Fun with Friends, Fun with Family

Well, these past two weeks have been really fun.  Let's get to it.

Alcohol and Adults in an Arcade = Absolutely Acceptable in Austin
Man, alliteration is too easy.  Anyway, last Friday, the one before Black Friday, I went with a friend to this place called Pinballz.  Basically, it's an arcade with a lot of pinball machines.  Pinball machines for Sherlock Holmes, X-Files, Frankenstein, Batman, Playboy (yeah, weird, I know)...and some other non pinball games, too.  Normally when I go to arcades with my friends from back home, they're filled with 10-year-olds. And some teenagers. And we're kinda creepy, being the 20-somethings that we are.  But...in Austin...well, look at the title!

That's right.  It's a BYOB arcade.  And on that Friday night, it was filled with buzzed 20-somethings and 30-somethings playing a bunch of arcade games.  We fit right in.  So awesome.  They got cupholders everywhere!  I know where I'm hanging out Friday nights from now on...

Church Camping
The next day, I also went camping with some friends from church.  That was a lot of fun.  Camping is definitely different down here.  For one, there's a burn ban, so that was the first camping experience I had without fire.  Kind of weird, but I enjoyed not being all smokey the next day.  Also, instead of just dense forests, there were less dense forests with a lot of open fields too.  One of those fields was also a dried up lake.  The drought has been pretty intense lately, apparently.

On Wednesday, my friend helped me make my desk at work a standing desk.  We'll see how that works out.

Family Time in San Antonio
...And then my mom came in!

We headed right to San Antonio, where my mom's husband's son and daughter-in-law live. We spent from Wednesday to Saturday there.  Here's a list of some things we did there:
  • Watched a lot of TV
  • Nothing
  • Had Thanksgiving dinner with their family
  • Nothing
  • Had breakfast made for me by my mom
  • Nothing
  • Ate a delicious Mexican meal downtown
  • Nothing
  • Saw the Mexican markets downtown
As you can see, I did a lot of nothing.  By which I mean, I did a lot of sitting on the couch watching TV, being lazy hanging with my mom.  It was kinda nice.

On Saturday, we headed back to Austin.  On the way, we hit Rudy's.  I've not talked about this place before on this blog, but it is great. It's a barbecue place with all kinds of meats.  Sausage, brisket, ribs, etc etc.  And they have creamed corn, and..you know what?  It's so amazing, I really can't describe it.  So, if you ever come to Austin, go to Rudy's.  And don't even think about complaining that you can't eat at a gas station.

Back in Austin
Also, our car stopped to get me some new kitchen supplies for my new apartment.  Then, when we got to Austin, our car stopped at Hey Cupcake!, a trailer with, well, cupcakes.  It's really neat; you can get them with a Whipper Snapper, which means they inject whipped cream into the middle of the cupcake!  Tell me that's not cool, I dare you.  They're freakin' good cupcakes, too.

When we met back at my apartment, the other car apparently went and got me a new flatscreen TV for my new apartment as a Christmas gift.   You know, like you do. So, thanks mom and company :)

After my place, we went to...Master Pancake!

Ok, seriously, if you're reading this and you don't know what Master Pancake is, read my past posts about it or search it.  Because Master Pancake is amazing.

This was to celebrate "Hanksgiving".  It was awesome.  I can't even really describe it...but do you know how many scenes in movies Tom Hanks pees in?!  Everyone knows about Forrestt Gump, "I gotta pee", and then he does.  If you've seen The Green Mile, you know half the movie is about Tom Hanks's character not being able to pee.  In Castaway, remember when he pees into the ocean?  No?  Well, he does.  Then there's this movie called Money Pit, and he pees in a forest in there too.  No more, right? Wrong.

Remember when Rosie O'Donnell actually was getting famous for something other than just being famous?  That thing called acting?  Yeah, A League of Their Own.  The flick about the women's baseball team.  Well, a drunken Tom Hanks stumbles into the women's bathroom and pees for ....you know what?

This explains everything.

Anyway, it was great, hilarious, and I tell you again, if you come to Austin, we need to see one of those shows together.  Trust me. :)

Anyway, we got back, my mom cleaned my entire kitchen (thanks again), and then left the next morning! 

Sorry I was so lazy on this post.  So much happens, it's hard to sum up.  But yeah, that's my last few weeks.  Now, it's going to be some time before I write back here. I gotta move soon, and then I'm going to Chicago for Christmas time.  I'll write more once I get more settled into my new place in January...so, until next year!  Have a Merry Christmas!!


Comic Con Austin 2011

Saturday started off really boring.  Peaceful, nice, but boring.  After getting up at 8am and doing errands and chores, I decided to hunker down and resort to playing video games for the rest of the day. 

But then destiny called.

I got a call from my friend from church, and he asked me if I was still interested in going to Comic Con.  I had decided not to go up to this point in order to save money, because I've dumped so much money on moving costs and the flight home for Christmas.  However, he mentioned that another one of our mutual friends had an...extra ticket. For free.

I instantly realized my fate for that Saturday.  My Cyclops gear, completely untouched from Halloween, was quickly put in order.  We met up, ate some Whataburger (really delicious), fixed up our costumes, and walked to the con. 

As we were walking in, I started feeling self-conscious of my costume.  I knew it wasn't con-quality, and I commented that I'll probably run into a much better looking Cyclops.  Literally, within 10 minutes:

Go figure.

 It was still pretty cool though.  I mean, the fact that I had a costume was awesome.  People kept wanting to take pictures of me and my friend, even though our costumes had absolutely nothing to do with each other.  I felt like a freakin' celebrity!

Speaking of celebrities...you remember the bratty girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  You know, "I want it now!" Veruca Salt?  Yeah.

We got to meet her!!

I also got to meet Peter Mayhew, the guy who played Chewbacca.  It was really cool talking to him, asking him about his favorite scenes (the Mos Eisley Cantina in episode 4), if he still keeps in touch with all the other actors (yes), and stuff.  Sorry, no pic though!  But trust me...he's huge!!

And then I met one of the lead artists for Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  And then he signed a REALLY nice print for me.  For free.

That's the Star Destroyer from SWG!!

At this point, I was just geeking out.

Level 85 Geek

Speaking of World of Warcraft references...

A quest giver.

For those of you who never played WoW, people who had quests for you to do had yellow exclamation points above their heads, like above.  I passed her, did a double take, and came back to her.

I asked her, "Do you have a quest for me?"

I expected her to giggle, and say something like, "Yeah, I've been getting that all day.."


She immediately opens her bag, takes out a piece of paper, and hands it to me, very seriously. It's a full on quest, just like the real game.  The quest?

Click to read easier.

I knew the drill. Apparently, so did she.

Also, have you ever played Street Fighter?  If so, you might remember a weird character named Zangief.

Only semi disturbing.

Well, here you go folks.

Actually disturbing.  Click to enlarge for more disturbing.

There was so much more there, but these were definitely the highlights.  I think I'm one of those people...you know...those Con-people. Oh jeez.

Man I wish every weekend was this cool.  Trust me, it's not.  Well, have a good week!

P.S.  Phat lootz. Magnet.

Mom, remember we used to make these?  How come we couldn't make cool ones... :(


Halloween and a new Home

 Hello again on this fine, quiet Sunday morning.  It's slightly rainy, overcast, and about 68 degrees outside.  It's kinda nice, peaceful, serene...

