Perfectly PDX

Category: By Christian
One of the challenges I face whenever I head off to Portland to see my parents is getting in enough uniquely Portland experiences. There are certain activities that exude the West Coast Vibe that I find so elusive in the Midwest, and engaging in said activities provide me sufficient fuel for my own personal swagger. Over the course of a few days, it can be a challenge to rack up enough experiences to tide me over until my next trip.

Today, I hit the jackpot.

For lunch we headed off to Chinatown to hit up our favorite resuraunt. When we attended Chinese Baptist Church throughout grade school, we got plugged into some of the finer aspects of Asian-American culture in PDX. Dim Sum at Fong Chongs is certainly a highlight, even with a recent change in ownership. The dumpling feast is a must every trip out, and today did not disappoint.

After a nap and a few rounds of Guitar Hero III, it was off to coffee with a friend from high school. And while I can certainly have coffee in KC, it just isn't the same. Fair Trade rolls far deeper out here, as do free WiFi. It's one of the most advanced coffee cultures you will find in the country, as witness to by the fact that I was "doing coffee" in high school, well before there was even a single Starbucks in Kansas City.

The coup de grace however, occurred this evening. My father, my brother-in-law, his dad and myself attended a Portland Trail Blazers Game. The Blazers and I have a long and storied history, going back to when I was in grade school and my dad shared season tickets with another guy. The Blazers were my first love, and when I was not watching games in person I was listening to them on the radio. Every year I would memorize the media guide, and pictures of the players completely covered my walls.

When they moved into their new arena in 1997, I even had the opportunity to be a part of a city-wide choir that sang the national anthem before the first game. It was a dream come true.

Then I moved away, the Blazers fell on hard times, and I was forced to endure ridicule from my midwestern friends due to the Blazers' failings both on and off the court. They were bleak times for a longtime fan.

Even this season began without much hope. Greg Oden went down before the season even started. Suck. The losses mounted. But then things turned around as the boys pulled off 11 wins in a row going into tonight's game.

The arena was sold out, it was loud, and people weren't afraid to act silly. It was a grand night. Capped off with a victory that inspired people to continue to cheer even as they exited the arena, thus warming our spirits in spite of the frigid mist that was hanging in the air. Just like the good old days.

Somebody grab me a Brandon Roy jersey.

That's how Christian got his groove back.

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Executed to Perfection

Category: By Christian
I went to the mall yesterday. All of your criticisms are valid. Idiot. Sellout. Whatever other critique you would like to lob. I'll take it. But just know this. I had a plan and I executed it to perfection.

Prior to this trip, I was able to avoid treks to the mall. But as we were preparing to celebrate with my family and Portland, we realized we had not yet picked up one of the items on our list. My sister just got married this past fall and then are moving into a house later this month, so we figured a Macy's gift card would be a helpful and practical gift for them as they settle into life.

The downside to easing myself into the Christmas Season, I found myself in need of a last-minute trip to Macy's.

There was an aspect to the trip that was selfish. Having made my pilgrimage to Portland, I'll be danged if I'm not going to make regular trips out into public to be baptized by the mists of my birth town. But if you are going to go hang with the homies, you have to be smart about it.

I started my journey by winding through the side streets to get to the mall. I was not going to allow myself to get stressed by traffic. So I enjoyed the scenic drive, which I ended by parking across the street from the mall in overflow parking. The short walk was nice, and I saved a ton of time by not jockeying for one of the precious few parking spaces that were actually available.

As I entered the store, I walked straight past the first few registers I saw. Housewares was packed. Women's clothing was ridiculous. As I sashayed my shifty hips past all of the people lined up deep in these sections I attempted to hold back a smirk. Eventually, it stretched across my lips and I cot a little cocky. As I passed a guy who was standing with his wife at the tail end of a long line, I whispered into his ear. "Rookie". It wasn't very nice, but as my plan unfolded I couldn't help but to allow the pride line up.

With my target in sight I felt my pace quicken. I turned a corner, and was finally back in the men's suit section. I rightly assumed that (a) not many men would be returning suits the day after Christmas, (b) not many men would be purchasing suits the day after Christmas and (c) most shoppers would be so flustered by the frenzy of shopping that they would lose their sensibilities and not have the same foresight I had. Right, right and right. I stood in line at the register for 90 seconds behind an elderly couple, and stepped up to my place at the front of the line to procure the gift.

All told, I made it from the car, to the store and back to my car in less than 15 minutes. Nothing like writing out the blueprint for success and watching it materialize right before your eyes.

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1+365

Category: By Christian
Today we woke up at our leisure. There was no begging, no requests from Elli to get up early, no fight to get her down to bed the night before. It is very likely this is our last such Christmas experience for a number of years.

At two years and 21 days old, Elli has yet to grasp the concept of Santa. She is not fraught with anticipation to open presents on Christmas morning. There is nothing like an oblivious toddler. Her main focus this morning has been convincing Stacy's dad to take her outside to see the horse (that's right. at one point in time, Stacy actually asked for and received a pony). Eventually, we will open some presents, but Elli won't really be entranced by what is inside the colorful packages. Pass those scraps of paper over here so I can keep tearing them up, Dad.

By this time next year however, she will have a completely different awareness of the day, however. Which puts the pressure on Stacy and myself to spend the next 365 days (it's leap year, yo) building a healthy paradigm of what Christmas is about.

It is a conversation we have had off and on for a long time. How do we go counterculture and make sure our kids don't perceive Christmas as a consumer holiday where gluttony is the celebrated practice? What does it look like to push beyond a season that recognizes the secular trinity of Friends, Family and Fun, and into a season of intentional worship? How can we help our kids to realize that time of year is not about self, even though that is the message being preached consistently from Black Friday all the way up through Christmas Eve? It's hard to escape. But our hope and prayer is that we begin to develop family traditions around Advent that push us deeper and create in us an intentional awareness about what it means for God to break into history with a human-divine experience.

Immanuel. God is with us.

What a big job. Good thing we have a good chunk of time to work on it. We'll start in the morning.

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'Tis the Season

By Christian
Ahhhhh. December 24. That can only mean one thing.

The Iowa Carcases are just around the corner.

You're absolutely right. It just doesn't feel proper to have in-depth political discussion right now. We should be worshiping and celebrating, but we are locked in political discourse. We have to be. Primary season is upon us, and there are some mammoth decisions to be made.

Now that we all have a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, I'd like to take this opportunity to kindly request that everyone back off of Iowa's junk. Thank you.

This whole problem started when states began moving their primaries and caucuses up to allow for more prominent places at the political table. Iowa has always been first, New Hampshire has always been second, and South Carolina batted third. It was a nice system. Then Florida, Michigan and Wyoming decided to jump the gun and slide their processes up to garner more attention. Great move. I'm sure Wyoming is enjoying the sudden influx of political attention it has been getting. Oh, that's right. The ploy hasn't worked.

The sad fact of the matter is that the former system was good for everyone. IA, NH and SC were a nice representative slice of Americana. The farmland, the coastal elitists and the southerners. If a candidate could make it through that gauntlet, they had proven themselves worthy of being labeled "The Contender". That would weed out the field for the rest of us to pick between two or three candidates. It streamlined the process. It gave us a manageable amount of information to think through.

The fact of the matter is that for all of our shifting and clamoring, the rest of us don't have the stomach to do what IA, NH and SC do. We don't have the attention span to listen to candidates for numerous months prior to our primaries. On the whole, we haven't been conditioned to listen as closely to or ask the questions of candidates as the people in those three states have. That's the truth. And you can't handle the truth.

The other factor in my defence of Iowa is that their caucus system is deep. It's a very complicated system, but one of its upsides is that it forces you to think about the candidate you most support, as well as the candidate who you would want to be your second choice. There is a depth to the process that it helpful in years where there are innumerable candidates.

My proposal is that we move Iowa, New Hampshire and SC back. Get them out of the Christmas celebration. Then, move everyone else to a Super Duper Tuesday the first Tuesday in February. Then, nobody's voice is eliminated, but we have a more manageable system.

