Thursday, December 22, 2005

Just how bad can my dating life get?

My last date was in August and lately I am feeling a little bit restless and lonely. I usually hate dating, a fact most of my ex-girlfriends will confirm, but I think I might be ready to meet someone and actually pursue a romantic relationship.

The past few weeks I have spoken with several friends on this topic and many have suggested that I should use an online dating service. I have always rejected this advice because I think using personal ads is for losers but desperate times call for desperate measures.

So tonight I finally break down and decide to join eharmony because I have heard good things about the site and because it has a moral component to it. I spent over an hour answering all 1000 questions for my personality profile only to learn at the end that they have no matches for me. Here is the actually wording from their site:

'Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched. This occurs for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time."

Good grief. Does it get any worse than getting rejected by a dating service? Couldn't they just just take my money and set me up with women who aren't my matches? Are there really
no women for me even in cyberspace?

When I read that I had no matches I actually burst into laughter at my unfortunate predicament. It was either that or break down into tears because even the dreaded world of internet dating can't help me find someone. I mean it's not like my hopes were that high but I at least figured they would try to set me up with somebody. I would have even settled for an unattractive, obnoxious, liberal, high school drop out. Anything would be better than nothing.

I guess the search continues and at least now I can tell all my friends that I tried their advice. Anybody have any other ideas?

Monday, December 19, 2005

A tradition of losing since 1957

Yesterday my brother gave me a free ticket to go the Lions game in Detroit. It was a fun afternoon and I enjoyed spending time with Vince and another buddy of his. The game itself wasn't that much fun. It fact it was painful to watch but I kept staring to see just how bad it was. Kind of like checking out a car accident. I knew Detroit was in for a long day when they fumbled the opening kickoff. They held them to a field goal but it was the closest the Lions would get the rest of the game.

To protest team management many Lions fans wore orange which was the color of the Bengals. It was funny to see so much orange in the stadium. It looked more like a home game for the Bengals instead of the Lions. And actually I would say there probably were more Cincinnati fans than Detroit or it was awfully close. After decades of futility the Bengal fans sure are excited. We'll see how loud they are after a quick exit from the playoffs this year. But at least they are in the playoffs which is more than the Lions can say.

Before the game about 1000 people marched outside the stadium protesting Matt Millen who is the team's general manager. Since he took charge the team has the worst record in the league. It's been 5 straight 10 loss seasons and what do the Lions do but reward him with a contract extension. I read in the media guide that all but three of the players on the Lions roster were brought in directly by Millen so he doesn't have anybody to blame but himself. During the game their were lots of chants to fire Millen and dozens of people holding fire Millen signs or wearing T-shirts in protest. Things got so ugly during the second half that even the Bengal fans started waiving the signs and joining in the fire Millen chant. To learn more about Matt Millen's failures go to

If Millen had any self respect he would resign this morning and if the Ford's had any respect for the fans they would fire him. The fans of Detroit deserve better.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Til Midnight

Last night was a long day as the Senate wrapped up our legislation session for the year. We started at 10:00 am and usually a long session day goes until the early afternoon. Not yesterday; instead we didn't finish until after midnight. We spent most of the time waiting for the House to send us bills that they were working on and needed our vote before the end of the year. I was there mostly to keep an eye on a couple of projects in the budget, one of which the Governor has vetoed twice already and will likely veto again this year.

Late night sessions are an interesting dynamic. Senators and staff start to get a little stir crazy after a while. A group of Senator's played euchre to pass the time. Other Senators closed their eyes to take cat naps while we waited for some action. Some staffers took bets on the exact time the Senate would adjourn while another male staffer surfed Victoria's Secret website presumably Christmas shopping for his wife or girlfriend. Speaking of Christmas there was a spirited debate on the Senate floor over whether the tree in front of the Capitol is really a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree. Perhaps the highlight of the night was Sen. Switalski's annual holiday Limerick which was very funny and a little off-color as well.

On a serious note we did pass quite a few bills including tax cuts for job providers, welfare reform, a resolution to protect property owners from losing their property to imminent domain and a budget bill. All in all it was a pretty successful way to end the year.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blockbuster Sucks

How many of you have recently gone to the video store to rent a movie only to find that there is nothing to watch? How could there be so many movies made and so many that are unwatchable? Either Hollywood makes stupid movies to cater to stupid audiences or consumers simply figure they have no choice and rent the first nonsense they find. I usually go back and forth among the aisles until I find a movie with a cool cover. Then after watching it I discover that the reason I had never heard of it was because it was a made for TV movie.

After years of movie rental futility I decided to plan ahead and have been creating lists of movies that I missed at the theater or that have been recommended to me. I read online lists of people's favorite movies or I jot down a title when it comes to mind so I won't forget it. Right now I have about 10-15 on my list and a majority of them are older films from the 80's and 90's.

The other day I go to Blockbuster with my new list in hand but I am having trouble finding the movies I came for. I realize that these movies are kind of old but not that old. But since I am in a bad mood I decide to spend considerable time browsing each genre trying to decide if Leaving Las Vegas is a classified under drama or classic. Well after several minutes I soon discover that that movie as well as all the other movies on my list are no longer carried by Blockbuster but have been replaced with about 300 copies of each crappy new release. I mean really how many people are running to the store to rent Stealth or Bewitched?

So instead of getting what I came for I ended up settling for Deuce Bigelow which was not that great really. In fact it's hard to believe that they made a sequel. To add insult to injury the cost was $3.50 to rent one lousy DVD.

I thought my list was the perfect remedy to avoid the predicament of renting bad movies but I have been thwarted by the rental industry itself. Now not only do I have to keep a list but I also have to find a rental store that actually carries those movies. Who knew finding quality entertainment could be this much work? Maybe I'll just watch reruns on TV instead.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I just found out a good friend of mine is planning to get married. I am happy for her but why is it that other people's good news reminds me of the void of good news in my own life? As I lay in bed I kept thinking that I wish I had some new exciting things to share with someone but when I look at my life there isn't really much going on. Other people are getting married, moving to new cities, have new jobs, are part of church plants, having kids, etc. Me? I am stuck in the same old same old. It's like things just stopped a few years ago and I can't make the kind of decisions that allow me to take hold of what life has to offer. I can't seem to commit to the women I date and then regret when things don't work out. I can't muster the courage the quit my job but then complain about how bored and unfulfilling it is. I can't bring myself to look for a new church even though I know I've outlasted my service there. I can't invest in new friendships but then wish I had some single guy friends to hang out with. I can't bring myself to get my finances together to buy a house despite the fact that I am sick of my crappy apartment. So this morning I woke up and prayed for strength to step through the doors that God opens for me. I want the good things of life that I see other people experiencing. But for some reason I keep avoiding them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Notre Dame and the BCS

I was listening to Mel Kiper on ESPN radio the other day and he made some stupid comment about how Notre Dame should be in the BCS championship game if both Texas and USC were to lose. First of all that's probably the dummest thing he's ever said and that's saying something since he once considered Trent Dilfer to be the best QB prospect in years. Not only does Notre Dame not deserve to play in a championship game but they shouldn't be in the BCS at all.

Their overall record is 9-2 which is respectable but no better than several other one and two loss teams that are more worthy for a BCS bowl bid most notably Oregon, Auburn and Miami. When you examine Notre Dame's record you learn that they have no real good wins over high ranked teams. Their best win was over a 7-4 Michigan team that was a big disappointment this year. Their only other wins over teams with winning records were BYU and Navy both of which finished barely above .500 with very easy schedules. In fact, the combined record of all the teams they beat this year is 42 wins vs 56 losses. The computer rates their strength of schedule at 88th in the country and it's only that high because of USC's record. And while most people laud Notre Dame for playing USC close since when did losing a close game against a good opponent make you a good team. The same Notre Dame apologists who say they deserve a BCS bid must have forgotten the Irish also lost to a below average Michigan State team.

The problem with Notre Dame is all the hype and mythology surrounding the program. Sure they were good back in the late 80's and early 90's but they have lost their last 7 bowl games and haven't won a bowl game since 1993. Can anybody even remember their last big win over a top 10 team? But you see it doesn't matter how good the Irish are because college football is all about money and Notre Dame is all about money.

