Monday, December 24, 2007

List of Fours

The fun thing about reading other people’s blogs is that you often stumble across something that makes you think, “Hey, that sounds like fun. I’ll put that on my blog, too.” But, if you do this, it’s probably a good idea to link back to that blog just to let them know that someone does indeed read their stuff and to avoid the blogiarism (new word!).

So, that being said, here’s a list of fours that I found over on Jefferson Street Realist. Why four? Why not?! Enjoy.

1. Four jobs you’ve had in your life: Mall security guard, painter, accountant, analyst
2. Four movies you could (and do) watch over and over: Bourne trilogy (does that count as 3?), Gladiator, The Italian Job, The Princess Bride (although admittedly it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it)
3. Four places you’ve lived: Pensacola, Fl; Cheyenne, WY; England; Roanoke, VA
4. Four fiction books you can’t live without: Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy, Black, Red and White; John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
5. Four non-fiction books you consider essential: The Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, John Walkenbach’s Excel 2003 Bible
6. Four TV shows you love to watch: Heroes, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Amazing Race
7. Four places you’ve been on vacation: Outer Banks, NC; London, England; Colorado Springs, CO; Edinburgh, Scotland.
8. Four websites you visit daily: House of Smooches, This is Roanoke, PCCBoard, Tom in the Box
9. Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, Spaghetti, Chinese (especially the Red Palace), grilled cheese sandwich
10. Four places you’d rather be: Home, home, home, trackside.
11. Four albums you can’t live without: There’s not any album in particular that would fit this category, but if I absolutely had to pick, it would be anything by Third Day, TSO, Selah, or Josh Groban.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Day, another decade

Wow – I’m 30. It’s funny though. I don’t feel as old as I thought I would feel when I was 20. This has definitely been a very eventful decade. Let’s recap.

1997 saw me at Pensacola Christian College. I was engaged to a girl that I thought at the time was THE one for me. A series of events showed me that I was in no way mature enough for the responsibility of marriage. I still had a lot of growing up to do and God had finally gotten my attention. I also boughy my first car (a 1990 Ford Taurus - a good car that took me many miles!) In 1999, I met Sarah in two different classes at college and we became good friends. There was definitely something different about her that attracted me, but it took a long time to bring her around to my point of view. :) I graduated that same year and headed off for a short stint in Texas. A few months later, off I go to the lost colony of Roanoke, VA in search of building a friendship and hopefully more with Sarah. Two years later, we were married and thus began what I think has been the greatest marriage I could have ever asked for. Sarah is a wonderful, beautiful woman who is everything I could ask for in a wife and more.

During the next few years, we (in no particular order) purchased our first house, took a few trips (including one to Great Britain), started my MBA at Liberty University, and began our journey of adoption. In 2006, the Lord blessed us with two Guatemalan-born sons and life got a whole lot busier! Carlos and Jeremiah are so full of life and energy, especially Carlos!! I also finished my MBA that same year and had my appendix removed. Early in 2007, we purchased a house in Rocky Mount and never thought that we would need all that room so soon. Christmas 2006 we had decided that we wanted to begin another adoption journey, this time domestically and prayed for a little girl. We expected the wait time to be perhaps 12 months or more – but God had other plans. Natalie was born in April and came home at the end of May. I proudly say that she is my little princess and I’m sure some might say she has me wrapped around her little finger! THEN another surprise – Sarah got pregnant!! Baby Ben is expected to make his grand entrance towards the end of February.

Whew! What an eventful decade! I have been truly blessed with a wonderful family and way more than I deserve. Here’s to another 30 years!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Welcome to the 21st Century

Have a cookie.

I finally took the plunge and created a Facebook account. Not sure why I didn't do it sooner. I've already gotten in touch with some old college friends that I hadn't heard from in years. Pretty cool stuff. So anyway, if you're on Facebook, look me up.

On a different note, Natalie is not only crawling around everyone (and quite rapidly!) she has also managed to learn to pull herself up on to her feet. It's kind of funny because she can get up, but doesn't know what to do when she gets there and ends up stuck since she can't get back down. Almost every morning that I get her up, she's standing in her crib, gripping the rail with this terrified look that says "Help!" It's cute in a pathetic sort of way.

That's all for now!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Parents, speak out!

The following video poignantly tells of the dangers our kids are facing from what is perhaps one of the most underestimated diseases in the nation. Parents, we must be informed of what endangers our kids and help save them from this dreadful disease. Watch and learn.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Review - Wild At Heart

In the past couple of months, I’ve gotten into listening to books on CD on my way to and from work. I figured that since I’ve got a 20 minute or so drive, I might as well use the time to listen to books. I’ve also discovered a great online source for audio books at where they have a free book available for download every month. I’ve downloaded a couple and need to burn them onto a CD so I can listen to them.

While we were visiting my sister, her husband Doug lent me the audio version of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Having just finished it, I thought I would share a review of the book. Again, thanks to Doug for lending me this book. I’ll mail it back to you shortly!

To be honest, I was a little disappointed although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. From the very beginning, Eldredge seems to be painting a caricature of what a true “man” that comes hauntingly close to how Hollywood wants us to view men as – rugged, square-jawed, outdoorsy types that live to clock out at 5 and have their trucks in 4-wheel drive by 5:15 on some backwoods trail. In fact, many of Eldredge’s examples of “true” men come from such movies as Braveheart and Gladiator. It is apparent that Eldredge enjoys the outdoors and who can fault him for that? The danger is when he equates a necessity of enjoying all these things to how much of a “wild man” a guy really is. He even goes so far as to say that a true man can’t really like being inside at a desk all day, but should be longing to get outside. If he does, something’s wrong with him and he needs to reclaim his manhood by getting wild (outdoors). And this is the premise that Eldredge seems to base his entire thesis on – a man must be wild, adventuresome and ready for a fight in order to be a man. This is backed up with many examples including one where he advises his son who is being picked on to punch the bully in the face as hard as he can. This apparently was designed to make his son feel enabled and manly and have the freedom to fight back, despite the fact that we are to follow Christ’s teaching of turning the other cheek. (Eldredge defends his actions by saying many in the church misinterpret this passage, but never says how or why.)

There are two particular errors (among many) in the book that I want to hit on. The first is the noticeable absence of hardly any Scripture given to support Eldredge’s many false presumptions, and the Scripture that is quoted is so twisted out of context as to make it say something that does not ring true. Instead, Eldredge relies heavily on psychological analyses that fall short of correctly mirroring any Scriptural teaching. Don’t get me wrong on this point. I believe that there is a great use for psychology and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. But the danger comes when we replace Scripture with the psychology and try to make it sound Biblical.

The second and perhaps most disturbing error in the book is Eldredge’s claim that, in trying to support his view that God loves adventure, God is a risk-taker and even an “immense risk-taker.” To hear Eldredge’s view of the death of Christ, you would think the crucifixion was completely unplanned and God showed up just in the nick of time to set everything straight. “God lets the mob kill Jesus, bury him…then he shows up.” Although he tries to add a disclaimer that he isn’t a proponent of Open Theism, he apes Open Theism’s teachings quite well. Risk by definition involves some aspect of the unknown and to say that God takes risks is to say that He doesn’t know the outcome of certain things.

I do believe that today’s culture emasculates men in wanting to be in touch with their softer side and perhaps Eldredge was trying to fight against that. But instead what he ends up doing is going to the other end of the Hollywood extreme in idolizing he-men. In the end, Eldredge’s answer to regaining masculinity seems to be to get in touch with our inner caveman. While there were a few good points made, they are so few and far between as to not make reading (or listening to) the book worthwhile. If I were to rate it out of 5, it would be a 1.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bah Humbug?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…


And so begins another festive season of retailers gleefully opening their doors at the most ungodly hours of the night - at least, the owners are, I’m not so sure about the employees. Holiday tunes waft over the intercoms, bright lights spring up all over, and parking lots fill with those selling Christmas trees.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas. Really, I do. Especially since our children came along, the joy of the season has increased. But amid all the wrapping papers, sappy music, food, food and more food, I have to wonder if something has been lost. I mean, think about. We’re not even past Thanksgiving (I refuse to call it Turkey Day)– a day traditionally set aside to give thanks for our many blessings – and already our senses are being bombarded with ploys to help us expand our ever increasing pile of stuff. You can ask my wife – I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I haven’t delved deep enough into my psyche to determine if it’s simply because I don’t want to bother thinking of something or if it’s some sort of semi-conscious rebellion against materialism. I’m inclined to think it’s more of the former than the latter.

