Kickert Pancake Recipe

February 3rd, 2017 No comments

When we first moved to Swaziland, we spent many weeks investigating the best pancake recipe.  After many attempts, this is the recipe we finally decided on as the best.  It has been tried and true for years and is finally ready to be named as our official family pancake recipe:

Kickert Family Pancake Recipe


  • 2  2/3 Cups Sifted Flour
  • 2 TBS Baking Powder
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Cooking Oil
  • 1 tsp Vanilla (optional)


  • Wisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Separately mix beaten eggs, milk and oil
  • Adding vanilla will give pancakes a more “cakey” flavor note, but this can be omitted
  • Add dry and wet ingredients, stir just until moistened
  • Don’t over mix, will be lumpy
  • If mixture is too runny add flour; if too thick add milk
  • Bake on the stove top with a small amount of butter in the pan.
  • Recipe makes about 16 pancakes

I wish I could give credit to the original inspiration for this recipe, but multiple web searches have failed to yeild a source and it has been slightly modified based on experiance and preference

Categories: Random Tags:

Why I am voting for Hillary

August 3rd, 2016 No comments

It has been over 2 years since I last posted on my blog.  However, given the ridiculous state of the upcoming political discourse around the 2016 election, I figure it is a good time as any to break the silence.

A very good friend of mine posted on Facebook “How can anyone vote for Hillary?”  I took that inquiry seriously and decided to take the time to fully flesh out why I am voting the way I am.  It seems (from my limited perspective) that this election has devolved into visceral reactions and soundbites.  Instead of resorting to generalizations, I wanted to actually address the validity of each candidate.  Below is my (much too long) response to the original post:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I have actually been looking for a reason to flesh out my thoughts on this election cycle (which by the way, is fascinating to watch from an “outsider” perspective here in Africa).

In my opinion, elections are primarily about voting for someone who shares your ideals and whom you think is mostly likely to advance the causes you believe in.  Unfortunately, very little of this election cycle has focused on policies and instead has been emotional and personal.  There is a place for that, but I think it should be secondary.

With that in mind, the main reason I am supporting Hillary is because she most closely represents my political values.  I would list the following as issues I care about (in no particular order):

1.) I support gay marriage and including sexual identity among protected statuses

2.) I support the end of the “war on drugs”, the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of some other drugs

3.) I am never in favor of abortion, but I do think it should be a legal option for women in the first trimester (I also believe we should invest in things that decrease unwanted pregnancy like free access to sexual and reproductive services and efforts to reduce the impact of poverty on young women)

4.) I would advocate for a decrease in military spending, especially interventions in foreign matters

5.) I think our national budget should always be balanced and that national debt should be paid down

6.) I would maintain our current levels of international development support

7.) I support a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants and for loosening the immigration requirements (while still maintaining strict background and risk checks)

8.) I am for a gradual increase in the minimum wage over at least a decade to return it to the purchasing power it had when first passed

9.) We should have basic universal health care for all people while also allowing people to pay for private insurance in order to obtain higher level services

10.) I am a strong supporter of first amendment rights, particularly allowing for religious freedom and protection

11.) I would like to see the supreme court depoliticized (but have no idea how that would happen)

12.) I am in favor of term limits for congress

13.) I generally prefer federalism over state’s control

14.) I think there is a way to increase gun control without going against the second amendment

15.) Just like universal health care, I also think basic access to higher education should be universal, but that doesn’t mean everyone should have free access to everything

16.) I am opposed to the death penalty

17.) I am in favor of allowing for physician assisted suicide in some cases

18.) I am generally in favor of more government oversight, but not to the level of Europe or Australia

19.) I support stronger environmental protections (as well as things like protection of national parks and forests)

20.) If given the choice or more taxes or more services, I would generally choose more taxes

21.) I am for progressive tax brackets (and think there should be higher tax brackets)

22.) We should make the drawing of congressional districts a bi-partisan affair

23.) I think the electoral college is a dated model that should be re-evaluated (at a minimum, we should go to either proportional electors or votes based on congressional districts) in order to reduce the power of only a handful of swing states

24.) I am not a favor of affirmative action in its strictest sense, but I do think there should be safeguard to ensure equal consideration

