Saturday, December 29, 2007

Computer Crash Update

I've been away from the interweb for a while, but while I was gone typed this update for all concerned about the restoration of our home desktop:

I know you've all been wondering.

The answer is that the computer of my "crash!" post is back and running. However, I had to go through a multi-step process to see it restored. And it's honestly not fully restored, but the important data has been recovered.

After running SpinRite, I was still unable to get the computer to boot. I got further along than I had previously, but still not able to boot. A disk error was encountered in the process.

By this time, I had taken the hard drive down to my other computer and was able to retrieve important info off of it. Mostly my Quicken data. I could retreive pictures from the "my pictures" folder too, so I knew the drive was not totally lost, even though it wouldn't boot.

This began another very irritating process. The re-installation of Windows XP.

I have a hollographic XP Home Edition install disc. After getting about 50% through the installation process (did I mention I purchased a new hard drive from TigerDirect on Capitol? A Seagate 250GB for $80!), I encountered a "cyclic redundancy error." A WHAT?

Apparently a Cyclic Redundancy Error is a fancy way of saying that an error has been encountered in reading the disk, and really what is going on is that the software suspects that the disk is not authentic. I restarted and tried again, and again. Every time I got to the screen that said "39 minutes to finish the install," I got this error. VERY very frustrating.

Let me just pause and say that a few weeks prior to this incident, I received a new copy of mace os 10.5 "Leopard." My installation on this laptop took about 3 hours total time. I went from 10.4 to 10.5 and had absolutely no trouble. All my data was maintained and the OS upgrade was flawless.

Back to the Windows machine. Thom tried to help me resolve this issue. He attempted to assist me with this issue, babysitting my machine during the week of dress rehearsals and trying to get it to go. But in spite of cleaning the lens on the DVD drive, cleaning the disk itself, it became clear that the error was not able to be overcome. Either a much deeper issue existed in the hard ware, or there really was a simple error on the disk. (Neither of us had an extra home XP disk lying around).

Thom recommended I take the computer to Intrex, where for $50 I could have them run a diagnostic on the memory, CPU, HD (new HD), and motherboard. They did, and they found now trouble.

Once they began to install XP however, they encountered the same error I encountered. HA! I feel a little vindicated. The solution? They simply swapped my install disk with theirs and it worked like a charm. Stupid.

So now I have windows machine up and running again on a fresh hard drive AND my old HD in the computer primarily to retrieve my old data when needed.

I've also tried something I've never done before. I'm running everything as a user rather than as admin. I have a password protected "admin" account, a "Janet" account and a "Brian" account. Since I like to use Google's firefox bookmark plugin, keeping seperate accounts between Janet and me will allow us to bookmark our browsing separately.

Computer crashes, life goes on. Computers are becoming like cars. We're very dependent on them to the point that if they crash we almost don't know what to do!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Alternative Sunday School

As you get ready for church tomorrow (or today, or next week depending on when you read this!), consider what some parents are doing to educate their kids:

An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. "It's important for kids not to look weird," says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it's O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have.

I am very curious to know what the basis of these "morals and values" are for those who don't believe in a Moral Law-Giver.

Read more in this article.

Time for Lord of the Rings

This is the time of year that I get the irresistible urge to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love these movies. I love the story, I love the grand scale of the movies, I love the acting, I love detail of the smallest minutia. I love the sound track. And I love the extended edtion DVDs (thanks, Jason!) with all the behind the scenes interviews and commentary. I appreciate the vision of Peter Jackson and I'm really excited that he is now going to be directing "The Hobbit." Rumors are that he'll be filming it in 3D as well!

Why do I get the urge to watch these movies this time of year? I guess because this is the time when the movies were released both theatrically and when the extended DVDs were released.

So far, I've watched the first disc of The Fellowship and I am nearing the end of the second disc. Right now, Boromir is trying to take the ring from Frodo. I'll probably watch the rest of the trilogy over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


"Crash" fortunately is not the sound of a bone-breaking fall, or the collision of vehicles hitting each other at high speeds.

And I'm not referring to the movie "Crash," one of my all-time favorites.

It's the sound of a hard drive. My hard drive.

Don't you just love that?

After a great time visiting family at Thanksgiving, covering parts of Pennsylvania, while passing through Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and of course, North Carolina in one four-day period, the last thing I wanted to come home to was a hard drive that was unresponsive.

But I did. And it was.

We have two computers at our house. The primary computer is the one that has the hot-running "Prescott" Intel P-IV chip in it. (and by "hot," I don't necessarily mean it is fast, I mean it runs very very hot! warms up the whole room!) It is also the machine that holds our itunes library, Picasa photos over the last four or five years, Quicken, email, etc., etc. This is not a hard drive I can afford to lose, but clearly there are some bad sectors.

