Monthly Archives: June 2008

Back from the summer intensive

I returned last night from the summer intensive from our seminary. I cranked out a lot of work; a book review, research paper and take-home final is all that stands in the way of my free-and-clear summer. I’ll post more when I return.

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The Man: at it again

My car was on empty so I pulled into the neighborhood gas station this morning, before the once-a-week trip to Sacramento. I hit a record this morning:

My wife also filled up her tank this morning. Her total: $61.24 for 13.61 gallons, at $4.49 per gallon. So, all told, we spent $116.09 for 25.968 gallons. This is going to turn into an election issue, of course. I appreciate the honesty with which Sen. Obama is addressing the issue. I like some of his ideas. Sen. McCain in a  posturing move, also agreed that gas prices wouldn’t drop before the November election.

In other news, there has been discussion of drilling in Alaska again. It’s not a workable solution. What is needed is a lifestyle change, which the average  person is unwilling to support in this country. We hear the news but we think it somehow doesn’t apply to us. We want what we want, a nation of overstimulated brats used to having our way. What a mess.

I’m still aghast at the number of full-size SUVs I see cruising around town with one passenger, although I will say the decrease in big cars and trucks on the streets is noticeable. Beyond the foreclosure crisis, there are a number of economic “indicators” that are also prevalent in our city:

  • I see more and more older people in entry-level retail and customer-service jobs. There has been a shift in the past 20 years, in which immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Latin America, work the fast food jobs that were largely populated by teen-agers when I was that age in the (cringe) mid- to late-1980s.
  • A number of Mom-and-Pop businesses are folding. And not only in certain neighborhoods. I see businesses failing in high-visibility sections of the city.
  • I notice businesses cutting back on services. I went into a nationally recognized chain store to purchase some items for the house, and when I attempted to use my credit card, the machine where customers could swipe their card and enter their pin or signature wasn’t working. Instead, there was some complicated procedure in which the sales person had to call an 800 number and validate the purchase by entering my information. I was amazed that they could be so backward.

Does anyone else notice less-reported signs of the economic downturn? I’d be curious to see how things are in your part of the world.

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Filed under Economy, gas prices

The side job

My latest freelancing assignment is a 400-word assignment about a luxury resort near Tracy, CA. Actually, it’s near a prison, but that’s another discussion for another time. Here’s the link.

On a side note, they messed up my byline again.

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Do not leave your zucchini unattended

I hadn’t checked on my zucchini in a week. When the wife and I took a look a moment ago, we found these. Yikes! They didn’t look that big on the package. I guess we’re giving some of these away.

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Bike riding: not as easy as you remember

I went out for a 40-minute ride on my bicycle and OH, SAY! do those quads and calves feel like Jell-O. Muscles I haven’t used in, well, I’m not sure how long clamored out in pain. My left knee hurts and kept popping — I’m assuming that’s bad. My wrists actually went numb from being stuck in a certain position too long. I think I was locking my elbows.

Physical maladies aside, I had a great time exploring my neighborhood. I found a secret passageway that connects to UOP. I saw some old bald guy in a T-shirt that lives in this grand, old colonial style home with a giant oak tree in the middle. He made what can only be described as a “WOOT WOOT!” as he strolled into his garage to fetch something. My neighborhood is a strange world when viewed from a bicycle. It’s as if the veneer of stateliness is removed, revealing the rich, eccentric kooks who inhabit these historic homes.

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Fightin’ The Man

The cost of milk at our grocery store has increased from $3.89 per half-gallon to $4.09. Gas continues to rise to about $4.39 per gallon for regular unleaded. By the way, does anyone remember when “regular” meant “leaded” and not “entry-level unleaded”? Just curious.

We were nearly out of milk and I had just made coffee for my long evening of writing, so after my wife made this discovery and resisted the urge to throw a small appliance or piece of cutlery, we hopped in our ’93 Honda Accord, affectionately dubbed by our friends as our “big car.”

As we left the store with our coveted milk and approached our car, a twentysomething in a Chevy Blazer comes up to us and says “Hey, do you want to sell your Honda? The gas is killing me.” I assumed he meant the gas in his vehicle, but you never know. There’s a taqueria that stays open late just down the street.

I heard something on NPR the other day that simply startled me. Due to the current gas crisis, the lowly Geo Metro is the eco-chic vehicle of the season. Sure enough, a Google search revealed the Metro is getting the ink, like this May 20 online CNN article.

My Hyundai, also the laughingstock among my family and friends, gets decent gas mileage but in fightin’ The Man, it’s never enough. That’s why after months of scrimping and saving the extra money from my freelance writing gigs, I’m weaning myself off the gas.

I live less than 5 miles from my job and it’s mostly flat streets, so minus the 100-plus-degree temperatures and the insane drivers in this town, I think I’ll be fine. I’m psyched! Something about having a red bike that makes me want to get up and sing. Woot woot!

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Progress

I started planting various things from seeds and bulbs in January.
In mid-March, my tomato plants were seedlings.

I didn’t remember what those were.

By April 1, my tomato plants were beginning to look like tomato plants.

I still didn’t know what these things were.

Now it’s June and things are taking off. I finally figured out what those things are: coleus.

And the tomato plants? Ready to make babies!

I’ll let you know how they taste.

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Filed under gardening, Heirloom tomatoes

Hey, sounds good to me

In this age of soundbite journalism, thank goodness for The Onion and its timely, in-depth coverage of issues that really affect my life. Really.

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less

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From Chris Elrod: 14 Days of Fatherhood

I skim the headlines on the WordPress dashboard (their version of a home page) occasionally and I ran across an amazing article from Pastor and speaker Chris Elrod. I’m astounded at his faith and perspective in the face of what most would call a loss. Unbelievable. Take a look and tell me what you think. Better yet, share your thoughts with him.

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To boldly go…

On Thursday, our church will shutter the doors of the building where we have held our midweek Bible studies for several years. Or more appropriately, we will keep the doors closed until Sunday.

Instead, we will gather at the homes of some of our members, brew some coffee, put out some hors d’oeuvres and open for business.

Welcome to the new-and-improved midweek church service.

In a gutsy move, our pastor has placed each of our parishioners in nearly 20 groups of 10 to 20 people. The purpose of these groups is to hang out and get to know each other — what church people call fellowship.

The groups will also provide a venue for discipleship, that critical but often overlooked phase in the development of newly minted Christians. New Christians need a safe, friendly venue where they can ask questions about their beliefs and network with other believers to share experiences and get support.

Third, the groups will serve as a place where people with little to no knowledge of Christianity can come, learn and ask questions. We hope these people find us through friends who are already in our groups — what church people call evangelism — or through advertising in the community, i.e. fliers, craigslist, etc.

We don’t know where this will lead. But we can’t go back to the world of opening our doors for the sake of our existing members. We can’t continue to hoard our resources for the benefit of the converted. Those who are already part of the church have to adopt a servant outlook and transcend the mindset that believes the church exists solely as a organism where people can get their needs met. Is that part of the mission of the church? Absolutely. But many of the people in our church and churches across America never make the transition from church member to church participant.

One of the things I appreciate about my pastor is how he views success with regard to church growth. It isn’t based on how many people are in the building on Sundays. That’s easy. Success is measured by how many people are in the community who have never heard your message, The Message. (the Gospel, not the Bible Translation.) To wit: broader Christianity isn’t doing too well at communicating its message.

Please keep my wife and I as well as our church in your prayers as we redefine ourselves for the betterment of our community. I’m really excited about the notion of opening our home to the community. Who knows what will happen?

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Filed under church, community, small group