Friday, August 31, 2007

Rating My Draft

So how can you evaluate your fantasy draft before you've actually seen the results? Favorite players don't always pan out (in fact they may fail more often because we were overly fond of them to begin with). Crazy schemes and convoluted plans also rarely survive the first month of the season. So how do you judge your fantasy draft months before you might win the coveted fantasy trophy?

I have a quick and simple way to evaluate my draft before I even leave the war room. At each position, I want to see that I have more than my fair share of the top players. For example, in a ten team league you shouldn't have more than 3 of the top 30 players in any position, but I want four or five of those guys. And yet it's surprising easy to do.

In my auction league (8 teams), I drafted 3 of the top 6 tight ends, 2 of the top 6 kickers, 7 of the top 21 wide receivers, 4 of the top 17 quarterbacks, and 6 of the top 27 running backs. I had between half and a quarter of all the top talent, position by position, when I should have only had one-eighth. How do you do this?

For any kind of draft it come down to how you evaluate the players pre-draft.
  • Avoid backups. Only a fraction of backups are able to step in and reproduce the numbers of the first-string guy. So load up on first-stringers from other teams to be your backups.
  • Know your number one receivers. In 2006, the worst passing team (Atlanta) was ignored while the best passing team (New Orleans) had its roster picked clean. But Atlanta's top receiver had more receiving yards than all but one Saint and would have been tied for most receiving touchdowns in the Big Easy. Even on a bad team, the one top receiver is still worth something.
  • Avoid committees. Rarely is it worthwhile to have a running back that must share the wealth. A true committee usually just devalues everyone involved.
  • Avoid the hype. Running backs usually have short productive careers–accept it. Quality rookie WRs don't happen every year–predictable ones come around every three or four years. The top 20 QBs will all average between 200 and 275 yards per game–less than a four point spread. Which leads to my final note:
  • Understand value. In my auction draft I avoided the top one or two players at each position. These guys were overvalued and I could get the third-ranked guy who'll produce about the same numbers for a fraction of the price. In a traditional draft I wait for quarterbacks. Good quarterbacks that produce 80% of Peyton Manning's numbers are still available when the running backs are long gone. Basic supply and demand is a significant concept understanding how to draft your team.
Getting more than my share of the top players, usually by avoiding the top guy (in auctions) and the long shots (in all cases) is a strategy that's meant to mitigate the (bad) luck factor. When I grab four QBs rated between 8th and 16th, I'm hoping that one will overachieve while knowing that one or two will underachieve. It's yet to be seen which are which.

Random Thoughts 8/31/07

  • Here's yet another expert (via Pundit Review) who says we're Iraqis are making progress, the so-called civil war in Iraq is fading away, and the idea of retreating at this point is absurd.
  • We are a few chapters into our third Narnia book. I'm reading The Horse and His Boy to Brennan and Tanner every night (and occasionally Eli too–but he loses interest easily at his age).
  • I've always prompted the boys to approach soldiers in uniform to thank them for "fighting the bad guys." Tanner especially has responded to this. Today he approached an Army Major in the frozen food section and told him thank-you all by himself, with no prompting. I was really pleased.
  • We're getting ready for another Dave Ramsey class next month. For any family that's willing to face the truth and not just stick their head in the sand, Financial Peace can be a life changing thing to have.
  • I had the day off today, so we ran some errands and then hung out at home–Shannon, me and the five children. Five? Yes, we were babysitting a friend's infant girl. So everywhere we went strangers were congratulating us for "finally getting our girl." And, as a first for us, when we were asked if the kids were all ours, we could actually answer no. But why is there a stigma against large families? What if we did have five? or more? At the moment we're content where we're at but I'm a bit defensive about the incredulous looks we got.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Drafted Again

A few of us are having another fantasy football draft tonight. Why another one? This one is an auction draft. A fraction of our regular league got to together to try this experiment where instead of picking football players according to a set order, you have an auction with pretend money. It should be a totally different dynamic and some folks swear by it.