Or perhaps it’s something a little more personal. Christmas should be a time of celebrating God’s gift to us – His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet every year, we’re faced more and more with the stark reality that the true meaning of Christmas is being swallowed up in the buying and the giving. Where it gets personal is the realization that what I am seeing played out in the economics of it all is the reflection of my heart during the entire year. Oh sure, I might go through the motions of “remembering the reason for the season” as it were, but in all honestly, is Christmas time the only true time that I really stop to ponder the Gift or the Giver and how I should be affected? Perhaps all the yuletide buying, giving, receiving, eating, traveling, sleeping, working, planning, and general running around simply show us a condensed version of what Christ sees in us all year long. I’m so busy with the stuff of life that I relegate Christ to an afterthought instead of celebrating HIM as life itself.

This year, instead of getting all crotchety about the trappings of the season, the season should cause some inward reflection and repentance on my own busyness of the year and my forgetting the gift I have in Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Go West, Young Man!

Last week, I had the opportunity to fly to Denver, CO for a business-related training session, and we decided to make a family vacation out of it. So eeeeaaaarrrrly on Thursday morning (11/9), we packed the kiddos in the van and drove down to Greensboro. Even though it was so early, Carlos & Jeremiah were so excited and wound up to be going on a trip. They were really quite funny to listen to. We flew from Greensboro to Memphis and then on to Denver, picked up a rental van and then drove a couple hours down to Colorado Springs to stay with my sister Michelle, and her family for a few days. We also got to see Sarah’s brother, Lee and spend the day with him too.

We had a great time staying with Michelle and got to do a little sight seeing. We went to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole (actually at the foot of Pike’s Peak), Focus on the Family headquarters, and the Garden of the Gods. I think Michelle was trying for the Mom-of-the-year award at Santa's workshop. Kaitlyn wanted so much to go on one of those rides that goes up and around rather fast. Michelle, being the sucker wonderful mom that she is, agreed. I don't think I've ever seen a greener Michelle! It was funny to watch Carlos and Kaitlyn because they are so much alike that I don't think they quite know what to do with each other. But they did get along quite well. At Focus on the Family, they had a kid's area with some puppets that you could play with. I love using puppets and so was right at home using them. For some reason, the kids decided to attack the puppet I was using, Jeremiah especially. I had managed to get most of the kids to stop beating on the poor old "man" but Jeremiah just wouldn't stop. So finally, I took the puppets arm and swung it so that it tapped Jeremiah on his chest. Oh, the look on Jeremiah's face was priceless - a look that said "hey! why did you do that?!" Needless to say, he stopped beating the puppet.

We had beautiful weather during the entire trip and really enjoyed the visit. If you ever go to Colorado Springs and only have time for one sight seeing trip, I would definitely recommend the Garden of the Gods. Talk about an excellent showcase of God’s creation!! We all did a little bit of “rock climbing” (used in the loosest sense of the word) and took lots of pictures, some of which can be found on Sarah's blog. Oh, and we even got to see a BNSF freight train as we drove down I-25. Sarah humored me and took a couple of pictures as we drove by it, but they didn't turn out so well.

Then it was back up to Denver on Sunday evening so I could attend the training on Monday and Tuesday. I was pretty excited about this, not only to get a better understanding of the software program I was being trained on, but also because I got to ride the train into Denver both mornings! Woo-hoo! If ever they decide to build a light-rail system between Rocky Mount and Roanoke, I’d definitely use the train to go to work. No driving or dealing with traffic or finding a parking space – just 30 minutes of relaxation, reading, and watching the scenery. I could definitely get used to this mode of transportation.

Both days, my training ended significantly earlier than I thought it would and so we were all able to go to the Denver Aquarium and the Denver Zoo. The Aquarium was ok, although definitely overpriced. But the Denver Zoo was very fun, with lots of different animals and even a 3-week old baby giraffe. I think Carlos had a hard time coming to grips with something that was a baby, yet was also bigger than he was.

Driving back to the airport, I was really stressing out because our rental van was almost out of gas. (The line was actually just below the “Empty” mark.) When I had rented the van, I opted to purchase a tank of gas from Alamo instead of having to fill it up before returning. In order to get the most out of the deal, we needed to bring it back with as little fuel as possible – and let me tell you, we did exactly that!! One word of advice here though – if you ever need to rent a car, don’t get the fuel option. It’s much cheaper to have to fill it up yourself than to pay what they tell you is a price lower than outside gas stations charge. Although the price was pretty comparable to what gas stations would charge, where they get you is charging for a higher fuel capacity than the vehicle actually contains. For example, we rented a minivan that had a 20 gallon tank, but they charged for a 25 gallon tank, saying this was the average for this type of vehicle. Now, most vans I’ve researched have only a 20 gallon tank, so I’d like to know what minivan has tank that is larger than 25 gallons (since their estimate is an average). Anyway, just a side note.

Overall it was an excellent trip. The kids did really well on all flights. Carlos & Jeremiah loved to look out the window and watch the goings on while we were on the ground (wasn’t too exciting once we were airborne). But like all vacations, the best part was coming home.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More miscellaneous oddities

1. I’ve always wanted to be in a professional stage production.
2. I have made at least 6 cross-country driving trips, including going from Cheyenne, WY to Pensacola, FL, and Dallas, TX to Roanoke, VA.
3. My last three pairs of dress shoes have been of the exact same brand (as Sarah pointed out, “If the shoe fits….!”)
4. My first job was in the cleaning department at college.
5. I love to iron clothes (this is not related to #4)
6. My college friends gave me the same nickname that my Dad’s buddies gave him while he was in the Air Force.
7. Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays the best Christmas music ever. (see my previous post )
8. I like trains
9. No really, I do. :)
10. The same doctor that took my appendix out also took Sarah’s appendix out – over 15 years ago!
11. Very rarely will I drink hot drinks such as tea, coffee or even hot chocolate. It’s against my religion. (just kidding on that last one – please don’t hurt me, Mark!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

That's odd

Inspired by a friend, here are some oddities about myself.

1. Most music played on Christian radio stations annoys me
2. When I drive, I like to have my radio on “scan,” stopping only on a station that really interests me.
3. #2 annoys Sarah greatly (which is why I only do it when I’m driving alone)
4. I was once offered a job at a radio station - the guy said I had a good radio voice (?!) At least he didn’t say I had a face for radio.
5. When I was a boy, my dream was to be the first man on Mars.
6. I hate math
7. Yes, I’m a numbers analyst.
8. The smell of jet fuel makes me nostalgic.
9. My favorite boyhood superhero was Spiderman because he could climb and swing all over the place.
10. I have a fear of dismembered body parts (heads, arms, that sort of thing)
11. I'm a computer game junkie, mostly first-person shooter types.
12. The toilet roll goes over the top (learned during my time in the housekeeping department at college).
13. I’ve never been hunting and have no desire to do so.
14. I’m allergic to tomatoes
15. Most often, I get the hiccups when I eat bread.

More later (maybe).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lost & Found

This time of year is great for photography, especially when the photo subject includes a train or two! When I was able to go out Wednesday evening for some railfanning, I didn’t think that I would get the chance to go out again so soon afterward. But wonderful wife Sarah took the kiddos with her Saturday morning to go yard sale-ing (one of her “hobbies” :)) so I could finish up my lesson for Sunday morning. I finished up sooner that I thought I would and soon felt the trackside tug. It was a gorgeous day with sunny, blue, clear skies and the leaves were starting to show their colors more and more. Quite simply, it was too much to resist. I packed up my radio and camera, and headed out.

