Monthly Archives: January 2007

Adventures in the Kitchen

Last night I attempted to make a double batch of Rice-a-Roni, enough for all four of us. I started by dumping the rice mixture and the seasoning packet into a big pan. Mistake. The seasoning packet comes later. But once it’s mixed in, there’s no separating it. So I proceeded.

Add butter, let it melt, and saute the rice until it’s a golden brown. Well, with the seasoning coating everything, everything was discolored. Plus, it burned. Lots of burned rice. I decreed that the sauteing was complete, and proceeded to add water, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer in the covered pan for 15 minutes. And 20 minutes. And 25.

Taste test. I scooped out some rice. It was crunchy. But that was probably just the shaved almonds. So I extracted one solitary piece of rice and stuck it in my mouth. It was hard and crunchy.

So I dumped the whole thing in the trash, and our supper became, instead, a tray-full of pizza rolls. Very healthy. I should stick to grilling.

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In Fear of Komodo Dragon

This morning I stopped at Starbucks, saw that Komodo Dragon was the day’s decaf coffee, and walked out.

Komodo Dragon is strong, evil stuff, concocted in the labyrinths of Mordor. My fear is that it will eat through my plastic mug, through the cup holder, and through the floorboard, like alien acid blood. This could actually happen.

So I opted to stop at the Java Hut in Roanoke, on the way to work. They actually have very good coffee.

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Avoiding “Strikes” in the Pew

I’ve been reading BusinessWeek for over 20 years, and enjoy finding things that apply to the church. The backpage column by Jack and Suzy Welch (he’s the renowned former pres of General Electric) is always engaging. They just answer questions people send. In the January 15 issue, someone said workers went on strike at their largest factory, demanding higher pay, even though they paid the same as at other factories.

The Welches responded that when labor issues erupt, the trouble can usually be traced to workplace leadership–usually, a plant boss or foreman who is abusive, insensitive, bullying, secretive, or all of the above. “In short,” they write, “bad management most likely caused your strike.”

Is that usually the problem when problems arise in churches? A pastor or “church boss” or elder board who are insensitive, bullying, secretive? Yes, I’ve seen shades of that time and again in our churches. (At my own church, though, we try to be highly transparent, and our pastor takes the lead in that.)

The Welches say the answer is to install plant leaders who are transparent, candid, fair, and respectful. Yes, we need church leaders like that, too.

A key principle, they say, is to give workers a voice and dignity. “All employees, not just the ones carrying briefcases, need to be heard. Factory workers in particular need to know they are more to the company than just a pair of hands at a machine. Their ideas count.” So how do you do this? You listen, you create forums where workers are encouraged to raise their ideas for doing things better. “Nothing builds resentment like a factory boss standing cross-armed in his glassed-in office, overseeing from on high.” We at the denominational headquarters (my day job) are often perceived this way, though it’s not fair.

And then they conclude with this, which I really like: “What you need are local plant leaders who are comfortable with dialogue. That builds trust….When managers operate transparently and fairly and workers know it, there is no need for a third party to broker the conversation between them. There is just one team, working together to win.”

A lot of good stuff there about dealing with people.

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No More A/C

Somebody stole the church’s outside air-conditioning unit. Just backed up to the church, removed the big unit, and hauled it away. Probably gonna tear it apart for the copper and aluminum. Swell. At least we’re not exactly using it right now.

I guess a lot of this is happening. I’m sure that the scrap metal dealers, when they receive materials from air-conditioners, have no idea whatsoever that it might be stolen stuff.

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10 Great Things About Steak ‘N Shake

Steak ‘N Shake is probably my favorite restaurant. I never get tired of going there. Went there this afternoon for a bowl of chili. Scrumptious. Here are some of the great things about Steak ‘N Shake.

