Give It Away

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “People Who Beg For Money.”

I’m behind. This should have been last week’s entry, but I didn’t write last week. So I’m writing it now.

I really considered just combining it with the topic for this week, “Tithing,” and calling it good. But that would be crass even for me.

That said, I really don’t have a lot to say about this topic. I don’t even have a set policy myself. I give people money sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. And as best as I can tell, it’s completely random. It really doesn’t have much to do with what they say or what they want it for. I will say I part with money more easily than anything else. Need a ride? Want to use my phone? Here, why don’t I give you some money instead.

Part of the randomness, though, has to do with what I do believe about giving money to people who beg — it’s really not about that person. It’s easy to fall into the thought process of, that person really doesn’t need that. It’s just going to go to waste. They’re going to spend it getting drunk. What have you. And maybe so. But I’m not sure that it matters.

I think God measures us by where our heart is, rather than by where someone else’s is. He didn’t say He would measure us by whatever we did for the most deserving of these his brothers, but for the least. The greatest thing about God’s grace and love is that they are offered unconditionally; and we are to love others as He first loved us. At times, I think He would have us to give to people simply because they are undeserving, not in spite of it.

Really, is it any wonder that some people have a hard time picture a God who loves them because of who He is, not what they do?

Glamour Shots

So, yeah, I ate well over the past week.

I was definitely going to blog about my dinner Tuesday night, which we’ll get to in a moment, but I realized I had enough food pics from the trips that really I should just make one omnibus eating post.

The first food of the trip started things off nicely — Corky’s at the airport in Memphis. It wasn’t exactly what I expected; based on the price and name on the menu, I was expecting what I would have gotten at an actual Corky’s restaurant. The first surprise was that there were no sides; I got a rack of ribs and a roll. Which is fine; that was what I was there for, and arguably didn’t need any more food. The other difference was that they didn’t ask me whether I wanted my ribs wet or dry. I’ve had half-and-half ribs at Corky’s before, but they’ve been just that — one half wet, the other half dry. These, by default, came as a hybrid, part of the rack with sauce and part of it with rub. Different, but good.

Dinner Tuesday, as I said, was the most interesting meal of the trip, and possibly the best. Our liaison at Glenn was quite the foodie, and made several recommendations; he and his wife even ended up joining my coworker Heather and I for dinner that night, and made agreeable dinner companions. (There’s a story there I may blog at some point involving robot uprisings, but we’ll see.) Among the suggestions, though, was one stand-out so compelling that no further discussion was required — Steak On A Stone.

The restaurant’s concept — which is apparently patented so no one else in the U.S. can do it — is this: your meat (mainly steak, but other options are available) is served essentially raw on a lava stone that has been heated to 750 degrees. You cut your steak and cook it to your taste one bite at a time as you eat. Sure, there’s something a little ironic about being on a trip and spending a bunch of money (although not bad at all, price-wise) to go out and cook your own supper, but the food was quite good, and the concept paid off two ways — one, it’s actually pretty agreeable to be able to get each single bite of steak exactly right, and, two, it adds a certain entertainment value to the meal. It was funny to notice, though, how much longer it took to finish for the person who liked her steak well-done.

Wednesday was the day of two desserts. It was an accident, really. We were going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but were hungry enough that we wanted to get something to eat before we did. I, on the other hand, really wanted to take advantage of being near a Cheesecake Factory to get some dessert. So, we decided, we’ll get supper, tour the Rock Hall, and then get dessert afterward. Wandering the area, we ended up at another of our liaison’s recommendations, The Chocolate Bar. As the name might imply, their forte is dessert and drinks, but they also have other chocolate-based food, including a chocolate-covered pasta dish and cocoa-rubbed pork loins. Perusing the menu, though, we found the entrees less compelling than the desserts. So, to tide us over for Rock Hall, we got dessert at The Chocolate Bar with plans to get dinner, and dessert again, afterward.

Back in late January, I think, a friend of mine went to see Brad Paisley in concert in Birmingham, and posted on Facebook about the trip as it unfolded. The Brad Paisley part was of no great interest, though I was disappointed to learn that the opening act was Miranda Lambert, whom I actually would have liked to have seen. The most compelling status update, however, was that she was eating a white chocolate red velvet cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. No sooner were the words read than I knew I must have it.

I made plans to have dinner in Birmingham a couple of weekends later, but, being the night before Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t even willing to wait in the line to find out how long I would have to wait to be seated at The Cheesecake Factory. I went back a week later, and did, in fact, successfully eat at The Cheesecake Factory, but, dinner finished, the waiter revealed they were out of a couple of varieties of cheesecake, including, but not limited to, what at that point became my cheesecake Moby Dick, the white chocolate red velvet.

At that point, it tasked me, and I would have it. So when I was going to be somewhere with a Cheesecake Factory again, I was compelled to try again. And, this time, success! And it was, in fact, good.

There’s one meal I didn’t get a picture of that I must mention, and that’s lunch on Thursday. Easily the least glamorous of the meals mentioned here, but one of the more cool for me: we ate at the cafeteria at Glenn Research Center. Specifically, I ate the salad bar at the cafeteria at Glenn Research Center. (Well, I ate from it, not the whole thing.)

One of the early times I was at Johnson Space Center in Houston, I got a salad. And I was amused that I didn’t think their salad bar was quite as good as ours at Marshall. There’s a history of competition between the two centers, and I was glad to declare victory for MSFC in that area. So then a year and a half ago, we’re visiting Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and have lunch at the cafeteria. So, at that point, well of course I’m going to get the salad bar. And it was very Silicon Valley, full of fancy stuff you wouldn’t see at the other two.

With three NASA salad bars under my belt, on this trip, I actually requested to eat in the cafeteria, just to add another salad bar to my set. And it was good. I still like ours better, but it was perfectly functional.

I shared my cheesecake photo with the friend who inspired it, and the conversation turned to my other food pictures. Another coworker commented that a lot of my pictures from the trip were basically just plain photos, but that I’d obviously put some care into the food pics. (“Oh, yeah, that’s what I like…”) So I was sharing those pics and that story this weekend, and one of my friends at dinner Saturday night in New Orleans wanted me to take a picture of my food there, to add it to the set. Not quite as pleased with my smoked sausage po’boy pic, but here it is nonetheless.

I’m Back

OK, I’ve not written in a ridiculously long time. Sorry.

I spent last week in Cleveland, and this past weekend going down to New Orleans. No time for blogging, I’m afraid.

Gonna have a good bit of catching up to do, so I’ll probably break it into mini-blog posts rather than trying to actually catch up all at once.

Hope all is well with you.