SHOW ME THE MONEY…so i can buy some donuts

moneySo we’re trying out Dave Ramsey’s zero-based budget now.  Actually, my wife’s been telling me about it for years, but I’m a stubborn mule and finally convinced her it was too much hassle.  Shortly thereafter, I decided to try it out.  Mwa-ha-ha.

Well, suffice it to say that I have issues with it.  If you’re not familiar with zero-based budgeting you can check it out at Dave Ramsey’s site here.  The basic gist is that you budget your paychecks so that every penny is accounted for.  Then you remove your money from the bank and stuff it into envelopes marked “rent” and “groceries” and “nerf herding” or whatever else you plan on spending your money on.  The whole system’s designed to make you more aware of your spending habits and thus (hopefully) more responsible with money.  You might even end up a millionaire one day.

I would much rather use the Britney Spears budgeting system in which you wander from one gas station to the next asking for Cheetos in a British accent.  I am a major snackaholic.  I want my Little Debbies and I want them NOW!

I also prefer to one-stop-shop.  If I’m at Walmart, I want to get everything at once (groceries, diapers, cat food).  Using the envelope system, I would either have to pay for each category of items separately or else analyze my receipt later, dividing up the amounts and re-figuring the tax.  I’m way too lazy for that.  I just want to spend my money and be done with it.

It’s also very disconcerting always having an empty wallet or having a debit card I can’t use because all the money in my account has been allocated to things other than the delicious jelly donut I’m currently lusting after.  I got to the counter today to pay for a couple of pops, and as much as I wanted to reach for my wallet, I had to pull out an envelope instead and pay out of it.  When the guy gave me back my change, I had to fumble around trying to stuff it back into the envelope.  I felt a little homeless to say the least.

Here’s the biggest challenge for me though.  Now, I won’t lie, I’m usually a paycheck to paycheck kind of guy.  But there’s a rhythm in that chaotic dance of random snack-spending that I’ve grown attuned to over the years that’s very difficult to leave behind.  Dave Ramsey’s system definitely forces me to be accountable with my money, and I’m sure it works wonders, but it also sucks the life and joy out of my spending habits.  Sure, I can buy my mother-load of sugar-high heaven, but it’s just not as much fun for some reason.

That doesn’t mean I’m quitting though.  I’m just going through some binge-spending withdrawals.  I know this is for the best, and I hope some of you can relate.  Viva la MORE MONEY!!!


Biblical Déjà vu? I Noah I Heard This Somewhere Before…

wizard chrisIn the beginning, the world was without form save for the Void, a vast sea of cosmic dust.  Darkness sprang from the face of this light consuming abyss.  And then a spirit arrived, moving across the face of these deep forgotten waters.  The spirit was not God, but it could create…a little.  And the spirit said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And the Void hungered and fed on the light.  The spirit then divided the light from the Void separating life from death, day from night.  And the creation from darkness to light, from evening to morning were the first day the planet Kaleidus ever new.

Another ancient storyline I’ve been working on deals with the planet Kaleidus.  Its birth came about by a group of spirits who believed the original God to be an imperfect creature.  Supposing they could make a world far superior to Earth, they sought to create their own planet and humanoids.  They closely modeled their creation after the Biblical account, but met with failure time and again when they tried to create humans similar to that of Earth.  As a result, they ended up populating Kaleidus with all manner of humanoid races (dwarves and elves, gnomes and nymphs, halflings and giants, etc.).  Finally, admitting they needed a little help, they began stealing people from Earth’s various points in time.

What they didn’t account for was the definite presence of evil that existed in the form of the Void.  This light-sucking cosmic sea immediately began perverting the creation and new races and monsters were born (orcs and goblins, dragons and bugbears, etc.).  To thwart the Void’s evil influence, the spirits began to teach man how to control the elements and fight the dark creatures.  But for what cause?