Before I go any further, I have to share a story with you. Friday night, I got lost. Yup, you read right. He of the internal compass, the human GPS, got lost. I stopped by Papa John’s on my way home Friday night and, instead of going down Electric Road to 220, I decided to try to find my way through the back section that meets up with 220 a little further south and thus avoid both the Tanglewood Mall area and the traffic lights near Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, I missed the turn that would bring me out in the Cloverdale area and kept going straight. I realized something was amiss when the road no longer had the line markings and I passed a sign that said “End 40 mph speed limit.” BUT at the same time I was driving parallel with the railroad tracks. Since I knew they crossed 220 near Boones Mill, I figured I’d keep on going and see where it led me. Sadly, I eventually had to stop at a house (once I the road turned to gravel) and ask how to get back to 220. As it turns out, I was only a less than a couple of miles from where I needed to be.

The great thing about my excursion is that, as I said, the road I was on followed the tracks almost the entire way (this, by the way, is the Winston-Salem district often called the “Punkin’ Vine Line” because of all the twists and turns.) There are some great spots for photography including trestle bridges and waterways. Even though I was lost (only for a minute, though!), I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and the scenery, and determined that I would come back for some train photography. That’s where we pick up again on Saturday.

The first spot I stopped at was the trestle bridge over Willow Branch Rd. Parking on the side of the road, I made my way up the steep hill through the trees to the tracks. If a train came from the south, I would’ve had the perfect vantage point to get a shot as it crossed the bridge. If one came from the north, though, it would be on top of me without hardly any opportunity for a picture. After enjoying the scenery and solitude for a little while and with the newly gained knowledge of a southbound train coming from Roanoke (scanners are great!), I climbed down and drove a little farther down to the next bridge, this one going over Starlight Lane. Scrambling up the incline, I found the perfect spot. It had a great view in both directions, perfectly lined by trees with a gentle curve at both ends.

**(We interrupt this blog to bring this safety message) If you find yourself wanting to go out and do a bit of railfanning, NEVER EVER EVER walk onto a rail bridge. Not only is it trespassing, it’s just plain stupid. There are plenty of spots for pictures or waiting without endangering your life by risking getting trapped on a bridge with a train bearing down on you. (We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.)

I didn’t have long to wait before the stillness was interrupted by the distant horn of the V74 Roanoke to Winston-Salem local. Even before it rounded the curve, I could hear the low rumble of the approaching engines. As it came around the corner, I snapped a few shots and then stood back to admire the view of the black (and one blue) behemoths roaring through the once-quiet glen. Knowing that the V74 had to slow down as it approached Boones Mill, I raced ahead of it to another vantage point to get a few more shots. Because of the shadows, some of the pictures didn’t turn out quite as I hoped. But for an unplanned day of railfanning, I had a great time and am eager to get out to these spots again before the autumn colors disappear.

Bridge over Willow Branch

Bridge over Stalight Lane

V74 heading South

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Evening Out

My wonderful wife gave the night off last night to do a little shopping and some train photography. Usually on Wednesdays, Sarah brings Carlos to the church for Sparks and then I stay in town after work and bring him home. But this time she decided to stay at the church playground with Jeremiah & Natalie and let me go out by myself for the evening. So with camera, tripod and radio in hand, off I went!

I was able to hang out at two different spots in Salem for a couple hours and take some evenings shots. Unfortunately, but the time any trains came along it was getting rather dark and my camera doesn’t take very good evening pictures. Not even the trash train (V60) was on time. But I did get a couple of non-train railroad pics. The first stopping point was at the Union Street grade crossing. There are actually two sets of tracks here; I chose the one furthest from the skate park, mainly because it afforded a great view both up and down the tracks. Although I didn’t have to wait long before my train came along, I was still experimenting was the settings on my camera and the only shots I did get really didn’t come out good at all. Low light + point-and-shoot-camera + fast train = crappy pictures. Which is ironic considering that one of the engines was a GE Dash 9-40CW, affectionately known as a Crap-9.

After a little while and quick hello to Lori, who stopped by on her way to scrapbooking at the church (hope you had fun, Lori!), I moved on to a side street just off of 4th. It was the road leading into TimberTruss and this spot was even better. Not only could I look down the track in both directions, but one had a nice gentle curve that would probably have lent itself to great photos in daylight. Even better though, straight down the track I could see the signals that could give me some indication of when to expect a train. A local switcher went by a couple times, and the second time the engineer even called out of the window to me to let me know that they would be coming by again soon. But alas, the rapidly fading light didn’t allow me to stay much longer. This picture is perhaps the best shot of the night. I enjoyed the evening though. It was my first real opportunity to use my scanner to listen to the railroad traffic and have the camera, too. Thanks for the night out, sweetheart!

Night Sentinels

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Checking in

Ahh, our vacation was great and very relaxing. It was so good to be able to just get away and enjoy the family and not do much of anything. Sarah has some excellent photos on her blog, including some of Carlos' soccer game, so stop by and check them out. Oh, and don't forget to leave her a comment. :)

Now it's back to the grindstone. And I've hit the ground running. It seems like I've got so many deadlines looming on the horizon, most daunting of which is budgeting. (booo, hiss) Definitely not fun, but also very necessary.

Not much else to say at the moment. I'm hoping to go out and do some more railroad photographing soon. In the meantime, here's one I prepared earlier. It was taken from the 13th Street bridge in Roanoke, leading away west from the South Yard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's quiet -- too quiet

I unlock the door, push it open and walk inside the house. The only sounds are the trees rustling on the other side of the road. No sounds from the house. No scurrying feet. No “Papa’s home!!” followed by a mad dash to the front door, attacking me as I close the door. There’s not even the wail of those currently in the throes of either a tantrum, bad attitude or being remedied of them.

Nothing. Quiet. Too quiet.

But nothing is amiss. There’s simply no one else home. Nor will there be any time soon. I’ve got the whole house to myself for 5 whole days. Five lonely, quiet days. Then I get to go back to the beach and spend a whole week just bumming around with my wonderful wife and three beautiful kids.

I miss my family.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lucianno Pavarotti - RIP

Farewell to one of the greatest musical voices of all time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Happy day-after Labor Day! :) Hope you had a great weekend. We got to spend some time on Saturday with Michael and Leah, went out Sunday evening (more on that below), went to Mitch & Betty's house for the Labor Day family get together, and then took Carlos to his first ever soccer practice. Whew! But it was a fun weekend. I went swimming pretty much the whole time with Jeremiah and Carlos at Mitch & Betty's. Carlos was much braver than he had been previously and even allowed me to throw him in without so much as a hint of fussing (course, it might have had something to do with Rachel and Lauren being right there). Jeremiah was hilarious. He would just jump right in whether I was ready to catch him or not! After awhile, I put some water wings on him and he loved that and was even able to float around without my holding on to him. So I left him to float and went elsewhere.... JUST KIDDING! He did do quite well and even figured out that if he kicked his legs he would move forward. And of course, Natalie was one of the star attractions of the get together, and why not? She is after all the cutest baby girl in the world (bias? what bias? :) )

Carlos seemed to really like his first soccer practice, but at the end he said "Whew, soccer practice really wears you out!" It probably didn't help that he had been swimming for about 3 hours prior to that. He did really well and is excited to play his first game. He'll miss his first game or two, but I don't think he'll mind too much since it's for a good cause - beach vacation!!

This past weekend, I had the chance to go out and do a little bit of railfanning. It was a quiet evening with not a lot of train action going on the Roanoke to Winston-Salem line near downtown Rocky Mount, but you don't necessarily need a train to get some photos. Here's a couple of the ones I took. I think I'll visit this spot again more regularly since it provides a safe place to park and wait for trains plus has some at-grade crossings.

Afterwards, I met up with Sarah and the kids at a park nearby. We went for a walk, the boys got to ride their bikes (I'm sure Sarah will be posting pics soon), and then went up to the playground nearby.

