Friday, December 31, 2004

Before You Consider Weight Watchers, Consider This


Size Acceptance Organization Challenges U. of Pennsylvania Weight Watchers Study


I did the research on this myself. Although as a size activist I wasn't terribly surprised, it has been amazing to me the extent to which respected medical and health professionals ally themselves with the diet industry and try to help promote it. There couldn't be a financial motivation -- or is it just the

Weight Bias Among Health Professionals Specializing In Obesity? (PDF File of the shocking study by the Rudd Institute at Yale)

Within ISAA's press release is our organization's alternative to the yo-yo dieting frustration: fitness, healthy food choices and improving self-esteem. Not all that profitable, but they work.

Happy New Years -- stay safe, everyone!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More Earthquake-Tsunami Assistance Efforts

From the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website:

Sending Aid to Asia




Dear Friends,

My heart is saddened over the scenes that we have seen the last few days on our television sets as it relates to the tragedy in Southeast Asia. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives within minutes after the wall of water hit; and for most, there was absolutely no warning.

Twenty-eight years ago, I was preaching in Calcutta when a similar disaster hit South India. The government provided a helicopter for me to go personally and view the damage, which was very similar to what we see today. I committed that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would help to rebuild one of those villages that was destroyed. A year later my son, Franklin, and members of our team went back for the dedication of the new village that we rebuilt.

Ruth and I have been praying that maybe we could do something like this again where we could find an isolated village that was completely destroyed and take the responsibility to rebuild it. We have a fund at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association we call the World Emergency Fund. Over the years when there have been tragedies and we have quietly given from this fund, whatever comes in goes out—100 percent of it. Not even a penny is taken for any kind of administration.

I hesitated to write because I didn’t want to burden you with too much mail, but I thought this was too important. If you would like to help, you can just make your check payable to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and designate it to World Emergency Fund.

We will help immediately in a meaningful way; and of course, we will do it in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Please remember these people that have lost so much in your prayers. I wish I had the strength to go myself. Thank you and God bless you.

Billy Graham

Donate online now to the World Emergency Fund >

Or mail your check to:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
World Emergency Fund
1 Billy Graham Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28201

In Canada:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada
World Emergency Fund
20 Hopewell Way NE
Calgary AB, T3J 5H5


Interrace Haven is not associated with or a part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I just thought this was a wonderful idea.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Death Toll Reaches 100,000

If it's reached 100,000 this early, this could get much more harrowing before it's all over. It's only been 3 days since the disaster...

More updates later.

- Allen

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Earthquake/Tsumani Disaster Part 2: I Can't Quite Get Past It...

...and I'm not sure I want to. Horrible as it was and continues to be, this is a world event. The planet's geographical map was forever altered and the rotation was even momentarily affected. Seismologists even registered shockwaves as far away as Oklahoma (Thanks, Drudge).

Just knowing that more than 50,000 people were killed (with that number expected to grow, perhaps significantly) is almost numbing. I feel a sense of grief for people I never met, for survivors I will probably never meet -- but nevertheless, I feel a connection and I feel a tremendous sense of loss.

I felt this kind of loss with the Iran earthquake last year, though not this profoundly, I will admit -- and I felt this way after the Columbia shuttle disaster. Only 9/11/01 affected me more than any of these; that made me physically feverish and ill trying to cope with the onslaught of emotions those attacks brought out in me and my family.

I have updated the ISAA webpage to include an appeal for people to give to one of the organizations involved in the relief efforts. It's the least I can do, besides pray for the survivors. The U.S. government is giving $35 million in assistance and other countries are giving significant donations of money, food and supplies but this will be a very costly recovery for those 11 countries.

It's going to be a long week...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, December 27, 2004

9.0 Earthquake Causes Tsunamis To Hit 9 Asian Countries, Over 20,000 Killed

Vast area reels from aftermath of deadly quake

Bodies Piled on Coasts After Tsunami Kills 22,700



DEATH CAME FROM THE SEA


"Death came from the sea," Satya Kumari, a construction worker living on the outskirts of Pondicherry, India, told Reuters. "The waves just kept chasing us. It swept away all our huts. What did we do to deserve this?"

Luke 13: 1 - 5 (King James Version)

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

I don't think that anyone who perished in this calamity expected to die that day. I didn't expect to face an 18-wheeler the other week, at which time I could have easily been maimed or perished. Everyone will die someday; that is a certainty that we can't change. What is so important is to do our best to be as ready as possible, so that when death comes, it is not an enemy but a friend.

Somebody just said to themself: "What on Earth is he talking about??"

Whether or not you believe in or accept the God of the Jews and the Christians, He exists. He has offered a way to make peace with Him and a way to spend eternity with Him after death comes. Everyone will have the opportunity at sometime in their lives to accept Him, His Son and His Holy Spirit.

Many people have been "burned" by people calling themselves Christians. Note I said "calling themselves Christians" and not "Christians." Those people are, in fact, some of the worst sinners on the planet (through hypocrisy and not living this life). I grew up knowing people like that and it drove me away from the churches for a long time...but eventually, through my longing to know REAL Christians, this God I now serve and worship sent one of them my way. That Christian witnessed to my wife about living free from sin (something not preached in too many churches) and about what the Bible says about how to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord and ultimately, how to make it "home" to Heaven.


"Our paradise turned into hell," said American tourist Moira Lee, 28, who was on Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.




I am not a minister. I am just a Christian who cares. It's times like these when I just hope to say something that is a comfort...



...in such troubling times.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Very Merry Christmas and The Happiest Of Holidays To Everyone!

I will most likely not be blogging through the weekend so I want to wish everyone my best now. Stay safe, stay warm and stay in good spirits!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Holiday Updates

First Light performed last night at the Alamo Recreational Center in Austin, at the Operation Christmas Gift giveaway. It went very well and the small rec center was packed (it has a capacity of 50 - 75 and I would say it was definitely maxed out) with young children and their parents.

There was an introduction and a scripture and prayer (in English and Spanish, one of the church brothers acted as an interpreter). A group of young girl cheerleaders from a school (whose name I didn't catch) came forward and did a couple of cheer routines. Then First Light performed "Joy to The World" (mostly acapella; our band's leader played guitar and sang with us). There was an 8-minute video presentation about Operation Christmas Gift before First Light came forward and did three more songs (which were well-received by the audience).

Then came the preaching of the gospel by one of the associate ministers from our church. He started by calling the young cheerleaders to the front and asked to lead them in a cheer by spelling out "J" then "E" then "S-U-S." The cheerleaders gleefully complied and it was both cute and inspirational. It also set the stage, so to speak, for the preaching, which was also interpreted into Spanish.

First Light was called upon to sing the invitation song ("Just As I Am") and then to play music as the gifts were distributed to the children. Afterwards, the children got goody bags with cookies and candy.

It's always a joy to see happy children's faces at Christmastime, especially since without this effort, some (maybe most) of these children might not have gotten any presents. But the most important thing is not the gifts, it's the love behind the giving -- and that would not have been possible without the love of Christ that's in the hearts of all those who participated in this effort.

And a final IR tie-in: there were children of different nationalities there. We even sat next to an IR couple (Black man, Hispanic or possibly mixed- woman) and their 4 or 5 mixed race children. My oldest son befriended one of their sons and two of their other children befriended one of the other bandmembers (who has two Hispanic-Black biracial sons herself).

The whole event was a lot of fun and truly accomplished something worthy by evening's end. I'm proud to share it with you all.

