Tag Archives: the know it all

the know it all

knowitallThe Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A. J. Jacobs

i picked up a.j. jacobs’ “the year of living biblically” (my review) way after most people had read it, and totally loved it. so i decided to go back and read his first bestseller — the know it all.

“biblically” was about the author’s year of trying to live everything in the bible as literally as possible. seems jacobs likes these year long challenges as writing fodder, because “the know it all” is about his personal challenge of reading the entire encyclopedia britannica in one year.

as you can imagine, reading the entire encyclopedia is quite the daunting task. and jacobs attempted to not just skim it, but actually hold onto all that information (hence the subtitle). of course, this wasn’t possible.

the book is really an alphabetical collection of mini-essays — some on the actual stuff he was learning in the EB, and some on his life that year, using topics from the EB as jumping-off points.

jacobs is witty and narcissistic (in a way that works for a writer). and the book is generally a fun read. but it took me longer to finish than any book i’ve read in the past few years. seriously, i think i plunked along in it (while reading other books simultaneously) for about three months. crazy. and i think the reason it took me so pickin’ long is because, at the end of the day, it’s really just a very long collection of witty mini-essays — like an encyclopedia that’s fun to read. without a narrative arc (and, even most non-fiction books have a narrative arc), i just got… restless. i was going to say i got bored, but that wasn’t quite accurate. i just really wanted to finish the book.

so, fun read. but, ultimately, it wasn’t sustainable for me.

monday morning update, march 16, 2009

the weekend that was: my weekend was mostly re-entry from a week out. i’d been up at forest home camp, NE of LA, all week. the second half of that week was a personal silent retreat, which went through early saturday morning. that morning, i drove back to san diego, straight to my church, where i was part of a parent training morning. our junior high pastor (christina) and high school pastor (brian) talked about what they’re trying to accomplish in the youth ministries, then i talked about adolescence and youth culture from a macro level. i was followed by our church’s teaching pastor (who also happened to be my boss 20 years ago at a church in omaha!), who talked specifically about parenting teenagers. it was a great morning, and i really enjoyed it; but it was a weird way to come off three days of total silence!

saturday afternoon, jeannie and i had a wonderful time of getting caught up and talking about life. one of the things i decided on my silent retreat is that i’ve been watching too much tv lately. the stress of my season was been a little bit of a perfect storm when combined with a television season with so many shows i like to watch. but i’ve been escaping a bit too much. and, with “kings” just starting — which looks like a show i’m going to add to my intake — i’m making a tough choice (for me, it’s tough) to cut four 1-hour shows:
celebrity apprentice
amazing race
hell’s kitchen

i’ve enjoyed all of these, so this is hard; but i think it’s best for me, and certainly better for my marriage and family. in full disclosure, the shows i’m still recording are:
american idol (which we watch as a family)
lost (which, like 24, jeannie and i both watch)
heroes (which i watch with liesl)
the office and 30 rock

saturday night, jeannie and max and i went over to our friends’, joe and beth slevcove, primarily so max could spend some time with their brand new son, akian (the russian word for “ocean”), because they’ve asked max to be akian’s “god brother”. max is taking this all very seriously, and it’s really wonderful to watch.

sunday morning was church, then a few do-dads around the house; followed by a nice catch-up with my friend, john. in the evening, all four of us (me, jeannie, max and liesl) were back at beth and joe slevcove’s for the baby shower for akian. really nice time.

where i am at the moment: at my desk, at ys, in san diego. good to be here.

on my to-do list this week: full week, but no travel. it feels a little bit stressful, though, as i have a lot of things coming to a head right now.

procrastinating about: well, taxes (like i said). i realized i missed a magazine column deadline last week, so i gotsta get that done. i have more revisions coming for the middle school ministry book, and i know i could be working on those now (but i’m waiting for someone to tell me i have to do them, which certainly qualifies as procrastination!).

book i’m in the midst of: woo-hoo! i finished 5 books since last week:
the know it all
are you there, vodka? it’s me chelsea
deep church
the world is flat
same kind of different as me

and i almost finished losing my faculties: a teacher’s story (which is a great non-fiction piece by brendan halpin). not sure what i’ll read next.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: really didn’t listen to anything this week!

next trip: a week from today i fly to grand rapids for a 24 hour trip to zondervan. but, otherwise, nothing major ’til my spring break trip with my daughter to paris, in a few weeks!