Ok, here are the pics. Enjoy!
Diverging Lines

32 Miles to Roanoke

N&W Caboose #518631

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shadow Puppets

This was sent to me by my brother-in-law. Pretty cool. (I can't even do the rabbit.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Power corrupts

The last time I checked, city governments are supposed to be run by mature, level-headed adults. Then along comes the Roanoke City’s Architectural Review Board and the city council to prove me wrong. Thankfully, there are babysitters for this type of inane behavior, someone who can slap the wrists of immature minds and provide some decent decision making.

Last October, Aubrey Hicks needed to replace the roof on his house in the historic Old Southwest district. As if replacing a roof wasn’t costly enough, Hicks faced the prospect of having to shell out even more for a tin roof simply to satisfy the city’s desire to preserve the neighborhood’s “historical character.” (Now, how putting a shingle roof on a house destroys the historical character is beyond me. I drive through Old Southwest everyday and I haven’t once had to stop my truck in utter dismay as I glance at a shingled-roof house, thinking that the city is now going to pot. But I digress.) Not having the funds to put a tin roof up, Hicks decided to go ahead with a shingled roof. The City Board got wind of it and got the panties in a wad because *gasp* - Hicks didn’t get permission to fix (his own) roof! Oh the horror! So what does the city do? They order Hicks to stop work on his roof, preventing him from finishing the roof or even putting the old one back up, and even threaten him with jail time. All for not getting their approval.

“Ok, everyone out of the pool”

Hicks had requested permission to finish the roof, the board turned it down. Hick’s appealed and the city board rejected his appeal, “not because of the house’s needs but because Hicks didn’t follow proper procedures.” (Roanoke Times) So from October 2006 to August 2007, Hicks’ house has not had a finished roof simply because a power-hungry city council wanted to prove a point.

Thankfully, Judge William Broadhurst has stepped into the fray like a teacher reprimanding a schoolyard bully. He has ordered the city council to allow Hicks to finish his roof, saying the board’s and council’s refusal to grant authorization was “arbitrary and capricious.” Naturally, much whining ensued from both the board and the council saying that this would send the wrong message to other residents and encourage them to circumvent the review board’s authority. Honestly, I hope this is exactly what happens, subsequently making the Architectural Review Board (in this issue, at least) obsolete. Considering that the majority of the residents (NOT businesses) of the Old Southwest area are not exactly in the best place financially to put up a tin roof on a 100-year old building, this issue of needing permission for replacing a roof needs to go the way of the dodo. If the argument is made that, if gone through the right channels, a shingled-roof would be permitted, I would ask why in the world would someone need to go through the hassle of applying for permission in the first place?

Power and immaturity never go well together. For proof, just look at the Roanoke City Council.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Media Bias?

You gotta love this. This picture is from the Yahoo News website

"An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she says hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City."

Just so we are clear, two unfired rounds supposedly hit her house. Word on the Iraqi street is that the police are now looking for some evil American throwing bullets randomly. Next time, those pesky coalition forces should probably remember to bring their ammunition and their weapons.

(Meanwhile, off camera, Adbul waits patiently for his mother to hand him his rounds back.)

Edit: As of this morning (8/16/07), the AFP (the French Press "news" source responsible for the image) has pulled both the picture and the caption. Apparently it didn't take them long to realize they'd be taken for a camel ride. Perhaps a valuable lesson in journalism was learned here - think before you jump off the deep end into trying to make those involved in the Iraq situation look stupid.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yeah, I know what he means...

Do you ever feel like this guy? Me too. Funny (and all too close to reality) stuff.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

And then there were 4!

Yep! Sarah is pregnant!! We are vey excited and shocked, to say the least. The Lord has blessed us with one homegrown child in addition to Carlos, Jeremiah and Natalie. We had our first doctor's visit and ultrasound yesterday. It was so amazing to see the little baby's arms, legs, head and tummy and to hear its heartbeat. The nurse even got the baby to wiggle a little by pressing on Sarah's stomach. (I guess I'd wiggle too if someone was pushing on me!)

Before we were married, Sarah and I talked about having at least 4 children – but I don’t think either of us ever thought it would only take 2 years!! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Debate on Music

A Conservative Blog links to an article written by Kurt Woetzel on the issue of music’s neutrality or lack thereof. In it, the author attempts to argue that music is not and cannot be amoral. I would recommend reading the article before you read my response so as to be able to fully understand the context. As a jumping off point, let me state that it is my belief that music, in and of itself, is indeed amoral. By “in and of itself” I refer to the notes, chords and musical structure and style, not the lyrics of a song.

The author begins by asking some very good questions on the issue of music’s morality: “Is music neutral? Is sound capable of moral influence? Does music alone, with or without text, carry and communicate moral value? Is music amoral?” He goes on to repeat the oft stated axiom that Christians are the only ones who are concerned about the moralness of music, since apparently all secularists accept that it is in fact moral and not amoral. In the article, he quotes a number of secular musicians, philosophers, etc in saying that they each believe that music has moral value to it. The difficulty with this assertion is that it makes a number of assumptions: 1) that each person quoted makes their statement, not out of personal opinion, but of universal fact; and 2) that because a few secularists have given their belief and none quoted to the contrary, it must hold true that there aren’t any secularists who say that music is amoral. (Ironically, the author gives an example of someone who indeed does believe that music is an “object” and therefore amoral, but the example is given in such a dismissive manner as to be an afterthought, hoping perhaps that the reader didn’t catch his attempt at showing both sides.) Further, it must be wondered that perhaps there are more Christians arguing this issue than secularists mainly because secularists have no reason to argue this point in this first place.

Woetzel goes on to debate that the “music is amoral” argument came from Christians wanting to use the “world’s” music, not for worship sake but to appeal to the culture of the day and to “draw people into a living relationship with God.” While this may be true of the intent of some of the musicians and churches who use the music, it is a non-sequitur to say that since some use music in such a way, therefore the music itself is at fault for being used in such a way. It is certainly not a bad thing to want to use music in gospel efforts, but I would agree with the implication that music, as with everything including other art forms, is to be a conduit of worship toward God.

One of the main concerns I have with Woetzel’s argument is found in his statement that because music has the power to move and influence emotions and action, it therefore cannot be neutral and anything to the contrary is illogical. He states, “That which is neutral, obviously, cannot impact character.” This statement is incorrect, however, when you consider that nothing is done in a vacuum, especially music. If music were moral, having a rightness and wrongness about it, it should have the same affect on all listeners, regardless of context, surroundings, etc. Just as other means of communication (which Woetzel rightly compares music to) often find a greater or more specific meaning in what is communicated (spoken vs. written, voice inflection, body language, facial gestures, etc), so too music finds its interpretation in the context in which it is being communicated. Not only do you have the external contexts that can be easily seen and identified, but you also have internal contexts, such as a person’s belief system, world perspective, current mood, or even personal experience, that varies the interpretation of music widely. All these factors can cause two people, hearing the exact same piece of music at the exact same time to have two completely different and perhaps polar opposite reactions. So if, in the hearing of the music, one listener is drawn to think of an immoral activity and the other to think of praise for God, what category then does the music fall into? Using Woetzel’s logic, it must be either right or wrong, but it is obvious that it cannot be indexed as such.

Another concern I have with Woetzel’s argument is the assertion that if music is made to fit the culture, then it is wrong. He quotes with seeming disdain those who say that “We must relate to our culture” along with the subsequent changes in musical style to fit the culture. The problem with this thinking is that it denies the fact that music itself is part of culture. You cannot separate the two. I daresay the music that Woetzel would approve of for Christian usage at some point in time was itself considered too cultural. Someone of my father’s generation would perhaps be appalled at the musical style of Christian artist’s Third Day or even the secular group, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I, on the other hand, enjoy both groups immensely and find that I can worship God in the listening and singing of the music of Third Day just as easily as I can that of Isaac Watts and John Newton.

What Woetzel does in his article is take the attitudes, motivations, goals, etc of the artists and those whose goals are not perhaps what they should be (I’m certainly not denying there are those within the Christian music realm that have less than God-honoring motives) and lay the blame for those influences directly on the music itself, rather than the sin nature found in everyone. Is it the music’s fault that an artist places more importance on fame than on God and thus adjusts his style to the target audience? Woeztel does a pretty good job of completely ignoring those in the “CCM” realm that employ the contemporary music style and do so in a God-honoring way that seeks to only bring God the glory.

