Thursday, December 28, 2006

Edinburgh

Last week, my family was in town and we headed up to Edinburgh, Scotland via train. We got some Brit Rail passes which allow you to travel anywhere you want in the UK via train at no additional charge for the period of time you purchase the pass. It's a bit expensive but ends up being a good deal due to the high cost of train fares in the UK. On our journey, we had an inside view on Santa's whereabouts. It appears that in this modern age he has given up the reindeer and is going with a helecopter. Indeed, he waved to us from the helecopter.

We got to see Edinburgh Castle as well as taking a trip down the "Royal Mile." The Royal Mile is where lots of the city's historical events took place. One highlight was getting a picture at Adam Smith's grave, the father of modern Economics. (You know the supply/demand concept? He's the one who first presented the idea formally in his book The Wealth of Nations.)

On the trip, I also discovered the brilliance of scarves. I got a Scottish made lambs wool scarf and found that it keeps one quite warm by cutting the wind and providing general toastiness.


Me and Adam Smith


Edinburgh Castle at Night


Edinburgh Castle Canon (interestingly, it's never been used. There is a modern canon fired from the castle daily at 1 pm to give the ships in the harbor a signal to set their clocks by.)

More pictures posted here.

Photography Tip #2

There is a general rule of thumb in photography called the "Rule of Thirds," which can help improve the quality of a picture. The basic concept is to imagine there is a 3x3 grid laying on top of the frame. When lining up the picture, center the picture in such a way that the intersection of the imaginary lines have points of interest from the picture. This helps to give a good balanced view of the photo and focuses the eye on natural division points in the picture. For example, if you have a picture of three basketballs lined up in a row, try to line up a seperate ball on each intersection.

Mississippi Squirrel Revival

Check out this funny Ray Stevens song and the lyrics.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Photography Tip #1

Identify your subject and zoom in on it. People sometimes make the mistake of placing a person they're taking a picture of way far back in a picture of some giant piece of architecture such as the Eiffel tower or Big Ben. Bring the subject closer to the camera and have the background be the background. The viewer of the picture wants to see the subject up close and the fact that they were in relative close proximity to the sight.

Cameras

If you're looking into getting a for real camera, let me know and I can give you some tips. Going down either the route of nice point and shoot or DSLR are both valid options when going digital. If DSLR is the route for you, I'd recommend either going with Canon or Nikon. Once you choose one or the other, it's kind of like getting married. They make all the lenses/appliances within a family. So you begin investing in the family and the greater the investment, the tougher it is to switch from an escalation of commitment standpoint.

I went the way of Canon but Nikon has very good equipment as well. Not that other camera companies don't have good products; it's more that Canon and Nikon are top grade and have lots of support and availability to purchase parts/get service.

Again, not necessarily trying to push towards DSLR as one can take some very nice pictures with point and shoot cameras. They've become much more advanced to the point where you can do almost as much with some point and shoots as DSLRs or SLRs. Photography really is an art and takes a certain amount of natural ability in having an eye for things. There are definitely principles to keep in mind and the more you do it, as in anything, the better you get. Probably way more than you wanted to know. :-)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tech Tip

When in Internet Explorer, to quickly go to the address bar without taking your hands off the keyboard, press alt + d. This will highlight whatever is in the address bar and allow you to enter the next destination, surfing fractionally quicker.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dublin

This past weekend, I made a short hop, skip, and jump on over to the isle of the leprechauns. While I didn't see any of the wee folk, I did get to see and experience some neat stuff. First, I took a tour around the city on a bus which had commentary on Irish history and the various sites. I've done a tour such as this twice and found it to provide a good broad feel for the city. It helps in getting the lay of the land and figuring out where things are prior to doing some detailed investigation on foot.

Before researching the trip, I didn't realize that Ireland has only been an autonomous country since 1921 when it ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Previously, it was a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland which is still on the same island as the Republic of Ireland chose to remain a part of the UK and as such is a separate country.

After the bus tour, I took a brief tour at the Guinness factory. This is similar to the World of Coke museum in Atlanta. Interestingly, the Guinness family has given away lots of money to help maintain or build churches. I then went and checked out Dublin castle. There are lots of government offices located here so it is not quite as castlesque as one might anticipate. The Chester Beatty library is located adjacent to the castle and has a plethora of old books and manuscripts.

It was then on to check out St. Patrick's cathedral. The cathedral is allegedly built on the site of St. Patrick's original church building when he came to Ireland in the 5th century A.D. I also went to Christ Church Cathedral and actually attended a singing service. The acoustics were quite nice even with a small choir.

On Saturday evening, I went on a musical pub crawl which was one of the highlights of my trip. A couple professional musicians (fiddler/percussionist and guitarist) gave a nice synopsis of traditional Irish music as well as humor and various bits of Irish trivia. They played a bunch of Irish folk songs and taught us a few which we sang along with. Towards the end of the evening, they issued what is known as the "local call" during which the audience members are requested to share a song from their home country. Not one to shy away, I volunteered and played a rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama." Playing in an actual Irish pub was a very cool experience.

I also got to see the "Book of Kells" which were a couple of ancient manuscripts of the Bible in Latin written in the 8th century. The pages were decorated with ornate illustrations. The exhibit had other old manuscripts as well. Apparently, many times they used cow hide as a parchment.

Another museum that I checked out was a Viking exhibit. The Vikings invaded and lived in Dublin back in the early part of the 2nd millennium. They were known as Danes when not on warring raids and Vikings when conducting activities of battle. A common misconception is that they did not wear the horned helmets which people commonly associate with them but rather a leather helmet. The food in the couple pubs I ate in was quite tasty as well. I had beef pie for one meal, salmon for another and lots of potatoes. Yum! Someday, I'd like to go back and check out the countryside which is supposed to be very beautiful.

Unfortunately, I left the battery to my camera sitting in the charger in my flat in London. I did, however, get a disposable camera and will at some point upload pictures after getting them developed and scanned.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Threadless.com

This site, Threadless.com, has lots of funny and/or random shirts. My personal favorites are Darth Vader trimming the hedges and the Bicycle Miles Per Gallon infinity shirts.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

London Carolers

This evening while on the way for a brief run in Hyde Park, I heard the unmistakable sound of Carolers sing-sing-singing. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to join them in hearty melody. We sang "Silent Night" and "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunrise, sunset swiftly flow the days

Currently, the projected sunrise and subsequent sunset in London are scheduled for 7:48 am and 3:53 pm. I'm told the day will get progressively shorter. 8 hours of sunlight seems such a short period of time. By sunlight, I mean lighter than night since many times the clouds cover the sun for a large portion of the day. It's strange to look out the window at 4:15 in the afternoon and see things all dark. And we're not talking the sun's just started going down. By that time, it's down for a long winter's nap.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

British Museum

Today, I spent a bit of time at the British Museum which has an extensive collection of artifacts from all eras. Two notable items I saw were the Rosetta Stone (which the British absconded with following military actions with France in the early 1800s) and parts of the Parthenon. No, I did not make a quick trip to Athens. A man with the named Lord Elgin obtained these parts of the Parthenon back a couple hundred years ago. This was accomplished with permission from the authorities though some felt they should remain with the original structure. On the other side, the pieces were likely preserved much better in the British Museum rather than face damage from vandalism and weather.

I also went and watched the ACC championship game at a BBQ place called BoDean's owned by a guy from Kansas City so you know it was some classic KC style cooking.

Current listening: Licoln Bruster: Let the Praises Ring



This is a nice picture of Regent's Park in Autumn bloom.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Normandy

On the second day of our journey to France, we took a train from Paris to Caen which is the closest major city to the beaches of Normandy where D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944. We rented a car which allowed us to explore at our own pace. We started out at Sword beach on the east side of the beach and worked our way toward Omaha beach on the west side. (Normandy is on the north side of France facing the English Channel) Click here and scroll down just a bit for a map of Normandy. It was amazing seeing this place where so much bloodshed and destruction occurred. In contrast to the violence which occurred, the country side is quite beautiful with many quaint villages along the way.

Looking out into the water, I tried to imagine the 5000 some odd ships which would have been facing the beaches. As we progressed along the coast, we stopped at a place called Aromanches where the British forces built a temporary harbor to assist in bringing supplies/forces from the ships to the land. This allegedly played a critical role in the invasion.

