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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Great food (Part 2)...

We recently had the opportunity to dine with some dear friends that are moving out of state. The restaurant of choice this time was Campagnia in NE Fresno.

Campagnia was recently awarded the title of "Best Fine Dining" restaurant by the California Restaurant Association, as well as the Best New Restaurant for 2002. They offer an eclectic menu of fantastic California cuisine prepared by award-winning Chef Floro Bugnosen. Chef Bugnosen was nominated as chef of the year in 2003 by the CRA.

Our dinner was outstanding. Between us we had the angel hair pasta with rock shrimp, fresh tomato, asparagus, and crisp applewood bacon in a light pesto sauce, sauteed salmon with gingered mango relish, stir fried baby bok choy, coconut steamed rice, and lemon grass butter sauce, a 16 oz. Angus ribeye steak with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, blue lake beans, porcini mushroom sauce, and gorgonzola-horseradish butter, and finally, crab cakes with spicy red cabbage slaw, fire roasted pepper coulis, and caper-dill remoulade (I had this appetizer with a delicious bowl of clam chowder for my dinner).

Their fresh bread with olive oil-balsamic-herbed dipping sauce is fantastic. Our friends also brought a bottle of 2002 Fait Accompli wine from Westbrook Farms in Madera. If you like a red, get a bottle of this wine.

Expect to spend about $60-$75 for dinner, dessert, and wine.

All in all this was a wonderful dining experience. The service was outstanding. The food was great. The setting was superb. If you get a chance, make some time to get to Campagnia.

Funny stuff...

In my next life, I want to be one of those guys who writes funny commercial or copy. This one I found recently is hilarious. Take a minute to watch "Can't Over Love."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Minutes and moments...

Take a minute to read a couple of great articles from Randy Elrod at Ethos, here and here. I think his insight about capturing those minutes and creating moments is fantastic. I also like what he had to say about trying to make moments last forever: don't do it. It takes the meaning from the moment. Thanks for the great insights, Randy.

I just noticed that This Guy Falls Down commented on Randy's articles. Check out his comments here. Thanks, Mark.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Cool fonts/artwork...

I have to admit it... I am a font guy. I really believe there is just the right font for every occasion. Wrong fonts drive me nuts. Over-use of fonts drives me nuts. It's a personal problem. I need professional help!

To add to my condition, The Monotype Foundation, a new non-profit dedicated to the worldwide advancement of the typograhic arts, is offering font fanatics the opportunity to own a piece of typographic history.

The first in a series of limited-edition packages is the Gill Sans Bold Extra Condensed typeface. The print is a replica of the original, drawn in 1937. The reproduction shows not only the characters of the font but also Gill'’s corrections, pencil titling and initials. No further reproductions of this typeface will be made.

The print measures 18 x 24 inches. The giclee digital fine art printing process was used to produce each piece on archival quality matte paper.

Each print is packaged with two companion pieces -– a commentary about the Gill typeface by designer Michael Harvey, and an article about the Gill Sans typeface. Written by Sebastian Carter, the article first appeared in the Monotype Recorder in 1990. The package also includes a certificate of authenticity for the hand-numbered Gill Sans Bold Extra Condensed print.

Each limited edition package will be available for $200 plus shipping and handling.

Very cool font and a great peice of art for the office wall.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Going from Burned Out to Fired Up...

We will all probably face burnout at some time in our lives. Most of us struggle with balance. Burnout is typically caused by an imbalance in one of three basic areas - mind, body, or spirit - or a combination of them. You stand a better chance of addressing your particular issues if you take the time to analyze why you're feeling a loss of passion and enthusiasm.

While there are no sure-fire answers or guaranteed solutions to burnout, there are a number of things you can do to help you break the cycle of feeling "disconnected." The strategies below can help you get "unstuck" when the problem isn't of drastic proportions, such as clinical depression or a serious chemical imbalance.

