Friday, October 06, 2006

Things I don’t understand (part 2 in a never-ending series… because things beyond my comprehension pop up every day): The clothing edition

As you may come to understand from the title, there are some fashions and fads in today’s culture that I consider faux pas (I just punched myself for typing that… Honestly, is there a term that seems more suited for a stuck-up, too-rich-for-their-own-good person than “faux pas?” Just try saying it without feeling like someone named Tabby at a wine-and-cheese party… or anyone on E!).

Anyway, what follows is just a sampling of some of the fashion statements I don’t understand. I’m not saying they’re wrong, or that those who adhere to these trends are bad people (though they very well could be), they are just concepts I won’t abide by (especially in the case of the female clothing).

Flip-flops with long pants
To prove I’m not trying to begin a campaign to get these people run out of the country or put into their own schools, I’m going to start with this style, which is growing more and more common. I have friends who do this… but that doesn’t mean I understand it.

Personally, when I wear long pants (as opposed to short pants, i.e., “shorts”), it is because, 1) the temperature put forth by the current environmental weather conditions is cold enough that I would not feel comfortable wearing shorts; 2) I am in a setting where I do not feel that shorts provide a “dressy” enough appearance (i.e., work, church, wine-and-cheese parties… wait, no…); or 3) I am planning on being in an environmental area in which long grasses are prevalent (like the African savannah) and could potentially leave my legs itchy.

In each of the above-mentioned situations, it would not be plausible to have my legs sheathed but my feet exposed to the elements. I mean, my feet get just as cold as my legs; my feet aren’t particularly attractive, so I would not wish to flash them about in a dressing-up situation; and my feet are just as prone to getting itchy from tall grasses as my exposed legs.

Capri pants
What do you call a pair of pants so short they only reach halfway down your calves? They used to be called “garage-sale material,” but now they’re “Capri pants.” Have we entered an age where the lower-calf-to-sock-line area is something worth flaunting? Is wearing fabric on that area simply too constricting? I honestly don’t know what makes them fashionable, but I’m currently working on a new form of glove on which the only the fingernail area is cut off to take advantage of this craze.

Straw top hats
Granted, in my 24 years, I have seen only one of these… and that was in my time spent as a resident of Central Kansas, but it was simply ridiculous. Imagine a top hat like that worn by Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber, but completely made of straw. I understand, if worn for comedic value, but the gentleman wearing it was not taking that route. Perhaps this guy was on to something, and in the coming months they will catch on, along with straw tuxedos and rope neckties… frankly, I’m scared.

Sweatbands worn for no reason
The concept of sweatbands makes sense. They soak up sweat, and they are bands of cloth. I have nothing wrong with the donning of sweatbands… if you are running up and down a basketball court or a football field. Seriously, what is the point of wearing sweatbands if you are going to Physics 101? Are everyday activities really that strenuous? As a guy whose sweat glands are more active than most (it’s pretty much impossible to find a good way to describe sweating a lot… I’ve tried), even I know that sweatbands simply aren’t practical in social settings.

What will be the next item Derek does not understand?Philosphy?Elven script?How Damon Huard played so well against the 49ers?Does he even know?Find out down the road (that’s figurative speak… you can’t actually travel down a road to discover it… although that is an interesting idea).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Things I don’t understand… (the first in a series (if I get around to it))

I’ve been around for a while… over 24 years, actually. Thinking about that really puts in perspective how complicated life is. I’m not trying to get philosophical, I just mean that if I were to have the same job for 24 years (as opposed to my personal record of seven months) I would expect to know the ins and outs of that job like Harry Carey knew “Take me out to the ballgame.” In reality, I have been a person for 24 years (hopefully that is not a surprise), yet there are many things I see everyday that my bachelor’s degree-attaining brain cannot begin to comprehend. The list is much too long for this space, but here’s a taste…

Sports “fans”
Sports are great. I love sports to the point that much of my life has focused on them. From spending my petty amounts of money as a child on baseball cards, to writing about sports in my first “real” job (the money made me wonder if it was really a job at certain times), years of my life have centered on athletic competition. Today, there are few things that can draw my interest like the opportunity to watch one of my teams of choice.
With this obsession that may be borderline-unhealthy, I have noticed one deeply disturbing trend: fans that do nothing but rag on the team(s) they are fans of. How can people call themselves fans of said team if they do nothing but scoff at their play, pout about their executive decisions and follow up every loss with, “They’re horrible. I knew they would lose,”?
In reality, they can’t. It’s not accurate.
The online dictionary, (no questions about what you’re getting there) has one definition for fan that has nothing to do with blowing air. According to this definition, a fan is “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.” Normally, when I admire something I don’t spite it, complain about it constantly or simply ignore it.
I’m not saying a complaint now and then is strictly forbidden. On occasion, they’re called for. Like if a hypothetical baseball team trades an all-star outfielder for a shortstop whose batting average struggles to eclipse his weight, the hypothetical fan has a right to be mad about that move (and nearly outraged when that hypothetical outfielder goes on to be hypothetically named the MVP of the hypothetical championship… remember, this is all hypothetical). What can’t happen is getting down on the team to the point that you are no longer taking interest in whether they win or lose. If that becomes the case, as discussed earlier, the person in question can no longer accurately be considered a fan.
They then become a poser fan. Because that sounds a little long, we’ll shorten it to pfan. To avoid any confusion, the “p” in “pfan” is silent. Thus, the correct pronunciation of “pfan” is “person with no sense of direction or loyalty that simply prefers to take the easy route and associate him-or-herself with whatever team seems to be playing well at the moment.”
Pfan… it’s a surprisingly complicated word.

What will be the next item Derek does not understand?
The process of smelting?
Females in general?
Does he even know?
Find out tomorr- uh… next wee- no…. whenever he gets around to wasting time by writing something else.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sweet sun, please have mercy...

Sometimes you have to look to the weather for inspiration... or you can simply despise it...

