Monday, December 17, 2012

In Memoriam - Sandy Hook Elementary

John 15:13 says:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino, and Victoria Soto showed the great love they had for the children of Sandy Hook* Elementary in Newtown, CT this past Friday.

The other teachers and staff also showed their devotion, as they shepherded their charges through the schools, barricaded them in rooms, and otherwise comforted and consoled them.

My prayers go out to all the families affected by this tragedy. I cannot begin to comprehend what they are having to deal with right now. In fact, never in my life have I had a better understanding for the Apostle Paul's words in Romans 8:26, when he wrote that "[l]ikewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

*Edited: I updated the name of the school, which I'd inadvertantly mis-spelled. My apologies.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Friday, December 14, 2012

I recognize that name

I had the wonderful opportunity to do a little shopping with my lovely wife today at lunch time.

As we were browsing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy aisles of the local Joseph-Beth bookstore, I noticed a "staff pick" placard on the shelf. Hey, I recognize that name!!!

I haven't actually read Hard Magic yet, but it's on my list. The Monster Hunter series is excellent, and I've read nothing but good reviews of Hard Magic.

Now if only he'd come do a book signing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Free Ted Dekker Book

Ted Dekker is releasing a new series starting Dec. 28, titled "Eyes Wide Open". It will apparently be a 4 book series. The cool thing is he's making the first book available for free.

If you're interested, you can sign up at the promotional site.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Peek into Borepatch's Life

What with his new puppy and all, I imagine life inside Borepatch's secure compound is a little like this:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Respecting Others

In the business world, I've often been involved in conversations regarding respect for others, whether it was a new co-worker, a long-time boss, or a temporary contractor. We would talk about how someone was too new or young to have earned respect, or how their latest escapade diminished the amount of respect due them.

Basically, every conversation came down to whether or not someone had earned the right to be respected. Truth be told, I subscribed to that view for a long time, and still think that way on occasion, even though I know better.

Today on Facebook, I saw this, and it resonated with me.

The Golden Rule of Respect?
However, I think it does get one thing wrong. Or, rather, it takes a worldly view instead of a Kingdom view on the issue.

Romans 12:10  tells us to love one another with brotherly affection, while Philippians 2:3 admonishes us to count others as more significant than ourselves. Neither of them includes an "if they've earned it" or "if you like them" codicil. We are commanded to love and give everyone honor (1 Peter 2:17).

Perhaps the most forceful passage about respecting everyone equally is found in James 2:1-9. James has some very strong words for us in regards to showing partiality to those that are rich or powerful, while shunning the poor and the weak. This applies as well, I think, to showing respect and extending courtesies. (For an excellent treatment of this passage, I would recommend to you this sermon from Dr. Corey Abney.)

In short, it comes down to one very simple truth. We are all children of God, created in His image, and we have all fallen short of His glory. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, "as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

So, we show respect not just because of their character or our character, but because of His character in us.

Friday, November 23, 2012

From the mouths of babes

As we were sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, we partook in our annual ritual of talking about all the things we were thankful for. The kids, naturally, were mostly thankful for friends, families and toys. When it was my turn, I decided to add some frivolity to the mix and decided to quote our pastor. I told everyone I was thankful for my smoking hot wife. Everyone chuckled, and I quickly forgot about it.

Well, I briefly forgot about it.

Not 5 minutes later my son looks up and says "Mommy, you're smoking. That's why your shirt is red."

I think I'll be out of the doghouse in 5 years or so.

If he says it in public, maybe never *grin*

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I hope today finds you in the company of friends, family and loved ones. As you hang out and celebrate, I pray that you can look back on the previous year with thankfulness, even for the hard times.

I wanted to share a list of verses with you our Sunday School teacher gave us in our last class.

First, know that God wants us, in fact commands us, to be thankful in all things. We need to be intentional in giving thanks. Like biblical love, it is an affirmative action, not just a mindset. Second, don't forget the little things. Don't just remember the big awesome things that have happened, but be thankful for the food in your pantry, the roof over your head, the job you go to each day.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  • Hebrews 12:28-29 - Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

  • Psalm 28:7 - The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

  • Psalm 69:30 - I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

  • Psalm 95:1-6 - Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

  • 1 Chronicles 16:8 - Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

  • 1 Chronicles 16:34 - Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

  • Psalm 107:29-32 - He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

  • Colossians 2:6-7 - Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

  • Psalm 34:1 - I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

  • Psalm 100:4 - Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

  • Jonah 2:9 - But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!"

  • Ephesians 5:3-4 - But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

  • Colossians 3:15 - And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

  • 1 Timothy 4:4-5 - For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tech Tips You Can Use: Firefox Backspace Navigation Key

One of the great frustrations in using a piece of software is when it does something you didn't intend for it to do. It could be it experienced a fault condition, or you hit a key you didn't mean to hit. Perhaps the biggest frustration is when a key has multiple functions depending on the situation and you hit the key expecting it to do one thing but it does another.

The backspace key in the Mozilla Firefox browser is like this. If you are on a web form and entering text, the backspace key does exactly what you want it to. It moves the cursor to the left one space with each keystroke, deleting the character that was there. But what if the field you were typing in has lost the focus? Then, the backspace key becomes a browser navigation key, and Firefox treats it as if you've hit the Back button on your browser. Typically this means you've lost everything you just typed in, and you get to do it all over again.

This can be the height of frustration, especially if you spent a long time carefully crafting a witty takedown of someone that was wrong on the Internet (a full-time job, I well know).

Fortunately, the Firefox team believes in the concept of providing plenty of rope, and the browser is near infinitely customizable. The behavior of the backspace key is one of those options that can be changed.

The behavior of the backspace key is controlled by the browser.backspace_action configuration setting. All of the valid values for this option can be found in the Mozilla Knowledgebase. If you want to disable this behavior, you should set this option to a value that is not '0' or '1'. Mozilla uses '2' as an easy convention, and actually sets that as the default in the latest Linux builds. Why they don't set that as the default for all versions I don't know, but that's a rant for another day.

If you're already a Firefox configuration pro, then you can skip the rest of this article. If you've never changed Firefox before, here's a simple step-by-step on what to do (all screenshots taken using Firefox 16.0.1):

  • Open a new tab and type "about:config" as the URL
  • Firefox will present a warning page. Leave the "show this message next time" option checked and click the "I'll be careful, I promise!" button
  • In the search bar, type "browser.backspace_action"
  • Double-click on the configuration option named "browser.backspace_action" and a dialog box will pop up that lets you change the value
  • Set the value to "2" and click OK
  • Close the tab that you opened (there is no final save button to click; changes are saved automatically)
  • The change takes effect automatically. There is no need to restart your browser.
  • The backspace key should no longer act as the "Back" navigation button
Happy browsing!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

His and Hers

We all draw boundaries in our relationships. We have our side of the bed, our drawers, our cars, even our spot on the couch. But it doesn't stop there, does it?