At various places along the 40 kilometer route, we stopped at the actual sites where the battle was fought. We saw enormous guns used to fire on ships, bunkers (some intact some very damaged), pill boxes, and assorted damage to the land. We were able to actually walk inside some of the German bunkers. You could very clearly see the damage to the bunkers resulting from airplane and ship bombardment.

Pont du Hoc on Omaha Beach was a major part of the battle where American troops climbed the cliffs and took on the German forces. I previously had no real concept of D-Day and what it might have been like. Seeing the cliffs and beaches in person helped me to realize the enormous odds stacked against any solider trying to attack from below on the beaches. These were truly heroes with tremendous bravery. All over the ground at Pont du Hoc were gigantic holes and depressions into the ground resulting from bombs.

The most somber and sobering part of the day was when we spent some time at the American cemetery where there are 9600+ graves each with a soldiers name on it. Standing in the cemetery was almost overwhelming. The sheer emotion and realization of the massive sacrifice of life was definitely apparent. Next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service. War is a terrible thing and it was very much realized in that place.

After departing from the beaches, we had a meal in a small town called Bayeux and made our way back to Caen for our trip home to Paris. We were sure to check the last departing train time during the day which was indicated as 9:30 pm. However, this was not the case. Apparently, the 9:30 train only leaves from Caen to Paris on Sunday night. So, we ended up spending the night in Caen arising at 4:45 am and getting on a 5:15 am train to Paris. Not the most fun way to spend one's last night in France but provided fodder for stories to tell later on.






For more pictures please click here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bonjour

Recently, my friends Kevin and Matt came to visit from Kansas City. After several days of showing them around London, we went on an excursion to France. Paris is quite close to London and due to the proximity, a train ride is entirely feasible. The chunnel goes under the English channel for around 20 minutes with the total commute from London to Paris being 2 hours and 20 minutes.

My knowledge of French is extremely limited but prior to departure, I consulted with some native French speakers at work. During the trip, I practiced essential phrases such as Combien ca coute? (How much does it cost) Bonjour, Merci, Excusem moi and counting to 10. The lady I sat next to was a native of Paris and she informed me of the reason Paris is known as the "City of Lights." This pseudonym comes from Paris's distinction as being the first city to light up the major sites around the city at night.

We arrived in Paris on Monday night around 10:00 pm. After attempting to say in French "can you take us to our hotel," the driver took a look at the name and location of the hotel and called a compatriot who gave presumably better directions than those I printed off from the internet. The driver spoke virtually no English but as a fellow classical music connoisseur, we proceeded to say composer's names to each other with smiles and nods. "Beethoven, Bach, List, Berlioz, Handel, Debussy."

The hotel room was quite small with room for precisely three small beds and littel more space. But who's looking for luxurious accommodations when you're in a great city to explore in? We got up early the next morning and headed into town on the underground train which had a stop just outside our hotel's front door.

We were well armed with an itinerary thanks to Frommers.com. I highly recommend their advice for any city you'll be travel to for sightseeing. They have excellent general overviews of the city, recommended itineraries, reviews of top sites, eating, and basic getting around information.

Our first stop was the Louvre which for some unexplained reason was closed on a Tuesday. We took a picture and promptly set off for the Seine river. The Seine and its accompanying river walk is quite beautiful especially with the changing autumn leaves. We then went to Pont Neuf, Vert-Galant Square, and Place Dauphine each of which offered nice general views of the city and some of its sights.

The next major place we visited was Sainte Chapelle, a Gothic chapel with beautiful stained glass windows all around. Stained glass windows literally covered all the walls in a brilliant array of colors with each window pane telling a portion of the Biblical account. As a side note, we learned that sometimes stained glass windows were used to help those who could not read still see and understand stories from the Bible.

Shortly after, we wandered through the Latin Quarter on our way to Notre Dame. Restaurant proprietors stood in the doorways inviting us to try their fares. However, we put lunch on hold until after Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was my favorite site in Paris. It has beautifully intricate Gothic architecture and is magnificent both inside and out. The cathedral was finished in the 1200s and took approximately 80 years to complete. Inside it was very beautiful but dark and tall at the same time. We were there during a Mass which was in French and that we clearly could not understand. Kevin and I climbed to the top via stairs and were greeted by stunning views of the city as well as some interesting gargoyles and statues on top.

After a lunch at a kebab shop in the Gothic Quarter, it was on to Place de la Concorde which contains a large obelisk allegedly built in 1200 B.C. We made this journey on foot which though a bit laborious, seemed more reliable to the newbie than the underground train system. I'm sure the train system works well for those who know its ins and outs but it did not seem as intuitive as the London Tube system.

We then made our way down the Champs de Elysees, Paris's most famous boulevard. Each summer the Tour de France participants race down Champs de Elysees on international television. The focal point of the avenue is the Arc de Triumphe which is 49 meters tall. Continuing our foot journey, we made our way to the Effiel Tower for a view of Paris's most visible landmark. It is 317 meters tall and one must get quite far away to take an adequate picture. Unfortunately, my wide angle lense stopped working so I had to take two shots of the tower with my telephoto lense. The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 for the World's Fair and remained the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York was built in 1930. Kevin and I took an elevator to the top for a view over the entire city. This completed the first day. The second day we went to Normandy which I will discuss in a separate entry.

On the third day, the main site we saw was Sacre Cuer which is a beautiful basilica with another superb view of the city. Inside a choir was singing and the effect was one of reverence. The stated mission of the church is for worldwide prayer and intercession. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city a bit more then making our way back to the train station for the return to London.

Overall, the food in France was excellent. I had crepes on a couple occasions as wells as multiple tasty pastries. I'm not a big fan of cheese but was equally impressed with the quality. I'd place it on a completely separate level to that which I've previously tasted. The French can definitely cook.











Click here for more pictures

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Goderade

"Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." -John 4:14

The things of the world have a tendency to cause thirst whether new or revisted. Drink daily from the water of Christ and be quenched of worldly thirst. Make Him your "Goderade."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Barcelona

Hola. Buenos Dias. Me gusta Barcelona. Porque no todos amigos y familia hablan Espanol, escribo en Ingles. My trip to Barcelona was muy bien. I enjoyed experience the culture there. One suprise was that Barcelona is essentially the capital of Catalonya which is kind of a nation within the country of Spain. They understand Spanish there but the primary language is Catalonian. When I arrived at the airport I was looking around at signs seeing a language that had some similarities to Spanish but was unfamiliar. I was thinking "um, what exactly does that say? I thought I was in Spain but that's not Spanish." It turns out that signs in public places like train stations, museums many times are listed with Catalonian boldly displayed and Spanish and English with less prominent positions on the signage.

The Spanish I learned in high school is not pronounced the same way as the traditional Spanish pronunciation. For example, the "s" in the word for school, "escuela", in Spain is pronounced with a "th" instead of the "es" that was taught in my classes. I found in heavily tourist areas that vendors usually just spoke English to me instead of helping me along with my broken Spanish. While this might be good for someone who doesn't care to practice, it was a bit frustrating to me because I wanted to practice using the language. I did have many opportunities to use it as well. I successfully talked my way out of a misunderstanding at the museum, purchased stamps, took a taxi to the hotel, purchased lunch on several occasions, and mailed some post cards all using Spanish. I also met a guy from Columbia on the plane and spoke a good deal of Spanish to him. (actually sat by the same hombre on the way there and back)

While my vocabulary is not what it could be, I've decided that I could definitely survive in a totally Spanish speaking environment if needed. Things don't come as quickly in Spanish but after a few days you start picking up on things. I even began to try to translate every object or word into Spanish. For a brief time when I started reading a book in English, I found myself still trying to think of the Spanish word.

Overall, I feel that the American culture would do well to learn more languages. Many people throughout the world can speak multiple languages. Knowing another language helps open up a new venue for communication and broadens one's horizons. Even if one does not become fluent, a basic understanding is good to have.

I arrived in Barcelona around 11pm at night but after a 15-20 minute taxi ride, arrived at my hotel. It was a very nice 4 star hotel which I found on the Internet for a reasonable price. One downside was the distance from the middle of the city. It took around an hour via tram and train to get to Las Ramblas which is in the center.

The first morning, I went into the city and began by walking down Las Ramblas. This is a street where they have tons of vendors, mimes, street performers and mostly where all the fast paced action happens. I also wandered around the Bari Gotic which has some really cool Gothic architecture. Another stop the first day included the Barcelona Cathedral. This is an enormous cathedral which has very nice stain glass windows, architecture, statues, and its very own gaggle of geese inside. I also stopped by a basilica called Santa Maria del Pi.

