Friday, January 29, 2010

Kindle or IPad--That is the question

Allright, so I am a self-confessed gadget geek who just LOVES all things Apple. Well, almost all things.

So I've been reading up on the new IPad and watched the video demo of it that is posted on the Apple website. Very very cool.

I'm wondering if I would like it better than my Kindle for reading ebooks. I could see reading newspapers and magazines on an IPad, but haven't been tempted by the Kindle DX because it is all grey-scale.

Here is what I would like to change about the Kindle:
  • a larger screen would be nice so I don't have to push the button to turn the page so frequently
  • sharper resolution would help when photos are included (admittedly a low priority)
  • add a back-lit screen option. I know many say your eyes tire more quickly with that, but I find the Kindle screen a bit dark
  • color would be nice
  • make it easier to highlight or take notes. I know you can do it now, but I can't seem to get the hang of it.
  • A touchscreen keyboard might allow a larger screen without making the device larger. Love the touchscreen on my IPhone.

On the other hand....
  • I probably won't be able to read ebooks from amazon on the IPad
  • You don't get the free wireless internet with the IPad but you do have wireless capability
I did love the graphic bookshelf for the ebooks instead of the list of titles you get on the Kindle.

Fortunately, it's not available yet. I'll probably wait a while and see what others think and how it gets tweaked.

Anyone else tempted?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Burnout

In the good old days of the early Republic, the President sent a State of the Union message in writing to Congress. He didn't come to the Capitol building and give a speech.

Fast forward to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Now the State of the Union address has become a big media event, hyped endlessly for days in advance.

I'm not sure when Presidents started the custom of inviting current heroes (like Captain Sully Sullenberger); youthful examples of good behavior and achievement; and -- inevitably--individual citizens with problems that demonstrate the need for whatever policies the Prez is advocating that year. Did it begin with Carter? Reagan? Earlier ? Later?

Whenever it began, I wish it would end. Props to the President who avoids the temptation to put people on display in order to prop up his policies--whatever his or her political persuasion. This is why I haven't watched the SOU address in many years.

Anyone with me on this?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Olivia Blogs: My New Diet


Olivia here.

So yesterday QG took me for my annual checkup with the vet. I was very proud to see I hadn't gained any weight since the last visit.

But that wasn't enough for the doctor! Oh, no! She told QG I really need to lose a pound or two.

Not fair! I only weigh 12 pounds. That's the same as Beatrice. Okay, well, so what if she is a lot bigger than I am. I have a lovely curvaceous figure and she is a stick. HMMMPH!

So now QG can't give me my fat-free cottage cheese (hey, doc, its FAT FREE!) and has to cut me back to 1/4 cup of food a day. No more delicious cheese snacks from El Jefe. No more mouth-watering peanut butter treats for doing my "bidness" when asked.

I tell you SOMEONE is going to be sorry!!!

Your despondent friend,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blog Controls

This weekend I was reading a review of a book in the local paper. The book was written by a Houston-area blogger and the reviewer also interviewed her. One of the questions was how did she decide what subjects were "off-limits" on the blog. She said she kept three "control persons" in mind for this purpose--her father, an ex-boyfriend and one other close friend.

Which made me think about my blog control persons. I would say they are Portia and Babs (and by extension other family members who do read my blog regularly), and the blogging friends I have made over the years who do NOT agree with me on all things religious and political. Thinking about their reactions to a possible post may prompt me to revise it or decide that it is more prudent not to post it.

Who are your Blog Control Persons?

Friday, January 22, 2010

MOB Redux Update: Nouveau Wedding Planning

Today I'm meeting Babs at the printer to pick up the save-the-dates and design the wedding invitations. That got me to thinking about the things that have now become part of wedding planning that we didn't do back in the day when El Jefe and I got married.

Things like:
  • save-the-date cards
  • multiple wedding registries
  • hotel suggestion inserts
  • Bachelorette parties
  • wedding favors
  • wedding home pages on the 'net (of course there was no net then)
  • slideshows of the bride and groom's family pictures
  • wedding themes (example: The Perfect Pair) Babs says the theme of her wedding is wedding. That was also the theme of Portia's wedding. Clearly we are squares.
And maybe I'm missing something. If so, leave it in the comments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mom of Congress: The Massachusetts Senate Race

The Mom of Congress has been following the Massachusetts Senate race. Last night she watched Martha Coakley's concession speech and Scott Brown's acceptance speech on TV. Here are her conclusions:

Martha Coakley seems to be an attractive candidate and gave a gracious concession speech. Her loss was less about her personally, and more about disgust with Congress.

Scott Brown is clearly one of the best campaigners in either party that has come along in a long time. Mom of Congress could not help but note that his two lovely daughters are a lot like her two lovely daughters: one very tall brunette and one not-quite-so-tall blonde.

