Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Santa

Really, this is pretty much just plain wrong. Check it out - a 25' (or 30', it's at least as tall as that two-story house) inflatable Santa! I'm calling Dr. Venkman. And The Cachinnator, because I know how much he loves these things.
giant inflatable Santa

What's your opinion of this - holiday cheer or monstrosity?

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Brando vs. Grover: Too close to call

Grover in "A Streetcar Named Monster"

Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Hard to pick the better performance.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

It could be worse . . .

It's been a long Christmas week. Forgive the blithe nature of this post, but I'm just too tired for anything but listing the facts.

  • Lil'er E had a cold all week. Hey, it was better than the RSV he had last Christmas.
  • Getting ready to leave for my parents for five days, I notice that our cat had not eaten any food for a couple of days. I got a bad feeling about that.
  • Lil'er E cries the whole seven hours to Abilene.
  • On Christmas night, after a nice day with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and niece and nephew, Mrs. E and I went on a double date with my brother to see Seven Pounds. A depressing movie, after which my sister-in-law checks her voice mail to discover that her 46 year old aunt has died. Apparently a suicide (the facts aren't all in), on Christmas Day. Worst part of the holiday. Period.
  • Lil'er E, while getting over his cold, discovers that he can climb out of his pack-and-play bed and run to freedom. Which he did all last night. No real sleep for Mrs. E and me from 2 am on last night.
  • Returning home today, I find that my cat did, indeed, die while we were gone. I found her lying under the Christmas tree - always her favorite place to be. The kids have taken it okay, at least so far.
I'm tired. I'm more than a bit sad. The kids had a great Christmas, and it was great to spend time with my family (and now with Mrs. E's family for a couple of days). But there just seems to be a pall hanging over this holiday. I've got Sufjan Stevens' "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!" running through my head right now - I wonder why.

Hope your Christmas was a little better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Major Award

No, it's not that major award. But I understand that some lucky(?) guy on eBay won the rights to stay at that house (with the major award) for Christmas Eve and Day for the low, low price of $5300.

No, this is my Major Award. It's from NASA! (Note: frame not included.)
Major Award from NASA
I've obviously done a little editing to the certificate, in order to protect my pseudo-anonymity. But it is a real, honest to goodness certificate of achievement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I feel so honored. No, really, I do.

But wait, there's more! This certificate comes with a lovely gift, on some of the finest stationary you'll every see, from the United States Treasury (complete with the treasury seal), with a number preceded by a dollar sign, and redeemable at banks anywhere. Since this gift bears the U.S. treasury seal, I felt it my duty - nay, my honor and privilege - to that everyone out there who has contributed to the U.S. Treasury. I'm starting here in the bloggosphere, but soon expect to great everyone on the streets with a hearty handshake and a thank you. It may confuse them, it may get me injured or fitted for a new, tight-fitting jacket by men in white, but I feel I simply must.

So, thank you, to all of you who have contributed your nickels, dimes, and quarters to this award.

By the way, what is you best Major Award?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Music Monday: Mery Christmas!

Here are a couple of Christmas songs that I simply love. They stand in contrast to each other - in style, in mood, in message, and in the reactions they elicit. One is bright, joyous, and hopeful; the other is gritty, sad, and raw. But both are terrific and I wanted to share them on this Monday before Christmas.

The first is "Labor of Love" from Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God. Definitely not the Renaissance painting version, but beautiful for its honest picture.

The second is "In The First Light" from Glad's The A Cappella Project. A constant crescendo of hope and promise through the end.

So, what are your favorite Christmas tunes this year?

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Friday, December 19, 2008

So, what did you do on Wednesday?

Let's see. On Wednesday, I woke up, got showered and ready for work, work up the kids and Mrs. E, then headed out to my third day on a new job. After that I spent most of the day sorting through a bunch of new information at my new job and started to do some real work instead of just getting to know the place. Then I left work, picked up Mrs. E and the kids, ate dinner with them and attended a mid-week bible class at our church. Tucking the kids in and going to bed rounded it out.

Pretty average and boring day, wouldn't you say?

But the people at IJM in South Asia were a little more busy than me. They stayed up for the better part of 24 hours as they raided a business and rescued 19 people from slavery! One man was held there with his children and grandchildren. A little girl, nine years old, has pneumonia - I can only imagine how her disease would have progressed under the slave owners, and pray that she can recover in the hands of people who care for her, now.

Now, that's an exciting day! Kinda makes me feel like a slacker. But, I do what I can in this process - and so can you. Prayer is the first step, and considering some kind of monetary support. But there really is more that we can do, without ever leaving our living rooms. Go read some of what Gary Haugen had to say to me last week when I asked him some questions about this. Or go read Anne's post - she took better notes and has some great quotes from the chat.

child slave in a cageHonestly, I am throwing this out as a challenge. I know that a lot of people (at least three or four!) read this blog. No one wants to talk about modern slavery, or women and children (even under five) being sold for sex. It's uncomfortable, and frankly a bit repulsive. But as long as speaking the truth is taboo, this disease will fester and grow. We know the Great Physician; so let's implore Him to heal this rot.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

"At least he won't remember it when he grows up"

Today was the Christmas program at Lil'er E's pre-school. As usual, there was a screamer, crying for mommy and daddy. It was Lil'er E. He actually tried to make his escape from the stage and run to us in the audience. Luckily (?) he wasn't alone - there were more screamers this year than in the past three years combined. F.U.N.

So, here he is. Hey, at least Old Saint Nick is jolly.
Lil'er E crying at the Christmas program

The elves look happy, too.
Lil'er E crying at the Christmas program

Oh, and I noticed something else, too. It would seem that my son is cursed with Male Pattern Baldness. Oh, the shame to be marked at such a young age!
male pattern baldness

Monday, December 15, 2008

Music Monday: Discussion Questions

  1. Would more people recognize and enjoy new musicians if radio stations would announce the names of the song and artist, like they used to many years ago?
  2. If Rudolph is really the most famous reindeer of all, then why does the song assume we don't recall him?
  3. The book can be found written either way, but does your family call Reindeer # "Donner" of "Donder"?
Discuss. (Partial credit will be given.)

(This is part of the Bloggable Music Network's Music Monday.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Extemporaneous response

FYI, I've posted this both here and on Inspired to Action.