The spirits took on the form of elemental gods and commanded man’s allegiance.  Like the Void, they began to pervert God’s original creation by manipulating Biblical texts to motivate the people.  To show a man what power he might obtain, they might quote the text, “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “what manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)  Or to show the value of trusting in them for power, they might use “…if you have faith and doubt not, you shall say to this mountain, ‘be removed and cast into the sea’ and it shall be done.” (Matthew 21:21)

So man fought against the dark, manipulating wind and water, fire and dirt to push back the legions of the Void.  Until one day a wandering boy named Michael Thornlimb begins to accidentally piece together man’s true origin and rediscover the original God.  It is the ultimate fantasy conspiracy theory!  Everything you know is a lie.

i HATE being LATE

chris late  Seriously, I hate it.  But it seems like a way of life with me.  Now this doesn’t normally pertain to my work life.  But everything else is fair game.  Whether it’s going to church, visiting friends, showing up to a party…whatever.  It just feels like I’m constantly running late, just like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

I hate rushing around knowing I’m in overtime, hate walking in to a home, party, event, or whatever that’s already started, hate trying to explain away my tardiness.  I hate having it slapped in my face time and again that…yes Chris, you’re late.  I’m one of those imperfect perfectionists, always struggling with themselves and always falling short.  In a perfect world, I could just stop time and be leisurely.

Alright, so here’s what happened yesterday.  I was supposed to attend a mandatory 4-hour class for my job.  The class is located at a campus about 10 miles away.  The class started at 12:30 pm, but for reasons distantly related to wormholes and time loops I didn’t get out of the house until about 12:20.  That’s okay, though because I could still show up casually late, right?  That’s better than horrifically late.

I rush out the door after briefly stopping to consider looking for something to take notes with (I quickly abandoned that idea), hopped in my car, and fired up my GPS.  I had no idea where the campus was specifically located, only that it was located in the next town over.  But, thanks to the power of google maps, I had the address firmly pasted in my brain.  I’m not much of a multi-tasker, but somehow I managed to buckle my seatbelt while backing out of my drive and still get the address typed in.  Did I mention my low-fuel light was on…ain’t nobody got time for that!

Surprise #1:  The GPS didn’t know where to go either.  Luckily, it didn’t waste any time telling me so.  I even tried looking up the road the address was on.  Nothing.  So I did what any manly-man would do and peeled out deciding right then and there that the town wasn’t THAT big and surely I could find it myself.

Surprise #2:  The town was bigger than I thought.  I remembered asking a co-worker where the campus was and him (rather than telling me where it was) saying it was easy to find because there were signs all over town pointing to it.  Just in case, I had my wife on the phone for directional tech-support.  I drove all the way from one end of town to the other looking for signs, finding none, and getting more nervous by the minute.  By this time it was about 12:45.

Surprise #3:  It was closer than I thought.  My wife gave me several cross-streets to try, each which I dutifully entered into my GPS in the vain hope that this direction-giving device would actually give me directions.  It finally worked.  It took me all the way back through town and onto the highway when all of a sudden signs for the campus started popping up. As it turned out, the campus was a lot closer to my house than I would have guessed.

Surprise #4:  Campuses have more than one building.  There were several buildings in fact.  By now it was right around 1 pm.  Casually late had slipped into horrifically late.  Realizing there was NO way I was going to walk into a class a half hour late, I called to see if there was another session I could go to.  Long story short, nobody really knew or cared to find out.  That’s okay.  I felt like Ben Stiller’s Mr. Furious on Mystery Men.  Temperature Rising.  Blood Pressure Rising…

I picked a random building, and the people inside were really nice as I explained to them that I was hopelessly late.  They pointed me to the correct building and told me the class was held twice a day and they were sure it wasn’t a big deal.  It’s never a big deal when you’re not the one that’s late.

I waded over to the correct building, bracing myself to walk in over a half hour late.  I say waded because it felt exactly like one of those nightmares where you’re being chased and you can only run in slow motion.  I went inside and immediately heard the sound of someone giving a lecture.  One door stood open to a set of double-doors and the man’s voice was clearly coming from in there.  I looked at my watch (by now it was about 1:05).  I looked at the doors.  I listened to the man, heard every ounce of authority in his voice.  Looked at my watch.  Looked at the doors.  Heard the man.  Looked at my watch…and chickened out.

