Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Real Cost of Video Gaming

A buddy and I were discussing the Wii and how much it costs to get all the little unique controllers. A little later, I coincidentally read an article about how the PS3 is lagging far behind the Wii and XBox in the console market. It spurred me to do a little research to see what the REAL costs of starting up one of these systems are.

For my research, I chose the best version of the console available and assume that you want to play with 4 people total. I chose only the accessories needed to fully play and enjoy any game, not things like a microphone, USB keyboard, etc. Let's also assume you buy two games. I used and EB Games (when Amazon didn't have it listed b/c they are out of stock) to get the prices.

Playstation 3

Console (80 GB harddrive): $399.99
Dual-Shock Controller: 3 x $54.99 = $164.97
Games: 2 x $59.99 = 119.98
Total: $684.94

XBox 360

Console (Elite): $399.99 (Pro - $299.99)
Controller: 3 x $44.99 = $134.97
XBox Live 1 yr: $44.99
Games: 2 x $59.99 = $119.98
Total: $699.93


Console: $249.99
Wiimote: 3 x $35.99 = $107.97
Nunchuck: 3 x $17.99 = $53.97
Classic controller: 4 x $19.99 = $79.96
Games: 2 x $49.99 = $99.98
Controller Accessories:
Balance Board: $89.99
Zapper: 4 x $19.99 = $79.96
Wheel: 4 x $9.99 = $39.96
Total: $591.87
Or with controller accessories: $801.78

It has always been Nintendo's hook to be death-by-accessory. I remember a few Gamecube games that you couldn't 100% complete unless you had a DS. My findings: even though the PS3 console is the most expensive, to get started with everything, it is the cheapest. (A caveat being you go all out on the Wii controller accessories. If not, the Wii is, in fact, the cheapest.)

A few other things to consider: the PS3 is a blu-ray player and a darn good one. Its online gaming is free. It is not fully backwards compatible. The XBox has Netflix streaming. The Wii is Gamecube-compatible but you must have the classic controllers. A lot of cool old-school games are available for sale via download.

For me, the Wii doesn't make sense because it is only fun if you play with someone. I live alone, so no point. I miss some Nintendo titles though. I've just never really been interested in the XBox. Can't really pinpoint why. My draw to the Playstation really has its roots in the Final Fantasy series, but for the PS3, it was definitely the Blu-Ray player that got me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A new direction

In the next couple weeks, my community group is going to try something a little different for a while. We're going to take the next couple of months and just learn about each other. One or two stories a week, person by person.

We got the idea from a concert a while back. The artists, Andrew Osenga, talked about his community group wanted to get to know each other before getting to know Jesus better together. What a great statement! I mean, really, how can we expect this to be the safest, deepest, and most active source of our growth without really knowing who each of us is growing with? We're not talking a testimony, in the pure sense of the word. And it doesn't have to be all about the dark pasts, which is often the first thing people think about. Just our story. Who we are. What and where life has brought us that makes us who we are today.

I'm up first.

I thought it'd be fun to provide a lighter version on my blog. Sorry, no gritty details for you here. Ha ha. So if you might be interested on who I am and what my take is, stay tuned!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When We Disagree

Last week I had an interesting, uh, conversation. I was at a friend's house for dinner. Conversations typically range widely between the hilarious to the inane to the serious. I don't even remember how we got to talk about it, but the ol' Anne Pressley crime came up. One guy mentioned how he wished the assailant would suffer the same horrible death she did. I think the next thing said was something to the effect of "yeah we want that kind of justice but that's not really how God wants us to think about it." This really set the guy off and a very long debate ensued. In the flesh, I agree with the guy. If someone attacked a friend or family member, I would want equally bad things to happen to them. I hate the great treatment prisoners get because as far as I'm concerned when they took the rights of someone else, they lost theirs. But I'm not "of the flesh" anymore when I became a Christ-follower. I must allow the justice system to do its thing, accept God's vengeance on the man, and even be open to the fact that the man could be saved and forgiven. That last statement in particular is hard to swallow. This fellow just seemed like he wouldn't hear any of it. (Early on, another friend pointed out how no one was using scripture to back up their opinion.) To him: the guy is guilty; he DESERVES what he gets.

During the course of the debate, this guy kept changing his point, which in my experience, when someone does that, they don't have one. He was, in my opinion, perverting some scripture and misusing Old Testament references. He also brought up how we deserve what we get as sinners. (Not sure what that has to do with criminals getting the death penalty though.) I don't have answers about the stories in the OT when God wiped out nations all for the sake of his chosen people. I mean, did those killed get a chance to know Him? Was that their only point to being born? Where are they now? I don't know... But what I do know is that when Jesus came He changed the rules. It may have been "eye for an eye" and God wiping out nations, but now it is "love your enemy" and "saved by grace."

He then attacked my political opinions, calling me liberal (just because I voted for Obama) and how liberals "don't believe in the death penalty." Let it just be known that my politics do not influence my religion. And this is the point I withdrew from the conversation and let the others have it. There was no scriptural backing. And he almost came across as "that doesn't matter." The bitterness was becoming very apparent.

Okay, so if someone wants to agree with the death penalty (and by the way, please don't use the words "believe in" when talking about it), that's fine. But as a Christ follower, I can't reconcile my faith and grace with a statement like "they deserve it." To be honest, I don't know what I think about the death penalty. But what I do know is no matter how heinous the crime they committed, there is always room for grace.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Late Night in Nashville

Sitting in the lobby of the Doubletree, where I finally found internet access, answering questions on my online courses and skulking around the internet, while downloading the new iphone update. There's a wedding reception wrapping up and about a dozen people wobbling past me in nice dresses and tuxedos. Next to me is another laptop user who is doing something that makes his computer sing "Yahoo!" every 5-10 seconds and he is not turning it off. OMG....

Today was very informative. That's the best word I can use. If you've followed by Twitter updates, here are the details. I never sleep well the first night in a hotel. It didn't help that every time the heat came on it was preceded by a very loud clunking sound. So I did wake up in time to attend the early bird sessions. The one of interest was a beginners Photoshop course. I knew most of the tools, but it was still good to finally HEAR someone explain it rather than just self-learn it from a book. I won a DVD of the instructors on some more advanced techniques! :) I also found out he was having a more advanced course that afternoon. I had wanted to attend the "behind the scenes" tour of the main sessions, but I felt this Photoshop workshop would be more practical. Definitely learned some cool techniques. It makes me want to get the creative juices flowing and create some cool "Christian-esque" graphical art to put up in my house. (Yah right...)

The main sessions have been, well different. Last night they had three mini-speakers followed by a Q&A that we could text to. Problem was they got to about 2 questions each speaker because the facilitator kept asking their own questions. Actually, overall the speakers have been a bit odd to me. One guy can only speak in one tone: dramatic...and did I mention he ended by disco dancing? I did get one thing out of it though...I'm now a member of the Slow Club.

The rest of the group I came with wanted to watch the Tech/OU game, but I wanted to go to the session again, so I did. I'm really glad, too. Unknown to me at the time, I got to hear the manager of the Human Genome Project talk about how he reconciled science with faith...his journey from atheism to Christianity. The. Head. Guy. Of. The. Human. Genome. Project. He spoke. He's a Christian! OMG! I'm kinda wigging out! His talk lost a lot of the crowd, I'm not going to lie (maybe part of it was the football game coming on). And really, I don't like to get caught up in the evolution/Genesis/creation/faith argument. Cuz really it shouldn't be an argument. It's a non-essential; the questions will be answered when we see God's face in heaven. For him, the reconciliation was important. And he laid out evidence that evolution is occurring and is a tool being used by God. That Genesis isn't a framework of 7 literal days. Okay fine. Bottom line: science and faith don't have to clash; they can flow together. We can figure a little bit out of how God did things, and doing so does not challenge His position as God.

Tomorrow's a lighter day. Walking around the vendors; one seminar. Football game is in town so it is going to be car-azy around here. Good night from Nashville.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November is NaNoWriMo

This month is National Novel Writing Month. Funny enough, I found out about it in my Macworld magazine (they were reviewing some novel writing software). The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by December. Any time I hear or read about people writing, I always think about my project "Lord or the Ring". I started it some 4-5 years ago, now, and never finished it. In short: take the premise of Lord of the Rings and apply it to a modern-day spiritual warfare story. Not completely creative, but let me tell you the context.

When I started with the idea, I was working with the student ministry under Jack McCarty. We had come off a successful "movie" series called The Pontrix, one of my first major video projects. Wanting to top it, I started writing a script for a Lord of the Rings spoof, because they were coming out in theaters then. But as I wrote the story in script format, the characters weren't coming out like I wanted. So I decided to write it as a story. When I hit writer's block, I was up to 103 pages. That's 8 1/2 x 11, mind you. At some points, I really felt like I wasn't writing it. It was so interesting to see how my characters were coming about and the choices they were making, as if alive. But then, as I said, I hit a wall. I had pitched the video idea to the staff and was turned down due to inadequate resources. That blow took away any creativity and 4 years later, the cursor is still blinking in the place I left it.

