Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Hosteria Los Guasimitos

During stressful moments my thoughts often return to idyllic events in the past. Obviously nostalgia can paint things with a rosy patina that obscures reality a bit. However, it's nice to indulge in escapism occasionally.

But when the weather turns warm I often think of Barinas, Venezuela, circa 1993. Barinas is the capital of the State of Barinas in western Venezuela. Back in 1993 I had a pleasant two week stay in pre-Chavez Venezuela traveling the country with a college music group. The entire trip was extraordinary and life changing.

For a few days we stayed in the remote city of Barinas at a simple hotel that featured frogs on the walls and sidewinder snakes in the parking lot. I enjoyed every moment at that hotel. It was one of the most relaxing times of my life. I remember eating lunch in the hotel's cafe watching the morning rain showers while soccer played on a television mounted on the wall. I remember lounging by the pool laughing at sophomoric jokes with friends.

When I'm stressed I think often of that hotel and the pleasant times spent there. I also wonder how the great people I met there fared under the dictatorship of Hugo Chavez, who ironically was from the state of Barinas. After twenty odd years I decided to look up the hotel. Google came through and I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel still in operation and looking almost exactly as I left it in 1993. The current internet pictures look remarkably the same as my cheap Kodak photos taken twenty years ago.

The recent TripAdvisor reviews of the place are consistently positive. I enjoyed browsing through their website. I was greatly encouraged to see the old place still in good shape. Too many things change in this world. Too many sacred places close down and are forgotten. I was glad to see one such sacred place still in operation.

So if things go south and I need a place to get away from it all, I will definitely keep the Hosteria Los Guasimitos in Barinas in mind.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Nice sunset last night in North Texas. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Last Days...

Well, yesterday could be it. After six seasons, yesterday's match could have been the last for the FSA Dynamo. Our coach is giving up the reins. Several members are giving up rec league to play in the FC Dallas Academy program. So the future is up in the air. Bittersweet day if that truly was the end. It was a fantastic run and Coach Chris was the greatest. 

Friday, April 25, 2014


First heard Gungor a couple of years ago when they opened up for David Crowder Band at the House of Blues in Dallas. They were amazing. I have bought all their stuff now including a book written by Michael Gungor. If you know me, you know I don't care much for "Christian" music. They are so good they move beyond simplistic labels. Gungor is one of my favorite bands of any category. Seriously. I get chills. Rarely have I heard such creative magic. I will post a song or two in the next day or so. But go to YouTube and check them out.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good Night

Both Stars and Mavs win playoff games on the same night? Yes!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I must admit, I am ready for the annual summer sabbatical. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

This is the view outside my classroom window this morning on Earth Day. We are merely stewards. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stop Taking My Picture!

Now my four-year-old niece is in on the stealing of my phone to take pictures of me without my knowledge. Fun game. Now stop it!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cool Business

Saw this Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite business card holder at Tempted. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Sometimes my son will steal my phone and take pictures of me when I'm not looking. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Back in the day I would really listen to music. I mean really listen. I'd put the headphones on and not do anything but listen to everything from Beethoven to the Beatles to Huey Lewis to Louis Armstrong. Music wasn't just background noise or something to have playing while I washed dishes. I would really pay attention.

I remember in college, when my roommate was out, I would turn out the lights, light a candle and listen to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Or Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Or Weezer. I would just listen.

As I got older I got even busier. I still listen to music in the car or on the headphones while I wash dishes. But one day last week I realized I haven't really spent time listening to music for its own sake in a long time. With a hectic schedule it was difficult to justify. Reading a book or a magazine is one thing. But stopping down, putting the headphones on, closing your eyes and listening to music...that seemed indulgent.