I had an interesting conversation with Gary Haugen this afternoon about IJM and talking about justice (also chatting were Anne Jackson and Bethany Hoang (blogger for the IJM Institute)). I'm still processing some thoughts, and will write more in the next few days. But, as I was driving in my car shortly afterwords, I picked up the mini-recorder I have and started talking to work through some of the thoughts. In an unusual move for me, I'm posting that as a one-time podcast here. You can listen below - it's about seven minutes, and please pardon my sniffles.

Notes: village of brothels - see page two of the story
Slavery in the U.S.
girl and vulture photo

Six Questions

  1. How do we talk about ideas of social justice in an American Christian culture that has begun associating such concepts and actions so strongly with their political/ideological opposites (enemies)?
  2. How do we talk about talk about social justice without people perceiving it as a fad or cause de jour?
  3. What is justice, and what does it entail (both ideal and working definitions)? How do we integrate these definitions in what we commonly call justice (law making and enforcement, punishment of those breaking the laws)?
  4. How do you broach a subject in conversation that, at times, ranges between uncomfortable and horrifically tragic?
  5. What can we do as bloggers to encourage our readers to take action beyond encouraging donations and requests to pray? What should that action look like? (What can we do on a local level to make an impact on the problems of human trafficking and justice?)
  6. How do you see IJM's role continuing/changing over the next few years? Do you foresee IJM remaining a primarily "front lines" organization, or do you see an expanded role in areas such as domestic issues or education and providing information?
These are a few of the questions me and a couple of other bloggers are going to be posing for Gary Haugen (President and CEO of International Justice Mission in about ten minutes. Pray that I don't look like a fool or complete imbecile while talking to this man - I feel so out of my league.

Oh, and what are your answers?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A holiday treat and a CD winner

And the winner is:
First let me announce the winner of the Sara Groves O Holy Night CD. As chosen by completely random integer generation, matched to the order of commenting, and a little birdie told me it was Erin! Congratulations! Just drop me an e-mail to [my name] at sbcglobal dot net and we'll talk delivery. Enjoy!

And the holiday treat is:
Every year during the holiday season, Mrs. Euphrony's family has a tradition of making peanut butter balls - a conglomeration of peanut butter and sugar all wrapped up in chocolate. And here's how you make them.

40-oz peanut butter
2-lb powdered sugar
1-1/3 cup butter
24-oz chocolate chips (I like dark chocolate, Mrs. E likes semi-sweets, her grandmother likes milk chocolate)
½ bar paraffin wax
(This makes ~150 peanut butter balls. Adjust the amounts to how many you want.)

Allow the butter to soften. Mix it together with the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Allow the dough to cool, then roll into balls ~1” in diameter. (I lay them out on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.) Freeze the dough balls before dipping in chocolate. If they are too warm/soft, they will fall apart when they are dipped in chocolate.

To melt the chocolate chips, you will want to use a dutch oven. If you don't own a dutch oven (like me) you can fake it by melting the chocolate chips and wax in a metal mixing bowl set on top of a pot of water that is at boiling. The indirect heat allows the chocolate to melt more smoothly and not freeze up. Also, make sure that no water gets into the chocolate, as it will cause the chocolate to seize as well. Any way, melt the wax and chocolate together. The wax will give the final balls a nice shine. (What, you didn't know that you eat wax in chocolate all the time?)

Dip dough balls in chocolate and place onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Only put a couple in the chocolate at a time (they like to stick together). I use a pair of small tongs to pick them out of the chocolate. Refrigerate to allow chocolate to set. Don't store the peanut butter balls in an air-tight container, or the chocolate will discolor (not at all appetizing). The extra melted chocolate once your finished with the balls is excellent for making small chocolate candies and lollipops (bonus!).

Now, Mrs. E strongly resists this idea, but I've always wanted to roll something like a chocolate chip or marshmallow in the center of the dough balls. Feel free to do what you want, and enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hey, Buddy

Justin's Jaywalkers Buddy Walk group
I've talked about Justin before several times, the infant son of a friend who has Downs syndrome. This past Saturday we got to spend some time with their family, some friends, and around 2000 other people at the Buddy Walk benefiting the Downs Syndrome Association of Houston. Justin is doing great, and part of that is the services and information that DSAH has been able to provide. This Buddy Walk was to help them out, to continue their existence. The picture above is the group of Justin's Jaywalkers (the Euphrony's are on the left). We walked around the Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston on a beautiful day.

Keep praying for Justin and his family as he continues to grow.

On a side note, I was reading Jeremy Thiessen's blog and saw that his first child, Liam, was born last week. On Saturday they found out he has DS. Pray for Jeremy and Erin (his wife) as they take this curve ball and learn the path God has given them.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Music Monday: Free Sara Groves

This is kind of the Late Edition for my contribution to Music Monday - I've been rather busy today.

Sara Groves' O Holy NightWho doesn't love free music? I know that I love getting free music, and hunt it down when I can. Well, this week I'm giving away a copy of Sara Groves' Christmas CD, O Holy Night. I reviewed the CD recently, which you can read here.

To have a chance at winning, just comment on this post and I'll randomly pick a winner.

Oh, by the way, I want to make this fun.
Now, I love Christmas music. I often find myself humming or singing a carol any time of the year. Therein lies a problem, though: what this means is that I can't get Christmas music out of my head. Every year, from Thanksgiving to New Years, the air waves are flooded with songs of nativity and Santa - and I begin to go insane (in a good way) with lyrics filling my head at all hours. So I have a coping mechanism - I change the lyrics.

A couple of examples:
"Walking in a winter wonderland" becomes "Walking in our winter underwear"
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas" becomes "Have yourself a Maury little Povich"

Now, I'm sure you're all calling for the men in white coats to come pick me up. Not without reason, either. But it helps me survive with a semblance of sanity through the year. And that brings me back to the making this contest fun - I know I'm not the only person who does this. When you comment, tell me what common song lyrics you intentionally change. It can be a Christmas song or any other song. Mrs. E changes the Third Day lyric "You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song" to "You are beautiful my sweet cell phone" (usually while holding up her phone and staring at it with reverence and amusement.