And now here we are, National Novel Writing Month. What do you think? Should I give it another shot? To be honest, I'm not sure who my audience is here...though I know 3-4 regular readers. One of the magazine's suggests is to post the story on a blog as it is written. Would you be interested in reading it? I mean, yeah, it has some corny moments meant for teens, but I don't think it is that bad for a complete amateur writer, and I had a couple editors helping me along at the time. Not sure about the filming prospects anymore...the whole LOTR has worn off, but it could still be a fun read.
So the poll is out! You are my friends/family and I need your opinion! Should I try to finish it? Post the chapters on my blog in scheduled releases?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)

What a day this nation woke up to this morning. I'm excited and anxious for our president-elect to begin the tough process of repairing our economy and our status around the world, among other things. President-Elect Obama's speech was one of the best I have ever heard. The emotion was evident and substituted any words that could be said about the moment.

Some other thoughts: I'm surprised the Arkansas lottery passed as many times as it has been defeated. Perhaps the wording was specific enough and the cause noble enough this time. Texas and Missouri were both prepared to lose $30 million in revenue, I heard. So at least the money being spent will be in our state now. And perhaps the money given to students will increase retention and bring our state up on college graduates.

I'm torn about the adoption ban. Sure, I believe a child should be in a positive environment, but perhaps it really should have been a case-by-case basis. The point of the law is to prevent homosexuals from fostering and adopting, but I have a bad feeling about all the red tape and bureaucracy fostering and adoptive parents will have to endure.

I'm am completely shocked that Lightle won the criminal court position. She simply advertised better because there is no way her 3-months on the environmental court (aka the "dog barking" court) matches Finkelstein's 20 years of defending and prosecuting criminal cases. I'm sure he's in a WTF state this morning. Her connection to Gov. Beebe, which led to her appointment, really paid off.

In national news, surprisingly the ban on gay marriage in California is on the road to passing, though it is still close. Colorado rejected the "life at fertilization" law, which is probably best because of all the legal trouble that would have started. Several states were added to the list of those who ban gay marriage. And a few states will still allow abortions.

Thankfully, the Senate did not get its filibuster-proof majority. I was really concerned about this. I think it would have taken away some checks-and-balances that need to be in place. And even though I don't think Obama is as left as people make him out (he's not a socialist, people), he also needs healthy debate when he wants legislation passed.

So it's time to unite and see what happens. It is a good thing to remember that the hot topic issues of evangelicals and conservatives aren't really decided by the president. Yes, he has influence with his supreme court appointments and veto power, but so far the federal government has left it to the states to decide gay and abortion evidenced by how many of these issues were on the ballot across the nation. And if he does pick a Justice, the court will remain in its 5-4 status. So no extreme change there.

If you voted, good job! Now, no matter our differences, we can coexist peacefully as a free nation of united individuals! Go America! Yes we did!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Upsetting Email

I got a forwarded email yesterday from a church member regarding the upcoming election. It upset me so much, I was shaking...and I had to sit on it a day before I responded to it. I just wanted to share what I wrote back in hopes that it will encourage my readers to reconsider passing along the smut that comes across your inbox.

I'm not going to lie....your email upset me. I had to sit on it a day before I responded. By forwarding it, you are saying you agree with what it is saying, which is "if you believe in prayer, you should be praying that Obama doesn't win." Then it backs up this claim with erroneous statements about his patriotism and faith. I pray for the direction of our country and I am voting for Barack Obama. Do I agree with everything on his platform? No.

But you should stop and consider what kind of damage you can do to relationships with your Christian family and your witness to unchurched. God is not a Republican; Satan is not a Democrat. Invite people to pray for our country and encourage them to go vote; and leave it at that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rooster Bullets and Dog Shlobs

Fall break. An extended weekend of recovery and relaxation for me. This year it worked out where my good friends--Jonathan, Daniel, and Michael--and I could go camping. We called up another buddy, Nathan, to ask for a good spot, and he recommended a place near Gilbert on the Buffalo River. So off we went, loaded down for a weekend of fun with just the guys.

One story that came out of the drive up was a point when we realized we had missed a turn off the highway. The ol' iphone map was a little sketchy being out in the sticks, but we did indeed have to turn around. By this point, Daniel and I had to pee pretty bad, so we stopped on the side of the road. Suddenly I hear a weak cry from Daniel and loud barking. This dog appears out of nowhere and all but molests poor Daniel while he's trying to relieve himself. Seriously, the dog is jumping all over him. It made for very entertaining commentary on the remaining part of the trip.

We get to camp on the riverbed just down the street from Gilbert. Amazingly we are the only ones there. Nathan had a fire going and dinner made in a dutch oven. Let me just say that it was amazing. It was a meal with chicken, sausage, potatoes...very hearty and manly. After dinner we whiled away the night--and most of the morning--around the campfire. Nathan had to leave around 4:30 to go to deer camp.

I'm a pretty early riser when it comes to camping. I have a different biological clock, I guess. So I was up a few hours before the other guys, despite only having a few hours sleep. The others slowly trudged out of the tents. I made a little coffee over the fire and we made plans to do a float trip. A little pricey but a great time was had. We went about as leisurely as you can go. Took us about 5 hours or so. Got back to camp and roasted some hot dogs and potatoes over the fire. The effects of having only gotten a few hours sleep finally caught up to me and I turned in pretty early.

The guys had discovered a little country restaurant within walking distance, so the next morning, we decided to eat breakfast there. Coffee was a mere 79 cents. I audibly announced my surprise that it wasn't $4.79 and another table looked over and said, "you must be from the big city." Ha! We all ordered a item off them menu called the Rooster Bullet. Let me just break it down for you (cuz I think my stomach is still breaking it down to this day): country biscuits layered with eggs any way you want them and a meat of your choice. Then the whole thing is covered in skillet gravy. Drowned in it, is more like it. Then there's a side plate of hash browns. 3 out of 4 of us could not finish it. And none of us ate lunch.

We chilled for a few hours on the bank of the river and packed up. I tend to withdraw when I'm outdoors and this trip wasn't an exception to that. But the time I shared with my best friends was great and I look forward to making it an annual trip!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Last 48 Hours

There are many things I want to write about, so I'll just fill you in on the previous 48 hours or so of my life. Where to begin?

Wednesday afternoon - It became apparent that there were some serious issues with an online exam for my chemistry students. I required them to use a special browser that protects the test while they take it. Top that with the incorrect time limit was given so most students didn't finish and freaked out. The fairest thing I can do is re-open the test on a designated day and allow those who want to re-take it to do so. So frustrating...

Thursday morning - Met with the professors of the Toxicology department at UAMS. They are doing some fascinating drug dependency and behavioral studies. Fascinating! Would love to be a part of it. But...I can't. The full professor whose group I'm interested in frowns upon even part-time employment. I realize getting a science doctorate requires extensive lab time. It is a unique program unlike any other doctorate. So I would basically have to quit everything and live on the fellowship stipend of $24,000. That's not happening. I'm really okay with that, because in the end, I am happy. I just thought a PhD would open more doors when I'm ready to head back to analysis/research. May never be the top dog in a lab, but I can still get a lucrative job with a Master's.

Thursday afternoon - Finally finished up the chimney repairs. It was supposed to be a simple screen install. Ended up not being so simple. And the secretary for the company kept calling the poor guy every couple of minutes reminding him of his next appointment. He started yelling and cussing. It was awkward. At the same time, the garage door repairman came. Oh yes, did I mention? My garage door broke Tuesday night. But THIS repair was covered by home warranty, thankfully. Saved me $400. As he was going over the door mechanisms, he noticed the safety switches that keep the door from closing on bodies were sitting on the opener--uninstalled. So he fixed those too. Garage door repairs were on my offer and the opener was replaced, so I thought it was a done deal. It's another little fun surprise I got; another (pardon me) half-assed repair, like the chimney (which cost me $600).

Friday morning - Tying up as many current loose ends at school and about to go have lunch with my mom. Then some shopping for my weekend camping trip with the guys in my community group. Lupka, take care of my house! No wild parties!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Future Prospects

So today, seemingly out of nowhere, I decided to visit area university websites for a graduate program. Not really sure why I up and started looking around. Visited UCA first, but there weren't really any PhD programs. I don't really want to go to UALR, but I looked. Yah, nothing doing. (I just rolled my eyes thinking about what to type for the next sentence.) I looked at UAMS. Even though I had such a bad experience there, it was really my only option left for this area. And as a colleague told me later on, it really was just the department I was in that was the issue.

I clicked through different programs and stopped on Interdisciplinary Toxicology. Hmmmm.... Given my continued interest in drug forensics, I read into it. Basically, this is the study of the biological effects of poisonous substances, from environmental to whole organism to cellular level. Now when I left the crime lab, I had just received training and certification as a Site Safety Officer for chemically hazardous crime scenes. I had also attended a couple of conferences with interesting studies about the hazards and effects of methamphetamine manufacturing. Although my job wasn't investigating these aspects, it was very interesting to me nonetheless.

