Friday, September 30, 2005

Too Late

A few years ago, there was a sleeper show on CBS called Early Edition. It was a nice little feel-good show about a guy whose newspaper each morning was one day ahead. That is, this morning on his doorstep, he'd have Saturday's paper. He'd use the sports section to do enough betting to live comfortably, and he'd spend a lot of the rest of the time trying to prevent the things from happening that had been printed in the paper, such as a kid getting hit by a car or something. You know, that whole space-time continuum thing that fascinates me so much.

There was a really cool episode, a la Run, Lolita, Run or Groundhog Day in which he kept re-living the day over and over again. He'd progress a little further in the day each time, but then invariably he'd do something wrong and he'd die and have to start over again, hoping to have learned enough to progress past that point and make it through the day. Ok, so this was also similar to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and my own attempts to ship a life-sized model of Yoda to Switzerland, but anyhow, this isn't about that episode. Though it does make you think about redemption and the idea of doing things over and over again until you get it right.

But this was about the idea for an episode that popped into my head this morning for some weird reason as I walked down the hall to my office. The idea was that he'd get the paper as usual. The camera would let us see that it was actually not for tomorrow, but for years in the future. He'd start with the smaller items, trying to go rescue cats from trees to save an old lady who would have otherwise tried to climb the tree herself and broken her hip or something, only to find no old lady, no cat, and maybe a newly planted row of trees barely taller than himself. It would take him awhile of unsuccesfully trying to prevent accidents and tragedies that weren't about to happen before he really looked carefully at the paper and realized that the paper wasn't tomorrow, but 10 or 20 years later. So then he'd have to figure out what could have happened that day that would have led to something happening so far in the future. Some kind of trigger. Sort of like The Butterfly Effect, a movie I have not seen, but is sitting on my PVR waiting to be watched. I've heard it's not very good, but I'm into the whole messing with time thing.

Last days of the Lion King

MSNBC.COM -- Regardless, don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, Michael. This is a fluff piece that points out a lot of the good stuff that happened while Michael Eiser was running the company. But it serves as a good reminder... his resignation is tomorrow!! Woo hoo. And happy birthday, Lori!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

God's Got 40 Minutes

Crunch time. God, I already told You this in prayer, but I'm gonna put it here, too, in case You're reading blogs today. 40 minutes. If I don't have a super-huge-major completely-obvious no-doubt-about-it sign that You need me here at this job at this church, then I'm moving up the timetable. I cannot believe that it's in Your plan for me to be here and miserable. I need some beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt-proof that you need me here, or it's time for me to move on. 36 minutes...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On Notice

We've been put on notice... the department needs to cut a quarter million in costs and they're nearly out of programs to cut. Pretty much all that's left is headcount. I don't know what to think. I'm part of two groups (both in the same department), one of 2 full-time and two part-time plus me and another with 3 full-time, one part-time and me. I don't know if that kind of complication of budget works in my favor or not. Last time I worked out all the different scenarios of who could potentially leave and who might stay. And then they went with a plan I hadn't even considered and I was out the door in a heartbeat, but with a 8-month severance. No such safety net available this time around, I'm afraid.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005

Oil, Schmoil

I've been trying to remember and/or find this quote from an episode of Reno 911! I saw a few weeks ago when I was up in the middle of the night unable to sleep. I wish I could find it, but it was great. In fact, the episode itself was pretty hilarious.

The department had been granted a new vehicle - a Hummer. The whole episode dealt with them trying to get used to it, trying to park it, stuff like that.

But when extolling the virtues of it, they talked about how the fact that it wasn't fuel efficient was a good thing. They were saying the quickest way to world peace was to use up all the oil. Then those countries wouldn't be able to finance violence and terrorism. The quote was something like "You don't put a bank out of business by going in and taking a little bit of money, you go in there and rob the place and take all the money."

