Monday, October 31, 2011


I have just finished reading what I have rated as my first 5-star novel of the year. A tale so finely crafted, so vivid in each and every detail, that I was moved in mind and spirit to another place and time in a way that I have rarely experienced. Certainly this was a work on a different plane, penned by a seasoned craftsman well honed in his skills. But first, a related back story is needed for you to appreciate how I found this treasure.

Several weeks ago I posted a blog entitled "More Than Gruel?", where I pondered aloud whether I was getting the most out of the novels that I read. Was I spending my time with crude and middling fare when there was a much more delicious feast out there? As I response to this post, a reader that I do not personally know (who goes by the mysterious moniker Ricky Anderson), suggested that I look into works by english author Stephen Lawhead. This lead me to my local library and a slew of books from which to choose. After a few moments of thought, I selected three books that are part of his so-called "King Raven" trilogy. The first book is entitled Hood.

Hood represents a re-telling of the legend of Robin Hood, set in the English and Welsh countrysides circa 1100 A.D. The story has as its backdrop the infighting and self-preservation of the royals of medieval Britain. The compelling antagonist is the prince of a small holding whose land has been taken away by a backroom deal. The author has undertaken detailed research with regard to his choice of setting and the descriptions of the characters and how they lived. His choice of the setting itself was not capricious, but one based on his following the legends of this vagabond back through the ages. Certainly though this portrayal is a mixture of legend, fact, and fiction. It is told in a carefully crafted and layered style so that the narrative and actions of the characters are fully developed and contained within the context of each scene and each part of the tale. Now, onto the second novel in the series, Scarlet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tech Savvy

I am someone who spends a great deal of his day working on a computer. Yet I am not as tech-savvy as I would like to be or as hip and "with it" with regard to these machines as you might think given what I do for a living. You know who I blame for this? Well, my woes are actually the fault of two causes.

1). The IT Department where I work. I mean, whenever I run into troubles with networking or hardware or software, these oompa-loompas come rushing to my aid the second that they sense I am stuck or whenever they find me violently weeping under my desk. I mean, how am I ever going to learn anything about these contraptions and how they operate if some little orange man rushes to my rescue the second that the soup gets a bit thick?

2). Inertia. Inertia is a great word. Folks likely have heard this term and, moreover, can probably use it effectively in a sentence. ("My, your inertia gleams in the moonlight darling.") But, just as likely, most folks couldn't define this word if I threatened them with a sock packed with cold butter. Inertia is the tendency of an object in motion to stay in motion unless acted on by an external force, or in my case, the tendency of an object at rest to remain at rest, unless said external force starts poking at things that it shouldn't. In this definition, I am the object at rest, or better yet, I am the one who doesn't know anything whatsoever about the computers that he is using and yelling at. Likely I will remain in this state until something changes.

Maybe the answer is that I need someone from the IT Department not to fix or solve my computer problems when they arise, but to threaten me or poke me with a stick until I learn how to solve my own issues.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I came to know the game called "plinko" from watching The Price is Right as a kid. The plinko game board is flat with a regular pattern of pegs sticking out from its surface and bumpers along the side edges. A player stands at the top of the board and places a disk at the first row of pegs and lets it fall down under gravity. The disk then bounces and rebounds and careens off the pegs, moving willy-nilly, this way and that way, ever downward toward the bottom of the board. At that point the disk falls into one of a number of slots labeled with specific prizes.

The other day I heard someone use the term plinko and it gave me pause. I thought about the game and how that disk bounces around in a beguiling pattern. Just when you think you can make an accurate guess as to which slot it will end up in, it takes a couple of bounces in the opposite direction. I sometimes feel like my life is a game of plinko. It seems that so much of it is random and out of my control. If you are like me, someone who tries to stay in control of all their life variables as much as possible, then this erratic bouncing of life's prize disk is infuriating and gives rise to untold levels of anxiety and worry. Furthermore, even though my lifestyle is fairly lavish by any worldly definition, there are moments where I live on edge with the perilous, uneasy sense that I am just a couple of unexpectedly bad bounces away from my disk landing in the "busted" slot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bride Collector

Imagine the beauty that would overwhelm our souls if we could see each other in the same light in which God views us ...