I inquired to the program. I read through the research going on...four or five labs are working on drug dependency studies. Could be possibilities there. But what I don't know is how I could maintain a job with going back to school. I'm at the point I have to keep working. So that was part of my would that work? Right now I have a flexible enough job where I could attend classes. Albeit if I go this route, going back to the crime lab at the beginning of the year would probably be out because I would lose that flexibility. I think I'm okay with that for now. So let's just say this does work out...makes me kind of feel like this could be the higher purpose to my taking this position at PTC.

It has always been my desire to finish what I started, namely a PhD. It's just I had no experience in research laboratories at the time I went to UAMS and that made it very difficult for me. All the other students in my class had some connection to a professor and knew what they were going to do. I didn't. And it created a lot of conflict. Enough that I stopped, earned my MS, and got out.

I have an appointment next week to talk to the department chair for more information. Nervous, excited, anticipatory...all the usual emotions. We'll see where this goes...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Full Time Jobs

Wow! We're in the last week of our 40 Days focus imagine. What a challenging, exhausting, wonderful journey this has been. It has been my privilege to have lead the media aspects of this. I have had such intense video work in the last 5 weeks than I have ever had...more than I thought I could possibly handle at some points. In recent weeks, it has felt like I've had two full-time jobs...probably because I pretty much have.

Going into this, I wasn't on a particular "imagine team" but got a call one evening to attend an organizational meeting. Suddenly, I was thrust into an overwhelming number of projects. We wanted a blog-style website to post the prayer journal and let people receive emails and post their thoughts. I needed to film a series of interviews of people describing their vision of our imagine statement to show for a series of four "parties". I needed to film an interview with the pastor emeritus of Parkway Place about their journey to West LR. Then, the faith interviews began. Initially shared through their "cardboard testimonies", the details of these journeys are being shared over the weeks through a more detailed interview.

Above all, these stories have been the biggest source of growth for me. Only myself and Carolyn (the person helping me interview) hear the full story. The congregation gets the edited version. My heart is touched by every testimony I've heard and I look forward to filming more in the weeks ahead. As I prayed for a willing heart during all this, I believe this is what God used to give that to me. While I have experienced my own difficult situation(s), to hear stories that affirm what I know to be true about stepping out in faith gives me courage to do so.

Then my pastor handed me another project. He showed me a music video put to the song "God of this City" by Chris Tomlin. Initially, he just wanted to insert pictures of our people in a few places. But that didn't sit well with me (maybe that was God) and I told him I would recreate the video entirely. What was I thinking??! I'm not sure the task was quite as big as creating "Peace Be Still" because there was no filming involved, but it was no less challenging and ambitious. Any time I do this, I want to create a project that has impact...not just a temporary emotional thing, but a lasting impression that challenges, directs, or calls a person toward Christ. The response was unbelievable. (I actually had two versions: one created for live singing by the choir and one to the actual track.) Never have I received such affirmation or heard stories of the impression it made. I was completely humbled by the thankfulness of the people who saw it. Clearly God was in this project, as I needed him to be it was made. It was tough! I took 3 days off last week to get it done and at one point, I just had to walk away for a while and tell God he had to finish it because I was stuck. I'm glad he did!

So here it is. I hope you are touched by the message God has given me through this project and given Parkway Place, as we become an irresistible church that is fully resourced and eternally focused.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Forwarded Emails

So this morning I had a forwarded email from a former student. I guess I was in her address book and she clicked everyone. Normally I just insta-delete these and then email the person to ask they do not forward. Sometimes I feel compelled to explain the absurdity of believing anything in these emails, much less forwarding them.

Well this particular one was about Obama. So out of curiosity, I scrolled quickly. And I saw the word "Hitler". I stopped. I read. This email started by talking about how Obama has all sorts of charisma that has led him to have celebrity status. Then it said that Hitler had a lot of charisma too and that turned out disastrous. It then listed by bullet-points where Obama supposedly stands on issues and referred to the website Snopes to verify these "facts".

Oh wow. Needless to say I responded.

Anyone who takes emails like this as factual and allows it to influence their decision should really take the time to go the candidates' respective sites and see where they stand on the issues. Snopes is an un-educated person's way of checking facts. Take the time to do real research. Personally, I don't think it is the government's responsibility to push Christian moral beliefs on the people of a free nation by making them unlawful. The church should fill that gap by building relationships with people and having credibility with them to point them to the right choices. So look at the things that mean the most to you. In these times, the economy and foreign policy should rank up there. Just to retort a few of the points below: If you read where he stands, Obama assures a $1000 tax break for the middle class and an increase on high income families. His "universal" healthcare will only be available to those who have no option of healthcare. If a person can get it, but refuses to, they won't be eligible. To pay for it, he plans for a corporation tax. He wants to redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Since announcing this, the Bush administration has begun trickling the idea of this to take away the steam of Obama's proposal. As for the other points, well there's never going to be a perfect candidate. I disagree on some of his points, yes. I even started out a Bush supporter but his policies haven't worked and it is time for a change of perspective. Even Senatory McCain has flip-flopped many "Bush support" statements to separate himself. I'm not trying to sway your opinion; just asking that you make an informed decision. Forwarded emails are never a good source for ANY information.

So far I got two responses. One was "please remove me from your list." I quickly apologized and relayed that I didn't want to be on it either. The second pointed out a typo and that I shouldn't make statements about education when I have typos. I responded jovially and thanked him for catching the typo. He wrote back and agreed that Snopes is horrible. We'll see what else comes in today...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Persistence Pays Off

I went to the AT&T store today to get a comparison of their HD signal vs. mine. It was markedly better. So that told me there HAD to be something going on at my home to get this poor quality of TV. I put in another call to tech support. Asked to be immediately transferred to Tier 2. Enter Dustin. If blessings do indeed come in even small places, Dustin is the prime example of it. He shares my affinity for home theater and offered ideas that no other technician has. Between the two of us, the picture quality was improved VASTLY over what I had been getting. No comparison. And along the way of this 90 minutes support call, we chatted about different TVs and surround sound options and this and that. It was great! Like talking to a friend! I was so impressed by his level of service, I asked for his manager's contact info so that I could commend him. Too often managers only get angry correspondence, but I wanted to make sure he got the accolades he deserved. He made me feel valued as a customer and has most likely saved me from having to be a Comcast customer for a long while. There's still an audio issue...the HDMI firmware is not allowing surround sound to pass. So I'm going through an optical cable, but it has its own issue with sound going in and out. No work around presently, but at least he knew about the issue. No other person has. Three in-home technicians; several phone support calls...and HE was the first and only one to work out a fix.

Is the picture quality BETTER than what I have with Comcast? It's debatable now. But one thing is for certain, all the people I badmouthed this service too, I'm going to have to go back and tell them that AT&T stuck with me to the end. Be patient with the new service/technology and eventually a livable quality will be reached. For the money, this will do.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Watch This

The Beginning of the End

Today marks the beginning of the last month of my 20's. What a remarkable decade it has been. No call to reminisce now. I've got 30 more days to enjoy it!

Monday, September 15, 2008


It is not for the government to enforce our Christian beliefs, convictions, and doctrines on the people of America. Making Biblical sins against the law is not how we fulfill the Great Commission. That is the responsibility of the church, not a politician. Vote for the change we need in our economy and foreign policies. What we've had the last eight years is not working. I started out supporting the current regime, but not anymore. We need a different, aggressive viewpoint.

I support Obama/Biden.

Marvelous Monday

Okay, so I geek out a bit too much on the blog. Sorry about that. Here's just a fun little story about my Monday morning.

I get to work and find an email from a concerned student who disagrees with the reading assignment she was given for her English class. Apparently it depicts explicit lesbian encounters in it, and she felt uncomfortable reading, much less discussing the book given her "religious beliefs."

Then I get an email from a student who wants to re-submit an assignment that she admitted to cheating on. A short time later, another student comes to my office and asks to borrow my textbook so she can do her assignment. By the way, it was due an hour previous.

Another email comes in, this time from a student who is protesting her PTC bill and the way she has been treated by Student Services. She's placing blame entirely on the school, and while admittedly she was misinformed, she did not accept responsibility for what I have documented she said.

Then a student comes by when she "suddenly" saw a D on her transcript when last she checked it was a C. This would jeopardize her standing in the nursing program because she must have this class completed at this point.

Now it is lunch. Later is chemistry lab, when I meet the 4 or 5 students who cheated on their homework. I don't like confrontation. I hope they accept responsibility for their actions.

Tonight I have community group at the same time as the last Imagine Party at the same time as a Celebration Event team meeting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology Can Be a Headache Sometimes

Been a teensy weensy bit busy lately, so I haven't posted in a while, but I think it is finally time to share my extraordinary story about AT&T. Gonna geek out a little, so bear with me.

