Saturday, December 23, 2006

2006 - Albums In Review

Listed below are the new albums that have entered the Pearce household in the last year with commentary following each.

Casting Crowns - Lifesong. Casting Crowns is a praise and worship band with a record deal. I was expecting depth, social commentary, and an elevated view of God. On the whole, I was disappointed.

Dredg - Catch Without Arms. This will be the last Dredg album I will ever buy. They went from being one of the most artistic rock bands to putting out an album named for a song about how much they hate their producer. Dredg are dead to me.

Eight Days Gone - 303 Sessions. I can't help but sound like a local newspaper columnist when I refer to Eight Days Gone as Allentown's best kept secret. They far surpass Fuel as the best band out of Allentown, and have probably been kept from Fuel's fate by the fact that no one knows they exist. Much thanks to Greg for passing this album on to me.

Jack Johnson - On and On
Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams. Jack is up there with Switchfoot as the most pleasant surprise of 2006. He has filled the vacuum that previously existed in the mellow genre between quasi-rock (Coldplay) and the soft girlie stuff (Norah Jones). Another plus is that he doesn't emit the not-so-subtle narcissism of other singer-songwriters. I feel like I could be friends with Jack Johnson. Two big thumbs up. In Between Dreams is my favorite of the two.

Jars of Clay - Who We Are Instead. The day that I gave up on Jars of Clay is now a day I regret. I was a mile-a-minute sixteen who's love affair with punk rawk was hot and heavy. I had devoured Jars of Clay's first album, but turned my nose at Much Afraid when it didn't rock nearly enough for my hormones. Seven years went by, and my wife has helped bring me back to the Jars. I'm glad they had me back. They have a depth, both spiritually and musically, that is grossly lacking in Christian music.

Jim Croce - Photographs and Memories, His Greatest Hits. I found Jim Croce about four years too late. He's got perfect songs for falling in and out of love, living in a town that is not your home, and half a dozen songs about things people just don't write about anymore.

Jimi Hendrix - Experience Hendrix, The Best of Jimi Hendrix. Again, about four years too late. I am now to the point where I don't think classic rock greatest hits albums have any appeal to me. Even the best collection only features four or five songs outside of the staple selection that classic rock radio plays every single day. Experience Hendrix has every single Jimi song I would ever want on an album, but somehow I'd still rather own an original album.

Johnny Cash - The Essential Johnny Cash. The same could be said about Johnny Cash, except this entire album was new to me. I don't think I will ever own a Johnny Cash album unless it's the live album from Folsom Prison. I was pleased to have met Johnny Cash.

Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Neil Young - Harvest. With all due respect to my wife, and Nick Ritenour, and Courtney Schmidt, I don't see what's so great about this Neil Young guy. He's not a good vocalist or lyricist, and his guitar solos are simple at best. I have no idea how Crazy Horse can be considered a "legendary backing band," and it's even further from my realm of understanding how Harvest was the top-selling album of 1972. I just don't think Neil Young is that great. However, he's definitely not. bad. and I'm glad we bought these albums. The melody and the feel of any of his songs can stay with you all day long without becoming oppressive--like the path of the sun on a summer's day. Neil Young--good but not great.

Our Lady Peace - Healthy In Paranoid Times. This album almost makes me forget how dreadful Gravity was, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already an Our Lady Peace fan. Raine's lyrics aren't anywhere near the level of the first four albums--he is deep in the rut of writing guy-girl relationship songs and isn't adding anything fresh. His lyrics have no nuances or quirks to them anymore. To an album, each release has been progressively less dark. Healthy is a twinge darker than Gravity, but maybe only cynically so. OLP fans take it at your own risk. All others leave it.

Pedro the Lion - The Only Reason I Feel Secure (Is That I Am Validated By My Peers). Nice little Pedro album. Didn't supplant It's Hard to Find a Friend as my favorite, but it does lend a few bright spots to my Pedro landscape.

Shiloh Ridge Band - I'll Be Alright
Shiloh Ridge Band - Big Payday Blues. Best $20 I've ever spent at a music table at a Christian festival/concert thing--and that means a lot considering I've also bought a few ska albums and a Geoff Moore & the Distance cassette in my glorious past.

