Category Archives: Me

Nothing to see here people… for the moment.

Yeah, I’m failing a bit as a productive blogger on this site. I’ve had a lot to think, write and reflect on lately, but I just haven’t done much with it.

However, I am getting more regular (insert your fiber joke) on my photo blog which you can see here. So that’s something, write right?

I do have another sweet little niece on the way, courtesy of my sister-in-law Leslie, so I’m already looking forward to welcoming her via blog, like I did in 2007 and 2010.

But until then, if you’re looking for a regular and rewarding read, direct your attention to writings of this exceptional young woman. You’re welcome.


When the idea of authority is shattered…

I enjoy reading, though I don’t read novels nearly as often as I should. I really enjoy a well-turned word and phrase, but even more, I love the authors who can take a really difficult, abstract subject and make it easy to understand. I’m much better with the short and simple. It’s the same for photography. I love complex compositions, but I don’t seem to have an eye for them myself.

A few nights ago, I started the first chapter of All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I’d never read this World War I novel written from the perspective of a group of German soldiers. Other people I’ve spoken to have vague recollections of this book being assigned in the 9th or 10th grade. It would have been completely wasted on me at that age.

I chose to start it a little late in the evening… and fell asleep. I picked it up again the other day and was really impacted by the following passage.

I think Remarque is doing what Roy Peter Clark calls “climbing the ladder of abstraction,” but I could be wrong. The context: the soldiers have just mentioned that someone in their group received mail from their old schoolmaster, Kantorek. He was the one who really pushed them to “do their duty” and enlist to serve in the war. Even Behm, the one student to resist, eventually conceded to Kantorek’s appeal to his masculinity and bravery.

Strange to say, Behm was one of the first to fall. He got hit in the eye during an attack, and we left him lying for dead. We couldn’t bring him with us, because we had to come back helter-skelter. In the afternoon suddenly we heard him call, and saw him crawling about in No Man’s Land. He had only been knocked unconscious. Because he could not see, and was mad with pain, he failed to keep under cover, and so was shot down before anyone could go and fetch him.

Naturally we couldn’t blame Kantorek for this. Where would the world be if one brought every man to book? There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that they were acting for the best– in a way that cost them nothing.

And that is why they let us down so badly.

For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress– to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards– they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.

On one hand, this makes me think of my role as a teacher. It makes me give more consideration to the words I say to my students, the charges I give them. They are listening even when I think they aren’t. I’m always surprised at the things I’ve said that resonate with them years later.

On the other hand, it makes me think of the nature of authority. We all reach that point where we realize that all of our teachers and mentors and guides are just men and women like us, subject to all the natural forces of this world and all the chaos and hurt and pain that a life here can hold. And when we see them as they are, fallible and feeble and flawed – just like us, our hope can be shattered. And that’s where I believe we reach a fork in the road, a point of decision.

One choice is to abandon hope in any kind of authority and fall into a life of self-reliance with trust placed in what you can reason from your own experiences.

The other is to acknowledge that the problem is not with hope itself, but where it’s been placed. To realize that there is “a greater insight and a more humane wisdom” though it’s not found in any human authority. That the only thing worthy of full trust, faith and hope in this world is the being who created it. To realize that even the people who believed and spread the message of the Creator were themselves not to be respected as the authority, but only as rough, imperfect signs to point to Him. Incidentally, it’s also when we do this, that we are able to see other people in a different light, without all the expectations that we had previously shackled them with… we see them as we should see ourselves, as creatures bearing our Creator’s resemblance. At this point, I think we become truly free to love them.

Faith and trust and hope in Christ is the other path, and it’s not an easy one to follow. It’s not even difficult. It’s impossible without divine assistance. But if we trust the words of Jesus in the Bible, then we can find that divine assistance there for the asking.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.       – Luke 11:9-10

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.     – Jeremiah 29:13

For, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”     – Romans 10:13

That’s the way I see it. Two paths you can take when the idea of authority is shattered. Trust in yourself. Or trust in Christ. I’ve tried to choose the latter. Partly because I’ve come to know Him, and partly because I know myself all too well.

I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s not the point. His perfection is demonstrated in my weakness and it’s taken me 33 years to realize what a beautiful thing that is.

All of this is a departure from the plot and theme of the novel, sure, but it’s where my mind was led.

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Gimme a T for Texas…

I don’t claim to be the biggest baseball fan in the world. I’m a bigger fan of the history of the game, more so than the playing of it today.

But I’ve been to more Ranger games in my life than any other team, and other than my teenage devotion to Don Mattingly (and the then-perennial playoff missing Yankees of the 80s and early 90s), Texas is the closest thing for me to having “a team.”




Prior to the past few weeks, my Rangers memories have been highlighted by seeing Nolan Ryan pitch a near no-hitter vs. the Tigers, and the roughly 25 Steve Buechele autographs my brother and I collected over the years.

But I bought myself a new Ranger ballcap. And I ordered Ken Burns‘ “Baseball” on Amazon. And I’m planning to pick up some hot dogs and beverages today after school, then settle in to watch every pitch of Game 1 tonight in San Francisco.

