Wasp Sipping Observed / Odd Frog Amidst the Yucca

I was in the backyard all yesterday doing yardwork; it was a pretty interesting day. At one point, a wasp flew into view. He hovered over the surface of the pool, then landed on the surface of the water with his wings raised in a V like Jeremy. Then the wasp quaffed deeply for about 10 seconds. I actually could see him drinking. Then he took off very skillfully, beating the wings but never touching them to the water. I had no clue that wasps could land on water and stand on surface tension.

I also removed a few yucca plants and found this guy:

Frog nap interrupted

A photo posted by barlowjon (@barlowjon) on

I think he must be some kind of tree frog, but I’m not sure. I carefully cut this blade of the yucca out and put it under the shrubbery. He stayed on it almost the whole morning. I had almost gotten so frustrated with the weeds in this yard that I was getting close to using some round-up, but seeing this little guy solidified my commitment to not use anything that could harm amphibians in the yard. I like the frogs, the tiger geckos, the anole lizards, etc. It’s amazing to have so many fascinating critters in the yard.

Carpenter Bees

My dad’s theory is that carpenter bees go by color to figure what is and what is not wood. We have some brown-painted trim on our house and sure enough, I found a place where the carpenter bees have gone to work. I think he’s right. I saw the bees doing a kind of probe of all the brown things in our backyard, including the brown gutters. They have, however, made no holes in any of the red-painted trim in our yard.

I killed about 45 of them this weekend. We removed a pergola that was kind of mis-sized for our backyard and it was full of carpenter bee holes. Once the pergola was gone all the bees were trying to come back to look for their homes. I found a lot of success by using a tennis racket to kill the bees while they were swarming. Such destructive creatures.

Weekend Doings / RUF Reunion

There was an RUF reunion this weekend. It’s weird living, as an adult, in the town where I attended college. So many people probably made plans, booked hotel rooms, etc., to be here today for this event. The thought of not attending any of it would seem like a waste of money since the whole reason they are here is to attend the event. But I live here. I have deadlines here. I have renovation work to do on a house here. I have kids here. I have dogs here. So it is a much different feeling. But I was able to attend two events on Saturday and then, of course, everything at church today (Sunday).

The greatest thing about it was to see old friends; people that I have a history with who are Christians and understand that aspect of my life. Many of my friends are from other times or contexts, and their relationship with me would have been comprehensible from a variety of perspectives, and that’s great. I love them. But it is a special thing to meet with old friends from the same campus ministry who understand me as a Christian. I was most touched by discussions of parenting – many of us have older high-school-aged children because we’re the procreating types who got married in or right after college. Kids growing up today in Christian families have a really tough row to hoe. They know so many ostensibly great people about whom their religious worldview tells one story, but their experience tells another. It is so hard to stand up to one’s experience… to see it as a thing that isn’t self-authenticating. I think one of the hardest things is that my denomination hasn’t put a priority on starting schools, and so kids are either having to go to school in the polytheistic schools of the state or we put mothers in an awful position to be responsible to teach at home. It makes me very sad to think it through. We are asking kids to be characters in a story way before they’ve learned their lines or understood the flow of the plot. They are like actors, waiting for the script to be delivered, stalling in front of an audience. My teeth are on edge about this.

But it was lovely to see people. I teach children’s Sunday School, so I even got to teach the children of friends. I made a joke about the Sword of Gryffindor (as we were talking about the priests’ offering David the sword of Goliath when he was on the run from Saul), and the guy I used to hang out with in college’s 5th-grade daughter is there and she laughs about it, and knows exactly what I’m talking about. I would love to gather up all these lovely friends and their families and live together in a big apartment building with a pool and a playground and a dog park. I think heaven will be like that.

Gotta run pray with the boys. The earth seems so tired and used up tonight, but I know that’s just my erroneous interpretation of my experience. All will be well. And all will be well. And all manner of things will be well.

Food Log for Today

Scrambled eggs, toast with butter, jam, 1 bowl of Greek chicken soup, 3 fingers of cornbread with butter, 2 squares of dark chocolate, 6 cups coffee, 2 Negra Modelas, 2 slices bacon, scrambled eggs, 3 pancakes with butter, maple syrup, 1 orange, 1 banana, 6 benadryl, handful unsalted sunflower seeds, 1 spoon peanut butter. I really eat like a king. So thankful.

Dragon Fruit, Cotton District Arts Festival

Well, this week on a trip to Jackson, MS, I ate at Mr. Chen’s and it was amazing. I had Kung Pao Chicken and it was very tasty. I’ll eat something more authentic next time, but I was hungry and not in the mood to experiment.

Eli always likes to try weird fruit, so because Mr. Chen’s also doubles as an Asian Grocery Store, I was able to pick up what looked like the weirdest fruit I’d ever seen – dragon fruit. Here it is after Ann cut it in half:


It comes from a cactus, apparently, and tastes like a cross between kiwi and pear. That’s the theoretical flavor, but this one was kind of tasteless; maybe flying from wherever and being refrigerated zapped all the flavor. But Eli was able to have a really novel experience for a low cost. And it is very pretty, I’ll admit.

Today we went to the Cotton District Arts Festival. It’s a lot like the Clayton Arts Festival in St. Louis except instead of fine art, it is mostly jewelry, crafts, etc. The food is great. I should’ve taken a picture of the shish-ke-bob I had. Wow.

