June 2009


I did a drive test for a student of a superpower a while back. The kid set a new record for my tests from there by only missing two points and no traffic law violations, as well as no dangerous actions! (21, 3, and 1 are failing) Missing 2 is amazing for anyone (5-10 is normal for this route), but the superpower students are generally in the range of 10-15 points, 2-4 laws, and occasionally 1 dangerous action (DAs are very rare). I had one once that was more like 22, 7, and 1 (they failed it 4 different times on the same test). (NOTE – I don’t pick on superpower students, or anyone else for that matter. the test is very objective. Way to easy and many times people who are dangerous drivers still pass, but still objective).

Props.

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When I was younger, I used to think of myself as someone who was weird, which I enjoyed. Then, in college, I had a friend who clarified it as being more “quirky,” which I think was a valid characterization. Although I enjoy things like sci-fi and video games, I still function in society. I don’t (regularly) have people avoid me for no apparent reason. I don’t sit in a chair and rock back and forth for no reason.

Some of the quirks are fairly random and somewhat comical:

I hate socks, but I can’t wear shoes without socks, so I usually wear sandals whenever safe (and high-quality ones at that: Chacos, usually Z2s). I have even worn sandals with a suit on occasions (though that was slightly to tweak some brittle people – another quirk/character flaw: I sometimes do things just to see how people respond. Sometimes it is for spiritual reasons, but usually just my entertainment). If I have to wear shoes, I will usually opt for hiking boots, although recently my boots fell apart to the point of no return, so it has been other shoes 😦

I hate to spend very much money on clothing and will basically only shop sales. The only time I buy clothes that cost more than 50% of the original price is if I HAVE to have it 9like work related). I have been using the same pair of jeans for motorcycling since I was in middle school (yes, I was chunky then too). But my camping gear must be top notch and I spend way more money there than I should, especially backpacks.

If I have a bad experience with a product or store one time, it is very likely that I will no longer give them my business, even if it was a fluke or the company has since improved. The bigger factor is usually not as much what happens, but how the company handles it (ie – Magnavox, Motorola, Wal-Green’s, Hyundai, ATT, Sprint).

I love people, but they drive me crazy sometimes. I need an evening or afternoon of personal space about once a week to keep from getting edgy. Even from my wife (I am really blessed that she puts up with me, which will be even more apparent as you continue reading).

When I read, I don’t always read the words or sentences in order, sometimes even 2 or 3 lines at a time, but they come together in the proper order in my mind. I end up being a very fast reader, although it often appears I am dyslexic when reading aloud. This, combined with the fact that I can remember concepts better than words, is likely why I have problems remembering vocabulary in other languages (even though I am a bit erudite in English), but once I have it down, I can usually read it relatively easily, though not always precisely.

If I am learning something new, I would prefer to read or converse about it. I can barely stand watching a video or listening to a lecture. I think it may be because I can neither speed it up or interact with it. I think this is why I am better at doing interactive teaching/discussion rather than preaching/lecture and why I tend to be on the brief side, unless I have interaction. This is also why I tend to take a lot of notes when I think it is something worthwhile. I have gotten better at it, but I used to view something in writing as being solid and reliable, but something spoken as being indefinite.

The worst set of quirks that I have involves sleep. This is the area that drives me nuts, and my wife as well, since she can generally fall to sleep in about 10 minutes basically anywhere, anytime:

I sleep much better in Colorado than anywhere else, probably due to the lack of humidity and thin air. I generally sleep better in the mountains than the plains, even if it is on the ground.

Regardless of when exactly the sun goes down, I get very tired from about 30 minutes before and until about 30 after the sun goes down. I then get a second wind. This is less severe in the summer and/or if I am able to watch the sunset against the mountains.

