Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Obligatory Year End

As always, the end of the year look back.  Frankly, there's not a lot to look back on.  Complaints about the mother-in-law was a theme as frustration at this or that and the perpetual lack of sleep.  If I added Twitter or Facebook statuses to the mix, there'd probably be a higher focus on coffee.  I started the year off well, but that sort of failed as well.  I haven't decided if I want to have any goals for next year or not, or if so, how to track them in a way that I won't fail at.  Maybe I need to take over the laundry room - there's some cabinets I can tape goals to (it's the checking off of things that I like) and since I'm the one that does the laundry and attends to the cats, it would be in front of me daily.  Anyhow, without further ado, 12 posts from the last year - a year without a lot of interesting posts.

Jan. 8 -- Too Early
I did not want to get up this morning.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/01/too-early.html

Feb. 29 -- WT?
Yesterday was probably one of the top 5 worst days of my professional career life.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html

March 1 -- Crappy Dad
I didn't even say good morning to my daughter this morning.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/03/crappy-dad.html

April 30 -- Free Ideas
Ok, here's some free ideas I thought of today.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/04/free-ideas.html

May 12 -- Welcome, Ben
Photo
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/05/multimedia-message_13.html

June 6 -- Solution to the ANWR Debate
So, it seems to me that as long as there is oil under ANWR, there will be people who want to drill for it and roads and pipes and infrastructure to support existing drilling. So, it seems like the easiest way to end the entire debate is to just go ahead and drill.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/06/solution-to-anwr-debate.html

July 5 -- Domesticated
For I don't know how long now, I've enjoyed vacuuming.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/07/domesticated.html

Aug. 18 -- Legitimate Post
If feels like ages since I've just posted something, anything, that was about what's going on in my life.  Something that wasn't a forward or a joke or a video, but something about me.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/08/legitimate-post.html

Sept. 9 -- Leftover Fusion Chopped Salad
A recipe.  Didn't post much in September.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/09/leftover-fusion-chopped-salad.html

Oct. 10 -- Simple Math
What do you get when you shovel-up a pile of dog poo and dump it on top of another pile of dog poo?
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/10/simple-math.html

Nov. 26 -- New Face
Is it racist of me to think (or hope) that because Barack Obama is black that more focus will be made towards the African continent in the next four years?
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/11/new-face.html

Dec. 1 -- Day 312
Tomorrow will be day 1,013 that we've lived in this house.  It will also be day 312 that my mother-in-law has not lived in the house.
http://tvjames.blogspot.com/2008/12/day-312.html

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Baked French Toast

I searched for "French Toast allrecipes.com" on Google because I know my wife uses this site a lot. 

I found this recipe and plunged in, not realizing until partway through that I should have read the instructions fully before beginning and learned that I lacked: half-and-half, overnight, 40 minutes, the ability to cook.

I plunged on, anyhow, made all the first set of ingredients, poured them into a shallow glass pan.  Then, I put the butter in a pyrex and microwaved it until boiling.  Then added the other two ingredients and mixed until quite syrupy.  I poured into the pan as well, but it immediately sank to the bottom. 

So, used a fork to mix the ingredients between wiping each piece of toast in the mixture and then putting into a greased frying pan.

The end result was really good, it was like french toast with the syrup cooked right in.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Despair

I've been in a bit of a funk today.  We've been mostly snowed in for the past few days.  I got out last night and was able to do some Christmas shopping for Lori, but I'm probably only 2/3 done.  I don't know if I'll be able to get the rest done before Christmas, but I guess I get a second chance as we're celebrating a second Christmas a few days after for family who skipped the snow for sunny Mexico.

I've been trying to figure out the funk.  I have a list... Obama... FOCA... the cancellation of Eli Stone, My Own Worst Enemy and Pushing Daisies... the economy... our need to refigure out the remainder of our home purchase... some things at work that have been more challenging that I know how to handle... I don't know.  No real good decent or real reason.  Maybe the lack of caffine all day.  Maybe the really crappy sleep last night.  I don't know. 

I feel like I need a pick-me-up.  But I think that's something I need to come up with on my own. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 312

Tomorrow will be day 1,013 that we've lived in this house.  It will also be day 312 that my mother-in-law has not lived in the house.  There was a blow-out on Thursday and the line, crossed so long ago, became a straw that broke.  She would be out of this house by the end of this weekend, no matter what.  And she is.  This will be the first time that the four of us will be living together - alone - ever, since she's been here the whole time Ben's been with us, living in what was to be his nursery.   A weight has been lifted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stupid Politicians

Republican or Democrat, I hate them all.  I do not want to see the stupid Congressional Response to Automakers' Problems act get passed.  Riddled with problems and pork and derided by both sides of the aisle.  Please, please sink it.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Species

 
Some photos of new species.

New Face

Is it racist of me to think (or hope) that because Barack Obama is black that more focus will be made towards the African continent in the next four years? It may be a land of no-opportunity based in part on geography and resources, but as I read that rapes are on the rise and child soldiers are being recruited in the Congo that it's just stunning to me that the cruelties of this continent have been allowed to go on for as long as they have.

And with China then raping the continent of its resources, it just seems like in the long run, things will only get worse. (This is, by the way, a really long, but a really good read.)

I want to hurt for these people in their conditions -- which I recognize that I cannot even comprehend -- but I'm instead filled with anger towards the rest of the world that turns a blind eye as country after country on that continent does stupid things to its own people. Which in turn, in my opinion, makes us just as complicit as the person who seems someone being mugged and turns their head, more firmly gripping their cell phone in their pocket and walks on, doing absolutely nothing. And I'm not talking about giving money to help (which I would recommend as employee of a major non-profit that does provide aid to some of the poorest on this planet) but I'm talking about special forces assassinations of cruel dictators and warlords and helping good and earnest leaders to build a stable and lasting government structure that empowers people to improve their own lives and in turn prevents them from continuing to be passive victims, unwilling or unable to realize that their life can and must be better. (Yeah, we need to remind them all of the fact that there are far more ants than grasshoppers but now I'm aimed towards a tangent.)

I Have No Words

I had a really rough night. I lack the verbal ability to adequately express my feelings. They are much better now, but yeah. Pain, anger, frustration. Bad night's sleep. Admiration, gratefulness, awe. How Lori dealt with it, even before you compare it to me. I have to go to the office for a full days' work. Lori will be here dealing with two children, one of whom is apparently unwell, for that same length of time plus the extra hour when I stop for lunch (or however much of it I take).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dear Mother-in-Law

Dear Mother-in-Law,

Every time I think I'm having a good day, you ruin it.

Good show.
James

P.S. Get out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Architecture as Special Effects

Most of you know that I have a hobby-level interest architecture.  Here's a TED talk that I watched tonight about architecture.  The very first thing they did with fog was weird, but the stuff after it was really cool.  My limited knowledge had previously just thought of architecture as a good looking building.  And good architecture as a really good livable/workable environment that respected the environment (trees or city or houses) in which it was situated.  This video just blew my mind with the concept of of architecture as "framing" or "allowing" or "denying."



Not quite clear on what "lenticular glass" was, I searched on Google. The results immediately came back with information on the building she was talking about.

Two Things That Ought To Be Good But Aren't

Airborne Carmel Apple Chews - I like Airborne. I think it helps me to recover from colds sooner. The last time I had a cold, I had those lemon-lime ones you had to disolve. (Sierra Mist Free worked well for that.) This time, I saw the chews. Slightly less expensive and certainly more convenient. The product fails because it's the shape of those caramel squares mom used to buy as a kid. But instead, you get this waxy block of blech. And you chew and chew and chew for what seems like forever. They do have other chew flavors.

Pringles Restaurant Cravers Onion Blossom - I guess they're supposed to remind you of a Bloomin' Onion or something.  Either they fail miserably, or they put the wrong chips in the container.  These taste mostly of mustard.  If you like foods with a little kick that make you wince, these would be great with a large coke with ice in a chilled glass. 

I think both products fail because they set your expectations really high by making you draw on past experience as a starting point and then really underdeliver.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Get The Windex

So... vertically mounted rear-projection touch-screen for narcissists.  Ok, kinda cool.  Is it multi-touch? 


