Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 5 Hour Energy LiveBlog

Don't get me wrong - I'm as accomplished a coffee drinker as anyone. But for the last several months, I've been trying to wean myself off of the stuff, the idea being that the less I consume, the greater the impact it will have when I do drink it.

Today I had my first 5 Hour Energy. I chose Pomegranate. What could go wrong?

4:06 p.m. Examining the bottle of 5 Hour Energy. Trying to decide if I really want to do this. Claims to be like coffee, but quicker. Comes with a warning label. Coffee doesn't come with a warning label, except when it's hot.

4:07 p.m. Reading about Niacin flush, a "natural warming sensation" that occurs when your body processes necessary minerals of which it was previously deficient. That's the 5 Hour Energy way of trying to convince you that the way you're about to feel is healthy.

4:08 p.m. What could go wrong? I love pomegranates.

4:09 p.m. Oh, gross.

4:13 p.m. Head upstairs feeling normal. Time to get to work and pound out some projects.

4:16 p.m. Notice a delightful jump in my typing WPM. That's if you count "pnusctuality" as a word. Unclear if this is due to 5 Hour Energy.

4:19 p.m. Niacin flush.

4:21 p.m. Toilet flush.

4:36 p.m. Working on a parent letter. You know how sometimes when you say a word too many times, it starts to sound funny? Every word is that word right now.

4:45 p.m. I literally cannot stop thinking about bridges - how they're made, who designs them. How do we really know they're safe? I can't focus on this letter right now. All I can think about is bridges.

4:47 p.m. Reading about bridges on Wikipedia.

4:50 p.m. Force myself to focus on the parent letter. Just spelled the word "contact" with a semicolon. And an umlaut.

4:57 p.m. Looking for Rick Keller's phone number. He's a structural engineer and I've got a lot of questions about bridges.

5:00 p.m. Saved from a very awkward conversation by the fact that I don't actually have his phone number.

5:10 p.m. Go downstairs to help with dinner. Hold the baby. Bounce the baby. I am not intentionally bouncing the baby.

5:15 p.m. I am literally yelling at a pot of green beans for what I suspect to be blatant malfeasance.

5:28 p.m. Drink a glass of water as an attempt to flush the 5 Hour Energy from my system.

5:29 p.m. I feel like I drank that glass of water awfully fast.

5:30 p.m. My shirt is soaking wet and there are ice cubes on the floor. Can't figure out why.

5:45 p.m. Eating dinner. Trying to hold it together.

6:00 p.m. Offer to clean up after dinner. Ask Lindsay to "time me." She declines.

6:02 p.m. Done. Wish she would have timed me.

6:05 p.m. Back to work. So excited AND so scared.

6:12 p.m. Just realized I'm not wearing a shirt. Not sure how long this has been.

6:44 p.m. Drooling. Thanks 5 Hour Energy.

7:00 p.m. 25 emails in 2 minutes. All to the same guy.

7:16 p.m. Less concerned about bridges than I am about asteroids all of a sudden.

7:40 p.m. Watching the 5 Hour Energy commercials online. That guy seems so happy at the office, but trust me, he's using every ounce of his willpower not to go outside, strangle a bunny, and eat it raw.

7:55 p.m. Well, this is the third time I've gone to the bathroom "just to be sure." And for what it's worth, I'm 0-for-3.

8:02 p.m. I'm Batman.

8:17 p.m. Parent letter finished nearly four hours after it started. Thanks 5 Hour Energy.

8:34 p.m. I wrote down "Great idea for sitcom." Post 5 Hour Energy, I have no idea what it was.

8:39 p.m. When did I take my pants off? I may have eaten dinner in my underwear.

8:45 p.m. What is the stuff made of? Chihuahua concentrate?

9:00 p.m. Is five hours over yet?

9:14 p.m. Struck by inexplicable urge to blog again.

9:16 p.m. Really just excited by all of the labels I get to use again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Amos Barton

I recently finished my eighth book of 2010, The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton by George Eliot. Someone recommended Eliot's slightly more noteworthy novel, Silas Marner, but when I couldn't find it, I settled for Barton. Hey, it was right there.

The book is about a pastor who is mediocre in every way, although he himself doesn't think that. He is generally not well liked by his constituents. The one thing he has going for him is that everyone thinks his wife is fantastic. He reminds me of someone I know, but then his wife gets sick and dies.

Because of the pessimistic nature of the narrative, I'll concentrate instead on something else of the novel that was of interest, and that is this: George Eliot was a woman.

This seems like something that someone probably tried to teach me, but that I failed to retain.

Eliot's real name is Mary Anne Evans, and her story starts most notably with a harsh critique of female authors - Silly Novels by Lady Novelists which appeared in The Westminster Review. The screed tears apart the idea that a woman could ever write a novel. This is fun because Evans' own criticism is a part of the reason she had to use a pen name.

Throughout Barton, the narrator goes out of her way to make the kinds of remarks you would expect from a chauvinist, almost as if Evans felt a need to defend her pen name beyond its obvious masculinity.

But of particular interest to you, dear reader*, is this. In her lifetime Evans was reviled by literary society and people in general for her public affair with author George Henry Lewes, which shows that TMZ has been around longer than anyone thinks.