Even though I had turned both the machines off while we were gone (which may have caused the problem, who knows? I leave my computers on 24/7), when we fired it up, it didn't take long for the error to reveal itself.

Well, I am attempting to recover my hard drive data with a little piece of software called Spinrite. I learned of this program because I am a regular listener of the fairly geeky Security Now podcast. This software is interesting. It is a svelte, compact little piece of machine-language software that boots from either your floppy drive or your CD-Rom drive. Once you buy it, you run it to create a little .iso file that that it runs from either source (including even a USB flash drive, though I couldn't get my computer to boot to that). My computer doesn't have a floppy drive, only a DVD drive so I knew I was going to have to get this little program onto a CD.

If I didn't have the other computer, commonly referred to as "the kid's computer," I don't think this would have worked. Fortunately, though it is several years old, it has a little 4X CDRW burner. After downloading some freeware that allows you to install .iso files to the boot sector (this is very important, otherwise the bios will not see this disc as a bootable disc, but only as a disc with an .iso file on it!), I got the Prescott computer to load the software and start working on the drive. It found the bad sectors right away and started trying to recover the data.

As I understand it, the software works literally bit by bit, flipping each bit from what it is to the the opposite, then back again (0 to 1, back to 0). If the sector is bad, it saves that bit to another part of the drive that is healthy. My drive is 160 GB. Spinrite has been running now for six days, non-stop. It is 80% finished with the drive. After this week's long investment, I hope it can salvage the drive long enough for me to copy it to a new hard drive! I'll keep anyone interested posted in this exciting saga.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm Dreaming of No Christmas Music - not now anyway

File this one under "Puh-leeze!"

I don't often listen to the radio. I've become a podcast junkie. But yesterday I was without my iPod and decided to not listen to talk radio. I was shocked to flip around the dial and hear a Christmas song (if Rod Stewart's "Favorite Things" counts as a Christmas song). But then I pushed the scan button and heard Elvis singing "Blue Christmas." I kept flipping. More Christmas music.

Why? Why must we endure this? I like Christmas. I even like Christmas music. But I like it only between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Really radio stations in Raleigh? Really?

We're a week away from Thanksgiving! Let us enjoy THAT first.

Oh--and the decorations. I couldn't believe as I walked into a Home Depot before Halloween that all the Christmas trees and lights were up.

Get ready for Christmas after Labor Day next year.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sheila and Abe

It's funny how YouTube intuitively links videos from one to the next. I guess it's based on the tagging system. Well, I had posted a video of Tommy Walker doing "To God Be The Glory" for the benefit of our team here and after reading a comment someone had left there, I noticed a link was made to this Abe Laboriel and Friends video below.

This video was made this past summer at the Saddleback worship conference. Not only was I there, but the person who shot this video had have been sitting almost next to me as this was the exact perspective I had on that little mini-concert. Sheila E, who some of you may remember from the 80's, is now following Christ and is playing at the drums. You can see her come down and grab her father out of the crowd to come up and play some of the Latin instruments with her. It's ashame the audio isn't better. We miss all the goodness and deep pockets of Abraham on the bass. It was fun though a little crazy.

Here's a picture I took of Sheila playing her trademark white-with-butterflies latin percussion.

Monday, November 05, 2007

An esoteric funny

While checking the web on compatibility issues between Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) and Finale, I stumbled upon this post from a user on a Finale message board that made me laugh out loud:

I got Leopard today too. It was a gift from my son because his pit bull ate my 10.4 system discs. The dog runs fine on 10.4.

Like Bart, I will install it on a non-essential Mac and check it out.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Prof replaces term papers with Wikipedia contributions, suffering ensues

Much attention has been given to the problem of students relying on Wikipedia as a source of information, but one professor has turned that problem on its head: instead of term papers, her students now write Wikipedia entries. [Link]

This is awesome! Yes, there are still entries in Wikipedia that need to be filled. Maybe once Wikipedia gets filled up, the prof can turn her attention toward Mahalo!

Blogged with Flock

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seeking a theology of NT music.

I thought it would be interesting to repost a portion of comments I made on a church music blog/discussion board concerning the analysis of a contemporary piece of music. It was late as I typed this initially, but for some reason I was able to crystallize my yet unanswered questions into concise form.

First, the OT idea of doing something skillfully related to music always has to do with performance. The musicians were skillful in the way they played or sang. Never [to my knowledge] is there a mention of the songs played or sung being written skillfully. Yeah, it may be splitting hairs, but isn't it interesting that the text goes out of its way sometimes to describe the skill of the musicians while saying very little about the music itself?

Second, and this may have been thoroughly covered elsewhere in previous discussions, so I apologize for bring it up, but how do we derive a New Testament theology of musical practice from Old Testament descriptions where the New Testament is curiously silent? What are we to conclude about the absolute qualifications of music and musicians from the Jewish/Chosen setting of the Old Testament to the Church/Gentile setting of the comparatively silent (on music) setting of the New Testament?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Productive Day?