I thought it was an interesting take that makes me want to use more gasoline. Because not only for that reason, but then carmakers will finally be forced to make cars that don't destroy the environment. (Well, I bet they'd come up with a new way to do it... like making a 20x20' piece of steel to get four hubcaps and then throwing the rest away or something.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Potpourri

If I spelled it wrong, I consider it a badge of honor. Anyhow...
  1. There was thunder and lightning and rain the other night. I'm glad to welcome it back. Check with me again in a few months and I'll tell you I'm ready for it to be done.
  2. I've heard JetBlue was good, but they proved you don't even need wheels to land a plane more smoothly than United. If you haven't seen the video, go to MSNBC.com. That pilot deserves some really big bonus or something from the airline.
  3. I still need to report on the meeting I had, but everyone except me thought it was great and that I was great. Well, I think I'm pretty good, but I wasn't too thrilled about the meeting.
  4. Lost tonight... um, what? I'm happy that they didn't just open a new can of worms. Tonight's twists I can deal with. I don't think I could really do justice to explaining the episode and it was sad to see Carol Vessey all beat up, but all in all a good episode.
  5. A grocery store in town did a major renovation for its 20th. anniversary. They had their grand re-opening and I wanted to go and Lori capitulated. The lines were long and we spent more than I had hoped, but the woman behind us in line gave us a $10 off coupon, they gave us a free Starbucks coupon and we won an inexpensive, but pretty decent looking DVD player.
  6. I lamented today to my favorite colleague that I didn't belong because (a) I'm wrong and everyone else is right or (b) I'm constantly right because I'm a genius and they're all wrong. He suggested there was a (c) Everyone is wrong. Lori points out that this still leaves them wrong 66% of the time. It's staggeringly bad. I feel like I could fix it, but a lot of people would need to get off the bus. I'm not convinced that's going to happen, so it's most likely me that's looking for a new ride uptown. Bottom line... does God have a plan for me at this church? If so, is something fantastic going to happen, or does God's plan basically involve me being miserable?

It's late, so I'm out of here. Goodnight, cruel world.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Kill me, kill me now.

First off, the webcam shot of me leaning forward, staring at the screen is just awful. Fortunately, it will be gone by the time anyone reads this, hopefully.

Anyhow, I need to rant. The powers that be and a few powers that think they be have determined that we need a new website.

Since I'm the guy who does the websites, naturally, people are looking to me on this. I have aspirations to leadership, so I'll humor them. But it really ticks me off because in order to do this, I'm essentially proposing policy. The only way to actually do what they want done involves a bit of a change in mindset, a change in the way things are done.

Problem is, that my changes would occur in a vacuum. We have a whole department here... an every-other-month magazine, a weekly brochure, posters, directional signage, call-in recordings, and so on, and so on. So really, to build my new system, without actually taking any of this into consideration does not bode well. It sets me up for (a) failure or (b) a lot more work trying to make people understand the system. On top of that, I guarantee that if this system for the website is not the same system used for the rest of the communication, then it will not get used, because the website is an afterthought, an also ran. It's not critical, it's not important, it's not on people's radars.

The powers that be and the powers that think they be strongly indicate that it is and are pushing for it to be even moreso. But the people who require the advertising the most are the ones who think the least about the website. (In an ideal world, they wouldn't think about any of it -- they would submit their advertising requirements and let the Communications Department determine the best course of action.)

The other part of this equation that utterly sucks is that I'm not management. I can propose all I want. I can even get buy-in, approval and possibly even enactment of my vision. But why? I'm not in a leadership position. I'm not paid and in the general course of things, my input is not valued. Sometimes I feel downright hostility for even presenting ideas. I'm starting to learn when and when not to speak up. Sometimes I have to let people make bonehead mistakes. Even if it means more work for me. That just means other worthy projects have to wait on the sidelines while mistakes are made and then cleaned up.

In all this, I risk offending my boss. He's not a good boss, he's not a good leader. He's admitted in so many words that he's not a manager, doesn't like managing people and would much rather just be creative. And offending my boss isn't just having someone upset at me, it's having someone then be hypercritical of everything I am working on or have done in the past as a way of passive-aggressively retaliating, even so far as demanding changes to stuff that he's ultimately been responsible for the final design or process mechanism on.

