Monday, December 22, 2008

Vote for Change - promote bicycle transportation!

Please take a moment to click the widget below and let the incoming Obama administration know that promotion of bicycle transportation is one way we can reduce our dependency on oil, improve the environment and begin to increase the health of Americans!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Holiday Greeting (in disco)

Because nothing truly expresses the joy we find in the Advent of the Christ child quite like DISCO!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comma Sutra?

Probably #1 on the things the UCC should NOT consider using in their advertising campaign...
Comma Sutra

And here, modeled by Stillspeaking marketing queen, Gwen Thomas:
Gwen and the Comma Sutra

Full story: This t-shirt was found at a tourist shop in Thailand by two representatives of the UCC Global Ministries group. They thought it was uncanny that it would be printed red-on-black, just like the Stillspeaking campaign - so they brought it back for the rest of us to see. Too funny!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sermon: There's Nothing New Under the Sun

A reflection on Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
Rev. Gregg Brekke
Delivered 10/29/2008 at the United Church of Christ Amistad Chapel service in Cleveland, Ohio.

Change. It is on the minds of Americans – on the minds of people around the world.

If you have any doubt, just look at your 401k account. There has been a little change there - you may feel like all you have left is spare change... Bad change – a reduction in value of at least a third for most of us. That is change I didn’t ask for.

Both candidates for president are talking about change. Either it’s the change that we need or the change we’ve been asking for. Some how, some way, after next Tuesday there will be change. But this is merely promised change…

For others around the world change is a constant factor – often leading to life altering circumstances. Regime change, change in local government, change in ruling religious authority – has meant exodus and genocide and exploitation. Surely this is change they didn’t ask for.

In the midst of all this change – how can the Teacher be right? How can he say that there is nothing new under the sun? Doesn’t he recognize how change often brings with it suffering and fear?

I believe we are living in days where the words of the Teacher from Ecclesiastes ring truer than any time in our lives. When we have plenty yet we are not satisfied; and all we work for is taken away…

It does seem a wearisome toil.

And for those who already live at the limits of their income, we see the cost of living increasing in disproportionate measure to increases in wages. People of all income levels have had to make choices about how they spend their money.

It is surely a wearisome toil.

Home foreclosures, bank buyouts, a decrease in charitable giving – including to our churches, if that matters to anyone here – is a load of bad news on top of bad news.

All does seem to be vanity, and a wearisome toil.

I don’t mean to reiterate our current situation to increase fear or raise anxiety – these feelings are already present for most of us. But I am aware that situations like this have happened before – in recent memory and throughout history.

From many camps – political, economic, sociologic and religious – there is a race to find out who we can blame for the financial mess the world is in. We can blame deregulation, we can blame corporate greed, or we can blame the devil.

But somewhere we have to look at ourselves and wonder how the desire to have what we cannot afford, to gain what we didn’t truly work for, and to put our needs before the needs of others, is at the heart of the problem. Our “eyes have not been satisfied with seeing.” Window shopping hasn’t satisfied us, owning is the only option.

And so I think it is appropriate to ask myself, how did I find comfort in the lure of easy money. The camera I bought at 18 months without interest, or my no-interest car loan that is now finally paid off. If I, and millions others just like me, had not demanded access to easy money – would the banking system have needed to respond with higher and higher risk investments?

The tiresome nature of our desires is more than we can express, it is a vanity.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes not only warns about vanity and how quickly what we want most dearly fades, but also warns that we need to remember those who have gone before us, not just so that we can learn, but so we will be remembered by and leave a legacy to those who come after us.

My parents were children growing up in rural America during the depression and WWII. Any of you with parents of that similar generation will certainly have heard the stories of how hard these times were, how their worlds changed due to economic circumstances.

I heard the proverbial stories of walking five miles to school – into the wind, uphill, in the driving snow. I heard stories recounting the great floods and subsequently droughts that ruined harvests and forced many families to the brink of starvation. I understood the hyperbole in the story about plowing the back 40 with a blind three-legged mule…

But for all the stories of hardship and loss, what most sticks in my head and resonates through my heart are the stories of how people came together to help one another.

One farmer had a steam powered threshing machine and would work with the others to harvest their grain. In turn the other farmers helped him plow. In turn others grew and cut hay – distributing it to the dairy farmer who in turn made sure everyone in the area had fresh milk.

There were less pragmatic but touching stories too. Families who lost fathers and sons in the war had little to worry about when planting and harvesting times came – everyone knew what they must do. My father and his classmates were required to bring wood to heat their elementary one-room schoolhouse. They would take turns “filling in” for those who were unable to bring wood.

It was what you did – it was the right thing to do. I am so glad I have those stories – no matter how my parents and I have gotten along through the years, their memories are a legacy of a time when community meant more to people than the value of their 401k. When a community was considered strong only when its most vulnerable members had what they needed.

I’m no seer – none of us can predict how long this recession (some are saying depression) will last, no one knows if it will get better soon.

Wise people have recognized this uncertainty.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes says the turmoil of today is old news; there is nothing new under the sun. He writes probably after the third return from exile – and possibly when Alexander was conquering Israel. Being subject to foreign rulers was not new under his sun – how faithful people respond however is new.

Jesus says we shouldn’t be alarmed by wars and rumors of war. He even gave us a warning about filling our earthly storehouses – who knows when it will all be taken away. Nothing new, vanities – but how faithful people respond will be their test.

What will be our response in a time of upheaval, change and need? Will we merely admit defeat to the forces of the market? Will we seek to find blame and demand that someone pay? Will we “stop doing and pray something” as I’ve heard advocated from one corner of Christendom recently?

Or will we learn from the wisdom of the past, our forbears? Will we learn from other Teachers like Gandhi who said “you must be the change you want to see in the world?”

You see, real change has nothing to do with a new president. It has nothing to do with an overhauled and tightly regulated banking system. But as Christians, we have two ideals of what this sort of change looks like.

Real change has everything to do with what the Greek writers of the New Testament called evangaleon – “the Good News” and basilia tou theou – “the Kingdom of God.”

So are we ready to be Good News? I’m talking about being Good News, not just talking about it! Are we ready to be the Kingdom of God? Again, being the Kingdom of God, not just having a Bible study to discuss what the Kingdom of God may or may not mean!

When I read my Bible and study the first Christians I see that people were drawn to this new religious expression because it met their needs: spiritual, emotional and physical. It gave them a place to belong, and it included them in a vision that was bigger than their current condition offered.

It gave them hope when political and spiritual oppression all seemed a wearisome toil. Early Christians believed their work would change the world and remove an oppression they had become so accustomed to they no longer noticed it.

And their hope wasn’t limited to the afterlife as some promote – it wasn’t escapism; that happened later in Christian theology – the first Christians’ hope rested in the community of believers being Good News and offering the Kingdom of God to one another and to the world around them. That hope rocked the world of early Christianity.

My community of Lakewood has over 20 churches offering an evening meal – all are invited, no questions asked. They even work together so they don’t overlap. Almost any day of the week you can get a hot meal in Lakewood from a Christian church – that is being Good News; that is offering the Kingdom of God.

