May 26, 2006


"Do you often dream of living a more rewarding life? Do you aspire to obtain a better job, a stronger marriage, a happier home? Do you wish for more gratifying relationships with your family and friends? Perhaps you simply want to accomplish more and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

If you are like most people, you have written these goals and dreams on a list that's titled "Tomorrow's To Do." You can't pursue what's truly important to you because your day is crowded by the demands of mundane routines and other people's priorities.

How do you break out and experience the full potential that God intended you to have?

The answer lies in a simple, yet profound process to change the way you think about your life and help you accomplish what's truly important. In this straightforward guide, Joel Osteen gives you seven simple, insightful steps to improve your life for good, and help you experience victory, joy and satisfaction everyday! This inspiring #1 New York Times Bestseller will put you on a journey to a brighter future. Your new beginning starts with these seven steps:

1. Enlarge Your Vision
2. Develop a Healthy Self-Image
3. Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words
4. Let Go of the Past
5. Find Strength Through Adversity
6. Live to Give
7. Choose to be Happy

In this remarkable book, Joel Osteen offers you unique insights and encouragement that will help you overcome every obstacle you may encounter. Your life has a divine purpose and destiny. As you put the principles found in these pages to work, you will begin living "Your Best Life Now!"

I knew the minute I passed this book on a Walmart shelf that I was worried. The cover art reminded me of one of those infomericals that give you the wonder thingamajig that in only one short span of time can work miracles on your chosen problem. I got curious, mostly because I had this gut feeling about the guy.

Sure enough, he claims to be Christian. The thing that turns my stomach is the language that he uses: "you can have whatever you want and God will give it to you!" As if that's what God's there for. I do my share of praying for stuff; every one of us has wants and desires for mundane stuff and sooner or later will justify a prayer to God about it using the "God cares about every part of my life" defense.

Not that it's incorrect, of course God cares about every part of my life. It's just that I think He's more interested in transforming my life into something less "me"-oriented and more "others"-oriented, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the claim this book seems to make. The description I gave above actually comes right from Osteen's website, which is rather hillarious to peruse.

I know we're supposed to remove the log from our own eye before we remove the splinter from somebody else's, but as someone who's sort of in-process, I can't help but notice the issues I've been working on in other places. This book is like the perfect illustration for my struggles of late.

I'm not sure how we as Americans became so consumeristic. We focus on the stuff we want to get and assume that, as long as we have enough [money/power/sex/job-security/etc], it'll all be ok and we'll be happy. And yet, the very existence of this book shows how unhappy that mentality has left us (there's no need to have a self-help book if you're healthy).

As if the world and God turn just for us.

My findings as of late have been rather unsettling. God loves each person individually, but more important, he seems to love humanity as a whole. The question of whether the individual or the whole of humanity is more important seems irrelevant to God, because it's not an either/or question. But that also means that you can't exclude the rest of humanity and focus on yourself.

Thoughts are still in development, so please leave thoughts, comments, threats, scripture references that could help ... you know, the works, whatever might help.

May 24, 2006


Women swoon at the sight of a puppy. Men will stop their cars and let you cross the street in front of them if you have a puppy.

If you have a puppy, everyone is your friend.

I wish I’d learned this years ago. For one thing, I’d have been much more popular in college. I’d have had more girlfriends (anything more than zero is “more”). I could’ve made people do anything I wanted, because if you show people a puppy, they’re putty in your hands. Puppies make everybody happier; I think that you can make anybody smile if you show them your puppy. No puppy is not cute, and people are drawn to cute, ergo when you have a puppy, people are drawn to you.

Puppies are power.

This has been my experience with our puppy, Wisdom, so far. Today we took her into the city via train for her first time, and wherever we went, heads turned in our direction. We went to the Melbourne Central Library today to get cards, and nearly everyone in the fiction section stopped to say hi and try to pet the puppy (who we had to then turn away because she’s not supposed to be petted when she’s in her training coat).

Then we went into Starbucks to take a break and re-caffeinate. Upon entering, every woman’s head turned in our direction, and that look of “awwww” came over their faces. After ordering our drinks, we took a seat. Wisdom promptly crashed on the floor under our table and went to sleep (apparently all the attention makes a pup tired). I’m pretty sure she was the talk of the cafĂ©, and if she wasn’t, we were.

