Quebec vacation

Right now it’s -5° (-20° windchill), and we’re forecast for a low tonight of -10° (-25° windchill). 15 years ago this month, Alice and I traveled to Ste-Adèle, Québec (North of Montreal) to celebrate our second anniversary. (Our first was celebrated in Big Bend, TX. While it was quite a bit warmer, we still had icicles hanging in our tent at the Chisos Basin Campground. More on that in another post.)

My recollection is lacking a lot of details, but we stayed a a great B&B that provided an activity package that included dog sledding, snow shoeing, and snowmobiling, in addition to their own hot tub and sauna. I don’t remember their being many other guests, which was nice for us. They’re still around, so I guess they get enough business to survive.

Snowmobiling along trails and across frozen lakes was great fun, even if the snow off the trail was yards-deep in places. Dog sledding was also fun, but a lot more work than I expected.

We also drove up to Parc National du Mont-Tremblant and enjoyed the scenery, (Right now it’s -22° there.), ate at a local restaurant we had the sole car amongst a dozen or so snowmobiles in the parking lot, and first experienced poutine (yum). Oh, and ate at a French restaurant in Montreal.

We traveled along the north side of Lakes Erie and Ontario heading east, and on the south side heading west. It was a bit of a shock crossing into Vermont and buying gas. We went from seeing everything in French (maybe English) to everything in English and Spanish (no French in sight). Go figure.

On the way back we stopped to see Niagara Falls (cool, but very, very cold) and get wings and brews in Buffalo at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.

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Too cold

It’s been over 15 years since I was a winter bicycle commuter, and I’ve been eager to see what my lower threshold would be. Today exceeded it. This morning the temp was 11° and the windchill was -4°. My rule of thumb is now either < 15°, or (more likely) < 0° windchill. My fingers get too cold, and I can’t tolerate any more loss of dexterity to insulate more. My toes, legs, and other parts got a bit chilly too, not to mention freezing my windward ear while I was standing at the bank drive through.

My bike computer didn’t like it either, though I’m puzzled why my chain and derailleurs were sticking. Maybe those are unrelated?

Anyhow, it never gets too cold to walk, so now I know when to hoof it.

Relocation

Wednesday, we closed on a new house. Saturday, we moved in and started sleeping there. ASAP, the old house will become a rental to help pay the mortgage on the new house. :)

Now we have 1 bedroom for each child and 1 toilet for every 2 people! Things are already more peaceful…

80s television

Occasionally, when I’m sick and too braindead to read, I watch ’80s TV. It’s kinda fun to revisit the shows of my teens, many of which didn’t last more than a season or two. In addition to the stereotypical shows like Knight Rider and The A-Team (whose unrealism bothered me even then), I really liked shows like Automan, Manimal, Street Hawk, and Air Wolf. Usually, I can’t watch more than a few episodes before I’ve had enough. There have been three exceptions.

Misfits of Science was undeniably cheesy, but it is still entertaining. And somehow, more than any other show I’ve seen, feels quintessentially ’80s. I don’t know how they do it, but it feels like it embodies that decade, cheese and all.

I had completely forgotten about Stingray, but ran across it while conducting a survey of ’60s and ’70s TV themes while building an instrumental funk station on Pandora. (It’s not from that period, I just found it while looking there. :) Stingray is surprisingly well done, but it was apparent that by the second season they were trying to figure out how to mix it up and keep people interested. Somehow they manage to do that for me through the second season, more than 20 years after the series ended.

Sledge Hammer! was, and continues to be, my favorite ’80s show. I own the DVDs. As satire, it’s spot on. It’s highly imaginative and logically extends the original material to the point of silliness. It probably helps to know the material being satirized (Dirty Harry, ’80s pop culture, etc), but having grown up immersed in it all, it’s hard for me to say.

I’ve not watched everything I enjoyed back then, but I think I’ve revisited most of it. I’ll post again if anything else is remarkable.

Texas in August

This is a followup to my post on Texas BBQ, where I promised I’d post notes from other BBQ joints I’d hoped to visit. This includes that, and notes many other places we either did visit or intended to visit.

We stopped by the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, OK, and it was very cool.

Later that day we had an impromptu stop by Adelita’s Cafe in Eufala, OK. It doesn’t really get good reviews, but for us the service was excellent, the atmosphere was great, the portions were huge, and everybody enjoyed their food. My tamales were delicious, and I’ve yet to find better ones anywhere. I was hesitant to stop at an unplanned Mexican restaurant because there were so many (reputedly) great ones on the itinerary, and I didn’t want to get burnt out. That wasn’t a problem, and I’m glad we stopped here.

