Archive - January, 2011

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Virtual offices

Chrysler building image courtesy of

I like having satellite radio in my car. There’s so much variety. I can listen to almost any type of music, listen to talk radio shows not available in my town and even listen to national news: Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. (Okay, that’s a lie. I never watch or listen to MSNBC. Way too annoying.)

But what I don’t like about listening to the news on satellite radio are the commercials. The commercials on TV are bad enough. As I type this, I’ve got that jingle in my head: “The Vil-lages! America’s friendliest hometown! The Vil-lages!” And now, so do you. You’re welcome.

I can’t even listen to my favorite news station with my kids in the car because every other commercial is an ad for erectile dysfunction. On a positive note, at least radio commercials don’t have some couple sitting in side-by-side matching bathtubs holding hands on the beach. What’s up with that? (Oh, boy. Can’t wait to see my spam filter after this post.) But I digress…

Last week I heard an ad for something called a “virtual office”. Based on what they said in the ad, I knew I had to check out their website. Because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But sure enough, I heard correctly:

You can pay people to set up an elaborate hoax so that potential clients think you work in a fancy office building:

Including the Chrysler Building and Rockerfeller Center in New York City, The Century Plaza Towers in Los Angeles, and some fancy building I’ve never heard of in Miami Beach.

Here’s a brief description of the services offered:

  • An XYZ Virtual Office gives you an enhanced business image, complete flexibility and support without the overhead.
  • A great address – choose from 1100 locations worldwide
  • Your mail forwarded or saved for you to collect
  • A local telephone number with scripted call answering, screening and forwarding
  • Your messages passed on by phone, SMS, email or via secure online portal
  • On-site admin support, for everything from photocopying to travel bookings
  • All the benefits of a full-service office without the overhead
  • Complimentary XYZ businessworld Gold membership giving you unlimited access to our network of 1100 business lounges and cafés across the globe. Great for when you’re traveling on business, in the UK or abroad

I don’t who I find more repugnant. The company selling the fake addresses, the people who feel the need to use the service, or the clientele who would give preferential treatment to a firm who has a fancy shmancy office location.

You know what? I think I find them all equally repugnant. Unless I’m missing something here. Am I?

I don’t know about you, but if I were doing business with a firm and found out they were using a virtual office service, I would feel deceived. I would also wonder what percentage of my bill was going towards this elaborate hoax. It’s cheating. It’s deceptive. You’ve just lost all credibility with me. Because you’re trying to pretend you’re something that you’re not. Don’t try to impress me with smoke and mirrors. Make a better widget, or dazzle me with your creativity, or your wicked-awesome accounting skills. Whatever. Be better at what you do than your competitor. But don’t start our business relationship with a lie.

Besides, aren’t there enough pretentious assholes in the world? Do we really need to encourage that behavior?

Sincerely yours,

President and CEO
worldwide headquarters
a red couch somewhere in suburbia

Oh, and for those of you who don’t have that jingle in your head, here ya go:

Sorry/you’re welcome.

Plato and a platypus walk into a bar…

image courtesy of

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.

Metaphilosophy, also called philosophy of philosophy, is the study of the nature, aims, and methods of philosophy. The term is derived from Greek word meta μετά (“after”, “beyond”, “with”) and philosophía φιλοσοφία (“love of wisdom”).


In Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, Thomas Gray said “ignorance is bliss”.

I think I tend to agree. Especially when it comes to philosophy. It seems to more I learn about different philosophies, the more questions I have. Very frustrating.

If you’ve ever studied philosophy, or even if you haven’t, I want to recommend a book I read over the weekend: Plato and a platypus walk into a bar: Understanding philosophy through jokes. It addresses several philosophies, but two of my favorites concern religious philosophy:

Determinism versus Free Will

There are some determinists who say, “God made me do it. In fact, God has determined everything in the universe down to the last detail.”

Baruch Spinoza, the seventeenth-century philosopher, and Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century American theologian, were proponents of this sort of theological determinism. The eagle, the frog and the truck driver in the following story all probably thought they chose and executed their actions freely.

Moses, Jesus and a bearded old man are playing golf. Moses drives a long one, which lands on the fairway but rolls directly toward the pond. Moses raises his club, parts the water, and the ball rolls safely to the other side.

