Monday, July 30, 2007

Switchfoot unplugged

During our conference in Colorado, there was an unexpected "unplugged" concert from Switchfoot!

Basically, that means drums, guitar and cello. The concert was excellent. I decided to pretend that it was my birthday on the night of the concert. I get to do whatever I want on my birthday, see, and what I always want is to go to a Switchfoot concert.

They played a lot of my favorite songs, and several new ones. At the end of the concert they did an actual encore. You know how usually there's a "planned encore" where concert etiquette demands that you clap and cheer until the band comes back and plays the last few songs they had already planned on playing. Well, the guys actually meant for the concert to be over, but the crowd demanded more and they obliged.

They actually did a cover of Bad Religion's "Sorrow". I found a video of Jon Foreman singing the song on YouTube. Here it is:

It's even better with cello, and you can here that on Jon's myspace if you like.

Krista took some pictures, which I'll upload later. I actually have a lot of thoughts about the concert, so I may add some thoughts later.

Anyway, as if you need me to tell you: Switchfoot = Good Music.

Pictures Galore

Krista has been busy putting up pictures from our last few weeks on her blog. There are great pictures of our time in Colorado, including pictures of Krista and friends as rock stars, some horses before they ran out of control, kids riding dinosaurs and so on. Enjoy!

Parenting With Matt 101: Pop Quiz

Imagine for a moment that you have taken your children to the Ogden Eccles Dinosar Park. You are taking a break on the drive from Colorado to Washington.

As you come around a dark corner you find that you have entered a dark side room where an animatronic tyrannosaurus rex is attacking a triceratops and her two babies. There are loud roaring sounds, the dinosaurs are moving around and baring their various pointy parts at one another in a threatening way.

Your children (let's just imagine they are little girls, aged 4 and 6) are frightened. You point out to them that the dinosaurs are not real, but that doesn't help. You point out that the enclosure has what appears to be an electrical fence separating you and the children from the dinosaurs. You point out that the pterodactyls "flying" in the background are not moving, which proves that they are fake.

None of this works.

So you finally say, "They are not real dinosaurs. They are robots and they won't hurt you."

This seems to calm them. In fact, a little while later they ask to go back to see the robots.

Multiple Choice Question: You have just made a horrible mistake as a parent. What is it?

A) Maybe they really were dinosaurs. How close did you actually get to the fence?

B) Dinosaurs, now extinct, should not be feared. Robots, however, still exist and could stage a revolt in which they destroy humankind. You've taught your children to fear dinosaurs and love robots. You are a traitor to the human race.

C) Now your kids will want a robot of their own.

D) You will now be forced to constantly refer to anything frightening as "a harmless robot." For instance, "Daddy, I think that mean dog is going to bite me." "Honey, that dog is a robot. It would never bite you."

E) The baby triceratops probably heard you and now has low self esteem, thinking that it is not a scary dinosaur. This is precisely the sort of weakness that makes for an excellent T-rex snack.

F) Everyone knows that the T-rex and the triceratops were in different paleolithic eras.

G) Good grief, man! What if your children mistake an enormous crocodile for a "robot" and try to saddle and ride it?

BONUS: True or False. When you find the "fossilized poop" section of the museum you should run to find your wife and kids so that they can see million-year-old excrement.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Many hours in a car will do this to you

We're on our way home from Colorado... more on that to come once we've recovered our wits.

But here's a conversation I had with Z today, who was pretending that her toe had become a world-famous chef.

Z: This is my toe chef.

Me: What does she cook?

Z: Toe-fu.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A must-read article

This weekend's Wall Street Journal has an article called "In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead."

It's a great article about the resurgence of genuine Christian faith in Europe, with particular emphasis on Sweden. There's an interesting (and I would argue faulty) argument about how religion functions like supply-side economics. But the article is chock-full with interesting asides, fascinating stories and a strange but flattering view of what it means to be influenced by "American evangelicals."

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about foul language lately.

I've never been one to use a lot of coarse language, probably because I actually care about language. But a lot of my friends do, or did, and often for the same reason that they say "soda" instead of "cola"... it's just what they've learned in their region or their family or from their television.

What interests me the most is that "bad words" seem to be arranged into the wrong order of offensiveness. What I mean is, the words which should be most offensive seem to be the least offensive, and vice versa. Well, not across the board, but nearly.

