Friday, December 30, 2005

Wheelchairs and the Ambulatory

When we go out together and a lot of walking is involved, we try to get Cathy a wheelchair if possible. For example, Ikea has wheelchairs availale at the entrance. And, when we went to Disneyland on Christmas, Cathy was in a wheelchair for the duration. I was pushing her chair around, and having a wheelchair essentially gave us an automatic FastPass to most rides. So, a nice benefit of the tiring work of a wheelchair is the hours it shaves off the lines.

Having a wheelchair means yelling, "excuse me!" a lot. Among other things, Cathy discovered why so many people use wheelchair blankets: her legs got cold really quickly. She also found that it was difficult to see (this standing chair would be cool) sitting so far below crowds. I imagine Cathy got tired of gazing at the gaggles of glutei.

Since I was behind Cathy a lot, I got to observer people who looked at her. It is interesting... Those who are ambulatory seemed to fall into two basic categories: those who ignored Cathy and those who tried not to stare. The ones who ignored Cathy essentially treated her like they would anyone else, as someone to navigate around. It is the ones who tried not to stare that I found interesting and at times entertaining.

Perhaps because Cathy looks relatively healthy, she stuck out among those who were in other wheelchairs. Most of the people we saw on chairs were either sickly or very heavy. Very few people in chairs looked healthy except for a cast on a foot or something. There were a couple other people that I wondered about, since they had no visible disability, like Cathy.

For whatever reason, people stared, and the women especially tried not to stare. Most would look away guitily when they saw me notice (these were the amusing ones). Since I was having a good time, I was smiling a good portion of the time, so I don't think people would have thought I was offended. But I did find the observations interesting.

Oh, by the way, people who interacted with Cathy directly were either trying hard to address her needs without singling her out (that's good) or extremely deferential ("OMG! I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!") and rather amusing to watch as they practically fell over themselves trying to make way or whatever.

There was this woman at Ikea that was particularly funny. Cathy & I were looking at sheets for her trip North, and her chair was in my way. A couple happened to be standing behind me, so I couldn't go around Cathy. I said to Cathy, "I'm just gonna move you over here." and the woman behind me was like , "Oh, please, it's ok! She's fine where she is!"

I had to keep a straight face in order to reply to this flustered woman (who apparently thought I was moving Cathy out of her way like a piece of furniture), "Well, she's in my way!" Cathy was kind and waited until the couple was gone to laugh. :-)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Day at Disneyland

We've been to Disneyland as a family before on Christmas. It has never been crowded, and I've heard that many people, who do not celebrate Christmas, go to Disneyland instead. I've been to Disneyland on Christmas two previous times, and they were relatively uncrowded events.

So we decided to go to Disneyland this year. Jerry & Tracy came up with my nieces from San Diego so the seven of us could go as one big family. Although we agreed not to purchase gifts for each other this year, the little girls did each receive a present; a set of farmhouse animals for Blakley and a Cinderella bicycle for Clarity (video).

Cathy hasn't been handling physical activities very well, so I called Disneyland about reserving a wheelchair... that just doesn't happen, apparently. I asked around at work and, to my delight, a co-worker had access to one! So it came to be that I brought a wheelchair to Disneyland with us.

We took two cars and found out at the parking structure that Disneyland was closed! We were offered a chance to go to California Adventure (which, located in So Cal, seems silly)... as a family we decided we just wanted to be there together, and since mom hadn't been to California Adventure yet, we figured we could go.

It turns out that my sister-in-law is very persuasive. We all bought tickets, and she noted that some people were getting in to Disneyland. She eyed the ticket-inspectors at the gate and picked her quarry... and after a minute she had talked her way into Disneyland! We were all very happy and posed for a group photo before that entrance flower display.

We didn't get to ride a lot of the big attractions, but we did go on the Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean (Yo-Ho-Yo-Ho) and Star Tours. I took a "video" of Indiana Jones, but it's mostly audio as it was really dark.

We were fortunate to find a really good spot to watch the fireworks display Remember... Dreams Come True. Because of Cathy's wheelchair, we were allowed to occupy a small area off the main walkway normally reserved for Disneyland equipment. We had a clear view of the castle, and I filmed the fireworks as well (which came out pretty nice, I think it's worth watching).

Of course, we had to ride It's A Small World, and my in-laws got us all into Haunted Mansion Holiday. By the time all these were done, having pushed Cathy around all afternoon, I was feeling pretty done myself, so I waited while the others went on Astro Blasters and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

It was a very fun day, if a tiring one. Cathy enjoyed herself, which made it a very good day in my book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Baching It Again

So, I'm being a bachelor for a few days again. Cathy & her mom are off to Northern California (the real one, way past Sacramento) to see some land she owns. The plots sell for $20,000 and I think she wants to get a feel for how it may be developing in the future. In the mean time, I'm on my own for four days, three nights!

this is an audio post - click to play
It is almost rediculous how lost I feel without my wife.

I suppose we were created to live in community. Very few people choose to live entirely alone or work alone. Those who do live alone usually have some form of companion in a cat or a dog. I've got plenty of cats and a dog, but I'm still lonely for my wife.

I'm 32, and I've forgotten how to be a bachelor. Perhaps I'll try to cook myself dinner. I certainly don't feel like starting a house project, although I may begin costructing that backyard enclosure. I have to get my car smogged... I guess I will find things to do!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Eyelid Twitching - Argh

OK, so my right eyelid started to twitch the last week of November. I wasn't getting a lot of sleep, I was drinking lots of coffee, and I was looking at a computer screen all day at work and then all night at home (that's why they call it homework).

this is an audio post - click to play

I would be more worried, like, "quick, buy more life insurance", but Cathy assures me it isn't anything serious. She sounds confident, so either she knows something I don't, or she already bought that large life insurance policy on me and is just waiting for me to pop. :-p

Anyway, I did a little searching and really didn't find much. Perhaps the combination of stress, eye strain, coffee, sugar and lack of sleep is doing my eyelids in, I don't know. I've been getting more sleep, so I'll try cutting back on the caffeine. I guess I won't worry unless it persists or extends to other parts of my face. (eww)

Timewaster: Mythbuster Quizes

Myth Busters, featured on the Discovery Channel, is hosted by the guys at M5 Industries. They have a plethora of quizes, which certainly busted a lot of my wrongly-held myths. (click for quizes)

Comic: Have A Nice Day

The comic
says it all...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Comic: Don't Know Much About...

