am Not the Only Recovering "Full House" Addict in My Department

When things get slow in the policy administration area, IM conversations like this sometimes occur.

Date: Friday, January 16, 2009

Co-worker 1 [11:02 AM]:
Just got a call from an agents office, his name is John Stamos, its good to see he's doing well

Luaphacim [11:02 AM]:

Luaphacim [11:02 AM]:
Everywhere you look, everywhere you look
[note: this was also sung in over the cube wall – at a business-appropriate volume, of course]

Co-worker 1 [11:02 AM]:
thats great

Co-worker 1 [11:03 AM]:
I think the reps assistant was DJ

Nine Minutes Later...
[Co-worker 2 is starting the conversation with this message:]
Man!!! Now I have the Full House theme stuck in my head!! Thanks, Co-worker 1!!

Luaphacim [11:12 AM]:
Co-worker 1 thinks DJ might have been the rep's assistant

Co-worker 1 [11:12 AM]:
Either her or Kimmy Gibbler

Luaphacim [11:12 AM]:

Co-worker 2 [11:13 AM]:
Please don't tell me his office is out of San Francisco . . . .

Co-worker 1 [11:13 AM]:
Its actually in the same building as Wake up San Franscisco

Co-worker 2 [11:14 AM]:
You are a wealth of trivia on Full House. I'm impressed!

Luaphacim [11:14 AM]:
it's even the right day for him to be calling...

Luaphacim [11:14 AM]:
I will be watching TGIF eagerly tonight to see if you make it on

Co-worker 1 [11:15 AM]:
Have mercy!
This is probably the correct place to reiterate that I have the best job EVAR. Happy weekend!

12 January 2009

If only it worked like that...

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
not sure when I will be off...

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
and then we haz to go to burlington coat factriz

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
(iz moar tahn GRATE COAST)

marshwiggle [9:29 AM]:
hehe, I was about to say teh same

luaphacim [9:29 AM]:
to trade my BIG coat for a less big coat

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
for Christmas, my MIL bought me the kind of coat I would never buy myself

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
(i.e., not from Goodwill)

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
but she didn't know how big a size to get, and the coat was too large

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
so I am like a little kid

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
in the coat

luaphacim [9:30 AM]:
and also on a maturity level

luaphacim [9:31 AM]:
but I don't think the immaturity can be fixed by Burlington Coat Factory, regrettably

06 January 2009

How Much Deficit is Too Much?

There was an interesting op-ed by Andrew Parasiliti in the Washington Times yesterday. In it, he addresses the ideas of President-Elect Obama about the need for yet another off-budget economic stimulus package. Parasiliti observes:
in thinking prescriptively about the economy, is there not also a lesson from the current crisis that bills eventually come due, and that when you spend more than you take in, there is a day of reckoning?

That was the experience of those Americans who bought houses they could not afford, and who are now facing foreclosure or painful economic decisions. Shouldn't it also be the lesson of the U.S. government that we need to stop living beyond our means? It is unrealistic either to imagine "growing" out of a deficit of this projected magnitude or that there will be a return on the TARP expenditures anytime soon. The day of reckoning for these massive deficits will eventually come in the form of tax increases or printing more money, and the resulting weakened dollar and inflation that goes along with the latter option. In sum, the recovery will be running on even more borrowed money from foreign creditors and on borrowed time. Our savings and retirement accounts will know no long-term security as long as we carry such massive deficits and we are taking no steps to address them.
Hear, hear. I was uncomfortable with TARP, uncomfortable with talk of bailing out the auto industry, and I will continue to be uncomfortable with Obama's proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Why? because we are literally spending trillions of dollars that we do not actually have.

Yes, we have more borrowing power than most other countries on earth, but credit always comes with a price, and if we don't learn that now, our country could face severe consequences for it before too long.