I sometimes find myself measuring the productivity of my day by how much trash ends up in my trash can. I don't know if that is a useful tool or not, but at least I feel good about having done something!

Friday, October 12, 2007

I can't WAIT!!

Looking forward to a great game tonight:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Young People Rejecting Christianity, Seeing it as Homophobic

A study released last week by the Barna Group found that under-30s -- both Christian and non-Christian -- are strikingly more critical of Christianity than their peers were just a decade ago.Ten years ago, "the vast majority" of non-Christians had generally favorable views of Christianity. Now, that number stands at just 16%.

From the article:

There's a surprisingly unified sense between young adults, both inside and outside the faith, that the divisive, judgmental authoritarianism that's dominated Evangelical Christianity for the past 30 years has run its course. Furthermore: the "insiders" (as Barna terms Christians) see the same issues and agree with many of the criticisms as those on the outside -- and are openly talking about taking their theology in some new directions. There's an emerging sense that it's time to let go of the harsh legalism that's defined American Protestantism for the past three decades, and return to something more like the Social Gospel that demanded more of Christians than merely passing judgment on the details of other people's lives.

read more | digg story

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bias in the media?

Is there bias in the media? I mean the baseball media? I mean, east coast, New York-centric media?

On the day the Indians become the first team in all of baseball to clinch their division title, here are the offerings on the baseball portion of MSNBC:

Yankee's clinch? No. Sox Clinch? No. Indians? YES. Story about Cleveland? NO.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Magic Number: 5

For some reason, I enjoy reading the opposing team's home town paper to get their take on their sports team. Again, from the Detroit Free Press's Michael Rosenberg:

Well, I always wondered what it's like to be an obituary writer.

The Tigers are dead. Finished. Sans pulse. They are sleeping with the fishes, by which I mean the Marlins.

The Tigers are now 6 1/2 games behind the Indians with 10 to play. That's like being 6 1/2 miles behind in a five-mile race. Their wild-card hopes aren't much better: They are five games behind the Yankees in the loss column.

When the Tigers show up at Jacobs Fields this morning, they ought to wear black uniforms. Sure, it would be weird, but black would go nicely with their red faces.

Something like this is rare for Cleveland fans so we have to enjoy it while we can. But it's nice to see the diligence of a long-term plan coming to fruition. No panic, just stay the course. I like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Magic Number: 7

From the Detroit Free Press:

I won't say the Tigers are finished. But if my life depended on them making the playoffs, I'd buy a lot more life insurance.

In the bottom of the 11th inning Monday night, Cleveland's Casey Blake hit one out of the park, and that means the Tigers will likely be out of the postseason.

Wish I could be in NEO, I'd be at a few of these games!

Friday, September 14, 2007

540 extension added to Google Maps

FINALLY, directions from our house to somewhere in north Raleigh will start out correctly. No longer will we be directed all the way over the Triangle Town Blvd to pick up 540 but the maps have now been updated with the nine-month old extension that goes down to 64. What's interesting is that if you click over to the hybrid or satellite view, you'll see 540 still under construction. Also, the western side of 540 into RTP has not been updated. A bit of lag time at Google Maps...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Use Adium

There was a time, not too long ago when I first migrated to OS X (from OS 9--that was a long wait for me! but that's another story all together) that I signed up for iChat. At first I ignored it. I never used it. My reasons were simple. First, I resented being interrupted at any given moment by someone, anyone who sees me online. Second, there's the phone. There's email. There are cell phones. There were already a variety of ways to reach me. And of course, most compelling, the two people at the time with whom I would most likely share a chat were in the offices next to me. So why bother?

After moving to NC, I decided to resurrect iChat. I played with it for a while but soon discovered that some of my friends, litterally from all over the world, were on several different chat services. As it turned out, I unwittingly had accounts on many of these chat services already in place. I was an early adapter of ICQ, back in the dial up days.
I rarely used it. I have a Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, and AIM account (iChat works on AIM). How could I see if my friends were online without having to check all these different services?

Enter Adium. This is a great little program for MAC OS X. It combines all of your various chat accounts into one place. As you can see, you may access me from any one of these services below:

You can organize your contacts in various ways, by a custom-assigned buddy list, or by account. My list automatically resizes as people come and go. It lives in the bottom right hand corner of my screen. It may look like any of these windows at various times:

I've now decided that the reason I live with chat on so much has more to do with just knowing that I can reach someone quickly and easily. (Yes, I'll admit, email has become just too slow!). I've enjoyed the instant contact with someone who may be across the hall or half way around the world. Just like most chat clients, you can set away messages if you're busy, or sometimes, you just can't reply to someone right way--no different then not answering your phone just because someone calls.

For those of you wondering what the Windows equivalent of this program would be, I would suggest Trillian, though since I tried it last, it didn't compete with Adium's slickness.