Sovereign Grace - Worship Album

Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown
Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound. I cannot sing Switchfoot's praise enough. Without knowing it, they are what I have been longing for my entire life. They are a Christian rock band that are both Christian and rock, without sacrificing quality for message or vice versa. Nothing Is Sound plays like the book of Ecclesiastes set to music. Both albums are well produced and feature songs that truly rock. I am a believer.

Tool - 10,000 Days. We bought this almost only to be able to say that we own a Tool album. We own a Tool album.

Monday, September 04, 2006

To Joel and Liz

My kid brother, Joel, was married on August 12, 2006. I stood as his Best Man. Below is the manuscript of the toast I delivered at the reception:

I am a new face to some of you. I am Joel's older brother, Scott, older by two years. I have had the privilege of knowing Joel his entire life, and I do not remember my life without a brother.

In Joel I have been blessed with a younger brother who has been following two years behind me, doing many of the same things that I have done, but doing them better than I ever did.

Joel and I each entered public high school after each spending nine years in Christian elementary school. It wasn't until the end of my sophomore year in high school that I began to feel like I was making friends and feeling comfortable. Two years later, Joel entered already with a best friend in Alex Richards, and Joel was a big man on campus before the end of his first class.

I played baseball, my first love, for four years in high school, and finally made the varsity team my senior year. Joel played basketball, his first love, for four years, and was receiving varsity consideration during his second year, and starting varsity his third year!

After graduation, I decided that Geneva College was a responsible, practical, safe decision. I applied, and was accepted. Two years later, Joel set his sights on Grove City College, one of the most prestigious and elite Christian schools in the country. He was, of course, accepted; Joel thrived, and graduated with honors.

I chose Engineering as an academic discipline because it led to a definitive career path. Graduate with an Engineering degree, become an Engineer. I think that Joel chose Communications just so he would have the freedom to change his mind. You can't very well graduate with a Communications degree and get a job as a...Communicator, now can you? You need to do something else.

I took an engineering internship before my senior year in hopes that it would turn into a full-time position after graduation. I was planning for the future, getting my ducks all lined up in a row. Joel took an internship last summer, and after only a month decided, "I don't think I wanna work here after college, but for now I get these free golf balls with Yankee logos on them!"

My wife and I have stayed in New Jersey, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly there. Our decisions were, of course, practical ones. We wanted to remain close to our church, our family, our support group--and all the free baby-sitters. I think that Joel, on the other hand, must have looked around New Jersey and said, "Here I am in New Jersey. I don't have a car. I don't have a full-time job. I may as well be without a car and without a job in a place like Virginia Beach."

Joel, Wes Wallace's prophecy has come true. You have grown up taller, bigger, and in many ways, better than I will ever be. You have a tendency to do the things that I have done, and do them better than I ever did.

So this is my challenge to you:

Be a better husband that I am. By the grace of God, be a better husband than every man in this room. If there are ways in which I am a godly man and a good husband to Becca, be a more godly man and an even better husband to Liz. Not as a competition, but for the sake of your wife, and for the glory of God.

Love Liz more than yourself, but love her second. The only way that you will be a husband worthy of any praise is if you first love the Lord your God with all your heart, and then love Liz more than yourself.

It is only by the grace of God that you can aspire to these goals, and by His grace, may you achieve them.

I am so proud to be your brother, and I am overjoyed to be sharing today with you. May the Lord bless you both. May you be the best husband you can be--for the glory of God, and for the sake of your bride.

To Joel and Liz!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm The Engineer

They mean it as a compliment. I should be flattered, and I am occasionally. I only hear it once every few months, but every time, I become increasingly annoyed at the phrase, "You figure it out--you're the engineer."

I'm sure that your profession or academic discipline has its own catchphrase which never fails to lurch its way out of the lips of some doofus whose intentions are innocent.

"Look out--this guy's a Psychologist. He's probably analyzing us right now."
"Oooh, a Philosophy major. Please tell me...what is the meaning of life?"
“You talk to them—you’re the Communications major.”
"Shhh! Not so loud around the Librarian."
"You're a Computer Science major, right? Why does my computer keep crashing?"