* This is the kind of technique Eliot utilized frequently, the narrator's address to the audience.

However, as the dust jacket of my library book informs me, Eliot's legacy did not end with the shunning she and her partner endured, and after a number of years she was remembered not at all for that, but for instead for being one of the most gifted and beloved writers of her era.

That's great news for Tiger Woods.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What the Dog Saw

Today I finished my seventh book of 2010, Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw. This was one of those books that required a two-month wait at the library. Uber-bestseller Gladwell has the remarkable ability to make uninteresting things seem positively intriguing, and writes at the kind of pace that causes you not to realize that you've been reading about the history of ketchup for forty minutes straight.

This is what makes Gladwell so unique. I wouldn't expect that you could pay me enough money to read about the Ronco guy, but there I was, riveted as I followed the life arc of the same guy who peddled the Veg-O-Matic, the Showtime Rotisserie grill, and the Ronco Flavor Injector.

For example, did you know that Ron Popeil's mom once paid a hitman to kill his dad? Furthermore, did you know that's the reason they divorced?* And did you know that a year later, they got back together again?

* If you knew the first part, I suppose you could have guessed at the second.

Still, there's something a bit dissatisfying about this latest bestseller. Dog is a compilation of Gladwell's favorite articles that he's written for the New Yorker for more than a decade. It's not such a bad gig to make a few million dollars again, merely by reposting the stuff that made you a million dollars to begin with. And while it might be detestable for us to think about, it's not so detestable that I wouldn't consider doing it myself.

I've already worked on several drafts for what my book would look like, and thanks to blogger's ubiquitous labels tool, it's easier than ever for bloggers to compile articles into ready-to-print book forms:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

September 29, 2013

A few things happened this week that made me ponder my thirtieth birthday. Chief among these is a message I gave on Sunday about the way we end phases of our lives. Secondarily, there's the fact that Lindsay's got a special birthday coming up this weekend. She has no idea how excited she should be about this. I've got big plans. Good thing she doesn't read this blog.


The sun rose again. This is not notable. The sun always rises, or at least that's what I've been led to believe. Anyway, it's there when I wake up, and reliable sources have informed me that it's because its risen from the horizon. That's good enough for me.

Today is different. Today is different because the sun isn't hanging above the earth waiting for me to rise, but because I'm waiting for it. Actually that's not right either, because as my shoes rebound from the pavement underfoot, I run west along the side of the road. I'm not waiting for the sun. I'm chasing it.

Left foot, right foot, and again. Sweat drops from my jaw, and the sweatshirt that looked like a good idea earlier would probably look a lot better hanging from that guy's fence. I'm through the first three miles in 23 minutes which doesn't seem like much except when you realize that despite a good deal of training, I'm still a lousy runner.


I've come to realize that there's no way to dry off quickly after a shower, but that there is a way to do it poorly, and so that's what I do. My shirt sticks to my back when I pull it over my head.

I sip coffee while I pull on the rest of my clothes, and it tastes how Hawaii feels. The smell of the stuff dragged me out of bed, and the taste made me want to lay down in a hammock. The coffee jolt has been numbed to a flick, and I move at roughly the same pace before I swallowed the juice.

A quick breakfast and four quick goodbye kisses escort me through the threshold and into the car. It's not much of a vehicle, but I own it and it's generally faster than the bus. The garage door opens behind me and I roll down the driveway and down the drive, mostly alone, early on this Sunday morning.


I always park in the back of the parking lot. It's selfish of me because the doctor says that it's a great trick to lose weight, and I guess I don't have much weight to lose. But it is nice to peek out of the windows and realize that just about every spot nearer the building is filled.

I started parking in the back long before the lot filled up because it was a good way to trick myself into realizing the potential of progress instead of the stench of success. Success is a funny thing because dwelling on it is the surest way to prevent it.

Work is good. We have developed a solid routine, but try to do a good job of making sure no one else does. We unlock the building at the same time every week, but then transform it into a different thing altogether, and that's a good thing. People have developed high expectations even if they're not sure what to expect.

I'd tell you what we did on September 29, 2013, but I'd hate to ruin the surprise.


I love this grill. I don't mean that I love it and want to marry it, but I do mean that I wouldn't rule that out as a possibility.

It's my birthday, and the birthday boy gets to make the rules. This year, the birthday boy is making his own steak. The secret ingredient is the rub, and it's nearly as tightly guarded as my sermon plans for this morning. We'd spent all morning yesterday finding the right cuts of meat, because I'm only going to turn 30 once, and I prefer New York Strip.

After I flip the steaks, I descend into the yard and pick up a football. Five sets of legs emerge from the house to play, even though only one of them can throw a football more than two feet and only three of them have thumbs. The game ends the way these games always do. I lose.


The first book is done, so I sit down to write another. The house is quiet. I am eating another cupcake. Lindsay kisses me on the head and tells me she's going to bed. Of course I'm going to follow her.