Notre Dame and their selfish greed is exactly what's wrong with college football. The have their own TV contract and their own BCS agreement because they don't want to share any of the money they make with other schools. It's about time that someone in the NCAA stands up to Notre Dame and tells them they need to play by the same rules as other schools. But unfortunately until fans start to see through the fraud that is college football this will never happen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Back from Pittsburgh

I had a good time over Thanksgiving weekend. My Brother, Mom and Stepdad drove to Pittsburgh to see my Grandpa, Aunt and Cousin. My family is a little odd sometimes. There are a lot of health issues and financial issues in the family and my poor Grandpa worries about everyone and my aunt is in denial of most of the problems to point where you have to tiptoe around the real issues and pretend nothing is wrong. It makes for a lot of uneasy conversations. It's sad when my immediate family is the most healthy part of the family tree. Having said that, I did enjoy seeing everybody again and I wish that I lived closer than 5 hours away.

Friday the men in the family went the Western Pa. sports museum which was very cool. Being an avid Pittsburgh sports fan it was like heaven being around so much memorabilia. I almost cried when they showed highlights of the 70's steelers and pirates on the big screen. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the negro baseball leagues.

The next day we went to the crash site of flight 93 which went down on 9/11. It was interesting to see the area and very sad as well. They have a makeshift memorial at the site until they figure out what to build for the permanent reminder. My favorite part was a set of park benches with the names of each of the passenger and crew members. It's hard to imagine what would have happened had that plane made it to the final destination. When you look at where it crashed you couldn't have asked for a more isolated location. I am not a conspiracy theorist but it makes me wonder if we didn't shoot it down on purpose.

Now I am back to the real world so to speak and looking forward to my next vacation days which won't likely be until Christmas. It's hard to believe it's almost December. I guess I have to start Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Giving Thanks

I am thankful to have rest of the week off from work so I can travel to Pittsburgh

I am thankful that I have a job with a lot of vacation time so I get to travel as often as I do

I am thankful that I have a job period

I am thankful for my coworker Jennie who has become a close friend

I am thankful for other Senate staffers who help make my job a lot easier

I am thankful to become friends with several democrats this year

I am thankful for living so close to my family

I am thankful that my teenage nephews still think I am cool enough to talk to

I am thankful for the board game Race for the Whitehouse because it gives my brother and I something to do together that we both enjoy

I am thankful that my Mom took a risk and started her own jewelry business

I am thankful that I keep in close contact with so many friends from college and high school

I am thankful for email and cell phones because it helps me keep in touch with those friends

I am thankful that I got to be in my buddy CJ's wedding

I am thankful that my friends Jon, Jason and Jason all found new jobs in their field

I am thankful for my friends in Lansing

I am thankful that they often feed me

I am thankful that I am still friends with my ex-girlfriend Michelle even though she is dating some other guy now

I am thankful for my church starting at 11:15

I am thankful that my church allows me to wrestle with my faith and my role in the church

I am thankful for my cat Freckles and that she is still healthy

I am thankful that I get to see a lot of live sporting events with my stepdad

I am thankful for Ben Roethlisberger and that his injury wasn't season ending

I am thankful that the Steelers are on TV as often as they are

I am thankful the Penguins drafted Sydney Crosby

I am thankful Michigan beat MSU in football or it would have been a really bad season

I am thankful to be reading CS Lewis in my office bookclub

I am thankful for all the members in my bookclub because we share a common faith

I am thankful to be part of the men's group at my church that read Wild at Heart this year

I am thankful it has inspired me to be more adventuresome and to live more courageously

I am thankful for gifted writers like John Eldridge and CS Lewis

I am thankful for my XM Radio

I am thankful for the Drudge Report

I am thankful that I started blogging this year

I am thankful people actual read my blog

I am thankful for other people's blogs

I am thankful for thanksgiving because it reminds me to be thankful

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's too darn hot

Last night as I was flipping the channels I came across a TBS special called Earth to America. It was one of the celebrity variety shows to highlight the problem of global warming. The opening Montage was George from Seinfeld dancing and singing it's too darn hot. It was totally cheesy and cracked me up. I guess he's never lived in Michigan where we sing it's too darn cold and cloudy.

The show got me to thinking about a book I have been reading called State of Fear by Michael Crichton. The book is basically an editorial against global warming disguised as a novel. He attempts to make the case that everything we know about global warming is simple fear tactics used by environmentalists to push their agenda. In the book he frequently makes fun of hollywood stars being duped into environmental causes. He couldn't have created a better example than Earth to America.

As someone who knows virtually nothing about science, I do not claim to know whether global warming is actually occurring or not. And if it is, what difference it really makes. But after reading Crichton's book it leads one to question the basic assumptions of what we think we know. If enough news reports, interests groups and celebrities say the world is getting warmer does that make it true? And if we question global warming what else are we being told that we should also question?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Bad Day for Michigan

Yesterday was a terrible day for Michigan sports. Not only did Michigan blow a fourth quarter lead to Ohio State, but Michigan State looked pathetic against Penn St. So much for starting the season 4-0. Now both schools should seriously evaluate if Carr and Smith should return next year. Neither one of them got the best out of their team this year.

If that wasn't bad enough Michigan State's basketball team also lost to Hawaii. I thought they were supposed to be good this year. Oh well. I would hate to be at one of Izzo's practices this week. Good thing basketball unlike football is forgiving so they still have a chance to right the ship. Speaking of basketball, I guess the Pistons are not going unbeaten this year. I can understand losing on the road to Dallas but by 37 points.

Even the one team that Michigander's have come to depend on also lost yesterday. Yes the Red Wings continue their recent swoon by losing their fourth and a row. And this time to the crappy St Louis Blues. I didn't even know St Louis still had a hockey team.

Now our state's hope for winning anything this weekend rests with Lions and I am not counting on them beating the Cowboys. Heck I wouldn't even count on them beating either Ohio St or Penn St if they had to play them. But while things look bad at least I don't live Miami. They had an even worse day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Yesterday the city of Detroit held their Mayoral election and I cannot believe Kwame Kilpatrick won re-election. Kwame spent the entire campaign trailing his opponent and was behind 57-43 when I went to bed. I was very surprised when I woke up to find he had won and I have a hard time understanding how a man whose entire time in office has been defined by nothing but scandals actually won the voters approval. Granted his opponent wasn't the most charismatic person but why don't the residents of Detroit expect more out of their leadership. Detroit has a lot of tough issues that they need to face and quite frankly the Mayor's track record suggests he isn't up to the job. I have heard it said that voters get the kind of leader they deserve and so maybe Kwame's election is more an indictment on the city of Detroit than on himself. Who knows? On the plus side, I doubt he will be too inclined to help our Governor out in the next election since she refused to help him in this race. If Granholm can't get the vote out in Detroit (which will be difficult without Kwame's help) she is going to have a hard time winning re-election next year. Somewhere Dick Devos is smiling.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Gone with the wind

This past weekend, I had the privilege to travel to South Dakota and Minnesota to learn more about alternative engery and in particular wind energy. Minnesota has been very aggressive over the past decade in developing wind farms and currently have well over 600 turbines up and running. It's fascinating that ancient cultures used wind for power and yet we are just now rediscovering its use as we look to replace oil and coal as our main power staples.

For some reason Michigan is trailing other states when it comes to developing alternative energy and I am not sure why. In some parts of the state where wind farms are being discussed, many local people oppose them as a nuisance because they are loud and ugly to look at. While I was in Minnesota I was able to stand right at the basin of a turbin and it really isn't that noisy. And while you see them dotting the countryside, they are no more obtrusive than power lines.

Hopefully, once the first wind farm is up and running in Michigan, these misconceptions will be eliminated. While wind might not be the only answer to for increasing our state's renewable energy supply it should be part of our overall plan.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sam's Club

The other day I had to go to Sam's Club to buy bottled water for event we are helping sponsor. Since I do not have my own membership, I decided to take the oportunity to do a little shopping for myself. It is truly an amazing store. They have almost everything anybody could ever want. However, it is not really designed for the bachelor's lifestyle. As much as I like mayonnaise I really don't need a 5 gallon jar of it. In the end I decided to load up on $80 worth of Mountain Dew and Egg Rolls hoping that supply will get me through the end of the month. And while I can justify my purchase, the whole experience of buying so much just struck me as expansive consumerism run amok. I mean I can afford it but what must poor starving people in the third world think when we have these huge grocery stores filled with food and they have very little. This is not a slam on big grocery chains but rather a question to our culture as to how much we take our wealth for granted. If I am hungry, I go get something to eat and don't even think about it. Others are not so blessed. I am not sure what the answer to global hunger is but I am going to start spending more attention to how I shop and I am certainly going to be more thankful for what I purchase.

