Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Year in review: Or, a Christmas letter

My mom used to write a page-long Christmas letter to old friends of hers, a lot of them people I never met.

She'd design it in the word processing program on computer and add photos like they were clipart. Once I got into writing, I wrote my own segment of the letter, then eventually wrote the entire letter a couple of years.

But I've never snail-mailed my own Christmas letter, apparently. In a digital age, there's little reason to, as most of my friends like to keep in touch via text message or Facebook.

In lieu of a snail-mail letter (I'll send cards instead, late as usual), here's a digital summary of my life this past year!

Sarah's Christmas Update 

God has been incredibly good to me this year. I promise this isn't a humblebrag. Here are the things I get asked about the most.

The most exciting: I bought a house in June! An adorable two-bedroom place with a garage and beautiful hardwood floors. Email me if you'd like to see pictures!

I'm now news editor at the newspaper where I work, which as of April means I am mostly in charge of deciding what news to cover - leading two reporters and the photographer - and editing each day's news sections, with some guidance from the managing editor. I've officially been at this newspaper for 21 months and it's a blast. They let me start writing a weekly column a couple of months ago, too.

My church recently lost its pianist to retirement/moving away, so in addition to playing guitar and bass, I've pitched in on piano for a few Christmas carols in the last few weeks. I can only play broken chords -  don't read music well enough to actually play from that - but it's giving me a good reason to try to learn to play piano properly. I began teaching children's church this summer, about once a month, and this fall began co-leading a weekly Bible study for middle school girls. If there's one thing I'd like prayer for, it's these girls - I love them to death and I want to be a good example to them, to point them to Christ. And, you know... It's middle school. Lots of drama in their lives. :P

It's been a little more than a year now since I began teaching English to a wonderful woman who moved here from Cuba a few years ago. She's an excellent student and always comes with tons of questions about idioms or turns of phrase that she's heard at her job.

This summer I became part of Big Brothers Big Sisters and was matched with a dear little 9-year-old girl who enjoys guitar, indoor games, biking and helping make cookies. She played peewee football and soccer over the summer, so I went to my first football game in probably 8 or 10 years.

That about sums up the highlights this year. I pray that all who read this have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

- Sarah

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't get addicted to coffee

I do drink coffee... On occasion. By which I mean, once a week, if that. I'm not addicted.

I plan to keep it that way after following a friend of mine's account of his coffee cleanse. The "cleanse," or cold-turkey coffee quittance, began Friday. Nearly all his tweets since then chronicle the trials and tribulations of an addict's sudden abstinence. And they're amusing.

Yea tho I walk thru the aisle of the freshly ground coffee, I will fear no evil #coffeecleanseday1

Who ever thought cheap church coffee could be so tempting? #coffeecleanseday2

Apparently there is a direct connection between drinking coffee and remembering to use deodorant. #coffeecleanseday2

Nerves are short. I got mad at a spatula. A FLIPPIN' SPATULA. #coffeecleanseday3

Can't read my own hand writing. Dialed five variations of the same numbers. Never did reach a real phone. I'm losing it. #coffeecleanseday3

Before you ask, I have no idea if the tweet about the spatula was punny on purpose.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Compendium of Links #49

It's snowing out, and it looks gorgeous, as the first snow often does. I've decided I really like the look of my adorable little house in the snow. It's like Little House on the Prairie, but 1920's city edition.

Wait, somebody still thinks Jesus was white??

The maker's schedule vs. the manager's schedule...
Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.
A psychologist explains online dating. (Hey, I read The Atlantic. So what?) And in the psychologist's words: "It can expand the pool of potential partners, making available a whole slew of people who otherwise would have been unavailable. That’s a huge, huge benefit. But, at least thus far, it can’t figure out who’s compatible with you" That's exactly what I've suspected for quite some time.

Journo nerds only: A news organization that rejects traditional conceptions of objectivity.

How to teach math to your children: Use Legos.

 A collection of great maps: What each country leads the world in (USA: "Nobel laureates and getting killed by lawnmowers"), a real-time map of the wind in the USA and all the world's earthquakes since 1898 mapped.

And for your viewing pleasure: Set to part of "The Nutcracker."
Cute, isn't he?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Big weekend

It's been a big, busy, exciting weekend.

Saturday was my state's press association's annual awards luncheon, and I got an award.

Not just one, though. Three! All I knew going in was that I was getting something, but I figured it'd be third place in some itty bitty category. But I actually got a little certificate for being... punny. That and the other particular awards I got were completely unexpected. (But the award for being punny was the best. Remember, editors love puns. Especially in headlines.)

And then today, I played piano. In front of people. And without reading music (because my musical-note-literacy is limited to reading one, maybe two, notes at a time). After years of plinking out notes and chords and then broken chords on the black and white keys, sans lessons, it's finally paid off. (Meaning, when church has absolutely nobody else to play the Christmas carols in December, it's not quite the disaster it could've been. :D )

Thursday, December 05, 2013

What I learned #8: About composers

I've realized a groundbreaking fact this week.

All the great composers were German!

Bach. Mendelssohn. Handel. Mozart. BEETHOVEN. Wagner. Etc.

Granted, there were also good composers who weren't German. Tchaikovsky, to name one. And Rimsky-Korsakov and Vivaldi. But it simply astounds me how many of the traditional classical composers weren't Russian or Italian or French.

They were German.

Weird, huh?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Life on my own #47: Birthdays

Note: The following was written three minutes before the end of my 24th birthday.

One of the things I hadn't quite figured out was how to celebrate a birthday as an adult. When you're not close enough to your immediate family to just do the whole special homemade-to-order dinner that you've been used to for years, that is.

In college, I usually made it home for some weekend around my birthday and we had my favorite dinner -- crabmeat casserole. When I turned 21 I spent half the day doing some spec work for the editor who would end up hiring me for my first job post-college. Then that first year after college, I volunteered at a church dinner on the day I turned 22 (and, of course, ate more than my full of delicious potluck food). I still lived near my family, but I think they were all working or otherwise inescapably occupied.

The day I turned 23 -- last year -- I had to work. I managed to escape for a lunch date with my two closest cousins at my favorite restaurant (go Fazoli's!). Good food and good conversation with two of the only people who've known me since I was a young child -- that was heavenly. (The long day at work was a letdown after that.)

But when I was turning 24, I couldn't decide what to aim for. I made sure I had the day off -- I knew I didn't want to deal with work-related stress (much as I love my job) on the day I was supposed to be celebrating. But beyond that -- well, what does one do for grownup birthdays?

It's not as if it's a big deal. 24 is just 23 plus one. It's not like turning 16 or 18 or 21 or 30 or any of those other culturally significant milestones. I don't even bother with birthday cards or gifts much (though I love that my mom still gets me things! I can't wait to see what she got me, as she forgot to bring the gift over when she was last visiting).

My birthday usually serves as an opportune time for self-analysis and developing goals for the next year. (New Year's never worked that well for me. Birthdays are far better.) It's a day I don't need to spend being greeted with felicitations from every acquaintance I meet. I'm quite happy with an hour-and-a-half Skype call late at night with my siblings, for instance.

However, I did rather want to give myself the chance to enjoy the entire day. So this year, I decided to help out with another church function -- one that partly involved supervising the middle schoolers I've taken on this year -- and later having my Amiguita (young friend through Big Brothers Big Sisters) and her cousin over for a supper of pancakes and a lesson in making homemade bread.

