Monday, December 31, 2007

The Lock-In - Live Blog

8:02pm - Kids are arriving and things are starting to get loud. Some of the musically gifted kids have been jamming for about an hour. What talent!

8:10pm - Why didn't I bring a camera? I could be putting pictures up. Oh well.

8:18pm - We have kids (and Collin R.) playing Guitar Hero 3 in the lobby while the worship band does a sound check in the auditorium. There are kids playing catch with a Nerf football, ping-pong, and talking. We're hoping to start worship around 9pm.

8:34pm - Video game run-down: We have a PS2, an Xbox, a Game Cube and a Wii all in the same room (the South Foyer) on different TVs. Newcomers have to run a gauntlet of gamers to register and get in the building! Of course you have to censor which games the kids bring as too many of them are way out of bounds for this kind of event. But right now the guitar games, racing games, and Wii Sports seem to be breaking the ice for us tonight.

9:09pm - We have somewhere between 65 and 75 people here – I get a different count every time and some of the adults are just getting here or not staying.

9:12pm - Worship began a little bit ago. The kids are all standing in the middle, some of them worshipping, some just standing awkwardly. Oh, the painful awkwardness of being a teenager. I think they'll mingle better after worship is over and they play some ice-breaking games.

9:45pm - Worship just ended; Jay-rod and the others (including his little brother) did an awesome job! Group games in fifteen minutes! Mass chaos 'til then.

10:20pm - Jay-rod and Kyle have the kids playing some funny games. While the kids were in the main room, I spied four women, Tina S., Cherie S., Melissa B. and Ashley B., bowling on the Wii out in the foyer. Everybody loves the Wii.

10:58pm - It's time for dodge ball!

12:01am - Happy New Year! We just finished an hour of dodge ball. I'm a mess, so I'm going home to take a quick shower.

12:58am - Okay, that was a bad idea: go to warm, cozy home and take a hot shower at 12:30 in the morning. It's pretty hard to get back out in the snow after that. When I returned it seemed that everybody was still going strong. But I haven't talked to the kids in the basketball tournament yet.

2:00am - The kids are still playing but things are beginning to get sluggish. Just four hours left, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it. Jay-rod and the other sponsors have done a great job, this year seems really well done.

2:23am - I just got knocked out of knock-out.

3:03am - Lots of people are playing cards and board games. In fact Dustin is trying to explain "In a Pickle" to me as I blog right now. Somehow learning a new board game at three in the morning seems harder than it needs to be. But maybe that's just Dustin.

4:07am - Most of the kids have been playing Human Foosball for the last hour (imagine the arrangement of Foosball figures but life-size with people confined to a folding chairs and hitting/kicking the ball without getting up). Few if any are sleeping but the pace has definitely slowed to a crawl.

4:24am - Okay. I hit the wall. The tank is empty. I'm done. The kids are in good hands and will be going home soon. But I'm going now. I'm still intending to work later today.

Youth Lock-In

I'm a few minutes away from being locked-in with scores of youth group kids for the night (I always try to end the year doing penance for my sins).

Every year we invite other churches over to our church for an all-nighter of fun and games. They kids lead their own worship session and we play all kinds of games. It's a lot of fun, especially when we get to see friends from Lawrence and Leavenworth.

Unfortunately, I'm beginning to feel my age. An all-night lock-in begins to get less and less fun by about two or three in the morning. The last couple of years I've not even tried to make it the whole night. Ten years ago it was no big deal to stay up all night, playing basketball or even racquetball into the wee hours and then driving home in the morning. Those days are no more.

Fantasy Football Playoffs

I made the playoffs in my fantasy football league (but barely). I didn't have a bad year, scoring the second most points in my conference (10 teams), but I kept losing the head-to-head match-ups. So in spite of my point production I ended up a mediocre 10-7 on the year – just enough to make the playoffs.

For the playoffs, our league re-drafts a new team consisting of two QBs, two kickers, and six "flex" players (backs and receivers), including players from your regular season team that you can keep. I'll keep my quarterback and both of my kickers, but I'll have to see about the rest.

It's been a fun year. We had 30 teams compete, mostly folks from our church with a few extra people added in. The playoffs wrap up at the Super Bowl and then we endure the long break until the next Fall.

UPDATE: We finished the re-draft a little while ago. I ended up with Tony Romo and Eli Manning at QB, Reggie Wayne, Plaxico Burress, Laurence Maroney, Ryan Grant, Shaun Alexander, and Fred Taylor at my flex positions and Gostkowski and Crosby at kicker. They'll accumulate points during the playoffs–whoever has the most points wins.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Netscape is Dead! Long Live Firefox!

AOL announced recently that as of February 1, 2008 they will no longer support that faithful old web browser, Netscape. In reality, Netscape had been replaced by Firefox and other browsers ages ago.

My first days of regular internet browsing were on Netscape Navigator in the mid 90's. But Netscape couldn't keep up with the ubiquity of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which dominated web browsing during the late 90's. I felt forced to use Explorer (or iCab or Opera) until a better option, Safari, came along in 2003. I've been using a combination of Safari and Firefox ever since.