Send me your chat address!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Say What?

Beauty? Yes.
Brains? Well--did I mention the beauty thing?

Let's blame it on the nerves, not the hair color.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ex-Korn Guitarist Writes About Choosing Jesus Over Sex, Drugs, and R&R

I don't know much about Korn, but now I have a new interest. Click on "read more" below to read this interesting article that is actually a review of a book written by Brian Welch. A couple of excerpts from the article:

"Save Me From Myself" is a primer on the miserable rock star existence he led before he turned to Jesus, seemingly out of the blue, in 2005...The decision to seek God followed an email from a concerned friend. The Bible verse contained in the email made Welch recall a memory from childhood about how moved he'd been when he tried to talk to Jesus. His transformation wasn't instant -- Welch brooded over it and kept snorting meth even as he called to the Lord for help -- but it has been permanent so far.


One refreshing piece of Welch's tale is that he doesn't claim life became perfect when he was saved. He has still drifted, trying to determine his path as he sought spiritual mentors, donated to charity, sued his band over money before making peace with them, battled another crippling depression and had a crisis of faith. He will also perk ears with his belief that "All of the man-made religion crap in this world has to die . . . All that prideful, controlling religious crap is what drives young people away from churches." That message might convince the rebel crowd that he's not a holy roller out to shove doctrines down their throat.

Things that interest me about these quotes: 1) The turning point seemed to originate from a concerned friend. 2) Never underestimate the power of scripture! I wonder what the verse was--maybe his book says. 3) Could your/my church have ever reached a guy like this?

read more | digg story

Monday, August 13, 2007

312 keys vs 88 keys

The future of music is here. What a crazy idea! I'm gonna be obsolete.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I am an Autodidact

I recently stumbled upon this Wikipedia entry and began to feel good about myself. What a weird thing to say. I read an entry that I think describes most of us, but I want it to describe me continually through out my life.

The entry, on Autodidacticism, describes a person who is self-educated or self-directed in learning. An autodidact, also known as an automath, is a mostly self-taught person.

Yes, I have a formal education. Yes, I is a high school and college graduit, and I even have a Master of Arts degree thrown in for good measure. But it was during that graduate time when I learned what it meant to have depth--or maybe that I learned that there is so much depth. Every discipline has it's own basic level of understanding, but one can always keep diving into levels below the "vocabulary" level where you begin to discover that there is a great deal of interconnectivity in the area you are exploring and many other disciplines.

From the article:

A person may become an autodidact at nearly any point in his or her life. While some may have been educated in a conventional manner in a particular field, they may choose to educate themselves in other, often unrelated areas.

That's me. I love exploring various interests in music, church history, American history, baseball history, baseball current, how the internet works, websites, how computers work, networking, how the mind works, social connectivity, streamlining, efficiency, lateral thinking, philosophy, art analysis, movie making, Bible study, word study, Christian apologetics, weight training, pedagogical issues in many fields. I love to dig into something but frustratingly come to a place where I don't know what to do with what I've learned. Still, the fun for me is in the learning!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sober Truth from David Walker

This is truly alarming. If you have ten minutes, this is worth watching. What do we do about it?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Except for Me, of course!
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cool of the Day

I know it's hot everywhere, but this does not look promising...
These are the dog days, I guess, with a capital "D" (Dog or Days, take your pick). I know it's hot everywhere, but this is ridiculous. And 87% humidity? Sheesh! I went out for a little jog this morning, around 6:30, and couldn't breathe! I know, come January, we'll all be hoping for a slice of this...maybe.

Oh, and how can the wind have a direction if it's clocked at "O mpg?"

Monday, August 06, 2007

9 Reasons why An Apple a Day Really Keeps the Doctor away

I try to eat an apple almost every day. We've been partial to Gala apples but we've lately tried other kinds and enjoyed them as well. I bet I eat at least four in a week. How many do you eat?

read more | digg story

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Breathe Man, Breathe!!

First in the A.L to 14 wins. I guess he can look any way he wants if he keeps pitching the way he has.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Make Comments

I found this little Digg app--oddly enough posted on Digg-- and began playing around with it. I guess it's not an app, it is a web page that does some digging for you about yourself. It searches through the stories you've left comments on and displays them all in a list, as well as how they were rated by the readers. One of the funny things in the early version of this web site was that it showed only the comments, not the stories, so it was kind of funny to look through some of the comments over the last few years and try to extrapolate the story. Here are some comments I left on various stories:

No one [Janet Reno] is more eminently qualified [Janet Reno] to cast judgment [Janet Reno] on our current attorney general [Janet Reno] than Bill Clinton.

That one was dugg down quite a bit.

