So for those of you who don’t know, we recently picked out a dachshund puppy, who came to live with us today. We’ll try not to be those people who take way too many pictures of the puppy, but to be honest, right now he’s too cute not to take pictures of. So without further ado…

2010 World Cup – thoughts after two games

What we’ve learned during the World Cup so far:
  1. France and Italy are over the hill.
    • France’s team is in shambles – at this point they need a miracle just to salvage dignity. Locker room fights, federation officials quitting, scoreless in 2 games – the French have lost and looked bad doing it.  Italy has better results, but in typical Italian fashion has cheated their way to two draws. Unless the Azzurri can put things together in their last group stage game, the two teams that made the finals in 2006 are going to be going home early.
  2. England needs to blow its team up.
    • First it was Sven-Göran Eriksson. Then it was Steve Mclaren. Now it’s Fabio Capello. The only common thing between these three managers is that they’ve been in charge of a squad that has consistently underperformed at the world stage. Hopefully the FA will be smart, keep Capello, possibly one of the stars (my vote would be Gerrard), and blow the rest of the team up. If there’s anything we’ve learned in this World Cup, it’s that teams that are well organized and lack talent can beat super stars who don’t play well together.
  3. South American teams are ?????
    • To listen to the pundits, we’re looking at an all South American final. Maybe for the next 50 years. European football, they say, is in serious trouble, and South America is on the rise. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon at this point, but I’ll reserve a ticket just in case.For my money, the facts just don’t add up to South American dominance just yet. Brazil – South America’s #1 ranked powerhouse – beat the worst team in the tournament 2-1, and didn’t look terribly impressive doing it. Portugal – a currently highly ranked but generally middle of the road European team – put 7 goals on the same team. Uruguay only managed a draw with the dysfunctional French, Argentina looked marginal at best against a Nigerian squad that Greece beat worse, Chile escaped with a 1-0 win against a ten man Swiss team, and Paraguay only managed a draw against the impotent Italians. Sure, the Argentinians took South Korea apart, and Brazil did well against Ivory Coast (if you don’t count their young players losing their temper when the Ivorians got nasty), but those have been the only two real bright spots for South America.
      And those European teams? The Dutch, Spanish and Germans have all looked great against their opponents, and for the two losses endured by those teams, Germany lost to Serbia playing with ten men for most of the match, and even a man down looked dominant with plenty of scoring changes. Spain’s loss against Switzerland was a display of bad luck if ever there were one – Spain simply couldn’t catch a break. And by the way both of those losses were against European, not South American, teams. Sure, Europe has a couple of dogs in the tournament. Yeah, the Slovaks haven’t looked so good, but nobody really expected them to contend anyway. France and Italy may be big news, and England isn’t really giving a great account for the continent at the moment, but at the moment, I like European teams deep into the tournament over South American ones.

      For all of the supposed South American success, it seems to be beating up against weak African or Asian sides.

      Which leads to…

  4. African teams are not contenders.
    • We wanted an African contender on African soil, but it’s not happening yet. African football is getting better, but it has a ways to go before it can really compete against the powerhouses of the international game.
  5. No matter who you are, if the result didn’t go your way, you have a legitimate case to blame the officials.
    • This is probably rule number 3 of soccer. There have been some poor calls in this cup to be sure – Kaka, Cahill, Kewell, and Klose being sent off certainly merit some big question marks.  Italians diving in the box, yellow cards for borderline challenges, and yes, even the non-foul foul called against the American team. In soccer, perhaps more than any other sport, the referee has the power to change the game, and the unfortunate reality in soccer is that, for the most part, he only has the power to ruin the game. The fact of the matter is that every game, no matter how well officiated, is full of borderline calls.  Some go your way, and some go against you.  It’s just a part of the game. Fans can (and will) always complain, but at the end of the day, the team’s job is to play in such a way that they’re not at mercy of a bad call – at least as much as possible.

There’s certainly a lot more excitement to come – shaping up to be a great third round of games.

Hunger in America

It’s that time of year again. It was only a small blurb on the crawl of the news this morning: “Government hunger report shows 14.5% of American households lack sufficient food.” It was referring, of course, to the new USDA report on Household Food Security in the United States, which shows the highest numbers of food insecure households since the study was started in 1995.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that in this year of economic downturn there would be more people who are going hungry, but the numbers aren’t that rosy, even during the boom times. This year, however, 14.5% of American households translates into roughly 44 million people –  approximately the number of people living in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas put together. The summary statistics are convicting: food insecurity happens in every region, every type of family unit, and even across a range of incomes.