Interactive Mirror from Alpay Kasal on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Simple Math

What do you get when you shovel-up a pile of dog poo and dump it on top of another pile of dog poo?

Obviously, a bigger pile of dog poo.

Why the analogy?  Both companies have been poorly managed and Chrysler is already damaged goods after being dumped by its German master.  Mergers fail to realized the pre-merger goals 65-85% of the time because the people running the company post-merger are the same people who ran it pre-merger and mergers are often desperation, as opposed to a purchase/take-over.  Mergers are the uneasy alliance by two entities who couldn't make it alone, thinking that synergy is magic that happens as soon as the paperwork is signed.   But they fail to find the successful parts of the culture and evangelize it, they fail to quickly build cohesion, to quickly lay out a road map for the future and show their employees why the merger is good for them.  Instead, only fear.

Even the very fact of the announcement coming out now, late on a Friday.  GM and Chrysler employees have all weekend to sit at home and be panicked and depressed.  Class would have been to announce it to employees first (or simultaneously with the press/shareholders) and to begin the dialog about what a merger could mean.  It would speak to the idea of a re-birth, a celebration of American engineering and American-made cars.

Instead, this is another nail in the coffin.  It may buy time, but seriously, does General Motors need any more car divisions?  No, they have a big enough identity problem on their own.  They've failed to make their lines distinctive and obvious.

Pontiac - Driving Excitement?  Hardly.  Ok, new slogan is "Game Changing Performance."  Oh really?  Then why on earth was there ever a Pontiac Aztek?  If Pontiac is truly the sports car division, move the Camaro and the Corvette to the division.  (Sorry, purists!)  

Chevrolet - There's no cars on their homepage.  Just some blah blah about fuel economy.  When you finally find a page of cars, it's overwhelming.  Seven cars, six SUVs, four trucks and a van.   If this is the car of the everyman, simplify.

Hummer - Rumored to no longer be a unique truck, but just a Suburban with a different shell.  Also rumored to be in the process of being sold to a Russian company.

Buick/Cadillac - do you need both?  Ok, one is for rich white people and the other is for rich black people if TV and my own unscientific research is to be believed.  Buick best designs are coming out of their China design office.  Interesting.

Saab - Don't know much about these.  Know it's popular with some people.  Why not make it more of a Volvo competitor?

GMC - The truck company.  Except the ones from Hummer and Chevrolet.  Move all the Chevrolets SUVs and vans here.

Saturn - Once, the fun little startup breaking all the rules.  Now the fun is gone.  Bring back the fun.  Make it a Scion competitor.

Opel - not sold in this country, don't know anything about it.

Vauxhall - ditto, but sounds expensive.  Not sure it is.

Holden - ditto.  Australian, right?

GM Daewoo - why does this one have GM in front of it?  All the others don't.  Maybe they all should so you know that your car is backed by the largest auto manufacturer in the world?

Honestly, the line-up is too large.  Toyota is knocking down their door with only three divisions that are more clearly delineated.  Even the GM websites are all different and fail to tie back together to the mothership.  This, to me, is a failing.

To me, GM needs to bring simplicity and clarification to its line, reduce the number of different cars it produces and work harder at quality.

Even Ford is down to only five lines (Ford, Mazda, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo) because they lost some really good ones like Land Rover and Jaguar through fire sales, but even there.. know anyone who is a repeat Mercury buyer?  Know anyone who owns a Mercury?  It's a brand that could probably be retired.

Lastly, they say the union costs, especially retired workers, are adding $3,000-$4,000 to the cost of every car.  Until the unions are brought into the mix and given a larger stake in the future of the companies, they're going to continue to contribute to the declines until one day, there's no car company teat for them to suck on.

Disclaimer: I've never run a car company.  Though I don't think I'd do any worse than what's already happening.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

First Sighting of the Season

Accuweather's predicting snow during the evening of Oct. 22.
(It won't snow, it'll disappear off the forecast before we get there.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Photos Uploaded

Added a bunch of new photos from our recent trip.  If all the ones of us that you see are the backs of our heads, that means you haven't signed in, or aren't connected to us on Flickr as friends or family.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

SeaTac = Greedy

1. Park at a car at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for five days.  Car sits there, does nothing. Costs me $130.00.

2. Rent a "mid-size 2 or 4-door" car in Long Beach - at the airport - for five days - $162. 

That doesn't count gas in the rental, but if we're comparing apples-to-apples, then that's the at-rest cost of the rental. 

Now, I thought the rental was reasonably priced, especially considering the free upgrade to the full-sized SUV with only 10k on it.  So I think the privilege of providing me with a 10x7' square of concrete in a structure built decades ago is more than a bit overpriced if it's only $30 less than handing the keys to a relatively new car over to someone from another state with very few questions asked and just a signature here and initials here and here.  Especially considering there was no way we were packing a toddler, an infant, two car seats, two strollers and a mess of luggage (and a newly purchased baby swing for the trip back, long story) onto a bus and traveling from an off-site parking lot.  And especially considering how difficult it was to even find a space.  I know, I know.. supply and demand.  Still can't help being a little bit annoyed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Leftover Fusion Chopped Salad

Leftover garden salad (lettuce, spinach, tomatos, cucumbers, whatever)
2 slices of Turkey
Raisins
Handful of Pringles (or other potato chip)
Shredded Cheese (cheddar and parmesian recommended)
Salsa
Asian and Italian Salad Dressings
One can of soda (your choice)

Chop the salad into small pieces (hold clumps between forefinger and thumb and draw small knife backwards across).  Chop the turkey in the same manner.  Add in handfuls of raisins, shredded cheese. Pour or spoon salsa on the top.  Crush Pringles over the top.  Mix.  Drizzle salad dressing across top.  Mix again.  Add more dressing if necessary.

This was inspired by left-over salad from the fridge, the idea of nachos and other stuff I grabbing from the fridge and cupboard.  It is really tasty, offering the mouth a lot of different flavors that really work well together.  It also offers a lot of different textures, which is fun.  I did find that I needed the soda because there was a really kick that made my eyes water in a good way.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ticketmaster

Long story short, a few years ago, I bought 5 shares of Expedia.  Blah blah Libery blah blah John Malone blah blah Interactive Media blah blah Barry Diller blah blah.  I now find myself the owner of 1 single share of Ticketmaster (TKTM). 

I loathe myself and believe I am now obligated to knock the snot out of myself.

sigh

Irish Blessing

I clipped this when I was searching for a blessing for my best man speech at my brother's wedding.  A year ago. Thought it was pretty cool.  Not exactly new, I've heard this before over the years and liked it. 

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Winning a Fight with an A-Hole

I am enjoying this book "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't" by Robert Sutton. 

First, to define... in this book's definition, an a-hole is to ask this question... "After talking to the alleged a-hole, does the "target" feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized or belittled by the person?  In particular, does he or she feel worse about him- or herself?"  It also suggests that a true a-hole primarily directs this behavior towards people in a subserviant position to themselves, be it subordinates, or service/retail workers or what have you.

There's been some fun examples, like the Southwest senior exec. that saw a customer mistreating an employee, went over to the customer, told him he wasn't a good fit for Southwest and walked him to a competitor's ticket counter and bough him a ticket on another airline.  Or that Southwest sends out letters, when necessary, asking someone not to fly on their airline anymore. 

And a really sobering chapter that pretty much puts us on notice: we all have an inner a-hole that we need to keep in check.

And an interesting theory that you should keep around one a-hole to serve as a negative example.  A study on a college campus with a parking lot that faced the elevator of a building: (1) they made the parking lot really dirty, scattering garbage on the ground and then stuck flyers on everyone's car, they monitored how many people took the flyers off and threw them on the ground; then again (2) with a spotlessly clean parking lot and a third time (3) with a spotless parking lot, but right as a group of people came off the elevator, someone very visibly took the flyer off his car, read it, crumpled it up and threw it to the ground.   The highest percentage of people taking the things off their car was in the dirty parking lot (1), but the next highest was the perfectly clean parking lot (2).  The lowest was the one where people witnessed someone else throwing litter on the ground (3).  But, the book cautions, you should be careful to limit the damage the a-hole is allowed to do.  That even if they are a star performer or rainmaker or closer, they still should be considered as defective for the increased costs the company pays in hiring and training people to replace victims who leave, lost productivity of victims who stick around, HR and legal costs and supervisory costs in dealing with the a-hole.

