Dec 30, 2007

KING SIZED BLOGS: Best & Worst of 2007 - MOVIES

So there was a little delay in getting this last King Sized post up.  My reason for that was that I wanted to get all of this year's reviews up on my Rotten Tomatoes site.  That way I can do links to the full review for movies that I mention in this entry.  And, once I am done, be sure to jump over to Greg's site for his opinions.

Movies - ahhhh, I love them so.  This year was a great one for me.  Thanks to several factors, I saw more movies than I had in years.  First of all, my kids were older, so it was easier to get babysitters (well, until the newest kid showed up).  Second, I traveled for conferences and such several times.  And, as anyone can attest who travels for work, there ain't a whole lot to do in between meetings.  But, just about every city has a movie theater.  Third, a bunch of guys at our new church go to movies during the week after the kids are in bed - and then swap off so the wives can go another day.  Fourth, we moved and our new cable operator has On Demand, so I can see movies through that.  As a result, I actually saw twenty movies so far, with hopefully some more soon.

Anyway, instead of the traditional BEST and WORST splits, I am going to do my Movie Review for 2007 my way.  That will serve as the Best and Worst.  Trust me, you'll see.

ENCHANTED - This sweet, funny, modern twist on the classic fairy tale was genius and amazing.  Here's hope that his can carry over in Disney's other offerings under the new Pixar management.

MEET THE ROBINSONS - Moronic, predictable, and it didn't even follow the basic rules of sci-fi and time travel.  How can you screw that up?  Go watch Star Trek or Back to the Future.  It isn't that hard.  I gave it a much better review than it deserved because I was desperate to watch movies.  Now, I realize how dumb it was.

RATATOUILLE - It is a movie about rats . . . in restaurants . . . with French people.  It couldn't be cross-promoted with restaurants.  There were very few toys and merchandise.  But it could, possibly, be the best Pixar movie ever made.  It couldn't rely on those other things, like toy cars I still am buying for my son.  It just had a great story, real humor and emotion, and a beautiful look.  Rats never looked so good.  Neither did French people.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON - This truly fascinating look at the men who made up the moon missions.  Great footage.  Insightful interviews.  I was hooked from the very beginning and stayed that way until the very end.  I would rank it in the Top Five for the year, you know, if I was doing this that way.

GHOST RIDER - It made a ton of money and continued the madness that has people convinced Nic Cage is a movie star.  But I walked out about 20 minutes in.  I knew the concept, and knew that there would be some disturbing elements.  But, geez, what a horrible start.  Bad acting, worse effects, and just an overwhelming sense of evil.  And that was just Cage.  The rest of it was just as bad.  

SAW IV, CAPTIVITY, HOSTEL II - I don't watch these films.  I never will.  I find them revolting, and am disgusted that they even exist.  

BOURNE ULTIMATUM - Call me common or easily impressed, but since I (along with most people in America) won't see any of the movies that are nominated for Oscars, what's wrong with naming this film the best?  It was unbelievable.  Between this film and last year's The Good Shepherd, Matt Damon is showing that he can do more with no words than most actors can with entire monologues.  And that will get him nothing from the awards, because they want scenery chewing and over the top parts.  Everything about this movie was great - from the premise to the screenplay to the acting to the action to the look.  

OCEANS THIRTEEN - I loved the first one, learned to like the second one, and thought the third one was brilliant.  It took a chance by going back to visit its greatest success.  That could have just served to highlight its failure, if it had missed the mark.  Instead, it kept the fun and excitement of the first movie, lost the preening of the second one, and added in some more nifty elements.  Good job by all.

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD - Everything about this was flashing big bright "STAY AWAY - BIG FAILURE AHEAD" signs.  It had been years since the last film.  No one was asking for this one.  They edited to a PG-13.  And Bruce Willis is as hit and miss as you can get.  Instead, by adding in Justin Long, wild stunts, and a frightening realistic premise, the film was crazy fun.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST - This is really just an indictment of the second film.  There was no reason that any of these movies should have sucked.  I'm just glad they didn't pull a Matrix by blowing both sequels.  

SPIDERMAN 3 and SHREK THE THIRD - These movies were disappointing for different reasons.  Spiderman wasn't bad, it just was not want people wanted.  Shrek seemed to lose the mojo it had in the first two.  Either way, neither series is in too much danger.






Dec 23, 2007

Three Birthdays

I am taking a short break from the stunning End of the Year stuff for this post.  Don't worry, I'll pick right back up with those rankings that have you on the edge of your seats.  But I wanted to post this before its relevance was no more.

The week of December 18-25 is an interesting one for me.  As for most people, there is Christmas Eve and Christmas on the 24th and 25th.  Growing up, my Grandma's birthday was on the 23rd.  When my wife, Heather, entered my world, I had another date added to that week.  Her birthday is on the 19th.  And then our daughter was born on the 22nd.  So now, that week has become a big collective celebration highlighted by three birthdays - one at the beginning, one in the middle, one at the end.

The first birthday is Heather's.  This one is always hard.  Part of the reason is that during Christmas, when you have to get stuff for everyone and their mom and their barber, it gets a little tight in the old moneybag.  So, it becomes hard to really let her know how important she is to me through my usual love language - gift giving.  [For more information on love languages, refer to Dr. Gary Chapman's stellar work Five Love Languages.  This blog in no way is brought to you by Dr. Gary Chapman or his ministry.]  I really am amazed at what a wonderful woman I have been blessed to have as my wife.  After nearly seven and a half years of marriage, the newlywed haze is long gone.  But I still sometimes sit there and look at her and can't believe she's my wife.  She always had been the ideal one, but I was sure that I couldn't get her.  Ha ha.  Showed what you get for thinking!  I am not sappy very often - dedicating songs on the radio and writing poetry while wearing a beret and crying, but the new Alicia Keys song No One always reminds me of Heather.  I sing it real loud in the car and bought it for her.  Such a sap.  I guess I figured out how to give her something that communicated my love pretty well (and for just 99 cents.)  Well that and the Exam Krackers books.  [This blog is not sponsored by Exam Krackers.]

The second birthday is my daughter's.  She turned four yesterday.  As she gets older, it gets even more enjoyable to have her as my daughter.  Sure,  there is the natural problems with a child thinking they are in charge.  But she is awesome.  She is so beautiful and funny and smart.  She sings so pretty all the time.  And she runs up to me and hugs me out of nowhere, just to say, "Daddy, I looove you."  As I said last year in her birthday post, I wanted a girl.  I love my boys.  They are incredible and crazy and strong and challenging.  But there is something about a little girl.  I have seen so many girls who were damaged by their dads and by guys.  And I wanted to have a girl so that I could raise her right and help her to be a confident, beautiful, principled woman.  When I look at her, I see those things already being instilled.  It is interesting to see her - even at the age of four - starting to experience emotions and behaviors usually associated with older girls.  She loves to shop and dress up.  You can tell when she kind of "likes" a guy - even when they are 20.  She loves babies.  And she talks about how one day, she'll be grown up and be living on her own - the thought makes her cry (she's not the only one, I guarantee).  I just want this whole thing to slow down.  I don't want to give up her sitting in my lap and falling asleep at night watching the Food Network.  This birthday, while it brings such joy, also carries with it a tiny bit of dread - of the day I'll have to call her to wish her Happy Birthday and send her birthday flowers instead of handing them to her.  For now, I'm going to enjoy Four.

The last birthday is Jesus' birthday on Christmas.  Yes, after many years of ministry I am perfectly aware of the reason this date was picked for the celebration, and that Jesus probably wasn't born then, and all the things to pick holes in Christmas as a religious celebration.  But this is the date that is used, and I end up spending money on presents and dessert, so we'll go with this day.  It is one of the three greatest days there is (the other two being Good Friday and Easter Sunday).  It is the day that God decided to put into motion His plan to restore His relationship with mankind.  He didn't do it with an army or a squadron of angels.  It was with an innocent little baby.  If anything, that showed that the purpose of this act was intimacy and not revolution.  He came in the most inauspicious way possible to change everything from the inside out.  And THAT is the reason I celebrate Christmas.  You could take all the other stuff away (trees, presents, candy, baked goods, savory meats, cider, slobber, drool) and this day STILL would be more important than the rest.  It was the day it all began.  And the world will never be the same.  I know I have readers of this blog who are Jewish, or who have no religious opinion.  So I apologize if this offends you.  I don't apologize for writing about it, though.  It is at the core of who I am.  My job is as a minister, trying to bring the restorative message of the Gospel to people.  My family is founded on the Bible.  My marriage was ordained by God, and is blessed and protected by Him.  And my children are taught right and wrong based on His Word.  So I cannot separate that from MY life, even if the rest of the world can replace the birthday boy's name with an X.  This birthday is amazing because I received the gift, I am the beneficiary, I am the one who celebrates.  All in all, that makes for a pretty rocking week if you ask me.