But the best part of all? I now have a very stale presentation to make tomorrow. It's been postponed several times because people couldn't make it. Most recently, because my boss never looks at his calendar and decided to stay home and telecommute. Then I was on vacation. We scheduled it for tomorrow, one of the four times before the end of October when all parties could meet. Again, he didn't consider his calendar and planned to have a contractor come to his house tomorrow to start on his addition, so he won't be here.

My other boss, when he found out, said "No more rescheduling. We are having the meeting tomorrow."

And my boss' boss, when he found out, said we have to trust God's providence regarding who actually attends the meeting. It's not that I don't trust God, it's just that my fanatasies of what God's plan might entail just doesn't in any way include this guy skipping the meeting. It includes him quitting or getting fired, but who's to say that I'm qualified for his particular job, and I know he won't quit or get fired. He's too happy here muddling along maintaining and not innovating.

Hollywood Power Outage Sends City Into Chaos.

No electricity for 26 minutes. 'This is our Tsunami.'
By Joshua Gates, Actor, Photographer. Victim.


LOS ANGELES, CA, September 12, 2005 - Horror and disbelief swept through the
greater Hollywood area this afternoon as a minor power-outage turned the
city into a virtual war zone and local residents struggled to deal with the
devastating aftermath.

The outage struck at 1:35 PM, during L.A.'s busy afternoon coffee and
Pilates rush hour. Traffic lights fell dark, local gyms and sushi
restaurants were without power for nearly 30 minutes and many businesses
were illuminated only by the light of the sun and its blistering 78 degree
heat. "It was horrible," said out of work actor and voice-over artist Rick
Shea. "I was in a Jamba Juice on Melrose when it hit and the blenders simply
shut down. A woman lunged for my Berry Lime Sublime an after that, well, it
got pretty ugly."

In the ensuing panic, local radio stations broadcasted conflicting reports
as to exactly which local businesses would be offering relief supplies.
Almost 100 people flocked to the Starbucks at Santa Monica and La Brea only
to find helpless baristas, no hot coffee and a totally meager selection of
baked goods.

"My mother is 83 years old and we heard on the radio that this Starbucks was
going to be up and running. If she doesn't get a venti Arabian Mocha Sanani,
I don't know what's going to happen to her, I really don't." said Lucinda
Merino of Los Feliz. To make matters worse, those few people who did manage
to get coffee were further thwarted by a total lack of artificial sweeteners
on site. "Sugar in the Raw? Are you frigging kidding me?," sobbed avid salsa
dancer, Enrique Santoro. "I'm on the South Beach Diet and my insulin levels
are going to go crazy if I use this. Why isn't the rest of the country doing
something?" Deteriorating conditions will force authorities to evacuate the
thousands of people at local Quiznos, movie theaters and upscale shopping
centers, including the The Beverly Center, where a policeman told CNN unrest
was escalating. The officer expressed concern that the situation could
worsen overnight after patrons defaced multiple "So You Think you Can Dance"
posters, looted a Baby Gap and demanded free makeovers en masse at a MAC
cosmetics store during the afternoon.

At least 2,000 refugees, a majority of them beautiful, will travel in a bus
convoy to Beverly Hills starting this evening and will be sheltered at the
8-year-old Spago on North Canon where soft omelettes with confit bacon and
Hudson Valley foie gras was being airlifted in by The National Guard.
Honorary Mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant told a group of embedded reporters
at a Koo Koo Roo Chicken restaurant on Larchmont that, "The scope and scale
of this disaster is almost too much to comprehend. Local carwashes are at a
stand-still, the tram tour at Universal Studios has been on hold for almost
an hour now and I've been waiting for a rotisserie leg and thigh with a side
of green beans for upwards of 15 minutes. This truly is our Tsunami."

