We Say “Advent”

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!  DOWN WITH THE SECULARIZATION OF CHRISTMAS!

“But Luke, what are you talking about?  How can you be against the secularization of Christmas and the way in which society begins celebrating it before Halloween if you’re already wishing us a happy New Year?”

Because I’m talking about a different New Year than you are, dear hypothetical objector.  Allow me to explain.

I had been thinking about writing a post like this for a few days, but it came to a head when I saw a sign on a church off the interstate proclaiming “Christ Is Born!”  I could not help but cry out “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I’M DYING I’m dying I’m dead.”

I know not all denominations of Christianity observe Advent, but such a reaction comes as second nature to me.  I can’t see the point of celebrating Christmas when it isn’t Christmas.  And here’s why.

Say there’s some person who innocently thinks “Alright, society is celebrating Christmas now.  So shall I.”  Now, there’s never anything wrong with celebrating the amazing fact that God came to Earth and lived among us.  But see here, as an analogy: suppose you have a guest coming to stay in your home.  What’s the first thing you do?  Do you start partying when you hear the news up until they arrive and then tell them to leave the next day?

I hope not.

When you have someone coming to visit, you clean up.  You vacuum and dust, you make the bed in the guest bedroom, you make sure you’re home when they arrive.  Then can you be ready to host your guest for several days.

Traditionally, Christmas is preceded by a season of expectation and preparation known as Advent.  It means something along the lines of “towards the coming” in Latin.

Before we can welcome Jesus into our hearts, we have to prepare a place for him.  We must silence our hearts in readiness to hear His message.  Advent is just that: a time of preparation for His arrival, making room in our soul for Him to dwell there.  It’s a time of prayer and reflection.  (For Catholics, it’s also the beginning of a new liturgical year, hence my opening exclamation.)  It’s a joyous expectation, but it’s not the all-out party that Christmas should be.

And that’s the other thing.  Christmas had become mainly “the pre-Christmas season” any more.  It’s like if football fans spent the entire weekend before a game tailgating and then left five minutes into the first quarter.  To be clear: the Christmas season starts on Christmas.  (Ever heard of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  Or the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night?)  Why would you exchange twelve days of celebration for one day of celebration?  ‘Tis no fun.  😦  And the twelfth day, Epiphany, is almost as much of a celebratory occasion as Christmas Day.

So, lets prepare a home in our hearts for Christ, and then celebrate His birth for more than just a day.  Just as there’s no Easter without the pain and sacrifice of the Cross, there’s no Christmas without the solemn, silent excitement and expectation of Advent.  It makes the arrival that much sweeter.

P.S.  The best version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” ever to be performed, IMHO:

P.P.S.  In case you don’t get the reference that the second half of the song makes:

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THIS MEANS WAR

Total geek rant ahead.  Fair warning.

I don’t remember why, but today I figured while I was doing a quick Google search I would amuse myself by conjuring up one my favorite Google Easter egg.  You try it: go to Google and type in the word “askew”.  See what happens.  I’ll wait.

See what I mean?  Pretty neat, huh?  Except when I tried it today, it didn’t work.  Confused, I typed in “recursion”.  That one still works…  “The loneliest number”?  Google’s calculator still says it’s 1.  Then I opened Firefox and Googled “askew”.  The Easter egg worked just fine.

THIS MEANS WAR.  😡

I realize you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, so allow me to explain.  I am one of the 1.6% of people browsing the interwebs that uses Opera as my primary internet browser.  And I’m proud to say it, not because I’m some ivory tower hipster geek, but because I find its features to be the most useful if I just want to browse the web and have my browser help me do that.  I don’t have a problem with people using Chrome or Firefox or whatever.  What I have a problem with is when websites like Google don’t feel like ensuring that ALL of their users are able to use their sites’ full functionalities.  (This is just the latest in a series of issues that did not exist with Google a few months ago.)  And now when I search for “askew”, the results come up like any other random word in the English language. I don’t care that the other 98.4% of internet users can enjoy askew and YouTube comments rendering correctly; as a minority, I feel rather unrepresented, and maybe I ought to remind Google that I’m one of their users too.

Anyway, hey, just a little Saturday morning rant.  You probably never even knew such a thing as Opera existed…  Nobody uses it though.  Google has the advantage of being a humongous company and Firefox has the support of the open source community.  IE and Safari are, well, there on your computer whether you like it or not.  Still, things ought to work; Google should know better.  I may have to send them a letter.

The point is, internet Easter eggs are cool (like the Gravatar Easter egg I’ve mentioned before, and “askew”, and if you hit the down arrow while a YouTube video is buffering, the spinning circle of dots turns into a game of snake).  And everybody ought to be able to enjoy them, not just “most everybody”.  Is it really that hard to just test your website on all of the Big 5?

If you know of any other cool Easter eggs, let me know in the comments.  🙂

P.S.  We’re talking Opera 12 here, not this Opera 15 and onwards stuff that’s just another useless clone of Chromium.

P.P.S.  Oh yeah, if you use Firefox, open a new tab and type “about:robots” into the address bar.  That may be my favorite internet Easter egg of all.  🙂

INFURIATION

There is, in my opinion, a very good reason I feel like writing a spiteful blog post tonight.  At this very moment, people are gathered together less than two hours from my house listening to my absolute most favorite band of all time perform live and I’M STUCK HERE IN STUPID OLD SMALL TOWN, USA.  Less than two freaking hours from my house.  But horror of horrors, it’s a school night.