I'm about as patient as they come when it comes to new technology. And AT&T's U-Verse service is new here, so of course there are going to be hangups. Well two technicians, calls all the way up to Tier 4 support, and four days of them basically living with me...and I finally got up and running on Monday. They had to do some serious work down at the fiber optic hub at the end of my street. Then someone at their division forgot to match the work done in the computer systems. Yadda yadda yadda. It's working. Sorta...

I'm thrilled with the internet connection. Despite having signed up for the mid-grade service, I'm getting premium speed. 9.4 mbps down, 1.4 mbps up, with about a 90 ms ping. That ping is actually a little high; not sure how it will affect online gaming. (For the noobs: ping is the term to describe how long it takes a command to be sent to a server after you command it.)

But the high definition TV is another story. In short: it is poor. It is hard to describe in words what is happening on these channels. I can liken it to this: when I make a video, I can choose to render it in high, medium, or low quality. The HD channels look like a video that has been rendered on low quality. Motion turns into little fuzzy blocks, an artifact called macroblocking. Solid colors appear to jitter a little or pulse when it should be, well, a solid color. You can make out the gradations of brightness and it doesn't change smoothly as a sharp picture should. These abnormalities are a result of the TV signal being too compressed on their lines. This is something I read about from other users in advance and was worried would happen. With as critical an eye as I have for this, I don't think I'll be able to keep the TV service.

Further there is a firmware issue with the box that AT&T "may or may not know about". Simply, it is not passing audio codecs correctly through the HDMI cable to my receiver. Shows sounded like mush, comparatively to my Comcast signal. I tested this with an optical cable and it worked correctly--a nice, crisp sound. So something is definitely wrong with the HDMI firmware.

I was so looking forward to this. No more Comcast; gain the ability to set a recording from anywhere with internet; no more Comcast; and no more Comcast. As much as I hate being their customer, their picture quality is (it's hard for me to write this) far superior to AT&T's. The third technician that came out saw what I was talking about. I feel like he knew what he was saying and he told me "I'm sorry to say that this may be the best quality that we offer." If that's the case, no thanks. I'll just stick with the internet.

This has been a long hard battle with many retreats going back to canceling Dish Network. Dish would have been ideal, because of the (now) four providers to choose from, they have the most superior system. But not having local HDs is a deal-breaker. DirectTV just added them two months ahead of schedule, so hopefully Dish won't be long. Unless AT&T cranks up their bandwidth over their lines, then their service is going nowhere. Well maybe they will...the average consumer buys into the fact that they are getting "high definition" but as each provider scrambles to provide the most HDs, it forces them to put more information on the same amount of pipe flow. The only way to do that is to reduce the information sent per channel, which means poorer quality. And at that point, it is no longer HD by definition. I see past that, but it's all we got...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Woes Turn Into a Great U-Verse

I have a reason to be thankful for my troubles today. The disappointment of canceling my satellite service and the trouble of signing up for AT&T DSL have given way to the ultimate destination I was seeking in the first place. Turns out it is called U-Verse.

Background: I called AT&T today because I got my first bill. The phone line was significantly more than I expected so I was calling about that. As I was on hold, I was browsing their site and came across a DSL service they offer WITHOUT needing a phone line. I asked the representative about it, noting that the man who helped me before had a real strong accent and I never truly felt he understood what I wanted. She started to switch to this new DSL, when she asked me what I was doing with TV service. "Funny you should ask," I say.

She then told me about a newer, "advanced" technology of delivering TV through fiber optics, never once using satellite along the way. From there, she patiently waited as I read and researched this service called U-Verse. With the fiber optics line comes vastly faster internet speeds of up to 10 meg down, despite getting an internet package that touts 3 meg. I reviewed the technology quickly and compared the channel line up to what I have now. Locals are in HD and there are about 10 more channels that I'm not getting in HD with Comcast. (Plus there's ESPN-U. That's for you, Lupka.)

They were running a promotion for $250 check to people who got TV and internet and there is no commitment. That'll come in handy with the $700 repair I'm having done next week. First month is free as I try it out. The package I chose will run me $94/month. That saves me $40 over Comcast and I'll be completely out of their terrible structure. (I see today that I ended my internet service with them not a moment too soon.) The rep even offered to back-date all my current DSL charges since it was never quite what I wanted. I am so fortunate to have gotten her as my rep when I called!

Hopefully there will be no unpleasant surprises when they install next Saturday. A process that takes 4-6 hours apparently. But I'm already very excited at the possibilities...chief among them, the ability to use my AT&T phone to set my DVR to record remotely. Whaaaaat!!!! Heck yeah!

Update: I've spent the better part of the morning reading technical forums. Seems most, if not all, users agree that the HD quality is not as good as satellite or cable. AT&T has to compress their data to fit all the streaming for HD and internet in to their pipes. (All TV providers compress, but apparently AT&T does it a bit more than satellite and cable.) What results is a lot of macroblocking, or a pixelated background and a softer image. Makes me incredibly nervous but I'm going to have them come on out and install it. First month is free, after all. Won't cut off Comcast just yet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding Out About Life on Facebook

Believe me, I'm about as pro-technology as they come. But there's a point where the technology replaces the human-to-human contact where I have to draw the line. Facebook is the prime example of this. Every time I find out about a very significant event in someone's life because another friend of mine saw it on Facebook, it really irks me. (I don't have Facebook myself, so I get the news second-hand when a friend sees a person's status has changed.)

One example: several months ago a couple broke up. For some reason the first thing people do when this occurs is to log in and change their status. Then the grieving can commence as if that finally makes it official. And by the way, this apparently justifies not telling anyone because "you could have seen it on my Facebook".

Another case (which spurred this little post of mine): a guy I used to know came out of the closet, taking everyone by surprise. Perhaps he was so scared of judgment or maybe he wasn't completely confident in this decision that it was much simpler and more brave to hide behind a monitor and announce to the world via a keyboard.

I'm not being a hypocrite by the fact that I blog and use Twitter. Anything I say on here invites conversation or is a result of a conversation. Most of it is nonsense anyway. But when people reach the point of using these avenues to not do the right thing by having that person-to-person contact, I would go so far as to say it is not what God intends because the relationship with that person suffers. It's like emailing someone when you are angry with them, instead of talking to them. It's a weak, character-miring cop-out. Soapbox off.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Satellite Dreams Shattered

I just canceled my DISH Network service. About 15 minutes after the installer left. Let me lay it out for you: I sign up online with the aid of a representative via chat. I'm signing up for an HD-ONLY service. I select my package. Now I have to choose features. Among them, there is an option to add local channels. Representative tells me they are, in fact, available. Process my order. Fast forward--get it installed today. Installer leaves and I start flipping through my channels. All I can find are the local channels in standard definition. So I call and tell them I think I got the wrong package installed because not only are there no HD locals, I've got tons of other channels not listed in my package. After 20 minutes, the tech support lady comes back on and says HD locals are not available in my area. Um, WHAT?!? She says I could get a digital antenna, but I can't DVR them that way. Forget that....After verifying the information, she tells me that it could be next week, or it could be next year, when HD locals are added. I have the service canceled. I feel terrible for the guy that installed everything but what's the point of getting an HD-only package with no HD locals? I went back and acted like I was signing up for new service. NOWHERE does it say that this service is unavailable. Wow.....

Still getting rid of Comcast's internet though....despite AT&T going back on my modem rebate. But my desire to get off Comcast is stronger than my conviction toward AT&T's integrity in this matter. This has not been a pleasant experience overall....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Comments on Commercials

I don't watch commercials. That's the beauty of living in the DVR age. Even if I'm home, I'll wait for 15-20 minutes before watching a show. But with the Olympics, I've been forced to watch them. There's three that stand out in particular I feel compelled to provide commentary for.

1. Dish Network: As you know, I'm making the switch from Comcast to Dish. And I discovered their awesome HD-only service by their commercial. Well done!

2. McDonalds: Okay, if you've seen one of their commercials touting their new "southern style" chicken sandwich and biscuit, it should be very clear that they are targeting Chik-Fil-A. I mean even down to the two pickles. Jumping on the bandwagon a little late, aren't we Ronald?

3. Alltel: They are still pumping out the Chad vs. the other guys commercials. This latest one, featuring an RVing family, particularly attacks Verizon's "all inclusive" feature, noting that it cannot be shared by family. Um, aren't you guys merging?

Well that's all for now. Gotta get back...race just ended and they're going to commercial....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a week....

There are two days in the year that I dread the most--payment due day for the Fall semester and payment due day for the Spring semester. Wednesday was one those and as typical, it was a mad dash from the moment I walked in the door. I'll never understand why students who have months of advance notice wait and scramble right up until the deadline. It started out with 85 students receiving "impending drop" notifications. We were able to work the list down to 22, who did end up getting dropped. This was much higher than normal. (I later found out that PTC had a record drop number. Curious if it is a sign of the economy.)

In the meantime, I learn that they do not have enough instructors to cover my six sections of chemistry. They promised me last year to hire someone and that I could be a part of the interviews. Well the latter didn't happen even though the former did; however, they kept the new guy on the main campus. So I was faced with having two overload sections past my commitment to do two online sections. I called my boss to let her know and she was not happy. She went straight to the top. Long story short, I was relieved of the sections, but the solution is definitely not in the best interest of our chemistry curriculum.