And the whole reason I decided to write tonight... they were talking about an a-hole who seems to block your every move, thwarts your efforts, shoots down or sabotages your projects, things like that... suggests finding smaller projects, smaller wins, ways to break up your project so there's less visibility.  A small project might not be worth their time to screw with and you can achieve success.  Thought that was pretty profound.  It was the idea that the feeling of control, even a small amount has a huge impact.  There's a nursing home example involving death rates of patients, but I don't want to just give away the whole book.

It is an interesting read if you have any sort of HR leanings or have worked in an environment with a-holes or think you might be one yourself.

Goooooopid

Uh, what?  Why would I want to slash heroes?  Google suggests this whether I spell it "zeroes" or "zeros." 

I was looking for a quote I heard in a TED.com video, but apparently no one's quoted it in a blog.  I can't remember exactly how it goes, but they were talking about a city that had been doing regionally themed parks... Chinese, Russian, etc.  But after awhile, they realized that they were spending way too much money.  So would continue to allow people to put in proposals, but they were budgeting far less for the development of the parks.  But they said they were getting better quality parks that were more original and the quote was something along the lines of "Creativity flourishes when you begin slashing zeros from the budget." I thought it was a great quote and so was trying to find out who said it, but alas.  Don't know why Google would want me to slash heroes.  That's just wrong.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

120 Seconds of Lit: Right Now

The room is dark, lit only by the glowing monitor.  Between the tapping of the keys, I pause.  An open window lets in the magical, fantastic, pleasing sound of rain.  Splits and splats as it falls on plants with big broad leaves.  The murmur of cars passing by on rain slicked roads filter and then just as quickly fade.  The air... it's so clean, so fresh. On a night like this, so dark outside that nothing is visible beyond the white frame of the window, it's nice to be indoors, safe, dry, warm.  I breathe in deeply and sigh.

Want

Monday, August 18, 2008

Legitimate Post

If feels like ages since I've just posted something, anything, that was about what's going on in my life.  Something that wasn't a forward or a joke or a video, but something about me.  I mean, that's why you guys actually subscribe to this feed, right?  In case I do something dumb like run over a paint can with my car or ummm... I dunno.  I feel like I've had nothing interesting to say in awhile.  Or just no time.  So... what's new...

In a sense, not much, except the baby.  The baby is new.  He cries a lot.  He goes straight from asleep or perfectly calm straight to 11.  There's rarely any warning, and even if there is, it's not enough time to even get to the bomb shelter.  We've had some better days lately, though.  He's starting to be more expressive and starting to play with toys and blankets.  And he also recognizes when Lori signs "eat" and "hungry" which is really cool.  And he enjoys baths, unlike Rachel at that age.  He is a big fella.

Rachel continues to be a joy and a challenge.  We are this close to buying one of those leashes.   I know it's awful and I know her adopted uncle will disown us if we do (he said if he ever snapped he was going to go to the mall with a pair of scissors and "liberate" small children from the cruel oppression of their parents who were treating them like animals.)  But I swear, she's been doing some running off lately that's downright scary.  She's acting on impulse without a lot of thought behind it, and then in some cases, refusing to stop or come back to us when we call.  And in some of the crowded places or parking lots we've been in, this is a really bad idea we've been unable to impress upon her as yet.  But she's also a real big crack-up.  The other day in the car she said "I'm Rachel, the commercial girl.  I like to watch commercials to learn what they're about."  And then the other night, we heard of the monitor something ending in "oo" and calls for mommy and the word repeated.  We were worried that she had had an accident of a serious nature (she's never had that kind of accident) but we got up there to learn that she thought she had heard Lori in her room sniffling, so she was saying "boo."

I had an opportunity to get some new clothes recently.  Most of what I own I've had for years.  I'm wearing far fewer Hawaiian shirts now that I have in the past, but most of my clothes are still a little older.  But I got some new shoes, shirts, pants, ties.  It's pretty cool.  Plus, the guy who razzed me every time I wore a tie is gone, so I don't have to have that little annoyance.  "Yeah, yeah, job interview fourth floor." Should have told him I was interviewing for his job.  He woulda been like "How did you know?"

We've gotten a little (or just plain "little") done in the front yard.  I put in a few blocks to start to define where I want there to be a terrace in the yard.  Even though it's only five blocks, it's already starting to look good.  I took my trusty radial saw to one of the trees, trimming it up like I learned in a book.  Let a lot more light into the yard, but I don't know what I'll do next year.  I'll probably need to trim it up some more, but picture me at the top of the ladder in the grass with a radial saw held above my head.  I won't be able to reach much further before it becomes (any more) dangerous.   I'm going to start buying gravel to define a path in the back yard.  Budget has been tight, so this is exciting to me.  It will mean visible change/improvement, not just the same weed pulling that's been going on now, but an actual improvement.  I'll also be able to buy the panels that will allow me to make the place under the deck shielded from the water. I dug it out and flattened the ground, but without the panels overheard, the water has dripped through from the deck and it's gotten all covered with weeds again.  I should be able to have it covered in time for the heavy rains which will give me a nice outdoor place to sit and read.

I've started reading books again.  My list was getting way too long and I wasn't getting through the stack of magazines by the side of the bed, but I looked at them and realized the magazines would always be with me.  I'm now reading "The No Asshole Rule" - I've taken a bit of an interest lately in HR books and this is the first one I've read.  It's quite interesting.  I'm at the point now where they're saying you actually do well to have one a-hole in the group because they serves as a negative role-model.  But you have to limit their ability to do damage.  At one place they added up the cost of the a-hole - dealing with complaints, dealing with him, recruiting and training his assistants, etc., and told him that they were going to take 60% of the cost out of his end of the year sales bonus.  He got mad and blamed everyone else but didn't quit. 

And next month I'm going to get my car window fixed finally.  I hate not being able to use drive throughs.  And I'm taking a decent vacation.  It cannot come soon enough.  I'm starting to work on my list of things I want to accomplish during it. 

Ok, so that was a lot of yammering.  I feel guilty because this seems rather inane.  But I guess it's my blog so I can be inane if I want to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh, Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercury Sable

 
Not exactly sure why, but I always pictured God as more of a Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser type of Guy.  (Maybe the word land?  Or maybe because they're both rugged without the 'Hey, I'm a massive tool' status you get when you own a Hummer.)  And while duct tape has a lot of uses, I figure God would have made the duct tape in the same color as the car or done something else to the scratch.  (Like speak it out of existence.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's Not That Complicated

When we moved, we bought a fancy washer and dryer as a gift to ourselves, to celebrate the new chapter we were embarking on.

The dryer has a lot of settings.  One row of choices reads
  • Very Dry
  • More Dry
  • Normal
  • Less Dry
  • Damp Dry
Sadly, none of the choices are "Dry"  This is the setting I want, this is the setting the dryer seems incapable of providing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Balance

from Leticia...

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him resting on the seventh day. He inquired of God "Where have you been?" God sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction, and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, "Look, Michael. Look what I've made."

Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, "What is it?" "It's a planet," replied God, "and I've put Life on it. I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a great place of balance."

"Balance?" inquired Michael, "I'm still confused."

God explained, pointing to different parts of earth. "For example, northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor. Over there I've placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things,"

God continued pointing to different countries. "This one will be extremely hot, while this one will be very cold and covered in ice."

The Archangel, impressed by God's work, then pointed to a land area and said, "What's that one?" "Ah," said God, "That's Washington State, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills and plains. The people from Washington State are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to be found traveling the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as diplomats, and carriers of peace.

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, "But what about balance, God? You said there would be balance."

God smiled, "There is another Washington. Wait till you see the idiots I put there."

Surreal

So we were downstairs in the basement watching Shaun of the Dead. It was near the end when they were in The Winchester. Well, I had to pop upstairs to the main level and change Ben's diaper. To come into the kitchen and see the windows open -- and it was dark outside -- it gave me pause. Even though I've seen the movie several times before, I guess I was quite engrossed.