I have just finished the thriller The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. This novel was written on several different levels. On the surface it is the story of a psychotic killer who is systematically abducting women and brutally killing them, all the while he is being pursued by a relentless FBI agent. On another level it follows a touching love story between the FBI agent and a young lady who provides assistance. If the story remained confined to these two threads, it would be a fairly generic story told time and again by countless authors. However, this tale, at its core, latches onto something more beautiful and profound.

The bride collector is the label given by the FBI to the mass murderer. This man, Quinton Gauld, is not killing women for sport or with evil intent in his mind. He believes that he has been charged by God to deliver the most beautiful women alive to be His brides. In order to purify them to be in God's presence, he must drain them of their blood and their humanity. He believes that he is operating solely out of love and devotion. However, in his mind, he somehow knows that something in his thinking and logic is amiss, that he is a sinner. In his conflict, he leaves a note with one of the brides. This note leads the FBI to an establishment housing a number of patients with mental disorders but who are exceptionally bright. One of the patients is a young woman named Paradise. Paradise is gifted with visions of the past and an acute ability to understand people, but she is psychotic and highly agoraphobic. Tentatively, she begins to work through her personal limitations and issues with the lead FBI agent on the case, Brad Raines. Slowly, however, feelings of trust and a bond of love begin to develop.

Yet how can there be true love between a handsome, talented, and outgoing agent and a homely, introverted, disconnected woman? Some might think that this notion is unrealistic or far-fetched. However, when both can see past the veneer of humanity, see past the labels, see past the baggage of the years that cloud vision, they ultimately can see into the heart and mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

900? ... 900!

Today is a day of celebration on this site. Please don a conical party-type hat and serve yourself a piece of virtual cake (don't worry, it has no calories or fat grams and is loaded with riboflavinoids). There is something special about the number 900. A few that flock to the top of my frothy mind include:
  • 900 is the number of blog posts that I have posted to this site.
  • Of the integers from 1 to 10, 900 is evenly divisible by all but 7 and 8.
  • Over the course of my lifetime, I have averaged writing roughly 1 post every 18 days.
  • State route 900 in Washington (aka the "Evergreen State") extends 16.20 miles from Tukwila to Issaquah.
  • A 900 in skateboarding is an aerial spin maneuver with 2.5 rotations.
  • The year 900 was a leap year and marked the beginning of the postclassic period in Mesoamerica.
  • The Romans represented the number 900 as CM
  • The number 900 is used twice in the Bible.
  • The Cabal distinguishes 900 different species of death.
Thanks once again to my loyal cadre of regular visitors and commenters. You are much appreciated. See you on the road to a cool G.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's in a Name?

In William Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet, Juliet pondered aloud, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But I'm afraid that she got it wrong. If that which we call a rose was actually called, "steaming dung", I don't think that they would be such a big hit as an anniversary gift.

But this germ of a thought, somehow caused me to be on the lookout for business names that are so inappropriate that I can't help but think that they must affect profit margins. Over the course of just a few days driving around my local community, I had more than enough fodder for a decent size blog post. Here is what I found:
  • Dressbarn (women's fashions) - that's right, let's make extremely image conscious women feel like beasts of burden.
  • The Revolt (local restaurant) - "Honey, how was your supper?" ... "I think that it is staging a revolt in my lower intestines!"
  • Hairphenalia (women's hair salon) - let's offend the literati with home-grown made up gibberish for a name!
  • BJs Wholesale (bulk warehouse) - O.K., I'm not in high school anymore, but this still causes me to giggle like a giddy school girl.
  • Wings 'n Things (local restaurant) - I firmly believe that anybody who is not a cretin would refuse to patronize any establishment that purposefully has a " 'n " in their name, just on general principles.
So, what places in your neighborhood do you think have naming issues?

Friday, October 21, 2011


You might know that it is referred to by the American Indians as maize. But to you and me it is good ol' corn. Popped, boiled, baked, and microwaved. Slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt. Tasty and delicious. However, for a Massachusetts family of four, corn has come to represent the mark of the beast. What started as an afternoon of good, clean, family fun quickly turned into pure frozen terror.

I came across this story from a number of different news outlets the other morning. A family with two regulation size younglings, paid for the opportunity to wander through a corn maze in the happening town of Danvers (the "mile-behind city"). After a few minutes they got disoriented and lost their way and could not seem to make any progress toward locating an exit. They were obviously lost amongst the niblets for a long while, because closing time rolled around and the owners closed up the shop and headed off for a nightcap at Skeeter's watering hole. Then inky blackness started to close in on the once plucky group of corn explorers. As the night wrapped itself around them, they began to scream in utter panic. I believe that they even considered cannibalizing the youngest child should the Zagnut bars in their fanny packs run out or if they were feeling a bit peckish.