It is a silent tragedy.

And that, really, is the  real tragedy to me: the unreported and unappreciated nature of the problem. The people who represent us politically are in arms about reform which will grand Health Care to 30 million new individuals – a worthy goal – but a less expensive and perhaps more basic and critical problem that affects more people isn’t even talked about. What if we spent 14.5% of the proposed cost of health care reform on programs to provide decent food to those in need?

Many of us don’t want to confront the reality that people in our country – people in our states and in our cities – are going hungry when we spend $4 dollars on a cup of coffee and $7 on a hamburger. There are times when some of us will spend more in one meal than the USDA “thrifty food plan” allots for a week (about 37 dollars). In fact many of us would find it difficult, if not impossible, to eat for a whole week on $37.

We like to call ourselves the greatest country in the world – the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are also, it seems, the home of the hungry.

Lemons – Update 2

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One of the louder and more annoying cars of the weekend…

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The Baja Bug was one of the cars we could pass on the track.

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Pace car? Try pace bus.

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A 2002 Mini Cooper for $500 bucks? The judges didn’t think so either, and gave them 1355 penalty laps.

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The Gremlin, in one of its rare track appearances.

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This guy didn’t make it until the drop of the green flag before breaking down.

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This guy didn’t even make it on the track.

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Leading in the corner.  Yeah, that roll is normal.

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Look at it go!

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Plenty of questionable driving during the weekend. I’ll be honest – this guy locked up the breaks every lap.

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Don’t laugh at the old BMW.  It was fast.  Really fast.

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Watching the cars come down the front straight.

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See that motion blur?

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Yeah… who says these cars are slow?

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Fueling and driver changes.

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Might give you an idea of how much the car is worth…

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The Gremlin was black flagged for being too slow…

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You do not want to see a puddle under your car.

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You don’t want to see grass in your grill either.

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What have we here?

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Really hot.

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Yeah… I want one.

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Towing is earth friendly? Really?

24 Hours of Lemons – The Race Begins…




William pop riveted some decorations onto the car…


We paid $150 yesterday to run about 3 laps. Given what we fixed, money well spent.


You know you want one.


Everyone loves our Cosmic wheels.  Too bad we only have 3.


This was my contribution.


The office.


The Gremlin next to us went all German… Should have done that on the engine…


This is the symbol for teams who bribe the judges.  We’re probably the only team with a zero-lap penalty who doesn’t have one of these.


Team WT Motorsports.


Morning driver’s meeting.


Pit row. You can hot pit here (if you take yourself too seriously) or you can bring it back to the camping area and be a bit more relaxed.


Philip getting in the car.


A view from the inside.


Headed out to the track…


At the front of the pack on a blue Texas morning…

benedictions and prayers

After a tad bit of prompting, I’ve backposted benedictions from this semester. I hopefully will be slightly more prompt, now that I’m caught up.

Additionally, I’ve created a new category for prayers. One of my goals this semester is to be far more intentional and thoughtful about prayer in general, and specifically any corporate prayers of which I’m a part.  It’s inconceivable to me that we are intolerant of mediocrity in almost every area except in how we talk to God.  I don’t think I can fix that in one semester, but at least on my part I’d like to do what I can.

I keep saying that life may slow down sometime, but it doesn’t seem to. There are certainly worse alternatives, but it makes keeping up with the blog somewhat difficult sometimes. Hopefully I’ll have time to work on a few of the drafts sitting in the queue soon, but for now, I’ll be content to try and keep up with transcription, and see where we go from there.

U2 – Houston 360 Tour

What is there to be said that others haven’t already mentioned about U2’s 360 tour? At this point, it seems like most of my friends and circles have seen and spoken about the tour, but Wednesday was my turn, and I’ve finally had a couple of minutes to sit and relate my experience.

U2 360

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that this was the 4th time I’ve seen U2 in concert, but the first time I’ve seen them in a stadium, as opposed to an arena. While having a concert in a venue as large as Reliant is great in a lot of ways, it does really tone down the energy level quite a bit. I will never forget the moment they walked on stage the first time I saw them in Austin, as the sound of the crowd drowned out the music. While the stadium was larger with an incredible amount of people, it just didn’t have the same energy as previous shows.