On the way home, we received several compliments (through several conversations started because we had a puppy) – “good on you for doing this” – because we were raising a seeing-eye dog. I think people realize how much work it is, even if they’ve never done it themselves. It’s amazing how time-consuming Wisdom is; she’s always getting into something; chewing on wires, peeing on the carpet (which, by the way, looks like it has seen previous puppies), and generally making a nuisance of herself. That’s just the way a puppy is. But she’s also a joy; I love the (exhausted) smile on Liz’s face after Wisdom does something right (“sit Wisdom. Good girl!!”).

My profound thought for the day occurred to me on the way to the city. Like us, Wisdom has been called to a life of service. This means giving up some things that she enjoys (chasing toys, chewing on live electrical wires, hiding between the couch and the window) and adopting certain disciplines that are hard and sometimes seem pointless. But it is for what is good. She can be eyes for someone that cannot see, a guide for those less fortunate. Her service is freedom.

But in order to get there, we have to get her to listen to us first (“sit … good girl, Wisdom, wait, NO, BAD dog, we do that OUTSIDE!”).

I’ll keep you posted.

May 23, 2006


I went to Blackburn today to visit my friend Colin, grab some meat pies, and generally wander around and catch up. I've never had a meat pie before, and naturally Colin, a lover of all things food, offered to be the one to introduce me.

To get to Blackburn required two trains, one car, and a whole lot of walking. A trip to the bookstore, a failed attempt to get ice cream, and lots of good conversation later, it was time for me to head back home.

It struck me on the way home that this city has a life of its own. It lives and breathes in a way not unlike we do. As I boarded a train bound for Coburg, I could almost feel the pulse of the city; watching the trains arrive and depart the station in rhythm with each other was almost music, a symphony of precision.

Naturally, it was as I was getting all reflective that I screwed up my easy trip home. I'd promised Liz that I'd pick up a little heater unit on the way, and to do this I was planning to stop at kmart in Brunswick. Thing is, Brunswick is a fairly large suburb, with three train stations along the Upfield train line (which travels to Coburg eventually).

I picked the middle of the three, Brunswick station, and of course, it was the wrong one - I should've gotten off at Jewell station, but I only figured this out when I'd walked out to the street Kmart was supposed to be on.

The cool thing about the Melbourne transportation network is that the trams and trains run parallel to each other, the major arteries of the city, running from the city core (the loop) outwards to the furthest extrematies of the suburbs. And so I boarded a tram headed down Sydney road, three stops, and my dilemma was fixed.

I think that I'm finally starting to get a feel for the rhythm of this city. I don't really feel as helpless as I felt when I arrived; I can get to the other side of the city on my own, without having to call Colin or Sally for backup. I'm getting better at timing my walk from home to the train station, waiting less time for transport.

It's exciting, in a weird, twisted, somewhat peculiar way, that I can find my way across the city. When I arrived, I figured it'd be a piece of cake to be a missionary; go in and just live. But living is not so easy when you don't know the city so well. The folks at mimos have been really helpful, laughing at (with) me as I've learned. They're family now, because they've taught me and loved me and watched me grow. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I'm feeling progress, and that is a good feeling.

May 22, 2006


This is my wife, Liz. Liz has a soft spot for puppies, and this year she's getting to realize a dream she's had for a while: to raise a seeing-eye dog puppy. In her arms is Wisdom, the newest member of the Logan family, and our charge for the next eleven months.

Basically, the program is that the puppy needs somebody to train it to do certain basic things and generally keep an eye on it until it's old enough to go through formal seeing-eye dog training. That's where we come in. We give it a place to stay, they provide the puppy, its food, cage, bedding, toys (it's only allowed three specific toys), and training gear (harness, leash, etc.). It's a good deal, overall, even though there are a few rules we have to follow.

(Seeing Eye Dogs Australia) is really great about working with you, though, and I'm looking forward to working with Mark, the trainer that's helping us raise Wisdom. When she turns 12 months old, Wisdom goes off to training school with a professional trainer, and we have to say good-bye (currently, she's only 7 weeks and one day old).