I do have to say this was the first time I'd seen it not on cable, so all the cussing was still in, as well as two other scenes I didn't care for... the specific demise of one of the characters and a cheesy little promo for a TV show. I did appreciate how they explained away three plot holes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Keep Moving

I read this quote recently and really liked it.
"When in doubt, do something. If you have two paths and you're not sure which is right, take the fastest path. It's easier to keep moving and change course than when you're sitting and thinking and thinking."
- David Glazer, Google

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Holographically Delicious

Drool... makes that flickering Death Star in that old movie look cheesy. (Though it is apparently 2D... can't see the other side by standing somewhere else.) Still, freaking cool.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Domesticated

For I don't know how long now, I've enjoyed vacuuming.  You have to clean up the room (especially the floor) reasonably well before you start and when you're done, you know that it's a nicer place to walk around barefoot.  (Not that I do.   But I also know I can lie on the floor if I want.)

Lately I've started doing some of the handwash.  It piles up and so I've tried to chip in a little bit.  And I've found that I kind of enjoy it.  You can't rush it, or you get water all over your shirt and pants.  And when done, there's a sense of accomplishment at the pile of now clean dishes waiting for Lori to notice and put away.  Of course, I don't do the complicated baby/kid stuff and I sometimes leave other stuff, and occasionally Lori will pick something up and immediately move it back over to the other side for re-washing.  But it's kind of nice.  It's a solitary activity done while looking out the window at the mountains, trees, clouds, rain, whatever, and listening to iTunes. Also reminds me of my Little Caesar's days.  A simpler time, but I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me at the time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Any DMB Fans?

Ok, so random question tonight.  Audience participation strongly requested.  If you are a Dave Matthews Band fan... if you got dropped onto an island and sand got in your iPodand started causing songs to disappear, which three DMB would you be begging the iPod not to erase?

(DMB haters need not waste your time or mine, this is all moderated and they won't get through.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ticketmaster: Major Tool

From Eddie Izzard's website where a press release announces a special benefit performance...
"...One hundred percent of proceeds will be going to Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans. Following the comedian's lead, Ticketmaster has agreed to donate a portion of its ticket fees..."
In case you missed it, key word is "portion"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Start Your Engines

It is Firefox Download Day. They're attempting to set a world record for the most downloads of a piece of software in a single day. Later revised to a "single 24-hour period" after poor planning caused their servers to crash under the load. But, this is probably the only time you'll hear "Firefox" and "crash" in the same sentence, unless someone was saying something like "If you're tired of having a browser that crashes constantly, it's time to ditch Internet Explorer and download Firefox."

Unless you're already using Flock or Opera, there are plenty of compelling reasons to switch to Firefox. If you're using Safari and find the text blurry or you'd like to bookmark more than one homepage, you'll like Firefox. And if you're using Internet Explorer -- because it came with your computer -- today is the day you re-assert your control over your life online.

Trust me, it's painless, and well worth it.

Ready?

GetFirefox.com

How can I be so sure? I've been using the release candidates for several weeks now and I love it so much better than what I was using. (And I was using Firefox 2 prior to that!) It's fast, memory-efficient and just really easy to use, especially the new AwesomeBar and the way it helps with bookmarking.) There are still a few Addons not available, but most of the Addons I use are FF3 compatible.

Recommended Addons:

  • Forecast Fox - puts the current conditions and upcoming forecast into otherwise unused space in your browser

  • Better Google Calendar - allows you to make additional adjustments to how Google Calendars are displayed

  • Better Gmail - allows you to make additional adjustments to GMail

  • Better Google Reader - more adjustments to Google Reader

  • Faviconize Tab - shrink specific tabs down to only their icon to allow more tabs to fit on the screen.

  • Customize Google - make adjustments to Google search results

  • Firefox Showcase - shows you a small display of all open tabs

  • Google Preview - inserts screen grabs into Google and Yahoo search results letting you see what a website looks like before you click

  • GreaseMonkey - advanced users only - allows you to browse a library of "scripts" that adjust how websites look and work


Feel free to post your favorites in the comments.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Walkabout

With Ben strapped to my chest, I walk the course. Round and round. Kitcheb. Hall. Step down into living room. Step up into dining room. And back to kitchen. It's a small loop. In the time it's taken me to type that, I've made the loop about three times. I could do it my eyes closed. And often have. I've done it while running with, running from, chasing after or carrying Rachel on my shoulders. I've done it while iTunes blasts, I've done it while watching TV, movies or conversing with Lori. Or, tonight... With only the sound of the clicking Blackberry keys and the padding of my own feet and Ben's soft breathing, I'm lost in the silence. I did not sleep well last night, or probably many a recent night. And it's led me to be irritable, cranky and have a short fuse. But right now I feel good. I feel calm. The chores can wait, the sleep won't be great, but at the moment, I am at peace. It is a really nice place to be.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's time to make the switch

I remember the day clearly in Encino, Calif. in late 1996. I asked a co-worker "What if I tried Internet Explorer and liked it better? That would be scary."

I'm not sure when I did finally make the move, but I eventually did try it, did like it much better than Netscape. I struggled through version 3 and its integration into Windows 98 and Active Desktop. It crashed regularly, but it was so cool, that I suffered for the geek cool.

IE4 came along and later IE5. Things were good for awhile.

But then, IE6. If I had stayed with IE5, I might still be using IE5. But installing IE6 just made things so bad that my wife demanded I fix the computer.

So I installed Firefox. Oh, sure, I've used IE from time-to-time, but it's just not the same anymore. Firefox is so much faster, so much sleeker, so much more useful.

Sure, it will still automatically load our corporate intranet each day, but I'll be clicking that close button right away. Sure, I'll still have to use it for poorly written software for work that only works in IE (yeah, I'm talking about you, Ceridian, Silk Road, Quantivate and USAA.com*), but if I don't have to, I'm never touching Internet Explorer again. (*Only the Deposit@Home feature... though I suspect it may be a Java problem.)

If it hasn't been declared before, Firefox is no longer for the "geek cool," the poweruser and the nerd. If you use the computer to surf the web, it's time to ditch Internet Explorer. The latest version of Firefox comes out next week and I'll be back to walk you through it.

Trust me, you'll thank me.

(If you're already using Opera or Safari, you can disregard. You're probably not suffering enough to need to make the leap.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Line. Crossed.

My impression of my mother-in-law was drastically changed tonight.

Here's the interesting thing about Gmail... the new version offers a distinct web address for each email address.

And Firefox (and pretty much every web browser) offers you the ability to see which webpages have been viewed and when.

For whatever reason, Lori decided to look at the history when we got back from small group. Surprise. Lori hadn't closed her email before we left. Less than half an hour later, six or several emails were read.

Not sure why, but I seem to be more shocked than Lori.

Solution to the ANWR Debate

So, it seems to me that as long as there is oil under ANWR (the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska), there will be people who want to drill for it and roads and pipes and infrastructure to support existing drilling. (There is some, right? I'm not entirely educated on the subject.)

So, it seems like the easiest way to end the entire debate is to just go ahead and drill. As soon as we drill and get all the oil out, then we can dismantle the roads, pipes and infrastructure and let nature overrun everything and return it to a more natural state.

Although this might sound similar to the Reno 911 pro-SUV argument, I really don't think it is. (They made the argument that everyone should be driving big gas-inefficient SUV's... the sooner we use up all the oil, the sooner the terrorists run out of money to finance their terrorism.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ignorance

Earlier tonight the phrase "The deafening silence of ignorance" came to mind. I couldn't think of a good post to put under that title, but it's stuck with me.

Reminds me of a phrase that struck Allison funny years ago... "What, from the depths of your ignorance, do you want from me?"

Hers will probably stick longer, but I liked the deafening silence bit.

Ok, I lied, there might be a good post to go under that title, but it wouldn't be appropriate as a human, much less a Chrstian for me to move forward with it.

Let's just say there was a major blow-up last night and I was not directly involved and our home really needs prayer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Up Late / Brand Tags

I've been seeing this on the blogs but never got around to looking at the site until tonight. Brand Tags - the site shows you a logo and invites you to type in the first word or phrase that comes to mind. It's really interesting to see how well companies do (Apple) or don't (Blockbuster) have a good handle on what people are saying about them. It's hilarious to sit there with another person scrolling through these. I'm picking on Blockbuster because I think so many people have really nailed it with terms like "archaic" and "dinosaur" and "antiquated." It is crowdsourced and unmonitored, so language warning blah blah.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

So I'd been noticing recently that when I would arrive somewhere and go to get out of my car that my car doors were unlocked. My car doors used to lock when you hit 15 miles an hour. I confirmed that, yep, it wasn't doing that anymore. I kept meaning to look into it, figuring it was a fuse or something.