Jesus also hits a long one toward the same pond, but just as it’s about to land in the center, it hovers above the surface. Jesus casually walks out on the pond and chips it onto the green.

The bearded man’s drive hits a fence and bounces out onto the street, where it caroms off an oncoming truck and back onto the fairway. It’s headed directly for the pond, but it lands on a lily pad, where a frog sees it and snatches it into its mouth. An eagle swoops down, grabs the frog, and flies away. As the eagle and frog pass over the green, the frog drops the ball, and it lands in the cup for a hole-in-one.

Moses turns to Jesus and says, “I hate playing golf with your dad.”

At the opposite end of the religious philosophy spectrum is something called process philosophy:

Process philosophy

A philosopher came along who took exception this notion of a compulsive God who had his finger in everything. Twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead argues that not only is God incapable of determining the future–the future will determine him. According to Whitehead’s process philosophy, God is neither omnipotent or omniscient, but is changed by events as they unfold.

Alvin is working in his store when he hears a booming voice from above that says, “Alvin, sell your business!” He ignores it. The voice goes on for days saying, “Alvin, sell your business for three million dollars!” After weeks of this, he relents and sells his store.

The voice says, “Alvin, go to Las Vegas!”

Alvin asks why.

“Alvin, just take the three million dollars and go to Las Vegas.” Alvin obeys, goes to Las Vegas and visits a casino.

The voice says, “Alvin, go to the blackjack table and put it all down on one hand!”

Alvin hesitates but gives in. He’s dealt an eighteen. The dealer has a six showing.

“Alvin, take a card!”

“What? The dealer has…”

“Take a card!”

Alvin tells the dealer to hit him, and gets an ace. Nineteen. He breathes easy.

“Alvin, take another card.”



“Hit me!” Alvin says. He gets another ace. He has twenty.

“Alvin, take another card!” the voice commands.

“I have twenty!” Alvin shouts.

“TAKE ANOTHER CARD!” booms the voice.

“Hit me!” Alvin says. He gets another ace. Twenty-one!

And the booming voice says,

“Un-freaking believable!”

My personal beliefs fall somewhere between the two philosophies…

What do you think? Do you think the study of philosophy is a bunch of hooey? Do you think understanding different types of philosophies weaken or strengthen your own personal beliefs? Would you rather not know? Is ignorance bliss?

Schedules and such

Several years ago, someone gave me a Lipstick Personality Test. Much like a horoscope, I found it interesting and mildly amusing but never put much stock in defining myself based upon the results.

Lipstick Personality Test from

What does my lipstick look like?

Sharp-angled but curved tip:

  • Creative
  • Enthusiastic
  • Energetic
  • Talkative
  • Loves Attention
  • Falls in Love Easily
  • Helpful
  • Needs schedule, but dislikes one

Hmmm…I suppose I would admit to all of those traits except the one about falling in love easily. I love people, but that’s not the same thing, is it? What struck me then and now is the last one: Needs schedule, but dislikes one. Yep. That’s me. I need a schedule, even though my stubborn non-conformist self wants to rebel from one.  Or so I thought until yesterday…

My day started with my 13 year old son hopping into my bedroom to inform me he hurt his foot and couldn’t walk. Shortly after that, I heard my daughter coughing and blowing her nose. The schedule that I dislike so much was looking pretty good when I realized I would be straying from it. And straying from it with a sinus headache.

Which is why I really don’t have a post today. Because I spent the day yesterday off schedule. And I’m still off schedule today, because I’m sitting here feeling helpless as I watch my daughter holding a trash can in front of her waiting to throw up so she can feel better.

So today, the dishes will have to wait. Same thing goes for the laundry and the errands. Because schedules are meant to be broken so we can spend some unscheduled time re-evaluating what’s most precious.

Where do you come from?

image courtesy of

I’m fairly certain that by the time I finish reading Anna Karenina someone who reads this blog on a regular basis is going to tell me to shut my pie hole about this book. Fair enough. I will probably have that coming. I’ll be honest and tell you that there are parts of this 864 page saga that I have to force myself to get through. The extensive commentary on the various social classes and society in pre-communist Russia? Sorry, I’m just not interested in that. Even though I’m sure it’s fascinating to people who are.

