Monday, May 30, 2005


I spent Saturday at my friend Todd and Julie Kuiper's cottage in Grand Haven. Actually, it is Todd's parent's cottage and they are gracious enough to let us use it. The name of the cottage is called rest-a-while and the name is a perfect fit. Every year around Memorial Day the Kuipers invite Jon and Beth Wilmot and I to spend the weekend at the cottage. I have a lot of good memories at this cottage.

My first time at the cottage was way back in 1993 when a bunch of us college buddies stayed there and went to our friend Duke's wedding up in Fremont. I'll never forget that weekend. My old roommate Dan had never been to the beach so it was fun to show him the sand and the water. (I was also there when he saw his first escalator, which is a story I'll share in another post someday.) We had a great time that weekend. We grilled, went to the beach and stayed up late talking and playing cards. I miss a lot of those friends but am thankful that I still see Todd and Jon on a regular basis.

A couple years ago, it rained all weekend and the kids got stir crazy. Julie and Beth didn't love the fact that Jon and Todd and I played Video games all day while they took care of the kids. I didn't mind because I kept whooping on both of them in Madden 2000. It was also the first weekend after I broke up with Liz. I wasn't a couple anymore which was a little bit of an adjustment because Liz was such a good fit with the group. As I look back to that weekend it was actually fun but it reminded me that we are all growing up and how much life changes.

This year was very restful. During the day, we took Caleb, Josh and Ethan for a walk in the woods to look for squirrels. Then later in the day went down to play in the sand at the beach. Their kids are all so cool. Very well behaved. I am amazed how big Abby and AJ are getting. Abby has the cutest toothy grin. In the evening, Julie and Beth took the kids so we could have some guy time which is incredibly rare these days. We went to see Star Wars, played Race for the Whitehouse and talked about our fantasy baseball league. The only downside of the weekend besides losing to Jon, was that I didn't get to visit with Julie or Beth very much. They are both remarkable women and I still wonder how Todd and Jon got so lucky.

I love the fact that we have this annual get together. I enjoy my friends and Grand Haven is the perfect location. It is good to rest-a-while.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Typical Day

People always give me funny looks when I tell them I am a legislative assistant. This is followed by the inevitable questions as to what does a legislative aide do exactly. So I thought I would share what I did today.

7:00 - I get to work and type up the minutes from last week's committee meeting. Then I put together the committee member's folders with information on everything that we are voting on in committee this morning.

8:30 - We started committee and since I am the clerk I get to call the roll, take minutes, etc. I also get to explain all the changes that were made to the bills before the committee members voted on them. Today's topics were mandating 55% of all loans made by the broadband authority be given to projects in rural counties. This is part of a rural job package of bills which I helped write. The bill passed pretty easily. The other topic was a little messier. There were two bills to create state loans and tax breaks for methane digesters which turn manure into gas energy. The Sierra Club was opposed to the bills because they think all big farms pollute and this bill could help them. After contentious debate, the bills passed 3-1.

10:00 - I got to sit on the senate floor for the annual Memorial Day Service. Several veterans came to the Senate floor. As they came in, the bag pipes were playing which sounded really cool. At the end each Senator who had a soldier die in his or her district read their name aloud and laid a folded flag in the center aisle. This was followed by the playing of Taps. It was a very moving ceremony and gave flesh to the real cost of war.

11:15- After the ceremony I go back to my office to sit in on a meeting to select what survey questions we want to ask in our literature that we plan to hand out this summer. Should we ask controversial questions or simple questions? What happens if the answers we receive from our constituents don't match up with my boss's views? We end up with 6 pretty vanilla questions.

12:15 I fill out my bill reports and walk the bills we passed out of committee over the Secretary of the Senate so they can placed on next week's calendar to be voted on.

1:30 I led about 25 mentally challenged constituents on a tour of the Capitol building. They were here lobbying for mental health care reform and decided they wanted a tour. They were great. We had fun and they asked a lot of good questions but they were a little hard to keep focused. One woman wanted to know if I had seen the angels that lived in the capitol building. No, but I have seen a lot of demons around the state capitol.

2:30- I was late for education committee which was okay because it was a rather dry presentation on a recent audit of the department of education. I won't go into details but the state needs some improvement on how we count the number of children in each school.

