Thursday, December 21, 2006
So, many, many thanks to Bob & Steph!! (I do plan to reciprocate, but I kind of doubt it will be before Christmas at this rate. Have a very merry one anyway!)
Friday, December 15, 2006
You see, to me this is the fun time. Our Christmas obligations are winding down, and now we can relax and enjoy the holidays.
Our "Holiday at the Heights" church Christmas concert last Saturday night was wonderful, if I do say so myself. We were the Dallas-area stop this year for Point of Grace and their "Winter Wonderland" tour, and they were spectacular. One thing I love about our church is that we don't just bring in artists to perform for us; our choir and orchestra perform with them! (Apart from Point of Grace, in our year-and-a-half at The Heights, we also have had the privilege of performing in concert with Russ Taff, Steve Green, and The Martins. Have I mentioned we love our church? All this and the Donut Man, too!)
As with our Steve Green Christmas concert last year, we had a few songs on our own, Point of Grace did a good portion of the concert on their own, and then we combined for the second half of the concert and some spectacular Christmas music. It was a great deal of fun. I just couldn't get any pictures while I was up there singing! I'll post some here or a link to the website of the church's photographer when he gets his up.
Enjoy the season, everybody!
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Okay, our boys are no longer preschoolers, and Brandon (our 6th-grader) in particular really didn't want to admit that he was the least bit excited to be there, but we worked around that -- he and I went to the concert to work on the tech crew! In fact, Brandon manned one of the cameras all by himself for the first time (now one of the youngest cameramen we have). I still managed to cajole he and his brother into meeting the man and getting the above picture with him. It almost makes me misty-eyed to see them all together and realize how quickly my boys have grown!
The concert provided a bit of a tech crew "first" for me, too. I got to "switch" during the concert -- that is, sit in the control room and operate the console that selects which camera or other video input is on screen. (This picture of the Donut Man concert was from my vantage point.) It took a bit of concentration (I don't have the longest attention span), but I managed to make it through without too many mistakes! Great fun, and a good evening all around.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Now, we try for our outside decorations to be elegant and understated, using miniature white lights in our hedges and evergreens and in gentle arcs along our roof and fence (in contrast with the colored miniature lights visible on our Christmas tree), with many red bows and a couple of wreaths that make it pretty to look at in the daytime. That said, I've been puzzling for a while over how to express our love of Disney in our decorations without going too much over-the-top. (Though we enjoy the painted plywood characters at other homes, a plywood Mickey in a Santa suit has just never been our style.) I think I found a happy compromise, pictured above.
I've never been much of an arts-and-crafts guy, but this was actually pretty easy. I started with a simple 24" wreath from Hobby Lobby, and also purchased a 9' strand of garland that had identical greenery. I snipped the garland in half with wire cutters, and then twisted each of the two halves into a double circle for the ears -- the proportions worked out perfectly. I attached the ears to the wreath with cable ties, added the bow to match the rest of our decor, and it was done!
Of course Becky still rolls her eyes at me for doing this, but hey -- it could have been a lot worse. (Anyone know where I can buy a plywood Mickey in a Santa suit?)
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
* The FOX network series Prison Break was filming here a couple of weeks ago. Not being in New York or LA, we don't see a lot of filming in our area. In fact, this is the first major TV series - that I'm aware of, at least - to regularly film in the Dallas area since Walker, Texas Ranger. (I pause for a moment to enjoy the memory that brings of Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby.)
The filming was going on outdoors when I drove by, but unfortunately I couldn't stop to get a decent picture. I was being waved through the intersection by a couple of Garland's finest, and it was either get a steady picture of the shoot or avoid running into the officers. Hey, I've got to work with these guys -- running them down would definitely put me on their bad side. So... I had to content myself with this picture of the production crew's trucks and one other one of the backs of two random crew guys.
* Along the same lines of the previous "braille" bumper sticker, I spotted this funny on the windshield of a jeep parked at Garland City Hall this morning. The upside-down text reads, "If you can read this... ROLL ME OVER!" Hee.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
- On my way to work today, I found myself behind an SUV sporting a bumper sticker in Braille. That's right -- Braille. My camera phone's resolution isn't good enough to get the details, but if I read it right, it translated as "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE WAY TOO CLOSE"! Pretty funny. (Yes, I realize there are no italics in Braille, but they were implied.)
- Our church choir spent Sunday afternoon recording a new CD for Christmas with Nashville-based producer Phil Barfoot. Man, that is tiring work, being on our feet singing for hour after hour. Never once did we sing through an entire song at one time, either -- we took them phrase by phrase, getting each section right before moving on. Still it was fun in its own way, and Phil was great as always (this was my second time recording with him). I was proud of the group, though -- we finished the entire recording session in record time: just over four hours! Wow. My sons Brandon & Benjamin will be on the CD, too -- the children's choir recorded their part on Monday night. The CD will be out in a few weeks.
