Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Believe Unreasonably

About a year ago, Chief Running Miles sent my wife and me the Firefly DVD set. A year later, after passing the set to two other couples, the six of us got together to cap off our viewing by watching Serenity (in High Definition no less). Simply put, the TV show and movie put together are incredible.

Firefly/Serenity comes from the brain of Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. As my wife and I like to say, he's from "the planet". (So brilliant/talented he must be an alien.) The story follows the crew of the Serenity, a "Firefly Class" spaceship 500 years in the future. IMDB describes the plotline this way:

"Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small, mobile, spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them."

Although set in the future, this isn't your everyday science fiction series. A space western is the closest way to describe it, but that doesn't do it credit at all. Even if you are not a science fiction fan I think you will like the series because the stories and characters are so strong the setting becomes secondary.

The stories will have you enthralled from the start, the characters are very well written, and the dialogue (from Whedon and other writers) is quick and sharp. They are thrilling, moving, funny and even frightening, all at the same time. Be sure to watch them in the order they are on the DVD and cap your viewing with the Serenity movie. (Fox screwed up the series in part by airing it in a different order than conceived by Whedon.)

The movie, written and filmed as both a stand alone feature and a wrap-up of the TV series, really is much better if watched after seeing the entire TV series. It will make much more sense and serves as a thrilling conclusion to the story. Many people I talked to who'd seen the movie and not the TV show didn't like the former. They didn't "get it." If you've heard the same, disregard it and watch the entire story.

On the Serenity DVD there is an introduction from Joss Whedon, which he apparently taped for showing before an early viewing of the movie. In it, he describes how a television show that was canceled after a half season eventually became a movie. He attributes it to the fans, who were rabid to say the least (Whedon nicknamed them "Browncoats"). People he says "believed unreasonably" in the story.

Well, I truly believe unreasonably. So, I am doing my part to tout the series and movie to anyone I think would like it. Go buy the Firefly DVD set now, and get the Serenity DVD at the same time. You'll be happy you did.

And, to Chief Running Miles, thanks from me, Katie, Tim, Karen, David and Rene' for helping us believe.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Indiana Jones

I received the Indiana Jones trilogy on DVD for Christmas. Raiders of the Lost Ark has always been the #1 movie on my list of all time favorites. Maybe it was because I saw it at the age of 11 when the excitement and thrill of movies like that can really sink in. Maybe because it's just a good movie. (The #2 movie on my list, The Empire Strikes Back, came out a year before, and interestingly enough in addition to both starring Harrison Ford they were both scripted by Lawrence Kasdan. He wrote neither Raiders sequel but did script Return of the Jedi.)

I was disappointed in both sequels for various reasons. Last Crusade was a little better than Temple of Doom in my book. But neither captured the gritty, edgy thrill of the first one. Re-watching Raiders this week made me remember all the great things about that movie.

Now comes confirmation that the fourth (and final?) installment will finally be filmed next year. Let's hope both Spielberg and Lucas have gone back and watched Raiders - and only Raiders - as they prepare to make #4.

Gallows Poll

The boys in Led Zeppelin once sang:

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends, To keep me from the Gallows Pole?
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Sorry, Saddam, nothing is saving you this time.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Free Will

Free will is an interesting, and sometimes difficult to understand, concept. But it is important both philosophically and religiously, especially to western culture.

Over the past month, Chief Running Miles (personal blog here) has shared two pieces with me that deal with free will. This isn't surprising because despite the fact that he is a (self-taught) software/web application programmer (techie blog here), his undergraduate degree is actually in Philosophy from the College of William and Mary. As he likes to say, as soon as you declare your major to be Philosophy they fax you a McDonald's application.

The first piece was around Thanksgiving and was actually written by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Apparently you have to think deeply about philosophic/theologic subjects like free will to write a good comic strip. Adams is very bright and in this blog entry takes a run at explaining why free will does not exist.

On the heels of that, Chief sent me this recent piece from the Economist that seems to confirm that Adams could be right. Science is beginning to find that our brains may be hard wired for certain decisions. As the Economist notes, if true and humans have no free will this will actually have wide ranging impacts on how society works.