how i’m feeling about this week: hmm. not sure. lots on my plate, which feels a bit weighty. but i’m glad to be here all week.

monday morning update, march 9, 2009

the weekend that was: rather a nice weekend, again, at home. i’m getting spoiled with these!

clarity_cdfriday night was a memorable treat. i’ve gotten to know zach lind a bit over the years (mostly through emerging church world and blog and twitter world), and he plays in this little band called jimmy eat world. they were playing the house of blues in san diego friday night, and liesl and i went down and met zach for a drink prior to the show, then went to the show. liesl was a little star-struck (which was cute, and i think scored me some ‘my dad isn’t as much of a dork as i thought’ points). zach is really a genuinely good guy, and likely one of the deeper thinking rock drummers out there.

we also had a funny moment when, during the middle of the opening act, someone came up to me and said, “aren’t you with youth specialties?” we chatted a little (nice guy), and it was no big deal; but, once again, a middle aged dad needs all the help he can get when it comes to his 15 year-old daughter not thinking he’s a tool.

i stayed up so stinkin’ late friday (watched tv after the concert), that i slept in until 11:15am on saturday. i NEVER do that, and it was a great treat. saturday was a slow-ish day, with some errands (mostly shuttling liesl and her friends around), some work (had to finish my expense report), and some hangin’ with max and jeannie. we rented a movie and got pizza in the evening, while liesl and 3 friends (one of whom is moving to australia this week) watched movies in the back house.

sunday: church, a couple errands, then i drove up to “the inland empire” (that’s what they call the area east of LA). our annual junior high pastors summit started last night with dinner at the yard house (we needed a gathering point, since people were driving, or flying into one of three different airports). after dinner, we drove the short distance up to forest home camp, where we’re being hosted this week.

where i am at the moment: at the junior high pastors summit, at forest home camp, NE of LA. this is a cool little gathering (about 22 of us) of long-term, veteran middle school youth workers. we’ve been meeting for about 8 years in a row, and have developed a great love for each other, in addition to having great discussion.

on my to-do list this week: the junior high pastors summit through wednesday; then, i’m staying at forest home in a cabin by myself for the rest of the week for a silent retreat. i’m WAY overdue for one of these, and GREATLY looking forward to it. i drive back to san diego early saturday morning, in time to participate in a parent training day at my church. i’ll be offline and out of touch all week, which is always a bit hard for me, but really healthy for me. there’s no internet OR cell phone coverage up there.

procrastinating about: i suppose i need to start writing “taxes” here every week until i get them done.

book i’m in the midst of: still trying to finish the know it all (this week!), and are you there, vodka? it’s me, chelsea. i’ll get them both done this week. but i also started reading the manuscript for a book coming out later this year by an old friend named jim belcher. the book is a “third way” book, trying to find a place between the reformed tradition and the emerging church (jim has one foot in each). i’m taking a few more books with me this week, for my silent retreat. really looking forward to some reading time.

mollyjensonmusic that seemed to catch my attention this past week: WOW, what a GREAT music week! very rarely have i had such a great music week. the highlights:

– i got sent a copy of molly jenson‘s new cd (which release the same day as U2’s cd). i’ll need to blog about this seperately, but it’s really, really good.
– i downloaded U2‘s new album from amazon during their first-day $3.99 deal. i’ve seen that some people aren’t digging it; but i’m loving it. the lyrics are particularly stunning, and show so much depth.
– then, i was listening to jimmy eat world in prep for the show friday night, and found out — last minute — that the show was something of a 10 year anniversary tour for their “clarity” album, which i hadn’t realized i didn’t have; so i downloaded that beauty also.
– OH, and lucas leys (ys’s spanish director) found out recently that i dig this band called “gotan project“, so he sent me another cool cd of tango/lounge fusion stuff, called bajofondo tango club. oh, man, it’s so sweet.

mmm. tasty and varied week of musical licks.

next trip: well, i guess i should call it my silent retreat, since it’s later this week!

how i’m feeling about this week: really, really stoked about both halves of this week, but not stoked about being gone all week.

monday morning update

the weekend that was: got home from grand rapids on friday night, late; but saturday and sunday we chillage. did a bunch of errands and jobs around the house; but mainly relaxed.