In Short
Tell me you want the CD (and why wouldn't you want this CD?). And tell me some funny lyric changes you make. And on Thursday I'll tell you who won.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Repair Cat

When you think of brilliant people capable of fixing anything, who comes to mind? That guy at the car shop around the corner, your uncle Bob, Scotty from Star Trek? How about Fluffy? (Yes, my cat is named Fluffy. You got a problem with that?)

Well, here's the story of how Fluffy, Repair Cat, managed to fix my broken iPod.

sad ipodSide story: So, I quit my job last Monday. You know that, I assume. On my way out I had to empty my work computer of personal files - including music. Did I mention that all of these files were not on any other computer? And I was in the process of transferring these to backup at home - with my iPod as the transfer device. And then I come home and a couple of days later (before I could backup the files and music) my iPod started displaying the "Sad iPod" icon. Which, I'm told, means my hard drive is fried.

Yes, my iPod crashed! With irreplaceable files and music on it! AHHHHH!

I go in to the local Apple store at the mall, make an appointment, and talk to the people at the "Genius" Bar. Personally, I think they have more bar than genius there, but . . . Anyway, they listen to my iPod (repair by intuiting?) and tell me I can get a new/recycled one for only $210, and too bad about the songs and data.

Not being satisfied with losing hundreds of dollars worth of music, I decided to do some investigation on my own. It turns out that there are a great many people dissatisfied with the service at the "Genius" bar. It turns out that many people who see the "Sad iPod" have a much simpler problem than a crashed hard drive - its as easy as the hard drive cable has come loose. Now, most people find the solution to be opening the iPod, unplugging and replugging the cable. Other, less sophisticated repairmen, find flinging the iPod against the wall an effective solution. Being a tad more adept than a monkey, I decided to get up, get some tools, and pop open the iPod.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the repair table. Fluffy (you remember, my cat) decided to trip me. The iPod slipped from my grasp and fell three feet to the floor - thonk! I figure, some people find this to be a fix so lets give it a try. Sure enough, the iPod starts right up. Thanks, Fluffy! I really appreciate your help. And thanks, but no thanks "Genius" bar people - I'm going straight to the cat next time.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday (in bullet points)

  • Wake up, shower, dress, then wake Lil'E.
  • Prod Lil'E into eating, dressing, and getting out the door. Drop her off at school, while she complains about not remembering all the lyrics for "Feliz Navidad".
  • Run by Sonic for morning drink-stop.
  • Return home to wake Mrs. E and Lil'er E. Prod Mrs. E into acting alive while getting Lil'er E ready for pre-school.
  • Take Lil'er E to pre-school, then return home.
  • Begin enjoying hours of mid-day datetime with Mrs. E.
  • Head out from the house, and eat lunch with Mrs. E at The Cheesecake Factory.
  • Shepherds pie at The Cheesecake Factory is good, but not like what I've had in Scotland.
  • Stroll through the mall and pick out a new light jacket that does not have my old company's logo on it.
  • Leave the mall and go bowling with Mrs. E. Proceed to be totally embarrassed as I average 85 over two games, get beat the first game by 40, and slide down the alley after a foot fault turned into a total loss of dignity.
  • Realize that bowling only once every 18 months does not leave one in decent shape to be a consistent bowler. Big surprise.
  • Leave the bowling alley and head by Sonic for the afternoon drink-stop. Drop Mrs. E off at the house to let her have a few minutes alone while I go pick up Lil'er E from school.
  • Drop Lil'er E off at the house, realizing he would be totally flipping out while waiting to pick up big sis.
  • Leave to pick up Lil'E from kindergarten. Come home and help with her homework.
  • Play with the kids for a few minutes, then bundle the family into the car to go see Bolt at the Movie Tavern.
  • Watch the kids enjoy lots of popcorn, fries, corndogs, and a movie about a dog. On a school night.
  • Come home, tuck the kids in bed, relax with Mrs. E, and write this blog.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Transitions (or "How Euphrony did something that might on the surface seem a bit crazy but really will turn out to be a good thing")

There are two things in life that I am not fond of. The first is being up on a ladder and the second is change. So, what have I done this week? I hung Christmas lights (hours going up and down a ladder) and I quit my job.

Yes, you read that correctly. I quit my job. In the middle of what is now, officially, a recession I quit my stable, relatively secure position. And I did it for the money. Among other reasons.

Is it crazy? Maybe.

So, about a month ago (actually, the week I had strep throat) I was called out of the blue by a head-hunter representing one of my old companies competitors. They had a job opening for a rheologist and my name was brought to their attention. They brought me in for an interview - I didn't even have time to put together a resume, I just gave them a CV I use when I go to conferences and such. Sixty minutes later, I went home. And then the head-hunter called back to talk salary.

I debated this for a month. I wasn't looking for a new job. Outside of the normal annoyances, and of course the Dilbert-like bureaucracies that can be found at every company, I was happy with my job. So, why should I be looking for something else? But, I would have been a fool to not at least talk to them. And then, after the interview, I prayed for weeks about this - and I think that God gave me little answers every day. Now was a good time for a change.

So, on Monday, I gave my boss two weeks notice. And, hearing that I was leaving for a competitor, he kindly asked me to pack up my desk and leave that day. Abrupt, but I kind of understand the reasoning (it's corporate policy, not just him). Everyone was quite surprised, and sad to see me go (that's nice) and I'm not burning any bridges; in all, I kind of feel bad leaving them in the lurch, but it was what I thought best for me and my family. Since I wasn't slated to start the new job until the 15th, I suddenly found myself with a great deal of free time. I'm working on the pre-employment stuff, drug screening, and background check, and with that all out of the way I should be able to go ahead and start next Monday. Just an extra week of vacation this year.

As I said in a comment yesterday, I had learned firsthand that free time isn't free. I've been busier than a one-armed coat hanger and barely found time to write this two days after the event. But there you go - the adventures continue.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Music Monday: Andrew Osenga "Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates"

Andrew Osenga is maybe not a widely know artist, but he is one of the best out there. Aside from spending a lot of time with some other Andy's and having a good sense of humor, he's a fine lyricist and compelling musician. Andy is probably best know for his work with Caedmon's Call and, before that, The Normals.

Here is my favorite song from Andy O - "Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates" from his EP Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1.

I love the passion in the sentiment of this song

Swing wide the glimmering gates
Leave your pride and pain
Swing wide the glimmering gates
And be innocent again
Oh, to be innocent again; that's a place where I live and breath, forgetting the past and looking towards what is ahead.