I would recommend the article by Dr. Barry Liesch, “Is Music Morally Neutral?” in which he discusses the fact that as Christians, “No style should be considered evil or off limits in expressing the Gospel. I believe that a Christian composer has the freedom to use any style, any materials…Any chord, any rhythm, any instrument should be theoretically acceptable for worship.”

I firmly believe that music of any style can lead us to a God-centered worship. If we have dealt with heart issues, we’ll find that we can enjoy God’s creative work and His image can be seen in the musical creation of others.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The “I’s” Have It

One of our birthday “gifts” to Carlos was that he could now stay up an extra 15 minutes later than Jeremiah’s bedtime. Judging by his reaction, you would have thought we had given him the best present ever in the history of birthdays! Every day since then, he has “Do I get to stay up late tonight?”

The main reason for this change is so that I could have some time to work with him in his schoolwork. And let me tell you, you never know how much patience you have (or DON’T have) until you try to teach a 6-year old how to read! It’s a wonder the entire world isn’t illiterate by now. Each lesson begins by having prayer, both for his understanding and for my teaching ability. To his credit, he has learned the letter recognition very quickly (with much thanks and help from his LeapPad thingy.) He knows most, if not all of his uppercase letters, and now we are working on recognizing both upper- and lower-case. The fun and challenging part is learning the sound AND recognizing that sound in a word. He does very well hearing the very first sound of a word, but has been having some difficulty hearing other sounds. For instance, a lesson might go like this:

Me: “What does the letter ‘I’ say?
Carlos: “I says ‘ĭ’
Me: “Good. Let’s see if we can hear the ‘ĭ’ sound in this word: zzz-‘ĭ’-pper” (said slowly and distinctly)
Carlos: “zzzz-ipper (z drawn out, the rest said really fast) No, it’s not there.”
Me: “Say it slowly like this: zzz-‘ĭ’-pper” (said slowly and distinctly)
Carlos: “zzzz-ipper (z drawn out, the rest said really fast) No, it’s not there.”

Repeat 5 times. Bang head on desk.

He gets frustrated easily with himself, but I told him that it takes practice and he shouldn’t get frustrated but to keep trying. I think that’s a lesson I need to remember too!

On a side note, check out some really cute pictures on Sarah's blog (link over there ---->)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Victim Thievery

I’m heartless. Stone-cold hearted, at least. Either that or I just don’t qualify to be a bleeding heart liberal.

I had to do a double-take when I read today’s front page article in the Roanoke Times. There were two articles under the title of “Dance with the devil,” a phrase that utility workers use in describing the dangerous practice of attempting to steal copper wiring due to its value. One article details several of the numerous deaths of people attempting this “dance” and the laws that have been proposed to prohibit such thefts. Just last week, two men in Radford were electrocuted while trying to steal copper wiring, one of whom has died and the other in serious condition.

But what really caught my attention was the other article. It showed the human side of the two Radford men’s lives. Like a eulogy, it detailed the caring side of the men and how they did what they could to provide for their family. In painting the most sympathetic picture possible, the article made the men out to be victims in this tragic affair. The first lines of the article summarize the article quite well: “To D_ B_, her oldest son didn’t die trying to steal copper wire from the Radford Foundry. Instead, she said, he died while doing his best to provide for his family, something he had done since he was a teenager.”

There’s just one problem.

The entire article glosses over the fact that the man died while committing a crime. He was breaking the law and knowingly putting his life at risk. Even the caption under the front page picture of the foundry tries to cast doubt, saying that the men were “allegedly” trying to steal the wire (even though later in the same article, D.B. is said to have known their plans.) Certainly, our hearts go out to this family that has lost a son and brother and friend. Yes, it is terrible that these men felt they had no other option to provide for their family. But these two men broke in (crime #1) with the intent to damage property (crime #2) and to steal wiring (crime #3). This is a textbook case of our current thinking in society of making everyone the victim. No one is guilty and everyone is a victim of our society or oppression. This was evident in news stories earlier in the year about how different individuals, while running from the police, was either injured or killed. Nobody seemed to remember that these individuals were breaking the law, but instead they chose to cry outrage over the fact that the police were doing their job.

Oh wait, there is a possible scapegoat here - high prices of copper. The closing statement of one of the articles is a quote from a scrap dealer: “As long as the prices are high, this is going to happen.” There you go. It’s all the economy’s fault. Or perhaps the foundry’s fault. Maybe it’s Bush’s fault.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Railfanning Trivia

Today I watched as a switcher pulled some empty (at least, I presume they were empty) corn syrup cars from the Coca-Cola bottling plant across the road from where I work. The cars were identified as being from the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company based in Decatur, Illinois. A.E. Staley is one of the largest corn refiners in the United States. Here’s where the trivia comes in: the guy who started the company back in 1898, Augustus Eugene Stanley, also started a company football team in 1920 called the Decatur Staleys. He later sold the rights of the team to a guy named George Halas and the team’s name was eventually changed to – the Chicago Bears. Their team mascot to this day is named Staley the Bear. So there you go, from corn syrup to football - all in day’s railfanning.

On another railfanning note, a few weeks ago I was able to go out in the evening and take some train pictures. I posted a few of them at, a pretty cool web forum for any and all kinds of railfans. Imagine my surprise when one of the shots (below) was chosen as one of the Railimages of the Week! :) I was pretty happy. Here's the shot, three engines in front of the Wachovia Tower in downtown Roanoke. Below it is a rather cute picture of Carlos and Jeremiah - I'm "train"ing the next generation of railfans!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Music for Americans

The Roanoke Times and the City of Roanoke have outdone themselves in more ways than one for this year’s Music for Americans. The community event is one in which both sponsors usually do very well in promoting and executing. This year had its good and bad points.

After new-to-the-helm President and Publisher of the Roanoke Times Debbie Meade gave the opening and welcoming remarks, she turned it over to a Rev. Anne Something-or-other for the opening “prayer.” Now, I use the word “prayer” in as loosely a way as can ever be used. It seemed like the reverend was doing her utmost to avoid mentioning God in all of her “We give thanks” for this and “We give thanks” for that. I couldn’t help but wonder “To whom are we giving thanks?!” The reverend droned on for a godless eternity, being sure to be all inclusive and non-offending in her prayer of thanks. Ironically, the music program closed with a very good arrangement of “God Bless America” sure to stir the patriotic fires in any listener. I suppose that, if we were to be consistent in our all inclusiveness, perhaps the song should have been “Benevolent-Deity-of-your-choosing-or-not-choosing Bless America.” But that doesn’t have the same ring nor social acceptance, despite being closer to the truth, as does “God Bless America.”

The music program was very well done, as always. There was the usual mix of classical stuff (Sousa, Salute to the Military, etc) as well as some older, more hip pieces such as the Village People’s “YMCA” and other songs designed to get folks on their feet and dancing. And dance they did. Young and old alike could be seen swaying, dancing, and moving to the different styles of music. It’s really quite a wonderful sight to see young teens appreciating the music of past generations. This just reinforces my belief that music is ageless and never dies. Perhaps the only complaint I would make was the extreme volume of the sound system. We were sitting in the middle of the field and it felt like we were being blasted out. I pity those poor folks up front who traded in their eardrums for a better viewing position.

The fireworks show was the best part of the night. Kudos to the company putting on a spectacular show. Divided into two distinct launching areas, it was almost two separate shows. The first one even had a grand finale of sorts that was magnificent. In fact, several times I thought “Surely this is the grand finale” only to have the show continue. This was by far the best fireworks show I’ve seen and had me wondering as we left “How in the world will this be bested next year?” But, I'm sure they will, as they somehow manage to do every year.