The day was glorious.

It was a coincidence, really, that any of that took place on my birthday. But the church function took my attention off of myself for hours, and ensured everyone else's attention would also be elsewhere. My evening with my Amiguita did the same. She had never tasted honey or seen bread dough kneaded (even in a bread machine, which is what I used) or watched it rise. She'd never put peanut butter on her pancakes, either. We rectified those grievous life omissions immediately.

At first I forgot to tell people it was my birthday; then I didn't see fit to.

Both occasions highlighted how service is stretching and yet fulfilling -- how sometimes (read: more often than not) I subconsciously dread getting out there and doing something, yet once I'm doing it, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Helping at church and working hard at being a mentor for a 9-year-old are intimidating, but in retrospect they were the best ways that I could have chosen to celebrate being one year older, and hopefully wiser.

They drew me out of myself and spurred me on to pursue spiritual maturity and wisdom. And here I am, capping the night with analysis of my own behaviors and motivations throughout this day, the anniversary of my birth.

My conclusion? On birthdays, introspection is invaluable. Celebration of self is optional.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. It meant snow, usually. It meant cousins, but without the stress that Christmas brought. It meant people remembering to thank God for what he'd given them.
  • peanut butter
  • my family
  • cable Internet
  • maps
  • stringed instruments of all kinds
  • wise editors
  • philodendrons
  • tire repair centers
  • repair instruction videos
  • grace
  • cabbage (even when it's mistaken for lettuce)
  • friends nearby
  • far-away friends
  • Skype
  • Aldi
  • cousins
  • commuter trains
  • vlogs (like Emma Approved and The Autobiography of Jane Eyre)
  • Doctor Who
  • fountain pens
  • the times my back doesn't hurt from sitting in office chairs
  • my job
  • extra patience when I don't think I have any more
  • streetlights
  • stars
  • my house
  • my car
  • people who inspire me to change for the better
  • the Bible
  • second-hand shops
  • blankets
  • hats
  • the books of C. S. Lewis
  • movies about superheroes
  • texting
  • windows
  • organized bike rides
If I went on, I'd never stop typing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thought on Owl City

Owl City. You know, the guy who made it big singing about fireflies.

I really enjoy the Owl City project (several albums) and musician Adam Young's early acoustic project Sky Sailing. I'm intrigued by the sparing commentary he posts on his blog. His unashamed commitment to orthodox Christianity, and Reformed theology, no less!, inspires me. (He tweeted "Ephesians 2:8-10" tonight, for goodness' sake!)

But sometimes I wonder if I'd actually want to be around him in person. I can't decide.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Compendium of Links #48

Today is "The Day of the Doctor" for Whovians like myself -- that is, fans of the British TV show "Doctor Who." However, I must go to work this afternoon, so I shall miss the worldwide premier of the 50th anniversary special episode. Sad, isn't it? Well, not really. Because in the grand scheme of things, a TV show is just a TV show.

A couple of Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators charts for some laughs! Prayers for each Myers-Briggs type ("Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way."), LOTR by personality type and Star Wars in MBTI!

Maps showing the etymology of different words in Europe. Funny: Most people in Europe think a pineapple's proper name is "ananas."

The album for the movie "Inside Llewellyn Davis," a movie by the same guys who did "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," is out! I managed to listen to it via NPR's First Listen post, but apparently the audio is no longer available there. If you like folk music, though, it's worth at least getting a few of the tracks.

JOHN WATSON HAS A BLOG. I mean, the John Watson in the British show "Sherlock." It's a real official blog from the BBC team producing the show. It's hilarious. For that matter, Sherlock has his own blog, too, but it's pretty typically Sherlockian.

Need a laugh? Hey Christian Girl Instagram. Really ridiculous Christian pickup lines superimposed onto Ryan Gosling-esque photos. This is now one of my favorite humor sites.

"You should date an illiterate girl," a fascinating fictional piece (short) that rather highlights the intellectual and psychological benefits of reading regularly.

For the Austenite in all of us: I learned everything I needed to know about marriage from Pride and Prejudice, courtesy of The Atlantic. And the article really does have some good points, for all I know. For example: You can judge a man by the size of his library.
In the provincial world of Austen’s novels, small-mindedness is among the greatest of personal and social follies, for which an expansive library serves as a counterbalance. Darcy’s fetching library serves as metaphor for a variety of qualities in a marriage partner today which might counteract contemporary excesses and limitations: broad-mindedness in an age of identity politics and narrow partisanship, integrity in an era of brutal pragmatism, strong work ethic in a culture of shortcuts, steadiness in a swirl of passing fancies.
 And lastly, for your audiovisual enjoyment: A satire. (All I could say was, wow...)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life on my own #46: Troubleshooting, part two

As promised! The box came, the part was ripped from its little plastic baggie packaging -- because, what other way is there to unwrap those things? -- and I had before me a thermostat thing, a fuse thing, a couple screws and a couple bendy-things that get stuck onto wires. Oh, and a teeny little wire with the bendy-things already stuck on.

(Hint: Bendy-things are connectors. I'm pretty sure.)

And yesterday, when I  descended once again into the belly of the house -- that is, the basement -- I was armed with a new tool!

It's practically a requirement of every DIYer that new tool equals glorious elation. It's like giving a new fancy pen or a pretty journal to a writer. (Please don't ask how many journals I have waiting for me....)

My tool, you must understand, was something called a "crimping" tool. Number one, the word "crimp" makes me think of crinolines and primping. Therefore, it must be a tool for repositioning the wires in my hoopskirt.

Maybe not.

So, this crimping tool looks about like a pair of pliers with a few holes stuck through it. I know how to use pliers, I think to myself. This can't be that hard.

Then I look at the bendy-things. And back at the crimping tool. And spend half an hour with my friends Google and YouTube finding "how to use a crimping tool."

Turns out, most connectors don't look particularly like the bendy-things I have, and so the crimping tool isn't used the same way. Back to square one. Oh well, I'm sure I can figure this out...

Step one: Remove old thermostat and fuse. Easy peasy.

Step two: Install new thermostat and fuse. Since I'm pretty handy with a ratchet thingamabob, this was easy, too.

Step three: Snip old connector (bendy-thing that's already bent) off a wire and crimp on the new bendy-thing.

Step three and a half: Drop bendy-thing when it's almost secure.

Step three and three-quarters: Start over with crimping the bendy-thing.

Step three and four-fifths:  Squeeze the bendy-thing onto the wire with all your might. Isn't that such a fun phrase? "Do it with ALL YOUR MIGHT." It's biblical, but it might have come from Lord of the Rings, too.

Step four: Reconnect a few wires onto their matching terminals. Note: Don't cross 'em. You'll be sorry. Second note: I didn't cross them, don't worry.

Step five: Plug in for a quick test run before you reinstall the back cover.

Step six: Do the hand-jive when you see the heating element finally glowing again.

You know what the sad part was? I started the repairs so late, I didn't have time to put a load of laundry in to dry fully before I had to go to work.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life on my own #45: Troubleshooting, part one

I should've become an engineer, not a writer.