In the meantime (again), my full-time faculty received new computers. Now PTC has been on the BHSLR campus for over 7 years and it has never been a problem to have them connected to the network so that we could have internet access. But all of the sudden, the IS department has decided they don't want to put computers not purchased through them on the domain. So they canceled my request. At this point I was still patient because I thought it was a misunderstanding. But I entered into frustration when it was confirmed and I was told my instructors could go to the student lounge to use the internet. I consulted the school's administrative lead and we've gone back and forth all week with IS. First it was run DSL lines from the guest network to our offices. Then it was a wireless connection option. Then it was PTC should buy computers through BH-IS (yeah right)..... Now I'm moving into the realm of anger. I have not gotten one good reason why these computers can't be added other than "we can't" and am getting the feeling they are going to disconnect the ones that are still there. Late Friday I was told they were finally going to honor my original request, but 15 minutes later, I get a call that the computers will be connected wirelessly and that I'm responsible for buying the wireless network cards (with no budget mind you). That's where we are at right now...somewhere between thinking it was done and being back to a wireless option. In the midst of trying to get a semester off the ground, this has been the single-most worst experience I have had in this job.

And that's just work. Shall I get started on all the things I have to do for church in the next several weeks?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making the Switch

I'm finally getting rid of Comcrap, er...Comcast. Years of poor cable quality and recent stories of their net neutrality-killing practices of throttling traffic to certain sites, not to mention the cost, has done them in for me.

While watching the Olympics I saw a commercial for Dish Network's new TurboHD package. I checked it out. Their lowest package (Bronze) is $29.99 and lacks 3 HD channels I have now, but adds about 12 that Comcast doesn't even have at all. I did extensive research on the weather/signal loss issue and asked plenty of people. My plan is to buy a digital "rabbit ear" device if the signal is lost for any significant amount of time due to storms. That way I'll at least always have locals, after the digital conversion Feb. 19.

I was paying somewhere around $60 for a digital package that only just allows me to also get HD service with Comcast. But that's another $15 (with DVR). So that's $75 per month for about 15 channels (because I don't watch any of the others). Their internet is about $40. All told...$135 per month.

I'm also getting AT&T's DSL service. I wanted to get the 3 meg download package (DSL Pro) but unbelievably it is not available in this area. Further bummed because they were giving the modem for free with that package. So I got on chat with a guy and said that I should get the modem for free anyway since I fully intended to get the Pro level but can't. He said he couldn't do that, so I told him I wasn't going to sign up. He went to get his manager who quickly approved the rebate for me. After an agonizing hour of trying to sign up for service--their website was having major issues--I finally got signed up. I tripled checked with him that he was sending my rebate and he assured me he would email me with all the details. Haven't gotten it yet. Gonna be pissed if I don't get that rebate. But for this service, the phone line--which I won't use a phone at all--is $11.95 and the DSL is $25. So that's about $37.

All told, with satellite and internet for about $40 each, I'm saving over $50 per month now. Sweet!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Job Update

The word is, they are going to try to take measures internally to catch up on their work load. If these measures do not work, they will post a job in December. So we're on hold until the beginning of the year.

And I think that is okay, because I'm considering picking up two more classes for some extra money. And if I did that, I would definitely have to wait until the end of the semester because I'd be locked contractually.

So maybe it's a small blessing....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Losing Control of What I Never Had Control of in the First Place

God and I spent a lot of time together this morning. I've reached a point of seeing a behavior change, which so often indicates I'm heading down the wrong direction. The key change being my patience level. When I feel like I'm losing control, I become less tolerant. And I mean EVERY area of my life: home, work, church. They are all getting away from me.

Home: my frustration and worry about Scamper's health. If you read my previous post, you'll get the details. The "drippies" have stopped, but not the full blown accidents on the floor. My prayer (which by the way I felt a little foolish about, considering the big scheme of things) was that we either find a way to give him good quality of life or that God would just take him, because I cannot make that decision.

Work: Again, read previous posts and you'll know what's going on here. I feel like I've worked it out financially, so I asked God if this is His will, or does it even matter, as long as I am obedient in my relationships with other people where ever I work and I am responsible with the resources it gives me. This is completely out of my hands now.

Church: Unofficially, I guess I've been running things for the media team for while. But a recent meeting pretty much made me the lead guy in the day-to-day doings. Since then, it seems like I just keep making bad decisions. I told a staff person that we would be more attentive to their needs, but now I'm overwhelmed by requests from them. I've got a team member who I'm trying to encourage growth out of, but can't get past insecurities of acceptance. I'm not communicating correctly with my church staff leader in charge of our team. And Sunday technical problems threaten to overwhelm me on a weekly basis. I prayed for wisdom and the skills that come with this spiritual gift of leadership, because I am still an infant in this arena.

It is good to be able to recognize the source of the problem, I think. I know exactly what it is. It is thinking that I had control in the first place. When truly, the problem is that I'm trying to wrestle control away from the One who really has it--and needs to keep it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just in case you might be the one...

I had a fun conversation with a friend last night about stuff I don't think about too much. And that is, what would be my most important aspects of a young woman I would consider marrying. Well, here they are, for the world to read.

1. Jesus. Come on, you knew the "Jesus" answer was gonna be first. But in all seriousness, what is most important to me is a woman who is mature in Christ. This is hard to qualify in words, but suffice to say, I don't want to be with someone who I am constantly having to build up. That should be a mutual compliment in a relationship. In other words, she's not on "spiritual milk" (to use Paul's words).

2. Ambition. That word can evoke positive or negative connotations, so let it be clear I mean that in a positive way, not in a tear-down-anyone-to-achieve-my-goal way. I'm talking someone who has lofty goals, perhaps that I can partner with. College educated is a definite plus.

3. Adventure. This is the category where I talk about having similar interests. Though I rarely have the opportunity now, partnered with someone, I like the idea of driving two hours to see a musical or vacationing at an amusement park or going camping (real camping, mind you...not "living in a building in the woods"). Or the flip side, can be classy and sophisticated (if that's the right word) when the occasion calls for it. Things that "build the team" as it were.

Please post your resume in comments. (That's a joke, by the way.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quick Job Update

I spoke to my old boss this morning. He definitely wants to hire me back, but it's a matter of IF they are hiring. So could be as soon as a month, could be as long as a year. So that's obstacle one. Obstacle two, of course, is the salary. I calculated it up in detail last night and know what I would need, provided I teach four classes a year. It is only slightly more than the salary of when I left, so maybe that is not too unreasonable or unfair. Hope not anyway.....

Of Cats, Poop, and Pills

There's two types of people when it comes to pets: those that get what it means to treat a pet and love it like a human family member and those that don't. Of course, I am in the former category, so for the sake of those who may read this that fall into the latter, take down that stone wall around your heart. =P

Scamper is going on 17 years old. For a few years now, we've been dealing with chronic colitis, which basically boils down to, he doesn't poop right (aka diarrhea). The treatment included a broad sweep of many different foods, including extremely expensive prescription brands. It ended up at a steroid pill called Prednisone. It did not cure the problem, but it did enable him to make it to the litter box and maintain a good quality of life. So that went on for a while; I'd take him for 6-month check ups and we'd continue the meds. Then a new med came out recently called Tylosin. It only comes in injectable or powder form. It worked wonders on another pet he treated, so he prescribed it for Scamper, who was having increasing number of accidents on the floor. (I bought a 2nd litter box to help.)

I was instructed to give him a tenth of an eighth of a teaspoon. "Say again, please?" Um, yeah. That's impossible, so I grabbed a balance from my chemistry lab and measured the amount out. I tried to give it in milk, peanut butter, and just straight up dumping it in his mouth. I felt miserable about it. Finally, a colleague at school said that she was also giving Tylosin (and btw, it was working) and had filled gelatin capsules with it to give to her pet. So I tried that. Much more successful, though Scamper has figured out how to push the capsule out. So we get angry with each other THREE TIMES A DAY while I firmly hold his mouth closed until he swallows. IF he swallows. He works it out quite a bit, so now the capsule is sticky, making it even harder to give. I've almost cried in frustration several times. I just want him to feel better, but all he understands is that I'm forcing something down his throat against his will.

After two weeks of this, I finally stopped and decided I was going back to the other med. Unfortunately, Scamper developed the drippies the day I stopped. So I filled up a bunch more capsules and started again on a twice a day regime. Talked to the vet this morning, telling him that the Tylosin seemed to have changed the quantity and color of his poopy, but that it is still not solid. It also appears his bottom is irritated. So the vet recommended we do both pills for 10 days. Holy crap. I'm so upset at having to put him through this as it is, and now I have to give him TWO pills twice a day each. In the meantime, I'm also going crazy to the point of tears with all the accidents on the floor.

