Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vacation, Day 3

A few observations:

Building sand castles is more work than it sounds like it would be, especially when the site foreman is my neice. She's a taskmaster, even if the buckets are shaped to make turrets that look precisely like a castle with steps & everything.

Those red flags were out yesterday. I tried to explain that those are really more of a guideline than a rule. For some, they mean stay out of the water. For others, they mean it'll be some of the best fun you've had in the ocean in years.

I don't get the beachcomber with a metal detector. I mean, how much could they possibly find that results in that activity being worth their while? It looks an awful lot like work to me.

For some reason, I enjoy those extra-large beach-type places with names like Souvenir City. One had a shark mouth (complete with teeth on hinges, to which people that could reach them ignored them and kids who couldn't reach them tried to jump--still not quite there--to make them swivel) as an entrance and the other an overgrown octopus (nothing swiviled that I could tell). They sell everything from the normal stuff you'd need at the beach to shells to pet hermit crabs to clothing to something called "SmackWear" in which there were t-shirts with all sorts of put-downs of Auburn & Alabama.

There must be some sound the henna tattoo machine makes that lures the 10-14 year old crowd--and only they can hear it because I didn't see anybody outside that range getting one. There was a steady stream around the stand...about 6 or 7 per hour, each one throwing down $15 to $25 bucks.

Nearly every restaurant has an outdoor deck featuring live music, which mostly means some folk singer with a guitar auditioned & got the gig. I think they all have some rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama" and a country song that mentions that they were singing "Sweet Home Alabama" in their repertoire.

I could jacuzz for hours if no one else was in the pool area. It's hard to enjoy the peace & quiet with the cannonball competition going on off the edge of the hot tub.

The iPhone's new software & applications can keep folks interested and happy for a couple of hours.

My friend Mikey doesn't understand that my mind constantly is providing ongoing commentary about the world around me, and that if I don't unload some of it via blog (it'd all go in a journal, anyway) then there'd be no way I could relax and enjoy my days off. This activity actually slows that mental process down.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vacation, Day 2

A few observations:

The C&W-Lovin' Sister-in-Law Jodie arrived yesterday, with the 3-Sport Nephew & Partner-in-Crime Niece in tow, so the gang's all here now. Did you know that a 5-year-old girl can go from car to beach-ready in about three minutes?

The same five-year old can ask a question guaranteed to get a yes: "Uncle Brent, will you take me to the beach now?" She'd had enough of grownups unpacking. We found a few shells, I debunked ocean myths the older brother created about the evening being "feeding time," we formed different views of the waves (to her they were huge & scary. I was on my knees).

30 minutes later the fam arrives & hangs out. It's even more fun when the tide is bringing in some more serious waves & a bit of undertow and the 14-year-old 3-Sport Nephew brings a football. Long passes diving into the waves isn't a bad way to spend a late afternoon. Same for wrestling in the pool. I figure I can do this for another year, maybe two, before he's big enough to whip me.

The C&W-Lovin' Sister-in-Law can ask a question guaranteed to get a yes: "Uncle Brent, would you watch her while we head to the store to pick up some things we forgot?" Two hours of a combination of ocean, pool & hot tub will create prune hands like nobody's business. We passed the time ranking Disney princesses. She rolled with Sleeping Beauty. I went with Mulan. She disliked my choice. We found mutual ground the greatness of Hannah Montana as well as SpongeBob.

Sometimes, a 16-year-old Kid1 isn't as adept at sunscreen application as you'd given her credit for being. A few stripes...

It can be fun "watching" a baseball game on ESPN's GameCast feature. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty cool. Even the smokin' hot shutterbug trophy wife got in on it. It's even more fun when your team wins in the bottom of the 9th when you'd already been incredibly frustrated by them blowing the lead in the top.

Teenage boys bring an Xbox 360 to vacation. Guitar Hero is at the ready in case of rain.

Reading has picked back up. I'm reading a book I'm considering for use for training interns and there's a lot in it that congregations should know. It's written to young pastors and has a lot of advice from folks who've been doing it a while. Maybe I should have the church membership read it, too. Some samples:

"Some people think we have little or nothing to do but stand in the pulpit, and pour out a flood of words two or three times a week; but they ought to know that if we did not spend much time in diligent study, they would get poverty-stricken sermons...If any man will preach as he should preach, his work will take more out of him than any other labour under heaven."--C.H. Spurgeon

"What is done on public on a Sunday is like the tip of an iceberg. Behind all true preaching by shepherds & teachers there are hours of study and preparation linked with deep involvement in people's lives--an involvement in which there are no regular 'working hours.' Pastoral care is at one and the same time the most demanding and rewarding task there can be."--Derek Prime

If a 5-year-old locks the door with mom on the other side of it, there's not a lot mom can do about it except try to cajole said outlaw 5-year-old into opening it back up. When Uncle Brent fired off the phrase, "Open up, kid. It's the cops!" she just fired back, "No, I don't think I will." Well, let's just say that's funnier to Uncle Brent than to her mom.

A USA Today on a breezy porch with the waves crashing, a cup of coffee & an incredible view is really a nice start to any day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vacation, Day 1, Driving Edition

Simple observations...no deep thoughts

It's a leisurly 11.5-hour drive (in other words, you could make it in 10 if you pushed it) including stops for lunch from our doorstep to Gulf Shores, AL.

The beaches here are worth every minute of the drive--and, yes, I'm including the 3 hours through northern Louisiana. The sand is white, the water's greenish-blue and if a Dallasite was going to make a drive to Texas' South Padre, the only reason I could think of would be simply to keep their cash in Texans pockets.

Church signs are just as awful along the way: "Prayer Is God's Best Wireless Communication Plan." "Tithers Don't Have To Worry About This World's Economy." Ugh.

"Dad, I think this guy is kinda biased."--Quote from the backseat as Kid1 was forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh (she'd never heard of him or his show previous). I had to do something to get my blood boiling to avoid the 1-2PM nod off. That time frame is my body's kryptonite each and every day.

It's funny how my family's Alabama accents come back relatively quickly. It wasn't long into Alabama I'd uttered a little colloquialism. You can't erase roughly 30 years of it, man. It just stays on the hard-drive.

There is something missing without Kid2 on the drive.

Stopping at roadside fruit & veggie stands & getting boiled peanuts brought back a gazillion childhood memories.

I'm not necessarily given to business plans and all. I mean, I've never worked in that sector, but I think I know genius when I see it. There's a new toll-road that can get you to the beaches quicker than the main thoroughfare and lots of empty land on either side of it. I saw what I think might be the highest possible profit-margin idea: The luxury RV lot. All you do is put in a pool area and maybe a clubhouse of sorts, and then sell all this valuable land divided up by the size of a boat slip. You get prime land divided up by the smallest possible section, and PRESTO--a gazillion dollars.