Writer: It’s hot.
Readers: How hot is it?
Writer: It’s so hot that I caught my oven cracking the freezer door open to keep cool. It’s so hot that bank thermometer has resorted to showing a frowny face instead of a temperature reading.
It’s so hot that I’ve decided to begin a column by imitating a lousy stand-up comedian with a series of horribly unfunny jokes.
Anyway, here are the thoughts that have been occupying my mind when I’m not pondering whether people would laugh at me for appearing in public with bags of ice taped to my limbs.
Royal turnaround...
When is a 32-60 overall record a reason be excited? When you’re a fan of a team that opened the Major League Baseball season by winning as often as a blackjack player that can’t comprehend basic arithmetic.
With a 32-60 record, the Kansas City Royals have the same record as the 2005 team at this point in the season. Granted, the Royals lost 106 games last season, but the point is that Dayton Moore’s crew is no longer on pace to set a new record for futility.
On top of that, it has been the improvement of some of the youngsters that has sent them in the right direction. Since being recalled from Triple A- Omaha at the beginning of June, 24-year-old third-baseman Mark Teahen has raised his average 80 points and hit seven home runs to tie Reggie Sanders for the team lead (9). Since recovering from an early hamstring injury, 26-year-old outfielder David Dejesus has raised his batting average to .309 and his on-base percentage to nearly .400. Meanwhile, 26-year-old catcher Jon Buck is ahead of the league averages for catchers in both home runs (4) and RBI (18) with 8 and 31, respectively.
The season could go in several directions from this point, but opportunities to support optimism with actual results are always welcome.
Best moment (x)2...
The annual ESPN award show, the ESPYs, aired Sunday night and included many light-hearted moments, from host Lance Armstrong cracking jokes to actor Will Ferrell breaking into song. Nevertheless, it was an award and the ensuing acceptance speech that made the most-lasting mark. Jason McElwain received the “best-moment” award for coming off the bench to score 20 points in the final four minutes of a high school basketball game.
McElwain, an autistic teenager from New York, cheered in excitement when his name was announced, hugged his family and gave an acceptance speech that served as a reminder of the joy sports can bring to someone’s life. As is the case with the replay of Jimmy Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPYs, I may or may not have “had something in my eye” by the time McElwain’s moment was through.
46 days and counting...
It can be disappointing to think that summer is passing quickly (aside from escaping heat that could make a cactus sweat), but with summer subsiding, fall football season draws closer. There is just a month-and-a-half, only 46 days, until the Ron Prince era at Kansas State University officially begins with the opener against Illinois State.
There are still a number of unknowns heading into the season, with Prince stating in the spring that nearly all starting jobs are up for grabs. Even the K-State backfield looks murky at this point. The quarterback position still appears to be a four-man race with Allan Evridge, Josh Freeman, Dylan Meier and Allen Webb, while runningback could come down to a choice of Carlos Alsup, Thomas Clayton or junior-college transfer James Johnson.
One thing that is certain regarding the 2006 Wildcats - they will have something to prove. They are being picked to finish fifth or sixth in the Big 12 North in several publications. It will be up to Prince, his staff, and the Wildcats on the gridiron to prove the critics wrong and return to the postseason.
How will the Wildcats fare this season? Naturally, that is a topic for another time.
Now excuse me while I attempt to invent a portable air conditioner.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sports Fan Bill of Rights...

In honor of Independence Day...

The Fourth of July.
Independence Day.
The mere mention of the day provides memories of fireworks, barbecues, and parades, all in the celebration of our freedom. As Americans, we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion along with many other luxuries that can be taken for granted in today's society.
Likewise, American sports fans also have several rights, but it struck me that there is no official listing of these rights to refer to. There is no Bill of Rights for the American sports fan. Thus, I feel it is up to me to explain some of the most basic rights of sports fans here today.
- The right to vote for anyone without worrying about the next four years
I'm not referring to politics here, but to elections for professional All-Star games. While the name of the contest may suggest that only the best and brightest of a particular sports would be entered, sports fans have the right to choose any player in the league on their ballot. And if the name isn't there? Write it in.
Even players who aren't active can make the roster. In 1992, Magic Johnson was voted in as a starter for the Western Conference All-Star game, despite having retired from the NBA in November 1991 and not having played in a single game that season. He played in the All-Star game and won the MVP with 25 points and nine assists.
- The right to be hopelessly optimistic
Are you a fan of a Major League Baseball team that has lost over 100 games in two straight seasons and added nothing but veterans who were never considered elite players in the offseason? Write a column and pick the team to finish third in its division. It may make you look like a fool, but you'll be a fool that is still able to enjoy the wins the team does pick up while in the comfort of your own home.
- The right to speak highly of an athlete you have never seen
In athletics today, the word "potential" is thrown around as often as the word "ouch" in a knife juggling class. It is the right of every sports fan to brag about any five-star recruit your favorite college team may sign, using terms like "4.4 40" or "42-inch vertical" as acceptable support for your argument. It does not matter if you have never seen this athlete, and you have no visual evidence that he can even put his shoes on the right feet.
- The right to associate yourself in an inaccurate manner
"I can't believe we lost that game," said Joe Schmo, the unemployed Betamax repair man.
When did Mr. Schmo sign a contract with the local professional football team? Why is he still driving that 1978 Pinto if he is now a professional athlete?
Mr. Schmo may have put on a football helmet in his life. He might not be able to throw the pigskin farther than a cricket can jump, but he can refer to his favorite football team as if it were his wife and kids without any consequences whatsoever.
With these rights in place, questions may now arise concerning what actions in the sports world do result in consequences. The answers lie in another column.
For now, enjoy that stud (runningback/point guard/pitcher) you signed. Although I have never seen (him/her) play, I hear (he/she) (runs faster than the wind/has the court vision of an eagle/throws a wicked slider). (He/She) will probably (scored 30 touchdowns/average 14 assists per game/throw three no-hitters) next year.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NBA Draft...

Here's a column a wrote Tuesday, concerning Wednesday night's draft. The predictions are all horribly off, except for the one about the Knicks at the very end... Then again, it's really too easy to make fun of the Knicks.

Back in April, I revealed that I pay entirely too much attention to the NFL Draft. It is now June 28, the day of the 2006 NBA Draft, and I have another confession: My obsession with the NBA Draft is just as severe as that of the football variety.
Why pay that much attention to a draft that often focuses more on potential than on achievements and which does not involve a team in any local media market? For one, the smaller talent pool (cozy 12-man rosters in the NBA compared to massive 53-man rosters in the NFL) makes it easier to keep track of players and attempt to predict potential “busts” (a player drafter higher than he should have been, i.e. Michael Olowokandi, No. 1 in 1998) or steals (a player drafted lower than he should have been, i.e. Gilbert Arenas, No. 31 in 2001).
With that in my, I’m offering my predictions for the first 10 picks of the draft. Now I don’t necessarily think like an NBA general manager (I couldn’t have drafted Darko Mililic ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade), so the actual draft results may seem less reasonable than these predictions.
1. Toronto Raptors - LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas. What do the Raptors need? A point guard worthy of the top pick. What does this draft lack? A point guard worthy of the top pick. I see the Raptors trading down to draft a point guard, while also picking up a veteran swingman.
2. Chicago Bulls - Tyrus Thomas, LSU. The Bulls will bring in Thomas to pair with Tyson Chandler in the Chicago front-court, creating one of the top shot-blocking combinations in the league.
3. Charlotte Bobcats - Brandon Roy, Washington. The Bobcats need a scoring guard, and former-Huskie Roy will provide that.
4. Portland Trailblazers - Andrea Bargnani, Italy. He’s a seven-foot European with strong 3-point shot, which means he’s drawing comparisons to Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki. Does he deserve them? It’s tough to say... but Portland will take the gamble.
5. Atlanta Hawks - Marcus Williams, Connecticut. The Hawks roster is seemingly overloaded with swingmen, but lacking a top-flight big man. Connect the dots and you’ll realize this is a good fit for a trade with the Raptors. Perhaps Josh Childress and the No. 5 pick (in this case, Williams) for Toronto’s No. 1 (Aldridge) and a future pick.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves - Rudy Gay, Connecticut. After descending from the Western Conference finals in 2004 to the depths of the Northwest division in 2006, the Timberwolves are in need of many things, including a point guard, but Gay is too talented to pass up at this point.
7. Boston Celtics - Patrick O’Bryant, Bradley. The Celtics are thin at center, and O’Bryant came on strong in Bradley’s NCAA Tournament run. Kansas Jayhawk fans will be torn between cheering against O’Bryant and cheering for former-Jayhawk-current-Celtic Paul Pierce.
8. Houston Rockets - Adam Morrison, Gonzaga. How does Morrison, one of the top scorers in recent NCAA history, drop this far? There’s no crying in basketball... none. Or it may be because he’s entering a draft where athleticism is highly valued, and he isn’t exactly oozing it. He’ll be a good fit in Houston, where he can spot up on the perimeter when Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming draw double-teams.
9. Golden State Warriors - Randy Foye, Villanova. The Warriors will pick the Wildcat point guard as insurance for current starter Baron Davis, who missed 28 games due to injury last season.
10. Seattle Supersonics - Shelden Williams, Duke. The Sonics will try to add depth in the post with the four-year Blue Devil.
As for the final 50 picks, expect plenty of underclassmen, plenty of players from overseas, and a couple head-scratching moves by the New York Knicks’ president/general manager/coach/undertaker Isiah Thomas.