3:30 - I finally get to sit down at my desk only to get a call that two bills that I thought were going to run on the house floor today didn't move because a couple of republicans want more changes. These bills were part of the above mentioned rural jobs package. Hopefully we can work out the problems and have them move next week.

4:15 I spoke to the nursery and landscape association about a bill that we are sponsoring to prohibit invasive plant species. I want their support for the bills. I don't want to harm their industry but we do want to stop these harmful plants from ruining our environment. After a few minutes, we agree on some penalty language for selling the plants and things are looking good for the bill. We plan to vote on our bill next week Tuesday afternoon.

4:30 - I put in a request with the legislative service bureau to draft a bill to repeal a provision in the law that prevents a company from holding two race track licenses in Michigan. We have the only thoroughbred track in the state in our district and the same company is planning to build a new track in Romulus. The bill will allow them to stay in business in Muskegon. I also put another request in to change the dog bite law to make it a misdemeanor to flee the scene if your dog attacks someone. This is in regards to an attack that happened to my friend heidi's mother. You can read about it on her blog.

That brings me to 4:45 this afternoon. I have several phone calls and emails to return on topics ranging from the right to food processing law to the make up of the potato commission. And since the Governor vetoed the bills last year, I also still have to call the adminstration to try and find some consensus on the methane digester bills that were voted out of committee.

Sorry if this was a little detailed but I thought it might give you a glimpse into what a legislative assistant does on a daily basis.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A prayer for Laurie

(Note: My good friend Laurie is moving this Wednesday to New Zealand to work for a Wesleyan church in Auckland. The following is my prayer for her.)

Dear God:

Thank you Lord for bringing Laurie into my life many years ago. I have always appreciated her friendship. Thank you even more that you have shaped her and molded her into the woman she has become. A woman whose heart truly follows after yours. A woman who is willing to sacrifice the comforts and familiarities of this country in exchange for sharing your love to kids in New Zealand. She said it best the other night when she said it would be harder for her to stay than to go. Please give me that same sense of purpose and conviction when it comes to following your direction in my life.

Thank you Lord that you have given her the past couple years to learn and work with kids at Kentwood Community Church. I know she would have liked to have left sooner but all along you were preparing her to be more effective by sharpening her skills. May you bless her for her willingness to wait and use the skills she has learned to further your work. Give me the same patience as I wait upon you.

Please protect Laurie from the enemy. He is willing to do anything he can to protect his territory. May you surround Laurie with your angels as she moves to the front lines of the battle. Give her a safe trip this week. Help her to be ready to work when she gets there even though she might be tired from jet lag and in culture shock. Prepare a place for her to live. Provide for her enough resources to complete her work there. Move in my heart and the hearts of others to give and sacrifice our conveniences to support her ministry.

Lord, please help Laurie to make meaningful, lasting relationships with people of New Zealand. Help her understand their language and culture. Give her and the people at the church a united purpose. Give them patience and grace to work together in achieving that common purpose. Give her compassion for the kids she will come in contact with. Help her to communicate clearly and effectively. Do not let her get discouraged or disheartened.

Prepare the people of Auckland to receive your gospel Lord. May your word of comfort and hope and redemption seep deep into their hearts. You have broken into other countries with the good news of the gospel and I expect the same thing to happen in New Zealand through the work of Laurie and others like her.

Thank you again for Laurie and how special she has become to me. Go with her Lord. Bless her work. Use her as an example to the people of New Zealand and to those she has chosen to leave behind.

In the Name of Jesus Christ,


Friday, May 20, 2005

Church Growth

This weekend our church is scheduled to vote on whether or not to pursue a new building project. Over the past few years we are growing at a rapid pace and our current facility is not big enough for all the people coming. This is a great challenge to face and I am praying that we have wisdom in our response. I was speaking to a friend at the church about it and he said that God is bringing us new people and we have to have a place for them. He said we didn't ask to be a big church. He's absolutely right but we need to examine all our options and I am not completely sold on the idea that building a new church or even expanding our current place is the answer.

Before we build, I want our church to have vision for what kind of church we want to be. Simply because people are coming to our church, does that mean we want to be a big church? Is that our only response? I fear that by opposing a new building project I will be seen as being anti church growth. That is not my position. When we think of church growth we most often think of increasing the number of people in the church. What if we think of it in terms of increasing the number of churches in the area?