There's something really cool about seeing your in-laws (who you've been blessed with having ones you enjoy) for the first time since Thanksgiving and they're in the parking lot excited to see you.

Southern women, of which my mother-in-law is quintessential, can fill up a refrigerator and Tetris more stuff in there than you can imagine. This is how they start their vacation, and then they spend every hour of it trying to get you to eat it all. Her first words after us getting in the room: "The sweet tea is on the bottom shelf. Do you wan't a sandwhich or anything?"

I think those luggage carts are awesome. In addition to their regular function, you can ride them toward the car and have your wife tell you not to kill yourself and your daughter roll her eyes and playfully tell you that you're not funny.

Re-ordered cable channels don't bother me much (I just have to find ESPN), but I really miss having my handy-dandy on-screen channel guide to tell me what's on it.

I'd like to thank, apparently, the Shouse family next door for not locking their internet service.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hey Everybody! It's Barnstorming Brother-In-Law Shane's Birthday Today!!!

Let's all celebrate by...

...getting tickets to a concert by Pearl Jam (or, if that can't happen, Eddie Vedder on solo tour) and going to the show.
...taking some time off and touring the world.
...when the traffic is bad on Oakland's bridges, drive to your airplane hangar and just fly your plane to the airport where you work.
...get involved in a fantasy football league.
...go ahead and take him up on the offer when your friend Vince invites you to the pre-party, the party itself, and then the post-party.
...getting your brother to go in on it with you and buy your parents one of those 12-foot inflatable turkey/pilgrim deals for Thanksgiving, and then putting it in your parents' yard knowing full well they can't stand those things (which might be one of the first known Thanksgiving Day pranks ever--who does those?).
...doing a little Ali Shuffle when you knock your wife out in Wii boxing.
...trying to arrange the landscaping in your back yard to prevent your weenie dog from trying to attack the next door neighbors huge dog, and generally failing.
...majoring in finance and then use your degree sparingly as a professional, but being excited about telling folks you attended Santa Clara when Steve Nash was there.
...buying commemorative posters & keeping the ticket stubs to great rock & roll shows you've seen and then framing them.
...putting iBar on your iPod.
...choosing to have our wedding ceremony on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific.
...enhancing higher-order life-living.
...joining the Dads of Daughter Club, of which only the dads of exceptionally gifted & gorgeous daughters can apply (of course, gifted & gorgeous is subjective to each dad's interpretation, so they're all gifted & gorgeous...but Shane's daughter is so obviously qualified that a blind guy with one eye can see it.).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Old School

For some weird reason (having to do largely with contractual obligations from national networks with options on various games) the Rangers baseball game wasn't televised locally yesterday. Of the 162 games they play each season, 160 are televised.

Well, I finished my Saturday chores (when you own a home, there's always something you should be doing, right?) and then got to visit with a former student at an in-town reception they had for an out-of-town wedding (highlight: the bride's brother became ill & couldn't attend the wedding--didn't catch the entire story--so one of the groomsmen held a laptop and they Skyped the wedding so he could see everything and everybody could see him).

And, since there's always something I should be doing I tuned the radio to the baseball game in two rooms while I did some more somethings.

It was tremendously enjoyable, too.

When I was a kid and televised sports weren't available except for the MLB Game of the Week, and same for football's two Sunday offerings (and, well, Monday Night Football, too...but my dad would only let me watch the first half of that before he scurried me off to bed), I'd listen to the Braves radio broadcasts when I had time and would arrange my life on Saturdays to get near a radio to hear the Auburn Tigers each week.

And yesterday kind of took me back. If you've ever compared the radio version of an event and the televised version of the same event, well, they're two different things entirely. Yesterday, the Texas announcer Eric Nadel described the uniforms in detail so great he actually said their caps were blue with the white "t" outlined in red with the red button on the top. He described Josh Hamilton's home run in such a way that you can hear the excitement build. It kind of sounded like this...

...Hamilton, batting from the left side of the plate, taps his cleats and digs into the batter's box.
...he awaits the 2-2 offering from Justin Duchscherer.
...Duchscherer winds and delivers...
(crack of the bat in the background)
...swung on AND THERE IS A DRIVE...
...DEEP LEFT FIELD...
...HIGH...
...AND GONE!!!...
...a three-run opposite-field blast by Hamilton gives the Rangers a 6-2 lead and even the Oakland fans are murmuring about how far that ball traveled...
...outfielder Matt Murton took about three strides back and stopped to admire the work of the Rangers center fielder...
...WOW...
...what a shot.

It went on like this for about three hours.

And it was a nice way to spend an afternoon. Using your imagination and gettin' stuff done.

I'll have to see if I can't find more times to do that.
Margaux Update

I have no idea what it means, but no less than three people in the last week have asked me for a photo of Margaux. They've literally walked up to me and said something like, "It's been a while since you've given us a update on your niece at The Diner."

So, just in case there might be more than three of you:



Yes, I'll see her in about three weeks.

And, I hope she'll let me use those credit cards she's somehow pilfered.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In Light Of The Announcement That Will Be Made In Church Tomorrow (That Was Already Announced Wednesday Night To Students/Parents...

It might be beneficial for those with ties to my church's student ministry to re-read my series of essays from last year, beginning on May 6. "19 Things I Learned In 19 Years of Youth Ministry."

Just click the link at the left and scroll...and you'll want to read them in reverse order. That means start at the bottom of the blog & work your way back up.

This'll simply be a primer for the meeting we're having with parents & students of our high school/middle school ministry at 6:30PM tomorrow night in The Dungeon. It's starting again...
And So It Begins...

Predicted high temperatures for zip code 75028, for July 27--August 1:

Saturday: 101.
Sunday: 104.
Monday: 103.
Tuesday: 103.
Wednesday: 100.

Oh, yeah...as low as it's gonna get at any point between now & then: 79.

Bring it, weather. I'm going on vacation next week, suckas! To the beach...where the highs are 83 and it gets into the 60's at night. And they also have this thing called a breeze.

Friday, July 25, 2008

In An Octopus' Garden In The Shade

For the longest time I've been wanting to do something...anything...with my backyard. In effect, I've got three long & thin rectangles of nothing but grass. This makes mowing quite a chore...one in which I'd gladly get rid of if I could figure out what I'd want to do with all that space & make it look nifty. So, the deal is that I think I'd like to do something like this. Create some shade, too.

But here's what I'm thinking...







All photographs can be found here at Frantisek Staud's Zen Garden Photos. His pics are pretty good so you might want to take a look!

Anyway, what do you think about my backyard idea?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Words That Come To Mind When I Think About My Day Yesterday

Odd.
Peculiar.
Moving.
Poignant.
Exciting.
Complicated.
Complex.
Shifting.
Options.
Prospects.
Risk.
Reward.
Home.
Strange.