Best Christmas Wishes,
Allen

Monday, December 20, 2004

Holiday Updates

My apologies for not blogging in several days. Quite a bit has been going on to keep life busy and hectic...but that's actually not a bad thing!

Late Wednesday evening, we got our van back and Thursday morning, we turned in the rental car. Overall, I enjoyed the little Nissan Sentra and I'm still very happy with the service and choices of Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Tuesday we'd had a rehearsal for this Sunday's Christmas musical program at church and Wednesday, we had rehearsed at church for the same. Thursday evening, we actually had a night to relax. Friday, Angel and I went to a Christmas dinner for the young married couples of our church (which was wonderful). Saturday was dress rehearsal and then yesterday was the program itself! So, as you see, we've been kinda busy.

Tonight we'll be rehearsing for a First Light performance tomorrow night at a toy giveaway which is part of Operation Christmas Gift. For months, the toys and donations have been collected and now, it's time to distribute them to needy children here in Austin. Recently, our pastor and a group from the church went to Belize and Guatemala, Central America, to distribute the gift -and toy-filled shoeboxes there. First Light participated in last year's event and it was very rewarding. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's event, Lord willing.

Then later this week, we'll begin the Christmas festivities, visiting with relatives and friends. We'll be staying in Central Texas, just as we did for Thanksgiving.

I'll update again as possible.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Another Installment Of "Dairy-Free Cooking With Allen"

Okay, first, my wonderful wife surprised me yesterday by picking up a great new product from the makers of Silk soymilk:
SILK NOG!
I had some, and while it is not as thick as regular eggnog, the taste is right-on!

Secondly, I tried out a dairy-free variation on a favorite old recipe that I learned from my late father: Croissant Chicken

Ingredients:
  • Pillsbury croissant rolls (8 count)

  • 1 small can of chunk chicken (any brand, I prefer a mix of white and dark meats - how IR of me!)

  • "Better Than Cream Cheese" by Tofutti (8 ounce container but you only use 4 oz.). If your grocery story doesn't carry it, ask them to order it!

  • 1/2 teaspoon Natures Seasons

  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons Dairy-free margarine


Cooking instructions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and either use a non-stick spray,Crisco or vegetable oil to grease the foil

  3. Place 4 oz. of "Better Than Cream Cheese" and the two tablespoons of dairy-free margarine in a microwavable bowl, cover and nuke for one minute to soften cream cheese and butter.

  4. Drain most (but not all) of the water from the can of chunk chicken and mix it into the margarine/cream cheese mixture

  5. Add Natures Seasons, paprika and black pepper, blend thoroughly

  6. Open Pilsbury croissant package and separate croissants into four rectangles (one rectangle is two regular croissants, make sure to leave them together!) on the foil-covered cookie sheet

  7. Spoon about one heaping tablespoon of the chicken/cream cheese mixture into each of the croissant rectangles

  8. Fold all four corners around the chicken/cream cheese mixture and twist the croissant dough together at the top to hold it all together; do this for each of the four croissant rectangles

  9. Garnish the top of each closed croissant with a small amount of non-dairy margarine (less than a teaspoon's worth)

  10. Cook in the oven at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes or until croissants are golden brown. Serves four.


Good side dishes are ranch style beans, french-cut green beans or any variety of vegetables, plus bread if you like (technically, a croissant is bread but I've had this dish with bread many times).

Enjoy!

Best Wishes,
Allen

An IR True Story

My wife was out and about Christmas shopping yesterday with my oldest son, Adam. They were in line at a Hobby Lobby store waiting to pay for their items and my wife shows Adam a $100 bill. He looks at it and says "Wow! That's Ben Franklin!" My wife says "Yes, that's right. Did you know that Ben Franklin is one of your ancestors, on your father's side?" He responded "Wow! Does that mean we're important people??" To which my wife said "Honey, Ben Franklin is a lot of people's ancestor."

There was one more thing that made the whole thing all the more funny, though. Out of the corner of her eye, my wife saw an older gentleman in line behind them (who happened to be white) -- and he was looking at them very strangely after my (black) wife told my (biracial) son that he was related to Ben Franklin.

They say for everything else, there's Mastercard...but this was priceless!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mixed Feelings Update

The soreness and stiffness in my left shoulder has subsided, which is a relief. I'll admit I was a little worried after my friend brought up concerns but today, I am just fine and I'm grateful to my Lord and Savior about that.

Yesterday, I went ahead and got a new rental car through Enterprise Rent-a-car. I really like them. I'll be driving a Nissan Sentra for the next week or until the van is fixed and returned.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

I don't know why but I'm a little surprised there have been no comments on my near-death experience. Have there just been that few visitors to the site, is the commenting software not working, or are y'all just speechless? Is it difficult to leave comments on serious, life-or-death blog entries?

I mean, had I been killed, that would have effectively killed IR Haven, too. Just wondering.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Reflections On Yesterday

Okay, so I've had 24 hours to think on what happened yesterday and I'm still taking it all in. It's amazing how something that only took seconds to happen can occupy a significant part of your attention, memory and emotion -- when it's something that could have killed you.

I mean, I joked about it in the blog because, well, it was laugh or cry, y'know? And I really didn't feel like crying; I was just stunned at the near-absurdity of it all.

I've had some interesting reactions from friends after I told them. Some said "you should have gotten the trucker's name and license plate number" or that I should have said something to the trucker. To that, I responded "I was just grateful to be alive!" It really didn't enter my mind to get any info from the trucker. I must be a lawyer's biggest disappointment. I probably would have had a legitimate claim but I'm not interested in suing anyone or extorting money (some say "damages") from anyone. I guess I'm weird like that.

Physically, I'm a little stiff in my left shoulder today but it's really not bad.

I've been warned it might get worse and I suppose it might. I've just been trying to take it easy on it. First Light performs at church tonight and, Lord willing, I'll be fine for that.

My thoughts keep coming back to two things:

  1. The mercy of the Lord on my life; and
  2. Why was that 18-wheeler in a residential neighborhood?


I'm probably never going to know the latter, so I'm better off just focusing on the mercy of the Lord and His Will for my life.

Again, I come back to the absurdity of the situation: how many people actually get run over by 18-wheelers at crosswalks?? It can't be a high number!

But it nearly happened...only the Lord spared me from falling over completely and getting run over by the tires (sorry for the grisly imagery) or something worse, had the truck been going faster. Still, it doesn't matter if the truck is going five miles an hour; if it runs over you at that speed, you're still either badly injured or dead.

But I'm not. The driver stopped the truck. I assumed he heard the sound of me hitting the side of his truck and that's why he stopped. Another friend of mine got very concerned when she considered that in order for it to be loud enough for the driver to hear or feel, it might have been a harder contact that I realized. She thought that the adrenaline in my system from running (and near panic) was why I didn't feel anything -- which may be true. I just don't know. She was concerned I might "feel it" in a week or so. I don't know that either.

Sorry this is a longer than usual blog entry. I don't usually ponder why I'm still breathing and its significance. I just know that God spared me another day to work out my soul salvation.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Phillipians 2: 12-13 (King James Version)

The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Church at Phillipi

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Moment Of Abject Stupidity...

Okay, I'm "man enough" that, when I do something dumb -- and live to tell about it -- I'll own up to it. I had one of those "moments of abject stupidity" on the way to work this morning...and obviously, I lived to tell about it, so...

As you know, our van is in the shop but I have a job close enough to walk to. So I head out a few minutes early and walk towards work. My only remaining obstacle is a major intersection with a crosswalk. I take my time getting there, figuring I'll probably miss the light and wait till the next change of light to cross the road. Suddenly, the light changes and the walk signal bids me to cross. I decide I'm close enough to try and make it (this is one of the dumb things I did) and begin to run towards the intersection crosswalk.