I guess this one had something to do with the recent exchange-your-video-in-the-store story:

This was interesting to me from the article: "The biggest variable cost is the two-way postage. And so the best customers are the ones that don't return movies that often. For the business to work, the average has to be less than five movies per customer per month. If customers return movies too quickly, your only real choice is to slow down their shipments." I was thinking through this a bit--this means that if 30 people go to a blockbuster brick and mortar in one day, all rent a new movie by returning a mail-in envelope, Blockbuster benefits in the following ways: 1) they get 30 more people into their store than would otherwise have come 2) this gives them a better chance to sell crap (previously viewed movies, candy, popcorn, magazines) 3) once people are in the store, they may be enticed to rent a movie they otherwise weren't planning on renting (and paying for it) and 4) I think this is huge for Blockbuster: they can consolidate the return shipping. So now instead of 30 individual envelopes and postal changes, they can put it all in one big envelope, send it back to the mother ship from the store and save a few bucks. that's gotta add up.

And this post was about "the devil's interval," something of which I know a thing or two:

The notion that the tritone is a "bad" interval stemmed from the early music theorists attempting to justify it's usage through ratios. To the Greeks, perfection existed in fours. (The four temperaments is an example). So the Pythagorean ratios of intervals were a further way to understand and catalog intervals as useful or not useful. This is why (to this day) we call some intervals "perfect" such as the unison (1:1) octave (2:1) fifth (3:2) and fourth (4:3). The ratios have to do with the mathematical relationship of string length and the tones/intervals produced. The "tritone," has a ratio of 45:32 in the Pythagorean tuning system, which is by far the most dissonant interval (mathematically speaking) of the octave. It should also be pointed out that the tritone splits the octave exactly. Starting on C, a tritone up is F#. From F# a tritone up is C. This article does a lousy job of differentiating between the melodic tritone as opposed to the harmonic tritone. The tritone exists in modern day music as a complete consonance to our ears. (Jazz, blues and pop sometimes END songs on these chords--this would have been unheard of 100-150 years ago). At the time of the Renaissance, we began to see composers using this interval harmonically as passing notes. Eventually the interval appeared in harmonic situations and as modal music became less-used in place of tonal music, the rise of the dominant chord led to composers employing the "passing 7th" as part of the dominant sonority. Composers used the tritone interval for centuries, but typically avoided the interval melodically except for effect. (as was mentioned in the article) It is only because of medieval mysticism and lack of historical context that the "feared" tritone became known as the devil's interval.

And every once in a while I feel compelled to set people straight, quoting a previous post:

"And by the way, to the submitters of this crap...the dfefiition of stupidity ois repeateing hte same thing over and over again and expecting differnet results." I'll ignore the irony oozing from the statement above, and just point out that this was originally coined by Albert Einstein as he gave a tongue-in-cheek definition of insanity.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I know my US geography!

The hard part was spelling them all correctly...

Click here to try the quiz.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Department of useless information

I just wanted to point out some things I've added on the right hand column.

First, the Facebook profile/status. You have to join Facebook in order to see everything. I have reconnected with several college and even high school friends through Facebook. They are developing an interesting revenue model as product recommendations, books, movies, etc are more meaningful from people you are already friends with than from total strangers. Facebook may become the new Google. Though I doubt Google is going anywhere!

I also added a app. This relays the last songs I listened to in my iTunes. If I'm currently listening, it updates more frequently. Like Pandora, can stream "radio" to your desktop based on your current library and listening habits, or based on the name of an artist or group you type in. CBS just bought Evidently, more than just a social and recommending network, offers feedback to producers of the music such as when how far into a track people listened to a particular song, what they advanced to, how many times a track gets played, etc. If you're ok with that kind of information going out about your listening habits, it can be a pretty fun little tool.

Finally, I have my Digg app, which shows the latest stories I've dug. Fairly self-explanatory.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I sometimes think about conflicting things in my life and wonder what it says about me and the direction of my family. I also wonder on a macro level about how these things affect our culture, and the future of our culture. It has been said that our post-modern times are fundamentally contradictory. We think the world is falling apart, yet we consume and waste like there's no tomorrow. Religion is down, but spirituality is up. We build huge homes, yet the typical family spends less and less time together in them. We buy in to all these time-saving devices, yet feel as though we've never been busier.

My tensions, or conflicts are many, but here are some related specifically to technology that I've been thinking about lately.

On the one hand, I want a huge 1080p HD television with a BluRay player and HD satellite or cable so I can enjoy and experience the best in modern home theater entertainment. On the other hand, I want to get rid of our 27 inch CRT because of the low priority I want to place on it and how, compared to the average family, how infrequently we watch it.

On the one hand, I want to subscribe to cable or satellite service that delivers a million channels, especially the ones I know I enjoy, History channel, ESPN, Discovery, and so on, mostly so that I can spend my time flipping through all my options, not necessarily settling on one thing to watch. On the other hand, I need to be content with my life line cable, the major networks, a couple of Spanish channels, some PBS, WGN and TNT. Oh, and CPAN 2, for some reason. Why pay the money for all those extra channels if we're trying so hard to de-emphasize TV in our family?

