Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend Update - December 1

The Weekend That Was - We call this a "Run-Go-Look-See-Do" weekend in our house. And they're not the ones we enjoy the most. It's a long holiday weekend so we started with the kid home from college, then the 3 hour drive down to the in-laws. Things there went well, no arguments with the FIL which is always to be avoided. We had a nice stay and came home on Friday. Very glad to see that no significant snow had been added to the piles. Saturday was Happening reunion followed by a meeting of our youth ministry revitalization team. I'm trying to remain just a team member but I may have been a little overly involved in leading this meeting. I worked very hard to just ask questions and try to keep us all on task rather than making statements. I think I succeeded. I reminded them again that they can tell me to shut up at any time. We did some excellent work in laying out our goals for the next year. Ambitious but still within reasonable grasp. All of this in Buffalo so that was all that PLUS 3 hours round trip. Sunday was church, where I FINALLY caught up with Kaitlin and Paul (Kaitlin is a former youth, now married to Paul. They live in England where Paul is a curate up near Newcastle if my English geography doesn't fail me). Kaitlin is the oldest daughter of a long time friend who is now my friend as well. Oh and she informs me she reads this blog. Hi Kaitlin! I'd missed them the Sunday before and they're headed back early this week. Then lunch with the kid before she heads back to college, grocery shopping, volleyball practice, then home to do a bit of cooking (spaghetti sauce, excuse me while I go give it a stir..........OK I'm back). My lady wife and the kid got caught in the post Buffalo Bills football game traffic on their way up to college. So it's going to be a long day for my lady.

But it was a pretty busy weekend. And that revitalization team has given me some more stuff to do!

The To Do List - More little projects, dubbing DVDs so they're ready for the January mailing, camp stuff, revitalization team. Oh and attending a meeting for the faithful remnant left after members and clergy of one of our congregations departed TEC. And a doctor's appointment. Sigh.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - I have what amounts to a simple accounting project at home that I need to get done before Christmas that has been sitting on my desk for a couple months now.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? I've given up on the Kerouac. I'm just not in the mental state for it right now. So I'm going back to something familiar. Robert Goldsborough took over the Nero Wolfe "franchise" and has done a very nice job with it. "Death On A Deadline" is my current comfort read. I'll grab some new books at the library this week.

Watched an edited version of "White Christmas" Saturday night. Decided that doesn't really count so I'll have to do my annual viewing later. The editing was dumb too.

Listening to some familiar stuff, mostly 10,000 Maniacs, checking out some contemporary folk music on Pandora, the free internet radio station (I'm becoming a big fan) and OH YEAH! Listening to WNIA, the radio station at Niagara University, where the kid is now a DJ. She's on Tu and Th 9-11 AM (all times Eastern)and Saturday 4-6PM. They stream the station so everyone can listen in. Her air name is DJ Phoenix (oh these kids). Yes, the apple hasn't fallen very far from the tree.

Next Up It's a little frightening to realize that December is here and how much I REALLY need to get done before the new year. No more messing about. Gotta get down to it.

How Am I Doing Feeling pretty good. I gained only about half a pound over Thanksgiving which is a miracle! The rest of life is looking OK. I feel pretty good (shhh,let's keep that between just us. Don't want to jinx it!)


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Update November 24

The Weekend That Was - Well most of the snow came before the weekend so I'll just ignore it. I may have some photos soon (I seem to be missing a cable) No, the real excitement of the weekend was with our cat Zaphod. Z is still enough of a kitten that she lives life at warp speed. Well Saturday she went into hyperdrive. Racing around, then stopping and giving the look of panting for a couple seconds, then racing off again. Then she'd hide under the furniture, then start all over again. She was obviously in distress but we couldn't figure out what kind. She didn't want to be touched (in fact she took a good shot at me and drew blood. She's never done that before) So after about 45 minutes we called the vet. Any new liquids/solids/stuff in the house (no), new lights or electrical cords (no), any new flea treatments (no), is she alert (yes), seizures (no), the running around would seem to eliminate heart or lung problems. Hmmm, well try wiping her fur down in case she'd gotten something on it (she would occasionally groom frantically)and see if she calmed down. If not call back. I've no problem with that response from the vet. As they said they best they could do under the circumstances would be to just observe her any way. We can do that at home for free. So we looked around. The only unusual thing was the very hot pan that had the Christmas fruitcake cooling in it. Our theory is that she licked the pan and burned her tongue. By this morning she was back to normal.