Anyway, I've been really busy just like, doing chores and errands and stuff.  I've been trying not to go out too much either, because I need to cut back on spending.  Hence, my life hasn't been all that exciting.  I guess that's growing up for you.

Halloween was kind of cool though.  I didn't do anything on the actual day of Halloween.  Well, I played tennis, but that's like saying I blew my nose on Christmas.  No one cares.  Anyway, that weekend, some friends from work hosted a costume party!  So, I worked on this costume, and my friend from church helped me out a TON.  So now presenting...

Geordi LaForge!

Just kidding...although that was some people's first guess.  I was Cyclops from the X-men.  See the big X on my jacket?  I got the idea from this video for the visor; click here to check it out.  It wasn't perfect, but it was still pretty cool.  Better than just resorting to red sunglasses, right?

Other than that, I found a place to live finally!  And the place has a racquetball court.  VERY excited about that.  I'm moving in early December, which means I'll be living in two places for a few weeks.  Bummer, but if I really want to go home for Christmas, I'll have to pay double rent for a bit.  Oh well.  I get to move again....yesssssss.

And to end this post, I saw two of these...things.  I call them booze trolleys, but they're really called PubCrawlers.  Look at this:

Drinking and Pedaling is different from Drinking and Driving, apparently.

These things exist in Austin.  Apparently, you can bring your own keg and drink while you pedal through town!  Absolutely crazy.  Check out their site if you're interested, click here.

Have a good week, y'all!


Halloween Imminent

Yes Jacob, apples do taste better in the shower.

 Hey guys!  It's been about two weeks being back in Austin after having gone to Illinois twice.  I can honestly say it's good to be back here without all this traveling. 

Here's some bullet points:
  • I got a tetanus shot.  All by myself.  It's like I'm an adult.  I'm so good at fooling people...
  • I realized: awful horror movies still scare the crap out of me. Even if they're awfully hilarious. (e.g. The Thing)
  • I played this board/card game called Dominion.  If you ever get a chance, play it.  Awesome.
  • I'm working on a Halloween costume...hopefully it doesn't fall through!
  • I realized this past week that one of the things I'm working on at work is really cool.  But I'm not allowed to tell anyone.  Guys....it's so cool!!
  • My mom might be visiting me for Thanksgiving!? What?!

 So yeah.  Let's see.  Oh yeah, I made spinach and tofu pizza!  Here's the recipe.  I thought when they said prepared pizza dough, they meant like, Boboli, or some crap.  Apparently not.  Here's the finished product:

It wasn't really bad, actually.  Probably too much tofu and not enough cheese, though.  Will have to try again!

I also went to another Master Pancake. Guys, these are so good.  This one was on the movie, Halloween.  It was freaking hilarious.  They do great commentary on these things.  Guys, did you know that this movie's setting is in Illinois?!  Yeah, well, watch the movie.  Watch it closely.  Look at the greenery of October.  Look at outdoor lockers of a high school.  Look at the lemon tree.  LOOK AT THE PALM TREES.  Yeah, that's Illinois alright.

(start paraphrasing)

Also, when I was in line (I was wearing my Illini Racquetball shirt), this girl near us was like, "Liek, omg, you're from Illinois?  OMG can we get a picture together?!  My friend goes there and she's gonna flip when I she sees that I met an ill-eye-nee!!!!"

"Haha...uhh..yeah, it's actually Ill-eye-nye."
"Oh, liek ogm ok, well, let's take a picture together, Mr. Ill-eye-nee or Eye-lye-nee or whatever!"

(end paraphrasing)

So, yeah!  I'm looking for a new place to live now, as G moves back to Illinois in December, and that's when our lease ends.  Let the hunt begin.  Busy busy busy!  Thanks for reading!


Chicago, Ich liebe Dich

They made Paris, Je t'aime.  They made New York, I Love You.  Now...it's time for Chicago, Ich liebe Dich. Don't you think?

This weekend was awesome.  It was another wedding weekend; my friends Peter and Amanda got married!

I flew in Friday morning, and I just spent great times with great friends that I've missed dearly.  I was reminded of a few things that I had almost forgotten about back home:
  • Most of my friends are still way taller than me.
  • My friends beat me all the time at video games and board games.
  • Chicago pizza is really delicious.
  • Chicago weather is still stupid.  Seriously.  Two weeks ago, I show up in a T-shirt and shorts, and it's 50. This weekend, I show up in jeans and a long-sleeve, and it's 80.  Thanks Chicago.
But yeah, I got to spend a ton of good quality time with a ton of great people.  Played video games, board games, drank some wine, ate Giordano's deep-dish pizza, ate an apple in the shower, went to church with friends, gave some head rubs, made breakfast, and...did I mention Peter and Amanda got married?!  It was super cute.  It's so weird to see my friends getting married now, but I'm also really happy for them.  :D :D :D

Wow.  I just loved this weekend.  I just kinda want to gush about my friends, and how welcome I felt, and how much we all just....were together.  It felt so right.  I felt like...like I was in love.  I can't express how much those kids mean to me.

Alright, well, I just wanted to share that with you.  I could go into details, but you probably don't want to hear about the nitty gritty details.  I gotta focus on my life back here in Austin.  Because, like 2 weeks ago, I'm realizing more and more that Illinois really isn't my home anymore.  Gotta keep moving.  Gotta keep arbitrating!

 So, in the next few weeks, I've got some things I gotta do.  Like officially become a Texas resident.  And get my eyes checked.  And my teeth.  And maybe the rest of my body.  And get a Halloween costume.  We'll see.  Maybe they'll be some interesting stories.

P.S.  Yeah, I danced again.  It was awesome.
P.P.S. Did you know that the guy who's credited for inventing Chicago-style pizza was from Texas?!  He went to school at the University of Texas here in Austin!!!!
P.P.P.S. That Home Slice Pizza place here in Austin is alright.  It tastes good.  But it's still not Chicago-style pizza.


Advance, Yield, Advance, Yield

 Hello!  Thanks for coming!  I've got some things to share from this past weekend and what's to come!

This weekend was a conference at my church called Advance.  And the theme of it was called Yield.  So while we were thinking of advancing, we were also trying to remember to yield. I just...felt so torn! 

But seriously, it was a pretty sweet weekend.  To sum it up really quickly, we had a lot of teaching, a lot of intense prayer time, and story sharing of what God has been doing in the church this past year.  A lot of growth happened, and many have come out of really tough places in life into very loving, biblical communities to which they have contributed themselves.  It was really motivating, and I'm excited to be a part of God's work here at this church.

