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Wide White: December 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in review

This seems to be an obligatory post. I really don't know what to write, but I really like reading other people's "year in reviews," "top 10s," etc. so I figure I should at least make an attempt.

I got a new job and became a dad this year, all in the first 6 weeks of the year. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the year.

Sure, there are a lot of other things that happened, but really, when you start out changing jobs and having 2 kids, you can just forget about trying to top that the rest of the year.

If you do want to know about the rest of my year, check out our annual Christmas letter (PDF). It's got all sorts of great pictures, a few feeble attempts at humor, and some fun, rather crazy news at the end. As I think about things I'd even talk about, I'm realizing it's all in the letter. Nobody likes redundancy, so I'll leave it there.

It's been a great year. I have nothing to complain about. Except the weather, but who in Minnesota can't complain about that?

Here's to hoping 2011 is as good as 2010. Or even better...

Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Responding to awkward moments

I visited the church I grew up in while back visiting family this weekend. It's a small church with a new pastor who's bringing in some new songs.

One of the songs we sang was 3 verses long and the words just didn't match the music. Picture lyrics with a rhythm of 8/8/8/8 set to music with a rhythm of 6/6/6/6.

Yeah, it didn't go over so well.

What was great, though, were the reactions of those around me.

My brother-in-law quit singing halfway through the second verse because he was laughing too hard at everyone trying to fumble our way through it.

As soon as the song was finished my brother next to me muttered, "Well, that was a good try."

Right behind my brother was my grandpa, who was sitting behind me. I could hear him say under his breath, "That went over like a lead balloon."

And of course, my dad, who was leading the singing but didn't choose the song, was polite and didn't say anything.

But I loved the moment. Polished is good, but sometimes it's good to just go with the flow and see what happens. Sometimes the flow is smooth and other times it hits some crazy rapids and you just ride it out. When the canoe tips over, you can't do anything but laugh.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Belfast Giants

The Belfast Giants are a hockey team in Northern Ireland. They put a music video together to help promote some of their games over the next couple of weeks.

It's pretty awesome:

For more on the making of the video, check out this ESPN interview with one of the players:

Hope you're having a great Christmas!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

My most memorable Christmas gift ever

As you may or may not have noticed, I've taken a blog break this week. I figure everyone's probably gearing up for the holidays anyway and I've had a couple of projects I've been working on for Christmas.

But I thought I'd take a moment to talk about one of the most memorable Christmas gifts I've ever received.

As one of 11 kids, Christmas gets pretty crazy at my parents' house. A few of us have started suggesting that we do a gift exchange to help minimize the chaos, help reduce our annual shopping, and allow us to spend more per gift.

Regardless, that's not how we do things. Budgeting gifts for this many people is a challenge, of course. It can get pretty humorous to see how creative the younger (and poorer) kids get.

It's a well-known fact that I love eggnog. I can polish off an entire quart in one sitting. Two years ago I received eggnog for Christmas from two different siblings.

The first quart I received was wrapped and under the tree but had been refrigerated up until immediately before we opened presents. I popped it open, took a drink, and put it back in a refrigerator.

The second quart I received fared a bit worse. That brother had put out his gifts the night before we opened them. The eggnog was included in those gifts under the tree. I knew right away something was wrong. A quart of eggnog shouldn't be warm.

We laughed about it, knowing that it was going to be bad. Sure enough, I went to the kitchen, opened it up, and out poured curdles of eggnog.

It stands as the most memorable Christmas gift I've received.

Do you have any good Christmas gift stories? I want to hear them!

And Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The senior non-discount

Good point, but I still want a discount when I'm 65.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

How do they do that?!?

Breakdancing is mesmerizing.

This breakdancing is just sick.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Half Dome's cable permit policy

NOTE: Full photo essay of the Half Dome hike up the cables is at the bottom of the post.

Half Dome from Glacier Point, 6/10/2007

I've made the infamous Half Dome hike up the cables 3 times, twice while I worked in Yosemite National Park and once on a return visit with Jamie. It's a hike I plan to take my kids on one day. There's something awe-inspiring, conquering, and breath-taking about the hike and the end result that keeps drawing me back.

The hike is 17 miles round-trip and ends with a treacherous route up the side of the mountain that is only navigable with the assistance of cables. The elevation change from the floor of Yosemite Valley to the top is nearly a mile. The view at the top is what you see in the banner image at the top of this blog (a full photo of that image is included below).

