Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Playing In The Snow

The snow that fell last night was of the large-flake variety. Soft and fluffy and falling gently. It's so much when there is no wind.

Before the sun this morning I was pushing the snow off the driveway. Watching it build up in front of my show shovel as I went, very much like the snow that I experienced countless times growing up in Canada. It was nostalgic and strangely comforting.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

They Are Watching You

A number of years ago some of our kids purchased a black box that sat atop their game system. It was connected to the internet and had a camera built in. And it did magical things. Like watching for your movements and translating them into commands. You could actually wave at it and when you placed your hand on a menu item, it would be activated. And you could play tennis by standing there and swinging your arm to hit the ball on the screen. Or walk somewhere. Or run on the screen by running in place right where you were. All pretty amazing actually.

At that point I began to tell my family that somebody was watching them. I said that there was somebody in a different country that could watch what was happening right there in our TV room whenever they wanted to. And they could listen to our conversations if they chose to. When they eventually got rid of that black box, I said that there was a camera hidden somewhere in our television and all the same stuff was possible. And they all laughed at me and said I was nuts.

Well maybe not.

Several recent articles have revealed some pretty interesting things. Here are a few excerpts from the links below.

From Samsung: "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition."

Or this. "...there shouldn't be too much cause for concern when it comes to voice recognition services right now."

Did you see that? So I shouldn't be concerned right now. Perhaps later, then? Well, how much later??

"Google fans can use Google Now's voice recognition to get information on nearby restaurants, movie times, flight arrivals and a ton more. But the company stores voice requests as a part of an effort to make the platform better."

And there is now even a thermostat that listens to you: It "..appears to take "listening" a step further by offering up details about your habits to brands that might want to later target you with ads."

In the second link below, there is this one: "I understand and agree that Voice Information may be transferred to, and used by, third party service providers on LGE's behalf in various countries around the world, some of which might not offer the same level of data protection, for the purposes set out in the Privacy Policy."

While I have to assume that these companies are actually not eavesdropping or invading my privacy, it is just a little disconcerting that the capability is really there that would enable them to do so if they chose.

Here are the links I referred to above.



Monday, February 09, 2015

The Christmas Program

It was something over thirty years ago. I'm still not sure how I ended up sitting there that particular snowy evening. I didn't know anybody. It was about a half hour away and I had never been there before and haven't been since.

My seat was next to a wooden pillar, one of several supporting the little balcony. The seat was comfortable and my view of the stage was unobstructed except for a few bobbing heads straining to get a better view.

It was all very simple, really. No technical wizardry. No theater lighting. No pit orchestra. Just simple homemade costumes and a room full of warmth.

It was the Christmas program in a small country church. While from a technical excellence perspective it was pretty much a disaster, it clearly wasn't about all that. What mattered here was a bunch of kids singing their hearts out and a packed house of parents and grandparents full of excitement and love. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Pops Concert

This afternoon we attended a Pops Concert put on by the Berks Youth Chorus, with music featuring "the best from late night radio jazz sessions to early morning Broadway broadcasts." BYC is a choral group that Chris was a part of and now where Jesse and Nicole are getting excellent musical training as well. Most times they dress up in formal attire, but this time it was jeans and color. And a lot of fun to watch.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Some Day

Some days I start up the aviation GPS app and watch as the little airplane on the screen follows my progress along the highway. Some day I will again be in the pilot's seat and watch the little airplane take me to an airport. That will be a happy day.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


That is a big idea. Huge. No way to do justice to the concept of thankfulness here. But what I can say is that I am ultimately grateful for my best friend. She is an amazing conglomeration of student of God's Word, nature lover, humorous, has a contagious laugh, keen insight, understanding, efficiency, leadership, event planner, multi-tasker, friend, creativity, gardener, motivator, includer, dreamer, listener, counselor, practical, team player, encourager, cook, musician, educator, supporter, companion, and wife.

It is an honor to go through life with this amazing woman and, as the years go by, watch her become even more herself and all that God has intended for her to be.    

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


There is a tension I have come to live with. One one hand I am a proponent of the concept of letting those who are good at what they do, do it. So if you need the car repaired, let the mechanic do it. If the roof needs fixed or plumbing needs to be done, call the professionals. On the other hand, my natural inclination is to try to figure out how to do it myself, which I often do.