Friday, June 23, 2006

NBA Finals...

This is a column I wrote a couple weeks back, concerning the NBA Finals. Its significance? I actually made a correct prediction... Amazing...

The NBA Finals are currently underway, with game two of the series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat set for tonight. The series is compelling for a number of reasons, with one of the most prominent being that it is the first NBA Finals appearance for either franchise (believe it or not, the Mavericks of Popeye Jones' heyday never made it to the sport's biggest stage).
With match-ups in mind, I will dissect the battles at each position on the floor to ultimately discover who will be NBA Champions when the series is over.
Point guard - Jason Terry and Devin Harris vs. Jason Williams and Gary Payton
If the battle relied on name recognition only, the Heat would trump the Mavericks. Unfortunately for Miami, Jason Williams (no, not the one who played for the Bulls and wrecked his motorcycle, and not the one who played for the Nets and was accused of shooting a limo driver) has always been known more for style than substance, and Payton is now a 37-year-old version of the player with hall of fame credentials who seemed to be running on his last legs two years ago.
For the Mavericks, Terry stepped up big in the opening game of the series, leading the Mavericks with 32 points. Meanwhile, Harris, the second-year player from Wisconsin, showed his value earlier in the playoffs racking up four-straight 15-plus point games against the San Antonio spurs.
Advantage- Mavericks
Shooting guard - Jerry Stackhouse and Adrian Griffin vs. Dwyane Wade and anyone
With apologies to the Mavericks, this argument ends with the mere mention of the former Marquette star Wade. He may be in just his third NBA season, but Wade has already drawn comparisons to six-time Finals MVP Michael Jordan. It's difficult to place any player in Jordan's league, but Wade has seemingly taken the title of Heat MVP from Shaquille O'Neal.
Advantage- Heat
Small forward - Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels vs. Antoine Walker and James Posey
Third-year player Howard averaged over 15 points per game this season, while Daniels has seen limited minutes. For the Heat, Walker has shot 34-percent from behind the arc in the playoffs, and Posey provides the team energy off the bench.
Advantage- None
Power forward - Dirk Nowitzki and Keith Van Horn vs. Udonis Haslem and Walker
Another argument that ends quickly. Despite the seemingly crippling notion of an NBA star being a fan of David Hasselhoff, Nowitzki has built a strong "Nowitzki for MVP" case throughout the playoffs by scoring under 20 points in just two of the Mavericks' 18 games. He has also made Milwaukee Bucks fans further rue the day the franchise traded his rights for the rights to Robert "Tractor" Traylor.
Advantage - Mavericks
Center - DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier vs. Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning
O'Neal may be aging and not near the dominant force he once was, but he is still one of the top centers in the league, and too much for former lottery-busts Diop and Dampier. Mourning further tilts the scale in Miami's direction, adding scoring and a defensive presence off the bench.
Advantage- Heat
Examination of the positions on the floor leads to a stalemate, so who will win the 2006 NBA Finals? Miami in six games.
Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban has become as identifiable as many of his players because of his quotes and antics. He has been fined numerous times by the NBA, and commissioner David Stern might resign before handing him the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
And honestly, if the Mavericks couldn't win with Popeye, who can they win with?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Snakes... where you might not expect...

I wrote this in my first semester of college. It's ridiculous... but true. It's even a double-whammy, as you get a Derek Larson Original poem towards the end. If anyone is going to think less of me for anything I have written, this is probably the piece. Oddly enough, the teacher for this course absolutely loved it...

(Note: the high school english teacher's name has been changed to protect the innocent)...

Let The Snake Lead You

I leaned back in my desk; head tilted back, eyes towards the ceiling. I was in my freshman English class, sitting through a grueling period of my classmates reading their poetry. One of my female classmates was reading the haiku poem she had created,
“The rain falls outside,
It is filling up the ditch,
My goat swims in it”
“What the heck was that,” I asked Weston, my best friend. “I know it meets the requirements, but still, how could you want to associate your name with a boring poem like that one.”
“I know, if you know that your classmates will hear it you should at least attempt to entertain them,” he replied.
“Derek, Weston, do you have something share with the class, instead of just between yourselves,” screeched Mrs. X, who many students considered to be the devil in teacher form.
“Uh, no thanks, we’re fine,” I quickly answered to avoid any more persecution. “I’m gonna make a poem that will keep everyone’s attention,” I told myself under my breath.
This thought plagued my mind throughout the rest of the day. What can I write about that will be outrageous enough to entertain, but real enough to not seem totally ridiculous? I pondered this through my next two classes that day, and even through football practice after school (I was a freshman; we never did anything in practice).
While watching TV that night, an idea struck me like a semi hitting a heifer. I decided to write about one of my greatest fears as a child. It was a pretty outrageous fear, but it was a possible fear nonetheless, so it had to be somewhat real.
As a child I was always careful to check the toilet bowl for snakes before I sat down. More periodic checking would occasionally follow this; to make sure none had swam in while I was sitting there. I don’t know what on earth created this fear, because I have never seen a snake sitting in a toilet, but that’s beside the point.
When I sat down to write, the poem flowed off my pen like I had written it a thousand times before. I had it finished in no time. I kept reading it over to make sure there was nothing I could change to make it better, but there wasn’t. I loved it just the way it was.
I arrived at school the next day and showed it to Weston. “You have got to read this!”
He began reading and burst into laughter about halfway through, “Dude, this is awesome,” he remarked. “It’s almost on par with the swimming goat poem,” he added sarcastically.
“I only wish I could write that well,” I replied.
I went into English class second hour and sat through a few more boring poems. As I listened I observed the body language of my other classmates. Some sat slack-jawed with their eyes glazed over, others with heads lying on their desks, covered with their arms. I could tell they weren’t interested at all. That was about to change.
“Derek, did you finish your poem?” inquired Mrs. X.
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, then go ahead and share it.”
“Alright, the title is Stool of Fears.”
I then proceeded to unleash my masterpiece,
When I sit on the toilet,
I often wonder,
If I have made,
A critical blunder;
If just by chance,
Down in the pipes,
Lies a green water snake,
With brown and black stripes;
And while I’m up there,
Doing my duty,
He’ll slither on up,
And take a piece of my booty;
I’ll scream like a bird,
Mauled by a gator,
All because,
I couldn’t hold it ‘til later;
And no one will know,
The cause of my death,
Was a slimy water snake,
With toilet-bowl breath.
I finished reading and glanced around the room. Some of my classmates were merely smiling, others giggling, and others laughing heartily. Mrs. Xjust sat shaking her head. I had succeeded, I had made poetry entertaining.

Sedalia Community Church story...

This is a feature I wrote on the Sedalia Community Church and how it transitioned from a college party site to a weekly center for worship once again. Pretty interesting if you have never heard the story...