"We want to accommodate those people suffering in the Beverly Center as
quickly as possible for the simple reason they have been through a horrible
ordeal," Grant said. "We need water. We need edamame. We need low-carb
bread," said Martha Owens, 49 who was one of the thousands trapped in the
Beverly Center when the escalators stopped moving. "They need to start
sending somebody through here." Along miles of coastline, the power simply
surged, causing writers to lose upwards of a page of original screenplay
material, causing Direct TV service to work only intermittently and forcing
local residents to walk outside and look helplessly at the Pacific from
their ocean view decks. "I can hardly begin to put this experience into
words," said longtime Two and a Half Men writer John Edlestein. "I was just
getting into my rhythm and making some real headway on a scene where Charlie
Sheen parties with a busload of female volleyball players when my PowerBook
crapped out. I have nothing. Simply, nothing." Delivering his weekly radio
address live from the White House, President Bush announced he was deploying
more than 7,000 additional active-duty troops to the region. He comforted
victims and praised relief workers.

"But despite their best efforts, the magnitude of responding to a crisis
over a disaster area this sunny and trendy has created tremendous problems,"
he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the
help they need, especially in the Hollywood Hills, and that is unacceptable.

Do new innovations and technologies make us more intelligent?

NEWS.COM -- Yes and no. Interesting article. Looks like the start of a series on these concepts.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

If We Are The Body

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
trying to fade into the faces
the girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the body
why arent His arms reaching
why arent His hands healing
why arent His words teaching
and if we are the body
why arent His feet going
why is His love not showing them there is a way
there is a way

A traveler is far away from home
he sheds his coat
and quietly sinks into the back row
the weight of their judgemental glances tell him that his chances
are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the body
why arent His arms reaching
why arent His hands healing
why arent His words teaching
and if we are the body
why arent His feet going
why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
for us to pick and choose who should come
and we are the body of Christ

Chorus (2x)
But if we are the body
why arent His arms reaching
why arent His hands healing
why arent His words teaching
and if we are the body
why arent His feet going
why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

Saturday, September 17, 2005

International Aid Flies Into Arkansas

MSNBC.COM-- Israel, Egypt, India, Russia, Denmark, China, Thailand, Tunisia, Peru, Finland, Romania, Chile, South Korea, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Greece are among the countries sending planes full of supplies to help in the Katrina rescue/recovery/rebuilding efforts. Kind of a cool story to read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I was told there'd be no math.

We were doing some figuring while we were on vacation... 2 new cats, 1 new dog, 1 new baby, 2 new cars, 15 airline flights, 1 cruise, 6 mailing addresses, 4 apartments, 1 house, 10 cell phones, 19 phone numbers, 15 jobs*, only 2 full-time employers, major debt reduction, countless e-mails, instant messages, phone calls and kisses, 6 months dating, 8 months engaged and 6 years married. How awesome is that? Lori, I thank God constantly than you dropped into my life when you did. Your (or His) timing couldn't have been better.


(*including temp. assignments, promotions, etc.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Much Longer Tour

Bon Voyage, Gilligan.

Recall the Troops!

What doesn't make sense, though, is that this is the perfect opportunity to save face... recall a lot of troops to help in the efforts at home.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Here, have a new one...

Keith Olbermann ended Countdown tonight (Monday, Sept. 5) with a scathing editorial that was so awesome, that if I cannot find it online soon, I'm going to try to find a rerun of the broadcast so that I can transcribe it.

Google's Planet, Katrinafied

Link above to a method to get post-Katrina imagery into Google Earth, complete with the ability to adjust the transparency, so you can quickly compare pre- and post- Katrina damage. If you don't have Google Earth, you can also go to Google Maps (maps.google.com) and go to New Orleans and a "Katrina" button will appear next to the Satellite/Hybrid/Map buttons, but you don't get the rotation, plane or transparency that you get with Google Earth. The new images come from planes flying overhead, so they don't always line up exactly, and there are clouds sometimes, but you can find stuff like levee breaks pretty easily. Keep praying for the rescue and relief workers.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

AMBER ALERT

THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL HAS ISSUED A

* CHILD ABDUCTION EMERGENCY FOR
SOUTHWEST CALIFORNIA...