Apparently they forgot they could walk through the corn in a straight line back toward the parking area. They also seemed to forget that the corn field was only about an acre in size. Oh, and they forgot that all of them, including baby Unser Herman, were loaded with enough electronic communication gizmos and GPS devices to stage a Navy Seal mission. Ultimately, the end game of this episode was captured on a 911 emergency call. The dispatcher initially thought the whole thing was a poorly played joke, but as his laughter quelled, he finally understood that this group of "average" folks (apparently with roots in West Virginia) tweren't fooling. He then made an off-handed comment about the need to "thin the herd" before finally sending over new recruit, Deputy Barney Pimpleface, to lead them to safety. Oh, for corn sake!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blink of an Eye

I'll admit that I have been on a tear through the collection of Ted Dekker books at my local library. I just finished his 2007 thriller Blink of an Eye (adapted from his 2002 novel Blink). The story takes place in two worlds with two very different protagonists. One world is the western United States where we find 26 year old Seth Border. Seth, who grew up with an abusive father, is attending Berkeley. He has an IQ off the charts and has grown bored with the pointless games of sparring with overmatched and boorish professors who fear his intellect. He is looking for purpose and thinking more and more of finding adventure. The other world is Saudi Arabia where we find Miriam, a royal princess. Her world is very typical of the well-to-do elite, but she is a woman who is expected to conform to the customs of her people. When the forced marriage of one of her teenage friends goes awry, it marks an abrupt end to her fairy tale upbringing.

The framework of the story is around the role that Miriam was unwittingly bred to play in a planned coup attempt by a royal prince and Miriam's father. Her father is a powerful sheik who controls a sect whose support can sway the balance of power in the nation toward a new king. However, when Miriam is told that she is to marry the royal prince's son in 3 days time, she flees for the sanctuary of the U.S.. Here she meets up with Seth, who for reasons not initially understood, has started to show signs of clairvoyance. This new ability, coupled with his brilliance and pragmatism, makes for a captivating storyline as Seth and Miriam evade the U.S. authorities, the Saudi intelligence, and the son of the royal prince and his nasties.

The story ends up back in Saudi Arabia, where Seth and Miriam outwit all of the forces against them and finally break free of the ties that have bound each of them. Along the way, we gain a glimpse into how two very different lives can find love, can impact the world for the better, and learn some truth about the God of the universe when they don't expect it. A very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crotchety Old Man

Several times I can recall where I have been talking ugly about someone when they were within the sound of my voice and I didn't know about their presence until later. One of those times was when I was an undergraduate at college. I was ripping on one of my professors, who, unbeknownst to me, was sitting on the other side of a room divider just 5 ft away. It only takes a few of these painful and embarrassing occurrences for one to learn to watch their tongue. However, given how I can sometimes behave, I guess that these experiences were not quite painful enough for me to stop the practice altogether, just to be more mindful of where I vent and spew. This just goes to show that, somehow, even after all of the years I have been kicking around on this rock, I am still very much a work in progress.

To wit, I was doing some gardening in my front yard the other day. I happened to be very near the street when the kids from the house directly across from mine came out into their front yard to play. This large, extended family has recently moved in and they spend a lot of time playing in their driveway. As kids tend to do, their play involved lots of screaming and yelling and hijinks. As my peaceful and serene environs quickly vanished, I found myself grumbling about the dang kids. I remember wishing that they would just go away. It was at this moment that one of the children, a small girl who couldn't have been much more than 5 or 6 years old, wandered up to the edge of her yard. She called out to me, "I like your yard very much, you do a good job of making it look nice." With that she wandered away to join the festivities with her family. I just sat there for a few moments feeling like a terrible neighbor. A grumbling, crotchety old man. However, I think that this experience has permanently changed how I view these kids, and that is a mark of progress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adventures in Store

Although I take pride in how my daughter is growing up and maturing, and love the person she is and is becoming, it is such an overwhelming emotional struggle for me. The baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the grade and middle schooler, and now the teenager. With each season in her life I have struggled to make adjustments and to find a healthy equilibrium. It seems that just as I start to find my way, the rules suddenly change. She is growing more and more independent with each passing day, and I have come to really miss the younger versions of my daughter, even as I love and fully embrace the young woman that she is evolving into.

