Friday, December 31, 2010

Saw This on Facebook…

Wow.

I just saw this on a (single) friend's status:

…just heard from a buddy in central Minnesota. He says it has been snowing heavily for three days now. His wife has done nothing but stare through the window. If it doesn't stop soon, he will probably have to let her in.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Books in 2010

The beginning of my virtual library.
Here's a sampling of the books I read this last year. It's not all of them; I have stacks of half-read books at home and at the office that I'll have to finish in 2011… or 2012. And, of course, I read for hours everyday studying for lessons and sermons and reading the news and such on the internet––none of that is really represented here.

One of the key differences in my reading this year was the release of Apple's iBooks on the iPhone in April. Now I have a library in my pocket at all times. Now I'm chipping away at my reading three or four extra times a day, even if it's only for five minutes a time. The iPhone is a bit small for comfortable reading, but the ease of use and convenience is unparalleled.

  • Directions for Christian Living by Derek Prime, 1986. This was a nice little book covering the basis of the Christian from doctrine to Bible study to evangelism. We used it for a home Bible study.
  • Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne, 1926, e-book. This was my first proper e-book (not counting stuff I've read on the internet over the years), Pooh was the free book included in Apple's iBooks. The children's classic was sweet and adorable, in a strong and sentimental kind of way. But when read to a child, I'm sure it would be just right.
  • Before I Go by Peter Kreeft, 2007. I was a little disappointed with this one, as Kreeft is one of my favorite philosophy teachers and the subject – parting notes from a father to his children – is particularly dear to me. But 90% of this book was forgettable or perhaps under-developed. Oh, well.
  • War by Sebastian Junger, 2010, e-book. Junger is a masterful writer but after reading a few "modern journalist in a modern war" kinda books, I wasn't expecting too much. But War, an account of a company of American paratroopers in Afghanistan, is written with wit and insight and a very honorable point of view – not condescending or ill-informed. This is how I wish all journalists approached their topics.
  • The Well-Behaved Child by John Rosemond, 2009. We used this book for a parenting class at church; I highly recommend it. It's the wisdom our grandparents just knew but modern psychology forgot.
  • Eugenics and Other Evils by GK Chesterton, 1917, e-book. Chesterton was the preeminent British Christian apologist of the early 20th century that CS Lewis read and respected. This volume, about liberal "experts" wanting to control the breeding habits of mankind, sounds like it could be talking about the abortion issue today, even though it was written 90 years ago.
  • Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie, 1957. The first of two WW2 books upon which the HBO miniseries, "The Pacific," was based, Leckie's book is very well written and an interesting memoir. Leckie was at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu.
  • With the Old Breed by EB Sledge, 1981. The second "Pacific" book; in my opinion, Sledge's book is one of the best WW2 memoirs ever written. Sledge was at Peleliu and Okinawa.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887, e-book. This is the first Sherlock Holmes book, all of which I'm trying to read now in the order they were published. Being able to tap a word and get a dictionary definition is incredibly useful here.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843, e-book. I read this Christmas ghost-story for the first time here after having seen several versions on film and TV. Something a little different in the printed version, Scrooge is almost immediately repentant in the book. His heart turns easily but he's still forced to suffer the visits of all three ghosts. In the film versions I've seen, it takes more prodding to finally get through to him.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In My Own Image

Every night this week, Brennan and I have been watching the extended-cut version of The Lord of the Rings movies. The four little ones go to bed, Mom wanders off listlessly, and 10-year-old Brennan and I settle in to watch elves, orcs, dwarfs, and hobbits for two hours.

It'll take us six nights (about 12 hours) to get through all three movies. Probably a little longer, because Brennan and I keep pausing the movie to check the maps of Middle-Earth. I've never been so proud. *wipes tear from eye*

In a lot of cases, I require the boys to read the books before I let them watch the movies, but I made an exception here. I'll probably have the boys read the LOTR books in high school, with the Hobbit in junior high. But Brennan's a little bit ahead of the curve, was getting bored with Harry Potter, and the Hobbit movies are coming out in two years… so I pulled the trigger on it. And he's loving it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When Recycling is Wasteful

Here's a fantastic Gregg Easterbrook article on a point about recycling that has always bothered me.  How does it make sense to pay (taxes) the city to pick up recyclable material?  Those items have value as a raw material, so why am I not being paid for giving away something that's still valuable (as opposed to trash)?

The New York Times recently reported that unwanted appliances -- old washing machines and so on -- placed on the curb for disposal in New York City have been "disappearing." With scrap metal prices strong, what the article calls "thieves" have been driving along streets scheduled for used-appliance pickups -- in New York City, this happens by published schedule -- and taking away the unwanted junk before the city's officially approved recycler arrives. The "thieves" then sell the unwanted junk as scrap metal.

Set aside whether it's theft to take an unwanted item that has been discarded in a public place. New York City bureaucrats think so; they've instructed police to ticket anyone engaged in recycling without government sanction. Twenty years ago, New York City bureaucrats were demanding that citizens recycle whether they wished to or not, and imposing fines for failure to comply. Now if the average person is caught recycling, it's a police matter.

This issue is not the cleanliness of streets or the environmental benefits of recycling -- it's control of money. The New York City Sanitation Department pays a company called Sims Municipal Recycling about $65 million annually to pick up and recycle metal, glass and aluminum. Notice what's happening here? Recycling is supposed to make economic sense. If it did, the recycling company would be paying the city. Instead, the city is paying the company. Montgomery County, Md., my home county, imposed recycling rules saying they made economic sense. Now the county charges homeowners $210 annually as a recycling tax. If recycling made economic sense, government would pay homeowners for the privilege of picking up their valuable materials. Instead, New York City, Montgomery County and many other government bodies charge citizens for something they claim makes economic sense.

Recycling of aluminum makes good economic sense, given the energy cost of aluminum and the high quality of recycled aluminum. Depending where you are in the country, recycling of newspapers might make sense. Recycling of steel and copper usually makes sense. But recycling of glass, most plastics and coated paper is a net waste of energy. Often the goal of government-imposed recycling program is to use lack of understanding of economics to reach into citizens' pockets and forcibly extract money that bureaucrats can control.

Notice what else is happening here -- New York City pays a company millions of dollars to do something "thieves" will do for free. The "thieves" harm no one, and could save New York City taxpayers considerable money. But then bureaucrats wouldn't be in control. And surely no-show jobs and kickbacks have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with New York City sanitation contracts.

Not convinced?  Perhaps you're disturbed by my lack of faith in the environmental religion, refusing to pay my penance for the excess and wastefulness of America by recycling "no matter the costs."  Well, read this from a few years ago.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Obnoxious Year End Letter

Here's a bit of comedic genius from writer Gregg Easterbrook; it reminds me of those "most interesting man in the world" beer commercials:

Dear Friends, 
What a lucky break the CEO sent his personal jet to pick me up from Istanbul; there's plenty of room, since I have the entire aircraft to myself, to take out the laptop and write our annual holiday letter. Just let me ask the attendant for a better vintage of champagne, and I'll begin.

It's been another utterly hectic year for Chad and I and our remarkable children, yet nurturing and horizon-expanding. It's hard to know where the time goes. Well, a lot of it is spent in the car.

Rachel is in her senior year at Pinnacle-Upon-Hilltop Academy, and it seems just yesterday she was being pushed around in the stroller by our British nanny. Rachel placed first this fall in the state operatic arias competition. Chad was skeptical when I proposed hiring a live-in voice tutor on leave from the Lyric Opera, but it sure paid off! Rachel's girls' volleyball team lost in the semifinals owing to totally unfair officiating, but as I have told her, she must learn to overcome incredible hardship in life.

