Silent Victory

Those who say NASCAR racing is boring don’t watch it. Today’s race was incredibly dramatic. After today’s race there were only three races left in the season, with the championship up for grabs. Championship contenders were dropping like flies, leaving room for guys farther down the list, like my favorite driver, Mark Martin.

Martin dominated the race, leading the most laps and being there at the end to win it. But with about 20 laps to go the caution came out, and everyone but Martin decided to pit. Bad move. The lapped car of Greg Bifle got in the mix, Martin was shuffled back and the racing got pretty wild. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the guy poised to take over the championship run, tried to squeeze in front of rookie Carl Edwards. He didn’t have the room and spun out, smacking the wall and ending his day.

Yet another caution. Martin had a chance to make up for his mistake as everyone pitted again. The green flag came out and the three-wide racing started. Martin got through some close calls and set his sights on Jimmie Johnson, the first place car. Where did Johnson come from?

It’s the story of the weekend. Tragedy struck the Hendrick Motorsports Team (notice it’s Hendrick, with no ‘s’) last weekend, when Rick Hendrick lost his son, his brother, and his twin nieces in a plane crash (three other racing crew members also died). Rick Hendrick owns the Jimmie Johnson team, as well as three others, so you can imagine the emotion when Johnson held off Martin in the final laps and won the race. Victory lane was literally quiet after Johnson climbed out of the car.

To make things even more interesting, Jimmie Johnson’s win today was his third straight, helping him climb his way back into the championship race. And you call that boring?

But what was really bizarre is that the announcers never specifically referred to the tragedy. Never once did I hear them explain that members of the Hendrick Motorsports Team died in plane crash the previous weekend. They talked about tragedy, they talked about an emotional press conference, they talked about how fitting it would be for Johnson to win, they talked about funerals, they talked about how amazing it is that the Hendrick teams still came through — but they never said what happened.

What is up with that? Is it that hard to talk about death?

Hello, My Name is Novelist

Tomorrow begins the grand experiment. One month. One novel. I’m tired of all the anticipation. I’m ready to sit down and make it happen.

I’ve started a blog to chronicle my month-long novel and word count, which will go by the working title of my novel, Downtown Dandelions (Patent pending, patent pending, patent pending!). I expect my blog entries here to dwindle in the next 30 days, though if you don’t detect such a drop, you better head over to that blog and make sure I’m keeping up with the word count.

Earlier I had the idea of making myself a T-shirt that announced to the world my 30-day accomplishment, assuming I make it. So far I’m liking the “Hello, My Name is Novelist” idea. Though I’d be happy to hear your suggestions.

My movtivation is in full effect. The blog is set up. The caffeine is ready. Last night I e-mailed 77 people, encouraging them to mock me if I fail. The sun and the stars are even aligning to help me. With Daylight Savings Time ending (that’s how it works, right?) it’s getting light out earlier, and I actually couldn’t sleep past 6:30 this morning. I think that will only help me get up each day and tackle those 1,667 words (of course the hours of daylight will only shrink as the month goes on). I even wrote about my commitment in my church’s youth group newsletter, somehow covering the topic in my “When I Was Your Age…” column.

There’s nothing left but the writing. Let’s get it on.

Vote or Sleep

I’ve spent the last hour scouring the Internet for information about the political races that don’t exactly make headlines. The Minnesota District 4 U.S. House race, the District 66B Minnesota House race, the various Minnesota Supreme Court and Appeals Court races, and the crucial Ramsey County Soil and Water Supervisor.

I’m continually amazed at how difficult it is to find basic information about these lesser races. The state wide elections (U.S. House and state Supreme Court) garner web sites for candidates, but every other race gets barely a bio from the local paper. Is it too much to ask for a simple web site? $65 annually can get you a web site with all the frills you need. That seems cheaper than any newspaper ad or direct mail campaign.

And for the folks that do have web sites, I’m amazed at how pathetic the are. Only a few offer some simple, straight forward discussions of the issues. The others are too busy recruiting supporters or bashing their opponents.

It’s even more fun when you get to the judges’ races. Apparently judges aren’t allowed to talk about how they stand on issues, since judges are simply supposed to interpret the law. So you’re left to read self-important bios and somehow figure out whether or not the judge is honorable and worth electing.

And don’t get me started on the Soil and Water Supervisor. Soil needs supervising?

