Sunday, November 27, 2005


Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
Jeanie and I are back after Thanksgiving with at her grandmother's house. We shot this photo just north of Ardmore, Okla. A strong west wind picked up dust off the dry Oklahoma plains and veiled the sun. I never saw stuff like this in Georgia.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sad news

This e-mail was sent to the Oklahoma Christian community just a few minutes ago. Dale and Carol Gaither, Kim's in-laws, are members of our Connection group. Our prayers are with them and all of their family.

November 19, 2005

To the Campus Community:

She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith. II Timothy 4.

With great sorrow, Dr. Mike O’Neal and I let you know that our beloved teacher, colleague, friend, and sister — Dr. Kim Gaither — passed away this evening at about 7:30 p.m. She died at Mercy Hospital, surrounded by her husband David, her son Luke (a current OC student), her daughter Brianna, and her parents.

Dr. Gaither joined the Oklahoma Christian University faculty in 1988, and she was serving as Professor of Biology at the time of her death. Kim was greatly loved, admired, and respected by her students and colleagues at OC, who will miss her deeply.

We will let the campus community know of the arrangements for her funeral as soon as those are known.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Kingly topic: What the Lord looks for

Our connection group (small-group Bible study) is following the life of King David. Our text is David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, part of the Insight for Living series by Charles Swindoll.

Here is a summary of what we discussed at our most recent meeting:

What characteristics of David do we admire most? One response was his honesty before God, as seen in the book of Psalms. Often in David’s psalms we see a man who is fleeing for his life, and he’s questioning God. Where are you? Why are you letting me go through this? But there’s always a sense of resolution at the end of those psalms — a sort of point where David says, “You’re God. I’m not. Your will be done.”

Swindoll calls King Saul “the people’s choice” verses David as “the Lord’s choice.” I personally don’t know to what extent I agree with that. I think that Saul started out his reign as a humble man and had several characteristics that would not have made him “the people’s choice” (hiding in the baggage, for instance.

But he had physical characteristics in his favor. At least twice the scriptures mention that Saul was “a head taller” than those around him.

I pointed out that our own presidents of the United States, on the average, are taller than the general population. Studies also show that the heads of major corporations tend to be tall people. AND recently I saw a news piece in which reporters compared tall and short people in a “speed dating” situation. Women tended to rank the taller men higher than the shorter ones in categories including looks, potential for success and “date-ability.”

I’m 5-foot-10, by the way.

But God looks for things that the world doesn’t look for in a leader, and sometimes God purposefully goes against society’s idea of success to prove that he is sovereign.

We also talked about the years David spent as a shepherd, and the skills he acquired through this time of solitude and obscurity that would help him later in life.

Laboring in obscurity is hard for me. I’m used to having my byline on almost everything I write. Inevitably my sense of accomplishment at The Christian Chronicle is tied to how many people see what I write. But there is a freedom and satisfaction in laboring in seemingly trivial things — I used the example of raking leaves, which I did this weekend (and I’m still a bit sore from it!)

(By the way, did you know that bylines in newspaper stories were introduced not to feed the ego of journalists, but to help the editors assign blame when something in the story is wrong? That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Meteorologists predict record usage of “the perfect storm” phrase during post-hurricane season

Tryggblog News Service

WASHINGTON — As the record-breaking hurricane season of 2005 comes to a close, meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict a record number of uses of the phrase “the perfect storm” during the post-hurricane season.

“The post-hurricane season is still weeks away, but we’re already seeing widespread instances of the phrase,” said Jared McTaggart, an NOAA statistician.

"If our computer models are correct, we could be seeing instances of 'the perfect storm' being referenced by stockbrokers on an almost daily basis by mid-December," he said.

"If this pattern holds, it's only a matter of time before Emeril Lagasse is whipping up 'the perfect storm' of wasabi and ginger sauce."

Earlier today, a guest biologist on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation referred to the Bush administration’s stance on intelligent design and proponents of evolution combining to form “the perfect storm of national education policy against scientific reality.”

McTaggart said this is only the beginning.

“We’re predicting that 'the perfect storm' will be used to describe everything from conflicts in the Middle East to toilet clogs in the suburbs of Philadelphia.”

Climatologists and linguists predict that the number of out-of-context uses of the phrase this year could match or exceed the number five years ago, when the film The Perfect Storm debuted in cinemas across the country.

The star-studded vehicle for actors George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, based on the nonfiction novel by Sebastian Junger, tells the story of a complex series of meteorological events that coincided to produce an intensely powerful storm off the coast of Gloucester, Mass.

