A guide to watching #firstworldproblems

Today’s popular facebook cause (at least in my feed) seemed to be a first world problems video. First world problems has been around for a while of course (and frankly gotten sort of silly in twitter land), and I have always felt it needed a little bit of a filter. So, here is my guide to watching the first wold problems video:

Remember the danger of the single story.
A story of a place is powerful, so powerful that you might forget there are other stories . In this case there are two single stories. First, that the developing world is just a place of pain and helplessness. There are true problems, true crises and true needs, but those are only part of the story. Not the whole thing. The second single story it tells is that everybody in the developed world is shallow, greedy, impatient and generally selfish. Again, there are people who fit this description, but its not the whole story.

Don’t forget your own poverty.
Lack of things is not the only form of poverty. We all have poverty in our lives. Broken relationships with people and God are two that are easy to pick out. If you peel away some layers in this video you can get to this. It is true that we often consider silly things problems. The question that must be answered is why. What is the poverty in our lives that drives us to lose perspective?

Let this video be a commentary on yourself, not people you don’t know.
I think the way (and the way it is intended) to watch this video is consider it as a reminder to those of us who have more material resources to use that privilege well. If we flip it around and think it is just a reminder of how there are people in need we may gain a little bit from it, but we miss the point that we need change in our lives.

Keep those handy tips in mind as you watch:

now I’m going to get back to trying to reload the operating system on my fancy phone. Which is not a first world problem.

Buy Some Cobbler. It’s tasty

I’m trying to sell ten pans of blackberry cobbler this month. It’s truly good cobbler . It even won second place in a contest. See:

2013-01-04 12.47.41

Here is how it works: There are 10 cobblers available this month. A pan is 9 x 14 or so and costs $25. Just send me an email (ben@poolhouseblue.com). Ill make it fresh the day you want it (schedule permitting of course, we can work that out), and deliver it to you if you live in tulsa. If your outside of the Tulsa area we can figure something out. Pay cash when i deliver it.

There is a reason for this of course. Our church is trying to pay off some debt. A few of us thought it would be interesting to each take $50 and try to multiply it into as much money as possible. So, for this little project im donating the $50, after that I will be paying myself back for the cost of ingredients, but beyond that all the money will be applied to our churches debt, or toward ingredients for a second round in February.

10   3 Cobblers Left in January

A post about Kibo

This is going to show up on the Kibo.org blog in a few weeks, but i thought i would test it out here. -Ben


Three years ago my wife and I moved to Tulsa for an internship  at Garnett Church of Christ through GPS Tulsa. We were a bit old for internships, but it seemed like it would be an adventure.
The first day of our internship Bobby and Candice showed up at church, along with some people from Water4 and we started digging a well in the front yard. This is how we were introduced to Kibo Group. Three years, two trips to Jinja, hours of conversation with Greg, Ronald, Bobby, Roy, Candice, Abraham, Rachel and Clint later I’m all in. I believe in what Kibo is doing, and want to be a part of it.

It’s hard to summarize in just a few paragraphs all the elements that draw me to Kibo, but a thread that seems to connect them is that Kibo acknowledges and even embraces complexity. I’m a big fan of simple solutions (I think egg beaters are genious, and I also think this food processor needs one less button), but sometimes we make things too simple. Our simple solutions don’t solve complex problems.

We can look at people in need and think their problems are simple. We see they don’t have money, food, water, shoes, or education. If we are feeling generous it seems easy enough to provide those things. Or, if we are feeling a bit cynical, or a little judgmental we say that person should just get a job, or just buy some shoes, or just go back to school. Both of these responses ignore the complexity of the situation.

Instead we have to let go of our assumptions, ask questions, try to understand how people can solve their own problems, understand what we should not do, understand how we can help, listen to people, and be patient. Perhaps above all be patient and willing to accept slow solutions.

These things are not easy. They force us to think deeply, and to accept that we can’t solve everybody’s problems through the strength of our minds and hands. They make us realize we might not be able to take a quick glance at the world and understand it. And slowly we see the complexity.

I have had the opportunity to observe Kibo, first from the outside and now from the inside, I am convinced that Kibo is trying to understand and embrace the complexity. The process is slow, imperfect, and sometimes boring, but it is also deep, fulfilling, and empowering. For my part I am honored to play a small role in an amazing group of people acting redemptively in the lives of people around them.