In spite of the difficulty and danger of the hike and the 400-foot stretch of near-vertical cables, the hike attracts thousands of people each year with very few deaths (see a list of accidents on the cables). However, in spite of their strong safety record, the National Park Service has long been concerned with safety on the dangerous cables.

This year the National Park Service instituted an interim permit program. Anyone hiking to the top of Half Dome on weekends and holidays had to have a permit. The National Park Service has now announced that this permit will be required for all hikes to the top of Half Dome starting in 2011.

The announcement notes, "The permits are free, however, there is a non-refundable $1.50 service charge for each permit obtained." Yeah, that doesn't look free to me either. If I'm paying for the service to get the permit, I'm paying for the permit. Just call it what it is and we'll avoid any confusion.

The permit will likely pose a few problems.
  1. Permits will not be sold in the park. They're only sold through the National Recreation Reservation Service.
  2. Permits aren't sold until 2-4 months in advance. This poses a problem for anyone trying to plan a vacation in advance.
  3. Due to the permit requirement, people who are just considering climbing the cables will likely secure "just in case" permits. While those permits are made available again upon cancellation, if those people decide not to go but don't actually cancel, there's no way for the Park Service to know so the NRRS can make those permits available again. And while canceled permits are available until midnight the day before their date, they're still only available through the National Recreation Reservation Service, not in Yosemite. The fact that weekends last year averaged just 301 hikers a day up the cables according to the 2010 NPS Half Dome Trial Visitor Use Monitoring Report shows that there were many days with far less than the 400 allowed hikers actually climbing the cables.
  4. Permit enforcement is unclear. Presumably rangers are stationed at the cables on a sporadic basis, similar to traffic law enforcement.
  5. 400 permits are made available for each day, but only 300 of those are for day hikers. Additionally, while the average number of hikers on a weekday is around 400, that number normally would double to 800 on the weekends. There will obviously be tremendous demand for weekend and holiday permits. There will likely be a number of people who will try to make the hike anyway due to the once in a lifetime opportunity for first-timers or nostalgia and tradition for old-timers.
  6. The permits are for the entire day, so there's nothing to prevent logjams during the middle of the day when the cables are already the most jammed. By my estimation, at an additional 100-200 permits could be made available if they were specifically designated as early morning permits that required the permit-holder to be off of Half Dome by 10:00 or 11:00. I've been on the cables around noon on July 4th, without question one of the busiest - and probably the busiest - day of the year on Half Dome. It was busy but definitely safely navigable. Additionally, I've been on top towards the end of the day (when the photos below were taken) and the cables were virtually empty.
I support managing human impact on nature and regulations are sometimes necessary for that purpose. However, moving to a system that isn't controlled within Yosemite National Park will be tough to explain to park visitors, especially those who've been coming back for years. We need to do everything possible to encourage more people to spend time in our national parks and I'm not sure this will help.

If you happen to find yourself out of luck for the Half Dome hike, I'd like to suggest Cloud's Rest instead. It's about 5 miles shorter, 2,000 feet less in elevation change, and rises 2,000 feet above Half Dome. The views are arguably better, it's easier (though still challenging), and there are no cables to deal with. You'll start from the Sunrise Lakes trailhead in the parking lot near Tenaya Lake.

Cloud's Rest is behind Half Dome, to the left, 6/10/2007

Trust me, you won't be disappointed with this hike. If you really want to make it memorable, start at around 1:00 AM under a full moon and go up there for the sunrise. You won't even need a flashlight or headlamp for much of the hike and the view is nothing short of spectacular. Just be quiet when you get to the top as you can expect to find people sleeping in their tents, perched along the Cloud's Rest ridge at over 10,000 feet.

Here's a series of photos showing the cables and the views from the top of Half Dome. If you can't make the hike happen, hopefully this gives you a small taste.

The approach to Half Dome: switchbacks then cables, 6/7/2007

The switchbacks... 6/7/2007

The cables... 6/7/2007

The cables... 6/7/2007

Last chance to back out, 6/7/2007

Smiling nervously, 6/7/2007

On top of Half Dome, view of Yosemite Valley & Yosemite Falls, 6/7/2007

On top of Half Dome, the Sierra Nevada range, 6/7/2007

Tenaya Canyon from the top of Half Dome, the banner image for this blog, 6/7/2007

Yosemite Valley. Yes, people stand on that ledge outcropping. I sat on it in 2005. 6/7/2007

You could play football on top of Half Dome, 6/7/2007

Tenaya Canyon, with Cloud's Rest on the right, 6/7/2007

Close-up of Cloud's Rest (right) and Cathedral Peak (left), 6/7/2007

Heading back down the cables, 6/7/2007

Heading back down the cables, 6/7/2007

Last stretch of cables, 6/7/2007

Hiking down, the view back, 6/7/2007

One last shot with Cloud's Rest in the background, 6/7/2007

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Home school or public school?

