Thursday, January 31, 2008

Missed Obama

Early Tuesday morning, Heather and I went down to the University of Denver to see Mr. Al Obama give a pep rally. The problem was that we didn't camp out overnight like a lot of people did. So after waiting in line for about an hour, we left. Well, we left after I figured out that there was no way in the world that we were going to fit in the 10,000-seat arena, since maybe 20,000 people were in line before us, and the arena was already probably half-filled.

They didn't quite have the logistics worked out.

No comments here about whether Mr. Obama is the man for the job. (I can tell you that Hillary will not be my choice, though!) We just thought it would be interesting to hear his words live, in person (well, looking at a little dot on the stage). Alas, not to be.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eat your way to health

I have this thing against buffet restaurants. Whenever I go (which is very rarely), there are always a large number of large people filling their plates with a large amount of food and returning to the buffet a large amount of times.

But when I saw this ad for Sweet Tomatoes, I had to laugh. They are bundling their buffet with a discount package to Healthyroads - "a personalized one-on-one online & phone-based health coaching program to help you achieve your healthy living goals."

Hint: don't spend the money on Healthyroads - just avoid Sweet Tomatoes! Go for a brisk walk 2 or 3 days a week. You'll be fine. There - I saved you $50 a month (or something like that).

Comic courtesy of Bizarro by Dan Piraro.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Harvard Robotic Fly

I didn't have the patience or time to watch more than about 5 seconds of the video - but my main comment is that humans still have a long way to go in the creation game. (However, the fake fly doesn't spread disease - advantage.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kenya - a way to help

Julie asked...

If you want to help in response to the disaster in Kenya, I have already mentioned praying.

You can also give. The International Committee of the Red Cross can connect your gift directly to the Kenyan Red Cross, who are doing a lot of efforts to help those hit by the strife there. Here's the donation link and a page telling how they are helping.

Peter Kioko is a good friend of ours who works for the Kenyan Red Cross. He has been really busy of late!

Update: another place to give is via The International Mission Board (SBC). They have a fund for Human Needs Ministries, here. Please designate your gift for Kenya disaster relief. (Thanks to Bob for that giving possibility.)

Superbowl = Christmas? terms of marketing, it's similar.

For several years now, in the States, the push for Christmas starts just after Halloween. Buy, buy, buy - is what the marketeers tell us.

So for the last month or so, the marketeers have been selling snacks in the Sunday newspaper coupon supplements. I would have thought that one or two weeks would have been early enough. (The stuff would go bad in your pantry if you bought it a month ahead of time!)

And every electronics seller has advertised expensive flat screen TVs with football games on them, ever since Christmas.

By the way, for those of you who haven't tried Big Red, don't bother. It's pretty yucky.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kenya: the latest death toll raises to nearly 800

"We have moved out to revenge the deaths of our brothers and sisters who have been killed, and nothing will stop us," said Anthony Mwangi, hefting a club threateningly. "For every one Kikuyu killed, we shall avenge their killing with three." (AP)


Friday, January 25, 2008

One of the worst

Here's one of the worst looking blogs I have run across in a long time.

The worst feature (besides the day-glow yellow) is the huge section after every single post that is given over to "Share the love" and "Send this post to a friend".

You can't buy it here in America

I was amused by this little snippet my sister in Belgium sent me.

We still send each other things in the mail. Not as much as we used to. (She has a great excuse not to - 3 kids under the age of 6.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What all this unhappiness?

I don't know if you noticed that the American rap (hip hop) culture basically says that their males must be unhappy at all times. I have studied ads featuring men in that demographic, and they always have an angry expression on their faces.

Why? I guess it's cool to be angry.

It's yet another proof that wealth is not the secret to happiness. The clothing outfits those guys are advertising cost about what our entire family spends on clothes for one year.

The message of this ad certainly is not "buy these clothes and you'll be happy." Maybe it's: "buy these clothes and you'll be cool - and that will make you happy." And perhaps today's happy does not have to have a smile attached.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A generic welcome

I was amused by this sign on a rental car shuttle minibus. Those who ran that office never took the time to program the little computer to change "our city" to "St. Louis".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time goes fast

Heather and I shared a lunch a week or so ago in our sun room. (That's also where our home office is.) It had snowed the night before. The sun was out. In the short 30 minutes of our lunch, a lot of the snow melted from the roof.