My second mistake was not checking for traffic trying to turn right at the intersection. You know, the kind of traffic that doesn't watch out for pedestrians?

I've taken about four steps into the intersection when an 18-wheeler slowly wraps around from my left, encompassing the entire intersection.

This is a classic "I can't believe this!" moment, because my own momentum is enough that I really can't stop or go back to avoid a collision. I see the truck -- the irresistable force -- heading towards me -- the not-so-immoveable object -- in slow motion -- and there really isn't anything I can do!

A moment later, the side of the truck bumps my left shoulder, knocking me sideways and I nearly lose my balance and fall over. The truck driver, upon hearing the "bump," immediately stops the truck, allowing me a second to regain my balance and move out of the way. Realizing I was fine and would remain so, I went to show the truck driver I was okay so he could leave (and he did). It didn't even hurt where the truck bumped me. Yes, once again proof that God watches out for us even when we aren't doing such a great job looking out for ourselves.

Moral to the lesson I: I still had to wait on the light to cross the intersection.

Moral to the lesson II: I think it was actually harder to explain the "moment of abject stupidity" to my wife (over the phone) than to experience it.

Moral to the lesson III: Avoid "moments of abject stupidity" if at all possible.

Best Wishes,
Allen


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Follow Up (Part Two)

So, as we were driving to the burial service (after the funeral/homegoing), we notice a high-pitched shrill coming from our van. It was odd and only seemed to happen when we accelerated, which led me to believe it might be the brakes, but the warning shrill from brakes usually comes days before you actually need to replace your pads, so I figured it was safe to proceed.

We got to the husband's property where the burial was to take place (he'd had the foresight to make burial plots for himself and his wife, side-by-side) , attended the graveside service and prayers. The Lord blessed the husband to be strong. He even had a few words before one of the associate ministers gave the benediction. Then everyone came to offer personal words and condolences to the family. I just wanted to give my brother in Christ a heartfelt hug. I knew I had no words that could express more. When I looked in his eyes, I could see that he "got" me. Angel and I joined the choir for a closing song, which felt good.

Then we packed back into the van and started heading home. Now the hiigh-pitched shrill was replaced by a low-pitched shrill and the van felt like its gears were slipping. I also couldn't get it to accelerate over 20 miles an hour! So, I silently prayed and the Lord blessed us to get back to the husband's property.

I found the two brothers (no, literally they are brothers) who had worked so faithfully on our van and told them the van's symptoms. After driving it and trying to reverse in front of them, they were able to quickly determine that it was the transmission...the same transmission that had replaced the bad transmission before! But the good thing about it is that the parts are still under warranty, so even though it will take several days to get it repaired, it won't cost anything to do so.

We just had two hurtles to overcome and our brothers in Christ (the same brothers) helped with both of those hurtles. I knew that our car insurance covered towing but because of the remote location, I knew it would take some time for a tow truck to find us. And it was getting late and cold. One brother offered to stay with the van until it was towed while the other brother drove my wife, kids and myself home. And while the vehicle is being repaired, at least my job is within walking distance from home (about 1 mile, which I can walk in 15 minutes).

So, the moral to the story is: We got home, safe and sound, thanks to our brothers in Christ. What a great God I serve, that He can change people's hearts to be capable of such compassion, understanding and love -- regardless of nationality (our brothers in Christ happen to be African-American). Once again, I am humbled and grateful and I just have to share the blessings the Lord has done for me.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,
Allen


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Follow Up (Part One)

I apologize for not blogging in a week, it's been a strange week. I've been learning new responsibilities at my I.T.-related job; trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get more sleep; and preparing for today's funeral/homegoing service for our friend who passed away on Thanksgiving.

It was a beautiful service! Essentially, the whole church congregation was there, as well as many family and friends. Her husband was remarkably strong (no doubt, with the help of the Lord). The singing by a combined church choir was a fitting musical tribute to the Christ in our dear sister's life. Also, I was very proud of our pastor. He commended our friend's sin-free life in Christ while also preaching against sin to the living. He offered the comfort and hope that only God and His Son, Jesus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit, can give. By giving the example of our friend's life, our pastor proved the point that it is possible to live Godly in this world, even in the midst of sorrow and pain.

Best Wishes,
Allen


Ephesians 2: 4 - 9 (King James Version)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Friday, November 26, 2004

While Everyone's Going Home, A Homegoing

I had an amazing Thanksgiving, but for the most unexpected of reasons. The holiday weekend really started Wednesday night. Angel, the boys and I went to see The Incredibles -- which is an awesome movie I would highly recommend to anyone! We went to the 9:30 pm showing and got out just before midnight, so that was a COOL way to end Wednesday...

Yesterday, we met with both sides of our family, which was nice. We enjoyed each other's company, had food together and got caught up on each other's lives. I'm really glad we were able to do that.

We ended up over at one of our First Light bandmate's house on Thansgiving evening. Most of the rest of First Light members were there, too, and we ended up singing a few First Light songs for some relatives of one of our bandmates...which, again, was fun.

Then there was a phone call that changed the whole evening.

One of our sisters in Christ, whom we all knew and loved, had passed away this Thanksgiving. She was not old. She had not died in a car accident. She and her husband (they're an interracial married couple) had recently gotten back from missionary work in Belize, Central America, where our church has a sister church. Upon their return, the husband had gotten sick but eventually recovered but the illness had persisted in his wife. They were visiting some friends from church when she decided to get some rest because she wasn't feeling well. She went to sleep and never woke up.

When we got the news, we were shocked but we were also immediately happy for her because, as one brother put it, "the scriptures are fulfilled" that she fell asleep in Christ. Hers was by no means a terrible death; our sadness was for her husband and ourselves, who will miss her on the Earth. Our whole church will be giving support and love to her husband to help him in this time of need.

But after learning this news and speaking about it for a few minutes, First Light began to sing songs to the Lord, in honor of our sister in Christ and the glorious encouragement she gave to us all by completing a life that was free from willful sin. Only the leader of the band had his guitar, so most of us just sang -- but we sang with all we had! There were tears and some "cracked notes" from emotion but the emotions were pure and they were beautiful. I will admit I cried as we sang "I Exalt Thee." Everyone was choked up, some cried freely, but they were tears of joy, not sadness...and the Lord deserved (and deserves) all the honor and praise and so much more. We sang hymns and original First Light numbers -- but in a way we had never sang them before. Obviously, this was not in front of an audience -- just ourselves, those in the house and, most importantly, the Lord.

It definitely goes down as my most memorable Thanksgiving...and I'm thankful for it.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Things I'm Thankful For This Year

  1. Salvation (I give thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who changed my life, forgave my past and came to live in my heart. His Holy Spirit has helped me live free from willful sin for nearly nine years)

  2. My wife and children

  3. My health and strength (such as it is, it could always be worse)

  4. My sister, mother and in-laws

  5. My church family

  6. Having a job

  7. The duplex we rent

  8. Our vehicle (paid for!)

  9. The freedoms we're afforded in the U.S.A.

  10. The sacrifices made to achieve the freedoms we're afforded in the U.S.A.

  11. Being alive

  12. All the friends I've made on the internet, including you!


Most likely, I will not be blogging tomorrow, as I will be with family all day enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday. So, I wanted to go ahead and share what I'm thankful for today. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and stay safe!



Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I Think I Spoke Too Soon...


Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Here comes round three of storms before the cold front blows through later tonight. There is a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Central Texas, I'm sure that will become a warning when the storms arrive.

The nice thing is, if the lights go out, we use candles in the house. It looks rather nice at night. And if tornadoes break out, well, we can pray.

Best Wishes,
Allen

So Glad That's Over With-!

Well, we appear to have survived. Now Houston and East Texas are dealing with the storm system. I'm praying for them, they seem to be having more tornadic weather than we did in Central Texas. We only had a couple of funnel clouds and maybe one or two touchdowns with no significant damage. And although lightning did strike a house in South Austin, still there was, no significant damage, thankfully.

There is a lot to be thankful about this week!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Did I Really say "Bring On The Rain?"


Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Well, we got rain! We also have a tornado watch till 3:00 p.m. and already had one tornado warning this morning (whether one touched down, I don't know). Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, flood watches and warnings.

As the saying goes: be very careful what you ask for: you may get it!

Thanksgiving is in two days. Lord willing we survive the next 48 hours, we'll be having Thanksgiving with both sides of our family...and I am thankful they all live in the Central Texas area!

More later...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, November 22, 2004

Rain Rain Part Deux


Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Well, it's been another wet weekend. It got particularly stormy last night, with constant thunder and lightning and a delightful 2 inches of rain overnight. Once I got back to sleep (hard to get to sleep with the frequent, white bright lightning flashes but exhaustion did it's part and I managed), the rain made for good, deep sleep. I was surprised when I checked the local news this morning and learned that a major road in downtown Austin (Cesar Chavez @ Lamar, for you Austinites) near Town Lake was flooded and even part of nearby 5th Street coming off of one of the highways (Mopac).

The rain is supposed to move out tomorrow evening, we'll just have to tread water and avoid tornadoes until then. Thanksgiving weekend is supposed to be clear and have lows in the 30s!

We had an interesting weekend, despite the rain. First Light participated in a cultural dinner for our church on Saturday. Our church (which is nondenominational) celebrates all nations and one way to celebrate is to have a dinner with food prepared in the way other nations do. The deacons and their wives prepared dishes such as African stewed chicken; German saurkraut with authentic German sausage; lamb with squash and unleavened bread in the style of Israel; beef and broccoli with fried rice and eggroll - plus a choice of soy or sweet and sour sauces; enchiladas, lasagne and American meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

I sampled quite a few dishes (didn't have room for the meatloaf or potatoes or any of the cheese-heavy dishes), including the Israeli, African and Asian dishes. I tried to get a little of everything. Both of my sons tried all "foreign" dishes (I was very proud of them). Angel had eaten before we left home, so she didn't sample as much. Anyway, it was a wonderful event and our pastor had some encouraging words for all of us.

I could tell you the story about how our van broke down right before the event, but the Lord blessed us to make it there anyway -- and our van is already fixed (and it only took one part and 99 cents!) So I really have nothing to complain about and plenty to be happy about.

Bring on the rain!!!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, November 18, 2004

It Just Keeps Getting Better...



...now I'm part of an OSCAR-nominated film! I IM'd this tidbit to my wife and then called Gia and let her know. We all agree that, no matter what we think of this film that none of us has seen yet, it probably has a good shot at winning. The subject is timely, the film is distinct in style, plus critics and fans alike have really enjoyed it.

More as this develops...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rain, Rain, Go Away?

It's been raining in Austin since Saturday. No, really -- since Saturday! Traffic accidents have abounded and there's been at least a couple of deaths as a result of people trying to go through low water crossings. I had to drive (extremely slowly) through one just to take my son to school this morning -- and it was on the only street going to the school! Okay, so maybe they should have considered delaying opening the charter school this morning or using a "bad weather" day. I mean, when they're talking about your city's weather on national talk radio shows, you have some serious weather going on! Two tornadoes and several deaths in San Antonio, Texas.

Believe it or not, I'm not complaining. I'm amazed.

If this is what happens in five days of mild to moderate rain, I can't imagine 40 days of this when it had never rained before, in Noah's day. The rain must have been severely intense, too -- probably hurricane force. It would have been unimaginably terrible. So, this, by comparison, is not that bad.

The sun should come back out tomorrow. I can tread water till then...

If you're in Texas, stay dry!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Of All The Things To Claim Fame To...



I keep getting people telling me that they saw me in the deleted scenes of Supersize Me...does this mean I'm semi-famous now? It's kind of funny, too, because (my ISAA Rapport co-host) Gia and I weren't sure where the film was gonna go after Morgan finished filming our sequence. We weren't even sure if the film would get to the theaters, much less get best director award from Sundance and rave reviews from film critics.

What's funnier, though, is that although I have seen Gia's and my scene in the deleted scenes, I have not been able to force myself to watch the film itself.

Is that odd?

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, November 13, 2004

When You've Given Up On Being Published...Blog

I have mixed feelings on this topic. I've run across at least two blogs that are just someone's book, chapter by chapter, for the world's perusing. I just saw one that was in good format, nice and compelling web design, except I read about six lines and got bored, so I went on to another blog. BUT -- if it were a compelling read that grabs you from the first word, it would be great!

Of course, if it were that good, writers wouldn't be rejected enough times to force them to blog their books.

Then again, you've got people who start as bloggers and they land book deals because they prove through their blogging that they can write!

So, um, is this the embodiment of a paradox or what?

Best Wishes,
Allen
More About Non-Dairy Cooking

You'll have to excuse me regarding the recent entries on non-dairy cooking but there is some relevance to this for the readers of IR Haven.

According to the National Dairy Council:

The prevalence of lactose maldigestion (or lactase non-persistence) varies among different ethnic and racial groups in the U.S.:
  • 90% of Asian Americans
  • 80% of African Americans
  • 62-100% of Native Americans
  • 53% of Mexican Americans
  • 15% of Caucasians.

In all, about 25% of the U.S. population – or an estimated 30 to 50 million American adults – have low lactase levels or are lactose maldigesters. A diagnosis of lactose maldigestion doesn't necessarily mean that the individual will experience intolerance symptoms.


Anyway, I have found that while there are some places on the web with some, shall we say, interesting non-dairy recipes, not too many of them were down-to-Earth recipes that meat-eaters like me can enjoy. And I say that with all due respect to vegetarians and vegans.

What I've found is that any recipe that calls for milk and butter can be safely and effectively replaced with Silk soymilk (vanilla flavor is the most like "real" milk) and non-dairy margarine. It's really that simple!

This morning, I made some delicious pancakes using Silk. My non-dairy margarine had, shall we say, expired so (after I tossed the margarine) I fried the pancakes in a small amount of Wesson blended cooking oil. It passed the wife and oldest son test! Big, light, fluffy and (most important) yummy!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Non-Dairy Cooking: Beef Stroganoff

Okay, so if you didn't know already, I'm lactose-intolerant. Now, I like to cook and bake and I love to eat -- so I wasn't about to let a little thing like being unable to digest anything dairy (milk, cheese, anything with lactic acid) completely deter my food choices. I've been discovering some interesting alternatives, mostly in soy choices, but not always (although I'm a huge fan of Veggie Slices (soy cheese - so why did my local grocer remove them from their selection??? Argh!)

On Sunday, I decided to test a theory that it is possible to make stroganoff without dairy ingredients. A challenge, to be sure -- but I did it and it turned out great (it passed the "kid-approved" test)! Imagination, improvisation and prayer led to the following version of Beef Stroganoff...