My dryer decided one day it didn't want to dry my clothes. I thought at first I'd just overloaded it... with a sheets load plus the leftovers of another load, it could've happened, right? But no, the second try didn't yield any drier fabric.

Oh, and the air coming from the inside of the dryer wasn't actually hot. The things I overlook the first time...

So I decided to try troubleshooting this myself. It's the Age of the Internet. I can do anything with the help of my friends Google and YouTube.

So off I go, browsing around various appliance-repair websites, checking out potential causes of "dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer troubleshooting" and all sorts of other search terms which kept sending me to the same three websites, two of which were trying to sell me Whirlpool dryers. No thanks, I've already got one.

I stumbled on a great repair website which blathered on and on about fuses, terminals and ohmmeters. Ohmmeters, you ask? So did I. They tell you how much annoyingness electricity has to fight through to get from point A to point B. They look like the speedometer in Grandma's car.

Imagine trying to decipher that while dodging obstacles on your way to Point B.

But all the fix-it website wanted me to use it for was to check if electricity would get from Point A to Point B at all -- whether it was an "open" circuit (your light switch is off) or "closed" circuit (your light switch is on and for Pete's sake don't go screwing around in the ceiling fan!).

I don't own an ohmmeter. Clearly. But... I remember playing with flashlights and 9-volt batteries back in the day, while learning about electricity and stuff. Aluminum foil made a great rigged-up wire circuit for the flashlight bulb and the 9V battery.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

I did, really, rig up a circuit-checker (my fancy name for imprecise-not-really-an-ohmmeter) and figured out the problematic part, ruling out the other potential problems in the process.

I think I may have broken a rule or two out of the electrician's handbook, but I'm not electrocuted, my house isn't on fire and my dryer still runs like it did before, without the heat, so they couldn't have been the important rules, like "don't work on the dryer while you've got it plugged in and running."

The best part?

The replacement part's less than $6... and I got free shipping.

I call this a successful Troubleshooting Part One. Assuming my beginner's luck holds out, there should be a Part Two next week, once the part arrives at my doorstep.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Debut as a solo artist

I've been hanging out at a few music jams over the last several months, getting to know some of the local talent and sharing mine with them. (Which is a silly way of saying, taking turns playing guitar and singing with them.)

And this week, one of those fellow musicians asked if I wanted to play a set at a local craft fair. There were several other folks there performing before me, and I knew them all -- knew their style, was comfortable with it -- and figured, hey, a small-town craft fair can't be that busy, especially toward the end of it. So I said, sure, I'll play and sing for a half-hour or so after you all are done.

I walked in and realized, there's vendors. and people eating lunch. and more people. Since when did so many people hang out at small-town craft fairs?

Anyway. For me, it's one thing to play guitar and sing in front of people I know, like at church. It's one thing to play guitar as backup for another singer, musician or group. It's something else entirely to be up there with a mic shoved in my face, expected to sing and play (simultaneously!) with some measure of excellence before an audience of strangers.

But that's just what I did.

It was actually kind of fun. I flubbed a bit during the patter between songs... mostly because I was flipping haphazardly through my songbook, picking out the next song on a whim (and the next, and the next...). But hey, once I started singing each song, the music drew my attention away from the strangers, from everything going on surrounding me, from the fact that the Chamber of Commerce director was sitting right in front of me -- and redirected my focus to the songs, the stories they told, the beauty of the chord progressions and the wordplay.

It was only between songs that it hit home how narrowly folksy (and predominantly melancholy!) my repertoire is. But hey, it's a small-town craft fair. It felt appropriate.

Several people -- friends and strangers, performers and spectators -- told me afterward I did well and should keep singing. Not that I had any intention of stopping altogether. But maybe I'll do so more often in rather public venues, not just at church and at friendly music jams.

P.S. I didn't even play my own guitar. One of the earlier guitarists offered to let me borrow his acoustic -- and the sound system it was attached to -- for the set. I'm quite grateful!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Shylock = ?

While playing Catchphrase* last night at a staff party, I had to try to get the others to come up with the name of one of Shakespeare's plays.

I told them as fast as I could, it's the Shakespeare play where somebody wants to cut somebody's heart out, and Shylock is in it. I thought, the courtroom scene is one of the most famous in "The Merchant of Venice." Surely somebody will make the connection, though somewhat poorly expressed on my part.

But they looked at me with blank stares. "We went to public school. We don't know this," one of them said.

Given that they've all earned bachelor's degrees and are in no wise idiots, I thought the whole scene was a rather sad anecdote illustrating the state of literary awareness in modern America.

Or am I just being elitist in expecting college-educated people to remember the title and principal characters of one of the most popular plays (in contemporary times) produced by a playwright whose body of work is still widely studied and performed 400 years after his death?

*For the uninitiated: Catchphrase is just like Taboo, only you can get phrases sometimes instead of a single word, and there aren't any words that you can't say when you're trying to get people to say the phrase that's your turn.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Compendium of Links #47

Man, it's been a busy weekend. I took my Amiguita (the little girl I'm matched with in Big Brothers Big Sisters) to the YMCA pool today for quite a while -- I kid you not, we spent nearly an hour playing frisbee. Later tonight is a staff party at my editor's house. So right now, I'm chilling before I have to go be all social again. :P

Three coders in California built a better health insurance browsing website than the government. Granted, it didn't have to mess with the security and database issues regarding signups, since it simply directs those looking to actually buy something they see to call some phone number -- but still. It's a whole lot more user-friendly.

A rather funny blog on First Things called Dr. Boli publishes esoteric jokes of general interest, plus some that Christians or Catholics will get, because it's a Catholic site. My favorite posts are the "Ask Dr. Boli" ones... because they sound like this:
Dear Dr. Boli: I play circadian rhythm guitar in the psychobilly fusion rock band, “BiPolar Express.” We tour nearly constantly and our gigs typically last well into the wee hours of the morning. As a result I suffer from a high degree of sleep deprivation. I try to sleep on the tour bus, but it’s not a wise idea to close your eyes when you share a bus with a lead singer named Brain Scissors! I, therefore, am plagued with chronic insomnia. So naturally, I have a lot of time to think. And this leads me to my question for you. If time should suddenly stand still, would I only be able to think in past and present tenses?

 "Sanctification is not always an earth-shattering affair. More often, I think, sanctification and spiritual growth come through the (perhaps seemingly menial) tasks, actions, decisions, thoughts, and words that populate our daily lives." So begins a valuable essay on Evangelical Outpost about "everyday holiness."

Can you read people's emotions? Take an online test at the New York Times website to see how well you do. I scored unerringly on every negative emotion and missed a few of the ones generally considered more positive, however I don't recall my exact score, unfortunately.

King of Tokyo is amazingly fun to play! (It's a board game, and I think it's going on my Christmas list.)

And for your listening and viewing pleasure today, you're treated to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for three guitars. IT'S AMAZING!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dance party in middle school

I hosted a dance party for a few middle schoolers from church last night. Besides providing the wood floors to dance crazily on, my task was to select appropriate, upbeat songs for them to dance to.

This is the result: A YouTube playlist. I'd embed it, but apparently Blogger isn't enabled to do so.