Driving home Friday night, I was looking through the owner's manual and found that it wasn't a fuse, but some super secret magic spell... some odd thing where you turn the key back and forth four times and then immediately hit the lock or unlock button. Somehow I had actually managed to accidentally perform that feat and had disabled that feature. Excitedly, I looked for a parking lot, pulled over, tried it, the car beeped at me, and then looked at the parking lot. Small, but deserted. If I was careful, I could get the car back up to 15 and then back to 0 again before the rock wall. Just barely. But, the doors locked. Success.

So I read some more during the rest of the drive home and discovered that I could also make the car beep or not beep when arming or disarming, and change how many presses of the truck key were necessary to open the truck. Right on. It's always cool learning something new about a toy you've had for 9-1/2 years. I brought the manual in the house and skimmed the rest of it without finding any additional secret tricks, but I'll have to check Google to see if there are any that they don't want you to know about, like the secret codes for cell phones that let you into all kinds of special menus and screens you're not supposed to see.

Only thing left is to figure out how to get it to operate the garage door. There's a weird trick that involves multiple people and a ladder since it's a newer garage door and apparently more secure than the old one that was on my apartment's parking garage. Dang... I've had this car longer than I've been married and now I have two kids. Geez. I think I need a new car. Even though I love this one and love not having a car payment. And it only has 64,000 miles on it.

I am definitely reading the owner's manual for my next car.

Bored

I did not get nearly as much done today as I'd hoped. I thought "Hey, older child off with grandma... that's a few hours when I can get some stuff done." They were even gone longer than I expected. I did get stuff done, but it was silly stuff... my inbox now only has six emails in it and I got my Google Reader count down to 1 from close to 500. I did get several rooms vacuumed, some weeds pulled and the baby bathed, but it wasn't nearly as productive as I'd hoped. It must be a pipe dream. I wonder if I was ever as productive as I imagined myself to be, or if I just had a simpler task list.

We've been talking more about what we hope to have in our next home. It's cool to see that our tastes and desires are starting to really align. We'll see if it's ultimately affordable, and where, and when, but at least we'll be looking for the same thing. We credit our realtor John with a lot of that... turns out that we did like a lot of the same things, but at just never been able to verbalize them. But John listened to us talk before-hand and then observed as we toured the houses, to the point where he was eventually able to walk into a house and know that we didn't need to spend more than a few seconds. Really random, but I still feel really bad for the dog at one house... so excited to see us, he peed on he floor. We put paper towel over it, but I wish we had just cleaned it up because I still wonder if he got punished for that.

Still random, speaking of realtors, if anyone talks to Ben Kelly, please let him know about our new baby. But don't let him think that the baby was named after him. It it was, it was unintentional. (He's also not named after Ben on LOST.)

Can you tell I'm killing time? I want to go downstairs and ride the exercise bike but waiting for Lori to come and collect Ben for his next feeding. And here she is.

Lates. Yes, I said lates. Deal.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thank You, Darlton

Now that was a satisfying episode of LOST. Eight months to the next new episode is tragic, but at least it won't be stressful. (I don't think Jin is dead, I think Farraday will pick him up in the boat and they'll be within the sphere of the island and be plucked up with it. Beyond that, I have a lot of questions. Fortunately, they're all very minor and can wait.)

And Pushing Daisies will be back in the fall. Yay.

Substitution for Common Sense

My wife shops at a local grocery store in town called WinCo. It's a chain where the non-union employees are the owners. I can't stand the place and avoid going at all costs. The customers are really unpleasant and there's just a general dingy feeling to the place.

No, no fancy ahm-bee-yahnz here, they're known for one thing and they do it well - low prices. So my wonderful wife, stretching our meager budget goes where I dare not tread, a place I consider beneath me, a place I hold with a mixture of fear and dread when forced to confront.

A few months back I found myself in line in their customer service area. Long story short, my mother-in-law's purse had been stolen and dumped there by the thieves who proceeded inside to attempt to get money off of her ATM card. The car keys weren't still in the purse, so I had gone in to find out if they had been possibly turned in to lost and found.

As I waited for all the people in front of me to give their various reasons for returning groceries, I regarded my surroundings. The main wall behind the customer service reps was filled with signs. You know the type, putty-colored rectangles with white letters engraved in plastic. Each rectangle a different size, obviously ordered at different times. New signs that had not yet graduated to that level of permanence were printed or scrawled onto 8-1/2x11" sheets of paper.

The signs held various instructions, warnings and caveats to consider when taking advantages of their offerings... Warnings of bounced check fees, hours of operation for check-cashing, requirements for successful winning lottery ticket prize money redemption.

In every case, someone got tired of having to explain themselves or repeatledly confront someone trying to work over the system and thought 'we should have a sign.'. But after awhile, this piecemeal approach gets out of control. It looks tacky. And taken as a whole, it makes the WinCo customer look like someone who is ignorant and in many cases, prone to fraud and theft.

It's an interesting phenomenon. I mention it now because I feel like I'm starting to slip into 'sign mode' - if such a thing exists.

In order to combat a never re-filled Brita, Lori asked me to come up with something that indicates a minimum level at which point if the water is below, you need to refill it before putting it back in the fridge. Common sense or common courtesy, but it wasn't happening.

Tired of dirty dishes everywhere, I bought a large plastic tub last week to put dishes in if the dishwasher isn't accepting dirty dishes. We went away for memorial day and came back to find all the dishes washed and the tub in the dining room. After replacing it, I've seen dishes set next to it repeatedly. Which suggests either an attitude problem or one of ignorance. I finally had to put a note on it last night which directs the reader to put dishes in the tub or dishwasher.

I'm getting close to putting one on Rachel's stool in her bathroom so she can safely get to the sink - it keeps moving to the other side of the bathroom no matter how many times we put it back. Or the vacuum cleaner that's never in the same place. Or how to avoid breaking the belt on the vacuum. Or about how leaving hot things like curling irons or clothes irons on low, kid-accessible surfaces to cool is a bad idea. Or how to snap the broom to the dustpan handle correctly. Or that forks go on the left. Or to let someone know (or add to shopping list) if you use up all of the detergent or softener sheets or my instant coffee mix, instead of throwing away (actually they should go in the recycling bin) the containers and letting us hunt all over for them until we find the empty containers and realize we won't be doing any laundry or drinking coffee until we go to the store..

Or how to fold clothes. I would much rather start with clothes from the dryer than have to reflod everything. Don't even get me started (too late)... on what planet does it make sense to fold towels in such a way that you must re-fold them before you can hang them on a towel rack? This one isn't preference. It's common sense.

And yet I fear I need a sign.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Look

I decided to mess around with the design tonight. I'm not 100% happy with it yet, but I've messed enough. I worked hard to try to understand CSS and how blogger implements it along with their own crazy code. I think I understand it a little more now. I'd love anyone's advice on how to fix the quotes around the comments. They're on their own lines and I'd like them to be right up against the content. Oh well.

Well, I must be off. Up, upstairs and away.

Multimedia message

What a tragic waste of Peeps.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nostalgia

"President Shepherd" by Marc Shaiman, the title track from American President came on LaunchCast again. Still such a great piece of music. But it was also a little disappointing to listen to when I thought about how cool West Wing was when it started but how boring and uninteresting it got about the time we stopped watching. It's amazing how a piece of music can transfer you to another place and time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Meanwhile...

In a different place, separated from the first only by the dimension of time, a few hours to be imprecise, I'm somewhat happy. I got to spend time playing with Ben and Rachel, got to hang out with Lori and rode the exercise bike. So I feel a little better. And truth be told, I did get some good chores done tonight. And today I resisted cookies and brownies and candy and doughnuts. And my lunch even came with a cookie and the first thing I did when I opened my lunch was remove the cookie and carry it across the room and put it on the tray with the doughnuts for someone else to take. You'd think it'd be killing me, but Lori's also made cupcakes for Rachel for school tomorrow. But there will always be more cupcakes and I know these particular ones are off-limits, so I'm quite content to enjoy the smell and leave it at that.