I also felt a lot more peace this weekend.  I was struck by how similar I felt like the Israelites in the Bible in Exodus. Look at these parallels I've observed.
  • In the Bible, the Israelites were enslaved by Egypt.
    • In January, I was concerned about what my future looked like. (Stick with me here.) 
  • The Israelites cried out to God for deliverance.  
    • I asked God for this job here in Austin.  
  • God brought the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert.
    • God brought me out here with a job in the desert. (i.e., Austin)
  •  The Israelites then freaked out that God abandoned them in the desert.
    • I then freaked out that God abandoned me in the desert. (i.e., Austin)
I shared a little before about wondering what God has in store for me down here.  I don't think I shared how much I've actually been worried about my future down here.  I've just had a lot of doubt as to what my future will look like away from Illinois.  But, after this weekend, I realized, I should have peace, because God will provide like He did before, you know?  So, I got some freakin' peace, and you should too!  Peace be with you!  (for all you Catholics :D)

Also, I want to tell you about FUSE.  FUSE is this group of 20's/30's people at my church.  I met them a few weeks ago at a little get together party they were having.  Well, after hanging with a few of them some more at Advance, I went to their small group meeting after church on Sunday for lunch.  And then we were together again later that night at our Network Rally.  And I gotta tell you...these people...I like em!  They're all rather different, but I like...I dunno.  I felt like I belonged among them.  It was the first time I really felt like I belonged in a long time.  I really can't wait to get to know them more!

Anyway....I need to sleep soon.  Sorry for the lack of media lately. I just wanted to share these things with you all, because I'm really excited about it.  Here's a few more bullet points of things goin' on...

  • I went to a Dave and Buster's this weekend.  When I was a kid, I loved that place.  Now, I'm pretty sure that's the reason America has ADD.
  • I'm going to a place called Home Slice Pizza tomorrow.  Supposedly it's awesome.  We'll see...I am from Chicagoland.
  • I asked for a pop at a Starbucks this weekend.  The girl working there looked at me like, "You know you're at an effing Starbucks, right?"  But then she got this huge smile on her face, and exclaimed, "You just called it pop.  Liek...Ohmaigawd, are you from the North?!"  Darn tootin', sister.
  • I cooked pork chops last night.  With wine.  That's right.  And it was AWESOME.  Guys...I'm getting the hang of this cooking thing!
  • Bugs keep coming up in my life.
    •  There was some bug (or 2) that looked like it/they were mutating/mating/spawning like some demon spider or something in my shower.  Freaking out, I squashed it with 8 wipings worth of toilet paper, and flushed it down the toilet.  While flushing, it crawled out of the TP, and skitted atop the water as it was being flushed down.  Pretty sure it was evil incarnate.
    • I had a dream about a Black Widow jumping on my face a few weeks ago.  Do not want.
    • We talked about bugs today at lunch at work.  Effin' gross. 
    • I had a dream last night about going through a house, and there were slimy bugs everywhere 
    • What does this all mean!?!?   Does this mean something about my childhood or something?  Or does it relate to all the bugs (errors, not creepy crawlers) I find at work? 
  • I'm starting to look for a new place to live, because G moves out back to Illinois in December.  Is it bad that one of my criteria for an apartment is if it has a racquetball court?
  • I keep playing tennis with a friend from work.  I'm like freakin' Federer or somethin'.  You should see my backhand!
  • I'm going back to Illinois this weekend for another wedding!! I'm so excited!  I may even get to visit my friends at college!! Awwww yeah!

Well that was coherent.  Anyway, off to bed.  Thanks for reading, I really appreciate you doing so!  Peace!


Transition, Traveling, Tacos, and Tieing the Knot

I need to make a public profession of my love really quick: Alliteration...I've liked you for a while.  I know you might not have noticed...but I think it'll work between us.  I just want to tell the world....I absolutely adore alliteration!!

Oh, hey there!  Thanks for reading again!  I know it's been practically been a month, but to be honest, life hasn't been super exciting for these past few weeks...until this past weekend.  We'll get there.  But in the mean time, I'll post some assorted bullet points of this past month:
  • I made a 4lb pork shoulder that fed G and me for a whole week.  Sweet and tangy pulled pork for the win.  See the end if you're interested in how I made it.
  • I also made tacos for a potluck!  People liked them! And then I made tacos again tonight! Woohoo!
  • I maybe had the best weekend in Texas like 3 weeks ago.  I played video games, tennis, card games, board games, bunco...so many games.  I felt like I was in college again :)
  • There were some really awful fires here in Austin.  They've calmed, but a ton of homes were destroyed.  I was far from them, but if you're interested in donating to their cause, let me know and I'll try to help direct you.
  • We got rain finally! And storms!  I can hear my mom now, "BRANDON.  OFF THE COMPUTER, AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS, BEHIND THE COUCH. NOW."  Sure miss those days. 
  • G was away for three weekends in a row, so I got a taste of what it's like to live alone.  Not sure how much I like that yet...
  Oh yeah, and my mom got married this past weekend.  Isn't that crazy?  And I got to go!  She got married in Indiana.  As I was going there with my friend Chrissy, I asked her, "Who gets married in Indiana anyway?"  She replies, "YOUR MOM!!!!"  Good joke.

But yeah, my mom got married this weekend.  Considering the antics that were had, I'm going to detail this one. 

The Arrival
I arrived with my friends TJ and Chrissy to this lake house in northwest Indiana.  People are running everywhere, and HEY!  It's my brother, my grandma, my aunt, my mom, and tons of other people I haven't seen in forever!  That was really good to see them.  And everyone was getting their hair done, makeup done, or setting up some other stuff.  I was really excited.  Time to suit up!

The Ceremony
No "I do"'s.  Instead: "Yep",  "Absolutely", and my favorite, "Anyone got a lighter?"  (That was for the candle :D )  Otherwise, everything went fairly well.  And a chipmunk got to watch too!

The Reception: Phase 1 - Dinner
Dinner was great.  Very tasty food, and some heartfelt toasts were given.  In particular, my mom's maid of honor, Maureen, gave a great toast, talking about how her and my mom were childhood friends, and even though they moved many states away, they still meant a lot to each other.  It was kind of creepy, because as she was saying these things, Chrissy (who I've known since 2nd grade) and I looked at each other, and we realized, she was also talking about us.  That was really touching.

Also.  I met some people.  I didn't know them beforehand.  But they knew me.  From this blog.  Whoa.  People read this thing who don't even know me?!  That's so cool!  But yeah, my mom shared my blog with some other people, and I got to share with them rather deeply!  They seemed to really enjoy the content on here!  I'm glad to know my experiences are inspiring others, apparently!

The Reception: Phase 2 - The Antics
I don't know if you know...but I'm a fabulous dancer.  Ok, not really. Well kinda.  See, I just kinda throw my limbs around with confidence to music at weddings, and that, not dancing, is what impresses people.  And this wedding needed just a flair of fabulous.  It was like the days of the Mother/Son dances me and mom used to go to in high school...except more awesome.  I tore the place up as I saw fit.

But man.  We had some funky dancers in the house.  Mad props to Maureen and Aunt Betsy, especially.  Someone must have fed them some PCP or something, because they were just groovin' all night long like it was their day job.

 There was also the chicken thief.  Some guy we don't know goes up to TJ:
"Hey, gimme a piece of that chicken!"
"No, it's mine!"
"Come on!  Just give me a bite!" (leans in)
"...I'm just messing, hehe.."

I'm....just gonna leave the antics there.  :)

The Reception: Phase 3 - The Great Booze Loot
Let me preface this first: I am not condoning alcoholism or drunkenness.

Anyway, my mom purchased $1500 of alcohol for the wedding.  And of course, like anything else, there was tons left over.  So my mom says to Chrissy and TJ, "Guys, take whatever you want."  They exchange glances of exhilaration.