But Gary Scoffield, professor of linguistics at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., said that allusions made to “the perfect storm” this season will have little, if anything, to do with the tragic events of 1991 that claimed the crew of the Andrea Gail.

“The other day I heard one of my students refer to a blind date her friend set her up on as ‘the perfect storm,’” Scoffield said.

“Curious, I probed for details, wondering what social and economic factors could have combined to cause her to equate her experience with a weather event that has happened only once in recorded history.

“She stared at me blankly and replied, ‘He took me to Red Lobster and told me not to order anything over 12 bucks.’ It was clear she had no understanding of the universal archetypes referenced in the syntax of 'the perfect storm.' Nor could she spell 'archetype' when I asked her.”

Scoffield and McTaggart agreed that the 2005 hurricane season, with no less than 23 named storms, will contribute greatly to overuse of the phrase in the post-hurricane season.

“Images of destruction from hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Beta are still fresh on the minds of the American public,” McTaggart said. “As a society, we often cope with disaster by turning it into a catch phrase and saying it over and over again. That’s why people are continuing to say ‘How you doin’?’ — to cope with the absolute disaster of Joey, the ill-fated Friends spin-off.”

Scoffield added, “It’s as if the news of the hurricanes and the desire to sound intelligent — yet not afraid to tip one’s hat to pop culture — have combined to form the ‘perfect storm’ of phrasal over-usage.”

Unlike the current trend in tropical storms, however, experts predict that the verbal affectation will last only until it’s replaced by another kitschy-yet-academic nod to Hollywood.

“By this time next year, we could be looking at a highly active season of people ending their conversations with ‘Good night and good luck,’” McTaggart said.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Commercial commentary: "A moment I’ll never forget" and "jumping the shark"

(By Erik)

Tonight’s episode of ER was OK. I like to consult Jeanie as we watch to see if what the doctors are doing is right.

I’ve been watching the show since its first episode, and I think that almost all of its original cast members are gone (same thing’s true of Law & Order).

But what’s up with the recent spate of TV promos that build up each show like it’s the Titanic?

I realize that the mark of successful TV show (or a commercial) is that, if it airs on Thursday night, it’s all that’s being talked about around the water cooler the next day. But that doesn’t mean your advertisement should literally say, “This is the episode you’ll be talking about around the water cooler tomorrow.”

There’s actually a Law & Order promo that says, “This is the episode you’ll be talking about all week,” for example.

But the ER promos are worse. Here’s a show that everybody seems to know is not as good as the days when Anthony Edwards and George Clooney were on the roster. So all the recent promos have contained phrases such as, “In a season that critics are calling ‘as powerful as ever’ …”

They might as well say “In a season that’s not nearly as bad as people are saying it is …”

Tonight’s promo featured a shot of Kovac (Goran Visnjic) kissing Abby (Maura Tierney). The promo referred to it as “a moment you’ll never forget.” Come on! This is a recycled plotline from several seasons back, if memory serves.

I’ll decide if I forget this “moment” or not., thank you very much.

Next week they’re going to crash an airplane into downtown Chicago in an attempt to help their ratings. I suppose I won’t be forgetting that moment either.

The only real “moment” I remember from ER in recent years is when a helicopter blade chopped off the arm of Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane). For me, that was the moment when the show “jumped the shark.”

If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the moment when a TV show hits the “point of no return,” doing something so outlandish that the program itself slips outside the realm of plausibility. Usually “jumping the shark” signals a show’s demise.

There’s a great Web site that details when TV shows of all kinds jumped the shark. Appropriately enough, it’s

I just checked it, and the episode when Romano loses his arm is the 10th-ranked incident of shark jumping in the series’ history.

The incident that’s in second place happened a few episodes later — when they dropped a helicopter on Romano and killed him.

Maybe that’s what the show’s new promos should say, “Next week on ER, it’s the biggest moment since we dropped that helicopter on Romano.”

“You’ll never forget it. Run to your water coolers now!”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Finding the way in Liberia

(By Erik)

Liberia got to me.

I’ve been blessed and humbled by my job at The Christian Chronicle. I cover international news and I’ve been able to see parts of the world that I could only imagine a few short years ago. I’m usually able to keep somewhat of a professional distance from the stories I cover.

But one scene from the Liberia trip stands out in my mind. It’s the moment I saw Christ in an 11-year-old boy named Martin.