Bell Raisers

While it is not uncommon for Greek organizations to give back to the community, in 1964 the K-State Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity did so in a rather round-about fashion. It was through an act of vandalism that an old stone church gained vital repairs, a community regained a center of worship, and a strong bond was formed between one institution focused on the fraternizing of young men and another focused on the faith and fellowship of people young and old.
The Sedalia Community Church, as it is now known, was not an impressive site in 1964. While the limestone foundation that was originally constructed in 1899 remained fairly solid, the interior had come to more closely resemble a junkyard than a sanctuary. The church had become an increasingly popular site for college parties since closing in 1948, which left windows broken and beer cans littering the property.
The one symbol of continuity for the church was the church bell. Although the retrieval of the bell had become the obsession of many fraternities at K-State, the fact remained that none had been able to get the huge bell down from the belfry.
That all changed, late one April night.
After hearing many accounts of failed attempts at getting the church bell out of the belfry, 15 members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity decided that they were up to the task, according to a letter written by one fraternity member to the members of the church years after the incident.
The young men had “found their courage” at Kites Bar and Grill earlier in the evening and drove out to the small church seven miles northwest of Manhattan.
After arriving at the church and climbing up an electrical cord into the belfry, the letter writer had his first up-close look at the bell, which weighed around 1,000 pounds.
“The bell was big! I mean it looked really big,” the author said.
After recovering from the initial shock of the daunting size of the bell, the letter writer and a fraternity brother had to approach the problem that had terminated so many previous attempts: getting the bell to the ground without toppling the entire steeple.
“I was almost ready to give up, until I noticed that the wagon-type wheel used to rock the bell was still attached,” he said.
The two young men used the wheel to their benefit and rocked the bell right out of the belfry and to the ground 30 feet below. On its plunge to the ground, the bell took with it a two foot section from the corner of the roof and “hit the ground with a thud that shook the whole church,” he said.
Thinking they were home free, the two fraternity members admired their work from above, until noticing a car with red flashing lights on top coming down the road towards the church. While their fraternity brothers were free to take off running, the two in the steeple had nowhere to go but down. Choosing health over humility, they chose to lie on the belfry floor, as opposed to leaping out of the steeple.
“We laid down on the belfry floor, which consisted of about four inches of a forty or so year accumulation of wet pigeon droppings,” the letter writer said.
As it turned out, the stealth displayed in lying in pigeon filth was all for naught. The approaching vehicle had not been the police, but fellow fraternity members out to play a prank on their brothers.
The Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers returned to their fraternity in the wee hours of the morning, with the bell in tow. Feeling great pride and accomplishment in completing this arduous task that so many others had failed at, they proceeded to “ring the ‘hell’ out of the bell” in victory, the letter author said.
Unfortunately that triumphant feeling did not last long. The following day they received a call from their fraternity advisor, detailing the dire situation they had gotten themselves into. Some members of the Sedalia Community had noticed the bell missing and contacted the police. The bell had been located at the fraternity house and potential felony charges, including possible jail time, awaited the 15 young men.
After a period of negotiations between the fraternity and the church board, it was decided that instead of serving time in prison the fraternity brothers would dedicate their time and effort to restoring the church.
For four weeks, long hours in the afternoons and on weekends were spent cleaning the church and its grounds, repairing walls, windows and floors, and returning the half-ton bell to the belfry.
The restoration project culminated in a service held at the church sponsored by the fraternity. Many community members, as well as other attendees from as far away as Topeka, found the transformation to be nothing short of miraculous.
The young men had “taken an ugly plant and turned it into a beautiful bud,” said community member Viola Dodge.
The bud proceeded to bloom in following weeks.
With necessary repairs finally complete and a large altar bible donated to the church by the members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, regular weekly services started anew and have continued to this day.
Currently, Sedalia Community Church holds two services each Sunday with an average weekly attendance around 120. Lay minister Kevin Larson currently fills the pulpit, and has for the past 17 years.
Larson, as well as many members of the church, holds the act of vandalism committed on the spring night in faithful reverence. The event is even briefly recounted on the back of the weekly church bulletin.
“The fact that an initially negative act could have positive repercussions on so many people is truly an act of God,” Larson said.
The infamous bell still hangs in the belfry of the old stone church and rings out at the beginning of each church service.
While the ringing of a bell can signify many events; the beginning of a boxing match, the ending of a school day, the pealing of the bell at Sedalia holds a truly symbolic meaning. With each toll, the bell reminds all around that dire situations can turn quickly, and sometimes in mysterious ways.

"My head hurts," ...

Quote- Derek Larson after conducting the interview for the following piece. I've never claimed to be an expert on nuclear (pronounced noo-clee-ur) technology, and I'm sure anyone with knowledge of the subject could point out numerous errors in the story. I enjoyed writing the Simpsons reference, though... If there's one way to deter potential journalists from pursuing that degree, it may be having them read this story...

Homer Simpson, the nuclear safety inspector of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, lies back in his chair and drifts off to sleep. Suddenly, lights in his workstation begin flashing and an alarm sounds. Simpson simply mumbles that someone should turn off the television. A meltdown seems imminent.
While this may be the image many Kansas State University have in their heads when they hear “nuclear reactor,” they don’t need to worry about incompetence of this sort. While K-State does have a nuclear reactor, it is used solely for experiments and research, said Douglas McGregor, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering.
A nuclear reactor produces and controls the release of energy from atoms by splitting the atomic nuclei in a process called nuclear fission.
While not generating power, one of McGregor’s current projects is definitely generating a lot of interest.
For the past nine years he has been working on producing thin-film neutron detectors, and he says he has seen some great improvement.
Simply put, neutron detectors detect neutrons, which are outputs of nuclear reactions.
The thin-film neutron detectors use a semi-conducting material to help create reactions that allow the neutrons to be detected. McGregor currently has three patents filed for the innovation.
McGregor said that his research has definitely gained more interest over time. “When I was making devices that were one percent to four percent efficient, it didn’t seem to interest people, but when I crossed 10 percent, then it became serious.”
One reason for this interest is the possibility of the detectors being used to detect nuclear weapons, McGregor said. With the threat of terrorism among us, and the constant struggles with the Middle East, many feel this could be a definite advantage in the conflict with Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
While McGregor admitted this is a possibility, he said that’s not their sole purpose. “They are not bomb detectors. They are neutron detectors, and some weapons emit neutrons.”
McGregor said there are many other practical uses besides detecting nuclear weapons, including neutron beam monitors in nuclear reactors, and neutron film badges, which those working around the reactor wear to measure the neutron levels. “I make them as neutron detectors, and they’re use for a whole variety of things, not just (detecting weapons).”
Each detector is 5 mm – 6 mm in diameter, and no thicker than a dime. The detectors are built onto wafers, with 50 – 100 on each wafer.
At first glance the wafers look somewhat like a tiny pepperoni pizza. Although it may be hard to convince college students, they are much more useful than any size of pizza.
When he first began working on the detectors, they were only 0.5 percent efficient. This means that if 200 neutrons flowed through, it would detect just on of them. McGregor said that his latest designs would allow up to 20 percent efficiency. “To my knowledge, we have the highest efficiency detectors of this type.”
While there are other types of detectors, using gas tubes, which can reach up to 100 percent efficiency, McGregor said that they are much larger, usually a foot long and several inches thick. “What I lose in efficiency, I gain in the compact size.”
McGregor said his designs also have advantages in cost and energy used.
While the larger detectors usually cost around $1,000 each, McGregor said his compact models can sell for $10 - $40 each, with bulk sales allowing them to be a cheaper price.
The power needed to operate is another advantage the thin-film neutron detectors hold. The detectors using gas tubes generally require 2,000 volts – 5,000 volts, McGregor said. On the other hand, McGregor’s detectors use no more than 50 volts, and some of his designs can even create their own voltage.
With all of the advantages that the thin-film neutron detectors exhibit, one thing is for certain: McGregor has gained national attention for his work with K-State’s nuclear reactor, and unlike Homer Simpson, it’s for a positive accomplishment.

