I went to two different worship services Sunday morning – I met my sister-in-law and my two nephews at their church, Bell Buckle United Methodist, and then rode with them to Goose Pond United Methodist, the church where my father has been serving since last summer, arriving not long after he’d started his sermon.
Both Rev. David Adams at Bell Buckle and my father at Goose Pond were using the Wesley Study Bible, instantly recognizable even from the pews from its two-tone green-and-brown binding.
It only served to remind me that I haven’t seen my Wesley Study Bible in months. I have no idea where I might have left it, perhaps at some church where I went as a lay speaker. I was looking at the lectionary passages tonight for this coming Sunday – I will be speaking at my home church, First UMC Shelbyville – and wishing I had my Wesley Study Bible to look them up in. I have plenty of other study Bibles, but I really do like the WSB.
I have several Bible translations on my Kindle, but an e-reader display isn’t ideal for the footnotes and marginalia of a good study Bible.
I used to buy store-brand diet sodas by the 12-pack, sometimes by the 24-pack. I would take 4 cans to work with me in a little cooler, and would drink even more of them at home.
I kept hearing from people that, in some ways, diet sodas could be as bad for you or worse than regular sodas. There’s been some research along the lines that artificially-sweetened drinks cause the body to expect calories – and when they don’t come, you get cravings.
So, earlier this year – not for the observance of Lent, but by coincidence a week or so after Lent started – I gave up diet sodas. I resolved to drink more water. I had a filter pitcher, but I bought a new one in a more convenient size. But I also resolved to allow myself the occasional iced tea, juice or what have you. On a few occasions I’ve even allowed myself a limeade or a regular Coke, which tasted impossibly sweet.
I think I’ve been drinking too much of the sweetened drinks as time has gone on, and that’s one reason I haven’t lost much in the past few weeks. (I gained a little weight back a few weeks ago when I was down with a cold and not walking regularly, and I haven’t quite lost it yet.) Now that the weather is finally warming up, I’ll be drinking more, and I’ll have to be even more careful about it.
I’ve bought Mio (or the equivalent) a couple of times in the past few weeks, although that’s getting me back on the diet-sweetner train, and so I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Today, at Walmart, I bought some ice pop molds. I used to have some, years ago, but had long since lost them. They were in a seasonal display along with several other things, including snow-cone syrups. I figured the berry snow-cone syrup would be a good flavor for the pops. I wasn’t sure exactly how much to use, though. The directions for snow-cones called for two ounces of syrup drizzled over four ounces of shaved ice, so I made up a batch of four pops with a similar two-to-one ratio of water to syrup. The taste is a little less sweet than I expected – but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe an occasional frozen treat will be refreshing and help me drink more water the rest of the time.
Well, it looks like Walmart is giving me gibberish, so I’m going to go ahead and give you the story of what happened yesterday with my webcam.
My prior webcam cost about $5, literally from the checkout line at some dollar store, and, frankly, the video looked like it came from a $5 webcam. A few weeks ago, some stranger left a snarky comment on something I’d posted noting that better webcams are now available.
Last weekend, I wanted to post a video encouraging people to attend the symphony concert, and so instead of using the webcam I held my phone at arm’s length. It worked, but it wasn’t very convenient (and my arm got tired).
I went online to see how much a new webcam would cost. One of the results was from Walmart’s online shopping web site; a Logitech webcam for $13.30. (Remember that price.) A few days later, after payday, I went online and ordered that webcam under Walmart’s “ship-to-store” program, where you save on shipping costs by picking the item up at your local Walmart store. They said that pickup was available as soon as that day, indicating that the store already had the item in stock.
Walmart accepted my order, but then a couple hours later cancelled it, saying that the item wasn’t available at my selected Walmart store.
At lunchtime yesterday, I decided to drop by Walmart and see what they had in terms of webcams. I had been to Walmart a day or two earlier, before payday, and vaguely remembered there being one model on clearance sale.
I found a webcam on a cart with other clearance sale items, marked down from $18 to $15. There were three of them on the cart. It looked like a good little webcam, so I purchased it and brought it home.
