Another reason I want to leave Blogger is that it’s been acting a little strange lately — sluggish and what have you. There are times when it seems not to accept a post, and so you try again, and then you discover that you’ve posted duplicate copies of the same entry.

Anyway, someone left a nice anonymous comment on my post about the layspeaking dinner. But they apparently had a problem with Blogger, similar to the problems I’ve had posting, and as a result they left the same comment twice. I thought I would be helpful and delete one of the entries. It didn’t seem to work, so I tried deleting the other one. Then, I looked and both copies were gone. Luckily, I get e-mail notification whenever someone leaves a comment. I called up that e-mail, cut and pasted the comment, and then re-posted it myself, anonymously.

If you can decipher the above paragraph, you have an outstaning career ahead of you in tech support. Unfortunately, you may have to move to India.

WordPress, PHP, etc.

I am toying with the idea of changing web hosts.

My current web host doesn’t support PHP — at least not in the basic “home user” package I have now, and I think I can find a better deal than one of their business packages. I don’t have any experience with PHP, but my web designer brother recommended a good basic book and I’d like to be able to teach myself some of it. I would also — and this is more to the point — like to move to a blogging tool like WordPress or Movable Type rather than using Blogger. Blogger is an outstanding service, but using your own blogging software gives you flexibility that an external service like Blogger can’t match.

Do those of you with your own sites or blogs have any input? Has anyone used WordPress software or Total Choice Hosting as a web host?

The luckiest layspeaker

God has blessed me beyond my capacity to accept or understand. Sometimes, when I get overcome by self-pity and frustration, God just has to tap me on the shoulder and remind me of that fact.

Tonight, I attended the Murfreesboro District, United Methodist Church, Lay Speaker Dinner. This was the first such banquet, although the district wants to make it an annual event. For any readers from different traditions who may be unfamiliar with the term “lay speaker,” it refers to trained but non-ordained volunteers who are able to preach or serve in other capacities in the church — most notably, to fill the pulpit for a pastor who may be sick or on vacation. This was a dinner to which all of the district’s lay speakers had been invited, free of charge. (Spouses, pastors or other guests had to pay, however.)

The brochure announcing the event didn’t really say what the program for the dinner would be. I assumed, correctly, that there would be a guest speaker.

The guest speaker turned out to be C. Don Ladd, who has been active in the lay speaking ministry in the Nashville District and the Tennessee Conference as a whole. I was delighted at this. You see, when I took my first advanced layspeaking course — becoming, in the process, a “certified” lay speaker — I took it in the Nashville District, because I had a schedule conflict with the class in the Murfreesboro District. Don Ladd taught that class, and in the process he was an incredible blessing and inspiration to me.

I had e-mailed Don a couple of times in the intervening years, but I really didn’t think he would remember who I was. There’s no telling how many lay speakers he’s worked with over the years. And I look quite a bit different now than I did when I took the course — my thick hair is much shorter and I have a goatee. I figured it would be fun to go up and introduce myself after the program and see if he remembered me.

Don’s program tonight had to do with the three words found in the rim of the United Methodist Lay Speaking Ministries logo: “Caring,” “Communicating” and “Leading.”

When he got to “caring,” he startled me.

“I’m delighted to see that John Carney is here tonight,” he said. “I taught John in a lay speaking class several years back at Forest Hills UMC. John has demonstrated his caring by ministering to people in the streets of Africa. I have read all about John’s trips and I’ve prayed for him.”

Five minutes earlier, I didn’t think Don Ladd would even remember who I was, and now here he was holding me up as an example of caring. I was both thrilled and horrified — thrilled that he remembered me and horrified that he made what I’ve done sound like something more important than just a two-week mission trip.

I tried to think of where he would have heard about my Africa trip. He said I mentioned it in an e-mail, and I probably did, but I don’t recall it — and that’s not really where he got the details. He got the details from Mildred Bomar. Mrs. Bomar, a dear, sweet lady whom I have known since I was 10 years old, was one of my father’s parishoners when we first moved to Bedford County in 1972. Mrs. Bomar now lives in Nashville (or Brentwood) and is an active member of Forest Hills. She clipped out my first-person Kenya trip accounts from the Times-Gazette last September and shared them with Don Ladd.

And Don prayed for me.

And I never knew.

How many times this week have I moped about the demands of work, the frustrations of my finances, the feeling that I’m trapped in a rut? How many times this week have I acted like God had abandoned me? God has never abandoned me, or you, or anyone else, and I know that. But I still behave like a spoiled child.

Most of the time, I really don’t realize what a lucky man I am. Sometimes, God has to remind me.

Mim does Shelbyville

Mim Rivas held her book signing tonight at Argie Cooper Public Library. I was there to cover it for the paper, but I also took the chance to get books signed for myself and my editor. Columbia Journalism Review might object, but I make no apologies.

Beautiful Jim Key : The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the WorldMim gave a delightful talk, and graciously signed books for several dozen people in attenance, a few of whom had brought numerous copies. Many in attendance have not read the book yet (some bought them at the signing, from the library). Some had family connections to Dr. William Key or others involved in the story.

