Thursday, 28 February 2008

The Fluidity of American Religious Affiliations

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that more than 40% of Americans are willing to, or have already, switched away from their childhood faith. Furthermore, Americans are showing less and less affiliation with Protestant and Catholic churches altogether. Oregon is being called the "most secular state in the union" because of a significant rise in those "unaffiliated" with a church or religious traditinon altogether. The percentage of Oregonians who are "unaffiliated" is recorded as 27% compared to a national average of 16%.

You can read the NPR story, Brian McLaren's perspective (on Jim Wallis' blog), and interact with the results yourself at the Pew Forum website.

So why is this the trend and what can (or should) be done about it?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Proof, for you Doubters

Proof that I can stand on a long board and sweep my bangs out of my eyes at the same time...

And, proof that I can look like a surfer on a long board.

I swear, I really can ride this thing!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Not for the faint of heart

Long boarding and this post are not for the faint of heart.

Tim and I went long boarding yesterday evening before dinner. He decided that it was time to actually go on a ride, instead of just riding around in the Autzen parking lot. So, we started out and rode down one of the bike trails. Tim is much faster than I am, so he boarded ahead while I dallied behind, enjoying myself, but trying to push myself a bit faster beyond my comfort zone so I could keep up. We came to the foot bridge that crosses the Willamette River and stopped halfway across to rest on a bench there. We talked and gazed at the rushing water for a few minutes. Before we took off again, Tim warned me that the bridge had a pretty good slope to it, so I would pick up quite a bit of speed coming down the other side. On top of that, there was a lip at the bottom of the bridge that would require me to lean back and keep my weight on my back foot to keep from crashing. All that I could handle - I thought...

Tim had been a careful teacher - warning me of what was to come but letting me test my limits so that I could get better at boarding.

The problem is, my board is pretty wobbly (it's supposed to lean side to side so that I can turn, but I'm still not stable on it yet). And Tim forgot to mention that when one gets going fairly fast, one can get what is called "speed wobbles" a perfectly descriptive name for what happened to me as I came down the slope of the bridge. I managed to get over the lip at the bottom of the bridge, but the speed wobbles took over and sent my board into the bark dusted shrub area beside the concrete bike path. Naturally, physics took over and as my board slammed to a halt, I flew off the front of it onto the concrete in front of me, doing my best to tuck and roll and avoid serious injury.

I managed not to hurt myself too badly. I hit my hip, tore a button off my pea coat (not a very "skater" thing to wear), and cut up my hand enough to make it bleed. My first long board crash. Hopefully the first of only a few. (I won't kid myself and think that's the only crash in my future.)
So, I learned that long boarding is not for the faint of heart. Last night's crash hurt. And today my calf muscles aren't sure why I'm torturing them so, but it sure is fun riding my Valentine's Day board around with Tim in our recent Eugene SUN!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Two Germans and a Longboard

Last night Tim and I had the opportunity to hang out with Dirk, one of Grenzebach's German interns who has been here in the US for the last 5 months, and Hendrick a friend of his. We met them at the North Bank McMenamin's for dinner, and had a great time talking with them about where we all grew up, what it was like etc. Dirk is 27, and is studying to be a Mechanical Engineer - which is what he has been doing with Grenzebach (the company I work for) for the last few months in Newnan, Georgia.

At one point during dinner I mentioned that for Valentine's Day Tim had gotten me a longboard and skate shoes (see pictures below) so that we can go longboarding together! I know, we kinda jumped the gun, but we got the board and shoes yesterday rather than waiting for Thursday.

I'm pretty excited about being able to go boarding with Tim now that the weather is getting a bit warmer and more sunny. I also love how stylish my board is, and how the shoes go back to my Scottish roots with the red tartan accents that match my board. :)

Anyway, I mentioned the long board and Dirk told us that he does street luge in Germany, which is somewhat similar to longboarding, except you're laying down. This is him doing what he does:

Pretty fun, eh? He invited us to come to Germany and street luge with him. Sounded like fun to me!

After dinner we were walking out of McMenamin's and Tim and I both stopped at the basket of mints to snag a few. We offered them to Dirk and Hendrick, but they declined. Dirk said: "I don't understand why you guys have those all over the place here." I replied: "Well, it's for after dinner - it settles the stomach." He immediately and very mater-of-factly said: "Oh, we have Schnapps for that." Tim and I both laughed so hard we nearly cried!

We decided to take the longboards out for a spin with the boys, so we headed to Autzen Stadium and boarded around for a while. Then ended up in our living room learning all sorts of interesting facts from Dirk and Hendrick.

We learned:
-That in Germany Dirk and Hendrick were required to either go into the Army for 10 months or do a year of civil service. They both chose the Army, but were quick to explain that it was not like our army - their army is like a "fun army". There are a few drills at the beginning, but that's all. Besides, after WWII Germany can only have a defensive army; they cannot attack another country. Dirk found it odd that some US leaders have wanted Germany to help attack Afghanistan, even though we were the ones who helped restrict them to begin with.
- That German news is different from American news. Each German has to pay a fee per TV or radio they own, and that money funds public news channels and stations. One of those TV news stations is Germany's most-watched news because there is no one telling the newscasters what to say or report - the news is not tampered with. Dirk and Hendrick said they felt like the US news is more like a movie, and German news is more like a documentary.
- How glass is made. One part of what Grenzebach does is makes the machinery that makes glass. Dirk told us all about the process - how it is mixed, melted, shaped, scanned for imperfections, cut, stacked etc. It was really quite interesting to learn what that part of the business does.

At the end of the night, Dirk, Hendrick, and I set up our cameras on the bar, set the timers and each took a picture by which to remember the enjoyable evening we had spent together. Dirk hopes to come back to Oregon when he finishes his studies - I certainly hope we will be able to hang out with him again in the future.
Dirk, Hendrick, Me and Tim

Monday, 11 February 2008

Our new place - in pictures

View from the entry - into the Guest Bathroom.
(Guest Bedroom is to the right, the rest of the apartment is to the left.)

Guest Bathroom
you come to visit, you'll get the great honor of using this room! ;)

Guest Bedroom
When you come visit, you'll get the pleasure of sleeping in this bed!

View from living room, through dining room, into kitchen.

Living room.

Fireplace, and prominent artwork painted and given to us by
Tim's elementary school teacher.

Kitchen with lots of counter and cupboard space.

Hallway from living room past kitchen to front door, guest bedroom and bathroom. Washer and dryer are tucked away to the left in the hallway (yay for the ability to do laundry in our apartment!!)

Master bedroom - nice and large!

Master closet

Master Bathroom

Monday, 4 February 2008

Test Drive

Between church and the Super Bowl yesterday Tim and I decided to stop in at a car dealership to test drive a MINI Cooper S - the car we've been eying for quite some time now. (Isn't it cute!?) And Tim let me take the test drive!! With me at the wheel, the salesman in the passenger seat, and Tim crammed in the back seat, we went for a spin. We knew from the get go that we didn't want to go into debt for the car, but it sure was fun to drive it for a few minutes!