I was in youth ministry for a decade. I've been here at this church as an associate pastor for two years now. It's a small church but with lots of older folks. We've had maybe ten funerals of church members since I've been here. BK has done them all.

Until now. Tomorrow night is the viewing. Monday morning at 10 is the funeral itself. I'm doing the whole thing: viewing (where I don't really have to do anything but show up, I can do that), funeral home service, and graveside service. It's my first time and I'm nervous. Nervous because this was someone's mom, someone's grandmom, and I want to honor their memory of her. It can't be slipshod (not that I have ever submitted less than my best effort, but this, this is, well, important).

As an aside: It's interesting, around here (which is where I grew up but I never noticed this until I returned here from Ohio) the family of the deceased almost always has a service at a funeral home and a graveside service, but almost never a memorial service in their church. In Ohio there was almost always a memorial at church and a graveside, but hardly ever a proper service at the funeral home. I was surprised about this when I got back, and still find that I prefer a church memorial to a funeral home service. But it seems that's the way we do these things in southeastern PA.

My sermon for tomorrow? It's done, but who cares? The thing I'm thinking about is this poor woman's funeral. If you pray, please do. For Marion's family... and me too.

Jannotti tag: theology
Posted to: theology


exciting news...

...and then I'm going to bed.

Guess what Robert Altman's next film is going to be? Check out that cast. I heard about it on NPR today. Hope it's good, but I'm going to see it even if not.

Jannotti tag: movies
Posted to: movies

tell me why

would somebody please explain to me why i'm sitting here reading blog after blog and not writing my sermon?


Jannotti tag: procrastination
Posted to: what-ever | blogging


search me

I noticed the other day while I was narcissistically (try typing that three times fast) checking my sitemeter records that three people linked to this blog from a web search of my name.

That was kinda spooky.

I didn't realize 'til much later that this was published on that day in The Upper Room, a devotional magazine. I knew I had one in there but had forgotten what day. I guess that explains the searches.

Now, did those people search my name because they liked what they read, or...

Well, if you are one of those searchers and are making a return visit, welcome and congratulations on finding this very obscure corner of the bloggiverse.

Jannotti tag: writing
Posted to: writing

it's a scrap of paper!

The Beatles are my favorite band, have always been my favorite.

I would love to take a look at the scrap of paper with John Lennon's lyrics for All You Need is Love on it. But I wouldn't be caught dead paying over half a million dollars for it!

"If this lyric reaches 500,000 pounds, and it could well go for a lot more, it would have doubled the world record price (for a pop manuscript),"
There's a claim of authenticity...

A girl working for the BBC at the time retrieved the lyric from beneath Lennon's music stand. She has provided a letter of authenticity for Thursday's sale.
"I, ummm... found it... under his... his... music stand! Yeah that's it."

I was in the same stadium as Paul McCartney once and I think I'll auction off the true original lyric to the song, which I found scrawled on a Beeman's gum wrapper beneath my seat in the high altitude section. I can understand why they scrapped that older version titled, "All You Need Is A Big Pile of Dough."

Who wants to bid? It's authentic. Really!

Jannotti tag: music
Posted to: music


larry still cranks 'em out

I've discussed the fact that I'm a Larry McMurtry fan before. Lonesome Dove has to be one of the greatest American novels. He's written many other excellent novels: Leaving Cheyenne, Horseman, Pass By (his first and second) for example. Two books written with Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned, and Pretty Boy Floyd, are wonderfully haunting. He's written a few lame novels too: I just plain didn't like Cadillac Jack, I've posted my fair to middlin' review of Texasville in the recent reads section, and I couldn't even finish Sin Killer, I just never got into it. He's published twenty seven novels in all(!) so I guess he can be forgiven a few clunkers.

But what got me hooked on Larry Mac was his nonfiction, of which he's written more than his share. The first I read was called Roads which was ostensibly, but not really, about driving on interstates. Another, which he wrote in his sixtieth year, was Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen in which he discusses philosophy over lime Dr. Pepper (never had a lime Dr. Pepper? McMurtry will tell you how to get one in the book).

Well, he's got a new book out called The Colonel and Little Missie. It's a meditation on the concept of superstardom, which he believes had it's birth with the fame of Buffalo Bill Cody and Little Annie Oakley. I noticed it in the window of a (closed) bookstore in North East, Maryland a couple of weeks ago when we were on vacation. Upon arriving back home I requested it from the fine Chester County Public library system.

