Quote of the Day, 6/23/08

06/23/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” — L. Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland

Luke Playoffs — Quarterfinals

06/22/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Here’s the next round of band name matchups from the book of Luke!





Photoflash — Midwest Flooding

06/22/2008, 12:59 am -- by | No Comments

This just in… Residents living in a Midwestern flood plain continue to be baffled and disturbed by yearly flooding.Flood plain residents confused on source of flood.

Isaiah 44 — Part 1

06/20/2008, 11:00 pm -- by | No Comments

18 June 2008 WATERTOWN —

Imagine our surprise – Official Wife Karen and I were moving a large appliance onto our back porch when we heard a sharp knock on our front door. We weren’t expecting company, and as we peered through the blinds, Official Wife Karen literally jumped backward when she saw the eyes of two earnest-looking young women peering back at her.

“Man, I hope it’s not missionaries,” she muttered under her breath.

They chimed in unison, smiles beaming above their Latter Day Saints nametags: “Hi! We’re here from…”

Excited, I interrupted them. “SWEET!”

The talkative one laughed, while the quiet one scanned the inside of our living room, looking for clues to our eternal fate. “We don’t hear that very often,” said the first. “We’re here from the Church of Latter-Day Saints. We…”

I interrupted them again. “Uh, yeah, I can see that on your tag there. I didn’t know they sent women out into neighborhoods like this.”

Turning to my lovely bride, I asked, “Do we have time for this right now?”

“No,” Official Wife Karen replied. “We have an appointment in a half-hour.”

A few schedule wranglings later, the mormon missionariettes and the Maxon family had an appointment for this coming Tuesday at 4PM!

When I was a younger man, living on campus at Oswego State University of New York, I actually invited the local mormon missionaries into my dorm room for a chat. Official College Roommate Jacob was *not* thrilled.

With the Oswego-mormons, I played along with them, playing dumb, making them define their terms, taking my time… like a chess match.

Like a game.

But I don’t feel like playing games any more, because it’s not a game. Frankly, Mormonism is a cult, it’s dangerous, and adherents are going to a very real hell.

Needless to say, Official Wife Karen was less than pleased. “Why did you invite them back here!?” she growled sweetly whispered to me after the door was shut and locked.

“Because they’re going to hell, Karen. Instead of having to go out and find somebody to save, the devil brought them to our door, and by the Holy Spirit, you and I are going to do something about that,” I said, kissing her forehead.

She smiled. “Oh. That’s why.”

I’ll keep you posted.

When They Were Eighteen

06/20/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

I grew up in the 1960s, watching movies about World War II. It settled into my psyche as just another piece in the giant puzzle of life here in America. It meant nothing more or less to me than the death of JFK or the rise and fall of Richard Nixon; it was less important than the Oakland A\’s or the New York Yankees; it was certainly no more relevant than the Revolutionary or Civil Wars. It was all just history, until I met my father-in-law.

He passed away a few years ago, but I have a picture of him hanging in my hallway: a young man in his army uniform, leaning against a stump in some woods near where he grew up in the Adirondacks. He served in the Army and participated in the retaking of the Philippines, among other things, and I had 20 years to listen to his stories about those days.

He looks so young in that picture.

Now, when I look back at World War II and hear those men and women called “The Greatest Generation,” I think of him — and I am dumbfounded at their accomplishments. When I was 18, it was an adventure to have my own license and car; it was scary going off to college, even a little community college in my own hometown. When they were 18, they were sent halfway across the world, to kill or be killed. I can\’t get my mind around it.

When my son was 18, I was worried sick when he was 30 minutes late getting home from his job at the grocery store two blocks from our house. I can\’t imagine the horror of a father sending his children off to war, never seeing them alive again.

When I was 18, I had dreams like anyone. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. I wanted to meet a woman who would be my best friend and lover for the rest of my life. I wanted to have children and grandchildren, and watch them grow up.

When they were 18, I\’m sure they had all those same dreams: college, marriage, children. I can\’t imagine teenagers surrendering all that to die in the fields and forests of Europe; to find their final resting place on the blood-soaked beaches of France, the jungles of the South Pacific.

When they were 18, they saved the world.

How do we ever thank them?

Joke of the Day, 6/20/08

06/20/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

A man walked into a supermarket and bought a loaf of bread, a pint of milk, and a frozen dinner. The woman at the checkout said, “You’re single, aren’t you?”

The man said, “Yeah, how did you guess?”

She said, “Because you’re ugly.”