Several churches I know have started a backpack program where they work with schools to send meals home with at risk elementary students over the weekend. They may not eat on the weekend if it weren’t for the food secretly stashed in their packs – that is being Good News; that is serving the Kingdom of God.

Another church I know is taking donations of bicycles, repairing them, and giving them to low income workers so they can get to jobs that would have been out of reach by foot and are not serviced by public transportation – that is being Good News; that is showing the Kingdom of God.

I could go on and on – my email box receives a steady stream of similar stories. So although there is bad news, and worse news being heaped upon bad news, I am sure there is hope. I am assured that Jesus was teaching his disciples, and teaching us, to be Good News.

Economist and sustainability author, Anna Lappé, says, “Hope doesn’t come from calculating whether the good news is winning out over the bad. It’s simply a choice to take action.”

May it be said of our generation and in this time that we were Good News, that we offered hope to the most vulnerable, that we put others before ourselves. There may be nothing new under the sun, but the moment is upon us to prove that Good News lives continually and the Kingdom of God is present in the hearts of those who call upon Christ as their hope in all times.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tally Time

OK, I've been eating vegetarian since July and bicycle commuting for nearly two months. Thought it would be a good idea to do a tally of my energy/cost/CO2 savings to see the total impact ONE person making MINOR changes can have...

First - some of the base numbers:
  • my bicycle commute to work is 14mi round-trip
  • I've commuted 36 of 40 possible days for a total of 403 miles (adding in grocery runs, etc.)
  • my car gets about 22mpg in the city
  • gas averaged about $3.50/gal during this period
  • cheap downtown parking costs me $3.50/day

I've saved over 18 gallons of gas and reduced my CO2 emissions by 332 pounds (11.5lb/day)

I've saved $217 in gas and parking.

I burn an extra 336 calories per day by bicycle commuting to work.

On the vegetarian side there are additional savings...

The production of food for the average vegetarian (not vegan: I eat eggs, dairy and some fish) emits 7.3lb/day LESS in greenhouse gases versus an omnivore. That results in an extra 800lbs of reduced CO2 emissions since July.

I wanted to see what this meant FOR ME on an annual basis, so I did a little more math with the assumption that I keep going:
>> 120 gallons of gas saved
>> $1,340 saved in gas and parking
>> 2000lb (1 TON) of reduced CO2 from bicycle commuting
>> 2665lb of reduced CO2 from eating vegetarian
>> 2500 miles bicycle commuting and 75,000 calories burned!

That is some good motivation...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why California's Prop 8 is wrong (VOTE NO!)

Proposition 8 in California seeks to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples; the same rights that have been granted by the state's Supreme Court.

This state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a "man and a woman" is wrong on a number of levels - it seeks to reverse a civil right offered by the state Supreme Court, differs with a number of counties and cities, and goes against the philosophical foundations of a free society.

What is most disheartening to me is the activism of the "religious right." Just another in a long line of evils using religion to justify discrimination.

While the religious right fights to keep the government out of their pulpit (i.e. the "Pulpit Initiative" seeking to endorse candidates despite guidelines regarding separation of church and state), they, in the same breath, seek to have the government enforce morality.

Yet, the Bible is silent about loving, committed, covenantal monogamous same-sex relations. It does denounce many types of flippant and abusive relationships, including relationships based on inequality, deception and dominance - heterosexual and homosexual.

As post-modern Christians we have deconstructed any number of historic social expectations. Family includes extended relationships - from the concept of tribe to the Facebook friend list. Work is considered our life's activity - not just what we do from 9 to 5. Intimacy is defined as full engagement and disclosure - not just sexual relations - deep friendships count.

The efforts of the religious right to establish "theocratic" rule (of course, they get to decide how God would rule based on their misreading of scripture...) is a misuse of government.

The philosophical principles of enlightened government (constitutional republic as is in the U.S., not a literal democracy as in ancient Greece) say that the government only intercedes when the actions of an individual or group harm or threatens others.

Traffic laws are a good example of this. My car can go about 130 MPH, but I'm restricted to driving it 65 MPH on most highways for the safety of others. Same goes for traffic lights, stop signs, etc.

Another example is welfare assistance. Helping people in need is good for all, it especially helps women and children and is a key factor in reducing crime.

Smoking in enclosed public spaces is yet another example - and one where views have changed over time. Twenty years ago it was not seen as a threat. We know better now and many municipalities and states have banned workplace smoking, including restaurants and bars, for the greater good.

Now, tell me how two loving and committed men or women marrying is a threat to greater society? What ill or danger needs to be controlled by the government? Even if you don't agree with same-sex marriage (as many historically, and even some today, don't endorse inter-racial marriage), what threat is that to your family?

As a free people we must allow all sorts of activities that we may not agree with but pose no threat to our freedoms. There is no valid argument explaining how same-sex marriage is a threat, personally or to individual freedoms. It surely need not be legislated on the same level as a drunk driving or kidnapping or unlicensed doctors - obvious and pan-population threats.

Enough for now. JUST VOTE NO on California Proposition 8.

Here is one organization working for a NO on Prop 8 vote along with a promotional video:

If you needed any more proof, here is what the "religious right" proponents of Prop 8 are up to. (Note, this is only for awareness purposes - I'm appalled by the rhetoric of these nuts...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gus scoots

Gus took an interest in his older siblings' scooters this week.

A video:

And a still shot:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long time, no post

I should know better by now, unless I really take the time to blog every day or every-other day, it isn't going to happen. Like going to the gym or eating healthy, once you fall off the wagon it is hard to get back on.

Lots has happened in the last month, and is partly to blame for my absence. The Oct/Nov issue of UCNews went out and was one of the biggest ever in terms of content and advertising. As of today, it looks like Dec/Jan will be a little lighter.

That's OK, as much of what I'm trying to do with news at the UCC is move it to online content. The printed paper will continue to play a big role, but there is a lot of news happening between issues, so we'll try to respond better to that.

(Psss, stay tuned for the debut of the "news portal"...)

Our family continues to live in two cities - me in Cleveland, Jill and Gus in Springboro. (Three cities if you count my kids in Minneapolis...)

It is difficult, especially with a house still on the market during this financial meltdown. Jill and Gus will join me in Cleveland in a few weeks and we're all looking forward to it. The other house will be closed up and secured so that it is ready for showings.

We bought pumpkins (Gus' new favorite word!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Cleveland Commute

I've been in Cleveland now for almost two weeks and have gotten my bicycle commute down pretty well. It is 7mi each direction and mostly flat except for the bridge shown below. My main streets are Madison, Grace and Detroit - Detroit being a main thoroughfare between the city of Cleveland and the western lakeside suburbs.

Because I need a little Grace every day I take a left on it:

Then a right onto Detroit - here is my view heading east at the stop at 117th Ave, the dividing line between Cleveland and Lakewood (my fair city...)