I sleep well, waking only four times to pee and once because it's going to rain and I can feel it in my knees. Let's face it - I'm thirty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork

Tonight, I finished my sixth book of 2010, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, another work from famed leadership guru John Maxwell. I'm not entirely sure how one becomes a guru, although I do know that it doesn't sound like a bad gig. Maxwell talks continually about life in Atlanta, which sounds like a warm place. It's worth noting that before he attained his guru status, Maxwell was in ministry in Indiana, and it doesn't take a guru to figure out that the gentler climes of Atlanta might make for a better home.

17 Laws, like any business book, is full of valuable advice, but can easily be dated by the twists and turns of the particular businesses it chooses to study. In Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to Circuit City as one of his great companies only 24 months before it shuddered doors across the country. And in 17 Laws, Maxwell espouses the praises of one company that holds tightly to a rigid moral compass, and that company is, as you would have guessed, Enron.*

* Later, we're treated to the rhetorical question: What kind of people chose to go into leadership at Enron?

Anyway, all of this talk of the laws of teamwork made me think real hard about some of the best teams I've ever had the fortune to be a part of.

1. The HAKK Team: It's a church leadership team featuring Herb, Aaron, Karen, and Kim. We joined a dodgeball league this spring and finished 4-2 with a disappointing finish in the semi-finals against the staff of Barnes & Noble.

2. Aunt Jane's Pickles: My little league team in the 4th grade. I played first base and batted sixth. We were a good team because our two best pitchers had to shave.

3. This one time, Paul and I got on the same team at Ultimate Frisbee: He's fast, and no one realized that when we were choosing teams. I'm tall, and apparently, no one realized that when we were picking teams either.

4. 2002 Cory Bretz Flag Football: We finished 9-1 in the regular season and lost in the championship game, but we smoked the cigars anyway.

5. 1909 Chicago Cubs: Talk about being a day late and a dollar short.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Have a Little Faith

Earlier this year, I asked for book recommendations on the condition that if someone recommended a book, I had to read it. So today, I finished my fifth book of 2010, Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith. I've never been a big fan of Albom*, because a lot of what he says is a little too syrupy for my taste. This isn't to say that he doesn't relay quality stories with quality insights, just that he does so with a little too much sugar.

* And who listens to Alboms anymore!?**

** Pun.

The book centers around Albom's wrestle with faith and religious co-existence as he works to write his beloved rabbi's eulogy. He also dives into the economic downturn of Detroit, by getting involved with a rundown church that's doubling as a homeless shelter. But mostly its about his waning Jewishness* and how he comes to reclaim pieces of that as he gets reacquainted with the old rabbi.

* That's a quality band name if I've ever seen one.

It is also about Albom's refusal to use quotation marks when he, himself, is a part of the dialogue; a tool that has become a trademark style, and a little annoying at the same time.

This makes me think that maybe what I need to differentiate myself as a writer is a trademark style to call my own, which is why, for the remainder of this post, I will end each sentence with two periods instead of one and capitalize the letter P every time I use it.. Albom's blatant disresPect for grammar made him a bestseller, after all..


Faith made me wonder about Pieces of my own eulogy, and who I might ask to deliver it when the time comes.. Ricky Gervais handled the Golden Globes alright, and I think he'd do a fine job at my funeral.. But I'd be awfully disaPPointed* if I didn't outlive that guy..

I suPPose it doesn't matter too much who gives the sPeech, just as long as he or she hits on the high Points of my life so far: My first chest hair, for examPle, or the first time I ate entire Pizza by myself.. This Person will need to know about these events, and in the case that my eulogy is transcribed for a literary audience, as it was in Faith, this Person needs to ProPerly use syntax, grammar, and Punctuation, because - darn it Mitch! - this stuff is hard to read..

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Today, I finished my fourth book of 2010, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, the same affable fellow who wrote the bestseller Blue Like Jazz. He claims that the book is about his efforts to try to turn Jazz into a movie, and what he learned about his life while he was editing it for a screenplay.

Of course, that's really not the case at all. The book is, like Jazz, a collection of personal stories, all tied together through the common thread that is Miller's unmistakable style and trademark humor.

I'm also struck by Miller's strange habit of naming the book after a single memorable phrase* that happened to be contained in its pages, even if the phrase has little to do with the crux of the book.

* I suppose it would be like me naming my book A Moment of Restrained Euphoria. It's a random phrase from a random post, and I'll give a dollar to the first person who can identify it.

It also has a picture of a bicycle on the front, so I had to read it.

Thousand Years reminds me a lot of what my blog might be if I turned it into a book and found creative ways to tie together stories about riding bikes, hitchhiking, adventures in coffee shops, and a series of stories in which I wasn't wearing pants. Come to think of it, this book is my blog, were I a better writer and in poorer shape.*

* This would be Miller's concession, not mine.

It was a good book, but it was a frustrating book. In short, it was the book I should have written over the course of the last three or four years. In fact, it's the book I always intended to write over the course of the last three or four years. And of course, now that Miller's written it, I can't.

I would feel sad about it, but instead I'll try to find ways to differentiate my own writings from those of Donald Miller, and I've got at least one thing going for me that he doesn't*:

* And I swear to Mohamed, if Donald Miller's next book is about ferrets in sweaters, I'm suing him for identity theft.