Friday, February 26, 2010


There are times when people say to us, "Wow... I wish I could live overseas.  It must be so exciting!"  (In other words: "Wow... you guys are glamorous world travelers and it's all exotic locales and sunbeams for you!")
Today... was not... exotic.

 Unless, of course, you take into account the bacterial content of a sewer backing up into your church bathroom.  Now, that, friends and neighbors, is pretty exotic.  See, there's been a smell that comes around periodically, from the back of the church.  There's been all kinds of ideas and theories batted around, but when the water was literally pouring across the floor, I figured we could rule out some of them.  Reality had struck.

And reality takes the form of an overloaded sewer system in the rainy season, combined with overeager neighbors cleaning out their 'fridges too frequently and, well, it's the desert and there's dirt everywhere.  So, when the manhole covers come off, you get this:
But, of course, that can only happen after you've camped out 'till 4AM waiting for the city to clear a path of least resistance... only to find out that their truck is too big for the alley and they'll have to come back a few hours later.  Once the pipes are clear to do their thing, this too can be you... being... exotic:

The short of it is that in those four hours, liquid that should have stayed outside got to go inside through the office, classroom, back hallway, and stage area up to the first row of seats.  Tasty.  Also a bit squishy.  I would like to give serious props to the GAM water guys for working a cold and wet night as well as our awesome landlord who worked magic to get the job done.  To finish the clean-up I made two phone calls and got an 8-member multi-national force from our congregation to clear out the chairs, pull up the remaining linoleum & carry off the stage for the carpet cleaner genies to come tomorrow.  Hopefully they've got a box of magic anti-bacterial goodness with them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Road Trip 1/2 Across America 2005

The "Perspective" entry below referenced our road trip pictures... in light of full disclosure, here's that story!

In 2005, we returned to the States after living for nearly a year in Prague, Czech Republic and we decided to take a short vacation before returning to work.  You know, visit some friends and family and reconnect with America.  Those of you who know us will understand how a short jaunt became the Roadtrip Half Across America!

We covered 13 states in 3 weeks, over 5000 miles... all the way from wee little Moberly, Missouri to the Florida Keys to Texas to the Grand Canyon!  Below is a short diary from our travels that was originally part of our old website (the content of which disappeared when that laptop crashed!).  For a lot more pictures, visit our Facebook album.

Sunday, 3/13 (St. Louis, Missouri)
 - Spent afternoon with Scott’s grandparents in St. Louis

Monday, 3/14 (Arkansas & Tennessee) - 
Visited Elvis’s home in Memphis... Graceland!

Tuesday, March 3/15 (Nashville, TN)
 - Went Shopping in Nashville
; Visited Dana, our great friend from Prague, & her family

Wednesday, March 3/16 (Georgia)
 - Spent the night in Valdosta

Thursday, 3/17 (Florida)
 - Met Tammy & her daughter, Sarah, in Orlando. (Missed you Bryan!) 
Spent the night in Ft. Lauderdale

Friday, 3/18 (Florida Keys!) - Arrived on Big Pine Key at Bahia Honda State Park
; setup across the road from beach... removed watches...
commenced relaxation

Tuesday, 3/22 (Florida)
 - Packed up and headed north

Wednesday, 3/23 (Louisiana) - 
Spent the night in Baton Rouge

Thursday, 3/24 (Louisiana)
 - Met great family friends, the Hennigans, in Robeline near the town where "Steel Magnolias"
was filmed.  Spent the night in totally cool Bed & Breakfast

Friday, 3/25 (Texas)
 - Drove to Beaumont to visit family & Scott’s grandmother’s gravesite. Spent night in Houston.

Saturday 3/26 (Houston, TX)
 - Had lunch with Mike Roth & Family... Mike’s a friend of Scott's from Jr. High... they reconnected before we moved to Prague... Had dinner with Scott’s Aunt Donna & cousins, Bonnie & Stuart. Bonnie visited us in Prague over Thanksgiving ‘04 with Jaime

Sunday 3/27 (Houston, TX)
 - Spent Easter with family: went to Grace Church & had dinner at home followed by hanging out & a quick jaunt over to Scott’s old neighborhood

Monday 3/28 (San Antonio, TX) - 
Visited the Alamo, shrine to Texas independence; wandered the Riverwalk & had dinner by the water.