At the bottom of Las Ramblas close to the harbor, there is a monument of Christopher Columbus. I rode the elevator to the top and looked out over the harbor and the city. I then rode the funicular (basically a tram) up to the top of Mount Juic and got to see the Olympic stadium and former Olypic torch. Wandering served me well that evening as I wandered down to the Font Magica (Magic Fountain) which is a series of water falls flowing down and ended with a nearby fountain. The fountain has lights and water shooting all over with coreographed classical music. This over looks the city and provides a beautiful view. I highly recommend this as something to do if you're ever in Barcelona.

On the second day, I checked out the Picasso museum. It was structured more towards exploring his art throughout his life vis a vis just his well known cubist phase. He was quite talented at the more traditional styles of painting and drawing. I did some more wandering around the city and took some pictures of one of the many street performers playing guitar as well as a guy playing the glass harp (glasses filled with water) I went to La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral by the famous architect Gaudi, that has not yet been completed (estimated completion in 2025). I'm not one to be scared of heights but after taking the elevator to the top of this enormous structure definitely had a bit of nervousness. It is currently 60 meters (197 feet). It provided a terrific view of the city and I was up there close to sunset so had the added benefit of the extra color in the sky. I finished the day with a walk along the beach. There aren't really any waves that I could tell but that may change depending on weather.

On a couple occasions, I got some helado (ice cream) called frambuesa which was very good kind of tropical flavored. I also sampled some canella which provided a rich taste very similar to cinnamon.

I found a small bakery close to my hotel which had some really good pastries for a very reasonable price compared to some of the prices for things in the city. One day I went there and had breakfast, read my Bible, and wrote in my journal. The bakeries throughout the city had very high quality food and are another of my recommendations. Another classic Spanish dish is paella. It is a rice base with vegetables and possibly a small quantity of meat depending on the dish. Quite tasty.

The last day, I went to Parc Guell a park designed by Gaudi. This has some odd art/structures in it. I was not as impressed with the Park as I had anticipated being. There was some nice live jazz music put on by a guitarist and saxophonist at the top of the park. I also got a humorous picture of a sign on a nearby house indicating "if it's tourist season then why can't we shoot them."

I also went up to the top of Montjuic once more to see the Spanish fortress over looking the city and Mediterannean. In my opinion, this was probably the best view in the whole city and consequently spent a decent amount of time at the top. I closed the trip out by checking out the cathedral Santa Maria delMar then heading back to the hotel to grab my bag and head to la aeuropuerta. My flight arrived back in London at 12:15 am on Halloween and I had my second experience on the London bus system in the middle of the night. Not that the bus is bad, I've just become accustomed to traveling via the tube.









More pictures at the following links:
Day 1
Day2
Day3

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Here in the UK they celebrate Guy Fawkes day. This is in memory of November 5th 400 years ago when Guy Fawkes and some of his buddies tried to blow up the Parliment building with the members of parliment and King James I inside. They were caught, tortured, and hung. (Guy Fawkes & co. that is)

To be honest, I think the celebration is just an excuse to shoot off fireworks and blow things up. They obviously don't observe the US holiday of the 4th of July so this is somewhat of an equivalent. I went to Battersea Park where allegedly the best display is put on. It was correographed to music and was quite good. As a side note, Guy Fawkes is alluded to in the movie V for Vendetta. Haven't personally seen it but it supposedly has a similar theme of rising up against the man.






More pictures viewable here

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Wave

We'd like to pause for a moment of reflection as we've arrived at the 25th anniversary of The Wave. This popular sports phenomena was first started 25 years ago at a playoff game between the Oakland A's and New York Yankees. See here for more details.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

John Wesley, Les Miserables

This past weekend I went to visit the Wesley Cathedral in London. It is where the Methodist church got its start with John Wesley and his friends as the founding fathers. He lived in a house immediately next to the chapel and was known to be a well traveled preacher. He would preach most anywhere he could get an audience- often times in an open air environment. They had several artifacts including Wesley's traveling preaching Bible on display. The chapel had very nice stain glass windows. At the time it was built, it had the largest unsupported ceiling in London. The posts originally used for the balcony were former ship masts.

I also had the opportunity to attend the musical Les Miserables www.lesmis.com in the West End. It is the longest running at 21 straight years. Once again, the performance including acting/singing/costumes/set design were all outstanding. The story is quite impactful with Jean Valjean beginning as a criminal, coming to repentence, becoming a respectable citizen, and saving more than one person along the way from peril. He is plagued through out the musical by Javert a police man who wants to put Jean ValJean back in prison for breaking parole despite his demonstrated years of honest upstanding citizenship and service to society.

A parallel can be drawn between ValJean and the follower of Christ. While once a sinner, he came to repetence and became a new man. Javert can be seen as representative of Satan in that he continuously tries to assert Jean ValJean's guilt and insist that "a man such as you can never change." ValJean fights against this idea and clings to righteousness.

John Wesley related pictures: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/aallen30605/album/576460762331437211#page1

Hipster Haiku

If you ever see the book Hipster Haiku by Siobhan Adcock, Look inside for my name. Allegedly it should be in there as a runner up in the haiku contest sponsored by Gotham Writer's workshop. www.writingclasses.com My haiku is a part of a previous post at: http://aallen820.blogspot.com/2006/05/haiku.html.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wimbledon

This weekend, I went to Wimbledon. http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/index.html Mind you the tournament is in the summer but it was still very cool to take the tour and check out the museum. They even had a 3d video image of John McEnroe which gave a tour of the locker room and sundry memories of the great moments in Wimbledon history.

During the winter the grass at Wimbledon is kept at 15 mm, 12 mm in the summer, and 8 mm during the tournament. One interesting note is that foxes live in the complex. You can see the electric fence in the WimbledonCourtNumber1 picture which keeps them off of the court. Due to construction which will create a removable roof on Centre Court, we did not get to actually go inside the court but did get to go inside Court Number 1 which holds around 12,000 people.

I got my picture in the chair/room which the players are interviewed in following the matches. Following the tour, I stopped off at the restaurant for some traditional strawberries and cream, a standard dish at Wimbledon.

See pictures of Wimbledon at: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/aallen30605/album/576460762325194963#page1

Friday, October 13, 2006

Comedy Bits from Dave Ramsey

There are some hilarious parody comedy commercials that the Dave Ramsey team has put together at the following link. Be sure to listen to Home Equity Loan Lenders. I laughed hysterically. http://www.daveramsey.com/etc/cms/comedy_bits_5200.htmlc

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Photo Editing Software

A new piece of photo editing software that I've been using recently is Picasa2 by Google. It provides organizational tools as well as basic photo editing capabilities. A speedy CPU never hurts when running this graphic intensive application. The I'm Feeling Lucky button does some auto editing for the picture based on how the software reads the lighting and coloration of the picture. Another feature is the ability to post a picture directly to a blog by clicking on the Blog This button. It does just as good a job as any entry level industrial strength photo editing software that I've used. Of course if you're interested in going into deeper level graphic artistry, investing in something such as PhotoShop Elements may be a better option. If you are interested in getting Picasa2, you can either search for it in Google or download it from this site utilizing the link at the right. Happy photo editing!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oxford and more

A couple weekends ago I took a train out to the very cool town of Oxford. If given the opportunity during college, I would like to have spent a semester studying there. There are a variety of colleges in Oxford which comprise the University. The oldest being around 500 years old. I took a tour of the city by bus and then went throughout on foot to places of interest.

Christ Church College was pretty cool. The architecture was magnificent including the hall which the dining hall scenes from Harry Potter were filmed. Christ Church is unique in that it serves as both a church and a college. Within the cathedral, there are some beautiful stainglass windows. The Harry Potter hall also contains a window which memoralizes Alice in Wonderland. There is also a fire place with statues which inspired the long neck portions of Alice's adventures. The reverend and mathematician Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll studied, taught and wrote the Alice in Wonderland stories here. Just down the road is a shop commemorating where the real life Alice went to a candy store.

Another major stop during this journey was Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis studied and taught for 29 years. It was not architecturally as impressive as some of the colleges but is one of the oldest of the colleges in Oxford. There was a very nice walking trail which went about a half mile circuit under trees and around a medow. In the medow, the college has its own herd of deer. The occasional duck swims by in the adjacent creek.