All of the above.

And, yet, none of the above.

It's really hard to describe, man.
Code Red!

A few days ago there was a message on our home-phone answering machine.

The automated message said it was a "code red emergency announcement." Basically it was reminding us that locals should alternate the days they water their lawns by whether their address was odd or even. Supposedly this will save the town water. If my low-rent FloMo neighborhood is any indication, they didn't get the message or...

...worse...

...they don't understand what a Code Red Emergency we're experiencing.

But I do feel like it's my responsibility to let you know that right now at The Diner, we're having a Code Green Emergency situation here.

Please act accordingly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Uh Oh

Most patrons are aware of my penchant for pointing out the signs on businesses or churches that use puns to get your attention (yes, I see the irony) and today I rolled my eyes at the local synagogue that said if the economy was tough, we could take part in their "prophet sharing" plan. Ugh.

But that isn't what I wanted to talk about today.

Furthering my theory that my tattoo artist friend has put something in the ink he's already used that makes me crave a new tattoo about 8 minutes after he completes his latest one...

...I'm thinking about another one. I have a pretty sweet idea, too. And, getting him to create something that will tie the three for my family together instead of them standing alone.

I should've known that with my compulsions I never should've started this tattoo thing.

Oh, man.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Board Games

Our Sunday night Sunday School class, which functions more like a home group, played WhirlyBall for our last get-together. This time, there seems to be a move to play board games. Now, I've been to social gatherings where Uno has been played. Or maybe a game called Taboo. I even wound up at a New Year's deal where Bunco was on the agenda.

But those were nights where we knew what was going to be played. You know, where the hosts said, "Come over & join the other couples & we'll play Russian Rummy and hang out."

What they're suggesting, from what I can gather, is that you have a selection of board games and folks pick the ones they want to play. So, there could be several games out just waiting to be played.

My choices would be:

Trivial Pursuit: 80's Edition (at least that way, when you hear the answer, you've at heard of it).
Life (old-school version, not the new one where you can make millions as a rock star & buy huge homes).
Phase 10 (or Russian Rummy. They're similar.) if you have to have a card game.

Not:

Boggle.
Twister (and not just because I'm old. I never liked that game, even in middle school when you were supposed to like that game).
Monopoly.

So, if your friends were going to get together & have a board game night, what games should be on the tables when folks arrive?
Some Updates

...we got somebody to stay and keep Lloyd next week.
...The Dark Knight was okay, but didn't live up to the hype. On the other hand, Heath Ledger as The Joker lived up to every bit of hype.
...yesterday, I learned that cassette tapes generally don't hold up well after 20 years. That little rectangular pad between the cassette and the tape, well, let's just say the glue on that bad boy doesn't exactly help the pad stay put in a lot of cases. The two most important ones it did & they got transferred, but The Smithereens didn't fare so well. We'll see if Elmer's can solve the problem and get back to it.
...get this: The car went to the mechanic yesterday and said mechanic called & said the sound was not coming from the shocks/struts, but rather something very minor. He replaced two bolts and told me my car was ready and there'd be no charge. Sweet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hey...Little Help!

We need a young adult type to live in our house and hang out with Lloyd from Monday morning to Sunday afternoon next week. Get the mail & the paper, too.

So, if you'd like a place to yourself for a week & want to hang with Lloyd, inquire within.
So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that it seems like many of my friends & co-workers have really sick relatives right now, and how much strain that puts on people. Living farther than a day's drive adds to that strain.
...that strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
...that I can't stand it when the car makes funny noises. Because then I have to let someone else tell me what's up and I don't have knowledge to determine whether he's telling me what I need to spend or what maybe I should spend (usually these are two different things). Same for orthodontists & doctors & accountants & lawyers.
...that everyone I know has seen The Dark Knight. They give it rave reviews.
...that it's becoming about that time: the Dallas Morning News sports page led off yesterday with a "pre-training camp" guide for the Dallas Cowboys. Camp opens Thursday, and there was everything I need to know about the 'Boys training camp.
...that I need to tell those that don't associate with teens all that much, when, in meetings, you bring up how we could send "an e-mail blast," that most everyone under 30 thinks e-mail is now too slow.
...that I'm getting out my cool little machine today that will take a cassette tape and convert the music into a CD or Mp3. Stan Ridgway is the main reason. But I'm sure there'll be one or two others.
...that it was nice to see how my graduating class of 1999 all came to a wedding not knowing many of the others had been invited and to watch them sit around a table and get caught up/reminisce reminded me of how nice it is to have a solid student ministry at your church.
...that it was funny to watch them be under control but remind the empty nesters that they might want to use their inside voice and slow down a bit with the beer/wine because the party still had a few hours to go. They had a theory that once parents didn't have to be an example for their kids anymore that they went back to being who they were before they were parents. I'm going to field test this theory some more, but it has merit.
...that Auburn kicks off in 39 days. Yessssssss.
...that you can have around 40 channels of movie options from a free month-long promotion by the cable company and still not find one you really want to watch. Their little campaign might backfire.
...that our church's music camp is this week and it's pretty great to have your building with all the energy, color & motion that it brings with it.
...that we have some elderly neighbors who've recently been walking this Great Dane. I don't know if they're dog-sitting or if he's their new pet, but man, that dog is huge. I seriously don't know if the two of them could handle the leash if this dog decides to bolt. Lloyd barked at him this morning. I'd swear the Great Dane laughed a little.
...that on the news last night we saw a story about a builder who's marketing for folks who used to buy in the suburbs who now prefer urban living. I don't know why this was newsworthy yesterday, but I do know that urban/loft living appeals to me on about 100 levels. I'm fascinated by it for reasons I don't fully understand.
...that the week before vacation is actually twice as hard. So's the week you get back.
...that the students returning from the Juarez mission trip and giving their video & presentation is one of the coolest things our church does, and I wonder why everyone doesn't come.
...that I need to get on with my day. I mean, I've got cassettes to convert, a car to get to the mechanic, and gotta find some time to see The Dark Knight.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Three Open Notes

...Open note to all the drivers on Garland Road last night: Sorry. I was chatting with my wife & didn't notice the blinking red light. Seriously. That one's on me.

...Open note to the dog owner in my neighborhood: Thanks for eventually coming to get your huge dog's huge pile out of my freshly-mowed & looking-good yard. Now, if you could get that done for the other 3 days a week he does it, that'd be great.

...Open note to party dancers: Please, if people enjoy chatting with friends at a party & are sitting at a table laughing & conversing, don't assume that a complete stranger telling me that I'm "no fun" will entice me to the dance floor. Suffice to say that my definition of "fun" and yours are two different things entirely. Dancing isn't fun for everybody.
SeinLanguage

Jerry Seinfeld was in town last night doing his stand-up act...of which I'd love to go & see.