We also have our chores and duties around the house. In fact, society has some stereotypes when it comes to chores, doesn't it? I think we could look at a list of chores and agree at least 80% of the time whose responsibility it is for a particular chore.

  1. Laundry - Hers
  2. Dishes - Hers
  3. Changing light bulbs - His
  4. Car maintenance - His
  5. Grocery shopping - Hers
  6. Yard care - His
  7. Gardening - Hers
But I think if we let these stereotypes set into our relationships, we're doing ourselves a disservice. Looking after the household should be a shared responsibility. In fact, we should find joy in helping our spouses with those tasks that are "theirs". I think Ephesians 5:33 lays it out for us when it says that we should love our wives as ourselves, and that our wives should respect us.

Out of all the bosses you've had, which have you respected more, those that pitched in and helped out, or those that tossed everything into your queue? Why should your wife respect you if you don't first show her love? Are you worthy of her respect if you never stand in the gap for her and help her out?

Here is my challenge for you. Identify one task around your house that is traditionally her job, and start helping out without being asked. Even better, pick one that you let her do because it's your least favorite thing in the world to do. Don't call attention to it. This isn't about claiming praise for yourself. This it about taking on a servant's heart and loving on your wife. After all, isn't this the model that Christ set for us in His time on Earth?

I've started doing a lot more dishes these days. Especially with my new job, I find I have more time in the morning. Instead of sitting around trying to get caught up on social media, I take 10 minutes to unload the dishwasher. If there are dishes waiting, I go ahead and put them in too.

Guess what? I find I don't loathe doing the dishes as much as I used to. Further, my wife is happier. There's one less chore that she has to make time to get to, which reduces her stress. And when she's less stressful, our relationship is better. After all, if mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And if mamma IS happy? Well, that can be a very good thing.

His and Hers?

Let's make it Ours, instead.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wow, what a coincidence!!

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning in Kentucky. The sky was bright blue, with not a cloud to be seen in the sky. Football was in the air, and outside chores beckoned. In other words, a perfect first day of fall. 17 guys, mostly older men but with a few high school kids thrown in, were gathered in the kitchen of the church. Cups of coffee in one hand, donuts in the other, we greeted those we knew and introduced ourselves to those we didn't. We ribbed each other good-naturedly about the upcoming football games, talked about our plans for the day, and caught up with each other's lives.

The youth pastor got our attention and told us why we were all there. "There's a lady in the choir that's moving today. She's a single mom with three kids. She's moving from an apartment into a house, and she needs some help. She's not moving far, and she's rented a truck. I've told her we can help until 1:00 PM. If some of you can stay later, great. I have no idea what we're walking in to: how much furniture, how many boxes. I do know she has a rental unit we have to put on the truck as well. Here's the maps. Let's carpool, so we're not flooding the apartment complex with cars. Any questions?"

We all trudged back out the parking lot, and jumped in cars. After a short drive, we reconvened at the apartment complex. "Hey guys, um, this is the right building, but I don't have a unit number, and I forgot to bring her phone number." We started looking at windows, calling out which ones had lights on. The pastor knocked on the first door, waking up the occupants. They hadn't heard of the lady we were looking for. He knocked on the next unit we called out. "Yes, we're moving today, but that's not my name. No, that's not our truck down there. My husband's on the way back with ours. I'm pregnant, and our friend can't help us until this afternoon. It's just my husband to work on loading the truck this morning."

This could have been a "Wow, what a coincidence" moment. And, all to often and to our shame, it would have been a time to say "Oh, sorry for bothering you. Best of luck with your move." Instead, we knew it was a divine appointment, and it was a chance to be the hands of feet of Christ in our community.

The 17 guys that showed up that morning comprised the largest moving crew that had ever responded to a call for help. Honestly, it was too many guys for one apartment and one truck. We would have been in each other's way, and there would have been lots of standing around.  In reality, there were now enough guys to move two apartments worth of stuff: one from the second floor and one from the third floor. And to get it all done in an hour and a half.

As we were finishing loading the trucks, the husband said "You guys were a God-send. It was just going to be me this morning, and I figured it was going to take all day to get this truck loaded. Now, my friend can help me unload this afternoon. It's a huge weight off my mind. Thank you guys so much."

We all have those moments when we feel an inexplicable urge. "Wait here for a few minutes." "Stop and talk to that person." "Go this way instead of that way." "Buy some extra milk today." "Volunteer for that work crew." Listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. You never know when you're going have a divine appointment, and when you're going to be a God-send in somebody's life.

QotD - What is the Gospel?

I am currently reading What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. At 8 chapters and 120 pages or so, it's a very short book. For all that, it's packed with tons of information. The book is part of a series called "9Marks", which is taken from the book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Devers.

Throughout the book, the author lays out, in clear and concise language, exactly what the Bible teaches about the Gospel. It's quite eye-opening to consider all the ways that we as humans get the gospel wrong. It doesn't matter if your laity or pastoral staff, understanding the true nature of the Gospel is crucial.

While there are lots of good passages in the book, this is the one that jumped out at me the most, perhaps because it talks to a theology that is all too prevalent in today's society:
Another misunderstanding of sin is to say that it's just a matter of negative thinking. We saw this in some of the quotes in the introduction to this book. Get rid of your old wineskins! Think bigger! God wants to show you his incredible favor, if you'll just get rid of all those negative mind-sets that hold you back!
Now that's a compelling message to self-reliant people who want to believe they can take care of their sin all by themselves. That's probably why men who proclaim that message have managed to build some of the largest churchesi n the world. The formula is pretty easy, really. Just tell people that their sin is no deeper than negative thinking and that it's holding them back from health, wealth, and happiness. Then tell them that if they'll just think more positively about themselves (with God's help, of course), they'll be rid of their sin and get rich, to boot. Bingo! Instant megachurch!
Sometimes the promised goal is money, sometimes health, sometimes something else entirely. But however you spin it, to say that Jesus Christ died to save us from negative thoughts about ourselves is reprehensibly unbiblical. In fact, the Bible teaches that a big part of our problem is that we think too highly of ourselves, not too lowly. Stop and think about it for a moment. How did the Serpent tempt Adam and Eve? He told them they were thinking too negatively about themselves. He told them they needed to think more positively, to extend their grasp, to reach toward their full potential, to be like God! In a word, he told them to think bigger.
Now how'd that work out for them?
It's definitely food for thought.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Free Ted Dekker Book

For the next 24 hours or so, Thomas Nelson publishing is making Black from Ted Dekker available for free.