120 Seconds: Bad Mood

I'm feeling kinda cranky at the moment. I'm listening to Depeche Mode. It's not making me cranky, in fact, I'm finding it soothing. I just finished vacuuming most of the house. That should have put me in a better mood, but at the moment, it has failed to do so. I'm finding it too loud in the house and I really wish my mother-in-law wasn't here. She's in the way and it's to the point where even the sound of her voice grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. I don't know when or if she'll ever leave before I die, but it will not be too soon. I know she's a help to Lori, but I really wish she'd stay out of sight when I was around. Only 10 seconds left. But I don't feel like being done. beep. Ok, guess I'll type some more. One of the things that utterly frustrates me is that she ends up getting far too much play on here which just further angers me because it points to how much of my waking time is spent wishing she weren't here. And so I just sit here shaking my head unable to even come up with words to describe my anger. It's almost like I'm shaking. It's like what my new son does when he tries to suck on someone's finger and realizes that he's not going to get fed, he just shakes his head back and forth very quickly as if to say "NoNoNoNoNo" Yeah, we had a son. I don't even know if I posted about it on the other blog yet. How sad is that? I do know I posted about the photos being available, but I don't think I've posted much about him besides that. He is very mellow and he eats a lot. He actually let us sleep all through the night last night. Lori should have woken him up after four hours and gotten him to eat, but she was so tired that didn't happen. She figures it's the first full night's sleep she's gotten in months. Literally. I've only seen my son for a few seconds tonight. He's either been eating or sleeping on Lori or in my mother-in-law's arms. She needs to go. Lori's promised to talk to her in six days if there's no obvious signs that she's preparing to move on. Lori talked to her last time and they said "end of April" but it came and went and Lori's mom seems to have completely forgotten about it. This time, Lori's promised to issue a declaration of a specific date, a finite point in time I can count down towards.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Photos Uploaded

The photos have been uploaded to Flickr. If you can't see them, you need an invitation (or you haven't logged in).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Terrafugia Transition

When I see Terrefugia, I think "fugly" - and yet I'm sure it's "Terra-foo-ghjee-uh" or something. It would be cool, but it wouldn't be pretty. Yeah, c'mon flying cars. From Engadget.com

Weird: Volkswagen Aptera

1 liter tank, 75 MPH max., 235 MPG. Seats two, tandem. 2010. More on Engadget.com

Thursday, May 08, 2008

H&R Block @Tweeted Me

Last night as I was clearing out my inbox, I facetiously made the Twitter post:

@h&r block - why are you emailing me? It's May. You are of no use to me now.

In the twitter verse, that's not even legitimate... it only caught @h as the response. But yet, not too long after that, I had a response back from HRBlock:

HRBlock @tvjames Info on tax rebates. Plus, it's what you do now...in 2008...that determines what you'll owe (or get back) come April. Good tips!

So, nice job catching my twit and providing a good response.

I get too much email, so I did unsubscribe, but I've used them for years for my taxes and this goes on to further cement in my mind that they are a quality company.

(And right about now the guy who said "Our logo should just be a bright green square." is probably telling the naysayers to eat his shorts.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

No Less Crazy

It has been so crazy lately. And I really don't see it letting up any time soon. I am getting a little more caught up, though. I slammed through a backlog of MyPoints emails. Most of them had expired, but at least they're all done and gone. I also ripped through most of my Google Reader
stuff. There's still 92, but there's also a lot that I starred that I need to get back to. I am simultaneously reading 2 Reader's Digests, a Consumer Reports and 2 books. There are others, too, but I've lost track. Let's just say there's a giant stack of magazines and books on my nightstand and not enough time to get to them all.

Work, as well, has been crazy. We lost one of our team at the end of last week. I was curious to see how that was going to affect us, but then the thing in Myanmar happened. (They're saying over 100,000 people dead? Hard to actually imagine 100,000 people. Let alone all of them being dead. It's hard to focus on individual people when numbers are so huge.) Anyhow, please consider going to World Vision and giving a small gift. Every little bit helps. The biggest concern is safe drinking water and health. I believe they're distributing kits to help make sure people have those essentials and vitamins and high energy foods to keep them healthy. Apparently there are entire areas still far under water. I hope that at least out of this the government of Myanmar learns to trust the global community a little more and opens up its borders a little more to aid, democracy and a better way of taking care of its citizens.

So I'm supposed to be developing a training plan for someone from another group who's going to come help us. I got some work done on it today, but it's not complete enough to use. Needs lots of refining and reorganization. I won't have it done in time to do any of the training myself, but at least it will guarantee that they learn what I want them to learn and they get trained in the right things in the right order. That didn't happen with the last person we borrowed and it caused them to plateau in their competency far earlier than they should have, which was too bad. I'm hoping this time the framework I develop will help them to be more productive quicker and rise to a higher level of complexity in the work they're able to do for us.

Oh, and the baby will be here no later than Monday. If things don't kick off on their own, they're going to induce on Monday. It's a little weird that in just a few short days we won't have a child, we'll have children. But honestly? Things have been so crazy lately in every other regard that I have not had time to really contemplate this and so it's going to hit me pretty hard. It's going to be awesome, but I am soooo not ready for it. And yet I am.

And the mother-in-law still lives here with no signs of moving out. It's starting to get really bad and really weird again. But at least this time, it hasn't come between Lori and I. But, this is the last time. She's used up all of her "live with us" credits from now until the end of time.

It's getting late, I should be getting upstairs to bed. As far as I know, I'm going to work as per normal tomorrow. If you don't count the two hour lunch break where Rachel comes and stays with me at work while Lori's at a doctor's appointment.

This feels good. It's been too long since I've posted.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hillary

"I believe we should have a gas tax holiday and we should pay for it!"
-- Hillary Clinton

So... we should pay for it. By more taxes later to make up the shortfall?

This was the clip they played after saying that Hillary had the 90% of the popular support in the least educated counties of some state which I'm also assuming is one of the least educated states. The reporter went on to say that she (Hillary) intends to keep it that way. Which way? Uneducated?

I am really impressed with the strategy the Democrats are laying forward. The Republican party has an incredibly weak candidate, yet another old white guy. So instead of just putting forth one candidate, the Democrats continue to allow Clinton and Obama to duke it out in the spotlight.

And just like that, they've reframed the question... come November, who are you voting for? Will our next President be black or a woman? Granted, you really won't get that choice, by then, you'll have completely forgotten about John whatshisname, if you haven't already.

Gotta hand it to the Democrats, a truly brilliant piece of political engineering. (If this isn't intentional, then they're incredibly lucky to have two people willing to burn through other people's money -- practice for being in office -- and an opposing party with a truly lame duck offering.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free Ideas

Ok, here's some free ideas I thought of today.

1. Shaving lotion that turns hair bright green, so as you shave, you can see where you need to shave more. (I'm sure people with dark hair are saying "Dude, why don't you just look at your face?" Lot harder to see with a blond beard.)

2. Tray-tables for people in the backseats of cars.

3. When you buy a hybrid, you can program it to know what car you traded-in. Then as you go, it can show you how much you've saved by buying the hybrid.

Multimedia message

View from cemetery

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Goofy Weather



It won't. But it's crazy that this kind of stuff is still appearing on Accuweather. (Weather.com, too. But in an informal experiment last year I tallied up how many times Accuweather.com was right and how many times Weather.com was right. Can't remember how Accuweather.com did, but Weather.com was always wrong.)

Blogger Complaint.. why can I not just show this at actual size? Why must you shrink or enlarge it and then refuse to just display the actual size? Annoying!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Testing... 1... 2... 3...

Testing the "Blog It" application from TypePad on Facebook to post to three different Blogger blogs and a LiveJournal blog and update my Facebook, Twitter and Pownce status all at once.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Change

Really interesting church service today. But before it, our worship leader talked about worship through the ages. He started by having us repeat a phrase in latin, a language we didn't know and one that most early worshipers didn't know either. Then he added some musical notes behind it, the sort of lyrical/liturgical chanting still done in some Catholic and Lutheran churches. Then a few more notes. Then spoke of the reformation where one of Martin Luther's contributions was that music started being sung in the common language of the people. Theirs German, ours English. So then we begun singing "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." And then additional verses. And then organ. And then more instruments. And different styles. And the influence of Negro Spirituals and Gospel. And electric guitars. It was rather interesting. I had to laugh near the end and lean over to Lori and say "I'm glad they didn't just stop in the 50's like most churches." (This has been something that has been a bone of contention with me.. so many churches' refusal to continue to evolve* and grow and stay relevant. Beyond occasionally stealing from corporate America in a blatant misunderstanding of the terms "fair use" and "parody.")