25.) There should be more restrictions on corporate rights – the wishes of a corporation should not trump the wishes of individuals (i.e. imminent domain) and corporations should be taxed on earnings

26.) I think our international interventionism has increased the risk of terrorism instead of decreased it

27.) I think the federal reserve is too powerful in its influence, but don’t recommend disbanding it

28.) White collar crime should be dealt with more harshly

29.) I am in favor of a two state solution in the middle east and think we have not been critical enough in our support of Israel

30.) Social security should be saved, reformed, and returned to its original intent and design

So there are 30 political stances I have.  Looking at them, none of them seem to me to be too extreme.  I would imagine at least a third of American agree with me on all of them.  And more importantly, I think that reasonable people on the other side can disagree with me and we can have a civilized conversation about why we disagree. (That is to say, I don’t automatically demonize people who don’t share my views on these issues.)  In fact, I would expect a mainline republican to disagree with me on many/most and thus would expect and respect them to support a different candidate than me.

Looking at this election and my views above, it is obvious that Hillary is significantly more aligned with what I believe than Donald Trump is.  So, to answer you original question “How can anyone vote for Hillary?” the simple answer for me is that she shares more of my views than Trump does.

Now policy isn’t everything because at the end of the day you have to vote for an individual.  Personally, I would rather vote for a moderate (even a republican) whom I believe would be able to compromise and work across the political spectrum than an extremist on “my side” who causes more division.  (For what it’s worth, I would most likely have voted for Kasich over Hillary if he had won the nomination for that exact reason.) Unfortunately, as we have seen, this election has not primarily been about policy or compromise, but has been more about the candidates themselves.  There is a place for that discussion, but I never think it should be the primary content of election discussions.

That being said, given the political climate (and the particular nominees) of this election cycle, I do think there is a place to talk about issues we have with the individuals.  Let me start by addressing what I don’t like about Hillary.  Most significantly, I don’t like that she represents political dynasty – we don’t need 6 (or 7 if Hillary is two-term) of the last 8 (or 9) elections to go to only two families.  I don’t like that she voted for the Iraq war.  What she did with the email servers was just dumb (although I don’t think it was malicious).  She represents career politicians, which while not being automatically bad, I do think raises questions.  I don’t find her to be a particularly likable person and her communication style often seems disingenuous.  In my opinion, she acted like she was entitled to the nomination (and you could argue the presidency) and that doesn’t sit well with me.  I am not a fan of the connections she has with Wall Street and her reliance on such a large “war chest” of political donations.

For what it’s worth, I wasn’t a fan of Bernie either.  While his views were probably more aligned with mine, I was never convinced he had a plan for advancing his policies.  I think it would have been too big of a shift politically and it would have caused more division.  I also don’t think another old white man was the best representative of a political revolution.

Now, what do I like about Hillary as a person?  I like her international experience as Secretary of State.  People like to point to Benghazi, but her overall service record was excellent and she did more to represent the US overseas than any other SofS I know.  She visited 112 countries in her time of service and I think that international perspective will help her.  She also has experience in the Senate.  That combination of domestic and foreign experience will help her govern.  I think her faith is authentic.  She hasn’t been too vocal about it, but my impression is that it has been consistent and depoliticized.  It is shallow, but I like that she is a woman – I think we are ready for a female president (although I would never vote for a person just for that reason and I can think of several women I would rather see as our first female president).  I think she has a more positive view of the situation in America and that resonates with me more than other candidates.  The Clinton Foundation has been a force for good in the world.  I can personally attest to the strong impact their work has done in Swaziland and in Southern Africa.

Even with similarities in policy views, Hillary is far from a perfect candidate for me.  I would have preferred a different representative, but the critiques I have of her are not enough for me to dismiss her as a prime contender for my vote.

Now on to Trump…

Most importantly for me is that fact that I disagree with many of policies that Trump has put forth (although admittedly there hasn’t been a lot of formal policy outlines), but I also have to realize that there are people who politically align more with Trump, yet still have to deal with him as an individual candidate so it is important to also look at his personal character.