Consider it my Christmas present to the political establishment.

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Meanderings of a Recluse

Category: By Christian
It's always an odd sensation to come off of a 3 day silence and solitude retreat. Before I left, I remember thinking that I would come back and have to bust out a handful of blog entries to get all of the thoughts out of my head that had not had the chance to escape via my mouth. But then the opposite happened. I was so used to being quiet, that I had to ease my way back into the land of the expressed word. Even Wed evening when I was having dinner with Stacy and Elli, I realized that a good period of time had gone passed as we sat there together where I had not said anything.

Very early the next morning, I had to get up and force myself out of my hiatus, however. Whenever we travel as a family for Christmas, we have a little private celebration the night before we leave. Since we are heading out of town tonight to make stops in both Central Kansas and Oregon, I had to finish up my gift for Stacy.

For the better part of a year, I've been writing her a book. It was somewhat challenging, because I was trying my hardest to work on it when she was either sleeping or not around the house. And after early intentions of having friends proof-read my writings, I made the call early on in the process to just edit my writings myself and present them to Stacy as my pure thoughts. A noble thought, though very difficult in practice. While all 24000 words make sense to me, there is no telling if there will be any coherency to a second reader. I guess we'll find out as she works through it this week. She should get the gist, seeing as though it is the story of us and our dogs and our relationship with God.

In a fortunate turn of events, I could not have picked a better year to give my best Christmas gift ever. That is because Stacy pulled out all of the stops. We tend to keep Christmas low key at our house, but she decided to surprise me by getting me a new smoker. Not just any new smoker, but the Weber Smokey Mountain.

I had had my eye on this particular beauty for a while, but was thinking I'd try to get my hands on one next summer. I dropped zero hints that it was the desire of my heart. Yes, I did mention it once on the blog, but Stacy doesn't read the blog. Too busy saving lives.

It is not so much that she bought me the smoker, it is what the gift symbolizes. It demonstrates that she is a willing accomplice in my plan for meat smoking glory. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

When we get back, we'll have to have a nice little christening ceremony, as well as a memorial service for my old smoker. I think I shall name this new beauty Darth. It seems fitting.

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Hiatus

Category: By Christian
Welcome to my three day blogging hiatus. This morning I am heading off with the rest of The Hope Center staff to go on a three day silence and solitude retreat. We go on a handful of single day retreats throughout the year, and take an extended one between our two semesters. Last year it was in January, which made my schedule feel very claustrophobic as we we had a ton of stuff to do to get ready for the fall semester, so this year we tried moving it to January. While it does mean I'm missing out on a Christmas party tonight and will find myself a little bit behind on holiday travel preparations when I return later in the week, it is nice to have a little advent listening break. It should be good

Thus, no blogs until Thursday. I will have a good deal of reading and writing to do when I get back, I'm sure.

Before I go, let us celebrate this day. After three putrid years of basketball, preceded by four mediocre years, I do believe my beloved Portland Trail Blazers are turning things around. They have won 7 games in a row, they are at .500 1/4 of the way into the season, and they are doing it without Greg Oden and with a bunch of upstanding citizens. I don't know if they will still be over .500 when I reemerge later this week, so I just thought I'd chronicle this moment for us all.

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Sorting it All Out

By Christian
This week sees the final debates before the first Presidential primaries take place on January 4. With the decimation of my favorite sports radio station last week I have been listening to a lot more news radio. Additionally, being holed up for a few days last week with the ice storms raging outside and a baby with pneumonia inside, I was afforded with the opportunity to catch up with the last couple of issues of the weekly news magazine that we subscribe to. This convergence of events has resulted in my spending time trying to figure out which issues are really important to me as we head into this season of primaries and rooting for particular candidates.

**I think the issue I will give the most credence to is not really an "issue" per se. It's more of a skill. As I look at America and what we need to see accomplished over the next four years, my perception is that we need someone who will have great skill in international diplomacy. Someone who can broker deals and mediate conflicts and work well with others when necessary. I remember thinking before the 2000 election that Bush seemed like a nice enough guy, but that he was really lacking in foreign policy experience. If our biggest issue was going to be our relationship with Mexico, then we would be cool. As it turned out, there were much bigger issues and he failed to surround himself with advisers who could carry him through. Eight years later, we're in a pretty bad place on the world stage. As China continues to emerge and we are really needing Iran and Pakistan to be relatively stable, we need someone who can spin all of those plates and rebuild our credibility.

**The above point makes me really worry about the prospect of Obama being president. He has been very aggressive already with his comments on Pakistan and China, and I think that could hinder his ability to work with them in the long run. I understand why people like him, however. I also understand why his message really appeals to people who are big fans of Oprah. However, he probably would have been well served to sit this election out and continue to strengthen his prophetic message of social change while getting more foreign policy experience. Actually, a VP role might fit him really well.

**At this point, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani are the only candidates I am rooting against. That's pretty good, as far as keeping a positive attitude about politics goes.

**Domestically, I'd like to see someone with strong ideas for health care reform. There is a saying here around the Hope Center that health care, housing and education are the three biggest injustices in our society right now. The thing about health care is that we are really close to it taking a huge bit into the middle class, which would cause a weakening of the middle class that could be seriously detrimental to our already fragile economy. I had a professor who was sceptical that we could get this problem fixed however, "before the blood of the middle class is flowing down the streets."

**We need to get spending in check. I'm a proponent that we get Iraq put back together before we completely vacate it, and think about doing something similar in Afghanistan. However, our supplemental budget is spiraling out of control, so we do need to cut back in some other areas before we get too much more in debt to China.

**I really don't understand fully why the Republican base doesn't like John McCain more. I have some additional thoughts that I'd like to flesh out on that in a later post. Elli and I were really impressed by him in both the YouTube and the MTV debates, however.

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Snicker

Category: By Christian
We had our huge Christmas party at The Hope Center last night, so I crashed at a coffee shop this morning to catch up on some assignments. Another day, another humorous situation with mild sexual undertones.

For the record, I was at a different coffee shop than the one I was at a couple of weeks ago. This place is near where Elli stays while we are at work, so it's pretty convenient. I've been in a couple of times, and the same dude is typically working when I'm in there.

Today there were quite a few people in the shop when I got there, but as I worked the place emptied out. Soon, it was just me and the barista. So I'm typing along, minding my own business, when the guy starts singing to the music that is playing on the store's PA system. No big deal, right? I guess. Except that he is singing loud. And the song is Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing.

By the time the song is half over, dude is just belting it out in a pseudo-falsetto. Perhaps he forgot I was sitting there. Perhaps he knew I was there and he was just so comfortable with himself and overcome by Marvin's smooth stylings that he just couldn't help himself. Perhaps he was serenading me. Who knows?

All I know is, it took everything in my power to not just start busting up laughing. Regardless of which of the three above scenarios was the true circumstance of this impromptu concert, laughing uncontrollably would have been a bad move. So I sat and sipped my chai and continued with my work as my barista sang.

But I did laugh on the inside.

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The Darndest Things

Category: By Christian
You never know what kids are going to say. Sometimes their thoughts unintentionally border on hilarity, and other times they show great wisdom. Two vignettes from my experiences with my boys last week...

**One of the boys got out of school early last Wed, so we hung out. As we were driving around we rolled into our neighborhood and he noticed something that didn't make sense to him. "Why are there so many check cashing stores on this block?" Great question. Something that I typically wouldn't expect a 9 year old to understand. The answer that I gave him was that it appeared a lot of people could make money with stores like that. Some day, however, he'll come to understand that you can legally gouge people with obscene interest rates in poor neighborhoods. If you are middle- or upper-class and you make a poor investment by buying a home with a variable interest rate, and the government will bail you out so that our economy doesn't go down the toilet. If you are poor, then they look the other way as you get buried under that 30% interest rate. When he comes to understand that, I hope he becomes an agent for change.