I don't know why, but this comic is just hilarious to me.

Sam Cooke: Wonderful World (mp3 audio)

Microsoft Abandons Internet Explorer on Mac

Microsoft is dropping Internet Explorer support entirely on the Mac. That either means they will make some of their IE-only services conform to web standards, or they're just blowing off the 3% of people who are using Apple Macintosh computers?

Anyway, another reason to switch to FireFox (here for Mac, or try these links if you have a G4 or G5); at least you won't get dropped from support.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why Is She Called "Eve", Anyway?

Curiosity question: why is Eve called "Eve"? I read Genesis 2-10 this morning, and it just kinda hit me... we're not pronouncing Eve's name right. Why not?

Yes, studying Hebrew has reinterested me in reading the Hebrew Bible. And aside from being nerdy, why do I care what we call Eve? Did you know that devout Jews will not utter the name of God out loud for fear of mispronouncing it? All those times the KJV refers to "the LORD" are actually God's Name (which is not vowel-pointed in Hebrew, either since you're not supposed to pronounce it).

In my many translation excercises, I came across Genesis 3:20
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
This one actually threw me for a loop, because chav-vah looked like a pronominal form of "to live"... like "her life". I realized from the rest of the sentence (Adam's wife... hmm...) what the word must be, but just pronouncing it, it would sound more like 'khav-vah'.

It seems that the Hebrew would be closer to Kavah rather than Eve, so why "eve"? I emailed my Hebrew professor about it, but did a little digging myself.

Eve is only mentioned by name four times in the Bible (five times if you're Catholic). Since the Hebrew is nothing like Eve, I thought the blame must lie with Greek. Well, the Septuagint (LXX) has "Zoe" in Genesis. The Greek in the New Testment is closer to "eve" but even doesn't sound right.

So, I wondered if Latin was to blame? I looked up the Vulgate and it has "Hava" in Genesis and "Eva" in the New Testament.

Genesis 3:20
Latin - hava
Hebrew - chavvah
Greek - zωη

1 Timothy 2:13
Latin - eva
Greek - ευα

My conclusion, tentatively, is that we call Adam's wife "Eve" instead of "Khava" because of the Latin Vulgate's rendition of her name in 1 Timothy 2:13 and 2 Corinthians 11:3. Perhaps the New Testament was favored during the time English translations were written, and the tradition of the Latin name determined how we refer to the mother of all the living.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Outdoor Cat Enclosure Idea

Frankly, with the way the house is organized, we don't have a lot of places to put the litter boxes. That combined with the fact that our felines appear to desire venturing out-of-doors has caused me to consider enclosing the back "yard."

So I'm thinking about enclosing our tiny patio for the cats to go outside. I would build a few shelves and probably put some patio furniture out there. We don't really have seasons in Southern California, so I imagine we would get a lot of use from such a project.

There are commercial solutions available, and I found several sites which suggest such a cat enclosure can be and should be made, as well as sites offering instructions for sale and for free.

Before I did my searches, Cathy's mom (Rhonda) was suggesting using lattice work to keep the cats in. I don't plan on building any permanent additions to the house, so I shouldn't need a permit. I'm leaning towards a combination of poles and netting, but Rhonda thinks a lattice ceiling would be prettier.

Well, I should measure things, first, and clear out the back yard (or the other way around) Then I can worry about enclosing it for the kitties. I'm gonna do it some time, hopefully before school starts again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pet Peeve: People Pretending to Know Stuff

I came in to work today to find my boss frustrated by an IBM tech. We use IBM servers and employ their warranty coverage. One of our clients had a parity error on the motherboard (the system said so, isn't that nice?). That really can mean two things: bad memory chips or an actual motherboard failure. The solution is easy... replace memory or replace the motherboard, in that order.

Well, the IBM tech insisted that we "flash the BIOS" first... like that would help. We've been there before, upgrading BIOS firmware on random parts, just to prove that the problem was really hardware failure, and my boss has to do it now. It frustrated him because the IBM tech (IBM! You'd expect better!) doesn't know what he's talking about and just can't be bother to do his job.

What happened to people, that even on the job the regular Joe pretends to know more than he does? Is there some inherent danger to admiting you cannot do something or do not know something? What happened to, "I don't know, let me find out" or "I am not able to, but let me get someone who can"???

this is an audio post - click to play

Just a note... in my book, anyway, it is always O.K. to tell me, "I don't know" or "I'm sorry, I am not able to". If the person saying "sorry" is in a service business (oh, say, customer support, waitressing, media, clergy...), I do expect to hear "but I'll find out" or "let me try to find you someone who can".

Hey, I tell people all the time that I don't know stuff. I have to get back to them with the answer, or pass them on to someone who should be able to help... it's O.K.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Whew! That was Easy!

I've been sick (feeling about 90% now) and went back to work today. We had our Hebrew final exam tonight, and our professor set really high expectations for our final... we had to 40% to pass the course.

That sounded like a REAL difficult test, but it turned out to be an easy exam. We were merely tested on the basics. Apparently the department chairman writes the final to make sure we're actually learning. Ah... sweet relaxation!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cathy's Improvements

I've been staying home sick the last couple of days... I'm not very productive when I'm sick (who is?), but I did manage to get a little studying done.

Yesterday Cathy got her final Hep A/B vaccination shots. People with Hepatitis C must not get Hep A or B, otherwise the combination is sure to kill them. So, Cathy got her third and final shots for Hep A/B, and now she is safe against them.

She's been getting up earlier this last week. Usually, she sleeps in until 1 P.M., but she got up about 11:30 the last few days. The Hep A/B vaccines will probably keep her in bed longer today, though.

Cathy plans on getting back to work... she's itching to work. I think staying home is slowly driving her batty. I convinced her that she isn't ready to go back this month, so we set a (pretty) firm date of March for her to return to work. She wants to go back sooner, but I want to wait and see, for her health's sake.

Though I did not feel up to going to work, or going to class last night, Cathy did manage to convince me to go out to dinner. Money has been tight recently, so we celebrated mildly by eating dinner at Cathy's favorite Sushi restaurant, Niko Niko (which translates to "smile"). Since Hep A is food-borne, especially in undercooked food, we haven't been able to eat Sushi since Cathy started treatment.