The other day I needed to reduce the clutter in my daughter's bedroom. Her bookshelves had become overfilled and I wanted to pack up the books from her childhood that she had long since outgrown. A job that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking a full evening as each book that I picked up overwhelmed me with memories:
  • Stories I remember reading to her when she was sick and she wanted to be nowhere else than snuggled against my shoulder.
  • Pages we strolled through over and over again because she loved the pictures.
  • Tales that I used to read to her that she ultimately read to me after a time.
  • Stories we read together when my life had broken apart that brought us a measure of comfort.
  • Series that we followed eagerly with each and every volume released.
  • Childhood adventures that pulled us into discussions of future dreams and possibilities.
There were even several books that I had bought for her that she outgrew before we got around to reading them. Now all are packed away in boxes not to see the light of day again for some time. I pray someday that they are shared again between a parent and a child. There is so much opportunity contained in those pages. Maybe my daughter might even share them with her family one day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Right This Way

I was in charge of logistics at a professional workshop that I was organizing several years ago at my University. In order to assist with helping the many off-campus visitors find their way to the meeting rooms, I had made up some large arrows that were to be attached to walls and signs along the path. I ran up to the printer, picked up the arrow signs, and brought them back to campus. I neatly stacked and aligned them, and then handed them to my secretary (I will refer to her as Mrs. Moneypenny - not her real name) to put into position. I told her to give me a call if she had any questions and sent her off on her way. Pretty simple job that I figured would not result in any issues ... right?

About 30 minutes later, with the workshop set to begin in just about an hour, I got a panicked call from Moneypenny saying that something was wrong with the signs. She asked me to please come over and help her. I stopped what I was doing and hustled across campus to the meeting venue and met her in the lobby. She was still holding half the arrow signs that I had given her. When I got up closer to her, I could see that she was quite flustered and concerned. She said to me, and I quote, "There is something wrong with these signs. They only printed arrows pointing to the right." I took the stack of signs and rotated them by 180 degrees in her hands. She looked to the ground sheepishly and said, "Oh". I turned around and walked silently back to my office. We never spoke of this incident again.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have just finished reading the dark and beautifully moving thriller Obsessed by Ted Dekker. The story unfolds in two times and in two locations that are inexorably linked by love, tragedy, and pure sacrifice. It begins in Los Angeles in 1973. Stephen Friedman is a 31 year old realtor who is making his way through his usual day-in, day-out routine. Things change when he learns of a connection to an old Jewish widow who recently died by the name of Rachel Spritzer. Stephen was born during World War II and grew up as an orphan, never having known his parents. It seems that Rachel was his mother and had devoted her life to searching for him with all that she had, yet she never succeeded in finding her boy who had lived for years within 30 miles of her home.

The story then takes us back to a work camp of female Jewish prisoners taken by the Nazis. Women who did not go through Auschwitz, who could be used as slaves for the German war machine, came to this camp, Toruń. A camp ruled with a ruthless and iron fist by the Nazi SS commandant Gerhard Braun. Gerhard viewed the Jews as vermin and lived to build his power by raising their hopes ever so slightly before snatching it away. Ruth and Martha found each other on the train to Toruń and bonded together. We learned that each of them was pregnant. A condition that normally would have gotten them hung. A German work camp would not allow hope and life to infiltrate its walls. Yet the love, strength, and spirit of these two women allowed them to survive and ultimately to give birth to their two children. Ruth gave birth to Ester and Martha to David (who was renamed Stephen). Gerhard decided to kill Martha, but Ruth stepped up and took her place. Gerhard's son Roth viewed this substitution as the moment his father's power had been taken from him. A moment that fueled the rest of his life to take back what had been stolen from his father and from him.

On one hand, the plot takes us on an obsessive search as Roth and Stephen go after a priceless biblical treasure that Martha and Ruth had taken from the Nazis back in the work camp. However, the true search from Roth's viewpoint is a very clever and diabolical search to restore his father's power and finish the job that he should have during the war. For Stephen, the true obsession is to find out about his mother Rachel and the role she played during the war in that camp at Toruń. But more than this, Stephen's main obsession is to find love and fulfill his destiny. It matters not whether this costs him every penny he owns or his own life. It is all about love. An absolutely wonderful story that kept me focussed and thinking from start to end.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Battery Algebra

There is a children's clothing company named Carter's that has a slogan that kind of tugs at my heart, "If they could just stay little til their Carter's wear out." Awww, now if that doesn't cause your eyes to get all misty and puffy, then you clearly have no soul. But the point is clear, they hope something "X" lasts (your kid's childhood and their insouciant sweetness) for a certain time period "Y" (until their onesie busts its seams and they go off to college). But what happens in the scenario when Y far exceeds X? This is the kind of algebra problem that will make you sink to your knees. Let me illustrate with a chilling tale from my own life.