If I am woken up unexpectedly, I generally snap awake in about 3-5 seconds and can function normally for a few minutes. If I can fall back asleep in 5 minutes or less, there is a good chance I won’t even notice, but if I stay awake my functioning will be diminished but I will not be able to fall back asleep for several hours. Unless some actually has happened, in which case my adrenaline is usually pumping. I think I developed this when working at camp, particularly from dealing with bears consistently, and from being an RA and dealing with morons consistently.

About once every 1-3 weeks, I have a night were I cannot sleep hardly at all (as little as an hour or two), but am able to get up and function normally the following day. Sometimes I am a bit extra tired the next night, but usually not.

I cannot sleep in the car or during the daytime unless I am completely exhausted. I was done with naps when I was two. While I was in college or working at camp was the only time I could ever take naps, and that was because I was busy about 16 hours a day and rarely got more that 5 hours of sleep. It was more likely that I would make it through the week and then sleep 10-12 hours on my day off to catch up.

I normally go to bed around midnight and wake up around 7, though it can range an hour either way on either end. If I try to go to bed any earlier, unless I am completely exhausted to the point I am about to fall over, I will wake up in 1-3 hours and not be able to fall asleep again till about 5am regardless of how tired I am. I generally can only catch up on sleep by sleeping in, not by going to bed early. The cool thing is that I can typically wake up early for a trip, etc. without to much of a problem or needing extra sleep later, provided I am not already exhausted.

I have a fairly set procedure that I have to follow in order to fall asleep and stay asleep all (or even most of the) night:
First, I have to take a shower within 3-4 hours of going to sleep, closer is better (but not too close). I cannot sleep if I feel dirty.

I then have to relax without really thinking much for 30 minutes or more (sometimes an hour or two), generally by watching tv (which started when I was in HS). If I go too long, I sometimes end up not being able to fall asleep. Sitcoms or mild sci-fi (like Star trek) tend to work best. If I read something, I tend to get way too into it and then stay up really late.

After relaxing, I can go to bed, but the blankets must be neat and crisp, the room must be very dark and quiet, otherwise it drives me crazy and I end up not being able to fall asleep. Once I get past the tv stage, if I do anything to mentally involved, I will be up all night. Talking, loud noise, deep thinking, really anything.

If something messes up this process, then I will become wide awake and not fall asleep again till 3-5am, regardless of what I try, even though I am usually completely exhausted. The most successful way is to start the process again (shower, tv, etc), but I generally avoid it at first since it means investing at least an hour, maybe two (takes more relaxing the second time around). Even then, it will sometimes not help. I will be watching tv about to crash, go back to bed and be wide awake.

Because of this ridiculousness, I am usually up an hour or so later than my wife, which happens to help me fall asleep better (since she likes to talk and then fall asleep, which gets my brain going again).

Aside from all of this, I have to be careful to not eat, drink caffeine, play sports or be very active, or even have meetings within a couple of hours of going to bed since my brain/body will be going to much in order to go to sleep. Even having a church event that is done around 9 will throw me off.

The worst part about all of this is that I understand better than anyone how ridiculous and obnoxious all of this is, but I have not yet been able to change it (the second worst part is that as the more tired I am, the more grumpy I am and the harder it is to fall asleep). Maybe “weird” is a better term. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife who puts up with my crazies and tries to help out in anyway she can, even though it frustrates her as much as me.

Being a driving instructor is an interesting career. Aside from the variety of humorous experiences (see the confessions of a driving instructor blog for some examples, though much there is serious), it is also humorous to see how the various driving schools compete with each other, sometimes even in very cutthroat ways, even including ones that compromise the best interests of their students. Here are a few interesting categories where many fit (NOTE – I am not attempting to mock any particular school, but create a few fictitious companies based upon some characteristics I have observed):

the small school living in the 60s – This is the local school that is very friendly, but tends to do things in ways that are a bit dated. most likely, they will have a slightly older car with cheesy decals and hold classes at a school, church, or similar location. They likely don’t have an actual office, but are working off of a “newfangled cellular phone” and bash “those online programs which won’t give you any insurance discounts or actually fulfill any state requirements” (which I find comical, since my school qualifies for a discount with every insurance company in the state as well as more companies nationwide than any other school.

