Sunday, July 31, 2011


Last week, we took the kids to Chicago for a mini-vacation.  We went to Shedd Aquarium, ate at Ed Debevics, walked around Olivet's campus (there was a major construction project and they were getting ready to host the Bears' training camp), visited the American Girl and Lego stores, and walked Navy Pier.  We packed a lot into two short days.  I think my favorite part was seeing the faces of the kids as our waiter at Ed's called them losers and dork faces, and then joined the other waiters as they danced on the counter to the YMCA.  Cami was stunned, Lexi giggled, and Griffin started hollering names back at the waiter.  It was priceless.

With pirates on Navy Pier


Eatin' at Ed's

Cami and the big ugly fish

Part of the Children's Park near Soldier Field

The Shedd Aquarium landscape

Family time at Navy Pier

Griffin and Lego Woody

Working hard at the Hershey store

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

I watched the movie The Lincoln Lawyer.  It was fantastic.  The cast was top notch, the plot was great, and the twists were twisty.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries. 

More importantly, The Lincoln Lawyer is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Connelly.  The main character, Mickey Haller, is featured in 4 (maybe 5) books.  But Connelly's greatest creation is Harry Bosch, a homicide detective in Los Angeles.  I've lost track of the number of books in the series, but I've read them all and will continue to do so as new ones are released.  Harry's life is described so well that I feel I know him.  Mark and I occasionally mention needing to get a "Harry Bosch fix".  In addition to these series, Connelly has written several other books.  What's fun is that his characters interact in the same universe.  It is not uncommon of one character to guest star in another character's book.  There is even one book, The Reversal, that features Harry and Mickey as the protagonists in alternating chapters.  All this to say, mystery writer going today, and possibly of all time.  His books are genuine and there are no cheats in the solving of the mystery.  His characters are well drawn and you will come to care about what happens to them.  Plus, I have never been able to figure out "whodunnit" in advance of the reveal.  You can read the books in any order, but I recommend the order they were released because of the character and life developments.  If you just want to read a random book, my favorite Bosch book is "The Concrete Blonde" (its the third book, but it carries greater impact if the first two books are read prior to reading it).  Happy Reading!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Frosty Boy

Last night, we went with Dianna to the Frosty Boy drive-in in New Palestine. Great food and good ice cream, but we picked an incredibly hot night to eat outside. The kids had fun, though. It reminded me of growing up and working at the old College In and Out (no Bronco Burgers at Frosty Boy, but you can get a tenderloin sandwich).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review - Vigilante by Robin Parrish

Robin Parrish writes speculative Christian fiction. Vigilante is his latest novel. Upon receiving the advanced reading copy from Bethany House, I dug in. Unfortunately, my attention wasn't held by the story.

Nolan Grey, a former elite soldier, decides to fight evil at home in the U.S. He arranges to fake his death and then begins operating from the shadows. This allows him a freedom others don't have. With a small group of helpers, Nolan takes on the evil that others can't.

Vigilante isn't a bad novel, I just think it is average. I was hoping to be sucked into the story, but I found that I often had to force myself to read. The writing was fine and the story idea was good, but I couldn't identify with any of the characters. As a longtime fan and reader of superhero comics, the plot didn't bring anything new to the table. It just seemed average.

If you are looking for a story that is different from much of the normal Christian fare, or like your protagonists bigger than life, this book might be for you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review - The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel has influenced many people since it was first published in 1990.  Among these are several Christian musicians, including Michael Card, Michael W. Smith, and most notably, Rich Mullins, who named his band The Ragamuffin Band.  Manning's book puts forth the idea that we are all ragamuffins (broken, wounded, sinful, hurt, imperfect, etc. people) and God loves us because he is God.  There is no getting yourself ready to present yourself to God, just accept his love for what it is and confess your sins.  The main passage of scripture comes from the story of the Prodigal Son.  It's a good message, and I believe it is presented well in the book.  I had the opportunity to hear Manning speak several times during grad school and his simple message of God's love was consistent with The Ragamuffin Gospel.

The current edition of the book was published 15 years after the original.  It references the fact that Manning and his ideas/theology have come under attack by various other Christian/Catholic groups.  I don't know enough about all his sources to accurately judge it either way.  Additionally, this edition contains a section titled "19 Mercies: A Spiritual Retreat".