I have a Friday afternoon group meeting at work that is slated for 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.. I don't know about you, by usually by Friday afternoon my brain is half scrambled and a long meeting only exacerbates my cranial condition. Trying to prevent my brain from spontaneously combusting takes some significant effort, especially on those occasions where my meeting goes on past its allotted time. When this happens, you can witness folks slowly edging their chairs toward the door in an attempt to escape given the slightest chance.

At my last Friday meeting, something unspeakable happened. The meeting outlasted the battery on my laptop! Now, this isn't one of those batteries from a decade ago that held power for 12 minutes before decaying into dust. This is a battery that can hold its own for nearly 4 hours before it conks out. If X represents the lifetime of my battery and Y represents the length of that meeting, X came and went long before Y ran its course. Even today, nearly a full week later, the cloud of fatigue that resulted has still not yet cleared my body.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Before we get too deep into today's post, I would like to begin with the following disclaimer:

I am not perfect and am deeply flawed as a human being in every aspect of my life.

Now that I have made this pronouncement, I have full license to go on a bit of a rant about public leaders. People who should be aware that what they say and what they do matters. As a group, they need to live and carry themselves with integrity and forthrightness at all times. They need to continually strive to be caring, respectful, and aware of the people that they serve, direct, or represent.

Now I am not crass enough to embark on a public shaming. There will be no actual names listed here. Although some of you may be able to figure out who I am talking about, that is not really the point. The point is really to wag our fingers and shake our heads, because we would do a better job in their place, wouldn't we?
  • A well-known pastor goes to a busy public pool with his children. His young son comes to him as he needs to go to the bathroom. The pastor does not want to be bothered getting up, so he tells his son to just go pee in the pool and to leave him alone.
  • The chief executive and public face of an oil company responsible for a catastrophic and unprecedented oil spill grows tired of the media and government pressure in the aftermath of the incident and mewls that he just wants his life back. Meanwhile, there are people who have died in the event and many local economies have been devastated for years to come.
  • A pastor of a big church thinks he is being humorous and tweets just after a hurricane has passed through his area that the storm was no big thing and people should stopping whining. However, the death toll tops 40 and there is more than a billion dollars in damage along the storm's path.
  • A queen who lives in over-the-top luxury and decadence hears that her people are starving to death and have no bread to eat. Her reply is that if they have no bread, then they should eat cake.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Are you the type of person who sets goals for yourself in the things that you pursue? Perhaps you have developed a mental list of where you would like to be 5 or 10 years from now. Now you might not go this far in thinking things out or outlining various scenarios, but I bet that you like to see some sort of noticeable progress in whatever you are involved with. It could be in your career path, particular relationships, your school work, or your faith. It is then natural to become discouraged or disillusioned when your reality does not meet your expectations. In times like this, you have several options. You could continue plodding in the rut you have entrenched, or you could throw in the towel and give up, or you could re-evaluate your approach and make some course corrections.

There are several verses in the Bible about our growth from younglings to mature believers. Hebrews 5:13-14 unapologetically states, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Jesus's disciple Peter stated (2 Peter 3:18) more humbly, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

As I think back on my life as a Christian, there are seasons when I have felt comfortable, knowing that I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to be doing. I felt that I was learning and growing. That I was on the right path surrounded by good people. Then there are seasons such as now, where I am treading water. I feel uncertain and alone. I wander about aimlessly looking for a marker to reorient myself, to get back on the right road. These times are such a discouragement, especially as they linger. I still go to Sunday service, make times for my devotionals, pray and seek, yet it feels a bit hollow, stagnant, rote, and joyless. Perhaps it is time for a course correction.

Monday, October 10, 2011

More Than Gruel?