03 January 2009

Adventures With My Flex Card

I really like my company-sponsored Medical Flex Spending Account. Maybe it's just the Scotsman in me, but there is something awfully appealing about using tax-free money to buy medical goods and services that I would use anyway. To make the deal even sweeter, my company even issues a debit card to expedite the claim process, so I theoretically don't even have to submit receipts every single time!

The problem, of course, is that they also do "random" checks to verify that I am not misusing the flex spending debit card. And as far as I can tell, these "random" checks seem to require me to submit receipts for 90% of the purchases I have ever made with said debit card. So, basically, it is only deferring and complicating the claim process, rather than expediting it.

The best part is that most of the "we need your payment" notices are sent by offshore associates who work during their daytime, which is, of course, our night-time. This can be amusing, like for instance when I receive a notice via e-mail at 1:07 a.m. on Christmas morning. Also amusing is the fact that this notice said it was the second request even though I had never received the first one.

Being the good citizen that I am, I promptly complied and sent them a receipt. Of course, being the ornery person I am, I also enclosed the following letter:

January 2, 2009

(Haha, just kidding – it’s only my first
response! I bet I got you, didn’t I?)

From: luaphacim
To: Whom It May Concern
Re: Your Very Thoughtful Christmas Gift

My very dear Whom (May I call you Whom, or would you prefer Mr./Ms. May-Concern?):

It is with a heavy heart that I take keyboard in hand on this second day of the new year. Why, you ask, should my heart be so heavy? Because of the all cholesterol in there, that’s why. But also because I am clearly not working hard enough. I had once thought of myself as a Certified First-Rate Workaholic©, but your office is clearly full of much more dedicated work-persons than I.

Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. I came to work on the morning December 26, 2008 chock-full of good tidings, great joy, and also my mother’s home-made fudge. In short, if anyone had asked how I was, I probably would have responded, “Full of Holiday Cheer, my friend! Merry Christmas!” However, no one asked, as very few of my co-workers inquire after my health – or, indeed, communicate with me at all, unless their job duties mandate that they do so. But fine, whatever, let them be that way. See if I care.

And then, in the midst of my festal glee, I saw it in my inbox: your e-mail, a copy of which I have enclosed, signed, stamped, and fingerprinted for your reference. I would have sealed it too, but I was out of wax.

The moment I saw that e-mail, I had a life-changing revelation. Your simple electronic message, comprised of mere ones and zeroes, sparkling so guilelessly in ASCII format on my workstation computer monitor, taught me that the true Spirit of Christmas resides neither in presents, nor hot chocolate, nor yet homemade confectionary delights from one’s mother.

No, the True Spirit of Christmas cannot be accurately conveyed in any manner other than e-mails sent at 1:07 AM on Christmas morning requesting copies of receipts for services that are eligible for Flex Spending Accounts and containing polite threats regarding the “interruption in the use of my card” if I do not comply. Apparently, the True Spirit of Christmas also requires for the e-mail to be marked “Second Notice,” thus perplexing its recipient, who cannot remember ever receiving a first one. Perhaps it was clogged in the Internetic Tubes along with a clump of other cyber-paraphernalia such as Sesame Street–Harry Potter crossover fan fiction, cute pictures of Aunt Essie’s kittens, and e-mails from Senator Ted Stevens (R – AK) to Dell Technical Support, inquiring as to the location of his electronic typing computer machine’s “Any” key.

But I digress. My point is simply to thank you, my dearest Whom, from the bottom of my heart for sharing your inexpressibly great wisdom and grasp of the True Meaning of Christmas with me, your unworthy servant! Without you, I would be helpless. Without you, there would be no one to suspect me of committing tax fraud by using my Flex Convenience Card on items such as Cocoa Puffs and racehorses and clown shoes and Lord knows what else. Without you, I would be utterly incomplete.

And so, as my return gift to you, Whom, I have enclosed a facsimile image of the receipt you requested for my transaction of $83.20 on November 19, 2008. You will notice from the detailed list of “Services and Procedures” that my lovely wife spent these funds on eyeglasses, and not on any illicit, non-tax-exemptable items such as cases of Tang© Astronaut Drink, fuzzy dice, or twin ill-tempered Shetland Ponies named José and Enrique.