  1. Learn in a group: Sign up for a class in... well, anything. The creative mind needs the stimulation that comes from new experiences. The topic doesn't matter as much as stretching your mind does.
  2. Learn one-on-one: Pick people you admire, invite them to lunch, and ask about their life experiences. It's amazing what can come out of a candid conversation. Similarly, hiring a life coach might provide just the perspective you need.
  3. Teach: Teaching is an energizing activity. Sharing your knowledge can often be as rewarding for you as it is for others.

  1. Embark on a physical challenge: You don't have to go to the extreme of running a marathon to reap the benefits of setting and achieving a physical goal. Take a class in a new sport or join a team or league to get up and moving.
  2. Change how you eat: Pick a healthy way to eat and stick with it for two weeks. Two weeks without sugar or caffeine might convince you to look at nutrition differently. And whatever changes you make, drink more water; many people who suffer from fatigue are simply dehydrated.
  3. Get "in touch": Trying one of the high-touch healing arts may bring surprising results. There is a mind/body connection, and it is often activated by the touch of a human hand.
  4. Consult an expert: Seek the advice of professionals who help others perform at their physical best: nutritionists, personal trainers, etc. While you're at it, pay a visit to your doctor for a full physical.

  1. Volunteer: Putting yourself outside yourself is a tremendous way to gain insight. Discover the inspiring value that emerges from giving back to the community.
  2. Find a support group: Contact a counseling center or a local church and describe the kind of group you are looking for. Be open minded. For example, even though you may not have a problem with addiction, many groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous welcome interested people to their meetings.
  3. Examine your faith: Too often our faith can take a back seat to the pressures of job and family. A small imbalance in this area can easily snowball and require greater time to correct. Take (and make) time to reconnect with your faith.

Regardless of where you feel the imbalance, it's generally true that these problems don't go away on their own. There is truth in the saying, "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you've got." The key is to modify our current attitudes and behaviors.

Here are some great resources:

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
The Book on Mind Management
The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity
Unstuck: A Tool for Yourself, Your Team, and Your World

Adapted from "Light Your Fire... or 'You're Fired'?" by Sheree Clark in the June/July 2005 edition of Dynamic Graphics

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Church leadership thoughts...

I came across some links to a few great articles on newworship blog. Thanks, Troy, for finding these...

A couple of great articles on bad church signs, here and here as well as Troy's thoughts here.

Another great article on "Ten Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Just sitting on the porch...

Tonight I am on vacation. I am at my sister's cabin up at Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is 7:45 p.m. The weather is perfect (78 degrees). The water was perfect today. My oldest got up on his skis on the second attempt. This is what vacation is all about. I'm not trying to brag, I'm just telling you how it is.

Right now I am out on the deck overlooking the lake watching my son ski again. It is a proud papa moment. Between skiing and wiping out and getting back up again, I am checking some of my favorite blogs.

I came across this great questionnaire over at With Reckless Abandon. Thought I'd give you all a little insight into me. Send my your answers!

1. What is your occupation

2. What are you listening to right now?
The sound of boats and the waves lapping against the shore.

3. What was the last thing you ate?
Thick hamburger (no bun), Mexican grilled corn-on-the-cob (it's the best, e-mail me for the recipe), fresh salad greens, grilled asparagus, MGD.

4. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Fire engine red.

5. How is the weather right now?
Perfect - 78 degrees, some clouds, sunset.

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
My mom.

7. How old are you today?

8. Favorite drink?
.Ice water, Diet Coke, Mango Margarita.

9. Favorite sport to watch?
College football.

10. Have you ever dyed your hair?
I had a terrible Sun-In experience; it wasn't so much dye as much as it was a horrible peroxide choice.

11. Do you wear contacts?

12. Favorite month?

13. Favorite food?
Steak, pizza, most things Mexican.

14. What was the last movie you watched?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (awesome, as good as the 70's version, only different). See my comments here.

