February 2011

How I became Pop

When I found that I was about to become a father in 1977, I embraced fatherhood. I read books about babies, mothers and fathers, and I attended a series of Lamaze classes with my wife designed to help me be an active and equal partner in the process. When Chris started having contractions on September 3, 1977, I was there with her throughout the twelve hours of labor.

Billy Graham moves a piano

young Billy GrahamBilly Graham was the skinniest kid Mary Lloys Rice had ever seen, and his hair was glorious. In 1940, Mary Lloys—my mom—plus her five sisters and my grandparents had moved a thousand miles north from Dallas and into their new home in Wheaton, Illinois on West Franklin Street, a big yellow frame house with white tri

Jan McColaugh's AH-OO-GAH cane

Jan McColaugh In the early 1990s, I worked at Microsoft with a woman named Jan who had a gift for remembering silly jokes and making people laugh when they were trying very hard to be serious and business-like. Jan was also my mentor as I became a manager of people and teams.

Filth, glorious filth

Exactly one year ago this week I navigated an ancient and nasty alleyway in the heart of the medieval medina of Fez in the country of Morocco in the spring of 2010, and I celebrated filth.The worn cobblestones were smeared with donkey dung and olive oil, dirty rain splashed down into puddles of smelly, viscous mud, and the wares in a hundred tiny storefronts – gentian eggplants, berber carpets, and plastic packages of chocolate chip cookies – all were smeared with a layer of ash and dust and grime.

Sin, salvation, grace, damnation, repentance, revival, judgment, forgiveness, soul-winning, heaven, hell

The following set of words has the capacity to annoy and intrigue me: sin, salvation, grace, damnation, repentance, revival, judgment, forgiveness, soul-winning, heaven and hell. This is the vocabulary I learned in the church of my youth. These were the signature words for a thousand sermons I heard preached by my Baptist preacher father, my grandfather, and half a dozen uncles whose task it was to save souls and instruct me in how to win more souls for Jesus throughout my own life. The words themselves continue to exert a raw power over my deepest emotions.

Native Son

It is clear almost from the beginning that Bigger Thomas is doomed, trapped in a downward spiral that will lead to arrest, prison, or death, driven by despair, frustration, poverty, and incomprehension.

Flaubert's Parrot

Julian Barnes astounds. Just what sort of book is this, anyway? A literary biography of 19th century French novelist, radical, and intellectual impresario Gustave Flaubert? A meditation on the uses and misuses of language? A novel of obsession, denial, irritation, and underhanded connivery? A thriller complete with disguises, sleuthing, mysterious meetings, and unknowing targets?

If He Hollers Let Him Go

In the decades just prior to the eruption of the American civil rights movement in the late '50s, Chester Himes was one of the most significant African-American authors -- although today he is less well known than several of his contemporaries.

Making world history for free

This spring will mark fifteen years since I built my first web site -- years marked by an avalanche of convulsive technological change. It was the spring of 1994, and I was working at Microsoft as the managing editor of the Microsoft Developer Network, in charge of providing information, software development kits, and useful resources to an audience of a few million developers creating software for Windows.

Bradford Molsen, where are you?

MSFT internet magazine archiveI can play the clip in my head any time I want. The sun shines brightly on a clear, crisp day in November 1961. I am coming in off the playground with my sixth-grade class at Holmes School in Wheaton, Illinois. The boys are horsing around, jockeying for position in line, cutting up. We’ve just come up a slight, grassy incline onto the hard, cracked asphalt.

The creation of hope

Jogging around Green Lake in Seattle early this morning with my friend Mike, and we caught this stunning view of the sunrise. The air was still and calm, temperature just above freezing, the black bare branches of the trees framing the mirrored sky. A few minutes after Mike snapped this photo, we stopped by a dock so that Mike could practice -- with me as his trial audience -- a talk he will be giving soon to a philanthropy conference in another state. With this view behind him, Mike gave me a 4-minute speech.