About thefourthlaw

The author is a used car salesman and an avid homebrewer. More often than not you will find me reading about ways to improve a pint of ale or looking for some new ingredient that will make beer a fresh and exciting experience. He graduated from a major Texas university with a bachelor's degree in Business Management and a minor in English. Supposedly this is the exercise that minor was intended to encourage.

My Hometown: Round Rock, Texas

So I wrote a beautiful post about what makes my hometown a great place to live. What has changed, what has remained the same. What I love and what I’ve had to learn to tolerate. Unfortunately when trying to add a couple of pictures to it the entire post decided it no longer wanted to exist. I can only assume that WordPress’s servers are set in a terrible place like Dallas or somewhere out in California, both lands that spew their residents into my city in an attempt to infect us with their particular love of urban sprawl. But I’m not letting the Johnny Dallases or the L.A. Dumb-faces take down my city, and they sure aren’t going to stop my post. Round Rock is better than that.

Here you see the Round Rock. It is a rock which is sort of round. I bet your stupid city was just named after some dude.

In what seems to be a story usually reserved for romantic comedies about the southern boy or girl who grew up and never left their hometown, I have spent my entire life with a permanent address here in Round Rock, Texas. Although there was a brief stint I spent residing in Lubbock for college, I can honestly say that I’ve never truly lived somewhere other than here. I was born in Round Rock Hospital long before Dell ever made it necessary for our city to have another. I spent my childhood excited when we finally had a pizza place that would deliver to our home on the outskirts of town. But even with the enormous growth I’ve seen since Dell set up shop in 1999, Round Rock has remained the place I remembered growing up.

More than most other cities I’ve been to, Round Rock has focused on maintaining its historic downtown district. Many of the buildings that line our Main Street are the same ones my dad remembers when he got his first job at the grocer where a local restaurant now does business. The local library has remained where it’s been my entire life, but our city council has grown and expanded it to make it an attractive place for any of the residents of the city. A keystone of the downtown district was our city hall, which before looked rather run down and disappointing, but recently went a massive renovation including a public fountain that doubles as a water park for children. In a vacant lot near city hall they built a parking garage, greatly relieving the parking situation, and allowing local restaurants and even a monthly vendor fair to bring in far more patrons than ever before.

Round Rock is a city that has tempered its growth with a respect for its past. There’s a reason people live in Round Rock rather than Austin or Pflugerville or any of the other cities surrounding our capital. As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, we still recognize our city as just that, a community. Even with the large swelling of tech minded folks pouring into Dell and Samsung and any number of other technology companies that has set up shop near here, Round Rock still feels like a town you can get to know. It’s not so sprawling or devoid of distinct culture that you feel like the city is sterile or lifeless.

I’ve spent my whole life in Round Rock, and while that may sound dull to some of you, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As I plan to make a move this fall, I have made sure to continue my time here in the city I love. The city is changing, it’s growing and evolving nearly every day.  People from all across the nation flock here for work or a safe community to raise a family in. Round Rock will be many things over the coming years, but the one thing I know it will always be to me, is home.

HELP: How They Are, How You Can

This past month has been a special one for the life of my small group at Redeemer Round Rock. While I’ve been a part of this church plant from its inception, it has been over the past several months that I’ve truly started to learn what it means to be a part of a community. The life that I share with the folks I see each week  is more powerful than any experience I’ve shared with a “pew buddy” next to me at a Sunday service. I’ve seen that because we want to be with each other rather than just have a recognizable face next to us during a service, we take more joy in the time we spend. We strive to be a family, and because of that, along with a heavy dose of the grace of God, we start to become family. It’s through that developed relationship, that sharing of life together, that we have learned to understand what community is all about.