Though I browse and read my news in Safari (the fastest browser out there) I blog exclusively on Firefox, which seems to work better with some sites (like Blogger). About a third of folks use Firefox but Safari seems to be the best kept secret out there. It's a good, fast browser with some great features, including the best inline find anywhere.

Entertainment in 2007

  • The best recent film I saw in 2007: Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. What an excellent pair of films to juxtapose with each other. Honorable mention: Ratatouille.
  • The best classic film I saw in 2007: Of the 100-125 classic films I've seen in the last five months, Twelve O'Clock High (1949) in particular happened to strike a chord with me. Honorable mention: most of the other classics I've been watching, by-in-large award-winning show-stoppers all.
  • The worst film I saw in 2007: Easy Rider (1969). Great soundtrack; I should have watched it blindfolded. I didn't see many recent films this year and I've become pickier about the ones I do see. Of the hundreds of films produced every year, maybe 90% of them just aren't worth watching.
  • Recent films I wanted to see in 2007 but will have to rent in 2008: Hot Fuzz, 3:10 to Yuma, Rescue Dawn, Juno, Live Free or Die Hard, I am Legend, Bee Movie.
  • Films I had no intention of seeing in 2007 and may never bother with (and why): Hairspray (Travolta in drag), Sicko (Michael Moore is a drag), The Golden Compass (the anti-Narnia film).
  • Best fiction book I read in 2007: State of Fear by Michael Crichton. Plot-wise it was ho-hum but the eye-opening journey of a global warming environmentalist was great.
  • Best non-fiction book I read in 2007: Caro's Book of Poker Tells by Mike Caro. This is a great study on body language and psychology but the most interesting tidbit was "Caro's Law of Loose Wiring," which basically says that some people make some decisions for no particular reason at all; they just do. That's quite a profound revelation if you stop and think about it.
  • The best reading experience in 2007: reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my boys. We read the first six books, one chapter per night, in about three months. Then we took some time off and are working on the seventh book currently.
  • Books I wanted to read in 2007 but will have to read in 2008: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. That and the growing stack of 25 or 30 books that have begun to tower over me while I've been watching those classic movies.
  • Best live performance I saw in 2007: Oklahoma! at the New Theatre Restaurant. It was favorite rendition of Oklahoma! and was the highlight of our summer (entertainment-wise anyway). I've been humming "Everything's up to date in Kansas City" for months now.
  • My best entertainment experience: Playing video games on the Wii with my boys. The learning curve has been steeper than I anticipated but it's still been great.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Reality Check

It's been ten days, so I thought we needed a follow up to a previous post about good news in Iraq. I spoke yesterday to a two-tour Iraq vet about whether any of the positive developments were reaching the ears of the American public. It's probably not (otherwise Gen. Petraeus would have been Time's Man of the Year).

The veteran said that he had to read Stars and Stripes to find decent reporting about the turnaround in Iraq. Much of the mainstream media (CNN, New York Times, network news, the AP, etc.), in the absence of bad news, reports nothing or buries it "below the fold," i.e. where no one will see it.

I recommended that he become a regular reader of Michael Yon, this generation's Ernie Pyle in a fire-retardant suit. He has spent more time as an independent reporter in Iraq than almost anyone else, embedded with American and British troops. Yon is most well known for this photograph he took of an American officer holding a dying Iraq girl in a blanket. I really believe that when the history of Iraq is written years from now, any serious historian will be required to read Yon's dispatches.

How do you know that Iraq has dramatically changed for the better in the last six months? Next year Michael Yon will be in Afghanistan so he can be where the action is. Think about that for a minute, it ought to radically challenge our notion of what's going on in the Long War.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I took an online personality test called the Belief-o-matic. According to the website, "the top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

"Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking."

My results:
1. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%)
2. Seventh Day Adventist (94%)
3. Orthodox Quaker (86%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (82%)
5. Roman Catholic (82%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (76%)
7. Orthodox Judaism (63%)
8. Islam (61%)
9. Hinduism (52%)
10. Bahá'í Faith (49%)
11. Liberal Quakers (48%)
12. Sikhism (45%)
13. Reform Judaism (43%)
14. Unitarian Universalism (39%)
15. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (38%)
16. Jainism (33%)
17. Nontheist (33%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (31%)
19. Mahayana Buddhism (30%)
20. Theravada Buddhism (30%)
21. Jehovah's Witness (28%)
22. New Thought (25%)
23. Scientology (23%)
24. New Age (19%)
25. Neo-Pagan (18%)
26. Taoism (17%)
27. Secular Humanism (15%)

Quizzes like this are always a little flawed, limited in part by the limitations of the author's understanding. For instance, the question about baptism asks if I thought it was important as an initiation ceremony. Well, I think it's important but to classify it as an initiation probably misses what the Bible actually teaches. So I modified my answer to allow for what I think the test would understand. I also didn't answer a question that didn't have a single acceptable answer but marked my non-answer as "very important" to me.

When all was said and done, I was intrigued by the results. The top answer (100%) matches what I am, a conservative Christian. The top five are high because of basic Christian doctrine, although I chuckled when I saw the Seventh Day Adventists. The top eight are there because of common stands on moral issues, while the bottom 7/10ths of the list is more about the differences – in theology, world views, and moral stands – with 50% or less in common with some of these mutually exclusive world views. I was not surprised that Secular Humanism was last on the list or that Scientology was so low, but I was confused how they managed to have anything in common (15% and 23% respectively).

