Showing posts from 2010

Latest News about baby Caleb Rodriguez

The Rodriguez family posted an update on baby Caleb's situation. In case you missed it, Caleb was born in early November to a missionary couple supported by the College Church of Christ in Fresno. Caleb's grandfather, Dan Rodriguez, grew up in Fresno at the College Church. I've posted about Caleb's situation several times.

They are in a quandary as to what they need to do next. Should they go back to China? Should they stay in the U.S.? Caleb's full situation probably won't be known until he begins to develop more, but that could be many months down the road. Then they will be able to monitor his development to see what damage he may have received due to his condition at birth. They covet your prayers.

The following note was posted on Christmas day.

Dearest friends and family,

Our family continues to be blessed by your constant prayers and loving support. We have been comforted knowing that you are with us throughout this difficult journey.

On Friday December 17…

Luke's Gospel & the Spirit of Christmas, part 2

Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem and likely come to the home of some relatives. Our translations make it sound like “there was no room at inn.” The married women here in the room think of trips when their husbands said, “Don’t worry, honey. There’s no reason to make a reservation. We’ll drive up and see which hotel looks best.”

It’s like the time we drove from Prague up through Berlin into northern Germany to the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the North Sea. We were going to catch a ferry the next morning to a Danish island. With our two kids in the backseat, one still an infant, we set off. “We’ll just grab any old hotel,” I said. We got there late in the evening. No vacancy. No vacancy. No vacancy. Someone finally said that every hotel on the peninsula was occupied – it was a German holiday weekend. We were toast. In desperation I finally begged the owner of a guesthouse. He spoke no English. I knew a few German words. Luckily, I said “zwei kleinen kindern.” He looked at me …

Luke's Gospel & the Spirit of Christmas, part 1

Luke's gospel envisions the world of a vast empire. We might expect Luke, our narrator, to engage in schmaltzy flattery of the exalted emperor or gush about the enormity and dominion of the Roman kingdom. He introduces us to the great emperor, Augustus – also known as Octavius – and our minds might flash to the seat of splendor in Rome. If I were writing the movie script, I would flash to Caesar in his palace, signing a decree that all his subjects should be registered. Caesar would say, "I want to know the exact size of my empire." One of his minions would exclaim, "Yes, very good, my lord. Why, my lord?" And the emperor would reply with a scowl, "So you can calculate our tax revenue and so I can know how many men can fight in my armies."
But I'm not writing the story. Our gospel account doesn't linger in places of power. Luke's story will eventually lead to Rome, but for now we are as far as possible from the halls of sovereignty. In a qu…

More on Caleb

I don't know when or if they will receive some kind of definititive diagnosis about Caleb's condition. I have the latest news for you, this from Caleb's paternal grandparents.

Caleb has been at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) since Saturday, November 27th. Thankfully, Marcus and Julia have been blessed to be able to stay nearby at the Ronald McDonald House, allowing them to take turns watching Caleb day and night. They have also been blessed to have a few very special friends and family members stay with Caleb when they needed to catch up on their sleep.

Since his arrival at CHLA, Caleb has surprised doctors and visitors by how healthy he looks. But as they say, things aren't always what they appear. So doctors quickly began running tests on Caleb which were not available in Shanghai. They have been trying to find out why his glucose levels were so low in the first place as well as trying to determine what long-term side-effects, if any, the low glucose levels…

Latest on Baby Caleb Rodriguez

Here's the latest information on baby Caleb, as posted on their Caring Bridge account.

Caleb is growing well at Los Angeles Children’s hospital since his Med-evac flight from across the world. He is now huge and fat! Marcus reports that he looks like a bouncer—no neck just a roll at his shoulders and then his head.

You can view new, higher-quality photos of Caleb on Marcus' Facebook account:

Roller coaster recovery

After just two-and-a-half days in the U.S., the American doctors successfully weaned Caleb off of his IV and transferred him out of the ICU. This surprised Marcus and Julia because the Chinese doctors had tried to take Caleb off the IV twice, and both times, Caleb’s glucose immediately dropped to scary lows. His parents remained cautiously optimistic during Caleb’s first few days off the IV while the doctors monitore…

Almost Done & Water Update

I love a follow-up comment to yesterday's blog post. The story is different for California communities like Kettleman City -- major birth defects in that small town & the coincidence of a nearby toxic waste dump -- and Hinkley -- the town featured in the movie Erin Brockovich. In towns like those, you'd better be drinking bottled water!