Philosophy essay...

The one class that single-handedly (if classes do, in fact, have hands) boggled my mind the most in college was Introduction to Logic. This is an essay that I wrote for the philosophy course... and I'm still not sure what some of the concepts referenced are...

The existence of God; the existence of an almighty being that created the Earth and everything on it. While it is a commonly held belief for some, it can be a highly controversial topic to others. Having grown up in Christian home, there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that God does exist. I’ve been schooled in his teachings all my life and, on occasion, I’ve also been witness to some events that have strengthened my faith in this higher power. Throughout this paper I will discuss and defend this existence. I will begin by considering the argument from design. I will discuss the premise of this argument that seems to be the most disputable and will defend this premise with my own personal philosophies on the subject. Following discussion of this premise, I will restate my beliefs that I stated on our introductory exercise. I will then discuss whether or not I still agree with that statement and also the conception of theoretical rationality that it most closely relates to. Finally, I will put in my two cents concerning my own personal beliefs and will clearly state what I believe while disputing some points from the argument from evil.
To begin with, I will summarize the argument from design. Premise one basically states that (insert earthly element or idea here, for the purposes of this essay we’ll use a woodchuck) appears to have been designed. According to premise two, because this woodchuck appears to have been designed, it needs to be explained. Next, premise three says that the idea that this woodchuck was designed is the best (or only) explanation for this woodchuck being present and because it’s the best (or only) reason, it’s probably true. The argument concludes saying that this woodchuck was designed by someone or some group. Personally, I can’t say that I disagree with any premise of this argument.
While I don’t dispute any elements of the argument, it seems that the third premise would be the most controversial to those that disagree with me. An argument against this premise is whether intelligent design is the only reasonable explanation of apparent design. One could argue that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection exhibits how a being that seems to be designed could actually be the result of the operation of blind natural processes. An example of this could be what is known as the panda’s thumb. In all actuality, this “thumb” is really not even a finger, just an extra digit. Basically the panda’s thumb is a bone that seems to have been adapted so that stripping bamboo stalks (the panda’s primary food source) can be done more easily. While it certainly doesn’t seem to have been designed, it has become a valuable tool in helping panda’s survive.
To combat this argument, I will point out two items. First, the fact remains that God could have created things to have the specific capability to evolve. Times change, and in order to survive, some things must change with time. Some people may ask, “Why didn’t this all-powerful being initially create the organism in question in its evolved form?” My response to this is that, at the time of creation, it may have been more beneficial for the previously mentioned organism to not yet have evolved to its current state. One example is the case of some butterflies that have adapted colors to help keep them hidden from predators in their current environments. Before their evolution to their current colors, a different environment could have meant a different color scheme to camouflage them. The second item I will point out in defense of the argument from design deals with emotions. I find it difficult to believe that the exuberant joy that we all may feel at certain times in our lives could have evolved from a single-celled blob. The range of human emotions and feelings is a seemingly endless spectrum, and I feel that a system such as this could only result from design. While it’s not exactly scientific evidence, it is what I would use to fight for my side of the argument.
Having completed my view of the argument of design, I will now revisit my response to a question on our introductory exercise which read, “Should you believe exactly (i.e., all and only) those claims for which you can provide good reasons/ compelling arguments?” To summarize my response, I said no and described the idea of having faith. I think that faith is willingly believing and supporting something even though it may not have full scientific or public backing. Of the four conceptions of reason/rationality that we formulated in class, I think my viewpoint is closest to the PG-Rated rationality. I believe in things that aren’t necessarily supported by compelling arguments, but overall my set of beliefs is consistent. After considering my chosen argument discussed above, I still agree with the claim I made on the introductory exercise. Frankly, I realize that there are people out there who may not believe in the existence of God that are as set in their beliefs as I am in mine. They may argue that, because they’ve never seen or heard God that he does not exist. That is where faith comes into play. Whatever they argue, I will always have my faith to guide my beliefs. When considering my chosen argument in respect to my latest thoughts on conceptions of reason/rationality, I think that they fit well with each other. Even if my points in defense of the third premise are disputable, the PG-Rated Conception of Rationality allows me to still hold strong in my beliefs.
One final item I will discuss supporting the rationality of the existence of God deals with the argument from evil. While I do support the theories of “show and tell” and “mysterious ways,” I also would like to add one issue that is not considered in the argument. I believe that, while God does love all humans, he also allows freewill in the lives of humans. Therefore, if a person chooses to lead their life down a path of crime and violence God will allow it, but it won’t go unaccounted for. If that soul has not accepted Christ at the end of their life, they will pay for their sins in the afterlife. While it may not make sense to some, it’s perfectly acceptable through my beliefs and according to the PG-Rated Conception of Rationality.
In conclusion, I think that through this paper I have firmly stated my stance on the argument over the existence of God. I also feel that through defending the third premise of the argument from design, I did an adequate job in justifying the argument and what it works to prove. Overall, I think that writing this paper has somewhat strengthened my beliefs and my firm stance with the PG-Rated Conception.

Column from sportswriting class...

This is a piece I wrote on the issues the University of Colorado's football program had a few years back. It's pretty obsolete now... oh well...

Here’s a note to all potential Division I football recruits out there, all that glitters, is not gold… especially if that glitter is the kind that adorns the body of an exotic dancer. While it may seem like an enjoyable venture at the time, it’s nothing to base your football commitment on.
Granted, you will never hear a recruit say that the reason they signed with a school is because they were shown a “really good time” on the recruiting trip. Nevertheless, if one bases their view on recent reports out of Boulder, Colorado, it seems that sex has become a major recruiting tool.
As allegations of recruiting sex parties and accusations of rape committed by former players continue to surface at the University of Colorado, one question has been looming above most others in recent weeks. What responsibility, if any, does Coach Gary Barnett hold?
While some people believe that Barnett is just a convenient scapegoat, and that he shouldn’t be held responsible for these lewd acts, I disagree.
I’m not claiming that Barnett coordinated these alcohol-fueled extravaganzas, in fact he very well may have been completely oblivious to the situation. My contention is that in his position, he should make it a point to know what is going on. In this day in age, where recruiting is given nearly as much press as the actual games that are played, one would think that a coach would want to keep tabs on his potential recruits for their entire visit.
This doesn’t mean that he needs to attach an electronic tracking device to each of their ankles, it just means that he should set limits to where a host is allowed to take a recruit, and guidelines for acceptable behavior should be should be made clearer than college football’s need for a playoff system (sorry, that’s another column).
By setting these standards, not only does a coach minimize the chances of making his school look ridiculous courtesy of rumors of wild recruiting orgies, but he decreases the chances that one of his recruits may get in legal trouble while on the visit (obligatory shot at Miami).
While it remains unclear whether or not Barnett was aware of the sex parties, I think it’s unforgivable either way. Either he was aware and had no problem with it or he displayed an extreme degree of ignorance and was unaware of the entire situation. Both situations, I believe, could warrant the man losing his job.
All the while, Barnett has been defending himself, trying to save his job, but at times he’s had a funny way of going about it.
While talking about Katie Hnida, a former CU kicker who recently claimed she was raped by a teammate four years ago, Barnett was quoted saying, “Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There’s no other way to say it.”
Yes, he was responding directly to a question about her talent on the field, but the fact remains that he could have said the same thing in a much less derogatory fashion. Instead, with cameras and microphones in his face, Barnett chose to simultaneously slam a former player and the entire female gender.
It seems a bit funny because in most cases, when someone is walking on thin ice they don’t usually begin to hop on one foot while sticking the other in his mouth. Quotes like this make it seem that Barnett is rather eager to join the Boulder Polar Bear Club.
Well Gary, you should have plenty of time for that and many other things once football season rolls around.