Niko Niko sounds Neko Neko in Japanese, which is "kitty kitty." That's probably what triggered me to go across the street to a pet store, where we also got some pretty new collars for the kitties... I'll probably post some photos later!

I woke this morning feeling better than yesterday; I think this will be my last sick day; I sure hope so, as I hate being an invalid. My nasal passages don't hurt anymore, so once the cogestion clears I'll probably be OK. I don't think I'm contagious anymore, so I'll probably go in to work tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Three Kittens, A Pit Bull, and a Sick Santa Claws

Yup, I'm sick... I have been taking Zinc and Vitamin C, and I went to be early last night. Still, I woke with a sore throat, congestion and sore nasal passages. It usually lasts three days for me, so I may miss work tomorrow. Good thing I got my major project out the door on Friday.

Here's more photos of Santa Claws, taken by a fellow volunteer.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Santa Claws

Santa Claws - click to enlarge

Happy Birthday to Me!

So I'm 32 now... the day passed without much incident. I got up, did my devotions, then got ready for my studies in Hebrew. I left for the PetSmart about 09:30, dropped off some mail and arrived at PetSmart by 10:30.

On my way to the PetSmart I received a call from Ted, using Skype! The quality was acceptible, about like a calling card dialing International; some echo, a little delay for him, but usable! My heart was gladdened by my brother's consideration, and I know his wife is ecstatic about being able to call home from Haiti!
this is an audio post - click to play

This was a good day for the shelter! I played the part of Santa while people brought their pets, big and small, to get their photo with Santa. Each photo package costs $8.95 (one dollar less with their club card), and $5 goes to the shelter! We had 33 packages, so that's $165 for the shelter! Sad to say, but this is the major source of income for the shelter... So we had a good day!

While I was playing Santa, I got a call from Cathy, who left a singing voicemail (Happy Birthday, of course). I also got a call from my aunt Adell, but I had to cut it short since it looked funny for Santa to be on a cell phone!

I got home and discovered that mom had made me a cake, from scratch! We'll be enjoying that after diner. The girls are going to watch a movie (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants?) while I study for my Hebrew final.

I'll post some photos later on! My throat is sticking... I hope I'm not coming down with something...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Santa Claws

The shelter we volunteer at is a PetSmart Charities adoption partner, and as such the shelter staffs PetSmart's Santa Claws in-store photo event. This year, we're short a Santa for tomorrow, so guess who's going to wear a beard and jelly belly? Yeah, that's me. I'll try to get some photos and post them tomorrow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Narnia Movie - Worth Seeing

So, we just got back home from watching Narnia, or as Lucy said it, "Narn-yah". We got to see it a day early, thanks to Cathy's connections. :-)

The effects were convincing, and not the least bit distracting. The movie had such an easy way of presenting its special effects without calling attention to it, they actually only aided the movie. I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I rejoiced; I really enjoyed myself! It makes me want to read the books all over again.

Lucy Pevensie is probably my favorite character, having appeared multiple times and is the first to rush to Aslan for any and everything. Personally, I identify with Edmund a little better, though my quiz scored me as Peter. Which one are you?

Cathy & I very much enjoyed the movie, and my M.I.L. Rhonda seemed to like it as well. We had the good company of our friends to make the experience that much better.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yow! So Much Going On...

Well, I've been too busy to sit down and play with the computer. For those of you that emailed and called, I'm sorry I haven't been online for instant messaging, either... I had a Hebrew exam, a sermon to write and deliver, some after-move-in maintenance on the first apartment... and Thanksgiving, of course.

The first apartment was rented out to four students last month. There was the obligatory last-minute rush to get things done, and thankfully it all got done in time, except for the blinds we ordered which were back-ordered. I finally got the blinds the day before Thanksgiving and installed them that weekend.

The week of the November 21st led up to Thanksgiving, and I have to say that there are many things I was thankful for. I am very thankful that God brought Cathy's mom, Rhonda, to stay with us. She's been a great help during Cathy's convalescene, and she put a lot of work into the apartment remodel, as well. I am thankful the apartment got rented out (whew) finally. I am most thankful for the news we got the day after Thanksgiving... the test results show that Cathy's shots are taking effect and her Hepatitis C will very likely be erradicated by the treatment!!

The day before and the day of Thanksgiving I put up the home entertainment center. I hung the screen and set up the projector, and we watched LOTR 3 - The Return of the King after Thanksgiving Dinner. That weekend I hung the blinds in apartment one, then in our apartment. I then cleaned out the garage and made room for the car, so Cathy can park indoors now.

Big changes at work... I was asked to switch departments about 4 months ago. I tentatively accepted, then decided to back out; the bosses seem to have understood. Now that department has lost a key person, so they are severely short-handed. We'll be hiring for that position soon, and I'm hoping to recruit a business student from school.

Well, I still have to study for my Hebrew final... more later!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Second Preaching Attempt

this is an audio post - click to play

Here are some thoughts on how I can improve my preaching..

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Flash Game - RaidenX

For Time-Wasting Tuesday... here's RaidenX. Raiden (wikipedia link) is a classic shoot-them-up game with a top-down view. This is a Flash version of the game that is surprisingly reminiscent of the coin-operated arcade console. Brought to you by googley, this is a tribute to the original.

The game is simple and typical; you fly a plane through waves of enemies and several levels with a boss at the end of the level. You have your main cannon, missles, and a clear-the-screen bomb.

This version is good for about 60 minutes; turn it up and have some fun with it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Kill the Pacman" Game

For Time-Wasting Tuesday... Kill the Pacman.

You control a beach ball to "pop" floating pacmen (pacmans?) with increasing difficulty. At first, you just pop a set number within a time frame, then you have to get specific colors, and the difficulty increases. Finally, you face the gian Pacman King.

Good for about 30 minutes, this will not waste too much of your time.TIP: you can bounce Mario-style from one pacman to another.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Work for Mother?

Does technology save us time in the long run? According to this article I read, use of technology may not really save us time, depending on how we use the technology. As I said a long time ago, we can't just use technology, we must manage it, too. That's why I'm not so sure email is the answer for everybody, or a blog, or whatever...