And now that he's a parent, he's giving his observations on marriage & child-raising and during his show last night gave us this little bit of gold:

How can you deal with someone who poops their pants while they're looking right at you?" And smiling?"

And, he's been driving in Dallas, too, noting that the traffic on the Dallas North Tollway was "crazy, everybody one inch apart" and that when trying to merge, other drivers "want to see you earn it. They won't hurt you, but they won't help you, either."

Manalive do I think he's really funny.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Benefits Package

We all have our days. When the paperwork piles up or the feeling that selling/producing/buying widgets doesn't make much cosmic sense or when our critics win or you get too much pushback from the higher-ups or we're affected by somebody else's dumb decision.

I've had mine.
You've had yours.

We also experience the upside, too. When the paperwork gets noticed or the widget made a real difference or you get a pat on the back or your superiors notice or the team gets the job done with flair.

I've had mine.
You've had yours.

And yesterday started out with the former and quickly turned into the latter.

First, I'd gotten a phone call from three recent graduates. They're the kind of students who, when they're in your ministry, make it easy for you to enjoy & love them. Even when they wander off the path a bit, they still let you know they care about you and you know you care about them. In a matter of days, college plans will begin to scatter them and it's highly likely I'll never have the chance to hang out with these three in one shot again (after spending three weeks in Holland on a mission trip with them, well, they tend to grow on you. And, that's after 6 years previous of them bouncing around your ministry.) They dropped everything to laugh at themselves and their somewhat goofy/foolish choices and the conversation ranged from the past to the now to the future...all in an hour. Because we knew we might not get another chance to sit at one table together for a few years, we preserved the moment in pictures (interestingly, they were hesitant to take the picture because, "We're all gross today."). Besides, if you don't Facebook it, it didn't happen:



Later in the day, I had to get downtown for a wedding rehearsal. There I got to sit with two former students who've been married a few years now. They were influential in starting our student ministry's "tone" and I've laughed with these two so much over the years. I've prayed for them as they embarked on their missionary year in Prague. I've visited them in their new hometown and we made plans to do it again soon. These are the kind of friends I've known for over a decade that, with him, we can just start quoting movies and crack each other up, and with her, we can go from the deepest of conversations to the silliest of mindsets (she almost killed me with a maraca during the rehearsal dinner toasts. Don't ask.) in a 20-minute span. This photo really is worth 1,000 words:



And this former student asked me to perform his wedding ceremony. He realizes he's marrying WAY over his head but it's so cool that somebody who you've enjoyed watching their spiritual growth after they left your ministry (and it was really noticeable growth when he was IN my ministry) wants you to be a small part of their day...and the reality that he's been so good at keeping in touch. He's the kind of guy that you might not see for six months, then he shows up and the conversation picks up right where it left off. Baseball, movie quotes & theology, usually in that order. I'm thrilled for him, even if it's an outdoor wedding in Texas in July. I'll sweat joyfully.



And, on the drive home...

...I was thankful for the reality that I'd gotten one of those "latter" days.

Full-time ministry can often have the best benefits package in the market...and, yes, I lead a charmed life.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wanderlust?

It just dawned on me: I haven't been anywhere since last October.

Don't get me wrong. I've done stuff. I've been to high school football games and seen lots of movies and nice dinners and all sorts of sporting events and been to cool restaurants and been invited to nice parties with good friends and been to weddings and hung out with nice people at my church and laughed and goofed off and been serious and read in my hammock and spent time with my daughters and napped with my dog and all that jazz. I've been one busy cat.

I simply haven't been out of DFW in a long time.

And DFW is an excellent metropolis to be landlocked in.

But I'm beginning to think there's a certain amount of homogeneity worming it's way into my brain from seeing the same old stuff and sticking to the same routine (more or less, as my job allows a lot of diversity in my days, but it's generally the same outline) and all that.

Sure, FloMo is trying to make it more interesting by having all these orange & white striped barrels everywhere and moving them around the front-end loaders and back-hoes and bulldozers as well as moving reflectors around on the roadway so I don't get too comfortable with driving in the same lane every day.

But, outside of that, I think the familiarity needs to be broken up a bit.

I don't know how folks did it a long time ago...you know, just live their entire lives within a 30-mile radius of where they were born. Or where a trip to NYC was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Maybe they just were content because they didn't know what else was out there somewhere.

And, don't worry...I'll be hitting the wonderful beaches of Gulf Shores in a couple of weeks. I've got fun stuff going on in Idaho & San Francisco (where the word "contact high" may come into play as I'm at Golden Gate Park listening to the greatness of Tom Petty--after the previous night of Beck & Radiohead--with 40,000 of my closest California friends) at the end of August, too.

But do you find that you sometimes wake up & realize you just need a change of scenery, or am I kind of on an island with this one?
Something Every Auburn Fan Needs To Know

One afternoon I asked one of my daughters to name all four Beatles. She got 3. George stumped her. But there was a time that everyone with access to pop music would say "John, Paul, George & Ringo" because it just rolled off the tongue automatically. And if you heard those names, you knew who they were collectively as well. Yes, we've also had a daughter ask, "Who are the Beatles?" To wit, we went immediately to Target to invest in the next generation.

Well, I fear that the same thing is happening to another generation of Auburn football fans. See, in 1972 the Tigers weren't supposed to be very good having graduated all their star players the year before. So, the coach, Ralph "Shug" Jordan (pronounced Jur-dun) decided to change the offense to a 4-yards-a-play running game and tenacious defense.

They won all their games but one.

Including beating #2 arch-rival Alabama by blocking two punts in the last 4 minutes and scoring TD's on both of them to win 17-16.

This 8.5 minute documentary (sent to me by the Computer Genius Father-in-Law Murray) should be required viewing by every Auburn family once a year.

Wanna know why defense is always listed first every year in the media guide?
Wanna know why offensive lineman are prized possessions?
Wanna know why the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd of over 87,000 will crank it up to 125db if the defense stops them of first down for a loss and stay on their feet until the other team punts?
Wanna know why AU has had a tailback drafted yearly for nearly 30 years?

Watch the video.

Don't have 8.5 minutes?

Let the video load & then drag the play button until you see the words "Auburn vs. Alabama: December 2, 1972" on the screen (about 75% into the load bar). If you like football, you'll be amazed (hehe) at what happens in the last 4 minutes of the game.

We can't let the next generation of Tiger fans not know this stuff, folks. It will behoove you to be vigilant in this detail.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Speaking Of Anniversaries...

Shouts out to the higher-order life-liver sister Jilly and the barnstorming brother-in-law, as today is their 3rd anniversary!

I remember...



Happy anniversary!
I Don't Think You Can Argue The Fact...

...that if your wife gives you EA Sports' "NCAA 2009" (a college football game for the PlayStation2) as an anniversary gift, well, folks, that is love.