What has made this month special actually started off as a riff on an old standby from churches I’ve attended in the past. There was always one week a year that we called “Missions Week” where foreign missionaries from across the globe would speak during Sunday services, at youth meetings, or at special events where people could find out more about the work of God outside the bounds of their own home town. These were wonderful opportunities to learn that God is at work in the lives of people beyond just our neighbors and co-workers, but the downfall of “Missions Week” was that it was just that, a week. Without the constant reminder we could easily forget that work was being done not just here at home but abroad. A true community, as we’ve strived to become, cannot remain only inwardly focused or it will grow into isolation. We must constantly keep our eyes turned out from our comfort zones to see how the Church as a whole works for the mission of God.

This past week was a phenomenal chance for our group to see into the lives of those who are reaching people for the gospel in a place nearly opposite ours on the globe. Two of the members of our group spent the evening telling us about an orphanage they had spent time with in Zimbabwe which was taking care of children that no one else wanted. The government, not known for its benevolent treatment of its own citizens, called for these people, this church, to step up and take care of kids when no one else could. And what they saw, and what the rest of us learned through their telling, was that God was working on these kids and that church and that community like only He can. Kids weren’t just provided shelter, they were provided family. They weren’t just provided food, they were given the word of God.

The work at the Musha Wevana Orphanage is no different from the work of the New Testament Church. These were not special people called because of their talents and giftings and abilities. This was a church contacted by a government who gave up, and their response was “Yes, we will help these children.” It is astounding to see a church, much less a church in a country with a 95% poverty rate, so willing to provide for those who somehow had less than they did. They found shelter for them. They’ve provided meals for them. They’ve educated them. But more than any of this, the thing that most hit home to me as I learned about this group of individuals pursuing obedience to their Father, was that they invited the children into the homes of the church members once a month. Each month those kids get a chance to see what it means to be a family. To be reminded that while their parents are no longer available through death or hardship or whatever in between, that there is a family that transcends the bond of blood. And that is the fellowship found in Christian community.

John and his wife Orpa lead a magnificent testimony to the power of God to work in a place that anyone else would have given up on. And while that’s amazing enough, the truth is they give us the opportunity to take part in that. John will be the first to tell you that God has given them this burden of caring for the children, and that he knows the Lord will provide. But he will also share that their burden is heavy, and rejoices when we share it to make a difference not just in a few days of a childhood, but in a life. Take the time to watch a couple of John’s videos on the HELP YouTube channel. I’ve embedded one of them above so you can learn more about their work. And think about how you can join in to help these people make a difference in their country, in their future, and in their eternity, as they raise these children without anything into a family.

Check out the orphanage and learn about supporting it at HELP’s website here.

Most Frequented Film: The Empire Strikes Back

For anyone who has known me for any length of time my most frequented film will come as no surprise. Sometimes folks confuse my most beloved book trilogy with my favorite film franchise, but this is the canonical response declaring that while Lord of the Rings will forever be my favorite fictional written work, the original Star Wars trilogy will always reign supreme as the film series that has most sparked my imagination.

Image

Just look at that cool ship! You and your best bud could be tripping AT-AT’s left and right.

You might have noticed that while I say the entire trilogy has made an impact, the actual question is what is your most frequented film, you know singular, and out of the original trilogy there is one that is greater than all the rest, the ultimate achievement in film, and that is The Empire Strikes Back. From the masterful puppetry of Frank Oz showing that a bit of latex and some sticks can become a living, breathing creature, to the superb direction of Irvin Kershner manipulating the actors and set pieces in such a way that you feel a part of the Rebel Alliance yourself, it is simply the best example of science fiction to ever weather the test of time.

I remember a time when the only way I could watch Star Wars was by waiting for the special three night airings they used to show on network television. You’d sit through what felt like a million commercials to watch each movie, but it was always worth it. Then came the day when my parents bought me the best Christmas present I could ever ask for, my very own VHS (kids look to David’s post for clarification as to what a VHS is) copies of all three original films. Not only that, but my grandparents had bought us a travel TV with VCR to go in our car during road trips, and being the eldest child I managed to secure the rights to it as my own personal television for the times the Killions weren’t on the move. That meant that pretty much every summer weekend I would wake up in the morning, pop a tape in the TV, and sit back for tinny sounding, 13 inch sci-fi glory.