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound of chuck beef for stew

    Note: You can easily substitute with chicken - just cut up three boneless,
    skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.


  • 1 package/can of beef stock (preferrably organic)

  • 1 package/can of mushroom stock (preferrably organic)

  • wide egg noodles (12 oz. or larger)

  • Flour

  • 1 large clove garlic

  • 1/2 sweet (or yellow) onion

  • Black Pepper

  • Salt

  • Steak seasonings

  • Nature's Seasoning

  • Blended cooking oil (I used Wesson)

  • Olive Oil

  • Paprika


Instructions:

  1. Rinse beef in water, then season beef liberally with pepper and steak seasonings

  2. Coat beef lightly in flour

  3. Sautee garlic and onion in a skillet in about 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil until slightly carmelized

  4. Cook beef in onions and garlic till beef is thoroughly tender

  5. Remove skillet from heat and cover

  6. In a large cooking pot, heat about a quarter-cup of flour, mix in a couple of teaspoons of cooking oil in medium heat (DO NOT BURN THE FLOUR)

  7. Add 2 cups of beef broth and stir into flour mixture

  8. Add 1 cup of mushroom broth

  9. Lower heat and stir to thicken gravy

  10. Add 2 tablespoons black pepper, 1 tablespoon Nature's Seasoning, 2 tablespoons paprika and 1 teaspoon salt

  11. Add beef and mushroom broth to taste

  12. Stir in beef, onion and garlic mixture

  13. Remove from heat

  14. Boil water in a large pot (add 2 teaspoons olive oil before boiling)

  15. Add wide egg noodles

  16. Boil till egg noodles are soft and tender

  17. Remove from heat, drain water through a strainer

  18. Return noodles to large pot

  19. Serve noodles, topped with meat gravy


This recipe easily serves a family of four for a couple of days. Enjoy!

Let me know if you have any of your own non-dairy recipes.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, November 06, 2004

First Light & Operation Christmas Gift

Today, First Light (the Christian band my wife and I are in) performed at a toy drive for Operation Christmas Gift in Smithville, Texas this morning/afternoon. We, along with Forerunner (a Christian rock band from our church), were entertainment to encourage people to drop off toys, health and hygeine items, along with monetary donations for this effort. The event was from 9 am till 1 pm. We performed in two 45-minute sets, alternating with Forerunner.

It was a lot of fun! We haven't had an opportunity to play so many songs back-to-back in quite a while -- and all for a great cause!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, November 05, 2004

Worth Waking Up For, Someone Told Me...

The buzz of the alarm went off at 5:25 a.m. as it does every weekday morning. A few seconds later, I lumbered out of bed and into the restroom. A moment later, I hear my wife's voice, slightly muffled by the closed door.

"Honey, I'm going out to the driveway for a minute."
(I grunt in acknowledgment, nevermind that it made no sense to my semi-conscious brain.)

A few moments later, she comes back inside.

"C'mon, Allen, you gotta come out and see this. You can see Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the sky!"

Still semi-conscious, I explained that I really didn't want to go outside yet.

"C'mon, Allen, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event!"

I sighed. Her tone told me that she would be very disappointed if I did not go see what she wanted me to see. I do not like disappointing my wife, so I re-emerged into the bedroom, put on the clothes she'd laid out for me and went outside with her.

It was fairly striking, I'll say that. Venus was shining like a very bright star, Jupiter was to its right and Mars was faintly visible to the left of Venus.

I look at it for all of about two minutes before heading back inside. It was impressive but I'm a person of habit and duty. I knew I didn't have the luxury of enjoying this stellar phenomenon long enough to throw off the morning schedule of getting my sons up and driving them to school on time.

So, a little bit later, my wife wakes up the boys for me and proceeds to take them outside to view the planets.

Actually, I'm glad they got to see them, just as they'd seen the lunar eclipse. It's all part of the wonders of God's universe and I do think it's important for them to appreciate it. I'm told it was much fainter in the sky because the sun had begun to rise -- but they still got to see it, which is the important thing.

And I still got the kids breakfast and to school on time.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Operation Christmas Gift

I wanted to share something my church is doing that can positively impact children and families of every ethnicity and nationality in the U.S. and around the world. Please read this and decide for yourself if you would like to help. This will not benefit me personally, my family or this website. This is for children everywhere.

Operation Christmas Gift is a unique project of Christian love and evangelism sponsored by the New Covenant Church, delivers gifts to suffering children while also telling them about God greatest gift – His Son, Jesus Christ. You and your family, church, or organization can take part in this exciting worthwhile project simply by following the link below:

Operation Christmas Gift

Click here for a downloadable Adobe Acrobat brochure
(PDF format - English)


Click here for a downloadable Adobe Acrobat brochure
(PDF format - Spanish)


Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Let The Politics Begone!

Updates to IR Haven: I've removed the link category of "Political Blogs." I also removed several of the political links. I kept several links that are just good blogs that happen to have a political element. I renamed the former "Political Blogs" section "Blogs of Interest." The election's over, the political fervor is dying down, it's time to focus on other things now.

Gosh, that feels good to write!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Sigh Of Relief And A Return To Linux

Wow, over in one day -- what a relief!

Yesterday, I added a 10 GB partition to my home PC's hard drive so I could try the new Mandrake Linux Community Edition 10.1! Install was quick and relatively painless (about 10 minutes), easily configured, nice and easy firewall feature. I downloaded and installed Firefox for Linux (I love Firefox!) and downloaded the Realplayer 10 Gold plugin for Mozilla (which works better in Mozilla than Firefox -- but hey, so long as it works). Mandrake recognized all of my hardware except my old scanner (no biggie) and had no problem connecting to the internet through my broadband cable modem.

Are there any other Mandrake users out there? I'd love to hear from you, in comments or in e-mail!

Anyway, I don't want this to be a long post. I'm happy the election is already resolved and I gained more respect for Senator Kerry from his classy and gracious concession speech than throughout the whole, arduous campaign. I'll admit it, I was impressed. Now, on with life...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, November 01, 2004

Election 2004: It's Almost Over!

I don't know about you but I have reached full saturation with the political discussions, ramifications, polls and such. I am truly ready for the election, counting (hopefully not recounting) and everything to be over and done with.

We'll see what happens tomorrow then. Have a great day today!

Best Wishes,
Allen




You Are a Life Blogger!



Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

Friday, October 29, 2004



Yep, I'm an early voter. I went and placed my vote today for President Bush and Vice-President Cheney to be re-elected. I have rarely felt such an urgency to vote and I felt extremely satisfied walking away from the polls.

As an American, I love my country and feel blessed for the freedoms my family, friends and I enjoy. I also know that those freedoms were purchased with the sacrifice of men and women's lives and those freedoms are being defended this very day by the men and women in the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community, along with the allies of the U.S. in the international war on terror...and leading that effort all is the U.S. Commander-In-Chief.

So, come what may, I know I participated in the election process. Now, like everyone else, I'll wait and see what the rest of the country decides, who they vote for or if they even decide to vote.

Best Wishes,
Allen



Thursday, October 28, 2004

An Eclipse, Family Time, Youthfest `04 & The Return Of The Voyager (Van)



So yesterday was an interesting day. Our van was finally repaired and we went to pick it up. About the time we got the van from our friend who'd worked on it, the lunar eclipse was starting. As the boys and I headed home in the van (and Angel followed in the rental car), the boys got really excited about the eclipse and asked some good questions.