This is book 1 in his Circle trilogy (which is actually 4 books now, with the release of the prequel Green). I love Ted Dekker and his writing style. I've always enjoyed thriller and suspense stories, and Dekker is definitely the master of the craft in Christian literature circles.

If you've never read him before, what better way than to get introduced to him for free?

The free ebook is only available through the publisher's website, and, naturally, you do have to register.

Go sign up, download the book, and give it a read.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How many instruments does it take to make a band?

We've all seen the stereotypical "one man band", where one guy plays multiple instruments. He usually has a bass drum on his back, a horn or harmonica, a guitar, cymbals he can play with his elbow, or number of other options.

One Man Band image from Wikipedia Commons
But what about when a group of guys plays a single instrument, at the same time?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Put a helmet on!!

Comedian Brad Stine has been referred to as the Christian Dennis Leary. He has a very fast-paced, frenetic style of delivery. One of his most popular sketches is called "Put a Helmet On." In this sketch, he bemoans helicopter parenting and the over-coddling of society.

Here is a sample of his work:

It seems that more of society needs to take heed of Stine's warnings. Today's example is the mother of a Justin Bieber fan. The mother,
[...] claims that, because of the alleged incident, she now suffers "hearing loss, severe tinnitus and hyperacusis (an oversensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sound) in both ears."
What is this "alleged incident" she mentions? A Bieber concert in July of 2010. The mechanism of injury? The shrieking voices of thousands of adolescent girls.

What happened to personal responsibility? A pack of foam ear plugs can be had for less than $2 at most any pharmacy or the first aid section of any grocery store. Concerts are loud. Adoring fans screaming their heads off are loud. Protect yourself, because no one else should be responsible for you.

Sometime I fear that society has become so dysfunctional that there is nothing to be done to save it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If Dr. Seuss Did Star Wars

(h/t my sister)
(image from apparently)

You can count me in

Science channel is airing a Firefly 10-year anniversary special in November.

I wonder how far out my DVR goes.

Exploit found in Windows Sidebar and Gadgets

If you're running Windows Vista or Windows 7, there's a fairly nasty exploit running around related to the sidebar. Microsoft isn't even releasing a patch for it. Their fix is to just disable the sidebar completely. That functionality is being discontinued in Windows 8, which most likely factors into Microsoft's approach to this.

Microsoft has released a "Fix It Tool" that will disable the sidebar for you. Simply click on the applicable link to download the "enable" or "disable" installer (MSI file), and then run it. If you are responsible for multiple PCs, you can download the MSI file, put it on a USB drive or CD, and install it from there. It does NOT require an active internet connection to install.

I've already applied this on my work PC, and will be applying it on my home PCs this evening.

I'm not real thrilled about having to disable the sidebar. I've really liked some of the sidebar gadgets, like weather and calendar and Google and the like.

Also, I have no idea if this exploit applies to the Google sidebar, if you have that installed. As best I know, it only applies to the Windows sidebar. I also don't know if disabling the Windows sidebar has any impact on the Google one or not. I'm sure I'll find that out this evening, as I believe I'm running the Google sidebar on  at least one machine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Metro Area Affordability

Here is an interesting article over at Forbes about how far a paycheck stretches. As is typical for a study like this, they look at cost of living as well as wages. I think it just looks at metro areas (they don't say if they're using MSAs or not), so there's not comparison between metro/urban and more rural areas.

If you live in a metro area, how does it stack up? The Cincinnati area comes in at 7th on the list. When I moved up here 3 years ago, it was lateral from a pay perspective. When you factored in differences between housing costs, insurance costs, taxes and the like, our cost of living went down a bit. In other words, we could afford more house on what we were paying previously.

This puts a little rigor to the oft-held notion that even "rich" people are broke on the coasts. The one that surprised me though was where Silicon Valley ranked.

(Edited to add: Here's the link to more detailed information on the study, with pictures)

Update: According to the methodology discussion, they are using MSAs, and they looked at the top 51.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

QOTD - Do Your Homework Edition

From an editorial in the Dallas Morning News comes this quote:
Better yet, do even more homework, and make sure you check on crime stats. That way, you won’t have to depend on the news media — me included — for your information. That’s always a dicey thing when it comes to gun news.
In fact, relying on mass media is a dicey proposition when it comes to any news. You should always check their sources, and be on the lookout for bias, both from them and confirmation bias from yourself.

It's a good thing to have your assumptions challenged every now and then. You just might find out they were wrong.

(h/t to FarmDad over at gunblogger_conspiracy for the link)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The oddities of logistics

My current watch has what they call a resin band. To me, it's plastic, but I realize it's a bit more high-tech than that. It lasted about two years, but then started developing cracks. So, I ordered a replacement band for it (cloth, not resin, so it should last longer).

According to the track & trace logs, this is the journey my little watch band has taken so far:

Day 1 - Evening - Left fulfillment center
Day 2 - Morning - Arrived first stop (this is ~10 miles from my house)
Day 3 - Mid-day - Left first stop (again, this is ~10 miles from my house)
Day 3 - Evening - Arrived major city (~130 miles from my house)
Day 4 - Overnight - Left major city
Day 4 - Morning - Arrived in my town

My package took a journey of an extra 250 miles or so. I realize that's the nature of mass logistics. Everything goes to the hubs, where it's then sent back out in smaller shipments for specific areas. They just don't have the manpower to intercept one little package like mine and stop it from going to the big hub.

But still. 2 days ago it was just 10 miles away.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why vegetarianism?

From a discussion over at on "Why vegetariansim"?:
Compare the speed of a fleeing rabbit to the speed of fleeing grass, and figure out which of them is easier to catch.
I laughed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brace Yourselves

Saw this on Facebook and had to share:

(h/t Squeaker)

Symphony for typewriter

I love this video

So many times, orchestra and chamber music are treated as such serious things. To be a patron of the arts, you have to be wealthy. Everybody is in evening gowns for the women and tuxedos and white ties for the men. This shows a much lighter side to it all.

I'm not sure which I like better, the pure joie de vivre shown by the typist, the smiles and reactions by the other orchestra members, or the thunderous applause by the audience at the end.