It wasn’t until I got the webcam home that I figured out it was the exact same model, the Logitech C110, that I’d attempted to purchase online. My online order was cancelled because the webcam wasn’t in stock for the regular price of $13.30, and yet when I went to the store the item was, in fact, there, for the low, low markdown “clearance” price of $15.
I e-mailed Walmart’s online store, including a scan of my cash register receipt from the brick-and-mortar store, and hoped for an apology or maybe even some credit. This morning, I got an e-mail saying they were reviewing it but basically making the excuse that store pricing and online pricing weren’t necessarily the same. I can understand some variation between the two, but the fact of the matter is that they told me the item was out of stock when it was in stock, and the full retail price online was less than what the store was saying was a marked-down “clearance” price. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Happily, the webcam itself seems to be working well, and it’s a great improvement over the dollar-store model.
I’m not necessarily recommending that you go and listen to Dan Harmon’s “Harmontown” podcast, because it can be a little profane, and there’s a lot about Harmon’s humor that some people might take the wrong way. But I thought one segment of it was interesting this week.
Harmon, for those who aren’t familiar, is the creator of, among other things, the TV show “Community,” which he ran until the end of last season. He was fired by the producers after various situations including a public feud with one of his stars, Chevy Chase. Chevy eventually left the show this season, even without Harmon around to feud with. That’s not to exonerate Harmon completely; even the description for the podcast describes him as “self-destructive.”
Harmon is not, by his own admission, a religious man. But one theme of “Community” under his watch was tolerance and co-existence among those of different beliefs. The show features a Christian character, a Jewish character, and so on, and there were some episodes that specifically dealt with how they could be friends while holding different beliefs about the world. The Christian character, Shirley, is sometimes portrayed a little stereotypically, but she’s also portrayed with a lot of sympathy.
But Harmon and his podcast co-host, Jeff Davis (whom some of you may remember as an occasional cast member on “Whose Line Is It Anyway”) have no particular love for outspoken atheists like Bill Maher, whom they consider just as dogmatic, unthinking and harmful as some of the worst believers. They have an interesting conversation (joined by comic Kumail Nanjiani) about some of what offends them on both sides – the anti-scientific bent of some fundamentalists, but also the arrogance of some scientists towards others, including other scientists, who choose to believe that some aspects of life are beyond science. Many of the Richard Dawkins class of militant atheists point to various holy wars, inquisitions and so on as proof that religion is harmful, but Harmon says that they’re more about humanity than about religion – and if religion disappeared, those same abuses would go in in the name of some other cause. (“South Park” made much the same point, in an episode set in the future where Dawkins has managed to eliminate religion but where two different atheist organizations are fighting a holy war for supremacy over some arcane point.)
By the way, Harmon responds to the rumor floated last week that he might return to the show now that it’s been picked up for a fifth season and now that Chevy is gone. There’s apparently no such plan in the works. At one point, weeks ago, when the show’s fate was still in question, someone from the studio made a very informal inquiry to Harmon’s agent about whether Harmon would be willing to come back. At the time, Harmon suspects, the studio might have been brainstorming tactics to get the network to renew the show. But nothing ever came of it, and now that the show has already been renewed without Harmon he doesn’t expect there to be any real offer.
Anyway, I’ve warned you that there are aspects of the podcast you might find offensive. But if you want to listen, here’s the web site.
It had become a running joke between Dawn Holley and me that this year’s “Symphony at the Celebration” concert was cursed. It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong. That was the case in the lead-up to the event, and it was even the case tonight – the “instrument petting zoo” was stuck in rush-hour traffic getting out of Nashville, no one had taken care of the cooler of bottled water for the symphony musicians, and so on and so on.
Our crowd was down – which we were expecting. In fact, we were expecting worse than we got. The date of the concert has to do with when the Symphony is available and when Calsonic Arena is available; the organizing committee doesn’t set the date, we just have to deal with what we’re given. This year’s date was later than normal and conflicted with a couple of other activities that probably cut down on our crowd.