It was like Supermarket Sweep meets Binny's (or in Texas, Spec's).  We were running cases of beer, bottles of wine, and handles (as Chrissy called them) of hard liquor out to their cars.  They each easily got over $150 of liquor.  We were like bootleggers in the Prohibition days.  How proud Al Capone would be.

So yeah, that was the wedding in a very, very, tight nutshell.  I noticed something about going back to Chicago.  I definitely felt that although I'm always welcome there by friends and family, but something was off.  It's not home anymore. When I got back to Austin, I definitely felt more comfortable, but it's not home either.  Now I realize, more than ever, I'm in a period of major transition.  I'm longing for the day where I'm finally settled in and at peace with things.  So, all alliteration aside, let's keep Arbitrating Austin! 

Final note about yesterday.  A guy in the locker room at the gym said hi to me.  I thought that was illegal!  But anyway, after mentioning how tired I was, he said something to me while I was putting on my shoes that was really encouraging and meant a lot:

"If it was easy, we'd all be doing it."  

He was referring to working out, but I think it's highly applicable to other things in life, too.  So let that be a reminder that if you're going through something that isn't so easy, you're a special kind of person for doing so.  So keep at it. :)

Till next post!

P.S Pulled pork -> Throw apricot preserves, dijon mustard, soy sauce, chopped onions, and what the heck, chopped apples in too, and let it slow cook (I did 4 hours on the stove)  Thanks Mom!


Wistful Wednesday

 So I'm going to tell you about my Wednesday.  I don't have cooking stories.  I don't have pictures.  I don't have videos.  In fact, it's probably really boring.  But it was really important to me.  I think God's showing up in my life more and more.  So I'm gonna share.  It's a lot of reading.  Sorry!  I hope you enjoy it or get something out of it.

I got up today, made breakfast, as usual.  Didn't get gym clothes because I was going to a church function later after work instead of working out.  Grabbed leftovers for lunch..wasn't even enough.  Whatev's.  It was one of those days where I forgot to put on my caring face.  (A waiter here at Austin actually told my group that once after he screwed up our bill twice...lol)

So I got to work.  Finally got some stuff submitted.  But then I was stuck the majority of the day on this one thing I was trying to find.  I was trying really hard not to give up and ask my mentor. I was trying really hard to be patient and find it myself.  I was trying really hard to put it in perspective, and cut myself some slack.  I was getting really fed up with feeling like an idiot.

Eventually, around 2pm, I realized I was going absolutely nowhere.  I finally asked, and of course I was looking in entirely the wrong place.  Then we had a meeting.

After the meeting, I went back to my cube to start actually working rather than searching, making some more progress for the day.  Progress is always good.  During this, I started to ponder.  What am I doing here in Texas?  What do I do these days?  I'm either getting worked up about my own incompetence, fantasizing about how ninjas will ambush our office and we'll all pull out wands and swords and battle them, thinking about how much I miss my friends and family in Illinois, or daydreaming about Magic.  I started thinking about what difference I could make in this world.  I thought about all the money I could give away....but that's it.  And I realized how little I could actually do with that.  I just felt...useless.

After some more progress, I shared with my mentor some of it, and got some more direction.  And I shared with him my frustrations a bit, and he affirmed my efforts, assuring me that at least the things I'm doing are actually helping him a bit.  He didn't really have to say any of that.  But he did.  Not all engineers are socially inept without a sense of compassion.  I think I'm rather blessed.

As the day drew to a close, I was anxious to leave right at 5, because our church group was going bowling tonight really far away at 7, and I was going to have to battle traffic.  After battling the traffic just to get home, we get ready, and we leave just around 6.  Just enough time to get there, I'd say.

On the way there, my car felt a little shaky.  I felt like there were times it veered off a bit.  Nothing major, but it didn't feel right.  Then again, my car is old.  I'm also paranoid ever since I was in that blowout two years ago.

As we head north on the highway, we finally hit the traffic jam, which was to be expected.  It was moving though, which is doubleplusgood.  By the time we start nearing 35th street, with still a while to go, BEEEEP.  

"WHAT?!?" That's always my response when I don't know what's going on after someone beeps at me. I look to my right.  There's a woman.  She wants me to roll down my window.  I fumble for the button while I'm still driving...there we go!  Window rolls down...

"Your rear left tire is really low!!!"
"...Oh, my God, thank you so much, thanks so much!!"

I KNEW IT!!! AHH.  Thank you Jesus for watching out for me. Thank you so much. Thanks so much for that woman.  She rocks.  I think since there's not a level surface in Austin, it makes sense that I didn't notice it earlier. Still, she'd only tell me that if it was really low.  So, I decide that this is a high priority.  I get off at the next exit at 35th street.

Now, I had only been on 35th street a little before.  I was trying desperately to find a gas station...and there were hills and bumps EVERYWHERE.  And no gas stations.  Poor tire...hang on buddy! I take a random left at a light.

...frick...frick...FRICK so many houses! Come on, just one gas station.  Wait...is that..it is!  I pull in, and the nice gas station attendant confirms that the hose I see on the ground is indeed air.  Success!  I get my gauge out, check my front tires first.  Good.  Check my bad tire...wow, doesn't even get a reading.  Ok, buddy, time to get air!

"G, turn the hose on when I plug it in."
(plug in, noises, switch, no noises, switch, noises)
"...it was already on."
"Oh ok.  Let's just fill it up then..."
*30-45 seconds pass*
"K, let's get a reading..."
(take off hose)
"...dear hobbits and halflings, why is it leaking so much air?"
(take reading anyway)
"...crap it's still leaking!"
"Maybe put the cap on?"
(take it off, put cap on)
"..why is it still leaking!? Come on! Here G, take the cap, try to do something. I'mma call my dad."
"..Dad?  Hey." (tell story) "And now....crap....it's actually flat now.  This isn't even drivable."
"...you're gonna have to change the tire.  Do you have a spare in the back?"
"...YES. I didn't realize I'd ever have to actually use that thing."
"Yeah...well, this'll be a good experience for you."
"Heh..yeah, right.  Well there goes bowling for tonight.  Gotta get this fixed now...thanks Dad, bye."

Someone call the freakin' waaaambulance, cause' I was hungry, cranky, stressed, hot (not in the good way), and all sorts of pissy.  We get the tire out, and thank you Lord again for G, because all of those tools came natural to him it seemed.  Him and S also had a flat before.  So he knew a few things.  Long story short, it all gets fixed without a hitch.  Took some time, but we did it!  And we got so much XP, that we gained a level in Mechanic! 

At that point, I just didn't feel like trying to reach out in my church group.  It takes even me a lot of energy to try to get really into socializing with everyone there, and I just didn't have it at that point.  So we decided to head home, and grab food on the way there.  What's this....A Jack In The Box?? You don't say!

So G and I decide to get some fine dining, and grab Jack in the Box.  It was really quiet there.  Kind of nice.  As we're there, I get the impression that maybe some of the people that are there don't actually have homes.  But I'm not sure.  I could just be insensitive.  Nonetheless, I start thinking about stuff from earlier at work.  What AM I doing here?  Worried about fitting in a church, fretting over my stupid flat tire, chowing down on this burger...and then I realize, I've eaten practically every day of my life.  I've had all sorts of good and bad habits.  Working out, nail picking, video games, but eating is one of those things that I've just done everyday.  And for some people, that's unfathomable.  And here I am, worrying about my stupid crap.  What am I contributing to anything?  I can throw money at problems, but that can only do so much.  It's not like I'm Steve Jobs or something.

