Tuesday, November 30, 2010


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.