boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

7/30/06

vaca recap...

Well, I never really was able to find internet access on the trip. And now, to recount everything at once would be tedious. Besides, most of what happens on a trip is the kind of stuff where "you had to be there." So, I'll just give you a few bites, a few pictures, and maybe I'll write a couple more detailed reflections later. First, the vital statistics:
  • 6 days, 2418 miles round trip, 1 new state visited (New York)
  • 7 times filling up the gas tank
  • 3 audio books listened to-- The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead, interesting though ultimately unsatisfying; To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway, very good but not what you would call "uplifting"; and a live reading performance at Carnegie Hall by David Sedaris, highly recommended
  • 2 state parks camped in-- Dillon S.P. in Ohio and Glimmerglass S.P. in New York, both more than satisfactory
  • 2 halls of fame visited-- Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH (we didn't go in, just took pictures outside) and of course, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY
  • 8 hours spent in the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 17 hours-- longest single drive, from Cooperstown to Chicago; including a detour to see Niagra Falls and about 500 continuous miles of torrential rainfall from just west of Buffalo, NY to just east of Chicago

The whole point of the trip, besides just getting away, was to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it was worth it; it definitely lived up to my expectations. First of all, the only person who really knows me well enough to know this is my wife, but I get teary-eyed and choked up at the drop of an emotional hat. So, just walking into the building, with the sense of nostalgia and shared cultural/emotional investment, I was definitely on the verge of embarassing myself. I don't think the girl who sold me my ticket could tell, but who knows. Anyway, the first exhibit I walked into was a gallery of artwork inspired by the Negro Leagues, and that really got to me. Though the Negro Leagues are an amazing part of American history, the thought of them always makes me rather sad. It is not just for the injustice of segregation, or the struggles of the individuals involved, but also for the loss of the beauty and glory that would have been witnessed in the competition between all players from that golden era of baseball's history. No one really knows whether Babe Ruth or Josh Gibson was a better home run hitter. People can only wonder if Oscar Charleston might be the greatest center fielder of all time. The possibilities and conjectures go on and on. Well, to sum it up, it was a good start to the day. The art was good too, and I took some pictures, but none of them turned out well enough to do it justice.

The coolest part about the museum was the "timeline of baseball", which was essentially the entire second floor taken up with equipment, uniforms, and other artifacts and memorabilia that mark the history of the sport and its place in cultural history. Baseball has been played in a relatively organized and professional way since the 1870's, so there's a lot to that history. Again, since all of the stuff was behind glass, none of my pictures do justice to the objects except to remind me of what I saw. But here is a list of the top 5 cool things I saw at the hall of fame:

  1. the glove Willie Mays was wearing when he made "the catch" of a Vic Wertz fly ball in the 1954 World Series; it was rather small, about the size your average pre-teen little leaguer would wear today
  2. the baseball from the last out of the 1889 World Championship Series; I think it was the oldest thing I saw
  3. the letter sent by president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 to baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis advising him that, in the president's opinion, it would be in the best interests of the country to keep Major League Baseball operating during the war in order for the country to have a means of recreation during a time of difficult and diligent work
  4. the shoes worn by and the baseballs hit by Hank Aaron to tie and break Babe Ruth's then record 714 home runs in 1974
  5. the last ball thrown in the World Series of 1903, recognized as the first modern championship, striking out Honus Wagner no less
There were some other cool sections to the museum. The third floor had an assortment of artifacts from old stadiums and various important events and individuals from baseball history. It also had the "records room" with toteboards of the current and all-time leaders in various important statistical categories. Then there was the continuous video reel of Laurel and Hardy's "Who's on First" skit, with a baseball blooper reel shown in between each playing. "Who's on First" is hilarious if you're willing to go with it, but tedious and enfuriating if you're not--I am. (The version I linked to on YouTube isn't the best one, but it was the only one I could find without trying too hard.) And finally, there was the actual "Hall" of fame, with plaques for all the players inducted as the best in baseball's history. Today was actually induction day. Bruce Sutter, of the Cardinals and others, entered the hall, along with 17 former Negro League players and executives, including one woman. That nearly doubled the previous 18 Negro Leaguers who were already in the Hall. For some unknown reason, Buck O'Neil was not voted into the Hall, though he has long been well worthy. Not only was he a great player, was a long time scout, coach, and manager, as well as ambassador for the game. He was the shining star of Ken Burns' famous and outstanding "Baseball" documentary on PBS. He was also one of the driving forces behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which I hope to visit some day.