Then today she jumped up on the toilet seat just as I sat down. Surprised the daylights out of us both. No one injured. So it's been an interesting weekend for her.

Yes, I bake fruitcake for Christmas. It is 3.5 pounds of candied fruit soaked in brandy and held together with a very minimal amount of cake. It's delicious and it's not Christmas till I have a slice. I will wrap it in brandy soaked cheesecloth for about a month and then send it some to each of my brothers. Do not compare this with any fruitcake you buy in a store. I do not permit that wretched stuff into my home.

The To Do List - Still whittling down those little projects. Need to start thinking about summer camp issues very soon. Yes, seriously. Plus I have some absolutely cool reading that just arrived (details soon)

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Mostly doing those small projects. Silly. I could knock off a most of them in the week and be done with them.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? Working on Kerouac's "On the Road". I'm still early on but it looks interesting. I really want to finish it before the holiday so I can get to two new books that I'm really excited about.

Finally saw "Unbreakable". Gotta admit that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are on my list of actors I'm willing to watch in just about anything. The movie may be absolute garbage but they're just fun to watch. This is the second M. Night Shyamalan movie I've ever seen (Sixth Sense is the other). I don't remember if he did it that movie but he spends a fair amount of time early in this one with cutsey camera angles and stuff. It gets irritating. And it's unnecessary because his basic directorial style is pretty good. The Hitchcock influence is a bit heavy handed though. It's like the difference between Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. Pryor used obscenity for a purpose and Murphy just decided to crank it up. Which totally misses the point. A really clever/artsy shot should lead back into the story and then disappear. A lot of these don't.

Otherwise I really liked the movie except for the end which felt contrived and dumb.

Next Up I need to plan out a sprint through to the end of the year to really set up next year. That means getting the little projects done, and laying some ground work. This next stretch is usually very quiet for me so I don't have many distractions.

How Am I Doing I'm in an OK place right now and I have some very cool things within sight.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

This probably says something about me

I've noticed that when things are going pretty well I begin to whistle. And I seem to have a default tune. 97% of the time I whistle this tune. I know the tune is the same for "If I Only Had a Heart" and "If I Only Had the Nerve" but this is what I hear in my head.

You are free to draw your own conclusions:

I dance about that well too.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toward salvaging Confirmation

Confirmation in the Episcopal church has been suffering for a while. It would appear that we're not alone as Bishop Gerard Holohan of the Diocese of Bunbury in England says that confirmation "...has practically become a Sacrament of Farewell". Clearly the same has been happening in our church here in the States. Confirmation is "graduation from Sunday School" for too many families.

None of this is news to anyone paying much attention to the faith lives of our young people. What perplexes me is how little we really want to talk about the causes and possible solutions. There's plenty of talk on the subject but most of it is hand wringing over it all under pinned by a feeling that it's really all beyond out control.

And I think that's a load.

So let me take a shot at the subject - causes and possible solutions.

So why do we have this problem with Confirmation as the "Get Out of Church Free" card? I see several concepts at the root of this:

De-linking Confirmation and First Communion
- Once upon a time Confirmation was the gateway to Communion. Since we have (very properly I believe) recognized that baptized children can be ready to receive at a much earlier age Confirmation has been left without a commonly understood function. We don't know what it's all about, it's just a church milestone to be gotten behind us as quickly as possible.

The Adults Have Allowed It to Happen
Parents have raised their kids to believe it. Young people pay a lot more attention to how we act than what we say. Too often parent's actions say that faith/religion/church is an option, isn't really as important as skiing or soccer or work or whatever. The lay and ordained leadership of the church haven't done enough to show what Confirmation means. We haven't worked hard enough to make the faith that we supposedly hold so dear a living, vital thing for our younger brothers and sisters. I say supposedly because if it really was important, if it really was a precious part of our lives surely we would have desired to pass it on. Instead I see a satisfaction with simply teaching a few concepts and praying that they'll "get it eventually". It's a lack of faith in faith.

So what do I think we need to do to salvage Confirmation?

Make it the threshold event to adult membership - To do this I believe we need to change several things.