**On a lighter note, a couple of my boys were having a playful tussle in my backseat on the way home from a movie. One of them decided to up the trash talk with a threat.
Kid: If you don't stop messing with me, I'm going to smack you back to your mother's room.
Me: Uh. Bro. Don't you mean "mother's womb"?
Kid: What's a womb?
Technically, smacking you back to your mother's room would require a much harder smack than the one that would send you to your mother's womb, seeing as though the activity that causes you to appear in your mother's womb typically happens in your mother's room. Something tells me that he didn't understand all of the implications of his statement, however.

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Fun New Game

Category: , By Christian
I've been playing a fun new game this past week. It starts whenever one of my Christian friends asks me what I am doing today. I pretend to ponder the question for just a brief moment, and then I casually announce that I'm taking some kids to see "The Golden Compass".

It is at this point in the conversation where my friends begin to aspirate. Pandemonium ensues. I jump in with a huge smile and a peppy "just kidding!!", right before anyone passes out and gets a nasty bump on the head.

I consider myself to be fairly well-read, so I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Phillip Pullman or "The Golden Compass" prior to last week. What an ignorant dolt I must be. I only mention it so that we are all clear that I'm forming all of my following opinions on second-hand knowledge.

My initiation into this fantastic public debate occurred in the friendly confines of Facebook. One of my friends joined a group entitled "Do NOT support 'The Golden Compass'". I clicked on the link to see what in tarnation was going on, to find that the group had over 120,000 members and that its homepage contained a link to a very fair and balanced story from Fox News.

What I can surmise from my fact-gathering mission is this: my fellow Evangelicals are mad that Hollywood has a pro-athiest agenda. They are calling for us to boycott TGC as a sign of solidarity that we will not support a trilogy of movies based on fictional books that culminate with kids killing god so that they can do whatever they want to do.

I agree that Hollywood has an agenda. It's called money. If bare breasts and swear words sell, they will release movies with bare breasts and swear words. If movies based on a series of books written by a well-known Christian author will sell a gaggle of tickets, they will release such a movie. If a movie will cause Christians to raise such a ruckus that the movie gets tons of free advertising in the form of newspaper stories and tv news debates, they will release such movies.

That's right, friends. You are once again masterfully filling your role as puppet.

It's like I always say...When Hollywood sends you limes, squeeze the juice into your rum and coke and relax.

The last time I checked, people really like to do whatever they want. Not only that, but there are 4 books in my bible dedicated to a story of how people wanted to kill god so that they could do whatever they wanted. And you know what? They actually killed god.

***Spoiler Alert***
Unlike TGC, that isn't the end of the story. Jesus rises again. Truth wins. Grace wins. Love wins. God wins.
***End Spoiler Alert***

So my question is, why don't we just use this movie to our advantage? As someone who works with adolescents, I think there would be great value in watching the films with ensuing discussions on how they fit into a Christian worldview. Here's a question...what would really happen if we succeeded in permanently killing God and doing whatever we wanted? How do we try to kill God every day to do what we want? How is the god in TGC fundamentally different from the God we worship?

I mean, honestly people. In the process of trying to make money Hollywood is throwing you a softball here. Right over the middle of the plate.

There is a good chance that Pullman's trillogy will be required reading in our home when our kids hit middle school. We will read the books together. We will talk about them. We won't get our underwear all up in a bunch. We will grow together and have respectful conversation about who our God is and how we can better serve that God.

Chill out...Don't trip...

Do...Not...Trip

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New Feature

Category: By Christian
The blog got a much-needed makeover this week. Just a little visual sprucing, along with a nice practical feature. I've always struggled with what I should do with interesting and funny content that I come across on the internet. If someone has already blogged it, I don't particularly like recycling it on my own blog. But at the same time, there is some stuff out there that needs to be shared.

Enter Google's Shared Items feature.

I have become a huge fan of feeds for my favorite blogs. Google has a nice reader application that allows me to subscribe to blogs and have the posts neatly organized in a gmail interface for me as entries are posted. It is especially convenient for keeping with those people who are not regular in their blogging habits. Instead of being frustrated every time I check their blog to find that it has been neglected for a period of time, I am delighted when their newest entry pops up in my reader.

One of the features of the reader that is particularly helpful is the ability to "share" my favorite entries. Then, I can hook the feed straight into a widget on my own blog (look to the right) and share various entries with others. Who knows. You might click on something over there that you like and get hooked on a new blog.

Now if you are like me and you use a reader, you can rock this link and get the feed updated to your reader. Tight.

This is reason #24 that I have a crush on google, and yet another cause for my eternal damnation if google is indeed the mark of the beast.

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Tha Deuce

Category: By Christian


It was two years ago today. Elli was born in Vietnam, coming into this world at 2.2 pounds. We were already four months into the adoption process. It would be another three months before she would leave the hospital, and one more month after that before he existence would be brought to our attention.

I always get pretty sentimental and emotional on Elli's birthday. And by "always", I refer specifically to 12.4.06 and 12.4.07. There are a rush of thoughts and feelings about what it means for me to father, and what it means to have the privilege of having Elli in my life.

It is that paradigm that was the backdrop to our daily Lectio time at work today. We were reading Psalm 139, and I was struck by verses 13 - 16

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.


Pretty tight. As we let those words sit in space today, I couldn't help but imagine Elli praying that prayer to God. Looking back on the vulnerability of her early days and comparing it to her current vibrancy and being so thankful for the characteristics of God that are evident in her life. I really hope she has that perspective and that conversation with God someday.

On a lighter note, the other day Stacy looked at Elli and I and remarked, "She is definitely your daughter."

The cause for such an observation is Elli's new found passion for meat. The child has never been a big eater, but whenever she sees barbecue she goes bonkers. A couple of weeks ago I pulled ribs and chicken off the grill and she started absolutely begging for food. It was really funny, seeing as though she hasn't really mastered multi-word sentences yet. She resorted to a chorus of, "Chick'n! Chick'n! Snack! Chick'n! Please! Snack!"

She was serious, too. When we finally sat down for dinner she polished off two ribs and an entire chicken thigh. I was so proud.

Stacy and I decided that she must realize how much effort I put into my meat ventures, because kids her age aren't nearly so carnivorous. I figure there is some truth in that. She will typically help me check on the smoker, and she knows she isn't supposed to touch it since it's so hot. Whenever she sees it in the garage, she reminds me that it is indeed hot. I've almost got her calling it by name, but not quite.

Granted, she still has some things to learn. Like the other day when I was prepping a couple of racks of ribs and she started with the "Ribs! Ribs!" refrain. Sorry, kid. We cook our pork before we eat it. Granted, we slow cook it for 4-12 hours depending on the cut, but we cook it.

All I have to say is, chip off the old block.

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Irony is Not Lost

Category: , By Christian
One year ago, an new station appeared on the KC radio scene. It was a fantastic day. For the first time in my Kansas City experience, there was a radio station dedicated solely to ESPN Radio. 24 hours every day of glorious national sports radio piped in from Bristol, Connecticut. I was thrilled, and listened to the radio station more than any other on the dial. 97.3 was my wonderland.

It was fun while it lasted.

Today I jumped in the car with Elli and flipped to 97.3, anticipating one of Colin Cowherd's rants on the BCS pairing. Lo and behold, no sports to be found on my FM dial. But wait. It gets worse.

What do you suppose they replaced my favorite station with? No, not country music. No, no. Not industrial metal, either. You guessed it. KLOVE Christian radio. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

For the record, I am not against music the glorifies God. Quite to the contrary. It's simply that the stuff that is played on "Christian Radio" does not tickle my eardrums. Just don't care for it. Most of it sounds canned and cheesy to me, and I resent that we insist on creating a Christian Music ghetto where we put artists in a box and sanctify them by applying a stamp of squeaky clean approval on them.

The whole situation is surreal. Sports sold out to the Christian Marketplace for the first time ever, and I'm crushed. Someone please rescue me from Bizzaro World.