I acknowledge that by comparison, "You figure it out--you're the engineer," is not nearly as ignorant or pigeon-holing as some of the above. Some may even consider it due recognition and an aspect of the prestige that comes with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Engineering. People consider engineers to be rational, efficient, problem-solving eggheads because we work hard to maintain this reputation.

My gripe with the phrase is not what is said. Without reading too much into it, one can take it to mean: "This is a complex problem requiring a form of decision making other than relying on feelings or a group discussion. Please take the reigns." Or perhaps, "I wet myself at the thought of long division without a calculator. You have a big head and glasses—you solve the problem.”

However, I often take offense at what is implied by, and the context in which someone usually cops out with the "You're the engineer" phrase. There are very few contexts where the phrase is even reasonable to utter. Most involve a professional setting and a discussion of engineering things.

For example, an architect may be presenting the artistic vision behind his latest project to a design team. After blah blah blah-ing his way through the manner in which the outward form of the newest addition to the city skyline will embody the struggles of the immigrants of generations past, said architect will most likely be met with a blunt rebuttal from the structural engineer who will try to bring him back down to earth. The engineer will remind the architect of the finer principles of structural mechanics, and identify aspects of the design that will be nearly impossible to construct. To this, the architect will mostly likely reply, “That’s not my problem. You’re the engineer--you figure it out.”

That’s all fine and good, but I have never heard the dreaded “You’re the engineer” phrase spoken to my ears from the lips of an architect. I have instead been reminded of my academic pedigree by my father, and by my friends, and by any Joe Schmo who happens to know to what end my tuition dollars were spent.

- My father, God bless him, is not terribly handy with car repair. Having not fallen far from Father Tree, I do not know much about cars either, nor do I pretend to. We were at my parents’ house last month when the battery of mom’s car died. Not wanting to look like a puss in front of my wife, whose father could repair a John Deere tractor blindfolded, in a snowstorm, with oven mitts on, I volunteered to try to jump it. I have never had to jump a vehicle of mine in eight years, and have never even had to help someone else jump a car. I didn’t even know how to do it, but I understand the concept, and I have a healthy respect for live electric circuits. I said I’d give it a go. My dad, of course, responded with the predictable, “Yes, let’s let the engineer fix it.”

- At a recent work day at the church, Phil (an Electrical Engineering/Computer Science major from Bucknell) and I were watching two other guys (both college graduates in something other than EGR) try to alter the hinge spring on the sanctuary door in order for it to close more gently. We had been observing their progress for a not even a minute when one of these guys turned to us and said, “Well, what am I wasting my time here for? We’ve got two engineers here—let them figure it out.”

- In Pittsburgh earlier this month, the bridal party was helping my brother (the groom) and his new bride load their car with the wedding presents so they could drive away. It was plain to nearly everyone that the combined volume of the gifts was nearly the same or perhaps even greater than the available volume of storage that the vehicle could provide. If the gifts were not packed efficiently, they would not all fit. Several of us were sizing up the situation, when a voice chimed in, “Well, let’s leave this to the engineer to figure out.”

Granted, I take great pride in packing a UHaul for a move, or a loading an enormous volume of personal belongings into the back of a 1991 Ford Probe hatchback. I even like fiddling with gizmos and doohickeys of different kinds, trying to understand how things work by taking them apart and putting them back together. I volunteered to jump the car because even girls know how to jump cars, and to be handy with stuff like that validates me as a man. But what does my Bachelor of Science in Engineering have to do with any of that?

Do people suggest leaving it to the engineer because they believe that I took a class titled Space Management – How to Fit Lots of Stuff Into a Small Space? Why exactly would a civil engineer who deals with nothing but dirt, water, and rock every day know anything the inner workings of a hinge spring? Would my dad’s confidence in my ability to jump the car have wavered had he remembered that I barely passed Linear Circuits with a C-?

My beef with the “You’re an engineer” phrase is that I think it’s a cop out. It’s a cop out of a simple exercise in critical thinking. It’s a wuss out of looking at a problem objectively, flexing a little mind muscle, and deducing the best course of action.