Now the Big Decision looms -- whether to take the early admission offer from Harvard or spend a year at Julliard. Plus the whole back of her Mercedes is full of dance-company brochures as she tries to decide about the summer.

Nicholas is his same old self, juggling the karate lessons plus basketball, soccer, French horn, debate club, archeology field trips, poetry-writing classes and his volunteer work. He just got the Yondan belt, which usually requires nine years of training after the Shodan belt, but prodigies can do it faster, especially if (not that I really believe this!) they are reincarnated deities.

Modeling for Gap cuts into Nick's schoolwork, but how could I deprive others of the chance to see him? His summer with Outward Bound in the Andes was a big thrill, especially when all the expert guides became disoriented and he had to lead the party out. But you probably read about that in the newspapers.

What can I say regarding our Emily? She's just been reclassified as EVVSUG&T -- "Extremely Very Very Super Ultra Gifted and Talented." The preschool retained a full-time teacher solely for her, to keep her challenged. Educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against the gifted anymore, not like when I was young.

Yesterday Rachel sold her first still-life. It was shown at one of the leading galleries without the age of the artist disclosed. The buyers were thrilled when they learned!

Then there was the arrival of our purebred owczarek nizinny puppy. He's the little furry guy in the enclosed family holiday portrait by Annie Leibovitz. Because our family mission statement lists cultural diversity as a core value, we named him Mandela.

Chad continues to prosper and blossom. He works a few hours a day and spends the rest of the time supervising restoration of the house -- National Trust for Historic Preservation rules are quite strict. Corporate denial consulting is a perfect career niche for Chad. Fortune 500 companies call him all the time. There's a lot to deny, and Chad is good at it.

Me? Oh, I do this and that. I feel myself growing and flowering as a change agent. I yearn to empower the stakeholders. This year I was promoted to COO and invited to the White House twice, but honestly, beading in the evening means just as much to me. I was sorry I had to let Carmen go on the same day I brought home my $14.6 million bonus, but she had broken a Flora Danica platter and I caught her making a personal call.

Chad and I got away for a week for a celebration of my promotion. We rented this quaint five-star villa on the Corsican coast. Just to ourselves -- we bought out all 40 rooms so it would be quiet and contemplative and we could ponder rising above materialism.

Our family looks to the New Year for rejuvenation and enrichment. Chad and I will be taking the children to Steamboat Springs over spring break, then in June I take the girls to Paris, Rome and Seville while Chad and Nicholas accompany Richard Gere to Tibet.

Then the kids are off to camps in Maine, and before we know it, we will be packing two cars to drive Rachel's things to college. And of course I don't count Davos or Sundance or all the routine excursions.

I hope your year has been as interesting as ours.

Love,
Jennifer, Chad, Rachel, Nicholas & Emily

Merry Christmas

God bless you and yours on this Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve Service

We're having a Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church at 6pm.  Please arrive a few minutes early; the service itself will be about 30 minutes of prayer, worship, and devotion.

We encourage you to bring your family and friends.


UPDATE: I was asked if we were having a reception afterward (coffee and cookies, etc.).  We will NOT have that this time but will be dismissed quietly to return to our homes and our family celebrations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Random Thoughts 12/21/10

  • It's takes everything I've got to not let my wife let the kids open their presents before Christmas.  If it wasn't for me, our presents would have been opened the first week of December.
  • After several days to think about Tron Legacy, I've decided that it was better than I first thought.  Movies make an impression as you watch them, either satisfying you or not.  I'd give a Tron a 5/10 for story and 10/10 for visuals and music as I watched it.  Then you have "the-morning-after" impression that asks whether that story made any sense at all.  I'd give a Tron 2.0 a 7/10 or maybe an 8/10 for being a coherent story.  But then you have the captured-my-imagination factor, where you find yourself thinking about the movie days later; I'd have to give the second Tron a solid 9/10.  I keep thinking about what might happen next.  Was the story a little light?  Was there perhaps a little too much exposition?  Were the boardroom bad guys completely absent in the second half of the film?  Yes, yes, and oh yeah, I forgot about those guys.  But the concepts, the mythology of it all… it's kind of intriguing.  I'd actually welcome another sequel. 
  • Words with Friends for iOS is on sale for only 99¢ for a couple of days.  That means no advertisements!  Shannon, Dustin, Grandma, and I all play, as well as several of our friends.
  • Tanner had some friends over Saturday night for a birthday sleepover.  One of the poor boys got sick and we've been living with the flu time-bomb ever since.  Well… BOOM!  After 36 hours of the whole family feeling kind of icky, Graham threw up all over our hallway and bathroom.  They'll probably fall like dominoes now.
  • If the New Orleans Hornets NBA team moves to KC, I'd be okay with that!  I heard Bill Self express some hesitation with the notion because right now the top dollar for basketball in KC gets spent entirely on KU, KSU, and MU with no professional competition right now.  If we got an NBA team, the financial pie would be further divided.  But I'd still love to see it, if it could possibly happen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random Thoughts 12/18/10

  • Happy 9th Birthday, Tanner!
  • 'tis the season for programmers to update their apps. I've had twenty or more iPhone apps receive updates in the last three days. That's way more than usual. I check the App Store for updates almost every day and get a handful each week. But recently, everything is getting updated, expanded, bug-fixed, or otherwise improved. Yay! In the old days, you bought software and you were stuck with bugs and other shortcomings. I really like apps that get regular updates; it feels like loyalty… and encourages the same in response.
  • My wedding band broke! It just broke. It's always had a couple of cracks on the inside, but I just noticed tonight that it's cracked clean through. I basically haven't taken it off for 14 and half years (except for a few months when I dislocated that finger). It's only 10K, which means it's 5/12 gold and 7/12 plastic, I think.
  • I finished Intolerance the other night. It was a three and a half hour silent film released in 1916 by D.W. Grifith. I'd been avoiding watching it for two or three years now, which was silly, because it turned out to be quite a bit better than I thought. That said, it was still a very long silent film.
  • Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Go Josh Selby! His first game and he scored 21 points off the bench to lead the team, including the game winning shot in the last thirty seconds. That'll work!
  • I'm reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I've seen several different versions of this on television but I've never actually read the book… until now. It's really good, especially on iBooks where I can instantly pull up a dictionary when necessary.
  • Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

    Unlike some famous talk show hosts, I'm not giving anything away (sorry!). But here are a few of my favorite things in 2010.

    Food
    • Werther's Original Caramel hard candy
    • Diet Mt. Dew
    • Jack Link's Jalapeno Carne Seca beef jerky
    • bd's Mongolian Barbeque (sic)
    • Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwich (hold the pickles)

    Books
    The Well-Behaved Child by John Rosemond
    War by Sebastian Junger
    With the Old Breed by EB Sledge
    The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    Websites
    Drudge Report
    KUSports.com
    Wikipedia
    Amazon.com
    Brand New
    Bible Gateway
    Cult of Mac
    Life Hacker
    Wired.com

    iPhone Apps
    • iBooks
    • Games like: "Words with Friends" (think Scrabble by mail over the internet), "We Rule: Quests," "Pocket Frogs," and "Tilt to Live"
    • Blog Press
    • IMDb

    Entertainment
    • The BBC's "Sherlock", "Dirty Jobs," and watching "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" with my boys.
    • Jayhawk basketball
    New Theatre Restaurant
    • The NFL, "NFL Films Presents," and fantasy football
    • FOX News, the History Channel, and old movies on Turner Classic Movies

    Miscellaneous

    • QuikTrip
    Imprimis
    • Apple's iPhone 4
    • Apple's iPad
    • Cycling and playing basketball

    WW2 Vet Watches Film of his Rescue



    [Sorry for using a flash player iPhone/iPad users; it's all I could find.]