My kids are 10 months old so this isn't really a pressing question. However, it's something we'll have to figure out at some point. (I'm intentionally leaving out private school for a number of reasons, costs included.)

I was home schooled while my wife is a product of Minnesota and Wisconsin public schools. (In a bit of a twist, I went to a public university while she went to a private Christian university.) We're both positive about our experiences and aren't resolved on what we'll do with our kids. We take sort of a "live life as it comes" approach. We try not to plan too far into the future knowing that circumstances often change.

Still, we've started giving it some thought. I recently read 2 posts from Tim Challies that has brought a new perspective to my thoughts on the subject. His posts were titled "Why I Do Not Homeschool (Part 1 & Part 2). I'm not always on board with Challies and don't agree with everything he says in these two articles. However, he does a good job of stating his case.

Challies prefaces his thoughts with this great piece:
There is one more thing I would like to say before I get too much further into this article. Homeschooling parents are easily offended (See? I offended you just by saying that!). Some may consider this a rash generalization, but in my experience it is true. Homeschoolers are often on the defensive, though certainly this is changing as homeschooling becomes a more widely accepted option in the church and in the wider culture. For many years homeschoolers have had to defend their choice in education and they have grown weary of defending against misunderstandings and strawman arguments. I am not going to argue that, if we homeschool, our children will end up having no social skills, we will have to move to the country to raise our own beef, I’ll have to throw away my deodorant and my wife will have to grow her hair past her waist and begin making all of our clothes. I hope not to fall into caricatures of homeschooling. Feel free to correct me if I do. There is much I admire about those who choose to homeschool. Honest. At the same time, please do not use caricatures to describe public schools as being always boring, filled with disinterested Wiccan teachers or serving as training grounds for automatons who are being trained only to work in factories.
From there, Challies launches into his 2-part explanation of where he stands.

Here are some excerpts that stood out to me.
Douglas Wilson differentiates between homeschoolers and what he called “Homers” in an article he wrote for Credenda Agenda. Homeschoolers, he says, are “people who have carefully considered all the options available to them in the education of their children, have prayerfully weighed them, and have decided to provide their children with an education at home.” Homers are extremists who “have a completely different attitude toward the process of homeschooling. No longer an instrument or means of educating their children, homeschooling has become, in their hands, a very modern manifestation of home as ideology. In this thinking, home is a defining principle to which everything else must conform. Even the church is brought into the service of the home. Father is no longer a father; he is a prophet, priest and king. Any home is capable of doing anything that is worth doing. A radical home-centeredness takes over, insisting that the home can not only replace the school, but also the church and the civil magistrate, not to mention Safeway and General Motors.”