However there are some things that, without any doubt, are best left to knowledgeable professionals. One of those things is insurance. And I have to give kudos to Tom Davenport at Blue Marsh Insurance. He is brilliant. He is focused. He understands the many options out there and has the ability to explain things in a very non-intimidating way. Then he can help filter it all to create a solution.

I am also a firm believer that when a good experienced is had, it is something we ought to be letting others know about it. Which I just did.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Cruel Joke

I am convinced that those push-to-walk buttons are there just to make us feel like we actually have a bit of control, or keep us occupied while waiting at the corner. They are not really connected to anything. It is a false hope. A placebo of sorts perhaps? If the signal does actually change when you push the button it was just a happy coincidence -- the light was about to change anyhow.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

How It Used To Be

It used to be that we waited for the actual Super Bowl game to watch the Super Bowl Ads. Now they are available to see with a few clicks days or weeks before the game.

It used to be that there was a Black Friday Sale, on Friday. Now there is a Pre Black Friday Week and a Post Black Friday Week Sale. Same with Cyber Monday. And any other days named to generate a shopping frenzy. And people are actually stampeding and trampling on others and shooting them just so they can be the first to buy stuff.

It used to be that stores would have Christmas music and displays as Christmas approached. Now they are starting to put up the Christmas displays before Thanksgiving. And Valentine displays before the carols have died away.

All of this is laser focused on enticing us to spend money. It doesn't consider our particular economic situation or how it might affect our budget. It is designed to elevate our wants to a perceived level of need -- to create a culture of desire,

What if an equal amount of focus and money was invested in creating a massive cultural shift, to that of giving? Not the kind of giving that is just supporting a fundraiser, the local radio station, or even giving gifts at Christmas.

What if the corporations that spent that much money for a 30-second commercial in the big football game would invest an equal amount in initiatives that fostered a spread of goodwill, volunteerism, and giving? What if that much creativity was applied to helping those less fortunate than us or supporting the efforts to end the massive problem of human trafficking?

Has there ever existed an example of a person who gave selflessly, endlessly, who might set an example for us to follow? I believe there is. Jesus.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Community comes in a variety of forms. Today we experienced a slice of community that doesn't happen often. It was at a wedding and many of the guests were friends that we haven't seen in a long time. People that in times past we have spent considerable time with but whose life paths have diverged from ours.

In this kind of situation, I can be quite content with one or two solid conversations and today was good to me in that regard. It was encouraging to hear, in some detail, the story of a business start-up and share in both the challenging times as well as times of victory and growth.

I believe that at the core of every successful venture is a solid community of friends and a strong support structure. I experienced that again today and am grateful.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Many Thoughts

Today many thoughts are tumbling about but not allowing the luxury of being organized into any coherent presentation. So they shall remain for the moment. Perhaps they fear the commitment of permanency, unable to cope with the vulnerability of reality. At any event, their refusal to cooperate is our loss.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Baggage of Life

Not a single one of us is exempt from carrying some form of emotional baggage. It's simply the result of living on this planet earth with other humans as flawed as we are. It affects us throughout our whole lives and may work its way to the surface in any number of ways. At the moment, however, I am thinking primarily of the experiences we had in the formative years and the environment in which we grew up.

As parents we are not so naive to assume that our kids will walk away from our care with no baggage of their own. And we also believe that a very important aspect of our parenting effort is conducting ourselves and our home life in such a way as to minimize that baggage.

While there are many areas in which I don't measure up or do what should be done, today, in a frank conversation, I became aware of a pretty significant shortfall.

With God's help there will be a change.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Artistic Patience

I have great admiration for artists who have the patience and persistence to create things that are very detailed and require many hours to complete.

Think of a sculpted figure and all the chisel strokes or the detailed pencil sketch with thousands of shading nuances. Or any other dimensional piece of art that was created by careful attention to each stroke of the brush or knife. Or a magnificent piece of music that skewers the soul, inscribed note by note and harmony by harmony.

I hope some day to have the patience and focus to do something like that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Long Winded Answers

It started with a simple question about what needed repaired on our car.

"The timing belt. Do you know what that is? Would you like to know? Because it will take the entire trip to where you are babysitting tonight."

What followed the affirmative answer was a discussion of cylinders and pistons, spark plugs, intake and exhaust valves, air-gas mixture, compression, combustion, connecting rod, power stroke, and finally an intro into how the timing belt fits that scene. I described the power of the piston being connected to bike pedals and exerting the power to propel the bike. Always trying for word pictures that will convey the concept in a way I hope it can be understood.