The last post I wrote about this book was The mind of an artist. What I find so amazing about Tolstoy was his outrageous honesty. His characters express thoughts, beliefs and feelings that make me uncomfortable. Not because I find them distasteful, but because he forces me to acknowledge my own lack of honesty. Not so much with others, but with myself–about how I approach my writing, my life and my faith.

I have several passages bookmarked in this book. In the following passage, I relate (often painfully so) to Kitty:

Kitty followed her. Even Varenka struck her as different. She was not worse, but different from what she had fancied her before.

“Oh, dear! it’s a long while since I’ve laughed so much! said Varenka, gathering up her parasol and her bag. “How nice he is, your father!”

Kitty did not speak.

“When shall I see you again?” asked Varenka.

“Mama meant to go and see the Petrovs. Won’t you be there?” said Kitty, to try Varenka.

“Yes,” answered Varenka. “They’re getting ready to go away, so I promised to help them pack.”

“Well, I’ll come too, then.”

“No, why should you?”

“Why not? why not? why not?” said Kitty, opening her eyes wide, and clutching at Varenka’s parasol, so as not to let her go.

“No, wait a minute; why not?”

“Oh, nothing; your father has come, and besides, they will feel awkward at your helping.”

“No, tell me why you don’t want me to be often at the Petrovs’. You don’t want me to–why not?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Varenka quietly.

“No, please tell me!”

“Tell you everything?” asked Varenka

“Everything, everything!” Kitty assented.

“Well, there’s really nothing of any consequence; only that Mihail Alexeyevitch” (that was the artist’s name) “had meant to leave earlier, and now he doesn’t want to go away,” said Varenka, smiling.

“Well, well!” Kitty urged impatiently, looking darkly at Varenka.

“Well, and for some reason Anna Pavlovna told him that he didn’t want to go because you are here. Of course, that was nonsense; but there was a dispute over it–over you. You know how irritable these sick people are.”

Kitty, scowling more than ever, kept silent, and Varenka went on speaking alone, trying to soften or soothe her, and seeing a storm coming–she did not know whether of tears or of words.

“So you’d better not go…You understand; you won’t be offended?…”

“And it serves me right! And it serves me right!” Kitty cried quickly, snatching the parasol out of Varenka’s hand, and looking past her friend’s face.

Varenka felt inclined to smile, looking at her childish fury, but she was afraid of wounding her.

“How does it serve you right? I don’t understand,” she said.

“It serves me right, because it was all sham; because it was all done on purpose, and not from the heart. What business had I to interfere with outsiders? And so it’s come about that I’m a cause of quarrel, and that I’ve done what nobody asked me to do. Because it was all a sham! a sham! a sham!…”

“A sham! with what object?” said Varenka gently.

“Oh, it’s so idiotic! so hateful! There was no need whatever for me…Nothing but sham!” she said, opening and shutting the parasol.

“But with what object?”

“To seem better to people, to myself, to God; to deceive everyone. No! now I won’t descend to that. I’ll be bad; but anyway not a liar, a cheat.”

“But who is a cheat?” said Varenka reproachfully. “You speak as if…”

But Kitty was in one of her gust of fury, and she would not let her finish.

“I don’t talk about you, not about you at all. You’re perfection. Yes, yes, I know you’re all perfection; but what am I to do if I’m bad? This would never have been if I weren’t so bad. So let me be what I am. I won’t be a sham. What have I to do with Anna Pavlovna? Let them go their way, and me go mine. I can’t be different…And yet it’s not that, it’s not that.”

“What is not that?” asked Varenka in bewilderment.

“Everything. I can’t act except from the heart, and you act from principle. I liked you simply, but you most likely only wanted to save me, to improve me.”

“You are unjust,” said Varenka.

“But I’m not speaking of other people, I’m speaking of myself.”

Like Kitty, I feel like a fraud when I attempt to do things “to seem better to people; to myself; to God”. I want to help others and to serve Jesus out of love–for Him and for them. It may sound noble, but at times it feels so childish. Because what if love isn’t enough?

I’m wondering…

Are you a person that acts from the heart or from principle and obligation? And if you’re of the latter category, do people like me drive you crazy?

Winter waiting

Winter seems to be a time for waiting.