I think this one would warm the cockles of even Borepatch's heart :-D

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Avery Akeman's Angels - $10,000 in 10 Days

(image source)
 Avery Akeman is a dear little girl in Texas who has been dealt what some consider a rotten hand in life. You can read a synopsis of her life on this site set up by friends of the family. In short, though, this 7 year old girl has spent over 400 days in inpatient care at the hospital, has endured over 20 surgeries, and has been to the emergency room over 20 times.

Her parents, however, don't hold to that rotten deal point of view. For them, she is a treasure and a blessing from God. Every trial, every tribulation is an opportunity to draw closer to Him. Every day, in every possible way, they show their trust in His plan, and what it means to fully rely on Him for everything.

Needless to say, medical expenses are a large part of the Akeman family budget. Friends of the family have issued a fund-raising challenge to help this family. They are asking for $10,000 to be raised in 10 days. The challenge started yesterday, 06/25/2012, and runs through Wednesday, 07/04/2012. As of this post, over $3,000 has been raised.

I know there are lots of worthy causes out there, and that most of the people reading this have no idea who the Akemans are, or what they've been going through. First and foremost, I ask that you pray for this family. Pray for Avery's health, pray for her medical team, and pray for her parents. Second, make a donation if you can. The donation link is at the top of the Avery Akeman's Angels page. Help raise $10,000 in 10 days for this family. It's only a drop in the bucket compared to their total expenses, but every little bit helps.

New music

Thanks to the beneficence of a vendor, in the form of a gift card, I have picked up some new music.

First up is This Is Life by Mosteller. I got to hear Mosteller live on my birthday, when they opened for The City Harmonic. Great sounds with a lot of energy. I really liked what I heard. The debuted a new song named "Red", and I am looking forward to its eventual release.

Next up are two albums from Chris Tomlin. I picked up And If Our God Is For Us... (Deluxe Edition) and How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection. Chris Tomlin is one of the leading Praise & Worship song writers right now. I absolutely love his work, going all the way back to when he lead worship at Breakaway.

Fun with Dominoes

It has always amazed me what artists and engineers are able to do with dominoes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Generational Differences

It is amazing to me how technology magnifies generational differences. Growing up, my dad had a turn table. I distinctly remember once time when he bought a CD player for the home stereo rig. He was out of inputs on the receiver, so he just plugged it into the phono input. After CDs are functionally equivalent to LPs, right?  Well, the phono input wasn't wired to handle the input level of the CD player, and it fried the receiver.

Today, I walk around with over 9 days worth of music, and thousands of hours of pod casts on a device that is smaller than a pack of cigarettes (and my how that size comparison has fallen out of favor).

Another time, the big decision was whether or not to get a Betamax or VHS player. At one point, we had one of each. It was a big when we got a LaserDisc player.

Now, my blu-ray player is connected to my home network, and I can stream thousands of movies straight from online media services. The only time I have to leave my couch is to refill my glass or grab another bag of chips.

So what brought all this to mind? I just received a gift certificate to iTunes, courtesy of a vendor. When my children get a gift certificate, the start compiling a list of individual songs they want to purchase. My first thought was of the complete albums I could purchase.

Even when you stay up on the technology, it can still pass you by.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Windows Live Messenger and Windows 7

This one was annoying me to no end. Under Windows XP, if you used the "X" button to close your Live Messenger window, it minimized to they System Tray instead of the task bar. For some reason, Microsoft changed this behavior with Windows 7. Instead of minimizing to the System Tray, the button stayed on your task bar.

Personally, I much prefer instant messenger apps, and others that are basically running in the background, to sit in my system tray, saving taskbar space for applications that are actively doing something.

Well, a quick web search turned up this lovely article over at How-To Geek. Long story short, you can get the old behavior back by changing the application compatibility mode. If you set it to Windows Vista, it will minimize to the tray instead of the taskbar. This certainly indicates it's something specific to the Windows 7 interface. I haven't played around with turning of Aero to see if that makes a difference, as I rather like the Aero look and feel.

While this hack works for now, it makes me wonder what Microsoft will do with the upcoming Metro interface.

This is the type of thing where the user should be given the choice. Some apps alread minimize to the system tray under Windows 7/Aero. Specifically, the Google Talk app does. Further, applications used to ask how you wanted them to handle minimizing, either to the tray or to the taskbar.

It should be about control, and customizing, and the ability to have a system that performs how you want it to.

Oh well. For now, at least, application compatibility settings handle the need without seeming to break anything.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Musings on the first week

So today marks the end of my first week in the healthcare industry. Here are some musings:

  • Employee orientation is geared toward clinical staff. As non-clinical staff, a lot of it is inapplicable and boring.
  • A majority of the IT/IS systems and effort revolve around clinical and patient care, especially in this day and age of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems
  • I thought IT had it bad with acronyms and abbreviations. It took me two days to figure out what PRN meant as a staffing term1
  • There seems to be a much higher percentage of women in the IT department here.
  • It will take some getting used to seeing licensed pharmacists, RNs, LPNs, and CNAs on the IT department staff (they act as BAs and SMEs for the clinical systems)
  • For the last decade, I've been one of the guys with all the answers. Right now, I'm the guy with all the questions. It's an odd feeling.
  • It's VERY nice only having to worry about one application stack, and the associated data flows, instead of being a jack-of-all-trades across 20 different apps.

Monday, June 18, 2012

From the mouths of babes

or, Know What's Going On Before You Speak

 This morning, I was talking with the Mrs. just before leaving for my new hire orientation session. As we were standing there, my son starts blasting away on this noisemaker he got at a party this weekend.

My wife and I both started fussing at him, saying things like "Oh, not now buddy" and "Hey, that's too loud!" and "Knock it off, it's too early for that."

He looked me right in the eyes and said "I'm just celebrating because it's the first day of Daddy's new job."



"Thank you dude. I appreciate that. Come here and give me a hug."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Houston, we have achieved escape velocity

Well, it's official. After almost 13 years, I have left the job that brought me to Northern Kentucky.

Starting Monday, I begin a new career in the healthcare industry.

It's been an interesting ride for the kid that one day wanted to be a mission specialist on an STS flight.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who knew?

As part of the process of leaving my current job, I've been putting together a list of the corporate equipment entrusted to me over the years. One, I want to make sure I return everything that belongs to the company. Two, I don't want them coming back after me for anything later, to be perfectly honest.

