Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Building Bookshelves

Some of you might remember that I built a window seat earlier this year. Yesterday it was time to build some bookshelves in the same room. Here's how the finished product turned out.

The right side:

And the left side:

So here is the step by step process for completing the bookshelves:

1. Go to Home Depot and get the side panels cut and the brace boards
2. Put up the panels that go against the wall and tack them in
3. Measure the width of the shelves
4. Go to Home Depot and get the shelves cut
5. Put in bottom shelf and first shelf braces
6. Tack other side panel to bottom shelf and first shelf braces
7. Go to Home Depot and get Liquid Nails for the outside panel braces
8. Put the top shelf braces on and tack the outside panel to it
9. Put the top shelf on
10. Put the rest of the braces on and tack the outside panel to them
11. Put the shelves in
12. Go to Home Depot and get finish nails for the nail gun to tack the shelves to the braces
13. Make comments about having your own personal parking space at Home Depot as their most frequent shopper.
14. Blog about it so all your friends can make fun of all the trips to Home Depot

So there you have bookshelves in 14 easy steps. I estimate that our study is now 70% complete. Next up? Another shelf, more lights and endless trips to Home Depot (I think I get a free round trip ticket to the Home Depot Center in California if I make 50 more round trips).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The True Meaning of Christmas

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? - Charlie Brown

One of the greatest questions of all time was asked by Charlie Brown in the animated special "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown". Over the years it seems that we have lost our ability to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Linus answers Charlie Brown's question:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. - Linus

Today is the Christmas Eve. The celebration of that night when the angel proclaimed tidings of great joy. The Earth had been waiting for the time of the Messiah and at last it was to happen. The Savior of the world would be born and he would live a perfect life. At the end he would sacrifice Himself so that all mankind might live with Him and His Father again. An unparalleled 33 years would follow where the world changed.

The teachings of the Savior and the gospel set forth inspire millions of people today. As we look around this Christmas my hope is that we can find our Christianity and display it. It can be something simple such as smiling at someone. It can be donating time and/or money to a worthy cause. It can be refraining from yelling at the guy who just cut you off in traffic.

My family will take time tonight to read the story of the birth of Jesus. We will reflect on His life. We will comment on what we can do to lead our lives better. We will talk about what it means to be Christian and how we can be examples of the life Jesus led.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that as you celebrate this time that His life will touch you and that you may find some measure of peace on Earth.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lest We Forget

On that day when you need your brothers and sisters to care,
I'll be right here.
Citizen soldiers holding the light for the ones that we guide from the dark of despair.
Standing on guard for the ones that we sheltered,
We'll always be ready because we will always be there.

Citizen Soldiers - 3 Doors Down

I was in the airport yesterday returning home from a business trip. Ahead of me was a young man dressed in fatigues, on his way to California. I don't know if he was on his way to a base or home for the holidays. Frankly that doesn't matter. What hit me though was the man in front of him walking with his daughter. As we got off the moving walkway the man turned extended his hand and thanked the young man for serving. This caused a bunch of thoughts to go through my head during this holiday season.

As you've probably guessed I'm a Christian. Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who Christians believe is the Savior of the world. His birth started a life of sacrifice where He ultimately gave His life for all of us so we could live.

At this time of year however I feel it is important to recognize those who also serve by giving their lives for us so that we can live our lives. We are extremely blessed in this country and it's in great part due to those men and women who served and are serving their country. My family has a history of service in the military. Currently one of Cheryl's cousins is serving. We also have a neighbor whose son is serving.

One of the things we have taught our children is that it is important to recognize these individuals and do what we can for them. Every prayer offered by our children remembers Steve and Brady. The prayers ask that they be watched over as they serve in dangerous areas. Hopefully, my children will always remember the men and women who serve. I love the cartoons that appear around Veterans and Memorial day that state "Lest we Forget". Forgetting would be a way of diminishing the greatness of our nation.

The sacrifice offered on our behalf by our soldiers is something to celebrate along with everything else this holiday season. I ask each of you to take some time this season to remember those who have sacrificed for us and who are giving their time now to ensure that we may live our lives in freedom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Song for a Winter's Night

Back on the wagon again. Today's song is one by a favorite of mine Sarah McLachlan. Here are the lyrics:

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin'
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

Sarah usually writes sad songs and this one is no exception. The song tugs at me as I think of family that are far away. There are times "I would be happy just to hold the hands I love" that live distant from me.

Make no mistake though how happy I am to be with my family and hold them in my arms. I know that one day the kids will be grown and move away. Then this song will have more meaning to me. Right now though I will enjoy the time I have with them and be happy that I get to hold the hands I love on every winter night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I missed yesterday, but today I'm back. I'm not a big fan of the BCS in case you didn't know. And the announcement on Sunday of the Fiesta Bowl matchup between TCU and Boise State didn't help matters.