Surely there was another class I could go to.  Surely it would be beyond rude to walk in over a half hour late and expect them to just take me in as if it were no big deal.  Surely I was doing the right thing, taking responsibility for my tardiness and planning on attending the next available session.  Surely, surely, surely.

Surprise #5:  There wasn’t another session.  Yup.  Just found out today.  That was the last session.  I went beyond being horrifically late to being completely absent with no possible way to make amends.  And tonight when I go into work I will face the music.  Did I mention I hate being late?

Well, I can already imagine how this will go.  It’s always MUCH worse in my mind.  It will be kind of like that Brad Stine routine:

Me:  I was running late.

Boss:  If you were running, you wouldn’t have been late.

Me:  Well, I was running behind.

Boss:  Running behind who?  Me?  I’m not going anywhere!

Me:  Well…

Boss:  And besides.  If you were running behind me, you wouldn’t have been late.  Now would you?

This will all very probably turn out to be a whole lot of nothing, but it REALLY REALLY REALLY stresses me out.  I guess the moral of the story is if you’re going to go to a class at a place you’ve never been, it’s probably a good idea to just camp out the night before.  People do it for playstations and iphones right, why not for 4-hour work lectures?

Hey Man, What’s In the Sack?!

Chris Thief   I was recently deep in conversation with a friend who avidly described a series of books he was reading.  I get a lot of great ideas just listening to people who are excited about their own current obsessions.  Their fire is contagious and ignites my creativity.  As is typical, I absorbed what he was saying and immediately began generating ideas.  Hence the following storyline.  This could be a video game, a graphic novel, a short story or even an ongoing series of sorts.

Ali Baba and the Forty Sacks

Ali Baba, the famed hero from the tale of the forty thieves, has grown older and wiser with time but not richer.  His ill-gotten spoils have been marauded leaving him poorer than ever.  Consequently, he becomes a thief, justifying his crimes with his own losses.  Years pass with continual success and he grows vain, even calling himself a master thief.  But his riches always seem to seep from his pockets through one disaster or another.  At last, he hits the mother-load in the form of a travelling caravan of wealthy nomads.  This could be the last great hit for him…but he blows it.

Captured and handed over to their wise ones, a gypsy reads his soul to determine his fate.  “Ali Baba,” she says with a voice like a hiss, “you have lost your way.  You have become what you once detested.  You seek to steal, but instead you are cursed to give.  Forty thieves you have stole from, forty you must repay if you wish to live.”  She rips his shirt from his chest, an expensive silk he had acquired only days before.  Before his eyes it transforms into a voluminous sack.  “Forty lands have lost their way, Ali Baba.  You must deliver this sack to each kingdom and give them its contents.  You will have forty days for each ruler.  Forty days and forty thieves.  Save the kingdoms and save yourself.  Fail to reach a kingdom in forty days…and you will surely die.”

Before Ali Baba can question further, a sandstorm rips through the camp and all is chaos.  Hours later, he finds himself alone with only the silk sack to prove the nomads were real.  The sack feels empty, just a wad of cloth.  Gingerly, he reaches inside—feels something toward the bottom—and pulls out a roughly drawn map.  One x marks his current position.  Another marks his destination: the slave-town of Killion, a terrible place to go near let alone enter within.  Forty days.  Forty thieves.  Ali Baba sets off.

Zoot! A MegaMan Knock-Off/Reboot

Robot ChrisAlright, I’ve been playing around with this one for a couple of years now.  As much as I love the idea of video game to movie adaptations, Hollywood has been surprisingly stupid in their attempts to make this a reality.  Just think Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, and Double Dragon.  Clearly I don’t have the assets necessary to make my own versions…oh if only it were so.  Instead, I’ve played around with the idea of making graphic novel remakes or short novelettes of these classic video game scenarios.

The whole point behind all of this is simply this.  These are the stories that wowed me as a kid.  Stories like in the Legend of Zelda series, the Castlevania series, the Final Fantasy series, and other stand-alone titles as in Rygar, Karnov, Ghosts and Goblins, etc.  My desire is to share these stories with my own children.  Hollywood and television have let me down.  There are some halfway decent graphic novels out there, but I don’t want to wait around when I could just re-write the stories myself in my own words.  So, without further ado, here is a sample of my own version of the Megaman storyline…Zoot!