I find that there is general misunderstanding of the various kinds of "bad words" so I shall now teach a lesson in Profanity 101:

There are three basic types of "bad words": vulgarity, profanity and cursing.

Vulgarity is a fascinating concept, and these are the words which should, I think, be least offensive to us. Our word for it comes from Latin (vulgaritas) and means, roughly, "the multitude." It was originally a term used to delineate the language used by different classes of people. Most of the words that describe body parts, bodily functions or sexual acts are words that are vulgar, or common. A refined person would not use them.

Of course in the United States this has ceased to be true, since we work so hard (so we say) to eliminate class distinctions.

Nevertheless, the "queen mother of swear words" (the "F word") is often nothing mroe than a vulgarity. In some sense we as a culture have agreed to these words. There is no reason, for instance, that I should feel free to type "crap" right now but not another excratory word that starts with "s". There is no real difference in the words, other than history. And that one is offensive to many people, and one is offensive to a few people. I'm sure someone out there can explain this to me.

Profanity, on the other hand, is the taking of something that should be holy and using it in a way that makes it unholy. It is an attempt to make the holy something common. Thus, the using of the Lord's name in vain, or to speak of any holy thing in an inappropriate way. Perhaps the "f word" does this, since it takes the holy act of sex and gives it a sense of meaningless physical action.

Cursing, of course, is the wishing of harm to someone. The most evil curse is to wish damnation upon someone (or something). This has become common language that is widely acceptable for some reason unknown to me.

Perhaps what has caused me to think about this lately is that a lot of Christians in my generation have felt a newfound freedom to use vulgarity and cursing in their common speech. In fact, it's hip right now to feel free to use both, even in church services. The concept behind this freedom is, actually, a concept that I think is noble (though slightly misguided). Most people I've talked to about this say that the reason that we must allow language like this up front at church is that it allows us to be more authentic with our lives. In other words, "I use vulgar words when I am at home. I should not project a false impression of perfection to the church. So I will use vulgar words at church so that people will see the real me."

And, in some ways, I heartily applaud this. I think it is wise to be forthcoming with our flaws and issues, and even to proclaim them publicly.

At the same time, I think the solution to the problem is wrong-headed. It seems to me that the solution should not be only to admit one's faults, but to strive to overcome them. In other words, rather than speaking vulgarity from the pulpit, one should try to stop speaking it at home. Oh, I suppose I should take this moment to mention that this is not anything that my pastor(s) have an issue with... more of an observation of my own generation.

Anyway, I won't go into all the Biblical reasons to watch how we speak. I have plenty of personal examples (some here on this blog!) of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and in the wrong way. And I have, yes, I have used language at some time that falls into one of the categories above. And done far worse things than that.

So. It doesn't offend me to hear vulgarities. I don't use "hard" vulgarities myself, though I'm sure I have a couple of words in my vocabulary that certain portions of the U.S. would find offensive. I don't use profanity if I can help it, and I try to steer away from curses (as I actually think they can be effectual and thus are dangerous).

I was just interested to hear so many Christians defending it lately. And as my good buddy Shakespeare would say, methinks they do protest too much.

Good night, and good luck.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


From our daughter A:

"Is cheese wild or does someone just make it?"

As with so many things in life, the correct answer is, "It depends on the cheese."

Greetings from Idaho, the state that is "too great to litter"

The Mikalatos family is on the move. We rolled out of the driveway at six a.m. this morning and drove until we came to Roaring Waters amusement park. No, it's not like Wally World. We are driving to Colorado and this seemed like a fun reward to the kids for spending seven hours in the car. Tomorrow they get ten hours and the reward is that they will arrive in Colorado.

Roaring Waters was fun.

But I saw many strange things there:

1) I watched with disgust as junior highers practiced human courtship rituals in "The Eternal River." And I mean it when I say "practiced." And they're going to need more practice. Oi.

2) I was amazed to discover that a high school boy will threaten to murder another boy for the unthinkable crime of... getting him wet. On the Eternal River.

3) I watched in horror as the wave pool was shut down so that the workers could clean out someone's barf. I was glad they cleaned it out, though.

The kids learned to swim while we were in Korea. Which means that they didn't want to wear life jackets. Which means that instead of drifting along on the lazy river, I was striding beside A, who was convinced that she was in no danger even when she couldn't keep her head above water.