Dec 21, 2007

KING SIZED BLOGS: 2007 Sports Response

Rather than put my sports response to Greg's picks in another themed post - like Movies, I thought I would do a MiniPost (same as a usual post in every way, except 1/8th the size).
  • RE: Jimmy Johnson's Twofer - You are indeed right, Greg. As all the good church growth bandwagoners say, "It is not in my wheelhouse." I had no idea that Johnson had even switched to NASCAR. I still see him on the FOX NFL show, so I figured he didn't have time for both. And I am sure those helmets mess up his hair. But, bully for him. Lucky that NASCAR, NASTRUCK, NASWAGON are not sports, otherwise Johnson would probably get worn out doing pregame AND driving in one day. [Yes, I am one of those "critics" Greg mentioned. Just because it takes skill and talent to do something well, it does not mean it is a SPORT. I am driving to Jacksonville later today. Wow, I'm an athlete.] So I apologize a great amount to all you NASCAR fans for neglecting your little championship. [Normally, this is where I would make a crack about it being good for me that most NASCAR fans can't read OR use a computer, but I don't want to get pelted with squirrel offal. That's a real word - look it up.]
  • RE: The Colts - I don't know why, probably I'm just evil. I don't like Peyton Manning. Sure, now that he has some of the funniest commercials out there (like this one), I am warming up to him. But I have never liked him as a player. He's in good company. I couldn't stand Dan Marino, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Joe Montana, Dale Murphy, or Jimmy Connors. I loved John McEnroe and hated Ivan Lendl. I loved Michael Jordan and hated Karl Malone and John Stockton. I can't stand Allen Iverson. I don't like Andruw Jones, but like Barry Bonds. It is completely arbitrary. The Colts just get caught up in the Manning-issues.
  • RE: The Rest - I don't hate John Madden. I don't like him as much as Kornheiser, but I always enjoyed Madden as an announcer. I haven't played his video game since 1996. (Although I do think it is hillarious that people think he has anything to do with that game besides putting his name on it.) I think Jon Kitna would do better as a player if he kept his yap shut. I don't know who RayRay and Weldon are, or care.
  • ONE OTHER THING - I just want to go on the record to say I really admire Kevin Smith of UCF for coming back for his senior year. I think he is a great young man who really has his head screwed on straight. His reasons for coming back were noble, admirable, and appreciated. As a Knights fan, I am thrilled he will return because he makes us so much better. That being said, he probably cost himself about $20 million doing it. But, as this article says, (which is ironic that I like this article b/c I usually can't stand this writer), if only there were some more people who valued loyalty and education.

Dec 19, 2007

KING SIZED BLOGS: Best & Worst of 2007 - SPORTS

Well, I knew the first topic would be a dud - thanks to Greg's refusal to be a drooling, dozing, television zombie.  So, let's go with something more up his alley: SPORTS.  First, I would like to make a small correction for the Television article.  I should have had American Idol at least under Best Honorable Mention.  That is probably the show we watch most consistently.  Anywhoooo.  On to sports.  And get ready to get all flustered.  I'm not being Skip Bayless, I swear.  And, no surprise, the worsts far outnumber the bests.

  • KEVIN EVERETT RECOVERY - The more you read about this story, the more crazy and awesome that it becomes.  This Buffalo Bills player should be paralyzed right now.  Instead he is starting to walk and recovering.  It was thanks to God and a doctor who was willing to take risks.  They lowered Everett's body temperature to combat swelling in a very risky and experimental maneuver.  It is amazing to hear of a positive story with a medical professional who was willing to put his entire career on the line for this player.
  • NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS RUN AT 19-0 - I don't care what you think about this team or its coach or anything.  Personally, I hate the Patriots, I think Bill Bellichick is a jerk, I think Tom Brady is a scumbag, and I think most Patriot fans are arrogant turds.  (Sorry Kevin - you are the exception.)  BUT, these things are great for sports.  Everyone follows it.  The ratings for those Pats games are enormous.  And the Super Bowl, if it features an undefeated Patriots against either Dallas or Green Bay could be the highest rated show ever.  I know I watch them every week.  And you have to admire greatness.  They are a GREAT team.  You get to see teams like that every 30 years or so.  Enjoy it.
  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPSETS - I love watching all the big-shot BCS schools get tripped up.  It makes College Football fun.  I hated watching college football for a large stretch of the 80s and 90s because the same teams always went 10-1 and hogged the big games.  Of course, while the regular season was exciting, the Bowl Matchups are, eh, um, not?  And the same teams ended up hogging the bowls again.  Oh well.
  • HONORABLE MENTION: UCF's Football run (I had to put that), UF's Gator Slam (ugh), NBA resurgence, Dwight Howard, Bret Favre's resurrection, state of Florida's FIVE bowl teams, Dungy winning Super Bowl
  • BASEBALL STEROIDS: I'm so far beyond being surprised by this story.  It is just disgusting and ridiculous.  How can baseball legitimately hold itself up as a serious sport now?  Hundreds of players have been tagged - either by the Mitchell report or clubhouse rats or drug testing.  The Home Run King is a user.  The 340 game winning Rocket is a user.  The lineup is littered with players who were the dominant ones.  And even the Report has questions - based on shaky witnesses, run by a dude on the Board of the Red Sox (where hardly any Sox players are named and 22 Yanks are!), no fair trial for the accused.  Baseball managed to screw up its efforts to clean itself up after screwing up for years in refusing to clean itself up.  Confused?  Imagine those young fans who have to sort through all the asterisks and wonder why the greatest players of a generation aren't in the Hall of Fame.
  • MICHAEL VICK & ATLANTA FALCONS:  This covers so many points that the Worsts would have stretched to three pages.  First, there is Bobby Petrino weaseling a new contract out of Louisville, only to screw them over and go to Atlanta.  Then, Michael Vick gets busted for dog fighting and destroys his life and the team.  Then you have players verbally attacking Petrino for being a jerk.  Then you have players supporting Vick and getting fined for it.  (Just think how big of jerk Petrino had to be for the players to verbally support a dog killer and try to throw you under the bus.)  When the team was barely limping to the end of the year, Petrino jumps ship (after promising to stay and being refused permission to talk to other jobs) to go BACK to college to browbeat the Arkansas players.  Then the owner of the team starts negotiating to replace the current GM Rich McKay WITHOUT TELLING McKay he wasn't coming back.  Only the negotiations are with such a big name (Parcells) that it hits all the papers - before Big Tuna screws them over to court the Dolphins.  What a crappy franchise.
  • BILLY DONOVAN: I know UF fans are willing to forgive and forget, but the five Orlando Magic fans aren't.  He weasels an extension out of UF to stay and not take whatever job was floating around.  Then he leaves and takes the Magic job.  Then, after announcing it and everything, CHANGES HIS MIND over the weekend and goes back to UF with a nice fat extension.  I know it is going to work out for Orlando.  Ron Jeremy, I mean Stan Van Gundy is a great coach and the Magic started the year great before December happened.  But I think Donovan will never be an NBA coach now.  Unless the Falcons get a team.
  • JOE TORRE'S SENDOFF: Okay.  Your coach leads you to five World Series in six years or something like that.  Then the other teams catch up.  You haven't WON a World Series since 2000.  BUT you still win your division, go to the playoffs, win in the playoffs.  So, you naturally blame the manager.  Threaten to fire him.  And then cut his salary and tell him to earn it back through incentives - only the incentives are the same thing he's been doing every year that wasn't good enough.  WHA?  Then you anger one of the most popular players your team has ever had by publicly saying he isn't good enough to manage - causing him to leave too.  Brilliant, Hank.
  • KOBE BRYANT: So, you are a young superstar.  You have won your third straight NBA title with your fellow superstar and supercoach.  What next?  Force the team to trade that other star, get the coach to quit or get fired, and make the team build everything around you.  Now, you get to be THE MAN.  So you start getting huge stats, but your team is horrible.  Every big game you have seems to hurt the team more.  So you pitch a fit and don't do anything, just to show how bad your team is.  You grumble.  You gripe.  You get the coach to come back.  And then you demand a trade.  Because the team didn't do enough to win - didn't bring in any huge talent.  Wait, you twit.  You HAD huge talent.  You had the best center in 35 years.  You had four future Hall of Famers starting every night and didn't win the title.  YOU forced the trades.  YOU canned the coach.  YOU were behind EVERYTHING.  And now YOU are mad at how it turned out?  Grow up.
  • 2007 HEISMAN:  Let me begin by saying that I am NOT angry Tim Tebow won the Heisman.  I know that he is incredible - absolutely mind boggling on the field.  I know he is a great person.  Heck he saved a bus of nuns and orphans on the way to the ceremony.  Right now he is personally delivering one million toys to children.  What I am saying is how did Kevin Smith get completely ignored for not only the Heisman, but also the Best Running Back awards?  He didn't need to win.  But I don't get how McFadden is one of the top four, when he had 400 yards less than Smith?  Smith is 181 yards from an all-time rushing record (though even I think its bogus to let that stand when 3 extra games went into it).  How is that not worth a top five finish at least?  Ridiculous.
  • HONORABLE MENTION: Pacman Jones, Red Sox winning World Series, Dolphins winning in Week 14, Peyton Manning winning Super Bowl, NBA Gambling Ref, Patriots Camera Work, Don Imus vs. Rutgers
I'm sure I forgot a ton - straighten me out Ramer.

Dec 16, 2007


Well here it is - that time of year again.  Just when you are about to go absolutely crazy trying to get the final details ready for Christmas, here comes KING SIZED BLOGS to push you over.  For those of you who don't remember, this is a joint production between my blog and Greg Ramer's.  Basically, I write some annoying stuff, and then Greg responds.  We cover several topics.  We'll start with Television.  Then we'll also address Sports, Movies, and possibly Music.  If anything else strikes our fancy, it may jump up too.  So let's stick this pig.