It's not as accessible for new people (one of two reasons we don't do it in our regular league) and it can take a lot longer to get it done (the other reason).

Thanks Jay-rod for hosting the draft. I'm sure it'll be a blast.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hostile Jury

Here's a funny cartoon which actually speaks volumes as to why Mike Vick's crimes seem so particularly heinous.

[Thanks Alanna for the heads up.]

Dog Days of Summer

Our puppy, Sophie, is growing fast; she's about four months old and easily three times the size she was when we got her. The boys went out in the backyard last evening and ran her ragged. Tanner would throw a ball and Sophie would chase it down and then run a few laps before dropping it to be thrown again. It's an absolute joy to see that lanky little dog run full tilt, ears flopping everywhere. The boys laugh, the dog bounces with enthusiasm, and everyone goes to bed utterly exhausted.

How did we ever get along without her?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

You're On the Clock, 2007

We had our Fantasy Football Draft last night and I think I did okay. My starting lineup looks like this:

QB Tony Romo, DAL
RB Steven Jackson, STL
RB Adrian Peterson, MIN
RB Cadillac Williams, TB
WR Reggie Wayne, IND
WR TJ Houshmanzadeh, CIN
PK Josh Brown, SEA

My key backups include running backs Brandon Jackson and LaMont Jordan, receivers Jerricho Cotchery, Bernard Berrian, and Jason Witten, and a trio of project QBs (JP Losman is at the top of that group). Out of 16 players, I've only owned one on a fantasy team before (Jake Delhomme). Everybody else is young and new to me.

We run a flex lineup, so hopefully I'll be able to field as many as three running backs in my starting lineup all season. But the best laid plans… well, you know.

Draft Pics

Here's a few shots of our fantasy football evening at Dave and Buster's. I really felt that they made our league's draft the best it could possibly be. They set up our room and put the Monday Night Football game on a 15-foot screen. Thanks to Dustin's negotiations, they provided a draft board for each conference (a $25 item), a free football magazine for each person, a $10 game card for each person (D&B's is a combined restaurant/arcade), and 10% off our meals and drinks. They waited on us hand and foot and then cleaned up afterward. It was great!

Here's a picture of the South Conference mid-draft. From left to right you have a minister from Leavenworth, two couples from our church, a minister from Lawrence, and our good friend Kyle D. In the background you can see the North Conference doing their own draft with Alanna helping us out (#86). I really want to thank Alanna, Lynn M., and Kimberly H. for helping us run the draft. You guys were invaluable.

Here's a closeup of the North Conference. From left to right you have Gary S., Kevin L., Chad W., Dustin, and Nick S. Are they eating or drafting? They're multi-tasking! In the background you can just catch a glimpse of the game room where countless video games and diversions await.

Here's the only good picture I snapped of my own conference, the West. It shows Cameron S. and Zach B. colluding on the next draft pick. Brothers and formerly teammates, now they each have their own team – but old habits of working together die hard. In the background, the South Conference is hard at work (eating).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Is There a Draft in Here?

We're having our Fantasy Football Draft tonight at Dave and Buster's. This is our sixth year and we have 30 teams (divided into three conferences), but this is the first time we're doing the draft in a public place (instead of in a home or at the church). I'm taking my camera and I'll try to post a few shots later.

It should be a lot of fun!

Because of the draft, I broke out my football jersey today for the first time this season. This is the jersey I received for my 30th birthday last year from friends and family. It has my high school number and my name on it, the team (Seahawks) was chosen because it's a pretty color. Mom dressed up Graham the same way (probably just to get us to pose for a picture–it worked).

43,000 Hits

We passed 43,000 hits this morning. Thanks for reading!

Debunking Conspiracies

Here's another great site for debunking the supposed "truths" of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists: Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Exploding the Myths. The same site also has a funny, tongue-in-cheek Star Wars Conspiracy theory you don't want to miss. It illustrates the absurdities of the moonbat's mindset.