Call me a poser, a bandwagon jumper, a frontrunner… I’ll accept that. (Although I think my past 15 years of unwavering support for Arkansas State University sports teams should give me lifetime immunity from those types of comments)

But this is too much fun to care about what other people think. Go Rangers! Beat the Giants! Claws and antlers! Just don’t bring up the Cowboys…

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Rangers fans are passionate, but…

they suck at Photoshop. Yes, there’s an entire gallery of equally fine graphic design available for viewing at the Dallas Morning News website. And yes, I realize most of these probably weren’t done on “Photoshop” per se, but these Ranger fans are still terrible on MS Paint or whatever they can get their hands on.

But at least this awful piece of sports fandom reinforces the idea that money can’t buy “everthing.” Yes. “EVERTHING.” Rangers fans apparently suck at spell check too.

And I’m saying this as a Ranger fan who watched every pitch of a masterful performance by Cliff Lee – perhaps one of the greatest post-season pitching efforts ever.

I can understand being inspired by this team, antlers, claws and all. I can’t understand why the Dallas Morning News chose to publish this big batch of terrible to begin with. Do you think they actually rejected some submissions? Those are the ones I really want to see. What would a fan poster that didn’t meet the high quality standards of Big Red (above) look like?

I used to work for the sports department of a small daily newspaper in Arkansas. When Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, we received several letters and e-mails featuring poetic tributes to the Intimidator from members of the community, who expected us to publish their verse in our newspaper pages. I’m not even sure the poetry devoted to #3 was all that bad, but still, we declined to publish it. Because we were the sports section of a daily newspaper, not a literary magazine.

Just saying.

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My bucket list will pail in comparison…

Texas Monthly - March 2010

I haven’t seen the movie, but it seems like “bucket lists” are becoming more common all the time.

In March I got the new Texas Monthly featuring “63 things all Texans should do before they die.” I’m encouraging my newspaper staff to put together a  similar list of things around the area that all of our students should do before they graduate.

Then Donald Miller retweeted a link to this blog from Lindsey Tipple, a graphic designer in Ohio. Lindsey created a list especially for this summer, before the season kicks the bucket (included: canoeing, riding a hot air balloon, cooking a feast for her grandparents, and my fave – do a cannon ball).

She has two rules: 1. Don’t include anything you already had planned (my book list is out). And 2. If you cross an item off the list, you have to document it.

I’m on board and my list will be posted soon, most likely after school finally dismisses on Thursday.

In the meantime, what do you think I should add to my list? What would you put on yours?

Highlight Reel

An office supply innovation. I love these highlighters. What office accessories are you obsessed with?

So I’m just going to come right out and say it.

I love office supplies.
Seriously. I might require psychiatric assistance for this. So much so that I’m taking time away from what I should be doing (preparing substitute lesson plans for the next two days) to write this post.
At school, we have a huge catalog from Staples with a corresponding educational discount guide with which, my bookkeeper will attest, I can spend weeks pouring over pages of everything from doorstops to deskchairs, rotary trimmers to rolls of scotch tape.
There are at least seven different companies manufacturing plain Manila file folders, which blows my mind. Seven companies? Is that market just a bit oversaturated?
But I digress. My current object of office tool fascination is the retractable highlighter marker. For years I suffered through the misery of conventional highlighters, always struggling with the feast or famine of either having the uncapped marker dry out or dealing with the difficulty of trying to highlight one-handed while still manipulating a separate cap. But thanks to the retractable highlighter, those days are a distant memory.
My personal favorite is the Sharpie Accent Retractable. You just can’t go wrong with a Sharpie, and I really like the design, what with it’s AP certified nontoxic quickdrying odorless ink, as well as the trademark Safety Seal technology to keep the marker from drying out. It’s even got something called “Smear Guard.” Got to feel pretty secure with Smear Guard watching my back.
There are eight colors availabe, but I’m still a fairly old school guy so I stick with the standard yellow. I had to buy a variety pack at Wal-Mart, but I’ve since found a five pack of the yellow markers available on Amazon.
I know these retractable highlighters have been around a few years (Google Patents has the earliest patents filed between 1996 and 2005), but it seems like I’m just discovering them. Better late than never.
Surely some of you have some office supply innovation suggestions for me. What are your favorite types of pens, staplers, tape dispensers, hole punches or any other kinds of office accessories?

Another trip around the sun…

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes!

Also happy birthday to my many famous fellow 418-ers: Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Hayley Mills, James Woods, Rick Moranis, Eric “The Best Of The Best” Roberts, Conan O’Brien, Eli Roth, Melissa Joan Hart, America Ferrera, Alia “Maeby Funke” Shawkat, and celebaby Suri Cruise.

And to all my readers in Zimbabwe (?), Happy Independence Day!

Thanks to all of the friends and family who’ve made each year of my life so rich and memorable, and thanks to God for another year to draw breath and experience His love and grace.