One of the bright spots of the trip was the town of Cooperstown itself. It wouldn't be much without the Hall of Fame, but it's a nice little town, situated next to a lake, with quaint shops tucked in amongst the memorabilia stores, and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Suzanne has no interest in baseball, so she spent the day browsing the shops and reading a book down by the lake. So, if you are part of a couple or a family that doesn't have a unanimous passion for baseball, I'd still recommend taking a shot at making the trip because those who aren't into baseball may still find something fun to do. We were camped at a state park on the other side of the lake that had swimming and a big playground and some hiking trails that we didn't get to explore.

Okay, how 'bout some pictures and quick-hit captions.

Here's where we camped our first night in Ohio. Actually, it was the next morning.

Maybe on another road trip, I'll actually get to go in.

Here I am ready to enter the sanctuary and view the relics that were the pursuit of my pilgrimage.

One of the few drawbacks to Cooperstown was the unfriendly librarians who went into a frenzy when Suzanne wanted to sit in the library and read while she charged our cell phone. Here she is in front of the library doing her best imitation of them.

This was the lake of Glimmerglass state park, with Cooperstown off the distant shore. It was a really pretty park and we'd like to go back some day with more time to explore and enjoy the nature of the area.

Always leave yourself enough time to take a detour from the direct route when on a road trip. We decided to head north of Buffalo to see Niagra Falls, and I guess it was worth the trip. Actually, it was very beautiful and glorious in the power of the falls.

And yet, despite having the resource of one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the world, the people in charge of tourism at Niagra Falls find it necessary hire some dopey local teenagers to put on bear costumes and act as mascots for the falls. While I disagree with their perspective, I had to get a picture.

Suzanne being a rebel. (hint, read the sign)

7/24/06

and we're off...


We've got the route; the car is gassed up, washed, oil changed, new tires, and soon will be packed. We're off to Cooperstown!

more storm...

Our friends who moved into the house that we used to rent (that's a story in itself) told us what happened to them in the storm. The big dead tree that was on the easement in the front yard blew over--toward the house. I had called the city at least a half-dozen times while we lived there asking them to cut it down since large branches would regularly rain down upon our yard and the street. They never did. Well, now they have a bigger mess to clean up. It missed the house by literally feet and even inches.



It's hard to tell clearly from this picture, but some of the branches of the fallen tree are actually touching the roof of the porch, so you know it came close to crushing our poor old house.

7/22/06

storm...

If you live in St. Louis, you know about the storm we had a few days ago. If you don't live here, you probably heard about it. A brief but major thunderstorm swept through on Wednesday evening. Along with it was something called a gust front. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. I've lived in tornado country all my life, and I've had several come very near to where I was. But this was not a tornado. It was about 45 to 90 seconds of super strong wind that just went through the area in a long line. We were fortunate. We just had a few branches break off from the big tree in our backyard. All throughout the city, though, there were thousands of people who suffered much worse. Huge trees were blown over. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power (many of them still won't have it 'till some time next week). And several areas were under a "boil order" for fear of contaminated water. We live in the South City area of St. Louis, which was almost completely without power. Somehow, we managed to be in a few square block section that was actually able to keep our electricity running. Below are a bunch of pictures that I took on Friday of only a fraction of the damage within just a few blocks of our house.


This sight was the first indication I had that the storm had done more than just bring down a few branches.

I'm not sure the picture above clearly shows how big this tree was. So I took a picture of the roots that were torn out. That is about a 12-15 foot wide chunk of earth.

I knew there would be some high branches, even big ones, that were torn by the wind. I could even accept the fact that a tree with a full spread of branches could be blown over. But I didn't expect so many trees like this one with thick trunks split right down the middle.

Here's another doozy--ripped right out of the ground.

That's gotta be a bummer.

7/21/06

vacation update...

Walking out of work this morning, I couldn't help but smile. I have tomorrow (actually, tonight) off and then I'm on vacation next week. I don't have to think about that place for 10 days. Yes!