On the one hand, I want an iPhone. Those things look so cool! On the other hand, I want to get rid of my cell phone. Not because I dislike it, but because let's face it, do I really NEED a cell phone? I pay Sprint $68/month so that people can reach me nearly on demand; yet I have email, voice mail at home and voice mail at work. I'm not THAT important!

On the one hand, I should dump MLB. It's a commitment. I've replaced the vacuum created by hardly watching TV with baseball. But for some reason I enjoy it so much. On the other, I enjoy it so much!

One the one hand, I should dump my online Blockbuster subscription. What a crazy thing it is to devalue TV/Cable/Satellite, think I'm clever because I'm not spending extra money on all those channels but then get movies I sometimes don't care about in the mail. And then I watch them! I should read a book! On the other hand, I enjoy movies. I like being caught up on what's being produced. I like the story telling, the art, even-- the production of movies. I enjoy a story, of just about any subject, told well.

As I type this I am becoming aware that what I'm dealing with is not a conflict of interests, but a conflict of values. I do value gadgets. I don't know why. I guess I also value the art of movies, the drama (though not all see it that way) of baseball.

I have not settled on where the moderate level of all these things would be. I jump in to a thing and soak it all up sometimes, even if it means just soaking it up on the periphery. I am not sure I have arrived at priorities. I mean, beyond the very important things of God, my wife, and my kids, these other things must descend in some meaningful way from there. I am uneasy or, uncertain, anyway, about how all this should balance in my life.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Immediate Media Age: Of Broadband & Blogs

Our whole lives are about doing more in less time, trying to cram everything into 24 hours, in a day that is filled with constant interruptions. Instant messages, emails, and the constant chirping of cell phones have surely and slowly squeezed our attention spans.

This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg but I like how Om Malik summed up our instant blogging culture (case in point, this post, courtesy of Digg!) You may have seen or heard Om on CrankyGeeks.

read more | digg story

Honest Mechanic

One of the hard things about moving to a new area is finding a trustworthy mechanic. There are the usual suspects, that place in particular that everyone suggests by the church, but my experience with them has been costly and not all that I had hoped.

There was the time I asked for the a/c to be charged on the van, only to find that I had a serious enough of a leak in the condenser that it leaked the refrigerant immediately. They put a dye in to help spot the leak, but it was such an obvious gash that no dye was needed. Yes, it was reasonable to charge me for the work, but nothing "stuck." So I was charged for the dye, the refrigerant, and the fee to set everything up with no compassion for not stopping to charge the a/c even though he said he could hear it leaking from the beginning. They offered to replace/repair the condenser for $700. After a little research I found some one else to do the work for $500. It pays to make a few phone calls.

But the guy who did the work, though he did good work, was all the way on the south side of town, complete opposite side. So I had to find someone else.

That's when I found Parrish's. I don't remember the exact circumstance, but I know I needed some muffler work done. Right away, they showed me what the problem was, what the factory replacement would be, what the after market would be, and "Oh, I have some pipe here I can cut and use for this piece so you'll only have to buy this shorter one." Saved me a lot of money.

I've continued to go back ever since. The latest adventure that kinda sealed the deal for me as a permanent customer was when I realized that our van was past the time of needing a timing belt change. Did the previous owner do it? Was there any way to find out?

I asked them if they could check.

First diagnosis was that it was too hard to tell, until they got into it, that is, and by that time, I might as well go ahead and replace it. Well, I thought, it's got to be done, better go ahead and do it. This was going to cost $900.

The next day I got a call around noon from Robert saying that he hadn't gotten that far into it but was able to check the belt and see that it had already recently been changed. Relief!

I got to thinking about what some unscrupulous mechanic might do--and what he could have easily done himslef. I had already given permission to change it, he could have done the work, collected the labor--or worse yet, NOT do the work, claim that he had, and I never would have known the difference. But in his honesty, he saved us a ton of money and didn't even charge for the labor to get as far as he did!