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    An OK A.D.

    Kansas just hired a guy named "Bubba" from Oklahoma (Tulsa) to be their new Athletic Director. Hmmm… there's a joke in there somewhere.

    iPad Forever

    I literally have people running up to me at church and saying, "Guess what I just got for Christmas! An iPad!"

    And I understand their excitement.  I don't own one (yet) but I played with one for five days before delivering it to my grandmother – which has been a great success, by the way.   I've seen children and IT guys, grandparents and teenagers just sit down and start using it.  People want to stand over your shoulder and just watch you.  Because it works.  And it's beautiful.  And people go "Ooh" and "Ahh" and smile a lot.

    And this is the first generation of the device!  I can't wait to see it evolve over the next couple of years.  I really think the iPhone 4 is a huge step up from previous iterations.  How much more amazing will be the iPad 2 or 3?

    Anyway, in celebration of how Apple got it so right, here's a great little article from Wired on why you don't want to buy a Windows Slate tablet computer. 

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Random Thoughts 12/13/10

    • The OH-58 Kiowa helicopter just can't get replaced.  It's been in service since the 1960's but every time the Army tries to develop a new scout helicopter, the new helicopter goes over budget, gets canceled and leaves the old Kiowa to get modified and continue the job.  Here's a great article about the history and the future of the Kiowa (including cut-away diagrams).  The Kiowa's next upgrade, the OH-58F, will lose the distinctive mast mounted sight but keep the helicopter flying for another 15 years.
    • I want to know why I have the Bibles of three members of my household in my office, left behind after church Sunday.  Was it too cold to carry our Bibles home?  Or have we just abandoned all pretense of using the Bibles at home during the week?
    • I'm about half-done with Sebastian Junger's War, which covers Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta, OP Restrepo, and the Afghan war in the Korengal valley, near Pakistan.  It's a good read by an excellent author.  By the way, this is the third or fourth digital book that I've read this year and the first one that I've purchased through the iBooks store.  The iPhone isn't the best medium to read on, but it's not bad.
    • Number three in the nation, Kansas, gets the most highly ranked recruit this Saturday.  Point guard and NBA prospect Josh Selby will play for Kansas for the first time against USC.  Normally I listen to Saturday midday games on the radio in my office, but I might run home for that one.
    • We now have all the Christmas presents for the kids and about 90% of them wrapped.  I really enjoy wrapping gifts for the kids and do nearly all of the wrapping myself, in my office, away from prying little eyes.
    • Brennan was grounded for several days without television, video games, or anything electronic.  His only form of entertainment we allowed was reading books and he did Monday's school work several days early out of sheer boredom.  Today was his first day of freedom; I found him quietly playing the Wii on the big screen at 5am.

    AFI's Top Picks of 2010

    The American Film Institute announced its top-10 movies and its top-10 TV shows.

    AFI certainly doesn't always appeal to my tastes, but it generally does better than, say, the Academy Awards, for instance.  In fact, I just started watching my last film on AFI's top-100 movies of all time list, the three+ hour, 1915 silent film, Intolerance.  When I knock that one out, I will have seen all 100 films on the list and 90-95 of them are what I would consider great films.  The Oscars are a smaller sample size each year, but they always feel 50-50 to me and driven by fads and popular mood swings.

    So here's AFI's list for 2010.


    Black Swan
    The Fighter
    Inception
    127 Hours
    The Social Network
    The Town
    Toy Story 3
    True Grit
    Winter’s Bone
    The Kids Are All Right


    I've not seen any of these (yes, I'm the one person in America who hasn't either Inception or Toy Story 3) but I have five of these on my urgent to-watch list.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Nerd Cred

    Tickets for a midnight showing, first to see Tron Legacy on the largest non-IMAX screen in the state of Kansas!




    Location:Russell Ave,Kansas City,United States

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    Words with (Former) Friends

    When you play a "z" on a triple letter in a triple word, scoring 129 points in one move… people stop playing.

    Sorry, Dustin!





    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    Starting with Champions

    Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, and Kentucky.  For the next three years those four teams will play each other to open the college basketball season.

    In 2011, KU plays Kentucky.
    In 2012, KU plays Michigan State.
    And in 2013, KU plays Duke.

    It's amazing!  Each year, two of these teams will start their season with a loss.  How often has that happened before?

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Random Thoughts 12/7/10

    • I believe that the iPad experiment with my nearly-86-year old grandmother is a success.  Grandma had very limited computer experience, so the only real hitch has been overcoming the learning curve.  But with the iPad, the learning curve is so gentle that she had adequate control over the basics in the first few days.  I had a second training session with her recently and reinforced a few principles and answered a few questions.  She seems to have a viable long-term solution to her computer needs.  I highly recommend this to others.  If my grandmother can go near-zero experience to emailing, blog-reading, and playing online scrabble with me, I'd say the transition is doable for most seniors.
    • This is what medical test results should look like.
    • Today is the anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War 2.  Today is also the birthday of my niece Hannah, the oldest grandchild in our family.
    • "Sarah Palin's Alaska" is about the best television show on air nowadays.  It's chock full of family values, good work ethics, and various American values.  I've heard a lot of criticism for Palin doing a reality TV show (it's really more of a travelogue) but, politically speaking, most folks are going to like her more after watching this.
    • KU plays again tonight.  Go Jayhawks!
    • DreamWorks Animation is all about the sequels.  They have planned out their animated franchises and, as long as they each continue to make money, we might see four Madagascar movies and up to six Kung Fu Panda movies.  The How to Train Your Dragon movies, based on a series of eight books, is planned for three movies.  Think about it, I could be buying a holographic 3D digital download of Kung Fu Panda 6 for my grandchildren.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    Arkansas Wedding

    I went yesterday to a rare Arkansas wedding where the bride and groom weren't already related.  We drove four and half hours yesterday to Eureka Springs, the strangest and remotest little town in Arkansas.  Shannon's friend, Wendy, got married and Shannon provided the cake (her first wedding cake creation).

    It was the best tasting wedding cake you can imagine but the layers did settle a little bit on the long, winding road onto the Deliverance back lot.  The "sand" was brown sugar and most of the seashells were homemade chocolate candy.

    After the wedding and the consumption of the wonderful cake, we drove four and half hours back to KC, reducing the number of teeth in Arkansas by half.

    Other Arkansas facts:
    • If a married couple gets divorced in Arkansas, they can remain brother and sister.
    • Arkansas divorces and tornadoes have the same effect: someone loses a trailer.
    • The most popular pick up line in Arkansas: "Nice tooth!"
    • How do you know an Arkansas man is married? There are tobacco spitting stains on both sides of the pickup.
    • How many Arkansans does it take to eat a 'possum?  Two; one to eat it, the other to watch for cars.

    Friday, December 03, 2010

    This is Tron

    A half-dozen of us old married guys in our thirties and forties are getting together this month to watch the new Tron movie. It's geek-ness at its finest. Actually we may very well be the only married guys in the entire theater, but when the movie starts, we'll be in nerd-vana.

    It's not that the original Tron movie was all that great – it had its flaws – but for those of us who remember what it was like to be a nerd before the internet was in every home… before the Matrix movies… before Pixar and ubiquitous computer animationTron was groundbreaking.

