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Archive for May, 2009

Quick update

Hey all,

I had a great time up in Elkhart getting my little slice of academia.  More importantly we got to see a bunch of friends.  (that baby Myra is just so amazing!)  Anyways, I’m headed out to camp in 20 minutes for Pleasant Valley Menno’s Vacation Bible School and I’ll be out there till like friday evening.  Soooo, I won’t probably write anything until next week…..then I’ll unload…..it’ll be fantasmagorical.

later,

alan

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cat yodeling

Why does this exist!?!?

but it’s funny…

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First off, I’m not necessarily promoting yahoo email but the video below caught my attention.  It’s a video commemorating 25 years of yahoo email service.  I have, however, had the same yahoo email account for the past..oooh…probably 13 of those years.  Yeah, the bigstuck66 one.  I got it sometime during high school.  Guess what my football number was back then.

In anycase, I did find the video interesting.  The video does a relatively good job of showing how the technological landscape has changed over a relatively short period of time.  I’m currently working on a sermon to try and explain how the world of youth, and specifically our youth group here at PV, is drastically different than it was even 10 years ago.  It’s worth paying attention to the fact that if we’re trying to describe a 15 year old in our church, that 15 year old would have been born a full decade after the beginning of this video.  Try that on for size.  (sorry if I made some of you instantly feel old….it’s kinda that way for me too.)  In anycase, enjoy the video, ponder the implications.

click on the link below

Remember when…

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Saturday was one of the better days that I’ve had in a while.  Not that my other days are particularly bad it was just that this one was especially good.  It started off with some good ol’  manual labor.  For you people who work hard for a living that’s kind of strange to say, but I work with people all day.  One of the most frustrating things about that is the lack of concrete results.  I may preach on a Sunday morning and maybe someones life was changed in some way but I can’t bank on hearing about it later.  When you spend 8 hours building a desk, something exists afterward that didn’t before and that can be incredibly rewarding.  So I spent the morning digging a trench and running some wire and conduit for the lamp post in our front yard.  There is this lamp that used to run off of gas (still had the line attached and everything) and I decided that I wanted to convert it to electric.  So I got started one that project which, rain forecast providing, I’ll finish on Monday.

Meanwhile Katie was at an English Tea Party held by Phyllis Shirk, someone originally from Pleasant Valley who, along with her husband, are working as missionaries in England.  After Katie came back home from a morning of fancy snacks and tea, we loaded up and headed to Wichita.  It’s interesting, when you move away for a couple of years, the things that you miss.  For some reason, Carlos O’Kellys was one of those things that we missed.  Specifically a dish called Pasta Diablo.  It’s fantastic, you should try it sometime.  Katie and I think a lot a like sometimes and are pretty un-original so we usually order two of the same thing.  You can make fun of us all you want but it was still great.IMG_0580

After a lunch of too much pasta and chips and salsa, we headed over to Lowes.  This is where the real fun begins.  In our move, Katie and I have been planning a variety of larger purchases that we wanted to buy as we were able.  So this week the U.S. government gave us the money back that we loaned them over the course of last year….so we thought we’d give it to Lowes.  We got some new lighting for the kitchen cabinets, some other odds and ends and the two big items; an upright deep freezer and a big shiny BBQ Grill.  Katie had been dreaming of the freezer for quite a while now.  It’s slightly less efficient than a conventional chest freezer but it’s layed out much better and all of the food will be accessible easily.  I on the other hand have been dreaming of a nice BBQ Grill, probably since before I married Katie.  And the wait was worth it.

