Friday, February 29, 2008

We're Still Winning

It's embarrassing to watch Sen. Obama talk about Iraq and the supposedly desperate need to cut and run. The chief problem with running away is that we're winning – real progress and positive change is happening in that country. The chief problem with "ending it" (the operations in Iraq) is that it is nevertheless connected in many ways to Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

Listen to what says this week:

Remember Iraq? You know, the war we lost? The big failure we were wasting our lives and "treasure" on? Yeah, that one. Haven't heard much about it lately, right? That's because Iraq has disappeared off the international radar, and for good reasons. Enemy activity levels are at the lowest levels in years. The Iraqi Police and military is growing in leaps and bounds. Half of the country has been turned back over to Iraqi control and next month, Anbar Province will become the tenth province turned over. So what has been going on there anyway?

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Convention Blogging: Day Three and Back Home

We made it back after midnight last night. What a wonderful convention! If I hadn't had such a positive experience at the NACC last summer, I would swear off all other conventions except this one, the Preaching Teaching Convention at Ozark Christian College.

As day three came we started a little late but the first main session included two powerful sermons. Cam Huxford and Chris Seidman spoke discernment and forgiveness from the lives of Solomon and Joseph, respectively. After lunch we caught Reggie Epps speaking about leadership in the story of Nehemiah at that main session.

After the main session, we each caught a different workshop. Jay-rod went to a class on church websites which seemed to be really interesting and helpful. My workshop was good but it's so hard to sit in a warm room in the early afternoon – it's not conducive to concentration!

The main session Wednesday night was fantastic, as Bob Russell was the speaker. He spoke on endurance from the life of Job. What a fantastic message for church leaders to hear. My only concern is that the majority of the crowd was closer to the end of the race than the beginning of it. Ministers and church leaders in my age group needed to hear this too!

For those of you who are wondering the worship didn't improve much, though I think I got used to it (or better at tuning out the annoying parts). I'll be glad to return to our worship here at WCCC, which seems so much more genuine and less pretentious.

The last day of of the convention was especially sweet in that we met a lot of old friends and had several really good talks. It's funny, a few of our old acquaintances are actually starting to look old! How funny! But overall, we were still the youngsters in the crowd and talking to friends who are missionaries of and ministers and finding ways we might be able to work together in the future was a blessing beyond measure.

I was shocked at how many restaurants in Joplin have closed or changed hands. At lunch Wednesday our first two or three choices had been boarded up. I suppose that it's too much to expect things to remain exactly the same as 10 years earlier, but some of those places were really good. There is still an abundance of restaurants in the Joplin area, just not all the ones I was used to in my college years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Convention Blogging: Day Two

Today was the best day, but it's really late and I'm absolutely exhausted so here's just a few notes:

  • We had some of the best workshops today on topics like church leadership, counseling, building projects, church elders, etc. I have pages and pages of handouts and notes.
  • The sermons were fantastic today, but I don't envy any man who must preach to a dark room right after lunch. That's a tough audience (because they're half asleep)!
  • The worship leading was horrible again. It's not lack of ability or selection of music. It's the cheesy, inauthentic-looking presentation. I've never been so agitated by a person leading worship. I even filled out an evaluation form expressing my concern. This type of worship might actually discourage younger (under 65) folks from coming back next year.
  • We ate at El Charro's today for lunch, which is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants anywhere. We also enjoyed Matt Proctor speaking at breakfast early this morning. I wish everyone could hear Matt Proctor at least once.
  • We saw Scott F. from Highland at breakfast and spent quite a bit of time with him. Nathan and Belinda S. are here and we've had several visits with them. I saw Vic P. and Marvin and Zelma J. along with Shannon's old friend Wendy, who came to tonight's evening session. I had a great talk with old friends who are missionaries in Italy now and I've had several good talks with my old professors today.
  • We've really enjoyed the Anderson's today as well. With only one vehicle, we've done everything together but it works because we love them so much. The only time we're apart is when we're running around between events talking to our old friends and acquaintances.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Convention Blogging: Day One

We finished our first day of the Preaching and Teaching Convention at Ozark Christian College. Whew, after traveling and two main sessions (and a quick game of 10-point pitch with the Anderson's before bed), we sure are tired.

We checked in at the convention in time for the first main session at 4pm. We listened to a great sermon from Chuck Sackett about the call of Jeremiah and how to discern God's call in our lives. It was a good sermon that really hit home with an audience of ministers and church leaders.

That first session was short and we had the option of buying tickets to dinner there but decided instead to go out to a "nice" dinner. So we enjoyed steaks at Jim Bob's, which is the local shell your own peanuts while you enjoy the taxidermy steak house. We (the Anderson's and us) have several favorite Joplin restaurants we'd like to go to if we get the chance. Some meals we'll eat at the convention but other meals will find us eagerly seeking out old haunts.

