Clara is Baby Jesus.

No, that is not a blasphemous overstatement by a proud father, it is merely a fact. Sort of.

At this year’s Holy Cross Episcopal Church Christmas Pageant in Paris, Texas, they needed a Baby Jesus who would "not be able to sit up in the manger". Clara, being just six weeks old, fit the bill perfectly!

It was especially touching because on that very weekend four years earlier, December 20th, 2003, Laura and I stood in that very place and spoke our wedding vows to one another, committed our lives and our hearts to one another. The same stained glass window we knelt before as we prayed for mercy and for blessing now looked down on a promise fulfilled.

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Longtime readers might remember our adventures in Wyoming as we made our way to Grand Teton National Park. The short of it is that when we rolled in to Jackson, WY late at night looking for a hotel room instead of moving forward with our original plan of setting up camp in the park itself, we were met with nothing but No Vacancy signs throughout the entire town. Not a single room. As I said then, I’m not trying to say anything about our child…but Laura’s pregnant and there were no rooms in the Inns! So, this fun little addition to our first Christmas season with Clara added even more humor to that memory!

Clara "performed" perfectly in her first starring role. That is to say, she slept throughout the entire thing! We had a lot of fun with it and there will be plenty of photos and video to show her when she gets older. Afterwards, Paul (Laura’s dad, Clara’s Papi) said, "Hmm…if Laura is Mary, Brian is Joseph, and Clara is Jesus…what does that make me?!"


2007 Year in Review : Podcasts

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Once again, in 2007 I spent many more hours listening to talks and lectures than I did hours listening to music. There are a great many technologies that have yet to prove their net usefulness to our little blue planet, but, the ability to carry high-powered educational content in the palm of your hand is not one of them.

There are some other podcasts that I keep up with, but these are the "Do Not Miss An Episode" bunch. I highly recommend each of these programs. (Here is my list from 2006.)

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KERA : Think

Day after day, this show addresses relevant topics and Krys is such a wonderful interviewer that she gets the most out of her guests. It’s an added bonus that she is on our Dallas public radio station, so every now and then the show covers something going on in DFW (the Trinity River Corridor, D Magazine features, etc).

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LSAT Logic in Everyday Life

These are short (~7min), weekly episodes which break down events in the news from a logical point of view. It’s fun because one week it will be something completely serious, like SCHIP, and the next it’ll be goofy, like the South Carolina beauty queen or "Don’t Taze Me Bro!"

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Pregtastic!

In January of this year, we knew exactly nothing about babies. With a little help from this informative podcast, we had at least some idea of what to expect throughout our pregnancy and during Clara’s first couple of months. Definitely "mom" centered, but I was able to learn plenty from it as well.

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Great Speeches in History

The Sermon on the Mount, I Have a Dream, JFK’s inaugural, Socrates in his own defense, Eisenhower’s farewell address…inspired and inspiring orations.

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NPR : Intelligence Squared

IQ2 is Oxford-style debate featuring one motion, one moderator, and three panelists for and against the motion. Previous debates have been, "Is It Time to End Affirmative Action?", "Better More Surveillance Than Another 9/11", "Is America Too Damn Religious?"

Every debate is incredibly engaging and thoughtful. They’re only once a month so as soon as I see the latest has been released, it’s always the first thing I listen to. Their tagline is, "on most contentious issues, both sides have intellectually respectable views."

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TED TALKS

I’m not sure how to begin summarizing how wonderful these talks are. Basically, the people at TED (tech, entertainment, design) invite innovators to the conference and say, "Give the talk of your life in 15 minutes."

The results are brilliant.

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Chicago Public Radio : This American Life

Each week, TAL chooses a theme and then brings us a variety of stories on that theme. This is a fantastic radio program.

Returning Champs from Last Year

WNYC : Radio Lab

NPR : Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

And while I don’t consider myself anywhere near the programs described above, I’ll include my own podcast here…because, well, technically I’ve never missed an episode. :) A disclaimer: the first several episodes are not very good, I’ve only been happy with them from about #5 on.

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So there they are, my favorite podcasts of 2007. I hope you take a few minutes to give them a listen.

DIY Newborn Pics

Laura and I have been wanting to get some artsy shots of Clara. You know the really great newborn photos where they’re sleeping in a little ball, resting perfectly in their mother’s arms or their father’s hands. Typically, extremely fluffy blankets are also involved. Also, lambs.

Saturday, we took Clara to the Botanical Gardens in Grapevine to give it our best shot.

Complete. Failure.

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And it only got worse from there, so we packed up our basket o’ blankets (and a few stuffed lambs) and took it to the house.

That night, at her midnight feeding, I couldn’t get her to wake up so I thought, "Might as well make this work for me!" So, I put her in the little basket, put a white sheet on the wall and floor of the kitchen and started snapping. I am pretty happy with how a few of these turned out!

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US Senate Race in Texas : 13 Weeks to Primary

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Senator John Cornyn is up for reelection in 2008 and, as some of you
know, in 2006 we found a candidate we really liked in Barbara Ann
Radnofsky
. Unfortunately, Senator KB Hutchison was able to hold her
seat in that race (at least until she vacates it to run for Governor in
2010) and we were left with the bittersweet results of a Barbara Ann
defeat, but a Democratic takeover in the House and good headway in the
Senate. (FYI, BAR will not seek Cornyn’s seat now, nor Hutchison’s seat
later, but will instead run for Texas Attorney General in 2010.)

As the primaries draw near, Democrats will choose between Lt.
Col. Rick Noriega (current member of the Texas House of
Representatives) and a Corpus Christi teacher named Ray McMurrey. I’m
looking forward to hearing more from both of them – McMurrey is coming
to Coppell in January at the beginning of his two-month leave of
absence in order to campaign statewide; Noriega’s campaign site
currently shows no upcoming events.

Their biographies are available here:
Ray McMurrey’s Bio : http://mcmurreyforussenate.com/Biography/tabid/430/Default.aspx
Rick Noriega’s Bio : http://www.ricknoriega.com/about/

Hopefully,
one of the local Dem groups will host a candidate’s forum before the
March 4th primary and here are just a few of the many questions that I
would like to have answered before deciding who to vote for:

Noriega:

– We’ve seen the negative results that
collusion between corporations and government has on the American
people and on our land. Should it concern us that as a staffer in the
Texas Senate you joined CenterPoint Energy’s Governmental Affairs
department and that you are still employed by that company today?

– If he says something to the effect of recusing himself from
all votes related to his company, then I will probably say, "Exactly.
We need to be sure that we are electing someone who is voting in the
interests of the people at all times, and when it comes to energy
policy we will always be losing a vote as long as you have to sit it
out. If you are elected to the US Senate will you resign your position
with CenterPoint?"

– An article in an Abilene newspaper reports that you have
accepted campaign contributions from Bob Perry, one of the funders of
the Swift Boat ads in 2004. Is this true? If so, how much were the
contributions and have you accepted money from him during this
campaign?

McMurrey:

– Your web site states that you will, "Lower
interest rates on college loans and make it easier for more students
afford Higher Education." Besides lowering interest rates on loans,
what steps will you take to make college costs lower so that those
loans are either smaller or unnecessary to begin with?

The Platform page on McMurrey’s site and the history provided
by Noriega’s bio are satisfying as far as I’m concerned and have
already answered many of the questions that I would have for both of
them. As of right now, I feel like we have two excellent candidates to
choose between.

Decision : 50/50 split, not leaning either way.