I am not sure the distinction between these two groups is always perfectly clear, but do think Wilson makes a distinction worth noting. What makes both groups similar, though, is that the decision to homeschool cannot be removed from other beliefs and ideologies. At the risk of belaboring the point, let me state this once more: homeschooling is rarely a decision that is completely independent of other beliefs. The beliefs that impact educational choice are, in my experience, related to the understanding of how we, as Christians, are to relate to the people and to the culture around us. It is related to how we are to be in the world but not of the world.
Trusting that my children will grow up to be believers, I am convicted that it is my duty as a parent, and as a Christian parent, to prepare my children to fulfill that calling in their lives. I believe they can best heed this call by being in the culture in which God has seen fit to place them. I want them to be with kids who are not Christians, to be friends with them and to love them, to learn what separates them from their friends, and to begin to understand how their convictions make them different from others.
I find it difficult and painful to imagine a public school system devoid of Christians. Imagine, if you will, that every Christian pulls their children from the public schools. There will be no more Christian clubs in junior high schools; there will be no more prayer meetings or Bible studies at high schools; there will be no witnessing, no conversions. Christians will have removed the best indigenous missionaries from their natural mission field.
We genuinely love the people around us and want to know them, both so we can relate to them as friends and so we can, with God’s help, witness to them of His love and grace. Our children build bridges to the neighborhood. In sending our children to public school, we are building these bridges with our neighbors as our children are building friendships with their children. We are building friendships on the basis of our kids’ friendships. This is not to say, of course, that we only relate to our neighbors because we hope to convert them. We relate to them because we genuinely love them, care for them, and seek to know them both for what they can offer us and what we can offer them. We seek to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have credibility as neighbors and as members of this community by having our children attend the same schools as the other children. This weekend we are having a neighborhood-wide event in our home and every family who has accepted our invitation is a family whose children go to school with our children.
My wife and I feel called to reach out to the people in our neighborhood and our community. We simply do not feel we could honor God in this way and be as effective in doing it if we kept our children home. We would lose credibility, we would lose friendships, and we would lose access to the hearts of both children and their parents.
[W]e do not avoid worldliness by secluding ourselves from the world. The key to escaping worldliness is not to avoid the world, but to avoid acting like the world and thinking like the world. To do this we do not escape the world, but allow ourselves to apprehend the allure of the world so it might lose its glow.
To think that we can keep our children from being worldly by sheltering them from the world is false. Sooner or later children will want to see what the world has to offer.
I believe it is easier for children to avoid worldliness when they are exposed to the world. This may sound strange, so allow me to explain. I want my children to see what the world has to offer before they are old enough to explore it on their own, without parental guidance. I want my children to see and experience families where God is not at the center.
I am not afraid of the world and what it may do to my children. There is nothing the world can offer that is greater or stronger than God’s grace. I am sure that my children, at one time or another, will encounter teachings that run contrary to our convictions. They will learn about evolution and will hear that all religions are the same. I know that this is coming and am already working with them to know how to think about these things and to know how to respond.
I can't say this has made me automatically decide to send my kids to public school, partly because I'm not sure that all of my reasons for making that decision are the same as Challies'. Still, I think Challies provides some great insight that the Christian community is missing when we talk about this subject.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some free or cheap things to do in Minneapolis-St. Paul

I recently came across a user-submitted list of free or cheap (<$10) things to do in the Twin Cities.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Centennial Lakes, Edina
Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Central Park, Bloomington
Holidazzle Parade, Minneapolis

Jamba Juice, usually in Edina, followed by a walk around Centennial Lakes; or Grand Ave. in St. Paul, paired with a roll from Breadsmith.
Savage Depot, Savage
Nelson's Ice Cream, Stillwater
Ring Mountain Creamery Cafe, Eagan
Liberty Frozen Custard, Minneapolis

There are many other parks in Burnsville and the surrounding area that I'm leaving out.

What are your favorite places to go to when you need to get out of the house?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do Christians have to believe in a literal 6-day creation?

I've heard some Christians say that you can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible are literal. You either believe it all to be literally true or you believe none of it is literally true.

I recently read a paper (PDF) by Tim Keller called "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople." Keller, a New York pastor for 35 years, put on paper what I've thought for years but didn't know how to say.

I'm not going to address whether Christians should or shouldn't believe in a literal 6-day creation, only whether or not they must.

In Keller's paper he poses and answers 3 questions:
Question #1: If God used evolution to create, then we can’t take Genesis 1 literally, and if we can’t do that, why take any other part of the Bible literally?

Answer: The way to respect the authority of the Biblical writers is to take them as they want to be taken. Sometimes they want to be taken literally, sometimes they don’t. We must listen to them, not impose our thinking and agenda on them.

Question#2: If biological evolution is true—does that mean that we are just animals driven by our genes, and everything about us can be explained by natural selection?

Answer: No. Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a world-view.

Question #3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in an historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue and so Christians who believe God used evolution must be open to one another’s views.
Each question contains pages of more detailed responses that I won't rehash here.

Here are 2 of Keller's key arguments along with quotes from his paper supporting those arguments.