After a quick trip to our old Wal-Mart (that's been completely remodeled and is the nicest and largest Wal-Mart I've ever seen) we headed back to campus for the second main session. Kyle Idleman, a former classmate of mine, spoke about being connected to God like a branch is connected to the vine (John 15) and did a fantastic job. He's the type of speaker that makes you wonder if any of the rest of the guys can top that. It won't be easy.

My only problem with the second main session was the worship. Do you remember that Saturday Night Live skit with the Christian singing couple that were just a little too exuberant? Now combine that with a typical TBN perpetually-smiling overly-hairsprayed televangelist and you have the husband-wife team that led our worship tonight. They were just so… happy… and intense… and happy. I couldn't overcome the distraction of it all no matter how hard I tried.

I'm sure some folks loved it. And they seemed to be talented and earnest people. It just wasn't my speed, I guess. Maybe it will be better tomorrow.

Tomorrow is getting here quick. We're up at 6am to hear Matt Proctor speak during breakfast. Matt is one of the men who taught me to preach and is now the President of OCC. It should be a great start to the morning.

Convention Blogging: Arrival

We're in Joplin; we've checked in to the motel and we're getting ready to go to the college for the first session. We're so excited! The Anderson's are with us and we've enjoyed their company this afternoon. They're good friends.

We had a fine trip from Kansas City but I'd forgotten how bad the drivers are in Joplin. Whoa. This isn't the Bible Belt because of all the churches; it's the prayer-provoking experiences trying to change lanes on Rangeline Rd.

More later… if we make it back through traffic.

War Movie Mega Post

The Best of the Best:

In the Thick of It:
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - WW1; perhaps the greatest war film of all time follows German soldiers into the trenches of the first World War.
  • Band of Brothers (2001) - WW2 Europe; one of the finest (and most expensive) mini-series ever produced tracks a small unit through the war from start to finish.
  • Gettysburg (1993) - Civil War; the best dramatic yet historically accurate depiction of specific battle ever.
  • Glory (1989) - Civil War; a basic but excellent Civil War true story.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) - WW2 Europe; perhaps the most visceral depiction of the infantry experience ever.
  • Seven Samurai (1954) - Feudal Japan; More of an action movie than a true war movie, this film is one of the greatest films of all time, regardless of genre.
  • Twelve O'Clock High (1949) - WW2 Europe; a compelling view of the psychological toll of bomber crews over Europe.
  • Zulu (1964) - Victorian era South Africa; a compelling true story of being outnumbered and surrounded.

Back Home:
  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - veterans return home and try to adjust to "normal."
  • Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) - a doctor deals with the human toll of war.
  • Gone With the Wind (1939) - a southern woman endures as war rages around her.
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942) - a British woman endures as war rages around her.

Not Focused on Combat:
  • The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957) - WW2 Pacific; the British endure in a brutal Japanese prison camp.
  • The Caine Mutiny (1954) - WW2 Pacific; an unstable captain leads junior officers to commit the unspeakable sin of mutiny.
  • Casablanca (1942) - WW2; war is turning the world upside down, whether two former lovers like it or not.
  • Empire of the Sun (1987) - WW2 Pacific; the Japanese take over Asia from the point of view of a young British boy.
  • The Sand Pebbles (1966) - China; a sailor tries to keep a low profile in supposedly peacetime China.
  • Sergeant York (1941) - WW1; Alvin York gets religion and wrestles his conscience about going to war.
  • To End All Wars (2001) - WW2 Pacific; the human spirit reaches its breaking point in a brutal Japanese prison camp.

Honorable Mention:
  • Biographical films of great people: like the fictional Maximus in Gladiator (2000), the historically-based fiction of William Wallace in Braveheart (1995), or Audie Murphy playing himself in To Hell and Back (1955). Patton (1970) is another iconic, can't-miss bio.
  • Holocaust Films that occur during World War 2, e.g. Schindler's List (1993), The Pianist (2002), Life is Beautiful (1998), The Grey Zone (2001),and Sophie's Choice (1982).
  • U-571 (2000). Not original but an excellent homage to all submarine movies from Das Boot (1981) to The Enemy Below (1957) and Run Silent, Run Deep (1958).
  • Films that focus on the anguish of combat: When Trumpets Fade (1998), Platoon (1986), Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006), We Were Soldiers (2002), The Big Red One (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and the M*A*S*H television series (in contrast to the overrated 1970 Robert Altman movie).

