Thursday, November 30, 2006

THAT'S how you play the game...

FINALLY someone understands how to play the game. After all the name-calling and mudslinging, kudos to the Aitu core for recognizing an opportunity to put a nail in the coffin of people you know will get rid of you at the drop of the hat.

Adam, Parvati and Candice neither saw the handwriting on the wall after Nate went home, nor saw that Jonathan, however much they dislike him, is a far more convenient and disposable carry-along for the Aitu core the longer the game goes. They failed to see that Aitu realizes that Jonathan is someone that the Aitu core can instantly polarize against and vote off at their convenience, and that no matter what Aitu does to the remaining Raro members and no matter what assurances Raro members give out that they will vote for Yul if Jonathan goes before they do, the Raro tribe members on the jury are going to have to pick between people on a tribe that just got it done and eradicated their huge numerical advantage, and, if Jonathan goes to the final two, a guy who everyone has reason to dislike and the number 1 player everyone is willing to throw over the side.

It never ceases to amaze me how people sprout righteous indignation in this game. Candice's diatribe about how arrogant Jonathan was and how elitist the Aitu core was for eating without them was classic tunnel vision. How quickly the Raro three forgot the times where their entire strategy was to gloat about superior numbers, and how they coasted through the first days after the merge secure in the woefully uniformed bliss that they could vote out Yul at will and dictate the terms of the game.

In addition, Adam might be the most over-estimated physical threat to play the game. Raro kept him because they felt he was a physical asset needed to win challenges, and he was useless in every one until he won the immunity challenge tonight. Does anyone remember the preaching during the compass challenge where the only guy who dug worth his salt was Jonathan and Adam and Candice waltzed and patty-caked the beach like they were guaranteed a victory? His entire strategy has been to cuddle the chesty/cutesy girls and let other players carry the workload for the tribe.

The Aitu core get the essence of the game- it's about winning and furthering your chance to win, and you do what it takes to accomplish that. What is Raro going to do from the jury- base their votes on who they like the best? Aitu gets that the jury, however much they dislike the players in the final two always look at who played the game the hardest. I refer to Brian, winner of survivor Thailand, who NO ONE on the jury liked. But he won in a landslide.

You put the hammer down and play your game. You don't win by caring about the hurt feelings of a tribe that based its whole game on assuming numbers would take them to the end. They have been resilient and blocked out the other team's strategy in getting to where they are, and they are staying true to that.

On a lighter note, gotta love Jonathan going for everything he could in the auction. No money left, three items won, and a pile of players left wishing they'd done the same. Never leave the auction with money in your pocket...Becky's play to send Candice and take her money was AWESOME. The irony was killer- Candice could have flopped instead of Jonathan and been a good guy for Aitu, but because she's too busy smooching Adam and trying to look strong, and Aitu just kept sticking it to her. Can't wait to hear Candice erupt with bitterness at the final tribal council for the four trips to exile- that should be some fun TV....

Until next week....

PS- didn't you love Probst's barb to Candice that if it was really love she'd be wearing the immunity necklace? What a pot-stirrer....

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Increasingly I am carpooling to work with teacher pals so that Lori has the car to both transport herself around in the late stages of pregnancy and to make getting Jonah to preschool easier a couple mornings a week.

That means I have to get up early, and getting up earlier than I did when I drove to school means that I REALLY don't eat breakfast now. That is, unless I have something in the freezer to thaw and munch on my way to or when I get to school.

That something is muffins. I love baking them, and I love eating them. I have a few recipes that are standards that I make large batches of (Texas sized, of course) and keep on hand in the freezer. So, in the spirit of my Starbucks post not so long ago, I would like to offer my top muffin recipes:
1. Carrot Raisin muffins
Note: I always replace the oil with unsweetened applesauce in this recipe, and for a real walk on the wild side, substitute half the carrot with shredded zucchini. You MUST soak the raisins with this one. Always moist, always good. 5 m's out of 5.
2a. Cornmeal muffins with blueberries
This reminds me of johnnycake with my best friends Gary and Jackie, who are West Indian. Love the texture and colour of these muffins. Gotta try it- good fibre in this one too. 4.5 m's out of 5.
2b. Oatmeal muffins with blueberries, raspberries or cranberries
RIGHT ON. Oatmeal AND berries. I adapt this recipe- you guessed it. Substitute applesauce for oil and buttermilk for milk. I use a cup of berries to each cup of buttermilk, though it's not called for. Also, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla. 4.5 m's out of 5 (though it's climbing in my book).
4. Applesauce Oat Muffins
This recipe is great, although a little plain. I love that it uses whole wheat flour and buttermilk. 4 m's out of 5.
5. yogurt muffins with berries au choix
We sometimes have opened yogurt that sits in our fridge for a while before it goes bad. When there is a critical mass of two or three opened yogurt containers that leaves enough for a batch, these muffins have been known to emerge from our oven. You can't replace all the butter with applesauce or these ones burn too easily.