But it'll be a great trip until then. In some ways, it's a great excuse to travel, because she has to go everywhere a person might go: in a car, trains, trams, busses, restaurants, gyms (we'll see), cafes, homes, streets, etc. At this point, we're getting her adjusted to the house and trying to make her understand that the rug is not a place to pee.

The funny part about Wisdom is that she's really particular about being in our company. She can't stand it when we're not around. She'll start whining and whimpering, and then, when she finds us, if we stand still for too long (or if we're sitting down), she'll snuggle all up into our feet and fall asleep. It's great.

For more pictures and whatnot, go here.

May 20, 2006

Clothes Shopping

I hate shopping for clothes.

I'll shop for most anything else without complaint, especially camping gear or anything computer related (games, hardware, etc). But clothing is something I can't stand. The worst part is trying everything on to see if it fits, going through the process of tying and untying my shoes fourteen times in two hours.

When I lived in America, it was ok, at best. I'd go into whatever store I had decided was worthy of my business, find what I wanted, and leave in under 20 minutes, including the walk from the entrance to the men's section. I always knew what I wanted, and so it was never a hard thing to find. I do this maybe two or three times in a year, when I absolutely need to replentish the clothing I wore right through.

Today I went clothes shopping. Specifically, for jeans. It was harder here in Australia than it was in America; the styles are different, which is fine, but it also means I have to fit my stocky Swiss body into tiny Australian clothing. They're thinner people in general (the most common are from British or Aisian descent), who don't really go for the baggy look that I find most comfortable. Instead, the most popular trend here is a very European look; jeans are all "low-rise," thin, and generally just made so people like me can't fit into them.

I'm not bashing Australian culture; they look great in their clothing. I do not. Fortunately for me (and for anyone that sees me), Liz and I found a store that sold mostly jeans, and among the many varieties, I found one - yes, one - style that I could fit into. So I did what any guy would do; I bought two pairs.

To be fair, I did find a second style that might work, but I think I'll have to lose a few pounds (kilos) before I try. Maybe I'll start biking more regularly.

May 18, 2006


I took this class in college called "Theories of Religion." It was probably the hardest class I have ever taken, and sometimes, I think it's probably the hardest class I ever will take (haven't made it to grad school yet, though that's in the works). And at the same time, I have to admit that it's probably my favorite class of all time, second only to "Ancient Christianity" and "Christian History."

The thing I liked so much about this class was that it was designed solely for the purpose of making us think so hard that our brains would melt from taxation. I loved it. The class was built around the question, "what is religion?" That's it.

This was not a Christian school; in fact, far from it. This was the University of Rochester, and while I often complained about the bureaucracy of the school (aren't all schools like that?), I still claim it as my alma matter with some pride. I learned a lot there, and this class had a lot to do with that.

It was my senior year, first semester. I had just finished the process of re-designing my major (a BA called "Music in Christianity"), and was beginning work on my two-semester honors thesis on postmodern Christian music (sidenote: believe it or not, I managed to find source material for it). The class met once a week for two and a half hours at a time. I was nervous, as I'd heard it was hard, rumored that getting a passing grade was near impossible.

The class was taught by the Dean of the college himself, a religion PhD who was, of all things, Jewish. I imagine he's a cultural Jew, and, like most of the professors at UR, the man is both brilliant and quick on his feet. He can out-think students faster than any other professor I'd met.

The syllabus consisted of a series of books, all by different authors in different time periods, each pertaining to the subject of religion. The goal was simple: read each book, discern what the author meant by his or her definition of "religion." Then summarize in a two-page paper. Each book would be given to a group of three students to break apart in more detail (than the rest of the class) to be presented to the class, who would then tear apart the argument of the presentation.

That sounds a lot easier than it is. The papers, I mean. To sum up the stuff we were reading (Durkheim, Eliade, Proudfoot, Goodenough, Godlove, Weber, William James, to name a few) in two pages or less was near impossible; yet the only grades we received were on the presentations - the summary papers were only pass-fail (to assure that we did them).

I bring this up because of the one main thing that Dean Green asked that we take away from the class: discernment. He said that if we could come away from the class with the ability to truly discern what a person is writing - truly writing - then he'd be more than pleased. The class was not really about finding answers, it was about learning process. Asking, "what must this person assume in order to come up with what I've just read?"