On a more personal note, all three kiddos seemed to really enjoy the fireworks – even Natalie! She sat on my lap for about half of the show, babbling and cooing at almost every sequence of lights. Later, Jeremiah climbed on my lap and whenever a big firework would go off, he would point to it saying “Ooooooohh,” laugh and then bury his face on my shoulder. It was very cute. All in all, we had a great July 4th. Hope you and yours did, too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Since we moved back in January, my daily commute went from about a 20 minute, 6 mile drive (round trip) to a 60 minute, 34 mile drive (round trip). Needless to say, that has upped our budget for gas since I am having to fill up pretty much every week.

Recently, I met another guy that works in the same company as I do that lives just down the road from me. We figured since we both have relatively the same schedule and have to drive the same route every morning, why not carpool? We would meet up in a church parking lot just down the road from the both of us and then ride in together.

This is now the second week we've been carpooling and so far it has been working out pretty good. We carpool only 2-3 times a week and trade off taking turns driving. I figure that for every day I ride with him, I save about $5.25 in gas or $15.75 for a 3-day carpooling week. Not sure how much he saves when he rides with me, but it's probably not quite as much since his car more than likely gets better gas mileage than my truck. While I'm glad that carpooling helps the environment (even if it is miniscule), I must confess that saving $5.25 a day is a much greater incentive for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bush Vetoes Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

In another great decision for Pro-Life supporters, President Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. Here is his written response:


I am returning herewith without my approval S. 5, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007."

Once again, the Congress has sent me legislation that would compel American taxpayers, for the first time in our history, to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.

In 2001, I announced a policy to advance stem cell research in a way that is ambitious, ethical, and effective. I became the first President to make Federal funds available for embryonic stem cell research, and my policy did this in ways that would not encourage the destruction of embryos. Since then, my Administration has made more than $130 million available for research on stem cell lines derived from embryos that had already been destroyed. We have also provided more than $3 billion for research on all forms of stem cells, including those from adult and other non-embryonic sources.

This careful approach is producing results. It has contributed to proven therapeutic treatments in thousands of patients with many different diseases. And it is opening the prospect of new discoveries that could transform lives. Researchers are now developing promising new techniques that offer the potential to produce pluripotent stem cells, without having to destroy human life -- for example, by reprogramming adult cells to make them function like stem cells.

Technical innovation in this difficult area is opening up new possibilities for progress without conflict or ethical controversy. Researchers pursuing these kinds of ethically responsible advances deserve support, and there is legislation in the Congress to give them that support. Bills supporting alternative research methods achieved majority support last year in both the House and the Senate. Earlier this spring another bill supporting alternative research won overwhelming majority support in the Senate, and I call on House leaders to pass similar legislation that would authorize additional funds for ethical stem cell research. We cannot lose the opportunity to conduct research that would give hope to those suffering from terrible diseases and help move our Nation beyond the controversies over embryo destruction. I invite policymakers and scientists to come together to solve medical problems without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life.

S. 5, like the bill I vetoed last year, would overturn today's carefully balanced policy on stem cell research. Compelling American taxpayers to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos would be a grave mistake. I will not allow our Nation to cross this moral line. For that reason, I must veto this bill.

June 20, 2007.

And of course, the liberals were quick to fire back their approval, forgetting the facts of Bush's response, and instead painting him as "cruel" and "irresponsible." Here is Ambassador, World-peace initiator, and general all-around-do-everything-that-isn't-my-job Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's response.

"Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today in response to President Bush’s veto of the stem cell bill:

“Once again, the President has ignored the will of the American people, of leading medical researchers, and of a bipartisan majority of the Congress. His cruel veto says ‘no’ to the hopes of million of families across America.

“Stem cell research offers the potential of lifesaving treatment and enjoys the overwhelming support of the American people.

“Every family in America is just one diagnosis, one phone call, or one accident away from benefiting from embryonic stem cell research. Science has the potential to answer the prayers of America’s families; it is irresponsible for the President and many Congressional Republicans to stand in the way of such progress."

That's right, because of Bush's "cruel" and "irresponsible" act, EVERY family in America is now doomed. Let's not bother with the fact that, as Bush stated, there has already been given millions of dollars to fund stem cell research, that stem cells can be successfully harvested from umbilical cord blood without needless creating life only to destroy it or the fact that stem cells can even be found in human fat tissue. Yes, everyone is most certainly doomed now that Bush has once again stood up for the sanctity of human life and said "NO" to senseless killing, all in the name of trying saving lives. I don't know about you, but Pelosi certainly doesn't speak for this American.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Satire!!

I like satire.

I like parody.

I like them even better when it's Christian satire or parody. There's something about pointing out our own idiosyncracies, stupidities, or other absurdness that is so often incredibly funny. It's like a caricature - it takes little things/flaws, focuses on them, blows them way out of proportion and the end result is something that vaguely looks like the real thing, but in a much more comical way. Two excellent sites, in my humble opinion, are Larknews and the Wittenburg Door.

I am pleased to present to you a third site, which has quickly climbed to being one of my all-time favorites - With an encouragement to "think inside the box," Thomas Slawson, with help from his brother, "Brother Slawson" and another fella called "Elder Eric," regularly posts some incredibly funny satire poking fun at everything religious from Benny Hinn to Fred Phelps to Pensacola Christian College (and, hey, I'm all for THAT!). After taking the time to read all the archives (believe me, it's worth it!), I can say that I haven't read such creative, yet painfully funny satire in a long time - including stuff from the Door and Larknews.

Just to give you a taste, you'll find articles such as "Child Named Judas 'Not Iscariot' to Help Clarify," "Your Best Teeth Now!" (a la Joel Osteen), "Pastor Struggles with 'Terrible Sermon Illustrations,'" and an article that addresses what we've all been wanting to say - why is everyone talking about Paris Hilton (complete with 8-part sermon series)?! They even have a few products like NetFinney, Arrr-mini-ohs ("a cereal you can freely choose!"), and The Puritan Message: John Owen in Contemporary Language

So go ahead and follow the link. You'll not be disappointed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quilt and Shadow Box

Here are some pictures of the quilt that was made for Mom and the shadow box for Dad. Michelle did a great job on the quilt and in getting everything together for Dad's box. Thanks Michelle! Each blue patch is a boy's name and each pink patch is a girl's name.

And in the middle is this patch.

And here's Dad with his shadow box. He was VERY surprised and pleased.

Again, Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!!

FINALLY!! I can blog about this! You have no idea how hard it’s been not saying anything about this.

Back in December, Sarah had a great idea of inviting my parents and all my brothers and sisters to Roanoke for a family reunion for my parent’s 40th anniversary. We then decided that it should be a surprise for Mom and Dad, not telling them about my sisters coming (my brothers would already be in Roanoke). This was the first time since 1999 that all of Mom & Dad’s living children were together, and definitely the first time for most of the grandkids. At first, Sharon (my younger sister) didn’t think she was able to make it, but after much persuading was able to come with her little boy, Josh. THEN, Michelle thought they might not make it because one of her girls broke her hand. We convinced Mom & Dad to come out for a visit, but had to let Dad in on the secret of Michelle (my oldest sister) coming to get him to agree to the dates.

Many e-mails flew back and forth, and it seemed like Sarah was on the phone with Michelle quite a lot, getting all the details worked out. They did an excellent job of planning the meals and different activities that we could do on a couple of the days.

Finally, the day came. Michelle and Sharon flew in, rented a car and drove to our house where they would be staying, along with Mark and his family (Needless to say, we have had a houseful!) Then we all went to the airport to meet Mom & Dad when their flight arrived. It was rather funny because with each plane that flew overhead as we were driving, we kept saying “I hope that’s not them!!” It would have been so terrible to have gone through all this planning only to have them get to the airport before we did! Thankfully, that didn’t happen. We all lined up with our “Welcome Papa and Nanny” signs and waited for Mom and Dad. It was so cool to see Mom’s face when she saw everyone, especially Sharon and Michelle.