On a separate note, my doctoral thesis is almost done. Hallelujah. Just a few final touches. And then off to be slaughtered by the powers that be. But at least I'm that much closer. Glory!

How Far Does Your Water Travel

The environmental price of drinking bottled water is more than the plastic in the bottles. Another contributor to the cost is the transportation involved. If your bottle of water comes from Maine, that bottle has to travel across multiple state lines to get to you unless you live in New England. That requires interstate commerce for something you could have obtained by simply turning on the tap.

An Italian grocery company has decided to start promoting local water over bottled water that must travel long distances. Their campaign is running into heavy resistance from the water companies -- because water is big business. Fiji water, for example, is the #1 industry in all of Fiji, and it just involves bottling water from Fiji and putting it on ships to sell in the US.

In the YouTube clip below (sadly only available in Italian), the actor is a well-known Italian comedian. She demonstrates how "crazy" it is to get a glass full of water from a distant mountain spring when good qu…

World Health & Wealth over the Past 200 Years

On a whim, I just glanced at Mike Cope's blog. Yesterday, he posted a most fascinating video that I want to share. It's an amazing use of statistics. Bravo, Hans Rosling. And thanks!

Mysterious Oarfish Washes up in Malibu

The LA Times reports that a 12-foot-long oarfish washed up on a Malibu beach. The creature is an amazing specimen, and these things are legendary. The paper says this deep-sea fish looks more like the Loch Ness monster than a tuna or halibut. 
According to the article, "oarfish are largely a mystery to scientists, but they are typically found 700 to 3,000 feet beneath the surface in tropical and temperate waters, where they feed on small squid and krill." They can grow up to thirty feet long! For more on the story go this LA Times link.

Xmas Wish List: Toilet Paper Dispenser / iPod Player

Here's one for your Christmas wish list. All your loved ones will want one.

It's available for only $59.95 from and other reputable (or not-so-reputable) sellers. It communicates the very essence of Christmas and says, "I care about you!"

Update on Baby Caleb Rodriguez, part 3

Here's the latest update on baby Caleb Rodriguez, as reported by Marcus' sister Monica:

Marcus, Julia, and baby Caleb arrived in Los Angeles safely. Julia and Caleb arrived at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital at 4:30 this morning (3 hrs earlier than expected) after completing a smooth ride on the Medivac. I was able to run by and meet my handsome nephew and Julia before picking Marcus up at LAX (his flight was 2 hrs delayed from Tokyo). I teared up when I first saw Julia coming out of the hospital room. We just held each other in tears and in relief. Caleb looks great. Even though he had an IV coming out of his head, he still looked good - it must be in the blood! :)

After being reunited in California, we checked into the Ronald McDonald house, located literally around the corner from the hospital. Parking at the hospital is quite expensive so having a home base to walk from is super convenient. The staff at the Ronald McDonald (RMH) house is friendly and eager to help. I’m i…

Update on Baby Caleb Rodriguez, part 2

Marcus and Julia Rodriguez are experiencing every parent's worst nightmare. Three weeks ago, they celebrated the birth of their firstborn child in a Shanghai hospital. Within a short time, however, Caleb exhibited some major struggles, and they didn't know if he would survive. Praise be to God that the acute concerns now seem to be diminished, and they are more focused on the long-term developmental issues that may lie ahead. Caleb had been in the NICU unit of Shanghai's leading pediatric hospital, Children's Hospital of Fudan University. God has provided for them. Parental contact is almost always limited in NICU units, and they were initially desperate for more contact. This was especially traumatic when Caleb was transported from the birth hospital to this advanced facility, even though his mother was still recuperating at the birth hospital. God has since opened the way for them to spend massive amounts of time with Caleb. They are surrounded by our prayers and by th…