I recently spoke to another good friend of mine whose church is on the cutting edge of the church planting movement and I really think they are on to something. As they grow to a certain size, they take lay people from their congregation and plant new churches. Their church is growing but they are not faced with where to build but rather where to start a new church. Building new and bigger churches is a model which has worked in the past but today's church should consider a new paradigm of planting churches instead.

Now there are benefits to bigger churches. They typically have better facilities, more professional presentation and bigger budgets. However, most people in my generation, myself included, are looking for community and relationships and authenticity rather than presentation. Bigger churches have a more difficult time providing this sense of intimacy. Since we live in a corporate world and many church leaders like to apply corporate principles to the church, I'd like to use starbucks as an analogy. When you go to starbucks you go for the coffee, but more than that your go for atmosphere. Starbucks knows this and that is why they don't build huge coffee shops. Instead they build multiple smaller stores to meet the demand and maintain their identity. In fact in some cities you will see a starbucks on every corner. It would be cheaper and more efficient for them to build a super starbucks but that is not their mission. I propose the church should adopt the starbucks model.

By writing this, I do not mean to impugn or disparage big churches or the people in my church who support a new building project. There is room to disagree on how we proceed. I just want to point out that there is an alternate answer and share my vision for how we meet the challenges we are facing.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Freckles update

Freckles came home Thursday night. She is not eating much but is in good spirits. If she doesn't start to eat and drink more I may have to take her back to the Vet this week. I have enjoyed having her home this weekend and am hopeful she can continue to get better. The Vet thinks she has a 50/50 chance of recovering full use of her kidneys and she is not out of the woods yet. Thank you to all who prayed for her recovery.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


It has been a scary week. Monday morning I took my cat Freckles to the vet because she had been throwing up and not eating for a couple days. The week before I took her to MSU animal hospital and she was diagnosed with arthritis and they gave her some anti-inflammatory medicine to take. I found out on Monday that the medicine had caused her kidneys to stop working. My Vet was very good and immediately gave her treatment and Freckles has been in the hospital the past two days flushing her kidneys. At first I was concerned she might not make it but she is making progress and I may get to take her home as early as tomorrow.

The thought of losing her really got to me yesterday. I discovered through her illness how emotionally involved I have become with her. I know that sounds weird but she is who I come home to everyday. Before I met Freckles, I was never a cat person but my good friends the Blairs had to get rid of her and so they asked me to take her. Freckles and I hit it off right away and she has lived with me for over 2 years now. She is the sweetest cat I know. She and I have a lot of common interests including laying around and napping. Last night it was hard to sleep without her because I was so used to having her around.

I look forward to having Freckles back home soon.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Very Bad Movies

Derek's blog has a recent post on the best movies of the past 30 years. This got me to thinking about my favorite movies and I thought I would come up with my own list. But instead of my favorites, I decided to write about the 10 worst movies. The only criteria I gave myself was that I had to actually suffer through at least a portion of the movie. This excludes such classics as Ishtar, Waterworld, Leonard Part 6 and Kazaam from the list. The hardest part about this list was limiting it to only 10 movies. Without further ado, here is my list:

1. Pulp Fiction I have no idea why this appears on many people's list of favorites. It was nothing but pointless violence. Unfortunately, a whole genre was created out of it.

2. Pokemon2 The artwork was terrible and the plot was incomprehensible. Whoever marketed this crap was a genius.

3. The Crying Game The climax of the story (no pun intended) is when the main character realizes that the girl he is dating is not really a girl. If that's your thing, you might enjoy the movie but it made me want to throw up.

4. October Sky I saw this movie on a date and it was the longest, most boring movie ever made. It has something to do with a kid, a rocket and a mining town or something. I think we turned it off half way through but it seemed like it took a lifetime.

5. Bowling for Columbine I had no idea what the movie was about and got dragged to it by my friend Andrea. I still haven't forgiven her. Nothing but lies and clever editing. I made her leave early.

6. 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag I saw this movie for free. Thank God because I would hate to think I wasted money on it. It had Joe Pesci in it but even he couldn't save this debacle.

7. Transylvania 65000 This movie was supposed to be funny. I never laughed. Not even a chuckle. It was one of Michael Richard's (Kramer) earliest movies but even he wasn't funny.

8. Ready to Wear Wow this movie was bad. I saw it with my friend CJ and still wonder why we picked it. It had Lots of stars and plots lines and even a naked pregnant woman but there no point to the movie whatsoever.