Mom of Congress predicts that Scott Brown will give the Republican response to the President's State of the Union Address. Betcha! He's a Senator to watch.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thinking About Radical Generosity

Like many churches, the one we are members of receives a large portion of its annual income in the month of December. Some years those entrusted with financial responsibility for the church are more stressed than others in that last month of the year. It all depends on how short of the budget the revenue is at that time.

This year was very stressful. The shortfall in December was well over $2 million (bear in mind this is a large congregation of over 4000 members). Hand-wringing, prayers and development of worse case scenarios were the order of the day in the year-end committee meetings.

But then.

In the last two weeks of the year the congregation gave generously--generously enough that a surplus of $400,000 over the budgeted revenues were received. Amazing. Just amazing.

We were given this news at the session retreat this past weekend. I'm still processing it. I mean, its a tough economy out there. Our congregation is not immune from job loss and financial difficulties common to the rest of the nation.

The treasurer told us that the year-end giving represented lots of small gifts--not a few very large gifts from wealthy, generous individuals. In fact, the "big givers" had made their contributions earlier in the year.

Why this significant outpouring from so many people?

I think it is because the church from its founding (in 1954) set a goal of matching the money spent in the operation of the church and its programs with giving to those in need in the community and the world. It's called the Dollar for Dollar benevolence program and it is taken very seriously every year. Since the congregation is committed to this kind of radical generosity, our faith-based budget works.

This dollar-for-dollar commitment also forces the staff, session and committees to be excellent stewards since for every dollar that is spent on the church's internal operations and programming, another dollar must be found to give away. Members know that their giving to the church does not stop at the church campus but goes to those in need in the local area, the state, the nation and around the world. This principle also forces the congregation away from being internally-focused towards being externally (or missionally, if you will) focused.

People say, "of course MDPC can do this--it is a wealthy, large congregation with lots of resources." But really, there is no "of course" about it. MDPC followed this guiding principle from its first days as a new struggling congregation in the far western suburbs of Houston more than 50 years ago. From time to time the church had difficulty adhering to this goal, but always found a way to do so and re-affirmed the commitment to radical generosity.

The fact that the founders had that kind of faith in God's provision for their congregation and sustained their faithfulness to the gospel still awes me today.

Understand that I am NOT saying that dollar-for-d0llar is some kind of magic formula -- it is NOT some kind of prosperity gospel for congregations. No, I think that it is an important spiritual discipline because it requires us to be constantly mindful of the needs of the world outside our doors instead of focusing on ourselves.

So what happened to that surplus? The session gratefully decided to allocate all of it to the Outreach Committee so it will be distributed among our mission partners in 2010 in addition to the dollar-for-dollar benevolence already allocated to Outreach in the budget. Because it's not about us, it's about bringing the love of Christ to a world in need.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti Resources--Church and Corporate

The RevGals have a post up today inviting everyone to share the resources for Haiti relief and what their own church is doing. I encourage you to join me there in sharing this information in the comments, either to this post or over at RevGals.

Our church (MDPC, Houston) showed a brief reflective video in worship about the tragedy that was quite powerful. This weekend at the session retreat, the session authorized a donation of $75,000 which will be equally divided between three of MDPC's mission partners that have been actively working in Haiti.

And let's not forget the generosity of the corporate sector of the United States! This weekend my good friend The Old Marine, who is in the rice business, told me that the American Rice Association is donating all the rice its members have warehoused in Haiti for immediate distribution to the people there. Haiti is one of the largest importers of American rice. HOOAH!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Disaster

I just made a contribution to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for Haiti online--if you're so inclined you can join me by going here. I think that the faith-based relief agencies will best handle the donations that are pouring in.

Its impossible to get your mind around the scope of the immediate disaster there in the wake of the earthquake. Never mind the possible ramifcations that may come over the weeks and months that follow. I pray the US military and the humanitarian groups from other countries will be able to work quickly and effectively.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

MOB Redux Update: Various

We're fixin' to get into high Wedding Mode Chez QG now. The calendar is starting to fill up with:
  • wedding dress fitting on Saturday (Kleenex will be provided)
  • juggling shower dates and themes
  • Portia finding a date for the "bachelorette" party (no MOB's allowed!)
  • looking at linens for the reception
  • addressing and mailing the "save-the-date" announcements
  • deciding on the invitation format
  • Flowers, music, etc etc
Oh my Lord, May 1 is approaching faster than I thought!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PDA in Haiti

For all the Presbies out there--Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is accepting donations etc for those in Haiti affected by the disastrous earthquake there.

Here's the link

I do wonder what's going on in the Dominican Republic. Its hard to imagine that country is not affected by the quake also, given its on the same island.

UPDATE: PDA now has a designated account for Haiti relief contributions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review: Days of Fire and Glory

When I read a note on Presbyweb about Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community by Julia Duin, I was intrigued because the book was by the well-known religion editor for the Washington Times and the subject was an Episcopal church in Houston (The Church of the Redeemer).