In New Braunfels I had hoped to visit Adobe Verde, but it was not to be. However, we did enjoy tasty baked goods from Naegelins Bakery and German food from Friesenhaus. We stayed at one ore more Hampton Inns on this trip, and they were all great.

In San Antonio I dropped off everyone at the Kiddie Park, and went to pick up Alice’s sister from the airport. We went back to the park, grabbed a fitting lunch across the street at Good Time Charlie’s, and then headed downtown for a Riverwalk Cruise. The cruise is a great way to see things; it’s quick, easy, informative (there’s a guide), and the perfect choice when you have kids. :) We got ice cream from a quaint hole in the wall we saw while waiting for our cruise.

Eventually it was time for supper, and we were in the mood for Mexican. We didn’t make it to Tito’s or Rosario’s, but we did eat at El Mirador. I don’t think anyone was happy with the food, the slow service, or the dark, cramped atmosphere. I remember being particularly intrigued by Rosario’s, just because recent tasty additions to Dos Reales sounded like they’d been lifted directly off of the Rosario’s menu. I figure if the Illinois version is good, how much better would the Texas version be?

In Corpus Christie we stayed at the Best Western Marina Grand Hotel Lodging, and we weren’t pleased. The service was nice enough, but the rooms smelled smoky, and it seemed like the odor was coming from the HVAC.

 I don’t remember if we got to actually touch any dolphins, but we definitely got to see them up close. The people at Dolphin Connection were wonderful and knowledgeable.

It looked like we’d be just in time to see the Sea Turtle Hatchlings at Padre Island National Seashore, but it was the tail end of the trip and we decided that everyone was too tired to make it there before sunrise.

The USS Lexington was very interesting, but I saw only a small fraction of it in 1hr I had while everyone else was at Magee beach swimming and flying kites.

I really wanted to try the BBQ mutton at the Gonzales Food Market, but it didn’t work out. This even despite the fact that there was a satellite store in San Antonio. :(

We pulled into Houston very hungry, and my family is always in the mood for Mexican. We didn’t have any plans’ so we called Alice’s Uncle Lee, who had lived in Houston for several years. I can’t seem to find it now, but it was incredible. I’ll give it its own post when I find out what it was called.

In the Joaquin, the last town before we passed from Texas into Louisiana, we stopped at the rustic Worsham Grocery, grainery, and general store. It turns out that the proprietor used to live in West York, IL, and knew Libby’s dad when he was Postmaster there. It’s a small world.

Christmas Music

This is a bit more positive than my other Christmas post

Way back in high-school, I worked at Fisher’s Big Wheel, a department store of the Midwest and Northeast. I only worked there through two Holiday shopping seasons, but it was enough for me to never want to hear Christmas music again(*). It wasn’t just the (relatively) few songs that were repeated ad nauseum in the store, it affected my ability to enjoy any Christmas music, including hymns.

Thankfully, after twenty-something years, I started being able to tolerate some Christmas music, and have purchased a few “atypical” albums for my wife (Harry Connick, Jr.Diana Krall, and The Fab Four). This year, and maybe a little last year, I actually wanted to hear some Christmas music.

(* I have to admit that I was, previous to my Holiday work experience, disproportionately affected by the fact that my elementary school’s music program, which played used an identical Christmas curriculum for grades 3, 4, and 5. I can still see the Nutcracker filmstrip, and while the ballet’s music is now tolerable, I still loathe “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas”, which we sang at least once a week for four weeks, all three years.)

Omphaloskepsis?

Ultimately, some people will find themselves irritated by things like the discussion of Bad Decisions. We’re pretty much infinitely imperfect and ignorant, so there’s no way on earth to divine a certain answer and it’s all conjecture. Anyone who’s mind is grounded on concrete things will probably want to run away and never look back. But I’m naturally abstract, and this is some of what goes through my head as I try to make sense of the world around me . (I’m always creating and refining models, systems, and frameworks…) I’m also naturally introverted, so it is usually entirely inside my head. It seems like a good idea to get it out. Not only do things look and sound a little different when they are “outside”, but it also provides an otherwise absent avenue for external correction.