    Imagine a world inside the computer. Another you, living in a virtual cyberspace. Now with WiFi, broadband internet, Facebook, laptops, "Farmville," email, smart phones, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, like "World of Warcraft"), and a solid 30 year history of video games in our homes, it's not that far-fetched. In fact, sometimes the challenge is getting our loved ones to come up for air, they're plugged in so much.

    But in 1982, most of that was pure, mind-blowing science fiction. It shaped our imaginations and then it (in some ways) came true!

    Thus Disney's dorky little movie way-back-when has had a profound place in the hearts of us nerds. So imagine what we thought when we saw this a year or so ago:


    Whoa! Yes please, more of that would be fine! And did you see young (1980's) Jeff Bridges at the end?! How did they do that?! Now the reviews are starting to come and the reports are very, very good. Now we need to see this…

    As long as our wives let us.

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    Happy Hanakkuh, Iran!

    Ha!  Take a look at this building in Iran, the headquarters of the Iranian national airline, Iran Air.  The building was built by Israeli engineers before the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Apparently, no one had seen a satellite image of the building during the last thirty-some years.

    Look closely now… right in the middle…


    Take that you Islamo-fascist anti-Semitic nutjobs!  Over thirty years and you've only just now noticed!  Ha!

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Restrepo

    I watched Restrepo last night, the documentary about a platoon of soldiers in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan in 2007-2008. As documentaries of this sort go, I thought it was well above average; the structure, tone, and quality of this film is quite a bit better than most documentaries in this category.

    It helps that this film is based on the the work of two embedded journalists (a writer and a photographer) that were writing books and thus made multiple, lengthy visits over the course of a year. I've seen a few documentaries that basically strung together B-roll footage from one brief visit to the front lines and, frankly, those films were not well done. Some of these films unnecessarily cheer lead for the troops while other films go out of their way to embarrass or exploit the soldiers. Restrepo, to me, seemed entirely fair yet sensitive.

    I thought the documentary did a good job of being "a fly on the wall" while these young soldiers were isolated in a small mountain outpost overlooking a beautiful but unbelievably dangerous valley near the Afghan border of Pakistan. The terrain is simply unbelievable.

    I was surprised not to hear any mention of Sal Giunta. I thought I might have spotted the Medal of Honor winner a few times standing in the background, but it was hard to tell and I didn't notice him mentioned by name. This is however his company, his company commander, and the same time and place as his acclaimed actions.

    I'm currently reading Sebastian Junger's Book, War, based on the same embed.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/29/10

    • For those interested in a glimpse at the war in Afghanistan, the acclaimed documentary Restrepo airs tonight on the National Geographic Channel.
    • I'm wrapping Christmas presents and keeping my Christmas spreadsheets!
    • Texans WR Andre Johnson shouldn't have hit back… but I understand. I also appreciate the classy apology afterward.
    • If you're thinking of getting an iPad for Christmas… good idea.  For most casual computer users, the iPad rocks.
    • Kansas (#4), K-State (#5), and Missouri (#8) are all in the top 10 in ESPN/USA Today's basketball poll.  That's awesome!  Also awesome is that Kentucky dropped out of the top 10 and North Carolina dropped out of the top 25.  
    • Is the movie Tangled that good?  I saw the trailers and wasn't that impressed but everyone who sees it goes nuts over it.  It's really that good, huh?

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/27/10

    • I hope your Turkey Day went well.
    • I made a quick stop by the Legends yesterday, hoping to make an electronics purchase for the church while the sales were happening.  Not so much.  Friday's crowds were insane and when I finally got inside the store, none of the three advertised items were there.  Fortunately, I can check prices on my phone and nothing in the store was any better than the online prices I could get.  As long as you factor in the shipping costs and delay, online shopping rocks!
    • Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and Apple has not updated the lower-end MacBook laptop that I'm shopping for.  Apple hasn't released a new or updated product in December for years (if ever) so it looks like I'm looking at January for an update at the earliest.  My four and a half year old machine is high mileage and held together with proverbial duct tape and bailing wire, but I can make it last if it means a better deal down the road.
    • That was one rough year of KU football.  Ugh.  Long live KU basketball!
    • I'm super pleased with how well my grandmother is getting along with her new iPad.  It's an amazing little machine and completely adequate for all her basic needs, like email, web browsing, and "Words with Friends."  I'm still convinced that this is the direction I'll go eventually, probably in the next generation or two.
    • I had the kids "sound off" the other day to get a head count.  Brennan yells out "One!"; Tanner: "Two."; Eli mumbles "Three… *sigh*"; Graham: "Sixteen!  *giggle*"; and Anneliese chirps, "Dah-dah!"  Hmmm… One, two, three, sixteen, dah-dah – that'll work.
    • Here's seven useful tips for taking pictures on your iPhone.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    So Thankful

    I'm thankful for my beautiful wife.
    I'm thankful for five healthy children (the smart one, the sensitive one, the handsome one, the funny one, and the precious pink one).
    I'm thankful for a great church family.
    I'm thankful for parents that led me to Christ.
    I'm thankful for a church that is devoted to supporting Missions.
    I'm thankful for friends who don't see me as just their minister.
    I'm thankful for friends in the ministry that understand.


    I'm especially thankful for a God that would desire to salvage the unworthy and desire the unlovely. 

    This morning I'm sitting in my office, listening to football, studying my Bible and praying to a God that loves us.  Thank you, Lord.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    A Trip to Allen Field House

    Here's some pictures from my trip to the KU game yesterday.  Thanks Rebecca for taking me to the game!  There is a crazy amount of history (and historical items) in the newly remodeled Phog.  The large lobby-area is like a museum/Hall of Fame to Kansas basketball and other sports.

    The best part was that KU won its record-breaking 63rd consecutive home-game.  The longest current streak in the nation!

    Allen Field House


    The Championship trophies and associated items.

    My favorite mother-in-law!

    Pretty decent seats, though we stood for the entire game.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/23/10

  • I've had my iPhone 4 for two months now. I've not yet had any antenna problems. In fact, it's been the best phone/computer-in-my-pocket I've every owned.

  • I've been watching Bristol Palin on TV… but not on that silly dancing show. "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on TLC is a surprisingly good show. It's really interesting.

  • Funny TSA bumper stickers here, e.g. "It's not a grope, it's a freedom pat." and "Can't see London, can't see France, unless we see your underpants." Warning: a couple of them are kinda crude, but so is a close encounter with a TSA screener at the airport.

  • The Wizards (KC's soccer team) are now called "Sporting Kansas City." Seriously. Here's an article reviewing their logo and brand identity. In the accompanying poll, 75% of those polled hate the name and 60% don't like the logo. I have a friend who likes soccer and thinks this is awesome. I couldn't be more alienated from the sport; this just confirms that soccer has nothing for me.

  • According to a recent Gallup poll, 18% of Americans identify themselves as liberal (54% conservative, 27% moderate – these numbers are about normal for this kind of poll). Meanwhile, another survey showed about 20% of Americans suffered from some kind of mental illness. Nice coincidence! [Thanks, Mike!]

  • Old Brett Favre = fired head coach. He's like Typhoid Mary.

  • KU can set the record tonight with a 63rd consecutive win at Allen Fieldhouse. And I'll be there!



  • UPDATE: I just got back home! Great game and my first visit to the Phog in several years. Rock Chalk!!!

