Sunday, June 25, 2006

Trip to Memphis

This afternoon I arrived in Memphis after two days on the road. The first day was pretty uneventful with the exception of a slight shift in my load. I was driving through Kentucky on a rather bumpy and rough road when suddenly my load shifted weight. Anyone that has had this happened they know that it isn’t too much fun, but it happened right at an exit so I just pulled off and resecured the load. The rest of the day was boring…the coolest thing is that I got to spend the night in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This was only interesting because a movie was based in this town and Sherry recently wrote an entry about it and reminisced about Memphis.

Then today a couple weird things happened…both of which were rather odd. The first really, really creeped me out. I stopped at a rest area to stretch my legs and go to the bathroom. I walk in to the bathroom and there is a guy that is acting a little odd at the urinal. I ignore him and walk up to go to the bathroom and the guy leans over the divider and looks straight down. I turned to him and asked what in the world did he think he was doing. He simply turned around and walked out…and this guy was a normal looking 60 year old guy. I walked out and looked to see where he went (I was wondering if he was some pervert hanging around so I could try to do something) and I saw him getting into his car with his wife. Seriously that freaked me out…it was definitely not a mistake.

Then I drive on for a few hundred miles and I see these three unmarked police SUVs sitting in the median area of the highway. I drove past and one of them takes off. It follows me for a few miles, but since I wasn’t speeding I really didn’t care. Then he pulled into the opposite lane and drove just behind my truck for a couple miles (this resulted him numerous cars getting piled up behind since I was only going about 60mph). Next he slowly pulls up so he is even with the cab of my truck…I look over at him and as soon as I do this he slams on his brakes and pulls off the road. It was really kind of crazy because he literally just bailed right into the grass median then wiped around to start driving the opposite direction. I have no idea what this was all about but it was interesting.

One other interesting thing is that now I’m back in the south I’m starting to remember all the interesting phrases that you get to hear. I’m sure I’ll make an entry about it at some point, but for a little taste in only two days I’ve heard “if you come across a turtle on a fence post you know he didn’t get there on his own” three times.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Packing for Memphis

Well it is now 9:30pm the night before I leave for Memphis, and I still need to load up plenty of junk for our experiment as well as pack my personal stuff (not to mention do my laundry...probably won't happen). Even though I should be working nonstop I just need a break. Since this is suppose to be my way of procrastinating, I decided I would write a farewell entry...well I hope to keep on posting but I don't think I'll be able to maintain the same pace.

First off I want to thank my crew that really made this project happen...they really need to be thanked because none of them were suppose to be working for me. They are Sherry, Eric, Laetitia (came from France to help for a few months), and Ciara (well she was hired specifically for this project but the work was only a temporary position). I still need their help, but it never hurts to give credit where credit is due.

Laetitia and Sherry in the office

Sherry and Ciara in the office (I think this was Ciara's "interview" for the job)
My plans consist of leaving for Memphis tomorrow around noon and then taking my time getting down there. So with the exception of a few weeks I will be living out of a hotel in Memphis until the middle of September...this isn't going to be fun. The bright side is that if this goes well I will get my PhD rather quickly. Okay so I'll stop rambling and get back to work...sorry for the lame entry, but I can't think and didn't want to work.
Welp see you later...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Currently I’m on one of my stints where I listen to Denison Witmer (introduced to me by Kaci Jo) constantly. This most likely was brought on by the book I’m currently reading, Journey of Desire by John Eldredge. The correlation her is that Denison writes a lot of songs about memories from his past relationships and at the beginning of the Journey of Desire John writes about echoes from our past. He writes “sometimes these moments go unrecognized as they unfold, but their secret comes to us years later in our longing to relive them.” Denison has one song, You and Me, that really captures for me those moments when out of the blue you are reminded of one of those past moments.

You would not believe how this came up
Two apartments ago in downtown
A picture of you sleeping in my chair
I sang songs to you because I cared...

…There’s a little section of my town
That reminds me of the place you live
Cherry blossoms blow out of the trees
I get lost but I now that I’ve seen
Denison WitmerYou and Me

For me this happens every once in awhile, but I’m always surprised by the object or place or smell that will trigger it. For example a couple of weeks ago I was reading in my apartment when a light breeze came in through the window…the smell reminded me of my old girlfriend’s house. Suddenly I’m sitting on her couch watching Rocky and playing footsie. What I find fascinating is that in those brief moments two distinctly different emotions hit me…joy and sorrow. The first gut reaction is joy because that was a happy memory filled with joy and love, but then the sorrow sets in because I know how that story ends. Then after the momentary flood of emotion I tend to be left with a pleasant feeling because I really do look back on those times glad they happened.

