Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Facing Your Giants

Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado

In Facing Your Giants, Lucado examines the life of David and the literal giant Goliath as well as other figurative giants he faced such as being persecuted by Saul, warfare, family issues, and others. The book, like most of Lucado's books, is uplifting and encouraging to those facing tough circumstances in life. Whether it be sickness, career difficulties, relationship problems, or something else, he provides encouragement and helps the reader examine the life of David and how he worked with God through some of his own giants.

Multiple versions of the Bible are referenced and at times can seem as though they are chosen specifically to fit what Lucado would like the passage to say. This is not to minimize the scripture references but translations closer to word for word such as the New American Standard and King James are used minimally in favor of versions such as The Message and the New Living Translation.

Lucado definitely has a gift for story telling and uses this to provide visual imagery and possible thoughts the characters had during the Biblical stories of David. Some of this is interesting and provides a new perspective on familiar stories but the reader would do well to keep in mind that some of this imagery is Lucado's personal interpretation of the stories and not gospel truth.

A study guide is located in the back of the book which would serve as a good resource for further reflection or even as a group study.

As a whole, I found the book to be encouraging and thought through several difficult "giants" I've faced in my own life while reading it. Facing Your Giants would be good for anyone facing difficult circumstances to gain encouragement and inspiration through learning about the life of David.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Lights

These are some pictures I took of Christmas lights in North Kansas City as well as a home close to where I live. The picture of the house is currently posted on

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to Eat a Gingerbread Man

How do you eat a gingerbread man? Is it head first, leg by leg, the arms or do you prefer the more torturous (for the gingerbread man) method of picking each individual eye and button off? Maybe you lick the icing or just gobble down the first thing that comes to your mouth. Whatever your method, we here at the Wisdom of Dre salute you and your holiday cookie consumption. Remember: there's no wrong way to eat a gingerbread man.

If you choose to eat, please do so responsibly, excessive consumption of cookies has been known to cause weight gain. zero based caloric formula 1 cookie= 1 mile walked/run

Thanks to for the gingerbread man illustration.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Kansas City Board of Trade

On Friday, I took a field trip to the Kansas City Board of Trade where they trade Hard Red Winter wheat commodities. This is the image you get when you think of the stock market and see people in a pit on TV waving hands frantically trying to buy or sell. This is a hub of trade for a large quantity of wheat trading that occurs in the United States. There are a few other trading exchanges for wheat as well, but this is a major one.

The majority of trading is done electronically via computer these days but there is still some that happens in person. As trades are executed, they're recorded and the price of wheat changes as a result whether up or down. The electronic boards in the background track the prices of wheat that is scheduled for delivery during various time frames. Some traders are just trying to make a margin on trades or speculation and some are hedging risk so that they get a guaranteed rate to buy or sell at. It was very interesting to see the market in person. The last 30 seconds close of the market was fairly rapid and exciting as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Glass Recycling

If you're interested in recycling glass in Kansas City, a new glass recycling company has opened for business. It is called Ripple Glass and they will have collection sites at quite a few locations around Kansas City. Their website is The website has a drop off location finder by zip code as well at this link.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Greeting Cards

Have you ever been looking for a greeting card and can't find one that really fits what you're trying to communicate? I think it should be socially acceptable to purchase an alternate card and make customizations. For example, for a wedding, purchase a Happy 1st Anniversary card and marking out the 1st and changing it to 0th. Or a Happy Birthday and changing Birthday to Wedding. Or perhaps you want to congratulate someone on weight loss. Purchase a Sympathy card and change it from "So sorry for your loss" to "Congratulations on your loss"

Monday, November 02, 2009

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I listened to this book on CD and found it to be well done. The book is broken up into three parts. The first section focuses on the life of a boy named Pi Patel and his life as the son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry, India. Much of the book discusses philosophy, religion, and zoology. Interestingly, Pi follows Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam much to his parents and respective religious leaders' bewilderment.