But that was only half of their surprise. We all went to the Szechuan Restaurant on Friday evening for a special dinner. Afterward, we shared our special memories of Mom & Dad. It is a great testimony to them that most of the memories shared centered around the fact of how every one of us knew that Mom & Dad loved each other – from Dad’s “HUG ATTACK!!” to the fact that they never fought or yelled in front of us. Then came the gifts. Michelle had been working feverishly (and that’s an understatement!) on a special quilt for Mom that had their name in the center patch as well as their wedding date. Then around that were patches with each of their children’s and grandchildren’s name (blue patches for boys, pink for girls.) The look on Mom’s face when she realized what the quilt had on it was priceless. She spent some time looking at each one and then gave Michelle a great big hug. Dad opened his last and his reaction was one of shock – not just surprise, but full blown shock. With Mom’s help (Mom thought it was for Father’s Day), Michelle had gotten Dad’s dog tags (“Saved Baptist, B positive!”) and managed to find every medal or commendation that Dad had received during his 12 years in the USAF. All this along with his uniform name tag, a picture of a VERY young Pops, and an American flag was placed in a beautiful display case. When Dad opened his gift, all he could say was, “I’ve been waiting for this for 30 years!” Although Dad has been out of the military for a long time (even before I came around), he is still very much into the military. So this was perhaps the best thing we could have gotten for him.

We’ve had some other activities over the weekend and some more to come, but I wanted to blog about Mom & Dad’s surprise simply because I could now!! I’ll put some pictures up later on. To Mom & Dad – WE LOVE YOU!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

There and back again

Sarah and I had a great trip to Memphis, TN to get our little Natalie. We got there Thursday morning and since we didn’t get to see Natalie until Friday evening, we decided to drive down to Little Rock to visit my sister, Sharon and her family. It was really good to see them and get to spend some time with them. Their little boy Josh has grown so much! I can’t believe how big he is now. On Friday morning we all went to the Memphis Zoo, which I highly recommend going to if ever you’re in the area. I think my favorite part were the three tigers. One in particular seemed especially ornery and was trying to play with the other two.

At 3:30, we went to meet with our adoption agent and go over some last minute details and then it was on to get Natalie!! Woo-hoo! Sharon and Cory were able to come also and did a great job taking pictures and videoing. We had a little “Giving and Receiving” ceremony which was very special. Then they brought Natalie down and we got to hold her for the first time! She is SO tiny and has SO much hair! After a little while, she was cooing and actually smiling at us – very cute. We said goodbye to the cradle care family who had done such an awesome job of caring for her, and headed back to the hotel.

Since we had some time to kill Saturday morning, we drove to the hospital where Natalie was born to take a picture. We also got a picture of the “Graceland” sign (“Thank you, thank you very much”) and then did a little shopping at a local mall. Everywhere we went, it seemed all the women just “oooed” and “awed” over Natalie (understandably, of course.) Even when we went to the airport, the ticket agents were just going on and on about Natalie. It was kinda funny because our suitcase was over by 5 lbs and after I took something out, it was still over, but the ticket agent said “You’re fine. Well, technically you’re not, but you’re fine.” Thank you, Natalie! :)

Natalie did so well on the flights home. She slept on my chest the entire first flight and some of the next. In fact, the hardest part came when we tried to get OFF the plane. We had brought Natalie’s car seat onto the plane since it wasn’t a full flight and had strapped it on to the seat. Well, when I went to take the seat off the base to undue the seatbelt, it was stuck and wouldn’t come off!! No matter how hard I or a couple of other passengers tried, it just wouldn’t come off. Finally, I had to actually unhook the seatbelt from the plane seat itself to get it off, then reattach the belt. Hopefully it’s not a federal offense to dismantle an airplane seatbelt like that! I’m not a terrorist, really!!

The drive home wasn’t so pleasant. For the first hour, Natalie cried and screamed. Ugh. When we stopped to get something to eat, Sarah changed her diaper, fed Natalie, put her back in the seat and just like that, she was sound asleep! Natalie does not like sitting in poop! (I can’t say I blame her.)

Carlos was still up when we got home and was so excited so see Natalie. He had this big grin on his face and even got to hold Natalie. Jeremiah was so excited to see us the next morning and was fascinated by this new baby. Both Carlos and Jeremiah have done so well adjusting to Natalie. There have been some issues and I think it’s a combination of having a new sister and having us gone for a couple of days. But we’re working through those.

So here we go, adjusting to another little baby in the family. I hope I won't get wrapped around her little finger too much. :) For more pictures of Natalie, Carlos, and Jeremiah, check out Sarah’s blog (link over there -->)

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Man Hug

This is for the guys.

We’ve all experienced it. If you haven’t, you will. You see an old friend (another guy) one day while on your lunch break. Excited to see each other, you extend your hand for that “Hey, how’ve you been” handshake, but instead your friend opens his arms, clearly indicating he’s about to give you a hug. For a split second, you experience an intense feeling of awkwardness and you catch yourself almost doubting his manliness. But to refuse his hug might make you seem stand-offish and not all friendly. So you return the embrace, and quickly move on to catching up with all the details of your friend’s life. After the meeting, you go your separate ways, but all the while wondering both about your friend and about whether or not your friend is wondering about you. Should you have insisted on the manly, firm handshake? What’s wrong with a hug between friends anyway?

Fear not, fellow men. Worry no more. I am pleased to bring you what is perhaps the most comprehensive guide ever for giving the perfect Man Hug. Watch this video and you will no longer have to wonder about the appropriateness, the timing, or the technicalities of the Man Hug. Live free in this newfound wisdom.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Three!! :)

I think I’m still in shock.

One week ago today, we received the wonderful news that we have a little girl!! Natalie Grace was born on April 17, 2007 and is cuter than any little girl I’ve ever seen. Sarah and I have been praying for a little girl since we first decided to start the adoption process back in December. We’ve gotten to talk with the cradle care family a couple of times and know that Natalie is being well-cared for and loved. It was so neat to hear her tiny little cry over the phone. Lord willing, we will be traveling to bring her home within the next couple of weeks (!). Carlos has been so excited and to see him grinning from ear to ear whenever he talks about Natalie is priceless. I know that he will be the best oldest brother he can possibly be.

As I contemplate being a father of 3 (!), the magnitude of my responsibilities hits me more and more. I appreciate more and more the wisdom of other dad’s and learning from their experiences. I guess you could say it’s a commonality that makes me feel a connection with some other guy that I may not even know, but from reading his thoughts and experiences helps. That’s why I’m trying more to post my thoughts and general “Dad stuff” on my blog, in the hopes that it might help someone out there. One resource that I’ve come across recently is FamilyMan Ministries (link at the side, over there --->), run by Todd Wilson, and includes the Familyman Weekly e-mail (which I highly recommend). This website, in my opinion, is a great resource for dad’s everywhere. But don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

This is a test

This is only a test. If this were a real blog posting, I wouldn't have said this is a test. Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled surfing

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Dad Stuff

This week, I went down to Greenville, SC for a Circulation Managers conference and thought it would be fun for Sarah and the boys to come along. Kinda like a mini-vacation for them. I got to go to some boring meetings and they got to do things like go to the zoo and the park. (Check out for more info and great pictures!) I enjoy having Carlos tell me about his day, especially when he does something new, even if it’s something that I think is relatively simple. So this week, Sarah, Carlos and Jeremiah came back to the hotel room and Carlos had some exciting news – he was finally able to go across the monkey bars all the way all by himself! Before now, he would always grab a hold of the first bar, stop, lose momentum and then drop. No amount of coaxing could get him to go further. He was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell me. And when I stopped, listened and was excited for him, he seemed all the happier.

Now, reading this you might think that this isn’t that big a deal. And it isn’t – to you or me. But it was a huge deal to Carlos. Sometimes I forget that he is just a little guy and there are so many things that he is just learning to do and is so excited that he wants me to share in that excitement. I have to remind myself of this and to be excited when he is and encourage him. I want him to always want to share with me what’s going on in his little world, because as he grows older, it’s not going to get any easier for him or for me. By being excited with him in his achievement, I showed him that what he does is important and that I care enough to be interested in the little things that make his day. The hard part is remembering all this the next time around. And it will come sooner than I expect it, I’m sure.

So, if there are any dads reading this, encourage your child in what he or she does, even if it doesn’t seem that big a deal to you. I’m sure it will mean the world to them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Return of the Railfan

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about my hobby of railfanning – mainly because there has been so much else going on. But warmer weather is perfect for being outside and watching trains!