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Random Grandma's iPad Thoughts

    Here's Grandpa Ted before D-Day.
    I've had a few days to set up an iPad for my grandmother.  Here's my first impressions:

    • The iPad is awesome; this is the future.  Right now I still need a laptop, but my next laptop might be my last laptop.
    • I like the portfolio-style cover we got for her (the one made by Apple).  I've never felt the need to have my iPhone's screen covered (a silicon case is sufficient), but for the larger iPad, it just makes sense to close it like a book and protect that huge screen.
    • For watching video and reading books, I love the size and form factor!  I haven't played many games on this iPad but for some types of games the large size may be a hindrance.
    • Great apps: the landscape layout for Mail is perfect but the crossword puzzle on the USA Today App is also pretty good.

    And here's how we're setting up the iPad for Grandma:
    • Dustin bought a WiFi router and set it up at her house Saturday.
    • We bought her a second plug-in and cable so she can recharge the batteries in more than one place in the house.  The portfolio case we bought should protect it from accidental drops or spills.
    • She'll be able to read books, browse the internet and read our blogs, get the weather, send and receive email, play solitaire, scrabble or solve crossword or sudoku puzzles, and lots of other things, i.e. as much as she desires to do.
    • I've set up her email, added contacts to her address book, added pictures to the photo album, and generally arranged things to help ease the learning curve.  Shannon and I will give her the guided tour on Monday but it should be fairly straight forward.
    • I've tried to stick to apps that accomplish what she identified as tasks she did on the old computer or would like to be able to do.  If this was my machine I'd add a lot more bells and whistles but it's not.  Who knows what she'd like to do with this computer?  I'm hoping she'll play "Words with Friends" (an online version of Scrabble) or Solitaire on it.
    • I've downloaded several free books onto iBooks for her, including an instruction manual for the iPad and classics by Mark Twain and A.W. Tozer.
    • We added a shot of Grandpa on the lock screen (when you first turn on the device) and a picture of the Sangre de Cristo mountains as her wallpaper.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Josh Selby Cleared

    The bad news?  Josh Selby was found guilty yesterday by the NCAA of receiving gifts from a long-time family friend who was one degree removed from the NBA.  The clothes, travel expenses, and meals received will cost Selby a nine game suspension (one third of the season) and a nearly-$5,000 donation to the charity of his choice.

    The good news?  The number one recruit in the nation will start playing for the Jayhawks on December 18 against USC.  It's too bad that a player this good will lose a third of perhaps the only season he plays for Kansas, but such is life.  The adults involved should have known the NCAA could frown on these things.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/19/20

    • I don't care what you think; "junk" is not an acceptable euphemism in mixed company.  If I keep hearing it (anywhere outside the locker room) I think my brain is going to explode.  It's not clever!  Stop it, really.
    • A Twin Cities couple have put their decision to abort their baby up as an internet poll.  Seriously.  On how many levels is this offensive?  And if you vote "abort" how do you sleep at night?  You're not voting for "choice," they already have that.  You're voting "kill, kill, kill!"  Way to go, society.  Our civilization has officially jumped the shark.
    • KU ties a record with a home win tonight, which will be a nation-leading 62 home wins in a row.
    • I hardly see Shannon anymore.  She's been working a few shifts at the Y, including a get up at four in the morning shift, putting her squarely on Greenwich Mean Time (but she's still living in Kansas).  How rotten is that, working almost half of your shift before the sun comes up?
    • This week's episode of NBC's comedy, "Outsourced," was the funniest show I'd seen this month.  In January, NBC's Thursday nights are going to be six back-to-back comedies, including "Outsourced," "The Office," "Community," "Parks and Recreation," "30 Rock," and a new show.
    • For those of us who like apps, Android's fragmentation is causing difficultyApple's iOS is accused of being "closed" but the alternative is "fragmented," with various Android handsets all having different requirements to make an app work correctly.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Thank You

    Our church gave us one of the most generous gifts we've ever received in ministry.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.  Thank you so very much.

    Shannon and I are going to put that money aside and hopefully take a trip next June, which will be our 15th wedding anniversary.  We've not been able to travel for vacation since our honeymoon all those years (and kids) ago and we're really looking forward to it.

    Now it's just a matter of shopping for good deals and working out the details.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/16/10

    • I hold in my hands my grandmother's iPad.  Actually, it's still in the box.  I'll open it up and set it up for her tomorrow or Thursday, to be delivered next Monday, but it is purchased.  If you want to help with the costs ($540-ish including the sales tax), talk to my mom, Anita.  Dustin and I have already purchased the few accessories she'll need.
    • Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta received the Medal of Honor today, the first living recipient since Vietnam.  I'm probably reading way too much into it, but President Obama looked terribly uncomfortable at moments.  It's probably just my perception of it.  I'm sure, on the inside, he's stoked about military heroism, especially when the award is for a white guy from Iowa that killed Muslims in a third-world country.
    • I knew you were needing basketball stats that went waaaaaaay beyond points-per-game, so here you go.
    • Speaking of basketball, Rock Chalk Jayhawk!  Way to make a decent Valporaiso team look not so decent.  I really didn't have high expectations this year, but the team looks scary good, especially if Josh Selby were allowed to play.
    • I'll write a post soon on what apps we're putting on Grandma's iPad.  I'm thinking we'll keep it simple but I'm really excited for her.
    • We went to New Theatre Restaurant with Mike and Gina K. last week.  As usual the food was fantastic and the show, "Sylvia," was better than average – in fact, if you're a pet-lover you'll probably really like it.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    An iPad for Great-Grandma

    I made a trip to Ottawa today to see my grandmother and her computer.  The computer had died unexpectedly and, after running a few tests, I figured the most likely explanation was that the hard drive had failed.  That's too bad because we gave Grandma the hand-me-down iMac just six months ago and I had hoped it would last longer.  Instead, she had it just long enough to become accustomed to email and blog-reading.  Now she's empty handed… temporarily.

    I've been saying for months that if I were to buy a computer for someone without much computing experience I'd buy them an iPad.  And that's exactly what we're going to do!

    We are going to set up Wi-Fi at Grandma's house and buy her a low-end iPad.  The learning curve for the iPad should be much lower than the desktop computer, which was the first computer she had ever used on a daily basis.  And the simpler iPad can do everything she wants: email, simple web-browsing, books, and a little sudoku, crosswords, and scrabble.  She can access all of this while sitting in her chair, read recipes while cooking in the kitchen, or she could even read in bed.

    If you're wanting to pitch in, give my mom a call.  My 85-year old grandma is getting an iPad!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    My Office

    I moved my office around awhile back for the first time in almost ten years.  And I like it much better!  Here's a panoramic shot:


    The computer program that stitched these photos together gave me a couple of blurry spots, but you get the idea.  I have a little better room for Elder's meetings and counseling but kept good access to my books.  I also added a couch this year.  Just out of sight on the left is another book shelf with my old stereo and other miscellanea.  I like this much better.  Now if I can get to that stack of unread books on the right.

    On a similar topic, here's an interesting video about our desks and what they say about our personalities.

    Random Thoughts 11/12/10

    • If you enjoyed the first three episodes of the BBC's "Sherlock," which aired on PBS here in the U.S., get comfortable. The second "season" (which hopefully has more than three episodes) doesn't even film until next summer and airs next fall.
    • KU and Nebraska play football tomorrow for the 116th meeting, running for 105 consecutive years. That streak ends this year because stupid Nebraska defected to the Big 10-ish. So much for tradition.
    • Cool website I hadn't heard of before: Worthmonkey.com. You put in the name or part number of a product and it searches the internet to tell you what a fair price (low, medium, and high) would be. This seems like a good idea for both those buying and selling. Check this out and bookmark it, Shannon!
    • Best throw pillows ever!
    • I'm not a guitar player but I thought this article was interesting, if you absolutely have to plug your guitar into your iPhone 4.
    • For the longest time, I would take Fridays as my day off each week. But without any deliberate decision on my part, I've been taking Mondays off work instead for the last few months. It just seems to work with our family's schedule. I know a lot of ministers who take Saturday off (or take multiple days), but Monday feels kind of weird to me.
    • First "real" KU basketball game tonight. Will Conner Teahan be redshirted (as he should be)? Will the NCAA allow Josh Selby to play this side of Christmas? Are the Morris Twins and maybe even Tyshawn Taylor ready for the NBA?