A lot of folks aren’t familiar with the history of Martin’s country. Before the trip, several people asked me if I was going to Libya. On the plane coming home I met a worker with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from New York. She said that happens to her all the time.

Liberia is a small country in western Africa that was founded by former slaves from the United States. Since 1989 the country has been in an almost-constant state of civil war. Today many parts of the capital, Monrovia, are in ruins. You could hear the hum of generators from my hotel room. We ate lunch at restaurants surrounded by barbed wire.

At one point we drove by the VP Road Church of Christ. It was a Saturday afternoon, and some of the neighborhood kids were playing outside. One of them, Martin, sheepishly approached our group. I asked him if he went to church here and he said yes.

I was skeptical, of course. Reporters tend to be like that, and I had been through a similar situation earlier in the year in Nigeria. (We drove up to an empty church building and a group of local guys approached us and said they were members. They promptly asked us for money.) I tried to think of a question I could ask Martin to find out if he was telling the truth.

“What did you learn in Bible class last week?” I asked. He mumbled something in response and I asked him to repeat it.

“Memory verse,” he said.

That caught me off-guard. Maybe this kid was telling the truth. Certainly he wouldn’t still remember the verse, though. It had been nearly a week since last Sunday.

“Do you remember your memory verse?” I asked, quietly. Now I was feeling sheepish.

He paused, deep in thought, and then he said, “John 14:6.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but by me. John 14:6”

I shook his hand and congratulated him. It was one of those moments I knew I’d carry with me for many years to come.

During the years of violence — more years, in fact, than Martin had been alive — Christians were carrying on the work of teaching the young to love Jesus. It’s a testament to their love for Christ.

Liberians went back to the polls today to elect their next president. Like most of them, I’m praying that this election will herald a new era of peace. I’m praying that Martin won’t have to see the face of war again, and that he’ll grow up to be a great, humble man of God.

He’s off to a good start.

(If you want to learn more about churches of Christ in Liberia, click here for a link to the Christian Chronicle’s coverage.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Kingly topic

King. Conqueror. Giant slayer. Adulterer. Musician. Poet. A man after God’s own heart.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the life of David?

That was the lead-in question for this week’s Connection Group meeting.

More than two years ago Jeanie and I launched a once-per-week Bible study with members of our congregation, the Memorial Road Church of Christ.

In a church of more than 2,000 members, we thought it would be a good way to get to know some people outside of our Bible class and age bracket. Memorial Road launched a bunch of these groups at the same time.

I thought that the idea would last maybe six months. Shows what I know.

We have about a dozen people — ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-80s — who regularly attend. It’s a great time, and there’s always dessert.

For the next few months we’re planning to study the life of David, using as our guide David: A Man of Passion and Destiny by Charles Swindoll. I’ve looked over the book and an accompanying study guide. It seems like pretty good stuff. I may not agree with everything Swindoll says, but what fun would it be if I did?

So, as suggested by the study guide, I asked for first impressions of David. There were 12 of us present for the study, and I got at least 12 different responses:

• David and Goliath: God was with him. He overcame obstacles
• Selected by God to be king instead of his “strong, studly” brothers
• His friendship with Jonathan
• Dedicated himself to doing God’s will and repented when he strayed from it
• Showed kindness to Mephibosheth, one of Saul’s sons
• Prayed fervently for his unborn son, even after Nathan told him the child would die. After his attendants told him of the death, David got up and went on with his life.
• David dancing before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant returns.
• David’s affair with Bathsheba.
• Nathan confronting David with his sin.
• David playing his harp.

As you can see, the simple name “David” brings a lot of varied images to mind for different people. Swindoll points out that a lot of scripture is devoted to David — more than any other Old Testament personality.

We backed up a bit and talked about the life of Samuel, focusing on his role as the final judge over Israel before the time of the kings.

One thing that’s always struck me about Samuel is his devotion to God and the way that he becomes angry with the people of Israel when they begin grumbling for a king. Samuel almost seems to become angry on God’s behalf, even when God is telling him not to take it personally. “They’re rejecting me, not you,” God says.

One of the reasons the people gave for wanting a king was that Samuel’s sons were not following in their father’s footsteps. They weren’t good rulers. They were taking bribes and “perverting justice,” as recorded in the book of 1 Samuel.

Samuel himself was raised in part by the priest Eli, and one of the reasons Samuel became a judge over Israel was because — guess what — Eli’s sons weren’t up to the task. (They were pretty thoroughly rotten, as a matter of fact.)