Over the past 4 or 5 years, books have become my constant companion. Typically, I am reading 2 or 3 at any given time, and regular visitors to this site will recognize that I like to share my personal reviews. Recently, I have been adding more and more works of fiction to my reading
list, including the genres of thriller, adventure, and mystery. These stories spark my imagination as they transport me into other worlds and histories and times. Usually I find an author that I like and then I more or less read through their entire catalog. However, the number of different authors that I have encountered is still quite limited. Those that I have read have come to me by way of chance as I was browsing the shelves of my local library or bookstore or received a recommendation from a random conversation. While I have enjoyed the books that I have spent time with, I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on something.

If you grow up eating gruel at every meal, you develop a taste for it. In fact, over time, you will come to enjoy it and savor it. However, you won't really appreciate that you are eating gruel until you are suddenly faced with a Ruth's Chris filet mignon on your plate. It is only at this moment that you will then look back at the slop that you had been enjoying and wonder to yourself how you could have been so blind to reality. Why were you wasting your time scarfing down pablum when there was a much richer culinary experience out there with much deeper and more complex nuances, textures, and layers?

So, even though I have enjoyed the fiction works that I have selected, I somehow sense in my bones that there is a higher level of artistry out there than what I have come to know. I wonder if I have been blissfully limiting myself to a bland and watery porridge when there is prime steak out there somewhere. So, what can you recommend as reads or authors that demonstrate an uncommon mastery of this form?

Friday, October 7, 2011

R.E.M. Adieu

The other day I was reading through the news when my eye found the headline that the band R.E.M. had decided to call it a day. They had played their last chords together and were going their separate ways. They felt that after 30 years of writing and recording music and touring around and around the world, that they had reached the end of themselves. In truth, I kind of agreed. They had peaked musically and stylistically in the late 80s and early 90s and then morphed into something mid-aged and lifeless. Predictable, usual, and somewhat bland. This really is the death knell for a band. Without passion, without an edge, without a message that will resonate, artists cannot sustain and go about business as usual. So, in the end, I respect the group for stepping away with a strong legacy.

Certainly musical groups, even once popular ones, come and go every day. It really isn't that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things. However, there is something about this band R.E.M. that is quite special to me. Given the longevity of the group, I have been hearing their music since I was in high school. But more than that, they have been with me in every meaningful season of my life. From the highest highs to the lowest lows. Sometimes blasting with volume shaking the plaster from the walls, sometimes just a whisper in the distance. But never far away.

So, in honor of their career, I thought I would list some of my favorite R.E.M. songs:
  • The One I Love - Document
  • Fall on Me - Lifes Rich Pageant
  • Leave - New Adventures in Hi-Fi
  • Country Feedback - Out of Time
  • Texarkana - Out of Time
  • Strange Currencies - Monster
  • I've Been High - Reveal
  • Nightswimming - Automatic for the People
  • Find the River - Automatic for the People
  • Monty Got a Raw Deal - Automatic for the People

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I recently stumbled across a review regarding the cuisine of Germany. It stated, and I quote, "The best thing about German food is that it's just so much dang fun to talk about." This brief story then precipitated a flashback to a traumatizing event that I endured more than 10 years ago in a German restaurant. In time, however, the night terrors abated, and I was able to finally move on with my life. Let me share the harrowing tale.

It was a dark and stormy night ... well, actually it was a weeknight after a long day at work. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to grab some chow. Instead of playing the inane game of: Where do you want to eat? ... I dunno, where do you want to eat?, he suggested that we go to a German place nearby. As I used to like watching Hogan Heroes, I thought, why not? This could broaden my horizons and actually count toward that foreign cultures credit I was seeking at the local community college. So, I went along, but nearly to my doom.

When we got there, the place was empty. The shadows from the walls sconces cast eerie shadows across the floor. Then a hulking frau from the 1972 East German weightlifting squad emerged from the back room. Her soulless stare caused me to break out in hives. Her eyes snarled, "I will break you." I nervously gestured at the first menu listing I saw. When it arrived, it looked like someone had placed an old cigar on a bed of coarse, stained mashed potatoes. Squeamishly, I cut into the cigar, and was horrified to find a flagrant dill pickle inside. After 20 minutes the house frau returned and looked at my barely touched plate. She drilled me with a look so menacing that I wet myself. She bellowed out, "Vaat a Vaaste!", and she beat at her chest. Sensing that our lives were in jeopardy, my friend and I threw a wad of cash on the table and sprinted for the door. Without looking back we sped away, realizing just how narrow our escape truly was.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Priest's Graveyard

The novel The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker opens by looking through two wonderfully detailed and well written windows. One depicts a Bosnian family caught in the middle of an ethnic civil war. A young boy watches his mother and sisters brutally raped and murdered while he struggles helplessly against his oppressors. He focusses on revenge and joins a local militia to deliver his righteous justice. Desperate to escape from the harsh shadows of this world, he comes to America and becomes a priest. Through the other we see a young girl rejected by her parents, turn to a drug-fueled life on the streets. Strung out, lost, and confused, she tries to flee her pusher after years of abuse. At her nadir, she is rescued by what seems to be an angel, who takes her away from her world.