First make the age of confirmation 16. That's the canonical age of adulthood in TEC. So at that age when we call them adults Confirmation becomes the time when we ask them to confirm those promises made for them as children. The logic of asking for such a confirmation while they're still children has always puzzled me. I positively don't give a rat's butt about what it's always been. Confirmation at 12 or 13 or 14 is simply idiotic. It lacks a logic other than the Sacrament of Farewell. Anyone who argues for this based on "tradition" shows precious little concern for either the faith of our children or the life of the church.

Second - we need to stop screwing around and actually live out the canons. If they're adults then let them be adults. We live as hypocrites otherwise and they sense the hypocrisy. This means bringing them into places of responsibility, it means listening to them, and learning from them. It's astounding to watch what they can achieve when we allow them to take their place at our side or sometimes in the lead.

Third - we need to stop living a life in faith that is socially acceptable, careful, and secondary to our "real" lives. This isn't about making a great show of our faith. Scripture warns against that and it's just another form of fake faith. What you believe should color and influence everything in our lives from the moral decisions we make to how we drive, how we treat people on the street, to how we spend our money. Every choice we make reflects our true beliefs. That reflection either shows a person of faith (flawed and struggling certainly) or a hypocrite. Part of that is showing that being flawed and struggling is not a failure of faith but part of the life in faith. Our young people will see themselves in that faith struggle. They want no part (quite rightly) with people who mouth the words and live a lie.

I look at these ideas and think it seems so simple. As with so many things in this life of faith it may be simple but it's certainly not easy. It means changing how we live, it means putting in the work to create an environment of transformation for our children as they grow. It means releasing control and power. It means not just hearing but listening. It means accepting change.

And it means more of us have to be willing to stand up and call for that change. We must accept our call to ask questions, persist after answers, challenge power. It is a call without an terminal date. It is daunting. Intimidating. Exhausting merely to contemplate.

It is a call of the Spirit. How will you answer it?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mid week update

Well it's cold.
And there's still a lot of snow on the ground.

But then that pretty much describes the next 4-5 months. That's what I think the folks who leave comments about how much they miss the snow miss. Every now and then would be fun. We can literally have as much as 6 months of this nonsense here (Mid - October to mid-April is absolutely NOT unheard of in these parts)and 5 months is a virtual guarantee. Oh and I live in a snowbelt that normally gets 100-150 inches of snow (with 200+ on a bad winter). So expect no heart felt paeans on the glory of the white stuff.

My weight loss program took a small backward step. I gained a pound. Bleah. I just got into a snacking mode. Can't do that.

Volleyball - we played really well and lost two of three games. Sigh. I served really well (took the final 7 points of the game we won on my serve), the rest of my game was OK. Managed to tweak a muscle in my left thigh going too hard for a ball. But the best part was being told by the best player on my team that she figured I was a life long jock! (Those of you who have known me for a long time are rolling on the floor in laughter. Better let everyone else in on the joke) I was a nerd. Awkward and a little clumsy. So for someone to think I'd been a jock may be the high point of my very mediocre athletic "career". (For the record I played a year or two of Little League, four or five years of slow pitch softball, about 10 years of recreational league indoor soccer and now about 5 weeks of rec league volleyball. That's spread over 50 years. I was not a star in any of those leagues. I was below league average in the first two, league average in the second and probably still below average right now). So pretty cool.

Car news - time to buy new tires for the rear of the SUV. Except it's got an oddball tire size (it's like owning an original VW bug again, sigh!) so the tires are expensive and hard to get. We had to try three different brands before we found one in stock. All told a little under $300 for two tires, mounted balanced and installed. Yeesh. If this weren't such a great car...

Well I've had a fairly productive day so far. Got the Contemporary Folk channel up and running from Pandora which is something of a breakthrough for me. Since my first career was in radio I used to work with music playing all the time. When I took this job I didn't play much because: 1) I didn't want to disturb the folks here at the parish house (I am a guest), and 2) I wasn't sure about the whole "Bishop's staff" "working for the church" thing. I don't much like praise/contemporary Christian music. I do play some classical music but when I need to just crank out the work I need "my music". Well, finally this past year I thought "Heck with it, this is who I am. I need my tunes". I'm feeling much better. Plus with the office move a year or so ago the sound doesn't travel to the other offices very well - I'm at the end of a hallway all by myself next to the bathroom. So while I don't exactly rock out unless I know I'm the only one in the building.

So back to bumping off some of these little projects.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Are we cowards of faith?

In the world of faith we've spent a lot of my lifetime wringing our hands about the decline of influence we have on culture. We rail about the shortcomings of the common morality. The world is going to hell in a hand basket and something should be done about it. We're certain that we should play a role in solving the problems.