I was surprised at how long the list actually was:

  • Laptop
  • Docking station
  • Second monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Cable lock
  • Smartphone
  • Extra battery
  • Charging/docking station for smartphone
  • Otterbox for smartphone
  • Access card for main office
  • Access card for secondary office
  • Cisco IP Phone for desk
  • Wireless headset for desk phone
  • Corporate charge card
It's a miracle I haven't lost anything.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Irrational Reactions

I had a former coworker that I just could not deal with. Anytime he asked me a question, or approached me for information, my hackles went up and I turned on my "defensive" mode. I gave short answers, tried not to volunteer information, and basically did everything I could to make the conversation as short as possible.

I would get frustrated when they didn't immediately understand something I'd told them, even if it was brand new to them, and it had taken me over a decade to master. It was an unreasonable and irrational expectation on my part, and it was limited to this one co-worker. With other co-workers, I would be excited that they wanted to learn, and would spend the time to educate them. I would make sure they understood, and would carve out time from my schedule to help them out.

I honestly don't know why I have that difference in reactions. I tried lots of different tips, tricks and techniques to be less antagonistic with this guy. He's not the most technical person I've ever worked with, and would frequently get things wrong on the projects he worked on. Maybe that's the root cause. I was burned several times, so I just didn't trust him.

But why couldn't I move past that? Why couldn't I spend as much time trying to educate him, and help him out, as I did other co-workers? Again, I really don't know. It was almost a visceral reaction. It didn't matter what, I was just not going to cut this guy a break.

I'm ashamed about it, to be honest. It wasn't fair to him, and it was a very poor attitude on my part. I hope I never have that happen again.

How have you dealt with a co-worker that just completely and irrationally rubbed you the wrong way?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prayers would be appreciated

Robb Allen has a sick kid. It's been going on for 6 days now, and like any good Dad, he's literally worried sick about it.

If you're the praying type, they would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Time For Everything

The first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes tell us that there is a time for everything:
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
 I would add to this, 'a time to stay in your current job, and a time to move on.'  It is now my time to move on.

I have been with this company for almost 13 years, starting in October of 1999. I moved from Alabama to Dallas, Texas to take this job, and after 10 years in Texas, relocated to Northern Kentucky when the company was acquired in a merger.

In those 13 years, I've worked on HR, Payroll, Time & Labor, Finance, Accounting and e-commerce applications. I've been a developer, systems administrator, DBA, systems analyst, business analyst and even had to do some basic project management. "Jack of all trades, master of none" could almost be my job description it seems.

In those same 13 years, I think I've learned a bit about how IT works, and how it doesn't. I've seen org changes that improved the delivery of IT services, and I've seen org changes that seemed to have no rational basis. I'm definitely better at my job due to all of my experiences. I guess you could liken it to both positive and negative testing, as it were.

Starting next Monday, June 18th, I will be working for one of the regional medical systems. I will be working on their Kronos system, which is a Time & Labor Management application. In its simplest form, it is an electronic time clock and scheduling system, but it can do much more than that. I will be essentially responsible for the entire system, from functional and systems administration, to technical support and upgrades, to train-the-trainer knowledge transfers.

Honestly, I can't WAIT to only have one system or application to worry about. That, and Kronos is far and away the market leader in their product niche. Healthcare is one of their primary vertical markets, and they bring a lot of tools to the table to make managing the workforce much easier. I'm very excited about this opportunity, and can't wait to start my new job.

I will miss a lot of co-workers and business unit partners at my current company, without a doubt, but there is a time for everything.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quote of the Day - Local Government Edition

Steve Arlinghaus, the Judge-Executive in Kenton County gets it:
"The only people that should be allowed to levy a tax against the public is an elected official."
Can we elect more people like him, please?

Oh, and State Auditor Adam Edelen? You go dude!

Edited to fix a typo in Steve Arlinghaus' name. Silly auto-correct features.

Irony is. . . .

. . . . epitomized by my TANK bus driver this morning.

The TANK buses typically stay in the right-hand lane on the interstate. I'm honestly not sure if that's a state or federal law, or just the Transit Authority's policy, but it doesn't really matter. This particular driver has a habit of straddling the line between the travel lane and the merge/exit lane, presumably to keep cars from trying to "jump the line".

Well, he decides he wants to jump the line because traffic is backed up. So, he moves over into the merge lane and floors it. He's flying past the stop-and-go traffic up until we reach the exit ramp, at which point he puts on his blinker to try and get back into the travel lane. He then mutters under his breath, complaining that no one will let him merge.

Wash, rinse, repeat several times on this one trip alone. On one occasion, I heard him mutter "See how you like it", as he blocked the exit ramp lane so no one could go around him.

Needless to say, I was very happy to get OFF the bus this morning.

Milestones, of which there have been 2

On Tuesday, I celebrated yet another milestone. It has now been 2 years since I quit smoking.

I've not yet been a former smoker as long as I was a non-smoker. I still have 18 years to pass that milestone, but I have confidence now that I will make it. I hear that there will still be urges, that you can never let your guard down, and I'm sure that's true. However, I honestly can't tell you the last time I had a cigarette. The smell of it puts me off, and makes me wonder how I abided it for so long.

There is one thing I do know. Not one cigarette, ever again. I know that if I smoke even one cigarette, I will go right back to smoking again.

If you've never smoked in your life, good for you. Don't start.

If you're a smoker, please, quit. Now. Today. Stub it out, throw out your pack, and go buy the gum, or the patches, or see your doctor for a prescription. Yes, it's a tough row to hoe, but it is absolutely worth it. I think of all the time I missed with my kids because I just had to step outside for a quick one. You can tell yourself that it calms you down, or settles your nerves, or whatever other little lie you want to in order to justify the habit but trust me, it is a lie. The first 6 months were a close approximation to hell, but it has been so much better these past 18.

If you're a former smoker, congratulations. I'm proud to be in that club with you, and look forward to sharing membership for a long, long time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lessons Learned - Vehicle Ownership Edition

Last Thursday, the passenger side window in the Mrs.' van rolled down and wouldn't roll back up. It didn't matter if we tried the master switch on the driver's side, or the switch on the passenger's side. Naturally, this happened while the car was in the shop, so the van was the only vehicle available. Seeing as how there were errands to run and a schedule to keep, and it looked like the weather would hold off, we puttered around town with the window down all day.

I just knew that the window motor had gone bad, so on the way home that evening we swung by the local auto parts store and picked up a replacement. An hour later, with car parts strewn about me, I discovered that it was in fact NOT the motor. With everything disassembled, and the motor connected to the wiring harness, I could hit the down switch and the motor would spin like crazy. Hit the up switch?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

After I grabbed my multimeter, I was able to confirm it. I was getting good voltage on the inputs to the switch. I was getting good signal from the master switch to the passenger switch. But downstream from the passenger switch, I was only getting voltage on the down lead when the switch was toggled.