The following is IFTF's summary of Ruth Schwartz Cowan's More Work for Mother.
The book asked a simple question: why was it that, almost a century after the introduction of labor-saving technologies in the home, women spent almost as much time doing housework as their grandmothers? The answer was that while the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and other household appliances have made individual tasks easier-- it's certainly easier to put clothes in a washing machine than to do them by hand-- the appliances have also changes who does housework, and how often those tasks are done.

First, automating housework changed standards of cleanliness. It's less work to get a shirt clean, but we now put a shirt in the laundry after wearing it one day (even if we have jobs that require virtually no physical labor). A century ago, we would have worn a shirt for three days before washing it. Put the two trends together, and the result is, as it were, a wash.

Second, it changed who did housework. Vacuuming a carpet is less work than picking it up, taking it outside, and beating it. But who used to do that work? Fathers and sons. Wealthy and middle-class women didn't do their own laundry before the invention of the washing machine: they sent it out. Cooking is easier in an age of ready-mix cakes, but a century ago, Mom would have had a couple other sets of hands working with her. Broadly speaking, labor-saving technologies feminized housework, and turned women who previously had managed housework-- delegating, supervising, and evaluating the work of washerwomen, sons and daughters-- into manual laborers.

Truck On Fire

This is a delivery truck I saw, on fire, coming home from work on Thursday. The driver had just pulled over between the 91 & 55 exchange at 4:03 P.M. PST.

I saw following the 91 and kept smelling something funny... I made a note to check my car when I got home. Then I saw a lot of white smoke coming from this delivery truck. My thouhgts went like this:

"Boy, he's got some engine problems."
"That's a LOT of smoke..."
"Hey, is that fire? That wasn't there before..."
"Oh crud, he's gotta pull over! Everybody is getting outta the way..."
"Oh, hey... camera!"

I saw the driver jump out of the truck after I passed him. Young black kid, must of been barely 20 or so, looking scared and backing away from the truck. I called *911 and was told they had already dispatched a fire truck for the truck fire. I suppose he'll be OK, since Yahoo Maps shows no traffic problems in the area...

Truck On Fire - click to enlarge

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Star Wars, Midi-Chlorin and the Force

Completely random thought about Star Wars... if midi-chlorin (MD) is indicative of propensity to manipulating the Force (as Qui-Gon Jinn explains to Anakin Skywalker in Episode I), and MD is apparently present in the blood stream, the following implications may be true, given the assumption that blood is the medium of MD.

  • MD is a renewable resource, generated by the Force-user's body

  • MD is contained in, though perhaps not entirely limited to, the blood stream

  • It would theoretically be possible to boost Force-use by "enricing" the blood of a Jedi by exracting several pints of his blood and re-injecting it when a boost is needed

  • A great loss of blood should lead to a reduction in Force-abilities

That being said, although Anakin (and therefore Vadar) had a very high MD count, Vadar's injuries and cybernetic transplants should render him less powerful a Force-user.

Like I said, random Star Wars thoughts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Online Mapping Services

Today I cover mapping web sites. Most of these offer driving directions as well, although I think MapQuest's directions are the best, followed closely by Google and Yahoo! directions. The sites below, however, offer a close-up look of our streets and our world.

Google Local
Google Maps is the standard by which I judge all other mapping programs. Google was the first to seriously intergrate satelite imagery, and their overlay (hybrid) option came quickly on the heels of their Google Earth product. You should try out the Hybrid View of Google Local. Google Maps has detailed coverage of the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. Image coverage is available of the entire world; I can only hope Taiwan is next. If you like satellite imagery, also check out Google Earth, a Windows-only download I wrote about in previous posts. (Click)

Yahoo! Maps beta
Yahoo! Maps beta is a Flash application that is pretty slick. It supports mouse wheels for zooming (similar to Google Earth). What is very cool about Yahoo! Maps beta, though, are the Live Traffic overlay and the customizable look (check this link out). (Click)

Microsoft Virtual Earth BETA
Got Internet Explorer (and sticking with it)? Love Microsoft? Try Microsoft Virtual Earth BETA. The aerial photos are comparitively old when displayed next to Google Local, but there are some nice features, such as mouse wheel support and better International labeling of cities and borders. (Click)

Flash Earth
For the those who like satelite imagery of Earth, Flash Earth combines Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth imagery in a Flash application that greatly resembles Google Earth. This is quick alternative to Google Earth, and is not Windows-only. (Click)

A9 Maps beta
Amazon's A9 Maps beta has the interesting feature of street-level images of entire blocks of city streets, called BlockView. A9 trucks with GPS equipment and digital cameras drove around and took pictures of public streets, resulting in an intersting look of the local not afforded by digital maps or satelite imagery. BlockView coverage is limited (for now?) but very interesting. (Click)

Cat In Need of A Home

Got a cat here that needs a home... This cat showed up at our office. There's an 800 number on her tag, but the pet finder service indicated that the information was incomplete. Sooo... she needs a new home. She's probably going to have to be the cat of a single-cat home. She's very lovey-dovey, and is declawed in the front.
Cat In Need of Home - 1 Cat In Need of Home - 2

Vito Goes Bye-Bye

This is Vito, before he was "fixed" and adopted. Oh COME ON that is SOOO cute!
I wonder what his name is now? I last saw him on 11/04/2005. He was "fixed" that afternoon and adopted the next morning. It happened so fast I didn't even get to the cat shelter adoption to see him go home. *sigh*

click to enlarge

Well, I trust he has a good home. I still see little orange shadows darting around out of the corner of my eye, but there's never a kitten there anymore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Psychiatry Game for Troubled Toys

For Time-Wasting Tuesday... The Institue for Troubled Toys

Germon Title: Die Anstalt - Psychiatrie für misshandelte Kuscheltiere
English Title: The Institute - Psychiatry for Abused Cuddly Toys

Comments: Troubled Toys are sent to the Institue for help. You are temporarily assigned to the Institute. Your goal is to help the traumatized toys discover the root of their problems and become mentally stable again. I enjoyed this immensely, probably due to my nurturing nature and psychology / pastoral background. Check it out, but be sure to block out about two hours! The game is available in several languages, including English.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sory about the delay

Sorry about the delay in updates... I can always tell when I'm not posting enough, because people start emailing and calling to see how Cathy is feeling and how things are going.

Let's see... for those emailing about Vito the kitten, I'm sad to say that he has been adopted. We got him fixed on two Fridays ago, and the very next day he was snatched up about an hour after the shelter opened. He's a cute one, Vito (whatever his name is now).