And at that point our faith fails us. We screw up. We become cowards of faith.

If we believe that we are bearers of the light of the Divine, bearers of the wish of God for the world shouldn't it be enough for us simply to release that into the world? Live out our faith. Certainly if you are a follower of any of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity,Islam or Judaism) you are called to care for the world and everyone in it.

So get to it.

But we don't. We spend lots of time fighting over power and control. We demand that the secular government pass laws to achieve those ends for us. That's what has really been frosting me. This decision that a lived out faith isn't enough. We need to legislate! We can make the world behave the way we want by how we live so we're going to FORCE them to behave themselves through the power of the secular government. And maybe along the way we can get rid of that nasty "s" word soon and make the government religious!

Of course it'll have to be my religion. And my understanding of my religion.

And I can't help but think that when religious people start thinking that way they're telling us an awful lot about what they really believe in.

Laws not God.
The power of the government not the power of the Body of Christ.

Government has certain abilities. Governing morals isn't one of them. It's track record down through history is wretched.

When are we gonna believe in the power of belief?


Weekend Update November 17

The Weekend That Was - Back into the busy, busy, run-go-look-see-do weekend. Sigh. Saturday was Happening board meeting in the morning, then lunch at Niagara with the kid, then hanging around wasting time at the mall in the afternoon, then we went to see NU's production of "The Rink". The play's book was written by Terrance McNally, Lyrics by Fred Ebb and Music by John Kander (Kander and Ebb also created Cabaret and Chicago. McNally did Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Full Monty). This is not any of their best work. The characters are thin, the music is not particularly memorable. The cast did a really nice job with a really weak script. Trivia note - The Rink opened on Broadway on my 26th birthday. We didn't get home till 1:30 so we slept in and didn't go to church on Sunday. Sunday was Youth Commission, followed by that exceedingly weird Pittsburgh-San Diego game (which at least we won, sorry Marko). That may have been the weirdest officiated game ever but most of what I saw called on the Black and Gold they deserved.

Then we got home and the snow began. And it kept on snowing all night. There's 15- 16 inches of snow on my back deck, a little less (but only a little) in the driveways. How much was there two days ago? NONE. So I spent 90 minutes with the snowblower and shovel digging out both driveways and the stairs and a patch of the back deck. And what do I see outside my window as I write this? Still more snow.

The To Do List - I have a bunch of smaller projects that I just need to eliminate. A couple reports, a camp graphic to create, stuff like that.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Mostly doing those small projects. Silly. I could knock off a most of them in the week and be done with them.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? I readRichard Brautigan , which was interesting and strange. I'd be willing to read more. Now I'm on to John Updike's "Rabbit, Run". At first I thought it was going to be another "Humboldt's Gift" but it's growing on me. Interesting that it features a character of an Episcopal priest (rather ineffectual like all the other characters in the book) and that it was written as a kind of respones to Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", which happens by sheer luck to be the next book I want to read!

Haven't managed to see a movie, listen to a podcast or hear any music all week. Very sad.

Next Up I'm still not sure what's up next. I find that rather disturbing.

How Am I Doing Still feeling pretty good (except when I look at that snow!) volleyball tonight, weigh in tomorrow.


Friday, November 14, 2008

New communications

I've mentioned that we were moving into (yet another) new way of communicating. Over the last two years it's become clear that my reliance on e-mail was hampering my attempts to communicate with my youth. They were pretty clear that e-mail was not something significant in their lives. They might look at it occasionally.

So that wasn't helping. What they were into was texting. The problem is that texting doesn't lend itself to the kinds of information transfers that I normally do. A text is commonly less than 150 CHARACTERS. (As an example the last sentence was 44 characters long. So I can do three fairly short sentences.) And doing mass text "mailings" wasn't easy and usually was fairly expensive.

My first thought was a relatively new service called "Twitter". According to their website

"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?".

The problem with Twitter is that I would need all my youth and leaders to sign up and then either add me to a list of Twitter-ers that they follow on their cell phones or regularly check their Twitter page for my "tweets" (that's what the individual messages are called). It just didn't seem like the answer I was looking for.
(I will note that at least one youth minister out there, Shaun Mayfield Student Ministries Pastor at Red Mountain Christian Center in Mesa AZ, has found a way to make it work that is kinda cool. I quote him from the comments page at YS Blog:

We have been using Twitter in our youth as a MAJOR feed for information for a little over a year. We use it during our services and during the week, I will explain both.