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Another Simple Veteran's Day Thank You

    My beautiful wife just wrote an excellent post on her blog, putting into words (and pictures) what I'd been searching for all day. She posted pictures of my grandfather and her father, as young men in uniform (Army in WW2 and Navy in Vietnam, respectively).

    We want to thank those who were willing to serve for their country, their families, and their friends. Your service is appreciated.

    If you want to really honor the troops, consider writing a letter to those who are deployed overseas. Encourage them while they are away from their families.

    For those history buffs among you, "World War 2 in HD: The Air War" has been aired on the History Channel, with several replays over the next few weeks. Also the highly acclaimed Afghanistan documentary Restrepo is airing on the National Geographic channel at the end of the month (11/29).

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/9/10

    • Conan O'Brien beat Leno (and Letterman) last night with over three times the audience (3.3 million viewers ages 18-49 to Leno's 0.9 million).  Ouch.  I thought it was funny but also very typical late night comedy.  I hope TBS is savvy about how the business seems to be changing.
    • HBO's miniseries, The Pacific, is out on DVD now.  I'm so watching that as soon as I can get my hands on it.  I read the books; Sledge's With the Old Breed was fantastic.
    • So… at some point the NCAA has to clear KU's top-in-the-nation recruit Josh Selby to play or in effect he's been suspended without being guilty of anything.  The first real game is Friday and there's been no word yet…
    • That better not have been a missile launched off the coast of Los Angeles yesterday.  The military claims it doesn't know.  If that was a missile, they better know what is was, who launched it, and why.
    • Another living service member, a Marine this time, has been named as a likely Medal of Honor recipient: CPL Dakota Meyer.  Army SSG Sal Giunta will receive the medal next Tueday, the first living recipient since Vietnam.
    • Ok, I've seen all three of the British made-for-television movies/episodes, Sherlock.  Even though the story has been shifted from Victorian-era London to today, it might be my favorite film version of Sherlock Holmes ever.  The three episodes, beginning with "A Study in Pink," are available on PBS's website.

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Conan Begins Tonight

    Conan O'Brien's new show begins tonight on TBS at 10pm.

    I'll be sure to watch some of these early shows but I'm not sure how much I'll be able to watch from night to night as the weeks roll along. 10 o'clock is when Shannon and I are often part way through a movie. I'm thrilled that Conan and his crew will be producing new comedy on a regular basis but I'll probably be catching clips on internet within a few months.

    My hope is that people like Conan O'Brien see that television is changing. Just like the music industry has changed from selling you $18 tapes and CDs (mostly filled with content you don't want) to selling 99¢ singles over the internet, television may be moving away from network programming and cable packages (mostly filled with content you don't want) to a la carte programming, perhaps also delivered over the internet. If this happens, people will tune-in, subscribe, or outright pay for Conan in higher numbers than they would most of the drivel on television today. This democratization of television programming might be the best possible outcome for the consumer and the truly talented; it'll take the idiot studio heads that fired Conan out of the driver's seat.

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    Random Thoughts 11/04/10

    • I'm putting the finishing touches on the men's retreat for this weekend. 6pm Friday night til Noon Saturday! Be there (Mission Lake Christian Camp)!
    • More Americans have been murdered (due to drug cartel violence) in Mexico than in Iraq. Why isn't this in the news more?
    • The elections nation-wide went well, though here in KCK we still mindlessly voted for some Democrats at the local level. We kept all of those pro-abortion Kansas Supreme Court justices too. Nuts. There's no explaining why we don't know better.
    • Halloween candy followed by Thanksgiving followed by all the eating at Christmas time. It's no wonder everyone gains weight at the end of the year. Thank goodness I live with a personal trainer!
    • Will my computer wiring be fiber optic next year? I've seen lots of rumors about Light Peak technology in recent weeks, which might be three times faster than the newest USB (3.0). I'm not sure if I'm a big enough nerd to really care, but it's kind of interesting.
    • If you play games on your iPhone and use Apple's Game Center or Plus+ or Open Feint, my user name is Thumper44. I've been playing games like "We Rule," "Pocket Frogs," and "Angry Birds" for awhile now but can't find any friends out there on the networks. Add me!

    Our Ron Weasley

    I thought Brennan's costume this year was especially witty. Equipped with a wand and a stuffed rat he went as Harry Potter's friend, Ron Weasley.







    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Vote Today!!!

    Go out and vote for candidates that know you can't spend your way out of debt.  Go vote for candidates that aren't going to rubber stamp a progressive/leftist agenda.  Go vote for candidates that will obstruct the dangerous policies of our President.

    Right now!  Go vote!

    Go ahead, I'll wait here.  The internet will still be here when you get back.

    Monday, November 01, 2010

    My Sample Ballot 2010

    November 2, 2010 Sample Ballot for Kansas City (Piper), Ks (US House District 3 Kansas, Kansas Senate District 5, KS House District 36):

    So should you.

    For U.S. Senator: Jerry Moran - R
    For U.S. Represtative: Kevin Yoder - R
    For Governor: Sam Brownback - R
    For Secretary of State: Kris Kobach - R
    For State Treasurer: Ron Estes - R
    For Attorney General: Derek Schmidt - R
    For Insurance Commissioner: Sandy Praeger - R

    Amend Section 4 of the KS Bill of Rights: YES
    Amend Section 2 of Article 5 of the state constitution: NO

    For State Rep (36th District): Earl Freeman - R
    For State Board of Ed (1st District): Willie Dove - R
    Shall KS Supreme Court Justices be retained?  NO, NO, NO!!!

    Note: The second referendum removes the legislature's right to prohibit liberals from voting.  This has never actually happened; but shouldn't it?  Just in case?

    Thanks to Conservatism with Heart.
    Kansans for Life Voter's guide

    Vote Tomorrow!!!

    You have 1 day left to plan when you'll vote.  Vote early in the day, do it on your lunch break, or vote after work if there's time before the polls close… but make sure you vote.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Vote on Tuesday

    Only 2 days left until we vote for the people that can get the abortion-funding Obama-care repealed.

    Tell everyone you know to vote, or at least all of the responsible people who aren't looking for a handout from the government which the government can't afford to keep giving in perpetuity.  

    Oh, and Happy Halloween.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Vote in 3 Days

    Remember to vote Tuesday.  It's only 3 days away!

    By the way, Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law, Rebecca.

    Trick or Treat

    Here's Elijah the mutant ninja turtle, Graham the friendly pirate, Brennan (as Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter books), Tanner the football player, and Anneliese the KU cheerleader.