An interesting side topic is how the memory can replace the actual person or event. C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed about his fear that the memory of his recently deceased wife would replace the actual person. He states that once he caught himself saying “H. [his wife] wouldn’t have liked that.” Even if he was her husband he has no right to state what she would have done in that situation then lord it over her other loved ones. While this is slightly off topic I do feel it relates because it seems to me that those types of memories over time change from a real life event into some type of illusion (for lack of a better term).

Now shifting my focus back to that instance of sorrow that comes out of the blue on the heals of joy. The real irony about that situation is if we look at the complete opposite situation, someone reminiscing about a past trial. For me I think back to my first two weeks in Memphis working at the LCC. In those two weeks I worked on average 16 hours a day, got caught on fire, didn’t have time to purchase a meal the first week so I ate a bag of chips for lunch and a bag for dinner, and had no guarantee of future pay from this work. Even though I hated almost every minute of those two weeks, now I recall those stories with a smile on my face and almost wish that others could go through the experience. So this brings up the question of why do we look back on some joyful moments with sorrow and some painful times with joy?

I think the answer to both of these questions is hope. When thinking about the bad times you recall them with the knowledge that you made it through and are a better person for it. This fills one with hope that when other trials of comparable magnitude rise up against them they will be able to overcome the trial based on past experience. On the other hand as I’ve said the sorrow that one feels when remembering a past love is the result of the knowledge of how the story ends. You recall that joy knowing that it doesn’t have a happy ending and that that moment will never be experienced again…there is no hope in that. When I began writing this entry I had no intention of writing about hope, but I suppose I should have seen it coming. As a Christian I know that hope is the central theme of our lifes…we live in a fallen world but have a hope founded in the resurrection of Christ for a happy ending to this story. “…we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day and Renee's Birthday

I actually went and wrote a different entry last night, but I decided that it could wait. In fact it has to wait because today is a very special day. It is Father’s Day as well as my sister Renee’s birthday. This happens every few years that the two days fall on each other, and it is so fitting because Renee' is the oldest child and therefore her birthday marks the beginning of fatherhood for my dad. So I suppose this would be a good time to introduce my readers to the family...

Teresa (her eyes are always closed in pics), dad (Ron), and mom (Ann)

The Siblings - Teresa (eyes kind of open), me, and Renee'

Happy Father's Day Dad

Happy Birthday Renee'

Friday, June 16, 2006

Trip to DC

I just got back from a short trip to our nation’s capital for a meeting about the research project I’ve been working on. It was DARPA’s (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) Friction Drag Reduction Program primary investigator’s meeting. Basically all the groups that are involved in the program (Michigan, Stanford, General Dynamics, and DARPA/Government team) got together to discuss the status of the program and plans for our upcoming experiment. Now I know that everyone is hoping that I’ll give an extremely detailed account of this 10 hour meeting, but I’m sorry I’m just too tired to write all that.

As a general rule I don’t talk much about what I do with respect to work…and for the most part I think everyone is happy with that. However I will somewhat break my rule and share briefly what it is that I do (I wanted to write a blog and as a result of only talking about the project for over 24 hours now I really don’t have anything else to share…don’t worry I’m only giving a brief/non-technical summary). My PhD research is focused on the reducing of drag on ships by adding polymer solution or bubbles into the water. The core dataset that I will need for my PhD will come from this upcoming test at the US Navy’s LCC in Memphis (we use this water tunnel because it is the largest of its kind in the world). This particular test is extremely long (starts in one week and ends in September) and as always very difficult (physically and mentally). I really don’t know what to say about the research without getting into the technical stuff, but basically we squirt out some snot-like substance that allows a ship to move with less power.