By the way, if you like Andy's music, and this song in particular, you can get it for free. Go to his Free Page and you can download Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1 and several other songs for free - more than worth your time. Also, he has a follow-up EP, Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2, that you can download for free here. Don't miss out on some good stuff from a quality artist - take it from me, and go get it from Andy.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watch out, Tom!

Happy Thanksgiving, from the Euphrony's!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things to do while in the dentist chair

Euphrony had his semi-annual dental check up and cleaning yesterday. As I sat with my mouth open and mind wandering for 40 minutes I had plenty of time to come up with ideas of how to fill the time. Below are a few suggestions for time in the hot seat:

  1. Stare into the big, bright light directly in front of your face (with a follow-up visit to your optometrist).
  2. Tap your toes to the best mellow hits of the 70's, 80's, 90's, and today!
  3. Contemplate one's navel (but not the lint).
  4. Count ceiling tiles (my dentist has large tiles, so only four were visible, along with two fluorescent light banks and one air vent).
  5. Think of things to do in a dentist chair and mentally write a blog post about it.
  6. Sleep (requires some talent to keep mouth agape and not snore in the process).
  7. Go through a mid-life crisis (nice because it gets compressed into a short time frame, and you're already in pain from the dentist picking at your gums).
Any other suggestions?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Music Monday: Albertine

I know that Kat has talked extensively about Brooke Fraser. But I think it bears repeating. Here is the title song off her most recent album - "Albertine". She met Albertine when she visited Rwanda for the first time in 2005. Like you hear in Sara Groves' "I Saw What Saw", what Brooke saw changed her life.

Christianity Today just released their year end list of the best albums of 2008, with Albertine topping the list. And it is a well-deserved placement, as the whole album is great. It hit the street in New Zealand, her home, in 2006 and has been hugely popular there, as well. In fact, it won the highest selling music award in New Zealand in 2007 and was the airplay record of the year.

As a curiosity, why do you think it is that her music is mainstream in New Zealand, but a niche in the U.S.? Seriously, why do we put her, and so many others, in a cubbyhole here in the U.S.? You can't say that her music just doesn't sound that Christian so it can blend in better - not with lyrics like "faith without works is dead" and "When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees / When time and space are through / I’ll be found in you" in two of her most popular songs. They just don't make sense outside a Christian worldview. So, why shuffle her off to the side here but not elsewhere? What do you think?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Use Form 1706b (I think)

M.C. Escher TreppenhausYou think bureaucracy in the U.S. is bad? Well, it gets much worse.

I was talking to a couple of guys at work this morning - one of whom is Chinese and in his fifties. We were complaining about the crazy way bureaucracy works at the job, especially with human resources (that's got to be one of the worst misnomers ever). He then started telling us about working in China in the early 1980's, where the HR department is actually two departments of the communist party. Everything in your life went through your job "HR" people.


He told us he had to submit an application to get married. It took a couple of months to get approved; and they told him that he could get married, but not live together until the next calendar year.

But that was better than for his parents, he continued. In the 50s and 60s the "HR" people kindly suggested who you should marry. In fact, they would often offer you a promotion if the marriage did not seem one you would want. Of course, turning down this proposal would result in your being laid off - but hey, you had a choice!

Things are pretty cynical around here right now, with work bureaucracy getting downright ridiculous. This made me feel a modicum of gratitude for being where I'm at instead of someplace worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Worship and poetry

Here is the song "Make us One", sung by Cindy Morgan and co-written by her and Michael W. Smith. Beautiful on so many levels. The lyrics are pure poetry. The sound of Cindy singing this is amazing.

Children below, fresh from the foe,
Hands 'neath the moonlight, Lord please make us one.
We hear the tide roll through the night,
Come lead the weary, Lord pleas make us one.

Children rejoice, come to the voice,
Song of the angels healing the broken ones.
Seasons of rain, battles unwon
Lead to the fountain, wash and make us one.

All hearts rejoice with mighty voice,
Make us a rainbow, Lord please make us one.
Light in the sky, Breath of our life,
Unite the rainbow, Lord please make us one.

Make us a rainbow, Lord please make us one.

If you want a suggestion, check out her new album, Beautiful Bird. Also, she has a free download at the moment, a new song called "Innocent", which you can download by going here and registering for her site.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Shifty Eyes

We got some Christmas pictures taken of the kids last Friday. (One must start early in one is to have any shot at getting Christmas cards out on time.) Here is one of Lil'E and Lil'er E. Aren't they cute!

Little Euphrony and Littler Euphrony
But wait. What is that look Lil'er E is giving us? Ah, yes, that is his trademark look - Mr. Shifty Eyes. Let's take a closer look at that, shall we?
Mr. Shifty Eyes
Oh, Mrs. E and I know this look well. It is quiet commonly followed by a mischievous grin and a mad dash headlong into trouble.

Never trust Mr. Shifty Eyes. No matter how cute you think he is. Trust me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Justice and Texas

Inspired to Action buttonI've put up a new post on Inspired to Action, talking about the idea of proximate justice.You may ask "what is proximate justice?" Good question! Go over to I2A and find out. I want to hear some people's thoughts on this topic.

On a semi-related note, today the Texas Attorney General's office has released their 2008 report on human trafficking in Texas. You can read the report for yourself: "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking". I've done a quick skim of it; it has some 21 recommendations for changes to current laws and actions to be taken. A bit hard to get through for the average person. But, at the end in Appendix B, there are summaries of fifteen recent news stories from Texas on people held in forced labor or sexual slavery.

justiceThe U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 are trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, and many more are trafficked domestically within the United States each year. About one in five people trafficked have been in Texas. (That's at least 3000 every year right here at home.) This is in my back yard - what can I do to change this? The first thing is to talk about it, open my eyes and others, and make people want to see it change. The Underground Railroad (and need for it) is not resigned to historical footnote; it's an active road today.

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Music Monday: Heart-wrenching music

You may not realize it, but tomorrow, November 18th, is the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. In total, there were 909 people dead - more than a third of them children. Today, to most people, Jonestown and Jim Jones have been reduced to little more than an aphorism, a cliche warning us not to "drink the Kool-Aid".