Update on Baby Caleb Rodriguez

The College Church of Christ in Fresno has a rich history of supporting overseas missionary efforts. From the College Church's earliest days, it has supported missionary families like the Boltons in Australia, the Reeves in Germany and the Jacobos in Colombia. In more recent years, the College Church has provided oversight and support for the Repperts in Kenya, the Rodriguezes in Mexico and the Smiths in French-speaking Switzerland.
Marcus and Martin Rodriguez are two brothers who grew up with a strong connection to the College Church. Their father, Daniel, grew up at College. Their mother, Janette, also grew up here. When Marcus & Martin finished university, they felt called into overseas missions work -- specifically to China. For several years, they taught English in Beijing and worked as part of a group of American Christians. Their goal was to introduce Chinese young professionals to Jesus. God blessed their efforts, and some of their Chinese friends have formed Christian …

A Review of Megamind

We watched the movie Megamind last Thursday. I have to admit it wasn't the family's first choice. The boys seem to frown upon animated movies -- or more accurately, our high-schooler frowns upon, and younger brother hates to contradict these "grown-up" impulses. So Megamind wasn't the plan when we left for the movie theater.

Since we arrived 15 minutes late for our first choice, I unilaterally chose tickets for Megamind which happened to be starting just as we walked up. I had heard a favorable review by Bob Mandela of the LA Times, and Julie was likewise interested in it. The sons were trapped with their parents.

The film is a sort-of good vs evil saga, but with some interesting nuances. First, we see the making of the prototypical hero, Metroman, versus the making of the prototypical villain, Megamind. Both arrive on our planet as babies. Fate (if you will) casts the baby hero into the arms of wealthy, intelligent parents. Fate casts the child villain into the …

3-Year-Old Jonathan conducts Beethoven's 5th

This is so good, I just have to share. Some works of art truly are inspired. Others are inspiring. See for yourself.

A New "Pray for Obama" T-Shirt

Regardless of your personal preference for President Obama, he is our president. And the New Testament tells us to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2). We certainly have plenty to pray for.

Someone forwarded a picture of the following t-shirt:

It looks like a wonderful thing to wear, right? If you saw a random person wearing this shirt, you might think this is a godly person who is reminding Christians of their duty. You would be wrong.

Psalm 109:8 reads, "May his days be few; may another seize his position." Is that funny? Perhaps at first blush, it is a bit comical. It may seem even harmless. If it were just a bit of PhotoShop humor, I might just smile at it. My fear, however, is that some are actually wearing this shirt out of a desire to "obey scripture" but in a perverted sense.

I think this kind of thing is an affront to our faith. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see this as a ungodly interpretation of Paul's command in 1 Timothy. Just goes to show you …

Keys for Church Planting?

Here's a little sarcastic look at the "model" for planting a new church. A "coach" for church-planters forwarded this to me, so I'd say it's a bit of in-house humor rather than a sideswipe by someone opposed to new churches.

Why Math Is Important

Let's say your kid comes up to you one day and tells you this little nugget: "I don't need math, Dad. I can always use a calculator." Hm. Bad choice.
If your child seriously decides to stop learning mathematics, you had better hope they never end up working at the deli. I can personally testify to the disaster that awaits your child if they work behind the deli counter without a mind for math.

Sunday evening, I dropped off Jacob at the teen group devo. On the way home, I stopped by our local Vons grocery store to pick up some french bread and sandwich meat for a light supper with Julie. I didn't want a lot of meat, but I wanted to have enough extra for a sandwich later in the week. The following conversation with the deli clerk ensued. I jest not.

Me: "I'd like some of this black forest ham."

Deli-Man (DM): "Okay, how much?"

Me: "Let's see. I'll take four tenths of a pound."

DM: "Four tenths? How much is that?"


Crafting a Congregational Narrative, part 2

This narrative project finds resonance in the writing of many church consultants and church renewal experts. A number of leading individuals write about the need for something similar to our project here at the College Church. Here's a sampling:

Robert Dale speaks about tapping into the “theological roots” of a congregation in order to restore the church’s dream for the future (To Dream Again: How to Help Your Church Come Alive, Nashville: Broadman, 1981).

James Hopewell writes that “narrative can be a means by which a congregation apprehends its vocation” (Congregations: Stories and Structures, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987).