Once we got home and transferred some papers and stuff from the rental car back to the van, I decided to let the boys stay outside with me and watch the eclipse. Adam got out his toy binoculars and watched, occasionally letting his brother look through them. A few minutes later, Angel came outside and we all watched as the eclipse reached its fullness. Then as we saw that the eclipse was starting to wane, we went back inside. I'd hoped to use the digital camera to snap some shots of the eclipse but AA batteries were nowhere to be found (drat.) So, this cool picture I found on the Drudge Report will just have to do...

Youthfest 2004 was a great success last Saturday! We had an terrific turnout, sound was excellent, transitions between speakers and musical groups was near-flawless, the guest groups were diverse and talented, the Gospel was preached in three well-timed mini-sermons and best of all, one soul came to Christ! That made the whole event worthwhile...

In other news, I've been continuing to tweak IR Haven's look and feel over the last week. Thanks to Blog Explosion, we've been getting dozens of extra visitors per day, so I've been trying to make the site easier to load and nicer to look at. If you want to leave feedback on IR Haven, you can e-mail me or just leave a comment on this blog entry. Have a great day!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Modern Faith

Some people say they don't have faith.

Some say they don't have enough faith to believe in God.

Some say they don't have enough faith to believe that Jesus Christ is Savior of the world.

I would counter that by saying that everyone has faith. Maybe not faith in God or Jesus, but everyone exhibits faith every single day.

It takes faith to believe you can open your eyes.
It takes faith to get out of bed and face each day.
It takes faith to operate a toaster or microwave oven.
It takes faith to ride a bicycle or drive a car.
It takes faith to repair something.
It takes faith to go on a job interview.
It takes faith to travel by airplane.
It takes faith to believe your computer will boot up correctly.
It takes faith to believe that someone will respond when you instant message them.
It takes faith to believe that people will read your blog.
It takes a LOT of faith to become a physician.
It takes a LOT of faith to commit to raising a child.
It takes a LOT of faith to make a marriage work.
It takes a LOT of faith to advance a career.
It takes a LOT of faith to be involved in politics or activism.
It takes a LOT of faith to recover from failure and get on with your life.

It took God to put that faith in all of us.

It took God to give us a desire to better ourselves, to seek purpose in life.

It took Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross and God resurrecting Him from the dead and send the Holy Ghost that can fill that space, that emptiness, and give us direction and encouragement during our lifetimes and hope for what's to come after we die.

Does it take faith to believe in God? Yes.

Does it take faith to believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes.

Does it take faith to believe in an afterlife? Absolutely.

Is it hard to take that step of faith to believe in these things? Definitely.

Can you do it? Yes.

Why?

Because God gives each and every one of us that faith when we're born.

2 Peter 3:9 (King James Version)
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

John 3:16 (KJV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


Thanks for reading this. It's not copied from anywhere, I wrote it (except for the scriptures, of course)...and yes, it took faith. Have a great day!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I'm Lovin' It! (I Hope McDonald's Doesn't Mind)



...but my wife and I are really enjoying our 2002 red Ford Focus rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Sure, it's got semi-miserable gas mileage, odd inside manual locks, weird cupholders and its CD player doesn't work but other than that, it's a dream! I love the great suspension, smooth gear-shifting, pep of the engine (must be a V6 -- which would account for the inferior gas mileage), the close to the ground feel and the fact that this vehicle has working air conditioning (the van, alas, needs a new compressor -- but that'll have to wait, it's Fall already).

Anyway, we've got it till next Wednesday. More soon!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Disco With A Twist, Anyone?

My wife showed me this incredible animation over the weekend and I just have to share it with you! It's an MPEG file, so you'll need either RealPlayer (Free Version), Windows Media Player or some other MPG file viewer (I found out by accident today that the Firefox browser does a pretty good job all on it's own!). It's worth the 3 MB download to see an alien sing (and act) 42 seconds of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive!" (complete with disco ball!)

Alien Song

Best Wishes,
Allen
Rental Cars, Family and Fixits

So my family (my sister in particular, as well as her husband and my mom -- yes, I have a sibling) agrees to help us with our vehicle dilemma and I make arrangements for good deals on a used transmission for the van and a rental car in the meantime. All looks good. I take a shuttle out to the airport to pick up the rental car and run into CREDIT CARD INSANITY at Advantage rental cars.

I try to avoid using credit cards, I prefer our debit card. Pay with what you have, I always say... Anyway, so Advantage takes debit cards but want to charge $300 to them -- actually withdraw money -- as the deposit. This would be fine if I had something like $500 in my account at any given time but alas, I get paid weekly. They say, no problem, just use a credit card, they don't charge anything to it. That would be fine if I had an active credit card but I don't. They also don't take numbers for other credit cards from over the phone (I can sort of see the reasoning for that). So, I say, hey, no problem, I'LL JUST PAY IN CASH. "We can't take cash as payment." Huh?? "Corporate policy. I could lose my job if I take cash as payment."

Mumble, grumble...fast-forward to this morning. I make one call to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and they:

  1. Set up an appointment for me and confirm they take cash as payment.

  2. Send a car to pick me up within minutes.

  3. Tell me exactly what they need (proof of insurance, driver's license, etc.)

  4. Explain their terms.

  5. Give me a better price than Advantage.

  6. Take my cash.

  7. Give me a free upgrade from economy to mid-size vehicle (a 2002 Ford Focus)

  8. I'm done in less than 20 minutes and drive the vehicle off the lot.

  9. Make me very happy.




So, we have a rental vehicle for a week (why is it cheaper to rent longer?) and our own vehicle should be fixed by Friday. I'm liking Enterprise but I will never use Advantage again. So, yesterday was stressful but today, I am doing alright! Many a gracious and sincere thank you to my loving relatives for their support.

Tonight is final practice for Youthfest 2004 at the church. Soundcheck at the Delco Center is Friday and the event is Saturday! First Light will be one of the first performing bands, so if you're coming, arrive a little early!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lots Of Little Updates

I've been making friends in the blogosphere and registering/submitting IR Haven to more blog-related sites. It's weird, when you decide to do that, you inevitably find more sites to trade links with and run the risk of obsessive linking -- agh!

In other news, the transmission in our van (our only vehicle) went *ka-put* last Thursday, so we're looking at getting a used transmission and having it transplanted. I tend to be car-ignorant and computer savvy; I suppose in the end, it all balances out. Anyway, that's why it's good to have family and friends who care -- who also happen to specialize in the things you don't know. Lord-willing, we'll be mobile again in a matter of days. Fortunately, I have a job that's so close I can literally walk to it and it only takes 15 minutes (in traffic!). Life goes on, I'll keep you updated.

More updates soon...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, October 15, 2004

NEW: Live Message Alerts!

Yep, I went ahead and signed on for the new "Live Message Alerts" for blogs. You have to have a .NET passport from MSN (they're free) like for a MSN Messenger or Hotmail account and then you can receive instant updates about IR Haven postings, either on your MSN Messenger on your computer, PDA, cell phone or e-mail! I personally thought that was great idea. I hope you do, too.

If you don't have a .NET passport, just click on the "Live Message Alerts!" button on the upper right of this page (under the clock) and it will take you through the free sign-up process. If you already do have a .NET passport, just follow the rest of the steps to start getting your updates.

I'm posting a lot more frequently these days and I really want everyone to be up-to-speed, so go ahead and get your Live Message Alerts today!

