Book: Gospel Powered Parenting

What does it mean to be a Christian parent? There are many answers, an a lot of emotion weighs into this question, but this book attempts to provide a straightforward basis for an answer.

The gospel – the news that Jesus came to earth to die on a cross for the wrongdoing of hopeless, helpless people, that they could be back in relationship with God – is the basis for all your parenting decisions.

The book spends its first third covering a definition of the gospel, which some readers will find too long. From there, the focus turns to different areas of parenting life and practice, and is indeed fairly practical.

Readers may disagree on its pro-smacking stance, but the process of thinking through the reasons and best methods for disciplining a child will be useful.

If you’re interested in thinking about the process of parenting, and what you’re hoping to achieve, and you’d like a few practical suggestions, then this is a good place to start.


Movie: The Fighter

[movie] The Fighter

New biopic starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams. Lots of positive buzz for this film. To get the most out of a viewing, don’t watch the trailer beforehand, as it gives away most of the key plot-points in the film.

This could have been a run-of-the-mill Rocky clone, but for the performances from the three main actors. There are moments where you wonder why such high-calibre names are in this piece (it’s a bit sloppy in places, and features a prison system that is surely the most friendly of any that I’ve ever seen on-screen), but it’s been a passion project of Wahlberg’s for a long time, and he carries it well.

There’s a lot of swearing, there’s a bunch of adult behaviour, dysfunctional family scenes, and the obligatory training montages and boxing sequences, but this still manages to rise above the average boxing movie (though it’s no Million Dollar Baby).

The cinematography owes a lot to Rocky Balboa, and – though it’s a little too slow in places – it’s a well constructed film with an “indie” feel.

three tone cafe, Chinatown / Sydney

three tone cafe, haymarket

Belaroma Coffee. Shop 8,405-411 Sussex Street, Sydney. I saw this place not long after it was opened, and was really surprised that a western-styled cafe was open in the midst of Chinatown in Sydney. A few weeks later, I managed to return to try their decaf. When walking through the door, you’re greeted with a lot of enthusiasm.

where the magic happens -  three tone cafe, haymarket

As you can see, the counter has a lot of space dedicated to the coffee machine and the grinder – the decaf itself is pre-ground, but it still manages to be pleasant, with a hint of nutiness.

menu - three tone cafe

The menu is a mix of East and West: there’s the usual sandwiches and cafe fare, but there are also some Vietnamese dishes – I haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but I’m looking forward to giving this place another try.

DVD: Dean Spanley

DVD: Dean Spanley

I watched this film with Matt (who had seen it before), deliberately not knowing much about it. It’s an unusual piece – a fairy tales for adults. It’s about what it means to grieve, to be a father, to be a son, to deal with the challenges that life throws at you, and to keep your optimism.

It’s slow to get going, but give it 45 minutes and then watch the rest of it. It’s a charming, emotionally satisfying film that – if you’re prepared to suspend your disbelief – has a lot to say. A great performances from Peter O’Toole and Sam Neill, and lots of highly watchable supporting performances.

It’s not perfect – there’s only one female character who has more than a single scene – and in fact, it doesn’t have much to say to a female audience at all.

If you’re in the right mood, though, it’s well worth your while to take a look.

Book: Miniskirts, Mothers, and Muslims

Book: Miniskirts, Mothers, and Muslims: A Christian Woman in a Muslim Land

A friend loaned me this book, and I picked it up and read it in between a few other things that are going on. It’s a book written by a Christian lady who has lived in a range of different countries, many with a majority of Muslims.

Sensitively written, and with a host of real-world examples, this book helped me think through the reasons that women have for veiling, and understanding just how varied expressions of Islam are around the world.

If you’re trying to understand more about religious expression and culture of a range of countries, this book can help.

water – should it be free for cafe customers?

free water bottles

I spend a lot of time thinking about the small details that make a cafe experience great. One of these details is water. When people come to a cafe to have a cup of coffee (or tea, chai, hot chocolate, or a cold drink), they often want to have a glass of water too.

How this water is made available is the difference between being a welcomed guest, and being gouged for every possible cent. Maybe you have your own, custom-branded line of bottled water and you want to be selling that. Maybe you’re looking to sell bottled water and don’t want to provide people with an option to have water for free.