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Sesame Street Revisited

Category: By Christian
As a young lad I was obsessed with Sesame Street. I insisted on watching both the morning and afternoon episodes on our local PBS affiliate, regardless of the fact that both episodes were identical. It didn't matter. The lights, the songs, the funny sounding puppets. It was certainly worth the price of admission.

Fortunately for me, now that Elli is practically two I have a socially acceptable excuse for once again enjoying the residents of what is undoubtedly the most wonderful street in all of the land. And as an adult watching the most venerable kids show in the history of television, I have come to note some very interesting aspects of the 2007 incarnation of Sesame Street. Some are positive. Some, not so much.

First of all, the show is stinkin' funny. I really try not to laugh out loud, but it's impossible. There are some great jokes in there that go well beyond the 2-year-old head, but land squarely in the middle of my head. Perhaps the funniest of all the muppets on the show is Elmo. Kudos to the little red man.

One noticeable difference from my years of watching SS as a young boy is that Elmo has a far more prominent role. In fact, he gets an entire segment of the show to himself from 9:40-10:00 every day. It's a very fine segment, though I can't help but think that it makes all of the other muppets terribly jealous.

Perhaps that is why Big Bird was so off of his game today. He and Elmo were singing a song about the number 3, and his lip synch was mad off. I was less than impressed. The funny thing is that I have been paying particular note to the puppeteering skills on the show, and I must admit that they are usually outstanding. Big Bird better pick it up.

If I had to pick two characters that I want to have nothing to do with Elli's development they would certainly be Bert and Cookie Monster. Bert has a horrible attitude. That cat needs a massage. And you would think that after 30 years on a grammar show, Cookie Monster would have picked up a tip or two. Dude's grammar is awful. Me want Cookie? That's not a correct sentence.

Overall though, the show is still a 10. Any show that gives you the Elmo and Alicia Keys duet is off the chain.

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Long Term Relationship

Category: By Christian
926 days. That's it. That's all the longer we have to wait for the kick-off of World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

My relationships with previous World Cups have been less than chivalrous. Brief rendezvous that lasted for a month and then were relegated to the back burner. For that, I beg forgiveness.

But more than that, I admit that I have turned over a new leaf. I've been following the international futbol scene hardcore since WC 2006 ended, and I'm proud to announce that WC 2010 and I are doing well in our long term relationship.

While most of America was concerned with football of the American variety (present company included), there were a number of developments on the futbol front. A flurry of announcements came out of South Africa as FIFA held meetings and ceremonies in the country. Among the big events this weekend:

**Preliminary Qualifying Draw: I actually watched this event live on the internet before going to church on Sunday morning. As of Sunday, there were 170 countries that were eligible to qualify for WC2010. I mean, it's not like you just show up at the local rec center and sign your team up for the biggest sporting event in the world. You register with FIFA, and then you are required to play other teams on your continent to earn your way into the field of 32. Each continent has a different qualifying procedure, but all of the delegates gathered in South Africa to find out who they would have to play in order to progress through the qualification process. Things are looking good for The US, not so much for Canada. I really do hope the Canadian's make it, but they are really going to have to kick it into high gear if that is going to be the case.

**Schedule Release: While we don't know who will be in the tournament, we do know when matches will be held in each city. The way it is setting up, it might be a good idea to just camp out in Johannesberg and try to see as many matches there as possible. They have two host stadiums in the city, one of which holds 90,000 people. Plus, it's close to two other cities that are hosting matches.

**Ticket Info: The first phase of ticket sales begins in February of 2009. That's just a little over a year away. Wowza. One of the interesting aspects to ticketing this year is how they are addressing the issue of getting tickets into the hands of South Africans. FIFA is holding back 15% of the ticket inventory (about 450,000 tickets) for sales to South Africans, and they are slashing the lowest price from the $51 they went for in 2006 to $20. The kicker is that only South Africans will be able to purchase the $20 tickets. Of that block of tickets, 120,000 will be given away for free to South Africans. Even though it will make it harder for me to get tickets, I really love the idea. Making the tournament accessible to the hosts in this first World Cup to be played on African soil has got to be a priority. It should make for a fantastic atmosphere, and is a great equalizer.

I gotta admit. All of the announcements and festivities got me pumped. We'll have to see if everything falls into place.

Fair Dinkum
 

Troubling Developments

Category: By Christian
I have perused multiple toy catalogs over the past couple of weeks. With Christmas fast approaching, every store in America is trying to get you to enter their doors and leave with a sack full of high-priced goodies. An interesting development, many toys I played with as a young child are now becoming popular once again. Cabbage Patch Kids. My Little Pony. Care Bears. As I am now a father, I have the opportunity to nostalgically relive my childhood through my own daughter. What a gift.

But then my eyes gazed upon a product that was very disturbing to me. It fell under the category I will call "Mythic Synchretism". This category includes toys that are mash-ups of two toy franchises into one, easy to play with toy. But this time they've gone to far.

I present to you...(stop reading if you have a weak stomach)...Star Wars Transformers
I know. I know. I too am totally appalled. Not only that, but I now have the daunting task ahead of me of preserving true Star Wars Mythology. I dread the day when I will have to explain to my kids, "No, no, no honey. Han and Chewbacca DRIVE the Millennium Falcon. They don't turn INTO the Falcon." Talk about an awkward conversation no father looks forward to having with his kids. It's probably time for us to start showing the Classic Trilogy on a weekly basis to make sure Elli knows her orthodox Star Wars history.

Talk about a disservice to society. Where will it end, I ask. Where will the insanity end?

Fair Dinkum
 

This is What Saturdays Are Made For

By Christian
It's Man Day at the Dashiell house, though Elli will be helping out with the festivities today. Hour upon glorious hour of sport and meat. The rundown:

**Right Now!!! - Blogging, getting ready to read the paper, sipping coffee. I have a pork shoulder out on the smoker already (it was on by 7am), and have even rigged up a little insulation system to keep my cooking time on pace. Such things are necessary when it is 29 degrees outside and snow is lightly fluttering from the sky. The early futbol match from England (Liverpool v. Newcastle) is on the tele.

**11am - One of the kids I work with LOVES soccer. Since the sport is not always supported in the inner city, he's coming over with one of the adult leaders from the class to catch the ManU match from England later today.

**2:30pm - both Oregon/UCLA and UConn/WVirginia kickoff. I'd much rather get the Oregon game out here as they still have a legit shot at the Rose Bowl, but we're getting the Big East matchup instead. Truth be told, it's the more marquee game with two ranked teams. Plus, it has huge implications, because a WV win should put them at number two in the BCS and have them on a collision course to play in the National Championship Game against the winner of...

**7pm - Kansas/Missouri. The fellas are going to be in the house for what is probably the biggest football game ever in this city. Bitter rivals. Everything on the line for both teams. It'll be sick. Stacy is rocking her KU scrubs today, Elli will be decked out in her Jayhawk onesie, and I'll be sporting the throwback KU jersey. We'll have the ribs and pulled pork done by then, and a game of Risk will be waiting in the wings just in case the game turns into a blowout.

Have a great Saturday. I hope it is as great as mine. Go Kansas.

Fair Dinkum
 

Because You Neeeeed It

Category: , By Christian
The Christmas Story. Quite possibly, one of my favorite non-religious yultide traditions. The Red Rider toy gun, the little boy unable to stand up because of his over-restrictive winter onesie, the tongue getting stuck to the flag pole on the double-dog-dare. So many beautiful memories wrapped up into one glorious two-hour package that is repeated 12 times straight on Christmas Eve thanks to our good friends at TBS.

Haven't you always wanted to relive just a moment from the film? I know I sure have. But alas, I don't want to go to the hospital for frostbite on my tongue. I don't want to get my mouth washed out with soap. I'm against guns, so that whole beebee deal is a no go.