To begin with, I want to cover just the calendar year of 2007.  That would be the 2nd Half of 2006/2007 season, the Summer, and the first half of the 2007/2008 season.  Just wanted to say that in case that is helpful to anyone.
  • LOST - Personally, I felt the entire third season was great - even the six episodes from 2006.  But if you remove the six B-grade episodes from the total score, the series was back to "Best Show on Television" status.  Absolutely gut-wrenching and tense, with the richest mythos on television.  The season finale was unbelievable.  It was better than about 95% of all movies.  And the last few episodes managed to make Heroes' finale look like amateur hour.
  • 30 ROCK - Sure the show started a little rough in 2006, but by 2007 the show was the funniest 30 minutes on television.  (Yes, that includes its NBC comedy buddy that is listed next.)  The beginning of this season was even zanier and funnier.  Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, and the rest are absolutely gut-busting.  The episodes are brilliantly written - even addressing things like the Iraqi war, racism, corporate greed without being heavy-handed.  And the guest stars are unbelievable.  Any show that can say Jerry Seinfeld was only the fifth best guest star knows how to stunt cast.
  • THE OFFICE - There are two major challenges of all long-term shows.  First, how do you advance story lines without losing what made the series popular?  And second, how do you become popular and stay "cool"?  These were the battles for The Office.  We'll see how things go overall, but to date they have handled some potential landmine story lines with humor and brilliant writing (Jim & Pam romance, Michael & Jan romance, Ryan's promotion).  There have been some bumps (like the one hour episodes this fall), but overall I laugh -- a lot.
  • BIG BANG THEORY - By far our favorite new show from 2007.  It helps that we are geeks and the show is about geeks.  The laugh track is pretty annoying, especially when getting used to watching no canned laughter on NBC's Thursday shows.  But it is a very very funny show.
  • MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL - I put this on last year too, but 2007 was a brilliant year for MNF.  There have been four legitimate classic-level games this year - ones that make you kick yourself for falling asleep too early in the morning.  And adding Ron Jaworski instead of Joe Theismann was a great move.
  • FOOD NETWORK -   When exactly did a channel about food become one of the best stations on television?  Their roster of newer shows are amazing: Dinner Impossible, Bobby Flay's Throwdown, Feasting on Asphalt, Ace of Cakes, Diners Drive-ins and Dives, Iron Chef America.  And their "Next Iron Chef" short season was six weeks of tension, brilliance, and fun.  Best reality show I've seen in years.  And it had an unexpected outcome.  The guy who was very shaky week one wins the whole thing - we wanted the guy who came in second to win.  But then one his debut episode on Iron Chef, everyone realized why he won.  We actually watch it more than any other channel.  Great stuff.
  • HONORABLE MENTION - Shrek the Halls, Scrubs, Upside Down Show
  • WRITER'S STRIKE - I don't know where I stand on this.  It is very easy to feel like you have to side with the poor writers instead of the greedy billionaire owners.  But the strike has undeniably ruined what could have been a great season.  It makes me wonder if things will ever be the same on television.  And what happens when this goes on for months and months?  I can't wait to see the horrible reality shows we are forced to deal with to fill hours.  On the plus side, we watch a lot less television.  And a lot more Food Network.
  • ESPN - I officially am tired of ESPN.  With the exception of Mike and Mike in the Morning and live sporting events, I can't think of a single show on ESPN that I would even watch.  They began the entire process of sportswriters just being argumentative to get face time.  And they have blown more stories than any other news outlet.  Would CNN or ABC get away with an anchorman insisting that he was sure a corporate CEO was abandoning his company for a rival - the same day as the Annual Meeting - only to be proven wrong?  Yet ESPN did that with LSU's football coach.  Some of the personalities I used to like (Chris Berman, Stuart Scott, Kenny Mayne) have become so arrogant and self-involved that I hate listening to them.
  • YO GABBA GABBA - Seriously, watch this once.  It will scare you forever.
  • HONORABLE MENTION - Cable News Shows, Sopranos Finale, Most of 2007 Season
Now over to Greg for him to tell us how he doesn't watch television.  Come on Greg, get lazier and watch more of the tube.

Dec 12, 2007


I just wanted to go on the record to announce that I am NOT taking the University of Michigan Head Coach of the Football Program position.  While I greatly admire the job that the Wolverines do, I have NO INTENTION of leaving my current position to move to Ann Arbor.  I am COMMITTED to stay here with Defender Ministries and to see it through until the very end.  Thank you.  There will be no time for questions.  I have work to do.

Dec 8, 2007

Changes coming

I have been thinking a lot about it, and I am deciding to make some big changes to ye olde bloge.  I know I have said this many times before, but this time I plan to follow through.  You can expect the following things in the next few weeks:
  • Year End Special: The last few years, this has been done through King Sized Blogs - my two-man effort with Greg Ramer.  If he is interested, I will probably do that again.
  • In the Words of Kids: I am blatantly stealing this from Brad Crawford of the UCF BCM.  Since he has not been able to do this often, I am going to try to do this.  I am going to relate humorous and insightful comments from our kids.  
  • Weirdness Unleashed: This is going to be posts on the strange things I encounter during the week.
  • Top Five: Apparently everyone loves lists.  These are going to be silly, funny, and interesting lists that I make up.  They are not scientific or proven.  But I said so, so in the blog world, that has some validity.  
  • Entertainment Reviews:  I have stopped putting my movie reviews on the blog and have left them on the Rotten Tomatoes link.  But I am going to started double-posting them.  Just because.  
  • Just Thinking: This will be my longer posts on a variety of topics.  
Those are the plans.  Let's see if I can keep it up.

Nov 14, 2007

Man of Your Word

Hold on to your britches. You actually do see posts two days in a row. You best watch out. I may go on a posting tirade and be an ever-present presence on the internets.

This morning, my sweet little daughter put me in my place. She going to be four in December, but I often forget this, since she acts pretty similar to her six year old brother. Anyway, brother is sick with pneumonia and has to miss school for a couple days. So I was taking her by herself to class this morning. We're having a ball in the van, as we usually do. When we get to the school, I ask her, "Do you want me to take you through the car line, or walk you in to class?" At first, she said the car line, but then changed her mind and wanted me to walk her in.

Now, as the parental unit, I prefer the car line. I don't have to get out of my car. There is no chance for a meltdown at the door. I don't have to park and walk waaaaay across the parking lot - twice. So I said, "Honey, let's just do the car line, okay? You're a big girl. We can do this." She started to say okay, and then said, "No, Daddy. YOU asked me car line or walk in - and I picked walking in."

Spear through the heart. She wasn't being sassy or rude (trust me, I know what that sounds like). She was confused as to why I would give her a choice and then take it away. I sheepishly responded, "You're right. I'm sorry. I did ask you what you wanted. We'll park." It really got me to thinking. How many times do I do that to my kids? Answer: lots. I tell them I'll get to something later, knowing they will probably get distracted and forget. I try to manipulate their answer - or get them to pick what I want them to do.

I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but how I can establish to my kids that I speak the truth? How can I show them that my word is good, if I constantly am showing them that it is not worth anything? I don't want to have my daughter question if I am going to be trustworthy because I have taken advantage of that trust so many time for my own gain. And what would I have really gained? A couple minutes? Not having to walk across the lot? Compared to what I would have lost - the chance to hold hands with my daughter and drop her off to start her day - it seems stupid. And it will ultimately make her question whether every guys is going to lie to her. And if I constantly lie to them, why should I expect them to believe the REALLY important things - like God and Heaven and Creation and such.

On a broader scale, how many times do I do the same thing to people in my life? And how often do they do it to me?
  • I'll call you this afternoon.
  • I'll finish that project tomorrow.
  • I'll email you in the morning.
  • I'll support your ministry.
  • I'll be there for the event.
We've gotten so good at saying those things and having excuses ready for when we fail. I know I do that all the time. I forget to do things (because I'm so busy) and then have to provide reasons for it so I don't look like a schmuck. And everyone around me is doing the same thing. I can honestly say that there is probably not even a handful of people who I know I can completely take at their word. After two-and-a-half years of doing Defender Ministries, I have learned how little a person's word means. It is never malicious or rude (according to the person doing it) and there is always a good reason.

On a global scale, no wonder marriages crumble and people don't trust politicians or businessmen or lawyers or whatever. Words today mean nothing.
  • Til death do us part.
  • I do solemnly swear to tell the truth.
  • I will never leave you.
  • There is irrefutable evidence that...
  • God told me....
We have gotten to a point where words are useless. I can say anything I want to anyone I want - and if I don't follow through I can justify that. This is obvious is sports, where coaches and players bail out on contracts all the time. It is obvious in business, where executives take advantage of the same stockholders they swore to represent. It is obvious in church, where ministers betray and abuse the staff and members they were hired to shepherd. It is a far cry from the Bible, where we are told to have our yes mean yes and our no mean no. We were told never to take vows, because it was better to never take them than to break them.

I know I have a long way to go to fix this point. I just don't ever want to have my kids question my word again. The cost of that is too great. That's something I will never be able to justify.

Nov 13, 2007


I haven't posted in seven weeks. My last entry came the day before our third child entered this world. And he's going to be seven weeks old tomorrow. See? Math is important.

During the last seven weeks, a lot has happened. We have been trying to deal with the new challenge of always being outmanned 3-2 by the kids. We have been trying to establish some sort of schedule. I built a space shuttle and a chick-fil-a out of cardboard boxes, contact paper, and duct tape. I've been writing and meeting and emailing and designing and stressing. And we have been falling asleep between 9:45 and 10:15 each night - exhausted from the day in general. Now the holiday season is upon us, with traveling and events and stress galore.