15. Favorite day of the year?
Thanksgiving or Christmas.

16. What do you do to vent anger?
Vent to one of two select friends.

17. What was your favorite toy as a child?
Evel Kenievel Stunt Bike or Slot-Car Race Track.

18. Fall or Spring?

19. Hugs or kisses?
Yes, please.

20. Cherry or Blueberry?

21. Do you want your friends to email you back?

22. Who is most likely to respond?
Only those who are true to me.

23. Who is least likely to respond?
Those closest (and truest) to me.

24. When was the last time you cried?
July 15 while watching Ladder 49.

25. What is on the floor of your closet?

26. Who is the friend you have had the longest?
Ron Regas.

27. What did you do last night?
Got ready for vacation, detailed the truck.

28. Favorite smell?
Hawaiian Tropic coconut-scented suntan lotion - smells like summer to me.

29. What inspires you?
Music, nature, movies, books.

30. What are you afraid of?
Dying without having made a difference.

31. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers?

32. Favorite car?
Actually owned: My 2004 Ford F-150; Dream-car: Cobra Mustang or Dodge Viper.

33. Favorite dog breed?
Labrador Retriever or Weimaraner.

34. Number of keys on your key ring?
Depends on which ring; Car: 1; House: 6; Work 1: 12; Work 2: 16.

35. How many years at your current job?
5 1/2.

36. What is your favorite day of the week?
Sunday (show-time) and Friday (day off).

37. How many states have you lived in?

38. How many cities have you lived in?

Your turn. Let's hear your answers!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Great food...

My wife and I have had the opportunity during the past couple of months to go to dinner with a young couple that we really care for. I have been remiss in not reviewing our dinners, since I love a good restaurant and am always on the lookout for a review myself.

The first place we went was Vini Vidi Vici in the Tower District of Fresno, CA. The ambiance is romantic, eclectic, and funky all at the same time. FresenoHub.com says,
The first thing that will strike you about this Fresno restaurant are the large 15-foot doors. These door are made for giants! Inside, you will find exposed red brick walls contrasted with metallic decor. Great Californian fine dining cuisine andambianceu should have a good fine dining experience here. Reservations are recommended.

The food was excellent, starting with the bread, made fresh at the restaurant. I had the chop with a juniper berry sauce on a bed of vegetable slaw. It was a 10. Others at the table had the steak (good, but not incredible, a 7), and the Ahi (also a 10). The pear salad was fantastic, and the desserts we shared -peach cobbler, chocolate cake, and lavender ice cream - all were definite gets. Also of note was the wine, a Petite Shirah from Vinum Cellars (see the review here).

Salad, entree, dessert, and wine will run you about $50 per person, but it is well worth it. When you come to Fresno (or if you live here). Go. See. Conquer.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Worth a read...

I was over at Ethos today and read a great article. It was from Ben Stein, economics professor, author, Nixon speech writer and lawyer, actor (who can forget Ferris Bueller's Day Off?) and game show host (Win Ben Stein's Money).

For some years, Stein has written a bi-weekly column called "Monday Night at Morton's," in which he talks about conversations and observations he has and makes of the rich and famous that frequent Morton's Steakhouse.

In his final column, Mr. Stein makes some great observations and poignant comments. Of them, my favorite is: "Faith is not believing that God can> It is knowing that God will."

Please take a minute to read Ben's column. Thanks to Ethos for posting it.

Read entire column here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This is not meant to be a spoiler. I went and saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this week. I was skeptical. I grew up on the Gene Wilder version. I loved the his singing, his feigned insanity, and his singing. My only disappointment later was that the movie did not capture the Roald Dahl-ness of the book.

Dahl wrote some wonderful children's books. He also wrote some very scary books. And that scary edge seems always to be there - even in his children's literature (check out James and the Giant Peach - yikes!).

Who better to direct a Dahl story than Tim Burton. I think Burton and Johnny Depp did a great job catching the real insanity of Willie Wonka. He was at times wonderful and weird and creepy. I loved it. I felt unsettled by WW. It was perfect.

Overall I loved the music. My only disappointment was the score. Don't get me wrong... I loved the Oompa Loompa songs and the other Wonka ditty. But the main score was just too predictable. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman have certainly developed a sound, but I think that Elfman's sound is pretty much the same most of the time.