As friend Warren Waldron noted - "when you live on the west side of Cleveland your commute is into the sun both directions." How true!

One of the curious things you get to think about when bicycle commuting - restaurant names. Please say with me three times quickly, "pho que, pho que, pho que..." ;)

After 6 miles comes the prize - the Detroit-Superior (Veterans Memorial) Bridge. Not steep but fairly long:

After that it is a quick shot through Tower City and onto Prospect Ave for my arrival at the UCC Headquarters.

The B.U.S.S. (big urban single speed) needed some professional wheel attention but other than that has held up well.

That's it for now, more sights later...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Todas las personas (all the people)

At a UCC communications team retreat...
Todas las personas

Thinking of the UCC's new ad campaign scheduled to begin Oct. 5, 2008:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rockin' the Flock!

Product Alert:

Is nothing sacred?

My 14 year old son (a MUCH better Christian than I am) has been totally inspired by the Guitar Hero franchise. His guitar skills and interest are enhanced by exposure to some great guitar music on the original Guitar Hero and GH3. "Anarchy in the U.K.", "Black Magic Woman", "The Seeker", "Bulls on Parade" - just to name a few - offer a broad overview of musical styles.

Too bad many "Christian" companies feel they have to either sanitize what our kids see and hear or "God it up" so that it barely resembles the thing they were trying to achieve.

The music and game industries are just that - industries. As is the Christian merchandising industry. They wouldn't be making what they are making unless it turned a buck. Profit and altruism are generally mutually exclusive. I don't think the Digital Praise Corporation is producing a quasi-Guitar Hero game because it will make converts or better disciples - they are producing it because they hope it will make money.

As an aspiring guitarist my son needs to know less about Petra's "Backsliding Blues" and more about Eric Johnson's "Cliffs of Dover" (as performed at this HS talent show - WOW!!!):

Or the hyper-guitarism of DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames":

Now those guitar skills are heroic!!!

I'll reserve my final opinion until I can actually test this product (hmm, I am soon to be the editor for a major denominations news sources.)

One final note - too bad it isn't compatible with existing Guitar Hero systems and controllers. It would have been really cool (and likely more profitable in the long run) if Digital Praise had partnered with Red Octane to produce a "Guitar Heroes - Christian Rock!" disk for their various platforms. There are lots of good rock guitarists recording on Christian labels - seems like that would have reached the broader audience that has already tapped into the craze and fame of Guitar Hero.

Admittedly, the song list for Guitar Praise (at the bottom of the project page) isn't bad. But why is it that "Christian" products feel the need to copy what "secular" companies have already perfected?

Friday, August 01, 2008

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal...

...there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1) Then there was this:

Sound File Copyright Washington Post from THIS ARTICLE

Brought to you by your friends at WalMart! The Disney machine offers up another young soul to the Beast...


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saint Joseph - Sell our House!

OK, we're looking for some good house selling mojo now.

Our house has been on the market for over a month and we barely have a month left until we need to move to Cleveland! We've added a seller's agent incentive and dropped the price hoping to get more interest but no offers yet...

So in comes St. Joseph - patron saint of carpenters, homeowners and fathers. I couldn't find a statue so we'll give this medallion a week or so. If nothing happens I'm headed back to the Catholic book store hoping they have some more St. Joseph statues in stock by then!

I also printed some prayers with St. Joseph's picture on them to read then put under doormats and found a nifty St. Joseph prayer card (below) to put behind a valuable picture or under a pillow.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Border Volunteer Trial


July 22, 2008

Trial for Border Volunteer, Cited for Littering while Picking Up Trash

Tucson, AZ-Tuesday, July 22, 2008:

A humanitarian aid volunteer goes to federal court Friday over a littering citation received while picking up trash along the Arizona – Mexico border. No More Deaths volunteer Dan Millis, 29, has entered a plea of not guilty to the Class B Misdemeanor offense of littering on a National Wildlife Refuge. He faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or $5,000 in fines.

The trial is this Friday, July 25, at 9:30 a.m., at the DeConcini federal courthouse, 405 W. Congress, in Tucson. A press conference will be held in front of the courthouse at noon or immediately following the trial.

Millis and three other humanitarian aid volunteers were picking up trash and leaving jugs of drinking water along border trails in Brown Canyon north of Sasabe on February 22, 2008, when they were confronted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement. Officers informed volunteers that they could neither leave water nor recover trash without proper permits, and Millis was presented with a $175 ticket for littering.

“I didn't pay the ticket because I'm not guilty,” says Millis. “Littering is a crime, humanitarian aid is not.”

Millis, a volunteer with No More Deaths since 2005, has previously brought groups of high school students to the border to pick up trash. He coordinated an educational partnership with the Leave No Trace program and currently coordinates No More Deaths' participation in the Pima County Adopt-a-Roadway program.

“I felt especially compelled to leave drinking water out that day, because only two days earlier I found the body of a young girl in the desert. She was only fourteen,” states Millis. “It was heartbreaking.”

238 migrants were found dead in the Arizona borderlands during the 2007 fiscal year. During the summer of 2007, No More Deaths encountered 388 migrants along the Arizona – Mexico border, including twenty seven women, fourteen children, and one pregnant seventeen-year-old. Many required serious medical attention. No More Deaths has been working to provide humanitarian aid to people along the border since 2004, including the Brown Canyon area where Millis was cited.

“The Samaritans and No More Deaths have been working in Brown Canyon for several years. We've never had a problem like this before,” says Millis.

No More Deaths is concerned that vandalism and confiscation of life-saving water and other humanitarian aid supplies is an egregious offense that is becoming too common in the Arizona desert. U.S. government policies of walling people into the remotest deserts, continuing human rights abuses, and impeding attempts at direct relief are unjust and need to be stopped.

Southside Presbyterian Church Pastor Emeritus and No More Deaths co-founder John Fife states, “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, we're going to continue our humanitarian aid work whenever and wherever it is needed, until there are no more deaths in the desert.”

For more information, please visit, write us at, or (928) 821-0331.

En Español...

22 de Julio, 2008

Juicio el viernes de voluntario humanitario, multado mientras recogía basura

Tucson, AZ-Martes, 22 de Julio, 2008

Un voluntario de asistencia humanitaria va al juicio federal el viernes por una citación recibida mientras él recogía basura por la frontera de México y Arizona. Daniel Millis, 29, voluntario con No Más Muertes, se ha declarado no culpable al delito menor de Clase B de ensuciar espacio público en un Refugio Nacional. Millis se puede recibir una pena máxima de encarcelamiento de seis meses o una multa de $5,000 (US).

El juicio es a las nueve y media de la mañana, este viernes 25 de Julio en la corte federal DiConcini, 405 W. Congress en Tucson. Habrá una rueda de prensa a las doce o inmediatamente después del juicio frente a la corte.

Millis y tres más voluntarios de asistencia humanitaria estaban recogiendo basura y dejando jarras de agua en los caminos fronterizos de Brown Canyon al norte de Sasabe el 22 de febrero 2008 cuando se vieron enfrentados a oficiales policiales del U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Los oficiales les informaron a los voluntarios que no se permite recoger basura ni dejar agua sin permisos especiales y Millis fue presentado con una multa de $175 (US) por ensuciar espacio público.