I think what has bothered me the most watching the rise of the Trump candidacy has been how inconsistently Republicans have judged him in comparison to the standards they have held previous Democrats.  The same people who crucified Bill Clinton over infidelity are supporting a man who has been married three times, has admitted to multiple cases of infidelity in marriage, has a wife who posed nude in his private jet, and who owns strip clubs.  The same people who criticized Kerry for flip flopping on policy are supporting a man who has been a democrat, an independent and a republican.  He has changed his view on essential party issues such as abortion.  There are also significant discrepancies in the standards Trump is held to versus what Hillary is held to.  People are okay calling Hillary a liar, but the fact checkers show that Trump has consistently been looser with the truth than Hillary. People are okay calling Hillary corrupt, but multiple examples of shady business deals have emerged with Trump that have gone unacknowledged.  People criticize Hillary for not supporting the military, but Trump has openly attacked war heroes and POWs.  I don’t want to contribute to the blanket statements against either candidate, but I do want to point out that that criticisms raised against Hillary can often be equally or more so leveled against Trump.  Many many candidates in previous cycles have been dismissed for much much less.

With Trump…

I can appreciate that he is not a career politician, but I think his absolute lack of political experience will hurt him in the long run.

I can appreciate his concern for national security, but I think his rhetoric puts the US at greater risk of attack and retribution.

I can appreciate that he speaks his mind, but I think that the commander in chief should be more nuanced

I can appreciate that he talks about issues that matter to middle America, but it rings hollow for me to hear it coming from a man who revels in the fact that he is so wealthy and privileged.

I can appreciate his business background, but it has been shown that simply investing in a market fund would have yielded greater returns.

I can appreciate his willingness to identify issues that seem to be concentrated in certain ethic / religious groups, but I think his approach is leading to a justification of stereotypes and bigotry.

I can appreciate that Trump best represents the historic republican values, but the fact that he won the nomination in the first place is concerning.

I can appreciate that Trump stands up to his critics, but his tendency to resort to broad personal attacks seems immature and reactionary.

In terms of singular issues that may disqualify a candidate, there are a few things worth talking about.  I think that Benghazi was extremely unfortunate, but I have yet to see any evidence that Hillary was personally responsible (she was cleared by a bi-partisan panel), nor that she made decisions inconsistent with any other previous Secretary of State.  I think her use of a personal email server was incredibly stupid and probably an example of her sense of entitlement, but I have yet to see any evidence that her actions were intentionally malicious, nefarious or ultimately dangerous.  Lying about the sniper fire in Bosnia was dumb, but isn’t reason to disqualify a person for office – many more have said much worse with much less criticism.

With Trump, my biggest concern is his personality and approach to governance.  He has said some very dumb stuff, but I generally chalk that up to a total lack of filter and a complete unwillingness to admit being wrong.  I have been amazed at his willingness to make such aggressive statements about groups like women, immigrants and muslims.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think he represents the best of America and that he has an approach to power that concerns me.

Looking at the major political parties, Trump is much more of the surprise.  In the democratic camp, we didn’t have great options – there was Hillary (who is not a popular choice), and Bernie who was so far left that he would have alienated the general electorate.  On the Republican side, there were significantly more options that ran the political gamut.  You had Jeb if you wanted to keep it in the family, you had Kasich as a moderate, you had Rubio if you wanted strict conservative, you had Cruz if you wanted a neo-con, you had Rand if you wanted a tea-partier, you had Carson if you wanted a representative Christian.  When people complain about Trump being the only conservative option, it doesn’t really make sense to me because the representatives of the party intentionally selected Trump over all the others.  The final candidates suck, but at least the Republicans had more options to begin with.

Given the situation we are currently in, I can see two main reasons why people would vote for Trump: he still is the most conservative candidate that has a chance to win; and, a vote for Hillary will most likely result in a more liberal supreme court – I recognize that is very significant.

As for me… why am I am voting for Hillary… mostly it is because she most represents my political ideals, but I also I think the flaws of Trump are more significant than her flaws.

Categories: Random Tags:

Baby Names

September 22nd, 2013 3 comments

I was going through some files on my computer and came across the excel spreadsheet Beth and I used to help narrow down baby names. I am sure you can guess whose idea it was to use a spreadsheet!  And in case you were wondering, yes it was color coded and included weighted averages to rank the names; it also listed name popularity and trends based on recent Social Security Administration information.