The book is about the rise and fall of the powerful renewal that began in 1964 in that church, led by a charismatic (in every sense of the word) priest: Graham Pulkingham. Duin moved to Houston in 1984, just as that renewal peaked and then crashed and burned amid the personal failings of Pulkingham and other key leaders of the church.

I was totally unfamiliar with Church of the Redeemer and this period in its history before reading the book. As a Houstonian of more than 30 years, I found it fascinating to read about the evangelical renewal that was sparked in Houston's East End in the 1960's through the mid 1980's.

Fascinating, and also profounding disturbing because of the way the renewal developed cult-like aspects such as an almost worshipful devotion to Pulkingham; authoritarian leadership; and unquestioning obedience of arbitrary and controlling rules for those who lived in community. In fact it was so disturbing that I had to put this book aside a few times to digest what I was reading. The revelation of the scandals that rocked the church at the end of the renewal period are sadly predictable, but to me less important than Duin's account of the way the congregation moved to the brink of idolatry of their priest.

Duin carefully researched the book and conducted innumerable interviews from which she puts together the historical narrative of this movement. Clearly this book is a very personal journey of catharsis and attempt at understanding the entire experience for the author, since she was a member of the Church of the Redeemer and a participant in some of the events she relates.

Psalms admonishes "put not your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. (Psalm 146:3) ." The lesson of Days of Fire and Glory is never check your critical intelligence at the door of the church and place all your trust in the mortals who are the leaders of the church. There's a fine line between following an inspirational leader and falling into idolatry. A line that was crossed in this case with tragic results for everyone involved--particularly for the families of Pulkingham and other leaders.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Exercises in Futility

As a blue norther is blasting its way through my back yard, I find myself involved in the following exercises in (probable) futility:
  • sweeping the water off the side patio in the hope it won't become a skating rink
  • wrapping the exposed exterior faucets with rags, plastic bags and tape
  • gathering sheets and tarps to put over the tropical plants that are already frost-bitten from the early December snow
  • encouraging Beatrice and Olivia to do their business outside by bribing them with doggie treats (poor babies!)
  • preparing goodies for tonight's big game.
Tomorrow we're off to New Mexico for a mini-family reunion. It's warmer there, but not what I'd call warm. Wrap up, everyone!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Pastors

Just had to share this one--Hat Tip to Spooky Rach.

Going on the No Read List

I'm grateful to my Gentle Readers who overwhelmingly affirmed the placement of Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert on my No Read List. Thank you!

For those of you who may be interested, there is a good review of the book from the Wall Street Journal's Meghan Cox Gordon. If you don't want to read the whole thing, here's her generous summation of the book:
"The spectacle of a celebrity author working herself around to a position that she has already taken may seem a trifle sophomoric and more than a little self-indulgent. But here Elizabeth Gilbert is a re-married woman. It would be churlish not to wish her and "Felipe" every happiness."
Trying not to feel churlish in the face of the fawning publicity for this book,

Yours faithfully, QG

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Reader Poll: To Review or Not to Review

Monday, January 04, 2010

Wintery Update

It's back to sort-of-normal Chez QG.

El Jefe is at the office, Olivia and Beatrice are snoozing in their beds in the kitchen. I just checked my calendar and realized almost NOTHING is going on until next week. Bummer.

Double bummer--its going to be VERY COLD (like 19 degrees or less) by the end of the week. There goes our new landscaping. I'll try to cover what I can, but it isn't established enough to survive that kind of cold. Its been many years since we had a hard freeze like that around here. The photo is of the snow we had early last month that killed several new plants. No snow predicted this time, however. Right now its only 41. Dang.

Looking forward to a quick trip to Santa Fe this weekend, though. Brother Dubya organized a mini-family reunion with the cousins on our father's side of the family. They are scattered from hell to breakfast across the country and we haven't seen them in many years--so it should be interesting.

That's about all I know. What's up with you this first week of 2010?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Friday Five: Fresh Starts and Covenants

Sally, a RevGal from Britain, posted today's Friday Five over at RevGals, so I'm doing my first Friday Five of 2010.

Sally asks:

1. What will you gladly leave behind in 2009?
The stress of selling our home, building a new one and moving! But it all turned out great, so we are very grateful.

2. What is the biggest challenge of 2010 for you?
That's easy--Mother of the Bride, Redux. Planning Bab's wedding
coming up just 4 months from now!

3. Is there anything that you simply need to hand to God and say "all will be well, for you are with me"?
I have a lot of trouble handing anything over to God because I seem to have this crazy idea that God really needs MY help--rather than vice versa--so I guess that is what I need to hand over.

4. If you could only achieve one thing in 2010 what would it be?
Focusing on what is within MY power to achieve (see answer to above question), that would be spending more time with God and less with the news.

5. Post a picture, poem or song that sums up your prayer for the year ahead....

I took this photo over Carancahua Bay, Texas, from the porch of our bay house there.

It speaks for itself.