What must a person assume?

I read an article today in which a commenter said this: "Someone asked me recently; 'Would a loving God send someone to hell, just because they didn't believe the right things about Jesus?' ... the question makes a bad assumption; that we are strolling merrily along our way to heaven." It reminded me of something that is very important: always question your assumptions.

I've experienced this time and again here in Australia. As a foreigner, many customs I take for granted in America don't work here. Sometimes it's simple or obvious things like how money is to be used, or which side of the street to walk or drive on. Sometimes it's harder. But always, there are assumptions and history underlaying the tradition.

As human beings, we live separate lives from each other, distinct individuals in every way. As a result of our totally unique perspectives (vis a vis our experiences and heritage), we speak different languages, even from each other. Our assumptions on life are different, if only slightly, but those assumptions lead to differences in perspective, in communication.

To understand somebody, you have to learn what they assume in life - you have to learn to speak their "language." To understand my wife, I have to learn "Lizish." It is only then that I can love her in a way that she understands. Because that's what this is all about - to love someone, we must first learn to understand them. Two years ago, in that class at UR, I learned about love from a most unexpected place.

May 17, 2006

The Changing Face of Blogging

I've had a lot of free time lately, mostly because it's the end of the fiscal month and that means I can't go out and do stuff in Melbourne because it requires money, and what little we have left is reserved for food. And so, some of you may have noticed, I've been experimenting with HTML code, changing my blog's appearance to suit my whim.

I'm starting to enjoy it, to be honest. There are all sorts of cool templates out there I've been experimenting with, and though I don't speak HTML or Java or any web-language anywhere nearing fluently (I can barely write the code required to create a new paragraph), I've been able to find some people that do and steal their ideas.

And so I thought that I'd just offer that little explanation on why you've seen about eight variations on the look of the blog. Expect to see more, as I'm still not sure I like it.

May 16, 2006

Update: Spam

Since my last post, it has come to my attention that the mass-email I spoke of was a hoax that had been circulating for a number of years. As I supected, even the most anti-Christendom activists couldn't come up with any kind of legal reasoning to pass or even formulate a bill such as this. Just thought you should know.

May 15, 2006


I got one of those forwarded mass emails today that talks about some horrible decision being made by some part of the US Government and how I should sign my name on the petition against passing the bill and forward it to ... blah blah blah. This particular one was about some lady (no name given) that passed a bill to take "public prayer" out of schools and now she's passing a bill (with a signed petition of some rediculously big number) to ban the word "God" from the airwaves.

I'm not particularly sure why it was sent to me, other than the fact that I call myself a Christian, or at least, a Jesus-follower. But the email had that sense of urgency to it, like the world was ending because of it. Like they were surprised or something.

Personally, I've got no problem with passing this bill. While I'm amused that somebody thinks that they can pass a bill that's so obviously in conflict with our bill of rights, I'm also not particularly surprised by it either. We're told to expect persecution, not to worry about it or be surprised when non-believers strike out against us.

And like I said, I think I support this one. Lots of advantages to it, actually. First, it's a wake-up call to the Christians who think that somebody else is going to do evangelism/mission for them - it's your job to influence the people you know, not Billy Graham's. Second, it gets a lot of "Christian" voices off of the airwaves that really piss me off - Pat Robertson and Benny Hinn, to name a couple. Maybe even Rush Limbaugh, if we're lucky.

Third, if the word "God" is banned from the airwaves (and like I said, you can't do this, it's just not possible), but if it were, then guess what? Nobody could take God's title in vain on the airwaves! You'd think that this alone would convince the Christian Right to go for it, but I guess they're not really thinking of the legalistic implications (for once).

I think the most compelling reason to pass that bill, though, is the second one: getting the bad evangelists off of the air, getting rid of so-called "Christian" radio. I have a lot of reasons for this, and if you're in Christian radio and are reading this, I appologize in advance for offending you.

1) The word "Christian" is a noun, not an adjective. A "Christian" CD did not make a personal decision to follow Jesus ... you know, "my CD was baptized the other day, along with my saxophone and comforter. Half my things are Christian now!" A Christian is a follower of Christ, of Jesus, of "the Way" [John 14:5-6, Acts 19:23]; a Christian is a person.