For good measure, I have also enclosed a receipt for another transaction wherein I spent $126.00 on eyeglasses (my eyes are apparently 52% weaker than my wife’s eyes, if these prices are any indicator!). I noticed that I had $0.80 left in my Flex Account, and I would be most obliged if you would send it to me in the form of a cheque so that I may squander it on a pair of fancy socks or something equally frivolous. If you cannot do this, then I would appreciate a written notice to that effect, because I know that generating such a written notice will probably cost at least $0.80, so I will have gotten my money’s worth either way.

Wishing you and yours a splendidly terrifical new year, I remain your most humble and obedient servant,

Ne’er-Do-Well and Silly-Pants Extraordinaire

(I am not even joking -- I really did send this. I hope it will be displayed in some poor cube-dweller's Hall of Crazy some day.)

02 January 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, dear reader! It is now 2009. Exciting, huh? There is very little that gets me so worked up as the rolling over of more or less arbitrary measurements of time. WHAT AN EARTH SHAKING DAY YESTERDAY WAS

Ha ha, just kidding; it was only another day.

Still, New Year's day is always a little bittersweet for me. It is the holiday that makes me the most conscious of all my old relationships that have been terminated (or perhaps just placed on hold) because of distance, difference, or decay. It's a funny thing how people can be enormously important to us for long periods of time, and then, for various reasons, virtually vanish from our lives. People who once were some of my closest friends are now just items on my Christmas card list, or, even worse, mere Facebook friends.

I love Robert Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" because it recognizes both the significance of past friendship and the difficulty of keeping one's friendships in good working order when life gets in the way:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

I think music is fairly powerful, and the more times we hear something, the more ingrained it becomes in our consciousness. That is especially true with songs like this one, which gets a lot of air time. It's the theme song of Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve, it is played at the end of no less than three Frank Capra films, and it is sung to celebrate the New Year in virtually every English-speaking country. There is even a Japanese version, which is often played at the end of the day in supermarkets to signal that they are about to close. (Yes, I do think that is comical. No, I am not surprised that it happens in Japan.)

For me -- and I suspect for you, too, dear reader -- this particular song has a great deal of power. It brings back memories of good times and good friends in whose lives I have invested a great deal of time and affection. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can even see the old friends I've left behind...

So here, in my chilly basement study in Kansas, I find myself surrounded on this second morning of the New Year by divers and sundry ghosts.

Over in the corner, blissfully playing "Zelda" on his Gameboy, is my old 4-H Cooking Class friend who taught me that video games are never out of season.

All my favorite college professors are perusing my fiction bookshelf and nodding in admiration at my choice of reading material. They are arguing about how the metaphor of the American Frontier has shaped our nation's literature and culture.

Some of my newspaper friends are designing a new layout on one corner of my desk, and my junior high students from the mission school are playing cards with my Mexican construction buddies on another corner.

A group of camp friends sits in a circle, playing the guitar, singing old favorites, and, a little disturbingly, roasting marshmallows over a fire that they have started in my wastepaper basket.

My cousins and a few of the staff from the mission are using my filing cabinet as a makeshift table to plan out a hiking tour through the Rockies, while my grad school classmates are admiring the poster of an unnecessarily ominous Jesus that hangs on my wall.

It's starting to get loud in here, so I go into the other room, where I can just sit and relax with some of the guys from my high school basketball team and the girls they used to have crushes on. It's a little awkward (as most of them are now married to other people and have small children), but anything's better than hearing a single word more from my old professors about Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis.

Whatever you're doing today, and wherever your old friends are, I hope your new year will be a joyous one. And if you ever need someone to talk to or tak a right gude-willy waught with, I'll just be right here in the basement, hanging with my ghost-homies.