Tuesday, November 2, 2021

New Podcast

 I have a new podcast called "TL;DR: Preaching Edition."

This is a podcast with a pastor friend, Jeremy Byrd, where we explain our sermons that week in 5 minutes or less and have a discussion behind-the-scenes about preaching. 

Jeremy is pastor of Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, IL. He's a really good preacher and studies and teaches preaching.

It is a fun conversation for me. I learn a lot from our discussions. It was inspired because I struggle to listen to a recorded sermon. It can be hard to find 30-50 minutes to listen to a sermon during the week, but I love to hear a relaxed description of Jeremy's sermons and what his thinking on it was. We include details that we can't include in a normal sermon, so there is value to people listening to it even if they attended. 

It is the conversation that I wish more pastors would have. I would love to learn both the text and what pastors are thinking as they prepare to preach. 

We are halfway through Season 1. We are recording through the end of November.



Thursday, October 28, 2021

The World-Changing 1990's

I grew up in the 90's, but there is a lot that I didn't know was happening in the 90's. So lately, I've been keeping a list of groundbreaking changes, history-making moments, and world-changing inventions of the 1990's. I plan to update the list as I find things.

  • Roundup Ready seeds are invented. 1996. If you don't live in corn country, you likely don't realize how big of a deal Roundup Ready seeds are. They are seeds that are/were resisteant to Roundup, so farmers could spray Roundup and keep their fields weed free. I didn't realize that it was introduced when I was in elementary school.
  • The Balkan War. Read Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
  • The end of The Troubles in Ireland
  • Fall of the Soviet Union

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Best-Tasting Tomato Varieties for the Home Gardener

 I see lists all the time about plants to grow, but they usually don't talk about flavor. That is the number one thing I grow tomatoes for. So when I go to learn about new varieties, I want to know how they taste. 


Brad Gates says that 80-90% of heirloom tomatoes don't taste good. When I told her that, Emma commented recently that all the tomatoes we grow taste great. That is because now I look hard before buying new varieties. We've grown bad varieites before.


Here are my favorite tomatoes (any of them could be a favorite if grown all by themselves). Cherry tomatoes are small and perfectly round. Grape tomatoes are smaller but not perfectly round. Slicing and beefsteak are bigger.


  • Sungold (cherry)--The best there is.
  • Green Zebra (medium sized)--Very Tangy.
  • German Pink (huge)--Emma loves these.
  • Chocolate Cherry (cherry)--These might be my favorite from this year.
  • Sunrise Bumblebee (cherry)--An interesting surprise, these are fruity.
  • Pink Bumblebee (cherry)--These taste like big tomatoes in a small package.
  • Cherokee Purple (Huge)--I've grown some that I saved from a tomato that I was given and told was Cherokee Purple. They are excellent. I've bought seeds before under that name that were not very good. There is a chance that Craig Lehoullier will send you some of the original seeds if you write him.


All we are growing this year are cherry and grape tomatoes. We miss bigger tomatoes, but we picked almost 10 oz. containers of tomatoes today for lunch. Each day gets better.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Reading Books Just a Few Years Old

 I realized a few things about my reading in the last year. One is to stop be pretentious about my reading. I like what I like. I should stop faking liking high-brow things.

What I want to mention today, though, is that I prefer to read books a few years old. I can only read 25-35 books a year. I can't keep up with the deluge of books around me. When I realized how little time I had to read, I realized that I wanted to read quality. 

Some people take that to mean reading only really old books. I can't and won't do that only (I did just read Sense and Sensibility, though). I like what I like, remember?

When I read only the latest books, I realized that I often read books that weren't that great and wouldn't stand the test of time. The author would be on a podcast, and the book sounded great and timely. I would read the book and find that it wasn't a book that I would recommend to others. Books that are a few years old have the benefit of other people reading and recommending them. If the book isn't talked about 5 years after publication, then it wasn't worth it. So one of my loose rules is to wait a few years after publication before buying and reading a book.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Proud of Emma's New Article

 My wife, Emma, had an article published this week at Story Warren. I'm really proud of her article.


We both wrote articles the same day without telling each other. I knew instantly that her's was far better than mine. We both got our article published on sites that we love. I'm proud of her.


Check it out here: https://storywarren.com/mending-the-wood-in-small-spaces/

Friday, March 5, 2021

Learning About Gardening

 Even after gardening for years, I am pretty intimidated by all the things I don't know. Some of that is flower and landscape gardening. Where do you start? There are so many types of plants, uses for them, and things that can go wrong.

I'm starting with what I do know. Tyler Cowen says that a good way to learn something is to just start with one tiny part and go from there. He says you don't start learning about a country with an overview, you start by looking at the history of sculptures in that country. 

I've found that is true for gardening. Every year, our vegetable garden gets bigger, I learn something new, and I find some problems. 

That is how I've approached landscape gardening. I started by listening closely as an experienced gardener and landscape designer worked on the garden beds at my previous job. I memorized the names of the plants and paid attention to how and why he planted them. I started learning about the most interesting parts of it (ornamental grass) and planted them at our home. Now, I'm reading The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grass by John Greenlee and beginning to imagine how to use them in other places and other ways. 



Friday, February 12, 2021

2021 Reading

This is my reading so far this year. These are the entries in my reading list. I published 20 years of my reading list here.