Monday, October 31, 2005

October 31st

While many of us celebrate Halloween today I want to focus on another event that happened on October 31st which deserves equal attention. On October 31, 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther decided that several of the church's practices were incorrect and he decided to challenge the church on these practices. Specifically he opposed the payment for indulgences. Back in his day, the church believed that you had to achieve a certain level of good works to get into heaven. However, it was almost impossible to meet required number of good works so the church decided to create the idea of indulgences. Essentially, instead of doing the work you could pay the church and they would do the work for you but you would still get credited with it. I know this sounds like a ridiculous system but this was very commonplace in the medieval church.

Luther was so fed up with this practice that he decided to post on the door of his local church a list of 95 reasons why indulgences were not in compliance with the scriptures. His posting is often called the 95 thesis and is considered by most to be the beginning of the protestant reformation. Since I have a lot of time on my hands lately, I decided to actual read the 95 thesis and while the translation is a little stiff I noticed one key point that stuck out to me. While Luther was opposing indulgences he was actually using that practice as a way of challenging the entire notion of linking good works with salvation. He often went back and reemphasized that it is by grace that people are saved and not by works. Needless to say, the church did not respond too kindly to his posting and was driven from the church as a heretic. But nonetheless his message and courage reshaped the religious landscape in Europe and ultimately America.

So why should we care about what happened almost 500 years ago. Here's why; The church today has drifted back towards being more about rules and regulations than about God's grace for a dying world. People inside and outside the church both receive the same subliminal message that if you want to be a good Christian you have to comply with a certain set of lifestyle requirements. You should go to church, pay your tithe, read your bible, pray and maybe take an occasional missions trip. You should always avoid having sex before marriage, getting drunk, taking drugs, stealing, lying and a whole list of other activities depending on what type of church you go to. Complying with these behavioral traits is something that all Christians should strive to do but they don't define our Christianity or save us from our sins any more than buying an indulgence did.

Thankfully, there is a new emerging reformation going on in the church today. Many people in my generation have learned that adhering to a doctrine of works has left them unfulfilled spiritually. We want more out of church and our relationship with God. Instead of works, the emerging church is focusing on how to really connect with God and experience the grace and joy that he wants to offer us. Does this mean that a person can then do anything they want? No. But instead of focusing on works, the focus is on changing people's hearts so they will want to do what is pleasing to God. Not because they have to but because they want to please him.

While this movement is still fairly small and below the surface it is gaining momentum especially among younger post modern thinkers. Changing institutions and traditional practices is difficult to accomplish. We need to be patient and steadfast. If we compare it the reformation again, it should be noted that while historians date the beginning of the reformation in 1517, the seeds of reform were already spreading across Europe as early at the 1300's. Hopefully it will not take today's church several hundred years to reform itself but change takes time. I am thankful that at least there are those in the today's church that are posting their own critiques and that is what I will be celebrating today.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Top 10 signs you're at a bad Halloween party

The main event is bobbing for pumpkins

Your accountant entertains partygoers with scary stories of embezzling your money

The fat naked guy from Survivor shows up and wins best costume

For the scary movie they show Roseanne Barr; the early years

The person in the Michael Jackson costume is in charge of babysitting the kids

Instead of candy corn it's candy asparagus

The prize for best costume is a first edition of Uncle Fester's Halloweenopoly

Your date is seen doing the Monster Mash with Rosie O'Donnell look a like

People compliment you on how funny your costume is even though you forgot to wear one.

The guy dressed up as Elton John follows you around asking if you want to see his trick or treat

Friday, October 21, 2005

One last thing on Katrina

A friend on mine made a video of our trip which is available on his website. I would encourage you to watch it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

We helped Carlos remove debris from his yard

I think this used to be a hotel in Pass Christian

This was in a condominium complex near the kitchen we worked at

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What I learned in Mississippi

I just got back from my trip down south to help the victims of hurricane Katrina. It was an amazing experience and I am having difficulty sharing how much I learned. The funny thing is that I almost didn't go at the last minute when my friend Darren who invited me to go on the trip backed out. He was the only person I knew and I wasn't keen on the idea of spending several days with people I had never meant. But God had a bigger plan for me and so I went and I am glad I took the risk.

My team was great and despite varying personalities and backgrounds we got along very well. I bussed down with a group of people from several Christian Missionary Alliance churches in Indiana. I would say about half the team were college students and the other half a little older. Everybody worked hard and nobody complained. There were no selfish agendas and everybody was flexible. It was amazing to see how we all worked so well together. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was part of a team, a part of something bigger than myself. And while I was only with these people for a few days, I somehow feel a deep spiritual connection with them. People in the church often talk about community and this weekend I experienced it in a very real way.

Before the trip, I thought I was going La. But instead we went to Gulfport Mississippi. We worked with an organization called PRC made up of several Christian volunteers from all over North America. We stayed at the navy base which was kind of cool. They took very good care of us and we ate like kings. We slept in a building with over 1000 other volunteers mostly from the Red Cross but also from the church of scientology. I was hoping to see Tom Cruise with them but apparently he had other things going on and couldn't volunteer.

The first day, half our team helped restock and clean a supply tent and the other half of us went to help clear debris from the local resident's property. The rest of the trip we helped run a makeshift soup kitchen in a town called Pass Christian which was one of the hardest hit spots in the state. We also went into the neighborhoods near the kitchen to help clean properties.

It was hard work hauling trees and rubble from people's property. For those that know me, you understand that manual labor is not really my thing so to speak. But through much prayer I was able to carry my weight and felt like I had accomplished something at the end of the day.

The next few days we worked in Pass Christian, preparing and serving food. It was actually a lot of fun. I even learned how to make hush puppies. It was there that I think our team really began to bond. We served food to people who were from the neighborhood and to the workers that were helping get the area cleaned up.

It's almost impossible to describe the devastation I saw in that town. New Orleans got all the news but this part of Mississippi was hit just as hard by the winds and the sea. Whole neighborhoods were gone with nothing left but a few foundations to houses that used to be there. The wreckage left me in awe of the power that destroyed the city.

The local residents were very grateful for our help. On one of my breaks from serving food I met a couple who lived in the area. They had stayed in their house during the hurricane and about half there house was destroyed by the storm. They were still living there and making due with what they had left. The man's name was Bill and he was scheduled to have knee surgery this week. His house is destroyed and now he will be unable to work or do much to help clean up the house because of his surgery. His wife Pat works part time and is going to take care of him but the doctor wants her to have neck surgery herself. Despite their troubles, they maintained a good spirit and are just happy to have someone willing to sit and talk to them.

I noticed that their story was not unusual and that many of the hurricane victims had large issues that they were already facing before the storm hit. It makes me wonder if there was a divine conspiracy to bring Christian volunteers into their lives to address some of these other needs on top of helping them rebuild their homes.

The last day I met a lady who had lost her home in the storm. She told me that she was helping her neighbors clear their yards because she had nothing left to do at her house and she didn't want to just sit around. At first I thought I heard her wrong but here was a woman who had lost everything and she was serving other people. Amazing.

What still strikes me is the enormous scope of the task. We worked very hard but I felt like all we did was scoop one spoonful of water out of the ocean. I really wanted to stay and do more because there is so much that still needs to be done. What I had to learn was that God was in control of providing the workers. He sent us for one weekend to help. I have to trust that he is going to send other workers to do the work that we couldn't get to. And actually, I could see that already happening as I was down there. People from all over the country were helping out.

One older lady named Marge drove down from Michigan all by herself and was sleeping in a church parking lot. She came down to the soup kitchen to help cook and serve food both days we were there. When I asked her how long she was going to stay, she told me she would be there as long as God wanted her to be there. At first I felt guilty that I wasn't staying longer. Most volunteers were there for at least a week. Then, I realized that the work wasn't about me and that I was only there to play a small role in a larger play. I learned that there was no way our team could solve all this community's problems, but that God had called his entire church into action and if each of us responded the work will get done.

