Monday, December 31, 2007

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

Let me be blunt: Christmas in America is an orgy of consumption within a society that takes convenience through consumption to new levels. There is nothing that you cannot buy here and no shortage of options and prices. A few general examples: bread in a can - yes you can buy canned dough - simply cut it into the required shapes and voila "bread rolls!" An old favourite of mine: stuffing that never sees the inside of a bird - just pour into an oven tray and there it is - "likestuffing". And there is even a discernible impulse towards convenience organic foods as health concerns and a rising desire for "fresh" drives people away from traditional convenience foods with their almost supernatural shelf life (everything lasts longer in the US: large megastores with long supply chains demand longer lasting foods to survive transport and shelf life).

When it comes to Christmas itself - the level of expenditure is unimaginable to this innocent Kiwi. Some of the toy rooms I have seen here are frankly unbelievable - what do you give the kid who (already) has everything? To be fair there is also a spirit of generosity in operation that should not itself be underestimated. But there was a stark contrast for me with some of the values we are trying to develop as a family. Not meaning to be precious, just taken with the contrast. So anyway some Christmas presents that have amused me:

1. Transformers Snow Globe - you know the ones you shake up and the snow drifts to the "ground" except this time its a transformer staring back at you rather than a cheerful snowman or idyllic alpine scene... (part of a "Transformers Christmas" for the recipient that included Transformers Risk, Chess, Wallet, T Shirt and much more I'm sure)

2. Paris Hilton fragrance - "nothing says tramp quite like Paris Hilton fragrance..." (not intended by the giver...)

3. Pepsi Lip Balm - for "more happy" lips!

4. SpongeBob Boxer Shorts - with an amusing slogan advocating removal within a sexual context (my mother-in-law picked these out for me which makes them even more disturbing)

There are some interesting foods on offer as well - pumpkin pie will be well known (and is a favourite) - but other main meal options like vanilla pudding with fruit in it, green bean casserole and corn casserole were just a little strange. On the other hand baked sweet potatoes were totally scrumptious along with the most amazing Mexican dip you'll ever taste - layered avocado, refried beens, tomatoes, cheese - delicious! We had beef and ham (not the stereotypical turkey) - the beef was particularly nice with gravy and mashed potatoes...
Last night we went out for ice cream in Jackson, a town where Kristen lived for 10 years (8-18 years) and the icecream had to be seen to be believed! The Parlour is a 50's style diner serving food and ice cream - the biggest dish boasted 21 scoops of icecream! You can check out the ice cream menu here.

It was cool to drive round town and have Kristen point out the places she had lived, worked and played. Biggest revelation: the worst thing Kristen ever did in Jackson was skip a Spanish class. But as she went to Taco Bell, it was at least justifiable as a cross cultural field trip!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wesleyan GS Support 2 State Solution

The General Superintendents of the North American Wesleyan Church have signed up to a 2 state solution endorsed by 80 Evangelical leaders in the US. Part of me asks: "What business is it of yours?" Another part recognises that there is much misinformation on the situation and particularly what the Bible has to say about the sovereignty of Israel. Anyways the guts of it is:

The Bible clearly teaches that God longs for justice and peace for all people. We believe that the principles about justice taught so powerfully by the Hebrew prophets apply to all nations, including the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. Therefore we are compelled to work for a fair, negotiated solution for both Israelis and Palestinians. We resolve to work diligently for a secure, enduring peace and a flourishing economy for the democratic State of Israel. We also resolve to work for a viable permanent, democratic Palestinian State with a flourishing economy that offers economic opportunity to all its people. We believe that the way forward is for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a fair, two-state solution.

The full story is here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Village

M. Night Shyamalan could have benefited from a visit to Wilmore, Kentucky when setting the scene for his movie, The Village! OK it wasn't that backward, but "quaint" is certainly a word that comes to mind...

This was the "Asbury Summit" where I journeyed to Asbury to catch up with NS Richard Waugh and family. A good trip down on Southwest Airlines, I arrived in Louisville Kentucky and nearly walked past Richard and Jane who were chowing down in a cafe! We then drove to Wilmore about 1.5 hours away. Main feature of the drive: horse stables that were bigger and brighter than the houses....think Kentucky Derby.