And, yes, the offense used by the Auburn Tigers is actually the brand new "spread/shotgun" offense they installed in spring drills, complete with Kodi Burns starting at quarterback.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...July 16, 1988. 1PM. Parkway Christian Fellowship Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Well, yeah.

We were kids. What did we know?

And, let's just say that video technology has come a long way in two decades, okay?

But, here it is, man. And, you'll note that there are appearances by Diner patrons higher-order life-liver Jilly (prior to any higher order life living), Hollywood (after our rooming at college for two great years), Smitty (having been there since we were eight), the pre-Shania sister-in-law Jodie and other subjects of blog entries (and, if you could read my journals from the years 1984--1987, well, let's just say that a movie of those entries might make Animal House look like a serious film) Huff, Hughes, Jenks, TJ, and Plate.

Many of you might find this well worth 2 minutes of your time.

video

Oh, yeah.

Some of the years were tough.
Some of the years were so-so.
Some of the years were good.

Tracy, thank you for all the years. I'm glad that there are 20 of them to evaluate. You know, I'm really happy we did them all together...the good and the so-so and the bad.

And, well, we might've been kids...

...but at least I knew what I had, man. I knew it then.

I know it now.

And, here's to at least 20 more...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Guilty Pleasure Of The Pop Song

We all have them.

Those catchy little songs we enjoy and sing along with that get too much airplay and wind up selling millions of copies. Some come from "one-hit wonders" and others come from folks whose names we know and are American icons. But maybe they have a catchy chorus or a nice little hook and, for some reason, we can't really come out and just say that we like that song to our friends because they'll give us a hard time.

See, you can name some obscure band and get a bunch of cool points listening to groups nobody's ever heard of singing some anti-government diatribe or telling everyone about the band that isn't a bunch of posers. But for some reason the catchy little song that makes you happy is off-limits, unless of course the singer is inherently cool (like Gwen Stefani).

But today is our day of freedom, my friends.

We're going to put those songs out there for discussion today, and I'll offer the first three...

*stands up nervously in the circle of trust*
*says, "Hi, I'm Brent and I'm a pop-aholic."*

*patrons energetically respond, "Hi, Brent!"*

I really do like...

"Black or White" by Michael Jackson. You can say what you want about the freakshow he's become, but there was a time when he was called the King of Pop and folks meant it. A really great song.

"Get the Party Started" by Pink. She's another one of those folks who can write a song you just can't be sad around. Not to mention that she sounds like she really means it when she says she's coming up so we should get this party started...and she just might beat you up if you don't.

And, if you're asking me, one of the best pop songs of all time gets my nod:

"MMMbop" by Hanson. Really. Has there ever been a better pop song?

And, just so I can maintain my street cred, I feel confident speaking for Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder in that they'd both agree with my list...
Oh My Josh!

If you missed the long ball showcase last night at the All-Star Game (they hold a home run hitting contest like the NBA has a slam dunk contest)...Josh Hamilton hit 28 home runs in the first round--and 3 of the 7 longest home runs in the history of the contest.

Unfortunately, it didn't win because of the way the game is played (scores go back to zero after 2 rounds) and Josh got tired, but if you didn't dig Josh Hamilton before last night, you should now. Take a gander, folks. It was incredible...and this video doesn't do it near the justice as watching it live, man.

Wow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

For Jilly

You said you had to have a photo of me preaching in church in my Kurt Cobain Converse...

...and, well, it's not actually during the service but rather during the sound check that takes place about 20 minutes before the first service. Rest assured these were the footwear that I wore all three of the remaining services. Sorry about the quality but it was a cell phone camera.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kid2 Hanging Out In D.C.

Most of you know that Kid2 is away at her ballet summer intensive. They get days off, and I gotta say, I'm kinda jealous!

At the Lincoln Memorial:



And note the Texan pride of the kids from Texas. Even at the WWII Memorial, they find each other!



I miss that kid.
Consumed

Not much rattling around in my brain except the sermon I get to preach 3 times today.

Just talk among yourselves...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Funny Little Things This Week

...I'm teaching a class this summer on Film & Theology and one of the scenes in the movie involved the protagonist playing a song for a girl, and she responded by kissing him passionately. One of the dads in the class brought his young child to the class for the night, and the little boy asked his dad, "Dad, is that what guitars are for?" His dad thoughtfully responded, "Pretty much."

...I was talking to someone about some clothing item and someone who overheard the conversation as they were walking by said, "You know, Brent, when I think of you the word 'fashion' never comes to mind."

...Somebody who was having a birthday mentioned they were going out with friends. I asked them if they were going to paint the town red with the celebration. They responded, "It's a worknight. We may just paint the restaurant a little pink."

...a little girl--who isn't so little anymore--I've known since she was a toddler told me that, in addition to her current piano lessons, she was excited to be taking up the cello. "Both of those are WAY better than just playing a recorder." I found it unnecessary to argue.

...our church's children's ministry owns a popcorn maker that looks like an old-timey theatre one & it makes great popcorn. I make the popcorn outside the classroom for my film class, and the last two weeks I've forgotten the salt. A lady playfully told me that popcorn without salt was like putting your money in the bank but getting no interest on it. I thought about this for about 20 minutes.

...another friend is on a diet and weighs himself periodically to figure out how it's going. He told me, "When I weigh myself with the steel-toed Doc Martens it adds nearly 10 pounds to the total." I didn't think much of it at first, but then it later hit me that there must have been some sort of experimental session of weigh-ins and I wondered what else might've been involved in the experiment.

...I had friends that dressed up like cows to get free food at Chick-Fil-A yesterday during some promotion. They made a day out of it and posted photos of themselves on their Facebook. The mom & her daughters had a blast from the looks of it.

...last night before the movie started a couple of guys in our group had gotten the new iPhone and had added some application to it that just pulls up a graphic of a Star Wars light saber (just the saber, mind you, but you can pick one of 5 colors). When you move the phone it makes that sound the movie light sabers make. They were showing us this and I was amused at their dork pride of this moment, until no less than three people who'd gotten their iPhones that day asked for the web address so they could get it, too. Classic. They also had iBeer & iMilk, where the screen becomes a glass and the liquid moves like it would if you were holding a glass.

...we had a late chips & salsa gathering and got into the restaurant about 3 minutes before the place was ending seating for the night. When we first sat down my friend and I were very happy about the background music being played. Nirvana. Pink Floyd. Bowie. Good stuff. We could tell they were trying to move customers out the door after an hour or so because the music selection changed to stuff like Wham! & Manilow & bad '80's hits. I found that hysterical.

...and you don't even want to hear the story that involved quoting a movie line (from "The Family Stone"), "You have the freak flag. You just don't fly it." This was followed up with a truly complimentary, "Lately, you've been unfurling yours more than usual."

