Top Books of 2008

About a year ago, we started collecting an online list of the books we're reading. In fact, the whole list can be viewed here. Just to mention a few that I (Eric) found the best:

1. The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs. An agnostic Jew who is editor-at-large for Esquire decides to try and live the bible as literally as possible for a year. It's hilarious, and actually very insightful and gracious, as an outsider looking in at religion.

2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. A best-seller that's fantastically intense and a great look into Afghani life both in south Asia and in the US.

3. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. Because it's the first Christie novel I've read since junior high, and it will not be the last.

4. The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne. I don't see why I should have to justify this one. Stories don't get any more relaxing than this.

5. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Another wonderful Potok story, about a young Hasid with a genius for art who uses crucifixions as his artwork and collides with his heritage.

6. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I've already extolled this book's merits, so I won't do it again.


Donkey Basketball

My sister Mariah is an elementary school teacher in Thompson Station, TN, and she told me that she will soon be participating in an unusual fundraiser for her school: Donkey Basketball.
I had never heard of this, but apparently it has a long history, and there are whole businesses who travel around providing donkeys for this game. In short, the participants play basketball, while riding, leading, or coaxing their donkey across the court. There's a very unverified Wikipedia article talking about how PETA et al. feel that it's cruel to the donkeys. This makes me aware of how much of the world I have truly been unaware of.
Mariah, I hope you have a great time.

Economy of Space

I don't know why I love Economy of Space, but I always have, and I think I always will. So, thanks to Matt Chang, for sending me this fun article about a Hong Kong resident who uses movable walls to work in over 20 rooms into his <400 sq ft apartment. Awesome.


Observations From -29F

I call Tennessee my home, where the Christmases are tender and the schools close for cold rain. However, I am going on my 7th year in Ann Arbor, and my standards have been redefined during this time. I can now drive in snow. Warm beverages are a staple. 20 (F) is the new 40.

Nevertheless, this morning is easily the single coldest morning I have experienced in over 2000 days in Ann Arbor, and it took about 15 seconds to realize it, despite the fact that yesterday was -1F. I walked (briskly) to the bus stop, shivered for a bit, got on and tried to warm my toes, and then we passed the Big Red "A", which has a digital thermometer, which said -14F. Once at work, weather.com pronounced my wind chill -29F. Some observations from this new nadir:

1. I hope I never get accustomed to this.
2. Beards freeze within 20 seconds.
3. Nose hairs also freeze.
4. Bus doors get stuck.
5. The combined body heat of a packed city bus will still not warm up my feet.


Come Take Our Books!

In preparation for leaving the country and selling the house, we went through our library last night and selected a bunch of books to get rid of. Some are quite nice and we just have 2 of them. Others we just aren't likely to haul off to Africa with us. Click here for the list or just let us know, and you can come over and peruse them yourself.


EU Artwork Controversy

I have a love for Europe and it's myriad of languages and cultures. This piece of art (now, possibly a "hoax", but still an incredibly offensive one) was commissioned for EU headquarters, and all I can think is "What in the world...?" Some extra pictures here.



For those who have made the dubious decision to try and keep up with our mutual friends and family via this blog, there are a few congratulations that must be noted. First, baby Micah Cropsey, son of John and Jessica (of McCropders fame), and baby brother of Elise. Second, Calvin Joseph ("CJ") Rocke, son of Dan and Kelly.

Lastly, highest congrats to Nathan and Heather Laubenstein. We hope you have a great beginning and enjoy the weird art museum of Denver.


News: Preggers Tops Mountain!

The single most firmly established family tradition at Christmas in Phoenix is the Camelback Mountain hike. Every Christmas day (this year on the 26th secondary to freakishly wet Phoenix weather), the most able-bodied of the cousins pack up and make the trek to the peak of Camelback. This year Rachel took the youngest of the family, our little girl in utero, on her inaugural hike. Maybe it took her a tad longer than normal, but overall a very impressive performance.

At the summit: the famous "Selle Bellies"

The smaller cadre of Camelback hikers this year at the summit, where local tradition involves some unknown person hiking a Christmas tree up every year, and then hikers bring up ornaments to decorate it.

Maybe next year we can take her to the top of Mt. Kenya for Christmas...


Winter Wonderland

Over the last 36 hours, we have gotten a steady snowfall resulting in about 10 inches on the ground currently. And it's the nice non-windy version where every last tree limb is outlined in white, and icicles from each of the eaves. Then, this morning, the sun is out, and all of the work from shoveling doesn't matter as much as the natural beauty of a crisp winter day. Since this is likely our last snowy winter for some years to come, I guess I'm getting nostalgic.


White Elephant Gift

Belatedly, we should make mention of our church small group's white elephant gift exchange. We won't mention last year when everyone left these awful - I mean awesome - gifts at our house at the end of the evening. Nor will we mention the Rock Star Trading Cards we are still finding planted around our house. But the fact that Jason Fader gave Daniel Lin Rachel's old catalytic converter must be mentioned.


All of the women relatives at Rachel's cousin's recent wedding threw her a shower, and it was lovely (at least from the pictures I saw). Above, the yummyness. Below, a small sampling of the generous gifts our baby girl will enjoy and spit up upon. Thanks so much. =)