Another thing that struck me was how alive I felt while I was there. I sensed that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Dare I say it was fun and exciting to be in the midst of so much suffering? I almost felt like I was having too much enjoyment from serving people that I forgot to be compassionate and share in their pain. I'm not sure this makes sense but before the trip I thought my best gift would be empathy and the ability to listen and take on these people's burdens but I didn't cry the entire time I was there. I hope I didn't get caught up in what I was doing to not have my heart broken for the people of the town. Or maybe that's okay because I was supposed to haul debris and slice apples because that's what they needed.

The last thing I wrestled with was the idea of coming back home to the real world. I feel like my work down there was the real world and that what I do in Lansing is not. Shouldn't it be the other way around? My first inclination is to jump in the car and head back to help out again next weekend. Or maybe wait for another natural disaster and help those victims. But on my way to work today I prayed that God would reveal the pain and suffering that is happening in my hometown so I wouldn't have to travel 14 hours to help. Down there the suffering was so obvious and immediate. Here it is concealed and swept under the rug by my daily routine. I trust that God will provide me additional opportunities to serve.

I know this has been a really long post but I had a lot on my mind and it is tough to share it all in only a couple paragraphs. I hope to have some pictures available later that I will post on the site.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Headed South

In one of my recent posts I wrote about how men are looking for adventure in their lives. Recently, I have not felt that adventuresome but had not really pursued anything exciting. A couple weeks ago I was speaking with my friend Darren and he mentioned his church was taking a trip down to the gulf coast to help the hurricane victims. He asked if I was interested because they had one spot open on the bus. Seeing this as my opportunity to pursue adventure I said yes before knowing any of the details. I am still not clear what our team will be doing exactly but I am leaving this afternoon for Lake Charles, La.

I am excited about being able to help the people in the region who have been devastated by the hurricanes and also nervous because I am not sure what I can do to help. But it is this nervousness that tells me I am doing the right thing. Depending on God instead of my own abilities or plans is what makes this trip so adventuresome. I am not taking my laptop with me but I will post an update on the trip when I get back next week.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I woke up this morning hoping to write about the Michigan-Michigan State game this week but then Bush announces Harriet Miers as his supreme court pick. Now I feel inclined to write and share my opinion before every other blogger says the same thing I am about to say.

First of all, who the heck is Harriet Miers and what makes Bush think she is the best qualified candidate? To be honest, Miers is a blank check and I don't know much about her other than she is a Bush loyalist and is his legal counsel. How bout telling us a little about what she believes in before throwing her out for the supreme court? There is no firm commitment from her to overturn Roe v Wade, to protect property rights or religious freedoms. Maybe she will, maybe she won't. But why select her when there are plenty of other capable choices that would do those things for sure.

To me the pick looks like political cronyism which is not a great way to pick one of the nine most powerful people in the country. Bush had the chance to rally his base by selecting a hard line conservative like Janice Rogers Brown but instead chose to reward a friend with the position. Does the president not realize that most Republicans are not happy with him. He was not impressive handling Hurricand Katrina and then tries to make up for it by throwing billions of our dollars at the problem with very little oversight or planning. He is asleep at the wheel on immigration reform and is getting no traction on any of his domestic agenda. Remember social security reform? Neither does anybody else.

I say all this because I have been the presidents strongest defenders but at what point do you say enough is enough. Naming the supreme court is one of the most long lasting and impacting choices a president can make and Bush blew it. Now this decision definitely puts conservatives in a tough spot because they won't want to oppose his pick but what reassurances do we have that she is going to be a legal conservative. We have none, other than Bush's word which lately rings hollow with conservatives.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Easy Money

I don't bet on many sporting events these days. This was not some moral decision but rather a lack of money to throw away on this feckless hobby. However, I could't help but notice the line for the Michigan State-Illinois game tomorrow. The Spartans are favored by 10 and half points which seems high to me. First they are on the road against a decent Illinois team that was competitive with California last week. Second the Spartans defense is ranked near the bottom in the nation and Illinois should be able to score a few points. Finally, the Spartans are coming off a big win and are due for their usual let down. The last 10 times the Spartans have played top 10 teams they are 9-1. The following week they are 0-10. So bet the trend and take Illinois plus the 10 and a half. It will be the easiest money you ever made.

Wild at Heart, Chapter 1

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am part of men's group that is reading the book Wild at Heart. We met again this week to discuss Chapter 1 and we are off to a good start. At first read, I was a little put off by all the stereotypical machoism that the writer uses. I am not a man's man and yes I often get tagged with being a nice guy which if you read the book is more an insult than a compliment. However, after discussing it with other people and cutting through all that nonsense there is alot truth to what the book is saying.

The premise of the book is that men today are too timid, stuck behind a desk and too nice. This is why men are bored and discontent with work and relationships and the church. The book supposes that men are called to three things: an adventure to live, a battle to fight and beauty to pursue. As I look at my own life I see that I am not content and a little bored and aimless. I also notice that I don't have any adventure and the only battles I have are superficial. Furthermore I am not interested in currently pursuing any woman. Are these the reasons I am restless? Maybe.

The book does a disservice to its arguments by creating the idea that the adventure and battles are tied to traditional manly activities. As if only more men were hunters, then they would lead a more satisfying life. I know that is not the point the author is trying to make but he goes down that road all too often. If I properly understand his point, it is that regardless of your hobbies or work, you still need to have some level of adventure in your life and have some cause or battle worth fighting for. I completely agree with this point and see how destructive it is for men when they don't have adventure. Thoreau said it best when he wrote that "the mass of men are leading quiet lives of desperation."

So now I am trying to figure out what my adventure is supposed to be and what I am supposed to fight for. The sermon at my church last week spoke to me in this regard. The subject was Esther and how she was called at just the right time to save the Jewish people from destruction. Her whole life had led her to the place where should could make such a difference. What time am I called for? What has my whole life led up to? Will I be able to answer that call when it comes? What if I missed that call already?

Lately I notice my life has become completely risk averse. I used to live at or near the edge of risk but now I am afraid to gamble away the comfortable life I have, even if it is comfort without contentment. I do know from the past that when I do take risks and embrace adventure that I usually feel much more alive and fulfilled. I also notice that when I put my faith in God to take those chances, he typically reveals to me a part of my character and abilities that I would not have otherwise discovered. This isn't to say all my risks were a success. Far from it, but the process was always a success.

While I can buy into the idea of adventure and fighting, I am less inclined to agree with his third point of manliness which includes pursuing a beauty. I am sure this is my own bias as a single man in a culture full of married people so take the rest with a grain of salt. Having said that I have seen the fruit of this book's thinking lead many good men into bad relationships simply because they are taught that are supposed to pursue women and get married when they grow up. On the flip side, I have also seen men who frustratingly pursue woman with whom they have no hope of catching. Is that really what men are supposed to do? Additionally this thinking sets up a false notion that if someone is not in a relationship that they are somehow less man or incomplete.

Does the author not know that Paul says it would be better to be celibate than be married? Was Paul not in touch with his true man? We have a whole lineage in the Christian tradition that elevates celibacy including the priesthood and the monastic orders. Are those traditions wrong? I realize that women were created to keep men company and that relationships are typically good for men. But the focus should not be on catching women but rather on learning how to be content with who we are as men regardless of our relationship status.

One last thing, I found it ironic that at our meeting Wednesday night we watched a video that was telling us not to live vicariously. Then we sat around and discussed the video. The point of the book, if I understand it correctly, is that we should get out of the movie theatre and into the real world. I find it amusing that we are supposed to be learning about how to live an adventure but in the process we were sitting in a circle doing the same thing that has supposedly led us to our present unadventurous predicament.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Lions are bad and TV is not far behind

It's early Monday morning and I am in one of my moods where things just annoy me. Instead of allowing that frustration to go with me to work, I decided to focus my venom on the Detroit Lions and on the Emmy awards last night. Both of which are unwatchable messes.

First the Lions. How bad is Joey Harrington? I checked his QB rating and here are some other players who are rated above him. Tim Rattay, Anthony Wright, JP Losman, Mark Brunell, Kyle Orton and Gus Ferrotte. Not exactly a hall of fame list. It's sad but the Lions would actually be a better team with any of the above mentioned QBs. If I recall correctly Ferrotte used to play for the Lions but they dumped to begin the Harrington era. Not a great choice in retrospect. This was supposed to be the year Harrington put everything into place. Well he put everything into the place of the opponents hands by throwing five interceptions. It makes me long for the days of Ty Detmer's seven interception debacle of a couple years ago. At least we knew he was not the future.