PS- After reading the Adams blog, read his next entry "The One Problem With the World". I posted the link before and it is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Trish Talk

My friend Trish, a fellow PR flak based in Washington DC, has started her own blog. You'll recall that I posted a link to her blog from work in Bagdad. She'll be blogging about national politics, and of course about what is going on in Iraq since she has firsthand experience and contacts there.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Blow Down

I was at my brother-in-law's house last night and it reminded me that I forgot to post this picture of the house across the street after a recent wind storm. Today all that is left is a stump. Believe it or not, the tree hit nothing but the ground, no cars or houses.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For Those About to Rock...

Our eliptical machine is in the girls' playroom upstairs because that is the only available space for it. Usually when I work out, I wear my iPod. But recently I moved my iPod boombox upstairs and have been listening to the iPod that way. After seeing that the girls were listening to some songs on the iPod (some of their music), I was a little concerned about them venturing outside their music and into something inappropriate. I mean, as funny as it probably would be, I didn't need them stumbling onto the Dane Cook or Robin Williams comedy albums on the iPod.

So today I went home at lunchtime to work out and my youngest was upstairs in the play room with the door closed. I could hear music coming out of the room and it was clearly NOT Hannah Montana, the Cheetah Girls, or even Paul Westerberg's songs from the Open Season soundtrack. I went in and she was laying on the floor coloring/drawing and rocking out to...

AC/DC's Back in Black

"You like this music?" I asked.

"Yeah," she replied.

"OK. But I am going to go ahead and change it to Open Season."

Different Drummer

Interesting story about a walk-on football player at Texas A&M who was voluntarily homeless for a year and a half.

"After a dispute with a roommate over bills, Bitner, a nonscholarship junior defensive back for A&M, moved out of a house in College Station following the Aggies' appearance in the Jan. 1, 2005, Cotton Bowl.

For a year and a half, Bitner didn't have a place to stay. He lived under creek bridges on the A&M campus, in a fort he built in the woods near the school's golf driving range and anywhere he could stretch his hammock or lay his sleeping bag around Aggieland."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Images of the Season

Hannah and her cousins hug the Gingerbread Man at Sunriver. Right before this, as we waited, another pint size kid went flying into the Gingerbread Man, and let's just say that a child's head is at just the right, er wrong, level for the Gingerbread Man, and he took a shot to his Gingernads

Lights on the trees outside the Sunriver Lodge.

Hannah as the "Angel's Apprentice" in the church Christmas play.

My mom as a shepherd. Her real role was herding kids at play practice.

Grace as Mary, riding the donkey to Bethlehem.

Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus

The Angel's Apprentice reads from her scroll

Christmas Spirit

Hannah, Grace and I delivered Christmas boxes along with my mom and dad, and nephew Tim and niece Alisha to two families on Saturday. The outreach is something one of our churches (I guess someday I should explain why we attend two churches...) does every Christmas. It was a wonderful experience and great way to demonstrate to our children compassion for others. After the first home, as we walked back to the car, I heard Hannah tell Alisha and Grace, "It makes you feel good to help other people." At the second home, the family asked us to sing a Christmas song, and as you can guess, the Curry family is never shy about singing! Then they asked us to pray for them, which we did as well. The Christmas boxes are a great ministry our church provides and a way to demonstrate to people the true meaning of Christmas and God's love.

Two tables full of donated food ready to be packed up into Christmas baskets for 22 families.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kids Say...

The following post is rated PG-13...

My sister recently shared a story about her son coming home from Jr. High and telling her that he'd learned a new word at school. Not sure I need to complete the story for you to get the gist of the conversation (it started with W and ended with E and had HOR in the middle...), but it led to her telling us another story last night. I'll save that one for the end. But here are two others about kids and the things they say to get you warmed up:

1. This weekend we visited my cousin and her family over in Central Oregon. On Sunday, we went to her church and afterward my 8 year old was telling my wife what she learned in Sunday School. "So, mom, remember that time that sister was eating cookies while you were in the shower?" she asked. "Yes," my wife replied. "Well, her heart was full of sin."