the new desperate school – This is the guy that offers really low prices on lessons, free pickups anywhere in the city and has availability that is just shy of 24-7. He does not have classroom curriculum himself, but has a contract with an online program that is both overpriced and likely one of the ones that is a knock-off of one of the quality, groundbreaking programs like ours. This school is probably ran out of the basement of someone who was once a semi-successful instructor in another state and either wanted to start their own school, or had one that was lost in a divorce. Likely did not realize how much more serious the requirements were here than back home.

the school-based program – No high schools in Colorado (and hardly any nationwide) have their own programs anymore, but there are a few driving schools that work only based upon their relationships with certain schools and districts. They do have the convenience of being easily accessible, but they tend to really not be all that successful overall since they are really limited to the school year and the school’s facilities. The biggest problem they have is that their advertising is generally just in the school and they only have a few instructors balancing all classroom and driving lessons.

the over rated DE school – The only people in the USA who still use VHS tapes. Unfortunately, they can’t make anymore since the machine broke, so now in addition to charging 3-4 times what they should, they also require a deposit in case you decide to keep the tapes. They likely claim that they fulfill all of the requirements for getting a license, sometimes even to the point of denying that 6 hours of lessons are required for some students. That tactic consistently ends up shooting them in the foot since people have to go to other schools for lessons, which is only discovered when the student tries to get their license

the solid, long term school – These guys have been around for a while. They set up a system in the early 90s when private driving schools started and have not really adjusted their methods since then, although their material has stayed up to date. They likely have structured their classroom portion in a way that is a balance of complication and convenience (several full Saturdays, multiple offerings of shorter classes that can be completed in nearly any order, etc.). They have been around long enough that they offer classes in several smaller cities, probably through local schools. Several of these schools regularly trade instructors back and forth. Sometimes several smaller schools have combined throughout the years to create a bigger, better school.

the guys who can’t quite get it – This school has gone through several owners and incarnations. The name may have been changed as the owners change, sometimes even just a letter or two (doubling a consonant or changing a vowel) so that they are still recognized as the old school, but different enough to “not have the same problems as that other company.” The cars are still the same (though probably have different decals), some of the instructors are still the same, and although they may make it a while, it will probably fail again. Or at least get close until someone else buys it.

the “superpower” – These are the guys that EVERYONE is talking about. All the cool teenagers go there. It was started by a guy who used to be an unsuccessful professional surfer/snowboarder/motocross rider/race car driver who is from a “cool” state. This is the place that really hypes up what they do. The website is constantly updated with the best streaming videos of testimonials from students talking about how what they learned helped them stay out of a really bad wreck in really cool technical-sounding terms (which they made up). They drive brightly painted sports cars and Jeeps with awesome decals all over the place. Their office is located on a road course, which is where they bring in the parents to watch their kids on the skid pad. A portion of the required classroom time is spent in the car “observing other drivers” while on lessons which is ironic (and illegal), since all of the classroom is required to be completed before getting a permit. 6 hours of lessons is sold as being 12-18, even though most of that is spent goofing around with other students or texting in the back seat, making the driver nervous. The certificate includes “observations” and “road course/skid pad,” even though neither is required nor recognized by the state or insurance (btw, the kid has been observing mom and dad for 15 years; they aren’t going to get good habits just by watching another awkward teen mess up for a few hours). The goal of lessons is not really to learn how to drive, but to complete more on the checklist than the other students. They advertise the fact that they think they are better than everyone else – even the name of this place attests to that fact (as with what my wife says about salons – if you like your hair, steer clear of places that have words like “super,” “great,” “power,” “quality,” or “hot” in the title).