But halt! Fate has stepped in and provided the opportunity for life to imitate art. Right now, at deepdiscount.com, for the low low price of $85.95 both you and I can procure our very own leg lamp. What glorious opportunities doth behold us in this first day after Thanksgiving. It's at times like this where only the words of the foremost contemporary philosopher can adequately frame how fortunate we are.

To quote Napoleon Dynamite..."Lucky!"

Fair Dinkum
 

What I'm Thankful For

Category: By Christian
Preparing the Thanksgiving turkey at 6:30am provided opportunity for me to be deeply philosophical. There are a lot of people who contribute to Thanksgiving celebrations, but don't get nearly enough thanks. Those fine people who toil behind the scenes, but whose efforts get overlooked. Today, I take time out to thank one of those fine people.

A hearty "thank you" to whoever put the bag of giblets inside my turkey. I salute you.

The thought came to me as I plunged my hand into the chilly innards of my turkey carcass. Somebody had to put that bag of giblets in there. But do they ever get any love? No. Typical protocol is to mockingly schlep the giblets onto the one elderly person at Thanksgiving dinner who actually enjoys them. The other option is an unceremonious toss into the trash can.

I didn't want the giblet stuffer's efforts to go to waste. I pondered what to do with them for a while, then finally settled on providing my loved dogs with a Thanksgiving treat. The ceremony was respectful and well received. I did get a little frustrated when Zeke took his giblet portion to the carpet to enjoy in private, but I lived.

On a related giblet note, I came to the realization that the giblet bag pulled from my turkey probably did not contain the actual giblets that belonged to that turkey. I doubt that they pulled the giblets, bagged them and immediately placed them back with their original owner. And, as far as I could tell, there were not tracking devices or markings on either the bird nor it's giblets. Thus, the likely scenario is that giblets are removed, thrown into a giblet bin and then later divvied up.

Which leads me to the conclusion that on the off-hand chance turkeys get resurrected at the second coming of Christ that there will be a pretty dramatic situation going down in the frozen poultry isle at your local grocer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fair Dinkum
 

Maiden Voyage

Category: By Christian
My culinary resume is growing quite robust. The Asian section is looking good thanks to tutelage from a theology prof and his wife, not to mention spending my formative years at Chinese Baptist Church. Italian is easy. We all know about my performance in the outdoor meats category. And let us not forget that I can grill a mean pizza with honey whole wheat crust.

But there is one substantial void in my past performance: I have never had the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I know. I can hardly consider myself an adequate cook. But tomorrow, all of that changes.

Not since 1998 have I had Thanksgiving dinner in my own home. I never traveled back to Portland for the holiday during college, and the tradition in Stacy's family is to go to her Grandparent's house on Thanksgiving. It's hardly good manners to elbow an elderly woman off of her own stove in order to prove your worth in the kitchen.

This year we find ourselves tethered to Kansas City by the demands of Stacy's schedule, however. The 30-hour shift that begins at 6am on Thursday followed by another 30-hour shift on Saturday really puts a dent in your opportunity to travel. And instead of leaving the dinner responsibilities to the hospital cafeteria, a fellow husband and myself decided to take on the duties and bring the meal to the hospital.

The meal has been meticulously planned, and the tasks divided up. On this eve of Thanksgiving, I find myself excited. My contributions to our meal are as follows:

*Turkey - I wanted to smoke one, but it's currently far too cold outside for such endeavors. Something about 32 degrees and light precipitation makes me feel as though going outside numerous times in the middle of the night would be a poor life decision. As such, we are going to rock the baked turkey with the apricot glaze.

*Sweet Potatoes - No canned yams here, holmes. Elli and I picked up the real deal sweet potatoes in the produce section yesterday. We have a solid recipe lined up, complete with marshmallows.

*Green Bean Casserole - This dish is not from scratch. I would have been game, but the idea of frying onions myself made me a little nervous. Plus, my only assistance is going to be Elli, so at some point in time I needed to make sure I wasn't over-committing myself.

*The Best Jello Dish in the History of Humanity - cherry jello + pomegranate juice+ fruit + whipped topping complete with cinnamon and nutmeg = a sensation equal to that on one thousand fairies dancing across my tongue. How else would it be able to bump the famed Watergate salad from the menu?

*Rolls - alas, also not from scratch. Sorry.

I dare say, we'll have a nice little spread. And if you can't tell, I'm more than a little excited for this rite of passage.

Fair Dinkum
 

Tricky Game of Dominoes

Category: , By Christian
Interesting story in the Star, yesterday. For years, people have been screaming that the sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine and crack cocaine are racist. Those people were right. According to the article, "previously, a single gram of crack cocaine triggered the same punishment as 100 grams of powder cocaine. Crack penalties routinely were as much as eight times longer." The kicker is that crack is more widely used by poor black people, while powder coke has a rich white customer base.

So now, the penalties are getting evened out. Great. The judicial system is making itself pretty vulnerable by essentially admitting that things haven't been fair for a while. But that vulnerability is just one domino that is now knocking a whole bunch of other dominoes over and creating some interesting questions.

Namely: should inmates previously sentenced under the old guidelines have their sentences adjusted?

My first reaction is that if you are going to adjust the guidelines, you should not punish people just because they got caught before the reformation. So, working under the premise that convicts might get their sentences adjusted, there are a handful of measures I would like to see taken...

*Communicate to these inmates that they are not being absolved of their guilt. Their sentences are just being made more fair.
*Look at ways to differentiate the street-level dealer from the high-end trafficker.
*What would happen if you took the money, or even a portion of the money, being saved by releasing these inmates and use it for a very intentional and very structured rehabilitation program? The fact of the matter is that if we just release there folks to the streets, they will probably resort to these crimes again for the sake of survival.

Just some things to think about.

Fair Dinkum
 

Return The Tights

Category: , By Christian
There is a time in every young boy's life when he daydreams about what it might be like to be a superhero. Having some ability that would afford you the opportunity to leap into action and do good for others while thwarting the schemes of evil doers. Throwing on the tights and cape and really doing something good for society.

I had my shot at superherodom the other day, sans the multi-colored tights/underwear combo. I was sitting in my office, and I heard something outside of my window. A manifestation of a super ability, one might say. I hopped up to take a peek, and what do I see? A man I do not recognizing stooping behind my friend's jeep to remove the licence plate.

There has been an outbreak of this sort of activity in our parking lot recently. It's an easy snatch, and you can turn some quick coin on hot plates, so they are very tempting. Just another day, livin' in the 'hood.

Recognizing this as an opportunity to save all of humanity, I lept into action. I paged one of my co-workers and the next thing you know there are people running and screaming all over the building. Two people ran outside to confront the guy, while I ran to another phone to call the police. Eventually, one of the people who ran outside was able to track the gentleman down and retrieve the plates with little drama.

When everything was said and done, it took a moment to catch my breath. The adreniline rush was incredible, but then it all faded into a mist of gloom. As good as one might anticipate such a deed might make one feel, the opposite was the result.

I found myself glum at the fact that life had run me smack dab into the path of a broken and desperate person stuck in systems and cycles of dysfunction, but there was little to be done about it. Sure, we saved my friend some money and a trip to the DMV, but other than that what else was accomplished? Nothing much, except for a reminder that things are never as simple as they seem.

So, I'm returning my tights. I don't want to be a superhero anymore. I don't want to zoom from scene to scene putting out fires and wrestling Lex Luther into submission. I'd far rather be in a place where I can process society's ailments when they smack me in the face, and figure out what I'm called to do in light and in spite of them.

Fair Dinkum
 

Open Letter to Sam Brownback

Category: By Christian
Dear Senator Brownback,

I owe you an apology, sir. We have had an hot-and-cold relationship ever since you started making your presidential aspirations known, and now that you have withdrawn from the presidential race I find myself reflective.

Back in the Fall of '05 it became apparent to me that you wanted to run this country. You found yourself on the front page of the newspaper as you spoke out against the Harriet Meyer nomination, and a few months later you found yourself profiled in Rolling Stone. You were positioning yourself well with all of the free publicity, but I had my doubts. Other than both of us having Kansas drivers licenses, I anticipated us having much in common. The metropolitan black guy who was an independent voting registered Deomocrat and the conservative Republican from rural America seemed like odd companions.