I couldn't help but reflect on how quickly things change.

What is it that you need to do today before the opportunity is completely gone forever?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yes, good news for Denver

Smart Cars are coming to Colorado.

The big corporate people picked a strange location - a kind of run-down section of Englewood on Broadway, next to a bunch of used car dealers.

I love Smart Cars. I have never driven one (unlike my friend John). They are an amazingly small size and yet are safe to drive in the daily battleground that most commuters face. However, they get surprisingly bad fuel economy for such a small vehicle. A Honda Fit 1.2* is much larger and more versatile - and yet gets better miles per the old gallon of fossil fuel. (It's not available in the States but is the same car as the Honda Jazz but a more efficient engine.)

It was great to see a Smart on the cover of the Jan. 18-20 edition of USA Weekend magazine. (That's a Parade-like magazine that is distributed with many national newspapers. Funny enough, Denver gets both that one and Parade.)

*Thanks to Baris for the correction. And that one is the car John & Amy drive!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I didn't watch the Keynote

But you can - in 60 seconds. (Well, if you add the credits, it's longer...)

Funny thing - in the little video, I heard the Mac "on" sound and thought my Mac had cutout and was re-booting itself! Even thought I was watching the video at the time, I instinctively thought that was the case.

Upstart Blogger

The blog, Upstart Blogger, has a contest. If you link to them, your name is in a hat for a free iPhone.

So I'm in.

There's a problem, though. If I won the phone, I could not afford the monthly AT&T fees! So what would I do then?

Why do we do it?

Sugar, that is...

I enjoy a good hit of sugar. Cookies, chocolate, whatever. (I do drink my coffee black, though.) But the problem comes when the sugar wears off. The craving for another "fix" is not quite as strong as cocaine (which I have never experienced - but have read about).

We know that when we eat a candy bar:
1. It's not good for our waistline (for some people)
2. The high will wear off
3. It costs something that would probably be better spent elsewhere

So why do we do it?

Well, the cost must be more than the expenses - at least in the short-term. I think all of us live our lives with a mixture of short-term orientation and long-term orientation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The reason why Kenya is messed up right now


Kenya's government also brushed aside threats by its major international donors, including the United States, to review foreign aid.

"Our budget is not dependent on foreign funding," said Alfred Mutua, a government spokesman. "The government cannot be blackmailed. You are here as our development partners, you are not here to blackmail and threaten us," he said referring to foreign donors. "We have said our government will continue as always. They should not try to threaten us."

The US and others are threatening to take away their aid ($600 million a year) partly because:

American diplomats in Kenya recently finished their own analysis of the voting results and concluded that the election was so flawed it was impossible to tell who really won.

(From an article by the New York Times.)

Update (Friday): More than 700 people have been killed in riots, police raids and ethnically-driven clashes since Kibaki was declared the winner of the election on December 30th. (AFP)

The law industry

One of the areas that America is way over the top in is its law industry.

For Christmas, my mom gave Heather a subscription to Readers Digest. Fully 16 pages of the 222 were small print - warnings required by the law industry's efforts to make your life better. (Or more likely - to make their lives better. John Grisham has a lot to say about this.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Blaupunkt story

In 1987, Blaupunkt, a German car stereo company, ran this ad in several national magazines in the USA.

Problem: the mountains pictured in the ad had this caption: "The mountains of Europe are just one of the obstacles Blaupunkts engineers have had to overcome to improve radio reception." Reason that was a problem? The pictured mountains are the most-photographed mountains in all of North America - the Maroon Bells of Colorado.

I sent them a letter pointing out that error - and they sent me a pen set as a "token of our thanks for your alertness". An amusing part of the letter was this: "The art director at the ad agency was certainly chagrined by your discovery, as was the ad agency."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Paul's 5-second MacBook Air Review

* Way cool thin body with hidden ports
* Longer battery life
* "Pinch, swipe & rotate" trackpad for those iPhone users (not me)
* Enough built-in memory

Minus (US prices):
* $1800 80gb 4200rpm HD or $3100 for the flash mem 64gb HD
* $100 for an external superdrive (Otherwise, you need to syphon off another computer to access a DVD! But Apple rightly assumes that 99.9% of the Air buyers have another computer to do that with.)
* $20 for an Apple Remote
* Slower processors

* Buy a MacBook non-Air and save at least $600
* Or: very cool, if you can afford it

More from my friend Bob (all minuses):
* Non-user replaceable battery - you can't have an extra battery for traveling purposes or purchase a 3rd-party replacement
* No ethernet port - what do you do when there's no wireless?
* No Firewire port - no booting in target disk mode
* No card slot - no cell phone type wireless connections

Winter can get ugly

Do you know how?