- The article I mentioned writing for a Disney fan newsletter a few posts back has been finished, accepted, and is due for publication tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 2)!! "Being the Ideal Guest" will be the main article in this week's PassPorter News, and subscriptions are free at the PassPorter website -- just enter your email address at the appropriate place on the left side of the page. I'll publish a direct link here when it becomes available online.
- We're booked on our next Disney trip! yay! We'll be heading to Walt Disney World -- during the holidays, for a change -- next year. It will be crowded and cooler, but the special decorations, shows, parades, fireworks, etc. will be wonderful to see. We're counting the weeks!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
For most of my life I involved myself in choir at church, but at The Heights I've also joined the tech crew, operating a camera every other Sunday. It's a lot of fun and breaks up the routine, which is good since I'm easily bored. (Especially fun: getting to comment on the proceedings on the headsets!) (Not that I actually do that, of course.)
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Now if I could just get paid for it. Hmm. Let me know if you have any ideas. (Or, even better, if you have large piles of cash lying around, just send those instead.)
Sunday, October 08, 2006
But yes, Becky beat all of us.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Not all of them, of course, but most. What really bugs me are the cutsy, light-as-air frothy statements that could just as easily be found on a fortune cookie. You know the type: "Life is more fun if you don't keep score" or "Those who throw dirt, lose ground." Some of them are quasi-spiritual: "Forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them more"; "Seven days without prayer makes one weak"; or "God answers kneemail." But seriously, you can usually find deeper thoughts on Readers' Digest's "Quotable Quotes" page.
The church has -- or should have -- something the world can't get anywhere else. Jesus Christ has the "words of eternal life" (John 6:68), and yet these churches fill their signs with froth. The Bible is God's own Word to us, and there are innumerable words of wisdom that can be drawn from it, words that have the power of God behind them. It amazes me that churches look anywhere else for what to put on their signs.
Okay, I must admit, one sign cracked me up a month or so ago, when the Dallas area was experiencing its gazillionth day in a row of 100+ degree heat. The sign (on a Baptist church in Mesquite) said simply: "You think it's hot here?"
Kudos to ChurchSignGenerator.com for the graphic.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The most interesting part of Brandon's project to me was where he had to conclude with a 3- or 4- sentence summary of his subject's life. Wow. How do you boil down a life into a handful of sentences, particularly a life so rich and all-encompassing as Walt Disney's? I mean, this is a guy who rose from having very little, and overcame many obstacles and setbacks, to eventually entertain the world. He journeyed from creating a simple cartoon mouse to build a media empire that now includes animation and live action movie studios, television networks, and theme parks around the world. He pioneered many things we now take for granted, such as cartoons with sound, feature-length animation, and themed areas in amusement parks. To this day no one individual has received more Academy Awards.
When it came down to it, though, Walt was a storyteller. By his own admission he wasn't the best animator -- while he created Mickey and friends, other artists did the actual animation (though Walt did Mickey's voice for many years) -- nor was he a financial genius -- he let brother Roy handle most of the business affairs. But Walt had a passion for telling stories, and he loved to find new, creative ways to do that. (To this day, one of the many things that sets Disney theme parks apart from their competitors is that from the moment you enter the property, each area, building, attraction, sight, sound, even smell, is carefully crafted to tell a story.) He never looked down on his audience, and never waivered from his belief that the public deserved the best quality, whatever the product was.
Brandon was able to write those 3 or 4 sentences for his project -- obviously, I'm not as good at being brief. But it does make me think... if someone were assigned to write four sentences about my life, what would they say about me? What would they say about you?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Party in the Choir Room
I know this could apply to any vacation, but there is so much information out there about Disney. I just can't understand how anyone could spend so much and not even put in a minimal amount of research to making the vacation better. I've had friends who do that. You can have a good time at Disney just taking what comes, but there is so much to see and do, you'll get so much more out of your money with just a little advance reading. Plus it's a lot of fun!!
Okay, confession time. I did this very thing once, on the first trip I planned myself (I had been to both Disneyland and Epcot before on different choir tours). Becky and I stayed at an offsite hotel, arrived without knowing park schedules or shuttle bus times, and without any specific idea of what we wanted to see or do during our time there. We still had fun, but we probably would have done things differently with a little more advance planning.
But, hey, it was our honeymoon. Our focus wasn't entirely on Disney at the time. (And okay, yes, we did have some specific ideas about what we wanted to do during our time there!)
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Astronauts fascinate me. We see them in their glory moments as they walk across the gantry, pose for publicity shots, beam back live TV shots from space, but there is so much preparation that goes into these missions that never makes the evening news. The crew aboard the Atlantis now trained for four years for this one mission -- they were slated to be the next mission after Columbia's ill-fated return, so they've been holding as NASA worked on the problems and launched two return-to-flight missions. Their dedication and hard work (and, lest we forget, the risks they take), and that of those who work endless hours with them behind the scenes, deserve our utmost respect.