I have started to blog a couple times. I wanted to do my Summer Oscars, but didn't. I wanted to write about the birth experience, but was too tired. I wanted to gripe about Halloween (even started that one) but didn't. In fact, most of my potential blogs were whiny and negative. Actually, my perspective lately has been pretty whiny and negative. That happens from time to time - usually there is a main culprit. This time, same as most, was money.

Working for and running a relatively new non-profit ministry is one continuous challenge. You have to constantly promote and innovate and inform - hoping you catch on with the people who need to use you. And you also have to hope that money comes in. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, bills don't follow that same schedule. So, when the money doesn't come in (which has happened for three falls in a row), well you get stressed.

So I have been very worried about money. In addition to our other bills, we had our start up costs for our new domicile, an out-of-control power bill thanks to a non-optimized A/C unit, and a speeding ticket (mine - i firmly blame being zoned out and tired and missing the ridiculously low speed limit sign). Then there are the standard needs every November. The kids outgrow their long pants and long shirts from last year, so then need replaced. School has pictures and projects and parties. Travel for holidays and such burns gas (at $3.07 a gallon in Orlando). It all adds up.

So I get very stressed and gripe. I want to know why God hasn't fixed my problem. You know how you get after a few weeks of that? Everything becomes a crisis. THE NEW MAC UPGRADE WON'T LET ME GET ON THE INTERNET AT HOME!!! THE CABLE BOX IS MESSING UP REPEATEDLY DURING THE KIDS' SHOWS!!! WE'RE OUT OF MILK - AGAIN!!! I BANGED MY TOE ON THE STOOL!!! A LIZARD GOT INTO THE HOUSE!!! Soon, instead of being my usual Eeyore self, I turn into a horribly depressed and unpleasant Eeyore. My language starts to slip into college-era. I snap at everyone. My fuse is about five seconds.

So today God decided to give me perspective. As I working in my office, a man came up and asked if I had a jack to fix a flat tire. Being well-trained by my many years of church work, I immediately was on guard. This man was wanting some help - and he could be a fraud. Before I could realize what I was saying, I said, "No, I don't have one." I thought to myself, "Yes, you do. It's in your trunk." The man's face fell. He said, "I just got hired at the new Lowe's yesterday. Today's my first day and I don't want to lose this job already."

I felt bad, and tried to figure out how to save face and solve the problem. "Do you have Triple A?" He looked at me like I was a dope. "No, I don't have money to pay for that." I tried to figure out if any of the counselors would be in soon to bail me out. He was getting desperate. "I have been unemployed for months. I can't lose this job." Finally God broke through and I realized my pride was not as important as this man. "Let me make sure that I don't have one."

We walked to my car and I started pulling stuff out of the trunk - it is full of Defender boxes. I knew right where to look - under the spare. He got excited. "You DO have one." He scampered off to work on his tire and I put the stuff back in the trunk. I walked over to his car, and realized that the was putting the jack in the wrong place and it was going to damage his door and frame. After hesitating (yes I am THAT selfish and stupid) I got down in the dirt and helped him. We changed the tire. It was shredded. There was no scam going on, his tire was used in the first place and it was toast. He's lucky he didn't get in a wreck when it blew out. I put it in the trunk and saw the food he had in his trunk. Canned food from a food kitchen type place and a loaf of old bread with a little mold on it. At that moment I got my perspective.

This guy was broke - really really broke. He was terrified he was going to lose his own small hope for survival. He didn't appear to have a family to go home to and feel blessed (never mentioned one). He was eating food I would have donated or thrown away. And he really needed help. That isn't saying that our struggles are not real and genuine. But we have hope - thanks to generous family members, donors, upcoming bookings. This man had no hope or way to escape his lot. He was very upbeat too. "Now you know you have a jack." (Added guilt pangs.) "If you know anyone who needs a job, tell them go up to Lowe's. They are hiring all positions." I felt like a dirtbag. Before he left, I asked him his name. "Jeff Williams." Easy name to remember for me - same as an old friend from Tampa. I gave him what little money I had in my pocket. "I wasn't asking for your money, sir." I looked at him and said, "I know you weren't, but I know you can use it."

And that was that. Trust me, I'm not trying to make myself look like a saint. In fact, I am probably the villain in the story. I'm too quick to put on that defensive shell - to make someone prove that they are hurting before I help. It is like the Bible story where the servant had a great debt and asked for mercy. His master forgave the debt completely. That servant then found a guy who owed him a couple bucks and had him arrested. The master called the servant back in and blew his stack - reinstated the debt and tossed him in prison. I'm that jerky servant a lot. I expect God to provide when I'm hurting (which is a legitimate prayer and hope). But I look around me and judge other people for their spending or their financial state. I worry that every panhandler is a fraud, everyone who comes to a church for help is a faker. Makes me look like a total punk.

Did I learn my lesson? Probably not. Not even five minutes later one of the counseling clients out in the lobby came in my office and asked if I had a cup she could use. Her medicine was drying out her mouth. I looked around and said, "No, I'm sorry." I then saw my box of cups that I have saved over the years - ones I designed or got as gifts. My initial thought was, "You can't give her those." And I almost let that thought win. But I called her back and gave her one of them. At least it took less time for me to switch from my initial reaction and to do something. I just hope that eventually I will be able to get rid of that first response. I need to keep my perspective.

Sep 25, 2007


I didn't even realize how much time has passed since my last post until last night. Heather yelled in from the family computer, "You haven't posted in over a month." She was right. There have been times I wanted to put stuff up. I was going to do a "Summer Oscar Special" post, but didn't. I also was going to do a "Running Emmy Diary" post, but didn't. I even thought about putting up my thoughts on the new television season, but didn't. That wasn't because I didn't think anyone would care. It was that I feel like I have been strapped to a bullet for the last month - metaphorically. Why is that? Well, let's take a look at what happened since my last post.

- Kids started school
- Defender Youth Weekend in Oviedo
- College started, with my new effort as college pastor at my church
- Met with Defender supporter who suggested a new big project to submit for grants, etc
- My son's sixth birthday and party
- UCF's first ever game at new on-campus stadium
- Went to Tennessee to meet with contacts for Defender
- Our third baby is due - TOMORROW!

So I guess you can see why things have been a weeeeee bit hectic. Tomorrow, our third child is going to be delivered. This will also be our last biological child, thanks to an add-on procedure during the c-section. Each pregnancy has taken a greater toll on Heather's body, and this one was the worst so far. So we and the doctor agreed this was the best step. I'm fine with that. We were not really expecting this child, so having our third little booger is a blessing anyway. That was what made me start to think about how blessed I am in general. So, I hope you don't mind me sharing why I'm so blessed.

1. I have a brilliant and wonderful wife who loves me - even though at times I am stupid and pig-headed and stubborn and temperamental. And I am always fat. And I have led her through hill and high water, chasing God's will for our lives. We have never had enough money, and my current job is pay or no-pay, depending on how donations and stuff goes. But she never complains, and always encourages me to keep the course. I don't know many women who would have put up with what she has put up with and stayed so supportive. But that's Heather for you. She has put her dreams and desires on the back burner, waiting for God to open doors.

2. My wife is going to be a doctor. And I feel stupid compared to her. You know how weird that is to me? But I am proud of her, so I get to brag on her.

3. I have a brilliant and awesome son who constantly amazes me with his understanding of science and such. He loves me and is fun - and he's a b-o-y boy. I was never like that, so I am nervous about that. But it is fun to see him act like a typical boy. Right now he is destroying something. Seriously. But that is what boys do. He's so fun and exciting and sweet and awesome.

4. I have a gorgeous and hillarious and goofy daughter who constantly keeps me laughing and shaking my head. She is so funny and creative. She sings and dances and plays like she is a mommy to her dolls and animals. And she cuddles us and snuggles us. And she has long pretty hair and acts like a princess.

5. My kids will walk up to me out of nowhere and say, "Daddy, I love you." Makes you melt.

6. I have a great relationship with my in-laws. They are going to be here for the baby's arrival and staying at our house. And I am thrilled. They love me so much and have been there for us so many times. Our kids love them. And they all have taken me in like one of their own - from Heather's parents to her grandparents to her brothers to her extended family. I know some people who dread seeing their in-laws. I never ever do.

7. I have a great relationship with my mom. I was thinking how great it is that I am not estranged from my family. Some people do not get to celebrate life's big events with their family because of how ugly things have gotten. But I have a mom who will anxiously sit there in Tampa until she can see pictures - which we will send to Walgreens via the internet from the hospital room.

8. I have the best friendships I have ever had in my life - at the age of 33. You hear how you will only have a couple of really good friends in your life. I have so many people right now who really care about me. I can't believe how God has flooded us with people that love us. I have never in my entire life had so many people that I would consider "great friends." And that goes for my wife too. She has people that love her and call her and it is awesome. Charles, JP & Emily, Aaron, Allen & Candy, Byron & Bern, Randy & Susan, Tiffany and Erik, Benji & Amy, Greg, Dana, Matt & Sarah, Eddie, Brad & Julie, Toney & Anna. It is amazing.

9. I am doing what I love doing for a job. Even though things don't always go the way I plan as far as finances go, I get to write and teach and design and compile lessons. I get to work with college students. I get to see families and students draw closer to God and each other. Sometimes I still shake my head about how I managed to score a job like this - how God pulled everything together just so. Incredible.

10. I have a God who loves me so much that He made 1-9 possible.

And then the bonus....
I get to watch a new life come tomorrow. I get to hold a little bitty boy and kiss him and teach him and love him. And the joy I have from being a dad to those two awesome kids I have gets to increase when #3 arrives. I can't wait to see him and have him fall asleep on me. It is so surreal. And all I can do is just shake my head at how blessed I am.