The instructors are a totally different story. They are really more salesmen than instructors, since the spend most of their time on the phone pestering people to buy their program (they don’t give prices, but only “consultations” during which they “asses the needs of you student,” and generally come up with outrageous prices, but since it is the most expensive, parents think it is “the best”). Their hygiene leaves some to be desired and they take a lot of breaks, smoking what you can only hope are cigarettes, in full view of the students. Somehow, 100% of the driving tests that they give are passes (even though the rate when their students go to another school to test is more like 60%, and those are just barely passes. The DMV has about a 50% rate, and that is because they have so many people who fail into the double-digits. Once someone fails 4x they are required to only test at the DMV. And to get lessons before they can get another permit.). All of the rich parents want to send their kids here. When shopping for classes, all parents ask other schools how they compare to the superpower. It doesn’t matter that it is all hype or ill-prepares they student for actual driving, you have to keep up with the neighbors that go to the “good” school district.

the guys that try too hard – These guys are likely a solid, long-term school that is a bit over-stretched. They started out small, but somehow developed a very good program that is either better or more accessible/affordable than the other guys. They have helped some of the other guys get started and have tried to get everyone to work together at some time or another. Driver’s ed isn’t viewed as a job, but a calling. If another school closes, they volunteer to take on their students for free. They set up endowments to help inner-city students. These guys try to change laws to improve driver safety, especially among teens. Failure is more common than success with marketing and creative options, but since they have developed a solid customer base, they are still in the game. Instructor quality and character is of utmost importance, but since the pay is low, they are always looking for new instructors; the only ones who have been around more than a year or two are usually close friends or family. The owner works more hours than is physically possible and therefore has a frequent-flier card for the ER. Schools and other entities (including government) approach this school to have their experts help them structure their programs/laws. They don’t always broadcast what all they have accomplished, even though they are a bit prideful about it and will bring it up at many opportunities. Even though they provide one of the best educations available, the biggest problem they have is that they are stretched so thin, both logistically and financially, that they often have problems taking care of their current students.

The sad part is that most schools want to do well, but they are so stuck on their way of doing it that they can’t seem to work together. There are more than enough students to max out all of the driving schools, but too many are focused more on $$ and beating the other guhys than helping drivers make it past their teens.

My wife currently works for a cell phone company, and one of the people on her team put together some research on the new I-Phone so they could see what the competition would be.

Here is the part we found entertaining:

Environmental requirements

* Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F

* Nonoperating temperature: -4° to 113° F

* Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing

* Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet

How are they planning on selling any of those out here? You can only use it in the spring and fall, unless you catch a bad break and you get a freak warm or cold day. Hopefully you can turn it off in time. And don’t try to use the handy GPS when you go hiking – probably get lost. Maybe even break your phone?

Do they send it with a thermometer, altimeter, and hygrometer so you can make sure you won’t break the delicate flower?

Maybe I should check with some of the sheeple that bought one already . . . . Reminds me of a Simpson’s epsisode.


I am wondering when English with either adopt a fourth gender or it will start being acceptable to  refer to people as inanimate objects. There is nothing really functional to refer to a person without being gender-specific that doesn’t sound ridiculous. You can’t refer to a person as “it” or “that,” and using “one” sounds way to pretentious, even for me, and really isn’t all that functional. It is no longer PC to use a generic “him” and a generic “her” labels you as a bit of a self-righteous whacko.

This comes up as a problem for me all the time, especially as the school stuff is picking up and I spend more time in driver’s ed. Just this morning, I was talking with a parent whose kids was name “Tyler.” A year ago, I would have automatically assumed that this was a guy, but I can no longer make these assumptions based upon how many people want to be trendy by doing something that is different, yet really not creative at all. Turns out it was a guy. But when we talked on the phone, I was very careful.