He's explored the Buffalo Bill/Annie Oakley landscape before, in his novel Buffalo Girls. In that book, though it was fictionalized, he stuck basically to history for the outline. What I like about his nonfiction books is his habit of throwing in a lot of his own story, something he can't do in any obvious way in a novel. A lovely example of his spare and self-reflective prose style is found in Crazy Horse, a little biography he wrote for the Penguin Lives series. Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in western history. I think it ranks with Evan S. Connell's classic, Son of the Morning Star:Custer and the Little Big Horn.

So I've got some McMurtry now, I'm good. Let you know what I think when I'm done.

Jannotti tag: books
Posted to: books


you go track... back, do it again...

I've switched to haloscan for comments because haloscan allows trackbacks, so that my posts will point to posts on other blogs that are, I'm sure, much more meaningful than anything you'll find here.

But apparently this move of mine has wiped your lovely comments from my previous posts, at least on this first page. *sigh*

Much has been lost. I hope something has been gained.

Jannotti tag: blogging
Posted to: blogging

i can see my house from here!

Thanks to Lifehacker for the tip.

Here's a map of the general area from which this humble blog emanates. Note the cool street labels in Google's newest innovation.

Jannotti tag: technology
Posted to: technology

not bathroom humor, pasture humor

"...say you're on your way to church, and you don't have your bloat hose in your purse..."

Yes everyone, it's Baxter Black, Cowboy Poet, with a commentary on cow digestion from NPR. There's a whole bloatload of delightful lines in this one--though it's not for the faint of heart.

Jannotti tag: what-ever
Posted to: what-ever


life aquatic

I am an unapologetic Wes Anderson fan. Some are calling him the "next Scorsese." I'm not sure that's true, and it's not why I like him, but he is a more than competent filmmaker. His most recent, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (nee The Life Aqautic), is a more than competent film.

Usually, I don't go for more cerebral films, though my all time favorite may be the most cerebral film ever made. Anyway, what I liked most about this film was not the imossibility of genrifying it, the subtle humor (there are almost no overt jokes in the movie), the unexpected moments of pathos, or the impeccable cast (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston, Willem DaFoe, Cate Blanchett...), but the way the film looks and feels.

The art direction is terrific, especially the cut away boat set which is something you might see in a play. This excellent set allows the camera to move through walls in more than one scene, following action from room to room in one continuous take.

The story-- well, there isn't one. What I mean is, there is not only one story here, there are many. The film's narrative shows us the intersection of each of the main characters' stories with those of the others; sort of like life. This is a common feature of Wes Anderson's movies, which I think causes some to love and some to really not love his work. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tannenbaum's, and now TLAWSZ all are ensemble pieces in which each character is allowed to have their own story, they are not simply there to focus attention on the main character. It requires an relational, emotional investment from the viewer, and so if one is in the mood for, say, action, horror, or comedy one should not see this film (though this film has lots of comedy and interestingly, a fair amount of both action and even horror). Anderson's is a style of filmmaking we're not seeing much anymore and I think that's our loss.

Mark Mothersbaugh (the brains behind Devo) did the original music, including one piece which we first hear in completely electronic form and again much later with a quite dramatic full orchestra. Very creative.

So I'm still a Wes Anderson fan, and at least one other blogger I know is onto the whole subtle way his films work on your emotions-though at least one of her commenters is decidedly not.

And I could write a whole post about Bill Murray; when are they finally gonna give this guy the Oscar he should have won at least twice already?

Oh, and I forgot to mention! The long tracking shot over the closing credits, where Bill Murray is joined by the whole cast, one at a time, as they walk together toward their ship seemed to me an obvious nod to another great movie: The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension and which also features Jeff Golblum, who woulda thunkit?

Jannotti tag: movies
Posted to:


sadly typical

My wife works off and on at a shop for knitaholics called Unraveled. She was there yesterday when one of the coworkers, knowing of my occupation and its current tenuousness, shared this story.

A local church recently almost voted to fire its pastor. Almost, because the pastor showed up at the fateful bored meeting with his resignation neatly typed, signed, and ready for acceptance. Before they could vote, he quit.

The reason? He wasn't caught in some sort of moral nastiness. He didn't take any of the church's money, at least no more than he was being paid. No, what this pastor did was take a second job. I don't know his reasons for doing it, but I suspect it had something to do with the salary he was being paid, which was surely not large, probably it was barely sufficient, if that.

The board didn't want him working another job, so they decided they would get together and fire this guy. He quit instead.

