Friday, November 30, 2007

Enviro tip #217

If you happen to stay in a nice hotel or guest facility - leave those little lotions and shampoos behind, unused.

You'll save the overall cost of the room, in the long run - if enough people do it. Plus, you'll lessen the impact on landfills and the efforts of cleaning staff in replenishing those supplies.

Smaller containers use more materials in packaging than larger containers. Thus, when you use those, you're using more PVC per ounce. You get the picture.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Not long ago I stayed at a wonderful facility run by one of the major Christian denominations in the USA. It was a great place. No complaints about how well it was run or the kind and servant-like attitudes of the staff.

However, I was bothered a little at how everything that didn't move had a plaque on it declaring who donated the bulk of the funds for that particular room, sculpture, building, etc.

The story in Luke 21:2 springs to mind. I always wanted to see a building named, "The Poor Widow".

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Treasures from a Texas truckstop

I had to share these three joys with you.

First - a Texas-style cross. Interesting combinations of imagery - the Texas star, belt buckles, horse shoes, turquoise - they are all there.

Second - what boy would not appreciate this display of knives for sale? Many have styles unique to Texas.

Finally, I thought these little churches were very unusual. I guess it takes a full-sized door knob to get in.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dead cotton

During our drive down to Dallas for Thanksgiving, we passed through many many square miles of cotton fields. Right about now, it's harvest time. Along the road for miles and miles are cotton balls that have flown out of the open-sided trailers that transport cotton. (I'm not sure why they use those trailers! I'd guess that maybe one pair of jeans could be made out of the lost cotton from any given 10 yards of roadside.)

I was reminded of college days. I graduated from Texas Tech University - in the heart of cotton country. Several trips between my parents' home and Texas Tech meant seeing a lot of wasted jeans by the roadside.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This one's for Stewart

During our life in England, we heard of Ikea. In Kenya, we lived in the Johnson family home, where we learned first-hand about the beauties of Ikea. Stewart is a very accomplished interior designer, though he does not make his living that way. We were blessed to stay in his and his wife Jo's flat (apartment) in Nairobi for a year. Stewart loves Ikea. We do too.

So over the Thanksgiving break, we had the joy of visiting an Ikea store for the first time. It was fabulous. Unfortunately, our visit was on Black Friday, so the crowds were large. (If you live in Dallas, the store we visited is in nearby Frisco.)

Reason for the visit? My office chair of more than 20 years finally died. I had repaired it about 5 times, and 6 was not gonna happen. So my new Ikea chair is both cheap and comfortable!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where to buy a casket

If you're in Dallas, this casket showroom is open to the public, in a high-visibility location along North Central Expressway.

I was amused that right next door in the same strip mall is Cindi's Restaurant. (After you're done with lunch, drop by the showroom.)

And speaking of Dallas, I won't be blogging for a few days - we're driving down to spend Thanksgiving with some of my family - the Texas part. I should be back to blogging very early on Monday morning, November 26th. Have a happy Thankgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

If the TV show 24 took place in 1994

My friends in another part of the world sent me the link to this video.

It's a great reminder to me of some of the differences between life in Nairobi and life in the States. (Hint: one is more like 1994. And if you're in Nairobi, chance are you can't watch the video, due to the amount of bandwidth it takes.)

How to redeem a bad window

Our house was built in about 1965. We love that.

Anyhow, one of the kitschy things about it is the plexiglass window above our front door. So when we were in Kenya, we bought some glass beads to make this little "curtain" that now hangs on the inside of the house next to the window.

If you are in Kenya, go by Kitengela Glass to pick up your very own set of glass beads.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Why would a starch company have a catalog available? I have no idea. I won't be requesting it. But for starch lovers, it might be just the thing.

3M love

Somehow I got this link to a free Post-It sampler from a month or so ago. The stuff came a couple of days ago.

I love the new little half-clear tab thingees. They make the best bookmarks ever. If you live in a house where various people pick up your books and the bookmarks fall out, this is a new discovery for you.

So the pack - well, it contained a bunch of new types of the tab thingees, including the ones shown here - tabs that you can write on!

Now that I've visited the site, I see that they are called "flags" - and that the only users are women. (I guess I break their stereotypes.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Something positive

Sometimes it's great to see the work of a talented artist. Chris Orwig is a great photographer. So I bring this link to you to give you a little inspiration.

