Saturday, December 31, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/31/11

  • Here's the last blog (I have another one that I've been working on but may not get it edited today) of 2011.  I hope you've had a merry Christmas and that you'll have a happy New Year.
  • Not that it feels much like winter, with temps in the mid-50's.  I bought a snow shovel in October and set it aside for a few weeks which turned into a few months and counting…
  • I'm looking forward to conference-play in the Big 12.  I'm worried that a very good Mizzou team will walk away with a good win or two over my on-again, off-again Jayhawks; you just hate to see the "leavers" get the last word in.  But who knows.
  • I'm starting a new sermon series on the book of Genesis tomorrow at church.  I'm also beginning a Sunday School class on parenting that will run during January and February.
  • In March I'll be teaching a Sunday School class on Revelation that will run through the end of the year.  So beginning in the spring, I'll be preaching from the beginning of the book and teaching from the end of the book.
  • Which NFL player gave the most money away?  Supposedly "dirty" Ndamukong Suh.  Check out the list here.
  • Graham has been telling me almost daily, "I forgot that you live here."  Thanks, son.  I work some late hours sometimes but I see him every single day.  I don't know what that little goofball is talking about.
  • Brennan and Tanner asked why we don't celebrate New Year's.  First of all, I wasn't aware that we didn't; many years we have a church lock-in or some other get together.  Granted, this year we're not doing anything special and going to bed early for church in the morning.  But instead of a straight answer I told them an elaborate far-fetched story about their mother's drinking problems… which they wouldn't fall for.  I should have said it was Grandma.  That would get a bigger reaction at prayer request time in Sunday School.
  • Confused about Facebook's Timeline feature?  This short article helps a lot.

Book-It Has Been Very Good To Me

I took Brennan and Tanner to Pizza Hut for lunch today so they could both use their Book-It coupons. We started the program late this year but both boys met their December reading goals with time to spare. Good job, boys!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Graham by Candlelight

Here's a shot of my sweet little Graham (5 years old) at our Christmas program.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Christmas Pic 2011

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas

Here's our family at Grandma's on Christmas Eve:  (front row) Graham, Shannon, Anneliese, and Elijah; (back row) Tanner, Jared, and Brennan.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walk a Mile…

Shannon bought me a pair of used shoes online. Normally I wouldn't want something like that; feet are gross and other people's shoes are worse. But these are Merrell moccasins… …so I couldn't resist the chance… …to literally walk a mile in someone else's moccasins!

Random Thoughts 12/22/11

  • Did anybody else wait up the other night to catch the streaming debut of The Hobbit trailer?  You can see it here.
  • Franklin Graham is getting grief for saying it's okay for evangelical Christians to vote for a Mormon.  I think Graham's position, that you vote for a guy that's qualified for the job even if he doesn't share your faith, is perfectly reasonable.  But some Christians are panicky that we'd "lose God's blessing" by suddenly voting for a non-Christian, i.e. a Mormon.  Yeah, because all of those previous "Christian" presidents were true believers.  Surely when a politician shows up at church, he's definitely always sincere.
  • The same article notes that uneducated and untrained prosperity-gospel-preacher and self-help guru esteemed theologian Joel Osteen says that "…Mormons are Christians."  Oh, well that clears things up.
  • Ah… snow flakes.  If it's going to be cold it may as well snow.
  • The Jayhawks play the late game tonight, airing at 10pm Central.   C'mon Hawks.  Muscle through this.
  • Having a fever, and letting it run its course, might actually help you get through the flu quicker.  We probably over-medicate a lot of things.
  • KU football landed Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist.  He has one year of eligibility and won't have to sit out after transferring because he's already graduated.  Crist picked KU over Wisconsin and will be reunited with Charlie Weis, who coached him in 2009.  Crist has had injury problems and didn't always perform well at Notre Dame but he's still a huge, experienced, pro-style upgrade over anything KU has.
  • Here's an interesting visual history of the iPhone and iPad.  Very informative.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/20/11

