Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another friend!

Got the chance a couple weeks back to meet one of the friends I've made online over the years. This is me and the kid with Shel otherwise known as psuedopiskie. With Shel I've now met 5 folks that I know through various sites on the internet. I'm happy to report that all of them are wonderful people. Not a psycho in the bunch!

What's funny is that of all of them Shel lives the closest, just a few hours away. We had a great couple hours chat about all sorts of things. It didn't occur to me till after she left that I was a complete failure as host. Never offered her a drink or a bite to eat. My mother would be appalled. Sorry Shel!

It was a great visit though. A nice respite in an otherwise hectic summer.


I'm a gitar man!

Whoops, I almost forgot the major new "skill" I picked up this summer! This is the summer that I officially became a guitar player! I've been a guitar owner for a while now but couldn't play anything. So under the hectoring guidance of our Junior High camp director I learned to play a song in 4 days and perform it in public.

The song is "They will know we are Christians by our love". I chose that song not out of some deep theological basis or because it was the song "I've always wanted to play".


Chose it because it only has two chords. Am and Em. Which the real guitar players will tell you are two REALLY EASY chords!

My "teacher" was disgusted. He ranted. He raved. He kept badgering me to change songs, to add a chord (his arrangement has at least 3 and maybe 4 chords. I refused), to be a man about it. (I note that he was mostly kidding. Mostly)I stood my ground. I had 4 days and maybe 45 minutes a day if I was lucky. Simple was my friend. He did con(vince) me to include a quick intro and outro which I managed to learn.

When it came time for the performance at the talent show I told the whole story to the kids. Then I sang LOUD! It helps to drown out the missed chords. I'd say I got 75% of them right, maybe. Might be a little less than that.

The kids gave me a standing, roaring ovation.

So now I'm working on my second song. An old folk tune that my Dad sang when I was growing up.

Tom Dooley.

It has two chords.

I'm like that.


Friday, August 29, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

As promised here's how I've spent the last couple months.

For me summer began with our trip to Las Vegas. I've written briefly about it back on May 22. The trip was great. Of all the things we wanted to do I knew that doing the "Star Trek Experience" at the Hilton was going to be at the top of the list. So yes that's me fulfilling a lifelong dream, sitting in the Captain's chair on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

Yes, I'm a geek. Get over it.

After that it was a sprint to get ready for back to back events. Senior High Conference ended just two days before we flew out to the Episcopal Youth Event. So it was pack up everything needed for the conference (I fill the back of a mid-size SUV with the seats folded down), do the conference, then come home, partially unpack, wash my clothes and then take off. Such fun.

Senior High was good. Our numbers were up one or two from last year. The young people seemed to enjoy themselves despite some glitches (the university keeps changing the rules at the pool on us, without telling us!). I led a whole conference workshop on "Tending the Temple" talking about caring for ourselves in body, mind and spirit. On the whole I'd call it a success.

The it was EYE time. We arrived at the airport at 4:30 AM to take a 6 AM flight to San Antonio. As always the kids did me proud and we arrived without any adventures at all. Trinity University is a beautiful campus and was a great host. The weather was hot and humid. Combined with the Texan tendency to run their AC ice cold I lost my voice after less than 48 hours. The music, the worship, the classes, the chance to meet with young people and adults from all over the country was absolutely great!

Then back home to try and get caught up on tasks around the house (still not caught up), to watch our tomato plants try and figure out if they were going to live or die (still up in the air) and maybe get a little rest too. Somehow it just didn't feel very restful.

At the beginning of August we had friends come visit us which was very cool! Tom is one of my oldest friends (meaning longest standing, although he IS older than me). It was great to have him and Jen and the girls come visit. The house has lots of beds but isn't really ideal for having guests in some ways. You do the best you can. Then just before camp kicked back in my lady wife, daughter and I jumped into the car and did a banzai run out to Chicago to be with another couple friends as they celebrated a combined 90th birthday (he's 50, she's not). We drove out Friday, went to the party, spent the day with them on Saturday then drove half way home Saturday night, then finished up Sunday. All three of us had to be at work Sunday afternoon so it was an interesting experience. Not one I'm sure we'd do again but it was a special occasion.

Then back to camp. A week with the Junior High camp. It poured down rain for the first two days. Which is very bad. You do NOT want a bunch of junior high aged kids trapped inside. At least not with you. Fortunately the weather lifted (but stayed pretty cool) and the rest of the week went well. I did manage to come down with laryngitis along the way. Then a couple more days off before Sleep Away Camp. Fortunately I'm not on staff there I just am there to run errands and do some support work. So I got to sleep at home.