But you know what? It all worked. Everyone had a great time. Once the instrument petting zoo showed up, it was mobbed by kids (and some adults) anxious to try their hands at real-life instruments:
This young man, by the way, made a point of coming up to both me and Dawn, individually, after the concert and (prompted by his grandmother, but adorable anyway) thanking us for bringing the symphony to town. He shook our hands.
Albert-George Schram and the Nashville Symphony were in fine form, with one of their best programs ever, including selections from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and an Irish sing-along. My friend and former castmate Joe Rada told me he was in tears during a Puccini medley.
I have to say I teared up a little bit during the traditional finale, “Stars And Stripes Forever,” one of four selections which the symphony played along with the Community High School Band. As always, Maestro Schram asked the piccolo player from the high school band – which, this year, meant a young woman named Victoria Brown, at right in the photo below – to take the solo. (The photo was taken during a pre-concert rehearsal.) Over the past seven years, seven Bedford County high school students have had the opportunity to solo with the Grammy-Award-winning Nashville Symphony. That’s a memory they’ll treasure forever.
The Community band, led by Jimmy Bratcher, sounded fine both playing along with the symphony and playing on their own just before intermission. A brass ensemble composed of both Community students and alumni played during intermission and during the pre-concert period.
I’m proud to say that all three of our public high schools have great band programs. My own alma mater, Cascade High School, didn’t have band when I was a student, but they won a statewide award last year. We rotate among the three high schools, and it will be Cascade’s turn in 2014, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
As I said, our crowd was down a little, but everyone who did attend seemed to have a really good time. I heard lots and lots of positive comments, and the crowd’s energetic applause made it clear they were having a good time. I am tired – I ran up higher numbers on my Fitbit today than I have in some time – but happy. What a wonderful night.
I’m a sucker for signing up for restaurant e-mail lists, the kind that occasionally send you coupons. Most will send you some kind of coupon for your birthday, and the one for Steak ‘N Shake is actually pretty nice – a free double steakburger with cheese, plus fries. I love Steak ‘N Shake, and don’t get over there as often as I’d like.
Well, I had to go to Murfreesboro tonight for a planning meeting for a big United Methodist laity event that’s taking place in June. We met at the lovely home of the Rev. De Hennessy. I’m going to be one of three people delivering brief messages on the theme of the event.
Anyway, you had better believe that once I was done with the meeting I headed for Steak ‘N Shake to use my coupon (which fortunately, doesn’t have to be used on the exact date of your birthday – it was good until the end of the month). They were quite crowded tonight, but there was one seat left at the counter. If you’ve never watched the grill man at Steak ‘N Shake, you’ve missed a show. He lays out two or three rows of little puck-shaped nuggets of ground beef, and then, spatulas blazing, flattens them out as they cook. The chain’s legacy slogan, “In sight it must be right,” referred to the fact that you could watch your food being prepared.
I had my free burger and fries, and happily paid for a cherry limeade to go with them. It was all delicious.
A previous mayor of Shelbyville actually called Steak ‘N Shake corporate headquarters during her term to try to talk them into putting a store here. I don’t think they put too many in towns our size, and she was unsuccessful, but I’d have been right there on opening day.
I don’t cook pork chops often, but I found some beautiful thick ones yesterday at United Grocery Outlet. I brined them all afternoon and cooked them in a cast iron skillet last night – searing them on each side with a little sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s, then covering the skillet, throwing in some diced onions and cranking it down to low to cook them through.
I have to say, the brining worked perfectly. Last night’s chop was moist and tasty, and so was the second chop that I’m eating right now, straight out of the fridge, for lunch.
My tastes in music are eclectic, but I’ve always professed that my two favorite musical talents are Randy Stonehill and Terry Scott Taylor, both of whom I grew to love when I was in college. Randy, who goes back to the very early days of contemporary Christian music in the 1970s, is a singer-songwriter. Terry is the focal point of two overlapping bands, one called Daniel Amos (also known as DA) and the other called the Swirling Eddies, and he’s in a third band, Lost Dogs, and also releases solo albums. I still remember going with friends to see Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos as a double bill in, I think, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, while a student at Oral Roberts University.