We had a good time. Okay, need to get to bed so that we can push our way to Fort Collins tomorrow!

A conversation with myself concerning bikinis

Today we took the kids to a water park as part of our journey to Colorado (see above). I found myself having a long conversation with myself about bikinis because of the scantily clad young women. Here is how it went:

Matt A: God forbid that my daughters will ever dress like these women.

Matt B: Oh, lighten up.

Matt A: I mean it, my kids will not be wearing these skimpy bikinis. They can wear nice one piece swimsuits.

Matt B: You know that these kids are mindless lemmings that just wear what the stores carry and the corporate shills tell them to wear. The only other option is to wear unattractive, out of style bathing suits. Do you want your kids to be the lame kids who dress funny because their Daddy makes them?

Matt A: Yes. I think I would like that.

Matt B: Your kids will hate you.

Matt A: So long as they are fully clothed they can hate me all they want.

Matt B: There are some positive things if your kids wear bikinis.

Matt A: Such as?

Matt B: You would almost certainly know if one of them gets a tatoo.

Matt A: Okay, I will grant you that point. But my declaration of the will still stands: NO BIKINIS FOR MY CHILDREN!

Matt B: I will fight you on this. You will scar your children emotionally . I will take over our personage and allow our sweet daughters to dress as they please.

Matt A: Oh, shut up. You haven't got the guts. Listen to you. "You will scar the children." You're soft and weak. You could never take me out. I rule with an iron fist... an iron fist of JUSTICE! Ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa!

Matt B: I am afraid of you.

Matt A: Good. Now go get me a drink of water.

What I Will Say if One of My Kids Ever Comes Home with A Tattoo

I thought of this today (because of the conversation above) and thought I should write it down so that if I need to remember this one day, it will be frozen on the internet forvever. Since this is my "journal" (ha) and is rapidly becoming some sort of annex for my brain, it seems only fitting that I store this piece of information here.

If one of my kids ever comes home and says, "Dad, I got a tattoo."

I will reply: "You know those things are permanent, right?"

Ha ha ha!

Monday, July 09, 2007

An American Washerman in Korea

My luggage and I parted ways on the Road to Korea. Perhaps because my luggage had never seen the foggy streets of San Francisco, or perhaps it had heard us lovingly describe our favorite restaurants in the most beautiful city in the world.

In any case, I left my bag in San Francisco.

Which meant that my wardrobe for the first four days of my stay in Korea consisted of: two pairs of socks and underclothes, two shirts and one pair of pants.

However, the (admittedly posh) dorm room that ten friends and I shared had a washing machine. It was in Korean, yes, but an intrepid adventurer never lets the lack of language persuade him from his determined course.

So, I decided one night to experiment by washing a pair of socks, a pair of boxers (or "box tops" as my daughter A calls them) and a shirt. Having lived in Asia I strongly suspected that the washer was also a dryer, but worst case scenario I would have one dry but dirty set of clothes and one wet but clean set. And either way I would still have dry and dirty pants, if that can be considered a plus.

The washer accepted the proferred clothing, locked its door, and immediately began to wash my clothes. The timer set itself to two and a half hours, which caused a great deal of speculation among my roommates. What could it possibly be doing for two and a half hours? Why did it need possession of my clothing from midnight to mid-morning?

We found out at two-thirty in the morning when the washer let loose with a melodious, doorbell-like chime to announce my clothing not only clean, but warm and dry. Hooray! There was much rejoicing!

Okay, it was only me rejoicing. But I think my roommates were suitably impressed by my potential as an Asian launderer.

The next night I decided it was time to take it to the next level. I would wash both shirts, both pair of socks, one pair of boxers and my pants. If all worked well I would be clean and my clothing would be clean as well. If things went poorly, I would still have... a pair of boxers. And a sweatshirt. Oh, and my sneakers.

The first sign of disaster looming was when I offered my clothing, the washer accepted it and locked its door and set its timer for one and a half hours. Adam Rapelje, our Room Captain, pointed this out to me. He mentioned that this did not appear to be a good omen. I concurred. However, I figured that if this meant--as I suspected--that the washer was not interested in pulling double duty as a dryer tonight, then I could still hang the clothes up at one thirty and they would be dry by morning.

