Monday, December 31, 2007

Still pray

It's still very very tense in Nairobi.

As a colleague put it, "Pray that the opposition leaders will soften their rebellious stance, and that they may not take the country into chaos. It just isn't worth it, surely. Pray that the innocent may be protected, and that justice may overcome evil wherever it is found. You could also pray for others who went out of town on holiday and now cannot get back home due to safety concerns on the roads."

An expat insider's perspective is here.

(Photo from

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kibaki wins

Less than two hours after the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared Kibaki a winner (by a very slim margin), he was sworn into power.

Please pray for peace - the opposition will continue to dispute the election results.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It looks like Raila is going to win

Many of you know that we lived in Kenya for two years, ending in June 2007. So our hearts are still partially over there.

Thursday was a presidential election. The opposition candidate appears to be winning. (Election results will not be completely in until maybe the end of Sunday.)

Kibaki, the outgoing president, was OK. He wasn't perfect and was often ineffective. But Raila will not be an improvement, in my humble opinion. Anyone who names their son Fidel Castro and drives a Hummer through the poorest neighborhood of Kenya is questionable. (Funny enough, the people did not say bad things about him when he drove his Hummer through their neighborhood. Ironically, they liked his show of power and wealth.) Furthermore, he has often frequently changed his stance on issues based on the popular thing that people want to hear. This reminds me of God telling the Israelites, "So you want a king like the rest of the nations? You can have one! But don't blame me when things go wrong."

Anyhow, please pray for Kenya right now. Some from Raila's tribe (the Luo) are fighting against some from Kibaki's tribe (the Kikuyu) - each saying that the other tribe is rigging the election. Here's a snippet from a Reuters report:

Police fired teargas and bullets into the air in fruitless efforts to disperse the swelling crowds. Even young children joined in, laughing and swigging beer from stolen crates.

"These are free gifts," said a panting looter, Javan Samson Omondi, as he paused to rest from carrying a stolen sewing-machine and three pairs of shoes in a box.

Update, from The International Herald Tribune:

...[Odinga's] lead nearly vanished overnight. On Saturday morning, the gap had been cut to about 100,000 votes, with Odinga still ahead, but barely, with 47 percent of the vote compared with 46 percent for Kibaki. By Saturday night, with about 90 percent of the vote counted, Odinga's lead had shrunk to a mere 38,000 votes.

But those results may not be valid. According to Kenya's election commission, which is considered somewhat independent from the government, at least three areas from Kibaki's stronghold of central Kenya reported suspiciously high numbers. In one area, Kibaki received 105,000 votes, even though there were only 70,000 registered voters. In another, the vote tally was changed, at the last minute, to give the president an extra 60,000 votes. In a third area, the turnout was reported at 98 percent.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The joy of tenants

We have a small apartment in our basement. We rent it out on a short-term basis to people from the nearby Denver Seminary or a mission that is headquartered close to our house. We have been doing this for at least two years. (That doesn't count the two years that we were in Africa.)

Without exception, our tenants have been a blessing. A new person is coming in a couple of weeks.

So Brook, our very first tenant, gave us this mancala game. We have all enjoyed playing it. Rachel, almost 7, has discovered the joys of playing.

Thanks, Brook!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A fun Christmas present

(Well, it came the day after Christmas.)

I really enjoy writing letters to the editor. I more enjoy it when they get published. (This is the third time my favorite magazine has published me, I think.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Candy vs. Crown

Candy won.

Yes, Heather made some delicious anise candy to give as Christmas gifts to some of our neighbors. And our family benefited too by enjoying some of the candy.

The problem was that my crown could not withstand the forces of said candy attempting to extract itself from my teeth. Alas.

Problem two was that the incident happened on Saturday afternoon of the long holiday weekend. So as I write this, the repair has not yet happened. (Almost every dentist I could find was closed on Monday, Christmas eve.)


Update: the dentist put the crown back on for free - but he revealed two cavities - one on the crowned tooth, which was hidden till the crown came off! So the crown coming off was a strange blessing. But the bill for the two cavities being fixed won't be much fun.