Aug 22, 2007

Uncovering Root Issues

So yesterday's post came out of a overwhelming sense of frustration. As I have had time to dwell on things, I know that what I said certainly was valid. There is a huge problem with Christians not loving each other. But there are other issues at play - that are intensified by this issue - and that intensify this issue. I started thinking about my own life, and if there was anyone that I was having trouble loving. Yes, there were people that fit in that category. A couple of them are people who have hurt me and those close to me so much that I will probably always struggle with loving them. I catch myself getting angry at them - for past wrongs - and I have to go to God and ask Him to help me. Sometimes, something will cause actual angry and rage to flare up at those people. It is in those times that I understand just how poorly I know how to love. I have all the justifications in my head for why I am allowed to feel that way. But then I think about the fact that Jesus loved Judas, and I have to slink off to my shame corner.

Today, though, a different person popped up into my head. It is a very dear friend - someone who has been a huge positive influence on my life and ministry. But I have been very unloving in my heart towards him. It has even gotten bad enough that seeing his face on Facebook will get my blood pressure rising. I took a moment and thought, "What could have possibly gotten things to that point?" And it all came down to the fact that he did something - actually, more correctly DIDN'T do something I wanted him to do. I don't know if he even knew what he was supposed to do. As a result, it has gotten to be like a poison in our relationship. And now, there is a huge wall built up there.

So, I thought about my options. I could write him and his friendship off forever and just keep building the wall. That is pretty dumb. I could act like everything is fine both to him and to myself. That hasn't been working yet. Or I could go to him and talk to him. yikes. I don't want to do that. I don't want to go to him and talk - he intimidates me and I would be terrified of him rejecting my apology. But, the Bible says we are supposed to do just that. In Matthew 5 we are told that if we remember that our brother has something against us, we should pause our worship to fix things. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus flies in the face of human standards by setting His own standards. He had just talked about how the persecuted and poor and meek were the real winners. Now, He tells us, "Don't just go to the brother if YOU have something against HIM. Go to him even if HE has something against YOU." It was a foregone conclusion that we should go to them for our own pains, but He added to try to make peace with THEIR pains.

So I was already on shaky ground. James 5 talks about us confessing our sins to each other. The Lord's Prayer tells us that we have to forgive people. So I had to make things right - something I have begun trying to do. How it goes, I am not sure. But I have to obey and love my friend enough to try to make things right.

This is part of the problems that led to yesterday's post. We don't do things in Church. We don't go to each other and try to work out problems. We harbor them and let them fester and burn in our souls. Part of that is because communication is so bad - people don't know how to communicate at all - and part of it is because it is not modeled for people. When our church leaders do not go to people who they have wronged, or if they claim they have never wronged anyone, or if they won't go to people who have wronged them, then how are the members supposed to realize it is important? If the leadership is insulated and removed from the people, how can those members go to the leaders and express their own hurt? Love is missing - but so is communication, forgiveness, remorse, humility, and peacemaking.

It can paint a bleak picture, when we see how badly things are going. But we can make a change at least in our own lives. I am tired of seeing this in my own life. I want to fix things. I am tired of harboring stuff - I already battle being "an Eeyore" and being "cynical and sardonic." I don't need to contribute to that by keeping those poisons inside. I hope that you can say the same.

Aug 21, 2007

They Shall Know You Are Christians By Your...

The thing about Christians is that we are supposed to be very easy to identify. We are supposed to stand out and be different. But, according to John 13, 1 John 2, and 1 John 4, the most easily recognizable character trait is supposed to be our love for one another. "They will know you are my disciples by your love one for another." That is what Jesus told His followers in John 13. It must have made an impression on John, since the entire book of 1 John does just two things - fight gnosticism and talk about how we should love each other. That is a pretty powerful thought. When people are trying to figure out what you stand for, they should know your beliefs about God by how you love people.

Why would that be such a telling behavior? Think about it - all people should know how to love. They have parents and family and friends and kids. Love should be one of the most common traits in mankind in general. Yet, it is so absent that if we actually loved each other, it would be so startling that immediately people would know that we are Christians. The fact is that love has been counterfeited and damaged and poisoned from the very beginning. Satan attacked that right away, and it soon became selfish. This love that Jesus and John were referring to was not the love that we see on display around us. Those are actually lustful and manipulative and selfish loves. This love is the Agape love that Jesus displayed - unconditional love that would be willing to die for another. THAT is how much we as Christians should love.

Boy, did we blow that. How are Christians known now? How are they recognized? Let's take a look at the defining characteristics of Christians ACCORDING TO THE WORLD.

Judgmental: Christians judge everyone around them (Christian and not). If I realize you don't believe like me, then I judge you. You must not be open to God's leading, since you don't believe like I do. We then try to cram our beliefs down your throat. And this isn't just on big issues. It is on little stuff that the Bible doesn't even address. This leads into the next characteristic.

Hateful: Christians hate those people who do not believe like them. That may be the person who drinks (if you are Baptist), or who sleeps around, or the homosexual, or the liberal Democrat, or the environmentalist, or the abortionist. It isn't just left at judging those people, it becomes a genuine hatred for those people.

Stupid: Christians don't even try to learn about issues, they just spout the Bible out and expect that to suffice. This is seen in the stem cell argument, the evolution/Creation argument, politics and war in general, science across the board. Most Christians completely ignore 1 Peter 3:15 and can't justify their faith at all. When it gets questioned, they get angry and run.

No Fun: Christians can't do anything fun. They can't have sex or drink or do drugs or play cards or dance. They can't go to football games because church is on Sunday.

Hypocrites: They say one thing and do another. They spout verses out and go to church, but act exactly the same at home and at work. They are just as unethical, immoral, vulgar, and angry.

If you don't believe these are true, just watch television or get online. CNN is running a special this week on God's Warriors. It is about extremists in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. They have found these Christians who are militant about their beliefs. They are easy to find, because they are loud and confrontational. I heard one at the Exodus conference - talking about Revolution. Television shows that have run in the last year have had Christians reflecting each of these characteristics. The characters have ranted and railed. They have sold out their faith. They have betrayed each other. They have done everything except love.

And the world is dead on in their assessment. I know this because I spend my life around Christians. I am entering my tenth year working in ministry and church related jobs. In that time, I have seen Christians do some of the most despicable acts to each other. It has been ridiculous. I have seen ministers lie, cheat, and misallocate funds to advance their own agenda. I have seen pastors absolutely DESTROY staff people to keep them in line or punish them for even the smallest infractions. This included telling them that they were incompetent, uneducated, worthless, and unwanted. One minister was called a cancer and another a parasite. Another was told he was lucky to have his job, because he wouldn't be able to get anything else that paid decent. Several young people who were considering entering ministry were given lousy maintenance jobs and told that if they really wanted to serve God, they would do that with joy. Then they were constantly berated and mistreated.

Okay, those were hearsay, right? Well allow me to share MY experiences:
- My job was threatened at my first church job six different times. As in "If this happens again you are fired." My crimes? One time I misspelled a word in the bulletin. Another time I had the wrong paper for a newsletter due to a mistake by our vendor. Another time I was lied to by some other area ministers and got left holding the bag for an event. My worst crime was I confronted the pastor about some questionable spending.
- I was continually told that I could not put the Rev. in front of my name because I was "just a secretary."
- I was ripped a new one during a meeting in front of the rest of the staff because I dared to express the fact that I felt the staff was not a level playing field, and then apologizing for my bad attitude.
- I was mocked for seeing my group's numbers drop when I had just taken over the ministry and was re-organizing it.
- I had a pastor tell me that their church "deserved someone with a seminary degree" instead of me since I didn't have one -which has been echoed several times other places without the snotty attitude.
- By Christians in general, I have been chastised for being too secular for watching too much television, going to too many movies, listening to too much non-Christian music, reading non-Christian books, not homeschooling my kids, going to a public university, letting my wife consider go to medical school, having friends who drink, reading Donald Miller books, going to a big church, and making too many jokes.
- On the flip side, I have also been chastised for being too closed-minded for NOT watching certain TV shows, NOT going to movies with excessive violence or sex, for NOT listening to most music, for NOT reading Harry Potter, for sending my kids to a Christian school instead of a public one, for taking seminary classes at all, for working for a church, for NOT drinking, for NOT liking Rob Bell, for going to a small church now, and for being too negative.

Basically, Christians don't love each other. It is not modelled in church staffs. Pastors usually are using their jobs at larger churches to get more attention so they can have a tv show and book deal and get to speak at conferences. They use business principles for growing their church. They will run over anyone they need to in order to succeed. They teach sermon series on success and prosperity instead of teaching the Gospel. The membership turns on anyone who doesn't agree with them. When a staff person or lay leader leaves, they are shredded by everyone. "There must be something wrong with Person X if they dare to leave our church." If a person comes forward with a sin issue (porn, lust, drinking, anger, abuse) they are ostracized or booted out. They never are restored or lovingly ministered to. Churches consider too much recovery ministry a "bad thing" because it brings too many of the "wrong kind of people" to their church (actual position from a church conference).