I'd also be interested to know how some church folks would do on a test like this. Not because they would have unorthodox views but because I fear many would be ignorant of what orthodoxy is in the first place. And there's the rub: it doesn't really matter what we think about God or the meaning of life – what matters is the things that are actually true about God and believing those true things.

My preferences don't alter what is true or not.

Random Boxing Day Thoughts 2007

  • Happy British class system reinforcement day. Go to and get the scoop on Boxing Day. While there you can check out the veracity of those last few email forwards you received.
  • From the blog of a librarian: "Save the Easily Offended: Ban Everything!"
  • Speaking of libraries and thin skin, my old haunt, the Joplin Public Library, has a display of cultural artifacts from the Islamic Society of Joplin. The JPL has always loaned out its display cases to any non-profit group in the community, but this is the first time for a Muslim group. So, some Southern Missourians (pronounced: Muh-zirrins *wipe nose on sleeve*), legendary for their cultural sensitivity, have begun calling the library staff names like "terrorist," "murderer," and "anti-American." Way to go, guys. Classy.
  • Rural roads in Kansas are getting centerline rumble strips to jolt sleepy drivers awake as they drift into oncoming traffic. According to reports, "from 2002 to 2006, there were 658 fatal crashes on rural, two-lane highways in Kansas… there were 141 fatal crashes on four-lane urban highways."
  • This is a National Tie Month and wouldn't you know it, I received a tie for Christmas. It's a KU tie but I typically only wear ties on Sunday and KU won't have a Sunday game until mid-March, when they play in Big 12 Championship game. I'll have to find an excuse before then. Three times as many ties are sold in December as are sold in any other month, although you'd think June (Father's day) must surely be close.
  • By the way, the Jayhawks are 12-0, the only undefeated team in the Big 12, and ranked third in the nation. They're kinda good.
  • The family is starting to complain of sore fingers, tennis elbow, shoulder pain, pulled muscles and other Wiinjuries. Shannon's mom and brothers were having a blast playing the Wii yesterday, mostly boxing and bowling with a little golf. I bowled my first game over 200 yesterday, ending the tenth frame with three strikes! I know that it's not real but it feels real enough to prompt pride in your accomplishments.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Having Fun? Wii! Wii!

We opened presents Sunday afternoon and I spent half an hour hooking up our new Wii. The boys love it and we're having a great time.

There is a bit of a learning curve, depending on the video game. Golfing, bowling, tennis, etc. might be the most natural feeling, as you are simply mimicking the real-life movements right down to the smallest detail (the bowling movements are uncanny). But other games are a little abstract in their presentation and one can spend awhile just trying to understand "how do I make this thing go?"

I'm surprised that Tanner (6) and Elijah (3 and a half) are having so much difficulty learning the games. Don't get me wrong, they enjoy it, but they both have trouble with the controls. Brennan (7) on the other hand is doing fine; he bowled a 159 in his second game (it took me 10 games to do that well).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lost at Union Station

Shannon writes about our dramatic day yesterday at her myspace page:

Jared took today off and we went ahead with our plans to go to Union Station. Every Christmas they have beautiful trains and the kids just love it. We had planned to go on Tanner's birthday but having been in the hospital and all we had to postpone.

The kids seemed to be having a wonderful time. They even got to ride an old fashioned train from the Macy's store. Who knew it would be so busy during the day on a week day?

We had a couple issues with Tanner and Eli arguing but other than that it was a pleasant trip right up to the end. Jared and I started heading for the doors when the older boys asked if they could see the trains one more time. Jared and I agreed that it would be fine. He was to take the baby to the car and the older boys and I were to take one more trip around the trains. Jared turned to leave and I did the same.

I walked a few steps and turned to take inventory 1..2..; 1..2.. "WHERE'S ELI?" Elijah had seemingly vanished into thin air. I was able to stay pretty cool for the first minute or so why we searched for him. I assumed he had to be right there only a moment or two had passed. There was no sign of my son.

We ran ahead to the trains thinking he must have run past us unnoticed. When we didn't see him there either I started screaming his name. I didn't care about the odd glances I had to find my boy.

A security guard approached me and asked for his description. Within moments there were 20+ security guards and a few caring individuals looking for Elijah. While I was running back in forth searching I began praying fervently. I honestly believe that God saved Eli at Children's Mercy this week and just days later I lost him. I begged God to let me find my baby.

Jared says only about 5-7 minutes passed, but it felt like an eternity and as each lead turned out not to be him I was sure I wouldn't ever see my son again. I have heard horror stories of abductions and that building is so vast with so many dark hallways and rooms. I don't even want to describe what I was imagining. It still brings me to tears.

Jared's cell phone had been messing up and kept shutting off so I didn't have a way to contact him. He was out front waiting and I didn't want to even take a minute to tell him for fear that I would miss Eli.

An officer made me stay near the place I last saw him and kept asking me for his description. I honestly thought I was going to vomit when he kept getting Eli's description wrong. I explained he was wearing a grey sweatshirt and navy sweats and he was telling everyone through his walkie talkie that he had on a navy shirt with dark pants. In the midst of the chaos and my near fainting my phone rang. I saw it was Jared and I answered yelling,"Elijah is missing!!"

