The4thDave’s Friday Five: Thanksgiving Week Edition (11/25/16)

Good evening, friends! I hope you are happily digesting your Thanksgiving meal and/or leftovers, as I am. I apologize for the lateness of the hour, but my family has some specific Thanksgiving Day (and day-after) traditions that needed to be taken care of.

So here’s a list of fun things for your weekend enjoyment:

  1. This short interview clip of Lin-Manuel Miranda: Obviously, Miranda and his hit musical Hamilton have generated some, let’s say, strong feelings lately. I just think it’s fantastic that when asked which celebrity turned Lin into a bit of a fanboy when he met him, this is his first response.
  2. The books of Rob Sheffield. Sheffield is a Rolling Stone writer whose work I have come to appreciate over the years. His first book, Love is a Mixtape, was brutal and gorgeous, as he used the mixtapes he made for his late wife as a framework for talking about their relationship and the aftermath of her death. His second book, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, provided a fascinating look at how music shaped Sheffield’s formative years. His third book, Turn Around Bright Eyes, is my favorite, in which he describes the power of karaoke and the part it played in his meeting and wooing his second wife. I’m reading his latest, On Bowie, and I have to admit I’m struggling with it, but that’s more due to the subject matter than Sheffield’s writing. (I think I was naive about how sexualized Bowie’s early career really was. *shrug*)  Sheffield’s style is earnest and clever, full of subtle lyrical allusions and wordplay. If you are interested in reading some easily-accessible rock writing, Sheffield’s work is worth checking out, especially his first book.
  3. The4thDave Papers. Here’s where I plug my newest little project: an essay-by-essay examination and interaction with The Federalist Papers. My hope with each post is to summarize the main ideas in each essay (or group of essays, if there’s a continuous series), and address if those ideas have any application here at the end of 2016. I’m sorry to say I’m already a bit behind my desired output schedule, but I’m hoping the longer weekend will allow me a little time to get ahead. Currently, I have a couple of introductory essays and a post on Federalist #1. Look for Federalist #2 no later than Tuesday.
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life. Okay, folks, I’m going to make my yearly appeal on behalf of one of my top-five favorite films of all time. (Not just one of my favorite Christmas films, mind you; one of my favorite films of all time.) The fact that this movie is considered a Christmas movie is incidental; about 80% of the movie doesn’t take place during Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, a man who spends his entire life sacrificing his own dreams and ambitions for the good of others. He gives and gives, and when he is faced with the possibility that he could be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, he questions whether or not his life had any meaning. It’s only through a bit of angelic intervention that George sees just how many lives he affected by his selflessness and sacrifice. (Yes, this movie has some goofy theology. Fine.) This movie touches my heart in a way few modern pictures do. If this is a movie you have always written off as boring or hokey, my request is that you give it another chance during this Christmas season. I usually watch it at least once or twice, starting with Thanksgiving weekend, so I’ll be popping it in the player tomorrow.
  5. Turkey Hash. One of my favorite Thanksgiving foods isn’t part of the meal itself (which is great). I love making turkey hash with some of the leftover meat. It’s nothing fancy, but here’s what I do:  1) Dice up a good mix of light and dark meat [but more dark], some white onions, and some potatoes (enough to where you have a 1:1 ratio of turkey to potato). 2) In a skillet, heat up some oil to a simmer, and throw in some minced garlic and the onions, and fry them up until the onions are translucent. 3) Then add the potatoes, and fry until the potatoes start getting a little soft. 4) Then, stir in your turkey to warm it up.  5) Add black pepper (fresh ground, if possible) to taste, but don’t be afraid to be generous with the pepper. If you didn’t have minced garlic, you may want to throw in some garlic powder at this point. 6) Keep stirring to keep the potatoes from burning. Once the turkey is hot, pull it off the stove, dish it up, and enjoy. You can thank me later. It’s not a fancy dish by any means, but its simplicity is its strength, I think. You could add some diced bell peppers or zucchini or something, but I like keeping it simple.