Aside from Harrington, I really question the coaching staff. Mariucci has been a bust since he got here. The offense looks terrible which is surprising because they have drafted star players the last 4 seasons. With all that talent you would think they could outscore the Bears. But no, the Bears defense and special teams scored more than the Lions offense. Heck they couldn't even kick the extra point. For all the hoopla about the west coast offense think it's time to scrap it and start over. We could try something that works like maybe throwing the ball down the field more than five yards at a time. The sad fact is that the Lions could have hired Marvin Lewis a few years back but instead got Marty Morningweg as a placeholder for Mariucci. The Bengals should send us a thank you note.

One last thing I don't understand is how Matt Millen still has a job. The team has the worst record over the past four years and yet he still got a contract extension this past summer. Why do the Lions always reward mediocrity? Forget I said that, I would be happy with mediocrity compared to the nonsense they showed yesterday.

Now TV. Is it just me or does TV suck? I didn't watch the emmys last night but I was interested in seeing who won. I was surprised that Everybody Loves Raymond was the best comedy. Not that it's a bad show but how sad is it that a show that's not even on the air anymore won the award. I used to watch Raymond, and still do on reruns, but the show wasn't that great this year and had long since jumped the shark.

I was also surprised just how many of the winners I hadn't even watched or heard of. Who decides these winners, the promotions department at the networks? Best actor was James Spader from Boston Legal. Give me a break. Nobody watches that show so how good an actor could he be? I did hear Lost deserved to win although I've never seen an episode of it. However, I do know most of the plot from listening to friends and family members talk about it. I might have to start watching it this year.

Looking ahead to next year's shows, I am not that excited about the fall schedule that debuts this week. When I was in Las Vegas I got preview the new Chris Rock show which was okay but really nothing more than the Wonder Years with a black family. All the new dramas are either about aliens or police dramas. I wonder why no one in Holiday can come up with any new ideas. Fox at least tries even if half their shows are sleaze. They are basically the only creative network out there.

I miss the good old days of TV. Even the reruns of yesteryear are better than the new crap they are giving awards to today. I think I'll watch MASH after I get done writing this.

Friday, September 16, 2005


This week my church started a new class on Wednesday that is for men only. The class is going to be centered around the book wild at heart. I was scheduled to work in nursery and planned on missing the first class but thanks to my friend Sarah who relieved me of my duties, I was able to attend. And I am glad I did. I got there late and the room was packed with about 30 guys most of whom I know or have seen around the church but a few I haven't.

I think the large number surprised the class leader but the crowd shows just how hungry men are to be a part of group with other men. The discussion Wednesday was good and we focused on our favorite movies and hobbies. While that may sound trivial it was a good icebreaker and lured our interest. One notable observation was that most of the movies we liked included a hero figure that was fighting the good cause. As men we want to fight but get caught up in the day to day of life and end up living vicariously through movies. I hope that changes.

My goal is that through this class, several new relationships will be built. I did notice already a certain amount of camaraderie among the group. Our first assignment is to read chapter 1 of the book for next week. I am going to try and blog my thoughts on the book and share what I learn along this journey. It should be a very fun and exciting ride.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lost Pirates

Yesterday my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates lost their 82nd game of the season making it official that they will end the year with a losing record. This will mark their 13th straight losing season.

To put this into perspective that last time the Pirates had a winning season was the year of the Barcelona Olympics, Rodney King and Jennifer Flowers. George Bush Sr. was still president. The Penguins won their second Stanley Cup and the Bulls were just beginning their basketball dynasty. Roseanne was the number one TV show, Cheers was still on the air and Jon Secada ruled the billboards charts. Yes, 1992 was along time ago. Heck it was even before Barry Bonds started taking steroids.

By losing again this year the Pirates are now only three seasons off the record for consecutive losing seasons. While usually records are hard to break, I see no reason why the Pirates can't lose four more years. By the looks of things they are committed to an all out effort to break the record.

The Milwaukee Brewers also entered this season losing 12 straight years but they seem to have given up as they have a chance at a winning season this year. Quitters. It takes time and guts to be this bad for this long. Not many teams could do what the Pirates are doing and I respect them for that.

In the late nineties, I thought some of the Pirates moves were curious when they would trade quality players for mediocre prospects. Little did I know that those trades were all part of their master plan to be the worst franchise ever. Which is why I was surprised that they fired Lloyd McClendon earlier this week. He was the perfect loser and seemed destined to help set the record. Maybe he got fired for starting the season at .500 they thought he might actually be too good to manage the team. Apparently, his record of 25 and 52 the rest of the year wasn't bad enough to save his job.

I think the logical choice to replace him is Alan Trammel who has over 100 more losses than wins over his short three year career coaching the Tigers. Or they could wait for some other crappy manager to get fired this year and then overpay him with a five year contract.

Either way it's usually the players that help set records and not the managers. That is why I am confident they can break the record. The roster is loaded with double A talent and overpaid utility players. They have only two good players on the team and I see no reason why they can't trade them during the off season. The Yankees are looking to rebuild and would be willing to trade Kevin Brown and the rights to Drew Henson for Jason Bay and Zach Duke.

So rest assured fellow Pirate fans. All 30 of us can be proud that in a few short years the Pirates will officially set the record for baseball futility. No other fans can say that about their team. and I suspect we will be able to brag about this record for a long time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New citizens

Last night I had the opportunity to help with a citizenship class in Grand Rapids. The class is offered by City Life Church and I met the leader of the class a few months ago at a party. I offered to help and when she learned I worked in state government she asked me if I would participate during the lesson on government.

The class had roughly 10 people or so with about half from the Dominican Republic. I was the "special guest" and was interviewed at the beginning as to why I work in government and also how everyday people can get involved in the system. Then after the presentation of the material I was able to go around the room and help answer questions that came up during their small group study time. I was a little nervous that I was not going to be able to answer all their questions but thankfully I still remembered most of it from my government text books.

I was amazed at the class's eagerness to learn. They have a lot to memorize and most are starting with little or no basis of understanding. I am going to get the list of questions they had to answer and offer the test to my friends here in Lansing to see how they do on it.

It was a fun night and I enjoyed helping people learn about our country. We really do live under a unique government that does allow for the common person to participate. Sometimes I take that for granted. Talking with the students last night reminded me how privileged I am to live in America and work for the state of Michigan.

A prayer for Katrina's victims

Dear Lord,

I awoke this morning listening to the horrible news accounts regarding the city of New Orleans and the rest of the gulf coast. I am once again amazed at the force and power of nature and yet it pales in comparison to your power. And while you are a God of power you are also a God of mercy. I pray that you would show your mercy by reaching out and comforting those who have lost loved ones. Help them understand why you allowed this to happen as I am sure they are asking that question. For those that lost their homes, I can only imagine the sense of loss and grief and helplessness they must feel after losing everything they own. Help them find peace and a place to rest.

Please use this awful event to move your people to compassion. May the church shine like a beacon in the storm to people who have lost their way. Move my own heart to give and help however I can. I am reminded by this tragedy of how blessed I am. Help me not to take my home and my family and friends for granted. I am sorry that it takes other's losses to remind me of that.

Lord, I know that you are a God who takes pleasure in restoring lives. I ask Lord that you would restore the homes and lives of the people impacted by Katrina. I know that you excel in showing your glory during times of trouble. This is a time of trouble and now is your time to shine. I look forward to seeing your hand at work.

I ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ.


Monday, August 29, 2005

My weekend with the kids

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around kids. Saturday I helped out Brian and Tammy who are friends of mine from church. They run a carnival every year at MSU for the international students. The students bring their families to the event and there are several games where they win tickets and prizes. They even had snow cone and popcorn machines. I was assigned to the fishing pond game and the kids had a great time with most of them coming back multiple times to play. The kids came all from over the globe and were really well behaved. Much better behaved than American kids.

That night I called my friend Aaron to hang out. I was hoping to play cards but he had offered to help his neighbor fix his car. They started at three and were still going strong at 8 when I got there. After sharing my limited advice on fixing cars which included my willingness to call a professional, I went inside and hung out with their wives and kids. Reagan is 2 years old and she was really excited when I came into the room. I love that. I wish older women would have the same response. Reagan is very fun and very talkative. After she went to bed, I then turned my attention to Preston who is a cute little 5 month old boy. I just sat and held him for about an hour. It was really relaxing to have a kid to cuddle with. I hated to give him back to his mother at the end of the night.