Continuing in the literary line of thought, I also saw The Eagle and Child which was the favorite pub of The Inklings a group which included the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Being of the running mindset, I had to check out the famous Iffley Track while there and see where Roger Bannister ran the first sub 4 minute mile. Incidentally, I work 3 minutes from St. Mary's where Bannister studied to become a doctor. I engaged in my own session of running as I made haste back to the train station while running in the rain. This left me quite wet but on time for the hour train ride back to London.

On a more recent weekend, I went running in Regents Park. This in my opinion is one of the most beautiful parks anywhere. There are trees, green grass, ponds/streams, flower gardens, and paths that go on and on. The London Zoo and an outdoor theatre are also located within the park. Another venture that weekend included playing guitar in the evening service at my church. allsouls.org.

Please see the following link for pictures of the aforementioned adventures. There are some really nice shots included.
http://new.photos.yahoo.com/aallen30605/album/576460762321713719#page1

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

DCB Dynamite Video

There's a sweet video posted on www.davidcrowderband.com under the heading You on YouTube #2. Go now.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Multi-nationality Bible study

At a recent Bible study I attended in London, there were people from 7 different countries in my group. There was Swedon, USA, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Armenia.

Grace and Legalism

The life lived with grace as the primary driving force represents a marked change in world view to that of the legalist. I think human nature lends itself to the legalistic/perfomance based life. What is my "spiritual resume?" so to speak. If we are performing well and following the spiritual disciplines, then we must really love Jesus. At least this is the legalist's mindset. Society seems very oriented towards what have you done, what have you accomplished. It can be easy to slide into this frame of thinking in the spiritual realm as well.

The grace mindset is more focused on the love relationship between us and the Father. I don't do things to prove I love Him but rather I love Him and because I love Him I do things that reflect this love. It is a subtle but important difference. It helps move away from beating up oneself because of failure to perform in a spiritual sense. We will never be perfect in our lives on earth. The more we can learn to love Christ and build that relationship with Him, the more the effects of that come naturally out of our lives. This can be tough to put into practice but is a nice change in thought. Reference "Grace Walk" by Steve McVey http://www.gracewalk.org/ for more on this topic.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Recent London Excursions

Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to see many more sites of London. Westminster Abbey was a nice highlight. There are many kings/queens, statesmen, and literary figures burried here such as Chaucer, Robert Browning, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, King James the same one who promoted that version of the Bible, amongst others.

I also got a picture in front of Big Ben the clock tower for the houses of Parliment. While there, I took a tour of the houses of Parliment which used to be a palace as well. Here both the House of Commons (elected officials) and the House of Lords operate. The UK does not have a constitution and as such has a relatively flexible legislative system which can be adapted as lawmakers find necessary.

The London Tower is what some would consider a castle. It is a series of towers and large buildings which comprise essentially, a small settlement from which quite a few kings and queens ruled (most notably King Henry VIII). This castle is located right off of the Thames river and provided easy access for going out to sea or where ever the king fancied. The crown jewels are housed here as well. Some local residents of the tower are a group of 9 ravens of whom it is said if they ever fly away, the British empire will fall. They and their ancestors have inhabited the Tower for several hundred years. Right across (literally) the river is the London Bridge. It wasn't exactly falling down and seemed well intact so I'm not sure where the song's writer got his information. Check out pictures at the links at the end of the blog.

I also went to a cemetery which contains the graves of John Bunyan, author of Pilgram's Progress, and Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe.

Buckingham Palace was a spectacular encounter. It is lavish with amazing decorations and architecture orignally designed by the famous architect John Nash. The royal family lives here when not the summer months during which they go to Scotland. State dinners, events, and other formal occasions occur here throughout the year. I did not plan it but happened to be there for the changing of the guard. Fairly cerimonious with an accompanying band and the traditional red coat and big black hat uniform.

Since it is talked about by many people, I figured I might as well go to Harrod's to see what all the fuss is about. For the uninitiated, Harrod's is a department store in London which I would call something more along the size of a mall. It has 6 floors and covers an entire block. They have pretty much any and everything you can imagine for sale much of which is priced quite high. Restaurants accompany most floors and they even have an opera singer serenading those going up the escalater.

This past week I got to see the inside of a cricket field for the first time. Now, some of you may think, "a cricket field? That's nothing special. Most fields I know of have crickets." However, let me educate you. Cricket is traditionally British sport which is somewhat similar to baseball though games last much longer as much as 5 days with appropriate tea breaks as necessary. Lord's Cricket ground http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_cricket_ground was the field I saw.

What visit to London and the UK would be complete without taking in a Shakespere play? In 1994, some people rebuilt a full size replica of the Globe Theatre close to the Thames river in London. They even have a mosh pit where you can pay 5 pounds for admission. The pit was sold out by the time I arrived but it ended up raining so the covered seat ended up being a good choice. The play was "The Comedy of Errors" and is probably my favorite Shakespere play (quite humorous and entertaining).

Continuing in the literary arts arena, I acheived a personal goal of seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" this past weekend in the West End. The West End is the London equivalent of Broadway in New York and has tremondously talented actors/actresses and set designs. It was much enjoyed and I would do it again if the opportunity presented.

Please view pictures of the previously mentioned sites at:

http://new.photos.yahoo.com/aallen30605/album/576460762314600558#page1
and
http://new.photos.yahoo.com/aallen30605/album/576460762314612928#page1

Monday, September 18, 2006

Abiding in Christ

Abiding in Christ. This truly is the answer to the successful Christian walk. How many times do we try in our own power to live the good life and do the "God things?" How foolish to use our human abilities to line up with Christ? He gave salvation which we had no power or ability to attain in our own doing. How can we expect to live our after-salvation days without letting him work his power and might through us? If He is not the one calling, and He is not the one prompting, we may think it's a good thing to do (and on the surface it may be), but if not, it is all for naught. A portion of the chaff which will be blown away. Life truly is much simpler when embracing this reality and allowing Christ to do the work and to simply be His vessel.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." -John 15:5

For good reading on this subject, check out "Practicing the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence and "Grace Walk" by Steve McVey.

Word of the Day

commodious \kuh-MOH-dee-us\, adjective: Comfortably or conveniently spacious; roomy; as, a commodious house

Thursday, September 07, 2006

221b Baker Street, Dickens, and more...

This past weekend, I paid a visit to a dear old friend's residence at 221b Baker Street. Mr. Holmes was home for part of the time and we had a nice chat. It was then on to the former residence of one Charles Dickens. While there, I observed a desk he used as a law clerk, an arm statue which appears in "A Tale of Two Cities" and various original versions of his writings.

I also went on a tour titled Roman London which went to various parts of the city which were a part of Roman history. The city was formerly called Londinium with the Roman's arrival in 43 AD. A couple walls still stand from Roman times. London Stone, an anomoly of London written about by Shakespere and others, was included on the tour and is said to have been around since ancient times. Whenever they do construction in the London area, archeaologists are called in because of the great amount of history occuring here. Many Roman artifacts are housed at the museum of London.

Sunday, I went on a ride in the sky on the London Eye. (an enormous ferris wheel) It overlooks the Thames river, Big Ben, Parliment, Westminster Abbey, and many other famous sites. The weather was fairly decent and when we reached the top you could see for around 25 miles in all directions. Took a nap in a park by Parliment and then went on a Jack the Ripper tour led by Donald Rumblelow the leading Ripperologist in the world. Quite interesting and informative. London's East End, where the incidents occured, during the late 1800s was a very poor area of the city. Many times as many as 9 people would share one room of a shabby house. A bed could be had for the night for 3 pence and if you didn't have that much 2 pence would buy you the right to sleep while leaning against a rope strung across the room.

I also went on a run in Hyde Park which is about a mile from my flat. Highly recommended running if you're ever in London. Huge park around the size of Central Park in New York city.

Pictures of the above: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/album?.dir=/c183re2

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Weekend in London

Thankfully, I arrived in London the weekend prior to a bank holiday and as a result got a 3 day weekend. After recovering to some degree from jet lag, I got out and about the town to get my bearings. To give you an idea where Paddington is within London, I'm in the Northwest part of central London. London is truly an international city. As you walk down the street you'll hear languages and see people from every ethnicity. Of course there is the ever-present British accent which is what many people think of when they hear the "proper" English of Londoners.