As the first section ends and the 2nd begins, his parents sell the animals of the zoo and make plans to move to Canada. Their journey across the Pacific begins aboard a ship that also includes the zoo animals. After a short time at sea, the ship sinks and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with an assortment of animals such as a zebra, a hyena, a rat, some cockroaches, a chimpanzee, and a tiger. The assortment of animals fight it out in sequential battles until finally only the tiger and Pi are left. Pi proceeds to live with the tiger on the life raft and uses his knowledge of animals gained from growing up around the zoo to survive. He learns to fish, and make fresh water with distillers and has a tenuous mutual existence with the tiger in which he actually provides food and water to it and manages to stay alive. The elements, hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep are constant companions and result in a very difficult existence for him. After roughly 7 months at sea, he lands in Mexico and is rescued.

In the third section, we learn a second version of the sinking of the ship and his subsequent journey across the ocean through an interview of Pi by some men from Japan.

The first section can be a bit tedious at times but provides good context for the second and third. Good explanation of various animals and zoological information is provided as well as a relatively good overview of 3 major world religions.

The second section is outstanding and causes one to get involved with Pi and his travails hoping for him to make it through. On more than one occasion, I found myself sitting in the car after arriving at a destination to listen to a little bit more of the story.

The third section is very short and gives a bit of a change in direction from where the reader expects it to go. After getting to the end, I was interested in re-reading it to pick up on symbolism throughout the book.

One element of the book that can throw one off is the use of two narrators, an "author", and then Pi himself. An unnamed author, not Martel, is an actual character/narrator for some of the chapters. I'm not certain why Martel chose to use this style as it seemed a bit of a distraction rather than adding significantly to the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it as an unusual but fascinating story.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Colors

This weekend I went hiking close to Smithville Lake, Missouri and got a few pictures of the fall leaves. I also took some pictures of the stunning fall colors in North Kansas City, MO.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Master Your Money

Master Your Money by Ron Blue
Ron Blue's "Master Your Money" is a very good resource for learning to manage finances from a pure technical perspective as well as from a Biblical basis. He shares well honed financial expertise grounded in years of professional financial planning and accounting practice.

The book walks through the basics of determining where you are financially and then developing goals and intermediate steps towards reaching those goals. Fundamentals of budgeting are covered with attention given to increasing cash flow margin to allow for funding of long range goals such as paying off debt, making investments, starting a business, paying for children's college, and giving away large sums of money.

While Mr. Blue definitely takes the approach the debt should be minimized and very thoroughly evaluated before even considering, he does not take quite as extreme an approach towards no debt as Dave Ramsey. He also offers a bit different perspective on term vs. whole or variable life insurance.

A couple sections of the book which I found to be outstanding were the discussion on giving and estate planning. He offers lots of wise counsel on what to think about when developing a plan for passing on assets to the next generation. His insight on giving and going through a process of prayer to determine what God would have the person give is excellent as well.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Vibrato is kind of like ketchup. Used well it enhances the song. Used too much and one forgets that there's a tasty burger underneath.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writers Life

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life by Michael Greenberg

This autobiographical book from Greenberg provides entertaining and insightful vignettes from his life as a writer and the lives of those he interacts with. The book is composed of bite sized four page essays which are each enjoyable in themselves. This format allows the reader to proceed through the book in short five minute intervals if desired. At the same time, each section is well written enough to cause the reader to press on to the next story since "it will only take a few minutes" and after reading in this manner, one invests an hour into the book, never intending to have read for so long.

Greenberg is a skilled writer and clearly well read without giving an ostentatious air. Each essay reads like an article from a literary magazine or something along the lines of a New Yorker essay. Unless you possess an extensive vocabulary, you may want to keep a dictionary close at hand. In some essays there were a few words that I needed to look up to determine the precise definition. However, this is not overly cumbersome and helps to enrich one's vocabulary.

A theme which is present throughout but not so much that it dominates the essays is his Jewish heritage. It was interesting to learn his perspective on how his heritage has influenced his family life, identification with immigrants, career, and reflections on the world. Throughout the book, we meet interesting characters from his life and get a feel for being a writer living in New York.