How can it be that there are those who so easily diagnose situations as impossible to solve for anyone other than a high and mighty engineer? Why are some people so eager to pass the thinking on to an egghead? Have they no pride? If I were Joe Schmo High School Graduate, I’d take advantage of every opportunity to knock Mr. College Graduate down a few pegs by solving a problem using common sense and ‘real world’ tactics. Screw theory and mathematics. If the hinge needs tweaking, let’s tweak it. If the car needs a start, get the cables. Why is it that people jump at the chance to make way for the engineer when oftentimes they would do an adequate job on their own?

“You’re the engineer” strokes my ego more often than it bothers me, make no mistake about it. One of the reasons I chose to pursue a degree in engineering was the prestige associated with a BSE. But I will not let people assume better of me than I deserve. I will not let them believe that because of my degree I am more qualified to think than they are. I will not let people use it as a license to pass problem solving on to another.

Think for yourselves, people.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thoughts on Heaven

People have many views of what heaven will be like. My first grade teacher at the Christian school encouraged sensationalized notions of heaven in our barely-wrinkled minds, teaching us that we would be able to fly, and teleport, and have any kind of food that we wanted at a mere wish, and, of course, that all our pets would be in heaven. While I can't point to any Scripture that explicitly disputes or confirms these exact projections of Paradise, I do wish that she had focused more on the wonder of being in the presence of God for eternity, being free of sin and death, or even just tried to get us to wrap our minds around eternity. I wish she hadn't catered to our first-grade mentality by letting us create heaven in our own image. I wish that instead she had tried to elevate our notions of God's heaven.

Since those early years, it has been primarily through the reading and preaching of the Bible that I believe that I have come to a better, albeit still imperfect, view of what heaven will be like. This is not coincidentally coinciding with the fact that I am, through the Holy Spirit, coming to a better knowledge of who God is.

Heaven As a Party

To know what one can expect to find at a Christmas party, one must know a little bit about the hosts, the theme, the dress code, what the reason for celebration is, and who else will be at the party. The offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ functions, in a way, as an invitation to heaven. I do not wish to cheapen either heaven or salvation by treating them merely as a party and an invitation, but I do not believe that they cannot be related in this way.

Jesus compared heaven to a great wedding feast where guests will be gathered to celebrate the union of Jesus Christ to His bride, the Church. You, reader, have been invited to heaven. The offer of salvation is free to all. You are on the mailing list.

The Bible teaches that God has made it possible for all to come to the feast that is heaven. But Jesus speaks of a 'dress code' in heaven, strangely enough. Jesus says that those who will be gathered in heaven will have one thing in common: they will each be dressed in 'wedding clothes.' He even goes so far as to say that no one will gain admittance without the proper attire (this can all be found in Matthew 22:1-14).

Whether we will be wearing robes or suits and ties in heaven is beside the point. The wedding clothes of which Jesus speaks are a metaphor for the righteousness of Christ that we are given metaphorically to put on for the feast. The invitation is not 'Come As You Are' implying that living a relatively good life or even that going to church will suffice for admittance to heaven. The invitation that Jesus extends for you or me to come to heaven reads more like, 'Heaven is Black Tie Only. You will not be admitted in even the best suit that you have. I know that you don't have anything good enough to get in. I know that you could never have afforded to buy anything good enough to get in, so I have provided a suit for you. I have bought it with my own money. You need merely to come and put it on. Come and put it on!'

It would be careless and unloving of me to continue with my thoughts on heaven below without first explaining why I have a reason to be excited about my place in heaven, which I have tried to do above. The Bible teaches that all who believe that Jesus died and took the hell that they deserve can come to God for forgiveness and be saved. I do not deserve heaven; I deserve hell. But heaven has been promised to me as a gift that I merely have to accept. I can't wait for heaven. Below is what I think it might be like.

Heaven As a Place

Bible 300 at Geneva College served to significantly alter my view of heaven, much in the same way that the last book in the Narnia series, The Last Battle, has done recently as I've re-read it. Both have caused me to think of heaven less as a magical, fantasy world with golden buildings, flying creatures, and superhuman people in robes, but more as simply Earth Perfected.