Ever notice that? Once the holidays are over, most of us can’t wait until spring.

Poets and prose writers often lament winter:

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it. We know it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
– Percy Bysshe Shelley

“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”
– Hal Borland

Baseball players, too:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
– Roger Hornsby

It seems to me that much of winter is spent wanting it to be over and looking forward to spring. Seems like wasted time somehow, but much of life is about waiting, anticipating good things to come, and realizing in the winters of our lives our own ability to endure:

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus

Or not…

“I like these cold gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”
– Bill Watterson

Winter is the only time of year when you can get away with blaming your grumpiness exclusively on the weather. There’s something deeply liberating about that, don’t you think? (I’m mostly only kidding…Okay, not really.)


This post is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. For more posts about winter, please visit his site,

Choosing my own reality

image courtesy of

Imagine if you will, a song you’ve heard all of your life.

A song that spoke to the depths of your soul.

A song that conjured up in your heart and mind Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table; of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere, and of the king’s betrayal by his queen in the arms of Sir Lancelot.

Imagine a song that you’ve dedicated to the men in your life who have rescued you, befriended you, loved you and found you worthy of love; men who–past and present–have been your knights in shining armor.

Now imagine finding out, decades after you’d first heard and fell in love with the song, that you had misunderstood the lyrics. Not misheard them, mind you. Just misunderstood. Here is the song I’m referring to:

NIGHTS in White Satin?????

I thought all this time it was KNIGHTS in White Satin!!!

No matter. I choose my own reality. And to support my claim that my version is preferable, my friend Jeff said he took “Knights in White Satin” as a metaphor for the “Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send.” So I am not alone in my denial.

Too many dreams are swept away by reality. But not this time. No, this time I’m clinging to my own version of the song, because that version will always be near and dear to my heart. And yeah…I’m stubborn that way.

Knights in White Satin

Knights in white satin, never reaching the end,
Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send.
Beauty I’d always missed with these eyes before.
Just what the truth is, I can’t say anymore.

‘Cos I love you, yes I love you, oh how I love you.

Gazing at people, some hand in hand,
Just what I’m going through they can’t understand.
Some try to tell me, thoughts they cannot defend,
Just what you want to be, you will be in the end.

And I love you, yes I love you,
Oh how I love you, oh how I love you.
Knights in white satin, never reaching the end,
Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send.
Beauty I’ve always missed, with these eyes before.
Just what the truth is, I can’t say anymore.

‘Cos I love you, yes I love you,
Oh how I love you, oh how I love you.
‘Cos I love you, yes I love you,
Oh how I love you, oh how I love you.

Breath deep
The gathering gloom
Watch lights fade
From every room
Bedsitter people
Look back and lament
Another day’s useless
Energy spent

Impassioned lovers
Wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love
And has none
New mother picks up
And suckles her son
Senior citizens
Wish they were young

Cold hearted orb
That rules the night
Removes the colours
From our sight
Red is gray and
Yellow white
But we decide
Which is right
Which is an Illusion

“But we decide which is right and which is an illusion.” Indeed.

And for the record, I’m still always going to sing “Stop in the neighborhood before you break my heart” and “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”

Have you ever been disappointed by misheard song lyrics?

Awesome Cat?

Awesome Cat

Welcome to the twitter update featuring two weeks of tweets. Sort of a mixed bag of nuts–much like the people I follow on twitter. In this update, you’ll find me on a field trip to the Outdoor Learning Center, in the carpool lane, walking the dog and at Walmart. I found the last tweet (which is the first, since they’re backwards–still with me?) very telling. I sent that tweet out amongst a bunch of tweets blaming the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the Arizona shootings. I’m not one to tell you “I told you so”. But, I told you so…

And now the best of me (or not) on the twitter:

@CandySteele I can’t bear the thought of Awesome Cat being stuffed and on display. (in reply to Candy Steele @katdish Or maybe “awesome cat as an adult?” He has been gone for a long time.)

@gyoung9751 @candysteele speculates it may be Awesome Cat’s mother. (in reply to gyoung9751 @katdish That photo of the cat – it looked vaguely familiar – like I’ve seen it on a telephone pole)

@gyoung9751 Thanks, Glynn. That should be the alternate title for all my posts. (in reply to gyoung975 1RT @CandySteele: RT @katdish: Good Morning! Greetings from Gourd Land!: / alternately titled “Out of her Gourd”)

African Albino Frog: GAAAA!