I believe I wrote-in Wes Halula for Soil and Water Supervisor the last time I voted. I might just do it again.

iPod Envy

U2 iPodThe already popular iPod took an enormous leap forward today with the official announcement of a U2-themed iPod and a new color screen photo iPod with a 60 GB capacity. While the cool factor has been advanced incredibly, the new products don’t do a whole lot to advance the usefulness of the already useful iPod. A color screen is cool and photos in my pocket are fun, but unless you’re a real photograph buff there’s no need to carry your photo albums everywhere you go. It’s not like you can browse photos while you drive or while jogging down the block.

But nevertheless, cool new features. The black and red U2 iPod is the first time the traditional iPod has been seen in anything but white. It also comes with a $50 gift certificate to buy “The Complete U2,” which sounds like the band’s complete catalog. Not a bad bit of marketing for Apple or U2, who release their newest album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in less than a month. (thanks to Nick for the heads-up)

In other U2 news, you can watch a video of U2’s legendary Live Aid performance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” all a part of the release of the Live Aid DVD.

Mike, The Cat

Mike, The CatThat’s a beautiful illustration from my first ever book, the hardcover Mike, The Cat, which I wrote in first grade.

It tells the thrilling story of how Mike the cat woke up the entire family so they wouldn’t be late for work or school. What a hero, that Mike.

The book earned what I can only assume is a prestigious “Scotchcott Award” from my school, Scotch Elementary.

Abortion: “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

This entry shouldn’t even be filed under politics, but it’s an election year and I guess that’s the default category. But it’s so beyond politics.

Sojourners has an article from Dr. Glen Harold Stassen exploring how the number of abortions performed in the U.S. appears to have gone up during George W. Bush’s presidency, after a 24-year low. Read the article. It’s not a conclusive link, but it’s based on available data and written by a pro-life (backed up by life experience) statistician.

The basic conclusion is that more abortions seem to be happening because of economic reasons. Unemployment and lack of health care make having a baby prohibitively expensive, making abortion seem like a reasonable alternative.

My point here isn’t to argue politics or to rag on Bush. I’m not suggesting voting for Kerry would somehow be more pro-life (though that would make a funny argument). But I am suggesting that pro-lifers out there, especially the ones who look at me in shock when I tell them I won’t cast my vote solely based on abortion, need to look at other issues. What good does it do to tighten a few legal reins on abortion if the same government officials follow an economic policy that results in more abortions? Being pro-life has to mean caring about more than just what the law says. It has to mean caring about what happens to real people. And the current economic situation in this country is hurting real people and leading to more abortions. That should be at tragedy.

Pro-life voters, if next week you’ll be casting your votes simply based on the issue of abortion, then I urge you to let your voice be heard that economic policy must also be pro-life.

How sad it seems to imagine a country where a well-meaning and justified pro-life lobby succeeds in banning abortion, only to find a culture of death and loss thanks to economic policy that doesn’t help and nurture life.

Update: Steve Knight points us to a further discussion refuting and counter-refuting Stassen’s statement. And I must have subconsciously stolen Steve’s blog title. Sorry man.

“Sorry, Wrong School”

Politics and faith are colliding with the election less than two weeks away, and it’s happening on the campus of my alma mater, Bethel University. Yesterday while on campus I noticed a giant G.O.P. rig in front of Heritage Hall (a dorm I called home my junior year), which apparently has caused quite a controversy.

Yesterday Sojourners posted an opinion piece from a current senior at Bethel describing the politically explosive campus:

“The College Republicans (CRs) had set up a table where students could register to vote in the upcoming election. … As a student walked by the table she was approached by one of the CRs. He enthusiastically asked her if she would like to show her support for the president by registering to vote. As she continued walking she politely turned to him and said, “Sorry, wrong party.” He immediately retorted, “Sorry, wrong school.” The implication was clear. You go to a Christian school. Whatever your faith inclinations are telling you are wrong. Christians vote Republican. Democrats have no place here.”

The article goes on to mention some efforts to create open political dialogue and a more accepting attitude on campus.

Brings back memories of the stir caused by my editorial during the 2000 election, “God is Not a Republican.” I didn’t have the tact or the political wisdom to appropriately address the issues, but now it seems they’re causing a bigger stir and much more is being done.

NaNoWriMo vs. NaNoBlogMo

Hey all you NaNo-ers out there (OK, that’s really only two of you)! Blogger has just layed down the NaNo gauntlet. They’re encouraging people to participate in National Novel Writing Month and use Blogger while they’re at it.