I manually raised the window, reinstalled the motor,  left the power lead disconnected so it couldn't accidentally be rolled down again, and buttoned the door back up.

Yesterday, the replacement switch that I ordered from Amazon came in. 30 minutes after I got home, the new switch was installed, the motor was reconnected, and everything is working fine now.

I will say, the window goes up and down much quicker with a new motor.

So, the lesson learned? Do some troubleshooting before you just start throwing money at a problem. This time, it was only a ~$45 lesson, but it could have been worse. If I'd done the proper troubleshooting to start, I'd still have that money in my pocket. It wouldn't have saved me the pain of pulling the door panel, though, because I still had to get the window raised.

Live and learn, and if you're smart, learn from others!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lessons Learned - Home Ownsership Edition

Otherwise known as "know the electrical wiring in your house."

A few days ago, I was working on the back patio, and needed to use my shop-vac. I plugged it into the outlet on the patio, hit the power switch, and stared dumbfounded as nothing happened. The outlet had worked just fine the previous weekend!!! My first thought was "Oh great, the motor's blown." My first step at diagnosis was to detach the motor assembly from the shop-vac and put it into blower mode. Nope, no joy, so it wasn't any sort of interlock switch or something.

Next, I tried the other plug on that same outlet, just in case one blew or failed, even though there was no visual sign of melting or damage. That didn't work either, so I grabbed my multimeter to check the receptacle. When neither plug showed power, I headed to the breaker panel. I couldn't find a single breaker tripped, and even tried tripping and resetting a few likely ones (I wasn't sure exactly what circuit that receptacle was on).

When that didn't work, my next thought was that it had to be a GFI tripped somewhere. After all, this is an outdoor circuit, with wet environment exposure, so by code it must be on a GFI-protected circuit. None of the GFI plugs that I knew about on the ground floor were tripped. At this point, I just plugged my shop-vac into an inside outlet and took care of business. I figured I'd troubleshoot the circuit later.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I decided I REALLY wanted to get this receptacle fixed. At this point, I was honestly thinking that I'd somehow broken/damaged the receptacle the last time I used it. Just to be sure, though, I went back through the basic troubleshooting steps. Using my multimeter, I checked that receptacle (dead), the receptacle on the inside wall right next to it (good), and every other receptacle in the two downstairs areas next to the rear wall (all good). Even though all those circuits were good, I double-checked all of the GFI plugs, even tripping and resetting them. Throughout all of this, that outside plug remained stubbornly dead.

Finally, I decide to pull the receptacle. Once I had it out, I checked for power directly on the lines, and there was none. I then pulled the inside receptacle, and noticed that the jacket on that wire was a different color than the outside wire. Up to this point, I'd been working on the assumption those two plugs were on the same circuit. With that bit of information, I finally had an epiphany.

I went to the front porch, and sure enough, the receptacle there was dead too. AHA!!! Obviously, the front porch and rear patio are on the same circuit. I connected my multimeter to the front porch, asked my wife to watch it, and then went into the garage to start resetting breakers. 5 minutes later, and I still had a dead plug.

At this point, I was very confused. Everything I'd done so far should have found the fault, and I was mentally preparing myself to admit failure and schedule an electrician. Fortunately, my subconscious threw me a lifeline, and I remembered there was one general electrical outlet in the basement. I headed downstairs and sure enough, it's a GFI plug, and the little red light was glowing. I reset the plug and et voila!!! We have power.

I get everything put back together and buttoned back up, and all is at least somewhat right with my world again.

The number lesson in all of this is, as best as you can, understand all of the electrical circuits in your house. Know what zones and plugs are controlled by what breakers in your breaker box. Further, know where all of your GFI plugs are located, and what other plugs are on that same circuit. If a GFI plug trips, it disables the ENTIRE circuit, even though the breaker's not tripped at the box. It can be a rude awakening when a tripped GFI plug two rooms over disables the plug you are trying to use.

The other lesson is, if you're going to try and troubleshoot your wiring, have the proper tools and respect. Without a multimeter or other electrical tester, I would have had no safe and easy way to check all of my plugs to determine which ones were hot and which weren't. It also helps to have at least a basic understanding of how circuits work. You don't have to be an electrical engineer, but you should know what breakers and fuses do, and how to diagnose a faulty circuit. You should generally know the difference between hot, neutral and ground wires, and how to properly test a circuit using your testing tool.

The best part of all this, besides having a functioning circuit again? There's a wonderful sense of accomplishment in successfully "fixing" something that was "broken". There's a gratification in knowing you didn't have to spend money on the electrician. And there's the sense of relief that you didn't get embarrassed when the electrician points to the little glowing red light 2 minutes into his visit, saying "There's your problem."

Oh, and now I need to have a conversation with the kids and remind them not to play with the push-buttons on the receptacles, even if that little glowing light is kinda cool.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tools You Can Use - Google Calendar Sync

The other day I was getting frustrated that my company phone wasn't syncing my Exchange calendar reliably. I'd tried deleting my profile and re-adding it, doing a hard reboot of the phone (now that's a phrase I never would have dreamed of using even 10 years ago), and several other troubleshooting steps. All to no avail. Being an android-base device, it was naturally having no problems whatsoever keeping up with my Google calendar.

So I set off on a search to find something that might let me sync my Exchange calendar to my Google calendar.

Well, guess what? Google themselves created just such a tool: Google Calendar Sync

It installs on the same PC where Outlook is running. You enter your Google credentials, set the sync frequency, and get out of the way. It works wonderfully. You do need to decide the best refresh frequency for you. Also, I highly recommend going into your Exchange calendar, putting it into List mode, and deleting all of those OLD appointments from years past. It makes the sync go much faster. Personally, I had almost 3,000 calendar events it was trying to sync. Once I pared it down to recurring meetings and just those from this calendar year, that dropped to under 300. There was a HUGE improvement in sync speed at that point.

Now, on to the one primary complaint I have so far about the tool. It's obviously registering itself as an add-on or helper inside your Outlook client. First, I had to close Outlook before it would install. Second, it never asked me for my Outlook/Exchange profile information. It's bootstrapping that, apparently. Given that it's hooking into Outlook, I'm disappointed that it's not event-driven. If I add/modify/delete something from my calendar, why can't it automatically sync that item instead of re-syncing my WHOLE calendar on a schedule? To give Google the benefit of the doubt, it's most likely a limitation inside the Outlook object model, but it's frustrating nonetheless.