  • This is a bad week for my migraines to come back.
  • Poor KU.  It looks like this might be 23-8 or 21-10 season.  That said, KU's off years are still better than some schools can hope for in a good year.
  • KU got a commit from a highly-ranked high school player, Brannen Greene.  KU is looking at huge waves of talent coming in 2012 and 2013.  Hopefully they all hit the books and stay eligible.
  • North Korea's (meager) nuclear arsenal is now in the hands of the youngest-ever leader of a nuclear power.  The late Kim Jong-il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is in his late twenties and surprising plump for living in country known for starvation and famine.
  • This is why everyone who wants your dollar hates Apple's iPad.
  • Keeping up with my Shopkick app has earned me $125 in iTunes gift cards over the last year.  That's just enough to keep up with the music my wife and kids keep downloading.  If you start using Shopkick, use my referral code to get more points for both of us, squirrel2482.
  • It's not too late to buy a gift through Gospel for Asia.  Buy a cow or a radio or a rickshaw or a fishing net or a Bible or many other things for people in need around the world.

Monday, December 19, 2011

When the Roll is Called Down Here

This is my favorite sermon about the church.  I first heard it in college and I've often used it while teaching the book of Romans.  The preacher is the great Fred Craddock, who delivered this message sometime in the 1980's (1987 sticks in my head for some reason).  The text is Romans 16:1-16, a "list" of names to which Paul sends his greetings.

Here's the message:

"When the Roll is Called Down Here"
by Fred Craddock

I hope you will not feel guilty if your heart was not all-aflutter during the reading of the text.  It’s not very interesting.  It’s a list, a list of names, a list of strange names.  I always tell my students in preaching class, “When you’re preaching from the biblical text, avoid the lists.  They’re deadly.  Don’t preach from the lists.”
It seems that Paul is calling the roll.  That’s a strange thing in itself.  I have never worshipped in a church in which any one got up and called a roll.  It could be very dull.  Yet, it could be interesting in a way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday, Tanner

My sweet boy.  My tenderhearted, sensitive, compassionate little boy turns 10 today.  I'm so proud of you, young man!

Happy birthday, Tanner Riley!

P.S.  When you were born ten years ago, the inattentive nurse typed your middle name as "Reilly."  We never fixed it.  We intended it to be spelled like Fort Riley, not like O'Reilly Auto Parts.  Sorry 'bout that!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/15/11

  • Here's a pet peeve I've discovered.  People who don't know me (usually salesmen, repairmen, insurance agents, etc.) who call me "Chief," or "Boss," or my personal least favorite "Big'un."  Stop it.  Now.  I'm not kidding.
  • The late Dan Fambrough will likely have a street in Lawrence named for him.  Anybody driving on it with a Missouri tag should be automatically pulled over and ticketed.
  • When did former Chiefs coach Todd Haley and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli have a falling out?  When they were introduced three years ago, I remember it being presented that they were long-time buddies.  But now that Haley's been fired, all I hear is how the two couldn't get along.
  • And please don't hire Josh McDaniels as the next Chiefs head coach.  Offensive coordinator maybe, but not head coach.  Let's let Romeo Crennel stay in the position for awhile.
  • We're down to just 4,000 troops in Iraq and many of them are on their way out by the end of the year.  God bless our brave troops; Iraq is a different place with a better future than it was ten years ago.  Their sacrifice has historical and tangible significance.
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. hired former KU football coach Turner Gill to coach at Liberty University, a mostly online Christian university in Virginia.  I wonder, can the online students can play on the football team?
  • $2.5 million per year for Charlie Weis to coach the worst team in the Big 12.  It's good work if you can find it.
  • I just finished teaching a study through the harmonized birth narratives on Wednesday nights.  I used a harmony of the gospels to weave together the accounts in Matthew and Luke (with some John) into one narrative from which I taught.  It made for a nice Christmas-y Bible study.
  • So Iran claims they hacked our super secret stealth drone and tricked into landing in Iran instead of Afghanistan.  Then they put it on TV, completely intact, to rub our nose in it.  After a week of silence President Obama says, "we asked for it back."  Words can't describe how humiliating this is; you've got to be kidding.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/14/11