  1. Those fabulous thin fries.
  2. Can’t beat the chili. Non-spicy, thick, tasty.
  3. They show a playful, deliberately cheesy sense of humor in their commercials.
  4. Neon signage.
  5. They give you those big, wide straws which require less sucking power, especially with milkshakes.
  6. The gumball machines. Pam always gives me a quarter after I pay the bill, so I can get a big cherry gumball.
  7. Your drink comes in a really big glass (which is actually glass).
  8. The best patti melt anywhere (though my favorite sandwich is the Frisco Melt).
  9. The black-and-white checkerboard design motif.
  10. Open 24 hours.
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Chris Daughtry Rocks

daughtry.jpgSpeaking of American Idol–and isn’t everybody?–I need to give a thumbs-up to Chris Daughtry’s album, “Daughtry.” I listened to the clips on iTunes several weeks ago and liked them all, so I downloaded the whole album. And I tell you–it’s really good. A solid, hard-rocking, “no compromise Chris” album.

I would go see Taylor Hicks perform. But I’m not sure I’d want to listen to his album recreationally. But with Daughtry’s album, I can fire up Photoshop for a design project and crank up the volume, and all is well in my world.

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Escapism with a Goal

I enjoy reading novels as an escapist kind of diversion. I once devoured thrillers (Ludlum, Clancy, Morrell, Cussler), but in more recent years I have favored older hard-boiled detective novels by folks like Raymond Chandler, James Cain, and Dashiell Hammett. These guys wrote in the early to mid 1900s, when explicit sex scenes and profanity were taboo in literature. It’s nice reading books without all that junk (only general immorality, skullduggery, and senseless killings). Right now I’m reading Hammett’s The Thin Man, written in1933. Before that, I read Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train (1950).

I find myself being oddly purposeful in how I tackle books. For example, Highsmith’s book was 280 pages. When I start a book, I always note how many pages until the end. My first goal is to get through the first 100 pages. Then I feel I’m committed to the book; I can’t back out, but must finish it. My next goal is to get to the halfway mark. So after reaching page 100, I set my eyes on page 140. Then I focus on the point where I have just 100 pages to go–in this case, page 180. And then it’s just a matter of counting down, ten pages at a time.

This would seem to get in the way of escapism, this quest for The End. But that’s how I am and have always been. My own private little neurosis.

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State of the President

So, another State of the Union address tonight. The last time I watched Bush give this speech, he convinced me that Saddam Hussein was acquiring nuclear material and that an invasion of Iraq was justified. Bush knew he was at the least stretching the truth, if not outright lying. He lost my trust then, and has done nothing to regain it.

I haven’t watched a State of the Union since, and pay scant attention to any of Bush’s speeches. I’ll skip tonight’s speech, too. I’d rather go play table tennis.

Besides, he’s in “legacy preserving” mode. Which is a futile endeavor. I’ve said for a long time that Bush is the worst president of my lifetime. He’s quickly plunging toward being one of the worst presidents of all time. Fortunately, just two more years.

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The Ever-Adorable Connor

Molly has been curious about Connor lately. The other night she kept watch on Connor as he snoozed in his crib, peering over the top or through the mesh on the side. It was cute to watch.

We enjoy having Allen, Carolyn, and Connor staying with us. They both need more in terms of employment. Allen’s not had more than a few days of work since they came to stay with us in early December. Carolyn had two days of work last week at Toys R Us, and one day the week before that. So that’s a matter of prayer. Two other fellows in our Wednesday night prayer group, Dan and RJ, also need work. I signed my name as a reference for an application for RJ on Sunday.

I’ve been promising people I would post more photos of Connor. So here goes. Just click on a link to view the photo.

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“Go Colts!” Says the Lord Almighty

Pastor Tim told us in church this morning that if the Colts make it to the Super Bowl, we are all supposed to come to church on Super Bowl Sunday clad in Colts garb. So…looks like that’s what we’ll be doing.

Both owner Jim Irsay and Coach Tony Dungy, in the post-game interviews, gave God credit for the win. I’m glad God is so deeply interested in football that he would engineer a victory for the Colts. I would hate to require that the Colts win on talent alone, without divine help. It’s also reassuring that God is discerning enough to know that he should get behind the Colts, and that he should make sure the Patriots (despite their Religious Right approved name) don’t win. Indiana is, after all, a solid Republican state, and a stark contrast to those liberals in Massachusetts. Football is one of the few things in the world that is so important that it requires divine intervention. We should all give it more prayer attention.

I’m wondering who God will favor in the Super Bowl. Will he once again intervene on behalf of the Colts, or will he allow evil to prevail in this fallen world? We’ll know in two weeks.

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