Dishonorable Mentions:

War movies, in my opinion, are usually hurt by the unnecessary inclusion of a love story, especially if it's clumsily tacked on to give the female audience a reason to watch. From the melodrama of Pearl Harbor (2001) to the pseudo-historical relationship in Braveheart (same writer for both movies by the way), few war movies gain anything by dividing attention between the crisis at hand and the loved ones back home (I'd make an exception for a film like Michener's The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), which is primarily a drama about a man leaving his family to go back to war).

Of all the unnecessary love stories shoehorned into war movies, the listless, flowery, and nearly unintelligible daydreaming in Terrence Malick's Thin Red Line (1998) was singularly the most excruciating. As a man in the theater with me exclaimed as the end credits scrolled, "What [insert string of expletives here] was that?!"

So my hats off to films willing to risk an all-male cast, where women only appear briefly in photographs taped inside of cockpits and helmets (but not bizarre daydreams). We didn't come to this film for a Danielle Steele love story; war itself will supply all the drama we need.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kansas Loses Spirit

Reports say that the B-2 bomber that crashed in Guam was tail number 89-0127, the "Spirit of Kansas." It is air vehicle number 12, block 10. That means it was in at the end of the first batch of bombers, right in the middle of the pack, and upgraded to block 30 standards. It wasn't the oldest B-2 in service but it wasn't one of the newest either; delivered in February 1995, it served exactly 13 years.

Fortunately both pilots are safe and only one of the two is still in the hospital.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

53,000 Hits

We passed 53,000 hits today with over 1350 posts in three years.

I've had the worst time getting my thoughts written onto my blog the last several weeks. I love to write and I'm on the computer almost every day and I'm having great ideas all the time, but something has been amiss. Family anecdotes, interesting news items, devotional thoughts, etc. are all readily available, but I'm just not getting them written down.

Perhaps I need to change my writing routine.

Nevertheless, I appreciate everyone coming by to read my random musings. I really appreciate your comments and feedback.

I have an article on war movies that I wrote a few months ago and I've been tweaking it since then as I've filled in a few gaps. I'll try to post it in the next day or two.

Preaching and Teaching

Shannon and I will be at the Preaching-Teaching convention in Joplin this next week (Mon-Wed). We really enjoyed it last year and I'll try to do some convention blogging each night to capture the day's activities and experiences.

Thanks in advance to Grandma for watching the boys!

B-2 Down

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber crashed on takeoff in Guam yesterday; both pilots ejected to safety.

There are only 21 of these bombers, which cost about $2 billion each, and this is the first one to crash. At the same price as a major warship, the B-2s are not disposable. In fact each one is officially named, like battleships, after states. There is a Spirit of Kansas and a Spirit of Missouri and a Spirit of Oklahoma. I've not heard yet which one crashed.

The oldest B-2s are fifteen to twenty years old and one hopes that it might have been one of the older airframes versus one of the newer ones. If you have to lose one, lose one of the high mileage models.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Purple Fin

Have you seen the new $5 bill to be issued in a few weeks?

It's purple. Seriously.

I hadn't seen it until recently but, like the $10, $20, and $50, there is additional hues added to the basic green and white. With the $5 bill the additional shade is purple, including a huge purple five on the back.

The K-State fans are going to love this.

The NFL Will NOT Sue Your Church

The NFL announced this week that they will permit churches to have Super Bowl parties. Last year, the NFL sent lawyer letters to two churches which were promoting family centric Super Bowl parties. What was the problem? They were showing the game on screens larger than 55 inches, which is against the rules.

Sports bars can show big screen public viewings of the NFL and churches could use smaller screens but churches were disallowed from using jumbo screens… until now.

I wonder how many churches were aware they were breaking the rules?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Random Nerd Thoughts

  • Here's all you need to know about Blu-ray beating HD-DVD and what it means for the rest of us.
  • My lights in my office are on a motion sensor. The sensor was adjusted this morning but now the lights won't stay on no matter what I do. I can wave my arms like an idiot but I only get light for 3o seconds and then click… lights out.
  • Did you see the Mac vs. PC rap video? It's a bit crude at times (yet not too awful) but it's very clever.
  • For all of you comic book fans, here's a parody from last year of the Mac commercials with Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. Spiderman: "Hi, I'm a Marvel (comics)." Superman: "And I'm a DC." It's the funniest thing I've seen in a while and it's got better writing and voice acting than most things on TV. It's pretty good. Part 2 is here… it's also good. You can follow the links if you're interested in more from this artist.
  • Don't be too quick to buy any device with NAND flash memory in it. Prices are expected to drop significantly this year, reducing the price of flash drives, cell phones, and iPods. That's a good thing for us.
  • We're trying to decide at home about combining our TV, cell phone, land line, internet, and coffee maker. Which company do go with? Which package? I'm a devoted DirecTV customer but the best packages seem to offer Dish Network. I'm a Verizon customer that's had it "up to here" but I'm under contract until next summer. Any thoughts anybody?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let it Snow Again and Again and Again

Not only has this been an unusually cold winter, it's been really snowy here in KC. According to the National Weather Service, Kansas City has had 9 inches above normal snowfall this winter, with potentially more on the way Thursday.