  • This is our church's last regular Wednesday Family Night of the year.  Next week is our Christmas program (the non-Christmas Eve Christmas Eve service on December 21).
  • We're still playing basketball at Wallula at 8:30 on Wednesday nights.  We might even play next week.  Come join us!
  • Is there an inverse correlation between how nice you are and how good a college football coach you are?  It seemed to be true of the likeable Turner Gill.  Let's hope it applies to Charlie Weis.
  • How about taking four or six power naps each day instead of sleeping at night?  That's called a polyphasic sleep cycle and you can read about it here.  As noted in the article, most college students do a version of this by only sleeping half a night and then taking a 90 minute afternoon nap.  I know that's what I did.
  • I've often said that three-quarters of my counseling load is a by-product of alcohol.  Drinking caused the problems, exacerbated the problems, or is just lurking there ominously like a powder keg.  Well, now I've settled on another, much deeper, cause of problems: Daddy-issues.  I don't like that particular term, as such, because it sounds patronizing; the problem is, specifically, poor and/or absent fathering.  The way fathers can mess up their kids has a much more direct connection to today's problems than alcohol; alcohol is often a symptom rather than the problem itself.  Bad fathering is often the real problem.  And firm, consistent, wise fathering is profoundly helpful to people as they deal with life.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars officially have a new owner.  Supposedly, he's going to keep the team in Florida.  But the NFL wants a team in Los Angeles.  If the Vikings don't go, the Jags are extremely likely to transfer no matter what the official line is.
  • No KU basketball until next Monday.  This seems like it's taking forever!
  • Eli snooped in his mother's purse and found some Christmas stocking stuffers.  The little twerp got read the riot act by his mother and now the gifts are going back to the store.   I'm thinking of making him take them back to customer service himself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/13/11

  • I like the idea of Tim Grunhard as an assistant football coach at KU.  That seems like a good hire.  Now let's see if KU also hires any big names for the coordinator positions and whether they all have to be Notre Dame alumni.
  • I don't like the idea that KU's Ben McLemore, a freshman basketball player who's on suspension already for being academically ineligible, just got arrested for not showing up for court on a drinking charge.  Good grief, where do we find these shining jewels of maturity?
  • The last F-22 that will be likely be built was rolled out of the production facility in Georgia today.  Perhaps the most formidable fighter plane ever built, it's costliness is legendary.  A mere 187 planes will take the place of several hundred 1970's era aircraft like the F-15.
  • American Airlines will fly the first "iPad flight" this Friday in a Boeing 777.  The iPad will be used to replace charts and other reference materials and will be used throughout the flight.
  • I'm not terribly sad to Todd Haley go as the Chiefs' head coach.  Personally, I was never a fan.  I hated his press conferences and interviews where his monotone droning sounded like someone in the recovery room coming out from under anesthesia.
  • Happy 375th birthday to the National Guard.  You read that right, the National Guard (in Massachusetts) can trace its direct lineage back to December 13, 1636.
  • We've watched two-thirds (almost four hours) of Ken Burns' documentary "Prohibition."  Wow.  It's hard to express how complicated, involved, and connected that Prohibition is.  It was lose-lose either way and for every problem it solved it caused five more.  It's amazing how formative the Prohibition era was for Constitutional law, law enforcement, and our culture in general.  Everything from immigration to soda pop, from state's rights to organized crime is tied up in this issue.  Fascinating.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/12/11