*Yeah, I get the irony.

And then the Pastor started the service talking about his complaint that they had changed the Safeway he liked to buy candy bars at. (The new subtle changes they've been rolling out to Pavillions, Vons and Safeways nationwide - new softer lighting, nicer looking floors, consistent and more obvious layouts, etc.)

And he segued into how Jesus was seen as a trouble-maker. He was changing things up, challenging people, challenging ideas and telling the people of His time that things were changing. And they weren't happy about that.

The pastor went through five vignettes. It was good stuff. The sermon notes don't do it justice, but I'm reprinting them here as a jumping off point. (If anyone is curious, let me know and I'll get ahold of a copy of the CD or get a recording added to the church website.)

Story #1 - A Paralytic Forgiven
  • Criticism: His beliefs are questionable.
  • Jesus' Response: My actions prove my orthodoxy.
  • See: Luke 5:17-26
Story #2 - A Party with a Pagan
  • Criticism: Proper believerrs associate only with proper people.
  • Response: My heart reaches out first to those who most need me.
  • See: Luke 5:27-32
Story #3 - Forgotten Past
  • Criticism: He doesn't value our traditions.
  • Response: A new day requires a new way.
  • See: Luke 5:33-39
Story #4 - Hungry Harvest
  • Criticism: He's doing what we don't do on our day of worship.
  • Response: Helping people has always trumped human rules.
  • See: Luke 6:1-5
Story #5 - Synagogue Scandal
  • Criticism: We don't do it that way in our synagogue!
  • Response: People matter more than tradition.
  • See: Luke 13:10-17
At this point, I'm starting to get excited. He's stirring the pot. He gets it! He's pointing out how wrong it is for people to get upset about when change happens... like repainting the sanctuary a different color, or the pastor not wearing a suit, a construction project to build a new Worship Center, or even the dropping of the "u" in the spelling of "Saviour's" in the church name.

Is it possible he's going to announce something is going to happen at our church? Is this it? Is something going to change? Will something make me excited? Don't get me wrong, I was excited last year when they announced plans to expand. And then I saw the plans and I was sorely disappointed. The plans were underwhelming, disappointing and would offer new versions of the same problems (undersized hallways, tiny tiny tiny foyer, plans that don't consider future development, phases that would probably never see the light of day, and important things left off of first phase.) For one, there's no "mother's room" in the new sanctuary design, and one of the nicest pieces, a really pleasant and welcoming front entrance and facade will either have to be built twice, or won't happen until phase II, or something else. No one's been able to explain yet to me how you can build that facade if there won't be 15-20 feed of building behind it until a later phase. Anyhow, I'm digressing.

But, yeah, he was basically chastising those who grumble about changes to "their church." Was a fresh wind about to blow in? Would things be shaken up?

At that moment, he's tracking right with me when he says that some people are now excitedly or nervously waiting to hear about a big change that he must be making if he's going to present a sermon like this. That it must be so big that he planned this whole sermon series so that he could get to this point now and make some announcement.

But that no, there was no big announcement. That many in the congregation would now be sitting in their chairs, some relieved, some disappointed. Darn straight I'm disappointed.

He went on to remind people that this (and all churches) are Jesus' church and that Jesus was more interested in reaching new people than in maintaining old ways. That if we insist on doing things the way we want them, we only reach people like us. (Who he suggested were people who are already Christians just looking to change churches.)

This is where I got thrown off track and began scribbling madly on the back of my sermon notes. I've heard this before. Many, many times. It seems like it's something churches always struggle with.

How do you take care of the existing "flock" while seeking to help people find/learn of Jesus Christ and His love for them and the hope that they can find in believing Him?

At Bethel, they circled the wagons. It was hard to be a new person there, and usually new people didn't stay around long. So that led to a slow death by attrition.

At Lake, it was refusing to recognize the challenge, refusing to honor the heritage, refusing to accept reality. Here was a 110-year-old church with an average weekly attendance of about 5,000. And an average congregant life-span of about five years. Smack dab on the crossroads of Pasadena with wealth and prosperity to the southwest and northeast and poverty and a largely minority populations to the northwest and to a lesser degree, the southeast. And a congregation who mostly drove in. And a struggling latino service led by a well intended, very well educated spanish-speaking minister of the wrong ethnicity. (Like hiring a bigger-than-life Texan to lead a church in rural Pennsylvania. Same langugage, but not the right fit.) Someone told them that if they wanted to grow and really fulfill their purpose, they need to do a lot more in the community and really ramp up their offerings to the Spanish-speakers. They did ultimately start a separate 503(c) to help in the community (and receive corporate and government grants that a church couldn't), but they still held it at arms length not just for legal reasons, but to keep it away from their church. And this was a church that started as a Bible study led by a 13-year-old black girl.

So, seriously, how do we find the balance? And is the statement even legitimate? I'm not so convinced it is. If, at the core of it, we all profess a belief in Jesus Christ, then what one thing makes each church significantly different from one another? Location, location, location.

If a church is to be "successful" then, I submit that it must be a fixture in its immediate neighborhood. That means learning the demographics of the neighborhood, and then learning the tastes and styles. It means becoming a welcoming place to the people who live around it.

If that means it's a place filled with people like us (not the definition above), then we're doing our job. But if it's means that we must change everything in order to be appealing to the tastes and styles of the neighborhood around the church, then we've got several big problems.

1. Where did we go off-track?
2. What to do with the current attenders who just don't fit in at all?
3. If it's not like us, then are we the best people to try to make it appealing and attractive? Do we risk looking like frauds?

Too often, we take the extremely easy route. We claim that we want to be all-inclusive, welcoming to everyone. (Except for where there's the appearance of ongoing sin that we don't want in our church, lest we look like we condone some sinful lifestyle choices.)

So we don't identify the types of people who we want to reach/attract. We don't define. We don't apply that as a filter against decisions of what programs to start (or stop).

And we risk ending up with a "product" that feels wishy-washy, dated and irrelevant. And so, ultimately, it does attract people like us, because those are the types of people who are going to feel comfortable in the comfortable place we've crafted for ourselves.

So what's my point? I guess my points are this...

1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a church full of people like yourself, provided that the church is alive, relevant, attracting, evolving while at the same time, holding firm to the truths of the Bible that are unchanging.

2. You cannot be all things to all people. When you do, you end up like General Motors... they make a wide variety of cars. But they still neglect important segments and/or they produce a blah product that doesn't consistently compete well against someone who only focuses on a specific "customer" (Honda, Lexus, Maybach)

3. You must be intentional. This stuff doesn't just happen on its own.

As an aside, this sermon also pointed out for me my own inconsistencies. I am often concerned about change, and sometimes frustrated by it. At the same time, I'm all too eager to see change happen. I want Federal Way to grow up and to become Bellevue South. I want my church to be more savvy/clever/relevant to me*. I want this baby to be born. But at the same token, I want things to stay the way they were. I don't want my daughter to ever grow up. I don't want menus to change at my favorite restaurants - the ones I'd prefer to go to time after time instead of trying new ones. (* Is this so wrong? On the other hand, what does this suggest? I'm in a blue state complaining about the blueness while wishing the church I attend were a little more progressive, a little more hip, a little less red?)

I don't know. There have been some good sermons lately that I kept meaning to write about when I got home. Most of those would have been "Yeah, this was so spot on and I agree 100% and listen to what I learned..." but in too many cases I didn't get in front of the computer with my notes and get them entered in. But today the sermon sparked so much thought that I had to get it typed up and out of my head. I'm sure the usuals will have their own thoughts to add. I especially hope Anonymous is still reading because I've found their comments to be hugely insightful, obviously a very intelligent and thoughtful person.

Multimedia message

No thank you. :) Yay, me.