That’s all I’ve got tonight, folks. Have a great rest of your Thanksgiving weekend.

And, to paraphrase Andrew Klavan from Wednesday’s podcast: Remember that “thank” is a transitive verb, which means it’s an action word that is directed toward something or someone. It’s not just a vague feeling. “Giving thanks” means there is Someone to which we are being thankful. So take a moment, take stock of your blessings, and remember that all good gifts come from God. He’s the One you need to be thanking (and not just on the last Thursday of November).

The4thDave’s Friday Five (11/18/16)

Hey friends! Sorry for missing last week’s Five, but I hope this week’s bit of awesomeness will make up for it!

This video about being terrible. I appreciate Steve Kamb’s work on Nerd Fitness (you should check it out, it’s pretty fun). He’s recently starting to post more regularly on the NF Youtube account. For some reason, this video was really encouraging to me. I mean, what he’s saying may seem basic/obvious, but it’s good to hear once in a while. (Content Note: He uses a few swear words in the second half of the vid. I guess they’re “TV swears.” For what it’s worth.)

The Magnificent Seven (2016). I was listening to the Gut Check Podcast, and the hosts were talking about how much they enjoyed this summer’s remake of The Magnificent Seven. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about that movie online, but as I was listening to their discussion, it reminded me how much I really, really enjoyed the flick. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the original, so I can’t really compare the two. I’ll say this, though: even with Rogue One and a few others still on the horizon, The Magnificent Seven is easily one of my top-five movies of 2016. It is a “classic” Western in all the best ways, and I expect it will be joining my video collection at some point.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Part of our training as foster parents involves learning TBRI as a method for disciplining “children from hard places” who have endured trauma. While I will freely admit that I was suspicious when I was first exposed to TBRI as a parenting method (I assumed it was “hippie parenting”), I’m coming to appreciate its strengths. I look forward to learning it, using it, and infusing it with as much Gospel as possible. This may not interest you in the least, but if it does, you should check out this site that features videos by the late Dr. Karen Purvis, who helped develop this method of ministering to wounded children.

“The Show Must Go On.” I randomly happened to catch a recent episode of The Voice on NBC, and I heard this performance from one-time-child-music-star Billy Gilman. While he’s not the most dynamic performer, I don’t think you can deny he’s got some pipes.

The Federalist Papers. Inspired by some college friends on Twitter, I started rereading this fundamental work of American political writing (something I’ve been toying with for a few months). It’s available here on Kindle for free, and I would recommend downloading a copy.

Why? Because starting Monday (hopefully), I’ll be writing at least weekly blog posts with observations/applications about all 85 treatises in the lead-up to the inauguration of our next president. Sometimes, I’ll focus on a specific “paper” and other times, I’ll sum up a group of them. I’m not promising hard-hitting analysis or rhetorical brilliance–just the ordinary thoughts of some conservative, nobody blogger on one of the most important collections of writings in United States history.

Probably while humming something from Hamilton.

=====

So that’s my Friday Five. What about you? Anything cool you’re enjoying lately? Share in the comments!

Why *don’t* I write like I’m running out of time?

Quick update on life ‘n stuff:

New Year? Nah.
The “new year” approach isn’t really working for me. Anyone else? (I won’t wait for you to respond, but please do so in the comments.) Like so many things, I think I haven’t really locked in on a strong enough “want to” to drive action. So I will confess to you, my friends, that I have been busy (or busy-ish) and have used that as an excuse not to write.

I hit one of those moments yesterday in which I realized I was feeling guilty for tasks and responsibilities I had placed upon myself. Not writing enough. Not reading enough on the 2016 Reading Challenge. Strangely, I wasn’t feeling as guilty about things that ultimately mean more. I still haven’t gotten back on track with food like I wanted to. I’m still not taking in Scripture consistently.