Jared very calmly said, "I have Eli, what are you talking about." I swear to you it took all I had not to fall down in a heap. Apparently when Jared and I decided what we were doing Eli ran to his dad and asked to go with him. Jared thought I had said it was okay. He had tried to get my attention to make sure and I simply didn't hear him. Elijah walked out with his daddy safe and sound.

I was hysterical by this point and I explained to the officer that we have 4 boys and daddy was supposed to take the baby, but apparently took Eli too. I apologized and then ran to the van to kiss my baby's face off.

I haven't ever felt fear like that in my life. I was a mess the rest of the day. Poor little Eli asked if I thought he was dead. I didn't have the heart to tell him it had entered my mind. I just explained I thought I had lost him and it made me so very sad.

Brennan and Tanner were helping me in the search and Tanner kept cupping his fat little hands around his mouth while he yelled his baby brother's name. I'm not sure if we will ever go back to Union Station. Jared is concerned if I will ever take the kids in public again.

Obviously I will and we will probably go see the trains again next year, but you may see my kids outfitted with those kid leashes I've always thought were so awful. It's just that we are so careful and I literally count my kids hundreds of times every time we're out in public. We know Eli tags behind so we keep a close eye on him and Jared tends to bring up the back of the line to make sure no one strays.

All of this brings to mind the Luke 15 passage about the lost sheep.

"Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:3-7

Each one of you that have pulled away from the heavenly Father is the same as that lost sheep. The bible tells us that God is our Abba which translates Daddy. Your Daddy is searching for you and calling your name, please go home and allow Him to celebrate your homecoming. He is eagerly waiting to kiss your face off :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

And Then There Were Two

There are only two American World War 1 veterans known to be still living today. A third, J. Russell Coffey, died this week at the age of 109. The other two veterans are 108 and 107 years old. The United States was involved in WW1 from 1917 to 1918. Therefore the handful of remaining "Great War" veterans in the world must be about 107 years old, if they were only 17 or 18 years old at the end of the war.

The youngest World War 2 vets (unless they lied about their age) are now about 80 years old.

The youngest Korean War vets would be in their early 70's now while the youngest possible Vietnam vets have turned 50. There have been multiple instances of Vietnam (and Vietnam era) vets serving in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apples for Christmas

Here's a news item Thursday evening from a website called that I frequent to read news about NFL players. What do want to bet that the guys at use Macintosh computers? Aren't Mac users hopelessly biased?

Jaguars: An Apple in their stockings
The News
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew rewarded their offensive linemen with Christmas gifts this week. Taylor purchased Apple MacBook laptop computers for each of the linemen, while MoJo gave each lineman an iPod touch.

Our View
Not only are Jacksonville's backs talented, they're magnanimous—and, judging by their gifts, clearly of superior intelligence as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scenic KC

There's a lot of pretty pictures of Kansas City on the internet, including this one I took myself, or maybe I think they're pretty because they show my adopted hometown.

Both pictures below show Union Station in the foreground. We intend to take the kids there tomorrow if everyone's feeling well. Union Station at Christmas time is a lot of fun, especially for little boys.

The second picture is my current desktop "wallpaper."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Same Aviator, Different Jungle

My cousin and her husband, a missionary pilot with MAF, are leaving Ecuador to do the same work in Oaxaca, Mexico. They announced the move last Monday and expect to go sometime in March.

For those who are challenged by the pronunciation of Mexican place names, I've said "Wah-hocka," ever since I spent a few days there (and in Veracruz) visiting missionaries in 1993. But I'm not an authority, so we might want to ask Sean.

Answer to Prayer

Just one more note about the frightening episode with Elijah:

We really feel that we saw prayers answered. I can't prove it, but I felt that Monday night, as we sent him to the hospital, Elijah was dying. I believe it was that serious.

But hundreds of people were praying for that little boy and the life-threatening blockage and the necessary life-saving surgery that would have followed was taken away. It just corrected itself.

I thank God for that little boy. He has been delivered to us repeatedly from what would have taken others. Praise God that we still have him! Praise God.

Below is a snapshot of Elijah in his hospital room, Tuesday. The second picture is of me holding a 10-day-old Elijah in the same hospital, same floor, same chair(?) four years earlier.

May we never have to go back again. But if we do, may we trust the Lord's Mercy for our child.