“No pagué la multa porque no soy culpable,” dice Millis. “El ensuciamiento de espacios públicos es un delito, mientras la asistencia humanitaria no lo es.”

Millis, un voluntario con No Más Muertes desde el 2005, ha traído a grupos de estudiantes de escuela secundaria a la frontera para recoger basura. También coordinó una colaboración educativa con el programa Leave No Trace (No Dejar Rastro) y hoy en día coordina la participación de No Más Muertes con el programa de Adoptar una Carretera del Condado Pima.

“Me sentí especialmente animado y obligado a dejar agua en los caminos aquel día, porque dos días antes yo había encontrado el cadáver de una joven en el desierto. Solamente tenía catorce años,” dice Millis. “Sentí lástima en mi corazón.”

Se encontraron hasta 238 migrantes muertos en las tierras fronterizas de Arizona durante el año fiscal 2007. Durante el verano del 2007, No Más Muertes se encontró con 388 migrantes por la frontera de Arizona/Mexico, incluyendo veintisiete mujeres, catorce niños, y una joven de diecisiete años embarazada. Muchos requirieron atención médica muy grave. Desde el año 2004, No Más Muertes trabaja con la meta de proveer asistencia humanitaria a la gente por la frontera, incluyendo la región de Brown Canyon, donde Millis fue citado.

“Los Samaritanos y No Más Muertes han trabajado en Brown Canyon por varios años. Nunca antes nos ha pasado un problema tal como este,” dice Millis.

No Más Muertes se preocupa por el vandalismo y la confiscación del agua y otras provisiones de asistencia humanitaria. Opinan que tal vandalismo es una ofensa vergonzosa que se está haciendo demasiado común en el desierto de Arizona. La política del gobierno estadounidense de forzar a la gente a los desiertos más remotos, continuar los abusos de derechos humanos, e impedir los intentos de asistencia directa no es justo y necesita ponerse fin.

El Pastor Emeritus de la Iglesia Presbiteriana Southside y el co-fundador de No Más Muertes John Fife afirma, “A pesar de cualquier resultado de este juicio, vamos a continuar nuestro trabajo de asistencia humanitaria cuando sea y donde sea que se lo necesite, hasta que no haya más muertes en el desierto.”

Para mayor información, favor de visitar a sitio Web, escribirnos a, o (928) 821-0331

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fredder is Better!

Polly (the single speed Paragon) had two tweaks since the last post.

First, I adjusted the chainline using Sheldon Brown's (may he RIP) excellent article.

Pretty easy using the spacers included with the Forte single speed kit. The whole thing runs a lot quieter now that I adjusted for nearly 6mm of offset that my "eyeball" method had come up with.

The second tweak was to get a more stable right front fender mount than zip ties. Here was effort #1:

The Rock Shock SID Race XC fork does not come with fender mounts. But if you are willing to possibly scratch your $500+ suspension fork, a hose clamp works fine. I bent the loopy part of the fender mount to match the fork angle, cut a bit of old latex tubing and fastened it all together like this:

Now that is FRED!

Oh yeah, total cost of new stuff needed to convert this bike to a single speed commuter:
Single Speed Tensioner/Cog Kit: $21
Fenders $20
Tires: 2x$8 ($16)
Bell: $7.95
Hose Clamp: $2.25
Misc Screws: $1.89

Total: $69.09

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Transformer Bicycle

The transformation is complete. My Gary Fisher Paragon (circa 1995) has been a great bike. Aside from new rims and a SID Race fork in 2001 it was pretty much all original. I did some off-road racing on it and began cyclocross racing with this bike.

Its parts were a bit weary so I decided it would make a GREAT fixed/single speed bike.

I had raced fixed gear on the velodrome and wanted to go that route first but cost and time were prohibitive.

Fixed gear chain tensioning is normally accomplished with horizontal dropouts on a bike, but derailleur based frames like mine have vertical dropouts...

The only reasonable option to have this frame be a true fixie is to use a neat hub from White Industries called the ENO. It has an elliptical axle offset that allows the variable chain tensioning required for fixed gears.

The next option was to use my existing freehub and a chain tensioner - similar to a single-cog rear derailleur but with no motion. I ended up going to the nearby Performance Bicycle Shop for their Single Speed Conversion Kit. (Sorry LBS friends, it is the best bike shop around - see an older post below about that.)

Well, I tore off the derailleurs, shifters and cables. I removed the cassette and made a guess at alignment (more on that later.) I removed the front granny and inner chainrings and moved the outer 42 tooth chainring to the inner position to help with alignment.

The single speed kit came with three cogs: 16, 18 and 20 tooth. I made the chain length compatible with the 20 tooth cog so that it can be used. The tensioner seems to take up the slack when using the 18 or 16 tooth cog just fine.

Enough talk - we want pictures!

Sweet ferrules - rear brake cable running down the middle (no front or rear derailleur cables needed!)

Chain tensioner will allow 16-20 tooth cog on the back. The 42-16 is being ridden day to day but with the Burley attached or with an XtraCycle conversion the 18 or 20 will be handy:

Starting to get a little Fred (definition #2) with these repurposed blue anodized aluminum chainring bolts! (Note the chainring mounted inside, where the middle ring would normally go...)

Fender mount #1 (actually a disk brake mount...)

Fender mount #2 (zip ties == duct tape for bicycles...)

And a bell - even more Fred! (Note the lack of shifters on that clean bar...)

The complete SS machine with 20+ year old Blackburn Mountain rack, Forte 1.5" city tires and Freddy Fenders installed:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ticket to ride

We live in perhaps one of the most bike UNFRIENDLY towns in the US. To be fair, the mayor has commissioned and initiative to look at expanding the possibilities for bicycle commuting. Yet, for the past 100+ years that had not been part of the plan - hence the lack of access and understanding.

A few years back a local bicycle shop (since closed) asked if they could purchase and install bike racks at the junior and senior high schools. The school board turned them down because they were using busing as a leverage point to obtain more funding for operations.

(i.e. The school board STOPPED busing kids for a period of time claiming a "budget crisis" which forced parents to all DRIVE their kids to school and get fed up enough with the inconvenience to pass a tax levy... Coercive?)

I've been trying to defy this unfriendly bicycling tone by riding anyway - even pulling Gus around in the Burley trailer on the safer roads (lots of alleys actually.)

Decided to trek to the grocery last evening - rack and single pannier attached:

Not a bad haul and only 20 minutes of biking round trip. It would have taken the same time to drive:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Reduce, reuse, refurbish... (#2)

The propane grill we purchased 5 years ago was having some issues. The burner unit and flame guard had rusted through. I was certain we were in for a new grill but looking at prices ($300 and up...) I figured a repair was in order.

New burner, new flame guard, new briquette rack, new mesquite ceramic briquettes - $55.