Oh, and I'd really like an HD-TV of my own, if anyone cares to donate one.
Some great links for space program info:
NASA Space Shuttle home page - great for the latest news and information on current or upcoming missions.
Orbital Tracking - pulls up a java applet which shows you the current location of the International Space Station and any shuttle currently in space. Also contains a great link that will tell you when you can see the shuttle or ISS pass in the night sky.
KSC Video Feeds - Webcams located around Kennedy Space Center.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Is this really the best idea? Do the folks at Disney not remember that the dog died at the end of Old Yeller?
I won't go so far as one of my fellow SGT-ers in suggesting that they offer a free shotgun in every bag... but really, this is pretty ridiculous.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
As an aside, I hope someday to meet someone paranoid enough to really wear a foil hat. When they tell me it blocks the CIA's mind-control beams or whatever, I want to whisper to them conspiratorially, "That's just what they want you to think!"
Anyway, back to Air America. Content aside, I was really stunned at the production values, or more correctly, the lack of them. The audio quality was poor, and the station promos they run sound like the worst student-produced stuff from my old college radio station -- and that was from twenty years ago, using 1950's era equipment! One more thing that struck me was that fully 75% of AA's commercial time was filled with PSA's (public service announcements; that is, unpaid filler -- they're having trouble selling ads). The whole enterprise gives the impression of a sinking ship, even if I hadn't already known of their financial struggles.
Thinking of my college radio days brings back some fond memories. I did an early morning show for one year at KWBU, "The Voice of Baylor University," during my senior year just for the fun of it. I can do a cheesy radio announcer voice if I need to, but I'm not cut out for any real job in radio -- I have no natural talent for ad-libbing. Unlike, say, my on-air cohost for one semester Kim Cook, who truly was a professional, in the undisputable sense that several real commercial radio stations had actually paid him to deejay for them (even though his career took him in a very different direction). Still, doing the show was a blast.
Our show on KWBU did have one thing in common with Air America -- very few listeners. It was embarrassing to announce a giveaway to the third caller, and then have the same single individual on the line three times in a row. (That at least was better than no one calling in, which did happen occasionally!)
But hey, some things never change, I guess -- in a sense this blog is like that morning show. I put my words out there, often without knowing whether anyone is reading them. (Blogging is often just a high-tech version of talking to oneself!) The main difference between this blog and my radio show is that now I don't have to bicycle myself to the studio before dawn.
The main difference between this blog and Air America is that I don't wear a tinfoil hat.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ah, the exciting life of an attorney. As with other professions, lawyers are required to have so many hours per year of education (known for us as CLE - Continuing Legal Education). It's not the most thrilling way to spend a day (or 3 days, in this particular case), but hey, it gets me out of my usual routine. Besides, what could be better than a day in a hotel ballroom full of lawyers? Right?
Friday, August 25, 2006
Brandon especially raves about his History/Social Studies teacher. From Brandon's description, he sounds like one of those very gifted teachers who make the subject come to life, create an eagerness in his students about the material, and generally make learning fun -- all while holding the students to a high standard. After meeting the man last night, it's clear he loves teaching, and I'm so glad Brandon has his class. (Brandon's description of him also made it sound like he was 60 or 70 years old, and after meeting the man, he couldn't be more than a few years older than me! Ah, the perspective of youth.)
I've had a few teachers like that over the years, and they are the most memorable, even after all of my advanced years. There's Mr. Friedrichsen, a junior high science teacher who could always get a laugh just by the way he said, "Manganese!" (And, incidentally, whose name I later borrowed for an elaborate college prank involving a fake roommate. I'll save that for another post.) Ms. Stimach, a math teacher who most kids dreaded because she was all business, yet who taught well because she expected a lot. Mr. Bolton, my high school physics teacher, who looked and acted like a Marine drill sergeant, yet had a underlying humorous streak that inspired me to create a comic of him as superhero "Mr. Physics," culminating in a wall mural of Mr. Physics being painted in his classroom, without permission, when he foolishly took a week off. (Again, another post.) Dr. Billson, my freshman college English prof, who wore odd punk-style sunglasses without any sense of irony and who calmly but firmly insisted that he be called Dr. Billson, not Mr. Billson (his first-day example of a subject-verb-object sentence? "I have a Ph.D.").
These teachers all had idiosyncrasies that made them unique, but what made them all special was that they loved to teach and expected us to learn -- and I would take any of them, as demanding as they could be, over the few touchy-feely "everyone gets an A" types I also experienced from time to time. I hope and pray my boys find more of these wonderful teachers as well. They have my utmost admiration.
