31 July 2008

back tomorrow


I've really been enjoying my blogging holiday. These breaks allow me to get away from the dangers of being a "content-producer" and bring me back to being the simple blogger you once knew. I'm ready to be back at it tomorrow and I am feeling recharged by 7 days of content-free un-productivity. Be warned - I've been weepy and excited and altogether busting at the seams. We'll start unpacking all of it soon…

See you tomorrow,

25 July 2008

blogging baby burkholder: my little girl

I’ve taken in a few events in the recent weeks that were meant to entertain and delight, with varying results.

I saw Wall-E: Imaginative and thought-provoking, but lacking the whimsy that allows me to be a child in the theater without a care in the world. A nice escape, though.

I saw The Dark Knight: Foreboding and dense. I realized that Gotham reminds me a lot of Joburg. A good effort, if a little bit depressing.

I went to a Cubs-Astros game in Houston: Chili-Dogs and good company and the familiar Cubs victory made the day. A worthy trip through Americana, but still not completely satisfying.

Yet none of these little adventures could compare with the show on the monitor on the 2nd floor of just another medical office building on Tuesday.

It was in that office building that I met my little girl for the first time. She was only visible in the blues, blacks, and grays of a sonogram, but she was there all the same. Her little hummingbird heart beat at 143 beats per minute as she spun and whirled, allowing us to see every angle of her little body. We counted fingers and toes and just generally marveled at her. A little person entrusted to us…

As the sonogram revealed that she was indeed a “she”, my mind began to race with all of the beautiful things that await her. I couldn’t help but watch the little image and imagine her dancing in her first recital, chasing a soccer ball with the boys, and (gasp) walking down an aisle to meet some sonofagun that is going to have to split the atom while walking on water to be worthy of my spinning little blue, black, and gray princess.

There is nothing like real life. Movies and sports and all of our favorite distractions work because they are obtuse reflections of the beautiful realities and emotions of our lives.

So, as I said, I’ve taken in a few events in the recent weeks that were meant to entertain and delight. One, in particular, stole the show. I met my little girl. And my little girl is going to meet her Daddy in late December.

24 July 2008

links for the layover

Here are some links that I leave you as I prepare for my holiday from the blog…

The official website of Baby Burkholder, as artfully put together by Stef…

An article about eco-friendly packaging from wine producers out of The Economist...

An inside look into an urban project in San Antonio that once was lost but may be found very soon…

A story that could only come from South Africa - repurposing condoms in soccer kits...

A NYT story about a city that is confused and (strangely) traumatized by the closing of a Starbucks…

The MLS (soccer, people) is experiencing a huge gain in popularity, especially in Canada, where three different cities are being mentioned as expansion targets…

A couple of posts that try to peg just how popular the Kindle is becoming…

And how much Jeff Bezos loves his Kindle…

A great article by Malcolm Gladwell from awhile back talking about Enron, Osama Bin Laden and the difference between a puzzle and a mystery…

Two links that show the sad way that San Antonio missed out on the MLS, one of the few boneheaded moves by Mayor Hardberger…The good...and The bad...

South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup is still on tap, but is facing yet another problem…

An article from the SA Current about eastside development…

And another about revitalizing HemisFair Park…

A great article about NASA from The Economist, which is officially middle-aged now at 50 years old…

the blog going dark, the fullness around you, and darkness into light

After tomorrow's post, I'll be taking some time away from the blog.

I hope to spend a couple of weeks generally unplugged. I might check email every few days or watch The Office on hulu.com with Stef, but I am more excited to spend my little bit of extra time re-focusing on the beauty, joy, and fullness around me - and attempting to better share those things with Stef and her belly (Baby Burkholder to-be).

Maybe you want to unplug, too... The world will keep spinning whether I read the New York Times or not and it is going to rain at your house whether you check the radar or not. It is the slowest season in sports, politics aren't going anywhere for months, and your "friends" on Facebook will only think that you're more mysterious if you drop out of sight for awhile.

