December 31, 2003

You know the song "That's Life", where old Blue Eyes croons about being a Puppet, a Poet, a Pirate and so on? Well I decided to Google Myself and see what the OTHER Chris Kerns of the world were doing.

I have been:

  1. A Hortoculture Supplier and Photographer
    (Also at ChrisKern.Com)
  2. An NFL Draft Pick
  3. A Dark-skinned lead singer of a band living in Germany
  4. An Amateur Putt-Putt player from Bumpass, Virginia
  5. An Anime Fanboy and Computer Science Teacher
  6. A singer in a Church Youth Group
  7. An Amateur Robotic Engineer
  8. A Major Brewery Owner in Michigan during Prohobition (Check out the etched glasses!)
  9. A Film Editor (grandson of the guy who edited Gone with the Wind")
  10. A Rather unfortunate Hiker on Mt. Hood
  11. And finally, a Database Programmer. (Just like me, except published.)


December 30, 2003

Is there anything more depressing than being one of the 20 or so employees of a company that didn't have the vacation days to take off between Christmas and New Years? Sure, my vacation days went to good use to allow Melissa and I to have the most widely-travelled year of our lives (Chattanooga, Orlando, Pennsylvania, London, Los Angeles & North Carolina), but I wish to Allah that I was spared these forsaken days of pseudo-work.

These last days of december are "The Great Anti-Work." It's like a black hole, only for employees. It is a series of days so bereft of purpose and work that it swallows everything around it. Not even productivity can escape.

A total of six people on the entire wing of this building are still here, only three in my division, and no one has any work to do. I've already organized my desk, filed this year's paperwork, shredded anything over two years old and prepped my HR documents for the new year. That took all of yesterday morning, WITH frequent checks to my e-mail. So I've now got two days to revel in the complete lack of anything useful to do. Even CBT's (Computer-Based Training modules), the bane of any programmer's existence, and the only company-endorsed way of passing down-time, are not viable, as the server is down. Melissa asked if the managers would be sending us home early, under the circumstances, but I don't think anyone with that kind of power is still here.

It is a mental prison, this desert at the end of the Fiscal Year, and the only way out is to think up activities and projects for yourself. I'm usually able to do so, but I have hit a mental block this time, faced with a stretch of days so abysmal.

December 29, 2003

For the first time in memory, I'm glad Christmas is over. It was a crappy season all-around for Melissa and I. The only saving grace of the season was Christmas Morning, seeing little Matthew tearing into his presents and playing with them. Well, a few of them anyway. After being inundated with toys last year, Melissa and I decided that we'd not go overboard buying him toys this year. Well, fear not, the remaining relatives picked up the slack. Her parents bought him this Fisher-Price adjustable basketball hoop, which is this huge molded-plastic monstrosity that you need to fill the base of, so that it doesn't tip over and crush your little one. Matthew seems to like it, and figuring that his old man had absolutely zero talent in sports, I'll encourage anything of the sort.

We got our sorta-weekly call from the Nash family in North Hamptonshire, UK. Thank-yous for the gifts were exchanged and we talked for a good two hours about everything from our countries' respective leaders to the kind of music that we all were into. Vaughan, the father, works for a Motor Credit company. Judging by the tatoos on his arms, I figured him for ex-military. So I was a bit surprised to hear him state that he was into all kinds of electronic music, like Trance and Chillout, just like I am. We vowed to send one another a CD. It's going to be a challenge to find any Electronic Music that's any good that they don't have in the UK, since Europe is the epicenter of the culture.

"I got this one CD," he said, "Play it in the car on the way home from work, you start out with some hard Dance stuff, going about 80 MPH. It takes you all the way home, to Chillout at the end, so you'll be going about 12 or so. Great for leaving the stress of the job miles behind you. Mind, just don't play it on the way TO work, or you'll be fairly useless that day"

December 22, 2003

Side note: "Merry" was pictured at "Trilogy Tuesday" by CNN.com. (Pictured with her mother in the 6th image.)

As we enter the final stretch into Christmas, I'm thankful for everything that I have, from friends to loved ones, all the way down the list to material posessions. A recent marriage crisis with one of my friends has shown me that the only gifts that need to be exchanged between people are love, friendship and compassion. With them, you'll have a great Christmas, no matter what you get under the tree. Without them, the season becomes empty and cold, regardless of what you can put a bow on. Especially so in this friend's case, where he is still freely giving these gifts, and the recipient does not give them in return.

I offer these words of advice for the season:

Spend the holidays with those you love. Call the ones that you love, that can't be with you.

Try out new holiday traditions every year until you find one that clicks with your family. Then make that a recurring tradition.

Finally, if you're the first one awake on Christmas morning, take five minutes to think of all the intangible gifts, such as love and support, that you have already received from those around you.