Facade fiction story...

I don't exactly remember what facade means in reference to fiction stories, but since when is college about learning things...

What a day! What a freaking day! I warned my parents it would be like this, but did they listen? Nooooo. “You’ll be just fine,” they said. “You’ll make new friends just like that,” they said. Yeah, thanks Mom and Dad! I sure have made friends – friends that like to express their fondness for me by punching me in the chest or tripping me as I walk down the stairs with my arms full of books.
Both of the aforementioned events had already occurred, and it wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet. At least I don’t think. I couldn’t exactly see real well inside my locker. Don’t get me wrong there was light. Three thin lines that come through the ventilation slits at the top. Sometimes I pretended I was a secret agent, locked into a torture device, and the light beams were little lasers, burning into my skin.
Anyway, back to my locker. It was number 110 in the south hall. If you ever walked by it, odds are that you heard someone reciting Shakespeare or the Latin alphabet. On occasion, Edgar the janitor would happen to be walking by and would let me out. All I usually had to do in return was listen to a story about schools in “his day,” – interesting stuff, but he never spoke much of their science labs or anything.
I soon found that “locker time” as Joey Rangler called it, was actually a great time to think. Joey, or “Ram” as his teammates called him, was the fullback for the football team there at Lincoln High, and had made it his personal mission to make my life a living hell. My right elbow was colored and swollen like the ripest plum in the produce aisle, thanks to Ram.
While walking down the east stairwell that morning, Ram saw a perfect opportunity to continue my initiation to the Lincon High halls. While descending the stairs, I had noticed a people staring at me. Granted, I was used to a few stares. Such things happen when you chair the both the Dungeons and Dragons Guild and the Hobbits Horde as a freshman. On this particular trek down the stairs, an abnormal number of peers seemed to be watching, though. I processed this information on my personal hard drive, or my brain in normal-speak, and calculated that my face would soon be red with embarrassment.
No sooner could I think that thought, I found myself feeling almost weightless… well for a second or so, anyway. The weight of my full 120 lbs. was soon bearing down on my elbow, and then my face. Regaining my bearings, I lifted my head from the yellow and black hallway tile to see Joey, his buzz haircut showing off a number of scars on his head, and his gap-toothed grin resembling a fatter, uglier Dave Letterman.
“Later, PSF,” he said, stepping on my Chewbacca collector’s pen as he went. “PSF” was short for private school freshman, stemming from my attending Oakville Heights Middle School the previous year. If Lincon was my hell, Oakville Heights was my heaven. A school where higher GPAs meant more friends, and more friends meant more people to analyze the director’s commentary of Star Trek IV with.
You can understand why I was disappointed when my parents decided I would attend Lincon High, a school known more for being state-runner-ups in football two years before than for anything that involved academics. I mean, many students thought the school was named after Abraham LINCOLN, never noticing the difference in spelling. They failed to do the proper research and find out that Lincon was actually named after Chester Lincon, who had sold the school to land to build on, with the only provision being they name it after him.
I know my parents weren’t trying to punish me. Oakville Heights High School and gone under the previous year because of some under-the-table deals that had gone on to get certain kids admitted to the school. Because of this, my parents became soured on private schools and decided I’d become better prepared for the “real world” going the public route.
I’d tried and tried to get people there to see things my way – wearing Jedi robes to school, offering nearly-free lessons in Elvish, even bringing cupcakes for Gene Roddenberry’s birthday. Seriously, that stuff was way more important than some pep rally or football scrimmage that I’ve been invited to. Like I wanted that stuff forced upon me. What makes them think they have a right to try to influence me like that?
Why did people insist on trying to instill their interests on others? I’d often wondered that during locker time.

Iceberg fiction story...

Iceberg is merely the story type... at no time in the following story do I describe any sort of large hunk of a frozen basic beverage threatening to sink ships or melt and flood the earth. That could have made an interesting twist, though...

“Coach, what happened out there?”
Neil Levine turned his head slightly towards the sound of the question, with his eyes digging in to the inquiring reporter. He always did this, in effort to show that he valued these post-game interviews. When he first arrived, he was deemed “not media-friendly,” and he’d spent the past few years trying to make up for it. Apparently, having a profanity-laced tirade and throwing a bottle of water at a reporter was not a good way to make a first impression. Then again, they’d lost that game, the first of his head-coaching career, by 25. The media should have known he’d be uptight.
Truth be told, he thought the media sessions were worthless blabbering, filled with the same questions every game. If they won, he’d tell what went right. If they lost, it was what went wrong. Couldn’t people tell what happened just by watching the games? This was another loss – their 14th, compared to 12 wins. He despised going into the media room after these games. Small and dark, filled with rows of stupid questions and pointless comments.
“Well,” Levine, the coach of the Southern Columbus University Mobbers said, “I thought we started out strong, and played well through the first half. They made some adjustments in the second half, and we failed to adjust to their adjustments.”
Damn, he’d just used “adjust” three times in a single sentence. He had a bad habit of being repetitive, and he hated reading his own quotes in print. It’s not like he had to try to make himself sound bad, certain reports tried hard enough to do that for him. Certain reporters who made it their mission to – Seemingly on cue, Ryan Richards spoke up. “The failure to adjust, who does the blame fall on for that?”
Levine recognized his nasally dominated voice. It sounded like he had a clothespin clipped on his oversized schnozz year-round. Richards had written a preseason column, pining for the excommunication of Levine as coach. He’d also grown adept at using Levine’s quotes out of context, at times making him seem more like a fire-spewing mythical beast than an ordinary basketball coach. Levine addressed the issue, keeping his eyes forward, ignoring Richards’ accustomed spot in the far-right seat on the front row.
“You know, blame is a heavy word,” Levine said, eyes focused on the clock straight across the room from him. “A loss in a basketball is a team effort. All players and coaches have a part in it.”
He’d answered this question in the same manner after nearly every loss he’d been through. Richards always tried to get him to say something that could be construed as controversial or hurtful towards someone else. On the plus side, Levine had answered this question so many times; he didn’t even have to think about what he was saying.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Levine said.
“But would you say your talent level isn’t quite what it has been in years past?”
Damn that Richards! Now he was trying to get the coach to dog on his own players. He was trying to turn the Columbus Clipper into the freaking Los Angeles Times. Levine ran his hand through his short, graying hair. Blowing up at Richards right now would not accomplish anything positive - but it sure would feel good.
“Talent is a subjective term,” Levine began, his eyes back on the clock. The second-hand on the clock ran smooth – it didn’t tick. Levine pondered pointing that out randomly, as opposed to answering this question yet again. “I’ve had ‘talented’ teams that have won four games, and I’ve had teams with as much basketball talent as the primate cage at the zoo that have made the post-season. It’s how we mesh that talent that matters.”
“So the problem is with the coaching?”
That bastard! Now he was attacking the coach and his assistants, with the duties of “journalism” as his shield. Could someone else get a freaking question in? Or could he just throw his water bottle at Richards? He’d pegged him from 20 feet years ago – surely he could nail him from ten feet now. He still had some heat left in his right arm. Quote this, you rotten son of a-
“Again, this is an issue that will be addressed by our entire team; players and coaches alike,” Levine said. The room stood silent. So silent, the ticking of a clock on the wall could have been heard, if present.
“No more questions guys?” Levine asked. “Well if that’s it, I’ll let you go. I really appreciate you guys making it out.”