    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/29/10

  • What is the number one baby name for boys in Great Britain? Mohammad. Seriously. The top 5: 1. Mohammad (and variant spellings) 2. Oliver 3. Jack 4. Harry 5. Alfie. I'm not sure which is more disconcerting, Mohammad or Alfie.
  • All the contentious details have been worked out to produce The Hobbit films in New Zealand. The unions nearly killed it (or forced the movie to move to another country) but they gave in, the New Zealand politicians kissed the appropriate studio backsides, and everything is going forward. It sounds like there is some lingering resentment from all sides including some of the non-striking workers who would have lost their jobs but that's how things work in these cases.
  • Bilbo and Dr. Watson
  • English actor Martin Freeman has been cast in the role of Bilbo Baggins and I can now vouch for his acting chops. Freeman is starring as Dr. Watson in the new Brit television series "Sherlock," which re-imagines Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in modern-day London. I love it! The first episode was on PBS last Sunday (or watch it online) and it was fantastic. I like the current film-version of Sherlock Holmes alright, but this modern version somehow seems closer to the original stories than Robert Downey, Jr.'s version… and every bit as funny/quirky. There are only three episodes so far, but Freeman's Hobbit schedule specifically allows him time to film more Sherlock episodes in the next couple of years.
  • One more note on Martin Freeman: look carefully and you'll recognize the future Hobbit in a few Simon Pegg movies.
  • The Men's Retreat at Mission Lake Christian Camp is one week from tonight. If you're going to be there please make sure you RSVP me ASAP.
  • I got my mom to use Apple's new FaceTime video conferencing on her iMac. I think she likes it!
  • Good news and bad news for all you Battlestar Galactica nerds. A prequel series called "Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome" has been greenlit for production. It'll star a young rookie pilot William Adama as the main character in an action-driven series. The bad news? The prequel series "Caprica" is canceled immediately. "Caprica" was moved from its regular slot to make room for wrestling, of all things, and never recovered in the ratings. Why is wrestling even on the sci-fi channel?!
  • 4 Days to Vote

    Remember to vote in 4 days (next Tuesday).

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    5 Days Until the Election

    Just 5 more days until you get a chance to be part of the democratic process.  Go vote next Tuesday.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/27/10

    • Only six days left until Election Day.  Go VOTE next Tuesday.
    • Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders of Apple, has the coolest business card.  It's a laser-etched, perforated, stainless steel card.  I'm betting that's not cheap.
    • Here's an interesting article about how not-so-random random numbers are.
    • Beware "Green Theology."  It's becoming increasingly popular for religious folks to move from responsible stewardship of the Earth to radical environmentalism, including political action on things like cap and trade, carbon credits, and the like.  Think about it folks, this world is going to burn some day (think of the carbon emissions!).  Get your priorities right.
    • My older three boys came to the office with me this morning and worked on their school work for almost three hours.  They were very well behaved, though not as efficient as when Mom is hovering over them.
    • I'm still waiting, hoping the MacBook or MacBook Pro lines get upgraded in the next month.  I don't think the MacBook Air is quite right for me (and can't afford the premium for the uber-portability I don't need) and I think the iPad is a generation or two away for my full-time use.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    The "Chinese Professor" Video


    From Citizens Against Government Waste:

    Not That Close Really

    I'm teaching a Greek language class at church (first time, just started six weeks ago) and I left some writing on one of the marker boards at church…

    Which apparently my non-Greek-reading brother found.






    Yeah, let's not have him translate the Bible for us.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Blockbuster New at QT

    The Quik Trip convenience stores in KC are getting Blockbuster Express machines (the bankrupt company's answer to Red Box vending machines). Our QT in Bonner Springs got their machine late Thursday night, which was placed in the back hallway by the restrooms and the mop sink—not the best location.





    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/22/10

    • How does M. Night Shyamalan keep getting work?  By my count he hasn't made a good movie in 11 years.
    • I used to listen to NPR on my radio through the night, every night, growing up.  I haven't listened to it much as an adult but I'm done for sure now.  Firing the liberal but honest Juan Williams was the worst kind of censorship and attack on free speech that I can think of.  What mindless politically correct fools they are; NPR deserves to be de-funded.
    • Way to go unions!  Apparently, the Hobbit films have a green light (and a $500 million budget) but the stupid strike and black-listing by the actor's union have soured the studios on New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings movies were made.  For fans, New Zealand is Middle Earth but now the studio heads have all but pulled the plug on making the movie in that country.  Peter Jackson is desperately trying to fix it and went on New Zealand television to call out the head of the union for sticking a finger in the eye of the studio which has other attractive options on the table.  Hope that strike was worth it, when thousands of New Zealand film workers end up unemployed!
    • Some movies I've seen recently:  Mildred Pierce (1945) – This was a great film noir murder mystery revolving around a mother (Joan Crawford) who can't please her spoiled daughter.  Worth watching, for sure.  Cats (1998) – The show was half over before I "got it."  There's barely five minutes of plot in Cats, and the first act is entirely introducing various characters, which–follow me here–is the whole point.  The show is an anthology of observations, giving commentary on both real life cats and us humans.  Cute, a little lot weird, very artsy, but enjoyable as long as you weren't looking for one of those plot-thingies.   Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) – This movie wasn't half as offensive or un-Biblical as I expected it to be.  The movie's dialog is a bit censored compared to the more blasphemous stage version but the show is deliberately unfinished, dodging the answer to its most famous questions:  "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ; Who are you? What have you sacrificed?"  If the movie didn't end before getting to the Resurrection, the song would have its answer.
    • The X-37B is a top-secret military unmanned miniature space shuttle.  It stays in space for months at a time and can change orbits to deploy, fix, or possibly destroy satellites.  There's been one in orbit for about six months now and is proving difficult to track.  Fascinating bit of tech right there.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Water Droplet Ballet

    Here's a stunning little video brought to you by science!



    Thanks for the heads up, Jay-rod.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    MacBook Air Apparent?

    Just a quick note on today's Apple announcements:

    • FaceTime is awesome on a computer!  It's a little buggy on my old laptop but it's only the beta version.  I'm sure they iron it all out.
    • There was no announcement concerning the MacBook or MacBook Pro lines.  The new MacBook Air looks awesome but I don't think that's the way to go for me.  I need a cheap workhorse and uber-portability isn't a premium to me.  Maybe they'll quietly upgrade the plain old MacBook line in the near future.  Then I'll buy.
    • The iPhoto also looks fantastic… as does OS X Lion… and the Mac App store… and taking guitar and piano lessons on Garage Band… and…

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/19/10

    • There's a big announcement from Apple tomorrow that I'm hoping includes upgraded laptops and enough info to help me pull the trigger on buying one.  My poor old MacBook has been going strong for years now but the time is long since past to replace it.  It's wearing out and falling apart; mostly due the heavy, daily use it endures.  This laptop has been on, almost non-stop, for something between 35,000 and 40,000 hours, with a few breaks here and there, getting used for at least a few hours everyday, seven days a week.  I hoping that this line of laptops will see a good upgrade and/or a price drop tomorrow.
    • SpaceShipTwo had its first glide test recently.  This article has some great photos and details about the flight and the near-future of space tourism.
    • If you caught the History Channel's "WWII in HD" last year, which was excellent by the way, then you need to see sequel:  "WWII in HD: The Air War."  The mini-series will air in November and feature previously unseen footage, remastered in high definition, from the air war over Europe in WW2.
    • Is NBC's new comedy, "Outsourced", seems really witty and interesting as it's set in a call center in India.  But having been outside the country a few times and having learned how much I don't know about other cultures, I have to wonder how authentic this is.  Is it mostly right?  Mostly wrong?  Does it scream, "2nd generation American/British Indian immigrants, not actual India!!!" or is it pretty close?  I really don't suppose I'm in the position to tell the difference.  Either way, its ratings have been good enough to be picked up for a full season, while other shows are getting "downsized."
    • "V", the sci-fi remake from the '80's, is one of the shows getting downsized.  Without even airing it's second season yet, ABC reduced it's episodes from 13 to 10.  The suits probably got the word that it was as cheesy and as poorly acted as the original series back in the day.  Too bad; I had high hopes for that one.
    • I'm recording all the episodes of "The Event" but haven't watched any yet.  Is it really as good as people are saying?  I don't know but I have high standards for intelligent, high concept dramas that have not been met by shows like "Heroes" (post 1st season finale) and "V."

