Monday, August 24, 2009

Trivia Night Done Right

Thursday nights might hold the best comedy on TV, but Wednesday nights in Chattanooga host the best trivia competition and company! Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never participated in a trivia night, but now, there's no turning back! For those who don't know, trivia nights are held in every city, usually in a restaurant or bar. It's free to play, and you can have an unlimited number of people on your team, although it's wise not to have too many or you'll have to divide the spoils (we play with 6-8). Much like a sports competition, the night is broken into two halves, each half asking 9 trivia questions. After each question is asked all the teams have one song to turn in their answers and must decide on how many points you will wager for that question. They throw in a bonus question at "half time" and at the end as well as some "double point" questions during each half. The top three teams win some sort of prize. Because we play at Buffalo Wild Wings, the 3rd place team wins 12 wings, the 2nd place team wins 24 wings, and the 1st place team wins $50--enough to pay the tab for all the beer and margaritas you drink.

I am generally a detriment to any trivia team, because my forte is not remembering random facts. However, the key is to have a well-rounded team with individuals from all areas of expertise (history, sports, literature, music, movies, etc.) and to try to find the trivia place where the dumbest people are so that your odds of winning increase. :) Seriously, even if you're terrible at trivia like me, it's fun to participate, and you actually know more than you think!

In our very first trivia experience, our team, Don't Mess, won 2nd place!!! I won't go into the sob story about how we were in first place all the way up until the last bonus question and then got robbed. But still, 24 free wings wasn't too bad. We're looking for a first place finish, though, one of these Wednesdays.

Here are a few trivia questions we've had. See what you can do:

1) What Disney character was banned in Finland because it did not wear pants?
2) What is the Greek and Roman name of the god of wine and fertility?
3) What British band name was inspired by a painting of a cat with no ears?

There were several questions much harder than those, but of course I can't remember them because I didn't know the answers! So, if you're looking for something fun to do with several friends, give trivia night a try. Not only is it free, but it also holds the possibility of free food and/or drinks! Cheers!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Calling all writers

If you're interested in learning more about the actual craft of writing, check out one of the following books:

Heard's Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way

Lerner's The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers

Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life

When I finish reading them, I'll let you know which one I find most helpful and/or interesting. They're all cheap at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You've heard of job security? How about job irony?

You might recall my previous post about my general aversion to canines. If you don't remember, take a moment to read it one more time, just to get the full effect of what I'm about to divulge.

I have a job passed down to me from my brother, passed down to him from his wife. It's an easy job, one that requires minimal time for decent pay, and one that involves being outdoors, which I love. The irony? I get paid to walk and brush a dog several times a week. That's right: I--the one who is awkward and standoffish toward canines of all kinds--am a dog walker. Ironic, isn't it? Thankfully, the dog is calm, small, and likes me despite my lack of affection toward it. Phil is hoping that it softens my cold heart toward owning a dog one day, but so far, my will remains frozen. And I know it sounds like I don't care about this dog at all, but I'm actually quite nice to it: I talk to her in that ridiculous baby-voice that we all use when talking to small children or animals; I give her verbal affirmation when she poos, actually decides to walk in the direction I'm leading her, or drinks her water; I brush her thoroughly; I keep her from zapping herself on the electric fence; and (gasp) I even pet her throughout the dog walking ordeal. So I'm not inhumane. I'm just a little dog-numb, that's all. Although even I can't deny how cute the dog in the picture looks, which is pretty much the little furry face I see several times a week. Alanis Morisette can add this to her "ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife": "dog-walking girl who's aloof toward dogs". That's right. Go ahead and sing it. I am.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The purpose-driven English degree

When I tell people that I am working on a Master's in English, the general response is a very polite, "Oh, neat. So, what are you planning on doing with that?" Buried in that genuine question is a deeper curiosity about what it is that English majors actually do with themselves post-higher eduction. It's a legitimate question, I admit. Americans seem to have a hard time justifying that which does not have a clear goal or contribution to society. We look at those in law school or medical school and see future lawyers and doctors. We look at those in pharmacy school or business school and see future pharmacists and businessmen or businesswomen. But for some reason, when we come across the English or philosophy or sociology student, we wonder if they really have any significant contribution to our world. Of course, no one would dare admit these things out loud, but the truth is that most of us, if we're honest, view the seemingly "non-productive" route as the bottom of the vocational food chain. And please know that I am not above thinking like this. In fact, a determining factor in me being an education major instead of an English major in undergrad was that I could not stand the thought of not knowing what I would do with my degree when I finished. I wanted to know that there was a point and a goal and a tangible outcome to all the time, effort and money invested into that degree.

And here I am several years later, facing those same questions and fears--from both myself and those around me. "What are you planning on doing with that degree?" It's a legitimate question, but I don't think it's the right one. Because the truth is that I cannot answer that question right now. I hope that it makes me a better teacher and a better writer, and I hope it opens avenues to writing that I would not otherwise have had, but I really have no idea what I'm going to do with it. A better question is, "Why go to graduate school at all?" This I have an answer to, because I could not rightly begin a degree without grappling with that question. To be clear, I am not going to graduate school to make more money, to have more letters after my name, or simply because I could think of nothing better to do. While the answer to this question could be its own blog entry (or book), the basic version is: I am working toward this degree because God has given me the gift of writing and an open opportunity to study it in more depth, and, for me, it would be disobedience toward Him if I did not write. Of course, I could be obedient to Him without a degree, but He has so clearly opened doors for me to go to school this year that I would be remiss not to walk through them.

My prayer and goal is that He will use this time of study and writing to further His kingdom. And that takes a generous amount of faith because I want to know now what the point is. I want to know that I'll be able to write a book one day, or that something I write will help people know Jesus better. But I don't know that right now. I feel like He has said, "Go to the land that I will show you," and so I have abandoned what would have been a more comfortable life this year (getting a job) and have walked through every door He has opened, and I will continue to walk through those doors unless He closes them. This is not irresponsible living masquerading as faith; this is obeying Him even when it doesn't make practical sense. So, I'm learning to live by faith, to be satisfied with the questions, and to find purpose along the way and not just in the final outcome. In the words of my sage grandmother (who is also a writer), "The real joy doesn't come in whether or not you're published, but in knowing that you're being obedient to God."