SO HERE’S MY GRAND RESOLUTION:  …I’m gonna stop with the resolutions. For the rest of the year, I’m just going to work on getting a little bit better. Better choices, linked end to end. And when I miss, I’ll keep going. I’m not giving up on myself.

Reading List? More like Reading Missed
My 2016 Reading Challenge progress has pretty much stopped. You may have noticed that I didn’t post an October update. Well, here it is, my October Reading Challenge Update:  

Nothing. I read Nate Pickowicz’s great book, Reviving New England. I read a few Batman trade-paperback collections (the “Court of Owls” storyline, and a Loeb/Sale story). I listened to the audiobooks of the last two Miss Peregrine books (those were pretty good!).  But other than that, nothing of note. Not for lack of trying, but I just haven’t found anything that has grabbed me, from that list. I will post an update at the end of November if I make any progress, and then a year-ending post in December with the full list. But I think I’m going to let myself off the hook on this reading list thing. Part of the reason is because of all the other stuff we have going on.

Not-quite-Dad
My wife and I have talked for a while about becoming foster parents, but in early October, we finally started taking steps. Now, we’re in the midst of training and learning and filling out reams of paperwork. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming months. But it’s really taken up a lot of mental and emotional space in my life. I’m not saying it’s a good reason for not doing the daily stuff I had tried to commit to doing. But it’s part of the mix.

Back to (Sunday) School
I’m teaching adult Sunday School again! I’m on a rotation with another teacher, so I’ll be teaching for the next 3 months. We started a series this week on the attributes of God. I may throw some posts up with my lesson prep/notes, if you guys want. But that is also going to soak up some time an energy in the near term.

=====

So what’s next?

I’m not giving up on the weight issue. My wife and I are probably going to go back to ketogenic eating (which is an AWESOME thing to do, six weeks before CHRISTMAS). But it was working for both of us, so we want to go with what works. I’m going back to Weight Watchers on Saturday to face up to the scale (and all the weight I’ve gained in the last month). I’m going to the gym tonight. So yeah. Still fighting.

I still want to increase my writing output. One idea for that came from a couple of college friends of mine on Facebook. I’ll fill in the details of that tomorrow, but I’ll say this: the post title is a clue.

=====

I’ve got a Friday Five ready to go for tomorrow, so come back and check it out.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking around.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me at @the4thdave

 

The4thDave’s Friday Five (11/4/16)

The “Friday Five” is a weekly list of five things I’m interested and want to make you aware of–whether they be serious or silly. Think of it as a list of stuff I like that I think you might like, too.

A Prairie Home Companion. My dad first introduced me to the work of Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion about 15-20 years ago. While I didn’t appreciate it at first, I grew to understand how unique and special APHC has become in a culture that is video-obsessed. There’s something about the slower pace and subtle humor of this “old-timey” radio variety show that sets it apart from other forms of entertainment on offer.

Last season was the final season with Garrison Keillor as the host. Since APHC had become virtually synoymous with Keillor’s grandfatherly baritone, I wasn’t sure the show could or even should go on. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. Chris Thile, the singer and mandolinist behind the bands Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers has stepped up to the microphone, and in doing so has really breathed new life into the program. Thile and company perform a new original song in lieu of an opening monologue each week. The musical tone of the show has been updated to a more modern sensibility; the first three episodes have featured performances by Jack White, Dawes, and Esperanza Spaulding, and have featured winking references/covers of the likes of Snoop Dogg and Michael Jackson.

If you have never listened to APHC, or if (like me) you worried about its new direction, I recommend checking out the first  2-3 episodes. (Disclosure #1: The politics have not changed and are still left-leaning, if that’s a deal-breaker. Disclosure #2: The third episode has the first “miss” of the season, with a rather unfunny comedian.)

Board game cafes. One of my more-recently-discovered loves is tabletop gaming. If your familiarity with board games is limited to Monopoly and Risk, I would invite you to begin exploring the wide, wide world of gaming, because there are literally hundreds if not thousands of new games to try.