Finally back home to stay. And unpack. And sort. And do paperwork. The end of summer is not my favorite time of the year. Plus it has been abnormally cool for this time of year which is no fun either. Took the kid off to college and moved her into her first apartment. Add in a couple small car problems and it was a full summer. We didn't get the chance to do nearly enough grilling on the back deck.

So at the moment I'm still feeling a little run down but that'll change as I settle back into the routine.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

At least they're consistent

Earlier this summer I noted my discontent with "The Living Church" (I'm So Angry I Could Spit). I wrote them a letter. In the earlier post I said I'd publish it here if I didn't hear back.

Well, they haven't published it and I've not heard back from them. Plus on the latest cover they've done it again. The cover shows young people taking Communion with a headline "Camp at Kanuga". Inside? Nothing. The cover is a tease, a heart warming "Gee isn't that nice" moment. Once you open the cover it's back to the "important" business of the church. The Living Church holds itself up as a news magazine but uses its cover for apparently non-news items. I find the practice astonishing.

So here's what I sent earlier in the year:

Your cover of the July 27, 2008 issue is the perfect image of what is wrong with (how we treat youth) in the Episcopal church.  A cover photo with a nice headline.  I was filled with anticipation of a substantial article about the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) and/or the state of youth/youth ministry in our church.  Instead I got one additional picture and a very brief editorial.  The editorial amounted to "Gee, youth ministry is a nice thing and we're glad someone (else) is doing it".
Once again our youth are window dressing.  Once again they are used by church institutions for a bit of "feel good".  Once again no substantial support is placed behind the window dressing.  It is a metaphorical pat on the head before returning to the "important" business of our faith community.  In my diocese we refer to this as "potted plant syndrome".  Potted plants are there to look nice.  In reality they are given the minimum amount of attention required and are kept around only so long as they don't get in the way.
Additionally let me challenge you on journalistic grounds.  A subscriber picks up the issue, sees the photo and asks "Gee, what's EYE?".  They will not find the answer inside.   Again, the cover photo is simply window dressing.

Let me note quickly that there are dioceses and parishes out there that do a better job than that.  But the number, being well less than 100%, is too low.  Still too often our view of young people in church is that we've created programs for them "over there", away from "real church", "adult church", "big church".  Monies for youth ministry is too often cut early in the budget process when times get tight.  Some one once offered this test - compare your youth budget to the budget for garbage removal, the salary for your youth minister to your sexton (sextons are chosen because they are among the lowest paid staff).  In fact take a look at the percentage of your time, talent and treasure that are directed toward youth ministry.  Then decide if you can look your young people in the eye and tell them that there is an "emphasis on youth ministry". 
In the case of The Living Church I'm afraid you'd fail that test.

The words in parentheses in the first sentence were substituted for "youth ministry". It's not my intent to challenge the youth ministers but the rest of the church, most especially the power structure.

My respect for and interest in TLC has declined markedly.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Morning update

Summer has been a complete loss on the blogging front. I'll do a "What I did on my Summer Vacation" post later this week.

For now I'm totally stealing an idea from Marko at YS with a few personalizations. The Monday Morning Update. Don't know if it'll amuse you but it'll help me get my thoughts organized.

The Weekend That Was I'm exhausted. End of Sleep Away Camp which is mostly me just flitting around helping out and hoping everything and everyone gets off OK. Worked out great but sucks up a lot of mental energy for me. Then on Sunday it was in early to help set up for a special music service (some Gospel/Jazz stuff. Was quite good)followed by blasting back home to discover the kid didn't have the car packed to go back to college. So we got off late which is grumpy making. Then unload (first floor apartment this year instead of fourth floor walk up dorm room) then shopping for school stuff and food. Rachel didn't know what she wanted so we wandered aimlessly. Further grumpy making. Then a very late dinner with my lady wife. We did a fondue restaurant which was a bit expensive but quite good. Then the long drive home. Collapse into bed.

This week's To Do List Actually creating my To Do list is first. Then Video Editing!!!!!! Lots and lots and lots. Oh and some end of summer paperwork too.

What Am I Procrastinating About? Um, well doing my to do list and that paperwork stuff mostly.

What Am I Reading? "Holy Fools" by Joanne Harris. My lady wife recommended it to me. So far pretty good. The writing is good, the characters are interesting. It takes place in France in 1610 and revolves around members of a troupe of travelling performers.

What Am I Listening To? Have to mention a Finnish group that Rachel has introduced me to Poets of the Fall. I really enjoy the "Carnival of Rust". (The music video is here. It's very Tim Burton but the song is great.