Pat Robertson and Benny Hinn and their kind are often the worst examples of Christians. Though there are some obvious exceptions (like Billy Graham) who genuinely care about the people they're attempting to reach, the majority of (BOCTAOE) televangelists promote self-centered Christendom, "your best life now!" and "you can be healed tonight!" and the like, something I don't recall Jesus ever mentioning. And they're annoying.

3) Mission/evangelism or whatever you want to call it is best done one-on-one, or maybe, maybe in small groups (not the kind that most churches call "small groups," just non-large groups of people gathering together). Most people these days aren't much into televangelists, who, in reality, just "preach to the choir." In our postmodern/post-Christian/post-Christendom world, nobody cares what you think unless several criteria are met: a) you practice what you preach (personal integrity/authenticity), b)what you preach is relevant to a person's life (personal relevance), and c) the message is spoken in a way that person will understand (cultural relevance/individual language).
The best way to be a missionary is to be an example: helping the poor, being generous, not being judgemental, being encouraging, listening to others, and generally, living like Jesus did - it's basically an introduction to Jesus. Then maybe you'll get some credibility, and then maybe if the time is right, you can tell them about Jesus.
4) Televangelists ask for money all the time. Enough said.
5) We'd stop getting mass emails about it (though perhaps we'd start getting mass emails appealing the senate or the president or somebody else in power to pass a bill cancelling out the one that said we can't say "God" on the airwaves).
6) Christianity - as a religion or as a faith or however you define it - works best when it's being persecuted. When people realize that it involves sacrifice because they can SEE people who've had to pay a price, we stop seeing lukewarm converts.
If I'm wrong, then please, by all means leave me comments about it. If I'm right, by all means, leave me comments about it. I'd especially like to hear from those of you that may not consider yourselves "Christians;" what do you think of Christians?

May 12, 2006


In a recent interview, Brian McLaren said something about the DaVinci Code which I thought was phenomenal. I won't put the whole interview here, but here's my favorite quote:
Question: Many Christians are also reading this book and it’s rocking their preconceived notions - or lack of preconceived notions - about Christ’s life and the early years of the church. So many people don’t know how we got the canon, for example. Should this book be a clarion call to the church to say, “Hey, we need to have a body of believers who are much more literate in church history.” Is that something the church needs to be thinking about more strategically?

McLaren: Yes! You’re exactly right. One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history - it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn about church history. I think the disturbing would do them good. But a lot of times education is disturbing for people. And so if The Da Vinci Code causes people to ask questions and Christians have to dig deeper, that’s a great thing, a great opportunity for growth. And it does show a weakness in the church giving either no understanding of church history or a very stilted, one-sided, sugarcoated version.

On the other hand, it’s important for me to say I don’t think anyone can learn good church history from Brown. There’s been a lot of debunking of what he calls facts. But again, the guy’s writing fiction so nobody should be surprised about that. The sad thing is there’s an awful lot of us who claim to be telling objective truth and we actually have our own propaganda and our own versions of history as well.
Let me mention one other thing about Brown’s book that I think is appealing to people. The church goes through a pendulum swing at times from overemphasizing the deity of Christ to overemphasizing the humanity of Christ. So a book like Brown’s that overemphasizes the humanity of Christ can be a mirror to us saying that we might be underemphasizing the humanity of Christ.

May 10, 2006


I was reading a friend's blog yesterday and noticed an article about an article about Brian McLaren. Confusing, yes, but it's an even more confusing article. Confusing, and upsetting. In fact, I share his sentiments: "I really am a bit tired of this offensive pig-headed, lame brained nonsense."

I'm not much of aMcLaren fan, but the article pissed me off. When it comes down to it, McLaren's just another guy trying to find his way in the world, trying to figure out the truth of things, and while he can be a bit bull-headed about it (he tends to advocate swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, despite his declared intentions of finding middle ground), he's not trying to destroy or worse, mislead God's church, as the article seems to imply. He's entitled to his opinion, to his "binding and loosing" of scripture (Rob Bell's terminology).