Sunday morning I volunteered for nursery. I have been trying to give up nursery duty for over a year but my friend Michelle begged me to help out. I did have a good time playing with the little kids. There are so many toys that watching them is a pretty easy task. The hardest part is breaking up fights when they all want to play with the same thing.

All in all it was a fun weekend. I think I like being around kids. They really are a blessing.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Last week our Senate district lost a loved one over in Iraq. His name was Brian Derks and while I did not know him personally, reading about his life and his family in the local newspaper makes me feel like I knew him and even miss him in a strange way. He was young, ambitious and idealistic. He knew that he might have to make the ultimate sacrifice and in the end he gave his life for a noble idea of protecting our country and battling tyranny in a country halfway around the world.

Unfortunately, too many of our young men and women are having to make this sacrifice. This sacrifice is often harder on the remaining family members and loved ones left behind. One reason could be that the people back home were not ready to make the same level of commitment or didn't believe in the cause their loved ones died for. This is what has led us to Cindy Sheehan.

As most people know, she is the mother of a lost soldier in Iraq who has taken up camp outside President Bush's house in Texas. She is demanding a meeting with him. She has called the war a mistake and Bush a liar and the most dangerous terrorist alive. I am not sure what she hopes to accomplish by meeting with Bush other than to embarrass him. One can almost understand how a mother could become so hostile towards the man she blames for the death of her son. However, her blame is misplaced and her anger is causing her to say things that do not bring honor to her son's memory. In her heart she must realize that President Bush is not to blame but has no other outlet for dealing with the immense pain. It's easier to blame someone than to realize it was her son's choice to lay down his life over staying home and building the life she wanted for him.

The most frustrating part of the whole ordeal is how the left wing groups have manipulated her. There are some on that side that might honestly care about her and her son but the rest are simply using her to attack a supposed weakness of Pres. Bush. The media is loving it because August is a slow news month and because they can highlight the personal side of the war. When war is personalized, support for the war usually plummets.

Most people support the war when it's described in general concepts. Good vs evil, spreading freedom, protecting our country from future attacks, etc. These are all good things that Americans support. What they don't support is losing somebody they know. Somebody with a name and a face is hard to forget and hard to justify sacrificing in the name of some abstract cause or idea especially when they have lost the link between the war and that cause.

The next few months will be critical in winning the war. Iraq needs to pass their constitution and continue building up their own security forces. But more important is for the President to communicate how we are making progress. He needs to bring the war back to the level of ideas and move it away from the personal stories of loss. He needs to restore our faith by explaining how winning the war really does make the world a better and safer place. The American people want to believe in such a cause but we need to be reminded especially in the face of such grief and tragedy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

My Trip to Vegas

I just got back from my first trip to Las Vegas. I flew out to be in my friend CJ's wedding and had a really good time.

One of the first things I did while waiting for CJ and Maggie to get to town was enter a Poker tournament at the MGM. I wanted to play for the experience and realized quickly that I was not going to win any money. I actually played pretty well but only made it the final 50 out 90 or so players. The action is a lot faster than on TV and a lot harder since you don't get to see everyone else's cards. I did have fun and kept thinking it would be dangerous if I lived near a casino because I could see me being a regular in these types of tournaments.

Another highlight was later that day while I was sitting by the pool. This really attractive woman starts chatting with me and we are making small talk. She then asks me if I can rub sun tan lotion on her back. At this point, I figure she must be a little drunk but then decided this might be the most action I get in Vegas so I politely obliged.

The middle of the week was the wedding and it was short and sweet. I wish all weddings lasted only 5 minutes. We had barely stopped laughing at how cheesy the chapel was by the time the ceremony was over. One thing that did strike me was that they don't mention the until death do you part in the vows. It must be a Vegas thing.

Later that night we went to the club where Maggie's bridesmaid Charell used to work to celebrate. It was called Studio 54 and supposed to be one of the hottest clubs in town. It was pretty obvious that CJ and I didn't really belong at this kind of club. Plus as I was gawking at the dancers I kept getting bumped into. The only fun part was being with Charell and getting looks from others guys who were wondering how I was at a club with such an attractive woman.

CJ and I did get a chance to go golfing one day and it was hilarious. Our first tee shots are complete shanks. At this point, I think the other guys in our foresome were regretting the fact they had to play with us. But I gotta say that as ugly as my game was, the course was more beautiful with mountains, desert and palm trees. I can see why people are attracted to the area. It was also good to have some alone time with CJ.

On the way home our flight was overbooked because of the bad weather in Chicago. The seat next to me was the only open one and I kept watching people as they walked down the plane aisle. I kept hoping I wouldn't get stuck next to some big guy who smells bad and snores. (I already sat next to him on the flight there.) Finally at the last minute this cute woman sits down next me. It turns out she is from grandville and we had mutual friends. At this point, I am feeling a connection as she is laughing at my jokes and holding my arm during the turbulence. Then all the sudden she starts talking about her husband which kind of killed the mood. Oh well, it was still nice to have a fun person to sit next to on the way home. It almost made up for the airline losing my luggage. I knew I should have tipped the skycap more than a buck a bag but it was all I had left. Hopefully my luggage gets here today.

All in all it was a very fun trip. Las Vegas is way too big to do in a couple days. I need to go back again and see what I didn't get to. But It was great to see CJ and I am glad he got married. His wife is really sweet and I am excited about their future.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


The last few months I have been feeling a bit out of place here in Lansing. Until just recently it seemed like most of my closest friends were from college and lived in other cities. It is hard to develop the same type of relationships post college and it seemed like the friends I had gotten closest to here in Lansing had moved away. As a non-married person, friends are important, especially when you have good news or bad news to share or even when you want to hang out at the last minute. Some days it's hard to find that type of friendship.

Having said that, over the past few weeks, I have noticed just blessed I am to have a couple of close friends in town. Two men have taken the time to hang out with me lately and I am really enjoying their friendship. Kevin and I have become regulars at the starbucks and even have an outdoor table that we have established as our preferred seating. I have known Sarah, Kevin's wife since college but just got to know Kevin this year. At first I wasn't exactly sure what he and I would have in common but the more we hang out, the more I enjoy him. He has a very good perspective on life and I like just sitting around talking and bouncing ideas off of him. Hanging out with him reminds me of my college days.

Aaron and I became friends last fall. His wife and my ex-girlfriend are close friends and before I knew it all four of us were hanging out for game night. Lately we have ditched the women and gone to the movies and played a round of golf and I look forward to doing more guy things with him. What I like best about Aaron is how honest and real he is. There is no pretense with him and I really like that. I feel like I can just simply be myself around him.

What I like most about both Aaron and Kevin is that "get me". It's hard to describe, but I often feel like people don't know where I am coming from but these two guys both do. I appreciate that. They make living Lansing a little more bearable.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Completely Random Facts

A friend of mine recently forwarded me this list. I found it so interesting that I wished to share my newfound knowledge with one disclaimer: I have no idea if any of the facts mentioned below are true. Without further ado:

In the 1400's a law was set forth that a man was not allowed to beat his wife with a stick thicker than his thumb. Hence we have "the rule of thumb"

Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled "Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28%

The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $6,400

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

> Spades - King David
> Hearts - Charlemagne
> Clubs -Alexander, the Great
> Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Q. Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?

A. Their birthplace

Q. Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most popular boat name requested?

A. Obsession

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter "A"?

A. One thousand

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?

A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?

A. Honey

Q. Which day are there more collect calls than any other day of the year?

A. Father's Day

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month . which we know today as the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What Left Wing Media Bias?

People often ask me if I believe that the mainstream media is biased against Republicans. I really do and you can look no further than a recent quote in THE HILL newspaper by Helen Thomas as an example of this bias. She said "The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself. All we need is one more liar." Thomas also said: "I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does,"

For those who don't know Helen Thomas she used to be the press person assigned to cover the Whitehouse by United Press International. For many years she was considered the dean of the whitehouse press corps and had the privilege of asking the first question during presidential briefings.

Apparently, Ms Thomas has taken great issue with her statements being printed in the newspaper. She claims she was not speaking on the record when she made the above comments regarding Dick Cheney. Isn't it funny how the press doesn't like being treated the same way they treat the subjects they are covering. What isn't funny is that people with such bile and hatred towards our elected officials are the ones who get to filter the "news" for a large portion of the American population. Does anyone really believe that she was always fair and accurate during her reporting years?