We knew the fight to stop phones in service would be a constant battle so fight fire with fire. I have an intern that has a copy of my sermon notes with certain areas highlighted and he sends out a twitter as I am saying that, about 5-10 during a service, there is a lot of reasons for this that is VERY positive, email me for more reasons.

I start of every message with a 30 second intro saying if you are new here pull out your phone and send a txt to 40404 and type follow eikonlive then if it is your first time then put in your name and you are all set up. Then throughout the week we will send you updates. We have nearly 200 people that are people that have been through our doors and several parents. The key is building a culture within your group/kids/parents.

Then we also send out updates/event details/ etc during the week, respecting the amount of txts.

As we explain it regularly it doesn't take time and it has created an AMAZING culture in that our kids are having conversations through twitter and responding to the tweets during our service asking questions or delving into the topic deeper.

You can check out their Twitter page HERE

It seems like a very creative use of the service but I was looking for something more straight forward (at least in my own mind!)

And I think I found it. JOOPZ This is a web based texting service that works with pretty much any cell service in the US or Canada. It offers "two way" texting, group messages, reminder notes, scheduled texts and more. The free service is pretty good so I looked to see what the Premium would cost me.


A year.

I looked at that three times. Most of the bulk texting places charge that much or more a month. In fact I just re-re-re-checked because I'm still not sure I got it right.

Yep. $2.95 a month. $19.95 a year.

Joopz isn't perfect. The largest group I can create is only 10 people. Since I'm hoping to get at least 100 people signed up that means 10 groups. Which is still WAAAAAY better than most other options. I'm also more limited on my messages, only 100 characters. So two sentences. My youth will approve any limitations on me talking, lol!

Because it's web based I can access it from anywhere I have internet access. I can see this as a way to communicate at Senior High conference, at convention, at EYE plus routine updates on what's happening with applications, web updates, new e-mail(!) and more.

So I'm pretty excited. Now I just need to get folks to "sign up". I'm not going to just randomly cull cell #s and load them in. By my lights that would be wrong. So I still need people to "enroll". Which amounts to sending me their name and cell phone number. I do the data entry.

My promise has been that they'll only get a limited number of texts from me, maybe two a week, no more than 12 a month. It's all designed to point them towards other things of note.

At least that's my vision for the moment. We'll see how it works out.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A mid week update

Interesting week so far. Not necessarily my most productive (so far, there's still time!) but interesting.

On the weight loss front I pushed through 190 pounds last week for the first time in years. And I stayed below it for this week's weigh in. I only lost a fraction of a pound more but I didn't bounce back up again. Which feels very good.

My volleyball team won their first match of the season. A 3-0 sweep! Very satisfying. Particularly because we played well and because we finally saw a team look at us with that "We can't beat these guys" look in their eyes. I served very well and wasn't awful otherwise.

Football pool! I continue to hang out in the 60-70% of points range. Unfortunately folks keep doing just a little better than that so I'm usually only top 20 for any given week. But I've been very consistent being right around the top 10 overall. In fact the weekly update e-mail from our pool leader said the following:

Jay . . . you've been in 9th, then 11th for 2 week, then 6th, 7th, then 12th, and then 9th, 11th, and now 10th. Dude, consistency is the name of the game!!! Way to go!!

Consistency was my goal for this year. Oh, and being in the top 10 too.

Got our first snow of the season. First "real" snow that is. Flurries, snow that doesn't stick, or can be swept with a broom are not "real" snow. We got about 8 inches Sunday night into Monday morning. Took the snowblower out but it was a mess. The ground is still warm underneath the snow (and will be for a while yet) so the bottom inch turns to heavy slush. Which clogs the snowblower. No fun. Rain tomorrow and temps in the 60s so it will all go away.

Found what I think is a great new service for communicating with the current generation of youth. I'll blog about that tomorrow or Friday.


Monday, November 10, 2008

So Cool!

Yes, I'm easily amused. But I don't care this is just an amazing performance and piece of video. It's not deep or profound or spiritual but it's cool. Just admit it and move on.