I know this is not curable; I'm happy if his quality of life is good and if he does his business in the litter box. But I'm not certain about the first now; the second definitely isn't happening all the time. I don't know what to do, and since you are probably thinking it, *THAT* is not an option. I'm not strong enough to make that decision. (The following statement is one of those that refer to one of two types of people.) Scamper has in many ways been my anchor. Having gotten him in middle school shortly after I stopped seeing my dad, he has been a unmatched companion. He greets me when I come home, he provides comfort at night when he sleeps with me, and he keeps any loneliness at bay when I'm at home. Why does loving something (or someone) have to hurt so much sometimes???

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain's Never-ending War

Just a political blog post real quick. Skip it, if you want.

Let me ask you, what are the most important agendas to you this coming election? For me, it is the economy and our foreign policy. To speak to the latter, it has been reported that a majority of the American people want out of Iraq. And in a democracy, our elected officials are supposed to represent what we want. This week, Senator Obama met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, who endorses Obama's plan for reorganizing our forces to where they should have been in the first place--Afghanistan. Senator McCain has stated in an interview he supports no such withdrawal and disagrees with the American people (and apparently Iraq's own PM, who supports withdrawal). See for yourself:

We can talk economy next time. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I woke up this morning a little more questioning about whether I would be okay with going back to two jobs. The problem is, I really don't know unless I do it, but if I do it, I can't back out of it. But my wonder of going back being possible was no less quenched when I found out this morning that the defendant got 145 years in prison. That's 40 years until parole eligibility. The prosecutor had also offered a plea deal for 10 years which was not accepted. That's pretty much BY FAR the biggest sentence many in the section have seen. So although yesterday was an irritation, today I view it with intrigue. I'm afraid that no matter how much I tried not to get my hopes up, I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen. I would say the odds are it won't...I did ask for more than the starting + experience salary would be for a new hire. And if they say no or offer less, it's a no go. Just can't do it. We'll see.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interesting and Irritable Day

At long last, having been gone from the crime lab for 13 months, I was finally called to court with no way out of it. My old boss, an awesome guy, would talk to prosecutors and get me out if a defendant didn't plea. Not this time. I slowly got ready this morning, hoping that I would get the call from the prosecutor's office that the defendant took a last minute plea, but no luck. Went up to the crime lab to pick up the case file, said hey to some old friends/co-workers, etc. I really do miss some of those people. I miss the work too. Not that I don't like what I'm doing now; it's fine. But I would probably have to give the edge to being a forensic chemist. Things are looking better for chemists these days, it seems. The state pay grade for them is going up, the legislature gave the lab more money for working hard on the backlog, and merit raises are being introduced.

I made a light-hearted comment that if they could pay me a certain amount (a little more than what I was making when I left), I could come back and still be able to pay my bills. I'd keep teaching, though, since I'm mainly doing online courses now (which also mean less time at school after work). Just wouldn't be the director anymore. I liked it well enough when I was doing both before. I think I could easily teach 5 classes a year, which combined with what I said I'd need from them, would move me laterally, thus maintaining my current living standards.

Okay so by now maybe you sense that it's more than just an off-the-cuff conversation. He said he'd look into it because they need to hire. Not trying to get my hopes up; it was a higher number than they start out. But I'm not gonna lie...I really enjoyed working in forensics. What drove me away were some coworker issues and the politics of being in a government job. Having been a supervisor for a year now--not to mention my own personal growth in the past year--I must say that some things that could get under my skin and make me have a bad day are just now what I would call "non-essentials." Not worth getting worked up about. The politics of moving up....well, I see my old boss doing it and I feel like, if given the opportunity again, I could follow in his footsteps. I could easily see him moving up and me filling what he just vacated.

As I drove to and from court today, my thoughts dwelled a little time (probably should have been more) on the way God directs the career aspect of our lives. On the one hand, God could want a person in a specific job. On the other, the case can be made for it not really mattering what you do, as long as you enjoy it and are His light in the workplace. I lean toward the latter; my job takes care of what I need. Why I'm here is for PPBC. I've said that over and over. So does it really matter which I do, if I'm happy, it takes care of my living, and I act in obedience by loving others in the workplace? Is there more to consider? I don't know. I wish I could say I am in a solid enough place to answer that, but I'm in one of those little droughts we all tend to have, so my "spiritual clarity" (if you will) is a little muddy.

Well, I don't want to make a big deal about this. Sure I would probably go back if he offered it and at what I need. (Cuz it's not a matter of want, but of can't.) But it was just a casual conversation that may amount to nothing, and I suppose I am good with that too. I have a good job and am blessed, and I'll do my best to follow God's lead wherever I go.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I think I may be having some kind of emotional crisis coming into being here, but I'm not quite sure yet. I can't quite pinpoint it. I had a short conversation that made me realize that in fact 90% of my friends are married and I have precious few people who I can just call up and hang out. Not saying I don't hang out with my married friends; it is just there is more structure to their lives. One has to check with the other and things like that. So what spontaneity I have, such as suddenly wanting to go do something or hang out, is largely squashed.

And as a result of this, I've largely tried to fill that time by hanging out with some of the teens from the student ministry. That's not bad either; I'm glad I can be around and provide a safe, positive environment for them. But the beginnings of my crisis evolved today when I made a light-hearted comment that resulted in a mini-lecture. One of those I've-kinda-been-thinking-this-and-needed-an-opportunity-to-gently-say-it moments. In the hours that followed, it occurred to me just how much time I really had been spending with them. Too much perhaps. I'm an adult and what I missed in my same-aged friends, I think I have started to try to make up for with some of the teens. And I don't think this is at all healthy for me. I mean I can be their friend, but there are different lines for different age groups. (As I read back over this, I'm suddenly struck with the story of a friend who perhaps dealt with the same issue. I'll have to speak to him.)

All afternoon I've kinda felt like that awkward adult guy that hangs around teens a little too much. And I know that's not what was meant. This is probably not something to publish on an online journal being quite personal in nature, but it is actually quite liberating emotionally. See, the reason I can't quite pinpoint this issue is because I think I may be facing something that I've never dreaded or cared about before...loneliness. I've always been pretty independent; it's never bothered me to go-it-alone. But over the last year (as described briefly in another post), I've kinda been changing that. And I think today is another result of that inner change.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Little Reminder

I got a nice little reminder from a friend yesterday that sometimes the best approach to tackling an issue is to let itself work out. I have to fight wanting to take control of situations in order to help them resolve. I don't like to see friends hurting, for example. It kept me up last night a bit. But today I realized my friend was right...sometimes, by doing something for someone, we can cripple their growth of handling situations on their own. My original conflict was from Sunday's message about being involved in people's lives. Not in a nosey way, but in an encouraging way. But then I realized (to use Allan's words) the people involved weren't 'drifting'. But if the situation continues for too long and it drags them down, I'm there to lend what support I can. So unless that happens, it is best to keep an eye on things from a distance and let the problem work out, thereby giving the people involved the chance to grow and learn from it.

Thanks, friend. You know who you are. :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Little Geekiness to Pass the Time

Haven't posted in a while. Life has pretty much been a monotonous blur since I got back from Ohio. Every work day starts out with answering a dozen emails and voicemails from impatient students who can't seem to register for courses. They all have one thing in common: they all feel the need to tell me they "really really need to get into that class." I'm aware of that; you're call will be answered in the order it was received.

Well some pretty exciting things happened in Macworld yesterday. I updated iTunes, which now has the App Store for iPhone applications, first. Perusing the free section first, I pre-downloaded the Google app, remote control (controls iTunes from iPhone), a sports score app, a over-simplified to-do list app, a silly "flashlight" app (nothing more than a white screen; funny thing is, another developer actually charged for this and got reamed by reviewers), and a lightsaber sound effects app. :)

At various times in the day, I tried to access Apple's new online syncing service, MobileMe. If you've been around me the past couple weeks, you know I've been eagerly anticipating this. You probably know that my email change was in anticipation of this service. I got about a 15 minute glimpse of it before it crashed for a good 36 hours. Just for the heck of it, I tried to open it in Safari, rather than Firefox. And it worked! And that's still the situation as of this post. It's up using Safari but not Firefox. I went through and altered settings to meet my needs and browsed around. Couple of things to point out:

Calendar has no way to set an alert, like I can on my phone or iCal desktop application. Major boo! Hopefully to be remedied soon. Also, I have an activation key that I bought for cheap and plan on using when my trial period is over. But currently I see no way of entering it. They just want credit card info. Apparently, anything that says .Mac on my desktop and settings should now say MobileMe with the 10.5.4 update. Well, I have that update but everything still says .Mac. So I'm not sure how that is going to affect my pushing updates. I went ahead and turned everything on for syncing so we'll see how this goes. I fully expect it to be slow for a while. Man, have people on the Apple forums been irate over this. But the fact is, new roll-outs in technology will always have bugs, no matter what company it is from. Deal.