[Thanks to Jay-rod for the heads up.]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Quotable Tanner Riley (8/26/07)

Tanner was sitting with Shannon during communion this morning. He was watching carefully as everyone took the emblems, then asked with a hint of skepticism, "Momma, have they all been sacrificed?"

"You mean baptized?"

"Yeah, yeah."

Sacrificed, baptized, whichever.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ding, Dong… Part 2

I just read an amusing rumor of someone's demise… Fidel Castro is (supposedly) dead.

The scuttlebutt says that Fidel is dead, his brother Raoul will resign, and somehow they're going to appoint Hugo Chavez the Commandante.


That sounds a little far-fetched at first blush. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Fidel has finally assumed room temperature. There are a lot of people in Miami that have been hoping for this for over 40 years. Of course if the Hugo Chavez connection were remotely possible then Cuba's future would remain bleak.

Even if Castro hasn't passed yet, it'll be interesting watching Cuban officials deal with it when it happens.

Potential Penguin Programs

I did a little more searching and, lo and behold, there will be more 3-2-1 Penguins!

Entertainment Rights, which is the new company that owns Big Idea (of VeggieTales fame), is producing 20 new 30-minute episodes of 3-2-1 Penguins. The Penguins are perhaps my favorite Big Idea creation – I too was once an imaginative little boy (about 20 minutes ago). The episodes will air on "qubo" in late 2007 (qubo can be seen on NBC and varied other cable channels–I believe we have a qubo channel on Directv).

Coincidentally, ER owns the rights to Underdog, the movie about which my boys are quite excited. Underdog is, of course, a beagle like our Sophie.

Pirate Cucumbers

Here's the trailer that came out awhile back for the next VeggieTales movie, the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. The official website is cute but there's not a whole lot there yet.

The next VeggieTales video (episode 33), coming out in October, is titled the Wonderful Wizard of Ha's. It's written by Phil Vischer, whose creations are the best material by far in the Veggie-verse. When Phil Vischer does the writing/directing, VeggieTales can powerfully communicate the truth of about God for children (as seen in his masterpiece, A Snoodle's Tale). When Vischer is not involved creatively, which is not always the case anymore, the veggies seem somehow less deep or perhaps less inspired.

If an occasional Veggie-video isn't enough for you, you can read Phil Vischer's books, blog, or his new day job, Jellyfish Labs. We can also hope that the new company that bought the company that bought Big Idea and VeggieTales will pick up some of the projects that were dropped when Big Idea was sold off (I'm a fan of 3-2-1 Penguins!).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Conspiracy Nuts

Shannon and I watched the History Channel's documentary The 9/11 Conspiracies: Fact or Fiction, which airs twice more this weekend. We were amazed at what kind of nuts are out there.

Conspiracy nuts are convinced that they know all the secrets. They're not skeptics, they're not searching for answers, they've already decided what the answers must be and now they're looking for any supporting evidence. That's incredibly self-indulgent. A conspiracy theorist is emotionally invested in an image of themselves as the hero who will reveal the secret knowledge to the masses. It's kind of twisted.

Anyway, I highly recommend the documentary, as well as the definitive book on the subject, Debunking 9/11 Myths, written by the editors of Popular Mechanics. There are also some decent websites and blogs that debunk the conspiracies like ScrewLooseChange.

I had an earlier post on the same topic here. Thanks for the heads up Cox & Forkum.

History Lessons with the President

President Bush was in Kansas City yesterday to deliver a speech the VFW convention. It was an impressive speech that puts today's struggle into an historical context.

The President was articulate and convincing. He was accurate and insightful. The only frustrating issue: why was this speech not delivered two or three years ago? Other noble visionaries were telling these truths but why is the president, in August of 2007 with one year yet to serve, just now getting around to casting this vision for the way forward?

Nevertheless, the President has articulated the place this ideological war has in history. Is it too late to convince the American people? Will anyone even here these examples from history and understand their meaning in today's context? We can only hope.

You can hear the President's speech in two parts here (Part 1 & Part 2).