As usual, the technical side of the show was amazing.  The set was over the top, and the video work was some of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t know who gets to engineer those sets and design them, but if anyone out there happens to read this, I’d be happy to send a resume.  While the technical side of things is cool, the reason you go see a band like U2 isn’t their hardware, but the music. To me, there were really three moments in the concert that stood out in particular, and I won’t be taking them in chronological order.

One of the great things about U2 in general, in my opinion, is their ability to take their songs and reinterpret them in new, but honest contexts. One of the best examples of that, I think, was their performance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, a song written over 25 years ago about an incident where the British Army shot and killed 13 civil rights protesters in 1972. As the band played during this tour, the video screens flashed images primarily of the election troubles in Iran, particularly the scenes of violence, where the chilling refrain, “How long, how long must we sing this song?”, seemed to echo more of despair than U2’s generally upbeat and hopeful take on the future being “a better place“.

Mark Love’s comments on the first encore are really better than anything I could say, but none the less the moment was powerful. As a brief recount, the first encore began with a video of Desmond Tutu, then led into “One”, which has been a staple of U2 encores for as long as I’ve seen them. At the end, however, Bono moved smoothly into a single verse of “Amazing Grace”, which was marvelous on many levels. First, it’s perhaps a bit surprising to hear such a classic gospel song at a secular rock concert, but for me it wasn’t just the song – it was the feeling and honesty of Bono’s voice, particularly as he (and most of the crowd) sang the first two lines: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound/ that saved a wretch like me!” To me, it dovetailed perfectly with Bono’s added emphasis during “City of Blinding Lights”: “Blessings not just for the ones who kneel – luckily.” I think there is a wonderful and implicit recognition in the music of U2 that “there but for the grace of God go I”, and that God’s blessings are not the possession of the church, but rather of God, and his to do with as he sees fit.

For me, though, the high point of the concert was without doubt the juxtaposition of two songs in particular. At times it’s been hard for me to pick my “favorite” U2 song, but for quite a while now it’s been “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” There are a variety of reasons, but at the core I think the song perfectly mirrors the current religious discontent of many in my generation – that we’ve heard a message of God that somehow seems to be lacking, and even though there is this massive carrot being held out, there’s still something missing – something unfinished. As Love would say, it is a “properly eschatological” song. Crucially, though, and I am certain intentionally, as the song faded away, a new voice entered in –

When the night has come
and the land is dark
and the moon is the only light we see –
I won’t cry, I won’t cry,
no I won’t shed a tear,
just as long as you stand,
stand by me.

As I mentioned before, in many ways it seemed to me this was a more reflective, less hopeful concert than previous times I’ve seen them. Even though the Vertigo tour’s closing “40” shares a common refrain with “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, the tone of the songs could not be more different – while “40” boldly declares the words of Psalm 40 (“I waited patiently for the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry”), “Sunday Bloody Sunday” takes a much more cynical view of progress: “And the battle’s yet begun / this many lost but tell me who has won?” In the middle of this time of reflection, however, was the bold and beautiful pronouncement of belief following one the two most profoundly (and self-described) gospel songs in their canon – that though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil.

Moving Hosts

Just to keep everyone up to date, we’ve switched webhosts from a shared (slow) server to a colocated (fast) server where we have a bit more control over what goes on.  The long and the short of it involves Dreamhost complaining that transferring images to my sister so she could make wedding books violated their terms of service, which led to us getting our own dedicated box and telling Dreamhost we wouldn’t be paying them any more money. During the transfer last night I was getting about 42Mbps of throughput from the DH servers to our new one, so I think speed shouldn’t be an issue.

The result should be that service is faster, not that most people will notice that.  On the flip side, if any of you have always wanted to get your website hosted somewhere and didn’t know where, let me know.  We’ve got plenty of space and bandwidth.

Palm Pre

Not an entirely exciting post after a month’s break, but yesterday we finally joined the smart phone world with the purchase of two Palm Pre’s.  For those of you who aren’t into electronics, the Palm Pre is Palm’s attempt to save the company, conceived by a bunch of execs who left Apple to take on the challenge of rebuilding the once-mighty Palm.

A few impressions, for those of you who are thinking about possibly getting one.