For some reason it was much tougher for us to pick boy and girl names this time than it was with Mikayla. (I wrote about picking her name a while ago.)  Looking back at the lists of names reminded me of all the thought that went into the process.

Even though we decided to find out the gender with Baby #2, there was initially some ambiguity about the sex so we had a boy name and a girl name. If we had had a girl, the name would have been Elsie Bellissima.  We liked the "throw back names" that were familiar but unique, but it was the middle name that has the most meaning as it honors two children we were close to who were taken well before their time: Bella Shoemaker and Simo Dlamini.  When the names were put together, it just so happened to be the Italian word for ‘Most Beautiful" which we thought was appropriate.

Other girl names we considered were:

  • Ainsley
  • Amelia
  • Arabella
  • Avery
  • Briley
  • Elsie
  • Gabriella / Gabrielle
  • Harper
  • Lindiwe
  • Macy
  • Madeline
  • Mallory
  • Sophia/Sophie
  • Sydney
    Obviously we did not have a girl so Baby #2 was named Maxwell Simo – a name we had originally picked before the gender confusion.  We liked the name Max from the beginning, and it also is a way of honoring Bella since Max is the character in her favorite book "Where the Wild Things Are."  We had always considering giving our child a Swazi name, and after the death of Simo last Christmas, we didn’t think about many other names.  The meaning of Simo is also appropriate.  It means situation/character(istic).  Since being born in Swaziland will be one of the qualities that makes Max unique, it is a fitting name.  And while a name can mean a lot, it is a person’s character that is most important.

In case you were wondering, here are some of the other boy names we considered:

  • Crosby
  • Fletcher
  • Hudson
  • Max (Maxwell, Maximus, Maximillian)
  • Micah
  • Paxton
  • Quinn (Quinton, Quincy)
  • Sebastian
  • Tate
  • Thaddeus
  • Theodore
  • Xander
  • Xavier
  • Zachary

And just because I can… here is a gratuitous shot of my kids:

River, Max at 2months 076

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Mikayla and Daddy go on a Photo Walk

September 14th, 2013 2 comments

DD Photagraphy 279

We are about to start a very busy month here at Cabrini.  We have a Medical Team coming in from Australia next week.  We close out a grant year at the end of September.  All of our major annual programming reports are due in the first couple weeks of October. And, we have a quarterly board meeting along with a strategic planning session scheduled.  On top of all that, we are doing a major database upgrade that includes launching a new system to keep up with all of our recent work in Social Services.  Needless to say, my spare time is going to be limited and my stress level will probably be a bit higher.

In light of the upcoming weeks, I wanted to make sure I spent some intentional time with Beth, Mikayla and Max.  So today, while Beth and Max were at a meeting, Mikayla and I went out into the bush behind our house to do a "Photo Walk." 

DD Photagraphy 285

DD Photagraphy 260


Mikayla’s ability to actually compose a picture in the viewfinder has only developed in the last couple weeks.  Before that, she would just indiscriminately press the shudder button regardless of what the camera was actually point out.  Considering that, her skills now are pretty impressive.  All of the pictures below came from Mikayla.  Not to shabby at all if you ask me.  I think some of her flower pictures are amazing by anyone’s standard!

 DD Photography 330

DD Photography 333

DD Photography 339

DD Photography 353

DD Photography 357

DD Photography 362

DD Photography 370

DD Photography 375

DD Photography 380

DD Photography 386

DD Photography 389

DD Photography 390

DD Photography 395

DD Photography 398

DD Photography 405

DD Photography 409

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Family Pictures

July 5th, 2013 No comments

UPDATE: I made this blog post into a page so I can add more pictures along the way.  Please visit to access the new pictures.

I wanted to upload a few high resolution photos in case people in the states wanted to get them printed.  You will need to click on the ones you want to get the full size image and then save it and get it printed where ever is easiest.

Let me know if there are others you have seen on facebook that you would like uploaded.

