Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cool spooky numbers thingamajig

click above

Beware of Cat - Postal Recollections

Whew! One less thing I have to do. I can scratch off of my to do list the whole "writing a book about my experiences as a substitute rural mail carrier, " I think, because it looks like this book is probably going to be close enough.

Although it is something I only did part-time for 3 years, it was an interesting job. And, as this book promo alludes, you did get to know a lot about the people in your community. From delivering the mail you know which young couple is having marital problems, which family has a loved one in prison, who is struggling with addiction, illness, or physical handicap. You get a feel for who is having trouble making ends meet and who has been blessed with wealth. You know who the good cooks are, whose kids are in college, what churches people attend and, sometimes, what houses the cops suspect hold hidden meth labs.

I never did get bit by dog or cat, but there were some close calls. Here's more info on the book.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Free Hugs

This video is reportedly one of the most popular on YouTube with nearly 23 million viewings:



We used it as a "pre-service element" (which is a "prelude" in the post-modern vernacular) in one of our church services this past weekend.

I could analyze this and we could discuss the social and spiritual implications of this work. Or we could just be grateful that some hippies in Sydney, Australia did something extra cool and thank the Lord for small gestures of kindness and charity.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One Book (more or less)

Jennwith2ns tagged me for a meme. I am honored and genuinely charmed to have been asked. Generally speaking, I don't do memes, but I really like her blog and I really like this meme because it is about books.

1. One book that changed your life. I don't care in the slightest if it is cliche, without a doubt that would be "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. I was a smart-alecky sophomore in a high school English class for smart kids, supposedly. I was bored and disdainful. As a preemptive disciplinary measure, by the end of the second week I had been persuaded to occupy a seat directly in front of the teacher's desk. Instead of doing whatever work I was supposed to be doing, I would attempt to engage the teacher, Mrs. Pam Sibley, in a discussion about literature, philosophy, or history or some other topic on which I was unassailably authoritative. One afternoon, probably in a bit of a peeve, Mrs. Sibley asked me if I would like to read something really challenging. Of course, I said, thinking that at last someone had recognized that my intellect was being wasted on this 10th grade curriculum. She said she had a book of her own that she would loan me if I promised to read it and that write a summary report on it for extra credit. She was certain that it would challenge me, she said. I eagerly picked up the gauntlet and received the book. Well, C.S. Lewis rocked my little world. Until that time I had never heard of, or even considered that a reasoned understanding of Christianity was possible or worthwhile. That is still a book that I try to read at least once a year. I regret that I never thanked Mrs. Sibley properly. I will one day, though.

2. One book that you have read more than once. "Know Why You Believe" by Paul Little. I love the way this thin little volume so effectively encapsulates the fundamentals of Christian belief. Concise and smartly written, it is another book that I try to read once a year and it is one of my favorite books to give away. There are a number of books, though, that I've enjoyed reading multiple times for different reasons...but I'll stay focused and not digress.

3. One book you would want on a desert island. "The Bible" is the one title that I could have used to answer several of these questions, but I suspect that answer transcends the spirit of this meme. However, if I'm stranded on a desert island with only one book, I really do want it to be my trusty Scofield NIV.

4. Two books that made you laugh. "Book of Nonsense" by Edward Lear. I love Lear's limericks, nonsense verse, and illustrations. "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller is very funny. And very serious. But funny, too.

5. One book that made you cry. "Safely Home" by Randy Alcorn. I couldn't help it...this is a really unique book. I was completely unprepared for where this book took me emotionally and found myself completely unwound more than once. Before reading this book, I would not have thought that a work of fiction could go where this book goes. It is not perfectly rendered, but it is amazing in its reach and scope. Read it.

6. One book you wish you'd written. "Heaven", also by Randy Alcorn and non-fiction. This is an amazing and detailed study on Heaven. Alcorn has painstakingly compiled and synchronized all that the Bible teaches about the place we would all rather be. Well, we would, wouldn't we? Among a lot of other things, Alcorn answers questions like "What will we do in Heaven?", "Will there be space and time?" and, of course, "What about the animals?" This is a book that positively changed the way I think about the future.

7. One book you wish had never been written. "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers. That was one of those books that everybody recommended, that received rave reviews, and was supposed to be a model of great contemporary literature. Hated it. No, really...HATED it.

8. Two books you are currently reading. and "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli and "This is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin (still, and again).

9. One book you've been meaning to read. There is a big stack of books that fall into this category, but the one that is on the shelf beckoning at this moment is "The Android's Dream" by John Scalzi.

10. Five people that I'll tag: GRP, Heidi, Sharon, Evan, and IzzyBeth

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

100 Days 100 Nights, the title cut from one of the coolest albums I've heard lately.  I love this stuff.


Monday, January 14, 2008

And Silver on Sunday, too

On Sunday morning, as we ate our late breakfast, we watched the streams of blue-clad Colts fans trudge past the dining room window through the lightly falling snow towards the stadium next door. We checked out before it really got crowded and headed north towards the Broad Ripple district.

Broad Ripple Village is an area about six miles north of downtown full of art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and shops. It is a quasi-residential area, a warren of narrow, twisty streets, with minimal parking options. I suspect that during the summer it swarms with tourists, but in the middle of January it was easily navigable.

We stopped first at a busy Starbucks in order to get coffee and bearings, and we stayed for about an hour. It was an excellent Starbucks; superior to most I’ve been in. The menu and service was typical, but unlike most of the ubiquitous chain’s coffee shops, this one had an atmosphere, a vibe, and a roaring fireplace. Most Starbucks are great for coffee to get-and-go, but relatively few invite you to hang out. This one does.