Read an short excerpt (with commentary) here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tooffless Too

Tanner lost his first tooth yesterday. It had been loose for awhile but too small to easily get a hold of. But not for Mom. While I was at a meeting last night she managed, to Tanner's delight, to get that tooth out. He woke me up this morning to show me the gap in his smile, giggling with glee.

I've been the one to pull all of the baby teeth so far, but I guess I can share the glory with Mom.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Church Blog

Here's the link to the new blog for Wyandotte County Christian Church. We'll comment from time to time on what's going on in the life of our church family and also add devotional things we find and anything else specifically related to the ministry of our congregation. We'll talk about events and ministries and add devotions and sermon notes, etc.

As wide-ranging as this personal blog is, the WCCC Blog will be relatively narrowly focused (as good blogs are supposed to be anyway). All of my personal rants on everything from movies to sports to politics will stay right here on Not Greener.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Potter Prognostications

I recently found a paper I had written dated June 14, 2003, citing my guesses as to the conclusion of the Harry Potter saga. It was written after I had seen the second movie and before the fifth book came out (I haven't read the books but a friend had described them to me as he read each one).

Four years ago I speculated that… [highlight below to read inviso-text]

  • Voldemort is trying to gain immortality by killing his own family, of which Harry is the last known relative.
  • Hermione could be Harry's sister, hidden by their parents from Voldemort and raised incognito by an adopted family. She might even know this but is keeping it a secret. She will eventually end up with Ron.
  • Snape may be embittered toward Harry because of a love triangle with Lily and James. He blames James for Lily's eventual demise.
  • Dumbledore or Hagrid, because they are the most sympathetic characters, will die. So will Harry but he will be brought back by his sister Hermione and the Phoenix to finally defeat Voldemort, to whom Harry was a fatal distraction.

Okay, I missed completely on some of those but had more luck with my other guesses. I'm actually glad for J.K. Rowlings that she wasn't as predictable as I thought she was going to be. It's good that these stories had some really unique twists in them, but at the same time they formed one coherent piece from start to finish.

Hugo No Go

I've had this post in mind for weeks, but it keeps getting overtaken by current events.

Hugo Chavez is President of Venezuela and intends to remain so for the foreseeable future. Last week he proposed an end to Presidential term limits, allowing him to be perpetually re-elected. Chavez is gradually becoming a socialist dictator in the mold of his personal hero, Fidel Castro. That's exactly what the world needs – another Castro.

What's so frustrating is how transparent it all is. Chavez doesn't seem to even try to hide the corruption and his marxist policies. Venezuela will continue to lose civil liberties and the benefits of capitalism in favor of a socialist dictatorship centered on Chavez's cult of personality. And yet, somehow, useful idiots like Sean Penn and Jimmy Carter are oblivious to how this will hurt Venezuelans long-term.

T-Bones Baseball

Over 40 of us from church went to the T-Bones baseball game here in KCK yesterday. Not only was the weather good but it was a lot of fun too. The T-Bones gave away 3000 maroon T-Bones hats and, with about 5500 in attendance, most of us received one.

I did the best thing possible for me at a baseball game: I sat with an expert. Mike B. has been an umpire for years now and it was a pleasure to have him explain every detail of what was going on. There wasn't a question I could come up with that he didn't have an official answer for. It's the only way to watch a sport you don't know very well. Thanks Mike.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Redneck Church?

I was filing some papers in my office when I came across a list of jokes. One read, "You'll know you're in a Redneck Church if – in a congregation of 500 members, there are only seven last names in the church directory."

My brother, who attends our church, recently announced they were expecting their fourth child. That will make 18 members of our family that are part of the same congregation, including 10 children.

I had to laugh.

Another joke on the same page: "In a Redneck Church… opening day of deer season is an official church holiday." Change that to turkey season and that's about right.

They've Got Seoul

A couple of the guys from church emailed me and said they would be unavailable for services Sunday morning… they were on the wrong continent. Then I noticed a hit on my blog from Korea. So here's a shout-out to the globe trotters in our congregation, stay safe guys and hurry home.

Below is a picture of Tony and Gordie about to board a bullet train in South Korea.