Well...whatever.  We wrap up. G gets another refill before we take off.  We open the door, step out, and there's that guy that was in there earlier who wasn't talking.  He has something written down on a piece of cardboard.  I was so startled, I read it quickly. I didn't get the whole thing, but basically, he wanted food.  Communicating with him was a little challenging, but he read lips real well.
"You want food?"
"Uh..ok, what do you want?"
*Points at big sign on the window which says "The Really Big Chicken Sandwich Combo, $3.99"*
"You want that?"
*nods vigorously with a smile*
"Ok, just hold on."

So, he comes in and waits by the door while I order the food.  It's a huge sandwich, and a ton of fries, and a drink, and it's not even 5 bucks? Crazy.  While we wait, I ask him his name, where he's from, and stuff.  He only mumbles a word once in a while.  He mouths and signs the rest.  I got: his name is Billy (I think), something about losing his house, he sleeps outside nearby, he's from California, he rows a boat somewhere, and that's about it.  He then asked me to make sure it was in a bag, because he needed to...do something outside?  I didn't get it.  But yes, I reassured him, it's going to be all in a bag.  I also got him his drink.  He wanted Dr. Pepper, it seemed.  Got it.

Foods ready.  I grab it, give it to him.
"Alright...here you go.  Well uh...I guess we're gonna head back home now, so you have a great night, ok?"
(signs and mouths "Thank you")

I then shook his hand, and then I saw it.  He didn't just scamper off, away with his prize.  He was really happy.  Like, really happy.  I saw it in his eyes.  As I walked toward my car, I choked up a bit.  I think that guy was happy to converse with me.  And honestly...I was really happy to converse with him too. 

As I mentioned before...I've been struggling to understand what purpose I have now that I'm out of college.  In college, it was crazy.  Meeting people left and right, watching people encounter loving community and mature in faith and going deeper with each other and with God.  But now...it's been as if my presence here in Austin has had little impact at all. I just want to know that God has something in store for my life down here.
Honestly, this whole encounter wasn't that big of a deal.  All I did was just ask some questions and spend less than $5. I did was most of you would probably have done. But I saw some light in some guy's eyes.  And it was really touching. And I thank God that He let me be part of something that actually mattered to someone.



Quarter-Year Mark!

 Hello there again!  Thanks for coming to my 3 month anniversary of moving to Austin!  It's kind of hard to believe.  The weeks just fly by...

Before I begin, I just want to mention that I'm becoming more aware that people outside of my intended audience (friends and family back at home/school/etc) are actually reading this thing!  If you are one of those people, to you, I say, Willkommen! (That's German for "Welcome")  Feel free to contribute at any time! 

I'm just going to write some little bits about things I think people might be interested in.

It's hard.  As one of my coworkers put it, new hires out of college have an "astronomical" amount to learn.  Good to know that my lack of knowledge is normal.  Still, it makes it difficult sometimes when I want to be as productive as everyone else.  But the people are really cool, the material is really interesting, I'm seeing progress in myself, and my mentor is especially great.  He's really patient with me, knows when to push me, and knows when to walk me through something.  Overall, I think it's a good situation!

Master Pancake and the Bull Ride
So I made this post that talked about the Alamo Drafthouse and if you haven't seen it, check it out here.

Now let me tell you about Master Pancake.  It's these three guys that do these comedy shows at the Drafthouse.  They have a viewing of some movie or TV series and then they sit in the front row with microphones, cracking jokes and making hilarious commentary during it.  They also do a skit in the middle of it, in which they dress in costumes.  It is absolutely hilarious.  A while back, I went to one that made fun of the Star Trek series (both the original series and The Next Generation), and last weekend, I went to one on the Breakfast Club.  I hurt from laughing both times.  If anyone plans on visiting me...let's try to coordinate it for one of their shows, because it's great.

After seeing MP last weekend with some church friends (thanks to my friend Janice for planning it!), we decided that, since we were already downtown, let's live it up a little!  We decided to go to a country bar downtown.  I could tell you all about it.  Or, I'll just put this video here...

My First Cooking Experiment
This past week, I tried to experiment a little, with a little help over the phone from one of my best friends' mom, Mrs. P!  The reason I wanted to try this was actually from an experience I had in France 4.5 years ago.  We ate in a blind restaurant, where it was pitch black, all the servers were blind, and we weren't allowed to bring anything that emitted light in.  I still don't even know what I had to this day, but it tasted like fish and pasta, and it was really good.  Great start for experimenting.

So maybe...tilapia, this tomato alfredo sauce, some linguine, some sauteed mushrooms, some cracker crumbs....it'll be awesome, right?
Actually...it kinda looked like vomit...

It wasn't horrible, actually.  It's just the sauce was so heavy, it didn't click well with the very light fish.  But I sort of liked the cracker crumbs, although G didn't like it as much.  And the noodles were really thick, and I didn't cook them long enough.  Some lessons learned, including sauteing mushrooms!  If you have any more tips, feel free to contribute.

Missing School 
Not this past Thursday, but the Thursday before was freshman move-in day back at Illinois.  I've been missing home/school/friends/family for a while now, but dang.  That was pretty hard that day.  I don't think I've ever missed anything so intensely before.  It was the first day in 4 years I wasn't moving into my dorm.  I really miss it and the community there.  I felt like I had a purpose from God there.  Now, I feel like that's all in the past, and I'm currently struggling with my faith and my purpose here in Austin.  I know there is one, so as Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary (one of my inspirations as of late) was also encouraged, I need to keep going. Even if it's hard at times.  So, that's what I'll do, seeing what God has in store for Austin, and I hope you'll keep reading along!


Actually Arbitrating Around Austin (And Alliteration Always Amazes All)

Ahoy Amigos!  Ok, enough alliteration.  That was killing me.

Wow, it's been exactly 3 weeks since my last post.  And admittedly, until this weekend, life hasn't been super exciting down here.  It hasn't been particularly boring, either.  Just dry...very very dry. Haven't had time to cook much, either.  Let's see...

2 weeks ago, I went with a bunch of coworkers to a local brewery tour!  That was pretty cool, and FREE.  That's right, free beer!  And there was this big man with a cool German accent describing all the different beers to us.  At the end, he was showing us around the place, and a bunch of people were taking video and pictures of him answering questions. I happened to be right behind him.  I couldn't help myself.


Best photobomb ever.  I didn't even know those people.

Yeah so that basically sums up my past three weeks.

As for this past weekend, my friends Drew and Scott flew in and visited me this weekend!  I'm so very blessed...I've only been here 10 weeks!  And being only 10 weeks in, I was pretty surprised, because I was showing them around Austin, and I actually knew where I was going!  This city may not have direction, but it has ME.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Austin.

It was pretty ridiculous though, because right after Scott got in, we started to drive west from the airport into the city.  About 3 minutes after we leave, we stop on this very busy road because of an unexpected obstacle...

I mean, I like to drive my house all over roads too, especially so I can park it across 3-4 lanes of traffic, so I can understand. 