Random Thoughts 12/19/07

  • The Hobbit will happen! New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson have worked out their legal issues and MGM is on board too. They'll begin pre-production immediately with the goal of the movie being out in about two years. Then they want to do another movie that will bridge the gap between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I don't know if that means the Silmarillion or not, but who cares?! More Tolkien is always good!
  • 2007 will be the first year that American households, on average, spent more on cell phones than on landlines. I'm not surprised, for most of us seem willing to sacrifice quality and dependability for convenience and flexibility. I hate my using my cell phone but I can't imagine living without it either.
  • The Pro Bowl is too much of a popularity contest. I vote in it every year (fan voting counts for one third) and try to vote for the guys who most deserving. Yet there are always under-performing stars that make it because they always make it, usually at the expense of younger more deserving players. It's less of an issue in the NFL because injuries will send a lot of replacements to Hawaii, expanding the list quite a bit. Hopefully that includes the likes of Fred Taylor, Mario Williams, and Derek Anderson.
  • How do you fix the Pro Bowl? Instead of voting in October, save the voting until the last part of the season and announce the rosters during the playoffs. I can't think of a reason they couldn't delay it, making it a truer representation of how the season played out. It also would help to reduce the influence of fan voting, who vote more on name recognition than anything else; let's make it 1/3 coaches, 1/3 players, 1/6 fans, 1/6 sports writers.
  • The Jayhawks' basketball team has started 11-0, matching the football team which also started out 11-0. Football coach Mark Mangino is the 2007 AP Coach of the Year, has two first team All-Americans, and has landed in the BCS Orange Bowl. And the expectations for the basketball team is even higher. This could be a great year for Jayhawks.
  • I'm still plugging away at the AFI list of greatest movies: I've watched about 80-85% or enough to know that my top-100 would be about half different. I'm also going through the list of Oscar winners. Some of my recent discoveries include Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and the Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Both of these movies, though different, were really well done. My boys watched Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and wanted to re-watch it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Elijah in the Hospital

Elijah took ill Sunday night and continued to vomit for over 24 hours. We decided Monday evening that it was too similar to our experience with his volvulus bowel when he was a newborn. He needed surgery then to untwist his intestines and we're hoping that's not the case this time. We called the doctor who sent him to Children's Mercy where he was admitted.

Update 1:00 am: we're waiting for test results. Surgery, perhaps? Eli had an NG tube inserted and will have to drink barium. He has burst blood vessels in his face from retching all day. It's also Tanner's 6th birthday today and we'll have to cancel his party tonight in Lawrence. Graham is having diarrhea, which makes 21-month-olds grumpy. Add to that the likelihood that Shannon and I won't sleep much at all tonight; it's going to be a rough day.

Update 3:30 am: Good news: the bowel obstruction/damaged tissue appears to have been temporary and seems to have fixed itself. Initial test results indicate Eli won't need surgery this time – prayers are answered! This wasn't "just a bug" but the physical cause of the bloody vomiting is gone now. Eli will not be able to leave the hospital until he shows things are working again properly but that may be sooner rather than later. We'll have a better idea by late morning.

I've decided not to call everyone (it's nearly 4:00 am) until we have more definitive news. But the tone of the doctors and our expectations have certainly changed.

Update 11:00 am: We're still waiting for the surgeon to confirm that Elijah doesn't need surgery and can go home. Shannon's been waiting all morning. Eli ripped out his NG tube while he slept but they didn't need to re-insert it. Elijah has been very well behaved through this whole ordeal.

Update 5:30pm: Elijah is home and doing great! Unfortunately our experience at Children's Mercy was most unlike previous visits. The surgeon never did see Elijah again after 4am. We waited for him for twelve hours and he eventually released us sight-unseen. We had a lot of questions but we were also eager to get home. Then as we were signing the discharge papers, the nurse made an offhand comment, "it must have been a bug." What? The surgeon had said twelve hours earlier that it couldn't be a bug. So why did she say that? It makes no sense and doesn't match what we actually went through. But we were so tired we just shuffled out of the hospital scratching our heads.

As far as we know, Elijah had an acute bowel obstruction of some kind that resolved itself without surgery. He will be at risk for this kind of thing throughout his life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wii Have Ways to Make You Talk

I keep forgetting that the Wii which is wrapped up under our Christmas tree is supposed to be a secret.

I'm so giddy with anticipation, looking forward to playing video games with Shannon and the boys, that I want to talk about it with everyone, even if the boys are standing right there. If they don't have it figured out by now, then there's no hope for them.

When I see people who play video games I want to "talk shop" with them. When I see fellow parents who went Wii shopping this year, I want to commiserate and compare battle scars. I'm so excited!

But I've got to keep it under wraps (literally and figuratively) for another week. And in future years I won't even be able to blog about it for fear of the boys reading what I write. They don't read my blog yet… I think.

With Virtual Scissors?

I know some of you get a kick out of this kind of thing. On this website you can make a virtual snowflake by virtually cutting virtual paper. Cool!

My boys do the neatest crafts in Sunday School and such and this site reminds me of those little projects that they come home with.

49,000 Hits

Thank you for reading my blog. We passed 49,000 hits today, which is just awesome for a personal blog like mine. Thanks so much for being here.

I want to encourage you to follow the links that I leave in my posts. I've begun including links
more often in my writing – sometimes for additional information, sometimes to be funny, sometimes to make a point – but they add another dimension to what I write and you might miss my point if you never click to see what I'm pointing at.

Reality Check

Since Iraq is no longer in the news much anymore, I thought I should say something:

The good guys are winning…

Our guys (the military) have helped turn the tide. Just six to twelve months ago we had politicians and "experts" tell us that Iraq had spun hopelessly out of control. They were wrong. Iraq is safer and quieter than it's been in three or four years. And the trends are going in the right direction: Radical Islamic terrorism is being rejected and security is increasing.

…and we're the good guys.

And General David Petraeus is our hero. America has been generous and noble and has spent its wealth for good. We've stolen no oil. We've claimed no land. But we have deposed terrorism-supporting, murderous regimes and encouraged democratic reform in a part of the world where only desperation reigned. Millions of people are free because of the courage and virtue of the United States of America.