On Sunday, I went to church at a place called All Souls http://www.allsouls.org/. It is kind of a mix of traditional and contemporary style worship. I then checked out some of the sites of London. Sunday was also my first experience on the tube. Being a bank holiday weekend, it was especially busy, but I had no idea it would be that packed. Tons of people were on the train on a Sunday morning at 10:30 am. Back in the states most people are just barely rolling out of bed at that time. Being such a big tourist destination plays a big factor in this. The Tube system is quite well laid out and you can truly get anywhere within the city via train. There is the occasional station closed due to maintenance so one must be cognizant of these closures. Once you figure out which train line to take where, it is pretty convenient.

My first tourist stop was Leicester Square which is a nice sized park with some statues in the middle. Quite close to this are several of the theatres of the West End (London equivalent of Broadway). Loads of people milling around. If you ever come to London, I recommend keeping a wallet in your front pocket with a hand on it. Pick pockets are known to frequent highly populated areas.

It was then on to Trafalgar Square where St. Martin-in-the-Field church is located as well as a couple fountains, and the National Portrait gallery. St. Martin-in-the-Field is a well known concert venue as well as a church where they host around 300 concerts per year. You may have heard some classical music recorded there.

On Monday, I went to Notting Hill for the annual festival. It seemed much like Mardi-Gras but I wasn't all that impressed.

Though the tube system is quite good, it would behoove one to be in good condition due to the large quantity of walking performed within London. I consider myself to be in decent athletic shape but my legs were quite sore after so much walking.

My office is located a short 4-5 minute walk so that makes for a nice commute. :-)

See the following link for some good pictures in Trafalgar Square. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/album?.dir=1f75re2&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/my_photos

Trip to London

Due to the absence of recent blogs, I will post seperate segments in order to help on the length of the overall entry.

Trip to London
We begin our journey at 5:45 am on the 24th of August. After spending half the night packing, and getting a small quantity of sleep, I headed to the airport courtesy of the honorable Mr. Kolvin's taxi service. Checked luggage at the Southwest Airlines counter en route to Chicago. (Yes, Chicago. We must first obtain a visa prior to the ultimate destination) After waiting for an hour at the front of the B line, we learned that the flight would be delayed due to extreme weather conditions in Chicago. This is cause for consternation. I meticulously planned the trip around the flight times, and arriving at the British consulate by 10:30 am for my visa appointment. I called my dad who prayed and also relayed the prayer request to my grandparents and the weather kindly moved on for a departure around 8:00 am.

Additional security screening was being performed at the gate and I was pulled from the front of the line. This did not take an extended period of time, but I unecessarily got frustrated for I did find myself with a seat quite close to the front of the plane. I felt a bit of chagrin as God gently reminded me "hey, I'm in control here don't sweat it." Oh yeah, forgot about that for a minute. This really helped to provide additional peace for the remainder of the trip.

Southwest really is a quality airline. I think I would fly them every flight if I could. They touched down around 8:55 am right on schedule by my reckoning. I quickly exited the plane and made my way to the baggage area. After talking with the gate agent, I sucessfully left my bags locked up in the luggage area for later pick up.

It was then on to the Chicago train system. I successfully got on the train toward the British consulate in downtown and after 30 minutes arrived at the last station. A quick 15 minute walk put me at the consulate at 10:27 am right on schedule. I then turned in lots of documentation and went to hang out in the city while the paper work was processed. Walked around a good bit, had lunch, saw a 6.5 foot Lego Yoda (seriously). Checked out Navy Pier then headed back to pick up the visa. Jumped back on the train, retrieved luggage and checked in to Northwest Airlines.

The next leg of the journey was a connecting flight from Chicago to Detroit. I arrived in Detroit just in time due to some delays in Chicago. I was quite pleased to have medallion status which allowed me to jump to the front of a long line to get on the plane. My neighbor on the plane was a native UK citizen who had been in the US on business so we had some good discussion as to UK/US similarities/differences.

Watched 3 movies on the way over, slept around 30 minutes and touched down about 10:00 am local London time on August 25th. Cleared customs, headed for the ATM (cash machine in UK lingo), then went with the driver to my flat in the Paddington area of downtown London.
Paddington train station is fairly busy with both the local London "Tube" underground system as well as trains going to other locales. It also has several shops/restaurants. I picked up some essential groceries from the grocery store in the station (yes, really). I definitely could empathize with our friend Paddington Bear on his arrival to the said train station. It was a bit overwhelming with so many people busily on their way here or there.

On the suprise side, I was a bit suprised that I experienced some culture shock such as "they don't have turkey or peanut butter in the grocery store?!" "lots of coin money" "things cost twice as much here" "Salt for the dishwasher?!" "A clothing washer/dryer combo that is truly weird" "how exactly do these electrical outlets work?" I promptly went to bed that evening to awake 12 hours later, eat breakfast and head straight back to sleep for a nice 3 hour nap.

I saw God work throughout the trip helping me to make connections, pick up luggage, obtain the visa with no hitches, ultimately arriving in London. Many thanks go out to Him. :-)

See for some pictures in Chicago including the Lego Yoda. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/album?.dir=dfb7re2&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/my_photos

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Stamp of God

"Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God." -Oswald Chambers

Well said Mr. Chambers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Quote from The Uprising

"Leaders of integrity don't simply lead by example; they lead by essence.These leaders call others only to choose the life they have already chosen.They don't point the way down a certain path; they pave the way where no path exists. They inspire others not only by their words and actions, but by the promise of the kind of people we can become. A person of integrity never lies about the journey. He acknowledges in humility where he came from, who he is, and where he hopes to go. His accomplishments, as great as they may be, never overshadow his character." -The Uprising by Erwin McManus

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Quarter Century Hath Past

Today I am officially an old man. I have begun the downward spiral after heading through the first quarter century of life. I actually caught myself beginning a thought recently of "when I'm 30..." Wow, I never would have had that type of thought several years back. Ah well, youth was good but now I must embrace the older and wiser part of life. Maybe I'm actually an adult now.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Recently Read Books

Three by Ted Dekker: Excellent writing, kinda blows your mind at the end in the 6th Sense sort of way.
In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham: gripping account of Gracia and her husband's time as hostages of radical islamic militants in the Philippine jungle. They are modern day martyrs
The Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by James Citrin: good advice on things to think about when defining a career path.
TwentySomeone by Craig Dunham and Doug Serven: all about that crucial decade which directs the rest of one's life.
Cure for the Common Life (Living in Your Sweet Spot) by Max Lucado: more of the previous two above books in Lucado's great illustrative style.
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt: an economist takes a look at crazy things like cheating in sumo wrestling, teachers cheating in the classroom on standardized tests, and a variety of other wierd things
Paddington Bear by Michael Bond: the classic children's story, since I'll be living right next store I figured I should read up on my neighbor.
The Millionare Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko: great common sense information about what it takes to be a millionare and how those who may look prosperous may just be fronting.
Blink by Ted Dekker: good novel on an American genius and an Arabian princess.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

In Management- for God

From July 28ths, journal entry: Recently, I got a better picture and perspective on being a manager of that which You have entrusted to me. This is not me and mine but rather Yours. It puts a whole new view on things when I think of managing God's money, God's car, God's apartment, God's time, God's guitar, God's body He has given to me, It helps to bring to light much more the spirit of a partnership. You've entrusted these things, talents, abilities, etc. to me and want to work with me to bring glory to your name and consequently prosper me in my walk with You.

The master/servant relationship seems to have some what of a negative conotation. I don't think it is intended to be taken as a "lording over" type of relationship but really more that of co-laborer, friend, and counselor. Ultimately, yes, master but a master willingly and joyfully served.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Money is like manure. Left in one pile it stinks. Spread around in piles, it grows things." -Dave Ramsey http://www.daveramsey.com

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Endurance 50

Check out this guy at www.endurance50.com . He's going to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. That is what we call a feat of mack daddy proportions.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Philippines Thanks

Dear Friends and Family,

I wanted to thank you so much for praying for us during our trip to the Philippines. The trip went very well. I’ll try to give both high level and lower level details to give a good picture of the trip.