So now they're looking for a full time pastor. They're offering a whopping 20K for the position. Full time. 20K. Even if there's housing and benefits (and the denomination we're talking about here probably doesn't provide a manse or housing allowance), that amounts to a package of less than 40K. And we already know what they think about moonlighting.

I'm sorry, but that's not right.

Listen folks, if you're in a church that can't afford to pay your pastor a decent wage--that's whether you happen to like him or not--then at least don't fire him for looking to supplement his income with a second, honest job. Better yet, pay the poor man a living wage!

The woman who told this story is thinking about leaving that church. If you ask me, which nobody really did but I don't care, she ought simply never to set foot in the place again; she should shake some dust off of those flip flops too, on her way to a better church.

I thought about driving down there and spray painting CHEAPSKATES on the church door, but I don't have any spray paint and besides, that would be mean. Not as mean as what they did to their pastor, but still mean.

Jannotti tag: theology
Posted to:

(yes, the typo in paragraph 2 was intentional)


a furor

The flip flop incident is spawning more division than the last election!

Tell you what! If I ever get invited to the White House (not too stinkin' likely), I know what I'll be wearing! At least on my feet.

What Not To Wear, indeed. Heh. Does Dubya look at all put out in the picture? Besides, the whole thing was his idea (don't tell anybody I said that, okay?).

H/T to the flip flop wearing, but unflappable, Eric. Sole, brother.

Jannotti tag: what-ever
Posted to:

something new and different: a post about words.

This is supposed to be a blog about "words on paper and those who put them there..." so today I decided to actually do a post in keeping with my mission. Happy now? Thought so.

Clive Thompson at Collision Detection has this post about language with some thoughtfully contrarian analysis of his own added for good measure. The comments are good too, give 'em a read. I especially agreed with the following comment from Thompson himself:

"What's truly terrifying is the number of people who use management jargon because it says precisely what they want to say."

I once inquired via email about a church's contemporary worship position. I got an almost immediate response from the pastor with a total of one complete sentence in it. The last "sentence" in the email was: Could overnight me a DVD of you leading worship and some cd’s of you leading?

I decided that I wouldn't want to work for someone who couldn't take the time to write the word "you" and who obviously had more general problems with coherent and complete english sentences. I didn't have a DVD to send him either, but that's beside the point.

This kind of thing isn't exactly what Thompson is on about, but I think it's symptomatic of the sort of disregard for language that is increasingly common in and outside of business.

Please don't think I'm an uptight grammarian type. I love to play with language, I love experimenting with it even when those experiments don't work. That is how we learn after all. Our language experiments, though, should evoke life, emotion, and relationships, not sterilize them.

Some advice for avid users of management-ese: Please, respect the language! Bend it, don't break it. And please don't impose a corporate vocabulary and vernacular outside of your dim little world, I sacrificed a lot to get out of that place and I don't plan on going back through your words.

Jannotti tag: writing


Step off, pal! I am working

Pardoxology pointed to survey results from salary.com in a post entitled "Are You Sinning Against Your Employer?" The salary.com article, excerpted below, asks...

"Are workers really expected to work 8 hours per day, non-stop? According to a Salary.com follow-up survey of Human Resource managers, companies assume that employees will waste 0.94 hours per day. They take this into account when they do their compensation planning. However, those managers privately suspect that employees waste 1.6 hours per day. In fact, employees admit to wasting 2.09 hours per day."
The incorrect assumption here is that all time not spent directly performing verifiably job related tasks is automatically time wasted; and the implied acceptable ceiling for such waste hovers at less than one hour per day. The insights founded on this assumption continue to pile up...
"The average yearly American salary is $39,795 per year - or $19.13 per hour. If the average worker wastes 1.15 hours more than employers suspect, per 8-hour work day, that adds up to $5,720 per year, per worker in wasted salary dollars. So with the American workforce 132 million (non-farm) employees strong, the total in lost salary dollars adds up to $759 billion per year."
In the New York Times yesterday, Lisa Belkin submitted her response. She writes...

"There is a point, of course, where distraction becomes blatant slacking off, but I would argue that some percentage of time wasted during work is actually a part of the work. I call it gel time, when a corner of your brain noodles with a problem while the rest of your brain checks the baseball scores or looks for replacement coffee mugs on eBay. In other words, gel time is what you have to do to make you ready to do what you need to do."
A cogent comment in the Paradoxology post begins...

"Every workplace efficiency study I've ever read says that a worker is only at his best for about four hours of an eight hour day. After four hours, the ability to concentrate on work drops precipitously unless someone is actively moving from place to place on that job. Most deskbound workers drop off a cliff after four hours."
It's worth reading the rest of what DLE has to say.