They are a little sticky and sweet, but yummy nonetheless, and ecologically responsible (hey, finding a better use forold unspoiled yogurt is better for the earth than a toilet flush)... 4 m's out of 5.

You know how I feel about oil in muffins, but I also always include 50% whole wheat flour (in addition to using unbleached white flour). I also only use fresh frozen local Nova Scotia blueberries. Those grape sized high bush ones are an abomination.

I will also post some of my least favourite muffins:
1. Meadow muffins... need I say more?
2. Love muffins. I wonder about people who call their loved ones "muffin." It's a baked good, not a person to have and to hold. You wouldn't call them "my little love quiche," so why devalue the muffin?
3. Any of the cakey things that pass for muffins at donut shops. Yuck.

4. Costco muffins...Too cakey, and way too much muffin for one person to eat in a sitting.
5. Muffins with nuts. Not a big fan.

Hit me back people. Let us dialogue about the culinary delight that is muffins. (Hey, if we blog about muffins, are we bluffin? EEEWWW... Sorry about that one...)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

and now....

...for your blog reading and vlog viewing pleasure, my first ever vlog.

My assignment? Set up the Sony HVR-Z1U on a tripod and shoot two minutes of footage using the skills taught in last week's class (those being pan, tilt and zoom).

(I wasn't supposed to EDIT the footage, but I couldn't contain myself...Forgive me Father James.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Great tune...

Loving See You Soon by Coldplay off their bonus CD Coldplay Live 2003- first heard this version while crafting my podcast last Saturday at JP2MI.

I'm also loving that I got the DVD/CD set on used and delivered to my door for $10.48 CDN- that even beats Itunes... Ecommerce is good!

Love this...

My son, Jonah, and I hung out tonight as Lori hit a local craft fair with my Mom and sister Rachel. We played trains, coloured a massive Superman picture and did some serious dinky racing on a track sloping off the couch in our living room.

He noshed a snack of granny smith apple chunks, clementine sections and fresh cherries (pits removed, of course).

We're sitting at the kitchen table munching and playing with a few trucks, and he grabs a cherry, pops it into his mouth and closes his eyes, tilts his curly-haired head back as if savouring a rare cabernet sauvignon and says "Mmmmm Daddy. This makes me so yummy."

Classic line, to which I responded silently in my heart "you don't even know how right you are son."

Thanks for such an amazing boy, Lord. He's a joy and a treasure for life. Oh- and thanks for the cherries...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Know when to hold'em...

Kenny Rogers had it right folks- if you're going to play the game, know when to make the move that brings you the win.

Kudos to Jonathan for realizing that he had already made his bed when he mutinied against Aitu, and that someone had to be the one to shift the momentum of the game.

I have to say that the player that I am most disappointed in is Nate. He was a sharp guy, but he never seized the day and made the moves that would have put him in a position to win it all. Not seeing that Aitu needed a 5th after the merge was a major gaffe, and a missed opportunity to split the trio of Adam, Candice and Parvati OR send Jonathan, everyone's top choice as a liability, packing. Leaving Jonathan as the guy to flop was a bad call- he knew he was the swing vote. So YOU become the swing vote and let people believe Jonathan was the rogue agent.

I often wonder why more people don't make more bold moves like this and shake the game up. Making unpredictable moves keeps everyone on their toes and potential allies. It also leaves people scrambling to unite against you- broken plans take a long time to put right. Improvisation leads to errors...

Now the game has shifted- if Adam, Parvati and Candice want to stay alive, they have to change their plan and reach out and shift the alliances in Aitu, and they aren't that smart.

Jonathan also can spill Yul's beans about the immunity idol at his convenience to the Raro leftovers. He is now free to play the game without scruples, which no one else can do. That's a great ace in the hole, because who won't take a guy who sold out two tribes to the final two?

Jonathan comes up with a couple of immunity challenge wins and orchestrates a couple of votes, and he has as compelling a case to win as anyone who was loyal...

The game become more interesting tonight- love the turn of the screw, and we see again that the smart players who hesitate get whacked instead of deciding who gets whacked.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Merry Starbucks...

Jonah and I had a little father-son date at Starbucks tonite. He ordered his usual, and we shared a raspberry muffin (he insisted on spreading the butter though).