I was only five when this terrible thing came to pass, but I remember how the news filled the airwaves and shocked everyone. The memory of this has always brought me sorrow. As with so many other events, this is ingrained on my memory and makes me consider my actions, my choices, and their consequences carefully.

So today, as I remember what happened three decades ago, I think of songs that rend my heart. As long as there is evil in the world, as long as there are men whose passion for themselves is greater than their love for God, we will sing songs of morning and sorrow. Here are two of my favorite songs, songs that tear me apart and fill me with sorrow (in a good way).

Shaun Groves' "Sad Song"

Nickel Creek's "The Lighthouse Tale"

What are some of your favorite sad songs?

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Friday, November 14, 2008

News Flash: Euphrony updates blogroll, stock market dives 338 points

Maybe it means the end of the world, but it needed to be done. I've updated my blogroll (that thing on the right hand sidebar where your blog is linked to from my blog). I did a little arranging while I was at it. There are a couple of blogs that I don't want to take off my list, but since they collectively blog about once a month I felt they should be separated into a "slow lane" of the information highway.

What, you don't see your blog listed over there? Well, let me know about it and I'll put it before the management and see what can be done. But if further losses in the stock markets ensue, don't blame me!

While I'm at it, you can enjoy this child's homework (not one of mine!) that needed some adult proofing before turning it in.

(I'm told this mother works at Home Depot – she is selling a shovel. The teacher thought she was a pole dancer.)

101 reasons to learn a lesson

This past Wednesday, at work, I received 101 lessons as to why people should learn a lesson. Specifically, I received 100 lessons from people who did not learn the lesson from the first person's mistake.

On Wednesday morning, my work e-mail received what would seem to have been a spam e-mail. It was one that we had been recently warned about, appearing to originate from someone within the company and asking to have access granted to various security systems. Having been both forewarned and armed with the knowledge that I had no business granting such access, I deleted the e-mail.

The the first lesson came. In the form of a reply to the original e-mail by a person questioning why they were sent the e-mail. Of course, this person hit "reply all", thus sending it to everyone. Isn't it annoying when someone blindly uses "reply all" like that?

Ah, but then the real fun started rolling in. Over the next four or five hours I continued to receive e-mails from people protesting their inability to perform such a task and the likelihood that they were sent the original e-mail by mistake. All of them hit "reply all". I also got e-mails from people who were begging people to stop using "reply all", who also (naturally) had hit "reply all". The best of these was sent in a eye-catching blue, 100 point font - to everyone. In total, 101 "reply all's" were sent out. To everyone.

Oh, and when I say it was sent to everyone, I mean to everyone. Every single employee of this great company for which I work. All 38,000 (give or take) employees. All of it internal e-mail. I could practically smell our e-mail server melting from here. Other e-mails took significantly longer to get through the system. If it weren't so comedic and absurd, it would be downright frustrating.

Anyway, I survived without becoming e-mail cannon fodder. Either people finally wised up (unlikely) or the IT group put a block on everything related to this e-mail chain (more likely).

So, what's the record for the number of "reply all" junk e-mails for you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

. . . and the sky was on fire . . .

So I've been out of town the last couple of days. I flew home last night - barely. I boarded the plane on time, and then a minute after I sat down I noticed that no one else was getting no the plane. Sure enough the flight attendant came on and told us we all had to get off the plane because the Houston airport had been closed by heavy rainstorms. So close! Finally, after a 90 minute delay, we reboarded and took off. As we were heading out, the flight attendant told us we were taking a somewhat different route to avoid the storm system. Below is an illustration of the normal and new flightplans:

Normal Route

"New" Route
Yes, the flight took twice as long as normal.

And did I mention that the plane smelled like poo? And I don't mean the cuddly bear with a honey pot! It seems the air-o-potty had a few issues.

But, for the last hour or so of the flight, I was treated to the most phenomenal light show I've ever witnessed. And I've seen July 4th at DisneyWorld!

As we skirted the edge of the storm system I got to watch - rather close - the lightning discharges. Not just the ones you see on the ground, from sky to earth, but also all of the cloud to cloud strikes. I wish I had had my camera. It also reminded me of how small we are. All the effort we take to fly, and one of these random flashes could take us out of the sky. All of our clamoring for energy and electricity to power an unending appetite, and here is casually thrown around enough power to run the whole of earth's greedy demands. Humbling.

I'm glad to be home. I'm glad to have had a chance to see what I saw. (And no, the picture below is not my plane. This is from a plane leaving Japan. Read about it here.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Someone listened to me! (I'm shocked)

In May I complained about the idiotic following of good guidelines for giving a presentation. The past two days I have spent with the same university group as they gave their fall update on projects (which my and other companies kindly pay for). Apparently somebody read my blog and got the point because only the professors and one or two new students followed the format so rigidly that it was comedic.

What a relief.

It made the nine hour day bearable. Even when half of the presentations involved finite element analysis. Now if I could only get them to move into reality and stop using such ridiculously idealized test systems. Maybe that's asking to much, though.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Music Monday: a-cappella goodness

Over the years I've seen a few of the productions of Spike Lee. Overall, I've not really liked them very much, with one notable exception. A few years back (okay, 18 years back), he put together a TV special - Do it a-cappella - the soundtrack of which I've played to death. Here are a couple of samples for you.

The first is from one of my favorite a-cappella groups - Take 6. They have a great blend of tight harmonies and a jazz sound that is just terrific. This video shows them singing two songs, "Get Away Jordan" and "Something Within Me". Listen for the high note at the end of "Get Away Jordan" - they take it a third higher in the concert than on the album version of the song.

The next highlight is from the group Rockapella. You might know them better as the group that sang the theme song for the PBS game show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. (Okay, a moment of honesty - who watched Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) Thankfully, they have since cut their hair from the mullets worn in this clip. They're singing "Zombie Jamboree", but it takes about two minutes into the video to get past Spike Lee and get to the music.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Four days with Inspector Clouseau

Thursday marks four days of my sitting through lectures by none other than Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Okay, it isn't really Peter Sellers' famous character, but close enough. A little older, portly, and with graying hair - but the exaggerated accent is there.