We loaded them up and took started home in the borrowed truck.  Of course, we stopped at Dillons first.  Being the big strong man that I am I waited by our new toys so nothing happened to them while Katie went in.  This is where my wife gets big points.  When she comes back out she’s got a number of things including 3-4 stakes, pork chops, 3 chickens, and a full rack of pork spare ribs.  Let me say it at the top of my lungs I LOVE MY WIFE!IMG_0582_1

So we headed back home and when we got there I, being the good husband, of course unloaded and unpacked the deep freeze first so it could start to cool.  After that I got toIMG_0596_1 work putting the new grill together.  It was really a fantastic time working out on the porch in the back while listening to “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio.  While I had been working on the grill, Katie had been working on putting together the rest of the supper which included fresh green beans, amazing mashed potatoes corn and a early season watermellon.  When I got the grill together she brought me out one of the Mexican Cokes that we had stashed away (for explainations as to why that’s important, read the post about Pepsi Throwback) and I threw on a big beautiful T-bone steak that she had bought me.IMG_0598_1

So with the Wailing Jennys playing in the background we had the first truly great meal of the summer.  It was truly a great day.  As I sit here writing this I’m listening to Ray Charles playing in the background and watching the grill cook a chicken using the rotisserie unit that I set up and installed this afternoon.  Katie’s at work, which means I’ll be taking her part of the chicken and the leftover vegetables from yesterday.  Today’s shaping up to be pretty good, and tomorrows looking pretty good too.

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And to top it all off, this was the view from our back porch.  What a great sky we have here.

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Ok so here’s the deal.  Maybe I’m just some over-enlightened European hippie…..from Kansas.  But anyway,  I pay attention every now and then.  If you’ve been following the news for the past…oh say year or so, you might have noticed that we’re in a recession brought on by banks collapsing under the weight of their own greed and stupidity.  So recently the government ran some hypothetical scenarios past these banks to find out if they were good to go or if they would collapse even further.  So the results of the “stress test” came back yesterday and 19 banks passed!!  well…kinda.   At least that’s what every major news outlet in the U.S. was saying over and over and over until everyone believed it.

So this morning I get on the BBC website (Kinda like NPR and PBS except in England) and the headline for their version of the story said, “Ten US banks fail ‘stress tests'”.  What the heck!  Wait a minute here, how could there be such a discrepancy between the two stories?  Well, back on the farm in the U.S., the content of the story under the banner “everything’s fine” was that if things get worse, 9 of the banks that were tested will be fine with the amount of capital they have now.  The other 10 will need to raise massive amounts of money from 1) private investors or 2) the U.S. government in more bailout money.  Gee,  I wonder how that’s going to turn out 😦  .  The thinking on the U.S. side is that if everyone thinks the banks are fine, they’ll put their money back into the banks and then they actually will be, which means the U.S. media is helping to try and convince the American people that everything’s cool.  The Brits, on the other hand, are actually telling it like it is because the companies that own the BBC aren’t dependent on the U.S. government for all of the news they get.  They don’t have to worry about the same corporations bringing the hammer down on a newscaster for reporting when those same corporations do something wrong.  Granted, they’ve got different corporations to worry about, but at the very least, their perspective on us isn’t overshadowed by the same issues our news agencies are.

If you wonder why the primary source of news and commentary for people under 35 is from 2 comedians (Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert) the reason is that those two guys are the only, and I mean ONLY, people in the news world that are willing to say the Emperor has no clothes.  Contrary to what Bill O’Reilly might think of my generation, we are not simply a bunch of stoned slackers.  We might like a good fart joke every now and then but we’re not stupid.  We know the farce that is the news media.  We know that places like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN aren’t actually news organizations, they’re news entertainment organizations.  Just like Wrestlemania 75 isn’t sports, it’s sports entertainment.  If “news” organizations spoke half of the truth that Stewart and Colbert our country wouldn’t get into half of the trouble that we do.

If you don’t think the comedians are doing nothing but distracting people let me provide two examples.  1) during the 2004 elections Jon Stewart went onto the CNN show Crossfire.  They expected him to be funny.  Instead, he took them to task on the fact that they were not helping create civilized debate but rather engaging in sensationalism that was hurting the country.  See the Youtube clip here. (Beware, it’s a bit heated and colorful at times.)  What’s most significant about that interaction is that people started to pay attention to what crossfire was actually doing, not least of whom were the network execs who pulled the show three months later.  2)  In the wake of the financial meltdown   you only need to look at the “fight” between him and Jim Cramer in march.   (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 beware of language and truth)  The reason it was a big deal was because Jon Stewart was the only person in the media that actually called the news organizations on the lies and misleadings.  He was able to say what everyone else was thinking inside at a time when the machines of economy, business and government seem to be rolling over all of the normal people with absolutely no remorse.  Jon Stewart said in one show more truth than anyone in the media had said in the previous year.  Ironically, rather than actually causing the real news organizations to actually on the financial system in a meaningful way, they all just diverted our attention and turned their focus on the “story” about the conflict between Cramer and Stewart.

so that’s my rant…….take a deep breath Alan….life will go on….it’ll all be ok……………..you’re not king of the world……….yet!