Malachi (our tabby) has apparently picked up fleas (!), although none of the other cats have it. I think the last time we applied flea meds we messed her dose up. Poor thing...

Cathy's conition has shifted. I'd say "improved" but it has really only changed. It used tobe that she would feel real lousy Friday evening, lousy on Saturday, bad on Sunday, and start recovering on Monday. Her new routine is ok on Friday, lousy Saturday A.M. but kinda O.K. evenings, repeat for Sunday and Monday, and just really tired the rest of the week. Cathy says she prefers this, if she can address the fatigue.

I've been offline because of my sermon class, finishing the remodel on apartment one (they're moving in Tuesday), and trying to stay sane. I've got a Hebrew exam on Monday the 21st, so this week ain't looking so good, either. I'll try to sneak some time during breaks at work to keep up the posting schedule, though.

I got my sermon evaluation back. Basically, I didn't give enough verbals clues for the shift in thoughts, but on paper it looked really good. I've got another shot at getting my sermon critiqued in December, so I'm looking to pick a hard-to-preach text (any ideas?) so I can learn from any mistakes I make.

Uh... my high school graduating class found me (hi guys) so I'm being practially mail-bombed. I've had to create mail filters just to follow the conversations and keep my mailbox straight. I haven't got time to contribute on the geek side for the next week; I feel bad, but keeping up is about all I can do right now... :-)

Oy. My lovely wife is reminding me that scheduled periods of unconsciousness is beneficial to my health. Night-night.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day

Veterans Day is a legal U.S. holiday observed each year on November 11. It honors all veterans, living and dead, who fought in wars since World War I. Since Memorial Day focuses on those who have sacrificed their lives for our country, Veteran's Day tends to focus on living veterans.

The cessation of hostilities before the peach treaty was signed between the Allies and Germany on 11:00 AM 11/11/1918. This became known as Armistice Day by proclamation in 1919 by President Wilson. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery was established in 1921. President Eisenhower change the name from Armistice Day to Verteran's Day in 1954.

The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public mettings.

This is the day to call someone you know who is serving or served in the armed forces, just to say thanks.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Birth of a Sermon

The Birth of a Sermon
Ever wondered what a sermon preparation process is like? Here’s an example of a very rushed sermon preparation process. I had already decided to preach on 1 Timothy 4:16. Hopefully, it will make for an interesting read for you.
Monday Date: Oct 31 2005 - 8:40pm (2.5 hours / 2.5 hours)
I have Hebrew class on Mondays. I have a 25 minute drive, and while driving home this night I began planning for the next week or so. As I started filling out my mental schedule, I realized I'm preaching in five days for my sermon class!

I maintained the speed limit for the duration of my commute and arrived home in a mild panic. I told Cathy to give me lots of unstructured time until Saturday… she was very understanding.

After spending some time panicking quietly, I calmed down by printing out the immediate context (1 Timothy 4) in several English versions (NIV, NASB, KJV, NLT, NET) as well as in Greek. Started outlining the entire chapter for the study.

Finding epece to be a real problem… the translations tend to render this word differently. The original word, ep-ekh'-o, can mean

  • to have or hold upon, apply, to observe, attend to

  • to give attention to

  • to hold towards, hold forth, present

  • to check

  • delay, stop, stay

I think “hold forth” fits better with the context of Timothy being required to set an example, but “give attention to” would also be important. I have to print from the NIV, so the different nuances may be irrelevant to this verse.

I realized that I must get up at 6 tomorrow, and I must sleep in order to be productive tomorrow. I go to bed at 11:30 pm.

I read a short devotional but drift off to sleep thinking of 1 Tim 4:16. While drifting off to sleep, feel convicted by the passage I am studying…
Tuesday Date: Nov 1 2005 - 6:40am
While driving to work this morning, I was once again convicted by the passage. I confessed inadequacies to God, especially in light of the passage I am studying. Gotta work…
Over lunch I examined the passage and considered preaching verse 15 and 16 are together. Verse 15 refers to 11-14 (“these matter”). I considered the matters pointed out… I may enumerate the properties Paul points on in verse 12, but explaining it may take too much time.
Between customer calls, I looked up library holdings for commentaries on the passage. I found a total of total of eight volumes and two articles that I planned on utilizing. My shift ended at 4 pm, and immediately after work I went to the library. . I gathered the books that were available and used my digital camera to photocopy the pages. I went home and converted the photos into PDF files for reading (using freeware, of course).
I outlined the passage biblically, tracking the flow of thought on paper and determining the meaning. This is exacting but not difficult… it is only a matter of diligence and respected for the text.

I tackled the hard part… finding the timeless truth of the passage and outlining the text’s flow of thought. Every passage that offers instruction is answering an implied question. Struggled with finding the right question to ask (like Bible Jeopardy) in order to cover all that the text addresses… Finally arrived at the question I will ultimately imply in my introduction, the need I will raise which the text addresses. This will be the sermon’s central truth.

Continued to outline... the structure of the timeless message was beginning to form. Getting tired, though… before preparing for bed, I skimmed a couple of commentaries, which did not yield much insight (perhaps too tired to notice).
Wednesday Date: Nov 2 2005 - 4:30pm
I got off work at 4 pm again and headed to school. I spent some time going through the commentaries I converted to PDF previously. I also added two more commentaries to the stack. Some of them have some useful insights, mostly deeper insights than my observations. There is no vast difference between my views and the commentaries, so I am done with the observations of great men who came before me.