saturday night, we had a family evening, with our traditional pick-up stix for me, jeannie and liesl, and carl’s jr for max. we watched “swing vote” on pay per view, which was substantially better than i expected. really funny, and quite sweet also.

got to go to church sunday morning. our teaching pastor, my friend ed noble, made this off-handed comment that really stuck with me: there are two gods in the universe — the one who agrees with me on everything, and the one who actually exists.

where i am at the moment: at the ys office. this is going to be a stressful week.

on my to-do list this week: lots of administrative stuff to do, then i leave for korea on thursday.

procrastinating about: need to get to those “middle school ministry” book tweaks.

book i’m in the midst of: still in the midst of three — the same three i was in the midst of last week!
– still reading the know it all
– halfway through jack handy’s what i’d say to the martians
– started are you there, vodka? it’s me, chelsea

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: family force 5 caught my attention this week, with their infectious dance or die cd. dang, that thing DEFINES infectious music. like a rash.

next trip: we’re doing a youth worker’s event in korea in may; and i have a set-up trip this week. i’m leaving thursday and coming home next tuesday.

how i’m feeling about this week: not good. more on that later.

monday morning update, january 26, 2009

the weekend that was: i was in san juan, puerto rico, for the ys youth worker event there. wonderful time, with 750 youth workers from across the denominational spectrum. i’d not been to puerto rico before, and really loved it. being part of the united states, it’s a very easy place to be a non-spanish speaking visitor. many people speak at least some english (especially in restaurants and stores), and u.s. currency is used; and there’s no customs or need for a passport. i had a great time hanging out and getting caught up with lucas leys, the ys spanish director. and i had a blast with my seminars and general session — people were super responsive.

that said, i had quite an experience getting through security at the san juan airport. “traces of something” were found on my luggage, shoes, and hands (!). and right there at the end of the line, in front of everyone coming through, two TSA employees took every single item out of my luggage and backpack, holding each up, one at a time (including my undies!), and examining them. joy!

saw two movies on the flights home: the duchess (with keira knightly), which was pretty good, but very sad; and the longshots (with ice cube), which was predictable, but decent plane fare.

where i am at the moment: unfortunately, i’m heading right back out again (i’m in a wicked few weeks of travel). we have a ys leadership team retreat starting today, going through wednesday evening. it’s local, in san diego; but we’re staying at a hotel, so i’m not home.

on my to-do list this week: two leadership team retreat — first, 3 days with the ys leadership team, then 2 days with the zondervan leadership team.

procrastinating about: um… oh, getting the final tweaks done on the middle school ministry book. need to get to that!

book i’m in the midst of: i think i’m in the middle of three right now:
– still reading the know it all
– halfway through jack handy’s what i’d say to the martians
– started are you there, vodka? it’s me, chelsea

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: ben taylor’s music (particularly his newest, the legend of kung folk). dude sounds like he’s channeling james taylor; and i mean that in a very good way.

next trip: wednesday night i take a red-eye (san diego to l.a. to chicago to grand rapids) for a zondervan leadership team thurs/fri. come home friday night.

how i’m feeling about this week: well, i wish i were home with my family!

monday morning update, jan 19, 2009

the weekend that was: it was a nice, fairly relaxing weekend at home. i sure do like those! jeannie went to a seminar kind of thingy friday night and most of saturday, so the kids and i got a chance to hang. friday night, i took liesl and max to see bride wars. i didn’t really expect to like it, but i didn’t expect it to be as relentlessly boring as it was. the few nominally funny bits were all in the trailer. otherwise, it was attempt to be sweet. of course, i am not the target audience, and liesl (almost 15) really liked it. saturday, i slept in a bit, got caught up on a bunch of tv shows i had on the dvr (including 24), and chilled. then max and i went out to see his movie pick: mall cop. this one was actually pretty funny. sure, it’s no oscar contender, and totally formulaic as movies go; but kevin james is funny, the whole segway thing works, and max and i both laughed out loud a lot. then we went shopping for books (max HAD to get the new “diary of a wimpy kid” book), and to rent a wii game he wanted to try (mario strikers charged — a soccer game), and we played that a bit, until my thumb couldn’t take it anymore (and because max was creaming me).