Monday, December 24, 2007

And a Merry Christmas to all!

Well, snow does seem to go with Christmas, if you are from North America. We have snow on the ground and some is expected for tomorrow.

This shot is of our back yard, a few days ago. Truly a wintery scene.

Last year at this time, we were in warm Kenya. Contrast.

So y'all have a great Christmas! And a happy new year too, if you don't check in before then. (I will be posting between now and then - but not on Christmas.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Humbled - and hono(u)red

Eddie was very kind to name me "Blog of the Year".

It is honouring to be put into such a lofty position. To honour his brand of the language English, I will spell "honor" the proper British English way: "honour". (But having lived for three years in England, I have problems with calling the UK brand of English, "British English". But it's very cumbersome to say "UK-ish English".)

ps I share this honour with David Ker, of the wonderful site Lingamish.

No room at the inn - that Volvo story

Here we are, in June 2003. (Well, I was behind the camera.)

We were driving from San Diego back to Denver. Part of our journey involved camping, so we had all our camping gear in three car top carriers. The car was stuffed to the gills.

I was cruising on a back road in Arizona, enjoying some of the scenery at higher-than-legal speeds. It was hot - over 100 degrees. The air conditioning was on full blast but barely keeping us cool. Suddenly, the cabin filled with smoke. Vaporized coolant fluid, to be exact. My eyes sped to the temp gauge. It was pegged in the red area. I immediately shut off the engine. It was too late; the cylinders had melted into the block.

The nearest town was Quartzite, population 3,000 (maybe). Unfortunately, since I had chosen to take a back road, there were no vehicles passing by every minute. Praise God - our cel phone worked! I called our insurance company to ask for a tow. (Thankfully I had paid the extra on the policy for that privilege.) Maybe an hour later, a tow truck passed by. The driver didn't seem to figure out that a car with its hood open might be the one he was to tow. 20 minutes later, he came back.

In the meantime, we felt like Abraham's wife Hagar - out in the desert, ready to die. We tried to find shade, but the biggest bushes offered little in the way of comfort.

I ran across the road for a private moment (to get rid of some of that water I had been chugging), and that's when a crazy driver stopped to ask if he could "help" Heather. Fortunately he was able to understand her firm "No!"

Back to the tow truck. He hauled us to Quartzite. We booked ourselves into the Quality Inn (or something like that) - a very generic hotel with no pool, and 3 channels of cable TV.

Quartzite does not have seven Volvo dealers. None, in fact. Repair? The engine melt-down meant it was totaled. Selling it for parts? The only dealer in Quartzite dealt in 60s American cars. He didn't care about a 1990 Swedish relic. Towing it to Phoenix to sell it to a used Volvo guy would have cost too much. And finding and negotiating with such a dealer would have meant days of hassle. Mr. 60s Americana bought it for $75. At least we didn't have to pay him to dispose of it for us.

The adding-insult-to-injury aspects to the lost car were that I had put some new nice tires not three months before. And the very day before, I had gone across San Diego to purchase a new seatbelt ($100).

Quartzite had no rental cars to get our family back to Denver. Their U-Haul outlet was out of everything. The regional bus service to Phoenix only did runs anywhere every Tuesday & Thursday. It was Wednesday. Hitch-hiking was the only option. But who would pick up a single man by the side of the highway? Not me!

Baking on the edge of the Interstate entrance ramp for two or three hours was no fun. (That's the "no room at the inn" part of this story.) Heather hiked over with the kids to see how I was doing. Then a trucker stopped - he was willing to give all of us a ride to Phoenix! I rode solo with him, hearing his tales of trucking - and the injustices of the system. (He had plowed into a suicide driver, who came the wrong way onto the highway at high speed. He was ruled not at fault in the death, but it was a major hassle to get back on the road after that ordeal.)

Phoenix - minivan rental. Back to Quartzite. On to Denver. Then we sucked up our pride and bought a minivan. "Saving" thousands of dollars by having a better fuel-economy vehicle turned out to be the worst waste of money in my entire life. We could have rented a Lexus for what we spent for our time with that old Volvo.