I will need to complete the sermonic outline tonight… I did not prepare for my Hebrew class and do not feel like I can focus on it… I asked a fellow student to use my digital recorder and hang on to it for me. I’ll need to write the sermon tonight if possible... or at least start.
I typed up an extended outline and began filling out the body of the sermon
I  realized at 09:30 PM that I CAN DO THIS
it's a skill... anybody can learn to write a good sermon
at 10:45 I realized that I was more concerned with preaching well than a grade
I suppose that is a good thing
I also realized that my sermon is not producing the same conviction the passage had on me... bummer
Thursday Date: Nov 4 2005 - 2:00pm
went home early and finalized outline. Malachi was sick, very distracting!
started writing sermon
found introduction difficult
found conclusion even more so!
wrote out basic sermon
went back and restated main points
quit at 1 AM... sermon is basically done, although I am not pleased with it

I learned a lot, which is the point, but I think my sermon won't do the text justice
Friday Date: Nov 4 2005 - 2:00pm
I took the morning off and sleep almost 7 hours.
finished off conclusion, emailed document to professor
it took me forever to document the resources I referenced!

tonight - I will practice the sermon for an hour or two... !
I practiced several times, first just reading the manuscript (15 min) then by memory (12:30)
I practiced twice, then reviewed, then waited 45 minutes and practiced two more times.
In the end, my sermon is about 11:30, under the target of 12:00. I am still not pleased with the transition from intro to message, and the conclusion does not do the passage justice. Something feels like it is missing. But out of time.
Saturday Date: Nov 5 2005
Sermon is at 9:00. Woke at 7 after a good night sleep. Went through morning routine and ate light.

Arrived at 8:20 and spoke with other people preaching. Everyone seems nervous.
My sermon went well, though. The transition was rough as I expected, but not as bad as in practice.
Sermon was only 9:30, though… I forgot to mention one illustration and spoke faster, with less pauses.
Professor indicates the layout is good, and the “what and why” intro is good, but I forgot to tell everyone the audible que when I got to the “why”… nobody remembered “why” we were talking about “why”… live and learn!
Sermon is on video; going to ask coworker to digitize it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sony Stabs You From Behind

Sony continues to lie to you about thier "copy protection" technology. They have responded to Mark's (read entry at Sysinternals) exposure of their DRM and bogus "patches", "updates" and promised of removal. In short, don't trust Sony on this, they are just stalling.

What burns me is that Sony's "DRM" only hurts legitimate consumers who trust Sony, not people who are by nature hackers or even geeks (like me). I never install anything without scanning the license agreement, and I NEVER install software that comes on a DVD or music CD. Which means I would never get this root kit Sony is distributing.

The "secure" software can be avoided just by the user refusing to install it and running Windows Media Player or some other player. Only people who are willing to (foolishly, as it turns out) trust Sony get burned.

People who actually want to rip Sony off and distribute their music illegally would automatically skip Sony's installation prompt and rip the audio directly from the CD. The people Sony supposedly wants to stop will, by and large, never even see Sony's little ploy, let alone be taken in by it.

In the forthcoming next-gen video format wars (between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray), I was looking forward to Blu-Ray, even though Sony championed it... After this story broke, I'm not sure I can trust the format.

It seems like a bone-headed thing for Sony to do. At the time when they are trying to make serious money on their new format, they are stabbing consumers in the back?

Sony didn't make money off of BetaMax, they largely failed (in the US) on MiniDisc, nobody I know ever got behind DTS... now this, just before Hollywood finally chooses sides on the movie format of the future.

Consumers can hit Sony where it hurts by voting with their wallets... don't buy thier "enhanced" music discs, and opt for HD-DVD. I sure won't. I urge you not to, either.

Grrr... Sony... Grrr...

Friday, November 04, 2005

WARNING: Sony CDs May Be Bad For Your PC

Perhaps you heard about the flap Tim Foreman of Switchfoot was involved in when it became know that their latest album had copy protection (DRM) for Windows PCs. EMI released their latest album "Nothing is Sound" with a mistaken (yeah right) copy proectction flag turned on. Tim Foreman told fans how to circumvent the copy protection and apologized to fans, leading EMI to eventually recall the CD to remanufacture it.

Without debating Tim Foreman's actions, I understand this concern. EMI, however, did not hide their copy protection techonlogy or install it without permission. Enter Sony...

Sony/BMG's previous attempt to copy-protect CDs was easily defeatible and poorly written. Sony's latest CDs require Windows users to install a Sony media player, and it installs a 'rootkit' without the user's permission. User permission is usually obtained through an End-User License Agreement (EULA), and Sony's original EULA did not mention this 'rootkit'.

A 'rootkit' is basically software that utilizes
the mechanisms and techniques whereby malware, including viruses, spyware, and trojans, attempt to hide their presence from spyware blockers, antivirus, and system management utilities.
In other words, rootkits are the worth king of software that intends you harm by hiding itself and controlling key aspects of your system. Sony's new music CDs install this type of software on your computer. Removing it manually will cause your CD-ROM drive to fail.

If you have installed the Sony player from a Sony copy-protected CD, according to CNET, you can contact Sony's cusomter service for removal instructions (they aren't easy...).

Update: I'm not sure exactly what it does, but Sony has released a "patch" for removing the cloaking aspect of their DRM (not the DRM itself).

This was bad timing for Sony. Sony's failure with Betamax and MiniDisc, their poor attempt at copy-proof CDs in March of 2005, and now this? I am actually in favor of the Sony/Philips next-gen video format Blue-ray, but if they're going to try to pull stunts like this...

Update 11/02/2005 09:58 PM: Universal uses similar software on some CDs. Lovely.

Update 11/04/2005 01:05 PM: Don't use the Sony "patch"... it actually makes things worse. Instead, if you have used Sony's CDs recently, do the following:
In the meantime users can perform a safe decloaking by opening the Run dialog from the Start menu, entering “sc delete $sys$aries”, and then rebooting. This sequence deletes the driver from the Windows Registry so that even though its image is still present on disk, the I/O system will not load it during subsequent boots.
Source: Sysinterals Blog

Blogger Comment Moderation

I asked for a means of moderating anonymous comments on my blog, and Blogger has responded. I allow anonymous comments on my blog, and this will help cut down on all that blog comment spam. Just go to your template settings and you can enabled comment moderation (instructions here). You can get email notification, or check you "posting" tabe for the "moderate comments" link.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Our Cat Malachi May Be Sick

this is an audio post - click to play

Cathy's mom saw blood in stool of one of our cats, and we're reasonably sure that Malachi was the last to use the litter box. The vet opens at 6 P.M. so Cathy will take her then. Your prayers would be appreciated. Malachi is the one pictured on my shoulder...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Microsoft Update and Wikipedia

Website Wednesday - Microsoft Update and Wikipedia

Microsoft Update
If you have a Windows-based computer you should visit the Microsoft Update web site weekly. Microsoft Update includes patches and updates on Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Office 2003 and beyond. You must be using Internet Explorer when you visit the Microsoft Update web site. I suggest you visit once a month and select the "Express" option.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by its readers. There are multiple languages represented, though you'll probably mostly be interested in English. The site is a Wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit almost any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears at the top of the page. It's policies include a community-enfoce neutral point-of-view (NPOV)and free documentation license (GFDL).

