Because life is a series of edits

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page


In Pop Culture on December 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm


In 40 days, I turn 40 years old. While I don't have any mid-life crisis planned, I do want to mark the occasion of officially arriving at middle age (though I may have already passed the midpoint – according to the CIA World Factbook, the expected life expectancy for males in the United States is 75.78 years).

Towards that end, I'm shutting things down on Facebook, Twitter, and here on the blog during this time. I'm going to spend my extra time reading the Bible, praying, and writing about what God may have should he grant me another 40 years. I also hope to lose some weight, grow a beard, and pursue any other such end-of-thirties craziness I come up with (as you can see, the list is nearly on the verge of insanity as it is).

Growing older is not something I fear; actually, it's something I embrace. I've been thinking about this 40-day period for the past year-and-a-half, and it's nice that it's finally here.

So, until I'm older and wiser (and, by God's grace, gray-er), pray Psalm 27:8 for me:

"You have said, 'Seek my face.'
    My heart says to you,
        'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'"


Christmas Eve Assembly Goes Digital

In Family, Holidays, Musicians, Young Ones on December 24, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Some do Christmas Eve assembly with wrenches and screwdrivers; I do it with Photoshop and InDesign. Here's the U2 concert poster I put together tonight for the girls to unwrap together on Christmas morning. Since this concert will be their first real rock show, we thought such a milestone merited a customized promotional piece they can hang in their rooms to build anticipation (not that that will be a problem – they're all already big fans).

Just training them up in the way they should go…or something.

U2 Poster

Booklist 2010

In Books on December 20, 2010 at 8:23 am

Just in time for any last-minute Christmas shopping needs, here's the list of books I read this past year. (For years past on the blog, click here: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.) Enjoy.

January (4)

  • Luther the Reformer by James M. Kittelson – enjoyable and theologically astute biography of Martin Luther; balanced approach to a man given to extremes (good and otherwise). (8)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – fast read about a man and his son surviving a post-apocalyptic world; the feeling of futility is real, but the redemption not so much. (7)
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahir – liked this story about a couple from India and their first generation American-born children adjusting to both worlds; movie not as good. (7)
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – good writing and interesting characters make this multi-narrator novel satisfying, especially as it moves to convergence in final chapters. (8)

February (0)

Wow. I read, but I apparently didn't finish anything.

March (1)

  • Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student by Miriam Grossman – well-written and documented (and so needed). (8)

April (0)

Coaching baseball. About the only thing I read was my players' box scores.

May (3)

  • The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life by Jochen Douma – well-written and thoroughly Reformed commentary essential to teaching God’s Ten Words. (10)
  • The Space Between: A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Development by Walt Mueller – Mueller produces an accurate summary of teenage-dom; some good convergence and quotes, but if you know teenagers at all, it’s nothing too surprising or new. (6)
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – not a big fan of multiple character narration, and the first half of this story about a missionary family and their hypocritical husband/father was less than enjoyable, but it got better the less he was mentioned. (5)

June (6)

  • The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson – initially afraid this would be the small town memoir I always wanted to write; instead, it was a mean, hyper-cynical look at rural America. Boo. (3)
  • Baseball is a Funny Game by Joe Garagiola – older book by a St. Louis boy who made good in the Bigs; not the best writing by any means, but baseball’s baseball, so it was okay. (5)
  • Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Sharra – a novel about the people and events leading up to the Revolutionary War; my first book of historical fiction, but definitely not my last. (9)
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – curious novella set in California’s Monterey by one of my favorite novelists; a quick read with little resolution, but the characters alone are worth it. (7)
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr – one of the most important, best-researched, and well-written books I’ve read in ten years; what the Internet is doing to our brains is scary. (10)
  • Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs – series of essays on “essential education for a changing world,” the contents of which are both thought-provoking and overly pragmatic. If unbridled technology in the classroom is your cause, here’s your bandwagon. (7)

July (4)