As the project manager I have quite a bit of responsibility and that leads to plenty of annoying things that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. However there are little things that I try to be cool about but in reality I’m kind of proud of. Sometimes (in the rare moments when I’m not feeling overwhelmed) I think about how cool it is to be trusted with the responsibility of executing a large scale experiment. At the end of the meeting the main man at DARPA turned to me and said “good luck Brian…it is all in your hands now.” I think this statement really best summarizes my situation. The final part underlines the feeling of trust that I believe the group has give me. Then the good luck part says essentially you have a lot of difficult work ahead of you in order to accomplish the goals laid before you. I figure the bad side of it is going to be there regardless so I better enjoy the upside while it last because once the test is over all power will vanish…as my advisor said “the end of a PhD is the most vulnerable time for a grad student because their usefulness to the advisor is peaking but they need the advisor to give them their degree.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Men and Women

I was going to write a post about my weekend visiting with my friend Sara and catching The Big Ticket (a Christian music was a lot of fun), but I had promised Sherry awhile ago that I would write a post about men and women. Since I’ll be leaving for Memphis in less than two weeks I decided to get this one out of the way (once I leave for Memphis updates will become more rare).

I began thinking about this a few weeks ago when Sherry said something to the effect of “men and women are equal…well I know you don’t think that.” Now I think she was trying to just give me a hard time, but when she said it I felt I had to fight such a claim. I then went to get some lunch and realized that yeah I do think men and women aren’t equal. However not equal doesn’t mean that one is greater than the other but simply that they are not the same. It is the equivalent of saying that A is not equal to 1…all this means is that they are different. I think this is pretty obvious and don’t think anyone that would read this would disagree, but I think where there can be some disagreement is as to what extent they are different. I could take this on from many angles, but I’m only going to focus on friendship (specifically how the presence of a woman can affect a group of friends).

I’ve selected friendship because about the same time that I began thinking about this I was reading “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis and he had an interesting chapter on friendship. Now I agree with most of what Lewis writes, but man what he put in there really sounded sexist (I’m going to assume that this opinion is a result of my ignorance because such a sentiment doesn’t show up elsewhere in his writings). Anyway, basically he raised the problem of having men and women being friends…how the simple fact of having a woman in a group of men can take away from the group. While I don’t think that is at the general rule, I do believe that can be the case. The church I attend forms the best example of how this can be. There are plenty of groups that form within the church that are coed, but some just have to be only men or women. I know that both my bible study and discipleship groups would be less effective if there was a single woman in the group. These groups require the separation of sexes for a number of reasons, but the one that is most universal is that men and women interact differently. The simple fact is that if I’m hanging out with 5 guys we will interact much differently then if there are 4 guys and a girl. Men tend to be much more blunt when they are trying to say things and women tend to be much more expressive. When the group is coed both sides tend to compromise, but when I’m with the guys few words are spoken and each one means exactly what was stated. I’ve also have been able to be in the presence of a group of girls (the closest I’ve come to a purely women group was my neighbors that would let me eat food while they watched Sex in the City…the rule was I could eat but not talk), and there was so much being said that I never had a clue what topic was being discussed even though they all seemed quite fine with the interaction. These two differences don’t mean much but when interaction between sexes takes place without the compromise problems tend to arise. I see this problem lived out in the lab when I’m working with Sherry and I’m getting frustrated with something…in those moments I tend to talk more like I would to a guy (very bluntly), which typically results in me offending her. Fortunately we communicate well and usually don’t have any major problems…she even has recognized when I’m thinking that if she were a guy this won’t be a problem.

The biggest point to make is that the above problem really isn’t all that big of a deal if you admit that each side is simply different, but what becomes a real problem is when we try to say that they are the same. Anyone that runs into this problem and believes that men and women are essentially the same will be extra frustrated because they can’t understand why the opposite sex simply doesn’t act in a similar fashion to them. I also want to point out that I wasn’t trying to say that men and women can’t be friends. I have plenty of genuine friendships with women. However my friendships with women are distinctly different from my male friendships.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


As a Christian I think this should be an easy topic to discuss, but it is actually the one that I have the most difficult time with. Recently my friend Sherry asked me what heaven would be like (or at least what I thought it would be like). I basically avoided the question as best I could. Also after giving my slice of life I was suppose to lead a Bible study on heaven since the sermon that followed was about it…I was so nervous and really didn't want to have to lead that one (I’ll take on the topic of hell before heaven). The problem is almost every passage that talks about heaven in detail is in Revelations…only a brave man tries to explain that book with confidence. However, Sherry being the persistent inquirer kept asking me questions, and as a result I’ve been able to learn more about my own faith…this is why I love apologetics. I would like to share two of these realizations about heaven.