Stupid is what that was. How could I justify watching television but not justify listening to music? Had my attention span dwindled to that of a squirrel? I realized I was missing out on a lot. And when you relegate music to background noise you start losing your ability to detect nuance. Why do you think our popular culture craves super short songs about meaningless topics with simple hooks? We've trained our attention spans to lose focus after two minutes. We want a simple diet of sugar and candy. We want our entertainment to be easy and effortless. In the process, we are missing out on a lot of good stuff, transcendent stuff.

When Arcade Fire released Reflektor a few months a go there were some critics who complained that some of the seven minute songs were indulgent. Seven minutes! They found some of the songs repetitive. But if you listen to the tracks intently you hear the build up. The song rises slowly until the waves crash. The payoff is extremely gratifying and sometimes transcendent. People addicted to the quick and easy payoffs associated with today's pop music don't have the patience to give the music time to come to resolution.

So this week I've become more intentional to listening to music...even if it's just one song a day. I am making time to find at least one song to plug into and just listen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Class Acts

Another wedding, another time when we really should be paying attention. 

Just kidding...

Actually we took this photo before the proceedings began. We know how to act in times of formality! We got class bro!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Good Guilt vs Bad Guilt

Heard an excellent sermon yesterday on Christian attitudes regarding wealth. The only point I quibbled with was when the speaker said we shouldn't feel guilty about our wealth. We should instead realize everything we have is God's. We are merely stewards. We should use our wealth to serve others and to be generous. I agree with all of that except the guilt part.

There is a difference between guilt that leads to conviction and positive change versus guilt that leads to emotional paralysis. Once forgiveness has been accepted persistent guilt can be counter-intuitive and actually demonstrate a lack of faith in God's plan for our reconciliation with our Creator. 

But sometimes guilt can serve as a wake-up call. When I walked through the favelas of Venezuela and saw families living in squalor it woke me up to the realities of poverty. When I realized that my small storage building in the backyard would make a better abode than 95% of the world's dwelling places, that twinge of guilt spurred me to positive action.

Even on my family's "meager" teachers salary I still have a greater income than 99.2% of the world's population. In the United States I am not considered rich by any means. I'm barely in the middle-class.  However, according to Global Rich List I am in the top 0.8% of income earners in the world. That's due to the overwhelming poverty that the vast majority of people in the world find themselves.

If those figures cause a bit of guilt...then good! If that guilt helps me to keep materialism in check then I can't see how that's a bad thing. If that guilt causes me to refocus my economic priorities toward helping others rather than collecting "stuff" then that's a positive guilt. Guilt that causes one to move to a posture of humility and service is a good thing.

Obviously that guilt must eventually be replaced with an intrinsic desire to be more like Christ. Continuing to act out of guilt can gradually lead to unhealthy spiritual paralysis. Our actions should be proactive and not reactive. Our generosity of spirit should be inspired by Christ's example. But if guilt is the trigger that leads to transformation, then maybe a small dose of guilt isn't so bad.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weapons of War

Because it makes perfect sense to put weapons of war and destruction in a park for children. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More Undivided Attention

Rare that I have both of their attention at the same time. My wife had just made cinnamon sugar crossaints. They wanted mine bad. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Depth of My Soul

Here is Thievery Corporation's "Depth of My Soul" featuring Shana Halligan from the album Saudade.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Thievery Corporation are known for their electronica music. I'm not much into electronica but Thievery Corporation is an exception. They are amazing and their latest album Saudade is spectacular.

Saudade is inspired by the bossa nova stylings of Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and others. This album could serve as a soundtrack to Madmen. My wife said it sounds like a 1960's James Bond soundtrack. It's nostalgic but strangely modern at the same time. The production is so layered that even after many listens you find something new in it's walls of sound. For example, quiet sounds of a thunderstorm linger in the background of the final track "Depth of My Soul." You may miss it on an initial listen but it's there, adding a special heft to the song. Every track is so rich and full of subtle surprises that keep you pushing the repeat button on your iPod. If you've ever dug the bossa nova Brazilian tunes of Stan Getz or Bebel Gilbero then you must check this album out.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Rainy Day

Enjoying the rain at Panera Bread. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Crush the Orange

All I wished for on my birthday a month ago (as I wore my new FC Dallas jersey) was for FCD to beat Houston this year. Last night it happened for the third straight Texas Derby match. A 4-1 demolishing in Houston. Very nice. The Stripes now have the best record in MLS. 