Diana Butler Bass builds on Hopewell’s work by stating that congregations can embody the stories they tell (The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church, Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2004).

Gil Rendle discusses the need to move a congregation out of the safe, weak stories in which many are allowed to operate. The goal is to move from shared…

Crafting a Congregational Narrative

People keep asking me, "Why are you so busy?" Truth is, I'm not THAT busy. Yes, life is hectic and stressful at the moment. But I have time for life's little pleasures -- like watching a few football games, riding my bike to the store with a son, or having dinner with friends. How can I complain? Answer: I don't.

But this is a busy season. Why? My doctoral work is coming to a close. My project is nearing completion. My thesis is due in early December. (By the way, this is a Doctor of Ministry or DMin degree, NOT a PhD -- hence the "thesis" rather than a dissertation.)

What is my project? The joy and blessing of a DMin is that it helps the researcher (me) go deeper into ministry rather than being pulled away from ministry. I am being forced/helped into a becoming a better minister -- though I'll let my congregation be the true judge of that! =) At any rate, the DMin helps me ask questions about my church, and the project helps us improve an area that…

David Bosch & Christian Mission in North America, revisited

I've been rereading David Bosch's little tome, Believing in the Future. His book is one in a series on Christian Mission and Modern Culture. Bosch was the South African missiologist who died tragically in the early '90s. At the time of his death, he was starting to think through the implications of postmodernism and how the gospel might reach the postmodern world.

I wrote a number of posts on this subject a year or so ago, but I'm beginning to have second thoughts about some of what I wrote. Bosch's little book is about a missiology for the Western world. In layman's terms, he wants to point church leaders toward a construct that will help them become missionaries in their own contexts -- at home, not just abroad. Certainly that is a great exercise.

I have serious doubts, however, about the pursuit of A SINGLE missiological construct for the Western world or even just for North America or even for Fresno. I don't think it's possible. No one really knows…

Harry Potter

Okay, so what do you think about Harry Potter? We've had believing (as in Christian) friends who thought they were evil books because of the witchcraft. We've had many other believing (as in Christian) friends who had no trouble reading them or allowing their children to read them. I can certainly understand both perspectives, though I have personally come down on the latter side.

The upcoming movie will undoubtedly make tons of money for the producers and for J.K. Rowling. Not that she needs any more. She is already fabulously wealthy.

I just discovered that the finale will be in two parts. The first comes out at Thanksgiving. The second will be in cinemas next July. The movie trailer is below.

When Harry Potter first became popular, I remember thinking of it as nothing more than a glorified kids book series. I didn't understand the rage. My wife was the first in our family to read one of them. I probably started paying attention to them about halfway through the series. …

The Kind of Change that Produces Character

Do you know what it feels like to live in misery? Specifically, I am asking about the pain of mental and spiritual anguish. Do you know the pain of living a life that is falling apart? Here are some scenarios that you might have experienced:

Do you know what it feels like to live in the midst of major financial insecurity? Have you seen debts piling up so high and so fast that you just knew there was no way out?

Or do you know what it feels like to be in a marriage that seems to be falling apart? Have you replayed ongoing arguments in your mind and in your life with your spouse? Have you felt the pain in your heart just grow and grow until you went practically numb

Or have you felt the pain of being maligned and slandered by others? Or have you had a dark secret come to the surface that brought intense humiliation and rejection? Have you been caught in a web of bitterness, believing that everyone is out to get you?

If you stop and think about life, you realize that people are not able…

Beware of Koran Burning

A tiny group of (Christian?) radicals on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida, has grabbed the world's attention. Should they go ahead with their plan to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday? Their act is supposedly to mark the anniversary of the Twin Tower bombings. They portray their actions as a prophetic act against a false religion (Islam).

Sadly, this 50-member church fails to realize that its own actions reveal it to be a false church. A great posting on this subject comes from Michael Gorman. He has hit the nail on the head. I encourage you to read his post by clicking here.