In the mean time, the world outside the church doors sees all of this and wonders why in tarnation they would EVER go inside. They are already reviled by the church, and it doesn't seem as if it is going to change if they join it. I am so tired of this. I have wanted to post something like this for a long time. But I have been afraid about if someone who is not churched reading my post and getting angry at God. Then I thought about it - they already know this. They already see it. They already have been judged and hated and insulted by Christians. They already feel unloved by the very people who should be known for their love. The Early Church was actually so loving that people around them accused them of being lewd - because no one could understand how perfect strangers could care so much about each other without sex playiing a part. Today, that is so far from true. Today, if Christians actually tried to market themselves as loving, the people around would think it was a joke. I know I would, and I work within the church world.

We aren't told to do service projects to prove how much we love the world - so we can trick them into coming and getting saved. We aren't told to call ourselves "The Loving Place" so we don't actually have to follow through. We are told that we should be known by how much we love EACH OTHER. If you are incapable of loving and caring for your own family, how can you possibly think you can love anyone else? I guess that some things that have happened in MY world lately have really made this a point to consider. I have witnessed some of the ugliest and hateful behavior committed by Christians in the past couple weeks that I have ever seen in my life. Supposedly Godly men have lied, backstabbed, and blackballed to protect themselves - from accusations that were 100% true. I also found out that one of the most hateful and vicious people I ever met in church work is actually 2nd in command at one of the largest Baptist churches in America now. I had heard he was run out of ministry for his viciousness. Turns out he was promoted. This has always been the biggest challenge for me being in the church world - you know too much. You see too much. And you get beat up, hated, and mistreated too much.

I don't want this post to be a rant or just blowing off steam. I hope that it convicts you. It convicted me. I get very angry and judgmental - especially when someone questions my writing or my work. Those things are very personal to me. I am pouring myself out and when you read my stuff or use my projects, you are kind of getting to know who I am. So, when I face criticism, I am overly sensitive. And that turns to anger. I guess I battle thinking that if people don't like what I wrote or generated, that it means there is no use in it. I question what gives me the right to put my opinions out there anyway. I'm just a 33 year old with no seminary degree and minimal "useful experience." So I want people to like my stuff. And if they don't I feel like it invalidates my writing it - and in some ways invalidates me. You can think that is stupid if you want. I don't care. That is how I feel - and it is stupid. I have as much right to say my thoughts as the other 55 million bloggers. And I need to get over it. I need to be more loving - to those who disagree with me, to those who hurt me, to those who hurt people I care about, to people different than me. I hope that maybe this will make you take stock too. If we are supposed to be recognized by our love, and we aren't loving, that what the heck are we even here for? How are we supposed to represent God and bring Him glory if we don't even look like Him. He IS love. Maybe we should think about that fact for a while and see if that changes anything. I hope it does.

Aug 12, 2007


Well, this is my 100th post. That is a major milestone for my blog - but not so much for other blogs. Some will have 100 posts in a month -- or even a week. But I have tried to make this blog different than a lot of them. I don't want to just give my piddly, know-nothing comments about every news event and happening. I want my stuff to be more interesting, unique, and entertaining than just a daily news recap. Sure, I have commented on news stories (Michael Vick, Mel Gibson are a couple examples). Mostly, though, I wait and see if I am still riled up about a week later. If so, I'll post. If not, I'll leave it to the other 55 million bloggers to cover. I also have done running diaries on the Oscars and American Idol. There have been some movie reviews, but those mostly have been stuck over on my Rotten Tomatoes site now.

I am a minister, so I can't ignore my faith, which has colored many posts. I love movies and television, so that also has come into play. I also am an idiot, which has been more than fairly represented in posts like this and this and this. But I hope that everyone who reads this blog enjoys it and finds something to take away. That could be a laugh or a point to ponder or a reason to think I'm a doofus.

I think I put too much thought into this blog. That is why I have long breaks that usually end with a comment like, "Sorry I haven't posted lately, but..." This post, for example, has been especially hard. Once I realized that it was #100, I wanted it to be special and not something like, "Go check Rotten Tomatoes for my Die Hard review." And there were like 10 news stories that happened that I wanted to address, but not for this one. I guess the problem comes in writing and not knowing who is reading and what they think.

So, I want to know what YOU want. All three of you. What are your favorite posts? What kind of stuff have you enjoyed reading? I have ideas for a more thematic approach: FerreTV posts about television, Moviepalooza posts about movies, King Sized Blogs for end of the year stuff, Modern Day Theses for religious stuff, and It's Personal for personal stuff. But I want to know what you like too. If you read this somewhat regularly, please hit the comment link and leave a note. Tell me what you like and don't like. And don't let it just be the spanish speaking guy who makes screen printing shirts that posts. I want to hear from Greg and Diane and Michele and Heather and Holly and Brad and Tiffany (both of them) and the rest. I don't promise I'll do what you say, but I will consider it.

I look back on December 2004, when I made my first post, and realize how much is changed. My son is going to Kindergarten. My daughter is 3 1/2. Our third child is coming in six weeks. I am basically self-employed (with all the good and bad that brings). I'm still working with college students. I'm still teaching and writing. I'm still self-conscious. But I know I've grown and learned. I'm at a different church, different house, different job, different place in my life. So my posts have changed. I have fewer "goofy posts" and more "serious posts." But I still love writing and entertaining - be that through inspiration, laughter, or sheer pity. I hope the next 100 posts will be even better than the last. And I hope that it won't take 30 months to get there. Hopefully I will hear from you soon.

Jul 20, 2007

Rhymes with Vick

The entire Michael Vick/dogfighting saga has really been unbelievable. For an athlete of his stature to even be close enough to the situation to be credibly indicted says something about his incredible lack of judgment. But before I get to Vick himself, there are some other things that I have been thinking about in relation to this story.

- The Modern News Approach is Dangerous - In my mind, Vick is guilty. I think there is too much pointing to that, the least of which is the fact he was even included in a FEDERAL indictment. However, the problem is that I am not alone. Everyone has an opinion already. This story has been covered 24 hours a day for two days now. There are 24 hour television news channels, talk radio shows, internet new, internet sports, sports television shows. It is a saturation of news. I was listening to Tom Brokaw on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike yesterday morning. The hosts asked him about how he felt the story was being handled. He said exactly what I have felt for a long time. When there is this much coverage out there, it doesn't take long to cross the line to irresponsible journalism. I would go one further. On just about any news story, you pretty much exhaust the angles and facts in about four hours. Then you are stuck with two option: wait for updates or talk about the same stuff. That is what you find on the media outlets. You have people who keep talking and talking about the same exact details. And then everyone is desperately searching for leaks, hints, rumors, and updates. This has led to some of the irresponsible stuff we have seen over the recent past. People release news without confirmations. They use some questionable source as breaking news. Why have we had so many problems with government leaks lately? It all ties into this. The other major problem is that once you reach the point of saturation, the only way to stand out is to make off the wall statements. This is especially true in the sports news world. Every major city has AT LEAST one sports talk radio station. In Orlando we have two. Plus, ESPN has four TV channels, Fox Sports has one, CSS sports, Sunshine Sports (in Florida), and all the traditional news stations. There is a huge amount of babble going on. So many sports guys have resorted to making bizarre and controversial statements to break into that glut. That is how guys like Skip Bayless, Dan LeBatard, and Woody Paige jumped from newspaper guys to television guys. And that is how they stay there - they make ridiculous comments. I'm sure we aren't too far away from one or all of those guys defending dogfighting (if it hasn't already happened). I already have heard sportswriters defending Vick and his buddies by saying this is a racist issue. They also have tried to say that dogfighting is cultural among a group of African-Americans in the south. Really? That makes it okay? It didn't make racisim or slavery or polygamy okay. I think that we all should agree that if a cultural event involved murder and torture, it should generally be frowned upon in America. But some people have tried to defend this to get national airplay. The line between editorial and news is so blurred we don't even know what it is.

- Innocent Until Proven Guilty is Bunk - With the news going this way, that ancient concept of American justice is gone. All that matters is the initial news break. The follow-ups never get the same airplay as the first story - unless it is at the end of a whole overblown media cirucs (OJ, Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton). For example, if someone gets sued for something, that gets front page coverage. Ninety percent of the time, the suit has no merit or it gets dropped or the sued party wins or they settle. But this doesn't get the same recognition. So we hear about people suing McDonald's for getting fat. But we never hear that the courts laughed those people out of the courtroom. Or we hear someone getting charged with something, and then don't hear what happened. We assume that an indictment or getting charged with something means that person was found guilty. Now, a FEDERAL indictment is different than an average one. Those are usually extremely well researched. In most cases, it takes as much work to get a federal grand jury to indict as it would to get a full local trial won. Plus, you don't have the same risk of District Attorneys going out on personal resume building (like the Duke lacrosse case). However, in the court of public opinion, if a person is charged or sued they are seen as guilty. Sure, we may tack the word "allegedly" onto that - mainly with a sarcastic tone and a disdain for having to include it. This is soooo dangerous. With this mindset in place, if people ever do get arrested for political or religious stances, what chance do they have? In addition, it poisons the jury pool. It becomes harder and harder to find people without pre-concieved notions for the jury. What people are you left with? If they aren't aware of a major case even with this massive coverage, how in touch with society are they?