I went with the Christmas blend (grande black, with a teaspoon of honey), but I didn't love it.

I have come to appreciate good coffee, though I am not ready to log my coffee-talk weekly (check out my man Peter's coffeenerdness for that). However, I got to thinking about my fave blends, and I will share them with you here (#1 being my most highly enjoyed):
1. Komodo Dragon blend
2. Verona
3. Sumatra
4. House blend

Coffees that do not make my list are Ethiopian Sidomo (very stark and harsh) and the aforementioned Christmas blend (very flat tasting- has a hint of cardboard to it).

Perhaps I will be viewed as a coffee snob and/or un-Canadian for not including Tim Horton's coffee here, but I cannot endorse a coffee that is simply not worth drinking black.

I drink about once a week, and usually at Starbucks. That's my drink list- so how do you Starbuck? Hit me back with a grande comment blend... Cream and sugar can be found here.

My only other recommendation? Sip with someone you love (the love of your life or your favourite three year old both serve to enhance the experience significantly)....

Coffee on y'all!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do you know...

Whether your first name is becoming more or less popular?

What with baby#2 on the way in January, Lori and I are heavy into figuring out names.

We like names that aren't totally commonplace, but finding information about what's very trendy and what has staying power has been tough to come by (other than the plethora of top 10 most popular baby names by year lists that are on the web in droves).

That is, until we found this.

Gotta love people creating wacky stuff in Java script. Check out your own name and see how it stacks up in current trends and take a look at how prevalent it has been over the last 100 years or so.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cooking with gas....

Check out my first podcast EVER.

Gotta say that being part of JP2MI has been a real breath of fresh air for me so far. It's not just learning technology stuff. More than once working on assignments has been really impactful. Making this podcast was really moving for me- had a moment with Jesus in the editing lab putting this together...

Let me know what you think. I think I just might do this again.

Audi 5000.

Friday, November 17, 2006


If you didn't catch this week's episode of Survivor, then you missed an awesome show.

Lori, my friend Tim and I have talked at length about how the game needs more wrinkles more often. Tonight, we got one, and what a doozy it was.

Lesson learned from tonight's show: always be ready to give your best effort, like Aitu has been, and don't think that because you have more of something than somebody else that it gives you a definitive advantage.

Hats off to the creative team at Survivor for keeping the game fresh and exciting- nice wrinkle. Hope to see a couple more before it's over.

Personal Rant: Shame on Raro for not seeing the rising power of the 4 caucausian members. Nate, I thought you were smarter than that. Now it's you against the man- spark up the Tupac my friend. Hope you can navigate that and make the merge....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When your dreams attack like a ninja....

I remember hearing a story told by a grandson of Dutch grandparents about the liberation of Holland. His grandparents told him how they survived awful conditions and treatment under the Nazi occupation, subsisting on tulip bulbs for months sometimes.

They told him how the one thing that kept them alive was the hope that they would one day be free again, and they hung on to life so hard because of that hope.

The challenging part of the story came when they described how on the day that they were liberated by Canadian troops, exhausted, sick and emaciated Dutchmen and women streamed out of their homes as the troops filed by, realizing they were free. Some erupted for joy and danced and wept and embraced the liberating forces and celebrated that freedom, their great hope, had come unexpected to their door, and they were ready to live again.

What broke my heart was the description of many Dutchmen and women, who, when freedom found its way to their doors as they had prayed and fought for every day, fell down and died from massive heart failures because they couldn't handle the reality that freedom was finally there. They had existed for so long in captivity and conditioned themselves to just survive that when freedom, their wildest dream, arrived, their hearts couldn't deal with it and they keeled over dead.

That's a pretty weighty story, but I was reminded of it this summer when I wondered if I was ever going to get a job with the school board, or if I was ever going to be able to afford to buy a home for my wife and family. It was pretty desperate, but I really felt God challenge me to keep my dream alive, no matter what it took.

Mere weeks later I had a full time job with the school board, finally earning a salary on par with my teaching peers instead of living on sub poverty wages as a substitute teacher.

We started to talk about buying a home about a month later. Last week we went to see our first batch of houses. We wrote an offer on one last Saturday, not really expecting anything to come together.

I learned my lesson. Sometimes God answers your prayer after years, but you have to be so careful not to let yourself box God into a space where you only believe he can do something if it takes years to accomplish it.

The offer we put in was accepted by noon the next day, and pending an inspection and estimate from an electrician tomorrow afternoon, we will be homeowners on December 11, 2006, in time for us to fully renovate all the things we want to complete and move in before baby #2 comes in January.