The Great Global Warming Swindle

I recently watched the definitive answer to Al Gore's rantings – The Great Global Warming Swindle (2007). This documentary debunking the idea of man-made global warming was aired on British television and will be available this Fall on DVD. I saw the broadcast version at (running time = 75 minutes).

If you've been duped by Al Gore or you think we might be causing global warming, you have to watch this. At the very least, you'll realize that the issue is not a closed matter. At best, you'll realize that there is a lot of pressure to make global warming an issue, even if it's not.

The website has a good summary of the information with some good resources to read.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Church Blog

I'll be starting a second blog, probably early next week. It'll be a blog specific to the goings on in our church. I want to give a voice to all of the great things going on in our church family. It's another tool in the communications toolbox and I'm excited that the Elders have given their blessing to it.

We'll probably only have two types of posts:
  • Ministry posts: what are we doing, why are we doing it, and how you can get involved.
  • Devotional posts: a word from the Word, including sermon and class notes as well as original devotions.
I'll link to the new blog from Not Greener and I'll also have a link put on the church website.

Home School Boys

Brennan and Tanner have finished their first week of home schooling of the year (Brennan in 1st grade and Tanner in Kindergarten). Brennan is doing fantastic (as always), but Tanner is doing surprisingly well also. Tanner, who resisted preschool, is already reading simple sentences. I couldn't be more proud of them (and their mother).

We're still reading the Narnia books, probably finishing the second book this next week. The boys read the chapter titles to me and answer questions about new words and the plot. Brennan has begun following along in the text, reading over my shoulder. I don't know why were weren't doing this earlier.


Just now Tanner went over the sugar bowl, opened the lid and blew into it. Naturally it exploded in his face, covering his cheeks and nose with sugar granules.

"Tanner! What are you doing."

"Huh, huh, it's all over my face!" he says licking his lips wildly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fantasy Football Culture

Here's one of the latest commercials promoting Fantasy Football. Though invented in 1962, Fantasy Football become a real cultural phenomenon in the last 15 years (this is my eleventh season), propelled in part by the internet and the popularity of the NFL as a whole.

Our league has three conferences of ten teams each. It includes fathers and sons, brothers, in-laws, married couples, and best friends. We have a 35-year span between our oldest and youngest players.

To see some great (and possibly digitally enhanced) videos of the football players I'll be drafting click here.

The Door is Ajar

I realized the other day that all of the doors in my world don't seem to close properly. My office door won't latch and neither does my bedroom door at home. Our bathroom door has to be lifted in order to close (one of these days I'll rip the doorknob clean off) and now our front door's latch is catching (but not as badly as the front doors at the East entrance to the church).

Apparently I need to learn how to fix doors. Do you adjust the hinges or move the recessed area where the latch catches (or even the latching mechanism itself)? I really don't know, but I better find out or there won't be a single door I use that closes properly.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Random Thoughts 8/13/07

  • I got horribly sick yesterday, vomiting and such. It was fairly rough. It appears to be viral, so does that mean I got the placebo in the flu clinical trial that I'm in? It's been too long to be the virus they supposedly gave (a month ago), so apparently I have something else. Isn't that pleasant.
  • Speaking of the clinical trials, I was told that through this study they demanded very specific appointments that I couldn't miss. "No problem," said I, "the only conflict that I can't reschedule would be a funeral." Sure enough, I have a funeral Thursday during one of the appointments. Maybe they'll be flexible with me.
  • When I counsel with people for the first time, especially meeting the family of the deceased, I often get comments like, "I thought you'd be older." Sometimes they say it in such as way that I know they mean, "I wish you had been older." But I shouldn't get too defensive because I sometimes feel the same way about the funeral directors. The fellow I met today was the second time in a year that the funeral director will be younger than me (I'm 30). I've never had a problem with a young funeral director (young=under 50?), though I have had issue with some directors that were more elderly. Nevertheless, it just seems more comforting if the guy looks experienced, regardless of how competent he is. That's pretty unfair, and I don't like it when it's applied to me, but that is how people think. Most people want their preacher between 40 and 60, not older and certainly not younger.
  • What happens when a cartoon like the Simpsons has been on TV for 400 episodes over 18 seasons? Someone (with too much time on their hands) has enough information to draw a detailed map of Springfield. It's kind of amazing in a nerdy, useless kind of way.
  • I started a new sermon series yesterday on the night before Jesus died, focusing largely on the upper room discourse from the book of John. I've really enjoyed studying it out and I'm preaching from my NIV Harmony instead of one of my "normal" Bibles.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Roads Go Ever On and On