In The Last Battle, when the characters pass from Narnia through the door into what is, in the story, heaven, they begin to explore the new land in which they find themselves. It is a gradual buildup of recognition that causes them to eventually realize that they are, in fact, in Narnia--and yet it is not quite the Narnia they knew before. The characters struggle to express what it is that is different about the Narnia on the other side of the door, describing the colors as more colorful, or the mountains as being farther away. Finally, Digory is able to express it well when he says, "[The old Narnia] was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here...And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream." C.S. Lewis goes on in the narrative of the story to say how the difference between the old and new Narnias was similar to differences in viewing scenes through a mirror compared to viewing them with the naked eye. He says, "The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean."

It thrills me to imagine what heaven will look like. If places like Rock Run, and the green hills of Ireland, and the wilds of Alaska are somehow tarnished by sin in this world, I cannot sufficiently anticipate what it will be like to view and wholly enjoy the splendor of the new heavens and the new earth with my resurrected body. I imagine it might be similar to the difference between watching Spiderman in a state of the art theatre with the most advanced audio/visual components available when all you've known of movies before is the 12" grainy screen in your basement; or hearing a professional symphony for the first time after only knowing high school concert bands; or falling in love when all you've ever known is to live for yourself. I think these are crude illustrations, but it's what I've got to work with having never been to heaven.

The Bible speaks very plainly to the fact that all of Creation--stars and plants and animals, and photosynthesis, and the Laws of Motion, and music, and mathematics, etc--exist both for God's glory and to point man to the majesty of his Creator. That was true before sin and death entered the world, and it continues now, however imperfectly. There is no limit to my joy as I dwell on the fact that I will know God more completely in heaven, and partly because of what I will learn of God by learning more about heaven the place.

Seeing and learning about Heaven the place will help me to understand more of the God who created it. Just as the seasons, and the beauty of the sunrise, and the wonder of music all reveal to me elements of the character of God, so much more so will these things speak more clearly and more deeply and more lastingly to me when I can enjoy them without the veil, without sin as a filter.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I Pity Weight Trainers, Too.

For those of you who had a hard time swallowing my take on joggers, by reading this entry you will at least see consistency in my view of weight lifters.

*Side Note: I find it hard to think poorly of someone who's worldview is consistent, even if the worldview is utterly dumbfounding. If someone thinks that 2 + 2 = 5 but at the same time claims that 5 - 2 = 3, then you can argue with them all you want, but you will end up in a circular disagreement. However, if someone believes that 2 + 2 = 5 and also thinks that 5 - 2 = 2, then at least you can enter into a dialogue with them about the fundamentals of what they believe, and hope that their inaccuracies correct themselves.*

With that said,

I think weight training is for hosers.

I stumbled upon this facet of my worldview almost accidentally by means of the summer job I carried all through high school and college. I worked for a landscaper every summer and winter break from age 14 until I was a salaried employee of Whitestone Associates, Inc. For those of you not familiar with the in's and out's of the landscaping business, let me enlighten you.

Shrubs do not dig their own holes and plant themselves beneath sufficient cover. Brick paver patios do not lay themselves. Weed wackers do not operate by remote control. Barrels of leaves do not carry themselves across the front lawn of Cochran's Funeral Home and empty themselves into the woods.

Landscaping is a lot of manual labor. Manual labor is a lot of physically strenuous work.

What does this have to do with weight trainers?

To be fair, I should compile a list similar to the one above: Dumbells do not curl themselves in sets of ten reps each. Squats are not a spectator-friendly activity. Butterfly machines do operate on a gentle breeze. Iron does not pump itself.

Weight training is a lot of physically strenuous work.

In my opinion, however, a holistic (dare I say, more natural) approach to getting strong like landscaping or other manual labor is my first and practically only option when it comes to strength training. [This is where the tie-in with the jogger blog comes in.] Why isolate an otherwise excruciating and generally undesirable activity like lifting weights or running if you can accomplish the same purpose by means of physical labor or playing a sport? Why not get paid $12 an hour to abuse your body? Why not run until your lungs burn while playing soccer or basketball? I got tan and learned valuable skills working as a landscaper in addition to getting strong. I won't beat up on the true runners again, but I personally prefer to get my running in during a sport of some kind.