  1. The Pre is not an iPhone killer, but it is a legitimate competitor.  While it doesn’t (yet) have the extensive selection of applications the iPhone does, the Pre does accomplish the major tasks you expect from a smart phone, and does it in a more elegant way than Apple’s implementation.  The card feature is more useful than you might think, and being able to switch between applications without losing focus in your other applications is a feature that is almost criminal to omit.
  2. The Pre is slow.  Right now the feel of the Pre is rather unresponsive, and it always feels like it’s a step or two behind when you’re trying to get it to do things.  The general consensus is that Palm has things to fix in webOS to make it fully functional and improve performance, so hopefully we’ll see some performance and battery life gains in the near future.
  3. As noted above, battery life is a bit poor.  The flip side to this is that the battery is replaceable, which is a definite plus over the iPhone.  Not worried about having to discharge all the way.
  4. Build quality is so/so.  In general the Pre feels sturdy, but there is a disturbingly large amount of flex in the sliding part when closed.
  5. Contacts.  Palm’s system for organizing your contacts is good, but the fact it syncs (automatically) with Google’s “All Contacts” instead of “My Contacts” means that everyone who has ever sent you an email ends up on your phone, which is probably not what most people (myself included) are looking for.  There are various strategies to combat this, but if you’re considering getting a Pre, it would be well and good for you to have your Google Contacts in order before you activate.

All in all though, I’m rather pleased with it. So feel free to call, txt, gmail, poke, or do whatever else you do with people who have smart phones.  I’ve joined the revolution.


It’s been a busy month for us, and that’s probably been reflected in the sparseness of posts on the blog. Things in general have been very good, and our time has been full of things we’ve enjoyed tremendously.

While there are several things to post (and indeed I’ll try to back-post several benedictions later today), I wanted to go ahead and post our “big news” for the month. This is the text of an email we sent out after returning from the cardiologist on Monday evening. We are appreciative of everyone’s support and encouragement so far, and will certainly keep everyone updated who wants to know. If you did not receive the email and want to get the most up-to-date information, let me know and I can put you on that list

Blessings to all

We hope this email finds you all well. Many of you know that last November, Katie visited her cardiologist for a routine checkup. During that visit, the echo cardiogram results showed an elevated pressure gradient across her aortic valve. Because this particular test tends to overestimate the pressures within the heart, the cardiologist advised us that the levels were high enough that a heart catheterization procedure should be scheduled in order to accurately test the pressures and give us more information about how to proceed. Earlier this month, we went to Dallas for Katie to have the heart cath, and today we visited the cardiologist to discuss the results.

The cardiac cath procedure showed some levels that were concerning to both the surgeon who performed the procedure and Katie’s personal cardiologist. The pressure gradient across the aortic valve was 51mmHg, which was significantly higher than the previous cardiac cath she had when she was 18. Katie’s cardiologist indicated this number in itself is not critical, though on its own it would be on the borderline to think about action. The more concerning number to them was the diastolic ventricle pressure, which was 18mmHg, approximately two to three times the normal level. This is caused by the narrowing of the outflow passage leading to the aortic valve. There were also indications of a thickening of the muscle around the left ventricle, evidence of the heart working harder to overcome the increased pressure. (Sorry to the medical professionals reading this email – we’re doing the best we can! We have a copy of the results, for those interested).

Due to the combination of these two elevated numbers, Dr. Fryer recommended Katie undergo a valve replacement known as a Ross procedure which will replace her aortic valve with her own pulmonary valve, then replace her pulmonary valve with a pulmonary valve from a cadaver. As part of the procedure, the doctors would also widen the path leading to the valve itself, thereby reducing the pressure within her left ventricle. While Dr. Fryer said there was no immediate emergency, he recommended having the procedure as soon as possible, no later than this summer.

For those of you who are unaware, Katie was born with a congenital heart condition called sub-aortic stenosis. While aortic stenosis is relatively common in elderly people, it is rare in children. Dr. Fryer has followed Katie since she was ten, and has overseen both her previous surgeries.

Next week we plan on speaking to a cardiac surgeon dealing in congenital heart issues who Dr. Fryer recommended to perform the actual valve replacement. At this point, we are planning on trying to schedule the procedure for sometime early this summer, likely in June. Katie continues to remain asymptomatic, and this procedure will prevent future damage to her heart and valve. We will keep everyone up to date as we learn more information.