Such attention-grabbing groups do not have the mind of Christ. By seeking out glory, this church cannot expect more than this desired attention as its reward. In the process, however, these extremist groups drag down the name of Jesus and soil the reputation of legitimate churches. Even good churches are far from perfect. But this Florida group is not an imperfect church. It's a false church that …

Digital Grounding Takes Hold

Remember these words, "You're grounded! No going out with your friends for a week!" Those used to be killer words when I was growing up. (Not that I heard them, mind you.)

Today, those words would be applauded or even laughed at. Kids don't want to or need to go out. They "hang out" with their friends in the virtual world of online and texting. Home is the domain where social networking and virtual reality takes hold. Many kids actually WANT to stay home.

So a new form of grounding is here. It's called digital grounding. This modern form of grounding involves taking away kids' cell phones or computer access. And for most kids, it's a far more potent punishment than the old style.

For more on this subject, see the following excellent article in Sunday's Washington Post. Click to read it.

Football Preview

A brief homemade clip from Mountaineer Field in December 2008, my last time to attend a WVU game. I think they played South Florida and won in an ugly, low-scoring game. I do love college football. Need I say more?

The Welsh LOVE Their Dormice

Freeways make transportation easier for us humans. They are signs of progress that most of us welcome. They tend to increase commerce and decrease travel time.

Freeways seem to have their downsides, too. First, they are very expensive. Second, they seem to increase automobile travel & some think this leads to increased pollution.

A third critique of freeways is that they make changes to ecosystems, sometimes making it difficult for species to move freely. If you need proof of this, just drive the interstates in Pennsylvania in a couple months. You'll see dead deer (as in roadkill) EVERYWHERE. It's kind of disgusting, not to mention dangerous.

In Wales, highway developers have come up with a unique solution to this ecosystem problem. Their beloved dormice are already an endangered species, and a new freeway threatened to further decimate the critters. These dormice apparently live entirely in trees. So when they chopped down the trees and laid asphalt, they knew they had sub…

Can't Wait for Football

We're glad it's fall. The days are getting cooler and shorter. The routines of life settle in. It's a beautiful season. To top it all off, it's time for some football! We really enjoy  football. College football is great. And the NFL is almost as much fun for us. This year, we'll get to experience to California high school football, too. Jericho is playing in the Clovis West band, and they have a great Queen halftime show. I feel fairly confident that we'll catch a couple games. We enjoyed 8 great football seasons in Morgantown, West Virginia. It's one of America's great college football towns. Morgantown is small enough that everything grinds to a halt when 65,000 pull into the stadium for home games. On game days, Mountaineer Field temporarily becomes the largest "city" in the whole state. Our first two years, WVU was rebuilding with new coach Rich Rodriguez. After that, the Mountaineers started a great streak when they competed not only for th…

Finally Time for Fiscal Conservatism?

I'm not obsessed by politics. Some people can't seem to think about much else. My personal belief is that our politicians (at least in our context) don't have as much wiggle room as we think. They make big promises, and we bite. Truth is, certain realities make major policy shifts difficult if not impossible. Think Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman can come straight in and fix California's economy? Think again! I'd prefer just to pray for the leaders we have rather than fixate on what they should or shouldn't do.

I do know that our national leaders have a noticeable effect in at least two areas. First, they affect foreign policy. The decisions made in the White House clearly leave an impact on relations between the US and other countries. Even in this area, however, certain realities are scripted from elsewhere and can't be changed no matter who is in the White House.

A second area affected by national leaders is monetary policy. They clearly don't control eve…

What Is the "Harvest" for a North American Church? (part 4)

I'm finally returning to my series on "harvest" for the North American church. To read previous posts, you can click here, here or here. Churches in the US have largely grown through proselytizing (definition: the effort to convert someone of another religion to your own religion). I'm sure someone who knows more about this subject might scream at my gross oversimplification. But that's what preachers too often do --we oversimplify. It's not intentional. It's just our natural tendency to make things understandable. Sorry about that.

At any rate, most churches in our environs had to steal sheep (sometimes, lapsed sheep) from other churches in order to grow. Granted, churches often justified such actions by saying things like this, "Their church isn't a good church;" or "They don't practice the truth;" or "We're simply better, so they want to be with us."