  • We watched The Nativity Story (2006) at church last night during a potluck dinner.  I'm not sure what was different but that some of the best food at a church potluck that I can remember and our church eats all the time!
  • Good job, KU, on beating #2 Ohio State last Saturday.  This seems to be a bit of down year for Kansas and a win like that really helps.  By the way, where did Kevin Young come from?!  Wow!
  • Is anybody out there watching "Grimm"? 
  • Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter is a joy to watch.  Buzz off, haters.
  • I lost a fantasy football game on that final kick in the Cowboys-Giants game Sunday night.  The kick is good and I win.  But wait… the Giants called a timeout… re-kick… and it's blocked!  I lose by one point.  Nuts.  Congrats Matt S.
  • Mike Rowe's "Dirty Jobs" returns on Tuesday.  If you haven't heard Rowe's speech at TED a couple of years ago, where he talked about Greek vocabulary and lamb castration in Colorado… it's 20 minutes well spent.
  • The next season "Sherlock," the excellent BBC modern-rendition of Sherlock Holmes, is airing in the UK in January and here in the United States in April or May on PBS.
  • Are they really still going to call it the Big East?  Boise and San Diego?!  Really?
  • Here's that BCS spelling bee video that everyone likes.   It's so on-the-nose that it's both funny and frustrating.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

How to Give an iPad for Xmas

It's two and half weeks until Christmas and one of the most sought after gifts is Apple's iPad.  I've helped purchase and set up a few iPads for friends and family including mothers-in-law, great-grandmothers and grade school children.  Here are my thoughts on how to buy an iPad for someone you (really, really) love:

What to buy:
The tablet computer market is absolutely dominated by Apple.  It's not that there aren't other tablets, Kindles are popular with avid readers, but if you want to read and email and surf the web and play games, many people won't accept anything but a genuine iPad.  Also, iPhone and iPod Touch users already have some software that will work on the iPad, making it a natural fit.

iPad's come in a few different configurations, currently 16, 32, and 64 GB in storage.  16 GB, the cheapest, is doable, especially if the recipients don't have a lot of music or video hogging space on their device.  32 GB is a bit more roomy; 64 GB is more than most people need.  You also have the option of adding "3G."  This gives access to the internet, via cellular networks, while one is out and about.  It costs per month, but if they're going to regularly travel with it, this is really important.  If it's only going to be used at home on a WiFi network, it's unnecessary.

So for many people a 16 or 32 GB WiFi only Apple iPad 2 is the way to go.  There are rumors of the next generation iPad coming out in February –– consider waiting if your iPad recipient absolutely must have the latest and greatest.

How to buy:
iPads are rarely more than $40 or $50 off the MRSP.  You'll almost always pay the full price at any store whether it's an Apple store or Best Buy.  Because you're looking at limited options and solidly fixed price, buying online might help by saving you sales tax.  Shopping around for free shipping and no sales tax could spare you $50 or more.

If you're wanting to save money, which was our situation, consider going to and looking at refurbished iPads.  You can save over $200 by getting an older, refurbished first generation iPad.  It's marginally slower and doesn't have a camera, but otherwise there's little or no difference in the user experience.  It has been factory repaired with the batteries and the outer shell replaced, with a new box, accessories, and a one year warranty.  This is what our family did.

Before it's wrapped:
If you're not giving this to a geek (or at least someone who actively manages their own iTunes account on their iPhone) you might want to consider preparing the iPad in advance, especially if the iPad is meant for novice users.  A new iPad can be used right out of the box with the basic software included, but our refurbished iPad needed to be upgraded from iOS 4.2 to 5.0.  If you've already wrapped it, consider unwrapping it, getting it ready and re-wrapping it.  Go ahead, I'll wait…

Before I wrapped our iPad, to be opened as an early Christmas present for the whole family, I unboxed it, updated it's software, added some photos, set up an iTunes account and bought some apps.  This could probably be done in less than a few hours, especially if you've done it before and know which iTunes account you want to use.  If you don't know, I recommend getting someone to help.  The point is simply to prevent unwrapping the gift and having the user muddle through "user agreement forms" and registration pages for the first hour.  I like to see a new user's face light up as they just play with it.  The exception would be those geekier users who like that sort of thing.