The priest, Danny Hansen, has a deep passion for his calling and has given his life to loving those in his community. But those who prey on the weak must be brought to justice, although his notion of who is responsible for meting out this justice is warped by the experiences of his teenage years. The woman, Renee Gilmore, is weened off her heroine addiction and nursed back to health by her rescuer. However, her benefactor is not the white knight that her addled mind has made him out to be. When Renee's keeper mysteriously disappears, she is quickly thrust into a world that she is ill-prepared to understand. Yet she must cope if she is to survive, if she is to find the truth. It is then that Renee meets Father Hansen. This novel features an intriguing plot twist as the worlds of the priest and the wayward girl collide and rebound against each other. A key moment in the narrative is when Father Hansen has a chance meeting with a visiting nun who asks a question that gives him insight and clarity into his theology and his world view regarding the notions of justice and judgment. This novel features some extremely well written scenes and represents a solid, but not outstanding work. Some uneven character development and a somewhat banal ending, but still an enjoyable and thought provoking work.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gloom, Despair, and Agony

The lyrics to a famous Wagnerian aria made famous by the beloved opera tenor Placido Polanco go as follows (note that I have translated these scrupulously from Wagner's native tongue - Swedish):

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Can you relate? How has your luck played out over the past few weeks? Mine has been, in a word, rather suckish. Well, actually that is two words, but as Matt Damon famously asked in his Oscar winning screenplay for Sunset Boulevard, what's in a word? I submit to you the following examples from my own personal life that would absolutely ruin the average man (yet somehow I manage to soldier on):
  • I follow two teams in baseball. The Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. The Red Sox just blew the biggest September lead in the history of the universe. The Braves, well they gagged and wretched away the second biggest September lead in the history of foreverness. Both teams missed the playoffs in impressive, get-your-hopes-up-but-dash-your-heart-on-the-rocks-at-the-last-instant fashion on the last day of the season.
  • I had a truck load of top soil delivered to my property just a few days before my area received 3 straight weeks of torrential, never-ending freakin' rain fall. Now I have a collosal mud pit in my front yard, suitable for mucking pigs or extreme wrestling.
  • My yard has been overrun with mole-type vermin. When I recognized their calling card, I geared up like Rambo and set out to show them no mercy. Now several hundred dollars and a completely obliterated yard later, they have me in a figure-four leg-lock begging for mercy. The critters are like Mike Tyson in his prime and I am Carol Channing.
  • The other morning my T.V. alarm went off to wake me up. The channel was somehow set to PBS and the show was "Barney and Friends". Now I can't get that stinking "I love you, you love me" song out of my head.
Ahhh me. Can I get some sympathy, oh, and a Tic Tac? I can taste the bile in my mouth. Gloom, despair, and agony indeed.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Most every day at work I sit in my car for a few moments at lunch time to find a little space and a little peace. As the lunch hour rolls to a close, a wave of construction workers erecting a new building on our grounds heads back to their job site. Dozens of workers stroll through the parking lot past my view. Roughnecks one and all. Most adorned with tattoos, a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, and a look of toughness about themselves. Through my windshield, they definitely look like stock characters from a movie in the way they act, the way they dress, and the way they look. There is quite a stark contrast between these crews of workers walking in one direction, and the business folks in their tailored suits walking in the other direction.

It is so easy to judge their blue collar world from my vantage point in my white collar tower. I sometimes find myself taking the long way around to avoid them, or checking that my car is locked as I sit inside, or deriding them in my mind as they walk by. Why do I feel the need to judge? They are no different than me. They work hard all day to make a living to support themselves and their families. It's honest work that takes skill, commitment, and a good attitude. They provide a great service for the community. However, although I try to remind myself to view these workers with respect, my mind ignores this request and seems to fire out negativity and judgment at the drop of a (hard)hat.