Mim’s husband, Victor Rivas Rivers, a former Miami Dolphins lineman who is now an actor, has written a book as well, and Mim had a galley proof with her tonight. The book is apparently a memoir of growing up with an abusive father. Mim and Victor have been active in speaking out about domestic violence, and were honored for their work by the Lifetime network.

Meanwhile, Mim’s book — “Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed The World” — continues to get favorable word of mouth, and it is featured in the current issue of People magazine (the one with Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell on the cover).

A tame lion?

Several other blogs and message boards have linked to this New York Times piece, but if you haven’t seen it already it’s worth reading.

It’s about the dilemma faced by Walt Disney Pictures in marketing its big-screen adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Do they emphasize C.S. Lewis’ allegorical intent, hoping to woo the same Christian audiences who turned out to support “The Passion of the Christ”? Or do they downplay it for a mass market (and to bolster the all-powerful Disney merchandising machine) and risk alienating the church?

As much as I’m hoping this will be a good movie, I’m really kind of saddened that Lewis’ work has been placed in this kind of position.

More on Beer Can Chicken

Phisch wants to know if you’re supposed to tie the chicken’s legs for beer can chicken. No — that’s one of the advantages! Trussing the legs or wings is supposed to keep them from overcooking by snugging them up next to the body. But in beer can chicken, the body is being cooked inside (by the steam) and out (by the oven), and so it gets done faster, at about the same time the legs are done. No trussing or tying is necessary.

I did a search on Google for “Beer Can Chicken” and found lots of recipes, plus several different designs and manufacturers of can racks. (You can do this without a rack, but you have to be much more careful lest the chicken tip over on you. And the racks are very inexpensive.) This is a special device used just for beer can chicken, not to be confused with the V-shaped racks some people use for roasting poultry.

Movie update

“Our Very Own,” the independent film shot last summer in Shelbyville, now has an official web site, featuring a coming-attrations trailer. It doesn’t have a distribution deal yet, from what I understand, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. The movie stars Allison Janney of “The West Wing,” Jason Ritter of “Joan of Arcadia,” and Keith Carradine of “Complete Savages,” “Nashville” and a whole lot of other things.

Last summer, I posted about the fact that the production brought out a bit of melancholia in me — after all, I was a contemporary of Cam’s. (I didn’t know him because we went to different high schools, although I think we were both in the Optimist Club speech contest one year.) I graduated from college with dreams of being a screenwriter. I’m extremely frustrated with my life in journalism, and it’s only natural that I’d envy Cam’s success.

Months after my post, an anonymous poster claiming to be a friend of Cam’s posted a comment. He or she wrongly took my post as begrudging Cam his success; nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t that kind of envy.

I didn’t get to meet Cam when he was in town — one of my co-workers did most of the movie coverage, although I did profile the movie’s executive producer and chief financier, Bob McLean. Given how much I enjoy community theater, I might have tried out to be an extra, but because of the 70s setting they specifically ruled out people with buzz cuts. I sort of regret now that I didn’t make a point of trying to at least meet him. I don’t know that we would have had anything to talk about. The trailer looks great, and I’m anxious to see the movie.

Heck, if I can ever get the novel edited, and if it ever goes anywhere, maybe I can interest Cam in the movie rights. :)

A few more details

When cooking the beer can chicken in the oven, place it in a pie tin and add a little bit of liquid to the pan — perhaps the other half of the beer from the can. Cook it at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours until the skin is golden and crispy and the thigh reads 180 degrees. (The instructions call for a 3 1/2-4 pound chicken.)

I have not cooked beer can chicken on the grill, but according to the instructions on the ChickCan you should use indirect heat — push the hot coals to the sides of the grill so that they are not directly under the chicken — and add six fresh coals every half hour to keep the fire going. The pie tin and outside liquid are not necessary on the grill.

Beer-can chicken — the untold story

Someone posted a comment asking for the recipe to the beer-can chicken. It’s not so much a recipe as a technique — the chicken is cooked vertically, in the oven or on a grill, “sitting” — for lack of a better term — on a half-full can of beer or soda which has been unceremoniously shoved into the body cavity. The chicken looks like it’s sitting on a stool.

You can do this with just the can, but it’s much, much easier to use a wire rack especially designed for this purpose, which gives you a much more stable platform.

In addition to the beer can in the cavity, you stuff a potato or small onion into the neck opening to keep steam from escaping. What happens is that the beer (or soda) steams the chicken from the inside, while the heat on the outside crisps the skin. You almost always use some sort of spice rub on the chicken, inside and out — yesterday, I used Northwoods Fire Seasoning from Penzey’s Spices, but I’ve had great success with a variety of different spices and seasoning blends.

Somehow, whether it’s a result of the steam or the vertical configuration, this cooking method helps overcome the normal problem of getting the dark meat and the white meat to cook to the same degree of doneness. Both turn out moist and well-cooked.

The ChickCan Wire Rack is available at Wal-Mart Supercenters and, I’m sure, other stores as well. Or you can order it from the web site linked above.