From there we went to Big Hat Books, a great little-privately owned bookstore. It was well-stocked with a broad selection of books and what it may have lacked in depth compared to a large chain bookstore, it more than made up in atmosphere. We enjoyed visiting with the lady that worked there and bought an excellent book, a graphic story by Shaun Tan, The Arrival (click through to see the artwork).

We also visited BR Fashionista, Another Time Vintage Fashions (which had everything that you now regret having worn in the groovy 70’s), and another excellent CD/Record store called Indy CD & Vinyl. What I love about independent CD shops like this one and Luna Music is how devoted they are to supporting local artists (MBPYNHO) and venues. The customer service is usually great and the people that work there are often wells of musical and cultural knowledge, eager to help and to talk to you about music. This type of music-buying experience is also not something you get when you buy mp3’s on line, but I’ll beat that dead horse later.

There were several other shops and boutiques we stopped in. We didn’t have time to do near everything that was available in Broad Ripple, and many of the art galleries and studios are closed on Sunday, as was a very interesting-looking guitar store called About Music. But we’ll be back.

After a superb and very late lunch at the CWB and then headed home, getting in around 6:30. Upon arriving home we listened to our new music, admired our souvenirs, played on our laptops, and reflected on the weekend and on 25 years of marriage. It is good and we are blessed.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Silver on Saturday

This past Saturday we headed to Indianapolis to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was cold, but sunshiny and beautiful.

Around noon, we cruised in on I-40, which turns into Washington Ave. once you hit the Indy city limits. This is kind of like going in the back door, but it is much more interesting and leisurely than taking I-70 downtown. This afforded us the opportunity to stop at Annie’s Thrift Shop and Guitartown, both of which yielded beneficial results.

Then we headed up to Massachusetts Avenue, one of several arts districts in Indy, and an area we’ve enjoyed several times before. We spent most of the afternoon visiting a number of the art galleries and specialty shops along MassAve, including McFee Gallery & Studios, Silver in the City, Three Dog Bakery (yes, it is a bakery for pets), and Luna, which is a great independent CD/record store.  Here's a short video tour.

About 4:00, we headed for the Crowne Plaza Union Station where we had reservations in one of their Pullman Car rooms. They have a couple of dozen hotel rooms made out of converted, actual railroad passenger cars. We actually got a surprisingly good deal, considering it was a game weekend (grrr…not going to talk about that).

Then we headed to dinner, courtesy of my generous employer. We went to St. Elmo's, which is one of the premier steakhouses in the Midwest. I have been there once before, some 10 or 11 years ago, and honestly, I have never seen steaks like this before. They are huge, excellent cuts, precisely trimmed, and perfectly cooked. They are also famous for their shrimp cocktail. An indescribably delicious meal.

It was an early dinner reservation so afterwards we spent a couple of hours doing some casual shopping in the downtown Circle Center Mall. Then, about 8:45 or so, we went to The Slippery Noodle Inn, an Indy landmark and a well-known blues club just around corner.   This club has two stages and we wedged ourselves into a corner of the smaller room at the back and heard a very lively, rocking set by Sam Cockerel and his band. Expert players, gritty vocals, and an entertaining stage presence.  Here's a short video that tells a little of the storied history of The Slippery Noodle.

After that we walked back to the hotel, hand-in-hand, retiring to our train car for…oh, wait, that’s none of your business.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Armed customer thwarts grocery robbery"

I have two visceral responses every time I read a story like this, today from the Indianapolis Star.

First, situations like this unfold not just on TV crime dramas or the movie screen, but in front of real people going about their everyday, otherwise normal lives. And it happens all the time. People who think that it could never happen to them or that it only happens somewhere else are living in fantasy. It just makes sense for responsible, law-abiding people to carry firearms to protect ourselves from irresponsible, law-breaking people and their pernicious ways.

Secondly, it reminds me that I need to stop being lazy and get my concealed carry license. It's not expensive and it's not hard; it's just a bit of paperwork and a visit to the county sheriff''s office.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

PSA: Glassbooth.com

This is a handy online tool that intends to help you learn which Presidential candidate is most likely to share your priorities with respect to the various political issues of our time. It is non-partisan and is based on a simple quiz format that takes about 5 minutes to complete.

I found the process kind of fun and the results a little surprising. According to the calculations, Governer Huckabee and I share an 80% consensus on the issues we consider priorities. Honestly, I wouldn't have thought that. Next in line was the unknown and unimportant Duncan Hunter and then America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Lately, I've actually found myself liking Fred Thompson more and more, but maybe that's just because he seems like such a likable guy and he doesn't mind slapping the press around when necessary. I met Governor Huckabee once, back in 1998, and he gave me an autographed copy of his book, "Character IS the Issue." Nice guy and a great book, but I really just haven't been swayed by his presidential aspirations to date.

Anyway, I suspect that the science behind this site is not terrifically complicated or unassailably definitive, but it is interesting and you may find it helpful.

Update: I've been thinking about this. This tool is, I think, effective at weighing the perceived importance of the most compelling topics of our time, but it doesn't cover everything. In every decision, large or small, emotion and intuition exert a significant influence. Our choice for who we prefer to be President will also be based on less tangible ideas such as our perceptions of their individual integrity, leadership capabilities, intelligence, resourcefulness, and personality. The impressions we form on those topics have little to do with the nuts-and-bolts social or political issues, I think, but are still important.

Which is probably why I think I'd enjoy having Thompson, Huckabee, or Obama over for dinner, but Clinton, Paul, and Biden make me uneasy.