I sometimes wonder if Samuel’s sons didn’t turn out so good because Samuel’s model of fatherhood was Eli. Of course, no man can blame his actions on his bloodlines, and I have to believe that, at some point, Samuel’s sons chose to pursue dishonest gain.

A good point made during our study was that the use of the “your sons aren’t getting it done” argument was really just an excuse for what the people of Israel wanted — a king. And the real reason they wanted a king was “because everybody else has one.”

God, on so many occasions, had warned his people not to live like the nations around them. But this time he conceded and gave them exactly what they wanted.

What happened next is a lesson in “be careful what you wish for.” That’s next week’s topic.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What will your answer be?

Here are some interesting questions to ponder. We shamelessly stole these from the blog of Bobby and Tamie Ross, by the way.

Would you rather speak with God for one minute or add one year to your life?

Jeanie: Talk to God. Talking to God for a minute is more important to me than spending more time here to do whatever. Spending time with friends that you would see in heaven anyway doesn’t compare. Why spend an extra year earning money that you can’t take with you?

Erik: Technically I can talk to God right now through prayer, but I’m guessing that this question means that God would answer you as if you’re having a live conversation. (I’d also argue that God does answer us here on earth — though we’re sometimes blind to his answers.) Saying “speak to God” seems like the obvious answer, but are we really ready to hear what he has to say?

Would you rather meet Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Garfield, or Bugs Bunny?

Jeanie: Mickey Mouse. I like him best. I’m a fan of Disney. Snoopy doesn’t talk, Garfield’s too temperamental and Bugs Bunny plays mean tricks on people.

Erik: Snoopy. He’s obviously the Joe Coolest of this bunch.

Would you rather end hunger or hatred?

Jeanie: This one’s hard. One would have to address the physical needs of a society before one could tackle the deeper social issues of society. However, I think it’s more important to end hatred, and if we ended hatred it might solve some of our hunger problems.

Erik: Hunger. Like Jeanie said, it’s the first step to ending a lot of the other problems that cripple our society. Hatred often is an outgrowth of fear and envy, because we live in a world of limited resources. I think that focusing on hatred is focusing on a symptom rather than the underlying problem. We do that too often.

Would you rather be gossiped about or never talked about at all?

Jeanie: Never talked about at all, because then I wouldn’t have to worry about what other people are saying. I’d rather people just talk to me.

Erik: Ever since that incident at Braum’s, there’s been a lot of gossip about me. I’d just to say, publicly, that I thought the items in question were complimentary. And I still maintain that sending in 12 National Guardsmen to “take me down” was a bit excessive.

Would you rather find one million dollars or find true love?

Jeanie: True love. You can go through a million dollars really fast. True love lasts a lot longer. Money can’t buy friendship or companionship when you’re lonely.

Erik: True love. I think there’s a study out there showing that people who win a lot of money aren’t significantly happier than they were before. People start coming out of the woodwork wanting a piece of the action. No thanks!

What talent do you wish you possessed?

Jeanie: I wish I had the ability to get along with everybody. Some people are very hard to take, and I wish I were more patient and not so judgmental at times.

Erik: It’s more of a superpower, I guess, but I wish I had to ability to communicate and understand any language on the globe. Or, if that’s not possible, I’d settle for Spanish.

If you were going to a remote place and could only take one CD with you, which one would it be?

Jeanie: Christmas music. I like Christmas music. I don’t have a favorite artist or a favorite song, but I really like Christmas.

Erik: A mix CD with Johnny Cash and Def Leppard.

If you could hire one of the following, which would it be? (Driver Chef Maid Stylist)

Jeanie: Stylist. I don’t like doing my hair. It never looks the same as when I come out of the salon.

Erik: Maid. Although a chef would be nice.

Can you play a musical instrument? If so, which one?

Jeanie: Piano, flute and piccolo. I was in band sixth grade through my senior year of college. I also played in a community band until I got into medical school.

Erik: I took one year of piano and then my teacher mysteriously decided that she didn’t want to teach piano anymore. She only kept two of her students. They were both from Japan and it was easier to just keep teaching them than to explain that she was quitting to their mother, whose English wasn't so good. I attempted to learn guitar for a while there, but I got frustrated because it seemed like I spent all my time tuning it and I never could get it to sound right.

Have you attended a high school reunion yet?

Jeanie: I didn’t go to my five-year reunion. My 10-year reunion is in June 2006, but I’ll be on the wards then and probably can’t go.