This will be the first time where a BCS bowl game will not include a team that is in a BCS conference. It sounds like the ultimate buster until you realize that no BCS conference champion will take on a non-BCS conference champion in a BCS or any other bowl game. For this I'm calling out the BCS as a bunch of chickens.

You see if TCU or Boise State were matched up against Cincinnati, or Ohio State, or Oregon you could get a real test to see if the non-BCS schools belong. But why would any of those schools want to play and risk losing to a highly ranked non-BCS school? Why would they take a chance that people would start to talk about including these other conferences (like the Mountain West or WAC) in the BCS picture? I mean it's only money that they would be losing. Oh yeah I forgot, the BCS is ALL about money. Silly me.

I hope that the TCU - Boise State game gets better ratings than the National Championship game. I doubt it, but I can revise my Christmas wish right? Could you imagine if the numbers come back and a game between two non-BCS schools got better ratings than the BCS National Championship? How cool would that be?

Alright enough dreaming. But still the BCS is a bunch of chickens for taking the easy way out of this. Let TCU play Cincinnati, and after the Big East champs get routed, let's talk about including all FBS Division I schools into the national championship picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Today's carol (OK maybe it's not technically a carol) is "I'll Be Home for Christmas". The lyrics are:

I am dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find you
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

If only in my dreams

Being so far from my home, this song gets to me. When I hear it I can smell home. The wood burning furnace, the snow, the fields, the trees, everything I grew up with. I can smell what Granny's place was. The food, pies, roast, ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes. The joy of us cousins, the noise of the adults. The late nights where the kids played whatever and the adults played a modified version of Pinochle. Eggnog, Shrimp and a thousand other foods.

Today home is here in AZ. I love this time of year for the lights and the new smells. The joy of my kids and times of quiet that we get after about 8:30 at night. I love the excitement, the build-up to the big day. I love playing games, especially now that the kids are getting old enough to play better ones. Of course I love the food. There are new traditions and old. I'll be home for Christmas, and not only in my dreams because I'm with my family.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Little Drummer Boy

OK, I'm back on track. Today's carol is "The Little Drummer Boy". The lyrics are:

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

This is one of my favorite songs at this time of year. It tells the tale of a young man who was told a marvelous thing. A newborn king was close by and he was invited to see. This young man by all accounts was poor and probably had never seen anything regal in his life. Now he was invited to come and see this miracle. One problem though, everyone was bringing gifts and he had none. But that did not stop this lad from giving a gift. He had a drum with him and humbly asked if he might play a song for the king. The mother of this King gave her permission and so he began to play. What he played we are not told, but we are told he played his best for the King. At the end of the song the King smiled at him and his drum.

This tale is typical of all of us in this life. We have been invited to "come and see" the King. We have also been asked to bring a gift for Him.

As for myself, I am a poor boy too. I have no great gift that I can give my King. I do however have my time and talents. These I can give him. I can give him the best of my time and "play" my talents to there best. In this way I can give a gift that will cause Him to smile at me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Luck of the Draw

I am deviating from my plan again today. Maybe I should bail on the plan and just blog. Anyways, today the FIFA World Cup draw was announced. 32 National teams will vie for the coveted World Cup trophy starting next June in South Africa. Here are the first round groups:

A:South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

B:Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

C:England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia

D:Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

E:Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

F:Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

G:Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

H:Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

Overall it looks like a good draw. But let me comment on each group.

Group A

The host nation always gets in the first group and a guarantee to play in the first game. Unfortunately this year's host doesn't have a very strong team (World wise). This should mean that the other three teams will be battling to get to the second round. That is until you realize that no host nation has EVER failed to advance. If that holds true then this is a "Group of Death". Les Bleus (France for those that don't know) recent string of luck (can you say no call handball Thierry Henry?) continued by being drawn into this group. Any other group and it would be almost certain they would not move on. As it stands they have a chance. Prediction: Mexico and South Africa to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group B

Argentina should advance fairly easily in this group. The tricky part is picking the runner-up. Nigeria has always played well at the WC. South Korea made a great run in 2002. Greece won the European championship not too long ago. Prediction: Argentina and South Korea to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group C

The most intriguing group if you are a US fan. The first group game pits the Brits against the Yanks. It should be a great game. I would give a slight edge to the US because they are familiar with the South African environment. However, this game could go either way, so I'm predicting a draw. The other two teams in the group had to win playoffs to get to the WC. I don't see them as being too tough, but you can't overlook them either. Prediction: US and England to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group D

Germany advances easily in this group. Let's not count out the Aussies and the Ghanians however. Both have shown strength and could put up resistance. Serbia is done before the first whistle. Prediction: Germany and Ghana (sorry Aussies) to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group E

This one could be a toss-up. I think the Netherlands will be too strong for any of the other teams, however this one isn't as easy to call. Of the other teams Japan and Cameroon should be the strongest, yet the Danes played well in qualifying and won their group. Prediction: Netherlands and Cameroon to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group F