This is the story of Zoot, a janitor and lab assistant to Dr. Zane Aurora.  Dr. Aurora designs and researches robot-beings to aid humanity.  He calls them help-bots.  His rival is Professor James Sly.  Because of their expertise, the two have teamed together on a mysterious government project.  Up until recently the men have managed to put aside their differences.  But lately there’s been a tension in the air.  As they near completion, both have become paranoid that one will outdo the other.  Dr. Aurora has been so secretive in fact, that Zoot still has no idea what it is they’re working on.  But all that is about to change…        


   The lab stunk of burning metal.  Everywhere, small fires blazed, feeding on broken cables and other debris.  Smoke hung heavy, lurking around the large room like passersby gaping at some horrific accident.

   Zoot tried to sit up, but intense pain flared up his right arm.  He dared not look.  Instead, he concentrated on the lab.  ‘What just happened?’ he thought.  There had been an explosion.  No, multiple explosions.  It was difficult to see.  Something acrid in the air stung at his eyes. 

   And yet, it didn’t take much to see that each of their eight incubation chambers were now vacant.  Someone or something had managed to shatter the glass shielding protecting the chambers, an impressive feat.  “That glass was like a foot thick!” Zoot gasped in amazement. 

   Night crept at the edge of his vision.  He felt his head grow light.  Before he could pass out, he saw Dr. Aurora rushing in.  It was enough.  Zoot let the sleep take him, a smile crossing his lips.  Everything was alright.  Dr. Aurora was here.  He would fix everything.  Blackness.  

*             *             *

   Zoot awoke just where he expected.  He breathed in the familiar odor of antiseptics and cleaning agents.  The lights in the infirmary were at their usual glaring brightness.  Dr. Aurora stood over him, his face grim.

   “Glad to see you survived,” he said.  There was a smile in the older man’s voice, but it never touched his face. 

   “What happened?” Zoot groaned as he leaned up and swung his legs off the side of the medic cot. 

   “Something very serious,” Dr. Aurora replied.  “But first, let’s talk about your arm.”

   “My arm?  Why, what’s wrong with my arm?”  Zoot had hardly noticed the cast on his right hand.  Now it stuck out like a white hippo.  It was heavy and enormous, consuming most of his forearm.  “Hey, what happened?”

   “My deepest apologies,” Dr. Aurora said in a sincerely humble tone.  “But your hand was lost in the chaos following the…accident.”  Anger filled his gaze for a moment, but the man quickly regained control and continued.  “Perhaps I acted rashly, but you were losing so much blood.”

   Zoot was growing nervous.  “Doctor, what did you do to me?”

   For the first time in the two years they’d been working together, Zoot saw fear in the old man’s eyes.  “I did what I had to.  In order to cauterize the wound, to stop the flow of blood.”  There were tears in Dr. Aurora’s eyes now.  “James will be happy now, blast him.  I made my first weapon.”

    In response, the man began peeling back the wrappings from Zoot’s arm.  Odd, but it didn’t feel like his hand was gone.  He could even feel his fingers.  He wiggled them just to be sure.  There was a deafening explosion as something bright shot out of the wrappings and exploded into the far wall.

   “What was that?!” Zoot jerked backward, nearly falling over the back side of the cot.  To his surprise, Dr. Aurora was actually laughing.

   “I’m sorry,” the man apologized as he helped him to his feet.  “I’m just so glad to see it works.”

   “What works?!  What is that thing?” Zoot couldn’t keep from yelling.  He didn’t wait for an answer though.  Instead, he pulled away the last of the cloth from his arm.  Except, there was no arm now.

   Zoot’s jaw felt like it would hit the floor.  Somehow, there was a silver cannon attached where his hand should be.  “I don’t get it.  What is this thing?” he asked in awe.

   “Tell me you’re not angry with me,” Dr. Aurora pleaded.  “I had to act quickly to save your life.”