Even better, after thoughts about possibly canceling the vacation road trip over budgetary concerns, the birthday money started to roll in, so it's back on. And it's official, we're headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Suzanne gets to come with after all, but she's generously urged me to keep my plans to visit that hallowed ground. In order to save on lodging expenses, we've borrowed a tent from a friend, and we have reservations to stay one night in Dillion State Park, in Ohio, and then two nights in Glimmerglass State Park, outside of Cooperstown. This way, when I spend an entire day in the museum, Suzanne can relax on the beach of the lake and read a book or knit or swim or whatever. Then on the way home, we'll stop in Chicago to stay for a night or two with my aunt and uncle (which reminds me, I should call and let them know that).

I love road trips. I love watching the scenery race by. I love crossing state borders. I love truck stops and fast food restaurants. I love listening to books on CD. And I love "the charging restless mute unvoiced road keening in a seizure of tarpaulin power." I'm not exactly sure what that means but it's from Jack Kerouac in "On the Road," which was the best book on CD I ever listened to on a road trip. I highly suggest it.

Well, I gotta go to bed. Lots of errands to do before we go out of town.

7/15/06

provision...

There were good vibes, thankful hearts, and lots of smiles in our house this week. On Tuesday Suzanne had a second interview for a job she was hoping to get. On Wednesday, they called her with a formal offer for the position. So, beginning August 1, she will become a technical services librarian at Lindenwood University. Basically, her duties will be a mix of cataloging and acquisitions. This is a behind-the-scenes, sitting-back-in-your-office-by-yourself kind of job, which is exactly what she was hoping for. For the past three years, Suzanne has been the circulation coordinator at Covenant Seminary's library. It was a fantastic entry into the library field for her, and she loved her coworkers and (most of) the students there. But it was a public services position, so it was very draining for her to deal with people all day long. If you're familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality profile, she falls off the end of the scale on the introvert side. So, this new position will be a good fit.

There have been a number of difficult months as Suzanne has pursued a new job. There have been setbacks, frustrations, disappointments, and confusions. There is a sense of loss that accompanies every rejection letter. But as Christians, we believe that this job is provision from God, not just a lucky break. Sure, people made the decisions to make this happen. The library director and university provost and president all had to agree to hire Suzanne (it's technically a faculty position, which is kind of cool). But God normally uses means to accomplish His purposes. He used the womb of a faithful woman to bring His Son into the world. And he used the cowardice of a corrupt governor to sacrifice His Son to save the world. There is no conflict between ordinary human activity and supernatural provision--they are always concurrent with one another.

Sometimes Christians try to pinpoint the series of moments that God has used to bring some sort of good thing into their lives. I get uncomfortable with that. It seems a bit hubristic. For instance, I could say that if I had decided to go to the small college in Minnesota on a cross-country and track scholarship, then I wouldn't have been at the University of Nebraska, where I wouldn't have met some friends who were in the Navigators, and I wouldn't have developed a committed Christian faith, which wouldn't have allowed me to marry Suzanne. But observing those four things that led me to marry Suzanne ignores thousands of other decisions and non-decisions and occurrences and non-occurrences that God used to bring Suzanne and me together. But more importantly, that kind of thinking glosses over the reality of what life was like in the meantime. I had long periods of lonliness and frustration in college. I had nights of deep sadness when I was turned down for a date or when I knew that a girl I liked was out with somebody else. Don't those times and events have to be accounted to God's provision, as much as the good stuff?

I think that as Christians, unless we are going to be ripe for the accusation that we only use God as an emotional crutch, we have to be ready to acknowledge that He is involved in our lives just as much during the bad times as during the good. In order to offer the world a message of hope that really accounts for life in a fallen world, we have to be able to tell people that we know God is still with us when life sucks, because much of life in a fallen world sucks. If we only acknowledge God's involvement in our lives regarding the good things, then I think it will sound to many people like we are just whistling in the graveyard (isn't that a saying?). But how do we do that?