Noughnuts

They brought doughnuts again this morning. They're Albertsons. They look a little better than the Safeway ones people bring. But I'm still declining. Fortunately, they're on the other side of the table from me. But they're regular plain old doughnuts. I think there was an old fashioned one, but it's gone. The rest are all coated with a thin and greezy sugar or chocolate coating. And the cake parts look like that soft and bland kind. I prefer the crunchy kinds, but barring that, the more solid-cake type with thicker non-greasy icing and possibly sprinkles on top. (Perhaps that provides the crunch?)

But it's getting easier to say 'no thank you.'

But I tell you whut... When that baby is born, Lori and I are getting Blizzards.

Related news, I think the 'the year was 2008' blog (my attempt to pursue my weight-loss and other goals in a temporary year-long separate blog) is a lost cause. I'll bring the neglected progress chart to this blog and get it update.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Faith of Abraham

I cannot imagine being in Abraham's shoes.

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.



11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."


Go to Genesis 22

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I'm A Scientist?

"The first time you do something, it's science. The second time, it's engineering. The third time, it's technology - it's being a technician. I'm a scientist." -- Clifford Stoll

By that definition, I'm a scientist, too.

Give me new, give me different.

Especially at work.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Karma?

On the way into work, I needed a pick-me-up after my car got broken into last night in our garage while I slept. The ONE TIME I leave my iPod in the car. I hope they listen to the Saddleback podcasts and repent. I stopped by Fred Meyer and picked up the latest Hannah Montana and Cheetah Girls CDs. Been rocking out all day long.

Monday, March 31, 2008

I Feel Better

Scream

Does anybody know how I feel?
Sometimes I'm numb, sometimes I'm overcome
Does anybody care what's going on?
Do I have to wear my scars like a bandage on my arm
For you to see me, I need release

Do I have to scream for you to hear me?
Do I have to bleed for you to see me?
Cause I grieve, you're not listening to me
Do I need to scream?


Has anybody seen what's been done?
Where was my defense? No one heard my protest
The eyes of God were watching me
It's time to make my peace, let go and be released
So I can breathe again
I'm on my knees

I've been marked, set apart
But I'm cut so deep and afraid of the dark
One drop of blood from the hole in Your hand
Is enough to heal me and make me stand

'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me

I don't have to scream for Him to hear me
I don't have to bleed for Him to see me
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me
I don't have to scream
I don't have to bleed
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening
And I don't have to scream

ZOEgirl

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I am not a religious fraud, but I'm surely being tested right up to my breaking point.

So, a few weeks ago I mentioned briefly that I wondered if I was a fraud, when it came to my religion, but didn't speak further to the issue.

Basically, I was sitting in church singing the songs, but I wasn't feeling it. I was just sitting there bummed, thinking about how in 20 years we'd move and I'd get to go to a new church. And thinking about how sometimes I think that I'm just looking at religion as insurance. The whole "If I'm wrong, I've still led a life I can be proud of. If you're wrong, well, hell is sure going to be hot." That might be an ok place to start, with the right audience. But it's no way to live a life.

And as I pondered that, a week went by. And then it was Easter. And the church was alive. I could not help but greet people. It was so not me. And it felt so good. I wished that every Sunday could be Easter. I had some of my normal thoughts about another great church sin: The bait-and-switch. Do it up big on Christmas and Easter, knowing there will be C&E Christians in attendance. You're hoping to entice them and get them to come back. The sad reality is that the following week you're back to the same ol', same ol'. The magic is gone, the specialness of Easter is a faded memory and too many churches don't capture the excitement of Jesus' gift on a week-to-week basis, and that's just sad. Anyhow, beyond that, I realized that I could do my part. If I felt that good greeting people, why shouldn't I do it each week? So I decided I would.

I also listen to the Saddleback podcasts each morning during my drive in. I highly recommend them. 10-15 minutes, usually a single chapter or part of a chapter from the Bible. Very plain English, very insightful. Even if you're just approaching it from a scientific perspective, this is really good at helping to understand what was intended by what was written, putting it into historical perspective and showing the parallels from other parts of the Bible and how it all works together. Search for "Saddleback" under podcasts on iTunes.

Well, he was talking about a chapter in John and says that at some point in your faith, you no longer need proof, you just know in your being that Jesus was God. And he was right, I do know that. I've seen enough in my own life to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this world is bigger than the 30-odd years I've lived here and that I'm not just a meatbag here for a few decades and then gone, that there is a purpose bigger than me, that I am part of a grander plan and that life doesn't end when my time on earth does.

I also had spoken to Lori about my feelings and she suggested that maybe I was just going through a low point, a valley. And she was right, too. Two and a half years ago when we committed to the move, we felt like we were running right alongside God. On an almost day, if not weekly basis, things were falling into place. Everything affirmed and confirmed on decision. It was awesome, exhilarating, a real good high.

And then we moved, things were great, but money was getting tight and the mother-in-law had taken up a permanent position on our couch preventing it from floating away should gravity ever be removed from our living room, and work was challenging. To be sure, after an early miscarriage almost a year ago, we were now trucking along to the final trimester of a really healthy pregnancy. But the excitement, the spark, the absolute confirmation that I was doing the right thing was gone.

And so I felt that maybe I wasn't really having a crisis of faith, my faith was fine and intact. But it was more like "What's going on, Jesus? I feel I've been hung out to dry." I/we had been praying regularly that God's will for the current point and time in our life would be revealed, and that we would have the courage to move without hesitation on whatever was asked of us. That used to be a scary thing to even consider praying, but it have become a regular staple of our prayers. We were open to whatever. The last time we had prayed it, committed to it, it was so illuminating, that we/I wanted that back. I wanted to be running alongside God. I know if I go back and look at some of the blog posts from that time, to some degree I have selective memory, but to chart it out, a lot of amazing things fell into place and even the setbacks were overcome just about as quickly as they presented themselves. We really didn't break stride, took a huge leap of faith and landed so amazingly well that we were ready for the next leap.

So today we were singing a song that seems to be a favorite at this church:
Jesus, Jesus, How I trust you
How I've proved you o'er and o'er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus
O' for grace to trust You more
And it hit me again... do I trust Jesus?

On the whole of it, yes. But honestly, it all comes down to the fact that my mother-in-law is still in our house and it is casting a pall over everything. Lori is not happy, I'm certainly not happy and I think that Rachel is picking up on that and it's leading to more disciplinary problems, on top of that caused by having a permissive grandma to allow her to do what we would not. Her very presence is also costing us money we don't have, on top of robbing us of the last opportunity we have to be a family of three before Ben's arrival, not to mention the inability to get Ben's room ready. Or all of the "quirks" which on an almost daily basis make me want to scream at her "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT."

At one time, we believed that maybe her presence was designed to teach us patience. But it has gone beyond that. At this point, it's actually deteriorating our ability to express patience, and it's starting to creep into how we treat her, how to react to Rachel and it might even, ever so subtlety be affecting how we treat each other.

But we're stuck. She has no job, no money, no other place to live. She's working a temp job, but she doesn't seem to be all that compelled to give up the free ride, the free cable and the room (and bathroom) I've given up ever having a chance to use. And I'm absolutely scared that if we try to even do anything to move the process along that she's going to conveniently fall (she's constantly hurting herself or in pain, broke her foot the last two times she's been to visit Lori's brother's family and has been complaining about our front steps, trying to make us let her have one of our spots in the garage again.)

This is about God answering our prayers, nay our desperate pleas for release with a "no" or a "not yet." I don't think He's ignoring us, but it's getting so utterly frustrating. At this point, I wouldn't mind it if she won the lottery, or if she got the house and we moved to an apartment. Anything to get some space between us.

I know that in some ways, this feels callous. I know in some cultures the families, for generations, all live together in a single room hut and here we are unable to have three adults and a 3-year-old (and some cats) coexisting in 1,800 square feet. But I'm really not out of line. She's been here for 9 months reading library books, eating our food (from the pantry, while turning her nose up at Lori's cooking), eating junk food (and leaving the half-eaten boxes in the fridge until we throw them out, all the while we cannot afford to eat out), leaving lights on, complaining about everything, not looking for work, watching COPS, America's Most Wanted and Mama's Family with the volume turned up loud and undermining our authority for nine months. I am not being callous.

This is killing me.