Looks and works brand new:

Now we're cooking (veggies) with GAS!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Reduce, reuse, refurbish...

We are in the process of selling our home and all the little things we didn't know were wrong with our house need fixing. Our basement bathroom was used so seldom that the balance spool on our shower faucet had seized allowing only cold water to come out. Try as I might with some chemical resolve, it would not budge. Options: plumber $300 + parts $150, complete new faucet $250 + plumber $150, purchase a balance spool from Moen online and do it myself for $90.

An insane price to pay for such a small part (about 2.5 inches long...):

It really is incredible how easy it is to find information on the Internet. One little Google and a call to Moen and I was on my way. The plumber was going to replace the main valve which wouldn't have solved the temperature mixing problem.

Oh yeah, all I needed for tools were two screwdrivers and a small pliers. Not bad.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

...Not on My Bike

I've seen this commercial before. But in the context of watching the first stage of the 2008 Tour de France (and contemplating our upcoming move to facilitate year-round bicycle commuting) it seems a bit counter to the aims of cycling. I understand the need for advertising dollars but this commercial ultimately discourages kids from finding transportation that doesn't involve internal combustion:

Good for the kid though - repairing a heaping Gran Torino so he can get around at 10mpg and not ride his bike to Autozone any more... Oh yeah, he'll be going back to Autozone A LOT with that PoS. ;-)

Good luck passing the emissions test!

Not really an unexpected commercial as the auto industry struggles to keep "the feeling" and nostalgia of classic muscle cars alive both literally with new high-power gas-guzzling models and metaphorically as in this commercial.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

UCC Names New Editor (it's me...)

Well, it is official - the United Church of Christ posted a release about my appointment as Editor of United Church News and News Director for the denomination.

United Church News Names New Editor

My resignation letter to the congregation and its supporters can be found here.

It is an exciting and emotional time of transition. I truly love being the pastor of Nexus Church - it is the most amazing group of believers I have ever encountered. I'll miss each person dearly and our work of growing a new church together.

Yet, the call to this new ministry area is, in many ways, a life long goal of be involved in journalism professionally. I am honored and humbled to have served with the people of Nexus Church in the Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky Association of the UCC and to this new call at the national setting of the United Church of Christ.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Is Vegetarianism The Only Moral Choice Ahead?

I've been looking a lot at the possibilities of adopting a vegetarian diet. Reasons I didn't were mainly around convenience and dietary concerns about protein. As a fairly active amateur tri-athlete and cyclists the "enough protein" argument has come up a few times.

Lots of vegetarians and vegans have concerns about the way meat is raised. Factory farms with cows in head-stocks who are overfed to the point where they are nearly immobilized and must be slaughtered. (I'm sure lots of you have seen the PETA video...) Or chickens caged their entire life and fed hormones that make them feel hungry so they overeat and come to their slaughter weight in 1/3 the normal "free-range" time. Obviously disturbing stuff - including health concerns over the hormone/antibiotic laden produce. Yet, animal rights was not a convincing enough reason for me to become a vegetarian.

Well, lots of recent reading has convinced me that not only for health reasons, but for moral reasons, vegetarianism may be the only moral choice.

(As an added bonus vegetarianism is on the list of "Stuff White People Like" - #32!)

Sojourners Magazine reports that a pound of meat takes around 8 pounds of grain to raise an animal to slaughter weight (I heard an NPR report last week that said the cost is closer to 10 pounds...) For this discussion I'll use the lower 8lb figure.

Chicken (35cal/oz) = 560cal / lb
Steak (50cal/oz) = 800cal / lb
Corn/Grain (24cal/oz) = 384cal / lb

That means it takes at least 3072cal (384cal * 8) of grain to produce one pound of edible meat.

Now it turns out that US consumers eat on average 222 pounds of meat a year! Sojourners reports that amount is up 78 pounds from 1950 levels.

So another little exercise...

If I eat 222 pounds of chicken per year that means I would have consumed 124,320cal of meat for a grain cost of 671,994cal.

What is happening to those extra 547,674 calories? It is getting crapped out into cesspools that are polluting our groundwater (OK, a little off topic.)

547,674 calories of grain is equivalent to 1500 calories per day - a caloric intake that most of the world wishes they had available to them.

547,674 calories is 1426 pounds of grain that is being take out of the mouths of hungry people in the developing world so that I can have the convenience of quick energy.

By one person, me, moving towards a vegetarian diet I will consume fewer resources and (theoretically) provide the daily caloric needs for an entire other person. If only it were that easy.

Crusade? Not really. Just one way I can make a smaller footprint - to live simply so that others may simply live.

Of course, the global food crisis is much bigger than a bunch of spiritual/morally motivated individuals changing their eating habits. It involves massive changes in food policies that protect the poorest people in our world. Sojourners Magazine, July 2008, lists "7 Steps Toward Food Sanity":

1) Reduce the influence of money in politics. In the past decade, US agribusiness spent almost $1 billion lobbying our government for policies that often undermine poor people's capacity to feed themselves.

2) Press legislators to shift support to family-scale sustainable farmers in all aid and trade legislation.

3) End export subsidies that undercut small farmers abroad-agricultural subsidies in the industrial countries mainly help the biggest farmers and processors.

(Gregg note: this is the biggest problem with Mexican poverty - massively underpriced subsidized corn exports from the US literally starve Mexican farmers off their land. If we want to see a decrease in undocumented Mexican migration to the US we need to end these unfair practices of NAFTA...)

4) Make real the "right to food," which is now inscribed in 22 national constitutions around the world.

5) End the agrofuel program-one-third of US corn production will go to ethanol this year.

6) Re-establish national and global food reserves to buffer price swings.

7) Create policies that encourage cooperatives and ensure fair wages, progressive taxes, and the right to organize unions.

Long post - more another day...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stuff White People Like

While checking out a bicycle maintenance site I found a link to the Stuff White People Like blog (btw, bicycles are #61). Presumably written by a white person who finds irony and humor in his/her own preferences.

The few I looked at were funny, though in my experience the list of "stuff" applies to middle/upper-middle class people in general...

#2 - Religions their parents don't belong to is especially poignant.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In the Broken Bread

Originally uploaded by Gregg Brekke.
This week marked the end of Nexus Church's book study on "The Heart of Christianity" by Marcus Borg. Our loyal group of five participants discovered a lot of wonderful things about the person of Jesus, how we as 'progressives' fit in the world, and our need to continue on as a prophetic and grace-filled voice of Christianity to a world struck by fear.

Two participants were unable to make this final night so Warren and Judy Waldron and I met at Panera Bread.  We arrived sort of late in the evening and as I paid for coffee and treats the clerk asked if I wanted a free baguette.  They were clearing the shelves for the evening so I said sure and took it to our table.

In our closing devotion we were asked to consider the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  When Jesus broke bread their eyes were opened and they knew who he was.  In hospitality and unfettered grace Jesus was fully revealed...