Names which should be gender-specific but because of moronic parents now make working with teens much more difficult (may have different spellings for gender, but usually not):

Tyler

MacKenzie

Taylor

Jordan

Blake

Hayden

Adrian

Lindsey (Linzy)

Jayden

Dalton

Alden

Colby

Kyle

Dylon

Ashley

Colton

Evan

Lauren

Cameron

Damon

Devin

Dakota

Perry

Cordell

Cassidy

Cory

Whitney

Kelly

Jodi

Morgan

Dana

Shawn

Adian

Riley

Shortened names that could go either way (Not nearly as bad, though some still should go one way or the other.) Occasionally given to kids as full name. (NOTE: may have other spellings, but the sound is what matters):

Chris

Jamie

Alex

Danny

Jessie

Johnny (Jonnie, etc)

Andy

Jerry

Pat

Sam

Billy

Gene (Jean)

Terry

Mac

Names that shouldn’t be names and probably came from, as a co-worker would put it, “throwing something on the ground and seeing what sound it makes” (or are combinations or derivatives of real names).  And some could still probably go either way:

Major

Alton

Dallin

Lexus

Colston

Dallas

Cole

Gage

Keegan

Tegan

Cordell

Dannica

Blaine

Cade

Gregor

Payton

Wyndham

Audra

Tawnie

Quin

Dasanni

Skyler

Tanner

Jerah

Carly

Klunk (not really, but give it a couple of years)

Brinley

Breeson (sorry Jamie, but its true)

Mason

Luketia

Chelise

Arvel

Arris

Skye

T-Keyah

Hagan

Brisha

Tashara

Krimzen

Jayce

Oakley

Delaney

Darby

Tania

Annalise

Chakayla

Shandra

Dirk

Keeley

Kylan

Javan

Then you get the crazy spellings of normal names. I mean, some names automatically have multiple spelling (Catherine or Katherine), but some are ridiculous:

Ashleigh

Kristyl

Alicyn

Branden

Lukas

Kortney

Michele

Kelsy

Kaitlynn (so many here, not sure which is “normal”)

Christin (see above)

Derik (see above above)

Krystina (ditto)

Jo-E

Melyssa

Nycole

Bradleigh

Aric

Steven

Alysse (Elise)

Johnathon

Jayme

Raychell

Stefani

Jazmin

Kevyn

Mersaidies

Chyanne (should probably be up a category as well)

Then you throw in normally spelled  names that are pronounced differently . . . .

Come on! Your kids won’t be babies forever! You are cursing not only your kids, but their future teachers and anyone else who has to work with them. 25 years ago, it wasn’t too bad since it was different, but now you are just teaching them to follow peer pressure. Maybe you should have learned to be an individual before you had kids.

You are being different, just like everyone else.

Reminds me of some of the Goth kids on South Park . . . .vel

Being involved in what is attempting to be a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry can be very interesting and unique process. Right now, the majority of our church is African-American, typically coming from a very strong black-church background. My background it from a predominantly middle-class white-church background (even if a large number of the church in which i grew up was Hispanic, this was still the prevailing mindset). Add to that the fact that my education took place in the midwest/south at a very “traditional/conservative” school (both being very poor adjectives to use, although it is the term generally chosen by those at the school), and I have a different viewpoint than most of the other non-blacks who have been involved with our ministry (we have had several people leave at various times for various reasons, and I hope the best for them in what they do). Add to that the fact that I have a very similar attitude toward church as many of the native Coloradoans with whom we are trying to minister, the fact that I became very disaffected with much of what I have seen in the variety of churches where I have been involved (much like many natives) and am in the emerging/emergent camps in many ways. And I spent my undergrad studying missions/intercultural studies, always with the plan of applying the same principles from foreign missions to the US (namely, Colorado). then looking at some of the strong commitments I have on the Bible (nouthetic counseling, etc), it makes for what seems to be a unique perspective.

When we first came together for this ministry, we had a very diverse group of people. Hardly anyone was from the same area. Including spouses, we had around 20 people.  We had 5 nationalities, 6 states, and about 15 languages represented (mainly from 3 people). A very wide variety of skin colors and backgrounds. After several situations that came up, most dealing with cultural/scriptural miscommunications and misunderstandings, we ended up with 3 pastors left, 2 black and 1 white (although several people left for health and logistical reasons). The sad part is that (to the best of my knowledge), we all agreed on the core essentials of what we were doing. I don’t know how much of the problems really came from culture, and how much of it came from the pride and selfishness that we all have at our core as a part of human nature.