So, unplug with me if you want to. If you can't bring yourself to do it, I have 325 archived posts on the right side of the page just waiting to be re-read.

Darkness into light,


23 July 2008

mandela at 90 and where africa goes from here

Nelson Mandela just celebrated his 90th birthday. It’s a big deal because Mandela has been such a beacon of light and source of hope for Africa and he is now one year older. The continent that so reveres him is that much closer to having to forge ahead without him…

Click this link to read more…

22 July 2008

the next slum?

Could this be America's next slum? Well, an interesting article from "The Atlantic" makes a case that the suburbs are heading into a much less affluent era.

Click to read the article...

21 July 2008

crocs: wear a pair, share a pair

So, I bought some Crocs recently.

I had some in Africa and, besides looking a little ridiculous at times, they were the most versatile reliable shoe I had. I left them there with Jumapili Squattacamp (our Burundian friend) and figured my relationship with Crocs was over.

Well, wouldn't you know that the new homeowner would need some versatile, comfortable, and waterproof yard shoes?

So I went to buy some regular old Crocs and I found out some great news. If you're down with it, Crocs will sell you recycled Crocs and donate a pair to a shoeless Joe in an impoverished country. That's right - they call it SolesUnited. The crush up old Crocs, make them into brand new ones, and then pass the savings onto the 3rd world - in the form of some comfy (and goofy) looking shoes.

So, if you wear Crocs, maybe its time to recycle. Give them your old ones and buy some new ones - but make sure you request "SolesUnited" Crocs. Maybe you need some yard shoes, too.

19 July 2008

the business of beckham

The arrival of David Beckham in America last year to play soccer in Los Angeles has, to me, been one of the most fascinating stories in all of sports. Beckham and the Galaxy play Red Bull New York at Giants Stadium tonight. Over 50,000 people will be in attendance, hoping for a worthy sequel to last year's 5-4 duel in front of 67,000 fans. If you have digital cable, you probably have FSC (Fox Soccer Channel)...and at 5:30pm CST, you should be watching.

Beckham brand continues to swell Galaxy's coffers

The mania was supposed to be over by now.

Arguably the most popular man on the planet, David Beckham was thought to be a one-hit wonder -- critics were telling us last year that "Bend It Like Beckham" was a downward trajectory. He would be one-and-done, according to the American public, who would quickly turn back to Brangelina and a love affair with low-rise jeans.

Couldn't be further from the truth.

His play on the field can speak for itself and needs no defending -- even the most stalwart of Beckham bashers must give kudos to the player. With five goals and seven assists, the midfielder has played brilliantly at times, earning his way back into England's national team and being the catalyst for his club team's rise near the top of the Western Conference. His play has turned a very average side into one of the most potent offenses in MLS.

"David's on-field performance has been instrumental in our improvement this season. He's healthy and contributing on a consistent basis," said Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas. "David's presence has also contributed to the success of other players, like Edson Buddle."

Case in point. Buddle, an oft-maligned forward, has enjoyed a renaissance year with the club. With Beckham's right foot providing better service than a five-star hotel, the seven-year pro has tallied 11 goals to tie his career high. He has done all this in just 13 games with the club. Coincidence? Yet, as stellar as his play has been, the only thing louder than the cheers for No. 23's play on the field is the ringing of the cash register off of it.

Through 10 home fixtures, the Galaxy are easily the best draw in MLS by any barometer. At the Home Depot Center, L.A. has drawn 25,513 to its home in Carson, outpacing the league's second-best attendance (Toronto FC) by nearly 5,000 a game. Last year, the team drew an average of 24,252 over a 15-match home schedule, half of which was played without Beckham; this also was tops in MLS. And with the superstar player have come super high prices, sort of.

"There is a method to any perceived madness when it comes to the business of David Beckham at the Galaxy. We have and will continue to recoup our costs through ticket sales, sponsorship, tours and other traditional and non-traditional revenue streams," said Lalas on the business of Beckham. "For example, we have gone from a $20 average ticket price in '06 to a $38 average ticket price in '08. While this is a significant increase, it still makes us one of the most affordable forms of entertainment in Los Angeles."