So you made it through my longest blog post ever.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Remember AOL?

I think broadband killed them. Or lots of bad decisions by the big people at the top.

Another possibility is the huge amount they spent in sending people diskettes and later CDs, with their bloated install files.

And the passwords - they always cracked me up!

Now I know - AOL is not dead yet. Some of my friends still use AOL addresses for their email. But my point is this: they are a slim shadow of the giant they once were.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why do we buy into that?

This quote is from an article about the biggest church in North America. I didn't read the whole thing. (In fact, I just skimmed it.) But I think this has a lot to say about America's level of taste. (I always say, why do you think MacDonalds is the most popular restaurant chain in the world?)

"The reason Osteen is so popular is because of the infantilism of America. He feeds the Paris Hilton, Britney Spears culture. It's all me. Benefit me. What can I do for me? How can I feel better? It's all me-centered."

So rather than just pointing the finger at others, I must ask myself how I buy into those kinds of lies. And try to stop doing so.

What once held value... now rubbish.

Madison lost her cell phone.

I found this little battery cover by the side of the road. The shiny aspect caught my eye, as I was riding my bike somewhere. So I picked it up to share it with you.

The shiny bit is from the popular Razr model - which in Kenya was going for about $300 when we left there. Hard to think of a $300 phone lying in pieces on the side of the road. (And yes, I know that they are given away here in the States - as part of a cell phone subscription package.)

I'd guess that maybe Madison's daddy was unhappy when she told him the fate of her Razr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Spacey in my old age

I photographed this iron, and now I can't remember why.

It lives on the window sill in our small bathroom.

But I was reminded of the irons many people use in Kenya - the flat surface is heated by charcoal. Temperature control? It takes a while to master that.

So be thankful this Christmas for the electric power that heats your iron.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rachel's News

As I mentioned before, once a week, Rachel's first grade class creates a weekly news sheet. Here are two entries from last week's. )Click on the image to enlarge.)

Worthy of mention - Isabel is not ashamed of the fact that her mom prays over her. (Theirs is a public school.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tis the Season?

I dunno about this ad - it more or less says, "Tis the Season to drink so much you can't safely drive home..."

Friday, December 14, 2007

So cheap


I have had these Top Siders for about 18 years.

They have been re-heeled about ten times. Re-soled just once. Then, finally, last month, I had to re-stitch them.

Why don't just I throw them away and start over? Well, a big part of it is that I'm not willing to spend the money for a new pair. (About $72 now.) Another reason is that they are broken in perfectly. They slip on so easily that they live by our front door - so I can slip them on to go out for a minute.

So yes, this cheapness can be a bad thing - when it gets to be some sort of bad pride, like when we had an ancient Volvo. I was always saying how old it was - but it turned out to be the worst use of money we ever did, when it died in the desert. But that's another story.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Get a life, Opera

"Opera Software has filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft in the EU, accusing it of stifling competition by tying IE to Windows."

My question is, will they file an antitrust suit against Apple, since their Safari browser is part of every Mac? Oops, don't tell Opera I said that; it might give them some ideas. (What browser ships with the new computers that have Linux installed? Should those open-source-merchants get sued too?)

How do these places stay in business?

I always wonder that as I drive by stores like this one. (It's about 3 miles from our house.)

Ya gotta make the buck - and people are very creative in how they attempt to bring customers into their businesses.

But as I have observed before, so much junk like this ends up at garage sales, selling for a fraction of what it originally cost. Or the Goodwill. Or a landfill.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Ikea goodness

Back when we made the Thanksgiving trip to Texas, we visited Ikea. We only bought my office chair, one small furniture piece - and the deal of the century (well, not quite) - these glass tea candle holders. They were only 29c each!!

They were in the classic impulse buying position - next to the checkout stand. And there was a long line, so we had lots of time to agonize over that extra $1.16 (plus tax) that we were to spend.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alternative Christmas gift ideas

If you listen to this message, you might be inspired to not buy another gift that will end up going out of fashion, breaking, being obsolete in a few years or being outgrown.