The Death of Midtown

06/19/2008, 12:30 pm -- by | No Comments

I work a thousand feet or so from what claims to be “the nation’s first fully enclosed downtown mall,” Midtown Plaza in Rochester, NY. I don’t know quite how that can be true, since it opened in 1962 and I once worked a few thousand feet from a downtown mall that dated to 1850, but you choose your battles. The picture on the right dates from its late ’60’s heyday.

I go there often on lunch. At first I used it only for its pizza, or as a portal to the Skyway system that connects many of our downtown buildings, including my bank and the library, but once our ex-governor announced its demolition so a suburban telecom corporation could relocate downtown, it gave my wanderings greater focus. Now my visits are to a condemned prisoner, a wizened dowager facing a strict sentence of death. The mall closes on August 1.

I am fully in favor of economic development, and I am not particularly sentimental about the building. It’s far too easy to wax eloquent about the glories of Midtown’s past while overlooking its decaying infrastructure and outdated designs; this mall’s prognosis was clear long before Fr. Spitzer pronounced last rites. But I wonder, as I ride the barren escalator past the remnants of the Christmas monorail, whether the change will really be beneficial, and if so, to whom. Preferring as I do the sometime-stagnant past to the always-uncertain future, I was destined to be a conservative.

During one recent visit, a drunken homeless man interrupted my lunch order to clumsily proposition an employee, whose resigned eye roll perfectly completed Midtown’s modern urban vignette — lunching professionals from the surrounding office towers and staggering castoffs who made the deserted mall their daylight home, thrown together at her counter for amusement and frustration. Together, though, we could never keep the mall alive, and so every time I enter, another store has closed its doors. The darkness spreads. The emptying halls take on a foreboding desolation; the once-bright retail windows offer only a disturbing emptiness.

We are not made to be comfortable with death of any type, even, perhaps, the death of the garish and commercial. Worst of all is the slow, wasting type that visibly saps the life from the bones — it takes an act of the will to stay and witness. Let it compel us, at the risk of cliche, to make the most of the time we have.

Quote of the Day, 6/19/08

06/19/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” — F. Dostoevsky

One Hundred Words (19)

06/18/2008, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

They sat on the porch because it was too hot inside.

There were four of them, and they smoked one pipe between them as they sat on rickety chairs made of fallen branches with their feet up on the solid porch railing.

They didn’t talk, but there was only the street and the sky to talk about anyway. The street and the sky and a couple of mangy dogs, scratching at their fleas and chasing a cat all over the road.

So they sat and they smoked, one pipe between them, because it was too hot to light four.


In Anticipation of a Day at the Beach

06/18/2008, 10:30 am -- by | 1 Comment

It really isn\’t a very good beach day at all, if truth be told. Three out of three weathermen on the three out of three reliable channels picked up by my TV antenna prophesied, “Sunny with a high in the mid-80s, with just a breath of wind from the southwest,” but they have been proven wrong once again.

I should feel bad for meteorologists, really. Their entire career is like one very dysfunctional relationship with a mean, nasty, vindictive partner: the weather. It can\’t be predicted, or controlled, or reasoned with, but for some reason they stick with it, treating it nicely and using words like “stationary front” to describe a disastrous atmospheric battleground. I can just see Joe Kopecek of WZZM 13 West Michigan now, shaking his head as the little animated arrow misses the target of “accurate weather prediction”\’ once more, while the lunchtime news anchors laugh a little too gleefully. Fickle wench, he\’s probably thinking. Must be that time of the month.

But despite how much I should feel bad for the meteorologists, I can\’t muster up the sympathy. It\’s a selfish reason: today was (and is!) going to be a day at the beach. I\’ve called up my closest friend, we\’re rummaging around for some SPF 92.9 (I\’m Scotch-Irish, you ball of flaming skin cancer, you!), and looking sadly but resignedly at our bathing-suit-clad bodies in the mirror before slipping on some shorts and tank tops. It\’s a 50-minute drive to our favorite beach at Kruse Park in central Muskegon, and we are going to make a day of it.

The weather, however, really doesn\’t want to cooperate. What was supposed to be mid-80s is, by my porch thermometer, 97. Not so bad, you may be thinking. All the better to go swimming in. I grant you this, but 97-degree weather coupled with a strong wind is NOT good beach weather for two major reasons:

1. Rip tides. The most underrated danger about Lake Michigan, which is full of deceptive sandbars. Once you get out past the sandbar, the tide pulls you further and further out. And of course, the tides are stronger as the wind gets stronger.

2. Sand. Let\’s face it, sand is the devil. I may have read one of my favorite novels, Dune, upwards of 20 times, but romanticizing a desert planet won’t make for a wonderful day at the beach when sand is constantly getting lodged in your every orifice.