But yeah, the weekend as a whole was real great.  I got to show them around downtown, the capitol building, the University of Texas campus, some great places to eat, the Alamo Drafthouse, the bats...it was pretty cool.  I got to show them a ton of other places from my blog, too!  The deceptive Sam's Club without a Wal-Mart, the place where my car broke down right after dropping my dad off at the airport, and where I played Mutha' Effin' Bingo.  And we played trivia!

Moral of the story: If you want to experience what's in this blog, come on down, and I'll show you 'round! (no pressure, hehe)
Oh, and Torchy's Tacos.  It's a great restaurant that I took Scott to.  I showed him the "Trailer Park" taco.  It has fried chicken, pico de gallo, cheese, some crazy poblano sauce, lettuce, and green chilies.  And guess what. You can "Get It Trashy."  That's right.  Your Trashy Trailer Park taco now comes with queso instead of the lettuce!  Best. Taco. Ever. Hands down. Did I mention the RANCH they give you too?!

Hm.  What else?  Well...my roommate, S, moved out, as his internship is finished.  So now it's just me and G!  We're on the lookout for a TV and a couch now that we have more room....

So yeah, life is getting more and more normal.  I kinda don't like it.  It's weird, not being back at school in the dorms at this time of year.   But heck, I really shouldn't complain.  I'm still enjoying my time down here! Just wish you all were here with me...so thanks for coming again and reading!  Hope all is well with you!


American, Korean(sorta), and Italian Adventures

Thanks for reading again with me, I hope you continue to read!

So my friend Thomas came and visited me this weekend!  He's my first visitor!  It was great having him here and catching up with him.  He got to tag along to almost all of the following events.  Just remember, like Thomas, YOU can be a part of the adventures down here too....*nudge*

An American Adventure at the Alamo...and Amazing Alliteration
On Saturday night, a bunch of us went to go see Captain America.  I liked it a lot, but what was really cool was the theater.  It's called the Alamo Drafthouse.  I've never seen a place like this in Illinois; they serve food and drinks to you during the movie!  It can be mildly distracting, but they do a good job of staying out of the way and being quiet.  They had all kinds of stuff, from pizza, burgers, and chicken to beer, cocktails, wine, and pop.  This is kind of what it looked like:

It was pretty legit.  Also, they have a strict no-talking policy.  Danny DeVito himself told us so.  Click here to see what I mean. Seriously. Watch it.

The Korean Karaoke
 Have you ever felt like only Madonna knows how you feel and you just need to belt out one of her tunes?  Or maybe you feel like Bon Jovi gets you and you just need to scream "Livin' on a Prayer"?  Well, I think we did. After the movie and dinner, we decided we really needed to sing our hearts out. 

We traveled to the north part of Austin and found this Korean Karaoke place.  We went into this enclosed room, and there was this big TV, sound system, and big book of songs.  When I noticed everything was in Korean, I started to freak out. "I don't know Korean.  How will I sing the Hall and Oates that my heart yearns to proclaim?"  But, the sound system was well designed, with the green button meaning "Select" and the red button meaning "Cancel."  Whew.  Also, we found a huge section of American songs in the book.  So it worked out.

Let me tell you, Karaoke in an enclosed room with friends is hilarious.  Especially when you've got tambourines.  And access to Gangsters Paradise.  I never realized how much of that song I actually knew.  The whole is experience is the most ridiculous thing ever.

Everyday Italian, with Giada De Laurentiis
And we close with a cooking adventure!  Before I went shopping, I thought, "Hey, my mom used to watch that one pretty Italian lady on Food Network.  Giada De Laurentiis! Maybe she knows awesome cooking recipes!"  So I looked her up, and she had a ton of stuff, with difficulty ratings included.  It was then I decided it was time.  I must try an "intermediate" recipe...

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs.

Ok, so maybe I'm being dramatic about it.  But it was hard, ok?  I don't even know what freakin' Orecchiette is.  So I said, "What, EVER," and I used tortellini instead.  If you read the recipe, you'll know it's not entirely straightforward.  My roommate G was really crucial in helping.  I did lots of preparing.  I chopped my own fresh herbs, grated my own fresh Romano cheese, and took all this chicken mash and mixed it with a bunch of crap (ketchup too!) 

Eventually, I had to pseudo-braise/fry/sear/sauté the meatballs in the pan with olive oil.  G started to put them in while I was looking away.

"Wha, what?"
"It's burning, yeeeagggh!"

The olive oil was furious, and lashed out at us in little tiny blazing droplets of "F-U-CHEF".  We didn't know what to do.  I turned down the heat, and I was freaking out, wishing I had one of those meshy splatter screens.  But then I nobly took up my protector, and all was not lost....
Steve Rodgers lent me a little something to help in times of need.

In awe?

Decieved by my photoshop skills?

Thought so.

Anyway, it was REALLY good.  By far the best thing I've made.  And the toughest.  But it was totally worth it...plus leftovers!

Well, thanks for reading. Leave a comment!  Let me know you stopped by!  And if you have any favorite recipes you suggest for me to try next, post those too! Maybe I'll try it, and I'll post my results here!



(The title is a reference to Hyperbole and a Half once again)

Hello there, thanks for coming back!  I know it's been a while; I've been traveling, getting lazy, getting busy, and all other sorts of stuff.

Alright, so last post, we were talking about "tubing".  It's not that big of a deal I guess, and a few of you got it right.  But I think a lot of you will understand exactly where I'm coming from here.

So people are like, "Hey Brandon, tubing this weekend?"  My mind instantly floods with the possibilities....

Yeah, um, I don't wanna do that...but then I thought, "Wait, this is TEXAS." My mind fills once again....

The horror of just such a thought was enough for me. I politely replied to my friends, "Um...yeah, I'll pass, I'm not really a huge thrill seeker."


"Yeah, I don't like thrill things like that, it just kinda stresses me out."


Later, I find out this is what they mean by "tubing":

An excuse to drink gratuitous amounts of beer.

Apparently, I can't handle the excitement of floating down a river with friends, chatting and having refreshments.  Who knew?  Maybe I'll muster up the courage someday.

 Now that we cleared that up, back to the rest of life. Since so much actually happens in life, I can generally only post very little of what goes on, and I try to post the more relevant/exciting/interesting parts of my life here in Austin.  But so much has happened, I feel like I have to just spam it all at once, so...let's try this....

Cooking Casseroles, Shopping in a Toys 'R Us Like an Adult, Delicious Food + Cupcakes = Taboo, Mini-golf, Trivia Night, Meeting an IV'er at the Magic the Gathering Tournament, Just Love the Downtown Scavenger Hunt, Wedding Weekend in Champaign, Friday Night Karaoke at Best Buy, and the First Car Accident That Wasn't My Fault!!!

You understood...part of that....right?  Well, I wanted to give you a glimpse of how much is going down here, and I'm not just spending every night at my computer, wallowing in my sorrow as I miss people from home.  That's what Thursday nights are for.

I'm almost saved up for a camera, so I can start really sharing some photos of what this place is like.  I'm really excited!  However, I did take some pictures with my phone at the scavenger hunt...and I must say, I'm pretty proud of my little camera phone, it takes decent pictures!  Make sure to click to see them bigger!