sunday morning, we signed loan docs (we refinanced our house with the great low rates right now, and dropped our monthly payment an additional $200!), then went to church. had a fun middle school ministry volunteer staff meeting in the early afternoon. then, in the late afternoon, i had a fun visit with a guy who was a middle schooler at the church i grew up at when i was an intern there. a few years later, in the first church i worked in as a junior high pastor (in wheaton, il), he was on my volunteer team while in college. since then, we’ve had occasional contact (every few years, it seems), and he’s been a youth pastor for a bunch of years. funny thing is: i still think of him as a kid from my middle school group, but he’s something like 38 years-old! i’m just an old fart!

sunday evening, we worked on getting our christmas decorations down. jeannie’s rule is: everything has to be down by the end of january. the lights got off the house yesterday, and the tree is down. just a few more things to pack up tonite. this is my last chance this month, so we’re committed to having it done by tonite (monday night).

where i am at the moment: home. yeah! and, not just home like, home-in-san-diego-but-in-the-office. i’m home as in at my house! (today is a holiday for ys)

on my to-do list this week: busy day tomorrow, with meetings and prep for my trip to puerto rico this week.

procrastinating about: preparing for my trip to puerto rico! i’m doing a general session, a seminar, and a super-seminar; and i haven’t prepared a thing yet.

book i’m in the midst of: two of ’em. i’m still reading the know it all. and i picked up jack handy’s new book the other day — what i’d say to the martians — and am halfway through it. funny, funny stuff.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: newly appreciated ysmarko commenter, cal, commented on my monday morning update last week that i should check out the sufjan stevens’ produced jewel, welcome to the welcome wagon, by the band the welcome wagon (seriously, three uses of “welcome” in one album title!). such a cool album. almost more like a collection of hymns than anything else, but with a quirky sufjan-y sensibility (both lyrically, and sonically).

next trip: i leave for san juan, puerto rico, on wednesday, for our spanish ys summit (the country event for puerto rico). here’s the online event brochure.

how i’m feeling about this week: really looking forward to puerto rico. lucas, our spanish director, and i will spend 36 hours together on the front end, prior to the event. i really love lucas, and always have fun with him dreaming about the future of our spanish stuff. then, the event should be a kick also.

monday morning update, january 12, 2009

the weekend that was: i’ve been in san antonio, texas, for our ys one day premiere. our process of developing the content for ys one day (previously ‘the core’) is rigorous, messy, and time consuming. but i think it’s a big part of what sets this training apart: it’s not just one person’s seminar thoughts. ys one day is collaboratively developed by a team of writers and presenters, and goes through multiple stages of writing, testing, and refinement. when we get to this final test (the premiere), we hope to have it finalized, but find there are still, always, lots of changes to make. this time around, we made tweaks and modifications to three of the four sessions, and completely scrapped one and re-wrote it. we tested the day, with a different presenter for each of the four sessions, in front of the volunteer team from the youth ministry of a large church here in san antonio. all of our team who are here (about 15 of us) sat in the audience and took copious notes. then we met saturday afternoon and much of sunday, giving input and reworking. now, there is a smaller team of us (4) who will stay on a couple more days to complete all the final rewrites, getting the day into its final form.

i love the people on this team, and we have a ton of fun together also; but we work really hard. i’m exhasted and brain dead.

i did catch two movies this weekend, after the evening broke up. both were excellent: gran torino really surprised me. i thought it would be a good tough movie about a scrappy old dude confronting gangs in his neighborhood. what i didn’t expect was how funny it was, how 3-dimensional the characters would be, and how much stunning christian imagery would be in the film. it’s really a film about forgiveness and redemption. i also saw valkyrie, which was better than i expected. it was intense, despite generally knowing the outcome. i loved learning about a true story i hadn’t really heard before.

finally, a few of us took a mental break sunday afternoon to watch the san diego chargers pittsburgh steelers.

where i am at the moment: still in san antonio, working on the rewrites for ys one day. we’re scheduled to fly home on wednesday, but i’m hoping we’ll be able to leave tuesday evening.

on my to-do list this week: first half of the week is ys one day work; second half of the week is catching up on stuff in the office.

procrastinating about: as i write this, i’m procrastinating on the writing work i have to immediately get to for ys one day. i think i can acknowledge that i’m also in a procrastinating phase when it comes to reading. normally, i’m jazzed to have some time to grab whatever book (or books) i’m in the middle of. but for the last month or so i’ve been very unmotivated to read, and find myself playing solitaire on my ipod during flights, while my book sits in my seat back pocket.