I can think of a few ways that would help me have a more biblical view of God's involvement and provision in my life. First, I need to quit looking to God as simply a blessings bank and I need to see Him as a Lord I am in relationship with. In other words, the value of knowing God is not in getting stuff from Him, it is simply in the dynamic lifelong/eternal relationship that I get to have with Him. Second, I need to develop a heart of thankfulness for all the small mundane blessings that He provides, and not just the obvious things. A proper understanding of a life of dependence upon God means that everything from finding a good wife, to getting a job, to having just enough milk left to pour over the last bit of Lucky Charms are all His gifts of grace to me. Third, I need to develop the mindset that because God is for me, even the tough times He brings into my life are His way to do me good. This one takes a bit more work. I have to actually look for the ways that disappointments are serving to santify me, the ways they can be used to develop my love for and my faith in Christ. The model for this is the crucifixion, which was the most unjust, cruelest, and most evil event in history, and yet which accomplished the most good that can be imagined. As a disciple of Christ, the Scripture assures me again and again that I should expect my life to mirror His--a student is not greater than his Teacher. Finally, I must know that none of those first three "steps" are within my power. As in all of life and faith, I must be dependent upon God for the ability, or even inclination, to do right. Having a proper perspective of God's provision isn't going to make me more likable in His sight and therefore prompt Him to provide better things more consistently. The only way I can approach Him is with my need and with faith that Christ's perfection counts as my own and covers my lack. That serves me, and all His people, in good times and bad.

7/12/06

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

7/11/06

suggestions, por favor...

In two weeks, actually nine days, I get to start my vacation. The plan was, during the week of July 24-28, I was going to rent a car and drive to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. I'm a baseball fanatic, I love long road trips, and I've never been to New York before, so it seemed like the perfect plan. The fact that it looked like Suzanne would not be able to come also influenced the decision. She hates baseball, and is not a big fan of road trips. So, this was going to be my chance to do something I'd want to do without making her miserable along the way.

The thing is, Suzanne might be able to go with after all (which is a good thing). So, I'm wondering if anyone out there has any suggestions on somewhere we can vacation. Here are the parameters:
  • It must include a fairly lengthy road trip from our home in St. Louis, but probably not more than 20 hours. If it's totally worth it, I'd consider something farther away.
  • It should have a cool final destination or something fun or interesting or original to do there. It doesn't have to be a standard vacation destination. If you have an idiosyncratic affinity for some spot, let me know about it.
  • It should take me to--or at least through--some state I have never been to before. The states I have never been to that I think might be within 20 hours of driving are: North Dakota, Montana, Wisconson, Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and any of the other states in the upper northeast, although I think most of them are too far away. I think I've driven through part of some of those states, but it wasn't memorable if I did.
I guess that'll do. We may end up just going to Cooperstown. Or, I may end up going on my own after all. In any case, I plan to take my camera and computer and thorougly document the entire trip. Thanks for the help if you have any ideas.

7/6/06

updates...

My computer is so dang slow that yesterday I finally decided to reinstall all the software--from the "Toshiba Recovery and Applications/Drivers CD" on up to "DD Tournament Poker" and so forth. A friend said this might help with the problem. Maybe some of you who know something about computers are cringing at the futility of such a move, or maybe you're bobbing your head up and down in affirmation of the widom of the gambit. In any case, I'm in the process of reinstalling "Windows XP Service Pack 2", which the Microsoft Update page tells me will take 11 hours 11 minutes at my connection speed. So, I have some time to update you on what is going on in my world.

I know it's a bit lame that most of my recent posts have been the random links, but life gets in the way of good intentions sometimes. So, the best I can offer is my hope that I'll be making more "real" posts in the near future. "What have I been so busy with?" you ask. (I imagine.) Well, working backwards...

My mom was in town visiting over the holiday weekend. We had a good time. She treated Suzanne and me to several meals and a movie, and treated me to two rounds of golf. I haven't been able to play much since I moved to St. Louis, and I miss it. I used to be pretty good--not real good, but better than your average weekend hacker. Now, I'm your average weekend hacker. I don't play because my source of funding for golf lives 8 hours away by car. My mom is always ready and willing to play golf, and for her favorite son she's also willing to pick up the tab.

I've been working a lot. I still work the dreadful night job at UPS. I used to be a training supervisor, training new employees how to do the job. But, a few months ago they made me an area supervisor, so now I'm responsible for overseeing the loading of several trailers to different destinations. It's much more stressful, and for a while I contemplated throwing in the towel, even without having alternative employment. I was in charge of an area that was wracked with interminable problems that could not be overcome despite my best efforts. I don't claim to be the best supervisor in the world, but the area had problems before I started, while I was there, and it has problems now that I've been moved to another area. There is an easy way to fix it, but I didn't have the authority to make it happen and the company wasn't interested (apparently) in making it happen either. Anyway, I'm in charge of a different area now. The job still sucks--but at least now it sucks with the force of a Shop-Vac instead of a black hole. I'm also working as a transcription editor during the day. I finished a big project a couple of weeks ago that I was putting a lot of time, and little sleep, into. And I'm gearing up to start another one tomorrow. That gig's not so bad. Actually, since I'm editing transcriptions of seminary classes for Covenant Worldwide, I'm even learning a thing or two.