Next Up? I get a break for a little while then I have the Province II Youth Ministry Network meeting in early September.

How Am I Doing? Actually I feel totally whipped today. Mentally and physically. Hope that improves before my visit with the MD on Friday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My city, now and always

Great Pittsburgh sports video. I instantly recognized almost everyone. And if you want just one example of why Roberto Clemente is treated like a baseball god by Pirate fans (and most other knowledgeable baseball fans) watch the clip where he catches the ball in RF, spins and throws a laser to third to nail the runner. I had chills watching this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hmmm, could it be?

(Update - received a private e-mail from another alum of my high school who was a couple years behind me. He confirms that these are the same person. Very cool. He also points out that there's at least one other famous person from our school - Capt. Stephen Frick USN. (Bio) Steve was also a couple years younger than me but has logged over 500 hours in space as a NASA astronaut. He's served as pilot and crew commander on the space shuttle. Going into space was one of my boyhood dreams so it's great to see a hometown boy do it.)

(Update #2 - Got another reminder of the semi-famous and another one that I actually went to school with - Tony award nominee(1994) choreographer Jeff Calhoun. Jeff, Rebecca (just Becky back in the day) and I were all in school musicals together. At least once, probably "Guys and Dolls" and/or "Pajama Game"

Had a chance to hang out with a couple of high school buddies a while ago. We were discussing the chance that someone fairly high profile these days might be an old school chum of ours.

The name is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic advisor to Sen. John McCain in his bid to be our next president. A current photo of Holtz-Eakin didn't help much. Like many of my contemporaries he has a lot less hair than once upon a time. A little background research shows that the high profile gent is the same age as I am (to within a week in fact!) and graduated college the same year. So he certainly COULD be a member of my high school class.

Doug and I weren't friends but we were friendly. We had a lot of friends in common but didn't circulate in the same circles. He was a runner (and a pretty good one as I recall), I was on the debate team. I'd been in his house once for a party (where his dog "bit" me. The dog gave me a very gentle chomp when I did something it objected to. Doug was extremely apologetic). Eakin was one of the smartest people in our class. If it is the same guy then credit to Sen. McCain. Having smart people around you is always the best way to go. Have no idea what Holtz-Eakin's proposals are in detail but I'll probably do a little more digging now.

In reality I don't know that having a former classmate of mine advising him changes my vote (and it probably shouldn't). But it is interesting.

So decide for yourself. Maybe some intern for the McCain campaign will stumble on this blog while doing an internet search and find the answer for me. Heck, if it IS Doug he'll probably get in contact BEGGING me to take down this photo! The photo on the left is from our high school year book "The Rambler" (the cover of which I designed but never got credit for but that's another issue for another day) the one on the right is a recent PR still of the Senator's advisor. Could be.

So whattya think? This would make the second famous person (although both only minorly famous) from my class. The other is Rebecca Cole who had her own TV show on cable for a while on Discovery and has her own floral design company in NYC.

Cole Creates
McCain for President

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Well this is cool!

Here's a much better way to start the day.

Someone quoted me (favorably) on their blog.


Andrew, over at, liked my "Thoughts On the Cart and Horse" sermon and has been thinking about it since. It led him to offer a couple more scripture passages for youth ministry. Good stuff.

Don't know much about Justin except he's a local boy (just over the state line in Erie) originally. I like that the site encourages young people to post as well. We have an awful lot of us old folk talking about youth and faith and not nearly enough youth doing it.

I must have done an especially good job with that sermon. RevRef even said he might steal an idea from it!

Monday, August 04, 2008

I am an idiot

Each week I put out e-mail newsletters to our youth and our adult leaders. I've been beating the drum to raise interest in a conversation about the future of our camp programs which are very low on youth the last couple years.

Well I should be getting LOTS of attention now. I meant to write:

I am NOT saying we SHOULD get rid of the camp programs.

I actually wrote:

I am saying we SHOULD get rid of the camp programs.

Let me make myself clear. What I meant to say is that I am NOT saying we should get rid of the camp program. I am a big believer in the camp programs. I just think they need freshened up and refocused.

I am in SOOOOOOO much trouble.

Stupid boy. Stupid, stupid boy.

And yes I proof read before I hit send. And I still missed it. Thank God for one of my fellow staff members who caught it.

I'm going to go slam my head against the floor for a while now.


I'm so angry I could spit

Much to the surprise of many folks who know me I am a regular reader of "The Living Church". I don't always agree with their editorial point of view but on the whole they are a reasonable voice of a more conservative view point than my own. My thoughts are often stimulated by what I read there.