Max Arrives 027Max Arrives 041Max Arrives 048Max Arrives 086Max Arrives 089Max day 2 012Max day 2 016Max day 2 026Max day 2 028Max day 2 035

4 year pictures 0364 year pictures 0544 year pictures 0664 year pictures 0924 year pictures 1054 year pictures 1194 year pictures 153

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Sex, Drunk Driving, and a call to Polygamy

April 29th, 2013 1 comment

It is no secret that Swaziland’s main newspaper The Times is more akin to The Weekly World News than to the New York Times.  It is also common knowledge oddities are often a part of daily life in Swaziland.  But occasionally, you find an article that really makes you shake your head and say “Did I really read that?”  Today’s paper included one of those articles.  Here is a scan, but you can also click the image to read the online version.

sex drunk driver

This article really has some gems (or you could call them glimpses into depravity).

MANZINI – A drink-driving soldier told the court that he committed the offence after his wife refused to have sex with him.

Sifiso Dlamini (33) of Ngwane Park, who is employed by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force and is based at Mdzimba, said this during his appearance in court on Thursday.

“Your Worship, I was refused sex by my wife and I was so angry I decided to go and drink with the hope that I will get a secret lover (makhwapheni) at the drinking hall.”

Ahh… the classic sex-depravation justification.

But thankfully we learn that this gentleman’s needs were met:

He said when he was arrested by the police, he was on his way to a secret place with a makhwapheni he had managed to snag at the bar.

So how does the court respond to his self medication with drinking and infidelity?

Magistrate Dumisa Mazibuko applauded him for not trying to rape his wife because he would have been sentenced a heavier fine than that of drink-driving.

Mazibuko also told him that it was better to go and buy sex from sex workers than raping. “If you have the money, go and buy instead of raping,” he said.

I don’t even know how to comment on that.  At least there is an acknowledgment that marital rape is not a good thing, but how in the world can a judge recommend the utilization of sex workers as a viable solution?

After he was found guilty, the defendant asks for mercy:

He asked the court to be lenient because he was a first offender and had a wife and two children to look after.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that wife and family he has to take care of.  I am actually surprised that he didn’t ask for a waiver of the fine so that he could have enough money to pay sex workers in the future.

Instead of being leniant, the court offers a long-term solution.

After telling the court that he traditionally wedded his wife, the court advised him to take a second wife.

“The law allows you to have more than one wife,” said Magistrate Mazibuko.

The accused also agreed with the court. “After what happened, I will now consider taking a second wife,” he said.

You  just can’t make this stuff up!  I understand that polygamy is a recognized part of Swazi culture.  But we are in a whole new realm when multiple wives are being recommended by the judicial system as a way to solve issues of varying libido in a marital relationship.

At the article’s conclusion, we find that Mr. Dlamini is in fact sentenced for his crimes:

He was sentenced to two years in prison or a fine of E2 000.

In case you are not up on your currency conversion, this gentleman was given the choice of either spending two years in jail or paying a fine of $220.  That is the typical judgment against drunk driving which brings up a whole other set of issues.  If you are rich, you can break the law and easily afford to pay the fine without even flinching.  However if you are poor (and remember that 70% of the country lives on less than $2/day), you either give up over a month’s salary, or you sit in jail for a long long time.

I will let you draw your own conclusions and judgments, but this article was so over the top, I just had to share it.

Boy or Girl?

April 25th, 2013 4 comments

Things have been busy since January.  We have had visits from my cousin Jana (and her friend Olivia) as well as from my Parents.  I went to Ethiopia (and Dubai) for a week in March.  And, Beth is progressing in her pregnancy.  But, let’s face it, if you want regular updates on the Kickerts in Swaziland, you have to go to my wife’s blog for that.

Now, back to that pregnancy.  The good news is that both mother and baby are doing great.  Everything looks normal and the pregnancy is low-risk.  That means we will probably be delivering in Swaziland if everything continues as plans.  All of that is great, and what really matters.  However, we have encountered some frustration with Baby Kickert #2. 

If you will remember, at the 16 week ultrasound, we saw "definitive" evidence that our new baby was a boy.  Here is the picture looking up between the legs.  That is definitely a penis.


So with that knowledge, we set out to decide on boy’s names.  It was a much more difficult process for us, but we ended up settling on a name everyone liked: Maxwell (Max) Simo Kickert.  It was great to have that decision out of the way…  that is until our 28 week ultrasound.