Here are a few ways to give a gift that will impact someone: one, two, three - or all three!

I love winter!

Maybe that's because our last two winters were in equatorial Africa - where December and January are the hottest months. The contrast this year is nice.

So Saturday morning (when I wrote this and took the pic) I walked to our nearby post office to mail Christmas presents to my brother in San Antonio and my sister and her family in Belgium. The feel of the cold nipping at my face was refreshing. The quiet that a light coat of snow adds to the outdoors is wonderful. Walking out in all that allowed me to truly experience the cold like no other way.

And yes, I'm thankful that I'm not homeless in Denver this winter.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I hate Hummers

Yes, it's true. Anyone who knows me knows that. If you don't know me, now you know that.

Well, the smallest Hummer, the H3, is now available in a new version - the "Alpha". (I mean, that name alone gives you a clue to why I'm not a fan.)

Anyhow, the review of it in the September issue of Automobile magazine, they said: "With the five-cylinder version already returning lousy fuel economy, a pretty strong case can be made for upgrading to the V8 [Alpha] for [an extra] $8,500. Why deny the fat man dessert?"

Disclaimer: if you live in rural Kenya, a Hummer would be a very useful vehicle to have - excepts parts are not available anywhere near Africa.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Elections are coming... Kenya.

For the very best written description of Kibera, Kenya's largest slum, go here. It's from an outsider (a British expat) - but it's pretty accurate, at least from my American expat eyes.

If you read the whole post, you can see several prayer points, even though I think the author is not a person who believes in prayer. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Ms Expat Wife.)

God is the best artist

This sunset happened outside our front window a few evenings ago. I had to capture it for you... glorious and wonderful!

For once, I didn't alter the image in any way, except down-sizing it for web consumption. (Most of the time, I tweak the exposure of my images a bit in Photoshop - just to make the message of each photo a little easier to see.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A proud Dad


This is the response card from a church we visited in Grapevine, Texas, over the Thanksgiving break. My six-year old daughter Rachel filled out the card. I'm glad she didn't turn it in, not because it would have confused the card-reading department, but because then I wouldn't have seen it!

Rachel hasn't learned to do cursive writing yet, but she has learned how to fill out a form! If you click on the picture, you can see the glorious detail.

By the way, that church was really interesting - unlike any I have ever visited. It was more like a rock concert than a church service. The production was slicker than some TV shows I've seen. And the service - or one of the three each weekend - is broadcast live on just about every Christian cable TV channel you can get. (We can't get; we don't have cable.)

Anyhow, it was very ego-driven; the pastor's photo was on the cover of just about every book in the bookstore. And you can see from the website that he wants to be in your face, from the fact that his face is on many of the site's pages. I was amused to note that his age is not part of his bio information. (Look? 40. Actual? 55, I'd guess.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The REAL Coors Field

As we were waiting for the free bus to take us back to the train station (see post just below) - we waited inside the lobby of this place called "ESPN Zone" - or something like that. (It was cold outside!) I think it was a sports bar of some kind. (We didn't venture into that part of the establishment to find out.)

Anyhow, in the lobby is this amazing recreation of Coors Field. It was created only using Coors labels and bottle caps.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Great story

You gotta read this. (I listened to the story in my car; you can listen to it via that site, too.)

Kudos to that guy who is making a difference in his "retirement" years.

Train riding fun

Yesterday afternoon, for a family outing, we rode the train from a suburb of Denver to downtown. There are two main lines, both going from south of town to the heart of downtown.

We were hoping to see some Christmas displays in shop windows (like when I was a kid going into Washington, DC). But we were disappointed.

Anyhow, the train ride was fun for all. Very smooth and fast. (Not fast like the European trains, but fast compared enough to be about the same speed as traffic-free driving there.)

Europe does trains right, of course - because they started their networks so much earlier than Denver did. The same goes for many US cities. Now the infrastructure costs so much - but I'm glad they're doing it.