Tuesday 3/29 (West Texas)
 - Drove to El Paso... getting into some very cool, very rugged country

Wednesday 3/30 (New Mexico & Arizona)
 - Walked across the bridge to Juarez, Mexico for a few minutes to catch sight of the infamous pharmacies. Drove to Flagstaff, AZ through awesome mountainous country.  Explored old mining site (Gotta love driving off road up the side of a mountain! FINALLY!) Spent the night in Flagstaff, AZ

Thursday 3/31 (Arizona)
 - Grand Canyon! Walked the ridge, rode the shuttle along the South Rim. Watched the sun set. We are such a small blip on the face of the earth...

Friday, 4/1 (Parts Unknown!) - 
Left Flagstaff by midmorning (had to get our oil changed... we've gone over 5000 miles so far!)
 Drove up through Monument Valley into Utah, swung down to the 4 Corners (where CO, NM, UT, & AZ meet) and then on to Cortez, Colorado for the night. The views in this part of the country are mind boggling. You can't imagine the scope and beauty of this area until you see it first hand. We had no idea what to expect and aren't really sure what all we saw... it's just amazing.

Saturday, 4/2 (Colorado)
 - Visited Mesa Verde Nat'l Park's 700 year old ruins and drove on to CO Springs

Sunday, 4/3 (Missouri) - Back to Missouri for some Famous Dave's BBQ!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A little Perspective, Please

We had just come back from an amazing road trip across the Southwest US.  I was in the process of editing our pictures when the laptop just died.

Total Blue Screen of Death.

I hadn't backed up the machine for a few weeks.  All the pix from the trip were locked away on a harddrive that wouldn't talk.  I vividly remember kneeling on the carpet face-first while on the phone to tech support: "We can send you a new drive, but there's nothing we can do about what's on the old one."

After regaining some semblance of composure, I mentioned the debacle to my old-school, tech-head father-in-law.  This man was the first person I 'd ever met with a laptop and he could still make a slide rule spin (he liked the round one).  We lamented the loss of data and commiserated the lack of backing up.

Jan called back a bit later.  A faulty floor fan had caught his eye and he thought of something... you see, a disk drive spins on bearings, just like a wheel.  His fan had bad bearings and to get it moving, sometimes he had to flip it over.  Could the same work for this drive, he wondered?  Heart in mouth (an odd taste), I flipped the machine on its side and powered up...

"Good tone!"

I quickly backed up and when the new drive arrived a few business days later, we were back in the game.

On my desk, right now, I have a one terabyte, a 500GB and a sweet little G-Tech 250GB drive, each one backing up the next... and there's a 500GB drive back in the States!  This boy's not gonna lose his marbles again, not if he can help it.

So, regarding the matter of perspective:  Sometimes you gotta stand on your head to see the picture more clearly... and you'll probably gain a lot from looking at that situation from a different angle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't believe everything you see...

I'm no Photoshop guru by any means, but I do enjoy a little manipulation once & awhile. One of the big ethical issues that photogs get swept up in is the amount of retouching that can be done and still call a picture "original." (I suppose any touched up shot is no longer the original.)

A few years ago, Dove started a Campaign for Real Beauty to address manufactured beauty in media. Their commercial showing a model going through a transformation process is pretty good... Everything you see isn't real.

For instance, a few months ago we celebrated Thanksgiving at the Reed's house. I took the following shot of everyone at the table:Since I'm always behind the camera and never in the picture, I decided to "show up" for the party, hence the following shot:

With a little snip of the Cutting Tool and some smoothing with the Eraser, you get the following happy group (notice I left the napkin on my lap that was on the chair in the first shot):
Is it artistic license? Is it unethical to insert yourself into a Thanksgiving dinner you attended (versus Michael from The Office putting himself into his girlfriend's family skiing photo)? I don't think so... but it gives you pause over the stuff you see as factual events...

And that, my friends, is your lesson in paranoia today!