I definitely threw a few throwback songs in there for good measure. The W's "The Devil is Bad," N*Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," and the Numa Numa song (properly named "Dragostea Din Tei")... The girls got a kick out of watching me and the other chaperone dancing and singing to these '90s and '00s songs they'd never heard of. (They also squealed with delight for many of the other songs. I felt rather accomplished and in touch with middle school culture, oddly enough.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Buzzwords that irk me

Bring together

...of these, "community" takes the cake. What do you even mean when you say "providing the community with this opportunity"? Do you mean you're going to let the 5-year-olds that live in your town have their share of the grant funding? What about the owner of the old barbershop that could use the money, but isn't actually eligible because it's not really open to business entities? Where or who exactly is your "community"?

It's such a broadly used word that it requires further definition - but that definition is rarely, if ever, spelled out. I see this all the time in print journalism, and I'm left wondering what common characteristic or interest is defining the "community" under consideration.

Maybe everybody should just re-read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Evolution of an outfit

I sewed my own reenacting dress again this year -- so now I have two to carry me through a whole weekend.

It started as a roll of beautiful plaid fabric very similar to the Black Watch plaid. I cut out pieces, sewed 'em together, and before long I had the resemblance of a dress. All it needed was hand-sewing and some hand-hemming.

I was extremely pleased with it.

But there was a key ingredient missing... if you know me, you understand this.

But a plain hat was just unacceptable, right?

The black ribbon made all the difference.

I loved the black ribbon so much, I went back the next day and bought two more yards (for a measly $1.20) to tie around my hiked-up waist.

Then following the period-correct fashion counsel from my well-researched cousin, I bought a large silk handkerchief to top it all off.

All that to say... the accessories may have cost as much as the dress itself. But it's all worth it. Or, it will be when I pull off a Jane Austen living history presentation in a couple of years.

Monday, October 07, 2013

I don't care about cursive.

There's a lot of buzz going on in Indiana -- or has been over the past few months, anyway -- about schools possibly doing away with teaching cursive.

In fact, I didn't realize kids still had to learn cursive writing that looks like this:

See, I learned to write in italics:

Sure, I connect my letters, but the letterforms of the print and cursive versions are essentially the same (which can hardly be said of traditional cursive). Learning, and using, handwriting is faster that way and it's still legible. When I learned cursive, I didn't have to start all over. Now that I use it, I can write legibly without having to lift my pen at the end of every letter.

(I took no trouble over that little scrap, but just wrote how I normally would. That's probably obvious on my terminal Hs and Ns -- I'm terrible at writing those properly unless I think about it.)

Cursive is not a script which alone promotes legibility and ease of use; nor is it the only way to write which can be done beautifully. Those who do not learn cursive are hardly doomed to staring uncomprehendingly at documents written in cursive (such as the Declaration of Independence or your grandmother's birthday card).

I must conclude that those who push for keeping cursive do so for sentimental reasons.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Compendium of Links #46

I've just finished a week that felt like it passed me by in a day. That must be what adulthood feels like.

When an adult took a standardized test intended for children... and failed miserably. I'm sorry, but if I'm to judge by the questions offered in the mini-tests that accompany that blog post, this person who's ostensibly an education expert should be required to retake basic grade-school math. Seriously. I may not agree myself that standardized testing is the optimal way to gauge students' learning, but this is not the argument I'd use against it!

17 problems only book lovers will understand. Like: "1. When someone asks you what your favorite book is and expects you to pick just one."

Why David McCullough still types all his books on a typewriter (or, at least, did in 1991):
People say, But with a computer you could go so much faster. Well, I don’t want to go faster. If anything, I should go slower. I don’t think all that fast.'

Can smart economics turn us into better parents? The Atlantic magazine suggests that in-home visits, rather than programs designed to minimize the home's influence (i.e. early childhood education, longer school days, after-school programs), would be a better way to improve the lot of disadvantaged children. Kind of like teaching the parent to fish rather than giving the kid all the fish they need (and bypassing the parent in the process).

Where America came from: The Daily Mail in the U.K. presents a map showing the predominant ancestry of residents in every county in these great United States. It's pretty interesting to see.

There's a family that shuns technologies introduced after 1986, which in some respects sounds like a good idea; however I prefer the maxim, "everything in moderation," and would rather retain some of the habits of 1986 (such as playing outside) rather than holding onto the physical technologies of the era.

A writer condensed everything you need to know about personal finances onto a 4x6 index card!
How about that? But it does require understanding some terminology.

Every sci-fi starship ever (almost) put into ONE size-comparison chart!

Why do we say "God told me..."? From the post on Gospel Coalition (the whole is worth the read):
Sometimes if we dig deep we realize we speak this way because we want to impresses others with our close connection to God and make sure they know we've consulted with him on the matter at hand. Another reason may be that to say, "God told me . . ." can prove useful to us. If you've asked me to teach children's Sunday school this fall, it sounds far more spiritual and makes it far more difficult for you to challenge me if I say that God told me I need to sit in adult Sunday school with my husband than if I simply say that I don't want to or have decided not to teach.
And for your musical and nerdy enjoyment: I present an earworm, of the good kind!

"I shall be a geek when I am utterly antique..."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life on my own #44: Appliances

Some days, I don't think twice about going to the laundromat. I've basically relied one laundromat or another since I was almost 18. Old habits are hard to break.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to do laundry in your pajamas? (For me, laundromats and wearing pajamas are mutually exclusive. Yes, I know the People of Walmart beg to disagree.)

So once I bought my house, I realized, Sarah, it's time for you to grow up and get a clothes washer. I mean, it's the logical next step. (After a mower, of course.)

Thing was, I actually had to find a decent second-hand washer. And a dryer. I hate letting towels drip-dry. They get all scratchy and weird. Anyway, even if I found suitable appliances, I had to figure out how to get them from point A to point B.

Subcompact cars aren't the best for that.

Enter: The Cousin. This Cousin, a construction worker, is quite adept at lifting heavy things. In addition, he owns a Truck.

In a very convenient twist of fate, Cousin absolutely loves Pizza and will do anything for me if I give him Pizza.

So we got a Pizza from the best Pizza place in town (or so I've heard; I'm not a Pizza aficionado myself), and on the road we went, squeezing another cousin in between the two of us in the cab of Cousin's Truck.

Cousin made me drive because he doesn't like driving in the city. This "city" is about seven miles end to end and doesn't even have any four-lane roads on the route we were taking.

But Cousin proved his worth (or his dedication to Pizza) when we arrived at Point A. The machines were quickly loaded onto the bed of the Truck and strapped in with a ratchet strap (or whatever you call those fancy thingummies that Cousin carries in the toolbox on his Truck).

And, doing an easy 60 mph on the way back, we (I) drove straight home, meeting an uncle at the house to help tote the machines downstairs to the basement, where the appliance hookups were (not so) conveniently located.

Fortunately, I didn't have to lift a finger to get the appliances downstairs. Cousin and my uncle took care of that heavy duty. All they left to me was buying a new O-ring for one of the washer hoses. At the cost of a mere 25 cents!
Aren't they so pwetty?? :D

Saturday, September 07, 2013

New additions to the personal library

Yes.... I lost myself in Half Price Books again.  :-)

And two of them were on the dollar shelf!

Monday, September 02, 2013

This is how nerdy I am (Word invention edition)

A friend asked his more mathematically or English-inclined friends for suggestions on inventing a word for this circumstance:
I'm writing a paper that frequently references regions on a string, and these regions often intersect. I need to succinctly describe regions that almost completely intersect.
That is, say there's a string of numbers....