When I first got interested in trains, it was geared more towards the locomotives. I would watch for the locos, writing down their road numbers, and then seeing if I saw any of them again on a later date. Once the engines passed, I moved on, not really showing an interest in the rolling stock (the cars). Yesterday on my lunch break, I got to talking with another guy watching the trains and learned quite a bit about the cars, their numbering, their loads, etc. So now, instead of leaving after I’ve seen the locos, I watch all the cars, trying to identify their loads and then later doing some research as to what the cargo might be used for. It’s really quite fascinating to see how many different industries can be represented in one consist.

I will usually try to write down the time I see the train, the direction it’s heading, the loco type & road number, and any information on the rolling stock. Let me give an example. Today, at 12:25 p.m., an eastbound train past by, headed up by #’s 9317 & 9226 (both D940CW or Dash-9 for short). Among the cargo was a grain car, a tank car for latex, treated railroad ties (the wooden beams that go under the rails) and a tank of sulfuric acid. The treated RR ties were most likely coming from Koppler, Inc in Roanoke County. Yesterday I saw a load of untreated ones going in the opposite direction, most likely to the same Koppler plant to be treated.

There was also a tanker car of sulfuric acid. According to Wikipedia, “sulfuric acid is produced in greater amounts than any other chemical besides water.” Its uses include ore processing, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, wastewater processing, and chemical synthesis. Here’s where another interesting bit about railfanning comes in. Each and every car has its own identification number, or reporting mark, similar to the road numbers on locomotives and are assigned by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). These numbers indicate who owns the car. If the last letter in the series of letters is an “X,” this indicates a privately owned car. For example, the ID on this tanker car of sulfuric acid was GCTX 413208. A quick Google search helped me to find out that this car is owned by the General Chemical Corporation. So any car with the letters “GCTX” is owned by the General Chemical Corporation. Wikipedia has a list of all AAR reporting marks here: A Google search on GCC reveals that they are “among the largest North American suppliers of sulfuric acid” and that they have a terminal in Covington, Virginia, which is probably where the tank (most likely an empty one) was headed.

All that info from one day’s railfanning. Fascinating stuff.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Good news and bad news

By now, everybody not living under a rock has heard about the tragedy at Virginia Tech, has seen the photos of the victims being carried out, and has the home-made video of the killer spewing his hatred on pretty much anything and everything. Virtually every media outlet has offered up memorials to the victims and their families. I pray that God will use this tragedy to bring people closer to himself, that they will be comforted during their time of sorrow.

Amidst this horrible news, a piece of incredibly good news occurred that got lost in the VT coverage. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on the abortion procedure called Dilation and Extraction, or more commonly known as “partial birth abortion.” In a 5-4 decision, the justices determined that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act doesn’t violate a woman’s “constitutional right to abortion.”

(**Caution: the following is somewhat graphic and extremely disturbing in nature. If you can read this without being affected, you might want to check your pulse.**)

A partial birth abortion is one in which a baby (yes, it is a baby, not just some blob/fetus) is partially brought into this world, with the exception of its head, thus circumventing the “legal” definition of a “person” being one who has taken a breath of air. With the baby still inside the mother, the doctor slides a pair of scissors up the baby’s spine until it comes into contact with the base of the skull, at which point the doctor pierces the skull, widens the hole, and then uses a suction catheter to literally suck out all the contents of the baby’s skull. The baby’s body is then pulled entirely from the mother’s body and disposed of.

The reasoning behind the justices’ decision was that opponents of the act had not shown that such a procedure would be necessary for the health and wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that the procedure “had a disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant.” While the decision does not prevent the immoral act of abortion, it does prevent using this horrific method, reducing the pain that a baby would endure. This ruling is certainly a huge step in the right direction of protecting the lives of unborn children across our nation.

Of course, there are still the groups that cry out saying that “politicians are playing doctor” and that it “flies in the face of…the best interest of women’s health and safety.” It sickens me that some groups will fight tooth & nail to prevent the inhumane treatment of animals who are on their way to the slaughterhouse (such as packing them in to trucks and not being given enough room, etc), yet don’t care one bit about the excruciating pain a baby goes through during a partial-birth abortion. There is so much talk about a woman’s “right to choose” that the baby’s right to life is overlooked. The right-to-choose side will most often present abortion as a means of saving a mother when the procedure will save the mother, or perhaps when a woman is impregnated due to rape. However, studies have shown that the vast majority of abortions are not for health reasons or for rape, but rather for social reasons (i.e., an unwed mother or an unwanted pregnancy.)

I applaud the Justices for their decision and look forward to the day when the despicable act of abortion is outlawed entirely. This week definitely had good news amidst the bad.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack

In what is sure to be a "titanic" blow to James Cameron's assertions that he has found the family tomb of Jesus Christ, several scholars are now backtracking on their claims that this tomb was "undeniably" the burial site of Jesus.

The Jerusalem Post has this article ( with the details. Here are a few excerpts:

"Several prominent scholars who were interviewed in a bitterly contested documentary that suggests that Jesus and his family members were buried in a nondescript ancient Jerusalem burial cave have now revised their conclusions, including the statistician who claimed that the odds were 600:1 in favor of the tomb being the family burial cave of Jesus of Nazareth, a new study on the fallout from the popular documentary shows.

The dramatic clarifications, compiled by epigrapher Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem in a paper titled "Cracks in the Foundation: How the Lost Tomb of Jesus story is losing its scholarly support," come two months after the screening of The Lost Tomb of Christ that attracted widespread public interest, despite the concomitant scholarly ridicule.

The film, made by Oscar-winning director James Cameron and Emmy-winning Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, prompted major criticism from both a leading Israeli archeologist involved in the original dig at the site as well as Christian leaders, who were angered over the documentary's contradictions of main tenets of Christianity.

But now, even some of the scholars who were interviewed for and appeared in the film are questioning some of its basic claims.

The most startling change of opinion featured in the 16-page paper is that of University of Toronto statistician Professor Andrey Feuerverger, who stated those 600 to one odds in the film. Feuerverger now says that these referred to the probability of a cluster of such names appearing together.

The film argues that 10 ancient ossuaries - burial boxes used to store bones - that were discovered in Talpiot in 1980 contained the bones of Jesus and his family. The filmmakers attempt to explain some of the inscriptions on the ossuaries by suggesting that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that the couple had a son, Judah.

One of the ossuaries bears an inscription reading "Yeshua son of Yehosef" or "Jesus son of Joseph;" a second reads "Mary;" a third is a Greek inscription apparently read by one scholar as "Mary Magdalene;" while a fourth bears the inscription, "Judah, son of Jesus." The inscriptions are in Hebrew or Aramaic, except for the one in Greek.

But Shimon Gibson, who was part of the team that excavated the tomb two and half decades ago and who appeared in the film, is quoted in Pfann's report as saying he doubted the site was the tomb of Jesus and his family.

In the film, renowned epigrapher Prof. Frank Moore Cross, professor emeritus of Hebrew and oriental languages at Harvard University, is seen reading one of the ossuaries and stating that he has "no real doubt" that it reads "Jesus son of Joseph." But according to Pfann, Cross said in an e-mail that he was skeptical about the film's claims, not because of a misreading of the ossuary, but because of the ubiquity of Biblical names in that period in Jerusalem.

"It has been reckoned that 25 percent of feminine names in this period were Maria/Miriam, etc. - that is, variants of 'Mary.' So the cited statistics are unpersuasive..." Cross is quoted as saying.

The paper also notes that DNA scientist Dr. Carney Matheson, who supervised DNA testing carried out for the film from the supposed Jesus and Mary Magdalene ossuaries, and who said in the documentary that "these two individuals, if they were unrelated, would most likely be husband and wife," later said that "the only conclusions we made were that these two sets were not maternally related. To me, it sounds like absolutely nothing."

You have to wonder if James Cameron is starting to have a sinking feeling right about now. Looks like his claims have pretty much hit an iceberg.