Best Wishes,
Allen
Same Blog, New Slogan



Yep, I finally decided to get rid of "It's not just a website, it's a Community!" for, well, obvious reasons: converting from a website with a forum to a blog with comments changes the nature of things. It allows me to say a whole lot more and share personal pictures and events in my life but there's just not as much conversation as there used to be in the old forum days. A forum was just too crazy to run, though -- too many people with axes to grind, usually on my head...and I just didn't need the headache. So when the free service I was using suddenly became not-so-free, about two years ago, it was just a matter of practicality to ditch the forum. When I started the blog last year, the slogan still was cool, so I kept it around.

But if I've noticed anything about the internet, it's that you have to reinvent yourself now and then to keep people interested in what you're doing. Not that I'm making Madonna-like claims (Madonna, like it or not, is the "Queen of Reinvention"), but I love this site and I want it to be all it can be for you. And now that we've hooked up with Blog Explosion, there's a potential for a whole new audience for IR Haven.

So, I thought to myself, "What really defines what IR Haven is all about now -- and then what's a cool hook I can add at the end?" The end result: "Interracial Marriage. Biracial Kids. Blogging the Paradise!"

Let me know what you think! Leave me a comment below.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Return To "Supersize Me"



The DVD of Supersize Me came out last week, featuring an additional hour of material -- including a segment with me and my ISAA Rapport co-host Gia Melissa Marciano! That's right, our segment is located in the "Deleted Scenes" section in the "Overeaters Anonymous" segment. Not that the director, Morgan Spurlock, implied anything about us, rather he chose to insert our segment after he visited and filmed an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. We're the final 34 seconds of that segment.

You can hear what Gia and I had to say about the experience in The ISAA Rapport by by clicking here! (You'll need Windows Media Player to hear it - the topic comes up in the second half of the show.)

So, this week, Gia was contacted by someone who got the DVD and saw the segment, so Gia contacts me and says "You think we're in this thing now???" Angel bought a copy and confirmed everything.

Wow! We're famous -- sorta!

Best Wishes,
Allen
Saturday Birthday Party Pics




Adam and Josey open more gifts




Adam and Josey pose with some of their gifts




Angel helps the boys with their gifts




Adam and Josey blow out their birthday candles on the cake




The birthday cake (red velvet -- yum!)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Friday's Birthday Party (In Pictures)



Josey and Adam in front of the refreshments




Goodies at the birthday party included "caterpillar" cupcakes (alternating vanilla and chocolate with different icing on each "caterpillar"), chips and dip, soda, plus little smoked sausages in BBQ sauce (not pictured)




Adam takes a swing at the frog pinata!




Josey's turn!




Adam and Josey open gifts, as friends look on!
(Yes, those are gold- and silver-colored crowns on their heads)




As you can see, the boys had a great birthday party!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

(Birthday) Party Time!

The boys had a GREAT birthday party with some of their friends from church last night! There were about about seven kids and two sets of parents. Something pretty unique about it, too, (though not planned) was that four out of those seven kids were biracial like Adam and Josey! So here we had a boys birthday party where the majority of kids are biracial -- that was neat. Of course, it doesn't matter to the kids and we don't really think about it either, but in retrospect, it's kind of amazing. I guess it's amazing to me because it doesn't happen too often that the majority of any child's birthday party is composed of multiracial children -- to unintentionally and randomly end up with a racial "neutral ground" where kids can just be free to be kids.

And by the way, my wife Angel gets total credit for the planning of the boys' birthday party together and she was an excellent hostess fo the evening, too. The party was part kids' games (like the three-legged spoon race and "Simon Says"-like games), part refreshments, part beat the frog piƱata and finally, the opening of the presents. For the few who remained when that was over, they had a choice of Super-Nintendo with Josey or Charlotte's Web 2 on DVD in the computer room.

The boys said it was their "best birthday ever!"

I got pictures with the digital camera. I'll post `em as soon as I can.

We'll be having a separate birthday party with family this afternoon at home and then it will migrate to "Austin Park and Pizza." Should be fun! I'll update later.

I so love it when the boys can enjoy themselves so much. I know those feelings are usually associated with the Mommy -- but this Papa has those feelings, too.


Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, October 08, 2004

It's Been A Busy Day So Far!

I haven't gotten a chance to post my son, Adam Qyrive (pronounced "keer-ee-vay") Steadham's pics, as it's his 9th birthday today. We're having the first of two birthday parties for the boys tonight (the other is tomorrow). I still plan to post some cool pics of Adam but I may add some digital pics from one or both parties, too.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Updates and Blog Explosion

I've added a clock to IR Haven from Clocklink and hooked up with Blog Explosion. Blog Explosion is a free way to build traffic for blog-related sites.



I've been trying to blog every day this week, which has been a little difficult because I've been sick with whatever blew in last weekend. But as much as possible I will keep blogging.

Also, tomorrow is my oldest son, Adam's, birthday! So, expect a couple of pics of him, just like I did for Josey yesterday!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Today Is My Youngest Son's Birthday!

Jonavinne ("Josey") Alexander Steadham is 6 years old today. I am very proud of him!

Here's a couple of pictures of him. Give him a "Happy Birthday" in the comments section if you like...




Josey with big bro, Adam, being cool!



Josey fitting in at the University of Texas at Austin in 2002
(I was part of a diversity panel and my wife and son attended)


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More Info On Youthfest 2004 In Austin, Texas!




Monday, October 04, 2004

More About Myst: Revelation

Well, I finally got to play the game on Friday night and Saturday. It truly does build upon the Myst legend of great graphics, animations and strong story -- but with some twists. Myst: Revelation picks up over 10 years after "Myst: Exile" left off but takes place before "Uru: Ages Beyond Myst." It also answers the question of what happened to the main character (Atrus)' sons after the first "Myst" while properly acquainting the game player to Atrus' youngest child, his daughter Yeesha (who was introduced as an eccentric adult in "Uru").

The game is back to 1st person perspective ("Uru" introduced the creation of 3rd person customizable avatars) with some really nice additions, like improved "zip mode," a camera to take snapshots and a viewer to see those snapshots later. Something else that's very new and helpful is a "help/hints" section in the options menu, so that when (not if) you get stuck, you have varying degrees of assistance on solving the puzzles as well as a map of the age you're on. There is one catch, though: if you use help, it mildly alters the ending of the game. Oh, well, I needed some help in a few areas already!

The game has vastly improved 360-degree rotation views and wonderful animated interactions, whether wind or fog or insects or other animals and people. So far, I've only found one extremely minor bug on the "Spire" age and even it did not affect the game play.

According to the game's makers, Ubisoft, there is over one hour of animated footage, in addition to the regular interactive features -- and the animations are virtually seemless with the game. My wife and I are both sticklers for detail and thus far, we have not been disappointed.

Another nice element to the story is that you can figure most of it out but it still manages to toss out some pleasant and unexpected surprises.

Myst: Revelation is rated "T for Teens" for some slightly edgy psychological moments but the game really isn't violent or gory. That's always a plus for me.

Anyway, that's my two cents on the game...which I haven't finished playing yet.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, October 01, 2004




I don't think I ever mentioned that my wife, Angel, and I are Myst game players. I have to say, I never really got into the original Myst. I made some attempts to play it but Angel played it through to the end. Then we go the Myst Complete Chronicles this summer, although we could only play Exile because our computer uses the Windows 2000 operating system. The Myst and Riven versions on DVD only wanted either Windows 95 or Windows 98. Later, we got a $5 version of Riven in its original CD format and could play that. Then we got intrigued by Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and purchased the Complete Chronicles version of Uru, which includes two bonus packs ("To D'ni" and "The Path of the Shell"). I played that game all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now, we've just gotten Myst IV: Revelation -- the newest edition of the Myst series.