Looking at one another we concluded that breaking the baguette and sharing it among us would be the last sacramental act of our group.  In the near silence of the closed Panera Bread store we broke bread and each felt the presence of Jesus with us - looking toward the new ways we would see Jesus in the world and be amazed by how he was there with us all along.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cidade de Deus / City of God (2002)

Wow. We watched City of God last night - what an amazing film.

Based on true events around the fight for gang control in a Rio de Janeiro slum it is visually stunning and almost too brutally honest in places.

This film is an unvarnished look at the struggle for power, possession, and respect that is all too common in areas with limited economic opportunity. Especially telling is how one of the lead gangsters, Lil' Ze, masks his insecurities with bloodlust. The lives of the gangs revolve around the main character, Rocket, and his escape from the gang culture to his emergence as a photojournalist.

City of God is subtitled and the dialog is fast. Needless to say it isn't a "sit and read email at the same time" sort of movie. The movie deserves its "R" rating while often shielding viewers from full visual reality in its portrayal of violence and sexuality. (A+++ for cinematography!)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Video Gamer

A Danish company named Serious Games contacted me yesterday about using two images from my Border Lives photo documentary in a game that is still in development.

Look for Invasion Living and Rough Shack to grace the landscapes in Serious' upcoming release of Global Conflicts: Latin America.

Pretty cool. These images were taken in February 2006 and have only recently begun to be purchased/published so I guess staying in the game long enough is part of this photo documentary deal...

See the below post regarding the documentary Beyond Borders which also features lots of images from this project.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beyond Borders Documentary!

Good friend and soon-to-be-ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor Rebecca Bowman Woods has just released her documentary on ministry and policy in the US/Mexico border region.

Rebecca is also the news and website editor for DisciplesWorld magazine - a talentent journalist to say the least...

I was proud to be a project advisor as Rebecca completed this documentary during her final year at seminary. There are also quite a few pictures taken by yours truly inserted as b-roll in this film.

It is a very different view of the border and immigration - told by those who work most closely with and are affected by this human traffic.

The video is well worth the $12.95 Amazon is charging. Challenge yourself, your family, your small group, or your church and get this documentary...

Order from Amazon!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Wisdom of Get Fuzzy

Hilarious (although not very pastoral...)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Baked Chicken and Rice

I'm a big fan of the "experimental" kitchen. The cooking show where they clear out peoples' fridges to make something new is really cool so I thought I'd give it a shot.

We were hungry for something 1) healthy 2) chicken-ey and 3) rice based. The regular alternatives for baked chicken and rice usually involve several cans of "Cream of [Something]" soup lots of butter, etc... I tried a lighter/healthier alternative and the family loved it!

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

Prepare Rice: in a 4 Quart Casserole Combine:

1 cup - rice (I used "Royal Blend: Texmati white, brown, wild and red"). Standard brown or white rice will do.

2.25 cups liquid (I used light buttermilk for a "Cream of *" replacement). Whole milk, chicken broth or a combination of liquids should make 2.25 cups...

0.5 cup chopped Shitake or Crimini mushrooms

0.5 cup chopped white onion or shallot

0.5 cup chopped celery

Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Mix well and microwave for 5 minutes covered or place in oven for 15 minutes covered.

Prepare Chicken Breasts
3-4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts

0.5 cup bread crumbs

0.25 cup white flour

2 tsp oregeno

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Olive Oil

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts, lightly brush with olive oil. Combine dry ingredients and dredge chicken, patting mixture onto surface.

When rice mixture is removed from microwave or oven place the chicken breasts on top of rice (it should have "set" slightly as it was heated.) Cover and bake an additional 35-45 minutes until chicken is done through.

I guarantee you'll never go back to using canned soup in this tasty dish again.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Canned What? (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Canned What?

In a nutrition course I took in the early 90s I remember the professor saying something to the effect of "if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it." Her comment was similar to what the CoolPeople are saying in the above article - take a look at the ingredients before you decide to buy something. All the packaging, branding and advertising in the world can't hide the fact that preservatives, colorings and flavor additives are chemical substitutes for what God created naturally.

I'm starting to see a lot more press on the link between chemical additives and health. A lot of it is still under research but in some ways it makes sense that processing foreign substances causes added stress to our bodies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sleep On It (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Sleep On It

I've heard the advice before - give all major purchases a 24 hour waiting period. That is usually more than enough to bring about (pre) buyer's remorse for something that you may "want" but not actually "need." There's no sure fire method, it is obviously very personal...

You could also "sleep over" at the grand opening of a new IKEA store though that is more likely to bring about a fit of consumption rather than offset it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March Madness (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: March Madness

Along with the other themes mentioned above our family has been getting a handle on where our food comes from. The ADA site has some great advice for eating well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On the Double (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: On the Double

Looking at the suggestions in the above article (reuse of paper towels, etc.) I have one other suggestions.

Reuse plastic storage/zip-lock bags. These can easily be washed to hold another sandwich or bunch of grapes. One caution, if you intend to put something really wet like watermelon in a reused plastic bag you'll probably want to check to see if it can hold water first...

Friday, March 07, 2008

How Sustainable is Your Table? (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: How Sustainable is Your Table?

Since giving my wife Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" we have been considering the extreme cost (human, financial, and environmental) of buying pre-packaged foods and those transported extreme distances.

Aside from Kingsolver's book the Sustainable Table site mentioned above is a great way to get started buying local and sustainable groceries.

Our locally owned Dorothy Lane grocery chain is our best bet at finding local and sustainable foods. They are often priced 30-70% more than the national chain stores but you've got to feel better eating food that is produced more naturally and easier on the environment.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Twice Worn (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Twice Worn

I have, for some time now, been a twice wearer. Underwear, socks, and workout clothing aside, how dirty do we really get on a daily basis?

Jeans and most shirts (worn over an undershirt) really don't get dirty/sweaty/oily at all as long as there aren't "external influences." Now having a two year old in the house leads to the inevitable food spray that needs to be cleaned daily...

Give your washer and the environment a break. Give those jeans and shirt the sniff test before throwing them in the laundry!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Call for Clean Water (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Call for Clean Water

Check the links in the above post to find out how to call your elected representative and urge them to vote for clean water.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

You're In the Money (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: You're In the Money

I've done lots of speaking regarding the chasm that exists between what we in the US consider an "average" income and what most people around the world experience. Even the poorest people in the western world (N. America, Europe) are uber-rich in comparison to 90% of the rest of the world.

Just to check yourself, go to the Global Rich List site and enter in your income.

My pastoral compensation - including salary, housing allowance, benefits and retirement - puts me within the top 1% of worldwide wage earners.

We are indeed blessed with material wealth. And to those whom much has been given, much is required. Consider investing even a small amount in a micro-credit program such as Kiva - giving the chance for the poorest people in our world to establish businesses that will help them live sustainable lives.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sock It To Me (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Sock It To Me

Sometimes I feel like the Imelda Marcos of socks. Too many socks, but what to wear with each suit, etc... I used to have a lot of colored socks - gray, green, tan - to wear with different suits but have now settled on blue and black. My old socks have either been worn to the thread or have gone to a local homeless shelter.