Last week I was also working for/with my friend Jim and his family who are starting a ministry in one of the poorest urban neighborhoods in St. Louis. More than Carpentry Christian Minsitry is going to be a really amazing outreach to people who are often considered unemployable for one (or multiple) reason(s) or another. Jim is a carpenter by trade, and he is going to share his knowledge with folks in that urban neighborhood. There are a number of good ideas wrapped up in this ministry. First, the people who benefit from it will have jobs, doing carpentry, for which they will be paid. That is a big improvement from many "job training" programs that merely teach people how to be punctual or dress appropriately for work or whatever. Those are fine things, even important, but they don't put food on the table in the mean time. Second, they will be learning a skill, not just how to pull a lever or push a button on a machine, and they will be learning how to be craftsmen. As image-bearers of God, people are meant to make things--whether objects or ideas--that are fine and quality and beautiful. Third, they will be mentored and discipled along with learning their skills. Fourth, Jim and his family are moving into the community in which they are going to minister, so they will be part of the people and community they are serving. They will not be (at least not for long) viewed as outsiders who are coming one day with a handout and may not be back the next day. Well, like I said, I was working for/with Jim and I was helping him prepare the building and property he bought in Welleston, which needs a lot of work. He finally moved his actual carpentry shop into the building about a month ago. But, the plans are to turn part of the 2nd floor of the building (which has 10,000 sq. ft. on each floor + the basement) into a loft apartment for him and his family to live in. So last week was spent mainly in clearing out that space. It was four days of hard, dirty work (on top of--or underneath, I don't know which--four nights of hard, dirty work at my regular job), but it was satisfying and even fun. Jim's saying is, "Fun is an attitude, not an activity." I don't know if I'd want to hear that every day, but it worked last week.

Before that, we got the good news that we are totally licensed and able to become foster parents. Our new house was deemed safe and liveable, and we said we were ready to move forward. At this point, they could call us at any time with a potential child for our home. It sounds like it will likely be around the middle of this month or later. We are very excited, and anxious. Sometimes it seems like such a real, concrete possibility, and sometimes it seems very fantastic, like something you read about or see on t.v. but you know doesn't really happen in the world. But, it's going to happen. I know that. And I'm glad. I haven't written a whole lot about foster parenting, but I'll probably start doing so fairly frequently. Here's something I wrote earlier about it, if you're interested.

A few of you know about this final update, but many of you don't. For the time being I am not going to pursue a Ph.D. at Saint Louis University, or anywhere else for that matter. I was denied an assistantship for the second straight year. Yes, there are other possible sources of funding, but after discussing various options with Suzanne, I've decided to take another path. Suzanne has been great, a real "help-mate". I was pretty well emotionally crushed when I found out the news, and though she was pretty well crushed for/with me, she was a comfort. I know I have a great wife, and that puts any disappointments that come my way in perspective. Anyway, the new plan is for me to follow in Suzanne's footsteps and become a librarian. I can get a Master of Library and Information Science degree in two years. The benefits of such a move are: 1)I can stay in academia, 2)those two years will cost about half as much as one year of student loans for the Ph.D., 3)I will be in the workforce 3-4 years sooner, 4)we'll be able to start making headway on our debts sooner, 5)I'll feel more free to start growing our family sooner (which, I admit, is not the same thing as being more free, but feelings are real nonetheless). The main reason I wanted to get a Ph.D. (besides legitimizing the demand for you to call me "Doctor") was so that I could teach. There is some opportunity for that with the MLS degree, though, I admit, much less. But, there is nothing that says I cannot pursue a Ph.D. in theology or library science or whatever in the future. Who knows? Honestly, yes, I still have feelings of disappointment. But, I also have a lot of positive anticipation for this new pursuit. Plus, with all the papers I proofread for Suzanne while she was in grad school, I've got a leg up on some of the homework.

7/5/06

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."