From personal experience back in my advertising days, and even more so since entering ministry, my most productive moments almost uniformly occur when I am doing something that probably would not be perceived as actual work: when I was in the middle of reading (maybe your blog, maybe a novel), writing (not a sermon--perhaps a blog entry or a letter), cooking a meal, or even doing 'nothing.' It is at those times that the insight into the problem the parishoner is having, the ideal question for that survey project that I was stuck on, the perfect sermon illustration simply presents itself.

Many of us work jobs that don't permit such inactivity, but as the survey shows almost every worker in every job finds ways to "waste" time. As Belkin says, at a certain point this becomes poor stewardship of your employer's time and resources. But maybe the dividing line is not as clear as one might think. Perhaps it isn't even stationary. It may move from day to day. I'll bet if we could measure it we would find the percentage of wasted time Belkin considers "actually part of the work" surprisingly large.

H/T's: Paradoxology. Lifehacker.

Jannotti tag: community


a certain somewhere

The title is stolen from a book I liked in which a bunch of authors were invited to write about a place that had personal meaning. That, combined with a recent post by Jimmy Patterson at Sticky Doorknobs, about favorite places in his home state, got me thinking in a memish sort of way.

I thought. Why not? Yes. Why the heck not write my own favorite places meme? So, here are some of my favorite places. The order does not reflect rank.

1. The Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota. In 1994 I took students to South Dakota for the first time. On I90, as we neared Chamberlain South Dakota, we drove up a hill though the grade was sublte and we didn't notice it. Until we crested the hill and the vast expanse of the Missouri river valley opened up as if it were a gift to us straight from God. Waving grass on both sides and the river... it must have been this place that inspired the line "We're bound away 'cross the wide Missouri."

2. Long Beach Island, New Jersey. "Six miles at sea," they say, becuase the Island is six miles long. A beautiful place, even today, to watch the sun rise. Last year I awoke one summer's night at 3 am, hopped in my Cabrio and drove out to LBI to do just that. Beautiful. Home to Barnegat Light as well as the infamous Barnegat Inlet---ooooo, dangerous.

3. Yellowstone. One day while leading a wilderness trip in Tennessee, as I sat in the pre-dawn in a grove of pine trees that perfectly framed a full moon, I asked God to please provide me with the means and time to visit Yellowstone. One month later, a high school senior asked me to be the photography advisor for the yearbook. "I don't know anything about photography," I said. "So?" he replied. I had no idea it was a paid position. It paid enough to take me and mine to Yellowstone. I'm after the Lord right now to give me the chance to go back. Every American should get there at least once.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park. Specifically, Many Parks Curve on Trail Ridge Road at about 6:20am in mid-July so you can watch the sun rise over the front range.

5. Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville Missouri. One year a good friend invited me to drive out there (from New Jersey) and volunteer at a middle school summer camp that he helped lead. It was called Challenge Camp. The experience changed my life, literally. After that I chucked my job in a New York City ad agency (it took six months) and traded the corporate fast track for the ministry slog. Anytime I'm at Heartland (the last time was five years ago) I think, "take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is Holy Ground."

6. Pine Ridge, South Dakota. For many years the poorest town in the poorest county in America. More like a third world country than you would be comfortable admitting in this great nation of ours; but it really is a beautiful place. I don't think the many trips I've made there helped improve any lives, except maybe my own.

7. Don't laugh at this one. If you are traveling eastbound on I80 at magic hour (the few minutes immediately following sunset) on a clear day, about two miles away from the Iowa 80 truck stop near Walcott, Iowa, I'm sure you'll find it breathtaking. Or maybe not, maybe I'm just weird. Still, it makes my list.

8. The Honey Hut, Cleveland, Ohio. My favorite ice cream. Try it sometime and you'll get the Honey Hut Smile as have so many before you.

That's all... for now.

Jannotti tag: travel

i watched the flippin' movie already. hhaaaaaagghh

Because I've heard and read so many people yipping about how great Napoleon Dynamite is, I finally watched it.

They were right.