The only good armadillo is this kind

Here, kitty, kitty!

Greetings from gourd land!

Heading out on a field trip. I will be in charge of the gourd station @ the outdoor learning center. I know. Kind of a big deal…

Dang you, autocorrect! >RT @CandySteele: @billycoffey Good morning, Built!

Starving. Luckily, we’re going out to dinner, so I can save my famous Nothing Au-gratin for another night.

@karenzach Not without some rope and sedatives. (in reply to karenzach @katdish I think we need to adopt @billycoffey as the Honorary CL. Think I can get him to dress in drag?)

@billycoffey They have their moments….(in reply to billycoffey @katdish Whomever said that was very wise. Very wise indeed.)

“You can spray as much air freshener as you like on a pile of crap, it’s still a pile of crap.”-Recent writing advice given by a friend

New at Kirkland's: monk wear!

I wonder if they use free range dog to make this

Coming soon to a landfill near you!

RT badbanana Just had to sharpen a pencil by hand. Thanks for nothing smartphone.

Have you ever been reading someone’s tweet stream & they quote someone U admire immediately followed by someone you don’t? #twitterwhiplash

Sometimes intense debate makes me stabby.

RT @beckfromfrogandtoad: Dad just picked The Baby up at school & was told by a dad that the Baby is “the class terror.” THE PRIDE I FEEL!

@buzzbyannies I also have an extended Festivus vacation.

@buzzbyannies I’m my own boss. I always take President’s day off.

@kelybreez Besides, do you know how many 1,000’s of annoying tweets it took me to get that many followers?

Oh please! You cain’t quit me, Kely! >RT @kelybreez: @katdish I truly may unfollow you. I’m beginning to grow a root of bitterness.

@Babybloomr you could even sponsor a couple of people who never talk & still be good.

@Babybloomr Oh, heck. You’re good.

Okay, I think I’ve got my grumpy ho on enough for one evening…

I don’t even care if you don’t talk to me. Just talk to someone for goodness sake.

On my to do list this week: Lay down the unfollow hammer. If you don’t ever talk to anyone on here, I’m going to downsize you.

How does someone get over 100,000 followers when all they tweet are links to quick cash schemes? Lame.

@CandySteele You need to start a new account: Sh*t my Mom says. (in reply to CandySteele Mom-ism of the day: “Don’t give me anything for my bowels. I’ll just make a suppository out of a bar of soap.”)

@JeanneDamoff @karenzach If by “mule-headed” they mean loyal & courageous, then I agree. #DoWeNeedToTakeThisOutside

@karenzach I mentioned to BC that you might be more stubborn than me. He said that was impossible.

@karenzach You already are talking in my head. And you’re arguing with me. (in reply to karenzach @kelybreez @katdish You want me talking in ur head?)

@karenzach I love your writing. I know no one really writes like they talk, but it seems like you’re talking to me when I read your writing.

@karenzach Hey girl! Been reading your book this weekend. Just read the letter you sent to People. Awesome.

RT @unmarketing Don’t try to win over haters. You’re not the Jackass Whisperer.

The entire experience left a bad taste in his mouth, like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. #badmetaphor

Either lots of people schedule their tweets, or there are a significant number of vampires on twitter.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs” – Stephen King

RT @Learell I live by the rule “never trust a person who throws a bday party for an animal” and it’s never let me down.

Because seriously, sometimes I’ll see something that other people think is good & I’m wondering if I’m looking at the same thing.

Does anyone else ever feel like the child in the crowd who calls out the emperor in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

Dear Jesus: If you do send email, would you send my dad one asking him to stop forwarding me these mass emails? Love, Kathy

My dad just forwarded me a mass email w/a subject line which says: If Jesus sent email.


RT @JCWert I think for my 40th birthday today, I’m going to walk around with an MP3 player & speakers playing the theme to Shaft.

Love me some Beck>RT @beckfromfrogandtoad: Big news! Bill has just made me the manager of his art career. Countdown to divorce starts: NOW.

Don't drive angry @buddylovethedog

Baby it's cold outside!