Two or three years later, when I was a senior in the spring of 1984, I was vice president in charge of student activities for the ORU Student Association. Our concert chair, Mike Rapp, brought in Randy on a double bill with Mark Heard (another favorite of mine, who died tragically young). I’ve told this story before, but I’m telling it again. I intended to sit next to Randy at the after-concert meal, and meet someone who was already one of my musical heroes.
Well, Randy ended up going through one of those airport-hell trips on his way to Tulsa – delays, missed connections, everything that could possibly go wrong. He arrived exhausted. Then, we had to tell him that, because of an arcane ORU rule, we wouldn’t be able to hand out flyers for Compassion International, a worthy charity with which Randy was closely affiliated and which he promoted at all of his concerts. Randy probably had every right to object or make a scene. He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He gave a great concert – I guarantee, no one in the audience had any idea how tired he was – and stayed down front afterward to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him. He behaved exactly as you would hope a Christian artist would behave. It’s so nice to meet one of your heroes and have them live up to your high expectations.
Needless to say, and quite understandably, he didn’t stick around for the after-concert dinner, and so I didn’t get the chance to have any sort of conversation with him. I met Mark Heard, and asked him a question which I realized as soon as I heard it coming out of my mouth was ridiculously stupid.
I saw Randy one other time in concert, a few years after college, when he was at the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. I only saw DA in concert that one time.
OK, let’s jump to 2011. After not having toured in years, DA books a few dates, including one in Smyrna. Smyrna! But they failed to check with me on the scheduling, and managed to book the concert during one of the two weeks that summer when I was at Camp Cumberland Pines at Mountain T.O.P.’s Adults In Ministry program. By a strange coincidence, my roommate in camp that week was devoted Mountain T.O.P. volunteer “Smitty” Smith, a member of the very church in Smyrna where DA was performing.
Now, it’s 2013. Randy Stonehill was scheduled to appear May 18 and 19 at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville as part of the “One Way Experience,” a sort of CCM nostalgia event also featuring Chuck Girard, Michael Omartian, Evie and The Archers. For my birthday, my wonderful sister, Elecia, gave me a ticket to the May 18 concert….
… which has now been cancelled, for some unannounced reason.
I can’t win.
I was out sick last Monday and had to miss my weekly time at Learning Way Elementary, so I looked forward to it even more this week.
I was gratified to see how eager the kids were to be picked by Ms. Aymett to be in my group.
I’m feeling much better this week, but still coughing quite a bit – I’ve still got some chest congestion that I’m getting rid of. Anyway, between that and the fact that I’m just generally fat and out of shape, I was a little sweaty when I got to Ms. Aymett’s class this morning.
“You’re sweating, Mr. Carney,” said one of the kids, as we played Double Duel. “I thought you were crying, but you’re sweating.”
We had a great time with the game. Just as last time, the air was filled with various comical buzzer sounds even when the kids weren’t buzzing in with an answer. But it was OK.
In Ms. Hester’s class, we worked with a little booklet about scientists which compared them to detectives. The cover of the booklet had a caricature of a man in a deerstalker cap.
“What’s that thing he’s holding?”
“That’s a pipe,” I responded. “Smoking is bad, but that’s a pipe. That drawing is supposed to look like a famous detective named Sherlock Holmes.”
The kids reacted to the book, which was nice. One was disappointed that it wasn’t about a real detective. Another asked how the man in one of the pictures could be looking at dinosaur tracks when dinosaurs lived a long, long time ago, leading me to try to explain how fossils exist.
At the end, we were supposed to do a Venn diagram showing the overlap between scientists and detectives, but just as soon as I had the kids mark the two circles I realized it was time for me to leave.
I’ve only got a week or two more of this before school ends; I need to figure out exactly what the schedule is. I’ll miss it this summer.
Check and see if there’s a program like this in your community. If you’re in Tennessee, you can contact your local United Way and ask about the “Raise Your Hand Tennessee” program. Now’s a good time to volunteer to do this starting in the fall. Reading with kids, whether it’s in a big group, a small group or one-on-one, can make a huge difference in the education process. It can also be personally rewarding.