It also snowed in Baghdad this year for the first time in a century. In fact, from China to the United States to Europe, most of the Northern Hemisphere has had a ridiculously wintery winter. That crazy Al Gore; I thought the globe was supposed to be warming?

Unfortunately a lot of winter weather in KC has fallen on Sundays and Wednesdays, which has really put a chill on church activities and attendances. On our attendance sheets for Sunday morning we make note of special circumstances and "snow" or "ice" keeps appearing next to unusually low numbers the last few winters.

Gambling on Technology

I noted the other day:

"One more nail in the coffin for HD-DVD: Netflix has dropped the high-def DVD format in favor of Blu-ray. This is why you should be careful not to waste money on the very newest technologies, you'd hate to invest heavily in the next betamax, a good technology that was rejected nevertheless."

HD-DVD is now officially dead. Toshiba has called it quits. The next generation of high definition DVD will be Sony's Blu-Ray.

So do you feel bad for dropping a fortune on a defunct format? You're in good company, almost everybody with a Blu-ray device is in almost the same boat. That's right, Blu-ray is evolving and (except for the PS3) most Blu-ray players can't play the new Blu-ray 2.0 format. So anybody with a high definition device right now is looking at replacing that device in the near future, to stay current. It pays to just sit back and let it sort itself out.

It's usually the prudent move to let new consumer technology mature a bit before diving in. The price comes down after a year or two and the refined versions are often much improved over the originals. With Blu-ray specifically, I'm loathe to invest anything in it because I believe movie rentals is going digital in the long run. Your rentals and personal video library may be on a hard drive and not a shelf.

Here's a short list of gadgets I'm waiting for:

  • the iPhone - Everyone needs a phone and I'd like to have a PDA but I don't want to carry two or more devices (though I could have a utility belt like Batman…). The iPhone is perfect in my estimation – it's just too expensive right now.
  • High-Definition TV - We bought a 720p TV last summer (it was a good deal) but we watch standard definition programming on it. HD programming and HD TiVo are finally coming down to a level that's reasonable but I'm patient enough to wait until it's just right…
  • Apple TV - As I said above, the future of HD movie rentals is digital, a la iTunes and MP3s. Apple TV, which is like an iPod for your TV, is very likely what we're all looking at in a few years. DVD players, like CD music players, will become more and more unnecessary as we get our entertainment content over the internet.

Post Strike Schedules, Part 2

There's been a lot more specific information released this week about your favorite TV shows. TV Guide has an excellent list (updated hourly) that can probably tell you everything you need to know (at least as far as it's been decided for some shows).

Suffice it to say, hour long shows with lots of special effects were more heavily affected by the strike than quickly and cheaply-produced sitcoms. Most of the movie studios seemed to cope with the writer's strike relatively well. Some films were shot without re-writes and others were simply delayed a few months. I've seen some announcements of films being released 3-6 months later than originally planned but little has been noteworthy.

I'm glad the writers were compensated for the work they do in various areas and formats, but if I were them, I'd be nervous about striking anytime in the future. Both the television and film industries managed rather well without them and another work stoppage may need to be significantly longer – perhaps longer than the writers themselves can bear.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rubberband Minigun

This is just silly. A battery powered 24-barreled rubber band Gatling gun shooting 288 rubber bands in mere seconds. I've been giggling about this all afternoon.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It Keeps Her off the Streets

Shannon called me a little while ago. She painted another room in the house. The main bathroom this time.

Okay. Sure.

I guess everybody needs a hobby.

Starting at Home

Which is most important to the education of a child: the school? the federal government? the local government? the parents?

Parents and local governments are too inconsistent, some argue, and teachers, ultimately, must do as they're told. So the real power in education must start with the government bureaucracy and politicians. The government, we're told, will assume responsibility for every child, making sure they all receive equal training to be productive members of society.

But the more the federal government gets involved (regulating by the giving and withholding of federal funds) the worse our students perform. Generally speaking, the longer the student is in public schools the lower they perform in relation to students in other countries.

Try to confront this failure and you'll run smack into one of the most powerful unions in history. This union ensures that there is only one answer to every education problem: spend more federal money on it (thereby increasing federal control).