830. The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith. 1/25/21 * * * (This is J.K. Rowling’s mystery series under a penname. I listened to this when I had 4 hours of driving and no podcasts to listen to. It was brutal and violent. The tradeoff was my temptation to brood for four hours or listen to a violent and grotesque book. I thought that brooding and depression were a worse option. I told myself that if I had nightmares, I would stop. The mystery was great. I love the characters, and I couldn’t figure out what happened or who did it. Audiobook.)


831. Who Moved My Pulpit?, Thom Rainer. 1/29/21 * * * * (This is a book about change theory in leadership. It is like a Cliff’s Notes for John Kotter’s book Leading Change, but this is focused on leading change in the church. I found some application in this to helping anyone change. I plan on picking up Kotter’s book next because leading in the church involves leading change.)


832. Hero of the Empire, Candice Millard. 2/8/21 * * * * (I really like Millard’s writing. I didn’t care a lot for a book on Churchill, but she drew me in and made me love it. I like it better than Destiny of the Republic. Audiobook.)


833. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling. 2/11/21 * * * * *  (I love these stories so much. This one really moves the story forward. There are a lot of details towards the end that only get explained in the final book. I noticed a lot of literary symmetry in this book as well.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Seed Companies for Vegetable Gardening

 We ordered most of the seeds that we need for this growing year. We don't yet know where we will live come summer, so we ordered in faith that we will grow something no matter where we go. 

I heard that there were some issues with ordering seeds and that ordering early was especially important this year. Then my preferred seed companies weren't taking orders, so I went to my next favorite just to make sure. We usually order around the first of the year. This year we were behind by 3 weeks.




As I thought about seed companies, I thought I'd list and describe our experience with a few. If someone is interested and wondering where to order from.

  • Gurney's--This has been our favorite company to order from. We've ordered from them for years. The seeds are reliable and produce as described. That is what we like so much. We especially like the squash, beans, corn, and cucumbers that we order from them. Most of their seeds seem to be hybrids. That doesn't both me. I like hybrids. Their website was down for a couple of days when I wanted to order. You can usually get everything in their catalog on sale (They usually run specials that give you half-off).
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds--I've ordered open-pollinated tomatoes from them. Their catalog is great. Shipping is fast. Their seed packets are beautiful, and they are great if you want open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.
  • Park Seed--This is the company that we ordered with this year. We've ordered from them before. They have really fast shipping, their varieties are both open-pollinated and hybrid, and they germinate really fast.
  • Burpee--I pick up seeds for salad plants and succession planting from any store that I run into. I find these at big box stores and always need more mesclun, spinach, broccoli, cukes, etc. They produce reliably, and I have no complaints. I wouldn't go out of my way to order from them though. Their varieties aren't that special.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Creating a Zoom Background that Reflects the Real You: What would be on my shelf?

I did a lot of Zoom calls before 2020, but 2020 increased that for all of us. Most in-person meetings were canceled. I even got some counseling by video several times. My background tended to be in front of a bookshelf in our house or in the studio at my old job.

I saw an article that caused me to think of revamping my Zoom background. When we finally land somewhere permanently, I've been thinking of what kind of Zoom background to use rather than just anything I've got available. The author of the article talks about using the background to communicate something about yourself.

Here's where I've landed:

  • Three themes: Gardening, Apples, and Coffee.
  • Posters on one side, a display shelf on the other.
  • Vintage Gardening posters. I've had my eye on them for our house decor for a while.
  • A picture of the first apple we ever grew.
  • Something to do with coffee. 
  • I've wanted to do something with Harry Potter for a while, so I may ask the kids to make me the Knight Bus out of Legos to put on the display shelf.
If you revamp your Zoom background, what do you put in it?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Brewing 16 oz of Coffee in an Aeropress--My Coffee Recipe

I have a recipe for every type of brewer that I have (It's at least 5 off the top of my head). I wanted to share a recipe that I really like with my Aeropress because it was hard to find a good recipe for brewing a large cup of coffee in the Aeropress. I had to wade through comments on a messageboard to find something that sounded right.

This is the second Aeropress that I have received as a gift. I wore the first one out several years ago. I've been experimenting with brewing a really good 16 oz cup of coffee for my favorite mug. It actually is best at only 14 oz. Here is what I've arrived at:




  • Use the Aeropress the standard way over a cup, not inverted.
  • Weigh 20 grams of whole bean coffee
  • Grind it in between espresso and regular drip. That makes it fine, but not too fine.
  • Boil the water. Let it sit for 30 seconds to cool down.
  • Add the grounds to the Aeropress.
  • Pour hot water over the grounds and stir for 30 seconds. You want some of the water to drip through into the cup so that you can get enough brewed.
  • Add hot water up until just below the top (the recipe I learned this from says keep the cup and press on the scale and add water until you reach 283 grams. I don't worry about that because it's always almost to the top).
  • Add the cap/plunger.
  • Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  • Slowly press the plunger down. Shoot for around 30 seconds.
  • Add 75 grams of water to the cup (or you can just eyeball it like I do at the 14 oz mark).


That is my recipe for my Aeropress. Maybe I'll share some of my other recipes later.

People rarely comment here, but what is your favorite brewing method and recipe?

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New Podcast

 I have a new podcast called " TL;DR: Preaching Edition ." This is a podcast with a pastor friend, Jeremy Byrd, where we explain o...