9. American Beauty It is hard to believe that this movie won best picture. It was nothing but propaganda for drug use and pedophilia.

10. Rocky V How do you ruin the Rocky series? Have Tommy Morrison star in this film. I love Rocky but I think the makers of this movie took a few too many shots to the head filming the earlier Rockies.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Stern Can Bite Me

I am sick and tired of NBA commissioner David Stern and his bullying antics. Last week, Jeff Van Gundy who coaches the Houston Rockets, complained about how the referees were calling falls on his player Yao Ming. It appears that after the first two games in the playoffs, the opposing team suggested to the league that Yao was committing illegal screens. The very next game he got called for these fouls. Van Gundy received an anonymous call from a referee who told him that they were instructed to give special attention to Yao and to call more fouls on him. When Van Gundy publicly complained about this mistreatment David Stern fined him $100,000. He also demanded that he reveal the name of the referee and threatened to kick him out of the league altogether if he did not provide the name.

Much has been said that the reason Stern is upset with Van Gundy is because he feels that his complaints give the NBA a bad name and make it look like games can be influenced by the referees. To which I say, yes the games are fixed and its about time somebody had the guts to say so. The real reason Stern is upset is because he is fearful of somebody exposing the leagues unfair approach to calling fouls on certain players and not calling fouls on other players.

The NBA is notorious for giving special treatment to their star players and for calling games so that teams from big cities do well. They are more concerned about TV ratings, Jersey sales and marketing their star players than they are about the fair treatment of teams and players. This is why Michael Jordan never fouled out of a game and why Shaq never gets called for charging even though he throws his shoulder into his opponent at every opportunity.

The NBA wants the Jordans and the Shaqs to do well. They also want LA, Chicago, and NY to win and will do whatever they can to manipulate the system to give them an advantage. Players who are not stars and who play for a small market team never get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to calling fouls. This is what makes it even more shocking that the Pistons were able to overcome this bias and beat the Lakers last year. To see this bias, one only needs to compare how the Pistons were treated by the NBA and the TV schedulers to how the Lakers were treated. If you didn't know better you would think the Lakers won last year because they were showcased and hyped by the league instead of the Pistons.

I hope Van Gundy sticks to his guns and tells David Stern what he can do with his $100,000 fine. Better yet, I hope he refuses to pay it. It would send a signal that the time has come for a change and help keep the spotlight on the NBA and their bias towards the teams they choose. The NBA would be much better off if they just called games evenly and treated each player the same. It would allow the best team to win and restore confidence to a lot of fans. David Stern's treatment of Jeff Van Gundy for daring to speak out on this chicanery does nothing more than fuel an already existing concern that the sport is corrupt.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Blind Dates and Boxing

It was another interesting weekend. Initially, my friend Ray's Mom was trying to set me up on a blind date with one of her friends. I have a bad history with blind dates. I am always amazed at why people would think I have anything in common with the person whom I am being set up with. But I told Ray I was open to it because at this point, I figure I have nothing to lose other than my dignity and a few hours on Saturday night.

I know it sounds sad the my dating life has become so bad that I have friend's moms trying to set me up with unsuspecting women. What's even sadder is that the women wasn't interested and decided not to do it. Now I am used to getting turned down on dates but usually it takes knowing me a few weeks. I didn't even get to use any of my boyish charm and good looks to win her over.

As it turns out, Ray and I went to the Golden Glove boxing state championship instead. We were waiting in the lobby debating whether or not to buy tickets because they were more expensive than we thought. I am trying to save money and Ray has always been thrifty with a buck. Anyways, out of the blue a guy comes up to me and asks me if I want his ticket for free. It was a very generous gesture and so we decided to stay and watch the boxing.

I had never seen boxing live and it was fun. The first match was between two women which was a little weird. I think I could probably take both of them. Of course they were only 119 pounds. Once the men started fighting the action got a lot better. I sat next to a drunk guy who kept wanting to wager a buck on each fight with me. Eventually, I took him up on it until he was all out money. At one point he was collecting all his loose change so he could continue betting with me. Some people never learn. Ray and I also were picking each fight but only for bragging rights. So I guess I can brag because I kicked his butt.

On the way home, I realized how lucky I am to have a friend like Ray. I have known him since junior high and we have gone through a lot together. He's a really good guy and we had a fun night together. It sure beat going on a blind date.