Jannotti tag: movies


Homeward Bound (sort of)

The agressive abolitionist, John Brown, is known for his failed raid on Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. A number of his men were killed in the raid, but not him. He was hanged later the same fall. Now the town has been killed too. I'd never been there before but my wife had. She remembers a bustling, almost insanely busy place full of pedestrians and parked vehicles. It has been turned into a National Historic Park with the restored historic buildings and exhibits in one part of town and kitschy tourist shops in the other; Harper's Ferry is a museum. And not a very good one either. It feels like a ghost town, which in effect, it is. National Parks Service volunteers in period-perfect garb walk around and lead tours, creating a sense of past but not of life. The exhibits are high-tech (at least for the Parks Service) and are cool for about thirty seconds. Even the ice cream is mediocre. The town boasts two used book stores, neither of which can hold a candle to the two we checked out in Front Royal. So after we discovered all this, we hopped back on the shuttle bus for the two and a half mile ride back to our car.

We decided to hit the North End of the Chesapeake Bay. Approaching Baltimore, I noted the time was not yet three in the afternoon. I believed we would be ahead of the traffic. I was wrong. Oy! We're talking nasty congestion combined with non-stop orange barrel alerts. Infuriating. A couple of navigational errors did not help my state of mind. By the time we got to North East, MD (that's the name of a town, and a quaint one at that), I was not in a very gracious mood. A B&B presented itself right on North East's main street, so we checked in there. Our hostess, Caye, helped take the edge off my mood with gracious hospitality and a nice cold glass of iced tea. Thanks Caye! Her B&B is called The Inn At North East Creek. Check it out if you're in town.

Turkey Point, the southernmost tip of Elk Neck State Park, would have provided a tremendous view of the upper Chesapeake if the air on Friday morning hadn't been made of soup. I was tempted to wring out my clothes when I got back to the car from our 1.6 mile hike there and back. I resisted temptation but was still a little moist upon arriving back in Pottstown to hear about my daughter's misfortune at wilderness camp.

Jannotti tag: travel

P.S. Because I was posting in a hurry this week I failed to provide links to a couple of places that are worth providing links for. So here they are...

My new favorite B&B, and I've stayed at a few, is Woodward House on Manor Grade. Tell Bob and Joan Kaye that Jim and Joy sent you. Their website is even kinda cool, featuring a panoramic view from the porch.

The best restaurant on our trip, but by a thin margin (see below) was Apt 2G (which sits atop J's Gourmet) in Front Royal.

And finally in North East, MD-- check out Woody's Crab House. Wow!



Hey, I'm home now. You're probably relieved. "No more trip pictures!" you say to yourself. But you're wrong! I'll post some more pictures tomorrow. There were one or two things worth writing about, at least as far as I'm concerned.

The big story has nothing to do with the trip; not directly anyway. Joy and I arrived home today to find out that youngest daughter Amy, the one at wilderness camp, managed to come in contact with poison somethingorother and had to spend Thursday night in the camp infirmary (where I'll bet it was a lot less soupy than it was in her lean-to). Her face had (apparently) swelled up to beyond recognizability. How lovely. This all happened between 7pm yesterday (when we checked in from North East, MD) and 2:30pm today (when we arrived at home). I had not stopped at any Paneras in that span of time, nor did I see any, so I didn't get the email messages about her condition. And of course, Thursday was our only day of improvisational travel, so no one knew where we were last night (note to self: use the phone God gave you).

After getting this information today (Friday) we immediately phoned the camp; immediately, that is, after a couple of moments of panicking and putting our hands to the sides of our heads as if to scream, and found that Amy is okay. They took her to a doctor who gave her some Prednisone. This brought down the swelling. When we called, Amy was hanging out poolside with her wilderness pals, not even wanting to come to the phone to speak with sweaty-palmed Mom and Dad.

By the way, when's the last time you had an olympic sized in-ground pool in the wilderness? Kids today...

Jannotti tag: travel


Front Royal, VA: The Secret Door

Pittsburgh was post free. We spent time with dear friends (Brett, who I’ve written about before, and his wife Julie). Hung out here. Ate dinner here. Got some coffee here. Checked out some of your blogs from here. Left to come here.

The real story is Front Royal, VA. More specifically, two locations therein. First, Woodward House on Manor Grade. A cumbersome name, but a lovely B & B. This one has catapulted itself to the top of my list. It has everything a B & B traveler could want: gracious hosts (Bob and Joan Kaye) whose company will tempt you to ignore Shenandoah National Park which is nearby, a variety of rooms, all excellent, complimentary guest-only pub (something I’ve not seen before in a B & B), and lots of little in room amenities, including a basket of snacks which you probably won’t need. I will most certainly plan another trip to Front Royal just to stay here.

Joan and Bob bought the place 12 years ago and have put their own spin to what was once (at least this is my interpretation of Joan’s humble explanation) a rather pedestrian B & B. They love spending time with their guests, but don’t follow them around like puppies. Last night some people dropped by who I gather stayed here once, years ago, and were immediately welcomed as if they were old friends.