* A CHILD ABDUCTION OCCURRED ON SEPTEMBER 4 AT 124 PM IN
FONTANA...CALIFORNIA.

* THE CHILDS NAME IS NOAH LEANO...AGE 18 MONTHS...HISPANIC MALE
CHILD...WEARING A ONE PIECE RED JUMPER.

* THE SUSPECT IS A HISPANIC MALE...30 YEARS OLD...WEARING A PLAID
SHIRT.

THE SUSPECT IS DRIVING A STOLEN 2000 WHITE FORD EXPEDITION WITH
CALIFORNIA LICENSE PLATE 5 J Y A 7 8 0. THE VEHICLE HAS 3 CHROME
TIRE RIMS AND A BLACK RIGHT REAR TIRE RIM...AND A STICKER IN THE
REAR WINDOW THAT SAYS...7 FAMILY MEMBER.

TO REPORT SIGHTINGS CALL 9 1 1 OR FONTANA PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT
AT 9 0 9 3 5 6 7 1 6 0.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I love this picture.


I think this is just a neat picture. It's from MSNBC. The woman in the wheelchair is 105, the girl holding her hand is 5. And then there are a bunch of hard-working rescue/relief workers there making sure they get out safely.

I've become glued to my television and the more I see and hear, the more I'm unimpressed with the current leadership in Washington. There are allegations that plans were ready to go much sooner but got stopped at the White House. There's Bush himself, already in Texas, but still takes two days to end his vacation. Lori said it perfectly when she said "Clinton would have been there on Monday with the people." At the very least, it should really be painfully obvious now to some how un-media savvy this current administration is. The facts surrounding whether or not they botched the entire thing, I hope someone has finally woken up and taken notice of how important perception is.

Sure, it's very easy to mobilize a local TV station helicopter and then uplink that live footage to MSNBC. It's easy for one Fox News reporter to fly in with 1,000 bottles of water. It's easy for CNN to dispatch crews from Atlanta. But even though things were happening, the people making them happen were far too silent. This is where the Republican idea of giving more power to the states (compared to the Democrats' desire to give more power to the federal government) really fails.

The same thing, surprisingly enough, is happening at my church. Our Senior Pastor recently announced his resignation. He did it in a really poor matter, basically giving no notice whatsoever. It's really opened wide a bad rift and hurt a lot of people, made a lot of people mad, and make a lot of people really confused about what's going on. And that's just the ones that have actually stuck around. One estimate says that depending on how you handle such a situation, a church of our size with a dynamic leader on which too much emphasis has been placed will see a 25 to 75(!!!)% decrease in attendance once that leader leaves.

The powers that be, again, fail to understand perception, basically letting the exiting Senior Pastor (and now the small dissenting faction most likely responsible for his departure in the first place) dictate the show. Their plays at transparency and increased communication are a good start, but no actual change is occuring as a result, at least not at the speed at which people would expect. I fear that far too few are using it as a learning experience to make changes for the future.

We'll see what happens in the gulf coast states. The devastation is just incredible. Most of the people who are upset about the lack of support they are receiving are also unaware of just how dramatic it is. It sucks when your only contact with the outside world is the camera crew that comes to your door, but I'm not sure these people realize how lucky they are to have a door for someone to knock on, even if they are running low on food, have no water and no electicity.

I know it's probably frowned on in some circles because it makes them objective, but thank God for the media who have taken matters into their own hands, not just shipping cameramen and reports, but food as well. This is just frigging insane, and it's good to see people putting humanity ahead of their jobs.