Friday, July 29, 2005

In context

I was going to write a post on my recent frustrations with my job, church, dating life etc. You know the normal things that I like to complain about. Then on my way to work as I was praying, I realized that the problems I face are miniscule compared to what some other people are dealing with. My nephew just broke his arm and he feels like he is being cheated out of the remaining months of summer. I have another family member battling drug addiction. 365 people at the paper mill in Muskegon just lost their jobs. Two young boys died in a house fire yesterday in Lansing. 500 people have died from the flooding taking place in India.

Somedays it is all too easy to say "woe is me" look at my problems. But the world has bigger concerns than my own. This doesn't make my frustrations any less real, it just puts them into perspective.

Monday, July 25, 2005

My thoughts on John G. Roberts

It seems weird that with all the emphasis on presidential elections that the real power is in the hands of an unelected supreme court. Both political sides know this but I don't think many everyday citizens really understand the true stakes involved in naming the right appointee. Because most high profile cultural issues eventually end up being decided by the court we need to make sure that "our guy" is right on the issues we care about. While I hate to agree with Sen. Schumer from New York, it would be nice to have answers from John Roberts on how he stands on the important issues before he is voted on. Granted Schumer and I are looking for very different answers but at least we would both know what we're getting on the bench.

The more I hear about Roberts, the more distrustful I become. My gut tells me he will be good for business on the court and average at best when it comes to the cultural issues. Roberts has stated in the past that Roe V Wade is settled law. Does this mean he wouldn't be willing to change it? Lots of past supreme court cases have been settled law including Dred Scott and Plessy V Ferguson both of which were eventually rightly overturned by later supreme courts. Would Roberts use the constitution in determining if there is a right to abortion or will he use the precedent of the earlier court? We simply don't know.

Party faithful have been reassured in the past that Republican appointees were really conservatives. But once on the court these same justices voted more like liberals and by then there is nothing we can do about it. This time we are told Robert's wife is a pro-life advocate as reassurance. But my question is why take any chance? I have read many editorials about how Roberts is a conservative but just didn't want a paper trail to defend during the proceedings. What good is one's convictions if he doesn't want to defend them during his biggest hour? Why do conservatives run away from their beliefs? Liberals don't. John Roberts should stand up and answer any and all questions put forth to him. If he says things the Democrats don't like then so be it. Let them vote against him. The last time I checked the Republicans were in the Majority.

Off the record reassurances and quiet inferrences about Robert's conservatism simply won't cut it this time. We've been burned too many times before. We need to hear it from him directly before he is confirmed. Otherwise it might be too late.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hope for Pittsburgh

This weekend the Pittsburgh Penguins finally received some good news by winning the NHL draft lottery. In normal years having the first pick in the draft would be exciting enough, but this year's draft is no normal draft because there is one player who is head and shoulders above the rest of the players. His name is Sydney Crosby and he is the most anticipated junior player in well over a decade. In fact many have compared him to Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretsky.

Crosby, from Nova Scotia, was the first junior player to be the MVP of the Canadian Hockey League twice and had 120 goals and 183 assists in 121 games in the league. Crosby's 2.5 points a game average is just behind Lemieux's 2.8 points over three seasons as a Quebec junior in the 1980s. Gretzky had 70 goals and 112 assists for 182 points in 64 games as a 17-year-old player in his one junior season in 1977-78.

While I have seen many young players not reach their potential (Eric Lindross) this kid seems like the real deal. He has incredible vision and appears to see things on the ice before they happen. The word out of Pittsburgh is that he will play on the same line as Lemieux. With the legend and the prodigy playing together I expect the Penguins to have a explosive offense especially under the new rules designed to encourage more scoring.

I haven't been this excited about hockey since the early 90's and I am not the only one. The demand to watch Crosby play is significant as the Penguins have already sold season tickets to people from 10 different states. I know I am planning to visit Pittsburgh this fall to catch a game.

Mario Lemieux saved the Penguins when he was drafted in 1984 and led them to back to back titles. I suspect Sydney Crosby will be the second hero to save hockey in Pittsburgh. Who knows he might be good enough to save the sport in general.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chalk one up for the little guy

A couple weeks ago I stopped by an Amoco station on 28th street in Grand Rapids to purchase some aspirin. After I paid for it I realized that I had been overcharged twenty cents so I asked for my twenty cents back. The woman behind the counter refused and told me the price on the aspirin was mismarked and that the price on the scanner was correct. I then politely went the rack and pulled down every box of aspirin and dumped them on the counter in front of her so she could see that they all had the same price. This did not convince her but it did irritate the long line of people waiting in line behind me. At this point I really didn't care about the money but I was frustrated that she could care less about overcharging me. After 20 minutes or so I received the name of the store manager to contact and her phone number and left without receiving my refund.

The next day I attempted to call the number for the store manager to determine how to remedy the situation. The number did not work. She had given me a bad phone number. This really pissed me off but unfortunately for them they underestimated my determination for justice. So I drove back to Grand Rapids and asked for my refund in person a second time. This time the woman behind the counter was helpful but new and did not know how to respond to me. I asked her to call the manager and she left a message for the store manager to contact me.

By now, the few friends I had told the story to thought I was crazy for pursuing a lousy twenty cents but I was undeterred and anxiously waited for my phone call. A couple days later after not receiving a call, I decided to draft a letter to the gas station demanding my money back. After reading the scanner law, I also realized I was entitled to an additional amount equal to ten times the original overpayment. In my letter I promised to unleash the full power of state government unless I received my $2.20. I got a call yesterday from their corporate office apologizing and I was able to pick up my just compensation last night.

It feels good to win a battle against big oil and greedy corporate interests. Even though the amount I received won't even cover one gallon of gas. But at least they are aware that they can't simply screw the consumer without fear of recrimination. Chalk one up for the little guy.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hanging with the Furrs

I just got back last night from visiting Matt and Heidi Furr. I have been friends with them since college and was even in their wedding way back when. It was great to see them again. I have to laugh because the last time I visited them was in 2000 and I remember sitting around their kitchen table and they were telling me they didn't want any kids and now they have two kids and one on the way. I just had a similar conversation with my friends Don and Stephanie so I guess I can plan on seeing little Don's running around someday soon. Matt and Heidi are really good parents and their kids are awesome. Libby is so fricken cute and Izak does a mean rendition of the riverdance. It's just funny to see Matt and Heidi in their new role.

I also got to go to the church that Matt is pastoring. I hadn't heard him preach in a long time. Well not in a formal setting at least. Their service was really good. A lot of lay people involved in the service which was nice. They also have communion every week which is very cool. Matt spoke on forgiveness which is usually a topic I don't struggle with but for some reason I think there is somebody that I need to forgive but can't think of who it is. Isn't that weird? I am praying God will reveal who it is and allow me the grace to confront them.

The best part of the trip was just visiting with them again. I love friends that are open and honest and affirmative. It was great to talk about other friends of ours, the good old college days, religion, politics, etc. I don't always realize how blessed I am to have such good friends and even though we don't see each other that often, we can pick up right where we left off. I look forward to seeing the Furr's again and hopefully it won't be another 5 years.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The War on Terror

In lieu of the London bombings I have been thinking a lot about the war on terror. First the title of the war strikes me as odd because it hides the real enemy and replaces it with a vague idea. We are not at war with terror per se but rather with Islamic extremists who hate western civilization. Why we are afraid to come out and say this is a mystery. By not stating who our real enemy is it becomes difficult to measure our successes. If our enemy is only terror, then America is doing okay because we haven't had an attack since 9/11 and most Americans are not terrified. But if our enemy is radical Islam then we are losing that battle because Islam is growing rapidly in some of our bigger cities and especially in our prison system where they are recruiting followers at an alarming rate. Terror is not our enemy but merely our real enemy's weapon of choice.

I found it laughable when a London TV reporter interviewed a leader in the Muslim community and the leader said that the bombers were not indicative of a larger problem within the Islamic community as a whole. Really? Where does he think these men learned this type of hatred? It wasn't by default. They were indoctrinated by a radical theology that appears to be all too prevalent in mainstream Islam. What scares me the most is that the men who blew up the subway and buses in London were not poor or mistreated. They were not first generation immigrants to Europe. No, they were middle class citizens who had grown up in the very culture they had come to hate. The fact that these men could become convinced to kill their own countrymen reveals the depth and power of our enemy's ideals. It also reveals that their battle is not an economic or cultural battle but rather a religious one.