You'd think that would be fun, wouldn't you? Yes, he did talk about how there is very little resistance keeping a man and woman apart in the shower. And yes, he has repeatedly referred to some surfactants as looking like "cookratches" (cockroaches). But, how many ternary phase diagrams of surfactant/oil/water combinations can you look at in a four day period before the onset of insanity? Here, look at this one and tell me how long it would take you?

The worst part of it is that we brought this guy up from Venezuela to teach this He did the same thing 20 months ago. He is covering the exact same material. We were all hoping for a little more advanced teaching this time. The one thing he took out for this round - rheology of surfactant systems. Total bummer! Ah, well, such is life. I'll make it through this last day and then I'll be able to get back to some real work. Maybe. In the near future. I hope.

Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock on International Justice Mission

I have posted over on Inspired to Action the interview I did last week with Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock. Read it here.

Here's a little teaser, from Sara, on dealing with the hugeness of these problems:

. . . when she landed on the ground the very first thing she saw in South Africa was a little girl who had just been abused, had just been raped, and she was crying. Not because she had just been abused but because she’d been paid a dime by her abuser and some older boys had taken her dime. So this little girl, her perspective, her whole world – that she had been violated in that way – wasn’t even really . . . the point of her pain was that she had lost the dime. And I asked my aunt how do you not cry every single day?

Go read the interview and find out more about International Justice Mission. Once you do, tell me what you think about their work - what impacts you most, or what questions are you left with. I may be able to get some more answers from my contacts at IJM.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dispense true justice . . .

Thus has the LORD of hosts said, "Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
Zechariah 7:9-10
This passage has really been on my heart for some time, now. This pronouncement from Jehovah comes as He accuses His people of having hearts like flint - because they had ignored these very words.

Today, on Inspired to Action, I am leading thoughts, discussion, fasting, and prayer about a group I believe in greatly: International Justice Mission.

We've all heard that scripture tells us "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay' says the Lord." I've been thinking about this, as well. It is obvious that God wants us to practice justice - revenge is not justice, it is selfishness excused as justice. God takes that away from us; but is God a vengeful God? I think, with this pronouncement, that God is taking this away, and letting us know that He will dispense the justice that we try to seek in revenge.

What IJM does is, in no way, the actions of vigilantes.These are men of peace, working in peace to bring justice. That is one reason I believe so much in their work - that they do not have revenge in their hearts speaks highly for them.

Please, go over to I2A and find out a little about IJM and what they do. Consider if you can help them in their work. And, above all, pray for their work.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

A mouse in the house!

Okay, actually two mice - Mickey and Minnie (aka Lil'E and Lil'er E). Ain't they sweet! Lil'er E had no problem at all getting into the idea of getting free candy at every house. He was, in fact, quite jealous of his haul - I would try to help him carry it, but trust was not forthcoming.

And here was my mask.

Happy Halloween!

The little show that could

Sara Groves has posted on her site the total giving results and child sponsorships from the Arts*Music*Justice tour. The tour was only 19 shows - not really very many. All told, the results were:

TotalAverage per show
International Justice Mission donations $49,701.41$2,617.92
Food for the Hungry children sponsored55529

Not bad for a show featuring people who, with one exception, I never hear getting airtime on Christian radio stations. Great tour, guys, and I'm extremely glad that your goals - to see children fed and justice done - are going to be aided by efforts you have put forth.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Lil'E with our pumpkinSo, here is our jack-o-lantern for this year's festivities. The difference from years past is that all I did was wield the knife. Lil'E pull out the innards, designed and drew the face, and did a pretty good job of it.

It's been on our front porch since Tuesday night. By the time Saturday comes around, the inside will look like a science experiment in growing mold - gone out of control. The humidity here makes it impossible to keep a pumpkin once you've carved it.

How long will a carved pumpkin last in your neck of the woods?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear Derek Webb, please don't think me a complete imbecile . . .

Dear Derek Webb,

Please don't think me a complete imbecile.

This is Euphrony. I was chatting with you last night, after the Arts*Music*Justice concert in Houston. We were having such a nice conversation. I enjoyed talking about NoiseTrade and your plans for it. I really look forward to changes to the site you were telling me about. It's amazing how fast NoiseTrade has grown, and the caliber of artists represented there. I'm also excited that you've found more people to help with NoiseTrade, so that you can make more music.

I laughed when you said you're job is not to sell records, right after telling people to vote with their conscious even it that means not voting and before you sang "A Savior on Capitol Hill". The irony was great.

We also got to talking a little bit about great artists that just are not highly recognized by the public, after I mentioned getting the Steven Delopoulos B-Sides album on NoiseTrade. We talked about Pierce Pettis, who came up because everyone walked on stage to his song "Miriam" at the start of the concert. I was talking about how "Absalom, Absalom" is one of favorite Pettis songs, and a little of what it means to me, when I felt my phone vibrate - and so I thanked you and bid you good night, both to answer the phone and let you return to striking the stage.

It was only today that it occurred to me that I stopped in mid-thought about "Absalom, Absalom". In retrospect, from what I said, I must sound like a complete idiot who has no understanding of the song or art in general. While this letter may be further evidence to said conclusion, I assure you that I am not.

Again, it was a pleasure talking with you. I hope to get the chance again soon.



Reality Shifted

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?
Psalm 27: 1
A wonderful passage, filling us with comfort and hope.

But how would you react to find this verse scrawled on the wall of a room six-feet by eight-feet, written by the hand of a fifteen year old girl, kidnapped by a family friend and sold into slavery in a foreign land? A girl sold to a brothel, where she was forced to accommodate ten men a day?

Does this shift your reality a little? Whom have I to fear, that this young girl has not faced, ten times over?

Elizabeth was rescued from that brothel. Noticed by an operative from International Justice Mission, a man of peace, who brought this before the local authorities, before another man of peace, who worked to save her.

Whom shall I fear? I fear myself. I fear my own ignorance. I fear my own apathy. I fear my own lack of concern; for that it my greatest enemy, as I sit in the comfort of my home.

Next Monday, at Inspired to Action, we will be hosting a day of fasting and prayer. The focus is the work of International Justice Mission. Go to their website and read stories of people like Elizabeth, whose lives have been changed by men of peace. Join us at I2A next Monday, and share what you have learned about IJM. Let your reality be shifted a little, for the better.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Music Review: Sara Groves' O Holy Night

I've made not secret of the fact that I'm a huge fan of Sara Groves' music. Her artistry in combining words and music does more than tell a story, it draws you into the story. When I heard she would be coming out with a Christmas album I wondered how she would approach it. Would she do a traditional approach, with the holiday standards sung as we always do? Would it be full or original songs centered around the holiday theme? Or would there be the traditional songs with new arrangements? The answer, as you might expect, is a mix of these.