2. Since the final story relates to sex education, it reminded me of this one from a couple years ago. My eldest nephew on my wife's side of the family was getting his first dose of school-sanctioned sex education (as opposed to the non-school sanctioned type which the next story relates to...). His mother tried to make it very clear to him that he absolutely, positively should not share anything he learned with his brother, who is three years younger. One evening, she overheard the boys talking in their room, and the elder son was telling the younger, "So, sometimes, at night, boys go a little potty in their pants, and it's called a wet dream."

3. So, last night's story. First, you should know that we were at dinner for my oldest sister's birthday, and my wife and I were at one end of the table sitting with my brother-in-law (and father to the nephew to whom the story pertains). My sister came down to tell us the following story: They were decorating their Christmas tree last week, when their son decided to ask a question that doesn't normally get asked when a family is decorating the Christmas tree. "So, mom, what's a blow job?"

Ah, yes, looking forward to Jr. High. After our laughter subsided, I told my brother-in-law and wife that if my girls every come home and asked that I am saying, "Go ask your mother." To which my brother-in-law added, "On second thought, she doesn't know either."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Enviro Messaging

Caution: I get on my soapbox in the following post.

I found this blog entry very interesting. He examines some recent research on the public's attitudes toward the environment and the enviro movement. What is particularly interesting to me, though, is the writer's attitude toward those that don't agree with him. Bottomline is that he is arrogant. Comes across as a know-it-all. Seems to be looking down upon those who don't share his enlightened views. And what is interesting is that the story is about how research points out, in part, that the enviromental community is out of step with the bulk of society, and this guy proves it with his comments in this blog post.

Hate to break the news to him, but this kind of attitude isn't going to convert people that have no current interest in the topic. And, in fact, it has the potential to do just the opposite and push them further away.

Now, before I get too far, yes, I realize I am not the target market for this guy's blog. He's preaching to the choir. But sometimes when you are preaching to the choir there might be someone in the congregation who just happened to walk in and is hearing your message for the first time!

I am a Republican (egad) who considers himself environmentally aware. I recycle; I am switching to flourescent lightbulbs as the others burn out; I eliminated the grass in my front yard to reduce water consumption, reduce pesticide runoff (I don't use any pesticide and fertilizer now) and eliminate the need to fire up the gas powered mower (though I switched to a push mower several years ago anyway); I recently ditched my traditional SUV for a more fuel efficient mini-SUV; I am working with my father to pursue putting solar panels on two different churches in the area in order to take them off the grid; hiking and fly fishing are two important activities to me, so I am engaged in issues related to the outdoors, especially water issues.

I am actually the perfect target market for this guy. But he turns me off with snide comments like:

"...and why conservative politicians, as a rule, can run roughshod over the planet with impunity."


"So, big news: Americans are shallow, misinformed, self-interested, and unsophisticated."

The first came early in the blog, and he's lucky I kept reading. But I did. The second compelled me to write this piece.

Perhaps instead of being self righteous about how superior they are with regard to environmental issues, the enviro community should consider messages that appeal to what really drives people's actions. Those messages are revealed in the study he cites. That is, "what's in it for me?" Yes, people are self interested. So, use that to your advantage!

In fact, many of the steps that I've take which are listed above were quite self interested. Consider:

- Recycling reduces my garbage bill because I need a smaller barrel each month if I recycle;
- Flourescent bulbs last longer, so although they cost more, I don't have to change them as often;
- Eliminating my front yard grass saves me money on my water bill and time because I don't have to mow the lawn;
- My new mini-SUV gets better gas mileage and saves me money on my gas bill each month;
- Adding solar panels to the churches will save them about $4k per year in electricity costs, money that can be spent on other church mission areas.

Environmentalists need to refocus their message and how they deliver it if they hope to reach a larger audience. That is the way they are going to broaden their success and better reach their goals.