So I hung them up at one-thirty when the doorbell-like-chime woke me (I was sleeping in the kitchen/laundry room). I woke again at five and felt for the clothes. Water could still be wrung from them. They were absolutely soaked. I needed them by seven, when Krista and I were due to meet. I got out of bed (or "off of floor" if you are a stickler for accuracy) and pushed all my clothes into the washer, hoping to make it a dryer.

After a lot of button-pressing and knob turning and Korean-deciphering, I managed to get the dryer turned on. The door lock snapped into place and the drum began to turn. My clothes were drying!

And they kept drying. When I tried to get them out at six fifty-five, I couldn't. The LED on the dryer kept saying "HOT" whenever I tried to open it. Which I could only assume meant that it was too hot to open. Which meant that my worst case scenario of wearing clean but sopping wet clothing had now become wearing a dirty pair of boxers and a sweatshirt. Which didn't seem like much of an option.

Krista arrived and wondered if I had just woken up. "No, this is what I'm wearing," I announced. One of the guys ran down to the housing office to see if someone could read Korean.

And yes, someone could. But not much English. He pressed a cunning sequence of buttons and the door lock snapped open. He looked into the window and could see the clothes in there, and figured that I wanted to wash them. He started to press the code in to lock my clothes into the washer for another two and a half hours, but I zipped up behind him, snatched the clothes out and thanked him profusely.

My baggage came later that day, now that I had learned that I didn't need it, now that I was proficient and self-sufficient.

Next time you're in Korea, let me know if you need help with the washer.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tips for postmoderns

It seems that many of my Post-Modern friends have forgotten our Secret Pact to Frustrate the Modernists, and they are embracing the generalizations and guidelines to postmodernsim suggested by the media.

Don't forget point one of our Credo:

1) Deny every generalization of our generation.

Here's an example.

MODERNIST: The postmoderns are fiercely individualistic and hate to be pigeon-holed or put into a box.

POSTMODERNIST: That is simply untrue. I, for one, like to be put into a box. You just don't understand us.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Play "Rollover"... a new social experiment game

I invented a game today at the airport. It's called ROLLOVER. In addition to being fun, entertaining and immensely satisfying, it provides a valuable service to our society.

Here's how to play:

1) Find an annoying cell phone talker in a public place. This should be someone who speaks loudly and inconsiderately, doesn't watch where he is going, and most likely has a Bluetooth or some other device which implants his cell phone into his head.

2) Subtly sidle up alongside the person (at least into clear hearing distance).

3) Act as if you are on your own cell phone, but tailor your conversation to match that of your opponent.
a) Here is an example:
OPPONENT: Hey, how's it going?
YOU: Oh fine, just fine. I just arrived at the airport.
OPPONENT: Is Mr. James there by any chance?
YOU: I'm afraid he just stepped out, can I take a message?
OPPONENT: Hi, Mr. James, this is Arthur, I was calling to talk about the Jones
YOU: That's not a high priority for me but I guess I could take a message.

4) If your opponent catches on to what you are doing, try to throw them off by talking without pause for a short time. Or turn your head and point to your Bluetooth (or the fake Bluetooth you got in your cereal box).

5) Try to use the word ROLLOVER before your opponent ditches you.

a) For every minute you can keep "in the conversation": 500 points
b) Being the first to say "ROLLOVER" in the last minute of the game: 1,000 points
c) Annoying your opponent enough to cause him to leave the room/area without him realizing that you are playing ROLLOVER: 2,500 points.
d) Continuing the game over multiple of the opponent's phone calls: 1,000 points per call (starting with call #2) regardless of length.
e) Posting the conversation online via youtube, facebook, a blog (whatever): 500 points.

Okay, get to work kids. You could be a winner!

You really don't want to eat that

While in Korea this week at CM2007, the conference provided 20,000 Big Macs for lunch one day. The following day we tried to buy another 50 burgers only to discover that McD's had run out of key ingredient. I related the story to Krista's parents and our daughters (Z and A) in the van on the way home from the airport today.

Me: -- so I said we'll have to have our Big Macs on rice because they don't have any buns.

A: Ha ha ha! No buns? You can't cut off your bottom!

Me: I am talking about hamburger buns.

A (still snickering): Oh.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Home soon

Korea was amazing... we'll be home soon and I will tell all.

See you guys soon!