Beckham is proving his worth not just in Los Angeles but in other MLS cities as well, making the Galaxy away match the most anticipated on nearly every team's schedule. Through six games, the team has attracted an average of 27,094 fans to MLS stadiums across the country. But for the fact that many of these matches were sell-outs in more intimate soccer specific stadiums, this number could have been much higher. How impressive is this stat? This number is about a 1,000 fans shy of the combined average of the gate that the Houston Dynamo and D.C. United have drawn on the road this year.

Last year's fixture in New York was the highest attended stand-alone game in MLS history and contributed to the Galaxy's league-high road attendance average of 28,035. With a visit at the Red Bulls this weekend, that number for this year will surely climb higher. Already, Red Bull has sold 42,000 seats for Saturday's game, almost triple the average of their home gate to date.

The pre-sale of tickets in New York is mirroring the turnout last year to the point that the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority is prepared to once again staff the game like a NFL event. StubHub is reporting that nearly 1,000 seats are available for the second British invasion, a record number for the Red Bulls this season. Tickets range in price from $15 for an upper tier seat to prime passes at $275. The average ticket price for the game comes in at $52, well above the sale price. The total dollar volume on Stub Hub is already double that of a typical Red Bull game, with the majority of tickets for the game still up for auction on the site.

It isn't just a New York or even a road phenomenon. At home, Galaxy fans continue to pay top-dollar to see their team and their Beckham play. StubHub also reports a brisk business for seats at the Home Depot Center, with fans reaching into their pockets for an average ticket price of $64 dollars. This number reflects a drop off of only four dollars over last year's average to see Beckham in his debut season in MLS.

On the merchandising front, Beckham is still making his mark. In the first week of jersey sales last year, Beckham sold over 300,000 replicas, far outpacing expectations. While that torrid pace has cooled off, sales remain strong as the total number of jerseys for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star recently topped 500,000, according to the Galaxy. His jersey remains the top seller in all of MLS.

Eventually, the ultimate litmus of this Beckham experiment will be what culture grows out of this particular petri dish. MLS has seen its share of flop signings and bad transactions, but how the league capitalizes on this surge will determine its fate, perhaps forever. Standing at a crossroad in its development, MLS must decide how Los Angeles and in fact New York and the rest of MLS will flourish when the magic of Beckham is no longer around to inflate the attendance numbers.

"D.C. United boasts some of the most passionate and sophisticated soccer fans in America. That said, there are certain games that draw general sports fans and others to RFK Stadium for special events, as when David Beckham comes to town," said Doug Hicks, vice president of communications for United. A few weeks ago, the club drew just shy of 36,000 for its game against Los Angeles, nearly a 60 percent increase over their average attendance to date. "The sales department then follows up with single-game buyers to encourage return visits to see D.C. United play."

This will be the challenge that follows this Saturday's contest at Giants Stadium, which will undoubtedly be the largest attendance number in the league for the year. Without the Galaxy fixture last year, the Red Bulls average attendance plummets by more than 4000 a game and is near the bottom for all team's league-wide. With the game, the Red Bulls still managed to draw an average of 16,530 fans per game, still below the league average. To underscore this discrepancy, the 66,237 who flocked to Giants Stadium last August to see Becks was more than the five previous MLS games drew at the Meadowlands, combined.

"Ultimately, the true measure of Beckham's impact will be what happens after he is gone. Both the franchise value and the relevancy of the L.A. Galaxy have dramatically increased, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Lalas. "One challenge is turning a large number of David Beckham fans into Galaxy fans. We have exposed the Galaxy to a large group of casual fans who otherwise wouldn't have necessarily thought to attend a soccer game. For a good percentage, we feel that the personal experience of a Galaxy game will resonate and bring them back, even after David is gone."

18 July 2008

the vastness of all of the setting suns

"You were right about the stars. Each one is a setting sun."