Erik: No. My 10-year reunion was in 2002, but I was in Oklahoma by then and it was in Macon, Ga. I’ve lost contact with most of my high school friends, unfortunately.

You're stuck in an airport, what paper do you turn to for the news? (New York Times USA Today National Inquirer or, You don't follow the news.)

Jeanie: I don’t follow the news. I’d go look around at the stores. Or find a TV.

Erik (sighing in dismay from Jeanie’s answer): I’d probably buy a New York Times, but I can’t guarantee I’d read it. I prefer magazines like Time and The Economist when in airports. I usually try to bring a novel. Just seems to work better for me in airports.

Leno or Letterman?

Jeanie: Leno. I like his monologues and the headlines. Leno also brings on more animals than Letterman. And he and his wife have been married for 20-some-odd years, and she’s active in the fight for women’s rights in the Middle East.

Erik: I used to be a die-hard Letterman guy, but I’ll watch Leno on occasion for the headlines. I just can’t stand that Kevin guy who laughs at EVERYTHING Leno says regardless of its true level of funny-ness. The camaraderie between Dave and Paul is much more fun to watch. Sometimes I prefer Nightline on ABC.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Jeanie: Rocky Road. Love the marshmallows.

Erik: I love the soft-serve frozen yogurt at Braum’s. They also have a really good cappuccino chocolate chip there. However, please note that a tub of said ice cream product does not constitute a “free sample” (see earlier question).

What CD is in your CD player right now?

Jeanie: None

Erik: Lemme’ check. Looks like I’ve got three CDs in the player right now. One is a mix CD of Africa music, including tunes from Rex Lawson and the soundtrack to “Hotel Rwanda.” The second is “Facing Future” by Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Finally, there’s a mix CD of a cappella worship music by Zoe Group. I’ve got the player set on “shuffle.”

If you had one day to live, what would you do?

Jeanie: Spend it with my husband, and call all the rest of my family members and my friends. I’d probably have Mexican food.

Erik: Pray, and skip my cholesterol medicine.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Commercial commentary

(By Erik)

I’m still officially in mourning over Georgia’s loss to those hated Gators of Florida this past weekend, so I’ve been waiting the obligatory three days before blogging.

We were playing without our starting quarterback because he messed up his knee against Arkansas the week before. Amazing how, because of one injury, your whole season can go from Rose Bowl to Toilet Bowl.

Just kidding! We’re still in the hunt for the SEC title. Go Dawgs! Beat Auburn (and Kentucky, and Tech)!

If I couldn’t write news for a living, I’d try to make a career out of critiquing TV commercials. It’s a service I perform for free now.

I am VERY opinionated on this subject (ask Jeanie) and I tend to either really like or severely dislike commercials.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to critique the next batch of commercials to come across my TV screen.

(The weather’s on now. Just a sec.)

OK, here we go.

1. Sonic: This is another one of their “two people in a car” series of ads. This one is the married couple talking about something called a “breakfast bistro” burrito or something.
It’s not particularly funny, but this series is so good I can let it slide. The two guys who originated this series are consistently hilarious. Favorite line: “You can nod your head all you want. All I’m saying is, I didn’t know it was gonna be spicy.”

2. Draxxin: Now here’s an interesting twist on the flood of prescription medication advertising. This one isn’t peddling a drug for humans, but for LIVESTOCK. Do ranchers watch the news at 10? It’s a shame that they don’t have to list the possible side effects of drugs for animals. “Draxxin is not for everyone. Cattle that may be pregnant or nursing should not take Draxxin. Side effects, though rare, include hoof-in-mouth, loss of appetite, sore horns, and mild to moderate joint pain. Most were similar to sugar cube.”

3. Automax Hyundai: Yet another car commercial. We have a lot of these in Oklahoma City. Evidently, “the deals are automatic” at this place.

4. Deaconess Hospital: This is a commercial about screening for breast cancer. I don’t really feel right critiquing it. (Maybe this activity wasn’t such a good idea.) At least it’s not the Integris commercial for their physical therapy department. That one’s hard to watch (and the Roy Orbison music doesn’t help).

5. OG&E: This is another public service type commercial telling people to “call before you dig.” No problem there. Does the power company pay for these ads, or do they give the TV station a discount on its bill? If they are paying, I wish they’d pull the ads and put the savings toward our bills.

6. Eyemart Express: Glasses in an hour. This is the first time I’ve seen this commercial. Looks like they used real people in their testimonials. Looks like they have five metro locations. One is likely located near me.

And you thought reading blogs was a waste of time!