While a NPOV is attempted, new articles or less-popular entries will be written with the particular bent of the initial author. The site works because anyone can contribute and edit. NOTE: Wikipedia should probably not be used as a primary source for your term paper. :-)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mansion Impossible Flash Game

For Time-Wasting Tuesday... Mansion Impossible.

Title: Mansion Impossible
Credit: designed 3form
Comments: The aim of the game is to buy and sell property until you have enough money to buy the mansion. Click on an open property to buy it and click on your property to sell it. Very engrossing... my highest score is 13 years 1 month... 12 years 6 months... 10 years 9 months.

Monday, October 31, 2005


This past weekend was a nice period of renewal and redecorating.


On Friday, carpeting folks finally came and fixed the padding to our carpet. Remember the fiasco with all the wet carpet? We had several rooms with dry carpet, but the padding had been torn out. Two-and-a-half months later, our carpet is repaired. Hooray!

I got home from work on Friday and found Cathy interviewing several college girls for apartment one. Cathy has a pretty good feeling about them. They put a deposit down, so the apartment is off the market now. The girls are not moving in until 11/15, so that gives me two more weekends to finish up, rather than rushing through this week. That is a blessing.

When the carpeting repaired, I vacuumed everything thoroughly, moving the furniture around, and eventually rearranging all three rooms entirely. Cathy wanted me to put up the big screen on the wall, but I just didn't have time! That'll come next month, though, and I'll take some pictures to show everybody.


On Saturday I slept in. I measured for the kitchen sink and played with the jigsaw. After returning to Home Depot and wasting two hours there, I finally cut out most of the counter before I snapped the blade, and I didn't buy any while at HD... :-(

Cathy wanted to go to Ikea for their 20th birthday sale (15% off) and spent $730!! Eek! We bought a rug, living room tables, new lamps and several picture frames. We bought this poster that reminded us of Oliver and put it in a white frame. I did not see this poster of a cat but I think I'll go back for it! I even bought a new water bowl for our pets!

Cathy is very happy about the purchases. We had a lot of hand-me-down furniture, and this replaces a lot of it (the ditchen will be the next room, several months from now). This is the first time (in her life?) that she can look around a room and say that all the furniture reflects her, rather than someone else. :-)


Cathy was up to driving to church this week. Yeah! I think the time change helped, as we got an extra hour of sleep. We heard a good message, too, and we had a great discussion over lunch at Joe's Crab Shack.

We've got the frames, but they still need to be populated with phots. We'll probably print them at Costco... ah... there's no place like home!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Free Software For You?

What kind of software do you need to use? What if it were available for free? Would it surpise you to know that it probably is available, now, for free?

Cathy has claimed that I am philosophically egocentric; that is to say that I think the rest of world sees and understands things as I see and understand them.

This, as you have no doubt surmised, is simply not true.

I assumed that everyone else is as cheap as I am... that is not the case. That does not mean I always go for the least expensive item that will do the job. Rather, I look for the value I get for the resources I expend, including time, effort and dollars. That's why I rarely recommend the "newest and greatest" computers or software to people.

I believe in matching need with means. If you need a really fast computer to do your job, I'll recommend one. But if you only need a mid-range computer to browse the Internet, some word processing and photo editing, I'd recommend that.

I don't like to pay for things I don't need. I did not (directly) purchase the copy of Windows XP running on this laptop; it "came with" the computer. I needed a word processor, so I downloaded OpenOffice. I needed a web page editor, so I downloaded Nvu (granted, I could have used Mozilla Composer, but I was already using FireFox).

Being a computer nerd I probably use a greater percentage of my computer than the general computer-using population. People often consult me regarding what best to buy or how to accomplish something on their computer. Through time, my subconcious has absorbed a means of ascertaining just how large a feature set any given inquirer might actually need.

So, while most people are comfortably with spending the $124 at Costco for Microsoft Office (a pretty good deal, actually), I honestly doubt that most people will touch, say, 50% of the features of Microsoft Word. As such, OpenOffice is a far better solution. I've played with it, and it handles great.

I'll be posting more free (and usually opensource) products in the near future. What kind of things do you need? Let me know...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Remodeling, Studying and Recovering

It's been a while since I've posted. Let's see, theres more progress in the aprtment, Cathy is doing O.K., and I had a Hebrew exam. Sorry for not keeping everybody up to speed. I can usually tell when I'm not blogging often enough, as I start getting instant messages, emails and phone calls asking about Cathy. Let me say that Cathy really appreciates your support!

Let's see... I haven't really spoken of our lives in almost two weeks. I've been working on the apartment, of course. The kitchen cabinets are completed (still need to pick up a door from Ikea), and I've got the dishwaser in and the countertops are almost ready. I've yet to install the kitchen sink... but it's getting there; I'll get to play with a jigsaw next!

I didn't have class last Wednesday, so I spent the evening finishing up the countertops and installing all the doors. I took last Thursday off to hang out with Cathy, but she slept in so late that I spent the morning remodeling. By the time she woke up, Cathy decided to simply join me (it was way after lunch). She installed two toilets and helped mom straighten all the kitchen cabinet doors before running out of steam. It sure was helpful, though! Cathy loves to remodel, so she misses being part of the action.

Friday, Cathy went to get her normal shot, but her applicator had changed! It was not the syringe she was expecting, but a fat, weird contraption instead. She called the health line and got instructions, and things worked out, but it did cause her a little consternation for a short period.

On Saturday I got up early and finished cutting out the countertops; they look pretty good! I'm putting so much work into this apartment, and I'm more practiced now, that I wish we were moving in! I also installed the bathroom sinks and most of the cabinets while (get this!) mom replaced most of the electrical outlets with new ones. Cathy rested in bed with the intention of gathering her strength to attend church on Sunday.

My mother-in-law is very flexible these days in learning new things. She really wants to make it on her own, and she's being very steady in her studying for the real estate license while still helping me out in every way possible!

I had not studied Hebrew since Monday the 17th, so I tried to catch up Saturday evening. We all gathered in the bedroom; I studied, Cathy and mom read, and the cats and dog were scattered all around.