Get over it.

What does it say about you if progress and victory is unwelcome to your ears?

Friday, December 14, 2007

He Sees You When You're in Sleep Mode

Here's a cute little Mac commercial for the Christmas season. It's cute and nostalgic and what all.

The commercial has been running on Apple's main page but when it's moved it should be available here with all the other witty commercials.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wii, Wii, Wii, All the Way Home

We've found one! After weeks of searching we've actually found a Wii video game system. The stores sell out as soon as they get a shipment and most individuals who have one to sell are gouging desperate parents on eBay to the tune of hundreds of dollars above retail. We had just about given up when, lo and behold, we found a lady who was willing to resell us her unopened Wii at cost.

What a blessing! Shannon is going to pick it up here in an hour.

The Wii was our "Plan A" for Christmas this year and, being an expensive purchase (for us), we didn't really have a "Plan B," so… it's nice that things are working out. Our boys, especially the older three, are going to so pleased!

It also represents the culmination of a long-held anticipation of mine: that I would someday be playing video games with my boys. It seems that someday may be in just a few weeks.

Update: Nintendo is offering a Wii raincheck for those who want to put something under the tree.

Playing Army

Military video games and simulation technology has improved a lot since we were playing TacOps and Harpoon in the mid-nineties. In fact, the military is finding that commercial video games can be useful training tools for real soldiers. A recent Wired article gives a brief description of the Army's efforts to harness this technology, and mentions the National Simulation Center by name (a Ft. Leavenworth facility employing some folks we've known).

My Favorite Pope

The Pope, Benedict XVI, thinks the man-made global warming scare is a bunch of hooey. I knew I liked that Pope for some reason.

The news article states:

Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.

The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.

The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.

Excellent job there, Benedict! The High Priest of Environmentalism, AlGore, is a former Southern Baptist, but I say excommunicate him just for good measure!

[Thanks for the heads up go to Pundit Review.]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pete on Dems

Pete Hegseth writes another great editorial in the Washington Times, talking about the radical changes in Iraq since last summer and the Democrat leadership's failure to recognize it:

In short, for the sake of placating and other radical anti-war groups, the Democratic leadership is willing to lay off thousands of employees in America and under cut the incredible success of our troops in Iraq. Such logic is perverse and infuriating, especially to courageous Democrats like Reps. Brian Baird and Jim Marshall, who have moved beyond partisanship to support the success being achieved in Iraq.

Make sure you read both pages.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Anti-Human Baby Tax

Just so you know where these people are coming from…

A news story out of Australia reports that some global warming nuts want to tax families with children. Tax them $5000 at the birth of each child and an additional carbon tax of $800 per year per child. Why? Because those little bundles of joy are carbon-spewing polluters, that's why! Not only will they use up natural resources for 80 years but, get this, they exhale carbon dioxide and emit methane from the other end. Babies are greenhouse gas bags!

Is this just the view of one extremist? No, instead it is an increasingly common underlying theme in the global warming movement: fewer humans = healthier planet. So don't be surprised when an environmentalist is also adamantly pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, and anti-development and modernization of the third world. Remember these fruit-loops in the news recently? Global warming devotees are aborting babies and getting themselves sterilized in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

[Note–the abortions are a tragic loss of innocent life but I'm actually in favor of sterilizing self-congratulating, self-centered idiot liberals. If only it were mandatory. Imagine:

"Hello, I like want to apply for a baby license."

"Okay ma'am, just answer this question: a baby human and a baby polar bear are trapped in a burning building and you can only save one. Which one do you save?"

"…like, that's tough; like what would AlGore do?"

"Think hard, ma'am, your license depends on it."

"…like, the baby polar bear?"


Writer Kathleen Parker warns that, "once such utilitarian concerns edge out our humanity - and once human life is deemed to have no greater value than any other life form - how long before we begin tidying up other inconveniences? Wouldn't it be helpful to eliminate some of the less productive members of society who, like the cows they no doubt eat, are emitting hazardous methane, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming?"

Global Icing

We lost power for about three hours today due to the ice storm. It sure could have been worse and some 600,000 across the Midwest are still without power. Where's that global warming when you need it?

Speaking of global warming, Pundit Review pointed out this report which said,
"Climate scientists at the University of Rochester, the University of Alabama, and the University of Virginia report that observed patterns of temperature changes (‘fingerprints’) over the last thirty years are not in accord with what greenhouse models predict and can better be explained by natural factors, such as solar variability. Therefore, climate change is ‘unstoppable’ and cannot be affected or modified by controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, as is proposed in current legislation."

Poor AlGore, I thought he taught us that scientists had come to a consensus on global warming? No? He just received his Nobel peace prize (?!) last week and now scientists like Lord Christopher Monckton, a UK climate researcher, are speaking out against Gore's religious dogma. Monckton told the UN yesterday that "Climate change is a non-problem. The right answer to a non problem is to have the courage to do nothing."

Click here and see more of what Monchton and others have said about the UN's climate conference at a Bali tropical resort. Australian scientist Dr. David Evans is quoted saying, "Most of the people here [at the UN's Bali conference] have jobs that are very well paid and they depend on the idea that carbon emissions cause global warming. They are not going to be very receptive to the idea that well actually the science has gone off in a different direction."