But teachers and parents know intuitively that students are best helped by support from Mom and Dad. Emotional support, security, moral training, and discipline are foundational to well-rounded and well-educated citizens. Ronald Reagan said it best:

Our leaders must remember that education doesn't begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington. It doesn't even begin with State or local officials. Education begins in the home, where it's a parental right and responsibility. Both our public and our private schools exist to aid our families in the instruction of our children, and it's time some people back in Washington stopped acting as if family wishes were only getting in the way.

We don't need more money and regulations to manufacture more faceless workers for the state, thoroughly programmed by the state but only barely educated. We need more solid homes in which to nurture solid citizens. To the degree to which we don't have the solid homes necessary, we must have stronger churches and communities. But the problem is better addressed when the government trusts its people to do a better job than it has proven itself incapable of doing.

Friday, February 15, 2008


KU will wear 1988 throwback jerseys in their game against Colorado Saturday afternoon. It's hard to believe it has already been 20 years since Kansas won the NCAA tournament. But since 1988 they've been to the Final Four five times and won their conference championship twelve times, so success in KU men's basketball is the norm.

Here's a list of Kansas basketball players and coaches that will be in Lawrence this weekend for the game and reunion celebrations.

KU leads Colorado all-time, 114-39

That Guy

Helzberg diamonds is running some really funny television and radio ads about "that guy." "That guy" is the super-sensitive, ultra-romantic, perfect guy that women swoon for:

"That guy" gives her froo froo dog a bath.
"That guy" made his own card to truly encompass the depth of his feelings.
"That guy" thinks the toe-nail polish needs another coat.

Since you're not that guy, you need to buy her big gifts, like diamonds… or a van.

Yesterday, I was that guy. It was Valentine's day and our van was dying, so I bought my wife a new van… because I'm concerned about her feelings of safety and security. [And I don't know how to fix the old one.] We bought a KIA Sedona, which is not exactly what we wanted but was both recommended and a really good deal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cool or Creepy?

Kansas City has had its picture taken!

Both KCK and KCMO are now on Google Street View (as of yesterday), which means that you can go to almost any point on any street in town and see a street level 360º picture. That means I can see our church building from multiple angles and my own house too.

And that's the creepy part. You can see my boys' bicycles out in the front yard (the pictures were obviously taken last summer). You can see both of our vehicles and whether or not our yard was mowed (it was). You can even see who's cars are in the parking lot at church. Doesn't it all seem a little invasive?

Lawrence and Baldwin City were both included in the Google Maps update of KC.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thunderbirds in KC

The Kansas City Aviation Expo will feature the Air Force Thunderbirds this year. The airshow will be August 23 and 24 at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. Other than the Thunderbirds, we'll also see the Army's parachute team: the Golden Knights, a P-51/F-15 heritage flight, and a B-2 fly-by among several other performances and exhibits.

My older boys are just getting to that age where a full day at the airshow might be feasible (Brennan will be almost 8, Tanner will be 6 and half). If we don't go this year, I'm sure we'll be going soon. Someday we'll be there with Mom and all four boys, raring to go for an eight hour day on the tarmac!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Post Strike Schedules

The Writer's Strike has been resolved (mostly) so all of your favorite TV shows can come back now… right? Well, not exactly. Because of the interruption some shows can't get the ball rolling again until this Fall or later. Others had shows already "in the can" that they can air while the production plays catch up.

Here's what's going on:

New episodes on the way in this Spring:
The Office, Ugly Betty, and Without a Trace

A few episodes in the can, with more coming this Spring:
30 Rock, all three CSI shows, and Smallville,

A few episodes in the can, but future uncertain:
Back to You, Bones, Jericho, Lost, NCIS, Prison Break, Scrubs, and Terminator

Bionic Woman

This season is probably over (looking at Fall '08 or early '09):
24, Chuck, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, ER, Law & Order:SVU, and Pushing Daisies

Sitcoms can supposedly produce new episodes in as little as five weeks (good news for you Office fans). Dramas could take two months (mid-April) to produce a new episode. Shows with sophisticated special effects were mostly pushed off until next season or later.

More shows and details listed here.

Random Thoughts 2/11/08

  • One more nail in the coffin for HD-DVD: Netflix has dropped the high-def DVD format in favor of Blu-ray. This is why you should be careful not to waste money on the very newest technologies, you'd hate to invest heavily in the next betamax, a good technology that was rejected nevertheless.
  • My wife called me at the office today, "I painted the bathroom." "You did?" "Yup." "Uh… okay." Of course she painted a room in the house; why not? Have you met her?
  • KU and MU both accept about 77% of applicants to their universities. However, not everyone who is accepted actually attends. 53% of KU acceptees eventually enroll, while only 47% of Mizzou acceptees do. Both schools often serve as the second choice for students applying to other schools. Acceptance rates varied widely between Harvard which accepts only 9% of those that apply (but 79% of those acceptees do enroll there) and Iowa State which opens the door to 90% of those that apply.
  • A few of us got tickets today to the Brigade arena football team home opener. The Kansas City Brigade will be playing the Tampa Bay Storm in their first game in the new Sprint Center on March 1st. I can't wait!
  • According to his voting record, Barack Hussein Obama is the most liberal Senator in the U.S. Senate. I heard a caller on the radio today say that if he wins the Presidential election, it would be an Obama-nation. That's funny.
  • My favorite shirt right now (thanks Laura):