One *great* way to do that is by visiting a board game cafe. Usually, board game cafes serve coffee (or something stronger) and snacks, and have free games available to play; sometimes, they host events where gamers can meet up and play together. And this isn’t just limited to the more…we’ll say “insular,” types of games like Warcraft and D&D and the games with those crazy-expensive miniatures, so don’t let that scare you off. Thanks to the folks at BoardGameGeek, we have this map of known board game cafes around the world. If you’re anywhere near one, take a couple of friends, and go check it out this weekend.

As for folks down here on the Texas coast, I would strongly encourage you to check out Board Game Island in Galveston. It’s currently under renovations (and new management) and won’t be open for a few weeks, but my wife and I have visited several times and look forward to going back. They have hundreds of games for varying levels of players, and it is just a blast to walk in, grab some food and a few games off the shelf, and hang out for a few hours.

Pandemic. One of my current favorite board games is Pandemic, a cooperative game where each player is assigned a “role” on a team of researchers and scientists trying to race against the clock to stop global disease outbreaks. This game has spawned a host of expansions, variations, and even an IOS version that can be played on your Apple devices. The version I’m most looking forward to playing is Pandemic: Legacy, part of the “Legacy” series of board games, in which the actions of one playthrough influence all subsequent playthroughs. If you want to try a co-op game that is strategic and intense, Pandemic is worth checking out.

Voting Third-Party. The election is almost over, and if you haven’t taken the time to make your voice heard (and you’re an American citizen who is legally eligible to vote), I would encourage you to do so in a thoughtful manner. Vote your conscience. Vote for a candidate instead of just against one.

If you don’t like either major-party candidates, I would encourage you not to settle for the one you hate least. Look at the other options on the ballot, or the write-in presidential candidates available in your state. I haven’t done an official “endorsement” post on my blog (mostly because I don’t think it will matter much), but on Tuesday, I’m writing in Evan McMullin for president. I’ve never voted third-party before on any primary or general election, but 2016 is a singular year, and I think this is the best decision I can make.

McMullin reflects my values and ideological positions better than any other candidate on the ballot. While I don’t agree with him on everything, I believe McMullin will act with integrity, courage, and a commitment to conservative ideas. He believes in the sanctity of human life and is committed to limiting the scope and control of federal government. I think the platform McMullin is proposing would be the best thing for the future of the United States, so he gets my vote. If you haven’t voted yet, and McMullin is available in your state as a ballot vote or write-in, I would ask you to consider Evan McMullin for president.

The Chicago Cubs. I already posted my story. But man oh man, I’m still happy about this. So I give you this compilation. Tears. Chills. So good.

=====

Your Turn: What’s good, fam? Share some of your favorite recent discoveries in the comments.

As sure as God made green apples.

[November 2nd, 2016, 4:50 p.m.]

I don’t have a fancy Cubs fan story. I’ve never met Harry Caray or had a run-in with a player on the team. I don’t have a house full of memorabilia or autographed baseballs. My story is like the story of so many long-distance Cubs fans, the prodigal children of a home we’ve never (or rarely) seen, except through a screen with those three little letters—W-G-N—sitting in the corner or along the bottom of the frame.

I was raised to be a Cubs fan by my father. Truth be told, I don’t know when he became a Cubs fan, as he grew up in Michigan watching the Detroit Tigers. I grew up in Houston ignoring the Astros and watching the Cubbies on WGN. I was “raised in the faith,” taught to stay true to my boys in blue through good times and bad. And I have, for the most part. (Some years, it was harder than others.)

My baseball hero was always Ryne Sandberg. When I was a pudgy 8 year old playing YMCA coach-pitch baseball, I did everything I could to convince the coaches to put me in at second base (they almost never did) and give me the #23 (I won that battle).