Having said that, it is a fairly minor complaint for a wonderful movie. Make sure you see it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eye Candy

Recently, I discovered the Dynamic Graphics Group. They have some great publications (STEP inside design and Dynamic Graphics) as well as a weekly e-mail "snack" called liquidtreat. Together, these three publications offer a wealth of visual and creative ideas that you can borrow from and be inspired by.

Another treat I have discovered is StockLayouts. They offer pre-made design templates for Adobe pacemaker, undesigning, Illustrator, Quark sprees, and Microsoft Publisher. Again, these ideas can be bought (reasonably priced) or borrowed from, or you can use them as a springboard for your own ideas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Good stuff from InfoComm...

OK, I know InfoComm was a month ago. I am still processing some of the great stuff that was there. Here are a few standouts with great church application:

  • Turning Point: A great tool for congregational response, Turning Point marries PowerPoint with real-time audience/congregation input. They bill themselves as "The easiest, most advanced and powerful, fully interactive group response systems available on teh market today." Very cool tool. Could be used by savvy preachers to actually shape the sermon on the fly. Check out more at Turning Technologies. My friends at LiveLight will be dealers and will have these available for sale or rent.
  • EtherneTV: VBrick Systems says their TV-over-ethernet "system is ideal for education (distance learning), corporations (training and news distribution), government (training and surveillance), healthcare (patient monitoring and clinical assessment), and worship (streaming live events)." Sounds like something we could use. Check them out at VBrick Systems.
  • SolidDrive: This is a very cool system. You attach very unassuming drivers to a sheet of glass (like a display window) and the glass resonates and becomes the speaker. Great lobby/foyer possibilities. SolidDrive is featured at the new House of Innoventions at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center. Check it out at www.soliddrive.com.
  • Projector Doctor: A great source for routine (or not-so-routine) repair and maintenance of your video projectors. They have a fast turn-around time and great customer service. Check them out at www.projectordoctor.com.

Monday, July 11, 2005

My favorite week...

I am about to have my favorite week of the year. How do I know this? Because the what takes place this week lead to maximum renewal for me.

Tomorrow, I leave for a week in the mountains with my oldest son. We will spend a week at a lake in the Sierras, 8,000 feet above where we live, away from work, cell phones, interruptions, and time demands. For one week, the major concerns of the day will be where to fish, what to make for a meal, what we will read together (or separately), and who will be the Grand Champion of the Year in our annual week-long Uno tournament.

We started this tradition in the summer of 2000, when he was 7. While my father and I were not close, one of the great memories of my childhood was an overnight camping trip he and I went on. I wanted to give my son the same great memories that I had (with a much closer relationship with his father).

Last year, my schedule did not allow me to take this trip. This and that came up, and before we knew it the summer was over. What I thought I missed was a week in the wilderness with my son. I came to realize that I missed so much more. I had missed a "Sabbath-time."

On Ethos, Randy recently wrote about the sabbatical he was taking. He cites experts who say, "workers need to wake up, look up from their cubicles and make [their] dreams happen. An extended break is more realistic -- and necessary -- than most people think. Studies show that many "vacations" turn into time to catch up -- allowing little time for reflection, rest and personal growth."

Many of my vacations are just that. The week leading up to the vacation is like a week-long cram session, trying to do two weeks worth of work in one. Then, our tribe of four packs up and drives to some destination. We live in suitcases for a week, always on the go. Inevitably, someone from work needs to speak with me about something. We squeeze every minute out of our away-time, returning just in time to grocery shop for the coming week, wash our dirty clothes, and get ready for the workday that follows. I often feel like I need another vacation to recover from my vacation.

Now more than ever, I am in agreement with Randy that it is important to take true sabbatical time. Time to rest. Time that is unhurried. Time to reflect and grow. While a longer sabbatical is optimum, I believe that shorter ones on a regular basis can be just as valuable, provided that they are truly sabbatical in nature.

If you haven't had any time off lately, take some. Not to go somewhere, necessarily. Not to do anything special or get to that project that has been left undone. Take time off to just recharge. You need it. You may think you do, but you do.