  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright – for a theologian of Wright’s academia, he is an unbelievably readable writer; all Christians should read this to separate fact from fiction inherent to their eschatology. (9)
  • The Final Forest: The Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest by William Dietrich – older book read for Summer Seminar Washington on the logging/environmental debate in the Pacific Northwest; writing wanes a bit in the end, but overall very helpful in understanding the debate that shapes that region. (7)
  • The Journey by Peter Kreeft – short, enjoyable allegory filled with pithy points on philosophy and worldview; a good (and accessible) book for believers and skeptics alike. (8)
  • Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton – listened to this fun pirate tale on CD with the girls; a bit on the PG-13 side, which should make it just right for a summer movie coming soon (6)

August (4)

  • Voyager: Seeking New Worlds in the Age of Discovery by Stephen J. Pyne – story of the Voyager space probes contextualized within voyages of discovery throughout history; a little long at times, but space stuff fascinates. (6)
  • The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It by Os Guinness – much-needed take on the place of religion in American society; eloquently written and intelligently argued (which is exactly why most politicians will never understand it). (8)
  • The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen – Webster Groves native’s/bestselling novelist’s personal history; good writing about growing up in St. Louis, but sad and unfulfilling. (6)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – first of an adventure/sci-fi trilogy that garnered rave reviews from our sophomore literature students (no small feat); where were books like this when I was in high school? (7)

September (1)

  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen – writing so good you barely notice how dysfunctional and depressing Albert Lambert and his family really are; just a little redemption, please? (8)

October (2)

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – the story of Katniss and her battle with the Capitol continues (though this one dragged a bit compared to the first). (5)
  • Next by Michael Crichton – there are too many characters to keep track of and the story is all over the place and silly at times (talking animals, etc.), but Crichton’s always interesting when it comes to fictionalizing science (in this case, transgenics). (5)

November (3)

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – the final book of The Hunger Games series, the ending of this kids’ version of Running Man was not predictable, but not really fulfilling either. Glad I read it, but glad it’s over. (5)
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King – quick read (half a day) over Thanksgiving about a young girl who gets lost in the woods and experiences the best paranoia KIng can come up with. (5)
  • Half Broke Horses by Jannette Walls – this prequel to Walls' Glass Castle (which I liked) is really her grandmother's memoir written as fiction. Deep characters, great writing, powerful story. (8)

 December (8)

  • Re:Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand – helpful book on worldview written by an English major rather than a philosopher of theologian (though he's not bad at those, either); different. (8)
  • The Universe Next Door by James Sire – this classic text on worldviews and religions is succinct and to the point concerning the beliefs that have shaped our world; every Christian should read this. (9)
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – couldn't remember having read this before, so I pulled it off the shelf for abeautiful picture of a man coming to terms with God and his sovereignty. (8)
  • Jack by George Sayer – a biography of C.S. Lewis by one of his university friends; a little dry in general, but okay (Lewis is a hero). (6)
  • Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey – Pearcey totally destroys the whole sacred/secular and public/private dichotomies; Francis Schaeffer in female form. (10)
  • Fasting: A Neglected Discipline by David R. Smith – a helpful little old-school (1954) evanglical book on the purpose, benefits, dangers, and methods of fasting. (7)
  • God's Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting by Arthur Wallis – another small book (110 pages) on the discipline of fasting; this one has more practical details and how-tos. (7)
  • Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill – HIll, a gay Christian, explains why celibacy is the only choice for homosexuals who want to walk with God; beautifully written and biblically sound, this book is a must-read for the Church today. (10)

The Biggest Curriculum Film Stretch Contest

In Education, Pop Culture, Television, Westminster on December 15, 2010 at 10:48 am

Film small

It's finals week, and let's be honest: teachers can only grade so much for so long before they start to get a little loopy. That said, here are the entries for a little contest my fellow colleagues and I created via email in between proctoring/grading exams (you'll notice the entries got shorter as the contest went one, presumably as tests were turned in).