And I say, ok, one section I'll name flippity-bop and that'll cover 2 through 7, and another section I'll name bing-bang-bong and that will cover 3 through 8. Flippity-bop and bing-bang-bong almost completely match up with each other, except they're shifted one number off from each other, as if you were looking at it cross-eyed.

My friend wants an easy way to refer to this circumstance: one word, preferably fairly short and relatively quickly comprehended. If you read the link fully, you'll see he is temporarily using "mislapped" (a variation on overlap) and isn't satisified.

I saw this and thought, "a word game!!"

The inner nerd came out big time. Here are the suggestions I inundated my friend with:
It seems to me that it's almost like when you go cross-eyed -- the things almost line up but not quite. The technical word for that condition is strabismus, adjectival form strabismic. And it sounds cool.

...it comes to me that strings like that would also resemble the foundation of a stairstep... so stairstepped could work (as adjective). Or, there's always the combination of Latins co + minor (for subtraction) + currere (a root of concur), which any way I try it becomes unwieldy or obtuse.

Another term related to going cross-eyed is diplopia, double vision. However it carries the connotation of "two" which doesn't seem to be the main force of what you're going for.

What about lone + eaves? Single overhang, which seems to get at the idea that's emphasized. Something like lone-eaved as adjective, or saying one string is lone eaves with another, or two strings are (have?) lone eaves. (Both words are from middle English. I'm pretty proud of this one, as I stayed within one root language rather than mixing Germanic with Latin roots, which can be considered a no-no!)
Yes, I'm a word nerd. I get it legitimately. (Here's looking at you, Mom!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

If I start feeling sappy, I'll get a journal.

Lately, a huge chunk of my Facebook news feed has looked something like this:
I love the cute way [Manly] gets hiccups when he's been laughing too much.

My amazingly awesome wife surprised me AND my parents by driving up and fixing us dinner so I could stay here tonight and get a little more needed rest. Blessed to tears!

Love him #concertjunkies
Those are three real entries from acquaintances on Facebook... posted within the last two hours. There's more where that came from.

Remind me to get a journal specifically for sappy observations and scrapbooking couples pictures if and when I get a serious boyfriend/husband. Something tells me it will be more meaningful to have things like these written down for a significant-other to read now, and treasure later.*

Or maybe it's just me. But I can't imagine putting stuff like this up for the whole world to see. I'd rather share it with people that mean a lot to me. Family, close friends, you know -- but certainly not the whole 474 people I'm friends with on Facebook, most of them acquaintances of varying degrees.

*P.S. One of the best ideas I ever heard for a couples-relationship-building thing was to have a journal and write down one thing you love about the other person, or a reason you love the other person, each day -- and keep that up for years. I don't remember where I read about it, but it was a few months ago and stuck with me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Also: I'm a regular columnist!

My editor told me today to GO FOR IT! I'm to write a weekly lighthearted column for our entertainment page. My first column runs Friday. And it's about peewee football. :D

On paywalls: A rant.

The paper I work for recently switched to a "paywall" on its website, which, in case you haven't followed all the hype about media, means you have to pay to access the articles after you've read a certain number per month. It's like the New York Times has instituted.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of people upset that the paper's now charging for something that it previously offered free.

There's even one commenter who's like, "I pay for internet! Why should I pay to read what's on it?" And somebody else compared the newspaper website to Netflix and said Netflix charges less, so ergo the paper is charging way too much.

Here, therefore, is my rant.

To get this out of the way: When you get Internet, you're paying for the conveyance of the information. You're not paying for any of the information itself. Complaining that you already pay for Internet is like complaining that you have to pay for something out of a catalog when you already have to be charged the shipping and handling fees.

Now for the important part. What you're reading on a local newspaper website is ORIGINAL CONTENT. It's like your favorite indie band's music that they beg you not to pirate. Or your favorite YouTube producer who kindly requests a small donation or support for a Kickstarter campaign or a lot of word-of-mouth support.

None of those content producers can give what they make for free. Online content, in particular, requires servers and content management systems and webmasters -- and that's not even counting the cost of producing the content that eventually makes it to the website. Newspapers are finally figuring out the costs of a Web presence, and learning (as everyone else has) that undervalued internet advertising revenues don't pay for a hill of beans.

You see, a newspaper is not like Netflix. It would be more like Netflix if all it did was shovel a lot of wire content onto the website -- and make you pay for it. Netflix is primarily a distributor of someone else's original content. (And don't forget, they realized a while back that they couldn't charge lowball prices, either.)

It's not like Wikipedia, where lots of people volunteer their time and effort and skills, and some compromise the site's factual integrity in the process.

It's more like the local carpenter that makes custom furnishings for sale, or the local produce farmer that sets up shop at the Saturday morning farmers market. It's people you'll see in line at the grocery store on Fridays or sit behind in church on Sundays. It's product that you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

You want a city government that listens to the people and is held accountable for its actions?

You want a place to publish free, widely-seen notices about your fundraiser, your support group or your kid's school award?

You want somewhere to vent about the upcoming election or all the potholes down Main Street where hundreds, maybe thousands of people can read it?

Then suck it up and pay for the online content, please!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Compendium of Links #45

My editor got sick Friday, the very morning I emailed her my spec pieces for that column I mentioned, so I have not heard any response from her. I'll definitely post when I do! In the meantime, entertain and inform yourselves with the following random links...

Only Canada, China, North Korea and the U.S. allow abortion after viability for any reason.

40 maps that will help you make sense of the world... including one showing where 29,000 rubber duckies made landfall after falling off a cargo ship in the middle of the Pacific...

Which finally answers the question: How long would it take a rubber ducky to travel from the Hawaiian Islands to England?

Somebody went looking for a novel about women that's not about love, and thinks they're frustratingly rare. I'm not sure what the big deal is -- it's just as easy to learn from a guy's "going it alone" novel as it would be from a girl's. Unless, of course, you admit that guys and girls have fundamentally different ways of experiencing growing up! I wonder if that's what the author realized she was buying into?

When a Christian foundation interviewed some college atheists about why they left religion, a few things became clear: they had gone to youth group as kids, but wouldn't have anything to do with vague or superficial teachers; instead, they respected their solid Bible teachers. However, their decisions to embrace atheism were emotional.

And, a few lessons on evangelism from an unlikely convert -- namely, a former lesbian and lit prof who's now married to a pastor in a Reformed church denomination.

An Evangelical Outpost writer wrote not too long ago about how honestly Job went through his tragedy:
Job scandalized teenage me. He broke my nicely polished category of righteous suffering. Of course, that’s only because he was a better sufferer than I knew how to be. The teachers who told me that Job patiently, silently suffered did not understand the importance of questions in a broken world that begs for answers.

An interesting and perfectly plausible hypothesis about why church attendance has slumped: The same people come, just a little bit less often.

And the BEST web comic I've found this year: TheologyGrams! As in, theology + diagrams! Like so:

"Holy contributing to the delinquency of minors, Batman!"

Lastly, your video of the day: 50 common misquotations, presented by mental_floss and the inimitable Indy native, John Green!

Friday, August 23, 2013

I might land a column!