Fix Our Streets

I am a true political cynic, but living in Tulsa is changing that a little bit. I am realizing that on a local level there is true opportunity for normal people like me to have a voice, and the local nature seems to make less room for partisanship and dogma. I recently sent an email copied below to the mayor and council about Fix Our Streets. If you live in Tulsa and want to influence the future of transpiration in Tulsa this is one of your chances by letting council and mayor know your vision for transportation in Tulsa. – Ben

The recent debate over Vison2, and the upcoming debate over Fix Our Streets has caused me to think a lot about what type of city I would like to see Tulsa become.

Any individuals vision for a city could take up pages and be very complicated, so I have been trying to think of a concise way to state my vision. In a broad sense PLANiTulsa fits a lot of what I hope happens in Tulsa in the coming years. While I did not live in Tulsa when that document was create, I appreciate and agree with much of what is in it, and I truly hope that it is implemented. It seems that it would be very easy for PLANiTulsa to become a nice thing Tulsa talked about once and never be truly implemented without strong and continued dedication from city leaders.

Here is the summery of my vision: I want Tulsa to be a place that invests in all people.

If this is true then the decisions we make will be driven by a desire to equip people to reach their full potential. This sounds sort of fluffy and abstract, but it has real consequences, even as we look at something like Fix Our Streets and the transportation planning that goes into it.

If in our transportation planning we do not consider the needs of those who do not have cars (or, to a lesser extent would like to use cars less), we basically make the decision that we are only investing in those that have cars. If you don’t have a car then we will not do what we can to help you reach your full potential. When I read “Council Chairman G.T. Bynum spearheaded the request for the study, saying that it’s unlikely the city will ever have enough funding to make the bus system what it should be.” (http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=334&articleid=20121109_11_A1_CUTLIN980670) it is easy to read “we are unwilling to invest in people who ride the bus.” (In fairness to Counselor Bynum that TW article did not even give a true quote of what he said, much less give the context, so I don’t just take it at face value. Further, the article did not say if he was stating his opinion of reality, or his desires for transportation funding. It is not my intention to imply that he is somehow unsupportive of transportation options in Tulsa).

If we look at our transportation system (streets, sidewalks, trails, bus, taxi, etc) and find that it is hindering, or at the very least not helping, people reach their potential (http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20121026_61_A18_Tulsas783853) then we have an opportunity to invest in people.

Lets invest. PLANiTulsa calls for this investment: “Tulsans will have a wide variety of transportation choices. The system will be designed to provide everyone a variety of modes to choose from, including driving, biking, or riding frequent and reliable bus or rail transit”

I don’t understand the specific procedures, politics, etc around Fix Our Streets and other funding issues. But, I do know that now will always be the best time to start investing in the bus system, sidewalks, bike lanes (http://www.benandbethwest.com/2012/05/biking-in-tulsa/), trail systems, trains, trolleys, bus stops (http://www.benandbethwest.com/2012/04/tulsa-transit-a-marketing-problem/), crosswalks, streets, highways, and planning that will be an investment in all people. There are lots of people working to understand these issues (BPAC, Tulsa Hub, Fast Forward Plan, etc), please involve and listen to them as you plan for Fix Our Streets and other transportation needs in Tulsa.

When it comes specifically to Fix Our Streets I would like to see the BPAC SMART Goals implemented, and a true plan and effort made to sufficiently fund our bus system.

And…here we go…

The house is bought, the bags are (mostly) packed, the final wal-mart run has been made. Its time to go to Uganda.

It has truly been a crazy last few days. We really did buy a house just 4 days ago. I think “house owner” has not really set in yet (partly because really we are just %5 owner…the bank still owns a lot of this house!). It is exciting though to be able to look around know we are here long term, that we can do projects that might take a year or more to finish and know that we will be here to see them through. So…its all exciting, but i have not had time to really process the whole thing. Oh…a huge thank you to all the people who helped us move. You made our lives easy that day and we are really thankful!

In the mean time…we are laving for Uganda in the morning. We talk about Uganda and our involvement with Kibo Group a lot on this blog, so just search through the Uganda category if you want to catch up. As we prepare for this trip there are lots of things going through my mind: I am excited to get to share Jinja and the work that Kibo does with new people who have never been there before. At the same time I am a bit nervous about being the facilitator of this trip, and supposedly the leaders of the group. In the end I want those of us that are going, and those who we will be seeing in Jinja to learn and grow from these next few days, and for God to be glorified through this trip.

We will write a lot more about this when we get back, and we may do some updates while we travel (no promises…), until then we hope that you will pray for our journey.