While I usually tried to watch all the movies in a row (as God intended), if I knew I only had time for one film that particular day it was always going to be Empire. From the first shots of Hoth, I fell in love with snow and mountains. That barren landscape was a far cry from the mountain town we frequented on family vacations, but the sense of wildness and wonder felt about the same. I remember seeing the snowspeeders engaging the AT-AT’s in a horribly outnumbered and out-gunned battle and thinking, “That is a vehicle I think could happen. I need that in my life.” While life hasn’t provided me the opportunity to own a real life snowspeeder, I still have my old toy that shows me what I can look forward to when GM gets their future in order.

Empire seems like a strange film to pick as my greatest of all time, mostly because it doesn’t really have a set beginning or end. The plot doesn’t resolve in any way between the opening title crawl and the final moments on the medical ship before it cuts to the credits. While plenty of stuff happens and characters develop quite a bit, no Death Star is destroyed, no Rebel victory is won. From the get go you see how hopeless the Rebel cause is. A small force of Star Destroyers is capable of completely routing the entire Rebel army on Hoth, Han is captured and frozen in carbonite, Luke goes up against Darth Vader and the “new hope” himself loses his arm and his lightsaber. It’s the darkest movie of the original trilogy, but it allows you to see that the plucky Alliance is not all luck and courage. They can be defeated, their cause, while just, is difficult and dangerous. It taught me one of the more important lessons in life, which is that the good guy might not always win, but he also shouldn’t ever give up.

Image

I bet you thought I forgot about this part. Nope, also awesome!

Virtually every aspect of this movie is something I love and cherish. I know the names of the bounty hunters Vader hires who are never actually named in the film. I know that Harrison Ford improvised his line of “I know” after Leia professes her love to him before he is frozen in carbonite. I know all about Boba Fett’s ship and the armor he wears and that he was the most awesome bad guy ever for only having like three lines in the entire series. While the film doesn’t end with the classic victory over evil that most good tales provide, it grounds the characters in struggle which makes them real and believable even though the world they inhabit is fantastic. And there will never be a time in my life when speaking like Yoda does not make you sound both funny and wise.

Dance Is A Revolution

This past weekend was one of those special occasions where I was able to share one of my hidden passions with the world, DANCE! As anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you, I’m not much of a dancer when it comes to my nine to five. While I am an accomplished master of song parody, I rarely cut rugs or beat up beats. There is but one thing that can bring forth Dancin’ Nate, and that is weddings. I even just coined a new phrase for how I feel about weddings: “If you’re gettin’ hitched, Nate’s inhibitions gettin’ ditched.” I too am confused about why I refer to myself in the third person, but Dancin’ Nate doesn’t need logic or sense, he needs beats… and a dance floor.

I grew up as a pretty shy kid, the kind of kid who went to middle school dances and hung out in the corner. I wasn’t a smooth dancer, I could read music but not really respond to it. I was fearful of public opinion, and that my lack of grace on the floor would bring about shame and tears. What I found out from standing in the corner though, was that shame and tears didn’t live on the dance floor, they congregated in the corner like me.  I never had a good time just sitting on the sidelines, and so at one point, late in my public middle school career, I began my move towards dance.

I found that for the most part middle schoolers are terrible dancers in the first place. They have little idea what they’re doing and really just use the barest excuse possible to allow a school function to let them get close to someone of the opposite sex. While I might not have been good with the ladies in conversation, mostly due to my conversations tending towards topics like Star Wars, I could put on a fly silk shirt and move around on the dance floor. I smelled freedom on the dance floor, and the fragrance was “I Swear” by John Michael Montgomery.