Here is the picture from that one (sorry it is not as clear because it is a scan of a printed image):

28 week scan (2)

For this picture you are again looking up between the legs from underneath, but the baby is facing the opposite direction.  Also, instead of seeing a penis, you are seeing the three lines that indicate a vagina.  Even more telling, is that when the doctor continued the scan up the body, there was no evidence at all of a scrotum.

Both doctors said that if their respective ultrasound stood on their own, there would be no question of what the gender was.  The problem is that each ultrasounds points in a different direction.

It is possible that the first image is actual of the umbilical cord, but when I look back at it, it certainly looks like a penis to me.  It is also possible that in the second image, the baby was positioned in such a way as to hide the penis. 

So where are we?  We really don’t know.  It could go either way.  We are leaning towards girl since that is what was indicated in the most recent scan, but we won’t know for sure until we have another ultra sound (some time in the next month).

Again, the most important information is that the baby is healthy.  But this ambiguity is frustrating.  We have gone back to the drawing board on names to try and come up with one of the female variety.  It has been just as tough as deciding on a boy’s name, but we think we at least have an idea for a first name.

We will keep you posted.  In the meantime, you are more than welcome to submit your own guesses based on your ability to read the ultrasounds above.

Categories: Family Tags: , , , ,

18 Month Reading List

January 17th, 2013 No comments

Beth, Mikayla and I are approaching the 18 month mark of our time in Swaziland and that means it is time to do another update of what I have been reading.

Before I get into my reviews, a couple things I noticed about my list:

  • I read less books in this period than the prior two periods, but this is probably due to the fact that I read next to nothing for the month and a half we were in the states.
  • I have to thank David Altmaier for shaping my reading list the last six months. He turned me on to Bill Bryson (through A Walk in the Woods) and also recommended How I Killed Pluto and Why.
  • Speaking of Bill Bryson, as you can see, I really got into his writings. I would have probably read even more, but I wanted a bit of variety (you can expect more in my next posting).
  • Looking at what I have read in the past 12 months I realized everything was on the Kindle. I haven’t read a hardcopy of a book in over a year. Doesn’t really surprise me because I actual prefer the kindle, but I found it noteworthy.
  • I also noticed that I everything I read in this period has been non-fiction. Obviously this is what I am drawn to.

Okay… on to my reviews of the books I have read in the last six months.

  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything – This was probably my favorite of the Bryson books that I read. It is what it says it is… a sprint through the history of science and what we have learned about where the world has come from. It was like 400 pages of clicking through Wikipedia articles without ever finding a bad one.
  2. A Universe from Nothing – I started this 6 months ago and set it down. I picked it up again two weeks ago and forced my way through it. The book focuses on super-interesting topics like particle physics and quantum mechanics, but the author is exceedingly arrogant and instead of sharing fascinating discoveries, he prefers to bash religion. It ends up being an unfortunate diversion (regardless of what your theological beliefs are).
  3. A Walk in the Woods – The first Bryson book I read and I loved it. It is a great mix of candid revelation and literary brilliance. The fact that I have walked parts of the Appalachian trail (and am now ridiculously out of shape) really made the book resonate with me.
  4. Ada BlackJack – I read this book because it was cheap and a bestseller on Amazon. It was a good read, (especially if you like polar exploration books) and covered some history I was unaware of (an Eskimo woman who survived an exploration trip no one else did).
  5. At Home – Another one of Bryson’s wandering inquiries into the history of stuff. If you are a linear thinker, this book would drive you nuts, but it was a great book to pick up and read for 10 minutes or two hours.
  6. Bill Bryson’s African Diary – Super quick read about Bryson’s trip to Kenya. The writing was great as I have come to expect, but it was short and lacked a unifying direction.
  7. How I killed Pluto and Why – This book is the polar opposite of A Universe from Nothing that I mentioned above. It is another “science” book, but the author is incredibly humble and prefers to explain topics rather than talk down to his audience. It is a great walk through of his career in planetary astronomy and the massive changes that occurred during the time period. Well written and fascinating.
  8. How to get away with Murder in America – This was one of several short non-fiction read after finding it on the Amazon best seller list. A bit of conspiracy theory mixed with mob sensationalism, but the result was not great.
  9. John McAfees Last Stand – This was an interesting read and I found it to be a foray into a new style of literature: long-style current event reporting. It covered the unfolding events around the curious life of a tech giant turned nuts. You can read my full review here.
  10. Journey to Ki – a short book about a journey to a Tibetan temple. Simply put, this was not worth the time. Free on Amazon, but it was more of a college personal narrative assignment than a real read.
  11. Lost at Sea – ughh… it took everything I had to finish this book. I found the author recommended amongst several of my favorite authors, but the book ended up being a rambling collection of short articles that had nothing in common.
  12. The Devil in the White City – This book has been on my “to-read” list for quite a while and I am very glad I finally got to it. It is a great blend of excellent writing with an interesting subject matter (Chicago world’s fair and a crazy serial killer). The conclusion was a bit short, but the overall quality of the writing easily made up for it.
  13. The Last Explorer – I think this was a free (or cheap) book I found on Amazon and it was actually very interesting. It was about an Australian adventurer / explorer who despite amazing contributions ended up on the sidelines. Very interesting.
  14. The Violinist’s Thumb – I love Sam Keane’s writing style. The Disappearing Spoon was one of my favorite books for last year and I was excited to read his newest work on DNA and heredity. I didn’t think it was as good as his first book, but he still presents a top-notch blend of interesting science and crazy back-story.