On buying refrigerators and houses

We bought a refrigerator this weekend. Its going to go in that house we are buying. Which all feels very grown up and makes me want Peter Pan to shows up tonight. Its been interesting to see what things are important to us when we make big decisions. Like many people we want to live a somewhat simple life that is uncluttered by lots of stuff, not wasteful of the things we have, and respectful to the people around us. But we are not very good at that. We still have lots of things we never use, but might someday. We still have things we dont need, or, really, even want, we just never bother to get rid of them. We still let enough food go to waste in our refrigerator to feed a small country.

I have been thinking recently that i want to have less things but better things. Things that last, that bring value, that are well designed. I want to learn to truly appreciate one or two of those things then a bunch of stuff.

We only sort of took this into account intentionally when we picked our house…funny because a house is something to be very intentional about. In the end though we ended up in a smaller house. We are paying on the high end square footage wise, but its still less money then a big house, and its a better house. But there is something more subtle about it that is going to be frustrating at first, but will be good in the long run: its smaller sure, but it also does not have a lot of storage space. Less space to hide away stuff that we are unwilling to get rid of. If we want to live a simple life we need a house that will help us reach that goal, not encourage us to do the opposite. I am sure that when we can’t find a place for that random box we need to store we are going to be frustrated, but, in the end it will be worth it.

When we bought our refrigerator we were a lot more intentional about that. We have a bad habit of having way to much stuff in the refrigerator, it gets lost in the deep dark corners, goes bad, costs us money, and is wasteful. A few months ago we filled up the back half of our fridge with old orange juice bottles full of water. We are still getting better at it, but overall this has forced us to be a lot more intentional about what we buy and how quickly we use it. So, for our new fridge we were really intentional. We bought a smallish fridge (18 ft3). But more importantly it is wide, but not deep, so things wont get lost in the back. It has clear drawers so we can see what is in the fresh produce part. It will force us to keep less food around and to plan our meals better. Im sure it is going to drive us crazy.

I think we need to make this a trend. We are not disciplined enough to really live the life style that we want, so, for us, its going to be really important that the things we surround ourselves with help us to live simply. They have to help us, not fight against us.

On Bikes and Bike Crashing

A friend of mine had a bad bike accident recently. Really bad. A driver in a car pulled into oncoming traffic to pass three cars in front of him. The oncoming traffic in this case was Steve, on his bike, and a van, both of which he hit. Read about it for yourself on the news if you want.

Now, im not going to get into the accident itself to much, except to say that this particular driver made a huge mistake, which i am sure he recognizes and regrets. He risked his life and that of others for the sake of being in a hurry. So, as somebody who drives and rides regularly on the streets of Tulsa I’m just going to ask that this serve as a cautionary tail to all of us. Whatever it is, its not worth killing or crippling somebody over…and to be frank it is pure selfishness that lets you believe that your time is more important then somebodies life so get over yourself.

Whenever I hear of a bike accident it hits close to home of course. I ride Tulsa’s streets occasionally, just a few times a week. I could have been the one that was hit. Just like ebola in Uganda this seems to call for wisome not fear. I don’t want to live a life of fear, but I do want to live a life of wisdome. In this case it makes me want to ride more, to do more of the thing I enjoy. If more people rode drivers would (I hope) be more aware, more cautious, more respectful. This has to go both ways of course. Bikers have to follow the law, ride properly, etc. But that is s different post.

Second, I think it is wise to at least consider the worst case. For me this means a couple of things. First, im going to continue to ride like a car*. It works, people give me room on the street. Second, I need to upgrade some gear..get some lights and flashers, and a mirror, these are things that will help me be safer.

I have only had one bad bike wreck, i was in the woods mt. biking by myself. I was fortunate to walk myself back to my house under my own power and Beth took me to the ER. If I am ever in a wreck again I want to give people who might stop to help me all the advantages they can have, so i signed up for icedot and bought a bracelet, i hope i never get to test it out, but ill let you know how it goes if i do.

Any way, just some ramblings…

Steve will be ok. He has a long rode of recovery ahead of him. He is going to be out of work for a while over this, he is a tile layer by trade…which is going to be hard to do with a couple broken bones. Our church has a fund set up if people want to donate to help him and his family out, let me know if you want info about that.

update 2: I keep writing these post about biking and it makes it sound like im some sort of super biker person. Thats not true, i ride occasionally, sometimes a few times a week, sometimes no times i week. I do find transportation issues interesting though…and this counts.