We like the Myst games for several reasons. First and foremost, they don't require you to shoot people or kill them in other unsavory ways (to which someone in the blogosphere replies "but what else are games for, man??"). Secondly, these games continue to raise the bar on high-quality graphics, animations and music scores in a videogame (there are reasons the Myst games consistently win awards). Third, the Myst games have great stories that create a fascinating, logical continuity between the games. Fourth, the games require great problem-solving skills -- in fact, the "puzzle" aspects of the game will most likely seriously stump and frustrate you at some points...but it's okay, there are plenty of game walkthroughs online. There's no shame in getting some help. Really, it's better than the alternative: banging your head against your monitor (I imagine that could get pretty expensive). Lastly, it really is fun to play these games. Our boys are even into them and, unlike other games, we don't have to worry that the boys are going to imitate fight moves.

I'll play Myst: Revelation for the first time tonight.

Do we have any other Myst players out there? If you do play Myst, which Myst game (Myst, Riven, Exile, Uru) do you like the most? The least? Why do you like or dislike the Myst games? Will you be trying the new Myst: Revelation? Feel free to comment below...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, September 30, 2004

I Just Felt Like Sharing This With You Today...

No commentary from me on it, I'll just let the scriptures speak for themselves.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Psalms 50: 1 - 23 (King James Version)

The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.

He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.

Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.

Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God.

I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.

I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds.

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?

Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?

Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee.

When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.

Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.

These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Priorities

It is not bragging to say that my non-profit work with ISAA could probably gain me some kind of celebrity status; I've done an incredible amount of media spots on television, radio, newspapers and magazines...and there is no doubt that this work has helped people obtain valuable information to empower themselves and make choices to improve their lives. I'm happy to do this work and I love to help people whenever possible.

Recently, however, I've had to pull back from that work and do some delegating to other ISAA volunteers. The Lord used my minister to help me prioritize my focus...not to stop all my non-profit work but to give some much-deserved extra attention to my wife and kids as well as my day-job. It was just in time, too. The Lord has really blessed me in my communications with my wife and being able to be a more integral part of my sons' lives.

I still coordinate efforts in ISAA and maintain the ISAA website (which is not a daily task). I still read a tremendous amount of e-mail in efforts to keep up-to-date on matters that affect the size acceptance movement. But ultimately, I have to take care of home and family before I can help anyone else. That's biblical and I stand by it. The Lord has really enriched my life, even in a short time, as a result -- and I am very grateful.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

When Allergies Attack...

This morning, my wife was ill (bad allergies), so -- having already taken my boys to school, I realized I would have to rearrange my work schedule to be able to pick them up. You see, my oldest son goes to a charter school with hours of 8 am to 12 pm and my youngest son goes to public school with hours of 7:45 am to 2:45 pm.

I feel blessed to have understanding supervisors...

The upside is, I got to spend more time with my boys and take unnecessary pressure off of my wife while she's under the weather. It's days like this that I feel great about my marriage and parenthood. The Lord helped me to switch gears the moment I realized Angel wasn't feeling well and just do what needed to be done. I'm very grateful to the Lord for that because if He hadn't given me a good understanding of what to do, this could have turned out very differently and been much more stressful.

Anyway, just sharing...

Best Wishes,
Allen



Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mild Modifications and Near-Future Plans, etc.

I've updated some links on IR Haven, mainly to take out newly "broken" links. I also added the "Free Dakota" banner, about an 8-year old boy taken by Child Protective Services in Valparaiso, Indiana because of the boy's weight. ISAA has decided to be supportive of this child and his mother, based upon overwhelming evidence in the mother's favor. Please check it out, you can help reunite a little boy with his wonderful, loving mother. Just click the Free Dakota button below:



In other news, my church is gearing up for a wonderful "Youthfest 2004." This is a program where our church works with other churches to send the positive message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to today's youth of all nations. First Light will be performing, as well as several other musical groups from our church, in addition to youth-oriented skits, statistics and performances by groups from other churches. The date for Youthfest 2004 is October 23, 2004 in Austin, Texas at the Delco Center. I'll give more details, including times, as I get them.

I want to do more blogging on IR Haven, but I've been wanting to keep everything relevant and not just relay talking points from the news or talk radio or what have you...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Friday, September 10, 2004

My Sons, The Photographers...

Here's some neato pics that my sons took (with my wife's help, on a couple of them) when my oldest son, Adam, begged and pleaded for a camera (we got a disposable, turned out pretty good, considering the boys are 8 and 5, respectively).



You might say Adam has a different perspective on the world!




Not to be left out of the action, it's "Super Josey" to the rescue!





Bubbles, anyone?




Josey is proud of the Lego spaceship that he built!


This could lead to more "Photo-blogging With Adam & Josey!" Stay tuned...

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Sometimes Others Say It Better...

From The New York Times

Cult of Death
By DAVID BROOKS

Published: September 7, 2004


We've been forced to witness the massacre of innocents. In New York, Madrid, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Baghdad and Bali, we have seen thousands of people destroyed while going about the daily activities of life.

We've been forced to endure the massacre of children. Whether it's teenagers outside an Israeli disco or students in Beslan, Russia, we've seen kids singled out as special targets.

We should by now have become used to the death cult that is thriving at the fringes of the Muslim world. This is the cult of people who are proud to declare, "You love life, but we love death." This is the cult that sent waves of defenseless children to be mowed down on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war, that trains kindergartners to become bombs, that fetishizes death, that sends people off joyfully to commit mass murder.

This cult attaches itself to a political cause but parasitically strangles it. The death cult has strangled the dream of a Palestinian state. The suicide bombers have not brought peace to Palestine; they've brought reprisals. The car bombers are not pushing the U.S. out of Iraq; they're forcing us to stay longer. The death cult is now strangling the Chechen cause, and will bring not independence but blood.

But that's the idea. Because the death cult is not really about the cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing and dying.

It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even from human nature, which says, Love children, and Love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.

We should be used to this pathological mass movement by now. We should be able to talk about such things. Yet when you look at the Western reaction to the Beslan massacres, you see people quick to divert their attention away from the core horror of this act, as if to say: We don't want to stare into this abyss. We don't want to acknowledge those parts of human nature that were on display in Beslan. Something here, if thought about too deeply, undermines the categories we use to live our lives, undermines our faith in the essential goodness of human beings.

Three years after Sept. 11, too many people have become experts at averting their eyes. If you look at the editorials and public pronouncements made in response to Beslan, you see that they glide over the perpetrators of this act and search for more conventional, more easily comprehensible targets for their rage.

The Boston Globe editorial, which was typical of the American journalistic response, made two quick references to the barbarity of the terrorists, but then quickly veered off with long passages condemning Putin and various Russian policy errors.

The Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, speaking on behalf of the European Union, declared: "All countries in the world need to work together to prevent tragedies like this. But we also would like to know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened."

It wasn't a tragedy. It was a carefully planned mass murder operation. And it wasn't Russian authorities who stuffed basketball nets with explosives and shot children in the back as they tried to run away.

Whatever horrors the Russians have perpetrated upon the Chechens, whatever their ineptitude in responding to the attack, the essential nature of this act was in the act itself. It was the fact that a team of human beings could go into a school, live with hundreds of children for a few days, look them in the eyes and hear their cries, and then blow them up.

Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to describe these murderers. They were called "separatists" and "hostage-takers." Three years after Sept. 11, many are still apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to rationalize terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are they trying to achieve?

They're still victims of the delusion that Paul Berman diagnosed after Sept. 11: "It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable."

This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don't want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.