 The scavenger hunt in downtown Austin was with my church. There's this "series" of sorts, called Just Love, and this was the first week of it.  It was pretty fun, and we even met a guy from South Africa to take all of our pictures for us!  It was pretty cool.  The items on the hunt list that we got above are...
  •  Picture with a non-team member with a sports logo.  I'm doing the "Hook 'em horns" sign! 
  •  Picture with whole team with state capital in the background.  Definitely click that one...this guy absolutely wanted to be in our picture for absolutely no reason...it was awesome.
  •  Picture with whole team doing the YMCA on a stage.  Thanks Friends!
  •  Picture with whole team pointing to evidence of wind.  Thanks Texas Flag! 
  •  Picture with whole team in elevator.  Since it was late, all those super plaza places were closed.  But we found a Radisson hotel!  
  •  Picture with a team member with a funny sign.  Austin, you're so funny, with your signs and stuff.

Well....this took entirely too long to prepare.  Hope you guys enjoy reading about my life.  Till next time!  Miss y'all!  Leave comments and such! 


Small Group, Girl Talk, and ...Tubing?

 Hello!  Have you had a good week?  I know I did!  Read about it...and at the end, there's a game for everyone to play!!

 So, I went to my first small group Wednesday!  It was in this real big house, and there must have been like 40 people in it.  It was crazy!  The small group is a focus group for singles, and there were people there of all ages, 20's, 30's, 40's, and maybe more, I don't even know!  And everyone was really friendly and stuff, and we broke out into small groups of about 8.  I really liked it; some really legit genuine people.  And then afterwards, we went for burgers/ice cream/beer/wine/whatever at this place nearby.  They really do a lot of stuff together; I can't wait to get to know them more! 

Last night, I went to a Girl Talk concert!  It was my second time seeing him in concert, the first being at Illinois.  The dude is a mashup artist, which basically means he just rips bits of songs together and overlays/mashes/mixes them together.  It's really cool to hear live, and basically the concert turns into a massive dance party.  And that felt good, 'cause I just had some moves that needs bustin' out.  So, if you get a chance to see Girl Talk, do it.  And prepare to get sweaty. 

Well, I don't have any funny stories, really.  More like semi-interesting bullet points, really:
  • I was making my own pasta sauce, and I didn't have any sugar.  I used Tang instead.  It was awesome.
  • I saw a dude in the grocery store without a shirt on.  No one cared.
  • I was making pancakes, and I didn't have any milk.  I used heavy cream instead.  It was awesome.
  • While on the road in New Braunfels, I saw, on the side of the road, a dude peeing on a 2 ft. wall of the Girl Talk venue. No one cared.
  • My ears keep popping on the roads.  What the crap?
Well, that's about it.  I can't wait to get my own camera so I can start picture documenting my life down here!  And now, for the game!

The Game
Don't look it up.  Don't look at other comments before you do this.  Now, answer this question in the comment you leave, which I hope you will!  And feel free to make any other comments as you like.

Question: If your friends told you that they were going "tubing" this weekend, what would that mean to you? 


Second Week Finished!

So, it turns out life isn't always going to be exciting as the first week. Who knew?  Therefore, I'll probably be posting less.  Like once a week.  Who knows?

But yeah, I don't really know what to say...Austin is still pretty weird.  I guess I'll throw down some bullet points of stuff that's been going on.

  • I played at a trivia night last Saturday with some coworkers.  My knowledge of Monopoly =  a free beer!  (It was luck, actually...)
  • I'm learning even more at work!  I'm starting to understand all the jargon even more now!
  • I played "Mutha' Effin' Bingo" at a bar on a Tuesday night.  Yes, bingo, in a bar, Tuesday night. It was packed. I even tweeted about it.
  • I went to a small town called Lockhart, Texas.  It felt like a ghost town.  But it was really calm, interesting really.  And I had BBQ.  
    • In the Men's bathroom (which was really clean btw) there was a sign that informed me of the risks of alcohol consumption with pregnancy.  I now know that I shouldn't get pregnant.  Dang it.
  • I went swimming a bunch.
  • My friend is in for the week, and I saw her today!!! It was awesome.  I don't see many people from my old dorm anymore...
  • I went to church again!
    • I stayed for both services, and I just randomly started helping out with stuff, like greeting and ushering.  It was awesome!
    • I'm hopefully going to my first small group this week!
    • I got to know people more!  Like real sharing! It's like IV! AHH!!  God is definitely doing something cool there.
  • I made an official budget.  I'm an ADULT!!!
  • I miss people a ton.  I've been on the phone for over 2 hours the past 2 days.
  • I made mashed potatoes!  Cooking Central advised a half stick of butter.  It tasted delicious. Go figure.
  • I made casserole!!! Look:
It was super tasty.

Yeah...my life is turning into the typical I'm-on-my-own-and-I-miss-all-my-friends-from-home-and-I-miss-my-parents-doing-everything-for-me.  *sigh*  It's funny, I'm working on a new playlist that I listen to at work.  You can see it here if you're interested, but some of my recently added songs...well let's just say they're oddly correlated.  I swear I haven't been putting them there with that in mind.  In fact, as I was writing this, I was looking at the list,  I was just like...stop talking about my life!!!!

Here are some of the titles, no joke:
  • Out of Touch
  • Come Home
  • Breaking Ties
  • Lonely Girl
  • Land of Confusion
  • Miles Away

So in conclusion, I'm a Lonely Girl who's Out of Touch and Breaking Ties with her friends, Miles Away in a Land of Confusion, wanting to Come Home.  Thanks, Madonna.

Seriously though...although my life here in Austin is actually developing really well, I really miss people from home, U of I, IVLI...it's hard.  But God's got a plan.  Look at what's happened so far!  How can you not believe it?  It means a lot to me that you're reading this...I feel like I've got you guys with me!  Will you keep coming with me?

Much love!



Note: I put links in my posts so you can get more information on what I'm doing! Sometimes, they even link to videos!  So if you see text highlighted in orange, click it! It'll be fun!

So on Sunday, I finally went to that church I've been babbling about...Gateway Church!  I drove down the Whizzer (see my post, Questing in Austin) to get there, but I arrived about 25 minutes early. My mom always taught me that you always need to arrive 3 hours early if you ever want to be on time, and my dad always taught me that you can leave an hour later than you need and everything works out.  Seeing as parents are never wrong,  I think I turned out OK with being 25 minutes.  (Love you Mom and Dad! :D )

Anyway, I walked up to the courtyard between the auditorium and the school (it's held at a middle school), and there were some people around in little groups.  I was going to approach the people on my right, but they seemed as if they were in an intense conversation, so I swerved left to avoid social awkwardness.  I approached two women, and then I met them!

They both seemed really genuine and happy to meet me!  And the one women, Karin (she's from Naperville!...I think), started to connect me to all the other people in the courtyard! I was meeting people left and right, telling them how I just moved to Austin.  I could tell that these people were a community touched by the love of Jesus.  Sure, that may sound corny to some, but seriously, I could tell that there was a love there that was really genuine and intimate. I was so emotional the whole time, I was so happy.

Honestly, a lot of the people I met...they were different.  These weren't normal church goers who were just going to church like it was on their tasklist.  They wanted to be there.  They were all ages, all different kinds of lives.  Some people dressed nicely, some didn't seem to dress as nice (not slobbish, just more casual)....it was just diverse.  It reminded me of the kind of people that Jesus loves...everyone!  It wasn't like these are "church people."