********Please don’t take this to mean that i am a “vehicular riding only ” person. given that there is no bike lane I’m going to ride like a car.  Read up if your interested.

Ebola in Uganda

Many of you have asked us about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, and how that will impact our trip.

I think it is safe to say that some people might read a headline that says “Ebola Outbreak In Uganda” and make some assumptions that look something like the The Black Death of 1348 to 1350, which may have killed off something like a quarter or half of the worlds population. So, this is a good chance for you to use your “find out the rest of the story, challenge your assumptions, get the context, etc” skills that I’m always talking about.

Ebola is of course a serious thing…its sort of bad to get Ebola after all. So, as we plan our trip to Jinja, Uganda we will take seriously any developments that come about.  It is our intention (in this case and in life in general) to live a life of wisdom, but not a life of fear.

So, at this point there are 20 confirmed cases of Ebola which are in a small geographic area, and confined to a single family. The outbreak is not in the same area of the country at Jinja. There are 6 more suspected cases which are still confined to the same geographic area. The World Health Organization, The Center for Disease  Control, and the Ugandan government are all actively working to contain the outbreak, and at this point have not issued any travel warnings for Uganda. The world has a lot of motivation to contain outbreaks like this quickly, and it our expectation that this outbreak will be done by the time we are in Jinja.

We are of course in touch with Kibo staff in Uganda, and we trust them completely to give us good advice as we prepare for our trip, and we will continue to seek wise counsel and pray for wisdom.

Update (August 8, 2012):

Just a quick update to this post. As of now the Ebola outbreak is basically considered contained. An August 3rd update from the WHO puts the current numbers at 53 suspected cases, 16 deaths, and there is an extensive list of people who had contact with cases who are being monitored.

There were reports that the outbreak had skipped to a different region of Uganda, however, “So far all samples from other districts have tested negative for Ebola”, so it appears that the outbreak remains isolated to a small area of the country.

Tulsa Favorites

We have lived in Tulsa for a while now, so..it seems like its time to make a Tulsa Favorites list. So, here it is. Our Tulsa Favorites:

Pizza: Joe Momma’s. I don’t know if this is really the best pizza in town (I mean, Tulsa really likes it’s Hideaway), but for us when we first moved to Tulsa it become a familiar and comfortable place for us in an unstable part of life.

Controversy: Tulsa has its controversies, the annual holiday parade debate, downtown parking, the mayors chief of staff (or head lawyer or something like that) getting his son into the fire academy, QT at 11th and Utica expansion, form based code, police corruption, Councilor Ewing making the hipsters mad, EMSA spending, etc, etc. But my favorite is the Great Trash Debate of 2012 (and before). Think about this. We pay a fairly small fee every month and some people come in a big truck and take away all the stuff we don’t want. Every week. All we have to do is carry it 30ft to the street. That’s kind of amazing to me…i think we have it easy. But change it up and the end is coming. #firstworldproblem (yeah, my blog post gets a twitter tag…)

Favorite coming soon: Beth: The Phoenix Cafe. But is it really comeing soon? Ben: New trash service.

Mexican food: Ok, I just have to say this. Whats with Chipotle being called a Mexican Grill? It’s burritos with a massive USA twist (with massive being the key word 1,179 calories, 7 g fat, 125 g carbs, 2,656 mg sodium). Do they have anything like that in Mexico?

Best Taco: Beth: salmon puffy tacos at Elote.

coffee place: I (ben) don’t drink coffee…but i spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I like Topeca at the mayo. I like being downtown, its an ok place to get work done, they dont care if i sit there for 4 hours nursing one Italian Soda, interesting people coming in and out and they have sushi. Beth has categories:

Best Coffee: Topeca
Best Place to Work: Agora
Best Place to Read a Book: CHOCS
Best Coming Soon: The Phoenix Cafe

Street: Trenton between 15th and 17th

View of tulsa: Beth likes the Pioria bridge over the BA. I like Standpipe Hill. It has history.

car window guy: His name is Glass Dude. Call Chris King for his number, just keep in on the DL and bring cash.

sushi: Yokozuna…becuse that is the only place we have been. But i have to say, sushi deliverd by model train to your table has to beat it out….

retail shop: Beth likes Made. But she is not an impartal judge. They sell her really cool cards.