(By the way, this particular shot reminded me of some of my rubbish art series.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


If you miss my posts on Nairobi, go here.

This lady (who I probably never met - but undoubtedly saw at the Karen Nakumatt Supermarket from time to time) has a creative way of putting things:

" 'What happened to that landcruiser?' he asked when he spotted a vehicle peppered with bullet holes being patched. 'He was having a bad day' came the laconic reply." ) That's from one story.

Her views of some aspects of life differ greatly from mine, but that's what keeps life interesting.

More cynicism

When I was down in Texas last month, I saw these signs as I passed by this church. I had to take pictures for you, my dear readers.

Why is it that this church has to sell Webkinz (whatever they are) to get people to come through there doors? And give away free candy?

Whatever happened to love? Relationships? Maybe that doesn't happen in church buildings much anymore. Or maybe people don't know about it happening inside church buildings.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The new Zune

Microsoft recently released a new version of their iPod competitor. I think they kiled themsleves with the first version's failure.

But the pricing might just kill this version. Check out the bottom of this review from ZNet.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Of spam and filters

From "Sengorn gilla" subj: "retsniem"...

One of my email accounts doesn't have a very good spam filter.

I'm not sure how hard it would be for a programmer to develop good parameters for a filter to sift out stuff like that. It's amazing that a big company like can't get their act together enough to have a program that thinks like a human enough to figure out that Sengorn gila is not a name in any of the languages that an email sender would use.

I'm such a cynic

In Saturday's Rocky Mountain News (one of Denver's two largest papers), this story was the front page of the "Home Front" section.

My only comment: not an island of safety - but rather a continent of safety. (I'm not referring to the USA but to the size of the featured house.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another dying breed

Remember phone booths? Yes, mobile phones killed them off.

At the Kansas City airport, all the phone booths no longer have phones in them. (Or at least, I didn't see any still-active pay phones.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My sin


Baby Gap is, in my humble opinion, one of the things that's wrong with America.

How can it be right to spend $60 on an outfit for a baby that she will only wear for two months?

$60 will buy about three months' worth of food for an entire family in rural Kenya.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The web has come a long way

I took this screen shot about ten years ago. Both computers and the internet have advanced nicely.

We're still not there with electric cars. (Double-click on the image to see it larger.) It just continues to cost more energy to produce electricity and pump it out to your house or a charging station compared to simple gasoline (petrol) or diesel (better yet, energy-wise). Cleaner? Well, the pollution just gets moved from the tailpipe to the power-generation plant, which is coal-powered (dirty), in much of America, anyhow. If the power comes from hydroelectricity or wind power, an electric car can be cleaner.

Hybrids? That's a different story. Energy recovery through regenerative braking is a great thing. (When I grow up, maybe I'll get a Prius.)

By the way, there is a nice little article in Wikipedia on the car featured here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Basic email etiquette

This is from Dawn D’Angelillo, of Small Dog Electronics (a Mac retailer in Vermont). I thought it was worth sharing with all of you. It's longer than my usual post, but if you read all of it, you might improve your life!

1. Never type in ALL CAPS unless you are very angry.

2. Provide white space. Reading small type without some white space can be very hard on the eyes.

3. Be brief. People who read hundreds of emails each day tend to skim over the very long ones.

4. Always remember that people take the written word very seriously. I often find it difficult not to sound too extreme when I'm sending emails. Trying not to sound too clinical or terse after responding to 40 emails can be hard.

5. Try to include the message thread and at least the pertinent thread. This makes it a lot easier to recall the original question. Also, include a meaningful subject line. When inboxes are overflowing with spam, it's easy to miss an important email if it has a lame subject like "file" or “meeting."

6. Pause before hitting send. Have you sent email to the wrong person with dire consequences? It is easy to misaddress an email. Be careful. Never send something by email that you don't want the world to read, or be prepared to face the consequences.

7. When sending to a list, it doesn't hurt to be completely obsessed with the details. It's my responsibility to send electronic newsletters to Small Dog Electronics' lists. This is something that I tend to rush through rather than being a stickler for details. This past week, I incorrectly pasted information into the subject line of our Tech Tails newsletter. As I watched it leave my outbox, I felt ready to die of dishonor. I've developed a checklist to make sure that I don't continue to screw up. I advise a similar action if you frequently send
newsletters or announcements to large groups.