I’m aware that people occasionally find me combative (or I’m occasionally aware that people find me combative). While I acknowledge this, I really don’t understand it. It seems like I can either accept any idea, or take an idea, tear it apart, and evaluate it. I’ve generally done this with with anything I already believe, and it seems like it would be foolish forgo this before replacing any held belief with a new one. My feeling is that the alternative is to be a nonthinking lump of flesh, and that doing so would render my existence pointless. This is undoubtedly extreme and wrong, but it’s how I feel, and I can’t just change the way I feel because it’s not correct, reasonable, or rational. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) In any case, my “attacking” another person’s idea (not the person) would be better taken as a sign of respect, because I think that the idea is worth of consideration and possible adoption. Similarly, I get also uncomfortable when someone else seems to accept my idea without adequate vetting. I feel patronized or dismissed, not honored or respected.

Some people think that their relationship to me somehow grants their ideas adequate reason for adoption. Being my boss, pastor, parent, wife, daughter, brother, or friend doesn’t make someone omniscient or infallible. People who care about me (and themselves) should want their ideas honestly evaluated for mutual benefit. Having a relationship certainly does grant their ideas some degree of additional consideration, but that consideration is evaluation, not acceptance.

I’ve also been told that it can be upsetting that I always believe that I’m correct. It’s true; the alternative is to believe that I’m incorrect, and that’s a logical paradox. How would I live each day honestly thinking “I believe the sky is blue, but that’s not true” (to use a silly example). It doesn’t even make sense. Of course, I do believe things that aren’t true. I’m sure my thoughts are full of all sorts of foolishness. But I don’t (usually) know what they are, and I’m glad to be corrected. I don’t want to believe incorrect things! I’m sure some would suggest that I could live in uncertainty, not having any confidence that what I believe is correct or incorrect. I’m not even convinced that it’s even possible. If it is possible, it’s probably universally accepted as a paralyzing pathological condition. No thanks.

Maybe it’s just a matter presentation. My interpersonal skills certainly aren’t what they could be. I am also, at times, needlessly negative.

Bad Decisions

At some point in the mists of time I concluded that bad decisions can be attributed to one of two causes:

  • Ignorance, when an otherwise good decision was made with faulty information.
  • Stupidity, when a bad decision was made despite good information.

Ignorance is pretty straightforward. Nobody like to be called ignorant, but it’s ridiculous to try to claim that one isn’t often ignorant. We’re never omniscient, so to some degree we always suffer from some level of ignorance. But the focus here isn’t on what isn’t known, it’s on the bad decision. The issue of the missing vital data is secondary. I feel pretty confident that this is the correct word.

Stupidity is less straightforward. It seems like there should be a better word, but I’ve not yet found one. As with “ignorant” nobody like to be called stupid, but everyone who isn’t perfect, regardless of their intelligence, makes stupid mistakes. Everyone. If you have a better word, suggest it, but be prepared to defend it. I’m not interested in words that indicate slowness or foolishness; that’s not what I have in mind.

Are there other causes of bad decisions that can’t be attributed to one of these things as the root cause? Maybe Incompetence, but I’m not convinced that it isn’t an example of Stupidity. Deception and Confusion seem to clearly be no more than extenuating circumstances that lead to Ignorance in the decision-making process. It’s probably a mistake to lump emotional aspects into stupidity, but I’m not sure what else to do with that, and it seems likely to be about as useful as stuffing worms into Pandora’s box. I could easily be wrong about that. What about spiritual causes?

Is it only bad decisions, or can this be expanded to other mistakes? Physical mistakes seem to have a host of other issues, and I’m not sure I’m really interested in expanding this into “every possible cause of anything that could possible go wrong”.

There’s probably a branch of science that studies this precise subject, and has already established well-defined nomenclature. If you know what it is, enlighten me!

Zozzaro

Lately I’ve been enjoying listening to the covenant series by Rev. James A. Zozzaro. I discovered him in the sermonaudio.com app, though I ended up downloading sermons from his church’s website and loading them up on my iPod.

I tend to think that if I agree with everything I hear, I’m not being adequately challenged, so I’m not bothered that I don’t agree with everything he says. Most of it is excellent.

I’m looking forward to listening to his ongoing series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Questions

What is the “meaning of life”? Should it be or look the same for each person? Each Christian? Is it just “something that is”, a truth that exists regardless of our awareness or acceptance of it? Is there a difference between “real” meaning and what we think or feel provides meaning? Is it some sort of unavoidable destiny, or something that we should ponder, meditate on, or walk towards? Is it even possible for us, as human beings, to not act on that which gives our life meaning? Should we strive for meaning? How often? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Constantly? What does this striving look like? What do you do? What gets in your way? What helps you on your way? Will you ever get there? Do you ever change direction? Do you forget where you are going? How do you keep from deriving meaning from the striving? How do you make the striving meaningful instead of mere motions?