The timing belt discussion happened as we were pulling into the driveway and she said, "Daddy, I know what you just said was the most important part, but I didn't get it and I gotta go now." With that she opened the door and escaped.

If one is to gain a good understanding of something, they will benefit from being aware of the context and back story, and then a detailed explanation. Well, that's my theory, at least, when answering questions posed by my family. Questions about pretty much anything are handled the same way if the questioner is willing.

They have caught on and sometimes I can see the rolling eyes. Or the question might be followed up with, "Just answer yes or no please."

Is that ok with me too?


Monday, January 26, 2015

Alternative Energy

It's just another thing I am actively interested in learning about and doing. Alternative power sources. Wind generated power. Solar power.

I already have a DC motor that might work, so I think a wind generator will be the first avenue to pursue. I have seen a great web site with a pretty detailed discussion about the process as well as instructions.

When I was growing up in Canada, wind generated power was our everyday source. A tall tree, cleared of branches, with the generator mounted at the top charged a bank of 1.5VDC glass batteries. That 12VDC was then converted with a power inverter to create 110VAC to power our home. No wind. No power.

This won't be happening next week -- it's long-term planning. But I really do want to do it!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Live True

When you meet somebody and they say, "My friend was telling me about you," the typical response is, "I hope it was good."

Let's live our lives in such a way that our response can be, "I hope it was true."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Status Quo

Sometimes I'm asked, in a casual greeting, "How's it going?" or "What's new?"

As a culture we have conditioned ourselves to believe that there should always be something new and exciting happening in our lives. I believe that, way down deep, we tend to think it is somehow a lesser or inferior response to admit that things are pretty much status quo.

However I am psyched when I can respond that things are as they have been.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Painful Contrast

My home town of Red Lake, Ontario, was the scene of a gold rush in the 1920's. When I was growing up, it was my understanding that that area contained the second richest gold deposits -- second only to South Africa. And the price of gold was about $35-$40/ounce.

In recent years more gold has been discovered and the area again was the scene of a gold rush. Only now the deposits are even more numerous and richer. And the price of gold today is about $1600/ounce (CAD). The 2011 video linked below shows an image of several gold bricks valued at over a million dollars each!

CBC Video 2008 / CBC Video 2011

Contrast that with a scene of unspeakable tragedy. Only a mere 55 miles north of Red Lake is a community called Pikangikum. According to an article by Maclean's Magazine, it has the terrible distinction of being the suicide capital of the world! It is where I spent the first decade plus a few years of my life, with parents who were missionaries in that community. Some years I was the only white kid in the entire school. It was a beautiful community with amazing people who were industrious, creative, and lived off the land. It is a land of enormous sky, open blue lakes or snow many feet deep, amazing sunsets, world class hunting and fishing, and millions of mosquitoes.

However, these days there is such a spirit of hopelessness. Just today we received news of yet two more suicides. One was a young man and the other pregnant young woman, only 22 years old. These are days of extreme sadness and desperation.

Please pray for change. Please pray for peace. Please pray for light to penetrate the darkness.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

To Dream

It is a good thing to dream. Dreaming helps keep the creative juices flowing. It gives energy. It can help one rise above present circumstances, which can be helpful if things are difficult. It can bring balance and perspective. Dreaming is invigorating and can bring about new things. And I hate it when feel that I don't have the capacity to dream anymore. 

But in reality, do I ever really stop dreaming? I think not. 

There are times that circumstances and life and obligations and pressures and reality staring you in the face make it almost impossible to even conceive of dreaming at all. Surviving the next moment is all that matters. All the energy is sucked right out of you. 

So at those points dreaming must put on a different face. It is forced to happen at a different scale. There is no margin. No space for big dreams at all. In those times, it all may be reduced to dreaming of simply putting the next foot forward, or making it through the day.

I have experienced those times. And the other times. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Tonight I am feeling tired and I think it is time to go to bed earlier than usual. I have recently been reading about lack of sleep and how it adversely affects the cognitive processes. In fact, one article I read suggested that getting four hours of sleep can have an effect on judgement and and responses similar to that caused by drinking a couple of beers.

I am now convinced that generally I am not getting enough sleep.

Must change that.

Starting now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fun New Coffee

Pretty much my entire day is about some facet of coffee. So I think about it a lot and will no doubt write about it more often.