8. Determine when to include carbon copies and when to reply all. My rules are:

Cc: Used when no action is needed by the reader, but you want him or her to be party to the conversation. If any action is needed by the reader, don't Cc, but put him or her in the "To" field.

Reply All (which sends the message to everyone -- the sender and all other recipients): Only use Reply All when your answer has some effect on all the readers. Do not reply all when the answer is only for the sender. An example of when not to reply all would be when you receive a reminder for an upcoming meeting that was sent to 100 people and you want to tell the sender that you will be there with a quick "I'll see you then!" This doesn't need to go to 100 people.

Bcc: Use when sending to a group of people, since many may not want their email addresses publicized.

9. It is not necessary to respond with just "Thank you." When I first starting working at a computer company, I sent what I thought was a polite response to a coworker that simply said "Thank you!" after he answered a question. Boy, did I get told off for what I thought was a nice gesture. As I learned more, I realized what a pain it is to stop what you're doing to open an email and then read nothing more than "OK, thanks!" A simple thank you became an annoying inconvenience for the receiver. Now, I thank people in advance to avoid a second interruption.

Happy Emailing!

Bizarre Mac memory problems

This was a new one to me - see the little dots on the window? They are a reflection of the bigger dots - and they shouldn't be there.

Generally my Mac has been a wonderful tool, but occasionally I gotta reboot. No computer is perfect - not even a Mac.

By the way, I have been a Mac user since 1995. I had a two year blight in that during my 2 years in Kenya; my day job required me to use a Windows box. But even then, my home computer was a Mac.

Heather is a firm Windows person. It keeps our life interesting.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I object, your honor

1. "SnawSomes!" That's the name of the product. I don't get that. What's a snaw, anyhow?

2. Dogs are carnivores.

3. In the ad, it says, "...just like you like to eat..." Well, it's true, every dog I ever met liked people food. But this is pushing things too far in the "my dog is my child" direction for me.

4. Their tagline: "Your World. Their Playground." It just rubs in the fact that an American dog's life is an easy one.

5. The cost of one package of SnawSomes could feed a family of four in Kenya for two meals.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Beauty and truth

I don't normally blog on Saturdays or Sundays. (Well, I do the vast majority of writing for my blog then - but I just don't post then.) But this late afternoon, I was compelled to do this post.

I visited my friend Ed's blog. He asked about beauty vs. truth, and I had to comment.

I do think it's nice to have both in one package. An example of that is Corrie Tin Boom. She wrote The Hiding Place and was a holocaust survivor). I met her when I was a kid. She was a shriveled old lady - not a beauty by normal standards. But the "gold refined by fire" thing applied; Her inner beauty was such that she was a very attractive lady.

For some reason I was thinking of her this week. I'm going to buy that book so we can go through it as a family. It had a big impact on me when I was a kid.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The haul

Ben got 18 pounds of candy by trick-or-treating.

Yes, we adults now have to deal with the bouncing off the walls.

(And I thought you might appreciate how he organized the candy be types.)

An observation about Halloween since we left (for you non-US people): some people decorate their houses like Christmas. Only the red is exchanged for orange and the green for black. We even saw a halloween tree. (Wish I'd had my camera.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

10, 20, 30

Eddie has tagged me with a meme asking what I was doing 10, 20 and 30 years ago. So here goes - off the top of my head, at 9 pm.

October 1997. We lived in Thame, Oxfordshire, England. I was working at the UK headquarters of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Our second son, Ben, had been born about a year before. We were preparing for what was next - a move to Colorado in 1998. Sadly, that was our best year in England. We had to choose between living there forever or moving back to the land of our births.

October 1987. I lived in Dallas, Texas. I was doing graphic design for Wycliffe at their international headquarters. A little less than a year later, I would meet and fall in deep infatuation with Heather. (Love followed not much far after.)

October 1977. I was a freshman at Texas Tech University - having fun away from the parents' home. Thankfully, Lubbock was (is) a town with few enough distractions that I could study when needed. I was going through a bit of culture shock - having moved there from 5 years in the Boston area. It took me a while to figure out what a Skoal ring was.

In turn, I tag Jon, Barb and Rob.

Sometimes I think I wasted my money on something

...but these guys brought that whole thing to a new level.

I was thinking of buying Chrysler just last week. Alas, Cerebrus beat me to it.