Sometime after we checked in and took a walk around Front Royal, which is an interesting but not very lively town (albeit with at least one good used book store), Joy started to express dinner yearnings. I asked Joan for a recommendation and she wasted not a breath in suggesting Apartment 2G, which is behind one of the most unobtrusive doors in town and up a flight of steps. It was once an apartment and still looks like one, except that all the rooms have dinner tables. Two chefs, Dan and Stacy Gedman serve a menu which changes daily. Reservations are strongly suggested, according to their brochure (Joan was kind enough to call ahead for us). It was slow when we arrived but not by the time we left. The chefs do a full prixe fixe dinner on weekends, take Sundays off, and during the week offer a Tapas menu. I’ve never done Tapas before; it is sort of like dim-sum, you order a number of appetizer size portions and share them. On prixe fixe nights you have the option of in-kitchen seating including samples of each menu item.

Omigosh! The food was excellent. My favorite: Pork Tenderloins in mango salsa. Joy liked the Gambas Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp). A generous basket of Focaccia accompanied the meal and would have filled us both if we’d let it. Dessert was Chocolate Pave (which is pretty much a brick of chocolate (somewhere between the consistency of mousse and fudge), and Ginger Crème Brulee. They don’t have an espresso machine but they’re working on it. The price was not bad either-- $44 including Joy’s iced tea and my glass of Italian Pino Grigiot. Not to be missed.

Today is Thursday. Joan is putting together breakfast right now and it smells yummy. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do much more than sample it, though. I’m still full from last night.

We’ve no idea what we’re doing today or where we’re going. Maybe Harper’s Ferry? We may wind up sleeping at home tonight, we may not. I do need to check out the one other used book store in Front Royal, as well as find a place from which to post this entry. Ah, the rigors of travel.

Well, we’re off…

Jannotti tag: travel


Saxonburg: Passing Through

(Outside the old barn at Armstrong Farms. The sign says "Old Love Schoolhouse, circa 1860.)"

We spent the better part of Monday on pretty much every two lane highway in northern PA, most of it behind slow moving tucks. Our timber considerations from earlier in the day helped us in discerning the quality of the logs carried by three or four semis. We had plenty of time to look at them too, but only from the back.

After briefly losing the plot in Butler, PA, we arrived at our overnight stop, Armstrong Farms B&B. It is a functioning farm as the name implies though it is run by Allens, not Armstrong’s. Some workers or family members (or both) were busy cutting hay. Later, when we returned from dinner, it was all bailed as you can see.

Speaking of dinner, we decided to try the Hotel Saxonburg which was touted on numerous brochures available to us in our cabin. Saxonburg seems close to the bottom of either a downturn or an upswing. The Hotel Saxonburg was either defunct, under revnovations, or on vacation but it was not open. A place up the street, Kelly’s Homecooked Food Family Restaurant or something like that, featured a parking lot and curb packed full of cars, always a hopeful sign. But I make it a point to avoid Family Restaurants when possible, so we did. We wound up at the Texas Roadhouse, a chain, which is something else I try to avoid but chains are all we could find in Butler. The waitresses at the Roadhouse did a little dance to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Sad.

Butler seems to be, like Saxonburg, either dying or reviving, but close to the trough. Panera however, provided wifi, use of their phone to call the friends we will visit today, and coffee (they charged me for the coffee). Some chains are okay.

The Armstrong Farms B&B, though scenic and free of the livestock smell you might expect on a working farm, does not earn my recommendation. It’s the little things: a sliding shower door that comes off the track at the gentlest of touches, a shower head that won’t budge unless you’re Ahhnold, no draperies on the French doors in the bedroom (!!), kitchen stocked with everything you need for making coffee (including filters)… except the coffee maker, and air conditioners that aren’t quite powerful enough to cool the room. Little things like this add up in the value calculations of a traveler for whom $115 a night is splurging, major splurging. I don’t want to make it sound too bad though, the room was well kept and looked immaculate. We got a free upgrade to a cottage even though we reserved a suite and it was (and is) quiet here. I’m not complaining, I just wish I had some coffee; and this post is too long. Bye.

Jannotti tag: travel


Knoxville, PA: In The Cut

My wife’s parents retired years ago and live on a hill in extreme northern Pennsylvania in a house they built themselves using wood and stone from their own land.

He also built a hunting cabin (referred to as the Honey Cabin by my daughters), that's pretty posh by hunting cabin standards.