We have this page we do at the paper I work at that runs every Friday with a list of interesting things to do over the weekend, a movie review and some piece of outlandish entertainment news (like, Justin Bieber arrested again!). Along the side of this page runs a weekly column, something lighthearted or localized to set the tone for the weekend.

We've been a bit frustrated by this column for various reasons, so I asked my editor a couple of days ago if we could replace it. She asked, what with? And I may or may not have volunteered to write the weekly piece.

So, she said, write me a couple spec pieces -- that's journo lingo for "these are the pieces that will forever convince you of my fantastic writing ability" -- and we'll see.

I wrote the spec pieces tonight (or... this morning?). I present them to her tomorrow. I mean today. If she likes 'em, I'm on the hook for writing something rather amusing each week (kind of in the style of the Life on my Own posts here). Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

I should post more, shouldn't I?

My, my, my. I've been so neglectful of this poor little blog over the last few weeks. Not least because I went on vacation!

So today was my second day back at work after my long-awaited, thoroughly enjoyable six days off. It was surprisingly not that stressful (c'mon, I work at a newspaper, it should be really really stressful!). I did have The W's song "The Devil Is Bad" running through my head, of course, in mockery of the new content management system which we've nicknamed SkyDevil. It's the main source of our frustrations these days.

Nevertheless, the pages got done early tonight -- when does that ever happen?? -- so I came home and watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." I had seen it once about four years ago, during sophomore year of college I think, but never since. It was surprisingly endearing, and now I pretty much want to watch everything that Joss Whedon ever directed. (That would be Firefly, and the companion movie Serenity, and the new "Much Ado About Nothing" that just came out, and... oh you know.)

And now I should actually sleep...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life on my own #43: Dishwashing

I kid you not: One of the best things about my house is its dishwasher.

That dishwasher means I don't have to submerge my hands in HOT water when it's 90 degrees outside. It means I can blissfully read, or write, or watch episodes of Merlin, while my dishes magically clean themselves. It's like the animals cleaning the house in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Except if I found any animals in my dishwasher, I would probably not start singing.

The only trouble comes when something goes wrong with my dishwasher. Then I have to put on my handyman cap and figure out how to fix it.

The other day I discovered a couple inches of water in the bottom of my dishwasher after I ran it. Thinking it would go away if I ran another cycle, I did. No dice.

It wouldn't even go away if I hit the "drain" button on the control panel. (Saying that makes me feel like I'm piloting a KitchenAid spaceship. Captain, the controls are not responding!)

A little Googling later, I decided to check the dishwasher's feed into the sink drain. Watching a little bit of water trickle out as yet another "drain" cycle operated, I decided to poke around in the hole some. Poking things solves everything, just like duct tape.

Lo and behold, there was gunk. And more gunk. The used toothbrush I had stored by the sink took off some of it, but I had to resort to a pen cap to scrap out the rest.

As I did so, the trickle became a spritz became a decent spray of water flowing out of the dishwasher and into the sink drain.

I was pretty proud of myself at that moment. And thankful that I didn't have to wash the sinkful of dishes myself -- it was way too hot outside. So I let the wondrous machine work its magic.

Did I mention how much I love my dishwasher?

Monday, July 15, 2013

A little different look

I got tired of the obviously Photoshopped book background. This is a less obviously Photoshopped background. And thus, I also changed a bunch of other stuff about the look. :D

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Life on my own #42: Junk mail

Ya know, before I moved out from my parents’, all I got were credit card offers in the mail.

Now that I’m on my own, I don’t get those much anymore (though they still come maybe once a month). Instead, I get offers to buy…

Checks. (Already have some, thanks.)

$50,000 worth of life insurance. (And I’m going to buy this based off of direct mail… why?)

Pizza. (No thanks.)

More pizza. (I’ve had pizza about once in the last six months. When are they going to get the idea?)

Dish TV and Internet. (Because I have such a history of buying, or watching, TV.)

Health and car insurance (Seriously? You’re using direct mail to market insurance?)

Wendy’s fast food. (There isn’t even a Wendy’s in town. I don’t remember the last time I ate at a Wendy’s… maybe my mid-teens?)

Subscriptions to The Economist and The New Yorker. (Pretty sure they got my address from The Atlantic. The dog- and cat-themed bookmarks from The New Yorker are pretty funny though.)

Stuff from Bed, Bath and Beyond. (OK, they probably got my address from the Post Office Change of Address filing.)

The fun part, though, was when I got mail addressed to “Current Resident” at my old apartment. You see, the previous occupant was an old woman. Say, 90 years old. She got a lot of mail for retiree cruises and clothing that looks like it came from the 50s.

Based on that… I can only imagine what good ol’ Big Brother thought I was doing with my mail. (You knew about that, right?)

Friday, July 12, 2013

What I read: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

If you’re ever wondering what in the world Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes… or you’re simply recovering from a failed senior capstone course in Christian ethics based on the Sermon on the Mount… pick up Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book of sermons expounding on that Sermon.

Reason #1: The introduction really does introduce the Sermon on the Mount – it gives a general overview of when it was given, by whom and for whom, and why it should be studied (“The Lord Jesus Christ died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount” and it leads to sanctification and blessing).

Reason #2: Lloyd-Jones is committed to the proper reverence for the Sermon on the Mount as part of the Word of God, not something that can be reduced to a formula or exists merely to be studied.

Reason #3: He can explain a multileveled, but clear, logical sequence to the Sermon. The. Entire. Sermon. This includes showing how the Beatitudes build upon each other and also reflect a sort of mirror-image quality, considering the first three and second three. It’s quite intriguing and would take too long to explain here (which, of course, is why there’s several chapters on it).

Reason #4: He lays out his “controlling principles” in expounding on the Sermon – treating it as a description of character, rather than a prescriptive set of rules; he points out that he intends to interpret every Scripture passage in such a way as not to contradict any other Scripture passage.

Reason #5: What he preached in the 1950s sounds like it could apply today:

“Much talk which appears to be, and is said to be, Christian, in its denunciation of certain things that are happening in the world, is, I believe, nothing but the expression of political prejudices.”

Or this, talking about “The meek… shall inherit the earth:”

“This particular description of the Christian causes real surprise because it is so completely and entirely opposed to everything which the natural man thinks…. The world thinks in terms of strength and power, of ability, self-assurance and aggressiveness…. The more you assert yourself and express yourself, the more you organize and manifest your powers and ability, the more likely you are to succeed and get on…. Once more, then, we are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.”

This is one book I’m very glad to own, and will probably become a regular part of my devotional books – right up along with A. W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” and “The Knowledge of the Holy” as well as C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and a few others to which I return periodically.

Compendium of Links #44: Tech edition

I’m following the whole Edward Snowden saga as best as I can, and it’s highly intriguing. The government’s behaviors also remind me somewhat of an old Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which tells a dystopian story of the U.S. falling ever so gently into fascist rule. I feel like I need to re-read it.

But anyway. Before my browser gets too full again, here is your weekly serving of interesting stuff, featuring one of my favorite subjects: Technology!

On Christians naively expecting the best web offerings from ministries they donate a pittance to (if anything at all): (via Challies)

In their mind, every Christian ministry is expected to have every possible resource (study tools, videos, books, audio, articles, apps, etc.) available on every possible platform. And they want it now! Not only do they want it now, that want quality, and they want it for free. A thank you is seldom heard when this is actually achieved, after all, it was online and therefore easy, inexpensive, and quick, right?