Sara Groves' O Holy Night album coverIn general, there are two camps when it comes to Christmas music. The first group wants to hear the traditional songs sung as they have always been sung, thus invoking the memories of Christmas past and allowing for the sing-along. The second group may like the traditional arrangements, but also equally appreciates new versions of the old songs. Sara does both on this album, giving a new sound to well-loved carols and paying homage to others. I tend to fall into the second group, and found myself actually hearing the lyrics of these well-known carols for perhaps the first time in my life. That's a good thing, a reminder of the deep theology placed in these songs we sing halfheartedly and laugh as we fumble over words we don't really know.

As usual, listening to Sara sing these songs is like wrapping up in a warm, comfy blanket - something you can fall into and relax and really enjoy. Several of the original songs were penned with the help of Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn - and excellent combination of tunesmiths, to be sure. With this combination you would expect a great album for the holidays - and the product lives up to expectations.

Read more . . .
For me, the highlight of the album is the "To Be With You". In the vein of many other holiday songs reminiscing of home, "To Be With You" dwells on the feelings of being with family and remembering traditions over the holidays. It's a song you can listen to and really feel in the mood for the season, ready to see family and enjoy the time together. Again, all delivered in Sara's smooth, lilting voice.

Clip of "To Be With You"

The title song is one of the traditional carols that Sara sings with her own arrangement. If you've heard some of the hymns that she has sung with modern arrangements then you know what to expect from this. With her arrangement, you hear the song you've known for so long in a way that is unique but brings to mind the original melody and harmony, but in a way that (as I mentioned above) highlights the words and allows us to hear their meaning anew. "O Holy Night" may not have the soaring melody and grandiosity of the original, but is down to earth - conversational, like most of Sara's music. The reminder that

"His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression will cease"
is one that we may not expect from a Christmas song, but it is central to the reality of His coming to earth; and, it's a thing we need to recall.

Clip of "O Holy Night"

Sara also lets her humor show in the song "Toy Packaging". With a little bit of the sound you might expect from a Rankin-Bass holiday special, this song is not so much about shiny paper or pretty bows. No, this song is therapy. Because, really, who among us has not gone a little mad at the prospect of wrapping all the presents so they look just right under the tree?
Nothing makes me lose my cool like toy packaging
Ask the kids please leave the room, it's time for toy packaging
Every adhesive known to man
is holding down this Robot man
my self-esteem is in the can
toy packaging

Clip of "Toy Packaging"

All in all, this is an excellent addition to the collection of holiday music. Her traditional renditions of favorite carols are beautiful, her original arrangements are both appropriate for the tunes and enhance to old ears the words we too easily forget. Her offering of original songs are wonderful and will echo in you thoughts through the season. As usual, I'm not disappointed in she has chosen to offer us. The album, released through INO Records, hit stores this past Tuesday and is available iTunes. Enjoy! And, again, thanks to the kind people at INO for providing me with a copy to review.

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Questions for Charlie and Sara

I've mentioned that I'm going to me going to the Arts*Music*Justice Tour this coming Sunday, potentially a highlight concert for the year with the artists who are part of this tour (Sara Groves, Brandon Heath, Charlie Peacock, Derek Webb, and Sandra McCracken). Anyway, I'm really excited about the concert and the organizations being highlighted by the tour (International Justice Mission and Food for the Hungry).

And then last night I was told that I would get a chance to talk to a couple of the tour artists before the show about why they are doing this - specifically, I'll probably get to sit and chat with Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock. Okay, if it works out that way, chances are I'll be totally babbling gibberish trying to communicate with two of my favorite artists - too much to say, too little time. Nevertheless, I'll record the interview, do my best transcription job, and post it soon over on I2A.

A few weeks ago I asked if anyone had any questions they would ask of IJM, given the chance. Only Texas in Africa and Kevin responded, but they had some good questions: How do you avoid despair in the face of such overwhelming need? How do you keep working when you know you can't save everyone? What can my family do locally to help in this important work?

Any other questions?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Random notes

Two out of Three ain't bad
With all due respect to Mr. Meatloaf, while two out of three ain't bad, two out of four is. Specifically when it is 2 out of 4 family members having strep throat. Namely, when it is Mr. and Mrs. E who have strep throat. And we're just waiting for the Little E's to catch it. Really, what are the chances that mom and dad can have strep throat, take care of the kids, and the kids not get sick? It's times like this that I wish we had family living in the area. It would be perfect to tell the kids they're going to grandma and papa's house for the week, let them handle the kids, and let us get well. But, alas, it isn't so.

It's so sparkly
So Lil'E came home from school yesterday and told me that her teacher is getting married. Her ring is so sparkly (so I've been told). Don't know when the wedding will be, but there's a chance that Lil'E will have to learn her teachers new name before the end of the year.

Has anyone else out there had a teacher get married in the middle of a school year? I did, when I was in 4th or 5th grade. All the kids brought her wedding gifts one day - for a little boy, it was an odd experience.

Music on my mind
So, I have so many music-related posts in my head that I haven't been able to get them all out and on the blog. I had really meant to have reviewed Sara Groves' new Christmas album by yesterday, but the strep kept me down. Plus I've also got a few thoughts about worship music and a few new bands to introduce to you. Oh, and I'll be going to the Arts*Music*Justice Tour on Sunday, so that will be fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Cheese Man

Today is School Picture Day at Lil'E's kindergarten. School Pictures are a racket, I think.

No, really, it's a load of crock how they work. We get the order form a few days before picture day. We then proceed to choose from four poses for Lil'E, including:

  1. The lousy standing pose, with arms crossed and body twisted, half-facing the camera and half-running toward the exit.
  2. The lousy sitting pose, with arms crossed and body twisted, half-facing the camera and half-falling toward the exit.
  3. Same as Pose #2, but zoomed in on upper body/face.
  4. Same as Pose #2, but zoomed in so close on the face you feel like you could count boogers
The choice then ranges to background color: fade to Gray, blend-in Blue, putrescent Purple, and oh my eyes are bleeding Green. The fun continues as you decide how many pictures to order. Order none and your child will be crushed. Order too many and you might as well invest in recycling for all the bad photos you'll be disposing of. And then, before the child ever sees the photographer, you pay for it all. Sight unseen, you have just become a victim of caveat emptor.

