Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Protect Your Apples! a parable by Peter Last

To whoever reads this:
Have fun reading this one.

DISCLAIMER: This is a true story, and all of the events that take place in it are true; however, certain activities, the names of the people involved, the genders of the people involved, the ages of people involved the dates on which said activities occurred, and the titles of certain holidays have been changed (or have they?) to protect the innocent. There may also be some other things changed that I forgot to mention.

            This is a story about Christmas break two years ago. I was 27 back then. In case you were wondering, yes I discovered the fountain of youth. I was going to visit my sister, Ellen, at her dwelling about seven hours from anywhere. She lived in the middle of Texas. I was visiting her because I had been hearing about their biennial strawberry food fight and wanted to see what it was all about. (Spoiler Alert: All that it is, is a lot of people throwing fruit at each other) I had a potential week of vacation from my job with an interior design company call Inter Iordes Igncom Pany so I decided to take a few days off from the InterIor desIgn comPany to go see the festival. (If you still haven’t figured out how I came up with this incredible name from the company…it’s Italian)
            So I requested off and traveled to The Middle of Nowhere, Texas and got ready to throw strawberries at people. I forgot to mention that about a week before I left, Ellen called me and told me about this creepy guy that she knew.  His name was Aaron and apparently she had told him a lot about me. She said that Aaron really wanted to be my friend. I was like, “He doesn’t even know whether I’m fat and lazy. Or if my attitude stinks. (Which it does)” Well, from what my sister told me, it sounded more like Aaron wanted to steal my apples than anything else. Oh, I forgot to tell you about my apples. Well forget about it. I have apples and he wanted to steal them. That’s all the explanation this story needs. And should you want a better explanation, well too bad; it’s a secret.
            Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so after having been warned about Aaron, I packed my suitcases and headed for Texas. It took forever and a day to get to her house, but that’s because it takes that long to get anywhere in Texas. The trip was long and boring except for that one time when I lost control of and almost ran into…well empty space. I hit the empty space next to it instead. And then there was the time that the suicidal possum jumped in front of my car, but that wasn’t too interesting. It just kind of went BUMP. Though it WILL be interesting trying to clean it out of the underbelly of my car. Other than that, I got to Ellen’s house without any mishaps.
            I spent the night at Ellen’s house and the next day was the festival. We had agreed to not tell Aaron that I was in town, and that worked for a while. The festival happened, and everything was going great until two of Ellen’s smart aleck friends, who had been on the opposite team in the strawberry fight, got angry, because they had lost. One of them texted Aaron to tell him that I was in town. Well, you can imagine that I was less than pleased by the text, but I was prepared to deal with the situation calmly. After freaking out and running around like a chicken with its head chopped off for a while, I began to prepare for the inevitable meeting. The only thing that I was really worried about was my apples, so I took precautions to ensure that they wouldn’t be stolen.
            By the way, before you condemn me for judging Aaron, let me say that it was not a stereotype. He had been stealing apples from one of Ellen’s friends for quite a while now. Simply using history as my guide, I locked my apples up.
            Getting back to the story, I was prepared to meet the creepy Aaron, and none too soon. No sooner had I stuffed all twelve bushels of apples under the kitchen carpet than I heard a knock at the door. It was Aaron, and he wasn’t creepy at all. Apparently Ellen already had a bad opinion of him and that factored into her perception of him. Aaron and I hit it off immediately, and we spent the rest of the day together. Actually, we didn’t hit it off, and we didn’t spend a lot of time together, but I thought it would be nice if I said that we did. Although I was telling the truth when I said that he wasn’t creepy. We weren’t best friends when he left, but on the other hand we left on good terms. Although I still am trying to pay off that hospital bill that I accrued for him. Oh, and he was probably steamed about his car. And his coat. Another thing that I will say about Aaron is that he sure is stupid. I told him that the lump under the kitchen carpet was the wood floor’s mole. The next day I left and never plan to see Aaron again.
            I was thinking about this particular event in my life, and decided that there was a good life lesson here. Actually I needed something to write in my blog and this was the first thing that jumped into my mind. (STRAWBERRY FIGHT! Followed closely by SQUIRREL!) The life lesson explanation sounds better, so I’ll go with it. You see, before I ever met Aaron, Ellen told me that he was creepy, and I believed her. Well, when I actually met Aaron, he wasn’t creepy at all but seemed like a decent guy. So life lesson part one is, “Just because you hear it doesn’t mean it’s true.” On the other hand, Aaron also didn’t seem like the type of guy that would steal apples, but I know for a fact that he has done it before. So life lesson part two is, “Just because you see it doesn’t mean it’s true.” Take these two parts, put them together, modify them a bit, but them in a plastic container in the refrigerator overnight, reheat them on 350o for 15 minutes, run them through the blender, put them in a bowl, garnish them with parsley, and serve with chocolate milk and you get a very true saying that I was told by a very smart man, a saying that I live my life by.

“Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”

Thank you for reading my blog. Hope that it taught you something.

Peter Last

Friday, November 19, 2010

Public Giving

To whoever reads this:
I wrote this shortly after reading about the event that I mention in the post. This event made me think about the state of giving in our country and how it needs to change. Hope that the following is an inspiration to you.

            If you watch any daytime television shows like Oprah, well, quite frankly you could find a better use for your time. However, everyone stumbles at one time or another, so if you happen to fall into the aforementioned category, there’s hope. Anyway, since I’m about to comment on Oprah’s show, it can be easily deduced that I, sad as it is, have seen it for a very small amount of time. So yes, I have at least a vague idea of what I am writing about.
            If you’ve seen Oprah for very long at all, you probably know that she is constantly giving things away and, a lot of times, has people on the show who are donating large amounts of money to various causes. One of the latest of these contributions was from Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. He donated $100 million dollars to the troubled school system of Newark. Now before I go any further, let me say that I have the highest respect for people who donate their own resources. In no way am I deriding the act of giving, just the way in which it is done.
            A billionaire is donating a lot of money to a school system that is in trouble. This donation will probably help a lot of people, so what problem could I possibly have with it? As I said, the donation is not the problem, but the way in which it was given. Here is the issue that I have with the method of donation. I am not a person who reads a lot of news or is very informed on current events, yet even I know about the donation, so obviously it was done in a very public fashion.
So what is the issue? Lots of people make public donations; it helps people and, quite frankly, is good for their publicity. If earthly rewards are all that Mark Zuckerberg is looking for, there was nothing wrong with the way that he donated. People will look at him in a better light. They can say, “Look at him! He donated $100 million to help American school children!” That will be Mr. Zuckerberg’s reward. But I would put forth the theory that there is a much larger and better reward that you can receive from giving, one that Mr. Zuckerberg is missing out on because he chose to take the earthly reward.

Matthew 6:2-4 says, 2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV)

            When he decided to donate his money, Mr. Zuckerberg had two options. He could do it publicly and receive an earthly reward, or he could have done it secretly and received a heavenly reward. He chose the former option, and so lost out on the better reward. There is one other issue that I would take with all of the hype surrounding Mr. Zuckerberg’s donation. Sure, he gave $100 million, but what is that to a billionaire? Let me clarify that I strongly believe that Mr. Zuckerberg’s money is his own, and that he has the right to do whatever he wants with it, but I will ask the question, “Is he giving enough?”

            Luke 12:47-48 says, “47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

          The statement, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” doesn’t mean that someone who is rich should give a “lot” of money. Rather, it means that people, no matter how much they earn, should give so much that they have to sacrifice other things, or, as I have heard it said, “they should give until it hurts.” Obviously this means that people with more money will give more than those who were not given so much; however, the gift of each of them will be seen as equal in God’s sight. “Man looks at the outward appearance (how much is given) but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:8 NIV)
            All of this being said, what are the normal people of the world supposed to do? With rich people giving a million here and twenty million there, our gifts of twenty, thirty, forty dollars don’t seem significant at all. But this doesn’t mean that you should stop giving! Remember that God considers your smaller gifts that you have to sacrifice to give to be more important than a million dollar gift for which no sacrifice is required. So continue (or start) to give and God will use what you give to accomplish His purposes. Oh, and one last thing, give and sacrifice in silence. In this way you will lay up for yourself treasure in heaven.

Hope that you have enjoyed this latest installment of my blog. Thank you again for reading.

Peter Last

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pencil Sharpeners

To whoever reads this:

Hope that you enjoy this, my latest post. It is sort of funny, but also has a very valid point to it.