1. Genesis 1 was written in prose with repeated statements similar to a hymn or song.
Genesis 1’s prose is extremely unusual. It has refrains, repeated statements that continually return as they do in a hymn or song. There are many examples, including the seven-time refrain, “and God saw that it was good” as well as ten repetitions of “God said”, ten of “let there be”, seven repetitions of “and it was so,” as well as others. Obviously, this is not the way someone writes in response to a simple request to tell what happened. In addition, the terms for the sun (“greater light”) and moon (“lesser light”) are highly unusual and poetic, never being used anywhere else in the Bible, and “beast of the field” is a term for animal that is ordinarily confined to poetic discourse.
2. The order of creation in Genesis 1 does not follow a "natural order."
For example, there is light (Day 1) before there are any sources of light--the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4). There is vegetation (Day 3) before there was any atmosphere (Day 4 when the sun was made) and therefore there was vegetation before rain was possible. Of course, this is not a problem per se for an omnipotent God. But Genesis 2:5 says: “When the Lord God made the earth and heavens--and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, because the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, and there was no man to work the ground." Although God did not have to follow what we would call a ‘natural order’ in creation, Genesis 2:5 teaches that he did. It is stated categorically: God did not put vegetation on the earth before there was an atmosphere and rain. But in Genesis 1 we do have vegetation before there is any rain possible or any man to till the earth. In Genesis 1 natural order means nothing--there are three 'evenings and mornings' before there is a sun to set! But in Genesis 2 natural order is the norm.
So what does this mean? It means Genesis 1 does not teach that God made the world in six twenty-four hour days. Of course, it doesn’t teach evolution either, because it doesn’t address the actual processes by which God created human life. However, it does not preclude the possibility of the earth being extremely old. We arrive at this conclusion not because we want to make room for any particular scientific view of things, but because we are trying to be true to the text, listening as carefully as we can to the meaning of the inspired author.
I won't expand on anything here or on anything else in Keller's paper. He's done a fine job without me adding anything more.

Keller isn't trying to change others' views on a literal 6-day creation so much as he's trying to contend that there's a legitimate reason to believe the 6-day creation account wasn't literal. He's appealing to Christians that the 6-day creation story is not a key tenet of our faith.

In short, I don't think a Christian must believe in a literal 6-day creation. And while a Christian denouncing evolution may be standing up for their beliefs, I don't see how they're standing up for their faith. Faith in God simply does not require belief in a literal 6-day creation.

But that's my view. What's yours?

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Monday, December 13, 2010

When science challenges our beliefs

MinnPost ran a story back in July titled, "When their world view is challenged by scientific data, some doubt science itself."

The article shows that when someone's beliefs are challenged with scientific evidence, they not only maintain their beliefs and reject the scientific evidence, they also question all other scientific conclusions.

I've thought a lot about this subject, especially in terms of creation vs. evolution. I'll post more on that tomorrow.

For now, I'm curious: If science challenges a belief that you hold, do you maintain your belief or do you change your belief in light of the new evidence? What's an example of a belief you hold to that scientific evidence couldn't possibly change?

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ignoring instructions

Well, it doesn't say which grass.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

The answers twins parents really want to give to your questions

Jamie and I have watched this no less than 5 times since first coming across it a few weeks ago. We laugh every time.

In case you think any of the questions asked are exaggerated, I've included the transcript of the whole 2-minute exchange below and have noted in parentheses which questions Jamie and I have been asked over the past 10 months.

Twins Mom: In an ideal park world, this is how my conversations would go.

Park Mom: Oh wow, are those your two children?
TM: Yes, yes they are.
PM: They are adorable. Have a great day.
TM: Same to you.

TM: And end scene.

TM: Unfortunately, in reality, it goes more like this.

PM: Hello, are those your two children over there?
TM: Yes, yes they are.
PM: Are they twins? (They're 10 months old and we get this all the time.)
TM: Yes.
PM: One is a boy and one is a girl? They do not look alike. (We often get comments about whether they do or don't look alike.)
TM: You are so observant.
PM: My uncle's friend's brother's cousin's mailman has twins. (Many people tell us about someone they know who has twins.)
TM: Awesome.
PM: But they look alike.
TM: Wow.
PM: Are yours identical? (All the time, even though we have a boy and a girl.)
TM: No.
PM: I did not think so.
TM: What gave it away?
PM: Are they natural? (Unfortunately, we've been asked this numerous times.)
TM: They are not robots and are made from organic matter.
PM: Do twins run in your family? (Easily the most common question. The answer is no.)
TM: Is that a transparent attempt to ask me if I've battled with infertility?
PM: Yes, did you have that in vitro thing? (Never directly, but we've been asked this question in other ways.)
TM: What is your favorite brand of tampons?
PM: What?
TM: Oh, sorry, with this line of interrogation, I just assumed that we were now BFF's.
PM: Well, at least you did not get 8 kids like that Octomom.
TM: Lucky me.
PM: I always get pregnant the first time I try.
TM: Great job. Here's your cookie.
PM: Which one do you like better? (Not yet, though we're asked many other "which one..." questions.)
TM: I love them both the same.
PM: Yeah, but which one is your favorite? (Oh yes, we've been asked this one.)
TM: The one who is not screaming.
PM: Which one is smarter?
TM: I am.
PM: I do not know how you do it. (We hear this all the time.)
TM: I have no choice.
PM: My kids are a year apart. I think that is harder than twins. (Yes, we've heard this.)
TM: Come to my house around 5:00.
PM: That's great you have a boy and a girl. You are done. (We often hear, "You can be done now!")
TM: Thanks for handling that decision for me.
PM: I know a lady who has triplets.
TM: Awesome.
PM: At least you do not have quads.
TM: [Blank stare]
PM: Okay, got to go.
TM: Thank God.