Merry Christmas everybody.

December 18, 2003

Melissa and I, along with some out-of-town "Ringers", went to see "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" last night. Oddly enough, Melissa and "Merry" (a friend from Dragon*Con), were the only ones dressed up. I have never seen any later movie of a series become the best until now. RotK is easily the best of the three, taking the setup and momentum of the previous movies, hitting the story's full stride and never, ever letting up for a moment. The battle scenes top even "Two Towers" for sheer scale and awe. The acting is absolutely top-notch and the folks at Weta Digital have raised the bar on meshing real-life and virtual actors, making other films' digital armies look like cheap xerox copies. (If you own the DVD's, you know that this is partially due to the MASSIVE program, which instills each digital actor with a level of Artificial Intelligence. Really ground-breaking stuff.)

There was so much story to tell, so many story lines to tie up, It never felt like 3 1/2 hours. It was obvious that some scenes were cut out, like the much-publicized exclusion of Sarumon's demise altogether, but there was no room for anything short of absolutely essential scenes in that 3.5 hours. We all know it'll all be on the Extended Edition DVD next fall. With RotK seen, I can now turn to the second-highest priority of this month, namely an obscure pagan ritual called "Christmas."

December 16, 2003

I tracked down fellow UGA Lipscomb Hall Alumni Jarrett Arnold on the Net the other day. He wrote:

Yes it is me . Hello Chris, I don't check e mail very often, sorry. I am a free lance artist in oregon. My daughter, shashi was born August 2. My son through marriage, Bodhi, is 2.5 years old. Quite a different life I lead now, except for the continued prolific pouring forth of my soul onto whatever I can find. Yes. still painting like crazy. All of that web stuff is old art though. What does your life look like these days? Paint me a picture with your words. jarrett

What I wrote him back is as good a snapshot of my life as I think I've put together:


Jarrett,

My life is the 60's song "Five O'Clock World" by the Vogues:
-------------------------------------------------
Trading my time for the pay I get
Living on money that I ain’t made yet
Gotta keep going, gotta to make my way
But I live for the end of the day (yeah, yeah)

Cuz it’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows
No one owns a piece of my time
And there’s a long-haired girl who waits, I know
To ease my troubled mind, yeah
----------------------------------
I've got this Clark Kent rat race day job, writing code for some financial services company. The name doesn't matter, they're all the same underneath the logos. I tweak the code of this application to fit various logo-companies, making the zeroes and ones jump through the hoops that the logo wants. I'm thankfully, blissfully, mostly insulated from the finished product. The code is my haven, and I could care less about finance.

My code is the great left-right brain balancing act, equal parts Jarrett and Jack. The Jack side tells me the monochrome details, technical specifications, white light. I put that white light into the Prism Bridge, and it crosses over into the Jarrett side of my brain, where the colors get twisted and woven, saturated and hued, until I find the right pattern and pallette. Pass it back across the bridge, and the changed light tells the Jack side how to code the Solution. It's satisfying work, solving problems in code. Code is the executable poerty of the Digital Age. It's also like magic tricks, where the audience only sees the result and most of the art and creation is only known and appreciated in secret by the trickster himself.

But like the song, what holds me to this world and gives me real meaning is my family. Back in 1998, I made an honest woman out of Melissa Petrey, who was a friend of Jack's back at Brookwood. Like any successful union, each has qualities that the other admires and wants for themself. I admire her ability to strike up converations with strangers, speak her mind openly and be outgoing or aggressive as the situation demands. Like any man betrothed, I'm not sure what she sees in me, I just consider myself lucky to have her. To guess, she may like my calm demeanor, humor and sensibility, to temper her fiery nature. Matthew came into being in February of 2002. Melissa wanted a little Chris, all blond-haired and blue-eyed, and she got a "Mini-Me", just like she asked for. Underneath, however, he's all stubbornness and love; all Melissa.

To satisfy the Jarrett side, I've been writing and photographing and sketching and photoshopping. I've made music with my voice and in digital beats and bytes on the computer with Acid Music. And when other challenges are lacking, I turn to PS2 to provide narrative, action and accomplishment in the virtual. Melissa, meanwhile, is into Lord of the Rings full-stop, from her hairy Hobbit feet to the tips of her little pointy ears. She's found community in the celebration of the movies and books of Tolkein, and the underlying messages of the writings. Together, we were lucky enough to travel to Germany, and this October, to London.

Feelings of comfort have turned to wanderlust as of late, as Melissa and I desire to move out of backwoods Flowery Branch, Georgia. We need someplace with more life, less quiet, greater variety, less predictability, just plain MORE. There are, I am certain, parts of the Sahara Desert that have more culture to offer than Flowery Branch. The Gypsy in her blood is showing and I agree, it's time to move on. There are places that need to be seen, people met, experiences had, all of which cannot be done here.