This is Corey Vidal. And he's amazing. The song was originally created by the a cappella comedy group Moosebutter

h/t to Gman

Weekend Update November 10

The Weekend That Was - Happening weekend! Seemed to go very well. My lady wife was on team this weekend so it meant that I spent the weekend home alone with the cat. So I got a lot of "stuff" out of the way. The snow blower is ready to go, changed over the icicle lights on the porch, did some cleaning, baked some pumpkin pies and made some fresh hummus with roasted red pepper (as a surprise for my lady wife). I also cooked up some split pea soup, vacuumed the house and washed and vacuumed the car.Oh and had some fun cooking for myself. The best was the steak topped with Gorgonzola and onions caramelized in maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Afterwards my mouth leaned back and lit up a cigarette. It was that good. So it was lonely (everything is more fun with my lady wife around) but a pretty good weekend. In fact it was one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in a while.

The To Do List - I really need to get next summer's camp themes figured out, I have a radio program for my church that has to get produced, plus I need to get deeper into my to do list. There's some stuff that's been lurking at the second level way too long. (My to do list has four levels)

What Am I Procrastinating About? - The next video project. I'm probably over thinking the one aspect that is stopping me.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? Still working on "The Irregulars" but I'm almost done. I'll take my first shot at Richard Brautigan next.

Did some concert video viewing over the weekend. And had two very different reactions to two classic documentaries.

First I watched "Gimme Shelter" The documentary of the 1969 Rolling Stones tour that ended with the infamous concert at the Altamont Speedway where an audience member was killed by a member of the Hells Angels. At least that's the classic synopsis. In reality the whole movie revolves around that final concert which took some of the joy away from the earlier concert clips (several of which struck me as rather flat anyway) The film is absolutely enthralling once the concert starts at Altamont. The stunned looks on the faces of Jagger and Grace Slick as the "security" slowly slides into madness. Sadly the movie makers didn't always have particularly good locations from which to shoot. They didn't like using telephoto lenses so sometimes they're actually too close to be able to see. I felt a little disappointed overall.

Quality of the film making is never a problem with "The Last Waltz" Martin Scorsese's tribute to the last concert of The Band. The Band is that rarest of all musical beasts a seminal, inspirational rock band that never really had a hit record (their highest single was top 30, they only managed it once) This was a band that worked with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters. They had an amazing influence on music yet they only were out there for about 10 years. The movie features visits from Hawkins, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, the Staples, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Dr. John and more. Take great music (and The Band is about great music), great guest singers and great movie making and this may be the best concert movie of all time.

Next Up Will be launching a new mode of communication. I think I've found the answer, details later.

How Am I Doing Actually I feel pretty good. I wish I felt a little more focused on what the next "big thing" should be. And contemplating the 3 inches of snow that fell overnight with more on the way.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Confession time

Hi my name is Jay.

And I'm addicted to freeware and Open Source software.

I used to think it wasn't a problem. That I was on a budget. That I was just being part of the counterculture against corporate software. That I was an adventurer, searching for the new and the exciting.

Then I looked at the file where I keep my downloaded files. The dozens of downloads that I had no idea what they even were any more. Then looking them up again on the Web and wondering why I'd decided to download THAT?!?!?

I looked at my program folder and discovered dozens more programs that I'd never used after that first time right after I'd unzipped the files. I discovered multiple versions of some and multiple programs that all do basically the same thing.

It became obvious that I had a problem.

Astoundingly there is no twelve step program for me. No support group to turn to in those darks hours when yet another graphics program sings its siren song through my monitor. I must face the legions of DTP software, the armies of registry utilities, the hordes of anti-virus programs alone.

But I shall prevail.

First anything that I couldn't identify immediately I simply deleted. If I really need it I'll find it again. Then a quick sweep through Program folder ruthlessly deleting programs that I never use.

I freed up a rather amazing amount of space on the ole hard drive.

Now I begin with just the best stuff. And I thought I'd share with you. I promise you're not enabling my problem.

Open Office - I've been using this Office replacement now for about 5 years and I'd never go back. This is a great freeware, open source and cross platform productivity suite. Which means it has a word processor, presentation, database, spreadsheet and graphics applications. I've found it very easy to use, it's updated regularly and it has a good looking and easy to use interface. Look at what Microsoft's Office costs then compare.

Irfanview - when it comes time to look at your graphics and photos and do very simple changes (optimize, convert, size changes, some other basic but common functions) I've never found anything I liked better than this. And I'm not alone. It's got a huge following.