    My First Fashion Photo Shoot

    I'm not that great at picking out outfits for my daughter but I had a lot to work with as I was on my own this morning.

    Anneliese approved, grabbed her sunglasses, and began posing immediately.













    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/16/10

    • Here's a cool video of a band on a train singing and playing instruments… except all of the instruments are iPhone apps.
    • How many times should you flip a hamburger while grilling it? Just once, everyone says? Apparently conventional wisdom is wrong and flipping often cooks faster and more evenly. Hmmm…
    • Speaking of iPhone apps, does anybody out there use a camera/photography app that they particular like and would recommend? I've seen a few that look okay, and several that add silly filters to make your photos look old or whatever. But good, solid crop and edit? I'm not sure… I'm particularly looking for apps that take advantage of the iPhone 4's better camera and screen.
    • I got approached by a stranger at QT today. "What's wrong with your team? They suck, I guess!" I looked down and realized I was wearing a KU shirt. He just stood there in his Harley Davidson costume and gawked at me. Was this unsolicited opinion from a K-State fan relishing their recent intra-state football victory or was this how Missourians start conversations generally? I really don't know. Either way, KU is a great school in my home town. K-State needs to beat KU for the next 30 years straight to break even in football and Missouri hates Kansas because we wanted to free the slaves and they didn't. Like neo-Nazis, flat-Earthers, and people who think bell-bottoms are coming back, you're on the wrong side of history there, buddy. So buzz off, creepy, tactless dude at QT.
    • Ozark Christian College sent me a survey asking about a potential Master's program offered through the school. I enthusiastically filled it out and hope this comes to fruition. I have no idea how I'd pay for it, and it would have to work around my full-time ministry, but I'd love to pursue that. Especially from Ozark!
    • And here's a big dose of coolness: a first-person perspective of a soldier from the 101st Airborne parachuting into a college stadium on game day!



    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/12/10

    • I was under the weather with a headache all day yesterday, which fills me with regret over yet another wasted Columbus Day.
    • Here's a noteworthy science project:  a father and son put an iPhone 19 miles into space and recovered the phone.  See the video here.  That's impressive and super cool (but the kid seemed a bit young to have been too deeply involved).
    • Like Best Buy and Target stores, Walmart will now sell the iPad.  When I went into the local Target, the tablet computers were locked away on the bottom shelf in a cabinet below the iPods, the only hint that they were there at all was the abundance of iPad accessories.  Supposedly at Walmart there will be a display unit running a looping video.  A friend of mine recently got an iPad and has been using it at church and Bible study (which totally put the folks with embroidered Bible covers to shame); I'm more and more convinced that an iPad is probably just one generation away from meeting all of my computing needs and be a total home run in our homeschooling.
    • Here's a great commercial from Microsoft.  It's supposed to be about the new Windows phone, but it's really about mobile computing culture and how distracted we all are by that much info at our fingertips.  Actually, I don't think the new Windows phone will deliver on the promise of the commercial, i.e. to get us in and out and back to our life. Nor does Microsoft want that to happen.  The reason we are so distracted by those things is that they do their job well.  Devices like the iPhone are not inefficient, on the contrary, they're a pleasure to use.  We get our information so effortlessly that we get lost in looking for more info… and more… and more… grinning like an idiot the whole time.  Nothing's broken here, in fact it's working too well.

    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    Not the Target Demographic

    I received my second edition of "Black Enterprise" magazine today.  I'm still not sure why… but if this is a practical joke, it's kind of funny.  It costs $15 to subscribe to a magazine that appears to be the magazine of choice for closet-Republicans in the African American community.  The magazine claims to be "your #1 resource for personal finance, small business, and career information" and "your online source for wealth creation," which doesn't sound very socialist, progressive, or Democrat to me.

    In fact this sounds like the type of people that President Obama is overtly trying to punish.  Does he know that some of them are black?  And they have their own magazine?

    But as non-businessman, open conservative, and certified white-guy, I'm still not sure why I'm getting this magazine.

    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/08/10

    • Sunday is 10/10/10 and a lot of folks are hurrying to get married on that date, i.e. perfect 10's.  It sounds like a gimmicky reason to me; how about some solid pre-marital counseling instead?
    • Check out this short video about the flight-testing of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.  That's just a beautiful plane.
    • Unemployment is now 10.1% and those are just the folks who are still trying to get a job. The real number might be something like 17.1%.  Yikes.
    • How are the Chiefs the only undefeated team in the NFL?!  Surely, that's a sign that the Apocalypse is upon us.  That said, the Chiefs game two weeks ago was the most entertaining non-playoff football game I'd seen in two or three years.
    • Our Wii's optical drive died a few weeks ago, probably due to high mileage.  The boys play the Wii a lot and we've taken excellent care of it: our discs are scratch-less, the accessories are cleaned regularly, everything is in its place, etc.  At this point, I'm facing a repair to a heavily-used, three-year old system or paying to replace it.  Helloooo, Craigslist.
    • The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder play tonight in KC.  The game will feature a number of the NBA's biggest stars, in addition to Jayhawk alums Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, and Nick Collison.  It's too bad… the Thunder, formerly the Seattle SuperSonics, could have moved to the Sprint Center in KC… but no.  I'd like to think the Sprint Center would get a regular, big-league tenet but that seems less and less likely all the time.

    125,000 Hits

    Just a mile marker post, thanking my friends and family for reading my blog.  We passed 125,000 hits; which means my Mom reads this blog a lot!  We're also closing in on 2,400 posts in the last five and half years.

    Thanks!

    Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Random Thoughts 10/7/10

    • Happy anniversary to Mom and Dad.  They've been married forever (43 years)!  Both sets of my grandparents were married well over 50 years.  My great-grandparents were all similarly married for life, as far as I know.  Shannon and I are working on year 15.
    • Here's a fantastic presentation on the heroic actions of SSgt Robbie Miller at the army.mil website.  Miller was posthumously given the Medal of Honor this week for actions in Afghanistan in January 2008.
    • Best photography apps for iPhone according to Lifehacker.
    • Stupid fantasy football!  My team excels at scoring the second most points in our league while playing the highest scoring team.  Grrr…
    • According to this graph, God, common sense, and thousands of years worth of experience, divorce is usually a really rotten deal… especially for women.  Female householders with no husband have the highest rate of poverty (32.5%) while married households have the lowest (7.2%).

    Thanks for the Great Book!

    I got a package in the mail today.  It was a book from Amazon.com, specifically a book from my wish list for my birthday!  Yay!

    The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias was the first book I added to my wish list back in January.  I'm going to start reading it right away!  Thank you so much, Jason and Jenny H.

    Wednesday, October 06, 2010

    Don't Fall For It

    Bill Gates is NOT going to pay you to forward emails and someone on Facebook is NOT going to give you a free iPhone or iPad.  Ever.  It's a scam!  From a web security site:

    Facebook users need to learn to think before they ‘like’ and ‘share’ suspicious pages on Facebook. Just because something appears on a friend’s wall, it doesn’t mean that it is from a reliable source, and by giving unknown applications access to your Facebook page, you could unknowingly continue to help to spread scams and earn cash for the spammers.”

    Be careful.  I almost never "like" or "share" something unless I'm 110% positive what it is and who is responsible for it.