The one other minor complaint I have is that, because it's a client-side tool, obviously your computer has to be on and running for the sync to work. The only time this poses an issue is after hours when I've suspended my laptop. If I accept a meeting request on my phone or through our web client, it won't show up on my Google calendar until the next time I have my computer up and running so the sync can run.

Given those two limitations of the tool, it's been quite the nice little find. Now, I have access to my Exchange calendar anywhere I have access to my Google calendar, not just from my smart phone or from our OWA portal.

If you also happen to be using Exchange/Outlook and have a Google account, I can highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I don't WANT this much power

The Mrs. and I just got back from voting here in Northern Kentucky. As we were leaving, I asked the polling place workers how turnout had been. The comments ranged from "better than we expected" to "but still less than 100". Now, I'm not sure exactly how many people are in this polling precinct, but the registration book they have on the table is rather thick.  If I were to guess, I'm going to put turnout at less than 15% for our area. The Secretary of State is predicting 10 - 12% voter turnout, while the county clerks in Northern Kentucky are expecting 7 - 20% turnout.

So, why does this concern me? It's only the primaries, right? First, Kentucky is a closed primary state, so there is no crossing over to vote in the other party's primary. Second, there were three races I could vote in today: Presidential, U.S. Congress 4th District, and State Senate 11th District. There are candidates from both parties in the Presidential and Congressional races. However, there are no Democratic party challengers in the State Senatorial race. This is not really surprising considering that Northern Kentucky is a heavy Republican area. In fact, my county is one of the few one by the Republican candidate in the latest gubernatorial race.

So, what does all this mean? It means that the State Senator for the 11th District will be picked by an exceedingly small minority of the individuals represented by that seat. Turnout will be less than 15%, and only a portion of that 15% (granted, a majority of it, but still) will be allowed to vote for the candidate. The winner of the primary will be the winner of the general election.

There is also a state congressional race in this area today, but for another portion of the county. Again, in that race there is no Democratic candidate. The winner of the Republican primary will be the winner of the general election.

To those who say "my vote doesn't count", I say Balderdash!!! Local and regional elections are typically more important anyways, and with the history of low voter turnouts, especially in non-Presidential election years, your vote absolutely does count.

I don't WANT this much power, but I don't dare not vote.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Overheard in the office

Deskside Technician  #1: (to DST #2) Hey, how do we order cable locks?
DST #2: First, open a ticket.
Everyone: *dies laughing*

Either you get it or you don't.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Have 10 minutes to kill?

If you have 10 minutes to kill, I recommend a podcast for you.

Saddleback Church has a daily devotional available called DriveTime Devotionals. It runs right at 10 minutes an episode, one episode a day, Monday - Friday.

I've started at the first available via iTunes, a discussion of 1 Corinthians. I'm currently on the 5th episode (1 Corinthians - Week 1 Day 5), which finishes up the 1st chapter of 1st Corinthians.

It's a nice discussion format, that breaks down the information in an easy to understand format.

I highly recommend this resource to you!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The wish list just keeps getting longer

And, not surprisingly, it's all geeky stuff.

Courtesy of an article over at Blastr, I learn about this:

Excuse the drool, if you would, please.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Supreme Court takes a stand

The town of Liberty, KY decided that all residents and individuals that work within the city should purchase a sticker and have it displayed in the window. A number of people, apparently mostly teachers, opted not to comply with the ordinance.

The city council, outraged that someone would flout their authority, ordered the police to set up roadblocks in order to issue citations for non-compliance. During the course of a stop, an individual's car was searched and marijuana was found. He moved to have the evidence suppressed, arguing that the search was illegal.

The Kentucky Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the searches were in fact illegal and the police had no basis for performing them.

ETA: I can't believe I missed this the first time around.

Alternate headline: "Kentucky Supreme Court says 'May the 4th be with you'"

The 20 most convicting, but most important, statements you'll read today.

20 Quotes from The Explicit Gospel

These are all quotes taken from Matt Chandler's new book, The Explicit Gospel

What are they putting in the water in Indiana?

Tam over at View From the Porch has written several times about the IMPD and other law enforcement officers and their proclivity for LEWD1 activities.

Well, it turns out that it's not just limited to the IMPD. County coroners are now getting in on the act as well.

Maybe she thinks she can do a self-autopsy or something.

1Law Enforcing While Drunk

A geek's May Day

Happy Star Wars Day.

May the 4th be with you!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another entry for the wish list

I'm a geek. I like Star Wars, and Lego. Especially Star Wars Lego.

Well, now it looks like I have another itch to scratch:

Yes, Virginia, it's a Firefly Serenity Lego playset. It's not an official project yet, it still has a ways to go to get that official blessing. That being said, the official Lego response is encouraging, and if this achieves enough support, I imagine it would see the light of day.

I would definitely have to think about getting one.

Lunchtime walkabout prayabout

As part of my weight loss and dieting efforts, I've added somewhat regular exercise to the mix. I'm trying to walk at least three times a week on my lunch break, and my current course clocks in around 2.25 miles.

Seeing as how Cincinnati is in the Ohio River valley, I get some wonderful hill work too, whether I want it or not. In fact, my route takes me straight down to the river, across one of the bridges to the Kentucky shore, whereupon I immediately turn around and retrace my path. It's easy to remember, convenient, and about a perfect distance for a quick 30 minute workout.

Late last week, a snippet of verse came to mind as I was in a quiet time. All I could remember was "fervent prayer of a righteous man". Looking it up, I found James 5:16:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
 I realized I wasn't doing anything on these walks other than listening to my music and zoning out. So this week, I decided to change it up. I still put in my ear buds, but now I turn the music down low. It's just loud enough to cloak most of the sounds around me, but not loud enough that I can't hear myself think, or in this case, pray.

So now my walks are more than just a physical exercise. I'm trying to make them a spiritual exercise as well. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray without ceasing."

What do you do when  you're taking a break, or vegging out, or engaged in some mind numbing drudgery? Do you crank up the music? Perhaps you turn on the TV to catch the latest news. Maybe, like me, you fire up your web browser and catch the latest blog posts or sports scores.

What if, instead, rejoiced always, prayed without ceasing and gave thanks in all circumstances instead? Imagine what could happen.

This Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, but we shouldn't need a specific call to action to do that which we are already called to do.