Well we blew by "stimulated" with this morning's mail. As if often the case we received two copies over the weekend the July 27 and August 10 issues (the August 3 issue arrived last week - go figure). It was the July version that caught my eye. I've reproduced the cover here so you can judge for yourself.

The full cover is of young people attending EYE. The headline is EYE. I anticipated a nice article on this big event. I would think this is what any reasonable person would expect from a news magazine. Inside there was one additional photograph and a very short editorial. The editorial amounted to "We have young people in the church. They do cool stuff. We should keep doing that". The editorial was about three column inches long, the majority being a list of things that young people are doing in some parts of the church.

I was flabbergasted. I was dumbfounded. I was, well I don't use that kind of language on this blog. But I'll bet you can guess.

There was nothing about EYE, a gathering of over a thousand young people. An event where the Presiding Bishop appeared, hung out, worshiped with us before she left for Lambeth. If you don't know what EYE is you certainly won't find out by reading the TLC issue. There isn't any information there.

Once again young people are used as window dressing. It's gee, isn't that swell but let's not waste any of our resources on them. There's too many more important things going in the church.

And we wonder why the Sunday attendance is so old?

I'm so mad I want to swear. To throw things. To pound on something. When in the name of all that is Holy are we going to learn? I'm at a loss for words.

I'm sure the editors at TLC probably wish that were true. I just sent them a blistering letter (all very Anglican polite but seriously angry). We'll see if it shows up any time soon. If not I'll share it here at a later date.

What a rotten way to start a Monday.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

An attempt to get back in the groove

I have an interesting problem during the summer.

Too many days off.

Yeah, I know. I can just hear the sympathy dripping off you all.

Because I'm still at 80% of full time and I'm very busy during camp weeks and EYE I end up with a fair amount of comp time. My bishop is pretty directive about me taking it. When I'm at camp or EYE I actually end up working between 2 and 3 weeks worth of hours in a single week. And let's face it by the time I'm done I'm pretty well wiped out. Not only are the hours long (camp is 7 AM to 11 PM) but as a Myers-Briggs INTP all that "people time" just wears me out.

The problem is that if I'm taking comp time I can't get any work done! It's a conundrum. So I cut back to just 2 days a week for the last couple weeks. That keeps me from falling too far behind. Unfortunately it means some things don't get done right away. Like blogging.

What's that you say? Couldn't I blog from home? Sure. Heck that's where I am right now! But I try to get as much rest as I can (which I need since I'm OLD) plus I can get caught up on chores around the house. Things like mowing the grass, cleaning the garage and weeding the several quite large plant beds around the house. Which doesn't create a lot of bloggable adventure.

But I'm caught up on comp time and headed back into a more normal routine starting tomorrow. So I thought I'd get caught up a bit on blogging.

First, a momentous event! I met another of my online friends today! I've met folks from Tennessee, Maine, and North Caroline but I'd never managed to meet my friend Pseudopiskie who lives all of about 2 hours from here. We just missed meeting a couple weeks ago. So she drove up today and we spent the afternoon together. I'll link to our photo as soon as she posts it. She got the only picture. It was great to meet her, we chatted like we've known each other for years. Which we have, virtually. I'm now up to five online friends that I've met in real life. I'd love to keep adding to that list.

And a new movie!

Pay It Forward - I'm aware that there's a tendency to sneer at this movie by some. It offends our culture's well fed sense of cynicism. Tough. This is a wonderful simple story told very well. It's got a great cast (Kevin Spacey (who I'll watch in anything), Helen Hunt (who I'll watch in anything, although for different reasons in part), Haley Joel Osment, Jon Bon Jovi (who's not a bad actor at all), Jay Mohr, James Caviezel, even Angie Dickinson!). Yes, there are some sniffle moments in the movie and a surprise ending but what a wonderful concept. We could do a lot worse than take the idea of Paying It Forward to heart. Oh and it's also a great theological message that's perfectly in accord with the Gospel. Do something for someone else with no expectation of being "paid back" and ask them to "pay it forward". Even a nice trinitarian touch! This is a truly good movie in just about every possible definition of the concept.

Quick notes: On my weight loss front I'm stalled but that's OK. I wanted to prove to myself that this was a real loss. That it could be maintained during my "real life". And I have, steady in the low 190s with only a couple pounds fluctuation from day to day which is perfectly normal. And all done during a time when I have completely stopped working out! So I'm expecting that I can take the next jump once I kick the workouts back into my schedule. Good stuff.

Haven't ridden the bike much nor played much golf. I've written a few new things and I have an idea for something totally new for me. It's either going to be really cool or I'm going to a complete idiot. We'll see.