As are the authors of the article and its comments. But just because someone has an opinion, it doesn't make them right. I could be wrong as I write, and so could McLaren, and so could *gasp* the authors of the article.

No. Freakin. Way.

It's true. And funny enough, that's something McLaren points out in most of his books - he's not entirely sure WHAT is true, aside from Jesus. If Jesus is THE truth, THE way, and THE life, then that means that Brian or Chris or anyone else is NOT. Which means we could be wrong. Which means that we have to take a certain humility in approaching what we say is truth; we could be wrong.

I love what Scott Adams has to say on this: he often enough will put the acronym "BOCTAOE" at the end of a sentence, which stands for "But Of Course There Are Obvious Exceptions." Mostly because he's not entirely sure that what he's just said is pure truth; it's his perspective.

We'd all do well to keep that in mind.

Our Albino Friends

I sometimes find myself musing over the things I miss about home. Mostly I love it here in Melbourne; the people are fantastic, the food is diverse and wonderful ... with endless possibilities ... and naturally, the atmosphere of the city itself.
But still, home is home, and some things just can't be replaced. Bagels, for example, are something very dear to my heart, and while I'm told that they do exist here, I've yet to find any. My favorite are cinnamon raisen with plain cream cheese.
I also miss doughnuts. But I'm told Krispe Kreme will be moving here at some point in the very near future.
The most noticeable difference that I've noticed is a distinct lack of squirrels. I went to the University of Rochester, which sometimes felt like it was populated by more squirrels than students. Seriously, they were everywhere, on the atheltics fields, on the walkways, jumping out of trash cans ... everywhere.
People even wrote songs about Squirrels. I remember one of the "Comedy Nights" at our church in Canandaigua, Troy and Jon (the two Canadians on staff) got up front under the label "the singing loons" and sang a song called, "Squirrel Squirrel":
Squirrel squirrel, how could you have known
That this day would be your last,
You should've worn your bebe-proof vest
Squirrel squirrel, how could you have known,
That this day you'd be pushing up grass ...
The song was about squirrel hunting, which apparently is a sport or something in Canada. Not in New York, though. I remember watching them in the backyard at my parents' house in Victor, trying to steal the seeds from the birdfeeder in the winter, or running around the trees during the summer. Squirrels were a natural part of life, as integral into my field of vision as my own hands.
Until now. I haven't seen a single squirrel in over a month and a half. It's weird, in a way. The only animal I see a lot of are these little birds that make one hell of a "caw." At least, I think it's those birds that make that noise.

May 7, 2006

Local News

This is an article that appeared in the local paper that we get every Sunday (click on it to make it bigger and read). I just thought the collective You might be interested in reading it.

May 6, 2006

Guitar Strings

I changed my guitar strings today. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is if you haven't changed your strings in ages. Worse, I’ve always been a sucker for a good metaphor, and an even bigger one for metaphors of my own – I like writing metaphors. Which means that as I do anything, I always look at it and wonder, “is God trying to teach me something here?” … at least I try to …

Anyway, I was changing my guitar strings and my wife was oohing and ahhing over the new, shiny strings that I was putting on, and “oh my”ing to the strings I was pulling off. And it struck me that my guitar strings are a lot like life, or maybe the church. Maybe both, we’ll see.

Ok, I know, they’re just guitar strings, but I’m constantly amazed that God’s built so much of Himself into the world around us – you can look almost anywhere and see some part of Him staring back at you just waiting to be seen.

Guitar strings have a life just like people do. They start out nice and shiny, all nicely wrapped in their little paper sheaths and in a nice purple box (I use “elixir” strings). I take them out, shove them into the little holes at the end of my guitar, string them up, and then cut the ends off the strings at their tip so they don’t hang over and poke people.

I could make a circumcision joke here, but I’ll just keep going …

When you’re stringing a guitar, you have to be careful that you don’t break your strings. Liz commented that they look like you could never break them, all strong and shiny, but I think that looks are often deceiving – put a string under just enough tension, and it’ll snap like … something that snaps easily. A twig maybe.

As you get each string on the guitar, then, you have to make sure that you increase the tension gradually, flexing each string and then easing off the pressure to stretch them out. Like flexing muscles, you have to work them into shape.