Such is life.

 

Back In The Saddle?

I have many things I’ve intended to post, but Haven’t because it always seemed like I needed to be more organized, or complete my analysis, or something else. Int he interest of actually doing *something* and moving forward, I’ll post what I have even if it’s “unfinished”. Maybe some would never have been finished; it would be a shame to let them disappear unshared. The blog is as much for myself as for my community and family, but I don’t know if anyone besides random internet denizens will ever read it. Whatever.

In an effort to maintain some sort of momentum, I’ll try to make no more than one post a day. I know, that sounds silly considering how long it’s been since I posted with any regularity. But don’t take it as an indication that I intend to post every day, or even every week. It means only that in have several things in queue, and if I post them all at once I could squander my opportunity to actually develop a habit.

If do you read this and you know me in real life, I’d appreciate it if you left a comment or sent me an email. It may not matter if anyone else reads this, but it is nice to know my audience, and I’m incorrigibly curious.

Happiness

I don’t really think about happiness much, and it doesn’t feel like happiness is a big motivator in my life. But I’m sitting in Panera writing a class paper and look out the window at the falling snow. I smile, and realize that this is one of the few external things I can think of that really does this. Usually I’m happy when I solve a problem or have some revelation about something that’s been puzzling me. But this is different. Falling snow makes me happy.

nuance

I’m looking for topics on which the Bible requires a nuanced application. Here are two examples:

1) lying: Christians have a tendency to believe they should follow the absolute rule “Don’t lie”. After all, Exodus 20:16 says “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” But Hebrews 11:31 says “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” This isn’t quite a link to lying yet, but in Joshua 2 we see that she hid the spies and lied to the King of Jericho. In Joshua 6 Joshua states “Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.” Sometimes lying is sin, but at other times it’s acting in faith.

2) killing: Many modern Christians (especially those with a liberal inclination), believe that taking the life of another person is always wrong. That’s also one of the ten commandments, right, Exodus 20:13? But in Hebrews 11:17 Abraham is commended for intending to kill his son. Not only was he taking a life, it was an innocent life! I think most people today would rationalize this as being confused, deranged, or something else. How often have we thought that about a serial killer who claimed God had told him to kill people?

Those examples aren’t really fleshed out yet, but you get the idea. A quick glance at the rest of Hebrews 11 suggests other possibilities that I’ll explore. Where else should I look?

two months

It’s been two months since the SBC posted the resolution against Biblical, God honoring, and heart gladdening use of alcohol. So today I point you to an article on the Sociology of Prohibition. If you want to skip the history (which is interesting, but voluminous) skip to the paragraph that starts with “What interests me”. I’m not certain that I agree with the assertion that “Prohibitions are always enacted by US, to govern the conduct of THEM…” because it seems blind to the fact that people will eagerly volunteer prohibitions on themselves because many people prefer legalism to humbly working out the gift of their salvation. Then again, perhaps they’re related. What do you think?

perspective

It has occurred to my that my perspective on possible actions may be backwards. For instance, I might think “should I do such and such” or “is there any justification for taking this action”. I’m beginning to wonder if my thinking should place our freedom in Christ as the default, and rather be thinking “is there a reason I should *not* do such and such” and “would taking this action sin against God or neighbor”.

Perhaps this is an overly subtle or even insignificant distinction. Or perhaps it will free me to do “whatever” while expending more energy seeking the filling of the spirit. What do you think?

records

Earlier in the summer I bought a cyclometer to help measure the calories I was burning on my rides to and from work (and elsewhere). I’ve also been using it to provide some objective numbers with which I can pace myself.

It’s not unusual for me to hit a top speed of 20-something with an average of 12-something, but my avg all week has been >14. Yesterday I set a new record for the 3 mile trip home: top speed 31.5, avg speed 15.5.

activity

I have several posts planned, but most of them will take a while to write, and even longer to discuss. So for now I’m sticking with simple stuff like food. I’ll probably transition into posting links to offsite content for discussion, and then post my own.

But who knows, I’m generally busy enough commenting on others’ blogs. : )

I also have a rarely-updated blog on LiveJournal. For the time being, I plan on keeping both. The LJ has primarily been a tool for communicating with college buddies (the duckosphere), but it’s possible I’ll merge the two someday.