Osprey Eye Candy

The V-22 Osprey deployed to a combat zone (Iraq) for the first time recently. It's a fascinating aircraft that had some really bad press and a lot of unfair (and ignorant of the facts) criticism. The first shot shows the V-22's embarked on the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship. The second photo is the Marine version in flight, while the third shows the Air Force version in flight.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Harmonica Man

I'm re-gaining interest in playing the harmonica. I've owned a Hohner 1896/20 in the key of G for some fifteen years, sitting in my desk drawer only to be played once every few years. But thanks to the internet I've been taking lessons the last few days, learning that everything I thought I knew about harmonica playing was basically wrong.

Fortunately, diatonic harmonicas are easy to learn and a pleasure to play. Some say that there is a 10-hour rule: after ten hours of playing, you've learned the majority of everything there is to learn – it's that simple. My technique was pretty far off base, and that hurts the quality of my playing right now, but I can play just about any song if I have tabbed music.

I'm so encouraged that today I found a second harmonica like my Hohner but in the key of C for a good price and bought it.

Calling Church for Ice

It's icy out this morning, are we going to cancel church?

Probably not.

As a rule, we don't cancel church for the weather unless it's absolutely unavoidable. People tend to keep themselves home anyway if the weather is questionable. But some will venture out and we'll always try to provide services for those who can make it. If that's 20% of our normal crowd, that's okay; we'll have services for the 20%.

If we do cancel for some reason, the first news outlet we traditionally report to is Fox 4.

Friday, December 07, 2007

This Lawsuit is Brought to You by the Letter W

Washburn (Topeka, KS) University is getting sued by the University of Wisconsin. Wisconsin claims Washburn stole their "w." Seriously.

Wisconsin uses a big, red stylized w, called the "Motion W," on its football helmets. Washburn uses a similar (but not the same) blue w, which may or may not have its own groovy name. Wisconsin is asking Washburn to cease and desist and pay compensation for all the money the small Topeka school has made using the blue w.

Apparently there's great fear that tens of Kansans could see this "blue w" and mistakenly think, "What's this? The Division 1 Wisconsin Badgers, a school that has never ever played in Topeka in 118 years, has changed their colors from red to blue and moved to the Sunflower State!"

Wisconsin, a Big-10 school, has only ever played Kansas and Kansas State 8 times in football and 8 times in basketball combined and not at all since 1983. They've never played Emporia, Hays, or Wichita State that I can find though there is a record of an unidentified "Washburn" team losing a men's basketball game in Madison on New Year's Day 1936, but I'm not sure if that constitutes a rivalry. And there is a Washburn in Northern Wisconsin, so who knows.

Random Thoughts 12/7/07

  • Today is the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. May God bless our servicemen and women.
  • The year is almost over and that means that Time Magazine will soon select someone for Person of the Year. It's been a bit hit-and-miss in recent years but 2007 has such an obvious candidate that it will be a miscarriage of justice if he's not selected: General David Petraeus. Who has had a bigger impact in the last twelve months? Only willful ignorance can keep him from being considered. But knowing Time, they'll pick Mother Earth or her high priest, Al Gore.
  • The Royals are bringing back the powder blue uniforms of the past. Maybe that'll help. I don't follow baseball closely but it sure seems that with a new manager and looser purse strings that the team has a brighter future ahead.
  • According to Social Security records, the name "Hillary" was increasingly popular from the sixties through 1992 (the year Bill Clinton took office) when the name peaked at the 131st most popular name for baby girls. But then it dropped suddenly and dramatically through the nineties, to 868th in 1998 and off the top 1000 list completely by 2002. "Hillary" currently sits at 982.
  • Kansas basketball is now 8-0 and going strong, ranked #3 in the nation. But perhaps more noteworthy is Kansas State's star freshman, Michael Beasley, who leads the nation in scoring and rebounding with 8 double doubles in as many games. K-State is now 5-3, as is Mizzou; both teams are on two game losing steaks.
  • When she's not driving us crazy, we love that dog. But we just have to do more training with her; dogs don't naturally behave all on their own. And Sophie can be quite a handful especially around small children.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Of Compasses and Millstones

The Golden Compass movie is finally hitting the big screens this week. Based on a trilogy of children's books, I've noted before that this story is an overtly anti-Christian vilification of religion. I'd encourage parents to investigate the books (and the films as they come out) before allowing the influence of author Philip Pullman to be unleashed on impressionable minds.

I'm not sure if I'll watch these movies (which appear to be somewhat watered down). But I am sure that I'm not going to let my kids watch something like this without being properly prepared first.

Writer Gregg Easterbrook writes:

In the Golden Compass trilogy, God is both a fraud (a space alien pretending to be divine!) and the source of every evil in the universe; Christianity is "a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all"; God has created not heaven but hell and sends all souls, even those of the righteous, to hell; Christian churches are run by corrupt power-mad conspirators whose goal is to abolish pleasure in life; the quest of the astonishingly competent English schoolgirl who is the trilogy's heroine is to locate ancient magical objects that will allow her to kill God and free the world from religion.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas e-card 2007

From the Altic family:

Merry Christmas!