Our trip began on June 23rd when we left Kansas City to fly to Minneapolis. It was then on to Tokyo, followed by Manila and finally the island of Cebu. Not counting layovers, our total flight time was roughly 16 hours. The time difference over there is 13 hours. So when it’s 8 pm here, it is 9 am there. The Philippines are located around 5 degrees North of the equator and as a result the sun comes up around 5:30 am and goes down around 6 pm. Temperatures generally hover in the 80s and 90s. Several mornings while we were there, we got up to see the sun rise over the ocean. It was very beautiful and provided a nice backdrop for a quiet time.

The food there is fairly tasty. Rice is a staple at every meal. They also had chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Native fruit there is mangos, pineapples, papaya, and bananas. All of the fruit was of a excellent quality due to the proximity of where it is grown. In the Philippines they have something called marienda in the morning and afternoon at which you have an in between meals snack. It’s important to pace yourself or you’ll finish the day quite full. They do have some American style restaurants there such as KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Star Bucks.

A few words in the native language (Tagalog) of the Philippines are: Magandag Umaya Po- good morning; Mabuhay (Welcome); and Salamot po (Thank you). Many people there know English and the majority of signs are in English so it doesn’t present much of an issue if you are unfamiliar with the language. In regards to cell phones, they use text messaging a great deal but limited voice calls due to the cost difference.

The Filipino people love music and dancing. You frequently will see people doing karaoke in the mall. During our stay, one evening, we got to see traditional Filipino dancing, a very neat experience.

The currency in the Philippines is the peso. An exchange of 53 pesos per 1 dollar is the going rate. We had the opportunity to interact with local merchants and it was fun bargaining with them. There is a striking dichotomy of poverty vs. wealth. As you drive along the rode, you will see a large number of shacks put up on the side of the road then immediately next to them will be a large house with a clearly more prosperous family. There really is not a middle class. This difference was especially apparent one day when we went to a basilica (like a cathedral) and many poor people were outside selling water or candles. Immediately afterwards, we went to a local mall. This was an enormous mall (around 4 floors) with many, many shops. The people here were clearly well off in striking comparison with those at the basilica.

Catholicism is the primary religion within the Philippines and can present a challenge when trying to talk with people about Christ. They have been raised in this system and do not see a need for any change. There is a great deal of worship of Mary. Many icons and statues were throughout the basilica with people praying to and touching them. They call people who are traditional Protestants “born again believers.”

The basic premise for our trip was to lead a camp for a group of middle and high school students. All of their parents are “employees” of “the company.” This terminology is used due to where some of them are located and security surrounding them. It was a conference for the “employees” and their families during which they broke into adult, youth, and children’s groups. Useful classes, worship, as well as just general filling back up, relaxing and enjoying themselves were the main focus. A group from Springfield, MO led the children’s group and one from Southern Seminary in Kentucky led worship for the adults. In total, there were around 200 people there. The “employees” were primarily based in either the Philippines or Korea.

Specifically, we led the youth through some material entitled “Life Hurts, God Heals.” It is designed as a study which helps them to walk through various hurts and issues in their lives. We usually had a larger group session where our speaker presented some information and possibly showed a video illustrating the principals and possibly a game or two. We then broke off into smaller groups to discuss the material in greater detail. I led a group of middle school guys along with one other person from my team. At first it was more difficult to get them talking, but as the week progressed we were able to dig down a bit and talk about some good things.

A couple fun games that we played with the kids included a fish and eggs game and something I titled “Water Monkeys.” The fish and eggs game is played by taking three eggs and placing them in pantyhose on top of a person’s head with him or her blindfolded. They are then given a fish and their objective is to attempt to smash the other person’s eggs with the fish. This can be fairly hilarious to watch. Water Monkeys is a basic game of keep the ball up in the air while in the pool. The monkey part comes in when the ball is dropped and it must be determined who the responsible party is. People usually present a candidate which is followed by whooping and hollering like monkeys while splashing the water and jumping up and down. (quite entertaining)

One of our tasks also included leading worship for them. We had a full band which played at night and our worship leader usually played a few songs during the day sessions. This trip was different for me in the sense that I have usually been the worship leader but this time played more of a supporting role. God definitely used the experience as a means for humility in allowing Him to use me in the way He wanted to versus what I thought I might be doing.

God also taught me dependence on my group. Prior to the trip, we each shared about “masks” that we tend to put on in order to present a front to the world. I told about a mask of independence and not wanting to depend on other people. This was definitely changed during the trip due to some fairly intense sickness towards the end during which I had to rely on my team for help. Our team seemed to work fairly well together and complemented various strengths and weaknesses.

I highly recommend anyone praying about and considering going on some type of mission trip. In Matthew 28 19-20 Jesus tells us “go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Thank you once again for your prayers; they were heard and known. Please continue to pray for those permanently stationed there; prayer is very powerful and effective as they’ve seen time and again.
His child,

Andrew

For pictures please visit the following link: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/aallen30605/album?.dir=/b814re2&.src=ph&.tok=phSfvOFBiJJXkvtx
As a side note, I will be going to London, England beginning August 3rd to work for six months.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Miscellaneous Updates

The haiku recently posted on this very blog was awarded runner up status in the Hipster Haiku contest. Not all that illustrious since 200 others received the same status but still kinda cool since there were 800+ poems entered.

I've been digging the new Todd Agnew cd "Reflection of Something." He has a great way of going deep and cutting to the quick in his songs. I really like how he uses many references to scripture and in Isaiah 6, basically sings scripture. I'm also a fan of his usage of and allusions to hymns. Hymns are in the hizouse.

As of August 3rd, 2006, I will be traveling to London, England to work for 6 months. I'm very excited for the opportunity to go over there and experience that culture as well as having a spring board into seeing Europe.

I returned from the Philippines on July 5th. Still trying to get completely over jet lag. More updates to follow.

I've decided that I will never be fully operating at optimum unless I am consistently spending time in prayer and Bible reading. Not that this is a new realization, just a further confirmation. Those times really keep me in tune with the master conductor. Life makes much better music when checking back with Him on a regular basis.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Verse of the week

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" -Psalm 34:7-8

This especially hit home for me. While experiencing some spiritual warfare, I found comfort in the fact that when I abide in Him, He is faithful to provide His angels to protect me and that I'm not going the battle alone in the spiritual realm. Of course, having fellow brothers to fight alongside is very helpful as well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Cool Website

http://www.usatf.org/routes/ This has got to be one of the coolest websites I've been to in a while. It allows you to map a running route and get the distance. I'm not 100% certain that the distances are entirely accurate but it at least gives you a nice ballpark figure rather than needing to drive a route with your car/bike. One very cool feature is the ability to save routes or search routes other people have created.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Georgia Aquarium

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. It was very cool. Lots of fish of all different varities. They had penguins, sea lions, otters, pirahanas, enormous grouper (ie 500 pounds) that would stare out the aquarium directly at you. One highlight was the whale sharks. These creatures are enormous. I believe the ones that they had were about 16 feet long. Allegedly, they will grow up to 60 feet. They are the only known whale sharks which live outside the wild.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Duel in the Disposal

Last night after finishing a delicious ear of corn, I found the need to dispose of it. The garbage disposal presented itself as a natural option. So, I commenced placing the cob in said disposal turned on the water then flipped the switch to watch its demise. The cob wasn't planning on going down without a fight, however. Upon encountering the blades of the disposal, the cob began spinning, sputtering, and shooting water and bits of left over corn in my direction. Caught unawares, the need for protection became quickly apparent. I quickly grabbed a plate and used it as a shield from the corn projectiles being fired in rapid succession. Not one to be intimidated, I held my own and persevered till this nefarious opponent was finished.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Favorite Saying of the Week

Big Hat, No Cattle. This refers to the person with lots of alleged bling but no real wealth as described in The Millionare Next Door. While a person may have nice things and look like they're living the high life, they may in fact have very little real financial value and could be heavily leveraged on debt.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Phillipines Prayer Request

Dear Family and Friends,

God has opened the door for me to go on a short-term mission trip with my church June 23- July 5. We will be working with missionaries and their families in Cebu, Philippines. My team will help lead a camp for high school and junior high students of missionaries. While there, we will conduct a variety of Bible studies, worship, games, and fun activities. This will be in conjunction with a conference for the missionary families to encourage and uplift them. We will be hanging out with the kids and investing in them spiritually. We also will likely have the opportunity to interact with some of the people who are native to the area.

