Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hustle and Bustle of the Holidays

When I hear the words "Hustle and Bustle" I immediately think of Homestar Runner, and specifically this one Strong Bad email where Strong Bad writes some kid's "Englilsh" paper...

If none of that made any sense whatsoever, you may be curious to check out THIS LINK...

Anyhoo, the holidays have been hustley and bustley to be sure, but they have also been very relaxing, getting to spend time with family, and for me and Jess to spend some extra time with each other (amid novels, graduate work, our careers, pets, band rehearsals, etc.)

The first "Christmas-y" thing was our church Christmas party over at the Bridgeport Clubhouse. If that name doesn't mean anything to you, it's just the clubhouse at the coolest (and most expensive) planned community in Valencia. It has a big lake in the middle and the houses are huge and beautiful. We live across the street from the community, so we like to go take walks around the lake with Maggie the pup.

Christmas Eve was held at our house again this year, and my parents, my grandma, Donny, and Uncle Reuben and Aunt Eileen came over with all their kids (rare): LaRae, Reuben, Gabriel, and Isaac. We watched the Christmas classic: "Nacho Libre" and had a great dinner, opened presents, played Rock Band, and sang "The 12 Days of Christmas." Donny spent the night, and we made a pot of coffee with our new Cuisinart magical coffeemaker of the universe, and talked until the wee hours.

Playing Rock Band with cousins

Maggie, Mom, Grandma & Jess enjoying dinner

A crowded kitchen

Merry Christmas!

Binx got out his Christmas polo shirt

Maggie loved her Christmas bow

I got my brother the Planet Earth DVDs

Christmas day we went down to my parents house and hung out there all day after Donny and I spent some time at my church recording drum tracks for him to use when he lead worship on Sunday. We had our holiday favorite: Thai food, and watched the "Caves" episode of Planet Earth while I napped (another holiday tradition).

The next day, Jess and I left to go up to Mammoth Mountain for a couple days, thanks to the generosity of our friend Tim Sullivan, whose parents own a condo up there that they let us use. We went up with our friends Nick and Jenny Patey, and another couple-friend of theirs: Brooke and Charlie. We arrived Friday afternoon and got settled in. There was a little bug going around that everyone but Brooke and I started to feel at some point in the trip, but we persevered.

Bathroom break on the way up

Brooke & Charlie, and the kitty puzzle we did

Jess making some tacos

Good food, friends, and games

I proceeded to lose my phone that first night, and spend the next couple of days feeling like I was disconnected from the entire world. I am using Jess' old phone for now...sigh...Blackberry Storm...would you go on a really good sale soon? Hmmm, my birthday's coming up...

We spend the next day playing in the snow, and just relaxing and hanging out. Nick and I both
brought up video game consoles, so we alternated between Wii Tennis/Golf and PS2 Rock Band.

It was GORGEOUS weather while we were there

Me and Nick (The Duke)

Jenny kept flipping over backwards

Jess shedding layers in the sun

I had just run over an exposed root and my tailbone was in severe pain

I think I'm reliving the moment here

Why not get a photo while I'm in pain?

"Quick, take a picture before the snow falls off"

Charlie working on his Wii putting

Brooke liked the sand traps

The girl band: The Snow Angels

Sunday was snowboarding day! It had snowed a couple of nights in a row before we got there, and then cleared up for a marvelous day. It was my second time ever, and Jess says I have made a lot of progress! She's much better than I am, so I trust her opinion. I felt like I made good progress all morning until lunch, and then my body started to say "I've had enough." The snow was much better than it had been last year (we went at Thanksgiving last year), and so my mind thought that when I fell it hurt less, but I was wrong.

Jenny and Jess


Me taking a break

I was doing well at this point

The gang

We came home Monday, and we've been savoring the time off together, and reading by the fire. We are going to go to MB2 tonight with our Young Marrieds group to ring in the New Year. So that's the last couple of weeks for ya!

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Silent Library"

My brother just told me about this Japanese Game show that is set up to appear to take place in a public library.

There are a group of six contestants sitting around a table "pretending" to read books. There is a large flip chart that lists an action that is to be performed on the losing contestant each round. Each contestant takes a card that is face down on the table. They all flip the cards over simultaneously, and the one with the big X and the skull and crossbones on it means that contestant must suffer the event on the chart.

All the while they must try to keep quiet in the library so as not to disturb the other guests.

In other news, I got Rock Band for the PS2, and I must say that while I did look condescendingly on it before, it is amazingly fun and addictive.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We Live in an Amazing Age, and Nobody's Happy!

I'm on another kick of posting videos; must mean nothing interesting has happened to me lately, and/or nothing interesting is going on in my head...

My friend Shay posted this video of comic Louis C.K. on Conan O'Brian, and it's really eye opening to the marvels of the world we live in, and the marvel of how ungrateful and ignorant our society is of it all...