From left to right: Elijah (3 and a half), Graham (21 mos.), Tanner (almost 6), and Brennan (7).

Random Thoughts 12/5/07

  • Can you believe 2007 is almost over?
  • AT&T will phase out pay phones next year, further reducing the number of public phones out there. The obvious reason for this is increase in the use of cell phones. My kids won't even recognize a phone booth and Superman will have to change clothes in the men's room.
  • Click here and see a what 5 MB of computer storage (less than 1% of a CD-ROM) looked like in 1956. It would take about a thousand of these monstrosities to equal one standard DVD.
  • I just saw the first trailer for the Prince Caspian movie at Yahoo! movies. Yahoo! The Narnia movie was supposed to come out a week from Friday but it's been delayed until May. I'm still reading the Chronicles of Narnia with Brennan and Tanner (and sometimes Eli); we're finishing the sixth book right now. We also let the boys watch the first Narnia movie last Saturday, which was extremely well received. I believe it added a lot that we read the books first.
  • Like millions of other parents, we're strongly considering getting Nintendo's video game system, the Wii, for Christmas. They're just about impossible to find as demand has outstripped supply by a mile so, unless we get lucky, we may have to wait until after Christmas.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The BCS is Dumb

And that's coming from a Kansas fan. Kansas was rewarded for playing a weak schedule (like Georgia and Hawaii) and teams like Missouri got the short end of the stick. A Jayhawk fan could be celebrating the trip to the Orange Bowl right now but it's kind of hard to enjoy it when the system is so broken.

This convoluted, worthless system of college bowl games was doomed to hurt somebody. It doesn't work and won't work until they have 8, 12, or 16 games in a playoff system. Period.

Notes on the Classics

Here's a few notes on the fifteen films I listed as "must see." Again please don't crucify me over the selections; after sleeping on it, I'm sure that I could switch out half of these without the quality of the list suffering.

• Out of fifteen films (counting the Godfather films together), Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Marlon Brando appeared in two each. Michael Curtiz (Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy) and Victor Fleming (Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind) directed two each.

• Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Buster Keaton (The General), and Gene Kelly (Singin' in the Rain) directed themselves in these movies.

• Of the five films I listed as "simple pleasures," four are musicals and the fifth is a silent movie. Kind of all or nothing, huh?

• Several of the films are based on books, e.g. The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and the Godfather.

Famous lines from the "Cultural Landmarks:"
"Here's looking at you, kid."
"We'll always have Paris"
"He's just like any other man, only more so."
"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
"Tomorrow's another day."
"Frankly, Scarlet…"
"That'll be the day."
"Can you help a fellow American down on his luck?"
"Papers? We don't need no stinking papers!"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Classics

I was asked:

So...if you were recommending some "classic" movies to a casual movie fan, what are your top-5 must-see classic movies? The "if you're only going to sit down and watch 5 classic movies in your lifetime - watch THESE" list.

There's no way I can say, "here's the top five." There's too wide a range of movies and it's so subjective. We watch movies for many different reasons with wildly different expectations. In my mind there are dozens of movies that are in the "top" echelon. But if you narrow the parameters, defining classic as pre-1980 (30+ years old), here's a few lists:

Cultural Landmarks – you won't get it 'til you've seen the movie:
Casablanca (1942)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Searchers (1956)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Hard Hitters – a cold splash in the face or punch in the gut:
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Simple Pleasures – relax and enjoy:
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The General (1927)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

There are another ten or fifteen movies that I could included in these short lists but you gotta pick something.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Blog Scarcity

I noticed that my blogging productivity dipped last month to the lowest (31 posts) in almost 18 months. With a major holiday and an especially busy month at work, I've not had time to blog much. Which is too bad because things are happening in my life and family at a breakneck pace:

  • The kids are saying the funniest things. Each time they say or do something I think: I need to write that down before I forget it! But we almost never do.
  • Graham is beginning to talk (finally!) and reminds us most of Brennan at that age.
  • Tanner's scholastic ability is blossoming: he's showing real aptitude for reading and math beyond his years (he's less than a semester into Kindergarten now).
  • We had our first snow and the house is winterized (mostly).
  • Brennan is losing his front teeth (one's gone and the other is cockeyed).
  • Our beagle, Sophie, is six months old and straddling the line between unreasonable puppy and reasonable dog.
  • We rearranged the living room, put up our Christmas tree, and painted the bedroom.
  • I've convinced Shannon of the greatness of classic movies. Victory! But now she gets mad if I watch them late at night without her. Defeat!

Why? Are We Going Somewhere?

Somehow my boys don't think they need pants.

As soon as we walk in the door, Brennan, Tanner, and Eli lose their blue jeans and run around the house in their whitey-tighties. Eli may shed his shirt as well and Graham seems to take issue with wearing socks, but the three older boys are likely to be found roaming the house in their underwear and a shirt. They show no compunctions whatsoever about answering the door or greeting company bare-legged. They wrestle, do chores, eat lunch, do schoolwork, etc. only half clothed.

So I regularly insist that they, "go put pants on!"

And, almost without fail, they look at me with genuine intrigue and ask, "Why? Are we going somewhere?"

"No son. Civilized human beings where clothes. Go get some on!"