Surgery

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Sitting here at work watching the clock. In about an hour and 30 minutes I have an appointment with a surgeon. Hopefully a surgeon who has skills far greater than the ones I displayed playing Operation as a kid.

For most of my life, I have dealt with stomach issues. More recently, I have decided to get to the bottom of these issues and have since seen a gastroenterologist. After a bunch of fun tests, my doctor has concluded that my gallbladder is the problem. So today I am seeing a surgeon to see what can be done.

Part of me is nervous about having another surgery this year; the other part of me just wants the pain to go away in my stomach. Time seems to be slowing down as I get closer to going to this much anticipated appointment. I have to stop looking at the clock…

Update 9/30/11

My appointment went well. I will soon be parting with a not-so-valuable member of my body.

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Career Ambitions: Part 1

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Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your Life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t. -Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann

Best road trip ever.

When I was in elementary school, I wrote in my yearbook that I wanted to be a horse trainer. At the time, I was taking horse back riding lessons- I learned to ride bareback- and thought that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My passion for the American West and my constant consumption of Louis L’Amour novels further fueled this childhood dream.

Our career ambitions seem to change with age and the overall passage of time. By high school, I was convinced that I wanted to work as a killer whale trainer at Sea World. My love for the ocean, deep sea exploration,  and the thought of living a laid back lifestyle in San Diego pushed me to actually check into this position. In my research, I learned that you have to be a certified scuba diver as well as an amazing swimmer. A degree in marine biology or psychology would also help with the selection process. Three things pushed me away from this potential field however:

  1. I am not the greatest swimmer.
  2. Outside of being a Sea World trainer, a degree in marine biology pays next to nothing. The only person I knew at the time, with a degree in marine biology, worked in a hazardous materials department due to pay.
  3. I took a marine biology class at the junior college and barely passed. The class ate my lunch! The only reason I ended up passing was due to a girl I was sitting next to. Thankfully, she could easily follow along and was more than willing to help me. Lesson learned: Always sit next to the smart one.
Now I won’t lie, whenever I visit Sea World I still want to work there. Maybe not as a killer whale trainer but in some sort of deep sea explorer capacity. They have a department for that, right?

Satisfaction: Unquenchable in Thirst Like Death

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Good morning,

Did you know that it is dark outside at 6am? Couple that with the freezing air conditioned air and you’ve got a certain someone who is not willing to surrender his blankets. This morning though, I got out of bed earlier than normal and ate breakfast with my wife. She had made a wonderful breakfast cake that tasted quite good! Afterwards, we dove into Proverbs 27. As we were reading, verse 20 really stuck out to me:

20 Death and Destruction[a] are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes. (NIV)

Every day we hear about the latest death tolls and destructive forces menacing the planet. Death seems to have an unquenchable thirst. Think about this for a moment, every seconds 2 people die. In the time it will take me to write this over 1,200 people will have died. Weird to think that that many people can die within a ten minute span.

Destruction is also something that is constantly surrounding us. Places that have been untouched for over a hundred years are now experiencing the destructive forces of hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. When destruction isn’t being caused by nature it is unfortunately being caused by fellow humans. War and terrorism seems to be a staple in our modern society. If it isn’t the United States fighting somewhere in the Middle East, it is some African country screaming out in pain under the latest warlord of the month. Death and destruction are universal, two forces constantly at work in our world.

So think about verse 20 again:

20 Death and Destruction[a] are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes. (NIV)

Have you ever wondered why you’re never happy with the stuff you have? In the beginning you thought that, “If I just had this” you’d be made whole or at least happy. As you’ve grown older, you have discovered that this is not true. Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, neither will your desires for more. Ultimately, we can only find satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. – Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 (NIV)

The Collection Revisited

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As I was reading an article by Syp over at BioBreak, from this past week, I suddenly had the urge to start collecting video games again. Different titles and systems paraded through my mind in all their 16-bit glory. I could see myself engrossed in games that I had loved playing as a kid.

Something stopped me though. I felt this weird sense of deja-vu. I have been down this road before. Now, I’m not saying anything negative against Syp, I think that it is great to collect different things that interest us. For me though, collecting video games became more of an identity. It was who I was. In fact, I wrote about it back in January of this year as copied below:

The Collection

Once upon a time, I collected video game systems and games as a hobby.

Please note that my collection never looked like this...I wish!

I slowly built up my collection over time. A SEGA Saturn here; a random game there. Often I would plug in a misc.  system and play some of the games I had for the fun of it. As time progressed, however, I found that my collection was gathering dust. Mt interests had changed. I mean, I still liked playing video games but didn’t feel the need to collect them anymore. So, I started to sell off the mounds of hardened plastic I had accumulated. I remember that  upsetting me at first. No longer would I be able to play Panzer Dragoon for the heck of it. The collection that had been everything to me was being dwindled away into nothing.

We all find our identity, who we are, in the things that we believe and do. For a long time, my identity had been as a video game collector. With the selling of my collection, that was a title I would no longer bear. Perhaps this was a good thing though. Collecting chunks of plastic, consoles and games, only to let them collect dust and ultimately not be played makes no sense. It’s like me going into the public library, buying all the books up, only to never read them or let anyone else read them for that matter. “Captain it is simply not logical.”

Since the great video game purge, I have tried to limit my video game library. I have done this by becoming an avid user of Goozex, on online video game trading site. This has allowed me to obtain $60 games by getting rid of games that I no longer play. This has occasionally led me to slight dilemmas of which games to get rid of -the inner collector in me wanting to keep them all!- . As I stated above though, this makes no sense. Especially when I can take a game I no longer play and trade it in for something I actually will.

I Am A Terrorist

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A long, long time ago, I remember a controversy that surrounded Modern Warfare 2’s “No Russian” mission. As of today, after finally playing it, I am able to comment on a bygone Internet hiccup. Enjoy.