Good to find you! -Chris

December 11, 2003

Great news! Melissa and fellow "Ringer" Rebecca got tickets to TORN's (TheOneRing.Net) Returk of the King Oscars Party! This is a highly coveted ticket, only 700 were up for grabs, and so many people tried to buy them that this actually CRASHED PayPal!! It's a great party organized by TORN, the largest Tolkein community site on the Web. It's great for getting together with other Ringers, but since New Line doesn't give very good parties, the LotR cast and crew usually stop by for a visit after the Oscars!! Mel is very excited about going.

I'm excited as well, because this will be her Christmas gift, so my shopping is DONE! Haha!

December 09, 2003

I've taken to reading books about science lately. Science, especially astrophysics, has been fascinating to me since I was around 10 years old. At that time, I was still convinced that I was going to be an astronaut, so I figured that I needed to study up, this stuff would probably be on the Astronaut Competency Test (ACT).

I signed up for all the science classes in high school, and through hard work an dillegence, I made a quite astonishing discovery: I absolutely sucked in science. REALLY bad. I'm talking about "Couldn't find the atomic weight of Hydrogen" bad. I just couldn't tell my Mendel from my Mendeleev.

During my stint as a future astrophysicist, I did, however, develop a well proven theory: "The coolness level of any scientific area is proportional to the level of menial number-crunching involved to explain it." So while I could figure out how table salt is equal parts NA and CL (boring), I could not even comprehend the class notes on black holes (cool).

At the base of this problem was an underlying lack of math skills. Math was a prerequisite for any scientific discipline, but math class by itself had very little in the way of learning incentive. Yeah, teachers spoke time and again about how useful it was, but after basic algebra and geometry, it was only useful to later math classes. In college, a whole course of Calculus was devoted to doing the complete OPPOSITE of what the previous class had done. My professor chided me for stating that I'd never be asked by my boss to factor a polynomial, but I can safely say, after a few years in the real world, that the topic has never even come up.

Now back to the books. A favorite travel author of mine, Bill Bryson, spent two years researching for that most unusual of texts: The READABLE book on science (*gasp*) called "A Short History on Nearly Everything". I finished that last month, and I found myself hungry for more. Presently, "The Science of Discworld" by Terry Pratchett et al is being slowly consumed on my lunch breaks. I'd highly recommend them to others who, like myself, are fascinated by science but have no chance at understanding the inner workings of it by themselves.
Is there anything more annoying than badly-fitting trousers? Don't get me wrong, they fit badly for all the right reasons, since I lost 20 lbs over the past year. It's just one of those little nagging annoyances that gradualy get more frustrating as the day goes on. Sort of like discovering too late that you are wearing one blue and one black sock (The TRUE male color blindness).

My new shape perplexes me, though, because although I've gone down a pants size, my gut seems not to have noticed. In fact, I don't see any difference at all in my shape, but my clothing says I'm a bit smaller than I was. I have a fear that in order to achieve this, my body has democratically reduced volume by 9%, across the board, including vital organs. I worry about this because we are only reported to use about 10% of our brain to begin with.

The relationship between weight loss and wardrobe is a fundamental difference between men and women. If a woman drops 20 lbs, she considers it a moral imperative to buy a closet full of new clothes to fit the new her, and to show the world the difference. Men, or more specifically "Guys" (as defined by Dave Barry), upon losing 20 lbs, will usually just break out a few pairs of older trousers, and continue wearing what they have been. The end result is a guy who's constantly tyring to tuck in shirts that he's swimming in, and wearing trousers with a crotch two inches below where it should be and, inexplicably, trouser legs that hover an inch above their standard-issue loafers.

(I now pause to hear the collective groans of all my past grammar teachers for the structure of that last paragraph. Ah, there it is.)

I write this to explain why I would actually LIKE to receive clothing or clothing store gift certificates for Christmas this year, and that it's not a cop-out.

December 05, 2003

Decmeber is off and running, and as usual, I'm already behind. Since we have realtives scattered across the country, my parents in Hawaii and friends in England, the mail delivery cut-off dates are looming less than a week away. You'd THINK that it would take longer to get a package to London than Hawaii, what with the smaller of the two being part of the United States and all, but that has never been the case. It once took two weeks for my mother to get her birthday card. No special postage, no heavy stuff inside or difficult instructions, just your run-of-the-mill Hallmark deal.

I am in search of the web space for this page, since Larry lost his job. I can't afford buying any web space now, with Christmas Debt rising up to meet me, and development time is at a premium. I will probably not be able to wrestle the computer from my wife's steely grip until well after "Return of the King" comes out. So in short, nothing will change until next year.

But I'm confident that both of my readers will be understanding.