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Please don't forget to vote for my review!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I watched the new version of True Grit this week.  I really liked it.  It was a good story, with elements of the hero's journey, and had great characters.  Watching the movie got me thinking about how much I enjoy westerns, but only certain types.  I've read a handful of western novels and seen around 10-12 movies, and they (I think) have a few things in common.  I like my western to have compelling characters (particularly the protagonist) and carry moral weight.  Elmore Leonard (famous for his crime novels) wrote westerns (short stories and novels) early in his career.  I've read them all, and watched several of the movies made from them (most recently 3:10 to Yuma).  [Let me throw Robert B. Parker's Cole and Hitch novels in here, too.]  His protagonists are flawed are not necessarily heroes in the traditional sense.  They all have a past that weighs heavy on them, and they are dealing with the very real consequences of their past decisions.  The novel Shane (as well as the movie) are similar.  The best Eastwood westerns are like that, and I would include The Magnificent Seven and The Wild Bunch.  I would recommend all of these.  Unfortunately, particularly in the area of books, I seem to have a hard time finding stories that seem worthwhile.  Too many have a hero seeking justice, but it seems kind of generic (this same problem exists in the spy/thriller genre now as well; too many supermen - the written James Bond was very flawed and carried the pain of his missions with him from novel to novel; it's why On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the best story of the old movies).  Whew.  Anyway, if you like a good morality play or a flawed/damaged hero, check out any of the titles I've mentioned, particularly Elmore Leonard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Visiting with Family

Monday night, the Harmons stopped by on their long journey home to Idaho from West Virginia.  Lexi, Cami, and Griffin were thrilled to see some of their Idaho cousins. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Children's Museum Visit

Yesterday, we took the kids to the Indianapolis Children's Museum (thanks to Tom and Donna's family pass), which bills itself as the biggest children's museum in the country.  I can't really argue with that; it's pretty cool.

This is Bumblebee, from Transformers.  He is pretty cool, and pretty big.
On the Carousel

Terra Cotta warrior statues from China.

Loading dirt with a hand-operated backhoe
At the receptionist desk in The Barbie Experience
Driving the boat with Diego and Dora
Scuba diving near cannons from Captain Kidd's sunken ship
Me dressed as Linus (he's my favorite)
The museum had a new exhibit in conjunction with National Geographic.  It is archaelogy based, and deals with the tomb of the pharoah Seti, actual artifacts (including a cannon that is being cleaned) from Captain Kidd's ship found near the Dominican Republic, and an army of terra cotta warriors found in China.  We also visited the Dinosphere, but didn't take any pictures.  It was a great family day!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Book Review - The Blessing by John Trent, Ph.D. and Gary Smalley

The Blessing is centered around the concept of blessing your child(ren).  It stems from the story of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau. It concerns children receiving unconditional love and approval from their parents.  It's a pretty interesting concept, and I found the book to be very informative.  Trent lists the five elements of the blessing as: meaningful and appropriate touch; a spoken (or written) message; attaching high value to the one being blessed; picturing a special future for him or her; and an active commitment to fulfill the blessing.  The book goes on to explain the importance for a child to receive this blessing and the negative consequences that can arise if the blessing is withheld, intentionally or not.  Situations regarding single parent households, blended families, and how to overcome the lack of the blessing as an adult are all addressed.  I think this can be a very valuable book for parents, regardless of the ages of their children.

Related anecdote: I remember the time and the place almost exactly.  It was in a hotel room in (or near) Angola, Indiana.  I was in my second year of being a graduate assistant football coach.  It was Saturday morning and I was getting ready to leave for the stadium.  My dad gave me a card.  I'm not sure exactly why he picked that day; there wasn't anything special about it.  The card had a picture of Vince Lombardi on it and the text of his famous speech, "What It Takes To Be No. 1".  Inside, Dad had written a short message that reaffirmed his love for me, that he was proud of me, and that he was confident in me.  In short, Dad had encapsulated John Trent's concept of "The Blessing".  I'm not sure if he knew of the concept or not, but I still have the card, displayed in a frame on a shelf with my other football memorabilia.  It's my favorite thing my dad has ever given to me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”