"Roads go ever on and on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar."

-Bilbo Baggins


There's good news from New Line Cinema, Co-CEO Robert Shaye may finally be warming to the idea of including Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson in the Hobbit movie project. They had been fighting over money (you'd think that multiple billions from one set of films would mean enough money to go around–I guess not).

As I've written before, there's no one better to do a Tolkien film than Peter Jackson and I can even imagine how it could be pulled off (the Hobbit, though connected, is a children's story and very different than the Lord of the Rings).

For the latest news, this new blog is a good one.

Football Prep

We're getting things squared away this weekend for our Fantasy Football league. Setting up the websites, arranging all the behind the scenes stuff, etc. So if you're waiting on an email from me or you're longing for the websites to go live, hang on, it's almost there.

It's our sixth year and we're up to thirty teams in three conferences. That's a lot of set up, but it'll be worth it. Football is here!

Friday, August 10, 2007

42,000 Hits

We passed 42,000 hits last night. Thanks for reading. We also recently passed 1,100 posts.

Hopefully I'm starting to build up enough content, that those of you with relatively narrow interests in my blog can still find something to read here (i.e., if you only read it for the pictures of my kids or for my commentary current events or aviation news). Just search for a keyword at the top of the page or sort the content by the labels listed on the right hand margin or after each post.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Puppy Wisperer

We've been watching the Dog Whisperer since we've had Sophie, our beagle. He famously says that he "rehabilitates dogs and trains people." I can appreciate this approach because, like the impact parents have on children, dysfunctional people with bad habits often end up with dysfunctional dogs.

But what about puppies? The Dog Whisperer deals with adult dogs who have all sorts of abuse or, on the other hand, have been spoiled by their owners who treat them like a child instead of an animal. Neglect and abuse can really hurt a dog that would otherwise be well behaved.

But puppies are ill-behaved by nature. Housebreaking a puppy can almost convince a person not to get a dog in the first place. Sophie will be a good dog someday, but right now she's rambunctious, over-eager and incontinent. We're gradually breaking her of bad inclinations but it's not pleasant work – it's a lot like parenting – constant, diligent, training and behavior modification.

Aged to Perfection?

The average age of the Air Force's planes has increased dramatically. I found an interesting graph to that effect:

As the Cold War ended, fewer planes were needed and fewer were built. This was necessary but it had its side effects: much of the equipment is older than you'd expect. As noted on the graphs above, a pilot flying a bomber or tanker is likely in a plane older than he is and many B-52 pilots have flown the exact same planes as their fathers (the newest B-52 was built in 1962). These planes are maintained well and periodically rebuilt, but eventually they'll pass the point of no return and need to be replaced.

New fighters are already operational (the F-22 Raptor) or on the way (the Joint Strike Fighter F-35), while the Air Force is still sorting out how to replace tankers and bombers (and whether they should even have pilots). The average age for cargo planes has gone down in part because of the purchase of over 150 C-17s in the last 15 years. These planes are expensive, a C-17 costs $200 million, so we can expect the Air Force to be small and make their planes last as long as possible.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kicked Off

Thanks to those who came to the Kickoff at church tonight. We had to do it indoors, but that go us out of the heat and led to some mean ping pong games. We really ought to have church Table Tennis tournaments; we have some seriously talented people (anyone want to organize that for a Sunday afternoon?).