Firefox and Thunderbird
These have become so mainstream it's almost strange to include them. I've tried most of the other web browsers and none impress me to the point of giving up on Firefox. I've used Thunderbird at home for two years and love it as well.

Audacity Freeware, open source, cross platform and just amazing. I haven't even scratched the surface of this audio recording and editing software. With all kinds of whiz bang effects available to download too. Everything you could need right up to professional usages.

Those are pretty well known ones. They show up on all the "Best..." lists every year. Here's a couple that may not be so well known:

Screen Monkey
- This is show and presentation control software out of England. The ability to run videos, graphics, song lyrics, live video all that seamlessly through your computer's second monitor option. The big name software costs hundreds if not over a thousand bucks. This one? Free. Still being updated and works very nicely. PC only.

Free Serif Software Discovering this site was almost too good to be true. Another European company they offer older versions of their software for free. The older versions are still quite excellent. DTP, graphics (photo and paint), web publishing and 3D. All free. All very good. I've used PagePlus and PhotoPlus the most.

Artweaver This one's from Germany I believe. A really outstanding graphics program with lots of options and capabilities.

Coffee Cup software This is another for profit software company (an exceedingly cool one in my estimation) that also offers some software for free. Some of it is pretty basic but they are fully functional and very useful. And usually have their very own quirky personality. My two favorites here are the Free Zip Wizard (I haven't used anything else for years) and the DHTML menu builder. Very nice.

Hmmm, I haven't even scratched the whole anti-virus/internet security field. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008

I do not care for whom you vote.

Just vote.

Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green.

Just vote.

Don't vote your fears.
Vote your hopes.
Don't vote your anger.
Vote your dreams.

Vote for the future. Whatever that may be to you.

This is the collect for an election from the Book of Common Prayer(1979) p.822:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I find that first statement most challenging - " whom we must account for all our powers and privileges...". We are given more than anyone in the history of the world. The accounting will be likewise massive. Suddenly the childish play of party politics becomes so much less important. In fact it disappears. What defense can be mounted before the creator of worlds that begins with "I was a good Democrat/Republican"?

Think of the parable of the talents.
Think of the command to "Feed My Sheep"
Think of the question "Who was the better neighbor?"

Enable our nation to fulfill God's purpose.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weekend Update - November 3

The Weekend That Was - This was one of those "Wait, did a weekend just slip by me?" weekends. Halloween on Friday. Didn't see a lot of kids but a decent number. Had one kid totally reject our offerings (bags of chips) and one who acted as if it were his favorite treat of the evening. I had a meeting in Buffalo Saturday (it was a good meeting but it chewed up a chunk of the day), then church on Sunday, a Lutheran youth event (bowling! I rolled a 147, 127 and 112) then volley ball practice. Came home to watch the Brazilian Grand Prix on tape (congrats to Lewis Hamilton for his championship and Felipe Massa for a great year)

So it it didn't feel like much of a weekend but it was OK!

The To Do List - Got some tasks for Youth Commission to follow up on, notes to my Lutheran friends, some early camp details and I'm sure a bunch of other stuff too.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Still haven't gotten to that paperwork yet. Sigh. I hate paperwork.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? I'm reading "The Irregulars - Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington" by Jennet Conant. I've always loved real life spy stories and the story of the British Security Coordination group has always been fascinating. That's the whole "Man Called Intrepid" thing plus where Ian Fleming (of 007 fame) got his start in spying too. Dahl is the well known children's author but was quite the playboy during the war as part of his spying. A lot of it is familiar ground for me but it's a good read.

Took the opportunity on Halloween to watch "Frankenstein
the 1931 Boris Karloff classic version. I realized I've never seen the whole movie beginning to end! Also never realized how much business in "Young Frankestein" was just ripped directly out of the original! It really still plays quite well. Some of the acting style of the day is a bit dated but it was great. And I saw the original uneditted version too. Very nice. Not much time to see anything else.

Don't know much about her but heard a couple tunes from Maria Dunn, a Scottish folk singer. Really liked the sound.

Next Up Lots of little projects at the moment. I don't think I have any bigguns.

How Am I Doing Football pool doing well. Looks like it'll be a breakthrough week for the weight loss program with a chance to put another milestone behind me. Food journalling is my new thing and it's just depressing. Job is OK, I'm still in post-major-project-let-down mode. Gotta shake that. The car just sucked another $300+ out my wallet but it's running pretty well at the moment. So I guess I'm doing pretty well.