Now the socks that seem to get separated the most - where I end up with an odd number - are my cycling socks. These overpriced little gems made of micro-insulate-wicking-wonder fabric never fail to come up "one sock short of a pair." I like the idea of making a sock puppet - an all too expensive technologically advanced sock puppet...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap for Change (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Leap for Change

One of the suggestions made in today's column - this extra day of the year - is to tweak your ride with some Zen inspired driving tips.

For goodness sakes people of Ohio - use your blinkers! I've lived all over the country and have nowhere found such an innate fear of actually passing on kindness to other drivers by using your blinkers than I have in Ohio. Sheesh - not using your blinkers is a ticketable offense and will cost you points on your driver's license.

I know, I know - you are too cool to signal...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spare Squares (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Spare Squares

I love when my favorite TV Series is right - Scrubs predicted this posting when they performed what is quite possibly the BEST EVER TV song "Everything Comes Down to Poo."

The overuse of TP is one my poop peeves (did I say that?) Really though, how much paper does it take? Stephen's description of the cat playing with the roll pretty much describes how kids approach TP too. It takes a little training to get them over the novelty of wiping with a downy soft pillow... I digress.

Since everything else has gone green/eco can we just call this "eco wiping"? "Green pooping" just doesn't have the same appeal...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cash Out (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Cash Out

Micro-economy cash purchases are one of the best ways to ensure small businesses gain the most profit from each transaction: credit card fees for purchases of coffee, newspapers, snacks and other goodies add up for small vendors. As an added incentive you can add your change to the tip or donation jars at many establishments. A few cents per transaction adds up for someone making minimum wage.

On the other hand I'm a huge fan of the debit card and not having to carry around wads of cash for purchases like groceries and gas. As a matter of course larger vendors generally can include the cost of these fees in the cost of goods and/or negotiate really sweet processing fee deals that minimize the impact on their business.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Abunga (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Abunga of Fun

This falls into the "shameless commerce" category - I toured the Abunga site and it is OK and I'm glad they are providing a place for listing "family friendly" resources but...

It is nowhere as complete of a site as other online book sellers and retailers. Speaking of shameless commerce, if you click on THIS LINK to buy books, etc., Nexus Church gets an affiliate referral fee for sending you to the site.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Eating Disorder Awareness (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Eating Disorder Awareness

I don't have a lot of experience with those who have eating disorders but "I know it when I see it." Reading a few of the references to the above post it gives me some ideas of how to approach the topic, even with a complete stranger. Liking our bodies is one of the hardest things for us to do in light of the media images we see. The image of "perfection" is not only unrealistic for most people, it is unhealthy...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The History Behind the Hisotry (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: The History Behind the History

The history behind February as "Black History Month" is the topic of today's CoolPeopleCare post. I mentioned it before, but one of the best books that I've encountered recently on the issue of Civil Rights is "No Turning Back" by Gurdon Brewster. As a whiteh nortnern Episcopalian seminarian he spent the summer of 1961 with "Daddy King" - Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. at Ebeneezer Baptist Church. It is a fascinating story of transformation and learning from both Rev. Kings Sr. and Jr.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Garbage Game (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: The Garbage Game

Check out THIS LINK. It is really eye opening to look at what happens to the things we throw away...

I played The Gotham Gazette Garbage Game and sent 1,897,872 tons of refuse across 2,507,831 miles.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Work It (Twice) - (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Work It (Twice)

I reuse printer/copier goofs and proofs. The (most often) blank back side of these printed sheets are perfect for note taking, outlining and to-lists. Anything that you want to write down and don't need to keep forever. I reuse the paper these purposes and it still gets recycled when I'm done with it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Foil Me Once (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Foil Me Once

Reusing and recycling aluminum foil is something I have been doing for a long time. Our recycling program accepts it and if it isn't too goopy or torn I tend to fold it up and put it back in the drawer. I find that the heavyweight stuff - although it costs about 1/2 more than the thin foil - holds up to washing and folding much better.

If you think you can reuse foil it definitely is more economical to buy the heavier version so that it holds up longer.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Love Mountains (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: I Love Mountains

I went to the site linked at the above message ( to find that at least some of the coal that fuels powerplants in SW Ohio comes from mountain top removal strip mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.

I've seen and read a lot about the dangers of surface mining - the amount of chemicals needed to process the coal is much higher than coal extracted from deep mines. That waste ends up somewhere - most often stored in communities where the poor and vulnerable are threatened by exposure to these chemicals.

A long term solution may be the end of mountain top surface mining but in the near term we can call for better regulations on the disposal of this sort of waste. The "I Love Mountains" site also refers to enforcement of clean water regulations. Everyone deserves clean water and a safe environment.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chemical Cleanout (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Chemical Cleanout

At the end of the last planting season I looked through the gardening cabinet and cleaned out most of our old chemicals. I've kept a few compounds like bloodmeal around but the rest went to the disposal site.

We've used a lawn service the past few years and I'm going to ask if they will be using environmentally friendly compounds - and if not we'll switch or start finding a way to fertilize and control weeds on our own.

It is one of those "duh" things - but doing the right thing is pretty difficult given that the most available (and affordable) options are not environmentally friendly.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Three Words (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Three Words

No three words have more power in the English language than "I love you." When said for the first time in the context of a new relationship it immediately changes things - adds an intensity and an intentionality to what may have been a less formal arrangement.

When withheld or misused, these three words can be the kiss of death for a waning relationship.

Knowing that someone else loves us is a basic human need. The gravity of these words is always a great reminder of how important our recognition of others is. Whether it is within our family, our church or in our network of friends - sharing the gift of love may provide hope and connections for those who need them most.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

End Homelessness (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: End Homelessness

The interview linked to the above article made a lot of great points concerning homelessness - mainly that community agencies need to work together to help provide solutions for the homeless. It isn't just a work issue, or just a cost-of-housing issue, or just a mental health issue. For some homeless it is all three of these issues. For others these leading factors only contribute to other situations.

At Nexus Church we have worked with Interfaith Hospitality Network of Warren County since our inception. This organization has a program which helps homeless families (one or more adults with one or more children, no individuals) find the assistance and opportunities needed to get back on their feet.

I did a photo-essay on a "Day in the Life" of one group of families in March of 2007 that can be found HERE. That in turn spawned a follow up article that became the cover story for DisciplesWorld magazine in July/Aug of 2007.

Working with these families over the past few years has certainly changed my perspectives about homelessness and given me great hope in solutions being offered by (and volunteer opportunities at) great organizations like Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Food is Greener (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: The Food is Greener

The theme of this "5 minutes of caring" is 100% in line with the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", by Barbara Kingsolver. I gave the book to my wife for Christmas and admit to only browsing it but her main thesis seems to be that growing/buying local produce is good for the economy and environment.

Many places (even big cities) have farmers' markets that set up their stands during the spring and summer. While we may not be able to get year-round produce in colder climates we can do a lot to save resources by buying local AND organic if it is available.