Here’s James and Eli posing in front of the crowd:


I don’t know why I felt so curmudgeonly at this thing, but leading three children through a crowd is always a little trying. At the ice cream stand, a dude tried to convince me that the 1hp John Deere motor turning the ice cream maker beater was running on water. Uncharacteristically, I argued with him. I said “I can smell the gasoline.” And then he said something about how it’s running on the hydgrogen from the water. “Oh” I said, “like Brown’s Gas” and he said “no, not gas, water.” Sheesh. Anyway, when we got to the front of the line he asked the man who owned the booth and the guy confirmed it is a gas powered engine. Of course. Look, I’m the biggest conspiracy theorist there is, but I don’t buy the “detroit is hiding all the efficient technologies from us” conspiracy theory mainly because of the laws of physics. Yes, you can run an engine on Brown’s gas, but it would take electricity for the electrolysis to get the hydrogen out of the water. Of course, I apologized to the guy for being so contrary. I think it just hit a sore spot – all my life I’ve wished for some kind of cool alternative fuel / engine situation and they always turn out to be hokum when I look into them.

Oh, last weekend we went to the zoo in Hattiesburg with my parents. It was a lot of fun. Here’s a great pig that Eli was able to pet:


I hope you guys are having a good week. I’m tuckered, man. What a long week.

Pretty Saturday

It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, today. Blue sky, slight breeze, temperature a little chilly, but very sunny. I mowed the yard, cleaned out the previous owner’s potting table area, cleaned out the storage shed slightly, and began treating the pool to get it ready for swimming. I went pretty early this morning to Wal-Mart and it was interesting to see who was there at that hour. A physicist/computer scientist I know was also looking at pool chemicals, and there were a lot of people looking pretty pleased with themselves for beating the last-minute easter crowd that would inevitably descend on the stores once they rolled out of bed.

I was hoping to find a post-hole digger, but all the ones I saw were either too expensive or too cheaply made. I think I’ll just borrow one. Ann’s mom brought a neat birdhouse that was her father’s and we’re looking for a good place to plant it, but I’ll need a post-hole digger. I did buy a gigantic 8 foot tall shepherd’s crook to hang the new bird feeder in front of our kitchen-area window. Today, no birds came at all. A cardinal threatened to hit the feeder but stayed away. I’m sure they’ll find it eventually.

My second-oldest son is home from boarding school so we went to the music store to get him some guitar strings. They had some cool Squire basses that were tempting. The bass I use for recording is really hard to play in tune – the neck was warped and the local luthier pulled a small miracle by putting just the right gauge strings on it and tightening up the neck as much as possible. So what you’ve been hearing on my 25 songs last year was that bass. Anyway, I didn’t get a new bass, but it was cool to see what good basses they have these days for such a low price. My second youngest also came along and the three of us went to the local co-op and looked at horseshoes, saddles, blueberry bushes, fig trees, etc. It’s hilarious that this store has big posters with celebrity spokesmen of which I’ve never heard. I mean, I couldn’t even guess if they were country stars, sports stars, rodeo stars, etc. It was like a parallel world. The fruit tree guy was amazing – very knowledgeable. I really want to plant blueberry bushes but decided to not get any today because the beds are just not prepared yet and I have a lot of other work to do. There is a time to tear up and a time to plant, and I’m still kind of in the tearing-up phase of getting this yard under control.

One thing I did today was to remove the old diving-board base. The previous owners had a diving board that broke so they filed the base with soil and planted flowers in it. I dug out the flowers and put them in pots, then got all the soil out. There were six rusty bolts/nuts holding it to the concrete. I sprayed PB Blaster (penetrating oil) on the bolts and then used a long bar with my socket wrench to undo all the bolts. The board came out pretty cleanly.

Last week I removed a forsythia bush that was about 8 feet in diameter. You probably have seen this kind of plant even if you don’t know it by name – it makes pretty yellow flowers that line the branches. It was crazy and right at the corner of our yard which is the corner of two busy streets in Starkville. I was worried that I would be cutting down some of the neighbors’ favorite bush (I’ve never seen a forsythia this big) but at the same time it was just too big and too woody to be as pretty as even much smaller forsythias. This is the heartbreak of moving into a yard that someone else lovingly tended and yet let get overgrown. I used my chainsaw to cut through this thing like hot butter. I was really worried my neighbor would be upset. But then today she told Ann to tell me “thanks” – how she can safely turn out onto North Montgomery now and see oncoming cars. It’s a good outcome.

Alright, gotta run hear Eli tell me his plan to make our yard a new country with its own laws. I’m sure our Democrat mayor would have something to say about that. Have a great Easter tomorrow, dear readers.

Worship as Response

You might be interested to read an article I’ve written for the Theopolis website: Worship as Response: Liturgical Logic, Part 1.

I’m trying to write a series of articles about liturgy that will be useful for laypeople, pastors, etc. Let me know what you think; I would appreciate your comments. My goal is to be useful, so let me know if you have any burning liturgical questions that might be good for a future article.

It was an honor to be asked to contribute, but it was also a lot of pressure since the other articles at Theopolis are all so good. Definitely check out all the other authors there.

Have a wonderful Easter week, friends.

Gamma Knife

Recently the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) in Mississippi fired Dr. Jones, the president of Ole Miss, for alleged mismanagement of Ole Miss’s Medical School (University Medical Center). One of the allegations was that UMC purchased a “gamma knife” that sat unboxed or unused or something. So, this being the Internet age (and why do we capitalize Internet anyhow?) and the YouTube age, some Mississippi bar singer (Moon Pie Curtis) decided to bless us with this gem of a song: “Dr. Jones is Gonna Cut You With His Gamma Knife.”

And, incidentally, “Gamma Knife” is a heck of a name for a garage band or a Japanese post-punk lo-fi three-piece thing.

One quick update – I’m 2/5ths of the way through remixing the songs that will be on my first EP. I’ll let you know when it is available – should be on Spotify, iTunes, etc. And you can rest assured, there are no songs about Dr. Jones and the Gamma Knife.

Happy Palm Sunday, dear readers.