Quoting from the article on Ethos, "We need to understand leisure; it is essential for our well-being," Hall said. "Going through life without adequate time for rest is like running a car without getting an oil change," said Marta Kagan a small-business and life coach based in New York.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Stuff I used to do...

In less than a year, I will be 40. Halfway done with my life. I am not usually overly introspective, however, the inevitability of 40 has me thinking: there are a whole host of things that I would consider "Stuff I Used to Do." So here is a condensed list of some of the things I am waving goodbye to:

  1. Driving fast: My current "record time" from Fresno to San Diego, CA is 4 hours, 10 minutes. Mapquest indicates this is a trip of 348 miles that should take me 5 hours and 36 minutes. Most people do it in 6-6.5 hours. I did it in 4. This is something I used to be proud of, but now realize that this kind of behavior, in addition to being considered unsafe, could potentially be considered stupid as well. I like getting places fast, but I beginning to think there might be a limit. I think they call that being prudent (or maybe it's just maturity beginning to kick in).
  2. Eating too much: When I graduated from high school I was 6'5" and weighed 165 lbs. I could eat a truckload of food and not gain weight. "Eat through the pain" was my motto. In the time since high school I have grown and inch in height and have put on more than a few pounds. I think I'm beginning to understand that food, while a tasty treat, is essentially fuel for my body. That's it. Just like my car, I won't go faster or be better just because I consume more fuel. It just means that I'm more expensive to maintain.
  3. Eating junk: There's an old saying: "Garbage in, garbage out." This one seems like a no brainer. Let's just say that for an intelligent person, sometimes I'm not all that smart. I have fueled my body with swill for too long. It's time to start thinking about a future that includes health and life.
  4. Not exercising: I have the mind of a 16-year old (my wife would dispute that - she would say it's more like a 12-year old). My mind tells me I am in a lot better shape than I am. My body disputes that claim. In March I began running. I hate running. I did it anyway. It actually wasn't that bad. I have friend who is a runner. He said I was going to overdo it. What does he know? Of course, he was right and I ended up injuring myself. I still hurt! All that to say, it is fairly stupid of me to invest in so many good things (and a few not-so-good things) and not invest in myself. I hope to make non-exercise a thing of the past for me.
  5. Have passion about the wrong things: I am a very passionate person. I feel things very deeply. This is a personality trait I see in my oldest son as well (it's weird - like looking in a funky time machine mirror). I am beginning to realize that I don't need to have passion about EVERYTHING (or at least if I do, I need to keep my big yap shut about it). I give myself unneeded stress when I get worked up about everything. I am learning that not everything matters, and even when it does, there are varying degrees of concern or passion that I need to have toward whatever "it" may be. In a sense, this is wrapped up with stress. So I guess what I am saying is that I hope that stress is becoming a "used-to-do" also.
That's the little bit that I have been learning. Not too bad for a typically non-introspective person, huh? What are things that are on your "Stuff I Used to Do" list?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Long time, no post...

There are times when God is silent. For 400 years between the Old and New Testaments God was quiet. His people might have even thought him aloof. They struggled under bondage and God did nothing.

I think that one of the ways God gets our attention is through the silent times - the desert times. Even in David's time God was, essentially, taken captive when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. The presence of God - at least His visible presence - was gone.

I have been two months without a post. Partially that has been due to inattention, but partially that has been due to "dryness." There is a line from the movie (I can't remember if it's in the book), The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, where Bilbo tells Gandalf that he feels "stretched, like butter spread over too much bread."

I believe that God has been taken me on the journey of the desert. I am amazed at how much insignificant stuff into which I have invested my time and life. I am ashamed that I find myself in some ways almost addicted to these weak substitutes and how difficult it is to let them go. I am at the very beginning of finding myself shattered at the fact that I have sold my passion to the lowest bidder.

This may or may not make sense to you. If you know me, it may explain some things.

The one thing that I am sure of however is that I am still there in the desert, but I am beginning to see God's hand in bringing me there and instead for praying for refreshment, I am praying that God will continue to dry out, dehydrate, and wither those areas of my life that have become more important than complete intimacy with Him.