Ha! False alarm. You people w/your jukeboxes on your blogs…

Hark! Do I hear an ice cream truck?

@wai1twit Thanks. I’m a lot like Oprah. And when I say, “I’m a lot like Oprah”, I mean we wear the same size shoe.

Man, I have a lot of smart @$$ followers….Thanks! (in reply to several @ replies where it was suggested that Canadian bacon might be found on pizza in the frozen food section or in the sporting goods section–so thanks for nothing.)

@billycoffey Snort! Like I’m gonna take grocery shopping tips from you, Mr. Applesauce. But thanks anyway. (in reply to billycoffey @katdish Look where the eggs are.)

Thank you! @awefullymade

If you were Canadian bacon at Walmart, where might you be?

If the creators of Zumba for xbox’s mission was to make me look like a giant dork in front of my family, mission accomplished.

@shrinkingcamel @mrsmetaphor A murse? That’s way better than what I call it – a man sack.

@shrinkingcamel Oh, Brad. Just be a good husband and hold your wife’s purse. (in reply to shrinkingcamel Help! I’m stuck in Sephora and I can’t get out! (at the mall with my family of girls).

Watching the news concerning the AZ shooting. No word on possible motives, so I’m not going to assume I know one.

Greetings from Gourd Land!

image courtesy of

One of the great things about not having a 9 to 5 job is that I’m usually available to volunteer for school activities. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be winning any PTA volunteer of the year awards, although where I live the competition is pretty fierce. Me? I stick to helping out on field trips and making sets for school musicals.

One of the often frequented field trip destinations for elementary school age children is a place owned by the school district known as the Outdoor Learning Center. Here’s a brief description from the website:

The Outdoor Learning Center is nestled on 35-acres of land kept in its natural state. The OLC is a place where plants and animals live and grow and where science and social studies lessons spring to life as students at all grade levels participate in hands-on activities….

The school district is currently expanding the services and classroom experiences offered at the OLC. A living history classroom has been added where teachers and students participate in interactive lessons, and in the science classroom, students explore and discover native plants and animals.

My daughter’s 4th grade class visited both the living history classroom and the science classroom yesterday. I was assigned to one of the ten learning stations in the science classroom:

  • Station 1: Seeds
  • Station 2: Gourds
  • Station 3: Arthropods
  • Station 4: Animal Teeth
  • Station 5: Butterflies and Moths
  • Station 6: Fossils
  • Station 7: Birds
  • Station 8: Vines
  • Station 9: Reptiles/Amphibians
  • Station 10: Mammals

Yeah…my station? Station 2: Gourds. Which I suppose is a step up in the excitement category from Seeds or Vines, but notice how the stations are arranged. The room is a large rectangle. The kids, in groups of two, were assigned 5 minutes per station then moved around to the next station. So the kids who had just come from a table full of taxidermy animals and fur pelts got to come to me next. For whatever reason, the kids did not stop at Station 1: Seeds, or Station 3: Arthropods. I was, however, giving my fascinating 5 minute talk about the wonderful world of gourds while standing next to a tank full of angry crawfish and another tank full of African Clawed Frogs.

So yeah, that wasn’t at all distracting. And since Station 10 was right next to my station, some of the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the mammal table was on a shelf above the angry crawfish:

Oh, and did I mention that one of the frogs was about to give birth?

And that another one wasn’t actually from Africa but straight from the bowels of hell?

This frog started at me the entire time.

As you can well imagine, the children were riveted as I explained that gourds were originally from Africa and were carried by heavy rains into rivers and later oceans to eventually reach all parts of the world; that pumpkins, cucumbers, cantaloupes and other melons were considered gourds, and that there were many uses for the hollow, durable wood-like gourds that were on display.

I could tell they were fascinated by my station, because they asked thoughtful questions like,

“What’s a gourd?”


“Is that white frog dead or what?”

Okay, not really. The kids were actually pretty great. Especially after I told them it would take me roughly 3 minutes to talk about gourds, after which time they could look at the frogs and further provoke the angry crawfish…

So, what’d you do yesterday?

Effective parody: How to make fun of people and get away with it

image courtesy of

My first blog post was posted on April 30, 2008. I’ve learned quite a bit since that first, horrible post–about writing and blogging–what works for me and what doesn’t. I think everyone has to decide their own formula based on trial and error.