Joy's dad owns between one and two square miles of land that he’s acquired slowly over many years. He cultivates trees on it and has shipped lots of timber since his stands have matured.

When people use the expression ‘in the sticks’ this is the place they’re referring to.

My oldest daughter Kristin decided she wanted to help Grandpa this week. She’ll be doing work such as that pictured here, as well as having lots of fun courtesy of Grandma (I heard talk of tennis, swimming, and scrabble—Kristin loves scrabble).

This stop was just the second kid drop-off (the other child is here), though we did take time to go up the hill and see the current cut. Dad spent some time describing how timber is graded and the debates that result between he and his logger over where exactly to cut each log given grade and end-use considerations. Pretty exacting science. I couldn’t tell the difference between one piece of wood and the next. Remind me not to go into logging.

This post written at the Butler, PA Panera--free wifi. They let me use their phone too. Very nice people here.

Jannotti tag: travel



Tomorrow after church we begin our all too brief, but kid free, vacation. I'm going to make an attempt at a tavelblogue (I just love sticking that word 'blog' in wherever it'll fit). I said, attempt. I'm making no promises. I've already scouted out free wifi spots in most of our destinations, so if I can post without intruding in on much needed quantity time with my wife, I will.

Yep, you're excited. I can tell.

Jannotti tag: travel


more stormy weather

She understandably hopes for a respite but nonetheless, Julie continues turning her stormy summer into good art with a vivid piece of writing; writing of the sort that makes me appreciative and envious.

"The trees begin to lean a little more, the windchimes more frantic, and I look at the clock. Time's up. We stay in the dark, but I get up and pace about the house, trying to catch a glimpse of the sky during the steady lightening, hoping to not see a funnel cloud dipping down to tear up history."

Go read the whole thing.

Jannotti tag: weather, writing

hello cindy

Cindy paid us a visit last night and this morning. It was essentially a non-event. Dennis is on his way, and he's infinitely more intimidating.

Jannotti tag: weather



Pray for the people of London.

Here's part of what the mayor of London said: ""This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners..."

Update (7:09pm): Zalm has a more complete text of Mayor Livingstone's remarks.

Jannotti tag: world events

brett rules the road

Saw my friend Brett Householder last night. He's a youth minister, a fact which is in large measure my own darn fault. Brett was a volunteer back in the salad days of my YM career. I put him in charge of the whole senior high ministry and then facilitated a contact which led to his first full time position in a church. We'll not speak much of that first chuch here. Let's just say that Brett forgives me, I think.

I've mentioned mission trips in a couple of posts. There is a storied church tradition of summer mission trips for senior high students. They were always the highlight of any given year, for students and leaders alike. Megan (who happens to be Brett's sister) at Quiet Here is a veteran of our past trips, as are Dan McElwain (from yesterday's post), and also Mike, the missionary to the Czech Rebublic.

Brett serves a church in Pittsburgh now, Beulah Presbyterian Church. They're doing right by him, it would seem. Currently he's in the midst of his own Road Rules mission trip; a concept he and some students created when he worked with me. 11 Days, 3 inner cities, including Washington D.C. on the Glorious 4th. Brett said the fireworks were unbelievable.

I hung out briefly with his team at their short term home, Paoli Presbyterian Church. They experienced inner city ministry in D.C., including a day at L'Arche, had just finished working with the homeless at Trevor's Place in Philadelphia, and are travelling to NYC as I type this. Today they will be making art kits for children with AIDS.

Brett's team is enthusiastic. They're a neat bunch of kids; a good mix. Brett told them last night that he was proud to be their youth minister and I can see why. One team member, Brian, managed to start a wave in a D.C. metro station, keeping it going even as he boarded a train and pulled away. Nate makes himself into an excellent human beat box. Look for Nate and Brian's hip-hop ditty "Doors Opening" (based on their Metro experience) to top the charts; once they return to Pittsburgh and get it recorded.

If you pray, pray for Brett and his team as they conclude their trip. You can find a brief synopsis of each day's Road Rules activity here. Click any Road Rules 2005 link to read about that day.

Jannotti tag: travel


street school

TBASDan McElwain is creative, artistic, a gifted relationship builder, and just twisted enough to be inspiring. And he's my friend.

Early in my youth ministry days, Dan was the high school student who said, as we were leaving church after a youth ministry gathering, "You have the best job in the world!"

"I do," I said. And meant it.