My sister in law has been threatening for some time to write a book about customer service. (Her experiences warrant a whole new post--maybe even a blog!) These guys need to be the subject of the preface, or the how-to-do-it-right section. A humble, unpretentious hole-in-the-wall auto shop with great service, honesty and one very happy and returning customer.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Summer update

I feel like I owe someone a blog post. Truth is, I have so many things I could post about, I don't know where to start. Maybe I'll do the Gary Underwood bullet points to get caught up and go from there.
  • We recently returned from a long trip. First a drive to Iowa, where we spent time with Janet's family, here sister in the Waterloo area and her folks 45 minutes away on "the farm." While we were there we celebrated Lindsey's 6th birthday and the Chezik's 50th wedding anniversary. We had a great time!
  • We stopped in at the National Farm Toy Museum. An interesting slice of Americana.
  • I got to go to a worship conference at Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA. it was great! more on that some other time.
  • I visited the Y a couple of times while in CA. I like the Y in Raleigh better.
  • On the first night in the OC I skipped early registration and went to an Angels baseball game. They played KC who swept them in the three game series.
  • It's humorous to me that in CA, the highways are all qualified by the locals with "the." It's not "take 405 to exit 106," it's "take the 405 to exit 106." I'm gonna start referring to 440 and 540 as "the 440" and "the 540" and see if it catches on.
  • At church, I feel like we could do a lot of things better, but I also feel like we do things as well as most churches. I'm mostly referring to music and tech here.
  • I had the largest pork tenderloin sandwich I had ever eaten at this fair, in IA.
  • The Mississippi River begins in Itasca State Park, Minnesota, and flows south 2,350 miles, to the Gulf of Mexico. I learned this at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, in Dubuque, IA.
  • I have become a fan of Hampton Inns.
  • Before our trip, we had to spend about $860 in our van, plus get it inspected.
  • While returning to Iowa from CA, via DFW, I missed my connecting flight and had to sleep overnight in Ft. Worth. I hooked up with a couple of dangerous characters:

  • Over the course of many hours of driving, one of the ways I entertained myself was to "read" by audiobook Crime and Punishment. I'm about 1/3 through it.
  • Man, was it hard to go to work this morning. The services went well, but it was a lot of work! God works in spite of us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I consider myself normal

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


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"("Midland" is not necessarily the same thing as "Midwest") The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it's a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn't mean you're from the Midland."

I think I have become even MORE of a mid-westerner after having moved to NC. We really stick out here and I'm working to keep myself distinctive! I am not a fan of the statement above, however, been referred to as speaking a "lowest-common-denominator American accent!"

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What a comeback!

I feel badly for Todd Jones. But not that bad.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

MLB in Baltimore

It's been a long time since I've been able to see a Major League Baseball game. It was great to drive up to Baltimore and not only see a game, but see Camden Yards, and see the Indians play. We left around 6:30 in the morning and arrived right around noon (after three stops, thanks to the Starbucks boys). Keel flew in from Cleveland at the same time, arrived at the airport, took a train to the stadium and watched the game. It was great to see him again.

The view from our seats just before the game started.
Brian, Eric, and Mike all took in the game. We never could get Mike to wear that Indians hat he just carried around all day.

Eric "insisted" we get our picture taken with the Orioles Mascot. He (or she) stayed and posed even though we all had our Indians garb on. Notice who conspicuously offered to take the picture.

After Hafner hit the grand slam in the 8th (I think) making it 9-1, the stadium emptied and we moved down to the lower level, a few rows behind the dugout. Here's Grady Sizemore in the on deck circle.

The final score.

This is the right field plaza. The famous long building is on the left and right and right-center field is on the right.

The put these little plaques in the sidewalk to denote locations of where long home runs landed and who hit them and when.

This is actually on the wall of the long building on the other side of the plaza.

I think it's a great game, baseball, that is. But I do NOT understand this:

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Hilton Head

Not that I'm a world traveler or anything, but we were given an opportunity--a gift, really-- to spend a few days with some friends in a place we'd never been near a place we really enjoy and just couldn't say "no." Thanks to Dale and HB, we were able to spend a few days last week relaxing on the beach, riding bikes, eating, watching the kids in the pool, eating some more (shrimp on the grill--who'd ever thought that could be so good?), and just enjoying being away as a family. A very nice time away with some great friends.

I don't know why, but for some reason the palm trees give me a quintessential vibe of South Carolina.

And I decided I needed to add this picture. There were people there, of course, but the island was not very busy in early May and we had the beaches mostly to ourselves. Lots of people out for strolls, sitting in the sun, not necessarily in the water, though it wasn't bad!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Caesar's Palace - Celine Dion

Celine Dion is not exactly at the top of my list of "singers I push the scan button in my car and hope to hear." Still, she's got pipes and I do like some of her songs. Somehow, DB knows people. I don't ask, he just does. he got us in for a private tour of Caesar's Palace where Celine does her show. The tour was a technical one. It was given by the front of house guy and I think a staging director. This was a very enlightening tour. I enjoyed it very much. What I enjoyed the most was when at the end they played a couple of cuts from her DVD they'll be releasing this fall. They cranked up the system, displayed the unmixed, and unedited show on the big stage screen and I could hardly stand it. The sound was amazing. A 5.1 room with truly enveloping sound. Five million dollars worth of sound system had better sound that good! It did. Her voice was strictly mixed to the center while everything else was left/right/sub and rear channels mostly for delay and fx. We got to see the show later that night. It was very enjoyable. She holds nothing back, and gives it her all. I took a lot of pictures on the tour and I thought I'd share them along with a few comments.