I want to thank Lynn and Kim M. for always helping with the preparation of these events. They're great and they do so much. And thanks should go to my folks; they usually provide the drinks for these events and generally work the kitchen. I appreciate their help a lot. Dustin and Kyle made balloon animals tonight and Jay-rod helped me set up the chairs and tables beforehand. Thanks everybody!

Kickoff Indoors

Oh, just in case you didn't get the word…

Tonight's Wednesday Family Night Kickoff (6-8pm) has been moved indoors because of the heat.

It's supposed to feel like 110º this afternoon, so our kickoff will be inside in the air conditioning. We'll still have hamburgers and hotdogs, with drinks provided. Just bring a side dish or a dessert.

Let people know, some may have planned NOT to come because of the heat.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Random Thoughts 8/7/07

  • Apple came out with a new version of their popular iMac desktop computer. "Thin" is in. As usual, it's an aesthetically pleasing machine, combining the previous version of the machine with the appearance of the iPhone. I just love how these machines look and how they work. You couldn't get me to use something else.
  • I was reading a blog the other day that linked to and ridiculed another blogger for reporting good news on Iraq. After reading the scathing rebuke (remember, to some people, there can be no good news on Iraq) I clicked the link afraid it would lead back to my own blog. It didn't. But I was disheartened that there are people out there with their eyes closed tight and their hands clamped over their ears, refusing to accept any message that deviates of the Iraq-is-a-mistake template. It's too bad because 2007 has been the turn-around year in the Battle for Iraq: General Petraeus' new strategy, the Sunni rejection of al Qaeda, the standing up of the Iraqi army and police, etc. etc. – now everything is finally coming around but many Americans find themselves too heavily invested in losing. So what do they do? They become cynical, close-minded, blind and ignoble cowards who can't hear good news for their own team.
  • We started reading our second Narnia book with the boys, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe this week. The boys are positively thrilled with our evening appointment to read another chapter of C.S. Lewis' classic tale. Now we have to decide, are they old enough to watch the movie? We've generally guarded them from seeing a lot of the movies they desire to watch: no Star Wars (decapitations and dismemberment), Pirates of the Caribbean (violence and mature humor), or Transformers (intense action and, oddly enough, sexuality). So if the older boys watch the Narnia movies, it'll be new ground, especially for Tanner (5). Eventually they'll see most of these movies–when they're old enough–but I just don't feel there's any compelling reason to rush them into it.
  • Speaking of movies, I'm still working my way through the list of classic movies on AFI's Top 100 lists. I just watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), a movie that's almost 70 years old but ought to be watched by every politician today. On the flip side, I watched Cabaret (1972) and needed a mental enema to remove that dreck from my mind. [My position on those two films ought to tell you everything you need to know about my politics.] I also enjoyed two Peter O'Toole films this week: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Man of La Mancha (1972). I'd seen part of the former and all of the latter before, but these movies are worth a second viewing. These four films, like all films and books, have philosophical underpinnings that can be embraced or rejected, but shouldn't be ignored. To watch one of these movies and not be provoked to serious thought is shamefully lazy. As Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Shelves are Toolboxes

I was pleasantly surprised when I went to work this morning to find a new set of shelves installed in my office. Kennie and his wife Mary custom-made these shelves for me (sorry for the low-quality pic–I was holding my laptop over my shoulder to use its camera).

Kennie and my dad snuck in to my office Sunday afternoon and installed them. The shelves add 23 feet of adjustable shelving, with an additional 8 foot Formica countertop. I think they're wonderful!

Now I get to rearrange my books from the 68 feet of floor-to-ceiling shelving on the wall behind my desk to include this new shelving. The extra space will help a lot; I previously had books double-shelved, stuffed in my filing cabinet, stacked on my desk and in boxes on the floor. Thanks Kennie!

These books are tools for my growth as a Christian and service as a minister. So having these shelves to better organize them is like getting a new toolbox or tackle box. It's more than just storage, it's organization and preparedness.