So, what will you be doing do your downtimes? I know what I'm going to try and do instead.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Quote of the Day - Sunday School edition

From my Sunday School teacher:
At my job, I primarily have two roles. I'm either 411 or 911. The more they use me as 411, the less they have to use me as 911.
You know, I can absolutely relate to that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I just put this on my wish list

Han Solo iPhone/iPod cover

Yes, I am a geek.

Free John Piper book - today only

John Piper has made his book Jesus: The Only Way to God--Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? available free from, today only.

If you like serious Christian theological books, check it out. Piper is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Scripture of the Day - Philippians 4:11-13

In his epistle to Philippi, Paul writes:
11 [...] for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
 This verse is frequently quoted in lessons on being content, and rightfully so. Paul, the great missionary of the early church, faced many trials and tribulations. Stoned, shipwrecked, chased out of town, Paul had plenty of opportunities to learn about sufficiency and contentment.

The study notes in my bible add some interesting context to this verse. First, the word Greek term translated as "content" in verse 11 refers to self-sufficiency or satisfaction. It is the same word translated as "sufficiency" in 2 Corinthians 9:8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." Paul has learned that what he has is what he needs, that God can and will provide just what we need to meet our needs, if we but learn to trust in Him.

Second, verse 12 indicates that Paul faced both needs and prosperity. The phrase "facing plenty" referred to the feeding and fattening of animals. They were given such an abundance of food that they grew fat for the slaughter. Throughout all this, Paul learned to keep an even keel, to live in the moment and not worry or plan for tomorrow.

Finally, in verse 13 when Paul talks about the ability to do all things, he is literally talking about being strong and having strength from the Lord. And again, we see him refer to "all things", both the times when he has need and the times when he has plenty.

I have found that having this level of contentment is difficult. It's easy to say "I have a big enough house, and I have enough food", but I still struggle with materialistic longings. I want a bigger TV, a newer car, a faster computer. I even try to add a spiritual element to it. I want to make more money so that I can give more, so that I can donate to ministry, so that I can do things for God.

Instead, I need to learn to be content with what I have. I can donate time, and knowledge, and expertise. I can change my financial priorities and spending. Above all, I need to learn to trust more in God, and have faith that He will provide for my needs.

Yeah, it's hard.

It's all about learning your body

My weight loss saga continues. I finally broke the 180 pound barrier last week, making it all the way down to 179.0. However, over the weekend I promptly shot back up to 181.2 as of this morning.

Yes, I did have a few cheat meals, but I don't think that's what caused the big uptick, believe it or not. Instead, my activity level was lower (I only went walking once, and that just for a mile, and I did not mow the law as planned) and I did not drink near as much water as I usually do.

Those two things right there seem to be the key for me. If I'm not getting my exercise and I'm not drinking enough fluids, my weight tends to pop back up. If I do those things, even eating a bit more than usual doesn't seem to effect my weight as much as I would have thought.

I actually find it easier to keep my fluid intake up at the office than I do at home, for some reason. I keep a big cup at my desk, and just keep refilling it. For whatever reason, I'm not as good about that at home. It's definitely something I need to work on.

But, I'm making progress, and I've dropped 3" or so on my waist and ~25 pounds since February 1st.

New blog on the block - IT Security Mom

A friend of mine back in Texas is an IT security professional. She recently sat for and passed her CISSP certification. As a parent with teenage kids, she decided to enter the blogosphere and start talking all things computer security related, with a particular bent toward keeping families and kiddos safe online.

Read her bio, and then check out her blog. It seems she currently plans to update twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

I've added her to my blogroll and my reader. I recommend you do the same, especially if you have kids in the house.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Sermon Notes - 2012-04-22 - The Reversal

Today's sermon was the 5th and final installment of a series titled "The Outsider". This lesson was "The Reversal". Dr. Abney selected Luke 18:9-14 as his scripture reference for today. This is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

As an aside, one of Dr. Abney's comments was that as Jesus got closer and closer to the day of his crucifixion, his parables and lessons became more intense, more controversial (to the Pharisees), or as I wrote down, more "in your face." He knows the time is short, and He is trying to get his message across any way he can.

And what is the message in today's parable?

Just because you are religious, it does not mean you are righteous.

In most parables, the targeted audience is mentioned at the end, or the primary object lesson is saved until the last. Not so in this parable. The message is so controversial, such a reversal of the perceived right of it all, that Luke prefaces the parable with the warning that it was targeted at those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt." (vs. 9).

The first point Dr. Abney made is that they prayer of the Pharisee is not the problem. It is theocentric. He starts out by thanking God, and then praising God for the blessings (or lack of bad things) in his life. The problem is best seen by comparing it to the prayer of the tax collector.

The tax collector is in a state of utter humility. He cannot even lift his eyes to the heavens. Instead, he beats his breast and asks God for to be merciful to him, a sinner (vs 13). Dr. Abney pointed out two key linguistic elements of this verse. First, the "a sinner" is a definite article, probably better translated as "the sinner". It is an absolute acknowledgement of the tax collector's condition, and his separation from God. Second, the word "mercy" used in this verse is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Hebrews (I cannot remember the precise word used). It is referring to a mercy of atonement, of a blood covering that removes all sin. This same word is used in the Old Testament to refer to the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. This is where the priests would sprinkle the blood sacrifice once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The tax collector does not compare himself to anyone else other than God. He acknowledges his condition, that he is a sinner separated from God. He recognizes that his righteousness comes solely through the atoning mercy of God. The Pharisee, on the other hand, finds his righteousness in his religion. He fasts twice a week, and tithes on everything he receives (vs. 12). The study notes in my bible indicate that this level of fasting is above and beyond anything ever required in Scripture. This Pharisee is not just doing the minimum required by his religion, he is going above and beyond.

Besides missing the mark on God's plan, there is another problem exposed by the Pharisee's prayer, and mentioned in Luke's introduction to the parable. This focus on process or works leads to an attitude of contempt. In his prayer, the Pharisee went so far as to single out another person there in the temple to say "God I thank you that I am not like [...] this tax collector" (vs 11). Because his focus is on his works, and his ability to comply with the law, it hardens his heart against those who cannot do the same as he.

In what areas of our lives are we guilty of that same contempt? In our work, are we "thankful" that we're not a temp employee, or a contractor, or on a foreign visa? Are we "thankful" we can afford to eat out every day, or wear the newest fashions, or drive the latest car? In our communities, are we "thankful" that we don't go to that school, or shop at that store, or live in that neighborhood?

If your relationship to God is characterized by what you do or don't do, that is not the Gospel. An honest relationship to God is characterized by our recognition and acknowledgement that we are sinners and separated from Him, and that our only righteousness comes through His atoning mercy.