This line just makes me feel small. Imagine all of the stars – each just another setting sun. Imagine the possibilities that exist with that many separate suns, each with its own solar system. Imagine the vastness of beauty and the depth of experience that could be found if we could only know what was out there.

I like that we can’t know. I prefer my imagination on this one. I cannot fathom the number of individual experiences that occur under the watchful eye of our central star every day. How can I begin to marvel at the billions of other stars out there and what may lie under their unknowable gaze?

17 July 2008

when the darkness is better than the light

Every so often, on a quiet day at the office, the lights go out. They are on a motion sensor and if there is no movement for long enough – darkness. It is actually kind of peaceful, as the glare of the fluorescent rods finally goes to sleep.

Most often it occurs between 12 and 1 when everyone is at lunch or on Friday afternoon when everyone on the floor had simultaneous dentist appointments at the country club.

No matter when it happens, eventually someone comes in the door or stands up in their cubicle. The light returns and the moment of zen fades away and the eye-straining lights resume their assault on the huddled masses of the cube farm.

For a fleeting few moments, though, the quiet is appreciated above the humming of machines and the point in which we lack seems to be a richer, deeper place than when we possess.

16 July 2008

the means, the end, and the justification of our lives

Build on yesterday’s blog post with me for a minute…

What if the end cannot be justified by the means and we spend our whole lives on the means anyway? Where, then, is the point of traction for our being? Where do we find purpose if we have no way of justifying, let alone elongating, our own existence?

The beauty of such a system is that I needn’t write, direct, or produce the play, the everyday, we find ourselves in (for though there is evil cast around us, it is Love that wrote the play). I must simply fulfill my role, however it has been designed. And I have to trust that no matter how well or how poorly I perform, the play will conclude as the writer intended it to – good will triumph over evil and redemption will have its way.

So if my means cannot change the end…what will I make of my means?

15 July 2008

the long road to being finished

I'm making coffee.

Have you ever thought about the journey that coffee takes to make it to your mug? From cherry on the vine to caffeine in the cup...I mean, consider the steps:

Planted, nurtured (watered, fertilized), pruned, nurtured (watered, fertilized), harvested, dried, collected, roasted, packaged, shipped, received, sold, ground, scooped, doused, filtered, and drank...

And all of that preparation just to meet one's end... Sort of an interesting metaphor, I suppose.

14 July 2008

the road

I want to recommend a book to you that was recommended to me with no other comment than, "I think you might really like this."

I bought the book on Kindle that day and am still reeling from the story that unfolded before me. I often struggled to read it through the tears pouring from my eyes.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the most touching...devastating...moving...beautiful...haunting...heartbreaking...and altogether unforgettable book I have ever come across in my life.

If you are interested, click...

11 July 2008

dying batteries and finding the source

We love our gadgets.

Cell phones and iPods…my Kindle…

They can be terrible distractions from the world going on around us. Every so often, they can also reinforce truths that we so easily lose on this journey.

You see, Kindle has an amazing battery life. I can read hours a day for a full week and never once think about the battery. It can dazzle me and entertain me. It can bring me an incredible breadth of emotion and fullness, all from its little digital-paper screen. Eventually, though, it does die. And, almost in defeat, I plug it into the wall, allowing it to reconnect with the power source that allows it to be the magical little device it is.

Just this week, I recognized that I have been disconnected from my Source for too long. We do that, don’t we? We push and push and some of us have an incredible battery life. We then maximize it by plugging in for little sips from time to time, enough to get through the next day or week. But we rarely recognize the value in a long, quiet recharge. We often fail to apply common sense to our own lives.

I am sure that everyone could tell me how long their cell phone would last without being charged. Twenty-four hours, maybe a little more… I would guess that most have us have learned to plug the cell phone in every night. We’re really quite disciplined about it. But our hearts are that way too, aren’t they?

I need to stop relying on battery life, vaguely remembering the feeling of being fully charged. Qualitative and quantitative shifts are required. It’s time to reconnect to the Source.

10 July 2008

leading from behind

I’ve been back from Africa for almost 4 months. And I have to confess that I am still wrestling with the anxiety of finding where exactly I fit in this place.