TM: And now I will go back under my rock.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Why college basketball is better than college football

This is a topic that is pretty meaningless. Nobody's life is really impacted by whether college basketball or football is better.

But for the purpose of having some fun with it (and maybe get my college football player-brothers to chime in), here are my top 3 reasons:

1. 68 teams from every conference play for the national title in basketball; 2 major conference teams play for the title in football.
2. 1 loss (or 5) doesn't end a basketball team's title hopes; 1 loss usually ends a football team's title hopes.
3. Basketball teams play opponents with a wide breadth of talent; major conference football teams are often afraid of playing a difficult non-conference schedule.

What's your take? Or do you not care about any sport? Is there another sport you like better or are you a bigger fan of book clubs or something else? Is this issue life or death to you? (For my friend who hasn't missed a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game in 8 years, it just might be...)

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

What does it look like to be the hands and feet of Christ?

I often hear Christians speak of being the "hands and feet" of Christ. What they mean is that Christians should doing more than just thinking or talking about what we believe. We should be doers, on the ground, helping others.

I heard this phrase again last night in reference to seeing Christians coming to the aid of another Christian in the hospital. I love to see people help others like that, but wondered how often we do that with people who aren't Christians. Are we as quick to assist them when they're in need or do we isolate ourselves in our Christian communities?

Make no mistake, Christians should love and support one another. But I've observed some who prefer to isolate themselves within their Christian communities. They socialize with and help their fellow Christians but rarely interact with those outside of their Christian community. They've created a tight-knit social circle but don't appear to be doing much to spread the love of Christ to others.

This is so sad to me because I don't think it's what Christ wants from his followers.

As I think about what Christ does want from his people, I think about my friend Dustin.

I've been friends with Dustin for three and a half years now. I call him Stupac (or is it Stewpac? It's pronounced like "Tupac"), but that's another story. He lives 3/4 of a mile away and we see each other every week in church and in our small group.

I can't count the number of times I've seen Dustin help friends in our church with their own projects, whether it's moving loads of sheetrock and lumber or helping resolve a mold issue.

But what stands out to me isn't just the assistance Dustin often offers his church friends. Dustin isn't a guy who separates himself from his neighbors. When a snowstorm hit our area last weekend, he took care of multiple neighbors' driveways in addition to his own. These weren't people in our church. They were just neighbors who needed help for various reasons and he met the need. Not only did he meet the need, but he was willing and happy to meet the need - or at least he acted like he was.

We need more Christians like Dustin. There may be a time and a place for talking, but most people's needs can't be met with words. I can tell my jobless neighbor that "Christ works all things together for good according..." or I can just invite him over for dinner and offer to feed him or help pay some of his bills. I think that's what Christ wants from us and I think it's what that jobless neighbor needs most.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Have you ever considered changing your name?

As a big fan of NBC's Chuck, I came across a story yesterday about an Oregon man who changed his name from Douglas Allen Smith Jr. to Captain Awesome.

That's right. His new name is Captain Awesome.

Captain Awesome - aka Devon Woodcomb - is a character on Chuck. His nickname is Captain Awesome because he's a doctor, muscular, athletic - pretty much a perfect specimen in every way. His parents are equally cut to perfection and they exaggerate the part. Chuck calls them "the Awesomes."

My dad wanted a kid named Joey after seeing the TV movie Something for Joey at age 15. My mom felt I needed a more grown-up name worthy of a birth certificate. Neither liked the name Joseph, so they settled on Joel.

I often found myself having to explain why my "real" name wasn't Joseph. I even tried to switch to Joel when I was 12, though it didn't last for more than a few weeks. I hated it. It wasn't my name. In high school I decided not to make an issue out of the fact that "Joel" was printed on my name tag at a new job. It was a decision I would quickly regret as I went for 2 years with the only people in the world calling me Joel being those I worked with.