Please feel free to post about memorable teachers you may have had!
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Okay, I haven't led the most sheltered of lives, but I'd been sheltered from karaoke before tonight. We had a social event for the worship choir and orchestra at my church, featuring good barbecue and an awesome karaoke DJ who has a song catalog numbering in the thousands. (I knew he had a wide variety when I found "How Great Thou Art" and "How I Beat Shaq" side by side in the song listings!)
The evening was hilarious -- let's just say that the fake partying done for the video described in the Fire Eating story below is probably more the true nature of this group. They know how to have a good, wild but clean, fun time together. (Although, number of hymns or spiritual songs performed: zero!) (I'm adding a link to the church website on the sidebar, so you don't think we're all fun and games!)
And me? As I hinted above, after some initial reluctance, I threw what little dignity I have aside and joined in, performing "ShBoom" by the Chords (which I had learned as the encore in Forever Plaid), and then later did "The Rainbow Connection" -- in the voice of Kermit, of course.
Great fun was had by all. I just hope that someday my wife will be seen with me in public again.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The one negative to the performance was that the lights in the room were kept full-strength, and it looks much more impressive and scary in dimmer light. Ah, well. There's always next time. (You didn't hear that, Becky.)
Video link still to come.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Well, a few weeks back, our church's worship leader Trent gave us the details of some humorous videos we'd be shooting soon to promote choir membership, keyed on the theme "It's different than you think." One of them, which we'll tape in a couple of days, will show what supposedly happens in the choir room when non-choir people (and our pastor) are not around -- conga lines, confetti, limbo, etc., a total party. (When the pastor shows up unexpectedly, we'll be in prayer circles!) When I heard that, I wrote to Trent and offered my particular skill (as part of the craziness, like we have circus acts going on too), and he took me up on it.
I've purchased the necessary supplies (including a new fire extinguisher!) and rebuilt the fire wands, and practiced some on Saturday. Part and parcel of doing this is safety, and I've recruited my dad to be looking out for me. The practice went well. You know, I've never been the athletic type, but when eating fire, I think I get the same rush as people who do extreme sports (without the exertion!!). It's an interesting mix of terror and fun.
I'll let you know how it goes Wednesday -- and I'll provide a link to the video once they post it online.
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Friday, August 11, 2006
Successes all, for sure, and enough to make me wonder what I could have accomplished if I had chosen different paths. But hey, along with a job which I can tolerate and occasionally enjoy (and that pays the bills, kinda-sorta), I have a loving wife, two incredible boys, close family and good friends. It's more than just 'being content where I am,' like the Apostle Paul. It's realizing that God is very good, and He has really blessed me. That's plenty of success for me.
I also picked some pretty awesome roommates.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I've resisted putting a ribbon on my car for two reasons. First, and foremost, because a lot of people have them, and I just naturally rebel at doing things lots of others are doing. (See "I am not and never have been a trendy person" from a couple of posts ago.) The second reason is that I haven't found a ribbon with just the right message on it. I like "Support the Troops," and I do, but even leftwingers spout that phrase, and it almost comes across to me like, "I support the troops, but..." I'd take one that says, "I support the war," but I haven't come across that yet. In the meantime, car ribbons supporting other causes have multiplied, to the point where they don't have much impact any more.
Which led me to think, I wish someone would create a ribbon, in a color that had not been done before (good luck with that!), with this simple message: "Fight RDS."
What's RDS? Why, "Ribbon Deficit Syndrome," of course.
The idea is up for grabs. Just send me a free one if you produce them.
From the great minds at the Wombat Institute for Socio-Economic Research and Short-Order Cooking School:
Top Nine Reasons this blog exists:
9. I'm too lazy to take the time to organize my rants into a stand-up comedy act.
8. My pet iguana "Skippy" has finally been weaned, freeing up feeding times for other activities.
7. I turn 42 soon, and as any "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fan knows, that's a great age to begin pondering the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything.
6. I'm finally resigned that "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is not coming back, so maybe Colin Mochrie will visit this blog and become my best friend.
5. I've tried, but I just can't get into NASCAR, so there goes that option for productive use of my spare time.
4. My sons need another reason to shun me during their upcoming teenage years.
3. Trying to impress U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, in hopes that he'll send me some of that extra cash lying around his office.
2. Now that I've scaled Mount Everest, "create a weblog" was next on my to-do list.
And the number one reason this blog exists:
1. I needed a new forum for embarrassing myself in public.
Besides, the point of a blog is more to have a public place to vent. It matters not whether anyone actually reads it -- and only one in 137 blogs are read by more than the author's family and friends. (Seven out of every 9 make up fake statistics, too.) Fewer still are read more than once by the same person. So, I don't have high expectations that this spot will become a gathering place for millions, but I hope it's a bit of fun for those who do. And if not, at least it will help me kill some time.