Working the Lists, Part 2

It's getting harder and harder to finish out my lists of classic movies. When I started last summer, I had seen fifty-five of AFI's top-100 movies. Currently I've seen eighty-six from the 1998 list and eighty-one from the 2007 list (the lists overlap significantly so I've seen 101 out of 123 movies total). But in the last month I've only seen two or three films on the list.

A lot of these movies are not on TV regularly and are not available to rent in most video stores. I could buy the movies on Amazon but that seems like a waste of money for a movie I only want to view once. TCM has been my go-to source for most of the list, but I'm at the mercy of their schedule which may not include the few remaining films I'm after.

Titles on my yet-to-view list that I'm hunting for: Chinatown (1974), Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931) and The Gold Rush (1925), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933).

I'm also looking for films that I've seen but don't remember well or I've only seen in part, like Spartacus (1960), American Graffiti (1973), and In the Heat of the Night (1967). If I can't remember the gist of the movie, then I don't count that toward the list and I try to watch it again.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Old School

KU just beat a very good Baylor team by ten points. What's the big deal? Baylor hit twelve three-point shots while KU made zero. 0-9 from outside and the Jayhawks still scored 100 points!

The Jayhawks had five players in double figures (with Brandon Rush held to 9 points due to foul trouble) and scored 36 free throws. Passing, a dominant inside game, and free throws – that's one way to beat a hot shooting team!

It was an unusual game but it sure was fun to watch!

Survivor Thoughts

We're watching Survivor again this season and it looks surprisingly good. The show almost snuck up on us. Here's a few thoughts:

  • CBS is becoming more generous with what is offered on the website. You can watch entire episodes, which is cool if you missed it the first time. And now they're offering deleted scenes and extended versions of interviews with the players. Cool.
  • There are currently nine different versions of the Survivor game in different countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Columbia, France, Israel, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. The U.S. version is the only one with Jeff Probst though.
  • This is the second season to film on Palau with the exact same shooting locations as in 2005. None of the returning cast were from the Palau season, though Palau-winner Tom Westman was invited but declined.
  • While CBS has not announced where Survivor will be held next fall (filming this summer), I've always been an advocate for Survivor: Alaska. A location like Ketchikan during the summer would be warm enough for the game and strikingly beautiful. It's a remote location that already has a tourism industry and an airport and Ketchikan has the largest number of standing totem poles in the world. If Ketchikan is just not warm enough, other Pacific Northwest locations (British Columbia, Washington, or maybe Oregon) would provide great scenery, remote locations, and the whole totem pole motif that ought to be right up Survivor's alley.
  • Speaking of future seasons, CBS is committed to at least two more seasons after this one (seasons 17 and 18) and Jeff Probst is under contract for a year beyond that. Though it's unlikely they would continue indefinitely and ratings have slipped the last few years, Survivor still does better than most shows on TV.

A Billion Pennies Saved…

Defense Secretary Gates was talking about the defense budget last week and made a few interesting notes. Critics lambaste the current administration for the amount of money it's spending in Iraq – as hundreds of billions of dollars get spent, we're not talking chump change – and every dollar spent on the military gets scrutinized in the press. Hillary or Obama would be sure to dial the spending back dramatically (in order to spend it elsewhere).

But our defense spending is only 3.4% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During the Korean War defense spending was 14% of the GDP and during Vietnam it was 9%.

I'm not advocating that military spending should be a blank-check issue, but a lot of that money goes to military pay and health care and housing. A lot more goes to training. I am concerned about how the big ticket items (ships and aircraft) keep getting more and more (prohibitively?) expensive. It seems the Navy can't put a ship in the water for less than a billion dollars, and consequently the raw number of US Navy ships at sea is at a 90 year low, with the total number of active commissioned ships below 250. Navy advocates such as Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) want the Navy to grow numerically, but that won't happen without buying cheaper ships, one way or the other.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Random Thoughts 2/8/08