Once in a while a new thing happens that is a great deal of fun. That happened last week. It traces back to a few years ago when we started brewing our own blend of cold brewed coffee. As it turns out, we ended up a pretty awesome product that has been well received by our friends. Then I began to see photos of some of the larger coffee roasters serving their cold brew "on nitro" and it looked very cool and I wanted to do it as well.

It finally came together last week and we are thrilled with the result. It is a system of infusing nitrogen into the cold brew and serving it with a faucet that causes it to have a soft and creamy feel and a very delicious taste! So far the samples we have given out have produced some very convincing responses and an excited group of "cold brew on nitro" fans.

It will soon be officially available in our coffee gazebo.

Twin Valley Coffee

Monday, January 19, 2015


Between conversations inside these four walls today and the following tweet, I have been granted renewed perspective.

"Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness--lazy thinking and indiscriminate action."
  -- Tim Ferriss

Sunday, January 18, 2015


It's something I have been pondering about for a few months and am finally going to do something about. That is, the world of fermenting vegetables. I am reading more about it and plan on starting with a batch of sauerkraut this week.

Apparently there are health benefits to eating fermented foods. Probiotics and the like. I will be sure to provide an update at some point in the process.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Concert to Remember

A mere photo simply cannot do justice to an awesome experience last evening. Thank you Chris and Brendan and friends for providing a memory that I will treasure!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Music You Will Enjoy

As a parent of six amazing kids, it has been fascinating to watch the unique personalities, interests, talents, and skill sets, develop. Each child is completely unique and they are all different from one another. How cool is that?

One of the benefits of all the different interests is that we get to experience a wide variety of things, and the next event is tomorrow evening. We will be enjoying an evening of great music performed by Christopher, who, along with Brendan Burke and eight additional musicians, will be performing mostly originals.

At some point in the past I have heard most of these musician play or sing and they are all very talented. I have also overheard snippets of arranging sessions and, laying aside all biases, it will be an evening of really good and fun music.

You should be there.

More Info / Purchase Tickets

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The First Grandchild

Many people have described how wonderful it was when grandchildren came along. I believed them and expected it would be pretty cool, and that I would enjoy it.

But I was completely unprepared for this experience! Baby Theo has captured my heart. I am gone over this kid. Robyn & RJ are doing an awesome job of parenting. Lynne sets a new standard for grandmothering. The rest of the family completely adores him. I am so grateful for each opportunity to spend time with this young man.

I had no idea.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Creative vs. Entrepreneur

Some random pondering about how different people function...

An entrepreneur necessarily exercises a great deal of creativity in making plans and finding solutions to accomplish the task at hand or achieve a desired result.

However it does not automatically follow that a creative person is going to be entrepreneurial as well. In fact many times creative types are quite inept at things the entrepreneur finds to be second nature.

A natural part of the problem solving or creative process is that we seek the path of least resistance to accomplish tasks leading us toward the goal. That is part of what problem solving is all about, finding a better, easier way to get stuff done.

So how can we learn to recognize that we don't have a particular skill set (and the wisdom to admit it and find ways to fill the gap) that might be required to bring any particular pursuit to its best result?

Monday, January 12, 2015

We Are Willing

Tonight I am sitting after hours in an empty cafe on the ground floor of an old factory that has been repurposed into a world-class multi-discplinary arts facility. Within six floors it houses dozens of painting, sculpting and mixed- media studios, and a variety of galleries, woodworking, ceramics and pottery, glass blowing, dance studios along with a small theater.

I am waiting for our two youngest children, who are in a weekly two-hour rehearsal for the Berks Youth Chorus, which I sometimes describe as Berks County's answer to the Vienna Boy's Choir. We have been doing this for about 15 years, since our oldest son began his formal musical training here in the fourth grade. Over the years there have been a number of great opportunities, including singing with Elisabeth von Trapp, a variety of orchestras, an opera, and more recently singing with the Canadian Brass in a Christmas Event.

All good natured grumbling aside, as parents we are generally pretty willing to put out a lot of time and energy to give our kids opportunities to experience things. Things we believe will teach them discipline and a variety of skills, help them be better people, and enrich those they touch throughout life. These things usually involve athletic disciplines, individual or team sports, or the creative arts, such as music, art, dance, and theater.

I know there are always exceptions, such as the parent who is vicariously redeeming something that they wanted to accomplish years ago, but didn't. Most times those situations put undue pressure on the kids to perform beyond their ability or be something they are not naturally inclined to be. I find this misdirected focus to be a sad waste of energy. And, unfortunately, it can cause lifelong scars and ruin many great opportunities.  