Here's the huge poster outside the theater.

Here's the front of house position. It's a digital board, of course, and it is linked to a Pro Tools rig where sound effects and other tracks are mixed with the live performance. Plus they record many but not all of the shows. This is useful for new musicians and substitute dancers to learn the material without a rehearsal.

Up the stairs and off of stage left is the monitor mixing area. The rack unit in the back is all for Celine's voice. It travels with her. If she sings at the Grammy's or something, it goes with her to keep her sound consistent. It is entirely analog. Behind it is the wireless director. Yes, wireless director. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of that, they don't want the frequencies getting out!

This is a shot of the stage and front of the house seats from just around the corner of the monitor desk.

A picture of the house from the "cheap seats." I believe they cost around $75/show. You can see the Front of House position. We got to sit in the row behind it for the show that night. Those seats were a little more than $75!

Another picture, showing the hight of the room. It seats just over 4000 people. They consistently put over 95% capacity in each night.

Now, walking around the back, here is the a spot and the area where the director and light controls sit.

This is the directors spot. Nothing to fancy but the funny thing about this, and the reason I took the picture is the monitor on the left. It is a static stage view that has sharpie outlines on the screen. The rectangles show where the trap doors on the stage are. This way, they know not to open it until it is clear of a stray dancer.

Now we're on the catwalks. Access to a lot of interesting stuff. Here we're above the stage looking down at the front. We're 90+ feet up!

And another view of the grid. It took a minute for me to feel secure walking around up there!

Up above the stage now, this is a swing that is lowered from way above the stage during a show. There are three of them and three girls descend from the ceiling in the middle of the song, come all the way down to the floor and start swinging. Then they're pulled back up by the end of the song. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.

Now we're up a level above the previous pictures. It's dark up here so these pictures aren't the best. What you're seeing is a web of cables that run all the curains and props that open, close, move across the stage, etc. The are attached to....

...these motors. I think they said there were forty of them on each side of the stage.

If you have an event at Caesar's and you want to broadcast or record it, here's where you come and plug in. We're down under the stage now. To our right are load-in doors. The problem is, they made the loading dock too small and obstructed so no one can use these hookups.

And here's the Green Room. It is set up differently for Celine than for Elton John, who does Monday/Tuesday shows, and different again for someone else who may come in. Jerry Seinfeld was coming in soon after we were there. Now THAT would have been fun.

Of course, the Green Room isn't so green...

The door next to the green room houses the brains of the digital FOH board and this Pro Tools recording rig. They record 84 channels. Notice the modified G5 at the bottom.

This is an area back stage where the dancers can practice. Not a lot of room, but they make the best of it. They have exercies and warm up equipment in there too.

What we're looking at here are special effects areas. Not that interesting below stage, but here you can see where stairs and a tree are "stored" before they are "launched" up onto stage.

It's hard to see, but we're under the stage looking at the front seats from the bass player's position. The bass player can view the stage only through the mesh in the steps. In fact, the drummer, guitar players, and keyboard players all play under the stage. They are revealed in the show via a back light so that the audience can see them vaguely through the mesh.

One interesting thing is that the players under the stage cannot see the piano player/conductor, so they're fed his image on a closed-circuit TV. Each player can also tap a switch with his foot and talk with the director or any other musician if there is a problem.

They use "real" drums and electronic drums.

It's hard to tell what this is, but this is an aux perc stage that is cabled to the ceiling. It comes down from above stage during the show, some one plays on it, then it returns back above.

And finally, the hats, with "Dion" labeled in the middle.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eating Some More- Las Vegas, Day 3

We have needs. We have to eat. Where to go. Someone decided we were going to "New York, New York." here's a picture of the hotel. It's a miniature Manhattan skyline, complete with the statue of liberty.

Parking is free everywhere you go on the strip. Valley Parking is free as well. You tip the guy a buck when you leave the car, tip him a buck when he brings it back. OK, it's not free, but it's very convenient.

Once inside New York, NY, we were very surpised to see once again...ANOTHER casino! Notice the New York Skyline. The shops in the mall area were made to look like you were walking down the street in the city. (but nicer)

Here is the restaurant we ate at. Called, as you can see "America." Pretty good food.

This was on the wall behind us. A map of the whole U.S. with little icons representing each region. I couldn't fit the whole thing in one shot. Sorry.

For some reason, we had on-going "bets" all week. I think Kimsu started this one. "Eric, for $5 drink this whole container of green chunky salsa." A few others threw another $10 into the pot. He did it, but he said it ruined his dinner.

Where else can you go from New York to Paris in just a few steps? Only in Vegas, I guess.

I can't remember where this was (can someone help me?). It reminded me of the mummer's parade, excpet there where not floats. Everything was made out of flowers. Pretty creative.