For the first few days after getting new strings, my guitar will constantly go out of tune. I could get all frustrated with this, but I know that they’re just guitar strings and they’re still getting used to being a part of my guitar. So instead of freaking out, I just re-tune and everything keeps going fine.

After a while though, and this varies, all of my strings will start to age. There’s a certain point-of-no-return, where every string is just a piece of junk, too old to be of any use. It’s got lots of decrepit black marks on it from use, and other parts of the strings are still shiny, because I’m not a good enough guitar player yet to use the high frets (I assume that really good guitar players throw out black guitar strings every time). It’s just before they get too old, though, that they sound the best; soft, flexible, and with a tone that sings.

Do I explain the metaphor, or should I just leave it out there for you to toy with? I think I’ll leave it for now.


I know, I know. People keep asking me questions, and I don’t answer them. The latest batch seems to be the same as the one before it: what in the world are you DOING in Australia? Not, “”what sort of church are you planting,” or “who have you met,” but “what are you doing? What are you actually physically doing each day?”

To be honest, I’ve spent the last six weeks with Liz trying to set up our life here, from finding an apartment to meeting the church planting team and getting to know them, and buying a bike (and a lock to go with it) so I can go buy groceries without spending too much money on tram tickets or wasting lots of time walking to and from the store.

“But what do you DO each day?”

Problem: it’s never the same. We have yet to develop any kind of routine that makes any kind of sense. When we need to buy groceries, we do. When someone says “hey, let’s go grab dinner in the city” (usually Sally), we do; it’s a great way to learn about the culture. It’s a funny thing, moving into a new country. Their customs are entirely different, but they have enough of that ‘vaguely familiar’ quality to them that it seems like I should already know what I’m doing.

And so I thought maybe this post I’d teach you some of the Australian that I’ve learned.

Australian is a fun language, but confusing for Americans. The number of times Liz or I have SMSed Sally or Ruth or Colin and asked them how to do ___ are too high to count at this point (sms = text message from a mobile [cell] phone. Text messages are the cheapest way to communicate here; you don’t pay to receive a call or sms on your mobile phone the way you do in America).

For example: do not say “napkin” in a restaurant. Ask for a serviette. A napkin is very close to “nappie,” which is Australian for “diaper,” the little tuft of cloth you wrap around your child’s butt to keep the poo inside; you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with what they might give you.

Or another example, when someone says “ta,” they’re saying “thank you.” It took me a while to learn this, because I thought maybe they kept starting to say something and then forgetting what it was. Brilliant bloke that I am though (bloke: Australian slang for “guy,” a term that is consequently endearing and mocking), I caught on that it might be language, not gibberish. So I asked Ruth (who uses it constantly), who explained that they use both: “ta” and “thank you” are interchangeable.

This brings me to lesson #3ish: Aussies (Aussie: Australian for an Australian) generally shorten everything. Their slang is almost entirely made of five-letter (or less) words, meant to make everything very quick to say so they can move on and go DO something. Incidentally, after you thank them, they’ll usually respond with “s’all right,” which is Australian for “you’re welcome.” They’re pretty modest here.

One last one: “g’day mate, how ya goin’?” is classic Australian, but there’s more to it than “hi.” It’d be like an American saying “hey Chris, buddy ol’ pal, how are you?!” It’s a greeting of friends. I love it – every time I hear it now, I feel a warm fuzzy, because it means that I must be doing something right (and I’ll confirm that feeling each time they start ribbing me about something – if they mock you, it means they like you).

A word of caution: don’t go and try to use any of the Australian that I just taught you, especially with any actual Australians. While it’s a compliment for them to try and imitate an American accent (it’s a sort of mocking, see above), you sound ridiculous if you try. So just … don’t.

In other news, I miss bagels.

And I noticed one other question that I missed: I have yet to notice any ladybugs here, but I have noticed an excess of parakeets and small black beetles.

May 1, 2006

Kodak Moments

I've posted pictures on my other blog. It's a lot of effort to put them up on two blogs, and some people don't read the other one because they don't know it's there. They're mostly the same, but sometimes I put up pictures. So now you can see the pictures if you didn't know about the other blog.