Needless to say, I don’t watch much, if any, American TV news.  I listen to NPR, read the BBC website for world news, watch The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, and occasionally will catch some Mcneal Lehrer on PBS.  The rest of it just leaves me agrivated, frightened and more confused than when I first turned it on.

And, since all good evening news casts leave us with a human interest story that really has no real news value, here’s a clip of a water skiing squirrel

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There is an old drive in theater in the next town.  It is one of many buildings in Harper and Anthony, ks that attest to what once was.  As self sufficient as these two towns might be, when you pay close attention there are old stores, restaurants, and other landmarks clearly show that at one point, life consisted of something exponentially more than it does now.  All the entertainment, food, faith, and resources you really ever neaded was all within this small town, maybe the next one if you really needed to branch out.  Maybe being connected beyond the borders of Harper is a good thing.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it just is.  The pictures say it better than I can.

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This past year at seminary I’ve gotten to know a nubmer of Canadians (people from the strange winter land of Canadia) and one of the things that we occupied our non-school related conversations with was the difference between U.S. Coke and Canadian Coke.  Or more accurately all soft drinks in general.  The main difference being that U.S. drinks are made with High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of real sugar, either from beets or cane.  The Canadians seemed to be profoundly adamant and fiercely loyal to their version of beverages that we came up with  in the first place ;).  Even to the point of smuggling cases of the stuff back to the states after return trips to the land up north.  The other option is to find a store that sells Mexican Coke, also made with sugar.

So then I was listening to NPR (like CBC for you Canadiens) and this story came on about the fact that Pepsi has released a limited, 8 week, trial run of something called Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback.  They’ve got a whole retro marketing pitch (see youtube clip below) that builds off the idea that, “hey, remember what our products used to taste like in the 60’s and 70’s, well it’s back!”  Which I find interesting because no, I don’t remember what it tasted like, I was born in 81 and my guess is you’re not actually marketing to the Baby Boomers who are all now diabetic and shouldn’t drink your stuff anyways!

The marketing strategy of, “hey remember the pre 80’s” brings up a question, “why don’t they still make it with real sugar?”  Two reasons, neither of which have to do with taste.  1) in the late 70’s the U.S. placed incredibly high tarifs on imported sugar.  2) at the same time the U.S. introduced massive subsidies for the Corn industry in the states.  Eventually there was a massive glut of corn.  This would have lead to a massive drop in corn prices.  Instead of reducing the subsidies and thereby reducing the supply side, they decided to increase the demand side and began producing High-Fructose Corn Syrup to systematically replace sugar.  Read the labels, it’s everywhere….like the boogey man.  Now, there are some people who are all kinds of health nut crazy that will say that using corn syrup instead of real sugar will cause cancer, decrease the length of your life and make horns grow out of your head.  Scientifically there’s really no significant chemical difference….you should just eat less of both.  On top of that, my grandfather raised Corn for his whole life and probably benifited greatly from the subsidies, but I still have issues with that much government medling.

Interestingly enough though, there’s apparently a significant difference in taste.  The real sugar seemes to take some of the harshness out of the taste.  The guest they had on was from some online newsletter devoted to carbonated beverage (seriously, get a life), and said that with the Pepsi you had more Cola tast and less of the harsh aftertaste.  With the Mountain Dew, apparently it’s different enough that people either love it because it doesn’t taste like the normal stuff or they hate it because it doesn’t taste like the normal stuff.  PEPSI!!!! (fist shaking in the air, Colbert Style)  So, if you get a chance to try it, fantastic.  Let me know what you think.  I, on the other hand, live in the middle of knowwhere Kansas and most people don’t really care what we think anyways so they probably won’t test it out on us.

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