Saturday, April 05, 2014

Soccer Attendance

Soccer attendance is growing in the United States. Here are some interesting statistics, courtesy of espn fc. These are the average attendance figures for the big four European leagues and MLS in 2014. Granted, the MLS season is only in the fifth week of play and the Euros are wrapping up. And the big four Euro leagues are heavily stacked at the top. Germany has the best attendance across the board. The numbers are never that simple. But here are the figures, for what they're worth, on how MLS compares to Europe in attendance:

1.) Germany Bundesliga: 43,124
2.) English Premier: 36,486
3.) La Liga (Spain): 26,825
4.) Serie A (Italy): 22,027
5.) MLS (USA): 19,034

photo: Me and the Little Man on the field before the FC Dallas home opener. 18,000 showed up despite the 35 degree weather and rain.

Friday, April 04, 2014

McSweeney's Chair

The chair on the left is mine. I procured it for free back in 1998 when I worked for a furniture import company. I can't believe it took me this long to realize that the chair I use at my desk at home is very similar to the McSweeney's logo. McSweeney's is one of my favorite publishing imprints. I subscribe to their magazine,  The Believer and I read their humor site McSweeney's Internet Tendency almost daily. It was founded by one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers and their stuff is the best. Maybe the similarity of these chairs will finally inspire me to finish my novel every time I sit in it to work on the laptop.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Retro Chair

I snagged this chair over ten years ago when our library underwent a complete renovation and relocated. They were giving away the old furniture.  I love this chair. It's comfortable and solid. So many of my students have asked if they could keep it when they graduate. No way, this is a keeper. It looks like a relic of Sterling Cooper's offices. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

HIMYM Finale

The internet has exploded with opinions about the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. Guess I better jump in...just because.

First off, I was stunned to read the other day that the show started in 2005. It didn't seem like it had been on that long. Nine years. It just seemed like yesterday when the show was on the verge of cancellation after its first season. Nine years! That show came on before my son was born. I barely remember life before then.

Secondly, we watched the first couple of seasons then began to be pretty hit or miss after the third season. I would watch it occasionally on reruns but we weren't heavily invested. Weird side note: my wife never called it How I Met Your Mother. She called it "Have You Met Ted?"...a line from the series premiere that popped in every once in awhile during the series run.

So we weren't so emotionally attached to the characters although at times we greatly enjoyed the show. Maybe I don't have the cred that long time viewers have. But throw me into the camp that was ticked off by the finale.

SPOILERS coming.

I can't believe they killed off the mother! What in the world? Was this an attempt to be innovative and cutting edge? Were they trying to be different for different sake? Oh my gosh, that was brutal. They could have dedicated an entire final season to that storyline and it would have been great. We had all gotten used to the idea that Ted and Robin were not right for each other. Then they throw them back together at the end!?!

And how depressing is it that Marshall has to endure a job he hates until the very end. For years he has to sell his soul as a corporate lawyer until he finally achieves fulfillment as a judge? Super buzzkill.

And Barney never evolves? I love Barney as a caricature. But he's got to evolve right? I mean, that was a touching scene when he commits himself to his new baby girl...but we wanted more!

And the kids. They were teenagers when they encouraged Ted to go for "Aunt Robin." Mom's been dead for six years and they're okay with it. But dude! They're teenagers. Teenagers are not that mature. They would be ticked at Dad going for another woman...even six years after mom's death. Teenagers are not often rational. Maybe if they had been in their twenties their response would have been more believable.

Oh, but back to the Mom. Can't believe they killed her off. Realistic maybe. But this is a TV comedy. I don't want realistic. That was cold man. Cold.