If nothing else, his book is a good lesson for those considering a career in writing. Greenberg seems to constantly observe the world and people around him, taking notes to include in stories and articles. This provides a rich stock of material to draw from as a writer. Some interesting stories he shares come from various side jobs he held such as being a waiter, taxi cab driver, and cosmetics salesman. It's apparent that writing as a profession can be done financially but those aspiring to be the next great novelist, would do well to read Greenberg's account and the sometimes difficulty of procuring gainful employment despite being a skilled writer.

I enjoyed the majority of the essays and recommend the book for those interested in hearing from a professional observer of the world and his life in the writing profession.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know here

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Powell Gardens Flowers

Over Labor Day, I went to Powell Gardens which is about 45 minutes east of Kansas City. They have lots of nice flower gardens as well as some agriculture exhibits.

Monday, September 21, 2009

H1N1 Rap

With this blog post, The Wisdom of Dre celebrates it's 300th post.

The video speaks for itself. Fun stuff.

Remember, wash your hands.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Everyone wants power in some measure, whether a lot or a little, for selfish or selfless reasons, for good or evil. Seek to use that which is given, wisely.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bag of Money

A bag of money picked up on a recent trip to the Kansas City Federal Reserve. They have a really nice exhibit set up telling all about the history of money in the U.S. as well as present operations and you even get to see some of the workers in the money sorting/counting/shredding room. They've recently implemented some robots as well that help with moving money from place to place. Their names are Huey, Duey, and Louie.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Make Love, Make War

Make Love Make War by Brian Doerksen

In this book, Brian Doerkson, a worship leader and song writer, walks the reader through the process of writing songs and the stories behind some of his songs.

At times, there can be a tendency for church gatherings to want to sing happy clappy songs but Doerksen shares about the importance of also singing about the sad and difficult times in life. He shares some of the rough spots in his own life such as having two special needs children as well as professional disappointment and some of the songs that came out of those times.

There can be a false sense of infallibility that audience members sometimes associate with pastors and worship leaders. The reality is that they are real people with some of the same issues that those "in the pew" deal with. It is nice to read an account of a leader who is willing to open up some of the tough scenarios he's dealt with in his own life.

As a song writer myself, I was encouraged in the creative aspects of writing and actually wrote several songs while reading the book. One tip Doerksen offers is to keep a journal or some place to store ideas whether or not you're able to complete an entire song at the moment. He gives examples of ideas that he's come back to later to include in a song. Another idea he offers is to co-write with others to help give a different perspective or break through a spot you're stuck at in writing.
He challenges the reader to be willing to take musical risks and not always feel that he or she needs to follow a set pattern. Another crucial element is to ground a song in scripture and to even include scripture within the song. He also provides encouragement to write from a genuine place and to not try to necessarily write songs for the masses. Some of the great songs we sing today started with the writers by themselves pouring out their hearts before God.

This book would be good for songwriters, those interested in learning more about the song writing process, or those simply interested in learning more about what it's like to be a worship leader on a day to day basis.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Watkins Mill

A recent field trip consisted of a visit to Watkins Mill the last standing woolen mill from the 19th century. In it's heyday the mill produced tons of fabric and employed around 40 to 50 people at a time. It was all run by steam engine which was wood fired. An elaborate system of pulleys, belts, and rods throughout the mill powered a bunch of different equipment designed to transform wool from just off the sheep to something that could be used for fabric.

The mill was 4 stories tall and employed men, women, and boys. During that day, depending on the role, a person could make a very good wage as compared with traditional agriculture jobs. The pay rate was anywhere from 50 cents to $3 per day depending on the role with the exception being those involved in weaving who were paid 3 to 9 cents per yard. The skill level also corresponded to some degree with social class as a direct result of higher pay.

It looked to have been a very dangerous place to work and would be an OSHA nightmare today. People regularly lost fingers or were otherwise injured by the equipment. You could allegedly hear the mill from 2 miles away. On the day that I went it was around 80 degrees and I was sweating inside while not doing any strenuous activity so I imagine it would have been very hot, noisy, a tough work back in the day.



Wood powered engine
Checkers in the store

Barn nearby

Going home after a hard day's work
Watkins Mill
Some of the local workers

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