We'll be experimenting as the year goes on with this. Our "Burpee" seed starter pack came yesterday and we'll be planting vegetables we can transplant to our garden soon.

There are no "green certified" restaurants in Ohio but we'll do our best to consume green in our own cooking.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Where's Your Money? (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Where's Your Money?

The question being asked today is a great one. Where is your bank investing your savings and checking balance while you aren't using it?

We have made a conscious effort to make sure our retirement investing is done with green(er) and humanitarian companies that engage in fair(er) trade. I add the (er)s to green and fair because it is virtually impossible to qualify companies exclusively in these categories even when they advertise themselves as such. Yet, many companies are making efforts in these areas.

I have an email into the bank where we keep our checking account to find out where they are investing - this should be interesting... (I'll post an update when I hear back.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Turning Back (COOL Lent: 2008)

I've been sent a review copy of a new book - "No Turning Back: My Summer with Daddy King", by Gurdon Brewster.

It is the story of an Episcopal seminarian from the north who spends the summer of 1961 as an intern at Ebeneezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Sr. was pastor and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was co-pastor as well as director of the SCLC civil rights group.

The review isn't finished yet but I'll heartily give it a two thumbs up for the insights it offers into the civil rights movement and a conscientious (white) person's immersion into the segregated south.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Story of Stuff (COOL Lent: 2008)

I'm catching up - the CoolPeopleCare "5 minutes of caring" emails don't go out on weekends so I'll have to find cool ways to care on my own...

A friend sent me this link about the cycle of consumption. We all realize this is happening, but the question is what will be do about it?

I was at W*lM*rt with my family earlier today - picking up a few odds and ends. We go there only rarely and probably never again if I can help it!

My mother-in-law picked up an item that was marked at $5.00 and commented, "how can they make this for just five dollars?" The answer is, THEY CAN'T. They are exacting a price all along the supply chain in underpaid labor, squeezed suppliers and unsupported store workers so you can buy a $5 pair of sweat pants.

I could go on and on regarding W*lM*rt's unfair labor practices - bringing in the most desperate workers for the lowest wages without benefits and trapping them in a cycle of debt and dependence. All of that so they can proclaim: "Save more, live better" to their customers.

The Story of Stuff recommends "A Better Way: 10 Little and Big Things You Can Do". Check it out these great ideas for being smarter about your consumption.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Start Last (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Start Last

I have to admit, I'm really bad at this. I usually get in the car, start it up and then get everything set. I'm often found heading down the driveway while trying to buckle my seatbelt and make a call on the cell phone...

Not only is that unsafe but it is wasting gas and time.

But old habits die hard! Out of four trips in my car today - I only remembered to do the "start last" thing once. I guess that is what the small/incremental changes are about - sometimes it takes time to break a bad habit.

Happy and safe eco-driving to you all!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ride Bus, Make Friends (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Ride Bus, Make Friends

How do you ride the bus when there is no bus service in your area? This is a question that I've struggled with as a "suburb" dweller. We live far enough away from metro centers that the city bus lines don't run to us (yet.) Still, these growing suburban and exurban areas are where most people are moving - thus increasing our dependence on cars and fossil fuels.

I used to live in a suburb of Minneapolis. Suburbs in Minneapolis set themselves up in a "ring" around the city. I had access to several express buses on which to ride as I made my way to work downtown. It was great - riding the bus was even faster than driving due to traffic and parking.

Enter suburban Ohio - where cities, townships and counties are still coming up to speed that it is in their best interest to cooperate to offer public transit. Within the counties there are various services for the elderly and physically/mentally disabled - but they aren't very interested in crossing county lines to transport their clients. For the majority of people in this area having their own car is the only viable option.

In my work with homeless families one of key factors in the cycle of poverty is transportation - or more appropriately the lack of affordable transportation. By limiting the reach and scope of mobility for poor people they have very little ability to break out of their locality to seek education, training or job opportunities.

While local municipalities and the counties in the area are working on transportation options it still seems that they are focused on a very small scope - their towns, their counties, etc. There may be, even if I'm not aware of it, a regional transportation plan that would connect the various communities and provide access to the hub cities of Dayton and Cincinnati.

I'm encouraged to look into this, especially as I'm part of a chamber of commerce leadership group for young professionals. This group is very aware of their changing community and are interested in working on solutions that reach far into the future for their well being and that of their children and beyond.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Something Old, Something New (COOL Lent: 2008)

5 Minutes of Caring: Something Old, Something New

Today's caring challenge is to investigate what types of things your community will recycle. Here in Springboro, Ohio the city's website says:
  • You can recycle glass jars, food and drink cans, egg cartons and milk jugs. Newspapers need to be placed in a grocery bag and placed in the yellow bin. Cardboard boxes need to be flattened and tied up into bundles.
  • Waste Management will pick up yard waste. However, leaves and grass clippings must be placed in special environmentally friendly composting bags, that are available at any local hardware store. there can be no more than 10 bags per pick up.
We are pretty good about recycling all the items listed, maybe not egg cartons so that is one I can add to the list.

Also, we haven't been using the city's approved composting bags - I'll run by the hardware store and pick up a bunch rather than continuing to use plastic bags.

Finally, I called the city and ordered a few more recycling bins. One to keep inside and an extra because we often need two or three at the curb.

Happy Lent! Happy Caring!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

COOL Lent : 2008
Beginning next Wednesday, February 6, 2008 - I'll begin blogging about my experiences with the COOL Lent 2008 - "act instead of abstain" outreach oriented Lent.

Lent still does remind us of sacrifice and obedience - but Jesus didn't give up chocolate or TV or beer. He gave of himself for all humanity - isn't that the example we are supposed to follow?

I invite you to join in by signing up for the daily emails at:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Brian Ulrich

My artistic side is generally driven to photography. I'm most interested in portraits in large format. Here is a picture of my 8x10 camera including a typical 35mm camera for comparison sake. Yep, she's huge and makes those wonderful 8x10 inch negatives.

I was turned onto a photographer named Brian Ulrich who is using his large format camera (4x5 inches) in candid situations where most people would use a 35mm or similar digital camera. You can get away with "sneaking" a photo with a 35mm or a point-and-shoot camera - but there is no hiding the fact that you are using a 4x5 or larger camera!

He has been working on a project called "Copia" since 2001 - here is his project statement:

In 2001 citizens were encouraged to take to the malls to boost the U.S. economy through shopping, thereby equating consumerism with patriotism. The Copia project, a direct response to that advice, is a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live. Through large scale photographs taken within both the big-box retail stores and the thrift shops that house our recycled goods, Copia explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism and the roles we play in self-destruction, over-consumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising. By scrutinizing these rituals and their environments, I hope that viewers will evaluate the increasing complexities of the modern world and their own role within it.

Click on "Projects" and then "Copia" to see the three galleries associated with the project. Really amazing stuff.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A simple equation:

Corned beef and sauerkraut Reuben sandwich + Braces - Toothbrush = Bad Idea

It was a great lunch though...