Much later on in my YM career, on the very eve of a mission trip to Denver with 15 students, Budget Rent-a-Truck called to tell me that those two 15 passenger vans I reserved and paid a sizable deposit on were not available. "So sorry," they said. They offered me three 7 passenger vans instead, which left me short one driver. I called Dan. "What are you doing for the next 11 days?" I asked. "Goin' to Denver," he said.

Dan taught in inner city Cleveland. He taught art at a special art-centered school. There was some budget cutting and of course, art was eliminated. Being twisted, Dan thought, "Hmmm... I'll start a street school." Actually it wasn't that simple but it could have been, we're talking about Dan McElwain here. This is a guy who looked around his kitchen one day and said to his wife, "We should redo the kitchen." So they tore out the cabinets and the floor. Immediately. It's finished now, likely as not.

Dan and his wife Amy (who is one of those people who brighten a room just by being in it) will launch the Bridge Avenue School (TBAS) in August. Their philosophy is terrific: we believe all students learn well when taught well.

They need support. I realize most of the few readers of this blog do not live near Cleveland, Ohio, but if you do (or don't) and have not thought about supporting TBAS, think about it now. You can attend their Bash on the Bridge (Dan loves to bash on just about anything) on July 16th. Make it a stop on your summer vacation schedule! At $10 ($5 for kids), it's the best entertainment bargain on this or that side of the Mississppi. You get to hear the Sam Getz Band, what else could you want?

Jannotti tag: theology


how'd i miss south carolina?

Found a meme at Waving or Drowning. How could I resist?

bold: states I've been to, underlined: states I've lived in and italicized: state I'm in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C. /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Jannotti tag: travel

how'd he know?

I just had one of those moments; a coincidence that's really no such thing, do you know what I mean?

Today (actually yesterday) I finally finished the book proposal and drafted a cover letter to a (hoped for) publisher. The proposal and book have been on my mind and heart for a long time-- almost 2 years. After finishing a final, nervous read through before putting the thing in the mail tomorrow, I relaxed by linking down my blogroll. I got to the Gazette and read Eric's latest post. He quotes Micah 6:8...

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. [NIV]

The title of my book is Loving Mercy.

Freaky. Or not.

Jannotti tag: writing


a person who has no fun

An actual conversation I had today with my daughter.

The scene: My wife, kids, and myself sat outside on the lawn and had our lunch; a little picnic. Daughter number one even packed her lunchbox: a beat up blue metal number. She had some tuna salad, and also some Hot and Spicy Cheez-Its. (Cheese Nips by the way, are NO substitute). The conversation began as Daughter number 1 opened up the plastic bag containing the Cheez Its.

Wife: “Wow, I can smell those Spicy Cheez Its all the way over here.”

D1: “That’s not all the way.”

Wife: “What?”

D1: “That’s not all the way.”

Wife: Looks at me as I look at her. We laugh.

D1: Gets up walks three steps over to where wife sits and says, “See. Mommy’s right here.”

Me: “What she meant is that she could smell the Cheez Its from where she is.”

D1: “But that’s not all the way. All the way means far away.”

Me: “What all the way means, D1, is the total distance between the person who says it and you.”

D1: “No it doesn’t.”

Me: “Ugh. You should be a fundamentalist.”

D2 (joining the conversation): “What’s a fundamentalist?”

Me: “It’s a person for whom every word must mean one and only one thing and who believes their interpretation of reality is the only correct one.” I then started singing a song from Winnie the Pooh's Grand Adventure

If it says so
Then it is so
If it is so
Well so it is
A thought's not fit to think
'Til it's printed in ink
Then it says so
So it is

D1: “What’s a dementalist?”

Me: “Oh no.” I get up to leave.

D1: “What’s a dementalist?!”

Me: “A person who has no fun.”

Jannotti tag: what-ever



Peace, love, and barbecue.

Jannotti tag: cooking

what'd you expect

I didn't see it. Some friends had a major party so we all went over there and talked about it. Some at the party told me I look like this guy. I actually get that a lot.

This morning while setting up for worship, our drummer, Rob, said he watched a lot of it at work. He told me the MTV vj's kept talking over Stevie Wonder's performance. I've heard from a number of sources that MTV's coverage was ridiculously poor. What did you expect? MTV's not about music anymore, but that's a horse of a different hue.

Seems like Hyde Park was the place to be if you were going to take the trouble to go. Philadelphia's line up was supremely uninteresting. Especially these people.

With any luck (not that I believe in luck), a highlight special will get cooked up sometime. What would be even better is if the event's intended statement has an effect.

Jannotti tag: movies & music