So yeah, I’m stuck here at home, listening to my collection of Jars of Clay music on shuffle and blogging while a band with three Grammy’s is likely singing some of my favorite songs just far enough away to be too far.  The entire bloody city of Rocky Mount, Virginia had better turn out for this concert or it is a city of ingrates. *sighs heavily*

I suppose the best one can do in moments like this is try to look on the bright side (though I wonder if there is one here) and make light of things if appropriate.  And it is just a band after all.  Except it’s not just a band because it’s The Awesome Freaking Jars of Freaking Clay we are talking about.  But we can still be silly about bands.  And so, I came up with a plan this evening.  (The results are as follows, but if you find it boring, scroll down to the end of the post, where I have made a playlist of all my favorite Jars of Clay songs for you to enjoy and so that you may share my pain.)

Here’s what happened: I don’t remember why, but I wandered over to a sort of website known as a band name generator.  It just takes random words and makes them into a name for a hypothetical band.  And so I collected some of my favorites, and put them in a list.  Then I found a song name generator and did the same thing.  Finally, I got some random quotes to serve as album titles.  And so, I give you, ten songs that don’t exist, but definitely should, and my review of them.  Enjoy.

But not too much because remember, we are in Jarhead mourning.  Sshh, sshh, no laughing.  Alright, never mind, you can laugh.  What am I, the Laugh Nazi?  I will sit here, the stoic and fatalistic philosopher.  No, the Jars situation does not bother me.  Of course not.  It is merely one of billions of representations of life’s unfairness. Gosh I can ramble.  Without further ado, and in no particular order: Continue reading “INFURIATION”

An Open Letter to the Genius in Chemistry 111

Dear Individual,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your outstanding grade on our first test in the wonderful world of Chemistry 111.  In the post-mortem speech today, Professor mentioned that the grades ranged from 29 to 100 (out of 100).  So I know you exist, and I hereby dub you the Mystery Ace.  Indeed, I know the point of Chemistry is learning, not competition, but that you have bested me when I was so close instills in me a sort of admiration, curiosity, and just a pinch of envy, all mixed together.

I wonder which of my classmates you are.  I’ve pondered it somewhat to no avail.

Additionally, I want to inform you that you are now a sort of secret rival to myself.  The fact that I have no clue to your identity makes it all the more intriguing.  You are the Red Baron to my Snoopy.  You are the Scarlet Pimpernel to my French government.  You are the Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes, or the other way around perhaps.  You are intelligent, and good at chemistry, but Moriarty is more enigmatic; you could be either.  I shall see you each week and not know it.  You could even be the very person sitting next to me…

Did you have an idea that you would do so well, or was it a surprise to you?  Are you enjoying Chemistry?  So many questions; they will likely never be answered.

I made a mistake.  (Curse you, manganese!  I have always believed you were just a loser trying to imitate magnesium even though the cooler name was already taken.)  However, I came close to you.  And so, though I doubt you are as obsessive as myself, I cannot help but wonder if you ponder my identity as well.  The likelihood of your reading this is slim, but should you somehow have the opportunity to do so, I am here to tell you that no, I shall not reveal myself.  I too shall remain shrouded in mystery until such a day as we should meet face to face.  All I give you are acknowledgement of your victory and the name I leave below with my regards.

Until the next time,

The 99th Challenger

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Okay, I admit to carrying this a little too far, but hey, I’m allowed to sometimes right?

Seriously though, I wouldn’t accost the Mystery Ace, I just want to know who the heck they are.  Maybe we can hang out and exchange chemistry jokes or something…

IDK

The Slow, the Fast, and the Nettlesome

I seem to be in a mood for Chopin today.  And I hope you are too, because these two pieces are simply amazing.

And really fast.  The number of notes per second must be crazy.  Here they are; something a little energetic to remind the world that yay! the weekend is almost here.

Etude No. 5 in G-flat Major – Frédéric Chopin

Op.10 No.5 (“Black Key Etude”) – performed by Ingolf Wunder

This is the best recording, IMHO, on YouTube that I could find at short notice.

Etude No. 8 in F Major – Frédéric Chopin

Op.10 No.8 – performed by Freddy Kempf

Again, best recording on YouTube, and while I haven’t heard many, also the best recording I know in general.  Enough of this “Zimerman > Kempf” nonsense.  Enough of this “Oh, he plays it too slow.”  This is already pretty darn fast, and if you go much faster, you can’t put any emotion or creative texture in it.  That’s my issue with Zimerman anyway.

Hey, I’m allowed to rant too sometimes, right?  Seriously though, after I take over the world (in a quiet and respectful but absolute fashion), I am certain what will finally drive me insane and lead me to resign will be these nettlesome YouTube commenters.  Geez Louise.

LET’S ALL BE POLITE AND SAY WHAT WE DID LIKE ABOUT MR. KEMPF’S PERFORMANCE THAT LIKELY MOST DEFINITELY TOOK HIM A GREAT DEAL OF TIME TO PERFECT AND IF YOU START SINGING KUMBAYA SARCASTICALLY OR BLATANTLY PRETEND YOUR OPINION IS FACT LET ME REMIND YOU THAT THIS IS AN ART YES MUSIC IS AN ART THAT WE EACH HAVE OUR OWN CREATIVE VOICE IN BECAUSE THE WORLD IS NOT AN EPISODE OF “AMERICA’S GOT TALENT”.

THANK YOU NETTLESOME COMMENTERS.  YOU HAVE ME WORKED UP TO THE POINT THAT I REFUSE TO DISABLE CAPS LOCK.  BUT, I SUPPOSE I FORGIVE YOU.  AND TO ALL MY READERS, I WISH YOU A CAPITAL EVENING.

Don’t tell me you didn’t see that coming.