I was never that athletic, but I have always loved the game. The crack of the bat was music to my ears, the beauty of a freshly-lined ballpark brought a tear to my eye, and the sound of Harry Caray leading “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” still warms my heart.

I’ve watched a lot of bad Cubs baseball over the years. A lot of it. As a result, my loyalty never wavered, but my excitement for the Cubs waned during high school. I caught the fever again in 1998, the year of Sosa and McGwire, the year of Kerry Wood’s amazing 20 strike-out game, the year we beat the Giants to make it to the playoffs only to be swept by the Braves and Greg Maddux (the traitor!).

Then, after college, I got sucked into it again in 2003—with that killer pitching staff of Prior, Wood, and Zambrano, and guys like Aramis and Sosa and Moises Alou leading the offense.  Then the Bartman Game happened. I remember standing stunned in the middle of my living room in my first post-college apartment, watching the game alone, yelling at the bare walls around me about the injustice of it all.

Over the next decade or so, my excitement would grow and fade. Each spring, I’d tell my coworkers, “This is the year! I can feel it!” only to witness another August flame-out. Every season, I’d do my best to see at least one Cubs game when they came to town, only to watch them lose to the Astros over and over and over. (They did beat them occasionally, but never when *I* was there.) I even made the pilgrimage to the Friendly Confines with my dad in 2006, where we sat in the blessed bleachers and watched our Cubbies lose to (ironically) the Astros. Twice. At least the weather was beautiful and the hot dogs sure were tasty.

I started getting the itch again at the end of last season. Social media helped a lot with this, since my wife and I don’t have cable (grumble, grumble, bills, adulting, grumble). While I haven’t watched much of any regular-season baseball this year, I began semi-regularly checking the scores, watching highlights online, getting to know the squad.  I watched in amazement as they won game after game after game. This was (and is) the best Cubs team, top to bottom, I’ve seen in my life.

The playoffs this year have been a blur. Since the first two rounds were not televised where I could see them, I’ve had to rely on the MLB app’s glacial refresh rate to “watch” the action pitch-by-molasses-slow-pitch, turning to Twitter to see clips and GIFs of the highlights. (This, by the way, is a TERRIBLE way to watch baseball. But I’m cheap–er, frugal–so it’s my own fault.)

The Cubs then made it to the World Series, only to go down 3 games to 1. That’s when I began feeling that old familiar dread. The sickness in the pit of my stomach. The 1998 feeling. The 2003 feeling. The zombie-rumble of “There’s always next year” ringing in my ears.

Confession time: I almost didn’t watch Game 5. They looked so defeated in Game 4, so lackluster in the face of such good pitching by the Indians, I was afraid to watch Game 5. Somehow, I swallowed the knot of seeming-inevitability that was hanging in my throat, and sat down to watch the ballgame. And it was miraculous. Then came Game 6, and the run-bonanza Cubbies I had been cheering for all season finally returned.

So now, tonight, in just a few hours, my boys in blue will be taking the field to try to make history. I’m…numb. I don’t know. So many years of high hopes and let-downs. It’s like I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am almost afraid to get my hopes up again. But if any year was “next year,” it’s gotta be THIS year, right? Right?

See you on the other side.

=====

[November 3rd, 2016, 12:oo p.m.]

I’m still not sure if I dreamed all that. Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling of unreality of it all. My phone practically exploded, buzzing itself almost off the table, as I watched the celebration begin on the field.

What a game. What a series. What a finish. 

To be totally honest, when Bryant threw that final out to Rizzo, what I felt wasn’t shock, or excitement, or elation.

What I felt was relief. Emotionally-exhausted relief. I didn’t even cry out or cheer. All I could muster in that numb unreality was a silent fist-pump, standing in the middle of my living room, as my wife smiled and watched me from the couch.