Living in Europe as I did, I was surprised at how much animos…

Five Guys Burgers in Fresno

The Fresno Bee announced the start of the Burger Wars today. With the arrival of Five Guys in River Park and next week's opening of Eureka!Burgers at Palm/Nees, Fresno now has a great mix of burger places. In n Out is the classic, of course. Then there is Colorado Grill -- my favorite of their two locations is at Barstow/Willow. Another newcomer is The Habit over in Fig Garden Village.
I've already grown to like The Habit. I discovered it less than a month ago and enjoy their fresh ingredients and great fries. They should have asked for help in designing their space, however, since the line & beverage station are awkwardly placed. Their location is good, though, and the place has been packed. I also like the fact that it's a California chain -- originating in Santa Barbara.

I know Five Guys fairly well. They seem to be expanding like crazy. It's a mid-Atlantic burger chain that has excellent, greasy burgers and the best fries ever. I first ate at a hole-in-the-wall l…

A Rare Celebration at PNC Park

On his morning radio show, Dan Patrick highlighted a recent broadcast of the Pittsburgh Pirates radio network. He sometimes plays memorable home run broadcasts, but Patrick says this one may be the most memorable of them all. How often do you hear broadcasters whistle?!

The following broadcast comes from an Aug 7 game between the Pirates and the Colorado Rockies. Pirates relievers blew the lead & let the game go into extra innings. In the top of the 10th inning, the Rockies scored twice to take a 2-run lead. The Pirates got two men on base for their promising rookie 3rd-baseman, Pedro Alvarez. Here's the call by veteran broadcasters Greg Brown and Steve Blass.

The great minds at MLB have since pulled the YouTube recording from circulation. Something about ownership rights to all broadcasts.

The broadcasters went absolutely beserk. I don't recall ever hearing a similar outburst. I am sympathetic to the Pirates, but they left themselves open for some ridicule as well. Steve B…

Would You Pay More for T-Shirts Not from Sweat Shops?

Would you be willing to pay a few bucks extra for a t-shirt for your favorite sports teams? Of course not, right. You'd want to pay the lowest possible price.

If you own a store, would you want to find the cheapest manufacturer or one that charges a few dollars more for the same product? I would assume that you would want the cheapest possible price for that particular product. If the quality of two identical products is the same, why would you willingly pay more for it?

One sports garment manufacturer is gambling that you will pay more. The higher price apparently goes to pay a living wage, not to line the pockets of the owners. They pay their employees more than other, similar companies in the region.

The company is Knights Apparel, and it operates in the Dominican Republic. Here are the first few lines of an article by Steven Greenhouse. It appeared in the July 16, 2010, edition of the New York Times. Click here to read the full article online.

SITTING in her tiny living room he…

Back to Normal Life

Okay, I survived the last week of doing normal work AND the groundwork for my doctoral thesis. Hopefully, I can just slide back into the swing of normalcy now. I will still have more work to do, but the hardest part is behind me for now.

Is anyone still there? My apologies for the long absence.

Julie and the boys seem to have survived church camp. It was a week full of blessings. I only went up one evening to do the camp devo for all 160 or so people. It just so happened that my evening there was when ten of the kids had decided to get baptized. Parents & guardians had been called in advance, so there were plenty of extra faces there for the great events of the evening. Yosemite Bible Camp is turning into a major boost for our young people and families. This is undoubtedly a key building block for our church.


Battling the Heat

Okay, I know we were spoiled in May and June. Our air conditioner spent very little time in operation, and our PG&E bills reflected that. But now, the fun is over. The real Valley summer is here. It's 107 on our back porch. That's better than the 112 we experienced last summer when moving into our new house. But it's still brutal.

Speaking of heat, I hear that Europe is battling intense heat. Unlike Fresnans, they aren't used to temps in the 90s -- at least not sustained temps. Very few people have AC. I'm sure people are wearing as few clothes as possible.

When we used to live in Prague, many Czech women didn't need much of an excuse to wear as few clothes as possible. Sometimes that was good -- or at least good to the eyes. Sometimes that was painful to see. The guys sometimes didn't wear the most flattering clothing either, while others knew how to dress sharply.

Needless to say, I'm glad to have AC.