- In Sports, All That Matters Are W, L, and $ - The first statement out of Nike's Headquarters was that this whole incident had no bearing on their marketing for Vick's new shoe. They knew that this incident would not hurt sales, so they probably really wanted to rush out the shoes. Instead, that statement got torn to shreds in the press. Now they are delaying the release. Why? Do you honestly think that moms are going to stop their kids from getting the shoes because they are Vick's? Actually, there is a huge portion of people who would be buying that type of shoes who would be MORE likely to buy it now because Vick is in trouble. The NFL is not going to suspend Vick for now. The Falcons are not going to bench him until the trial affects his ability to play. Falcon fans are hoping he gets off. I admire the new NFL conduct code, but if they aren't going to use it on this, what strength does it have? The line in it that the player "brought shame or embarrassment to himself, his team, and the league." That doesn't describe Vick at all. That bong he tried to smuggle on a plane? Not embarrassing. And even if he is found innocent, having a dogfighting ring run out of his house by his friends? Nope, no shame there. Come on. Just because he's a star he shouldn't get treated different. This is the same as when Ray Lewis was charged with murder and still went to training camp. The same as when Jamal Lewis went to prison for SELLING DRUGS and didn't get suspended by the league. Ridonkulous.

- This Shows How Screwed Up Society's Priorities Are - Why is this such a heinous story? Because dogs are involved. I have said before, the best way to show that a character is a villain in a movie is to have them kill a dog. What happened in Virginia is horrible and disgusting. I think that it shows a degenerate mind. But is there this kind of uproar when people are mistreated? When a child is abused or neglected, when a homeless person is beaten, when an innocent citizen is shot, when a senior citizen is abandoned, when a baby is aborted (oops, I went there). There may be news coverage of something, but it is not intense. We are used to and jaded to ordinary, run of the mill human abuse. The only thing that shocks us out of that is something truly shocking (Virginia Tech shooting, Chris Benoit murders). I think there should be outrage over this Vick thing. Don't think I am saying anything else. But I also wish that we saw humans as worth protecting as those dogs.

As far as Vick goes, I think that it doesn't look good for him. Personally, even if he was completely clueless about the ring, even if he was totally innocent, I think he has to be held responsible for being an accessory to the whole thing. It was his house, his friends, his family members. To say that no one ever slipped in talking around him, that they completely covered their tracks whenever he was at the house, is to really stretch the limits of credibility. He had to have known something, seen a cage, heard the dogs crying, noticed the cars. At first, it looked like he was at worst a passive party in the ring. Now the new evidence that led to his indictment shows that he was involved in the money end AND the dog execution. I think it speaks boatlaods about this whole thing that NO ONE is stunned that Michael Vick was invovled. It is almost like the only question is HOW involved he was. That doesn't speak well of his reputation that with all these people talking about this (even the shock jocks), not a single person has come forward and said, "I can't picture Mike being involved in this. He is not the type of person who would stomach this or allow this." They all just want to know if he actually killed the dogs - which is something they can totally believe him doing. Wow. You must be a real jerk to have your friends not even shake their heads when you get indicted for killing dogs. This is probably the most damning evidence I have heard.

If someone like Drew Brees or LaDamian Tomlinson or Reggie Bush were accused of this, we would be stunned. It would even go so far as to say if Terrell Owens or Keyshawn Johnson or Chad Johnson - some of the more annoying players - were named in this, we would have a hard time believing it. But Vick is named, and we all go, "Sound about right." Man. Those Vick boys are something else. His brother gets accused of rape, assault, and drug use and is such a problem he actually got kicked off the Virginia Tech team - and then is arrogant and uncooperative when the Dolphins stupidly gave him a chance. Mike had about above some of the fray until recently, when it seemed like he stopped trying to cover his scummy nature. My hope is that Vick and his buddies get a fast fair trial (supposedly in October). I hope that if they are truly involved in this, they are found guilty. And if they are, I want them to get the maximum sentence (six years in prison, huge butt fine). And then I want Mike Vick to be stripped of every endorsement he has. I want him to be banned from football for life. I want Nike and Powerade and the Falcons to sue him to get back signing bonuses and contract money. And then I want THAT to be the precedent for the other NFL athletes who decide to get involved in despicable actions. That would send a nice clear message.

Jul 8, 2007

Movie Postapalooza

Check my Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews page (link to the right) on Monday. There should be three new movie reviews there by then. I've gotten backlogged. Die Hard, Ratatouille, Transformers. I'm doing great this summer.

Jul 6, 2007

FerreTV: Heroes, Villains, and the Bottom 3

Last time, I promised I would talk about why the current setup for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) will actually hurt the show in the long run. When you look at AI and SYTYCD as a kind of modern-day sports program, you can begin to see why these shows are successful. We latch on to a person or two, cheer for them, feel the drama when they blow it, and actually have an impact on the outcome. In sports, fans love to believe that they can change the way a game goes. Very rarely is this true, but it can happen. This past year's Golden State/Dallas NBA matchup showed a group of fans who did change the series. I remember going to one UCF football game where the fans got so insane the other team got a penalty and ended up without a score on that drive - which cost them the game. But, honestly, we only affected a few plays. In these shows, you determine the winners ever week.

However, one of the most overlooked elements of sports is the need for a villain. You need to have someone to cheer against. It is hard to get into a game when you don't care who wins. But, if you really loathe some teams, it multiplies the number of games you have an interest in. You can watch a game to cheer for your favorites OR to cheer against your villains. The same has been true in AI and SYTYCD. The success has been as much in the favorites as in the villains. In AI, for example, this has been very obvious. In Season One, it was Nikki, whose 3rd place finish majorly irritated "true fans" of the show. The much superior Tamayra was voted out in the 4th position; Nikki largely advanced on her appeal to guys. In Season Two, there were several obnoxious characters (Carmen, Matt). But the true example was actually Clay Aiken himself. There were a ton of people who loved Clay (my wife), and a ton of people who couldn't stand him (me). That was what made that season work all the way to the end.

Season Three brought us the tone-deaf Jasmine Trias, who finished third largely due to huge vote totals from the West Coast and Hawaii. Season Four gave us Vonzell Solomon who made it to thrid place. But, again, the finale featured a villain in the person of Bo Bice - who a huge number of older viewers hated. Season Five was one of the examples of this process breaking down. The best singers finished 3rd (Elliot) and 4th (Chris). However, the finale had some interest for people because a lot of people (me included) couldn't stand Taylor Hicks. But the series began to show some cracks when the top four all were pretty appealing. When that happens, it is like a game where you like both teams. It really doesn't matter who wins. You know any of the four will put out a good album - which has been proven. Chris Daughtry has a triple-platinum album, Elliot has a critically acclaimed one. Katherine and Taylor both put out albums that sold around 1 million copies each. Katherine's biggest victory may come in crossing over to movies. All four were viable options, somewhat likeable, and talented. There was no tension.

Then you come to this year. There were two villains - Hayley and Sanjaya (three if you count Antonella in the semifinals). In the case of Sanjaya, he was the biggest villain ever on AI. He couldn't sing; he was arrogant; he was weird. But the ratings were huge - until he got booted. Then they dropped off bad. Why? Everyone said this was the strongest crop of singers ever. And that is the exact reason. Once Sanjaya and Hayley got booted in slots 7 and 8, there was no drama. Honestly, if anyone else won, we knew that they would be successful. The top six all were good. So, who cares who wins? I know that I didn't care (as long as Chris Richardson didn't win). AI itself recognized this and did something they never had before. Every year they release a "best of AI" album - with one song per competitor. They did that this year, but they went much farther as well. They also released a Collector's Edition - with studio versions of 76 songs. There are ten songs by Jordin, Blake, and Melinda. Nine songs by Lakisha, eight by Chris R, and so on. Almost every song that was performed on the show made it on the album.

You know who the big winners were on that? Not the top two. The album proved that all of them would make for a great recording artist. In fact, the two stars of the record are Lakisha and Phil - who sound darn good in the studio. After that, Gina is probably the next best. Powerhouses Jordin and Melinda actually suffer because they come off as a bit boring, since they sound exactly the same and get old fast. Blake actually takes a hit because some of his biggest hits from the show get watered down on the album. This record is one of the greatest pieces of evidence that the show is in trouble. Everyone is good. Most of them are polished. As the show has proven itself as a legitimate star-maker, it has lost some of that "it could be the guy next door" element. Just like in real sports, we can't relate to these people any more. This year, Brandon and Melinda were background singers. Chris S was a worship leader and already had recorded an album. Phil was a member of the Navy Rock Band - one of the hardest groups to get into in the military. Jordin had won a Junior Idol competition in Arizona. Gina had tried out other years and performed in local venues in between. Most of the people have already polished their image; some already had stylists and handlers. Last year, both Taylor and Chris already had released failed albums.

When every person is equal, it is frustrating every week to watch them get tossed in the bottom three and voted off. It isn't about talent at that point - it is always about who dials the most and the fastest. That is exactly how Jordin and Blake beat Melinda and Lakisha. Even though the two divas had bigger fan bases from the very start, their fans were not the type who speed dialed a hundred times. (They are, however, the type who buys albums.) What happens next year, when this will probably lead to there being absolutely NO villains in the final 12? We can get a glimpse of that in SYTYCD this year. Even though this is only the third year for the show, it is going through the process faster - probably due to the pedigree of the producers. Last year, the only year I watched, there were people to root against. The biggest was Dmitri, the Russian heartthrob who always found a way to take off his shirt. I wanted to climb through the tv and choke him. This year, all 20 finalists are excellent and personable and good looking. There is no one to root against - no weak spot, no arrogant turd. Even the people the show has tried to cast as villains have turned out to be nice - actually they have been the most delightful of them all (Danny, Dominic). The only thing that even closely resembles a villain is Cedric - just because he already lost one partner. But his solo dancing is so freaky and amazing, you can't hate him. And he is a genuinely sweet kid - even when getting shredded by the judges.