   “Angry?” Zoot replied, almost as if in a daze.  He admired the cannon closer now, a grin slowly stretching his cheeks.  “Angry?  I’ve got a gun for a hand now?  This is gonna’ be AWESOME!!!”  He squeezed his ‘fingers’ again and another blast of energy shot out of the cannon.  Zoot whooped with joy.

   Most of the worry left Dr. Aurora’s eyes as he watched the boy’s celebration.  At least that part was over.  He had been almost certain Zoot would take the news well.  And still, there was more to tell.  There was worse news.  Perhaps the boy could sense it, for all too quickly he quieted down.

   “Doctor, what happened to the lab?  Where are all the machines?”

   The man’s voice was shaky.  “Stolen Zoot.  They’ve all been stolen, I’m afraid.”

   The boy was dumbfounded.  “Stolen?  But by who?  Or what?  Nothing could break through that shielding.”

   Dr. Aurora shook his head woefully.  “But something did, my boy.  Something big.  Something powerful.  And it’s stolen the help-bots.”

   “But what for?” the boy couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “They’re just robots.  Why would anyone want them that badly?”

   “I can’t be sure, but I believe it has something to do with the project James and I were working on.”

   “James,” Zoot considered it.  “Could he have done this?”

   The old man laughed the suggestion aside.  “Professor Sly and I have always had our differences, it’s true.  But whoever did this must have been using advanced technology.  James just isn’t capable of this level of destruction.”

   “Then who is?” Zoot was getting emotional now.  He just couldn’t believe anyone would destroy an entire lab for something as trivial as help-bots.  “I know!” he beamed.  “Let’s check the surveillance cameras.”

   Dr. Aurora reached for his arm before he could race off.  “Hold up a minute boy,” he said.  “Don’t waste your energy.  Everything in the lab was destroyed…including the cameras.”  Zoot looked glum.  “However,” the man continued, “if you’d really like to help out, I do have a proposition for you.”

   The boy gave him a serious look.  “Doctor, I’ve spent the last two years working for you.  You’ve become like family to me.  Of course I’ll do anything I can to help out.  I know how much this research means to you.”

   There was a brief uncomfortable silence while the older man considered what he was about to say.  “There is a way to track down the help-bots,” he replied carefully.  “Each robot receives its instructions via a tiny satellite transponder.  Though the lab is destroyed, I could still ping the transponder to get a fix on its location.”

   Zoot’s eyebrows shot up.  “Then we’d know exactly where your help-bots are and who took them!  Let’s do it now before they get too far away!”

    “Patience my boy,” the older man cautioned.  “You need to know what it is you’re getting into before you go rushing off to your death.  There’s a good chance that whoever took these robots won’t be so inclined to just hand them over without a fight.”

   The boy was ogling his arm cannon again.  “Somehow sir, I just don’t think that’s gonna’ be a problem.”

   Dr. Aurora laughed.  “While I like your spirit, I want to do everything in my power to increase your chance of success.  After all, these are my help-bots you’re going after.”  The man began heading for the infirmary door.  “Follow me, Zoot.  The arm cannon was just the beginning of what I have in store for you.”   

Live Long and Prosper, Dangit!

Spock ChrisThere are so many things on my mind right now.  I’m kind of a junkie for improving my station in life.  I want to revamp my budget so I can save like a million dollars a year (ha ha).  I want to start doing what I love and get paid for it.  I want to finish college, and get a dream job.  Right now, a Monday thru Friday 8-hour dayshift job sounds fantastic.  I’d even be willing to take a paycut if it meant getting more time to focus on the things I love…the things I should be getting paid for.

I love writing, of course.  But I also do my fair share of pc repair and troubleshooting on the side.  My beautiful wife is also a creative genius.  Too often I feel like we’re cheating ourselves by not making full use of our talents…or at least more use.  I feel like we’ve short-changed ourselves on life.

It is my goal with this site to hopefully better myself as a writer, as a husband and father, as a man of God.  I hope to share my endeavors, my failures and successes, and hopefully be able to look back and learn a little.  May the years to come bring fortune and fame, but please no Illuminati mind control or soul-selling to Satan.  Ha Ha.  That was a joke.  Sort of.