This will be a brutal week as I try to finish…

First Famous Sports Streaker Is Embarrassed by Past Actions

The year was 1974. The setting was Twickenham Stadium in London, the 82,000-seat home of English rugby. It was cold, and Australian accountant Michael O'Brien had no real reason to do something crazy. Except that he couldn't say no to a dare.
His Aussie friends told an English colleague, "Don't ever bet O'Brien. He's so crazy that he can never turn down a challenge." The Englishman couldn't believe it, so he bet O'Brien ten pounds that he wouldn't run across the field naked at half time. O'Brien, who couldn't say no, took the bet, and the game was on.

To win the bet, he had to reach the fencing at the far end of the playing field. He stripped down and flew across the field. The police tackled him just before he reached his goal. Although the TV broadcast was in commercials, photographer Ian Bradshaw captured the shots that went round the world.

O'Brien was taken off the field and fined ten pounds -- the amount he won in the bet. Ev…

World Cup Picks Revisited

As the second semifinal kicks off between Germany and Spain, I admit that I feel somewhat vindicated in most of my picks. I picked Germany to beat Spain in the finals. That obviously can't happen now since Germany & Spain wound up in the same half of the knock-out brackets. But I think I nailed the two most dominant teams in the tournament. This semi would be better as the finals in my opinion.

I nailed it when I said South Africa would be the first host not to escape their group. And I predicted Italy and France's quick demise. And Mexico choked as always.

I picked the wrong African team to go far -- Cameroon instead of Ghana.

One team I completely overlooked was Netherlands. I knew they were on a roll coming into the tournament, but I messed up by not even mentioning them. I view that as the one major mistake in my picks. But it's been a fun World Cup. Too bad it's almost over.

Screamin' Mimi's Ice Cream in Sebastopol

After a couple days in San Francisco, one realizes how important food is to our economy. I enjoy food as much as the next person, but I've never been in a position to visit any Michelin 3-star establishments. Me? Because of economics, I'm one who tries to find a hidden gem or a quality meal for a reasonable price. In my mind, it's a huge splurge to pay more than $50 for our family to eat out. Yeah, it happens on occasion, but this kind of a meal is a big treat for us.

So after smelling great food odors in San Fran, we were primed for some quality food at a reasonable price. (By the way, we did eat some good food in the Bay City.) So when I asked the hotel clerk about his favorite ice cream spot, he didn't hesitate, "Screamin' Mimi's in Sebastopol! It's a little out of the way, but it's the best."
We headed over to check out the redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods State Park. On the way, we just happened to swing through the bohemian town of Sebastop…

Watching Soccer with Vuvuzelas

I just saw this video on a Czech news site. The video shows fans watching a live broadcast of the World Cup on Prague's Old Town Square. I think this makes it extremely clear why many European soccer clubs are already posting regulations that ban vuvuzelas at matches this coming season.

I read somewhere that these lovely devices produce the same decibel level as a chain saw. What a nuisance!

Ukraine's President & the Wreath that must not be shown!

Since the recent election of Viktor Yanukovich to the Ukrainian presidency, he has shifted the direction of Ukraine's politics. First, he is turning Ukraine's foreign policy more toward Russia. Second, he is gradually trying to move away from a free market economy.

Third, he is clamping down on the media. He does not want opposing voices on the air. He seems to be following the Russian model for government control of the media.

Below is a clip where Yanukovich is laying a memorial wreath along with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. When the wind blew the wreath on his head, he quickly moved to prevent news channels from showing the incident. One channel, however, refused. The incident is now on YouTube thanks to Ukrajinska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth).

Thankfully, journalists in Ukraine are organizing against Yanukovich's censorship. We take a free press for granted here in the US, but many people around the world don't enjoy that blessing.

Supreme Court Ruling May Affect Campus Works

Here's the Supreme Court ruling we were all waiting for. This ruling did not come out in favor of the Christian Legal Society. Because the CLS refused membership to openly gay members, the group was banned as an official group at Cal's Hastings School of Law. CLS asked all members to sign a statement of faith that committed them to avoiding immoral sexual behavior.

Here's how the New York Times reports it:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won't let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group's ''discriminatory practices.''

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement o…