During both our preparation, the trip itself, and afterwards, prayer will play an important role in the outcome. Jesus tells us in the John 15:16, “…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” It is my prayer that we will be able to truly touch the lives of these kids and their families and pour into them so that they can continue to pour themselves into others and touch the Filipino people for Christ.

Please pray that we and the missionaries can proclaim Christ boldly as the Bible teaches and that false doctrine, which can be prevalent, will not continue to lead the Filipinos down the wrong path. Pray that we will know the types of materials to prepare which will be most effective in conducting the camp whether that be songs, Bible study material, games, or whatever else God might see fit. Pray that we will have wisdom in all decisions related to the trip. Please pray for safety in travel. Pray for rest when it is needed and that we will be able to quickly adapt to the time change. Pray that God will protect us from Satan and his powers and that Christ will be victorious and glorified through this trip. Pray that our attitudes will be in the right place and that we would not allow frustrations or petty differences to get in the way of God’s purposes. Pray that we will approach the trip with a servant mentality and to truly work as a team.

Please contact me if I can answer any questions you might have. I am looking forward to the trip and what God will do with and through us for His kingdom. I also challenge you to pray about going on a mission trip. I’ve found these to be times of great growth in my walk with Christ and spiritual milestones in my life.

Thank you for praying for us. I will be excited to report back the things God did through the trip.
His child,

Andrew

Friday, May 19, 2006

Phillipines Mission Trip

I'll be going on a mission trip to the Phillipines June 23 - July 5th with Pleasant Valley Baptist church. While there, we'll be conducting a camp for high school and junior high students. Looking forward to it. :-)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Running Advice Installment 10

Howdy Team,

Great job this weekend! I had loads of fun hanging out with y'all and watching you run. As far as post race running, hopefully ya'll have been taking it easy the past few days. I highly recommend taking a week off from running. If you still want to exercise, take it very slowly. Some light walking, exercise bike riding, or swimming would be good cross training. Depending on how you're feeling next week, you can start back gradually. In order to maintain motivation, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick out a 5k or something that looks fun just to have something to shoot for. Again, excellent running and keep it up. Please feel free to send me any questions you have at any time.

Coach Andrew

Monday, May 01, 2006

Country Music Half-Marathon

This weekend, I went with 7 of my runners and 2 support crew to the Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville. Everyone finished. Yay! Phil Vassar serenaded us at a concert on Saturday evening. He puts on a good show. I am amazed at the amount of music going on in downtown Nashville. There was a band in literally every door. Even in the ice cream shop. I also got to spend some quality time with my cousin who lives in the music city.

A Haiku

Brown bagging my beans
Morning's scent tinctures the air
so satisfying

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Running Advice Installment 9

Howdy team,

The race is almost upon us. You've all done some good training and I believe you're well prepared. Just a few last minute bits of advice.

At the race expo, there will be booths of people selling running equipment, nutrition items, and miscellaneous other things. Feel free to browse and check things out but under no circumstances are you to purchase anything and use it for the first time in the race. This can be a big time mistake which you can potentially pay dearly for. We want to stay to tried and true running shoes, socks, shorts, shirts.

The same goes for pre-race breakfast. If you ordinarily eat a bagel and bannana for breakfast, do the same for the race. We don't want to be trying new foods and risk an upset stomach. Eat at least an hour before the race to allow time for the food to digest. The idea is to give yourself some energy but not so much that things are sloshing around while you're running. Try to stay hydrated the next few days and eat meals that are relatively high in carbohydrates such as pasta, fruits, and vegtables. Don't forget to incorporate basic proteins such as chicken and fish. Your body will need some protein to assist in rebuilding from the rigors of the race.

The night before the race try to go to sleep at a reasonable time. It is also important to get a good night's sleep over the next couple of nights so that your sleep resevoir is well stocked.

The night before the race, get your race gear in order, lay out socks/shoes, shorts, etc. Pin your race number to the front of your shirt. (putting it on the back labels you as a neophyte ;) Do not wear the race t-shirt during the race. This is sacreligious. You'll also have a timing chip to attach to your shoe lace. You can either unlace one of the eyelets and put the timing chip on the inside of the shoe or use the plastic attacher to securely attach it to the shoe lace. I'd probably recommend the latter as you'll need to give it back at the end of the race and won't feel like bending down and digging around with your shoe. People will be there to assist you with this.

On the day of the race, plan to get to the starting line a minimum of 30 minutes prior to race time (7:00 am). Feel free to do some light stretching and jogging to warm up. However, don't let the large numbers of people doing their own thing intimidate you and get you doing something you're not used to. Just treat the race like a regular workout. Do whatever you would to prepare for a workout.

There will be lots and lots of runners there. You have prepared and deserve to be there as well. Be confident and visualize yourself striding purposefully along during the race.

At the start of the race, there will be several groups seperated out. Just settle in to whichever group you are assigned to and make friends with someone around you. Be careful as you approach the starting line as this can be one of the more dangerous points of the race due to the massive amount of people trying to get going. The key here is to stay on your feet. When I ran cross country races, I always repeated to myself at the beginning "don't fall, don't fall." The temptation can exist at the beginning to zoom out of the gate and zip along. Resist this urge. It is much better to go a bit slower at the beginning and then have energy later on than to go fast for the first couple miles and die at the end. You'll have plenty of time to settle into your groove as the race progresses.

Speaking of grooves, make it your own and not someone elses. While running with others and focusing on someone's back in front of you can be helpful, it is important that we not let them dictate our pace. Just monitor how your body is feeling throughout the race.

Water/Sports drink stops will be throughout the race. One good way for connecting with a volunteer is to make eye contact with them and initiate the hand off. Try to say thank you if you remember, volunteers make the race world go round. Pinching the cup so that it makes a spout is a useful technique which will allow you to continue running while drinking. Feel free to use this time as a brief walking break as well. If you don't need the whole cup, you are welcome to throw it on the ground. They will have a crew to pick these up after the race.

At some point towards the end of the race, there will be photographers taking pictures. Be sure to smile, or look intensely focused, whichever is your preference. :) You'll want to preserve this memory.

At the end of the race keep walking to avoid cramping and be sure to drink water and/or sports drink to replenish supplies. If you are so inclined, you may want to schedule a massage for Monday when you get back. It is better to wait a couple days to allow some of the deep tissue muscle damage to repair. Light massage is ok if you would like right after the race.

I am proud of all of y'all. You've done great work in your preperation. If anyone has any questions please feel free to give me a call. During the race I'll be out on the course cheering for you somewhere. Go team!
Happy running,

Coach Andrew

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Word of the Day- April 23, 2006

agog \uh-GOG\, adjective: Full of excitement or interest; in eager desire; eager, keen.

The runner's were agog with their new found athletic prowess resulting from intensive training.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Running Advice Installment 8

As you engage your long run this weekend, it would be a good idea to incorporate drinking water and/or sports drink during the run. Hydration is a key factor when running for lengths of time exceeding much more than 20-30 minutes. This can especially come into play as we encounter warmer temperatures and consequently more perspiration. The muscles and body need a frequent renewal of liquid when pumping it out on such a regular basis.

If your route allows you to return to a central location, store a water bottle there. If not, consider stashing a few water bottles along the way or identify public places which would allow for drinking fountains (i.e. library, community center, church, etc.) Obtaining water from private citizens garden hoses cannot be endorsed in this installment. However, I won't tell if you won't tell. ;)

During the race, there will be water stations along the way with cups of water and/or some type of sports drink. See the following webpage for details. http://www.cmmarathon.com/course_info/course_info_support_locations.html It looks as though stations are approximately 1.25 miles apart.

You may wish to practice drinking while running by enlisting the help of a buddy to hold out a cup while you run by. I recommend taking in at least a portion of your hydration via sports drink in order to replenish glucose stores and provide a bit of a boost to the muscles. Recommended quantity and frequency is 4 oz every 15-20 minutes. Use your best judgement but keep in mind that if you are thirsty, you're already on your way to dehydration.