I also kept my phone docked and periodically clicked "Update" for it, but never got through. Rumor was there was a direct link and manual update method, but I'm not all about that. I'll take the update when I can get it through "official" methods. I happened to double click the button once and on the second click it oddly found the update and so I proceeded. Took about 20 minutes and I was posting live info on the forums and drew quite a following as the process did its thing. My apps were loaded and although settings were returned to default, I quickly got it back to the way I like it. Sometimes the touch response is a little sluggish, but not too worrisome. If you're an iPhone user, here's a little gem you may not know: hold the home button and press the power button to take a screenshot. :)

There were a couple of paid apps I'm keeping an eye on reviews for. But today as I waited for a haircut, I got a 4 1/2 star-rated game called Enigma. 3-D puzzle game and it is quite difficult. Well, I think I've spent enough time in front of this screen--most of it spent exploring MobileMe--so that's it for now.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fresh Coat Cleveland

Fresh Coat Cleveland
June 21 - June 27, 2008
Cleveland, OH
24-7 HFC Student Ministry
Parkway Place Baptist Church

I had the awesome opportunity to go along with our student ministry to Ohio. Our mission: to share the love of Christ in a tangible way, no strings attached. What an amazing group of teens we have! This was without a doubt the best mission trip I have been on.

We took our time getting to Cleveland over two days. I helped drive one of the vans that carried the 28 of us. The first day was a good 10 hour drive or so; the second was only 4 hours. We met with our coordinator, Laura, at the hotel. She had to give a spiel about lead paint and all that. The houses we were to work on were very old. One was built back in 1880! We split into two groups. Here's what the houses looked like when we arrived:

I was on the team that worked on the house built in 1880. A previous team had started painting, doing much of the lower portions. The whole first day, myself, Zak, and Joel perched on a steeply inclined roof to work on some high parts. The house had wood tiles for siding. We donned masked and started scraping away the old paint. This was followed by primer, then a coat of cream-yellow paint. We were up there for a good 5 hours. Our day was cut short by a rain shower in the early afternoon.

The next day we did some touch-ups up there. Zak was called off to help at a new job site. He, Allan, and Josh built a new stair case at a different house. Meanwhile, Joel and I climbed up on another section of roof--steeper than before--and continued the task of scraping, priming, and painting. I did some trim work as well. I only saw the owner of the house once. He bought us pizza on the 2nd day. He was an elderly, Hispanic gentleman. The whole process slowed down significantly as the lower portions of the house became finished. With only one extension ladder, most of the team ran out of area to paint. So by mid-afternoon our coordinator left three people to continue working on the high parts while the rest of us went to a new job site.

We moved to a one-story brick home. For the most part, nothing had been done here. This family was wonderful! They were so friendly! We were treated to an authentic Puerto Rican meal for lunch on our 2nd day there. Chicken, rice, beans, and flan. It was pretty much mouth is watering just thinking about it. Anyway, back to the painting. My job was pretty much trim work. I painted the windows and doorways. While I was working on the front of the house with the interns, Sarah was moving the extension ladder when she called out to me to grab the ladder. So I picked it up, but her hand went with it. Turned out she only picked up part of the ladder and the rungs slid down, smashing her hand between them. I performed a little field first-aid, splinting her hand. I couldn't even touch it without her coming out of her skin. It was completely immobile. She refused to get an x-ray, so I had Greg get a finger splint and medical tape. We iced it a couple times and she continued to work.

We almost got that house done, but ran out of time. It was actually sad to leave there because that family was so nice. They welcomed us to come back and stay with them any time we were in the area. :) Zak, Allan, and Josh were building a 2nd staircase on the third day. We picked up them and the other painting team from their site. Here's how far they got. What a difference!

So that was about the work stuff. We also did some fun stuff, too. Monday night, we went to dinner and a movie. Impressively--and by God's great blessing--the owner of the restaurant we ate at paid for our entire meal. That was 28 people, mind you! We saw "The Incredible Hulk" at this rinky-dink theater. Entertaining movie, but I'm pretty sure my home theater is better than what they had. LOL.

Tuesday night we went to Progressive Stadium to watch the Cleveland Indians play the Giants. I like to keep score so I did that for the game. Many of the teens weren't too interested in watching...they were up and down out of their seats the whole game. It was a very quick, low-scoring game. It got pretty exciting toward the end, but the Indians lost. Parking was an experience. No one could take the van with the U-haul trailer. Finally we found a garage by a Catholic church. Took a while to actually park and they charge SO MUCH for it. Oh yeah, God blessed us again at dinner that night. A nun was at the restaurant and asked about our group. When told what we were doing she bought a gift card for us that covered part of our meal expense.

Driving straight from the job sites on Wednesday, we left for Sandusky, OH where the world-famous Cedar Point amusement park is located on a peninsula on Lake Erie. Driving into the park led to some pretty awed expressions and this picture:

The tall coaster on the left is their signature "Millenium Force." It is a little over 300 ft high. I ended up riding it three times. It was pretty amazing. They also had a newer coaster called "The Maverick" which boasted a 95 degree drop (more than vertical) and many unexpected corkscrews and turns. In the middle of the picture is a yellow, narrow horse-shoe shaped coaster called "Top Thrill Dragster." It accelerates you to 120 mph in a little under 3 seconds to a height of about 400 ft! I was pretty much scared out of my mind waiting for the light to turn green. And what a force it is when you go!

We rode every single coaster that was open ("Magnum" was not). I'd have to say that in order, my favorites were: Maverick, Millenium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and The Raptor. The latter was one of those where your feet dangle as you loop and twist around. There were a few other good ones like "Wicked Twister" which spirals straight up as you go backward and forward. "The Mantis" is one where you stand, but the worker pushed the restraints so far up that I really felt like I was sitting on a bicycle. The wooden coasters were okay but incredibly jerky. I rode most coasters in the back for the extra pull.

The hotel we stayed at was "Hotel Breakers Resort," which is actually a part of the park, is located on the beach, and is about 100 years old. We got to go in before the park opened to the public, but that didn't prove to be anything special. The park was still testing most of the coasters. We averaged about one ride an hour for the first three hours, but then we started hopping. We could not have asked for a better day--the crowd was lower, the rides had small lines, and the afternoon clouded up to provide some relief from the unseasonable heat. I believe God really blessed our day for our hard work that week. It was an unforgettable day.

A little side note I almost forgot. Greg wanted us to wear 24-7 shirts so we could identify each other and provide an opportunity to witness in case someone should ask about our shirt. I will admit, I was extremely skeptical about this. I didn't think anyone would care about our shirts. I was completely wrong! I've never seen so many people interested or curious about our shirts. I wore our summer-themed shirt which just says "It's a Scream" and "24-7 HFC". People asked what HFC stood for quite regularly. Other teens wore the DiscipleNow shirt, with the theme "Fearless" and a Bible verse. It was interesting to see the reactions to those shirts, too. A couple times, strangers' friends who were scared of a ride would point to our shirts and say "be fearless like that shirt says." I felt completely put in my place by God, as if He was saying, don't doubt what I can do with even a simple-messaged shirt.

I got about 6 hours of toss-and-turn sleep a night. Each morning was harder to wake up. I pretty much had to jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rang by sheer force of will. I'd get dressed and find the nearest coffee pot. That third day of work, I was really dragging, especially after that amazing lunch. Cedar Point day was different because I was awake with anticipation.

Well, the return trip was something I completely dreaded. Greg decided he wanted to come back in one day. After spending all day at an amusement park, I didn't know how I would maintain consciousness to help drive. When I woke up, I was almost completely unable to lift my feet. LOL. Everyone's shins and feet hurt so bad from walking all day on the concrete. I was planning to sleep first thing while Greg drove first, but he needed me to keep him awake. Then it was my turn to drive. I napped after lunch, then drove us in to Little Rock. It was a 15 hour, 26 minute trip. Not to say it was fast, but it was faster than I thought it would be. And we made it without any problem.

I tell you, our church has the best group of teens there can be. There was no conflict, they worked hard from start of finish, and they completely remembered who they were representing at hotels and in public. I'm reminded of the verse that tells us that our love for each other will show the world we belong to Christ. If ever there was a model of this verse, it was on the trip. It reinforces in my mind again of why I am here in Little Rock, and that is to be a part of their lives as they grow and mature into Christ-centered adults. It's a privilege and a blessing that I can do this.

We truly do have a student ministry and not a youth group. I'm in complete agreement with Greg on this--youth groups are places where parents can drop off teens, where crazy and gross games are played, and the church helps keep them out of trouble. People sometimes hesitate to get involved because of the rap the words "youth group" have gotten. And yes, we do crazy and sometimes gross things, but a student ministry is a place where teens are learning to worship, serve, connect, grow, and share their love. That is what I am a part of in every sense.