Final story for my fiction writing class...

This was the final story I wrote in my fiction writing class at K-State (it earned an A, naturally). There are some humourous elements, but looking back at it now, it seems alot like a 'chick story' (cousin of the chick flick). Nevertheless, a group member told me she read it to her sorority friends and all would be interested in meeting the author. Naturally, I didn't follow up on it... because I'm stupid. Enjoy.

Smile and tell her she looks great… smile and tell her she looks great. Doug repeated the thought through his head as he stepped out of his rusty, 1979 Caprice and headed up the sidewalk toward the house on the corner. 1836 Eppinger Street – this had to be the right place. He had already stopped by 1638 Eppinger, and he was pretty sure the shirtless, old man with the Old English bottle held in his spindly fingers was not the “sweet, cute girl” he was supposed to be set up with.
The porch step creaked as he stepped on to it and Doug jumped back at the sound. He was always easily startled when he was nervous. Not even a year before he had been on a similar blind date and let his nerves get the best of him. As he had held the screen door to that date’s home open for her, the moisture from his sweaty hands nearly saturating the wooden frame, the neighbor’s basset hound bellowed at him. Doug, his heart already pounding, flinched, letting go of the screen door. One scream (hers) and face full of screen mesh (also hers) later and Doug’s date had gotten off to a rather rocky start.
He went after the step again, fully prepared for the aching groan of the wood this time. He was not going to let his social misgivings screw up this date.
Smile and tell her she looks great… He repeated the thought as he pressed the doorbell. But what if she didn’t look great? What if she has a face like a frying pan or has her hair dyed green?
His roommate’s girlfriend had set him up on this date just a week earlier. She had said the girl was cute, but Doug had learned to be skeptical of girl’s judgments of the appearances of others of their persuasion. Oftentimes, if a girl was “cute” in girl terms, she might be radically overweight or have somewhat of a horse-face. Should he stick with his plan if that were the case? Of course he’d smile, but what about saying-
The door slowly opened, and two of the bluest eyes Doug had ever seen met his own from the opposite side of the doorway. There was no horse-face, and she was definitely not overweight. Blonde hair hung down to her shoulders, and her face had the look of a finely crafted piece of art. No blemishes, and no irregularities. This pleasant development swept Doug’s mind clean. What had he planned on saying? He wanted to try to remember, but he couldn’t just stand there and not say anything. He went with the most pressing thought in his head.
“You look great,” he said, breaking into a smile.
“Thanks,” she said, quickly glancing down while the hue of her face became red.
“So you are the one that ordered a night guaranteed to be full of awkward silences and lame attempts at small talk, right?”
She glanced back up at him, eyes bright, but lips shut tightly. Doug knew she was suppressing a smirk, maybe even trying to keep from laughing out loud. Despite his insecurities, Doug loved trying to make his dates, however few and far between they were, laugh throughout the night – as long as it was with him, not at him.
“Sorry, I guess I have the wrong place,” Doug responded. “I’m supposed to be picking up a girl that can speak.”
She gently punched him in the arm, and then held out her hand as a greeting. “I’m Laci,” she said. “And you will probably be tired of hearing me talk by the end of the night.”

Doug strained to listen to what Laci was saying as they cruised down Crimson Street, on the way to Applebee’s. His concentration troubles weren’t because he was bored by what she was saying, or because he had other things on his mind, he simply could hardly hear her over the noise his car created. His muffler was not exactly in prime condition, and Doug was in no position to shell out the money to have it fixed. He and his buddies called the car his 747, and not just because it constantly sounded like it was preparing for takeoff. In an age of shrinking, compact cars, Doug’s seemed like an elephant stuck in the gopher exhibit at the zoo.
Through the roar of the pasty-white road beast he could hear Laci saying something about her roommates. Stupid car, it could ruin everything. Sure he could mostly piece together what she was saying, but what if she asked him something particular about the conversation later on? No amount of smiling and nodding could get him through that. Then again, she was probably just rambling because she was horrified to be riding in this car.
Doug took a quick glance to his right, past the fabric drooping from the ceiling of the vehicle to the passenger seat. He expected her to be slouched down in her seat, shielding her face from any possible eyes that might steal a peek of her from outside the car. Instead, he saw Laci sitting trim and proper, gazing out the window, continuing on about her roommate hogging the bathroom. She must simply be too polite to comment on his junk-heap with wheels.
Suddenly, Laci broke away from the roommate conversation, and said, “This is such a joke,” with a giggle in her voice. There it was. The car had finally made her crack.
“I know. I’m sorry,” Doug said. Beads of sweat materialized on his brow as he prepared to explain how he had been given the car from his grandpa, and how it would break the man’s heart if he got rid of it. It wasn’t entirely true, but it was the only way he could explain the car situation without mentioning money woes.
“Why are you sorry?” Laci asked. “You can’t really keep struggling actresses from recording crappy songs about being heartbroken.”
Crappy songs? The radio – that’s what she had been talking about. She wasn’t commenting on the prehistoric vehicle after all. He quickly ran his hand through his short, brown hair, beginning at his forehead to take care of the sweat. No sweat.
“I’m just sorry you had to be witness to such an atrocity of a song in my vehicle.”

“Well, it’s not going to be past your curfew by the time we get seated, will it?” Doug asked with a kidding tone on the surface that was masking a stomach bubbling with anxiety.
“It’ll probably be a 20-to-30 minute wait,” the hostess had said. Funny how restaurant folk always seemed to operate on a different time system than everyone else. It was like they condensed every two minutes into a single one. Applebee’s seemed to be especially bad about this.
“It’s fine,” Laci said, smiling. “There’s probably more atmosphere out here, anyway.”
They were seated on a bench just inside the entrance, across from a family of six – four kids, the oldest no older than ten, and two parents looking like dejected occupants of cell block D who had just been denied parole.
Doug and Laci watched as a dirty-blonde haired boy gave his younger sister an Indian burn, and the young girl fell crying, face-first into her mother’s lap.
“Don’t you just love kids?” Laci asked, eyes remaining on the action before them.
Was this a test? What type of answer did she want? Here came the sweat again. Of course he’d say yes, but how should he do it? If he was too enthusiastic, she might think he was looking to procreate right away, but a simple nod could send an apathetic message. What if it was just a rhetorical question? How could such a simply question become so-
“Williams, party of two.” The stocky, redheaded waitress had ended the stress. Doug glanced down at his silver Rolex. 8:17 p.m. They had arrived at 7:36. The time-bending phenomenon of the restaurant world was definitely in effect. He knew his watch wasn’t wrong. Granted, it wasn’t a real Rolex. It was a knockoff he’d bought from a sidewalk vendor in New York when he’d been there on a class trip. It kept good time, though… and it looked good. Laci had even said so.
He’d never met, or even talked to Laci before tonight. It was the blindest of blind dates.
“That’s us, shall we?” Doug asked, getting up from his spot on the bench in the waiting-to-be-seated area and motioning for Laci to walk ahead of him.
“Absolutely,” she responded, picking up her purse and running her delicate, finely manicured hands down the sides of her skirt as she stood. The skirt wasn’t short, but it wasn’t ultra-conservative either. Doug liked the happy medium.
As they approached their table, the booth in the far corner, Doug thought back to their conversation when he had arrived to pick her up. So far, neither of them had been correct. Despite his raging anxiety, conversation had been flowing smoothly, and he had really enjoyed listening to her. Her voice seemed to be just a few decibels above soft – but, other than over the roar of Caprice the beast, he never had to strain to hear her – and she had an adorable giggle. Doug remained focused on getting her to laugh.