Better in terms of making your customers feel more like guests is to make water available for free. But how do you do this? Some places will keep the glasses and the water bottles in a fridge that customers can access. Others will have a water station – somewhere the customer can go to find jugs of water and cups. The regular customers know where it is, but a new customer will have to ask to be able to find it. If you have something like this in your cafe, how are you going at keeping the water jugs filled up?

I’m very much of the opinion that if a customer asks for water, a staff member should bring it to them. The response “the water station is over there” is perfectly fine and sensible from a profit perspective, but to create the kind of experience where people want to keep returning, and bring their friends, you want to go the extra mile.

The most welcoming cafes will bring each customer a glass of water as they sit down, and leave a bottle for refills. The best experience I had with water at a cafe was at Lemon Twist Cafe in Surry Hills. A waitress brought me water with a slice of lemon in it, for free, before I’d ordered anything. This costs very little, but creates a lasting impression with your customers as to the kind of cafe that they’re in. The proof? This happened back in 2006, and I still remember which cafe it was.

When you do bring water to a customer, presentation is important. A re-usable glass bottle, preferably chilled, and preferably with some kind of character to it. There’s something to be said for making the bottles re-sealable (to minimise spillage) but make sure you don’t go too far – do you have customers who have limited use of their hands for whatever reason (age, disability, constantly on the phone or laptop)?

How big are your water glasses? Are you using actual glasses, or are you giving them disposable plastic cups? All of these choices will send a subtle message to your customers. If this message is noteworthy, people will be talking about you, and this will tend towards repeat business.

You know your customers best, but the law of reciprocity suggests that if you start the customer relationship with a gift (like well-presented water), this will drive up your average sales.

Agree? Disagree? Have a great cafe-water story? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

DVD: Shall we dansu?

DVD: Shall we dansu?

I’ve seen bits of the Richard Gere version on TV, but this is the Japanese version from years earlier. A man who has resigned himself to an unhappy life finds unexpected joy in life by learning how to dance. There’s a cast of quirky characters to keep you laughing, and enough character backstory to keep you thinking.

Give it half an hour or so to get into it, and then sit back to enjoy the journey of the common, cross-cultural human experience.

Movie: TRON: Legacy

Movie: TRON: Legacy

One of the first movies I ever saw in the cinema was the original TRON. I remember Dad dropped Mum and I off at the (long, long since closed) Roselands cinema. The house lights went down, and up came a film. I have no idea what it was, but I remember that it was a short film, it was a bit scary, and it ends with a rocking horse being set on fire. I think it was the Rocking Horse Winner, but I can’t be sure. Mum apologised that we must somehow have ended up in the wrong place, and I said it was okay (excited to be at the cinema at all, I think).

After the intermission, though (remember when films had intermissions?!), we actually managed to see TRON. And I loved it. It was a movie that brought an obviously fictionalised computer world to life. You could feel like you really were living in the computer world, which had a big appeal at the time). There were in-jokes for computer programmers (witness the little character “Bit”, whose only dialogue in the film is “yes” or “no”), there was a journey exploring the world of the computer, and there was a battle of good versus evil.

Fast-forward 28 years later, and there’s a sequel. Reportedly, the graphical proof-of-concept for the movie was shown at a large comic convention in the US, and the fans’ reaction there ensured that the film was made.

And perhaps that was the problem. In creating an incredible visual world of “the grid”, where the computer programs dwell and live their lives, they seem to have skimped on the script. A majority of fans of the original have voiced their opinions that this isn’t much fun, and doesn’t deserve to be the sequel.

For whatever reason, I really enjoyed it. The new “computer world” was suitably immersive. The light-cycles are now working on a multi-level board, and can turn smaller angles than 90 degrees, but they’re still light cycles. There’s Michael Sheen playing a David Bowie-esque character, which feels a bit out of place, but is certainly watchable). There’s a strange journey that the characters go on.

Yes, the dialogue is weak in parts, the characters aren’t developed very much, but I think it’s a very enjoyable sequel, and a return to the things that were best about the original.