  • The Chiefs are in trouble with star DE Jared Allen if they can't sign him soon. Allen says that if they don't sign him to a long term contract now, he'll never sign long term with the team. If the Chiefs hold true to form, Peterson will stall, anger Allen, slap the franchise tag on him ($9 million) and then lose him to free agency in '09. If the Chiefs don't pay Allen, it becomes that much harder to claim they are earnestly rebuilding.
  • My boys have really been enjoying the Wii, but at least half of what we play is actually the older GameCube games. The Wii accepts the smaller GameCube mini-DVDs and GameCube controllers plug in to the top of the Wii. I can buy the old games that were $50 new for only $5-10 used and we've also inherited some old games from friends for free. Favorites in our house include Mario Kart Double Dash and Super Smash Brothers Melee mixed in among the more current Wii games like Wii Sports and Mario/Sonic Olympics. The old Gamecube games (some as old as 2001) are new to us and provide a cheap way to add variety.
  • Maury, the new puppy, now has a camouflage collar with, appropriately enough, a dog tag. The problem is that he's so short that if he lowers his head at all the dog tag smacks the floor. The poor thing is just so little. In the picture below, I think he's facing left. I think.

  • I've begun playing basketball again on Tuesdays during our lunch hour. Jay-rod and I did this for awhile last year and it's great to get back into a routine with a bunch of great guys.
  • Speaking of video games, it's interesting how universal gaming is becoming. The average age of video game players is rising every year. Grandparents and nursing home residents are playing the Wii. The video game review show, cable's X-Play, has grown up recently and become an video-game industry news program (Adam Sessler almost looks and sounds like a legitimate journalist now… almost). Even Vanity Fair, a magazine that has never covered video game news before, will publish its first game review in the March issue.

Our Young Historian

Brennan (1st grade) had to write a story about Abraham Lincoln in school. As soon as he did, his proud Momma gave me a call at the office. Brennan wrote:

Abraham Lincoln Lived in a log cabin.
He was born in Kentucky.
He is brave and honest.
He reads his Bible and books.
Hes the President of the united states.

We're awfully proud of our little bookworm.

52,000 Hits

We passed 52,000 hits yesterday. Thanks for reading! The 3rd anniversary of my blog is next Monday.

I wrote a short story for the blog – a contrived conversation between Shannon and me – about how we got our second dog. It revolves around the fact that Maury is a Havapoo. Naturally, the dialog descends into double entendre and bathroom humor, so I won't be publishing it here. In fact I'll probably just delete it. As a creative writing exercise it was fun, but it's generally wise to avoid bathroom humor altogether. Oh well.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Is McCain Able?

I looked over my posts in the last three years that mention John McCain and, to my surprise, I've mentioned him in a positive light more often than in a negative light. I generally don't support the Senator and considered him about the fifth best candidate in the GOP primaries.

The chief problem with John McCain the presidential candidate is John McCain the Senator. If he had never been a Senator (creating a compromised track record of authoring and backing wrong-headed legislation) McCain might be really exciting amongst conservatives. He's an interesting character and holds some admirable positions. But McCain does have a track record. Like the other candidates this year, he's a mixed bag of positions with limited ability to win the office.

I genuinely believe Hillary/Obama would be horrible for this country, but McCain is only somewhat better. And if he can't win, his conservative credentials (or lack there of) are a moot point.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

31 Days of Oscar

February 1st thru March 2, Turner Classic Movies is running it's "31 Days of Oscar." According to their schedule there will be some great movies on TV, including many that not readily available on video or anywhere else. Most of the films are Oscar winners but not all of them. They are all classics, in the best sense of the word.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) was on last night and we watched Rebel Without a Cause (1955) a few days ago. As I type this, Citizen Kane (1941) is playing, with Vertigo (1958) and Rear Window (1954) on this evening.

Many of the films are ones I'd never heard of, especially before I got into classic movies. But TCM's website contains a fantastic database of movies, with descriptions and trivia and everything you'd need to pick your viewing options.

TCM is a great channel year 'round, but this month is absolutely jam-packed with movies you can't miss.

The Direction We're Going?

"In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will."

–Winston Churchill

Ah, remember when leaders had values and integrity, before they triangulated their poll-driven policies? I could be wrong, but it seems that our country is about to take a hard left detour into juvenile, naive self-absorption:

• Abandon the Iraqis.
• Abolish the border.
• Raise taxes.
• Squelch the economy.
• Grow the government.
• Neuter the military.
• Wallow in filth.
• Promote the lowest common denominator.

We've been sliding this way for decades, but we may be less than a year from jumping in with both feet. We'll implement a European-style socialism and get European results: low production, high unemployment, ineffective defense, the loss of national identity, cultural decline, and free health care.

Good luck with that.

I'd like to think that the nation will recoil after four years of secular socialism, but Europe has wallowed in it for decades.