I pity the people who think that they are in shape because they jog. I pity the people who think they have a man's body because they lift weights. I pity their means by which they have chosen to attain their goals and I pity their thought process more than anything, because it's so inside the box.

Do you jog because you love to run? There are people who truly love to run. Are you really one of them or do you jog because you think that's the only cardiovascular exercise you can think of? Or do you choose it to be seen? There are people who probably love to lift heavy masses up and down repeatedly. They're called oafs.

But there are people who are in shape without running or lifting weights. I fit this bill, albeit vaguely these days. I understand it takes exercise to get and maintain a physique, but I don't like jogging or lifting weights. What am I to do? Sports and landscaping were the two horses I rode to HotBodville until I graduated college. Career and Marriage are less conducive to these methods.

So I improvise. I never take an elevator if I don't have to. I always skip every other step and try to isolate my quads. Over the three months I was inspecting piers at the Newark project, I carried every single one of the 450 concrete test cylinders (50 lb. each) from one end of the site to the other instead of loading them into my truck and driving them over. I take a walk around site every half hour even if I don't need to, instead of sitting in my truck. I make passionate love to my wife because I love her passionately. I eat well. I play basketball with the guys occasionally. I play by myself when I can't get the guys together. I lift from the legs with a straight back even if it's just the laundry basket.

I am not preaching the Gospel of Fitness According to Saint Scott here. I'm not proclaiming myself to be a guru, just trying to make the point that there may be an easier way. I somehow maintain a moderately fit physique without ever jogging or joining a gym. Go ahead and jog around town once a week. Pay $50 a month for your gym membership. Do whatever you want to do, cause that's what you're going to do anyway.

You have my pity.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I Hate Joggers

Voluntary Disclaimer: Mark Bahnuk and Jeanne Roszel are exempt from this broad-brushed, narrow-minded tongue lashing. I do not want to hear excuse from any other, but instead I expect you all to immediately start living your life in a way that is more pleasing to Scott Pearce.

It has been said that in the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Well said. Somehow, though, it seems that in the spring nearly everyone else's fancy also turns to thoughts of the winter past, pounds gained, and shapes lost. And, as predictably as the weather in Beaver Falls (it rained every Tuesday of my freshman year, as noted by Nanx Swift), the first warm Saturday in spring invariably brings them out every year--the joggers.

Before I let it fly, let me divulge my take on jogging. I think it's almost pointless. Sure, I subscribe to the basic tenet of Joggolicism which says that distance running is perhaps the purest test of physical endurance known to man. If I were a jogger, I would carry myself with an air of unspoken confidence, knowing that in almost any company I would be able to outrun anyone in the room if a distance race broke out. This is not dissimilar to a wussed-down version of the cockiness that Tyler Durden personified in Fight Club. The solitary, quasi-maverick elements of what makes a dedicated jogger are romantic in and of themselves.

I can remember four times that I have engaged in any distance running for the sake of distance running. Three were voluntary. The first time I ever carried myself any distance without the aid of a bike was my freshman year of high school; it was soccer season. There was a rainy day and we would have otherwise cancelled practice, but Mr. Noble sent the team out on a two mile run. (And by "sent out" I mean "joined us" because Mr. Noble is one of three greatest men God ever created.) As a team, we did a two mile run in the rain, and at its completion, I felt the most alive I had ever felt to that point in my fourteen years on earth.

The other three times were in college. Once, Andy Golden and I ran around Beaver Falls in a snowstorm after work. By the end, we had snowflakes stuck to our hats and our legs were four shades of blue and pink; but after completing the run, it was the most alive I had ever felt to that point in my nineteen years on earth. The other two times were when Nick Ritenour and I went down to the track after work and ran a couple miles each. I had felt more alive, but still walked back up to the apartments with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

There is absolutely an appeal in running for the sake of running. The principles of Delayed Gratification, Persistence Through Pain, and Satisfaction at Seeing Hard Work Pay Off can all be learned by disciplining oneself to run a long distance. I have experienced all these from my limited experience. I have tasted from the well, but I decline to drink fully.