... to figure out how many people read your blog via an RSS reader?

I found some info a month or so ago from the google empire, but it was not written for a mere mortal such as I - and also, it seemed to only let one discover how many read your blog via their RSS reader. I'm wondering if there's any simple free tool that collects data that all RSS readers give about a blog's readership.

If not, there'a an idea for those of you programmers out there.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Remember my wonderings?

(See my post on December 13th.)

Well, I was right - they couldn't make it there.

Friday, January 11, 2008

More, addictive

I had low hopes for this candy bar. But it was excellent! I'm not a big fan of caramel, but this particular layer of carmel must have had drugs in it.

As always, I bought it on sale. Wish I'd bought more than one!

Kit Kat is originally an English candy bar. But my guess is that this variety is only available in North America. (But if you're in Europe, there is better stuff over there, anyhow.)

Two shallow blog entries in one day - maybe as good as one pithy entry.

Why your company should have a blog

Bill Israel: "Strange as it may sound, but I prefer to buy from a company that maintains a blog. I suppose there’s something about the transparency that I find reassuring."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Still cool

I saw these on the Urban Outfitters website.

I couldn't believe that Topsiders can still be alright in that audience's eyes. (I guess I'm part of the Urban Outfitters' audience, but that's pretty unusual for someone my age.)

And I'm not saying that I'm cool. Just that Urban Outfitters is. (Are?)

The need for the Gospel

Superstition is still part of the lives of many today...

The Daily Nation newspaper (in Kenya, article by Amina Kibirige) ran an amusing story this week of looters flocking to return stolen property to a timber merchant in Mombasa (there was even a photograph to go with it!). The owner of the business had given a seven day ultimatum for the thieves to return thousands of shillings worth of wood planks and said that if the goods were not returned he would; ‘invoke a special Islamic prayer’ known as halbadiri in Kiswahili: ‘It is one of the most feared curses at the Coast as it is believed that it brings calamities to those it is directed at.’

The article quoted a man who named himself John Josh and was in the process of returning 20 planks of wood: ‘Despite the fact that I was turning myself into a laughing stock, I returned the planks that I had stolen for fear of what might befall me. ‘What drove us to this point is a rumour that one man dropped dead as he carried away a stolen TV set from an electronic shop – why wait for such a fate to befall me yet there is a dealine I can beat?’ he said. Some hired handcarts to return the loot. A worker at the hardware said that word had spread fast: ‘They started coming in from Sunday at 11pm and have not stopped till now.’

(I am quoting this story via Africa Expat Wife.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New logo

I like the type part - but not the ball. (The "X" in the ball makes me feel like it's a subversion of The Red Cross - or the Swiss Flag.)

Purely for art's sake

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


During the Christmas holidays, it snowed a lot.

To combat cabin fever, our kids spent a lot of time out on the trampoline - even when it was snowing!

(By the way, it snowed again, last night.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Celestial Seasonings

I love factory tours.

During the Christmas holidays, we went up to Boulder to tour the Celestial Seasonings factory. It was fun - and free (not counting the money we spent on gas).

The tour itself was interesting. The famous "Mint Room" was overwhelming in its pungency, as I had heard. Another tip a previous tour recipient gave us was to go on a day when the factory is running. We did so, and that was worth it. (We went to a chocolate factory in Denver one year, and very few of the production lines were running - that was a disappointment.)

The highlight for me was the tea room - where we hung out before our tour started. About 5 hot teas and 4 cold teas were available to drink. Excellent! They had all manner of sweeteners, including what I used - some honey-like agave syrup (light and dark).

Gracing the walls of the tea room are original paintings that were used for the illustrations on the tea packages. Beautiful artwork!

So, see?! I do make this blog a little bit about Colorado, from time to time.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Remember the game of tag?

Well, I have been tagged. And that's a good thing.

My good friend Dave Moody tagged me. The intent? To quote Barb (Dave's wife) who was quoting someone else, "We look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too."

Dave has been a huge blessing to me, particularly during our period of transition from life in Kenya to this life in suburbia. And he has blessed me countless times over the roughly nine years we have known each other.