By the time I got to college I knew I wouldn't be going by Joel. I told new professors on the first day of each new semester. I used "Joey" on all of my papers. I had the name plate switched at my second job along with my computer and email settings, which I knew was probably a pain. I wasn't going to spend time at work correcting my coworkers and customers.

Almost 4 years ago my wife was at the Washington County offices in Woodbury applying for our marriage certificate. She called me at work. "You know, you could change your name now. All I have to do is write 'Joey' under the field for your new name."

I quickly mulled it over. I didn't have much time to reconsider it. My mom had told me in college that she wouldn't care if I ever changed my legal name to Joey. It's what I'd been called from birth and it was clear that it's what I was sticking with. Additionally, I had moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota only months before this and hadn't yet obtained any new official documents. I still had to get a new driver's license and car title. The only new document I'd really need due to a name change was a social security card, but my wife would be needing one too with her name change. From there it was just a matter of updating credit cards and other accounts, which I was already going to be doing as I added my wife to everything.

I decided to go ahead and make the change and I've never regretted it. I know it's only one letter, but it's funny how significant that one letter can be.

So how about you? Have you ever considered changing your name? Even if you haven't, is there another name that you've wished you had instead?

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

If you offend someone, whose fault is it?

I've been in a few situations recently where either I was hurt by someone else's words and actions or someone else was hurt by mine.

If I say or do something that hurts or offends someone, whose responsibility is it?

Responses to this question from the hurtful person tend to include:

"You misinterpreted me."
"It was a misunderstanding."
"You weren't listening to what I had to say."
"You don't know my heart."
"You're being overly-sensitive."
"You're focusing on the negatives."

I've heard these and many other reasons given for dismissing or discrediting someone who is offended. I've used these reasons to excuse things I've said and done before. The offender's focus is on why the offended reacted the way they did and and why they shouldn't have, not on what was done to hurt them and why that may have been wrong.

There are certainly cases in which offense or hurt is out of our control. If my wife and I each have a sibling getting married on the same day, there's nothing we can do to change the fact that someone may be hurt because one or both of us can't make one of the weddings.

But what about when something we say or do hurts someone? How do we respond when a friend brings up a comment made 3 years ago that hurt them and still sticks with them? What do we say when someone confronts us about actions we took towards them that they found hurtful?

These are cases where I think we must apologize and take responsibility. Whether we're right or wrong in what we believed isn't important. What's important is that what we said or did caused hurt, which indicates that it was poorly communicated.

Here's what I've concluded: If you find yourself in this kind of situation, repair the relationship. Accepting responsibility for being a source of hurt and pain through poor communication is far more important than arguing the nuances of your point of view. There may be a time and place for that at some point, but right now, your actions and your comments were hurtful. Swallow your pride, apologize, and move forward.

Starting with me.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

How private are your Facebook photos?

UPDATE 2/11/11: It appears that Facebook has put at least one measure in place to help prevent issues. As you can see below, the image from Facebook no longer sources into this post. It appears they now prevent hotlinking of their images. However, you can still access private photos by clicking the direct link to the photo. That's something that they likely can't prevent.

I had an extensive discussion with a friend recently about posting pictures of our kids online. He won't do it, going so far as to require friends to remove any photos they have on Facebook or elsewhere that include his kids.

First, I'm not a paranoid person, so the privacy issues aren't a huge concern to me. I try not to make it easy for you track me down, but really, a Google search or two and you could be knocking on my front door. That goes for most people.

Second, I argued that even if you're paranoid, Facebook's privacy settings allow you to restrict who sees your photos.

I recently realized this second point really isn't entirely true.

Below is a photo I took with my phone and posted on Facebook. I took it on Saturday as my kids looked out the window at our big snowfall.

When most people send someone else a link to a Facebook photo, they simply copy the URL. For this photo, they would send this: However, you would be unable to view that photo unless you're friends with me. My Facebook privacy settings don't allow anyone but my friends to see my photos.

However, the photo above is sourcing directly from Facebook's servers. Here's the direct link to the photo: That link probably isn't familiar since there's no "" in the link. The only indication it comes from Facebook is "fb." You can view that photo just by clicking that link, regardless of whether or not you're friends with me on Facebook.

Now, only my friends can access the page in my Facebook photo album with this photo. They're the only ones who could right-click on the photo, click "Save as..." and save it on their computer. They're the only ones who could right-click on the page, click "View page source" and get the link to where the image is hosted on Facebook's servers.