It's been almost 6 years since we moved home from Montreal to Halifax, and sometimes it seemed like none of this would ever happen. But this last two months is a reminder to me that just because it looks like nothing is happening doesn't mean God isn't at work and contending for you, and that the things you hold on to God for are never far from his heart.

So, if you're holding on for something, don't give up and don't let go of your dream. You never know when it will drop out of the air and bushwack you like a herd of ninjas....

Friday, November 10, 2006

How do I get off this crazy train...

How do you slow down when life is loopy? The last three weeks have been nutso for me- something happening every night. I feel like I haven't had a meaningful chat with my wife or son in about month (although that's not true), and I just feel numb or zoned out most of the time.

My biggest worry is about what's going to happen when our second baby comes, probably sometime 6 to 8 weeks from now. I'm really jazzed about the baby- I'm excited to find out what that little person is like, to see their face and smell their head (one of the little publicized joys of parenthood, although Bono did tip off the world about it- check out line 10).

I'm just concerned about the transition and making sure that life doesn't get out of control. I know Lori and I made the transition with Jonah just fine, and we made a rhythm that worked after he got here, and I know that we'll be OK when baby comes, it's just that I wonder how it will all shake down.

I'm not mourning the loss of "normal." A wise man once told me this about parenthood:

When you think things are changed forever and you look back and think about what normal used to be like, take a deep breath, smile and relax; welcome yourself to your new normal.

I guess I am just so thankful for the fullness Lori and I have been able to find since Jonah's birth. Our lives didn't end- they got much richer, and I think that our marriage and our life has been more amazing since Jonah than either ever was before.

I'm not worried about life not being amazing either- just that we've worked so hard to come to where we are, and adding a new person means going back to work.

And maybe that's why I am stressed. I'm really tired right now- not just from three weeks, but from a stretch of life where I have carried a lot, and I don't want to cheap the effort needed to build a new "amazing" because I am weary. If I cheat, it won't be my family that gets shorted, but that means something else does.

My problem is that I am a 100% guy- whatever I do gets that much, because if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Only now some of those things I can only afford 60% on, and some things don't work with that kind of effort.

So something has to go! If there are wiser and more learned people out there who have walked this line before, I am your grasshopper. Throw me a bone here. :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Right on...

Lori Boucher wrote an awesome entry today about being passionate about being who you are (check it out here).

Her thoughts are something that I have come to terms with since I moved back to Halifax five years ago.

At the time, I really wrestled with being recognized or appreciated (or at least needing that, or needing people to see me and my value as a person and a part of the body of Christ). I struggled because I was engaged in things I was passionate about, which was amazing, but conflicted about not rising to prominence through that.

God really challenged me on that- about both striving to be someone "big", and about making others "bigger" than myself in order to rise to their level somehow.

I finally came to a place where I found rest- I had to make up my mind about two things:
1. That if what I was doing was really for God- the audience of one- and that if it pleased him, then affirmation from elsewhere was irrelevant. Was I going to be satsified and fulfilled with the pleasure of God, or was I going to be selfish and require people to fawn over me to meet my needs for signficance?
2. Whether or not I would allow myself to find my identity in who God says I am instead of my value to others in what I can do, and what I contribute to others. Would I accept God at face value when he says that I am fearfully made, that I am no more or less significant or important to the work of the church than the newest Christian or the most famous pastor?

Talk about dying to self. It's one thing to say that you are going to make up your mind about stuff life this- it's another to live out your decision.

But, with God's help, I did. I stopped looking at my role in ministry as a vehicle to esteem, honour and even notoriety. I started seeing it as my opportunity to bless God's heart in a way that only I could. When I did, it was like a whale was lifted off my back and spirit, and I felt less burdened and more effective, confident and connected to others than ever. I was able to say things like "This is important to me, but it doesn't matter if it's me that accomplishes it- my passion is to see it happen. If I can be part of it in any way at, especially if it's an invisible role- it would be joy to my heart to see it come together," and really mean it.

I also stopped feeling inferior and superior to people. I totally respect figures within the church who have found a place of esteem- Billy Graham, TD Jakes, David Demian- they are gifted and important, and I would be remiss not to honour them for their service to the church. But where I used to feel second class and intimidated to talk with people on what I perceived to be a higher level, I found myself discovering that they are people just like me- their underwear gets dirty, they get tired and cranky, they have bad habits they struggle with- and that their part of body isn't more critical than mine. If I don't fulfill my role, they suffer like I would if they abdicated their role.

I could approach serving with a confidence that what I was doing really did matter, and that as much as I could learn from them, I had something that could bless them too.