Here's what they're pamphlet says:
"Gateway is a COME AS YOU ARE kind of church. You don't have to dress up.  We don't care who you voted for in the last election. And please don't feel the need to pretend about anything.  Gateway church is a place where God meets seeking people who are far from perfect.  That means everyone is welcome, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey."

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that gets me stoked.  That love that Jesus was talking about that includes prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen...and now today, liberals, conservatives, whites, blacks, women, men, children, drunkards, people who text in movies, the elderly, LGBTQ people, smokers, sex addicts, nuns, sports fans, illegal immigrants, punk rockers, white collar businessmen, atheists, volunteers, corrupt politicians, WoW players, bad drivers, high school teachers, gossipers...the list goes on.

I can't wait to get involved...I think this is where God wants me.  But what will it look like?  I can't wait to find out.  Will you find out with me?  I hope so :)

P.S.  Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I needed to post this, as it's been really important to me.  Thanks for reading if you actually got this far!  It means a lot that you care.  Please leave a note, even to just let me know you're reading!

P.P.S  I've a headset with a microphone now...if you want to Skype chat sometime, let me know!


Food and Friday Night

Hello!  So it's Saturday, which means I survived my first week in Austin and at work!  I finished 2 training exercises at work, and I'm learning more and more everyday.  I think I'll get the hang of it soon.

So, first thing I want to share about is what way too many blogs already talk about: food. The following pictures were taken by my roommate and cooking partner, G.

Major Dish 1: Pasta
Last Sunday, we made our first dish, pasta! I made my own sauce and everything!  The sauce was bland, but it was pasta nonetheless.  And the garlic bread was mighty fine!

There's me cooking and my mom's on the phone.
 See, my Cooking skill is only like Level 3.  So I need a mentor, my mother, to help me through it and level up more.  It's actually really funny when I call her.  It usually goes something like this:
-call to Mom-
"Cooking Central!!!!!" (she's more excited than a kid when he hears an ice cream truck)
"Hi Mom.  How high should I have the heat for the sauce?"
"Put it on low heat, let it simmer, stir it once in a while!"
"Ok, thanks, call you back."
"Ok, let me know how it comes out!!11!11!!one!!!"
-5 minutes pass-
-call to Mom-
"Cooking Central, with love and kisses from Mom!" (she absolutely loves that her son calls her incessantly for cooking help)
"Hi Mom...I accidentally melted the butter for the garlic bread."
"That's ok sweetie, just spread it on there real well!"
"Alright, I'll try, thanks Mom."
"Ok, call me back and let me know how it tastes!!!!!"

Sometimes it goes on for a few more calls, but for brevity's sake, that's the gist of it.

Look, I have a cutting board and fresh basil.  I'm like Emeril Lagasse. Bam!

The finished product.

Major Dish 2: Blackened Chicken
On Monday, G saw a recipe for blackened chicken.  He took charge of this operation, and I assisted with making potatoes.  G did a wonderful job with the spices.  The chicken was super flavorful.  My potatoes were once again bland, but they weren't horrible.  Cooking Central suggested I just put 3 sticks of butter in the skillet and fry 'em up, but I like my heart, so I just boiled them. (Sorry Mom :D )

Tell me that doesn't look delicious.

Finished Product.  That's not butter on the right, btw.  Can you believe it?

Major Dish 3: Parmesan Tilapia
We had so much food, we didn't have to cook on Tuesday!  So on Wednesday, G and I tried our hand at tilapia.  We broiled it and put on this mayo/parmesan/butter/deliciousness coating on top of it.  The coating was supposed to brown, but I don't think it was close enough to the broiler. Still, very tasty, and many leftovers for Thursday!

Tasty, eh?

So yeah, that's been some of our food adventures.  I also made pancakes this morning.  But that was easy.  Anyway...

Friday Night
Friday night was out night!  The roommates, some co-ops at my company, and I went to this trailer park eatery to eat (it was pretty tasty), and then we went to this bridge across the lake downtown to "see the bats."  At first, I was like "Wtf, bats?"  But then as we went on the bridge, we saw tons of people...and then...the bats! <<< Click the link for the video I took.  The quality is awful, as I took it with my phone, but you can see the STREAM of bats!  It was so cool!  They were so close, I was kinda getting freaked out.  Click here for another video that explains more about these bats.  The quality is much better, too.

We also saw a guy on the lake fly a kite while watching the bats.  It was pretty cool, and after a while, he even got the kite to go within touching distance from us! It was all colorful, spinning, and had flashing lights.  I was so excited, I felt like I was 7 again.  I'll draw a diagram, cause I want you to know how much this guy was super good at controlling this kite.

So yeah, that was pretty cool.  In the interest of brevity, I'll just sum up the rest of my Friday night with some bullet points:
  • Went into the city, absolutely packed, streets shut down, huge motorcycle fest.
  • Went into a bar, live blues music! Pretty neat.
  • Ran into a friend from U of I!!! What are the chances!?
  • Chilled out at my place and played some games.
Well, I just wanted to share my first Friday night, it was kinda cool and weird, just like Austin!  Now to keep on keepin' on...being an adult an' stuff...



So, as you know, I started work yesterday.  ...I don't have too much to tell really, but I'll do what I can.

We had orientation; that was cool.  I got to see all about our vision, mission, values, and how our company is really awesome.  After a 2-3 hour orientation, I was introduced to my cubicle.  And dude, I got my name on it!  It's a piece of plastic, but it was a custom-made piece of plastic!  It's really cool, no sarcasm!  I get two computer screens along with a phone (also with my name on it), 2 chairs (one for a colleague or supervisor), and a whiteboard!  It's all very professional and rather quiet, yet kinda laid back and sociable.  I like it!

As for what I'm doing exactly....so far, just reading.  Sorry, it's just not that exciting.  However...it's story time.  The following illustrations are for Andy, who inspires me to the brink of plagiarism and to draw illustrations just like in Hyperbole and a Half. (Love you Andy, <3 )  No originality points for me today...

So today was day 2, and I decided to bring some things to my cubicle.  I brought my Jeopardy! calendar, my Bible, some school notes, and my headphones, so I could get motivated!  I started reading my book right after I hooked up to some sweet tunes on the Internet. 

I'm the blue guy.

And man, I was flying! I was really understanding the material, and I was proud of myself.  And my tunes started nice and slow for the morning: beautiful piano music that really helped me focus.  But after about maybe 30 or 40 minutes, I needed a kick.  So I threw on a different playlist that was much more upbeat (techno).  But something was wrong...

Whoa, they scared me!  I had no idea they were there!  I wonder what they want?  I should probably take my headphones off...


Apparently, my computer tower speakers don't disable when I plug in headphones.  Thus, everyone within 3 cubicles of me heard my blaring techno.  In other words, it was 9:30am, and I forgot to invite everyone to the techno dance party I had in my cubicle. I was so embarrassed...it's day 2 and look, I'm starting trouble!  But they were real nice about it.  And in hindsight, it could have been a lot worse.  Just imagine if I was listening to Madonna...or K-Pop....hey, it happens.  Don't judge.

So anyway, that's another update.  I really appreciate everyone reading and leaving comments, btw.  It was really touching, no joke.  Please keep doing it if you have the time.

Stay tuned for more on cooking adventures and whatever else may befall me!