This should be a no-brainer for Italy to advance. Paraguay should take second, but it's hard to count out Slovakia. New Zealand might be a spoiler, but I doubt it. Prediction: Italy and Paraguay to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group G

Brazil and Portugal need I say more? OK, I will. It's North Korea's first WC since 1966 when they stunned the Portuguese. Won't happen this time. The Ivory Coast with Drogba could pose problems and will likely get a win and a draw but it won't be enough. Prediction: Brazil and Portugal to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group H

Spain looks like a shoe-in for this group. Picking a second place team is a toss-up. To me (and I admit I'm biased) I see Chile advancing. The Swiss play well so it could be that they take second. Honduras are tenacious and could produce a surprise 3rd CONCACAF team in the second round, but I doubt it. Prediction: Spain and Chile to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Groups of Death

I don't think there is a classic "Group of Death" in the tournament. Groups A, E, and H could become such after the first games are played. Historically one can look at groups and determine a Group of Death (meaning a good team will not advance to the second round). This yea the draw seems to have played out so that no group can be automatically classified as such.

Finals Prediction

My final four for this WC are Brazil, Italy, Spain and England. I have Brazil beating Italy and Spain beating England (on penalties of course). Brazil will lose to Spain and the Spaniards will lift the cup at the end of the day. Fernando Torres will be crowned player of the tournament although he will finish second to Kaka for the golden boot.

There you have it. In six months all of this will be wrong and if not can someone please pick me up off the floor?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Christmas Sports Wish

NOTE: I am deviating from my blog plan today

I have a Christmas wish. Unfortunately I need the wish to come true before Christmas. You see I have a specific wish just to piss off the BCS. Here is my wish:

I wish that Texas loses to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game

You see we already know that either Florida or Alabama will lose in the SEC title game. I'm hoping it's Alabama because I think they are the weaker of the two teams. TCU is ranked 4th currently in the BCS standings even though they are a non-BCS school. Don't ask me to explain how some schools in the FBS are BCS schools and some are not. It is in all reality STUPID! However money talks and this is what we have. Anyways, I digress.

Now if Texas loses to Nebraska then Texas should drop below TCU in the BCS standings. The loser of Florida and Alabama should also drop below TCU. This would mean that TCU would be ranked #2 in the BCS and automatically play in the BCS championship game (the winner of Florida vs Alabama would be #1).

Now, I'm not above a conspiracy theory here. So here's a scenario that could change this. If Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh in the Big East championship game there is a possibility it could vault TCU. It shouldn't happen, but hey we are talking about significant money here. Also, it is entirely possible that a one-loss Alabama or Texas could still remain above TCU. Again money talks and formulas can be "tweaked" to get a "satisfactory" result. So here the best scenario is that both Texas and Cincinnati lose this week.

If TCU were to play in the National Championship game it would be the ultimate BCS buster. It would of necessity drive the BCS to revamp their formula because now someone has busted their championship game. I think it would take them about all of a month to come up with new rules that would prevent a non-BCS team from playing for a national championship.

So Santa if you're listening, be good to the non-BCS schools and bring us a Texas loss this week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Today I’m going to discuss the carol “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”. The Lyrics are:
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The carol is about the visit of the angels to the shepherds in the field. The angels were sent to declare tidings of great joy unto all people. The shepherds were then instructed to go to the City of David (Bethlehem). They went in haste to see this thing that was declared unto them and were able to praise the name of God for seeing the Messiah.

The third verse invites all of us to stop for a moment no matter where we are in life and listen. When we listen we can hear the angels sing. The tidings of great joy are there for us to hear and follow if we will but listen.

The fourth verse talks about the whole world sending back the song the angels sing. The song? It is this:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men

May we all learn to sing the song the angels sung of Christ’s birth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Starting the Holiday Season

It's the holiday season and I've decided to blog every day until Christmas (and then see where it goes). Now these blog entries are going to deal with Christmas. I know there are a lot of Holidays right now and that each religion has their Holy days. However, I'm going to focus on Christmas and the carols that come with it. Up today is "O Little Town of Bethlehem". Here are the lyrics:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Bethlehem was prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. As we read in Matthew 2:3-6:

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Now if we examine the lyrics we see why this is a favorite carol. The first verse discusses the quiet solitude of Bethlehem. It was not (as far as I can tell) a major city in Judea. However it is here that Jesus was born. The second verse talks about how the angels kept watch and the morning stars proclaimed His birth. The third verse talks about the gift given to man by the birth of the Savior. In John 3:16 we read:

16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The ending of the third verse is poignant. "Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in." This is the gift given to us, that He may enter our lives and bring us out of sin if we will follow Him and keep His commandments.

The fourth verse is probably not as well known. At least I can't recall hearing it in the recordings of this song. However, I feel that this is a prayer each of us who believe that Jesus is the Christ should have in our hearts. To willingly invite Him in to change us and become like him is our goal in life.

My plan is to each day take a Christmas carol and do a similar analysis.