In the spirit of having very little to do while kids are taking a test, I’d like to announce the first ever Biggest Curriculum Film Stretch Contest. The idea is to incorporate into your curriculum a movie that, let’s face it, has SOOOOO little to do with the topic at hand that it’s almost laughable, but there’s enough in common so that you could almost, almost make a rational argument to show it.

In other words, if you taught at a public school and had tenure and wanted to read a magazine for a week, what would you show?

I’ll start. When I was student teaching, I was asked to teach a sociology unit on aging. I had never had a sociology class. I knew nothing. I needed something to teach for the whole week. I showed Cocoon.

Beat that.


History: In order to understand the tensions inherent in two competing superpowers leading us to the cold war, I give you…Top Gun.

English: In order to understand how to appropriately structure paragraphs and give students a reason for learning how to write, I believe it would be appropriate to show the entire first and second seasons of Murder She Wrote.

Chemistry: In order to understand the science of life, we shall embark upon an entire quarter viewing of Sex and the City.

Counseling: In order to understand multiple personality disorder in psychology, we would watch Me, Myself and Irene.

Math: For a unit on Consumer Math and Personal Finance, I would show Gossip Girl.

Physics: As an application of the mathematics behind physics, I would show the entire Battlestar Galactica series.

History: I would pick the following movies for my unit on Westward Expansion (because why make it a week when you can make it a whole semester?). In order to explain the development of railroads out west with immigrants I would show Shanghai Noon starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Have to deal with the mistreatment of Native Americans, so I would knock out Avatar and would also for sure show Pocahontas. Sticking with the Westward expansion theme, we finish it off with Wild Wild West.

Elective: All we’d do is watch Sesame Street – it has nothing to do with what I’m teaching, but it’s age appropriate and uses lot and LOTS of pictures. In the afternoon it would be Barney…if my kids aren't taking their afternoon naps already.

Western Civ: Regarding the insurrection in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end it using teenagers with bows, arrows and .22 caliber rifles, we would watch Red Dawn.

Math: Concerning angles and vectors, we would watch Bend It Like Beckham.

Biology: Concerning stupidity and genetic disorders, we would also watch Bend It Like Beckham.

Western Civ: For a unit on what it would be like to drive across Kansas seven consecutive times, we would watch Ghandi.

Industrial Arts/Driver's Ed: BJ and the Bear.

Outdoor Education: Cliffhanger.

History: Concerning Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS), Rambo I & II.

Life Skills: For education in tolerance and understanding how to be more culturally sensitive, we would watch The Smurf Movie.

Ethics: In order to understand the nuances of ethical casuistry in 1980’s rural Idaho, we will immerse ourselves in the world of Napoleon Dynamite, watching the film on Monday and Tuesday, using block day to study the film’s climactic “dance of redemption,” and then choreographing our own versions for an assembly performance on Friday. (Optional weekend event: awkward junior high-esque dance in overly-streamered gymnasium).

Staff Development: For professional development for summer seminar teachers, we would watch Meatballs.

Counseling: For a look at what happens when you fail all your classes, we would watch Summer School (starring Mark Harmon).

History: For greater understanding of the long-term effects of the Treaty of Versailles, we would watch Die Hard (ticked off Germans).

Physics: For greater understanding of velocity, gravity, and combustion, we would also watch Die Hard (ticked off criminals).

Life Skills: I’d do a unit on how broken father and son relationships can be healed by aliens invading earth, a la War of the Worlds.

What say you? Any you would add? Any you've sat through as a student? Feel free to add your own curriculum suggestions as part of the online version of our contest.

Three’s Company

In Family on December 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Last week, Megan posted this on her Facebook page:

"You all may laugh at Craig and his canine bond with Peaches, but I tell you that doggie just saw a pair of his jeans hanging in our room and she thought it was him. She went over to the jeans, sat near them and wagged her tail furiously waiting for him to pick her up."

Tonight, Megan caught Peaches trying to bond with more of my wardrobe and is starting to get suspicious (I might even say jealous) of the pooch (it probably doesn't help that the dog is now sleeping nights with us at my feet under the blankets).


I hope we're not going to have to get counseling over this…