Still, if you don't have to even have a Facebook account to view a photo posted on Facebook's servers, how easy might it be for someone to access other photos on those servers?

I'm still not paranoid and I won't quit posting photos to Facebook. I am reminded, however, that regardless of privacy settings, once anything is posted on Facebook I have to assume that anyone may see it.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Who's the best?

A perfect example of a case in which you don't need to be right.



Saturday, December 04, 2010

Multitasking at its finest

Or maybe it's multitasking at its worst.

A couple of guys started filming a driver they caught reading a book.

Then the guy busted out a Kindle.

Then he broke out a phone.

The best part of the video may be the reaction of the guys filming it.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Blogs: curing boredom one click at a time

I've been pretty consistent at publishing a new blog post each morning for the last couple of months with the exception of the week of Thanksgiving.

I didn't get a post up this morning either since I spent my blog time last night working on a post over at Strange Spending. (You can check it out here.)

As I glanced over the traffic on Wide White today I couldn't help but notice an increase in the number of clicks to other blogs I have linked on the right. 22% of visitors to the blog today have clicked a link on the right, double the number from yesterday.

The only reason I can come up with - and I could be dead wrong - is people are looking to fill time. When they don't see a new post here, they go looking for new content somewhere else. (I'd put in another plug for how you should just sign up for automatic updates via email or RSS, but I'd run the risk of sounding like a broken record...)

What do you think? Do those of you who check this blog regularly for updates often click links on the right when there isn't new content here? Do those of you who have your own blogs notice any trend on your own sites if you don't post content?


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Social media: do I have to follow you too?

Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs all have a common question: If you follow, friend, or link me, am I obliged to do the same in response?

Each social media platform is unique in how its participants interact with one another. While Facebook has the option of hiding or assigning limited profiles to friends, I have no problem ignoring someone I'm not really friends with. Twitter has the "follow" concept where you can follow without being followed back and vice versa, and my policy is to follow only those I actually read.

Blogs are a little more free-reign. If someone is reading my blog, am I obligated to read theirs? If someone has linked to my blog from theirs, am I obligated to link to their blog from mine?

As with Twitter, I only link to blogs I actually read. If I quit reading a blog, I remove it. I'm not a fan of everything I read on every blog I follow. I rarely agree with MN Democrat and there's an occasional quote at Overheard in Minneapolis that's saltier than I care for. But there's enough humor and insight for me to keep reading and if I ever quit, I'll remove them.

I've been de-friended, unfollowed, and had links to my blog removed. I can only think of one time that it's ever bothered me, and only because it was from someone who had been one of my biggest supporters and then dropped me without saying a word. But for the most part, it doesn't matter to me. What I say isn't really that interesting to a lot of people. The potential audience for a few paragraphs of who-knows-what each morning is pretty limited, especially when that content doesn't fall neatly into any single category.

I'll keep cranking out material in my typical WYSIWYG fashion - What You See Is What You Get. I'll try to improve at what warrants a Facebook status, tweet, or blog post and what doesn't. Obviously I hope that what I have to say is valuable enough to keep bringing you back. If it doesn't, I'm glad I could at least entertain, inform, humor, or perhaps frustrate you for a short time.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

America's inability to spell

Google searches offer a revealing look at how America spells. It's not pretty.

Someone stumbled across my blog early this morning with the following Google search:
minisotta vikings attendence
At face value, I didn't think much of it. Then I saw the location of the IP address: Colgate University.

Colgate University is located in central New York. U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the 19th best liberal arts college in the entire country in 2009. 93% of their student body was in the top 20% of their high school class and 79% were in the top 10%. The average high school GPA of students at this school is 3.73 with an average SAT score of 1397.

This place is cranking out smart people, right?

Maybe, but it looks like they've got some smart people who don't know how to spell.

Twitter is perhaps the best examples of America's spelling problem, and I'm not talking about "LOL" or "LMAO." Anytime Brett Favre makes the news, "Farve" becomes a trending topic. When Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier coached his first game the other day, local TV station Fox 9 Sports repeatedly referenced "Frasier" in their tweets. And this is for a guy who's been the Vikings' assistant head coach for 2 years prior to being named the interim head coach! You'd think someone whose full-time job is to follow people like that would know how to spell the guy's last name.

I know, there are bigger problems in the world than how "Minnesota" is spelled or whether someone knows "R before V except for in Favre." But I can still lament the fact that people don't know how to spell and in many cases don't care to change it.

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