But the more you talked, the more I was impressed with the platform that you were running on. AIDS awareness. Prison Reform. Fair economic practices. Human dignity. It was all so refreshing and different from the other political conversations taking place, and it really resonated with where I find myself in my attempts to know God and live a life that honors God.

People kind of freaked out when I would casually drop my Brownback bomb in political conversations. It was as thought they thought I had been body-snatched. Even as I explained to them why I'd totally vote for you, I don't think anyone ever left the conversation completely believing my stance.

But then I didn't do enough. You were the candidate I was praying would show up on the scene, and I should have been screaming from the hilltops that you were here. You were going to be our Neo. You were going to be our Luke Skywalker. And instead, you were one of the first Republican candidates to drop out of the race. Apparently, you platform of grace and mercy and good news doesn't sit that well with voters. We're too concerned with finding the candidate that will be the "toughest on terrorism" (read: "who will go start more wars"). Go figure.

The whole ordeal came to an exasperating conclusion when I read your editorial yesterday in the Kansas City Star. As I sat there, I uttered a mild profanity toward myself for not sending you money, not putting a banner on my blog, not putting up a sign in my yard, not doing something more. I went back to the article last night and mentioned to my wife that we should have sent you money. She said whatever we sent wouldn't have been enough. I started reading segments of the article out loud to her, and her opinion changed. "We should have sent him all of our money," was the conclusion she came to.

Mr. Brownback, you have some great hopes for this country of ours. I hope that your passion and vision will come to be shared by others in the political establishment, and that your ideas will rub off on others. I wish you the best in your future endeavors, and promise to be a more vocal supporter of yours should the opportunity arise again.

Fair Dinkum

Christian Dashiell
 

Rethinking Socialized Medicine

Category: By Christian
Over the last few days I've been rethinking my stance on socialized medicine. Perhaps it would be a bad idea. While I haven't been fully converted, I must admit that there is very compelling evidence to stop lobbying for such change. Take the commercials below, for instance. Without socialized medicine, insurance companies would not be making boatloads of money. They could not afford to hire brilliant advertising firms to put out quality work such as what follows. The first commercial was emailed to me a couple of years ago, and still stands as the funniest I have ever seen. There are a couple of links following that will take you to the Youtube pages of the other commercials.

Whenever you are feeling melancholy or despondent, these will brighten your disposition. My advice is to spread out your viewing of them so that each one can have its full effect. If you're like me, you'll probably watch each one 30 times before going on to the next one.



Number II

Number III

Number IV
 

Happy Aniversary

Category: By Christian
If I would have known, you would have received a card in the mail this week. But nobody told me until I saw it in the paper this morning, so you will have to settle for a public proclamation of my undying affection on my blog.

Happy 20th Anniversary Princes Bride!!!

All of humanity is indebted to Rob Reiner for his direction in this film. It is certainly a classic for people my age, and I hope that the generations to come get to enjoy it as much as I did. And believe me, I enjoyed it a lot.

There came a time in the mid-1990's when viewing of Princess was almost banned in our home. During those years there was a cable TV station that owned the rights to the film (I can't remember if it was TNT, TBS, or USA...they're all the same), and they showed it all of the time. So whenever my sister and I were looking for something to do and nothing else was on the old boob tube, we could always find Princess. The only way that movie could have gotten more run is if it had its own channel, which some might argue it did.

We watched Princess so much that the image of Fred Savage was permanently burned into our tv. Just kidding. But the viewings did give us occasion to frequently hone our acting talents after the comedic genius that is Andre the Giant. I'm not exactly sure how many times, "Anybody want a peanut?" was uttered in our home, but it was certainly in the quadruple digits.

All of this led to my father very nearly having a nervous breakdown due to an inability to escape Rodents of Unusual Size and bad British accents. But then his kids got lives and started having more diverse interests, so we only watched Princess once each month. Nothing like cutting back. Breakdown averted.

Fair Dinkum
 

HA!

Category: By Christian
I had some studying to do yesterday, so I holed up in a local coffee shop to get some work done. It is a quaint little place called The Filling Station, which used to be a car repair shop. It has the huge glass garage doors that they open up on nice days, and they have splendid fresh juices and wraps. Granted, I have to get the hot chocolate there since they don't ride the Fair Trade bus, but that's ok. (mom, please don't read the next two sentences) The whole experience is pretty nostalgic for me, because it reminds me of a place that my friends and I used to go to in high school when we didn't feel like going to study hall my senior year. I'm pretty sure they have since knocked down that wonderful place and replaced it with a Starbucks. It adds good balance to the road, since there is another Starbucks right across the street.

Anyway, so the fun begins in earnest when my computer finally boots up and asks me which wireless network I would prefer to connect to. While I am certainly going to connect to The Filling Station's network, I take a moment to peruse all of the available networks. As I'm checking these options out, I realize that the name of your network can say a lot about who you are (or in the least, who you want to be). So, if you could be friends with just one of the owners of the available networks, which one would you pick?

"Apple Network" - This person is obviously cool. They are living in one of the nearby trendy lofts which is decked out with swanky postmodern minimist decor. They have fashionable glasses and an iPhone.

"Crowley" - This person is very outgoing, and wants everyone to know who they are. Sounds kinda like a glory hog, to me.

"Mine" - Well, well, well. Aren't we selfish?

"MLK Net" - Socially conscious, justice oriented. Good grasp of history.

"Urban Linksys" - Enjoys living in the city, but not for the same reasons or toward the same ends as MLK Net.

"Two Naked Chicks" - I'm not joking about this one. Other than that, I have no comment.

Fair Dinkum
 

Vigilante Socialism

Category: By Christian
You've heard me lament the fact that our country does not have a socialized health care system. If you are willing to risk tricking the federal government, it is apparently possible to provide socialized health care like this doctor did, however. I found the story interesting, because of how the doctor was viewed by his patients and by the prosecutors.

Because he cooperated with the authorities (and apparently because he was seen as helping people who had no other recourse for treatment) Dr. Ahmed will not face jail time and will have his most serious charges dropped. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

However, Dr. Ahmed isn't the purest Robin Hood figure by any means. The fact that he has to give up nearly $3 million leads me to believe he was living quite the posh life. Which is a great demonstration of one of socialism's chief breakdowns...somebody always has to be a jerk and ruin it for everyone else by trying to work the system for personal gain.

If only we could get around that whole greed issue.

Fair Dinkum
 

The Day The TV Died

Category: By Christian
The TV writers are officially on strike. I can't say that I blame them, really. Their last contract wasn't very good, and failed to account for the growing digital markets. They need to get paid when their work gets sold on DVD or iTunes or whatever. Reports from Hollywood have this thing lasting a while.

The whole circus doesn't effect me all that much. There are shows that I enjoy watching, but I don't plan life around them. There's always Sportscenter and futbol to watch, as well as that newfangled Redbox contraption I've been using to rent movies for $1 at McDonald's. Shoot, I can even check out the entire series of Sopranos on DVD from my local library. Or there are those books and magazines I so love to read. And let us not forget how many people we can all watch get hit in the junk on YouTube.

The studios really need to figure this whole thing out for their own sake. Nobody wants even more reality tv coming down the pipeline. The only two good things that can come from a long strike would be

1) Americans get smarter because they aren't watching as much TV, and

2) The rumors of NBC showing episodes of the British version of The Office actually come to fruition

So until April, I give this story a big "yawn". Wake me up when the Final Four is over.

Fair Dinkum
 

Impulse Buy

Category: By Christian
I went to the grocery store with a specific list. The list detailed all of the items we needed to restock the fridge, as well as a few baby-related items. Mostly essentials, but one or two luxury items as well.