The new Hillary/Obama virtues:
"In war, equivocation. In defeat, litigation. In victory, smugness. In peace, self-obsession."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pancake Day a Week Late?

Apparently the conflict with Shrove Tuesday and Super Tuesday has led IHOP to push back their annual pancake giveaway back a week. So come get your pancakes before Lent… next Tuesday, a week after Lent has already started.

I wonder what practicing Catholics think of this?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Ads 2008

My 5 favorite commercials from this SuperBowl XLII:

5. Fed Ex – Giant pigeons
4. Pixar – Wall-E trailer
3. Diet Pepsi Max – nodding off
2. Bridgestone – screaming Richard Simmons
1. Bridgestone – screaming critters

You can see all of the Super Bowl commercials here.

Honorable mention: the NFL's story about Chester Pitts, Justin Timberlake getting thrown around by Pepsi, the new Narnia and Ironman trailers, Doritos' giant mouse, and the two E-Trade baby commercials.

Question 1: Why do people go nuts over dalmatians and Clydesdales? Budweiser has a guaranteed winner every year with essentially the same premise. I don't get it.

Question 2: How many people didn't understand the Audi commercial because they haven't seen, didn't recognize, or don't remember The Godfather (1972)?

Question 3: What was Career Builder thinking? Really?

Random Sports Thoughts 2/4/08

  • The local Nike outlet had a great price on footballs and basketballs recently. These are nice, leather balls, adult and youth sizes, for the same price as a cheap-o Wal-Mart ball. I jumped at the chance and grabbed a football (I always keep a football in my office for those sunny afternoons when Jay-rod and I can conference over a game of catch). If I still have spending money at the end of this pay period, I may go back and get a basketball or perhaps a youth football.
  • The most watched Super Bowl ever was probably the most exciting Super Bowl ever. It had a wonderful dilemma – should you root for the underdog or the undefeated? There really wasn't any bad guys here; either history would be made or you'd have an historic upset. That's a win-win situation. I had two fantasy players on each team, so I was content either way.
  • The K-State fans I know were all very gracious about last week's win. The ones in the media were insufferable. Either way KU is back in first place again and playing Mizzou tonight. Missouri is the real rival and, even though they're having a down year, beating them matters more than almost anything else.
  • I just heard that Bobby Knight quit. I'm okay with that. Great coach? Yes. Decent human being? Uh… well…
  • The Manning brothers are easy to root for. They're not perfect but they're good. And now they each have been named Super Bowl MVP in consecutive years. That's incredible.
  • KU is ranked 4th and 5th in the AP and ESPN polls, respectively. K-State is 20th and 24th. Texas and Texas A&M are also ranked in the top 25. KU and K-State play again in Lawrence on March 1st.
  • Fantasy football was very good to me this post-season. After a very strong regular season which just didn't produce as many wins as it should have, I've won the post season game to take the trophy. I was one of twelve teams out of thirty to make the playoffs and then did the best out of those twelve. This is my first championship in fantasy football; I've been playing for over 12 years.

Feeling Blue?

I took the day off today while Shannon repainted the kitchen/dining room.

That's right: we painted today. Four kids, two dogs and a few gallons of paint… what could possibly go wrong?

Actually Shannon and I did a pretty good job without too many hitches. The kitchen walls are now a beautiful shade of blue, contrasting nicely with the white trim and natural wood stains. We knocked it out in about five hours and couldn't be happier!

After the painting, I took the three older boys, Brennan, Tanner, and Eli, out for ice cream. I sat with my precious progeny while they ate Russell Stover's hand scooped ice cream. We came back and played video games (the older three boys and I) for the rest of the afternoon.

What a wonderful day.

Too Busy to Blog

It's been awhile since I've blogged!

I usually take Sunday off from blogging (unless I publish something I've already written earlier in the week). But when I have a Saturday wedding or a Monday funeral, that can lead to a two or three day hiatus from blogging. It's not just that I'm busy (I am!) but both of those events, combined with preaching and teaching on Sunday, require a lot of creative and emotional energy. It's hard to do these things and still feel up to writing anything.

But I'm back now after a WONDERFUL day off with the boys and I'll probably be writing all night!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Big Bang

The Navy did something yesterday right out of a science fiction movie! The Navy test-fired a real-life electromagnetic railgun! That's right, using massive amounts of electricity and magnets, a metal projectile was fired at hypersonic speeds with no gunpowder or explosives involved.

A seven pound slug reached speeds of Mach 7 (over 5000 mph) in the record breaking 10.86 megajoule shot. The slugs contain no explosives, making them so much safer to transport and use, but after being shot into space would re-enter that atmosphere and hit a target 200 miles away like a Mach 5 meteorite.

The Navy would like to see these weapons on ships in the next 20 years.