So I'm passing that blessing on to these friends, in no particular order:

Jon Swanson: We have met only through blogging - through our mutual blog buddy Chris Brogan. Jon is a pastor in Indiana who pastors more than just his physical flock; he has a virtual flock who are blessed by his regular writings on his blog. I am blessed in that way!

Eddie Arthur: We have met face-to-face. And we share our "company" - Wycliffe Bible Translators. Our paths have crossed a few times over the years, since we have both lived in England and Africa. But primarily we have shared via blogging. I appreciate Eddie's fresh perspective - particularly since he is not a North American.

I'm kinda cheating, because the original deal was "one blog friend" - but I can't do this without mentioning Marti, Rob S., Rob L., Mark, Heather, Artie, Ed, Julie, Josh, Courtney, Chris, Bob, and John & Amy. I'd urge you to visit them all!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Snack of the year

I am attracted to new things. During our two years away from the States, these were at least three of the new products by my favorite mainstream American cookie maker. So of course I had to try them. Somebody had to suffer.

So the Mint Milanos are killer. You gotta try them, if you live in the States and like chocolate and mint.

Disclaimers: 1) These things are addictive. 2) These things are expensive. (I only buy them on sale.)

My friend Shane has resolved to do a blog for 2008. (And I mention that here as a way of holding him accountable.) My new year's resolution is to try whatever new Pepperidge Farm cookies are introduced.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

We were about 3 miles away

Just as a frame of reference, we lived about 3 miles from Uhuru Park, where the rally was supposed to take place.

Here's a message today from our friends who now live in that apartment: "We live in a really secure compound and in a secure flat on the first floor. We didn't go anywhere today and we are planning on staying put tomorrow too. The situation in Kenya is super tense and totally uncertain. There isn't a lot of food around. Praise God that we did a big shopping trip and we have nearly a full tank of petrol should the need arise. So we are all safe and will continue to be so."

Anyhow, tomorrow may be another attempt by the opposition to stage a rally.

And apparently, since I wrote this morning, Kibaki said he is willing to talk to Raila - "I am ready to have dialogue with the concerned parties once the nation is calm and the political temperatures are lowered enough for constructive and productive engagement." (Source: BBC)

Kenya: relative calm, at the moment

The rally planned for today has been postponed.

But fuel and food are still not making their way to most of Kenya. Kibaki and Raila won't talk to each other. The economy is not helped by the effects of all the deaths. Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner for Kenya, and tourists won't be flocking in - for a while now.

Great editorial here.

Photo? Unrelated, but it was a quick way for me to illustrate peace. (Sleep is supposed to be a time of rest - for most people.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Some have been calling the post-
election clashes in Kenya a genocide (the Luos vs. the Kikuyus).

Let's not call use that term in this case; I think it's not to that scale. And I'm hoping it doesn't reach that scale.

Some reports have said as many as 300 have died. Some say more.

It is very unreal to be watching the chaos from nine thousand miles away. My heart and Heather's heart are very much over there with our friends and colleagues living in Kenya.

Seeing what Raila and Kibaki are doing to the beautiful country of Kenya (by not seeking reconciliation with each other) is like watching someone throw a beautiful piece of handmade pottery down on the ground and smashing it to bits.

As you pray, please pray for tomorrow - Raila, the opposition leader who lost the election, has called for a rally to protest the election results, tomorrow (Thursday the 3rd). This will most likely not be a peaceful rally!

Photo from BBC - a family being forced to leave their home in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi.

The Cowboy Walk of Fame

Have you ever been to Hollywood? There are stars in the pavement, commemorating the stars from films of years gone by. I think the star committee eventually expanded the criteria to include TV and music stars.

If you visit the Fort Worth Stockyards, you can see stars commemorating famous cowboys. I loved this one: Erastus Deaf Smith". I think it's safe to say he was famous many years ago. If he were alive today, it would be completely politically incorrect to recognize the fact that he was hearing-challenged, especially as part of his name!

And happy new year to you.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

After all that heaviness about Kenya

...I bring you this ridiculous item from Sunday's paper.

For a mere $113, this lovely item can sit on your mantle. "Just flip the switch to set the holiday train [at his feet] in motion."

"Shown smaller than its impressive actual size of about 10 inches high."

(You can double-click on the picture to see more of its glorious detail.)