CHECK IT OUT HERE. It's amazingly funny.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thom Yorke's Laugh

I'm a dedicated Radiohead fan. I may even be one of those jaded fans that thinks absolutely everything the band does is brilliant. But I'm not so jaded to realize that Thom Yorke has one of the nerdiest laughs of all time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Christ Alone @ Lakewood Church

First, a preface:

I think Joel Osteen is a purveyor of self-help preaching, and weak doctrinal conviction, especially when it comes to sin.

Now that that's out of the way, this video is from Easter of this year (2008), and it's one of the best versions of In Christ Alone I've ever heard. Seriously; it brought tears to my eyes. Praise God for the marvelous truth proclaimed in this song. Thank God for the Gettys and Stuart Townend who penned it, and thank God for Israel Houghton, who is a marvelous worship leader and gifted musician.

One of the perks of having a megachurch like Osteen's is the HUGE worship team and choir and orchestra, and having Israel Houghton as a worship leader!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

It's a little sad to me that for most people, Thanksgiving has become merely the starting gate for the Christmas season. Christmas lights go up, Black Friday chaos erupts, and also "Cyber Monday" hits the net (basically the online equivalent of Black Friday).

I was thinking about how we, as Christians, attach a considerably higher amount of significance to the Thanksgiving holiday than do our non-believing counterparts. We believe that an almighty God is on his throne of sovereignty, fully aware of, and active within his creation. We believe that he providentially takes care of us, to the extent that will bring him the most glory through our lives, and that he brings both blessings and trials onto our plate throughout our lives. So at Thanksgiving, we sit around the table and give thanks to this good and gracious God who has definitely given us all so much to be thankful for.

For the non-believer however, I guess Thanksgiving must just be more about acknowledging our "luck" and reflecting on how things have gone this year. Gathering around with family and friends still provides a somewhat emotional experience, but ultimately, all the so-called "thanks" just kinda floats away into the atmosphere. It's more of a sentimental time to be with family and friends, and reflect on how it could be much worse; but we've worked hard, and gotten lucky a majority of the time.

It seems then, to make sense that Thanksgiving is more of a placeholder for the Christmas season for non-believers. Just a formal opening of the "most wonderful time of the year," which this year especially, is packed with hopes and expectations of providing a lift to our slumping economy, but that's neither here nor there.

But for Christians, may Thanksgiving never be the starting line for the race of materialistic madness that the Christmas shopping season has become. Maybe we need to really take a step back, even now a few days removed from "the day," and express our thanks to God. Maybe do it privately, to remind yourself that it isn't about the sentimental experience Thanksgiving often provides, or maybe grab some family members, or close friends, and together remind yourselves of God's goodness. Thank him for the blessings (which are numerous, just think about it for a few seconds...), and and for the hard times alike. Remember, God makes some parts of himself known to us more intimately during times of trial (think of the Spirit's consolation, of the "peace that is greater than understanding, etc.).

And most importantly, don't relegate Thanksgiving to a single day of the year. May it be similar to the corporate church gathering on Sunday in the same way that the gathered church experience should be a culmination of the whole week's worth of worship, praise, and prayer; and not the only time those things happen. Let thanksgiving me a defining characteristic of your life, and that way "the day" won't simply be the starting gun for Christmas shopping.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our Thanksgiving...
Nana and Irv

Donny and Chad

Aunt Eileen, mom, and Jess

Nana and Grandma


After dinner shenanigans

My mom looks like a phantom in this one

Aunt Eileen and Grandma

Yep, the fake tree is up

I like Christmas lights

So do Binx and Ginny

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Christian" JUNK

A number of years ago, my friend Tim Costine introduced me to the website called "A Little Leaven." Before you click on the link, let me explain a little about it. This website is a self-proclaimed "museum of idolatry" that keeps track of how the church can veer off of the straight and narrow.

It is a very conservative site, and you probably won't agree with everything they are labeling as "apostate," but many of the things they highlight are spot on.

My favorite portion of the site in particular is the "Je$u$ Junk" section, in which they chronicle the mass of supposedly "Christian" products that all those "Christian" bookstores rip off well-meaning Christian people with. Things like "Christian Tool Sets" (a regular tool set with a Bible verse on the box) , and "Holy Drinking Water."

Today I found my own example of Jesus Junk in an email I got from a local bookstore offering special "doorbuster deals" on stuff as a promotion for the intensely materialistic Thanksgiving/Christmas shopping season.