The seminary is very impressive - what large bequests will get you. Well equipped and very modern. Richard and Jane live in this "enclave" of apartments with the other Beeson scholars. They are 3 bedroom and pretty roomy. I stayed in one of the other family's apartment as they had returned home for Christmas.

Its very small town America - about 5000 people. And of course much influenced by the seminary and the Christian college across the road (also called Asbury). We had lunch at a drugstore that made great pizza - it felt like the 1950's (the pizza tasted like it was fresh though...). I got to meet some of the other students and they all seemed like quality people. I imagine its a very stimulating environment.

The trip home became a nightmare. Mostly the weather. The plane taking me from Chicago to Detroit was 2 hours late due to "de icing". I was glad they did this however. We then sat on the runway for 1.5 hours while they (a) took people off cos they'd overbooked the flight and (b) took 5 more people off because the plane was too heavy...I didn't know how worried to be - were we that close to the limit that 400-5500kg was going to make a difference? The weather was bad however so I'm sure it was some kind of safety thing. The plan had been to drive straight home (about 1.5 hours) from the airport leaving at 8.30pm. Well it was around 1am that we finally got out of there. I had made contact from Chicago by phone to pass on the good news and the plan had been reworked so that the kids would sleep and we'd drive home early the next day. So imagine my surprise at the midnight reuniting when they all turned up.

So there was something of a contrast between the bucolic environs of Wilmore to the nearly organised chaos of the Chicago airspace. A long day but part of real life in the USA.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Travelogue

So we made it to Michigan, USA intact! The flights were mostly good. The inflight entertainment system almost led to a meltdown for Rhys - small tactical error by his parents in letting him watch his personal TV for tooooo long - (a) he got too tired (b) he got addicted.

The basinet was excellent for Raegan especially when she would peek out over the top just to check we were still there.

But flights, meals, transfers etc - all went well.

We arrived in Lansing to a surprise appearance by both of Kristen's brothers families at the airport which was great. Then the cousins proceeded to make each other's acquaintance into the early hours of the morning! Kristen was especially excited to meet her new nephew Cole.

There is snow on the ground here, so on day 1 we went outside and did winter passtime things. Built a Boz snowman. Went on sled rides! Rhys loved most of it but wasn't too sure about snow on his face!

I then went to Asbury - see separate post.

Sunday morning we went to church at Lansing Faith, where Brandon Bruce is the new senior pastor. It was a fun but focused Christmas service which was great to be part of with the family. Jennifer, Brandon's wife is Brent Dongell's sister - and Brent is heading over to NZ in '08 to work with cessioncommunity - we are going to meet up with Brandon and Jennifer to get the complete dossier on Brent - things like childhood traumas, foods he dislikes and general phobias...

Today its off to Traverse City for Christmas Day celebrations with nearly the whole family. Its very much a white Christmas here, with snow storms all over the place. The trip should be interesting!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This Explains a Few Things...

cash advance

Thanks to My-Faith for the link (although I couldn't understand his blog)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Henry is In!

In an astonishing break with post World Cup bloodlettings, Graham Henry is the "new" AB coach! Press Conference at 1pm.

Mike Eage on the AB website:

“At the end of the process, the Board concluded that Graham Henry was the best candidate for the position,” he said. “We are all disappointed not to have won the Rugby World Cup. In that regard, the NZRU Board accepts it was jointly responsible and accountable for the result and the planning that went into the campaign. We are committed to learning the key lessons, which will be explored in the independent review announced earlier this week led by Mike Heron and high performance expert Don Tricker.” Mr Eagle said the appointment decision was based on Graham’s remarkable results over a four-year tenure. “Graham’s record, both on and off the field, is among the best in All Blacks rugby history. He has set a very high standard in coaching, player management, and integration with the wider New Zealand rugby community. He has given a lot in a successful period for our game and the Board is convinced he has more to give the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby. “As a result, we believe that in the best interests of New Zealand rugby, Graham and his team were the right choice.”