My thoughts on the idea:

  • Maybe I’m too eager to jump on every bandwagon that comes through the neighborhood, but this sounds like a fun way to do the novel-in-a-month thing.
  • I’m not sure if the instant feedback would petrify or encourage me.
  • Perhaps I could rig the feedback to go to an e-mail account I don’t check continually.
  • I’m not sure if I’d enjoy using Blogger again (instead of Movable Type) because it’s fast and easy, or if I’d feel dumb using a free product instead of the one I paid $200 for.
  • Putting my first novel out in the public immediately seems so foolish, but I also have to believe it will be such crap as to not be worth anything. If a publishable novel did come out of it, the revision process would leave it virtually unrecognizable.
  • Why on earth would I want the world to read such crap!
  • Then again, if I have to suffer through this, maybe you should, too.
  • Blogging will probably be light in November, so posting the book in process would sort of make up for it.
  • If that’s the case, why don’t I just post it on this blog?
  • Getting to read my daily attemps at a novel also seems like better blog fodder than my other idea: a daily word count update.
  • What would foster more encouragement? A daily word count (ooh, go Kevin! You wrote 432 words today. Slacker!) or the actual product (ooh, go Kevin! You wrote the second worst piece of fiction I’ve ever read in my life!)?
  • Is it November already?
  • Blogging NaNoWriMo almost seems like a Reality TV Show. Maybe I could set up my iSight as a live web cam and charge you all to watch. Maybe Steve would write witty commentary.
  • Or not.
  • Does it seem incredibly conceited to think that people would actually want to read my unedited pile of crap? Or is it just me?
  • Or is this yet another tool in the bag of tricks designed to help me reach 50,000 words in 30 days? Because if I made a freaking blog out of my pile of crap book I’d have to finish it.
  • I’d still want to write in Microsoft Word, so are any benefits of blogging NaNoWriMo worth the time of copying and pasting my book into the appropriate entry? That’s what two, three minutes? I could crank out another 50 words in that time. Over the month that’s an entire day’s worth of writing.
  • Or maybe I should just shut up and go to bed.

Christian Fiction For the Rest of Us

David Long, an acquisitions editor for Bethany House Publishers has an interesting blog going: Faith in Fiction, which is exploring the idea of Christian fiction that pushes the traditional boundaries of CBA fiction (Christian Booksellers Association). The blog has been going for almost a year now and is a bankrolled project of Bethany House, though you wouldn’t know it from reading the blog. David seems to have a tremendous amount of freedom in questioning the status quo.

It’s unclear what books have been acquired or even published as a result of the blog, but the fact that the blog is still around a year later implies that Bethany House is serious. Aspiring novelists who chafe at the CBA leash might want to check it out.

The Ol’ 16

TransferOn Saturday I hopped on the ol’ Metro Transit route 16 and rode into downtown Minneapolis for the Twin Cities Book Festival to see Chris Baty speak (author of No Plot? No Problem! and founder of National Novel Writing Month). He was great, funny and encouraging, just like the book.

But most of all I enjoyed the bus ride. It was the exact same route I took the entire two and a half years I worked at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The Book Festival was held at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), across the street from where I used to work.

The sites from the #16 sure have changed in the year and a few months since I stopped regularly riding.

On the corner of Lexington & University the old shopping center behind White Castle is being torn down to make way for an Aldi grocery store (with a Rainbow and Cub just down University this seems kind of silly, but whatever). Since I go by this corner every day I already knew it was coming down, but I got to see the carnage up close.

University Avenue is now the “proud” home of two adult entertainment stores within a few blocks from one another. How is it that an area that previously had zero such stores can now support two?

The Burger King across from Ax Man’s is now “Chicken & Fish” — I wish I had a picture of their new sign. The Embers across the street from that is now a South China Sea restaurant.

A little farther down at University & Prior the new Menards is almost open and looking sharp. It sure beats the delapidated hotel that used to occupy that corner (of course there’s still a dive of a hotel across the street).

At that point I settled into my book and didn’t notice much until we pulled into the Minneapolis downtown zone. The new light rail Hiawatha line was in full effect, rather impressive looking (if pointless from my perspective in St. Paul).

When the 16 finally came to a stop at 4th & Niccolet I saw the wonder that is the new Minneapolis Library. I watched them tear down the old one, and now the five stories of the new one tower above the street, though it’s mainly just pillars and floors. It’s supposed to open in 2006.

At this point I switch buses and hop any of a handful of routes that head down Hennepin Avenue. From this vantage point I saw the old Fairmont building, which is soon to become the fancy new boutique hotel, the Chambers Hotel.

Finally I get off the bus at Spruce & Hennepin, across the street from the former headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, soon to be the expanded home of MCTC. What a ride. I should spend a Saturday rehashing my former life more often.