The dairy section was the locale of the latest temptation to impulse buy. It came from the most unlikely of sources, but the powers of persuasion were strong. The typical routine has me grabbing two glass bottles of skim milk from the Shatto Dairy for Stacy and I, as well as a similar bottle of whole milk to beef Elli up. Two green caps and one red cap. Easy breezy.

But this day, the pint bottle of light tan milk donning the silver lid was calling my name. "Christian," the Root Beer flavored milk called out to me. "Psssst. Yo, dogg. Pick me...pick me!"

I don't know why, but I obeyed. It must have been a Jedi mind trick. Even as I wound my way through the isles to gather up the remaining items on my list, I found myself trying to figure out why in the name of all things bovine I would buy root beer milk. It really does sound like a horrific combination. But instead of casting the bottle aside, it kept its seat in my cart and was eventually scanned, bagged, payed for, and sitting next to me in the car.

I couldn't wait. I busted the bottle open in the car to find out whether or not I had been taken for a fool by a bottle of milk. The thick liquid passed my lips, rushed over my taste buds and washed past my uvula before making its decent into my dark innards.

Delicious.

And so it is that I came to find out that root beer milk is actually a beverage of joy and beauty. Reminiscent of a root beer float, the combination of fatty whole milk and sugar is one of sheer brilliance. Part of me wanted to guzzle the entire bottle on the way home, but I kept my sensibilities about me. I nursed the bottle in thirds over the past few days, just recently finishing off the last sweet drips of creamy nectar.

I can't wait to go to the store again on Thursday.

Fair Dinkum
 

Music Reflection: Pink's "I'm Not Dead"

Category: By Christian
It's true. I downloaded one of Pink's albums from iTunes. There's no shame in that. I was a big fan of Pink when I was in college and her first album dropped. It had phat beats and it made me bob my head. There was just something about her vibe that I was diggin'.

Then she started to get more and more success, and her music changed a little bit. You could tell she was getting a better rep in the music business, and was getting more say in what her albums sounded like. Lucky for us, because she continued to grow as an artist and is now really entertaining.

This latest album has been out for a while. It was one of those deals where "Who Knew" was released recently as a single, and was getting a lot of play. As I thought about it, I realized there were a lot of singles from the album that I really liked. They were sneaky though, because they all sounded a little different. There was her pop ballad, her sassy social commentaries ("Stupid Girls" and "You and UR Hand"), her politically charged acoustic collabo with the Indigo Girls, and her vulnerable piano driven biopic ("Conversations with my 13-Year Old Self).

It all makes for a really complete album. It's an album that gets a lot of momentum from Pink's grainy, powerful, emotionally raw voice. It's also an album that really pushes the listener with it's use of instruments and rhythms, though you might not hear that on the first pass.

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!*@#&@

Category: By Christian
I don't typically use cuss words in this space. Consider today the exception. I would like to profess my love and support for the "s-word". Not as bad as some of the words out there, but pretty bad. I'm going to use it. You will question my integrity, my soundness of mind, and my religious convictions. I don't care. So what if all of the air is going to rush out of the room as people gasp for breath? Not me. I'm going to be brutally honest, and I'm going to drop bombs. "S-bombs" to be precise. So here we go...

Socialized Medicine.

That's right. I said it. I'm sorry if you think worse of me, but I'm a proponent of socialized medicine in these very United States of America. Holla at ya boy.

I'm starting to become pretty passionate about the s-word. As the subject has entered public debate with political figures waggling over how many children should be covered by federally funded health care, I've thought long and hard about how if we are going to be about anything as a society, we should be about building up and preservation. Yes, it's expensive. Is it as expensive as some of our other current endeavors? According to this guy, probably not. And according to this take and this take, our other endeavors are using brawn and violence as inefficient (and dare I say, too expensive) shortcuts to foreign policy objectives that might now be in jeopardy because of our tactics. Granted, my sources are anything other than fair and balanced, but they make good points.

So let's rock on with the s-word. Don't worry, if you say it enough, it won't hurt your ears so bad.

Fair Dinkum
 

And So It Begins...

Category: , By Christian
I smoked meat twice this weekend. Chicken thighs on Friday night, pulled pork on Sunday. But these smokes were different. They officially marked the beginning of my Five Year Plan (FYP). You are correct, sir. I have a five year plan that culminates with competing in the American Royal Open Meats cook off. You might fancy me a dork for such ambitions, but I figure I deserve it. The last 5 years have been filled with all types of lofty goals that are serious in nature, and the next few seem to have a number of those as well. So we need something light and fun. And delicious. Like meat.

So, here it is. My FYP...

Currently - Smoke as much meat as possible. I started a journal in a 5 subject notebook to chronicle the developments. I have sections for pork, chicken, brisket, ribs and rub. The way I see it, meat smoking is part science. The right mix of spices. The right timing. You have to make the controllable variables work to your advantage. you can't make the same mistakes over and over again. So, I am now taking copious notes each time I smoke in order to master the science of smoking.

Spring 2008 - Study meat. Take the KCBS Certified Judges course. Upgrade my equipment. I'm still smoking on my rookie setup. Stacy got it for $4 at a garage sale, and it's been great to start out with. However, the Brinkman Smoke'N'Grill isn't ideal for large cuts of meat. You can't really regulate its temp that well, and it's small. Now, I don't need anything huge. Right now I'm thinking about going for the Weber Smoky Mountain cooker, but I might change my mind over the next 8 months or so.

Spring 2008 - Spring 2010 - Smoke as much as possible. Get a team together. I figure my Meat Day partner and my father-in-law would both be on my smoking team. We would probably want to pick up another person or two. If you are interested, you should let me know. It would also be nice to find some generous soul or corporation to sponsor us, but probably not necessary.

Fall 2010 - Enter a smaller competition. Just to get our feet wet and get our stuff in order.

Spring 2011 - Enter another smaller competition, followed by the Great Lenexa BBQ in June. Lenexa serves as the State Championship for Kansas, so it would be a good cook to get involved in.

Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 - Another competition smoke.

June 2012 - Our return to Lenexa. It will be the last hurrah before we set sail for The Royal. By this time we should be a well-oiled machine. Ready to rumble. Ready to roll.

You never get anywhere without a plan. Thus, my FYP. Perhaps one of the best plans ever, at least when you consider the end result. You can rest assured of frequent updates to the plan in this space.

Fair Dinkum
 

Why I Love Our Agency

Category: By Christian
One of the biggest favors God did for us was send us in the direction of our adoption agency. Children's Hope International did a fantastic job facilitating our adoption, but more than that we have been astounded over and over again at the ethical paradigms they operate under.

The sad fact of the matter is that not all adoption agencies are very ethical. There is a lot of money to be made in international adoption, and people will do whatever they have to to get a slice of that pie. There is some shady stuff that goes on out there to the point where some agencies will bribe government officials or pay mothers for their babies.

With CHI we never had doubts that they were doing things the right way. As a result of their practices, we probably had to wait longer for Elli than some other families at other agencies had to wait for their babies. But it's all good.

What really blows us away is how CHI continually demonstrates that their commitment not just to place babies, but to show Christ to the world. For instance, they charge a little more than some agencies do, but that's because they leave a good chunk of your adoption fees in the country you are adopting from to help strengthen orphanages and provide for the kids who don't get forever families.

So I wasn't surprised, though I was very moved, when earlier this week we got a letter from CHI. They informed us that just recently a bridge collapsed in a region that they serve. Many people were killed in this accident, and as a result families are having a difficult time providing for basic needs. At the urging of one of their in-country employees, they decided to take up donations and present the money to families so that they can meet needs and bury their loved ones. These families don't have to be affiliated with CHI, and it's very possible that none of them will have ever heard of the agency.

That's why I love my agency. It's why I refer them to everyone I know. It's a great example of being a living example of Christ in this world and loving God while loving others.

Fair DInkum
 

Too Much, Too Early

Category: By Christian
A couple of weeks ago we hit up our local Lowe's in search of a new houseplant. I was as shocked as anyone to see that, a good two weeks before Halloween, they had already busted out there Christmas inventory. I take that back. I do believe Elli was more shocked.