That early breakthrough with getting myself out on the dance floor was what helped push me towards forcing myself out of my shy exterior shell and becoming someone capable of interacting with society in a way that was deemed both appropriate and acceptable. I found that it ultimately didn’t much matter what anyone thought of me as long as I was comfortable with who I was. And while I had a dry spell throughout high school and college in the dance department, the slew of weddings I attended post graduation brought about a new era.

After college, it seemed like nearly every friend I’d made decided it was a great time to get married. While at first I felt a little left behind as so many of my friends were moving on with their lives, I realized that I had a unique position as a single man at a wedding. I was held back by no “plus ones”. I was able to move out on the dance floor, fueled by open beer/wine bars, and make a statement to the single ladies on the floor: “Dancin’ Nate is here, and he likes to party!” A Shiner Bock here, a classy glass of merlot there, and BAM! somehow my jacket had a life of its own and I was jumping into the middle of rings of happy wedding guests to do ridiculous things out of pure joy and adrenaline.

The fruit of literally minutes of practice.

Weddings have been my constant outlet for dance. They are a time of joy and excitement, love and celebration. If there’s a dance floor at the reception you’re supposed to enjoy it. I know I look like an idiot while I flail my arms and attempt hilarious complicated maneuvers, but I honestly don’t care. I want to celebrate my friends’ new life together, and I’ve never regretted a moment I’ve spent pouring my heart out on that hardwood floor. Don’t be like Shame Corner Nate, tapping your toe on the sidelines, get out there and find your own Dancin’ self, and beat up that beat!

*Note: All of this only applies if you are at a wedding not also frequented by the cast of a Step Up movie. If they are invited just toe tap, you can’t do what they do. I don’t think physics can do what they do. Just enjoy the show.

Gaming Music Set List… Stop Laughing at Me

Since it has become popular on this site to post lists of music and/or podcasts, I figured I would follow suit with a list of some of my favorite tracks in gaming music history. I have tried to be diverse in my choices though I probably could have just pulled five tracks from Final Fantasy VII and called it a day. I also tried to find orchestral, or “nice”, versions of the tracks if I could. And now in no particular order of significance.

Final Fantasy VII – Opening Bombing Mission by Nobuo Uematsu

This is the opening music for one of the great JRPG’s of all time. This track is a large part of what makes the beginning of the game so exciting. It builds to the action. It would be better with the actual opening scene included, but this version gives it grandeur that the MIDI track just couldn’t quite achieve.

Final Fantasy III/VI – Terra (in Black Remix) by Nobuo Uematsu

Another classic Uematsu addition. This is a rock remix by Uematsu’s band The Black Mages. I remember listening to this song as a kid while playing the game with my cousin in his converted attic room. It was awesome. We were convinced that the 16 bit SNES graphics were the height of realism. This remix kicks in the nostalgia.

Super Mario Sunshine – A Secret Course by Koji Kondo

I hated the levels this music played on so much. They were punishingly difficult platforming levels which removed the main gimmick of the game, namely the water jetpack which provided a safety net if you missed a jump. Finding one of these bonus levels brought a smile as the familiar theme kicks in a cappella style, but it also carried a sense of dread as you saw the game preparing to make you weep.

Bastion – Setting Sail, Coming Home by Darren Korb

This little indie game has managed to win the hearts and controllers of more of my friends than any other game on this list. Combining old school gameplay with high definition graphics, the real stand out of this game, apart from the stellar narrator, was the music. This track combines the two best pieces from the soundtrack into one amazing song that fits the end beautifully.

Halo CE – Rock Anthem For Saving The World by Martin O’Donnell

Just look at that song title! I mean that’s the best name for a song about kicking tail ever. This is a short track, but Steve Vai’s guitar kicking in just as the crap starts to get real in the first Halo game gets you pumped for alien slaying like nothing else.

If you have any video game music that’s pumped you up over the years feel free to include it in the comments section. Joey and David, I’m talking to you.