I've just been thinking about how funny people are when they're just being themselves...and it's wonderful.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Whew! That's Good To Know.

Excerpted quotes from Wednesday's Washington Times, from McCain's top economic advisor, Phil Gramm:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession."
"We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners."
"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today."

And the kicker:

"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."


Well, Mr. Gramm, I feel so much better knowing that this is all in my head.
Well, Mr. Gramm, I feel so much better knowing that we might eventually get into a recession.
Well, Mr. Gramm, I feel so much better knowing how much you value the things we speak about if they're our reality.
Well, Mr. Gramm, I feel so much better knowing that the good old U.S. of A. is kicking the world's economy around.
Well, Mr. Gramm, I feel so much better knowing that the media is cooking all this up to make a buck.

I can't wait to get to the gas pump and tell the guy I'm only paying $1 per gallon of gas because in my world that's what it costs.

I can't wait to tell my boss he'd better be a little more generous with the paycheck because I now know our situation is really that we're all fat & happy with extra cash.

I can't wait to write letters to politicians saying what's on my mind, knowing that you're going to give it the attention it deserves.

I can't wait to get to Europe and make a killing on the exchange rate. I'm gonna buy more stuff and travel there more because the dollar has so much clout there.

And I can't wait to see what those crazy Orwellian news editors will cook up next to turn our utopia into dystopia, and then they can all join country clubs and hang out with their reporters who are making small fortunes.

Sheesh.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hey, Wait. I've Got A New Complaint.

Hey.

Wait.

No, I don't.

See, yesterday a surprise box arrived at my house. From the higher-order life-liver sister Jilly.

I open it.

These are inside:



That's right.

Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. Yes. Of course. I have a pair already.

But these have song lyrics copied from Kurt Cobain's journals on them. In his handwriting. With the same "Reward if found: K Cobain" that he wrote on his. There was a special "limited edition" tag on them that reads "He haunted Seattle's music scene, withdrawing into its grit and grime. He thought some of it made sense, but most of it didn't. So he turned to the only thing he knew for sure: his own music. Soon it became clear; the inspired songwriter with scruffy hair and stormy eyes had taken the underground grunge movement mainstream. Canvas upper with lyrics from 'Come As You Are' and 'Dumb'."

I didn't know whether to frame them or wear them. I chose to wear them.

What I do know is that one of the coolest feelings in the world is to be "gotten." I'm glad my sister "gets" me. And my day yesterday had a little more higher-order feel to it. So, Jilly, thanks for the gift...and more importantly, the "getting."

I think I'll wear them when I preach on Sunday.

I think I'll just sleep in them.
The Beauty Is In The Subtlety

The local MLB Texas Rangers are having a better season than most people predicted they would. Me, included. They got off to a start in April that had everyone predicting the day the manager would get fired. Then, they had a record-breaking May and have spent most of the season winning one and losing one.

They've gone on a little bit of a winning streak and they've been a few games over the .500 mark for the last week or so.

But, as a long baseball season goes for every team, injuries are starting to mount. In our case, the injury bug has infected our pitching staff. The staff ace is having starts pushed back. The all-star just went on the injury list for two weeks. We're bringing up replacement pitchers who aren't ready from the minor league teams to fill the void temporarily.

With the first place Angels coming to town for four games. It's an important series because, if their lineup routs our rookie pitchers and sweep the series, they leave town 11.5 games in front...virtually impossible to overcome by October. On the other hand, if we sweep, the Rangers climb to a 3.5 games behind...close enough to make summer in Arlington interesting.

Well, no sweeps were going to happen. As expected, the Angels pounded our inexperienced starter in game 1. Then, unexpectedly, we got 7 great innings from our 22-year-old rookie starter and won game 2.

Last night, instead of pulling up another rookie to pitch game 3, they decided to start "long relievers." In other words, try to use 3 pitchers to get through 8 innings. And, the last of those pitchers gave up a two-run homer in the 7th inning and we're down 4-2. This is bad because if the Rangers lose (with another inexperienced starter going today in game 4) the season could still be in grave danger as the Angels would leave town 9.5 games in front.

Well, in the 9th inning, against the Angels' relief pitcher (who just set the record for saves before the All-Star Break, and only given up one home run all season)...

...we're down a run with the tying runner in scoring position. We need a single to tie.
...our star player at the plate.
...two outs.
...game on the line.
...in effect, the season on the line.

And...

We get this.

Precisely why baseball is beautiful. The context of an entire season makes high drama out of an "ordinary" weekday game.

Wow.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This Is Funny On So Many Levels

Is it me, or does this pretty much sum up the entire realm of politics?



I know.

I know.

It so stereotypically Gen-X cynical of me.

But I laughed out loud, man.

Thanks to the fine folks at Cafepress.Com (via Bob Hyatt's blog) for the provocation.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Alternative Day...And Hurry!

There's this wedding I want to attend in December roughly 2,000 miles away. I have some vacation time, and the romance of taking a train cross country seemed inviting. Then I checked the schedule. Let's see. Take an 11-hour ride to get to a "hub" (apparently trains can't go west out of Dallas...they have to go north, then west). Then a 4-day journey after that, complete with a bus transfer in that hub city. The cost was more than a plane ticket. Much more.

Then I thought, "Take the bus." Yeah. It takes 2 days, 3 hours and 15 minutes. The cost is more than a plane ticket. Not by much. But more nonetheless.

So much for the travel time romance.
So much for trying to save some money.
So much for finding some small way to decrease the old carbon footprint.

I was discouraged until...

I saw that some high school students were having a contest at the Texas Motor Speedway. That's right. Some high school students have come from 16 high schools to compete in a solar power car challenge. The car costs range from nearly $9,000 to $30,000 (which they raised from local sponsorships) and the deal is this: You build your solar car, you come to the contest, you drive around the track & see who can do it best. One group was able to zip around for 3 hours at nearly 40 m.p.h. Another could get their car to 70 m.p.h. but their teacher discouraged it because it cost them efficiency. While I'm pretty darn impressed that high schoolers will spend 15-months working on a car and raise the money and all that, I'm not at all surprised at their ability & resourcefulness.

Imagine what we could do with serious budget numbers (instead of hawking shares in the team or selling bumper stickers for the car or car-hopping at Sonic or however else they raised the cash) and N.A.S.A. scientists. Hmmm. Think big oil interests are lobbying against such an idea?

Or, one of my favorite characters in the Southwest is at it again. T. Boone Pickens. He's one of those guys who made a gazillion dollars in oil and now throws money around like the cartoon Texans are often shown. Anyway, he's calling a press conference for today to talk about how the U.S. is too dependent on foreign oil and he's going to haul off and tell us how he's investing his money these days.

Wind.

He even used a phrase in an interview that I heard my friend Mike use and it cracked me up: He said the United States is the "Saudi Arabia of wind."

Okay.