This is not evidence of Christians growing in grace, but growing under a delusion. As a Christian geek, an ‘insider’ if you will, I’d like to sound a corrective.

21 jokes only nerds will understand. “The programmer’s wife tells him: ‘Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.’ The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.”

Oh, technology is changing everything, you say? Specify, specify, specify. For me, the technology of a reel-lawnmower has changed the way I think about lawn care. Smile with tongue out

What the Internet looked like as a baby!

Scientific American has a lengthy piece on the quantifiable differences in comprehension and experience of reading on paper vs. on a screen. (I recommend reading it!) Its conclusion? “When it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage. But text is not the only way to read.”

A U.S. agency baffled by technology decided to destroy computers to get rid of… viruses. And as my brother stated: These are the people in charge?!?

And for your random funny video of the day… Shoot Christians Say.

This video really blessed me. It’s so relevant.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Compendium of Links #43: Fourth of July edition

Welcome to this SPECIAL EDITION of the Compedium! I’m off to work today but I had a little time this morning to clean out some more tabs from my browser… and to cull links from my email, as I’ve started to do a bit more reading on my phone and haven’t figured out a feasible way to save links from there other than by emailing them to myself. (If you have suggestions, especially ones that involve Firefox, I’m all ears.)

Of course, none of these links actually have anything to do with Independence Day… but I don’t mind. I hope you don’t.

I don’t quite believe this: Indianapolis’s single guys are willing to spend some three times the national average on a first date – and a website claims that the sum amounts to $226. Like, what could you possibly do on a first date that costs that much?? (For this link, I have to thank… my single male living-in-Indy cousin.)

Anthony Bradley, a regular contributor (I think) to World Magazine, takes a short hop over to Journey through NYC Religions to plug his new book – about racism within Calvinism/Presbyterian strains of Christianity.

Many white evangelicals are resistant to the fact that racism remains in contexts driven by “the gospel.” However, because sin still exists, there is no reason to believe that racism will simply magically disappear or that we simply need to “get over it” and “move on.”

Mad Libs and peer pressure come together to form the culture’s subtle conformist push. “Too many times, I’ve heard people who are deliberating over a decision say: “I would do this, but I don’t want to be a bigot/idiot/prude/slut/goody-two-shoes.” In short, they don’t want to be a label.”

I need this Useless Box.

For your entertainment this week: My second-favorite parody of Twilight… and my favorite parody of Journey. (My first-favorite Twilight parody is the one Dave Barry is responsible for.)

Seriously, if YOU were 104 years old, wouldn’t you spend your life somewhere other than high school?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Compendium of Links #42

I’m pretty well settled into my new house – have mowed the yard a couple of times and pulled a lot of weeds after the recent rainstorm – and now I’m just waiting to get the internet modem hooked up! In the meantime, I spend a lot of time at the library and actually get my browser cleared of the following tabs….

Top 10 reasons I’m actually a man – from a woman, of course. Hilarious.

*6.5 SMALL TALK. WHAT EVEN IS THAT. DON’T WE ALL ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE WEATHER IS LIKE (WE LITERALLY JUST WALKED IN OUT OF IT) & IF I REALLY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT BRAND OF MASCARA YOU WERE WEARING – IF, GOD FORBID, I COULD DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MASCARA BRANDS – DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD ASK YOU. Somehow though, as much as women can generally small-talk me under the table and I abhor it (I tend to take it as a sign that you don’t actually want to know me), I have to believe that a skill that inane must be a societal construct and hardly something I can blame on any particular gender. However! We are talking about why my interests mandate my being a man and so therefore: NO SMALL TALK = INHERENTLY MALE.

Everyone’s favorite Avengers scene. With the hilarious addendum, and in comic form.

What if evangelicalism succumbed to celebrityism? Oh wait. It’s happening.

Proof that Doctor Who is based on actual events. In visual form, of course.

Joe Carter, a Christian writer whose blogging I’ve appreciated in the past, asks is the news making us dumb?

Most of us realize that the events of last week's news cycle—just like the previous 51 other news cycles this year—will probably not have a significant effect on how we live. Indeed, if we're being honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that what is sold as news—on newspaper pages, the Internet, or cable news programs—is rarely newsworthy at all.

It’s billed as “news” and its context’s importance reduced in order to sell, Carter argues. If the importance of the larger context were properly understood, he adds, then the daily news items wouldn’t be near so marketable. I counter that it’s precisely the daily news items that make up the larger context which is far more valuable – at least at the level of local news. The work necessary to understand the larger context and its importance is precisely keeping up with the news.

Another Christian blog addresses the introverted evangelist.

Why are so many adults adopted in Japan? It’s part culture, part economics.

Although Japan’s post-war code no longer upholds primogeniture, business families find the habit hard to kick. The country's declining birth rate has further limited the likelihood of a male heir for many of them, who often select sons from among their most promising top managers. Toyota and Suzuki, both carmakers, Canon, an electronics firm, and Kajima, a construction company, have all adopted sons to manage them. Incentives are high for prospective adoptees, too. Their parents sometimes receive gifts of many million yen. To be selected as a mukoyoshi is to be awarded a high executive honour. This prompts fierce competition among managers, which means that the business has access to as good a talent pool as non-family companies.

And the Evangelical Outpost echoes my own thoughts on why writing by hand is worth it. I’d love to have an easily searchable journal, sure, but I can’t imagine switching to journaling on computer… It’s so not the same. You don’t have the drawings and the changes in handwriting to observe as you peruse old journals!

What if we dressed classical sculptures in hipster clothes? This! (via a FB group)

No video today. Just trying to clear out my browser. Smile with tongue out

Friday, June 14, 2013

Life on my own #41: Mowing the lawn

I’ve always wondered who invented the lawn. Regular wide-open areas are covered in woods and underbrush or two-foot-tall prairie grass – or they were (now it’s mainly suburbs).

Then in front of houses, you have two choices: garden or lawn.

I’ve often been in favor of having a massive garden on a city lot (my miniscule green thumb notwithstanding). At least they have pretty flowers. A lawn is just a boring unbroken swath of green.

Yet here I am, the new homeowner with a medium-small city lot and the lawn that goes with it. It even has a devil’s strip.

So I bought a lawnmower. I had thought about getting a gas mower – no cord required (and I get enough of cords vacuuming). There isn’t anywhere to plug an electric mower in on two to three sides of the house, anyway. On the other hand, I’ve rarely had more than a 50% success rate getting my dad’s gas push mower started. Mind you, I’m not talking about starting it on the first try. I’m saying at all. (I usually coaxed my brother into coming out to start it for me.)

And then my cousin talked me into a reel mower (otherwise known as, mower-whose-only-power-is-you-pushing). I had to use a reel mower at least two summers back home, somewhere there in high school/college. I did not like the reel mower. In fact, I hated it. It usually left the grass a bit scraggly , and I had to take extra passes over what I’d already mowed because the grass was so long. (Yes, we kids tended to procrastinate on the mowing.) And that’s not even considering the roughly one-inch width of each pass… Well, anyway, it was so narrow I had to make about twice as many passes with it as with the old gas mower

Not that the gas mower would start. I’m talking about a best-of-all-worlds situation here.