Here it is: The Daily Bread Basket

I would imagine "A Little Leaven" would add this sort of caption to this item:
Tired of your bread always getting ruined by those unsaved bread baskets? They leave your bread tasting of "filthy rags" and other unsightly effects of the Fall. Well now you don't have to worry about your bread's eternal state anymore! Introducing the "Daily Bread Basket!" This basket has been washed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and it has a wonderful sanctifying effect on your bread that will put your mind at ease. We know Jesus said it's not what you put IN to your body that makes you sinful, but why not go the extra mile right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Protect the Drain

Let the following photo be a reminder to you to protect the drain in your shower.

Get one of those little hair-catcher things, and empty it often. This will prevent catastrophe of the sort I'm about to show you.

Notice that it's longer than the screwdriver.

New To Me!

Say hello to my new (to me) 2007 Honda Element LX!
This might be the coolest car on the planet...

My little '94 Civic had 204,000 miles on it, and it didn't have the roomiest interior to transport gear and instruments and such. I think it will run great until the day it just completely dies. One of my friends back in San Gabriel bought it from me, and he's got some mechanic experience, so hopefully he'll get a whole lotta miles out of it still.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Over the last three years or so, my taste for coffee has grown into a very postmodern, find-value-in-everything type of enjoyment. My friend Peter has very strong about opinions about superiority of certain brands of coffee over others, but he had very little objective information on which to base his value judgments.

Agreed: coffee can come in a variety of tastes as a result of its country of origin, intensity of roast, amount used per cup, and brewing method.

I have to say though, that I have come to enjoy pretty much any cup of coffee that is put in front of me, as long as there is any flavor at all. Growing up, my dad used to always get the econo-tub of econo-grade coffee: Yuban. I don't remember the specifics of his brewing method, but I do remember that what came out was little more than dark water. This is the only instance of coffee that I object to with any amount of conviction. Even that freeze-dried, crystalized stuff they call "instant" coffee can suffice if there's enough evidence of coffee flavor of any kind.

In the same way that the beer spectrum ranges from the "yellow-water" of Corona, to the chewable blackness of Guiness, coffee sports many different faces, and I think it's worth while to look carefully at each:

-Instant Coffee
This is usually what sits in the cupboard of non-coffee drinkers. Like I said earlier, this stuff has the potential to yield a little flavor if enough is used, but most likely, that jar has been sitting untouched in that non-drinker's cupboard for upwards of 83 years; only seeing the light of day once or twice a year when relatives are in for the holidays. Also, I'm not sure I want to know what's involved in the process of taking a cup of coffee and processing it so it comes out as the coffee equivalent of ovaltine crystals...

-Coffee "Tea" Bags
This is a relatively new invention as far as I know. The idea is that a pre-measured amount of ground coffee is stored in a semi-permeable bag, similar to a tea bag. You pour hot water over the bag and let it sit for one minute before proceeding to "dunk" the bag in and out of the water for an additional 15 seconds. As far as I've seen, only Folgers has tried this method of the "one-cup-at-a-time" genre. The pre-measured amount must be in the ballpark of half a tablespoon however, because the end result is only the slightest hint of coffee flavor, and as such, this coffee is best enjoyed black, so all you "I'd like some coffee with my creamer" folks should probably avoid this coffee, unless you really just want a cup of your "mocha-vanilla-peppermint-cinnamon bun" creamer.

-The "Old Fashioned" brands
Folgers, Yuban, Maxwell House, Juan Valdez's 100% Colombian Coffee. These are some of the coffees that have been around since...who knows when. They have survived the Great Depression, and were the front line of America's selection of coffee as the national beverage to further assert their independance from the tea-drinking British. These coffees all taste the same to my pallate, which is probably more due to ignorance on my part, than the fact that most people who make these coffees use just enough to turn their water brown more than give it any coffee flavor. These coffees are found in fine dining establishments all over the country such as Denny's, IHOP, and Norm's.

-The New School
Somewhere along the line, some revolutionary must have thought to themself: "These old-fashioned coffees are a bit on the weakside, but when I put in more grounds, the coffee comes out bitter...I'm gonna find a way to make a coffee so potent that if you set a match to it, it'd explode!" Back in the '70's a batch of these new school coffee brewers was born, and set up shop, most of them, in Seattle, to put alongside their other claims to fame: constant rain, and grunge music. They came up with coffee that was as thick as their flannel fashions, and unknowingly started a resurgence of coffee popularity and prominence. Starbucks, Peete's Dunkin' Donuts, and the arrogantly-named Seattle's Best, are some of the few that have changed the face of coffee forever, and we are indebted to them.

So which kind of coffee is best? As I said, I take the post-modern approach and have found enjoyment in each and every one of the above varieties of coffee. I enjoy coffee with cream and sugar, with those designer creamers, or black as the night. All of them. I enjoy coffee from the percolator, the drip maker, or the beloved French Press (although my cat broke mine so I don't enjoy this method quite as often as I'd like...).

So now you know what to get me for Christmas...