“Order anything you want. Price is not an object,” Doug told her. He was lying, of course. Price was definitely an object for any college student, let alone one that earned minimum wage working in the mail center on campus. He knew that tonight would cause problems with his budgeting, but he told himself that having a good date would be worth eating tuna sandwiches for lunch a few more times a week. Then again, if she went with a steak he might have to forfeit his cable.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “I don’t eat much.”
Score another one for Laci. Doug pictured a giant checklist of positives in his mind. Cute… check. Good sense of humor… check. Doesn’t hate my car… check. Won’t put me in the poorhouse… check. Times were good.
“So, besides going to school, what do you do?” Laci asked, peering at the salads on her menu.
D’oh! Doug wanted to avoid any conversation involving his feeble-paying job. He had only dated three girls in his four years in school, and his minimal funds had been at least part of the reason that two of the relationships hadn’t worked out. He couldn’t just completely ignore the question, could he? No, he had to tell her something. His heart kicked into a higher gear.
He panned the Applebee’s wall, looking for inspiration. A youth hockey coach? A mobster? An international man of mystery? Damn that wall and the stupid movie memorabilia on it.
He had to think of something. Something impressive, but still believable. “I’m a lawyer, I try mostly civil suits.” Impressive, yes. Believable… not exactly. Doug immediately cringed when he realized what he had just said.
“A part-time lawyer?” Laci asked, examining his eyes deeply. It was like she was trying to see right through his lying ways. “You must manage your time really well.”
“I’m sorry, that’s not the truth. I really-“
“Don’t worry about it,” Laci said, her peering eyes turning soft as her sweet smile spread slowly. “Whatever you really do, I’m sure it’s cool. I’m the one that should be embarrassed about their job.”
Doug stared at a single bubble in his Pepsi as it floated up to the top of his glass. He was running the previous statement back through his head, trying to detect any sarcasm. It had seemed sincere, but surely someone who was so personable could not have any sort of embarrassing job. He hadn’t really put any thought into what she might do. He’d just assumed she worked at one of those trendy clothing stores or brought in big tips as a waitress somewhere.
The bubble had attached itself to an ice cube. He ran Laci’s words repeatedly through his head. His eyes held onto the bubble intently, as if he was trying to pop it with his mind.
“Doug, are you all right?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, just fine,” Doug said, glancing back up to Laci, deciding he had to know the truth. “So what can you possibly do that’s so horrible?”
Laci sipped her tea, her eyes immediately glancing down at her straw when she heard the question. She took the straw in her fingers, nimbly stirred her drink, and glanced around the room as she answered.
“Well,” she paused, as if she was considering whether she wanted to tell the truth. She had to be teasing him. “I bag groceries at Applemart.”
A grocery bagger? There was no way. Grocery baggers were one of just three career opportunities that Doug and his mailroom buddies felt comfortable making fun of.
As he thought about what joke he might make to call her bluff, Laci spoke again.
“It’s nothing great, but I think anyone who bases their judgment of a person on what they do to earn money for school is probably too shallow to talk to.”
Doug realized she was being truthful. Completely truthful. She wasn’t like those other girls he had dated – worrying more about what they were wearing than who they were with. She would be completely accepting of anything he said.
“I disagree with everything you just said,” Doug said, unable to keep from smiling to mask his joke. “After all, I have one of those high profile jobs you hear about. You know, the ones where you sort mail all day.”

The whole Caprice shook as Doug turned off the engine in front of Laci’s house. It had done this since Doug had begun driving it, and although he’d let it pass earlier in the night, he figured he should at least mention it now.
“You’d think some of those rust spots would fall off with all that shaking.”
“It’s fine, every car needs a little character,” Laci said, patting the dashboard.
Was this some sort of trick? Throughout the entire evening, Laci had been exposed to a number of phases of his life that made Doug’s stomach uneasy with a simple mention, and she had delightfully accepted everything. Surely this whole thing was too good to be true. He half-expected Laci to tell him he was on “Candid Camera.” Instead, he found himself walking her up to her front door.
How in the world had that just happened? Was this one of those out-of-body experiences? He’d never been bold enough to initiate such a move on any previous first date. It was practically mind-boggling.
Nevertheless, he now had much larger issues to confront. What in the world was he supposed to do when they got to the door? He ran the options through his head as his heart bounced in his chest like Evander Holyfield’s punching bag.
He could simply put out his hand for a shake. It would be a pretty safe move, and stood no chance of offending her, but it seemed too safe. Was he running for office? Who shakes hands at the end of an enjoyable evening?
Then there was the hug. The positives and negatives flew threw his head as they walked up the sidewalk to her home. It was still pretty safe, and there was nothing wrong with establishing a little body contact. Of course the hug could quickly turn sour. Too tight of a squeeze could make him seem too clingy, too loose of a grip and he would come off like a fragile grandmother.
The porch step groaned louder now that two sets of feet had bore their weight upon them. They were getting down to crunch time, and he had no idea what to do.
Leaning in for a kiss was obviously a high-risk, high-reward move. He was pretty sure she had enjoyed the night. She had laughed at his jokes, and been smiling the whole night – it seemed a kiss could be the perfect capper… or a knife to the chest. If he leaned in and received a blank stare or a turned head in return, he could probably forget any plans about a future date, or having any more confidence in the future. The denied kiss was something Doug and his friends even hesitated to joke about, it was that rough to deal with.
They stopped. The arrival at the door meant it was time to make a move. He turned towards her, and the sheer blueness of her eyes struck her once again.
“Well, thanks for putting up with me. I hope it wasn’t too painful,” Doug said, the thoughts of the moments ahead still cycling through his mind.
“Well, I thought about downing the cyanide pill in my pocket a couple times, but somehow I pulled through,” Laci said, not missing a beat.
The evening had gone too well. How could he avoid screwing it up? This final goodbye was big, and he could not afford dropping the ball.
He dropped his head quickly, trying to weigh his options one final time, but something brought an immediate halt to the whirlwind. His peripheral vision showed that her face had drawn in close to his, and a light press on his cheek confirmed his thinking.
“Anyway, thanks. You’ve got my number, don’t you?” She asked opening the door and stepping across the threshold, cocking her head slightly at an angle in mock interrogation.
Doug smiled wider than he could remember smiling before, and nodded. He declined speaking because there was only one thought in his mind. “She looks great.”

Allow me to reintroduce myself...

Anyway, I decided I wanted somewhere to post some of the stuff I've written through the years, and maybe even some new stuff. That's really all this is. I don't know if anyone will look at it, but it's something to entertain myself anyway (this and imagining bears riding around in tiny cars).

If you're looking for a personal journal, or insight into the true Derek Larson... sorry. It's not here... unless, subconciously I have included coded messages in my writings. Perhaps I'm really a genius with such an impeccable intellect that my own brain can't even comprehend it... think about it.