But, my cousin said, the blades on a reel mower are great if they’re sharp! They cut the grass so cleanly! You don’t have to power it with gas or anything and there’s no motor to fiddle with!

So I reconsidered, noted that my lawn is significantly smaller than my folks’, considered the chances that I’d ever get a gas mower started, and decided to give a reel mower another shot.

This is where online shopping websites come in handy. I had no intention of ordering a mower online – I had waited too long to buy one already – but at least I could find out which mowers were rated more highly by both amateurs and professionals.

So I settled on a reel mower available at a local store and bought it Monday. A 20-inch one – just as wide as the gas push mowers I’d originally thought of getting. And far better than a 16-inch average reel mower.

After putting the handle together (piece of cake), I tackled the back yard. The grass was pretty high back there so I had to make a couple of passes in several spots… make that more than half the yard… to get the grass cut. But it did get cut.

I noticed my forehead getting really hot when I was about halfway done with the front yard. And then I realized I’d imbibed exactly 0 cups of water so far that day. That’s when I beelined it to the kitchen for lots of water and a banana.

Properly refreshed, I finished the last of the lawn and headed inside. And it really did look mowed when I checked it through the kitchen window (while drinking yet another glass of water).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Same title, new duties

A few weeks ago my work schedule changed a bit. I now work an early second-shift type schedule, much like my sister the nurse does, actually, but Tuesday through Saturday as always.

The change came about because one position was cut from the newsroom. Now, there’s just the managing editor and me as editors for the six-day-a-week paper, so we’ve split the duties formerly assumed by the associate editor. As a consequence, I’m the one coming in late and staying late to edit copy (stories and stuff) and “put the paper to bed,” as we say. (That just means I read through everything that goes in the paper, tell the designers what to put on which pages, then read through it all again once they design the pages and make more corrections.) I still do reporting as much as I can, which feels like very little.

It’s a rather solitary job, far more than reporting has been, anyway. Most of the newspaper staff leaves at 5 p.m. sharp and the reporters, who start a bit later because of the news cycle, are usually out by 6 or 7 p.m. Then it’s just me and maybe a sports guy or two, off in their own little world about a dozen feet from my desk.

Unsurprisingly, the solitude doesn’t bother me. I actually save most of my writing for those part-hours between sending copy and receiving printouts of the designed pages to proofread. No distractions, no interruptions. It’s heavenly.

It also leaves the sunshiny mornings for my own amusement… bike rides, curling up with a book, having friends over for brunch, going on a walk, taking care of errands, all that great stuff. All the things that people normally picture doing in evenings aren’t my type of thing, anyway – definitely not into the bar scene – so this suits me well.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What I read: “Quiet Strength” by Susan Cain

A while ago I got the writing bug and had all sorts of grand plans for reinventing this blog. One of them was to write more about the books I read. The writing bug has since been funneled into my work, but I’m still reading – and I still like the idea.

Late last week, I finished the book Quiet Strength by Susan Cain, a self-identified introvert who began her career as a lawyer and has since switched to leadership consulting. The book’s subtitled “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking,” a fitting summary of the book’s contents.

I appreciated Cain’s recognition of how introversion’s unique characteristics are intrinsically worth exercising – such as introverted people’s tendency to resist getting caught up in positive emotion and hesitancy to go forward with a project without having gathered and processed all the relevant information. One chapter, “Why did Wall Street crash and Warren Buffet prosper?,” goes into that aspect in detail. Overall the book’s written with businesspeople in mind – ones who wear suits and ties, endure meetings, attend conferences, make presentations, all that jazz. I’m not one of them, but there’s still need for wise leadership where I work and go to church and volunteer. I figure I can glean from this kind of book some insights  to apply in non- or semi-business situations.

Another thing I liked about the book was that she didn’t go dismissing the real benefits of extraversion while expounding on the benefits of introversion. The balance was great – and is often lacking in popular literature (think books and websites), which always bugged me. I’m introverted (I’m pretty certain!) but I still think extraverted people are awesome and have strengths of their own. She talked about the ways extraverted people can and sometimes should imitate introverted people more, but she also has a chapter on helping introverts like me determine when and to what extent we should consider acting more extraverted. (FWIW, it basically boils down to: When it’s in pursuit of a deeply valued end and it doesn’t tax you too much, make you hate the thing toward which you’re working.)

All in all, a book I’d recommend, but not one I’m going to buy, I suppose. Then again, there are very few books I do buy. (And most of them are by C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, A.W. Tozer or G.K. Chesterton. I seem to have an inexplicable affection for initials.)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I’m buying a house.

There, I updated my blog. Smile





…..OK, so I’ll do a little more than that. (As my editor constantly quips – don’t say I never gave you anything!)

It’s true, I’m buying a house. God pretty much dropped this wonderful little two-bedroom house into my lap. I saw it before it went on the market and the owners were thrilled to get the selling part out of the way before they’d even started looking for their next house. I’ll be sure to post a couple pictures of the inside once I get moved in later this summer!

Sometimes, when it hits me again that I’M BUYING A HOUSE, I can’t help smiling and jumping for joy. Or at least bouncing up and down in my seat.

Also, I’m now more an editor than a reporter at the paper I work at (though I still do a fair bit of reporting). The newsroom staff lost one position and the managing editor and I ended up having to split the duties of the associate editor, whose position is now lost to oblivion. (Story of the industry.) With that change comes a bit of a schedule change – I now work mostly second shift hours. Kinda-sorta. It’s always been hard to explain my schedule, and while this makes it slightly easier it’s still complicated!

I have been matched with a Little in the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and am enjoying getting to know her through games, time at the park, other things 8-year-olds enjoy doing.

I bought a kayak a couple of weeks ago and am itching to make someone go kayaking with me SOON!

And the weather improved greatly over the past couple of weeks (aside from that flood-inducing spring storm…) so I’ve been able to take my bike out on a few rides.

All of that pretty much sums up why I’ve not updated my blog in about a month. In fact, I didn’t realize it had been so long until an old friend emailed me Sunday night begging for an update.

So, this post is dedicated to Carol. Don’t say I never gave you anything!Smile

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Compendium of Links #41


By that, I mean I’m visiting my folks, and won’t be online much, I suspect. However, my sister right now is in the middle of her morning routine and nobody else is awake or home, so I shall share a few links!

Seven skills to develop in your twenties – like, you know, a lengthened attention span, logical thinking and budgeting. (Via Boundless.)

What to do about teens dropping out of church after high school graduation? Well, find out why they’re dropping out, or revisit your assumption that they’re dropping out in such high numbers at all. If you read one article, please read the other, too. (First link via Facebook friends; second, via Gene Veith.)

The decline of marriage and the rise of unwed mothers: An economics-based answer to why the culture is changing, courtesy of the writers at The Atlantic Wire. Curious, isn’t it?

Think of marriage like any other contract or investment. It's most likely to happen when the gains are big. So we should expect marriages among low-income Americans to decline if women perceive declining gains from hitching themselves to the men around them.

Make a silver ring for 25 cents!

The most disobeyed commandment in the church – it’s the fifth, and it has more to do with the President than with your mom in this respect.

And for fans of the Cup Song (check it out on YouTube first if you’re not familiar with it already), I present: A cover.