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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.