[Why standing in the middle of the living room? Because I was excited or into the moment? Oh, no, no, no. Because my blasted rabbit-ears antenna on the blasted television decided to freak out and stop showing the game IN THE BOTTOM OF THE TENTH. For three tense minutes as I fiddled with the antenna, I struggled to keep my frustration in check. It finally pixelated itself back to a picture with 2 outs.]

Even after the guys rushed onto the field, jumping around and screaming, as interviews were given and awards were handed out (and I watched through the frequent glitching of the TV signal), I just sat. When I finally reached for my phone and started cycling through the messages, my first tweet in response pretty much summed up my feelings:

cubs-win

And now it’s Thursday. I’m at work. Life doesn’t stop when history is witnessed. It just keeps rolling. But the November sun is shining just a touch brighter today, and its glow is reflected off the skin of the bright green apple on my desk.

cubs-davey

=====

Here’s the thing, though, gang: There’s more to life than this game that I have loved and followed for most of my life.

Last night, before the game, I tweeted out something I still fully believe: as much as baseball is a good gift from God that we can enjoy, it’s all dust and noise in the light of eternity. Baseball is a fun thing, a good thing, but it isn’t an ultimate thing. Why? Because baseball is a wonderful pastime but a terrible god. Our hearts must be aimed much higher than the outfield bleachers.

While we Cubs fans will revel in this off-season as our beloved team are the “reigning” champs, in April they’ll have to give the trophy back and put that title back on the line. And they may even lose.

And guess what? That’s okay.

Because baseball teams and loved ones and life itself will let us down and disappoint us, and that’s just life. But even that very disappointment will be a loving reminder that we were made to put our ultimate hope, our ultimate joy, in Someone profoundly greater than all of this.

All these lesser joys are sweet to the taste, but they are the faintest echoes of that Greater Joy–a joy unfading, an inheritance undefiled, a victory unending, secure forever for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s Try That Again: Day 1 of Month 2.

[I wrote this entire post last night, only to delete it accidentally, because I was using a tablet instead of my laptop and I switched apps without thinking. So here’s my best approximation of last night’s post.]

One month ago, I wrote about how I was going to treat the first day of the month like a new year, and start working on a new habit of daily Bible reading. How did that work out?

It went pretty well…for about 2 weeks.

Sometime around my birthday celebration, it all kind of fell apart. I stopped reading the Word regularly. I stopped tracking my food intake (resulting in my gaining back the little bit of weight I had lost in the previous month). I stopped working on my 2016 reading list. I just let up for some reason. My normal schedule was disrupted by parties and travel and family activities, and rather than leaning into the daily habits I had been developing, I fell back into bad patterns.

So now, here we are, a month later, and I’m sorry to say that my adherence on last month’s goal was about 50%, if not a tad less. That’s just sad. So you know what that means… Happy New Year! I’m starting over. But not just starting over–I’m adding a new element. (I know, it’s crazy. Just roll with it.)

Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo for a few weeks (hmm–starting to see a pattern) before realizing it wasn’t quite the right time for me. I got about 15,000 words of a novel written, with notes and random scraps of text to carry through the rest of the book and into the next two. Over the last year, the story has been pressing into my consciousness at various times, and I’ve been keeping a record of ideas and insights that have resulted. It’s a project I am determined to get back to, because I think it will be worth doing.

While I’m not going to go full-NaNo this year, I have decided to add something writing-related to Month 2 of this “new-year” approach.  For the month of November, in addition to continuing to increase my Bible intake, I will try to write 300 words a day of something. You will sometimes see the results of this on the blog (like this post!), and other times these words will only be for my own purposes–writing prompts to sharpen my skills, poetry for my wife, incremental work on my novel. 300 words a day–a modest amount. Nothing to go crazy over. But if I do that, at the end of November, I’ll have produced at least 9,000 more words of creative content, which will be a good thing for me, no matter what.

So, welcome to Month 2. I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date on my progress.

=====

Your Turn: Are you working on any new habits? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? How can I encourage you or help you in that?