One of the things I’ve really tried to avoid are posts that have the potential for intense debate or that may otherwise cause people to get stabby–with me or with other commenters. I’ve either accomplished this goal, or y’all are just too polite to tell me if I’ve offended you.

When my pastor forwarded me the following video, I immediately wanted to tweet the link. I think it’s absolutely hilarious. But then I got to thinking about it, and thought it might be better to present it here with a little disclaimer. By posting this video, I am not doing so as a way to bash big churches or how they present the gospel on Sunday morning. I’ve been to a few big church Sunday “productions” and while they’re not for everyone, if the church is teaching the Word of God, helping those in need and making disciples, it’s not for me to judge their tactics. I suppose we could debate that, but I’d rather not. Besides, as someone who has been involved in planning worship, I can tell you that when I laughed at this video, I did so while identifying with most of what I saw–the worship leader in particular.

Okay…Just so you know where I’m coming from. Without further ado, I present to you, Contemporvent!:

You may find that video less amusing than I did. I think the old saying “It’s funny because it’s true” applies mostly because I’ve seen (and been involved in) so many worship services EXACTLY LIKE THAT. But like I said, this was mostly just for fun.

For a most excellent description of how someone can feel lost within a big body of believers, I would highly recommend stopping by my friend Jake’s blog and reading Huge Church: Lost(ish) souls. He pretty much nails it.

The mind of an artist

image courtesy of

If you follow me on twitter, you may know that I’ve been reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I found a copy of the book while perusing the bookshelves of a rented beach cottage in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We were vacationing there over the Thanksgiving holiday. Since I couldn’t take the book with me, I decided to download a copy on my kindle. I’ve been reading it ever since. Dang. Those Russian novelists are wordy–864 pages. Whew!

I’ll admit that part of the reason I started reading it was simply to say that I’ve read it–I know–pretentious, huh? I actually had no idea what the book was about when I started. I had just heard that it was “the single greatest novel ever written”.

Well, shucks. How can you pass up a teaser like that?

Since I’m only 60% through the book (according to my kindle), I can’t make a personal determination as to whether it merits that type of praise. But I will say that Tolstoy was an absolute master of words, and the depth of his characters, his development of them through dialogue (both internal and external) is astounding. If it’s true what they say that reading great writing improves your own writing, then I definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book. Of course, many of you have probably already read it, and think it’s cute that at the age of 45 I’m just now reading it. Whateva…

I wanted to share the following passage from the book. I wonder if all artists, regardless of their medium, go through similar bouts of self-doubt when presenting their work for all the world to see:

Excerpt from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:

For the few seconds during which the visitors were gazing at the picture in silence Mihailov too gazed at it with the indifferent eye of an outsider. For those few seconds he was sure in anticipation that a higher, juster criticism would be uttered by them, by those very visitors whom he had been so despising a moment before. He forgot all he had thought about his picture before during the three years he had been painting it; he forgot all its qualities which had been absolutely certain to him–he saw the picture with their indifferent, new, outside eyes, and saw nothing good in it. He saw in the foreground Pilate’s irritated face and the serene face of Christ, and in the background the figures of Pilate’s retinue and the face of John watching what was happening. Every face that, with such agony, such blunders and corrections had grown up within him with its special character, every face that had given him such torments and such raptures, and all these faces so many times transposed for the sake of the harmony of the whole, all the shades of color and tones that he had attained with such labor–all of this together seemed to him now, looking at it with their eyes, the merest vulgarity, something that had been done a thousand times over. The face dearest to him, the face of Christ, the center of the picture, which had given him such ecstasy as it unfolded itself to him, was utterly lost to him when he glanced at the picture with their eyes. He saw a well-painted (no, not even that–he distinctly saw now a mass of defects) repetition of those endless Christs of Titian, Raphael, Rubens, and the same soldiers and Pilate. It was all common, poor, and stale, and positively badly painted–weak and unequal. They would be justified in repeating hypocritically civil speeches in the presence of the painter, and pitying him and laughing at him when they were alone again.

What say you? Can you relate to what Mihailov is going through here? I know I certainly can.

And if you’ve read it, PLEASE DON’T TELL ME HOW IT ENDS!

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