Perhaps the biggest problem we have in winning the war is that we didn't ask for this war in the first place. We were happy to keep our heads in the sand and pretend the world was a peaceful place since the fall of communism. Most Americans didn't know much about radical Islam and didn't realize we were their enemy until September 11th. Many can still not figure out why we are hated so much. We didn't do anything to them so while are they plotting to kill us. It is a difficult war to win when you're fighting a battle for different reasons than your opponents. They are fighting a religious war and we are simply trying to defend ourselves from future attacks. Under this scenario one can understand why our will is weakening and the enemies resolve continues. We haven't had an attack in America since 2001 and so our reasoning for fighting loses importance, while the enemy still feels compelled by religion to fight until the end.

A few last thoughts. If our battle is a religious battle then how do we as Christians respond? The bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood but spiritual instead. Does that mean we shouldn't fight a physical battle against Islam in defense of our country? Does it mean we should instead engage the Islamic community in theological debates? How should Christians treat their moslem neighbors? Should we fight this war as Americans or as Christians? What would winning the war even look like? Suppose there were no more terrorist attacks, Islam is still an oppressive religion that is opposed to Christianity and persecutes Christians in several countries around the world.

I am not sure I have any answers but I guess I haven't really heard the church asking these questions either.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Thinking about Sex

Over the past week I have been involved in a discussion with a couple of friends about pre-marital sex. The question was raised as to whether or not the bible really speaks against it. Most of the scriptures use the word sexual immorality and then list several types of specific acts when referring to prohibited activity but premarital sex is never specifically mentioned.

On the surface Sexual immorality is not strictly defined but after doing some research I discovered that the Greek word used in most places is porneia and according to several Greek dictionaries this word can be translated to mean fornication or sex between two unmarried persons. Reading the bible references in light of this translation makes it pretty clear that Christians are not to engage in pre-marital sex. This is for our own benefit as the bible says that sexual immorality is not only a sin against God but also a sin against our own bodies. More so, the bible instructs us to flee or run away from sexual immorality because it understands the strong hold sex can have over our lives. Instead many of us linger around and wonder why we don't have the self control to beat temptation.

The good news is that even those who have not held to this standard in the past, they can start new today. Sex is a powerful sin but God is more powerful than any sin and strong enough to forgive and change lives regardless of past mistakes. This goes for people who have had sex before marriage, those who have cheated on their spouses, those who are homosexual and for those who struggle with pornography.

Make no mistake, the bible is clear that we are to live lives of sexual purity and we will be held accountable for our actions. But God also graciously provides us the power to live such lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Anchors Away

Today I attended a going away party for my nephew Josh. He ships out tomorrow to join the Navy. He is a good kid; level headed, smart and dependable. The kind of person one thinks ought to be representing our country in the military. Ever since I've known him he has wanted to be in the military. I am excited that he finally gets to achieve his dream. I am also proud that he is willing to serve his country and commit to something bigger than himself.

My sister in law is having a hard time saying goodbye. I could see the hesitation and sadness in her eyes at the party. Today I realized just how big a commitment it is for both those who serve in the armed forces and for those they leave behind. Parties similar to Josh's are taking place every day as young men and women leave their families to defend our country. I need to remember that when I watch the news and read about the wars going on around the world. These are real men and women risking their lives for my defense.

I wish Josh the best in his new endeavor and pray for his protection. Chances are he won't see combat but one never knows. What I do know is that America is better off today because of his commitment and because of the other men and women who serve our country.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Supreme in their own eyes

I have been patient in writing my response to the recent decisions handed down by the supreme court. I didn't want to simply write out of frustration but I cannot hold my pen (or keyboard) any longer.

For those who do not follow the court, In Kelo v. New London, they stated that property owners could be deprived of their property, and that that property could be handed over to private developers, as long as such a handover would create a "public benefit." It is hard to believe that the court could reach such an erroneous conclusion until you realize that the decision flows not out of some honest misreading of the law but out of a political philosophy that places government intentions ahead of individual freedom. No first year law student could read into the constitution that taking private property and giving it to other private developers is an appropriate use of the so called "taking clause". This clause is supposed to apply when the government needs the property for actual public use like building roads, bridges and other infrastructure. The only way to reach the court's recent conclusion is to work backwards by starting with idea that taking private property is a good thing and then using legal trickery to justify the decision.

By reaching their conclusions, the court has established a principle that nobody's private land is safe from the government. Politicians, never fail to utilize the fullest extent of the powers granted to them by the courts. I fully expect a flurry of projects designed to stimulate the economy will be approved by local city councils regardless of who already owns the land in question. Watch out if Walmart is coming to your town and you live near a busy intersection. Remember their catch phrase is "always low prices" so don't expect to get much for your house.

Perhaps the most shocking part of all is how silent most democrats have been. They are the ones who claim to care about the little people. But this law essentially yields great power not only to the government but also to wealthy developers who can politically influence city and local councils for their own schemes by offering new jobs and "economic development". Meanwhile the elderly and poor are at risk of losing their homes simply because someone else thinks they can make better "public use" of it.

The sad truth of this case is that it was hardly surprising. The court has been trekking towards reinterpreting the constitution for a long time. This is just one outpouring of that continuing ominous trend. The real problem is that the executive and legislative branches have yielded their powers to the court. The appointment and advise and constant process for judges is not used to determine their qualifications to be judges but rather a chance for both parties to make political points with the core supporters. Instead of fighting to protect the constitution, the fight is over secondary issues like abortion, gay rights and the like. These are important issues but the bigger issue is why we let an unelected body determine national policy on these issues in the first place.

I propose a bold answer to this growing problem. Instead of lifelong appointments, the voters should decide who sits on the supreme court. By voting on judges we could stop the charade that these positions are not political. It would also provide some accountability and reign in some of their power. This is not a new idea. In Michigan we already elect our supreme court and the system works well. Any change would be welcome compared to our current corrupt court.

In honor of the fourth of July, I want to close by quoting a paragraph from George Washington's farewell address that eloquently warns of the problems when one branch of government becomes to powerful.

"It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield."

Well said George. Well said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Draft Predictions

1. Milwaukee - Andrew Bogut
2. Atlanta - Marvin Williams He will be the biggest bust in the draft
3. Utah - Deron Williams
4. New Orleans - Chris Paul
5. Charlotte - Raymond Felton The Best player in the draft
6. Portland - Gerald Green
7. Toronto - Danny Granger
8. New York - Channing Frye
9. Golden State - Andrew Bynum
10. LA Lakers - Sean May
11. Orlando - Rashad McCants
12. LA Clippers - Martell Webster He will be very good someday. Just in time for the Clippers to lose him in Free Agency
13. Charlotte - Charlie Villanueava

Bonus Selection: Detroit - Jarrett Jack

Know your theology?

I found this test on Dave Drury's blog and it was pretty fun. I encourage you to take the test

I scored as Neo-Orthodox:

You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox
Roman Catholic
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
Reformed Evangelical
Modern Liberal
Classical Liberal

Monday, June 27, 2005

Last Week

Last week our church held their vacation bible school and I was a volunteer. The week before, I was dreading being with kids all week and wondering how I got talked into helping but I have to say I really enjoyed VBS this year. It was my third year helping out and the kids I had this year were by far the best behaved. One boy doesn't go the church and I am hoping that maybe his experience will spark an interest in learning more about God. It was hard to gauge what everyone learned during the week but I think the relationship building and positive experience probably makes up for any lack of learning. As I look back on VBS when I was a kid I honestly couldn't tell you a thing about the programming but I do remember some of my leaders and friends that were there.

On Friday, I was able to go to NY state and visit my friend Don. He and I have been friends since 1984 and it was nice to be around someone who knows me so well. His humor cracks me up. I went to NY to attend the opening of his first art show. It was a photo documentary of the town where he lives. He's very talented and I am really proud of him creating such a great collection. I also got to spend time with his wife and the rest of his family that came to see the show. His sister in law was really cool and fun to hang out with. The only downside of the weekend was losing my money at the local casino on Saturday but at least it got me out of going to the antique mall with the rest of his family.