book i’m in the midst of: a.j. jacobs’ the know it all. fun book.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: not sure anything particularly caught my attention, but i’m diggin’ on some mellow, vibey bebel gilberto remixed as a write this.

next trip: a week from thursday i fly to san juan, puerto rico, for the especialidades juveniles (spanish ys) cumbre (summit). in latin america, we have 6 or 7 “regional youth specialties” that are ys for their country (we have these in chile, argentina, paraguay, peru, costa rica, guatemala, and puerto rico — which is the newest. i think uruguay is just now coming online also). each of these host their own national event for youth workers each year. i’ve never been to puerto rico, and am really looking forward to being with our team there.

how i’m feeling about this week: mostly good. i a bit too tired and weary (physically, emotionally, mentally) to say i’m pumped up or anything like that.

monday morning update

the weekend that was: 1/2 in detroit, 1/2 in san diego. friday night was our last night in detroit, and we spent it playing laser tag with my parents! really, it was hilariously fun. saturday was a long day of travel, with the delays that some more normal than not. we got home just in time to listen to the overtime of the san diego/indy game on the car radio (GO CHARGERS!). a little pick up stix, and the day was done. sunday morning, i was wide awake at 6am, and got a little work done before heading to breakfast with a friend. it was a first for me on two fronts: i rode my new sector 9 longboard into town, AND i fell off my new sector 9 longboard. i was going too fast on a downhill, and just don’t know how to stop yet! i jumped off, but was going faster than i can run; so, tumbling commenced. i have scraped knuckles on one hand, and a slightly stiff knee. but mostly i’m fine. just have to figure that thing out, or admit my age — one or the other! i got to church, which was great, then spent the afternoon pulling together all the chapters for the middle school ministry book. was so great to upload the final manuscript at 110,000 words (which is more than 400 pages, for the finished book; don’t know what they’re going to do about that yet). sunday was also my anniversary with jeannie (23 years!), so we went out to dinner together, which was nice. talked about our hopes for this year, and we got tired by the time the evening rolled around, skipped our plans for a nice dinner out, got thai carry out, sent the kids to the back house, and cuddled while watching a pay per view movie. ah, the romance is strong after 23 years. :)

where i am at the moment: in the office. we have a couple days of ys leadership team meetings, to help me prep for a meeting i have with my boss this thursday. it’s good to be back in the office.

on my to-do list this week: oof — busy week of meetings. our leadership team is meeting to talk about ys and our future, and my boss is coming to town wednesday evening. friday, i fly to san antonio for the ys one day premiere.

procrastinating about: nothing! i finished my stinkin’ middle school ministry book one day early! (of course, i have tons to do on it still — lots of bits and bobbles.)

book i’m in the midst of: last christmas break i read three or four books. but this year, with my writing deadline, i just didn’t read. so, i’m a few pages into the know it all, but really haven’t read much in weeks.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: spent some time listening to reeve oliver and the knees — both great bands most people haven’t heard of.

next trip: our ys one day premiere (“the bible: bring it on!”) is in san antonio, texas, this coming saturday. i fly friday, and several of us are staying through ’til wednesday to get any last minute rewrites finished, along with the outlines for the handbook.

how i’m feeling about this week: a little stressed.

monday morning update

the weekend that was: enjoying my christmas family holiday in the detroit area. this first half of our trip was spent mainly with my wife’s family. the weekend was low-key. we did see a couple movies: marley & me (which was really great) and the curious case of benjamin button (which was very good, but too long). sunday evening we made the move to my parents, where we’ll spend this coming week. we had a great evening of watching the san diego chargers win the division title by seriously kicking the butts of the denver broncos.

where i am at the moment: in canton, michigan, at my parents’ house.

on my to-do list this week: chillax with my fam. and finish the middle school ministry book.

procrastinating about: my email inbox is nasty, as is my facebook inbox. and i have about 4 or 5 phone calls i really need to make.

book i’m in the midst of: i’m in-between books at the moment. finally finished the speed of trust, and think i’ll start the know it all next.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: it’s been an uncommonly music free week for me.

next trip: after heading home in a week, my next trip is the ys one day premiere in san antonio, tx.

how i’m feeling about this week: how could i not feel great about a week of play and hanging with my family?