As an American military officer inserted into a Russian terrorist cell, I stepped off an elevator and proceeded to mow down innocent Russians in an airport. Under the context of “maintaining my cover”, I slowly shot at those that had raised their hands in surrender and those that withered on the ground in pain. Fighting my way across the tarmac later on, battling with armed FSB agents, I found it odd that my survival instincts kicked in. Sure, I had just committed a terrible crime against the Russian population, but I still had to protect my own butt. After dispatching more than a few agents, I ran with my fellow terrorists to the escape vehicle. It was there that I was shot.

Ah yes, the bigger picture. The terrorists had known all along that I was a mole. Made me feel stupid for killing all those innocent civilians under the guise of “cover”. I now wonder if I could have walked through the entire mission never firing a bullet or lobbing a grenade….

When I first loaded up Modern Warfare 2, the game prompted me by asking if I was okay with playing a particularly graphic mission. I quickly pressed okay because I knew which mission it was talking about. I really think, that this mission was okay given the context it was presented in. Although, I do think that there was something a bit sick about the slow and methodical way the terrorists made their way through the airport. Reminded me of watching an accident scene…except for the fact that I was actively participating in causing the scene.

I am amazed where video game narratives are able to go in this day and age. No longer are we having to deal with simple stories of princesses needing to be saved but instead having to deal with stories that feature moral “gray” areas. I am also amazed at how sucked into the narrative I was. I seriously thought I would blow my cover if I didn’t shoot people. Only afterwards did I take a moment and realize that I could have shot into the air.

As a Christian, video games are often difficult to approach. Though I didn’t feel personally convicted over this game, I do wonder in retrospect just how “active” of a participant we are to be in situations like the one painted above. While the context of the mission may have been okay, I have to ask myself to what benefit was there in mowing down virtual civilians? That brings to mind an entirely different topic of killing in video games. We’ll tackle that one another day.

Don’t Shoot the Civilians, Leave the Garden Gnomes Alone

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I don’t know about you but when I play a game, I oftentimes play it to break it. I want to see what the game will allow me to do. For instance, in EA’s The Sim’s, I would often try and figure out the best way to off my virtual characters. If this meant removing the ladder from the pool and watching them swim until they died, then I would do it. In Fallout 3, I made the terrible choice to blow up a town, which you can read about here.

RockPaperShotgun had an article awhile back about why you can’t shoot civilians in Battlefield 3. When asking the game’s executive producer, Patrick Bach, why this is so, he responded:

“In a game where it’s more authentic, when you have a gun in your hand and a child in front of you what would happen? Well the player would probably shoot that child.”

Now if you are anything like me, you’d probably shoot the kid just to see if you can. Back when the original Medal of Honor: Allied Assault came out, I remember trying to shoot my fellow soldiers just to see if I could. In a way, I was just testing out the game world’s rules to see what they were. That is not to say that if I was in the actual Army, I would try and shoot my fellow soldiers. I have a firm grasp on what consequences are in the real world versus consequences in a game. I know that if Mario accidently misses a jump and falls in a hole he is dead unless I have an extra guy to continue playing. Patrick Bach, however, doesn’t see this as a testing of virtual world rules. He instead thinks it is due to:

if you put the player in front of a choice where they can do good things or bad things, they will do bad things, go dark side – because people think it’s cool to be naughty, they won’t be caught…

Wait, did a game developer just admit that humans are by nature depraved, even evil? Continuing to read the article, we see that Bach isn’t as concerned about morals as he is of being blamed for others virtual acts.

 We would be the ones to be blamed. We have to build our experiences so we don’t put the player in experiences where they can do bad things.

That almost sounds like Bach thinks that games are more than just virtual experiences. I can almost hear in his quote on limitations that he realizes he has a responsibility to his audience.

Me personally, I’m trying to stay away from civilians in games like BF because I think people will do bad. I don’t want to see videos on the internet where people shoot civilians. That’s something I will sanitise by removing that feature from the game.

I tie all of the above into the following thought:

What if God had decided not to give us free will?

In Romans 1, we see that God is known to everyone:

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Looking around, we can see God’s handywork all around us. We are without excuse. However, those that wish to embrace that which was created versus the Creator have a choice.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

What is crazy, is that their choice leads to sin and eventually death:

32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

I am proud to serve a Creator that lets me choose my own choices in this life. One that will forgive me for all the Sims I left stranded in the pool. He is the ultimate executive producer in that He holds nothing back and freely gave of His own son so that we may spend eternity with Him. God doesn’t care about what the crowd thinks, He cares for you and me.

Smokey Thoughts: Life in East Texas

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Life out in East Texas has left everyone in a panic lately. Fires have been randomly popping up all over the place. Some are actually being set intentionally and some have been caused caused due to branches falling and hitting power lines. After a long heat wave, which has lasted at least five months, and lack of rain, East Texas has become a pile of firewood begging to be burned.

In the midst of the smoke and fear, I have found the forest fires somehow comforting. Is it sad to say that they remind me of home? Every year, without fail, Southern California would go up in flames. These fires always seem to coincide with the warm Santa Ana Winds. A fireman’s nightmare. The only thing different about the East Texas fires is the inability to actually see the fires in the distance. Sure, you can see smoke, but that isn’t the same as being able to see the fires glowing at night on a distant mountain. With so many trees here, I am actually surprised that fires aren’t more common.

With peoples homes being burned to the ground and evacuations becoming frequent events, I have started to wonder what exactly I would take with me if my house was in danger. I mean really, in this imaginary scenario, time would be the limiting factor. So, I would take:

  1. My family (duh!)
  2. Photos
  3. Important papers
  4. Anything else I could grab!

What would you take?