            You know what is enjoyable? Find something ordinary, something that you see every day and probably dismiss as normal every time that you see it. Once you have an object, analyze it and see what it does, why it is useful. (If the answer to these questions is “nothing” and “it’s not” respectively, you should seriously consider having a garage sale) This helps you realize what mundane and ordinary things there are that are never really noticed but are an indispensible part of our lives. These are the things that no one notices until they are gone. After this, you can take what you have learned and apply it, more generally, to life. (Granted if you actually do this, you have no life just like me, and should consider, oh I don’t know, GETTING A LIFE) Just kidding. Actually these types of things just come to me. Just like the other day when I happened to think about pencil sharpeners.
            I was just walking along thinking about things, I’m not really sure what anymore, when suddenly my mind shouted “Pencil sharpeners!” at me. For the record some people would probably say that I have ADD, but I just call it “an incredible ability to jump directly from one train of thought to another when I am multitasking.” Anyway, for whatever reason my brain decided that pencil sharpeners were an interesting topic, so I spent a few seconds to consider them. (A few seconds was all the time I had until my mind shouted “Squirrel!” when one of them ran by. Which makes me wonder if a pencil sharpener didn’t run by to make me think of it)
            What do pencil sharpeners do? Well, for anyone who can put 2 and 2 together and come up with any answer between 1 and 5, the obvious answer is that they sharpen pencils. But you never really think about the pencil sharpener. Why? You might (if you’re kind of ‘out there’) think about pencils, because they mark on paper. If you need to write something, you need a pencil, and every time you see a pencil mark on a piece of paper, it is a reminder of the pencil that made it. On the other hand, pencil sharpeners are noticed hardly ever. This is because they don’t directly produce anything fantastic or memorable. (Seriously, how many times have you looked at a pencil and though to yourself, “Now that is one finely sharpened pencil! What a good job that sharpener did.”) Instead, sharpeners are a support to pencils, the object that makes the impression.
            Pencil sharpeners don’t directly create anything important, consequently, they are not very memorable, but what would happen if they suddenly all went missing. (It means that they probably all ended up in Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s building and that Perry the Platypus will have to go stop his evil, pencil sharpener scheme. If you don’t get this joke you obviously don’t watch too much Disney Channel) If all of the pencil sharpeners in the world went missing, there would be nothing to sharpen the pencils, consequently, people couldn’t use the pencils to pen, oops! I mean pencil, immortal words like those of famous poets whose words often make me want to throw up, kill myself, go to sleep, or do any combination of these. The point is, that even though it is never noticed until it is missing, the pencil sharpener is a very important device, one that it would be a pain to live without.
            So what was the point of the past few paragraphs?  We can apply the principles of the pencil sharpener to real life. There are people who are the pencils of the world. They are very noticeable and do great things; people like sports stars, political leaders, and movie actors. But at the same time, behind each of those pencils there is a whole host of pencil sharpeners preparing them to do great things. So what can we take from this? First, that someone has to be the pencil sharpener and if that happens to be you, you should be content with your role in life and not seek glory. More importantly, we should learn that for those who are the pencils of life, we should recognize that the people who support them don’t get a lot of recognition, and should make a point of giving them recognition whenever possible. (This is a good move because, besides being a nice thing to do, it also decreases the chances of them really screwing you up by something that they do or don’t do)

Thank you again for reading my blog.

Peter Last

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am Busy

To whoever reads this:

I am currently very busy with my classes. This is why I have had a new post in a while. I'm going to try to write one and have it posted by Friday. Thank you for reading my blog.

Peter Last

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

To whoever reads this:
The following is a review of the movie How to Train Your Dragon, recently released on DVD.

            Amongst the cesspool of perversion, bad language, sexual immorality, and gratuitous violence that we call movies, there emerges a ray of sunshine. Not surprisingly, this ray came from Disney, where many good movies come from these days. But the newest Pixar film isn’t what I’m talking about. No, I’m referring to the film How to Train Your Dragon created by DreamWorks.
            The movie is about the Vikings of a village, the dragons that raid that village, and how they have been fighting each other since the Vikings first founded the village. It tells the story of Hiccup, a young Viking boy who is not suited for fighting and killing dragons like all of the rest of the village is. It isn’t giving away too much of the movie to say that Hiccup finds an injured dragon and nurses it back to health. The movie is about how the boy and the dragon learn about each other.
            There are several things that make this movie very good, not only for the children that it was obviously aimed at, but also for more mature viewers. First of all, is has only a PG rating with very little offensive material in it at all. A few rude jokes spot the film, but with no foul language, no sexual themes, and very cartoon like violence, it is fit for all ages. There is a lot of physical humor in the movie making it great for younger audiences, but it also contains jokes that only older people will get.
            Another plus for the movie is its plot. The story that is told in the film is well told, the characters are developed well, and even the setting contributes to the excellent quality of the movie. The story line is not flimsy like those of many cartoons made for kids. Instead, it has all of the characteristics of a solid story. Perhaps even more phenomenal was the development of the characters in the movie. They are not simply colors on the screen that happen to be moving around and saying things. Instead, each person in the movie has a unique attitude making them likeable. Even the people that I wanted to hate, I found it hard to do so because I could sympathize with them.
            All in all, the movie How to Train Your Dragon is a good film to get and watch as a family. I highly recommend it for any age, and I would strongly encourage everyone to watch it.

I hope that you enjoyed this latest post on my blog. As as always, thank you for reading.

Peter Last