You know how newspaper alwasy do “The Best of Tulsa” or something like that? I never really understood why they had suff like dentest. I mean, have all the readers gone to every dentist in tulsa (there are like 476,947 of them) to find out which is the best? I know i have been to exactly one dentist in Tulsa, so I dont really think i can pick the best one. Really it should be called “The dentist who the most uraban tulsa readers go to award” None the less…

Dentist: Mint Dental. We randomly ended up at this place when they first opened, so we sort of feel like we have a part in it, the people that own it are really nice, and they don’t complain about how i never floss, so they get huge points for that.

fitness studio: Strength of Mind and Body

Themed Dentists: Dental Depot. It’s like a train station with a dentest in it. They should get a model train to go around and deliver sushi and a new toothbrush to their customers.

eye doctor: I have actually been to 2 eye doctors in Tulsa, so i can say that there is in fact an eye doctor that I like better: Dr. Riner

Uh..thats it, im not sure why we decided to end on eye doctor, I guess its the most interesting thing we could come up with….

More to the Story

I have had this post floating in my head for a few days, and my brother was talking about something related on facebook today…so I thought I should add to his conversation a little.

So, Daniel posted about taking what people say out of context. Particularly politicians. short version: If you hear some politician said something that sounds crazy/extreme/etc. the comment may very well be (probably is…) not being presented in context. It probably was not a lot more to it then what he said, you should probably understand the context before you react. (that is a very loose paraphrase…so uh…he can correct me if i have mischaracterized his words).

Here is a corollary: when you hear some absurd story there is probably more to it then the 20 seconds the guy on TV is giving you.

This is a bit old in Internet time (i mean, last week, come on!), but Im sure some of you read about the bible study teacher who was put in jail.

Ill try to give you the summer of this particular article, which was how I saw most people referencing the story:

Bible study leader Michael Salman is sitting in jail today after his home was raided earlier this week by more than a dozen Phoenix, Ariz. police officers and city officials. His offense? The city says people aren’t allowed to hold private Bible studies on their own property.

The story (and video) goes on with his wife saying that “the city told her that her husband was essentially arrested because the Bible study was at a private house .. and that essentially, it’s a church. Since they weren’t zoned for church, they were told they were breaking the rules.” The video goes on to assert that this was simply a private bible study held in a private home, much like happens in thousands of homes across america all the time, and much like a Tupperware party, and for that he was arrested.

Now, whenever I hear something like this I always figure there is more going on then is in this short story. Its sort of this internal “rest of the story” alarm I have. So I did a bit of reading, and there is for sure more to the story. Ill give you a few quotes from two articles, one at tucsoncitizen.com and one at www.phoenixnewtimes.com.

The crux of the other side of the story is that you can make a fair argument that its not just a bible study, but is a church, which should have to follow the laws of the land pertaining to church type buildings (zoning codes, building codes, etc). A few quotes:

Salman and his wife have not paid taxes on the property since an inspector from the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office approved Salman’s request to have the property classified as a church in 2008.

When the inspector visited the home, a sign outside the property included the name of the church, according to court documents, and the inspector found a podium, folding chairs and other items that allowed him to grant the property tax-exempt status.


From the beginning, neighbors say, the Salmans were upfront about their faith, explaining that Michael was a pastor and inviting neighbors to check out their church. One of the Juliuses’ neighbors, a local building contractor, even went to the church for a while.

But then Salman announced that he was planning to build a church right there in his backyard. He talked about not just Sunday services, but weeknight Bible studies, a workout room and basketball court, even a Christian day care center.


As it turned out, though, Salman didn’t have a permit to build a church. His permit gave him the right to build a garage-like structure, a shell of a building without electricity or plumbing. When neighbors complained that Salman’s intentions were far different from what he’d officially indicated, City Hall shut down construction. Salman would have to submit detailed construction plans to the city, and go through formal review, before building anything.

So, there is more to this then somebody being arrested for having a few friends over for a bible study, and I don’t think it is fair to react to the story until you understand that. In the end, it may be that he was arrested unfairly, that he is being targeted because of his faith, that his constitutional rights have been violated, and that this amounts to religious persecution. The he said she said of the legal arguments are sort of hard to follow. But, you have to understand the whole context before you decide that.

This story is a great reminder to me that there is always another side of the story.

One last thing, if you post something in the comments or something like that about how he should or should not have been arrested you are missing the point. This is all about forcing yourself to dig a bit deeper, to understand a bit deeper before you make up your mind about something. If you can’t get over the fact that this is a person who shares your faith who was arrested perhaps for his faith just go back and read the original news story again but replace church with something that will let you see it in a different light.