I imagine myself to be something of a leader and I guess Africa had something to do with that. I taught and preached and lead very visibly – all from the front of the line. To use an analogy from nature, I was the mother duck with any number of baby ducks waddling behind me.

Today, in America, the landscape for me as a leader looks very different. The group at church that I led is now being masterfully and lovingly cared for by another. A smaller group that used to meet regularly has largely fizzled out. And I went from the top of the totem poll at my job in Africa to the bottom of the corporate ladder here in America.

Still, I find myself yearning to be a difference-maker. I am starting to learn that it may still be possible, even from the back of the line. You see, the duck analogy is adequate. But that doesn’t mean that there cannot be a different model to apply.

The shepherd often leads the flock from behind, driving his sheep in the way they must go. Scripture points to a loving rabbi who walked through life with those he loved, finding lessons in the everyday occurrences around him. He led from within the flock, often allowing his disciples to stumble over truth. If nothing else, he teaches that impact need not be conspicuous.

Leading from the rear can mean protecting the flock the most vulnerable area of attack. It can mean enabling and empowering the most nimble and agile to run ahead, finding their own spirit and voice. It can mean embracing the African idea of ubuntu, explained here by Desmond Tutu:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Perhaps leading from behind is a calling in and of itself. Someone must watch the back of the gifted frontrunners. And we must all be responsible to offer comfort and encouragement to those who might otherwise be left behind. Someone must be willing to bear a quiet load, carrying the lame or broken. And we are all part of one larger body – a greater whole – which needs all of its members to be convinced of the fact that all parts of the whole are honorable, whether they be the eyes, the mouth, the shoulders, or the feet.

Maybe I am trying to convince myself of all of this. I don’t really know. I do know that the idea is gaining traction within me. I sense a growing resonance, a growing acceptance, of the position in which I find myself.

09 July 2008

on the way to $4 (or $5 or $6) gas, one city embraces smart growth

A funny thing happened on the way to $4 gasoline...

One city (Sacramento of all places) adopted a "Smart Growth" program that turned suburban sprawl into urban density - and they are already reaping the benefits...

The Wall Street Journal Article

08 July 2008

insuspenders day revisited

So, InSuspenders Day has come and gone. Many chili dogs were devoured, many pants hiked, and many odd stares endured. All in all, it was beyond a success, culimating in the 1st annual San Antonio InSuspenders Day Neighborhood Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza at Woodlawn Lake. We can't wait to do it all again next year. Somewhere, Albert Thurston is smiling...

07 July 2008

updates from recent posts...

Some topics we hit recently that deserve a second look:

- I mentioned last week that I wanted to see Wall-E. Everyone else has done that except for me now and I am jealous of all of you. The NYT has bigger ideas for Wall-E: Wall-E for President.

- I posted a link to a blog about San Antonio's confusing downtown. In fulfilling my requirements in obtaining a minor in Geography from UT-Austin, I was able to study a good bit of urban design and city planning. San Antonio was actually "planned" by Spaniards in the 1700s in the common Spanish form of the time - the plaza model. Basically, cities were organized "around" plazas (which leads to a meandering mess of streets that all seem to lead to the same place), with all life emanating from those hubs.

The plaza model is the opposite of the "grid" design popularized in many modern cities, but is being revisited as cities attempt to reconstruct neighborhoods and walkable spaces in congested urban areas. San Antonio has many small plazas and parks downtown that were previously key to the life and function of the city. Similarly, as you leave downtown San Antonio, the grid patterns begin to develop as later planners adopted the more linear (and less confusing) thinking. Read more about the planning of SA here...

- For those of you thought that "InSuspenders Day" was a joke, think again. We celebrated at our house with a few dozen friends and we have photographic evidence to prove it. A recap is coming tomorrow.

06 July 2008

downtown sunday - bad directions

It's Downtown Sunday!!

Do you ever find yourself as the only local amongst a sea of tourists downtown? No big deal, right? Well, not until you get asked for directions.

