Friday, June 22, 2007

4 Book Reports + 2 Album Reviews

With another long trip, I was able to finish a few books. So here is the report on those.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - It has been a while since I read a novel, and this one was good. It is a story of childhood, a mistake, and redemption with a backdrop of the modern history of Afhghanistan and imigration to the US.

The Tipping Point By Malcolm Gladwell - I loved blink, and I think the tipping point is even better. Gladwell really has an accesible writing style and covers very interesting topic. The Tipping Point is about how small things make a difference. He has a lot of good examples: how Hush Puppies shoes made an unexpected comeback, violence dropping in NYC, why people decide to continue smoking, how viruses such as HIV spread, the development of Sesame Street in the '70s and Blus CLues in the '90s, etc. Why? The "law of the few" says that organizations need to be small (less than 150 people). Special people exist: "Mavens" gather and share lots of information, "connectors" seem to know anyone, and "salesmen" have the power of pursuasion. "Stickiness" is a little less concrete; ideas have to have this in order to catch on.

Serve God, Save the Plantet, by Matthew Sleeth - Great, practical book about the intersection of Chrisitianity and Environmentalism, two things I am interested in and wish I was better at. He provides a scriptural basis for environmentalism, presents his own story of pulling himself out of consumerist culture and devoting himself to environmental causes, and presents some practical ways to be less intrusive on God's creation. I had some issues with some of his doctrine (mostly endtimes stuff), but in general he was pretty solid and his praxis seemed right on. He came off a little harsh sometimes, but maybe we've driven the planet to the point where that's appropriate.

Where God was Born by Bruce Feiler - Once again, one of my favorite authors (Walking the Bible, Abraham), Feiler is an American, Jewish journalist who writes about the intersection of current events and religion (focusing on the old testament). His methods is a kind of immersion, where he spends time in the locations he is writing about and then writes about the stories in the bible in light of what he learned from the location. In this book, he is focusing on the books of the old testament other than the Torah. He visits Israel, Iraq, and Iran in this book to visit the role these places have in the bible. I learned a lot from this book about the historical views of Joshua and David, the role of Babylon and Persia in the exile, the reasons for the dispersion, etc. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of the bible or is looking for an ecumenical viewpoint on the religions of Abraham (plus Zoroasterianism, which I knew very little about).

...and one album review, Sky Blue Sky by Wilco - One of my favorite bands comes out with a pretty solid effort. It is much more acessible than the last few albums on the first listen, but musically less brilliant. Jeff Tweedy's lyrics hint that he's a happier, more mature human, and maybe a little less restless spiritually. He often writes about religion in a negative light, but avoids that here, and many of his lyrics seem to come from a more seeking, humble place. The addition of Nils Cline on guitar adds a much jazzier feel to Wilco and most of the songs are pretty laid back. Not my favorite Wilco album, but I like it a lot. (Kind of like the pizza in the cafeteria: not great for pizza, but pretty good for food in general)

Last minute addition...I bought Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams yesterday at Target. A lot of people mistake me for a Ryan Adams fan because I was so in to Whiskeytown back in the day. I like a lot of Ryan Adams stuff, but for some reason haven't had to have everyone of his albums. I picked up Easy Tiger because I saw it when I went to buy a loaf of bread. Some have said its a return to is roots and some have called it brilliant. I have to say it has some of his very best written songs (Everybody Knows, The Sun also Sets, Two Hearts), but also some clunkers. I really hope that Halloweenhead is an inside joke. Or maybe its about that old Adam Sandler Skit.

Our house made it through inspection with only a few minor items, but the closing has been moved back to June 29. It will be a big relief when it all done.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I returned from my 2 week trip to Denmark and Germany late Thursday night. It was a really great trip. Debbie was able to come with me for a few days, then work was really good, and 2 colleagues and I made a side trip to Berlin for the weekend.

  • Last few trips, I've been going to First International Baptist Church in Copenhagen, and Debbie was able to go with me this time. It's really a different kind of church than we have in the states. There isn't a thousand English speaking churches, so you're kindof stuck choosing from the 4 that there are. It's a small, close knit community of people from all over (US, Australia, Asian countries, Jamaica, UK, etc.) in an extermely secular nation. A couple of people remembered me from my last visit 1.5 years ago. We were able to go out to eat with a American missionaries afterwards, which was a great opportunity.

  • We celebrated our 2nd anniversary in Tivoli, a small amusement park in the center of Copenhagen. Tivoli was an inspiration for Walt Disney's creation of his theme parks. We were both tired and not that hungry, so we just sat around and had a Hot Dog and some Ice Cream.

  • Visiting Copenhagen as a tourist, rather than just on business was refreshing for a change. Plus having my wife, rather than seeing stuff alone, was cool.
  • For work we had an area meeting that included team building excercises at Kronborg Castle, the setting for Hamlet. It was great to work face to face with lots of people I normally just know by e-mail.

  • Vanessa and Michelle and I spent the weekend at Berlin, which was awesome. I was expecting to be all communazi-ugly, but it was a really beautiful city with lots to do and see and it was really cheap, especially compared to Copenhagen. My highlights were Checkpoint Charlie and the Jewish Museum.

  • Oh, yeah! Our Durham house is finally under contract, scheduled to close on June 26!