So, let's hop to it, folks. Let's get that solar power and wind power thing up and running.

The sooner the better, if you're asking me. And if we could get those bullet trains that Japan has that run on magnets done before December (and maybe have a set that runs west out of Dallas), that'd be great.

Why does this seem so hard to implement?

Monday, July 07, 2008

It's "Sermon Week"

I'll be preaching the sermon this week in Big Church.

Frequent visitors to The Diner will know that the process of preparing a sermon consumes my thoughts for an entire week. The reality is that I'll spend a great deal of time either studying, praying or thinking about Luke 15. I'll try to think about other stuff. I might get a temporary respite...especially if the Rangers can make a little noise in their 4-game series with the Angels beginning tonight (if we can win 3 of the 4, we'll start lurking into the pennant race...lose 3 of the 4 and we'll, for all intents and purposes fade out of the race).

But, by and large, if you're talking to me and you can tell I'm trying to focus on what you're saying rather than naturally interested, it's because I'm thinking about sheep, coins or prodigals...

...and what that might mean to us in at 2008 setting.

Even if engrossing myself in baseball would ordinarily be taking thought priority...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

And...She's Off

There was packing.
There was last-minute errand running.
There was the parent-child tension, that bled into parent-parent tension, that comes with both of the previous realities.
There was the requisite family night. Two, to be precise.
The packed bag weighs too much. There will be a fee.

We've known for several months that she'd be boarding a flight this morning.
To Washington, D.C.

Doing what she loves: Ballet.

They're called "summer intensives," which, as I understand it, are aptly named.
They're part of the process if you want to dance professionally.
They last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks.

This is our third summer of doing this, so in some ways I'm used to it. We're used to it. The process has gone much like the previous two.

I won't see Kid2 again until mid-August.

That seems so strange. Yet, so normal.

I'll miss her, but yet I'm thrilled she has these chances.

So, today, I'm happy/sad. It's just the way it is.
The Funnies Are Us

courtesy "Zits" 7/6/08

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Day Of Middle Age Crisis

I woke up this morning and went through the morning routine: Opening the door so Lloyd could enjoy his morning constitutional, making my Chock Full O' Nuts half-pot of coffee, grabbing the daily miracle that is The Dallas Morning News, read some Bible (but not as much as yesterday as I've got some sermons I want to listen to today), watched my family trickle in and go through their various A.M. routines.

And I'm thankful for my good life. It's charmed.

This was followed by nearly an entire "life-flashing-before-my-eyes" kind of thing. In about three minutes I went from the first house I lived in through a whole bunch of great childhood memories through a great bunch of high school and college flashbacks to a whole new slew of great married-life memories to a slew of great memories with my children, up to and including yesterday's family outing to go see Wall * E.

I have had every advantage in life thus far. Name any circumstance and I've had the benefits, man. Family. Education. Opportunity. Support. Finances. Citizenship. Friends. I'm far from an underdog/rags-to-riches kind of thing.

So, with all my genuine thankfulness and gratefulness and realization that I've enjoyed every station in life thus far more than I've been discouraged...

...I have no idea where this feeling came from:

There's so much more I want to accomplish in my growth as a person.
There's so much more I want to accomplish in my profession.
There's so much more I want to build into my marriage.
There's so much more I want to build into my children.

And these thoughts can range from decluttering a closet to writing novels to losing weight to deepening my relationship with my wife and children to getting serious about some artistic endeavor to landscaping the backyard with some sort of feng shui serenity to running a marathon to...

...well...

...it's all devolving into static and white noise because there's an awful lot of it.

I have no idea where this comes from or where it'll go.

But I feel like I need to be wearing some sort of superhero cape and helmet today, man.
About This, He's Right, You Know

Barack Obama, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone:

RS: Are you surprised by how optimistic everyone is in their hearts?

Obama: "The American people are, I think, congenitally optimistic. Right now, they're not feeling particularly optimistic about Washington — they're genuinely concerned about the direction the country is moving in, they're anxious about globalization and whether we're going to be able to compete. But at bottom, they're not fatalists. They always feel like there's something we can do to make things better."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy July 4th!

I've used parts of the quotes from MTV's Mark Rosenthal's commencement address to Kenyon College from years ago in my teaching and such to the point that it's gotten repetitive. But, you know, as we set aside today to celebrate our independence as a nation, here's one of the quotes from that speech that makes me glad I'm an American:

""Of course, MTV wasn't exactly the first to come along and challenge the established powers that be. That's a great American tradition. Harriet Tubman, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Mae Tarbell, Woodie Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Jackson Pollack, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Lenny Bruce, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Curt Flood, Curt Cobain--the list is long and varied. Rabble-rousing is an American birthright. Despite a penchant for middle-class, middle-of-the-road homogeneity, America usually comes around to admiring--and rewarding--those who burn their bridges to convention and safety--and light up the sky in the process."

I'd suggest that all those in the list actually had a list of rabble-rousers that they each drew on as Americans...notably a group of folks that dumped tea into Boston Harbor and the 56 signers of that Declaration that begins with...

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."


...and ends with...

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

...well, I'd say our very heritage is laced with that very same spirit.

And that's what I think about when we celebrate.

And that's what I think is worthy of celebration.

Ideas matter, folks.

And living in a place where we can say them freely and act on them responsibly is pretty great if you're asking me.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Another Reason To Like Rob Bell

Many of you are aware that I'm a big fan of Rob Bell. Here's another reason why, as quoted in The Wittenburg Door magazine:

"Originally, the word 'sermon' meant you'd have no idea what was coming next. It was theological but also political and economical and obviously highly creative because if it didn't engage, then you wouldn't listen and you wouldn't be provoked or challenged or comforted. So in some ways for me my life's passion is to pursue this art form. Pump some electricity into it."

Another one:

"Our assumption is that Church is where you say the things that have to be said. So people will speak but say, "Oh, I wouldn't say that in church." Well then, where would you say it? To me, it's the place where you would push it the furthest. A faith community should be the place with the most honesty and vulnerability and prophetic culture—calling things what they are. So when I hear people say, "That's nice but you really couldn't do that in church," I can't even fathom that. My understanding is it would lead the culture in reality."

One last one:

"I don't believe in Christian art or music. The word Christian was originally a noun. A person, not an adjective. I believe in great art. If you are an artist, your job is to do great art and you don't need to tack on the word Christian. It's already great. God is the God of Creativity. Categories desecrate the art form. It's either great art or it isn't. Followers of Jesus should have the first word instead of coming late to the game with some poor quality spin-off. Let's talk about things before everyone else."

You can read the entire interview here.

So, whaddya think?
Equal Opportunity

In the past here at The Diner, when I'm driving around my fair 'burb and happen to see signage (usually by a church) that has some pithy saying on it, I feel obligated to let the patronage know about the hokiness.