This is not to say that I have not had my problems. I get frustrated very often, and I know that the other 2 gentlemen get frustrated with me (and each other) as well. But I think the main difference is that we have and are learning how to communicate out differences and reasoning behind what we do and why we do it that way. Not that the reasoning behind is always sound, or that what we do is something that really should be done, but we are working toward understanding and growing through it and coming to a place where our church culture is both unique from our individual cultures and a combination of these cultures in a way that is inoffensive and loving to everyone who comes in, focusing on relationships while still ministering in a real and effective way. Not an easy goal. We fail very often, but it is amazing what can be looked past when love and relationship is the goal.To make it more complicated and interesting is that we hold individuality and cultural background to the highest. we want each person to be themselves, and everyone else to accept and love that. Granted, we do want to help each other be like Christ, but from what the Bible says, not from what our culture says the Bible says.

This process was highlighted yesterday when we were meeting with several higher-ups from one of our denomination/fellowships (likely to be the main one moving forward) which has predominantly been traditional/white guided and focused (and a unique combination of high and low church styles). Our lead pastor and the district superintendent had some difficulties in the past which were worked out over a very awkward and uncomfortable 10-15 minutes (I arrived just in time for the show). it got nasty for a few minutes there, but by focusing on the core of the problem and working through the cultural background/baggage that each brought to the table, they were able to come to a mutual understanding and respect for each other. It is likely that a friendship will develop that was not possible before. Because of what I had been through in the past few months, I was able to observe and see both sides from a better perspective than either party was at the time, although I think we all ended up in the same place. What was most interesting is at the end, we talked about when the district guy would be coming to speak at our Bible study in a month. He wanted to know how he should approach it as to not offend, and when we told him to be himself, he got even more nervous. Every church he deals with has its unique culture that he must fit into, whereas we are trying to help everyone be themselves, which can be scary. Based on his past experience, he was very nervous. He asked me how to translate this into what he should do, which my response was the same as the pastor’s which was to do what he was comfortable with. the last time i preached, it was in shorts and sandals. our youth pastor who spoke last week wore i nicer suit than i have ever seen. our styles were totally opposites, but the church was edified by both.

the drastic differences are what astound me, even though much of the same is at the core. I had noticed this before in dealing with different churches and people while in college/seminary, but these two were even more drastically separated. if I were to explain it to either side, it would be very similar to when I was in second year Greek and trying to translate a simple Greek concept into accurate English while using the same number of words, which was impossible. Other Greek students understood from the one Greek word, but when I tried to explain it to some high school students who had no linguistic background, it took much, much longer, and they still did not fully understand as well as my classmates.

So how do we get to the point that we are all talking about the same thing? Naturally, “church” to me means something different than the district official, and something different to my pastor, and to my former pastor in MO, and my parents, and the average member of any church in the country, black, white, or purple. It means something differently to me now than it did in January. Hopefully, it means something different to our current church than what it did to any of us in January. But we still have problems. It has taken a long time and several difficult and trying situations to get this far. We have all had to learn more patience. And how to step back from our perspective, as much as possible, to see it from another’s perspective. There were many things that were done that when I had seen it done in other contexts, I was very upset, largely because of the reasoning behind it. I was upset at first, but then in finding the motivating factors, it had a good reason and was really not bad. Not always what I would prefer, but not something that was wrong. The interesting part is that it was not something that the other side would have seen as an issue. On the flip side, I occasionally do things that I would in no way even remotely consider to be potentially upsetting, but could have caused huge issues.

I guess the bottom line is patience, time, and concern, motivated and administered through love. Even when it is frustrating. Which is the same for any relationship, but the starting points are much further apart, which makes it more work. But more rewarding and fun, too.