Hit the Ground Running

I'm back in the office but too busy to blog right now. I'll try to add some of the items from the hopper later today or tomorrow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I Want a Do-Over

Well, this marks the end of my "vacation." We decided not to travel anywhere (in order to save money) and just have a restful week at home. So much for that.

We had a good day Tuesday at the zoo and Thursday Shannon and I went to lunch and a movie while Grandma watched the kids. But apart from these highlights and the time in general with Shannon and the boys, the week as a whole was kind of bust.

I had two fundamental flaws with my plan.
1) I got sick. Graham and I had a bad head cold that lingered all week. With a sore throat and congestion that started Monday and lasted all week, I spent Wednesday in bed and would have done the same Saturday if circumstances would have permitted.
2) Timing. I like what I do for a living and not doing it causes me stress. So taking a vacation just before the busy fall season was a mistake. Earlier in the lull of the summer would have been more restful than trying to relax just before things get hectic. I spent the whole week worked up in knots about all the sermons, programs, counseling, teaching, etc. that I know is just around the corner.

Maybe next year I'll take a week off in late June. I'll leave town (and the cell phone) and actually get some rest. Then I'll come back to the quiet summer routine and begin my careful preparation for the Fall.

Yeah, right.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Seeing the Fam

Sorry I haven't blogged much the last few days; I've been sick.

I'm at the Altic family reunion right now, which is nice seeing all my cousins and their families on my Dad's side… but I'd rather be in bed right now. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tossed To and Fro and Carried About

"Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home."

Jonas Goldberg

How to Clean a Frog

Tanner caught a toad today; he put it in a five gallon bucket and added some water. He and his brothers handled that toad until it was nearly worn slick. During the day, he was caught heading outside with his toothbrush.

"Tanner, what are you doing?"

"I'm going to clean my frog."

With his toothbrush… only a boy would think of this. We finally made them set the toad free when I spotted it in Elijah's hand upside down, still, and barely breathing. The poor thing probably crawled away to die peacefully.

Random Thoughts 8/2/07

  • This makes for an informative read. It's a Culture Smart Card given to Marines to inform them on Iraqi culture. It's just an overview but it gives some insight into the cultural complexities that the mainstream media just glosses over. Everything is covered from hand gestures to Islamic holidays, from an explanation of Arabic names to an explanation of how to be a good dinner guest. Fascinating.
  • It's about a week into most NFL training camps and only seven rookies are not signed to a contract yet. That of course includes Chiefs' WR Dwayne Bowe. Of course the Chiefs have other problems with Larry Johnson holding out for more money (trade the bum) and Priest Holmes risking life and limb trying to make a comeback. I wouldn't mind if the Chiefs had a bad year, if they would just earnestly work toward the future with the younger players.
  • Do you still think the Battle for Iraq is a lost cause? A mistake? Then you're probably not reading all the good news at websites like the Fourth Rail and Pundit Review, the Freedom update at Vets for Freedom, or the incredible photo-journalism of embeds like Michael Yon and Michael J. Totten.
  • 76 (out of 100) Senators have been to Iraq. Of the 24 who have not traveled to Iraq, 19 of them are Democrats and two of the Republicans, Sens. Domenici and Voinovich, have abandoned the President on the issue. Of the 22 Senators that have traveled to Iraq three times or more, 14 are Republican or Independent (Lieberman).
  • The next Chronicles of Narnia film, Prince Caspian, will be released May 16, 2008, six months later than anticipated. But the Narnia film is going to be huge with 1500 special effects shots, nearly twice that of the first movie. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader film will begin shooting in a few months and is expected to be released May 1, 2009, with more Narnia films (the Silver Chair, perhaps?) released each year depending on box office results. The boys and I are two-thirds of the way through our first Narnia book, The Magician's Nephew.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sick of Vacation

After a great day at the zoo yesterday, my sore throat turned into a full fledged cold. I went to sleep on the couch from noon 'til two, when Shannon sent me to bed where I slept until 6pm. I'm not a happy camper. Graham is sick too.

It's kind of rotten to be sick while on vacation; I was hoping to get more reading done, especially today. We'll see.