It's downtown San Antonio. The streets just kind of showed up. There's no grid, no rhyme or reason. Basically, you hope you don't screw it up - if you do screw it up, you write a great blog about it:

This week's MySa Downtown Blog link...

(And thanks to the MySa Downtown Blog for today's photo...)

04 July 2008

insuspenders day

Happy InSuspenders Day!!

This is the one day of the year when all of the suspender-loving citizens of America gather to eat, drink, and be merry - and to celebrate the invention of modern Suspenders on July 4th, 1822 by Albert Thurston. Some people refer to July 4th as "Independence Day" (an obvious mispronunciation), apparently referencing our ability to forever shun the belts that had held our waists captive for too long.

Regardless, I urge you to wear your suspenders proudly on this glorious annual celebration of fashion-friendly freedom. So, whether they are rainbow, Irish-themed, or attorney-blue…wear those suspenders. Make Albert Thurston proud. Make Screech proud. Make America proud.

Happy InSuspenders Day.

03 July 2008

$112 and hope in place of despair

I have a friend. (Hard to believe, I know...let's move on.)

I have a friend who has been trying to kick a vice. I have a friend who has been trying to be rid of not only a habit, but the thought process that leads to the habit.

We were sitting having tacos not too long ago when we sort of stumbled upon an experimental idea that we hoped would change both that thought process and habit.

We decided that every time my friend thought of (yearned for, desired, craved, or even casually pondered) the vice, a dollar would be dropped into a bucket, with the proceeds going to a charity that means a great deal to my friend.

The idea would be that we would replace the desire for something destructive with a simple yet meaningful act of charity. We would turn thoughts and actions that lead to brokenness and heartache into thoughts and actions that lead to fullness and joy.

Did it work?

Well, this week my fried pulled me aside and let me know that in less than a month, $112 had been raised to feed the children of of the shanty-towns of Johannesburg through Pastor Willie in South Africa.

But did the technique work?

From the look in my friend's eyes as I was told of the amount - a look of satisfaction and hope - makes me believe that maybe we're really on to something.

To my friend - thanks for trying generosity as a remedy. I pray that the fullness in your eyes does not soon leave your heart.

To the rest of us - maybe we all have something that could use a little generosity therapy.

02 July 2008

blogging baby burkholder: priming and fishing

Ever heard of "priming"?

Neat idea. And personal experience says it is definitely true.

Let's just say that I find myself seeing in an entirely new way, having been primed for parenthood. I am excited to get a truer perspective in about 5 more months. For now, I'll continue weeping at all things fatherly.

Penguins at Sea World, baptisms at church, and these inane commercials promoting fishing on the radio and TV...I am an emotional basket-case.

"Take me fishing...because my wedding day will be sooner than you think."

"Take me fishing...because I miss...my...boy."

"Take me fishing."

Sigh. I think I'm going to go buy a boat now. And I'll cry all the way there.

01 July 2008

"wall-e’ is a masterpiece for the ages"

by David Edelstein, as heard on NPR

The new Pixar picture Wall-E is one for the ages, a masterpiece to be savored before or after the end of the world — assuming, like the title character, you’re still around when all the humans have taken off and have access to an old video player. Wall-E (that’s the name of the machine) is a trash compactor, the last of his kind from an age in which cleaning up garbage was mankind’s highest priority — before people threw in the towel (and broom) and apparently (no spoilers here!) rocketed away. Now, this squat, childlike robot with his pivoting goggle eyes resides in a metropolis surrounded by skyscrapers that turn out, on closer inspection, to be compressed trash bricks piled high into the soot-gray sky. The movie is a bit of a trash brick itself: Director Andrew Stanton and his Pixar collaborators have taken cultural detritus — bits and pieces from cherished film genres, pop icons, visionary sci-fi tropes, half-remembered bric-a-brac from childhood — and compacted it all into a sublime work of art.

Read the full review in and read in New York Magazine:

Then tell me that you want to go see it. I haven't yet. Really want to, though...