I just can't buy into the whole jogging cult. Let me share why.

Jogging is not inherently practical. There are many positive side effects to conditioning oneself to be able to run long distances, but in the end, jogging only makes you a better jogger. Unless your boss decrees that the winner of a company-wide 10-miler will be the only employee to receive a Christmas bonus, jogging doesn't ever produce anything tangible. Learning Russian only comes in handy if you need to speak to a Russian. Sure, jogging two miles will help your endurance in a game of soccer, but learning a language without immediate application borders on futility in my mind.

There is no outside impetus in jogging. Running for the sake of running holds very little appeal for me. Nike commercials make running on the beach at the crack of dawn look so romantic. Maybe it is. I'm perhaps one of the biggest fans of solitude and making every effort to spend occasional time alone with one's thoughts, but give me a ball to chase, a frisbee to catch, or a basket at which to shoot over an empty track or busy street any day of the week. People belittle golfers for chasing a little white ball around grassy fields until it drops in a hole eighteen times. I'd rather be doing something with my hands, honing motor skills, or exercising my will to win at the same time that I may be wrestling with Delayed Gratification and Persistence Through Pain.

The risk/reward balance does not favor reward. You can doll it up all you want, but long distance running as a sport is merely traveling from Point A to Point B in the shortest amount of time. Wow, Jim, you mean you shaved a whole two seconds off your time in the two mile? Bravo. What's your next goal? Shave another three? No thanks. I crave competition in my sporting activities, and a glorified average velocity contest does not fit the bill.

If I strike out in baseball, the outcome was most likely determined by reasons other than the baseball was moving faster than my bat. No, the pitcher probably threw a curve when I was expecting a slider, or a knuckleball when I was expecting the heat. He may have scouted me and pitched me up and in because he knew my weakness. However, during the next at bat I can make adjustments and do a better job anticipating, hoping for a different outcome. If I lose a race, more than likely the reasons are none other than that the guy I was racing was faster than me. Case closed. There is not enough incentive for me to train and beat my body to be able to shave a second here or there in hopes that my seconds add up to fewer than his seconds.

Joggers are not better people because they jog. I can't stand seeing joggers in public, probably because I presume that every jogger I see is jogging to be seen. Why else would someone not named Mrs. Faschan jog along a major state arterial highway? Why else would Miss College Frat Girl don a hoodie and sweats and allow herself to be seen flush-faced and glistening with sweat when at any other time of any other day, she cannot be seen without makeup and hoop earrings the size of dinner plates? It could be because she loves the solitude and Satisfaction of Hard Work Paying Off, or it could be because she wants to be perceived as a fit and active when College Boy drives by. I find it hard to believe that so many people would claim to love jogging if jogging on public streets were banned. Would a jogger alone in the woods feel refreshed and satisfied with himself if no one knew about it?

I have no problem with true runners.

Running paid for a lot of Mark Bahnuk's college education and I have only ever seen him jogging around town after dark under the cloak of night. Mark Bahnuk beat Roger Bannister in a race when he was six years old, but you'll never hear Mark Bahnuk brag about how he got up at 5am for six weeks to train. No, Mark Bahnuk loves to run, so he runs.

My cousin Jeanne used to run four miles each way to work in high school. She could have gotten a ride in a car, and she could have ridden her bike. But she ran four miles each way to work because she loves to run. She ran on back country roads because that's the only kind of paved road they have in Montrose, PA. All the others are dirt.

I have tried jogging and it's not my thing. I prefer sports with more involved goals than Distance / Time = Winner, but I do not have less respect for someone who aspires to such attainments.

I do, however, have a problem with hearing how wonderful Bill thinks he is because he proclaims to the world how high he gets by putting one foot in front of the other until he's delirious. I do have a problem with Jill putting on a sports bra and shorts and jogging down to Sheetz and back. I do have a problem with Will letting on like he's a Greek god because he has been blessed with high capacity lungs and a flair for masochism.

And I definitely have a problem with seeing Dr. Shaw in running shorts.