Weather notwithstanding, we are headed to the beach, hip-hop blaring from my car Evita\’s speakers, windows down, toting thermoses of lemonade and sandwich bags of grapes and peanuts (traditional beach food). Getting through Muskegon\’s busy streets is a breeze in the early afternoon, and soon enough we are on Sherman Avenue, heading due west. As we chat, I notice much heavier traffic coming toward us. It\’s not that odd, I suppose, for the part of town that we\’re in, but still”¦

We get to the beach and stop off briefly at the bath house. Parking Evita in the shade, we lug our towels, munchies, and obligatory chick lit up and around the beautiful boardwalk (another tradition). From the northernmost point we can see the channel and the high-speed ferry inching its way toward Wisconsin, and at the southernmost we have to turn around, giggling and running away, because we accidentally got caught in a wedding party trying rather pathetically to take pictures.

The wind has died down only slightly as we make our way to the beach itself. The waves are huge, the whitecaps beckoning like whipped cream on top of blueish-green sherbet. I decide to lay out for a bit and soak up some carcinogens while delving into my book. The wind is picking up more and more, blowing sand painfully into my eyes, and we decide that we might as well get in the water now. It\’s cold for late July and refreshing, but the wind whips soreness into our ears if we stay above the water for very long. We don\’t venture out to the sandbar for safety\’s sake, but float closer to shore, telling those deep secrets you only tell to close friends on a day at the beach.

We talk so long, floating on our backs, that neither of us see the storm clouds coming closer from the south until a raindrop hits my nose. Running back to our towels, the sand stings more than ever. We stuff all of our things into the beach bags and trudge back to the car, drenched from the lake and the rain. We proceed to soak the seats of my car, rolling up the windows in vain, driving home in a rather glum mood.

Oh well, I\’m sure we both are thinking. They forecasted better weather for next Tuesday”¦

Joke of the Day, 6/18/08

06/18/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

What’s the hardest part about skydiving?

The ground.

Luke Playoffs — Round 2

06/17/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Here’s the next round of matchups from Luke!










06/17/2008, 10:15 am -- by | 3 Comments

We will dance on the streets that are golden
The glorious bride and the great Son of Man
And every tongue and tribe and nation will join
In the song of the Lamb…

It\’s prom time. Prom — short for promenade — is a graduation-type dance, often celebrated with a meal. You can barely go anywhere right now without hearing about it. Last week we were in a prom frenzy. My youngest daughter\’s dress, ordered in February for elder daughter\’s August wedding, still hadn\’t arrived, and prom was Saturday night.

We drove to the dress shop on Monday and asked for solutions from the owner. He offered her any dress in his shop for free to fill in if hers didn\’t arrive in time — or even if it did. She tried on a dozen and left with a stunning number we never could\’ve afforded. Hers arrived late that Friday and she ended up wearing both, making a change halfway through just for fun.

I remember my older daughter\’s prom three years ago. We didn\’t have the money for a gown that year, but we went looking one day anyway. She tried one on, and said to me, “I think I had a dream about this dress last night.” She was simply transformed when she had it on. We bought it. Later that week, my uncle sent her money for a graduation dress that nearly covered the entire cost.

All this made me start thinking about my own prom. I was a freshman, asked to go by a senior. My family was dirt poor. My parents had just split up and we\’d moved out to the middle of nowhere, onto a farm of all things. For some reason I found myself up in the attic where (I\’m not making this up) I found two gowns, one green and one orange, along with matching sandals, all packed away in a box. Everything was in my size too, which with size 9 shoes and a scrawny 5’11” frame, was nothing short of amazing.

I am totally convinced that God put those things there for me. I remember my dad arguing with my mom about my “borrowing” them for the prom that year. But she made sure that I cleaned them and put them back when the dance was over.

Why would God do that? Why would He care about how my daughters and I were dressed for proms in 1973, 2005 and 2008? All I can really tell you is that He did. And in Matthew 22, He seems to care how people are dressed for His wedding feast. So maybe it\’s because He cares about what we care about. Or maybe it\’s because He has a prom of His own going on. You\’ll find it in Revelation 19, where He\’s preparing for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Just don\’t ask what\’s on the menu…

And the Answer is…

06/17/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

What did Damien need to know?

If you picked “We never find out — because of the Rapture,” you’re a winner!!


©1984-2008 Chick Publications, Inc. Reprinted without permission as fair use (parody).

Quote of the Day, 6/17/08

06/17/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“In summer, the song sings itself.” — W.C. Williams

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