Lil'E preschool pictureAt preschool, they used a guy named Mr. Funny. I don't know his family, but a more auspicious name for a good child photographer there could not be. Sure, he ran into walls a lot, but all the kids laughed and we got some awesome pictures of Lil'E from his handiwork (see right). This year Lil'er E will benefit from exposure to his shutter, but it seems that big sis will be left out to rot by The Cheese Man.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the rash? Yes, Lil'E has had a cold, and recovering from the viral infection she has gotten a little rash. It is right above her upper lip and on her cheek. She's five, and she looks broke out like a teenager. On Picture Day! She even said this morning that she didn't like the way she looked - poor girl.

About the title - if you don't know, that is a chapter from a Junie B. Jones book, and it seemed apropos. What, you've never heard of Junie B. Jones? She is the star of a series of books by Barbara Parks, following the exploits of a girl in kindergarten (and now 1st grade). She is everychild, and Lil'E loves the books. Some parents may not like the way the Junie B. acts (okay, most wouldn't) but it is realistic of kids that age and provides moments when we can point out good and bad behavior and actually have Lil'E listen to us. We were introduced by a book on CD from a Wendy's kids meal. Below you can listen to Chapter 1, "The Cheese Man", from Junie B. Jones Has A Monster Under Her Bed. Just try not to laugh.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Lil'E Sings!

Okay, so it's bedtime and she's a bit tired and lazy, but here she is singing "Grace Flows Down". Like me, even when tired she has nervous energy - note how the legs never really stop moving. And the hand motions would have worked out better if she had at least sat up to sing - but that was a no-go.

well, not like a sasquatch

Mrs. E and I were driving around Friday night and saw this on a billboard. We got the giggles. It's for a laser hair removal place here in Houston.

Go ahead, laugh.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Music Monday: Little Euphrony's favorites

So, this Music Monday comes with a little side of spite. Mrs. E passed on to me that a few of ours friends who blog (people we know in real life) are tired of all the music posts I put up. They want to read more about Lil'E. Well, just because I can, I have posted about both music and Lil'E. I can imagine the consternation I am causing these individuals now and can't wait to see if they skip the post (as they said they would do for any music post) or read because it is about my sweet girl. I'm just evil that way.

Here are two of Lil'E's favorite songs. The first, I think I've mentioned before, is "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" by They Might Be Giants. Okay, I've always loved TMBG - call it a personal weakness. I've got "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" on a CD and every time Lil'E rides in the car with me the first thing she asks for is this song - even before I can get my seat belt fastened. Sometimes she wants to listen to it ten or twelve times in a row. The best part of it is that it's made her curious: Who are the Turks? Why is it Istanbul and not Constantinople? I've been teaching her history and she actually lets me! Here's a video that was done as part of Tiny Toons (really, Steven Spielberg plus cartoons equals brilliant!).

The second song is "Grace Flows Down" by Christy Nockels. I believe I've heard people say that she could sing a math textbook and sell a millions copies with people raving about her beautiful voice. When Lil'er E was first born, this song was about the only thing that would calm him down; big sis loved to sing it to try and help sooth little brother. She loves the songs, and it is beautiful hearing her sing it. The video is just pictures with the lyrics, but the voice is why you listen.

What are your kids' favorite songs?

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Almost famous

Not everyone can be the best in their field; not everyone can even be in the top tier of practitioners in their art. And you know what, it's not always the most talented, the most brilliant, the most gifted who rise to the top. This happens for a variety of reasons: ambition, connections, perseverance, and even being in the right place at the right time have a big impact on potential recognition for one's work. Let's be honest, life ain't always fair in how things work out.

A story like this came over the wire today, relating to yesterday's awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. For those of you who did not follow this prestigious award, the Nobel went to three researchers who took a gene from jellyfish that produces a protein that fluoresces under UV light and grafted it to other genes. This process allows them to track the movement of proteins in cells and is proving a tool of tremendous value for many areas of cellular and disease research. The jellyfish gene was given to two of the three Nobel awardees by the man who first isolated it, Douglas Prasher - you can read about how his work contributed to the Nobel winning work here.

Prasher was working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute at the time, under a grant from American Cancer Society. It was difficult work to get funded, and he just managed to isolate and clone the gene before his grant ran out; however, he was not able to attempt the final step. Unable to get further funding he moved on, but not before gifting cloned gene samples to several people. Over the intervening years he went to a few other jobs, ending up at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. When his project was cut and he lost his job there, 2-1/2 years ago, Prasher was unable to find another job in his field. To make ends meet, he has since been working as a courtesy shuttle driver for a car dealership.

One step, one funded grant, away from greatness. And now he spends his days driving a car. One of his former colleagues, upon hearing this, deemed it a "staggering waste of talent."

The point of this is not to feel sorry for Prasher (I get a feeling he is about to have some new opportunities in the field of science). The point is this: what did the people he has driven around every day for the last 2-1/2 years think of this man? Did they see him as just a peon, a loser who couldn't get a better job? Did they see him as just an ends to a means, a way to get around while their own car was inconveniently in the shop? Did they talk to him just like any other guy, treat him like anyone else? Did they ever suspect how close he was to fame? And, knowing it now, would they treat him differently?

Honestly, I'd feel the fool if I had been working with this guy, looking down on him for doing a menial job, then found out about his work being a big step towards a Nobel prize. But I really try not to treat people disrespectfully, not to look down on them for any reason; not because they could be someone great who is down on his luck, but because they simply are. Each of us is God's creation, each with the stamp of divine on our lives. Each of us fails, sometimes miserably, and makes a mess of our lives. Though a man may never rise above the circumstances in which he finds himself, he is still living out the bounty which God pours down on us all. We may feel superior at times, blessed in such a way that makes us seem better; this, too, is a deception that shows us the fool. God is no respecter of the differences between people, caring rather for the state of a man's heart. Should we not be the same?

Just a few thoughts that occurred to me this morning.

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