So, in just the second week of voting, the judges themselves admitted only one pair deserved to be in the Bottom Three. If the judges feel that way, think about the viewers. Every week is a frustration because good quality dancers get stuck in the bottom. This is compounded by the fact that they have to do choreography designed by someone else - and only have control over executing it. We have already seen where the choreographers bizarre vision has cost a pair - even though they danced his weirdness flawlessly (Pasha and Terri come to mind).

There has to be a villain. These shows have tried to cast a judge as villain - Simon on AI and Nigel on SYTYCD. The problem is that both guys are actually immensely likeable and funny. AND they are always right. Educated viewers know this. So how can you hate that? And how successful is a show going to be where you only have the judges to root against? Well, how well would a sport do when the only person you could hate were the refs? Hating the refs is a bad sign. That means they are incompetent or corrupt. I'm not sure exactly how to fix this. You can't force the shows to include punks on their rosters. Even if you did, they would do a 180 if they realized they were the "heel" of the show. However, if this doesn't change, fully expect both shows to continue to see a drop off in viewers. It is just the nature of sports.

Jul 4, 2007

Jacksonville - Wednesday - July 4, 2007

Well, we are finally back in the Sunshine State - and looking at all the standing water due to rain. After a full day of flying and visiting two of the busiest airports in the USofA, we made it back. It was a sweet sight to see our little boy running to hug us, and our little girl zonked out on the bench. (We got her smiles this morning.) All in all, it was a fun trip, but we are sooo glad to be home. Well, we aren't really home yet. We will be home tomorrow to Orlando - for now.

Right after we get back we have to find a new house. Our current rental is going to be put up for sale in August, so we have to find a new place. A lot went into that decision. We tried to look into buying a house. Even though now is a great time in the market, it is not a great time for us to pull the trigger on that move. Defender has just gotten somewhat financially stable, and I don't want to go too far out on a limb. That means going back to renting - grrrr. But it gives us some freedom to relocate to Seminole County, which will give us better schools for Josiah and a shorter drive to, uh, everything. That search begins immediately upon return to Central Florida. We are praying that we are able to find something fast that will work with us as far as all the stuff you have to pay up front.

July will be pretty much dominated by the move. August will be dominated by Defender events. We have two major ones, and a couple of others possibly floating around. School will start at the end of August, and then our new arrival will show up the end of September or first of October. It will certainly be busy in the Staples' world. But for now, we get to enjoy Independence Day.

Anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about our military. My dad was a Marine in the Korean War, earning a Purple Heart. It is the thing about him I am the most proud of. I still am drawn to books about that war. I also was a History Ed major in college, so I love history - especially military history. I am a Reagan junkie. I love the patriotic holidays, because they allow our country to stop bickering about political junk long enough to actually show an ounce of gratitude to the people who secured the freedoms that EVERYONE enjoys. I have made it a point of explaining Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and July 4 to my kids - and Josiah will tell you why we celebrate today. Every time we pass a soldier I point it out, so Josiah will recognize that the person deserves respect.

Out in California, we saw a lot of military presence. We passed Fort Pendleton three times - the Marine's Pacific training and launching grounds. It got me a little bit, since that was where my dad launched from. We also saw the huge Naval center in San Diego, and drove through their base to get to the lighthouse. We also passed the old and new Naval hospitals there and I couldn't help wondering if my dad went through there on his return. In Irvine, we went by an enormous National Guard facility with gigantic hangers. When we landed in San Diego, there were Marines everywhere - boarding planes and arriving. Plus there were some active duty soldiers going on leave on our flight to Atlanta and Jax.

I personally want to say that I don't want a day to go by that I do not thank God for those men and women - and to pray for their safety. We all have different opinions about Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else. But those people sacrifice their lives to defend us and others - even when that puts them into a politically volatile environment back home. We need to remember them and thank God for them. Do little things to show you care. Give some money to a veteran's group, volunteer at a VA hospital, walk up to a soldier and thank them. Do something. They are. And if you know someone personally serving, do not EVER forget to lift them up with your words and prayers. Stephen Orf. Buddy Joca. Matthew Creviston. Thanks.

Jul 2, 2007

San Diego - Monday - July 2, 2007

Well today was our last day in California. We got a later start that we anticipated, but we did eventually make it to the San Diego Zoo. But not after we went to .... IN N OUT BURGER!!! For years and years I heard about this magical burger place in California. Anyone I knew who had lived out here or stayed for an extensive period of time would brag about how awesome it was. I would say things like, "Checkers is okay." And they would say, "Have ou ever had In N Out? It's way better." I would say something like, "Sonic is great." They would get this little annoying look and say, "Not as good as In N Out." So I made it a goal to find one of these mythical creations that can only survive on the Left Coast. A couple years ago when I went to Vegas, I found an In N Out and ate there. It was good, but they forgot my meal for over 20 minutes and I ate it really fast while trying to read a map. So it wasn't as earth-shattering as I thought.

Today, though, Heather and I actually went to eat at the In N Out. It was soooo good. Heather loved it too. The place was very busy, as always. The amazing thing is that the place only has eight menu items: burger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, fries, vanilla shake, chocolate shake, strawberry shake, soda. Wham. They have these enormous potatoes that they are continually cleaning, peeling, dunking in water, slicing, and frying. Everything is super fresh and very good. We were very impressed.

Then we went to the zoo. It was funny - there was an Excessive Heat Warning. The temps were supposed to soar into the 80s. Wah. The Zoo is really just an amusement park with lots of animals. Lots and lots and lots of animals. There are supposedly over 4000 animals there! It is like you compare the SD Zoo with any other zoo, and it is like the SD Zoo just overpowers the lame other zoo and then kicks sand in his face. For example, I have been to zoos with giant tortoises before. Like one or two. SD Zoo has 13. Several of them are over 100 years old - and have spent over 80 years at the SD Zoo. The Jax Zoo has like 20 flamingos. SD has over 120 - along with nests, eggs, and babies. SD also has polar bears, pandas, tigers, lions, sea lions....

It also has Disney sized crowds. To see the Panda, you have to go through a huge line. Same story for polar bears, tigers, gorillas, anything really special. So, if you don't want to stand in the burning sun with no clouds and fry while waiting to see a panda sleep or poop, you walk by and do a twisty twist and see it through the exit door. That's what we did. The habitats were so incredible. The couple of gorillas had this enormous place with waterfalls and giant trees. The polar bear had a gigantic joint (not drugs). We had a really good time, but got tired out very fast. We are ready to go home and see our kids. There has been a LOT of walking. We leave first thing in the morning, which we are happy for. It has been a fun trip and we would really like to come back to San Diego at some point. Irvine was pretty nice too. LA can suck eggs. :)

San Diego - Sunday - July 1, 2007

Today we left Irvine and drove south for our two days of vacation in San Diego. Drink it in; it always goes down smooth. We got up early and arrived here around 10:30. We met our friends Dave and Denise Rodriguez for lunch and an afternoon of sightseeing. The Rodriguezes used to live in Orlando, and they moved back here a few years ago. Now, David enjoys having visitors from back east and gloating about life in San Diego. I will say this, he certainly had some things to gloat about. The weather here is beautiful; there is lots to do; the cultural scene is super; the scenery is wonderful. There's nothing worse that a gloater who has a reason to gloat.

We went to Emeliano's for lunch - a Mexican restaurant that David knows the owners of. It is named after on of the revolutionaries who fought against Mexican rule. Great googidy moogidy. I had this experience once before. When we took our trip to Pennsylvania a few years back, I discovered that what I had always assumed passed for a steak and cheese sandwich actually was junk compared to a REAL one. Well, it happened with Mexican food today. I have eaten my share of "mexican food" in my day. But I never had REAL Mexican food. I had a carne asada platter (steak with chili peppers, rice, beans, a cheese enchilada). The food was so good. Man oh man. That is one of my favorite parts of traveling. I love trying out restaurants that I have never been to. Yum.

After that, we went driving to the San Diego lighthouse, where we got an unbelievable view of the harbor, ocean, naval bases, all around. It was so beautiful. The big SD is indeed a gorgeous place. After that, we drove over to Balboa Park. We'll spend some time there tomorrow too when we go to the San Diego Zoo. Anyway, we got to see all the different museums and everything. They call Balboa the Central Park of the West. It is just this enormous area carved out of the city that has parks, botanical gardens, theaters, museums, and more all around. There is a place called The Old Globe Theater that puts on Shakespeare plays. There is a museum that has dinosaur fossils and the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is an Aerospace Museum, a Sports Museum, a Veteran's Memorial, and about twenty other buildings. It is a wonderful place and I hope we can see some of it after the zoo. Oh yeah, the zoo is in Balboa Park too.

After all of that, we checked into La Quinta (Spanish for wireless internet). About a month and a half ago, I had made reservations at Ruth's Chris steakhouse for tonight. We had gotten a big gift card for the restaurant by cashing in our Visa Rewards. So, I knew we were coming and that it would be a cool place to go. The location was right on the harbor - you could see yachts and everything out the window during dinner. Ruth's Chris is where I asked Heather's parents for permission to marry her back in 2000. We hadn't been back there since. It was, as you might expect, very very good. Heather says their Shrimp Cocktail is the best ever. She had that with a filet and creme brulee. I had a bone-in ribeye with spinach au gratin and berries for dessert. It was great and fun to spend time together. Then we came back to La Quinta (Spanish for free muffins for breakfast). Tomorrow is ZOO DAY. Then we return to Florida. I know these posts haven't had the emotional or theological oomph that some of the earlier ones did. But I hope that they are interesting to someone - maybe just my stalker. :)