Well, today I saw a business that had hokiness happening. Since precedent has been set, and we aim to point out hokiness regardless of the nature of the institution using said signs, a local child-care business is getting pointed out.

Here I am, driving around and I pass this day-care facility with this on the sign: "If knowledge is power, then our kids are super heroes!"

Ugh.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Needing To Be Prompted

Nothing going on of much substance, so I hit a "blog prompt" site. There are tons of 'em.

I agreed to go with WHATEVER came up first (they usually have these buttons you can click if you don't like the one for that day and it'll give you a new one)...

...and the prompt was this: Name 10 things you like to do that others generally don't like to do.

Okay, so here goes:

10. Blog. I've found that most people prefer the Facebook or MySpace thing because it's pretty much short bursts of pictures, updates, & clever sayings you can send back and forth. I like the interaction on ideas, both mine and those of others.

9. Watch baseball. Most people I know use words like "slow" or "boring" to describe baseball. I find it fascinating and can get engrossed in the game both in-person and watching on television.

8. Read. I have no idea why, but I thoroughly enjoy reading pretty much anything. Biographies. History. Magazines with pop culture focus. Fiction. Non-fiction. You name it. I just enjoy reading.

7. Listen to sermons. Maybe it's an occupational hazard, but with the iTunes podcast listing, I can listen to sermons from all over the world for free. Sure, I've got my favorites both locally and nationally, but it's pretty fun for me.

6. Watch tv shows and movies with teens as the subject. Maybe it has to do with growing up in the John Hughes era of movies. You remember? Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, etc.? And then there was television like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Dawson's Creek. For some reason, I enjoy all this stuff.

5. Go to movies alone. I used to think this was odd...like when you see somebody eating alone in a restaurant. But not anymore. I've done this on my days off while the family is gone and it's actually kind of enjoyable.

4. Browse in bookstores and CD stores. I don't even have to buy anything or even have the intent to buy anything. I like looking over bookshelves and rifling through bargain CD bins (yes, including bargain DVD bins). I might not have money at the time or whatever, but I can lose track of time and stay for well over an hour in either place and it seems like time flies.

3. Listening to sporting events on the radio. I grew up in a world of cable television and ESPN and all that, but my first 10 years of sports consciousness actually was before the advent of sports proliferation on tv. So, if you wanted to keep up with the Auburn game, you sat near a radio. Same for Atlanta Braves baseball. You listened to games then. And I developed a fondness for radio's more descriptive play-by-play and can remember in tense moments rocking back and forth with an ear near the transistor hoping that the Tigers could hold on 4th and 3 to end it, or sitting up from the supine position on the bed when Ernie Johnson would say, "There...is a drive...deep left field...that ball is gonna beeeeeeeeeee......OUTTA HERE!!! Home run for Ralph Garr and the Braves take a 4-1 lead!"

2. Disc golf. Same benefits of "real" golf (outside, moving around, getting away) with about one third of the time spent and having about $75 saved each and every round. I don't play nearly as much as I'd like, and there's a course near our house.

1. Work. I'm blessed to have a job where I enjoy what I do very much. Even when it's terribly hard there are some intrinsic benefits to it because you spend time serving people. I know lots of folks that don't like what they do but they do it because they get to serve their families by providing for them and that makes it worthwhile for them, but I get to actually enjoy what I do during the majority of my waking hours.

So, those are mine in no particular order.

Why do I feel like I had a mini-failure by resorting to a blog prompt site?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

So, Today I'm Thinking...

...that when the mail comes and you find the latest copy of Rolling Stone and the Auburn Tigers 2008 Media Guide, well, that's a pretty happy mail day.
...speaking of the Auburn Tigers, the 2008 season should be pretty darn good if they put an offensive and a defensive lineman on the cover. That space is usually reserved for the "skill" players. Looks like a team that will endear itself to the faithful--gritty, blue collar, underdogs, smash-mouth defense. That's what the AU family likes best.
...another way to feel your age: Open a checking account for your youngest daughter. This is on the heels of the first church parking lot driving lesson.
...I have no idea why my summer reading has slowed down so much. Weird.
...I think it's pretty funny that people are using Facebook to give their pets their very own pages. It's funny to see what they put in the spots reserved for "activities" (sleep & eat, sleep & eat, sleep & eat) or "relationship status" (one said, "It's complicated."). How funny is it to say, "My dog has a Facebook."?
...is it bad if I can't get too excited about either candidate the major parties are putting forth in the presidential election?
...this June was the 2nd hottest June on record in Dallas, but it was kind of sneaky. It wasn't the full-throttle high temps, just consistently 5 degrees hotter than normal.
...is it July already?
...don't you hate it when you thought you had a few bucks on you and you get to the toll booth at the airport and don't have the cash, causing you to use your debit card for $1.00?
...I don't understand why health insurance companies deny payment to a doctor three times, keep you on hold for half an hour, and then hear your story and agree to cover it. It must be nice to take in money on the promise of payment and then hold it as long as possible so you can bank the interest. Health care & profit margin don't mix. At all.
...that you have to love the Dutch. See, marijuana use isn't legal per se, but it's taxed. And there are laws that say they won't prosecute individuals for less than 5 grams or businesses with licenses that have less than 500. So, now they pass a law that bans smoking cigarettes in restaurants (a lot like what's going on here in America). Not to worry...the hookahs are exempt.
...it's cool to me to touch base with former students, and yesterday I talked to three, all of whom are viewing what they're doing this summer as ministry, even if none of them are working in ministry-related fields. All are "salt & light" kind of things.
...that the tourism industry that lobbied so hard to get the state to pass a mandatory later start date didn't realize they had no ability to legislate the U.I.L. (the governing body over most Texas extra-curricular activity, including sports, band and any other public school competitions like drama, yearbook, newspapers, etc.) and their start date. They still start in early August so nobody's traveling during that time anyway. Parents have to be back for their kids' "voluntary" early start dates.
...that the Texas Rangers are two games over .500 for the first time in two years. The fact that this is news and excites the masses tells you where the Rangers rank regarding baseball seriousness.
...that when one teenager leaves a digital camera and their friends pick it up and agree to return it, you can bet that digital camera's memory will be full of all sorts of photos of their friends and strange things like urinals or grocery store aisles or whatever when they get it back.
...that I think TLC has run out of ideas when they're going to offices to discover whether or not the employees can sing & dance.
...that they don't make cartoons like Buggs Bunny anymore. They should.
...that I saw a sign telling people to get ready for the Flower Mound July 4 Bike Parade and I was kind of happy/sad. Sad that it used to be fun watching my girls decorate their bikes with red, white & blue streamers and taking them. Happy because I don't have to mess with it all anymore. The year our girls said they weren't going anymore, me and my friend Matt high-fived that the six year tradition came to an end.
...that I need to get on with my day.