If you want to see more pictures, head to my Flickr feed. I'll be posting more pictures as I get them from some others. I'd like to know who has read this and what you thought....please leave a comment.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Rant About Advertising

It's bad enough that you can't watch TV, read a magazine, or drive down the road without being bombarded by advertisement, but do I really have to put up with it at home? I mean it is everywhere! Heck, even go to a baseball game and you'll hear something to the tune of "this 3-2 pitch brought to you by [insert business]" or "that stolen base was sponsored by [another business]." Everywhere you turn in the stadium is a sign for something to buy. Now I know that many companies exist for the sole purpose of creating profit from advertisers. Network television is an example. They create content that we want to watch so they can charge money for ad slots. (Albiet, I haven't watched a commercial in a while, thanks to DVR technology. Even if I'm home I wait to watch the show so I can fast forward.) The same is true of many internet companies. Google is a search engine, but it also generates ad revenue. And I agree to see the ads--maybe even click on one or two--in exchange for their free services.

But when I get home, I don't want to deal with it. Which is why I usually don't even answer the door when I see a salesman. I liken it to not picking up the phone when the caller ID tells me it is a telemarketer. What got me off on this rant was a couple of lawn treatment guys that came to my door. In my usual fashion, I didn't answer. They left a note on my door that I have "mold dust" on my bushes and they could treat it. One, those bushes were just planted, and done so by my mother. So don't tell me they have mold dust on them; I get a little defensive. Two, what in the HECK were they doing all up in my yard looking at my bushes to see the alleged dust?

Another time there was a note on my door that some air conditioning company had repaired my neighbor's unit and asked if I'd like them to stop by my place, too. Apparently AC unit problems can be contagious because my fairly new one could use a little tune-up, according to them. It's just fine thanks.

The Democrat-Gazette has graced my doorstep a time or two. Once, when the Sunday paper--which I never subscribed too by the way--was still sitting on my doorstep.

Tired of those credit card offers? Mark out your address and write RETURN TO SENDER on them and stick 'em back in the mail. Costs the company for the return trip. Get lots of spam email? Watch what you sign up for. I use a separate account for creating internet accounts and even then, I always make sure to uncheck "send me stuff" options, which are often checked by default.

Well, I'm off to Ohio tomorrow. I'm sure I'll have some good things to say. Keep an eye on Twitter for updates throughout the day. The feed is also below my profile here on my blog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Advanced Notice of Change

Oh no, I used the "c" word.  Well, in my tireless effort to become a Mac purist (actually it is just turning out that way more than anything) I am taking the plunge into the dreading change of email.  You're probably like, wait that's not so bad.  I need to refer you to the post about things in life in which I am a snob.  Email and productivity tools are a big one.  I've had Gmail and GCal for a loooooong time.  But it's a little annoying to have to sync them to my computer, then to my iPhone.  To eliminate this step--and to have instantaneous syncing on all my devices (home, work, iphone)--I plan on subscribing to Apple's new MobileMe.  This is currently known as .Mac.  I went ahead and signed up for a free trial of .Mac in order to claim a more respectable email, rather than a silly email.  (I'm sure people have claimed such addresses as and such.)

Well in my over-analyzing, OCD way, I'm trying to figure the best way to make the jump from Gmail to Mail without, namely, losing what I've got in Gmail.  I figure the best way is to make Gmail my new "sign up for stuff" email (like my Comcast account is for now) and stop using Comcast altogether.  It makes sense...web-based mail for web-based correspondence.  My new Mail will be my personal one.

As far as the calendering issue, the ability to add, edit, or otherwise change it from any device and have it apply to all instances of the calendar is GOLDEN to me.  The new service will also have photo sharing, but I'm pretty happy with Flickr.  It also has online storage, which I'll find useful when I want to make documents on my Mac for work.  I've been emailing them to myself thus far.

Another thing that kind of stresses me is my home page.  Okay, so at this point you are laughing at me.  But Google has been my tried-and-true home page for a long time.  I'm still debating about this one.  It's my favorite avenue of keeping up with RSS feeds from news sites and such.  Though my new Mail service will have that, I'm not a fan of reading articles that way.  We'll just have to see on this one, but we don't want to go changing too much too fast.  /big grin  Pretty sure I just talked myself into keeping it.

If you are still reading, I wrote all this to say, if you know me and you're in my contacts, you'll be needing to update my information soon.  Be on the lookout for my new address coming to an email near you.  (Obviously I'm not saying what it is on a public blog.)  And don't spam allowed.  Ha ha.....  (I put the ha ha on there to lighten the mood, but I'm serious about that.  Okay, I'm done now.)
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I am an admitted snob

There are some things in life that I'm just a snob about. Here's a few of them.

1. Starbucks. Once I bought my one cup maker and began buying their roasts, the "store brands" (Folgers and the like) are just nasty. Plus, Starbucks is Fair Trade. I particularly enjoy beans from Africa. Yes, there is a difference that is palatable once you start drinking different roasts. I'm currently on one that has some African, some Latin American, and 10% Hawaiian. It is delicious.

2. Coca-cola. If I had it my way, it would always be out of an icy bottle. But as I rarely have that, I like to have my Cokes in a glass, never out of the can. And you must put ice on the Coke, not Coke in the ice. Again, there is a palatable difference in the two.

3. Cracked pepper. OMG, I love it! It is just so much different than a regular pepper shaker. I want it on everything--salad, pasta, vegetables. Wonderful!

4. Macs. This might be the biggest. Anyone who has known me for a few years knows that I used to be adamantly against Macs. Couldn't get over the whole quit vs. close, one button mouse, and layout of the OS. How things can change. I'm now an admitted Mac Fan Boy. I have almost every new product, from my laptop to my Apple TV to my iPhone. Unfortunately, I won't be getting the iPhone 3G since I just spent a ton of money on a root canal, but maybe some day. The firmware updates will suffice for now. But yeah, I'm slowly but surely trying to leave Microsoft behind forever.

5. E-mail. I am very passionate about this one. Don't you dare send me a forward of any kind--cute, funny, religious, news (true or not) doesn't matter. Don't do it. Hackers know this is what people like so that's how they spread malware. I will be on your butt and I don't mince words about it (as you can probably tell). The lack of knowledge when it comes to malware, viruses, keyloggers, and such is astonishing. Yet people forward this crap and wonder why their computer messes up, or worse, how they got identity thieved. This is something I simply don't tolerate.

Maybe more later as I think of them. What are some of your snobby tendencies?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

And Then There Was Two....

This is by no means going to be an insightful or well-written post about politics.  In fact, I'm such a noob at this sort of conversation, I'm a little embarrassed to post it.  But I'm gathering an increasing interest in political matters, so why not.  Okay, so now it is down to Obama and McCain.  Well I voted in my first primary this year and I think I'm going to see him through to the end.  I am, of course, speaking of Senator Barack Obama.  And here's my reason, at the risk of oversimplifying the matter.

The economy is doing terrible.  Look no further than the corner street to see gas prices or re-visit the many stories about the housing market and job loss increase.  The fact is (and again, in my noobness, I'm probably oversimplifying the situation) the last time we had a growing economy was when a Democratic president was in office.  Which, by the way has only happened 3 times in the last 10 elections.  President Clinton, despite his moral choices, was a good president.  And I am willing to submit to the Democratic way of thinking to boost this economy again.  That means no stimulus checks and in the very least no more tax cuts, with the possibility of some increase.

Gas is obviously ridiculous.  About 75% of the problem is supply.  President Bush assured the people that oil would come flowing, paying for his war on terrorism.  Hasn't happened.  Gotten worse, in fact.  Now I know the President cannot control supply, but he does have a measure of control over the other 25% of the problem, which is the value of the American dollar.  Back to the economy.

I admit I voted for President Bush both times.  Probably more on his moral issues than anything else.  But he lost sight of things and tried to spin one too many decisions in a light that just wasn't true.  (Simplifying again, I mean come on, Osama Bin Laden, the known leader of 9/11 is in Afghanistan, so we attack Iraq.  What?)  His stimulus checks are not working because people are scared and are putting them in savings accounts.  I did my "patriotic" duty and spent it by the way.

We need a change in thinking when it comes to where we are overseas.  We need a new direction in the economy.  John McCain is Bush Jr. or the Third or whatever.  If you agree with the terrible state our country is in, let me ask you how you can justify voting for four more years of the same McBush philosophy? Want to see some stunning interviews of McCain? Watch this:

Now check this link out for Obama's speech about his economic plan. It's long but read it. Here's a summary statement if you are just against reading it:

"This is the choice you will face in November. You can vote for John McCain, and see a continuation of Bush economic policies – more tax cuts to the wealthy, more corporate tax breaks [McCain voted for $1.2 billion tax cut to Exxon Mobile], more mountains of debt, and little to no relief for families struggling with the rising costs of everything from health care to a college education."

Don't give me any crap about Obama's fact-or-fiction religious past or if this country is ready for an African American in the Oval Office.  (Though I'll just say what everyone is thinking:  from time to time I don't wonder about these bigot extremists and what they may try if he is elected.)  Look, there's no such thing as a perfect candidate, so align yourself with who you get along with the most. For example, I'm not sure how keen I am on Dem's views of gay marriage and stuff like that, but I also think that the government should not legislate our Christian morals. Anyway, there it is and that's my opinion.  Comment or flame away.
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