Elli doesn't yet know what Christmas is. She celebrated with us last year, but she didn't really get it. Wrapping paper was one of the highlights of her holiday season. So it was baptism by fire that she was introduced to the American interpretation of the holiday season in isle 3 of Lowe's.

A glazed look took over her face. Her body language became pensive as she half-clung to me. Everything was so foreign, so strange. There was so much of it, whatever "it" was. It was as though we had entered the belly of a great beast that had swallowed up every inflatable holiday lawn decoration know to humanity.

As freaky as it was, the incredible display of cheer was impossible to ignore. Her eyes cautiously took in the huge inflatable snow globe, the huge inflatable reindeer, the huge inflatable snowman, the huge inflatable santa, the huge inflatable black incarnation of santa. I dare say, she was not impressed.

You know you have punked Christmas when you manage to make kids not like it. Good job Corporate America.

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Kansas Environmentalism

Category: By Christian
Forbes just released their list of America's Greenest States. It is with mixed emotions that I weigh the results of their research.

On a positive note, Oregon got second place. While you always shoot for first, there is no shame in meddling. Technically, Oregon tied for first with Vermont. Nice. And while I might not physically reside in Oregon, I will always retain my dual citizenship. You can't pull the west coast vibe from someones blood or get it out of their swagger. So I'll glory in the high finish.

It takes me back to 7th grade, when I was a pioneer on the green frontier. For one of my science projects I took on the moniker of "Mr. Recycle" and wrote/starred in/produced a film about recycling. This was before the curbside variety, though when PDX adopted that a couple of years later I took on the duties for my family. Though Mr. Recycle's efforts weren't mentioned in the Forbes article, I'm happy to take some of the credit.

As for my current state of residence, we have a little work to do. 31st place just isn't going to cut it, man. I need to see a top 1/3 finish, and I think we have it in us. Just this week our environmental department gave a proposed coal plant the bureaucratic finger. Granted, the Western Kansas congress persons are trying to get the decision overturned, but we'll just have to pray that they find Jesus and recognize how messy coal power is.

On one level I feel for the people of Western Kansas. They need the money that the power plant would provide. However, I contend they need to suck it up and throw some wind turbines in the ground. All of this crying about killing the aesthetic beauty of Central and Western Kansas? Please. I've lived there and I can promise that your tourist traffic isn't going to crash. People will still cruise up and down 1-70 on their way from Denver to KC.

The one bright spot in the rankings for Kansas? At least we ranked above Nebraska and Missouri. If those cats beat us, I'd be really depressed.

Renew. Reuse. Recycle.

Fair Dinkum
 

Branching Out

Category: By Christian
Last night I had the delight of experiencing a new culinary creation. Not a creation I invented. Shoot. I didn't even cook it. But I did eat it. That is quite an accomplishment.

The delight du jour just so happened to be the epic fried green tomatoes. To be perfectly honest, Stacy and I had our sights set pretty low. But as circumstances would dictate, we had an abundance of green tomatoes that have no chance of turning red now that summer is officially over, so we had to do something. I even went out and hurled insults at them for 30 minutes the other day in hope that they would get embarrassed and take on some color, but to no avail. So the choices were unceremoniously throwing them in the composter, or cooking up the fried greenies.

Stacy ended up researching a slew of recipes on the google, and finally landed in the camp of simplicity. We beat a couple of eggs, added salt and pepper, and then rolled the dipped tomatoes in a jiffy corn bread mix. Did somebody say easy button? Well the should have. Then they should have said "delicious button". Those suckers were yummy.

The dish shattered paradigms on two levels for me. First, they tasted remarkably like red tomatoes. Interesting. Secondly, they lacked a tartness that I was preparing for all evening. Experience tells me that unripened fruit lacks a certain sweetness that makes it go down nice and smooth. But the fried green tomato elicited nary a pucker or wince. Subtly sour? Perhaps. But very good. So good that Stacy is going to experiment with a little fried green tomato parmigiana concoction here in the next few days.

So if you find yourself with too many green tomatoes about this time of year, you know know what to do. Have fun.

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Window Into Life

Category: , By Christian
A lot of people assume that life as a doctor's spouse is obscenely luxurious. Sipping mojitos. Popping bonbon's. Jet setting around the world to exotic locations. Nothing like having a phatty sugar momma. Holla at ya boy.

Well, I'm here today to demystify the current state of life in the Dashiell house. I'm terribly proud of my wife. I love talking with her about all types of doctor stuff, and dreaming about how we can reform our health care system in a way that doesn't leave the poor (and soon to be the middle class) in the dust. I think it is amazing to watch how God uses Stacy to minister to women in an underserved area of town. And while our experiences are unique and intriguing, they are probably not so in the way most might expect.

Take a recent Friday night, for instance. Stacy was working a 24-hour call shift at the hospital, so Elli and I went up there to join her for dinner. It's a nice way to break up the long shift for Stacy, and both Elli and I enjoy visiting her. We typically hang out in the call room if Stacy can't break away long enough to spend a few moments in the cafeteria, which is nice in its own way because the call room tends to be a little more private.

Elli is very inquisitive, and as we were hanging out in one of the OB offices, she was bumming around for something new to play with. When she got bored with the broken phone that was on the floor, she moved over to a shelf of OB teaching supplies. Books, props, you know. The usual.

Well, I stopped paying close attention to everything for a while, and when I looked up I saw Elli playing with some type of soft-ended cone. I assumed they were fake breasts, but boy was I wrong. Stacy kindly informed me that our daughter was gleefully chucking numerous synthetic cervix around the room. That's right. Cervix.

If you are at all like me, you might wonder why doctors need numerous synthetic cervix in their office. In an obvious show that I didn't pay all that much attention in anatomy class, the cervix is an indicator of how close a woman is to giving birth. Doctors manually and blindly use their fingers to measure how dilated the cervix is, which is a tricky skill to master. Thus, they practice with the synthetic variety so that they aren't bumbling around like idiots during labor.

Silly me. I thought that you measured how dilated a woman was with a tape measure or something. Who knew?

Since training devices cannot be used at every point in time during the day, you should know that these particular implements bring toddlers great joy. Now you know, in case you are every in the doctor's office with a fussy child. You now know what to ask for. Just something I learned hanging out in the hospital while living a life that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.


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Book Relflection: Cross-X

Category: , By Christian
The problem of racial and socioeconomic segregation in Kansas City is a difficult one to wrap one's mind around. Those not from this area have a hard time believing things are as bad as I make them out to be. Those from this area generally have the same reactions, because the "walls" we have built up in this metro area are so high and thick that those with relative power and wealth have effectively insulated themselves from coming in contact with people of color and low socio economic status. The entire situation is difficult and ugly and requires a long nuanced discussion.

Enter Cross-X. A few years back, Joe Miller took on the task of chronicling the season of the area's best high school debate squad. That squad just so happened to be Central High School, which is located two blocks from where I work in the heart of inner city Kansas City. It is 99% black. It is over 90% free lunch. Prior to high school, none of the kids had any debate experience. And yet, they had a habit of traveling to prestigious national tournaments and competing for hardware.

Cross-X is one of those books that tells two stories at once. There is the story of the team, but then there is also the story of the author. As a white man of relative wealth and privilege, it is fascinating to watch how Miller's experience with the team opens his eyes to what is going on in his community. Already a socially conscious individual, he delves deeper into systems of injustice as he stands beside the oppressed and begins to advocate on their behalf while living life with them.

If you live in the KC area, I will put you on notice. You have to read this book. If you don't, you are avoiding the harsh truth about what our community looks like. We are all culpable for the problems it faces, and we all bear responsibility in the renewal of our neglected and oppressed populations. I know those are strong words, but I feel that strongly about how well this book discusses race and power.

If you don't live in the KC area, I still strongly recommend the book. If nothing else, it's a very compelling story. But there is a lot more than that, as well.

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