And I stopped finding my significance in function. I'm not valuable because of everything I do- I am valuable because I am me, because God created me because he wanted to and felt I was needed in the world. I am a masterpiece in progress, something beautiful underway, and there is no one of whom this is not true.

So when I say that I refuse to be "small" anymore, I mean that I refuse to belittle, devalue and constrain myself to destiny that is far lesser than the destiny God intends. I approach everything I do as if I am a critical factor in its success, and work to achieve that success knowing that in doing so I have a ready made opportunity to point people to Christ when it comes time to acknowledge contribution and hand out honour, because anything I can do stems directly from how much God has invested in me and enabled me to do.

So Lori, RIGHT ON. Well put, and to all of you out there- remember this little song I learned when I was a little boy if you feel like shrinking back from being who God made you to be:
I'm someone special
I'm the only one of my kind
God gave me a body
and a bright and healthy mind
He has a special purpose
That He wants me to find
That's why I'm someone special
I'm the only one of my kind..

As we like to say here in Nova Scotia when considering whether to go for it or not, just give'er.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Catching the fallen

We had a very interesting discussion in class last week about the increased presence of religious content and theme in the media, particularly over the last two years (buoyed in large part by Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ and the death of Pope John Paul II). Part of our discussion centered around the prevalence of religious "content" in many programs that paint a slanted portrait of people of faith. One of our instructors remarked that several recent episodes of CSI have featured priests (one as the victim in a homicide, one as an adulterer entwined in the murder of his pregnant lover), and we asked whether these representations are good because the provide some foundation for discussion and clarification with those who don't believe, or whether they are bad because they add to the negative picture of Christianity and faith already entrenched in our culture.

Then this past Friday, details of Ted Haggard's resignation/removal from his church due to moral failing surfaced. The spin around this was flying, what with the American midterm election campaigning at full throttle, and I heard several pundits refer to Haggard merely as an "influential right-wing evangelical."

Coming from the secular media, I understand their label, because to them he's a political figure first, seeking to influence election outcomes. Still, I found it unnerving to see a man reduced to a political factor- there is so much more at stake in the outcome of this for Haggard and the church than how it affects a "rightist" turnout in the midterms.

As difficult as this news was for Christians and the Church, I feel that it offers us the opportunity to show the world how Christ mandated we should deal with the fallen and turn what could be a black mark into a testimony of grace at work and demonstrate that the church operates differently than the world does.

I found myself reflecting back to a time where my favourite worship leader, Kevin Prosch, told the world about moral failing that required him to step away from public ministry. Now Prosch never has exerted an influence as significant as Haggard's, but the reaction to the news fell divided.

One one hand, some believed that Prosch was totally done in ministry- that his failing (and the resulting failure of his marriage) disqualified him from ever holding any position in the church again.

This was really out of touch with how God asks us to deal with those who have fallen:
1 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. 2 Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. 3 If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. 4 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. (Galatians 6:1-4, The Message)
Thankfully, some gathered around Prosch and prayed for his restoration and provided a place of safety in which to deal with his failing, re-establish credibility and allow healing and development of personal character to help ensure there was no repeat.

The first group was far, far louder than the second. Thankfully, the second group was far more persistent and effective.

In 2002, Kevin made a return to the world of worship with his CD Palanquin, and to a place of ministry in the church.

I was glad to see Kevin back. Whenever I hear scripture about how all believers make up one body, and that we all have a meaningful place of belonging and purpose, I think of how much I missed Kevin Prosch in worship. He is a uniquely gifted songsmith, and some of his songs have become life-anthems of sorts for me, so when he was restored to ministry it was like a part that was missing was found.

One thing I do note though, is that even with restoration, there will always be a need for people who love Kevin to surround him and love him enough to help him guard against the temptation to which he fell before. Being restored doesn't mean that no one remembers or is required to forget the fall altogether- it means that despite the fall, grace and mercy are applied and a place is made for the fallen to come back to the table, and that one must be ever vigilant, with the help of community, to walk in a way that seeks to cut off opportunity to fall again.

That's my prayer for Ted Haggard. He's a real guy with a real family- he's not just a factor in an election. I pray that he will find people ready to love him, pray and walk with him and restore him, and a place in the body where he can still fulfill the destiny that God intended for him. I'm in no position to throw stones at him, and I pray for the body of Christ that we will remember that Jesus saved us from sins no less grievous than his before we speak in anything but love.

Mercy, grace and love to you Ted. May you fall into the hands of Christ and the arms of loving brothers and sisters to rise again and find your place in the body.