Over the next week, try to stay hydrated throughout the day as well by drinking plenty of water, juice, milk, or sports drink. Try to minimize the intake of caffeine as it is a diuretic and can cause more frequent trips to the rest room as well as a reduction in net hydration. Great job on all y'alls training. Only one week to go!
Happy running,

Coach Andrew

Running Advice Installment 7

Howdy team,

In this segment, we'll be briefly discussing sidestiches (aka cramping of the abdomen). It is notcertain what causes this although some theorize itcould be related to air pockets. This can be fairlyintense in pain and may feel like a knife stabbing inthe side. Essentially, there is a constriction of theabdomen and we need to stretch it out. To perform thisstretching, take a deep breath with your abdomen(belly breathing), hold for a few moments, then blowout rapidly through pursed lips (like a fish). Thishelps to stretch out the abdomen. Repeat severaltimes. If this does not seem to help, stop to walkuntil the cramping reduces. Something else to keep inmind is to limit eating immediately before running.
Happy running,

Coach Andrew

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Running Advice Installment 6

When training on hills, there are two topics to discuss, uphill and downhill. Uphill can present challenges in the sense of increased level of effort. One way to help get up a hill is to pretend you're on a bike and just keep on pedaling and cycling your legs. For some reason, this seems to help. Another tip is to avoid looking at the top of the hill, this can prove daunting and downright disheartening. Just keep your eyes straight ahead.
If you find the temptation to look up too great, instead of looking all the way to the top, try to pick out objects along the course and tie your eyes to it. Use this imaginary rope to pull yourself up the hill.

Downhill presents an entirely different challenge. While perceived effort is much less, it behooves us to be careful when running downhill. Downhill running increases the likelihood of injury due to increased pounding on the legs. A trick to maintain good form while going down hill is to kick the heels back in a slightly exagerated back kick. If you are familiar with strides that track, baseball, football, or soccer teams may perform, you may be familiar with this exercise. These concentrate the impact to the quadriceps and reduce the potential damage invoked by the downward pounding.

Downhills are not entirely bad. They can provide a few moments of rest. The key is to not allow the hill to carry you away but instead approach it in a more controlled manner. Allow the hill to pull you downward but don't let the hill own you. Own the hill. Up and Down. :)

A side note on a somewhat related subject. Running behind another runner can be beneficial by allowing that runner to set the pacing and cut the wind. This helps a good deal psychologically and can help to pull/push you along when feeling less than fresh and feeling the burn. Focus your eyes on the middle of the person's back and just stick with them. Clearly, you should not allow them to completely dictate your pace but it can be a useful technique for persevering.
Happy running,
Coach Andrew (Dre)

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 3:14

Prayer

I am convinced that prayer is powerful and that it is a means to truly communicate with God. It helps place my heart and mind in a different attitude which can both humble and lift me up at the same time. I may be frustrated or confused but coming to the altar possesses a way of breaking me to the point where God can begin His work. How great is our God. Let His work continue and breakdown all pride and selfishness in me.

One thought that occurred to me after the prayer walk at church on Saturday is to begin praying for people I come into contact with whether it be for a few moments or something on a more long term basis.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Banking Some Per Diem

If traveling, and the entity which is sponsoring your trip is willing to pay per diem, it is possible to come home with some extra cash. On top of the fact that you do not need to purchase food at home, you also receive this money. So even if you do not bring home additional cash, you save the opportunity cost of purchasing food. A bit of frugal spending can leave your bank account a bit healthier. One other nice feature of per diem is that it is not taxable. So, assuming the taxpayer was in the 25% tax bracket and brought home $100 during a trip. This would be the equivalent of $125 gross pay. Did someone say bling?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Running Advice Installment #5

As we approach higher mileages in our training and specifically as related to the long run, time commitments can make it difficult to do a run that takes 1-2 hours. In order to make this more manageable, it is possible to break up the long run into two shorter runs done in seperate segments. For example run 3 miles in the morning and 4 at night. While it is good to do the mileage all at once, you still get many of the benefits just by doing all the mileage on one day.

In the area of strength training, the core is an essential area of the body for general overall fitness as well as for your running health. The core consists of the abdominal muscles, lower back, quads, hamstrings, groin, and hip flexors. By performing some simple exercises, you can provide more strength and stability to your running as well as reduce the risk of injury.

Exercises for these areas:
-Abdominal muscles: crunches (raise body half way off ground from a laying down position, lifting the torso up.) Try to do 20 repetitions to start with
-Lower back: lay on stomach, lift legs, arms and torso so that only the stomach rests on the ground. Hold for a second then release. Do 10-15 reps. Be sure not to strain too hard or back injury can result.
-Quads: lay on back lift up one foot at a time about 6-8 inches off the ground and hold for 1 second, perform 20 reps.
-Hamstrings: roll over on stomach and lift legs one at a time 6-8 inches off the ground and hold for 1 second, perform 20 reps
-Groin: roll over on side and lift leg that is on the ground several inches off the ground. 20 reps
-Hip flexors: roll over on side and lift leg that is not touching the ground a few inches off the ground. 20 reps

These exercises will provide you with a solid core. Feel free to do additional reps or sets as you become acclimated to the exercises.
Happy running,

Coach Dre

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Tale of 5 Cities

Our tale begins at 6:50 am at the Kansas City (city number 1) airport where the protagonist steps on a flight headed for Minneapolis (city number 2). Due to last minute booking, he draws the seating assignment of middle seat. En route to Minneapolis, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that after circling Minneapolis, waiting for the winter storm to clear he needed to obtain more gas in order to complete the journey. This took us to city number 3 in Fargo, North Dakota. Approximately 1 and a half hours were leisurely spent on the ground and in assigned seats while refueling and continuing to wait for the weather to clear. Upon arrival in Minneapolis, the flight landed in near whiteout conditions.

Unfortunately, the protagonist's 10:30 am flight was canceled. This did not stop him on his journey to his final destination. He promptly rebooked a flight scheduled for 12:58 pm in the afternoon to Milwaukee. The gate was subsequently changed not once, not twice, but three times. However, the protagonist enjoyed a root beer float at A&W in the airport which considerably improved his mood.

The flight for Milwaukee finally left around 4:45 and arrived unscathed in Milwaukee (city number 4) at 5:45 pm. The protagonist obtained a rental car and drove the hour and 10 minutes to his final destination of Fond du Lac, WI (city number 5) arriving at 7 pm.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Running Advice Installment #4

Still haven't received any submissions as to a team name. Come on, get the creative juices flowing. :)

When you are doing your easy runs, one way to help ensure you are not running to fast is to see if you can talk with someone while running, if not you're probably going too fast. Remember these easy days are when we allow our bodies to rest up and recover from the tougher workouts. An alternative if you are not running with a buddy is to sing to yourself. (This can be much more convincing than talking to yourself. People may think your crazy if your talking to yourself. Ok, they probably already think your crazy because your training for a half-marathon, but I digress)

A similar pacing strategy can be used when on your long run. The long run is where we build endurance and thus we're not as concerned with speed. For those of you out there who have the urge to jack rabbit, please resist until a time such as a tempo run or a speed workout like intervals.

Another suggestion during your long run is to not be afraid to walk. There is a common misconception that walking means you're not a "real" runner. This couldn't be further from the truth. Incorporating walking into a workout allows your muscles to get a much needed break and enable you to run for a longer period of time. Ergo, we see that while the borgeous public irrationally believe in the fallacious philosophy of "run at all times or not at all," we can pursue higher plains of performance never imagined by said public. (Sorry, must be a little late and vocab is creeping up)

Anyway, hope y'alls running is going well and as always please feel free to send me any questions.Happy running,

Coach Andrew (Dre)

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." -1 Corinthians 9:24

Friday, March 03, 2006

Running's Parallel to the Spiritual Life

A good word from pleasantvalleyliz. I've also really found running to have a strong parallel with the spiritual life. Wow, especially on those hills really gets you praying. On a somewhat related exercise topic, when I was on a bike ride from Athens, GA to Jacksonville, FL (Yes, really) it seemed for a long while that there were no downhills. I started saying Bible verses and found particular comfort in Psalm 23. "Even though I walk (ride) through the shadow of the valley (didn't see many of those) of death I will fear no evil for You are with me." I think sometimes I can get close to God in those times of intense physical exertion where partial insanity is a bit of a factor. :)

This weekend I am in Atlanta visting the folks. While here, my mom and I are going to a conference on spiritual warfare at her church. The speaker made a good point in that many times we talk about prayer or reaching the lost but don't always actually go and do it. He also had us do an exercise of: Write down 10 people who you could share a prayer request with. Then write down 10 people you could share Christ with. Point being: while it is important to hang with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, it's also good to spend time with people who don't know the Lord to open opportunities to share with them about Him.
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