However, if we are observant and sensitive with the little ones entrusted to our care, we will have an understanding of their natural, God-given inclinations and invest ourselves in helping them develop and mature skills in those areas. One may have amazing hand/eye coordination as an artist. Another may have amazing hand/eye coordination to hit a little white ball with a bat. Yet another may have skills to thrill us with dance or music. Or we might benefit from keen insights and understanding of a contemplative type. In each case we will find ourselves helping and encouraging them to be all they can be.

While our motivation may be only for good, sometimes we might also find ourselves going to ridiculous lengths and expense to facilitate these opportunities. It can be a slippery slope and all too easy to operate at a stress-inducing pace with no margin. 

As much as we are willing, let us also be careful to find a healthy balance.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

This Is Really Happening

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

This is really happening. To 30 million people. It is a huge issue and deserves our increased awareness and prayers at the very least. It is a global problem and a local problem and it touches us in ways we aren't even aware of.

There are many groups and organizations working hard to combat the problem, such as Not For Sale (www.notforsalecampaign.org) with efforts around the world. At the very local level you can find many groups, such as FREE (www.freefromht.org). Other folks are opening restoration homes for rescued victims (www.northstarinitiative.org). These are just some of the people involved at the front lines of this battle.

What is Human Trafficking? Here is an excellent overview: http://notforsalecampaign.org/human-trafficking

This is really happening!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Very Cold Very Warm Wedding

The wedding was this afternoon, a very cold day in the middle of January. It was windy even in the clearing in the woods and the thermometer showed just a few degrees above zero. As we waited for the ceremony to begin we huddled in small groups around numerous miniature bonfires and caught up with friends we hadn't seen in too long. And perhaps met new ones. There were hugs and smiles. Laughter and conversations.

As the shadows lengthened the groom and his groomsmen arrived. The groom was there but his entire focus was fixed on a distant point down the path. Eager and anticipating. Before long he slowly shook his head in amazement and wonder as his bride appeared. On the arm of her father she came walking down the path and up the snow covered aisle. There was no need for the audience to rise as the bride appeared. It was a standing room only event.

The warmth of their love and the support of friends definitely transcended any chill. Words of wisdom were spoken, handwritten vows were shared, and rings exchanged. And then Mr. & Mrs. Eric Weaver were introduced to the world!

So grateful for the honor of sharing in this experience.

Friday, January 09, 2015


I have read many great novels over the years.

Great writing will take you places you may never go. And help you experience things that otherwise would probably never be reality in your life. I have had some fantastic adventures.

However, too much time has passed since I have read a great novel. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

I love coffee!

I love everything about coffee. Twin Valley Coffee specifically. Roasting. Brewing. The aroma. Caffeine. Tweaking the roast. Espresso. Latte art (I'm getting better at that). Cold brew. Designing new drinks. New blends. Fundraisers. Seeing people enjoying Twin Valley Coffee for the first time, and never looking back.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

It's Cold Out There!

"But when I was a kid growing up in Canada..."

You think this is a cold day?? Today in my home town it is -18F with a windchill of -41F! There were many days that we walked to school at -40F. I have seen the thermometer displaying -67F.

The severe cold of winter holds many great memories.

When I was in high school there was a group of us who would do a two-day out and back snowmobile trip on New Years Day. One year it was -40F the day we started. Every 10 miles we would stop and wait for the group to catch up, and have a cup of hot tea from the stainless steel thermos packed in our bags. On less severe days, one could expect to warm up a bit during the break. Not that day.

Some of the most incredible displays of Northern Lights were visible during the cold winter months. They might be shimmering ribbons of green, a dome of exploding colors or perhaps a cosmic game of tag. Sometimes there are no words.

This morning before the sun, each breath visible and the crunching of my footsteps as I delivered hot coffee to the coffee gazebo brought a rush of familiarity. My mind wandered to walks through the still woods and pine trees standing tall under the weight of freshly fallen snow, or of walking to school in the early dawn with a column of smoke rising from each house straight into the haze.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

It Begins Now

So the challenge is to write something every day for a year! I accept. This happens to come at a time of severe introspection. Brutal honesty. Motivation. Optimism. Just doing instead of setting lofty goals.

My natural inclination is to think the thoughts but not commit them to writing. Hopefully this discipline will significantly change that.