So what books ended up on top? Well to be honest, I had a harder time deciding than usual. The books spanned a pretty broad range of subjects and writing styles and they tended to fall into two categories. Those I was glad I read and those I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on. Here is how those designations flesh out:

Worth Reading: A Short History Of Nearly Everything, A Walk In The Woods, Ada Blackjack, At Home, How I Killed Pluto And Why, The Devil in the White City, The Last Explorer, The Violist’s Thumb

Not Worth Reading: A Universe From Nothing, African Diaries, How To Get Away With Murder In America, John Mcafee’s Last Stand, Journey To Ki, Lost At Sea.

So there you go. You can look forward to the year-end summary of Ben Kickert’s reading in July.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , , ,

Catching up

January 6th, 2013 No comments

When I started blogging again several years ago, I rarely went a month without putting a post up.  Unfortunately, it looks like I got out of the habit and have gone almost 6 months with a post.  Whoops! 

Looking back at the last six months, it has been anything but uneventful.  In fact, there has been so much going on that it probably contributed to the blog-silence.  So, here is a quick run down on the big things that have gone down:

  • There has been a lot of traveling with the Cabrini crew – both coming and going
    • 3 staff members went to the states for the AIDS 2012 conference
    • Five "sisters in training" came and stayed with us for spiritual development
    • We had a fundraising trip in the states that all the Kickerts plus Sister Diane went on (more on that later).
    • The sisters have been all over the place doing "sister" work and taking some down time
    • We have had two short-term volunteer come and go
    • Joe has gone to the states for some time with Family
  • We were able to spend 6 weeks in the US and it was very busy time
    • I spent time in New York, Philadephia, St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville
    • It was great catching up with friends and family
    • I became an uncle on my side when Tim and Chel had their first baby
    • My grandmother passed away
    • We got to enjoy some down time together as a family and see the sites in NYC and London
  • We wrapped up our funding year and took some time to look at all the accomplishments happening in Swaziland
  • Simo, one of the twins we watched was killed when his house collapsed on him.
  • We found out we were pregnant!

If you really want scoop on what has gone on with the Kickerts in the last six months, be sure to go to Beth’s blog… she even does pictures!

New Host

January 3rd, 2013 No comments

It has been quite a while since my last blog post and a whole lot has happened since then.  I have a couple update posts coming soon, but wanted to quickly let you know that we have recently switched our webhost so if you see anything screwing on the websites or blogs, please let me know ( 

For what its worth, after nearly 8 years with a cheap ($2/mo) fly-by-night company called we finally had to upgrade to a "real" hosting provider.  After much research, we went with  It costs us almost double, but we went from a 500MB limit (which we had exceeded) to an unlimited provider.  So far I have been very impressed.  They have been quick to respond to my support tickets and even took care of doing the transfers between servers for me. 

I admit, part of the reason for this post is to ferret out any complications with the transfer and subsequent DNS transfers, but I also wanted to give a shout out to HostGator because they seem to be doing a great job.

Hopefully you will hear from me again soon.