Lots of countries have been offering support. The ones that have really made news were countries like Australia and Japan who have gone ahead and made large contributions to the Red Cross after the State Department wasn't responding to them quickly enough. Other countries have offered help, like France and Germany. The Netherlands, too, but they're also going on camera to deride us for not having done more to protect our cities in the first place. But the two that really stand out the most to me are Sri Lanka, still cleaning up from the Tsunamis, who gave $25,000 and urged all Sri Lankan doctors in the US to avail themselves to the efforts, and Cuba, where Castra was offered to send 1,100 doctors and something like 25 tons of medicine. (I know we're all pissed at Castro, but I hope this embargo ends in my lifetime, it looks like a really beautiful place to visit and the Cuban food I've had here is amazing, so it's gotta be phenomenal over there.)

As much great stuff is now happening, I have to ask... Jesse Jackson -- why are you such a frigging idiot? I swear, the worst thing that has happened to race relationships is this man. I don't even understand what credentials he has anymore other than media whore. He's on TV saying "We are not refugees. We are Americans." Uh... refugees is a perfectly acceptable term. No one said they weren't Americans. And what's this "we" crap? I doubt you're enduring any of the conditions these people are having to deal with and not every person who got trapped on a roof was black. Shut up, shut up, shut up. Let intelligent black people speak instead, who actually want to improve race relations. I won't name names because I'm not really familiar with a lot of them, but I know there are many influential black people far smarter than you, Jesse. Racist and black. Now that's just sad.

But let's not end on a sad note. The Convention Center and Superdome have been emptied. American Airlines has made at least one flight out full of people, and they let them bring their pets. Air Trans teamed with two NFL players/brothers. The brothers purchased supplies and secured many more donations. Air Tran donated the plane and fuel and the crew donated their time. They filled the hold of the plane, and then filled every seat on the plane as well with supplies.

I'm still hoping that this is ultimately considered successful. We've a lot to learn from this tragedy, and with scientists saying it's only going to get worse, hopefully we learn enough to be far more prepared in the future.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans Live

This is an interesting blog (link above)... a former military guy who runs DirectNIC... they're operating on generators from a skyscraper in town. They're down to one fiber connection, and if they go down, so does the DNS for at least a million sites and the hosting for at least 100,000. One of them is an online backup site. Personally, I wouldn't locate an online backup site in New Orleans, but I guess that's not my call. Anyhow, very interesting reading.

Turning Point

I have been unable to draw myself away from MSNBC.com and CNN.com, switching back and forth, and in the mornings, watching MSNBC, CNN and even FOX NEWS when the other two are on commercial breaks.

I think today has been a turning point in the Katrina crisis. As with all things, I think the hardest part has been communication. It wasn't like this morning all those trucks with food just materialized. I think when people said "We're working on it," they were actually working on it. It's just more difficult than we can imagine, more complicated, more everything.

That's not to say that it really seems like the initial response was really blown.

It seems like someone should have set up a command center immediately, even if it was just a trailer and a spokesperson, just so that there could be the perception that things were moving forward. I think that was the biggest problem, that other than rescues, so much of the trying to get there issues were largely invisible.

But, finally, trucks are arriving with relief and the soldiers with the weapons are being told to take a less defensive position against those starving and dieing. Not to say that the quote from the governor was amazing when they suggested that many national guardsman were fresh from Iraq with a real proficiency in killing and that they probably would use those skills again here. It sucks to hear of Americans killing Americans, but I guess the looters are already doing that.

I also cringe every time I see a section of town with water up to the roofs, at how many roofs are intact. How many of those attics have floating bodies in them, people who thought the water would stop rising, or who were unable to break through the roofs before succumbing to the water?

The hospitals are being evacuated and the airport is being used as a military field hospital where they're treating 800 people an hour, in some cases "black tagging" them the way they do during war -- people who are alive, but who will die without being seen because the time needed to save them could be used to save several other people instead. It's awful that they must chose.

I wish I could go and help with the cleanup or something. I saw one guy who drove down from another state and was put to work meeting helicopters. He would carry kids, hug people, provide instruction on where they were supposed to go. That sounds like a job I could do.