First it became clear why there aren’t many descriptions about what heaven will be like (at least in any detail). The only thing that a detailed picture of heaven could do would be to keep people out of it. I expect it to be more wonderful than my wildest dreams, but that isn’t and can’t be the reason for my desire to go there. God has revealed Himself to us in scripture and tells us that in heaven we will be with Him. That fact alone should make me want to be there more than anything…if it doesn’t than that shows that my heart doesn’t desire to be with God. Had He given a detailed description of heaven in the Bible there would be some people that would spend their lives dreaming about the joy that awaits them in heaven, but never caring about God…to those it would be so much more likely for God to say “I never knew you. Away from me…” (Matthew 7:21-23) in the end.

Another interesting question that arose was about loved ones being with us…the basic question would be something along the lines of “how could I be happy knowing that my loved ones were in hell?” That was a question that I never had a good answer for. Sherry and I were talking about it, and when I finally made an attempt to describe my vision of heaven somewhat of an answer came to light. Part of my difficultly with this question is that my family is Christian so there is some comfort there that a new believer won’t have…basically I feel like a hypocrite to try and convince them that this question isn’t a problem. However in reality my vision of heaven has never included my family…I haven’t found anywhere in scripture where it is promised that we will know who our earthly family was when we are there (I not saying I rule out the possibility but that I don’t see where this is a given). For this reason I feel more comfortable with the question because since my heavenly view is just God and myself there can’t be any hypocrisy. If anyone struggles with this possibility then they are choosing someone else over God. If you choose anything over God (even your family…”Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” Matthew 10:37-39) you aren’t choosing to be with God. This puts them in the same situation as above because they would now be looking at heaven as a way to continue the relationships that they actually care about, but God has prepared heaven as a place for us to be with Him.

I think I did a poor job explaining what I recently came to terms with, but the simple fact (one that I’ve always known but better understand now) is that God has to be our focus and the one we love above all others. He is not one that can be used to get what we want (whether it be more time with our family after we die or the fulfillment of our earthly desires), but He loves us and heaven awaits for those that love Him above all.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My First Bar Fight

Well last night I was able to have "a first"…for the first time in my life I was kicked out of a bar. Well to be completely honest after being told that I was kicked out they did come back to me and say that if I wanted to stay I could…heck no I won’t let them take away this first in my life. Alright maybe it isn’t really being kicked out if they give you the option to stay, but at least I can say I was in my first ever bar fight.

I haven’t been in all that many fights in my lifetime, but certainly more than none. It has been about 3 years since I was in my last fight (see Blood and Pepper). Then last night I got into a little something with a guy at the bar. I don’t know if I would call it a “fight” since there wasn’t a single punch thrown, but it was enough to get “kicked out” of the bar. The whole thing was so stupid…basically the guy was wearing a super old shirt that had a piece of it ready to fall of the back. So this girl that I was with got the urge to try and pull it off…the guy turns around and starts talking to her. I really didn’t think it would be a big, but as it turns out this guy’s Michigan Club Soccer shirt was his most precious possession. Although after a few minutes of talking the guy gets up to leave, walks over to me, leans over, and says “these three girls you are with are a bunch of c#*ts.” To which I grabbed him by the shirt and planned to share with him what my feelings about him were and what I would do to him if he wanted to keep talking. However to my surprise he possessed more of a backbone then I thought and went and grabbed me by my shirt. It was clear he didn’t want to fight because all he was trying to do was pull me to the side so I couldn’t square up to him. Fortunately Jillian had my back immediately and began hitting over the head and digging her fingernails into his side. Then after a second I was able to get my balance and got to his side (where I had a clean shot at him, but I’m a lover not a fighter so I didn’t do anything). About this time the bouncer showed up and the guy was immediately out of there. I told the bouncer what had happened and he said I had to get kicked out, but while I was waiting to pay my tab he came back and told me the manager said I could stay if I wanted to. The funny thing about it is that I believe the guy’s Michigan Club Soccer shirt was ripped…I believe someone said that afterwards.

I guess now I should be asking myself if my response was very Christian like…I think the obvious answer is that it wasn’t, but I’m not so sure. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have to be spineless. As John Eldredge said in either “Wild at Heart” or “Waking the Dead” modern day Christianity has pruned the claws off of the Lion of Judah. Now I don’t want to over analyze this situation, so I’m just going to say that I will avoid a fight at all cost to my own pride, but I will be happy to fight for any friend. In this case if he had said something disparaging to say about myself I know I won’t have done anything, but to say something about the girls really gave me no choice.