Your iTunes account is how Apple identifies you and sells you things, both free and for money.  If an iPad is going to be used for a family, I recommend having a "family identity" on iTunes.  We have the iPad and both of our iPhones on this same account, through which we do all of our purchasing (music, apps, etc.).  On my personal iPhone, I used a separate iTunes account (under a different email) that is specific to my iPhone.  This account is for identification, backing up data, Gamecenter, etc.  The family account is for buying things. 

Hopefully Apple will improve this situation in the future, because it's not perfect as it works now.

There are a lot of great free apps to buy in iTunes.  Search the lists in the App store, check the ratings, and READ THE REVIEWS!   Some apps are not worth downloading even if they're free.  Some of my favorite apps for iPad include:  IMDB, NPR,, WebMD, ESPN's ScoreCenter, PBS Kids Video, AllRecipes, Doodle Buddy, USA Today, TuneIn Radio Pro, 2Do, Delivery Status Touch, and Bible.  If you're a DirecTV subscriber, their app for the iPad is incredible.  Games and puzzles we like include titles such as: Zen Bound 2, Geared 2, Battleheart, Where's My Water?, Cut the Rope, Slice It, Marble Mixer, and Tilt to Live.

Because our iPad is primarily for our five kids to use for home school, we're actively looking for educational apps.  We've found a few and Shannon and I will probably blog about that later as we test them out.  Here's a spoiler:  tablets like the iPad are the future of home schooling.

I use AppShopper, both the app and the website, to track apps so that I can buy them on sale or for free.  I'm a very stingy app buyer.

Cases, keyboards and other accessories:
A case is a good idea because iPads get dropped.  Look for something that will protect the corners and the front glass.   I prefer a portfolio-style case that has a front cover to close.  I'm not a fan of Apple's magnetic cover for the iPad 2 because it doesn't add any real protection but lots of other options meet this need.

Keyboards are mostly unnecessary unless the person does a lot of typing, like homework or lengthy emails.  Even then some people surprise themselves at how quickly they adapt to the on-screen keyboard.

Beware of other "necessities."  Most people don't end up wanting or needing external speakers, battery packs, props or easels, styluses or pens, or any of the other goofy, over-priced junk salesmen try to throw at you.  There might be a few cool add-ons out there but credit Apple's design for standing so well on its own.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Random Thoughts 12/5/11

  • You can often gauge how busy I am by how much I blog (or don't blog).  Even on a normal busy day, I can fit in five minutes here and five minutes there and write something.  It's only on really busy days that leave me intellectually exhausted that I can't write anything.
  • This imitation-Apple store must be the sincerest from of flattery.  Way to shamelessly copy your competitor, Microsoft.  I wonder how many shoppers will wander into this store and ask for an iPad or iPhone?
  • It was a sad week in Kansas City after popular meteorologist Don Harman committed suicide.  It's just so tragic when someone is lost to depression this way.  And all the more frustrating when ignorant people make ignorant generalizations about suicide.
  • On a similar note, Chester McGlockton, a former Pro-Bowl defensive lineman with the Raiders and Chiefs, died last week at age 42 from an apparent heart attack.
  • Acknowledging up front that I don't have all the facts yet, I'm really disappointed in Herman Cain.  It looks so damning…  How did he think these things wouldn't be uncovered if he ran for president?!  Now I could just about dump the entire Republican field and start over.
  • The top-3 Republican contenders have a combined age of 208.  Good grief.  I think I'm actually missing Sarah Palin.
  • Please, Alabama, blow up the stupid BCS.  We want some kind of playoffs in college football.
  • Read black conservative Lloyd Marcus, especially his article here on "Conservatism 101."  He says things well, especially when addressing folks who live with very conservative values but don't give themselves permission socially to call themselves "conservative."
  • I thought everyone loved underdogs and unlikely heroes.  So why is there so much venom and mockery directed at Tim Tebow?  Especially now at the height of his success?  How are so many ignoring the best feel-good story in the NFL in years?  Is he a little too Christian?  Is giving away his money to Filipino orphanages a little too noble?  I'm just stunned that so many vultures have gathered, longing for his undoing.