Sunday came, but despite Cathy's efforts and her strong desire to attend church she simply could not muster the strength to get out of bed. She even tried sleeping in a bit and getting up to attend a local church, but that was too much, as well. I figured it was somehow "wrong" to work on the apartment so I read a little and studied Hebrew instead.

I now know about 170 words and 20 verbes, plus a bunch of derivitives of thoese words. I took my second Hebrew exam tonight, and boy was it difficult!
this is an audio post - click to play
Thankfully, I wasn't the only one to feel that way. I figure I probably got about 80%, maybe 85% right. Sheesh.

Cathys looking pretty good tonight, even though she was quite tired today. We may try to get out of the house for a period of time tomorrow.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Vito the Kitten Attacks the Wiggly Fingers

Vito is getting real big. His legs are definitely longer, his markings are more distinct, his purring is quite loud, and he can jump and climb rather well.

Here's a video of him attacking Cathy's fingers.

Here's Vito purring...

Friday, October 21, 2005

OpenOffice 2.0 Thoroughly Equipped

 Use OpenOffice.orgThe OpenOffice.Org (OOo) suite version 2.0 has emerged from testing and is now available for download. 2.0 is an open, feature-rich multi-platform office productivity suite. The user interface and the functionality is very similar to other products in the market like Microsoft Office or Lotus SmartSuite, but in contrast to these commercial products is absolutely free.
OOo 2.0 (oh-oh-oh two-point-oh... heh) is full-featured, and easily a Microsoft Office replacement.

I have nothing against Microsoft; frankly, I've been a fan of Microsoft Word since I first used it in junior high. However, OOo is free, cross-platform, and thoroughly equipped for every type of office work. If you already own Microsoft Office 2000 or newer, don't bother; if you are looking to acquire an office suite, OOo 2.0 is a great place to start.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Recording Audio from Sermons and Classes

This post gives an overview of how I record audio files from my classes and sermons at church. I'm a tightwad, always looking for the cheap instead of the expensive, the free instead of the cheap. Being a techie at heart, I also look for better, cheaper ways to do things. Efficiency with efficacy is the key.

I have to take many classes in the course of preparing for ministry. I wanted to record the class audio, but tapes just don't work for me. I wanted a digital recorder, ideally one that records in MP3. I also needed to record sermons at church, so I began to look for a devices that would be able to do both.

I found one device that would do it all. Frankly, there are three or foud on the market now that do what I require, but I believe the products from iRiver continue to be the most reasonable and the most faithful recordings.

MP3 Recording Hardware

For church, I purchased an iRiver iFP-390T (256mb). For my own use, Cathy bought me an iFP-380T (128mb). There are much larger capcities available now. I selected the 3xx series because they include a line-in jack as well as an omnidirectional microphone.

Software (PC)

CDex Version 1.51 (
MP3Gain v1.2.2 (
Mp3 Tag Tools v 1.2 Build 008 (
mp3DirectCut (
dBpowerAMP Music Converter (

Acquiring the source audio

The iRiver iFP-380T/390T is a flash ram MP3 player and voice recorder. It has a stereo line-in jack which can be used to record MP3 audio (requires a powered signal). For sermons, I record the audio on the line-in jack at 64kbps at mono. I can record about 7:45 of audio on the 390T )256mb, which allows up to four recordings.

For my classes, the 380T gives me 7:45 of voice recording at 32kbps, which should be sufficient if you are diligent in archiving your audio files weekly. A single battery will usually record about 16 hours worth. The trick is to place the device at least three feet from the speaker but with no osbstruction between the device and the speaker.

For both devices, I use the iRiver's UMS (USB Mass Storage) firmware version 111. This causes the device to show up as a USB drive (like an USB keychain).

Why record in mono instead of stereo? The final output file I desire is mono, so recording in stereo is a waste bandwidth. Also, note that a mono 64k MP3 has the same quality as a 128k joint stereo stream recoded to mono. I get a better quality source file by encoding in mono.

Since I am recording sermons from a live church service, I am plugging directly into the sound board. I am using the Studio Out, which is pre-fader, in order to avoid someone turning down the pastor's mic for the house and killing my recording level. I record the audio file with the dial at unity (0 gain). Ideally, I would use a pre-fader mono aux send, but my setup at church limits me. Also, I find that disabling all effects, such as reverb, is best for the speech portions of the recording.

Splitting and compressing the audio

I am using Windows XP, although most of this software if available for free on Linux as well. Non-Windows users can substitute Audacity for an audio splitter.

I use MP3DirectCut to split the source MP3 into smaller chunks and to eliminate silence or audio junk. Then I use MP3gain and adjust the audio to normalize at 89 db. The human ear cannot detect changes smaller than 1.5 db, so changes in increments of 3 db is suggested... some people suggest 92 db as a better baseline, I wouldn't really know.

Using "Mp3 Tag Tools" I label the tracks with the speaker or preach, when and where, the title and so on. Tagging the split up files allows all transcoded files to also have the same tags, thus saving you work later.

For uploading to the Internet, I use CDex, with Encoding Option set to "Windows MP3 Encoder" with a Codec Bitrate Selection of "24kBit/s, 11k Mono" and "High Quality" checked. This results in a FastEnc (FhG) encoded MP3 file, which sounds better for low bit rates than LAME encoding does. The file is about 21% the size of the original. I also take the tagged, uncompressed MP3 and use dbPowerAmp to creat "Windows Media Audio 9 Voice" files at 16k. The resultant file is smaller than the compressed MP3 about 14% the size of the original.

Why MP3 instead of XYZ

Why MP3? Why not Real Audio, or Vorbis? I selected MP3, not for its quality or size, but for the ubiquity of the format. Everybody has a MP3 player/decoder on their computer, and it will "just work." Although I am using FastEnc, I am not be required to pay royalties, from what I understand according to the licensing.

Why WMA? Windows Media Encoder (WMA) encodes voice at passable quality as low at 8kbps, and 16kbps is amazingly good. WMA has size as an advantage, the encoder is free, and there are no licensing fees for redistribution.

Why not OGG? I considered Oggs Vorbis, but while a quality of -1 does save 30% in size (a 6mb MP3 becomes a 4.2mb OGG), the Vorbis codec is simply not intended for voice, and does not sound as well. Without a size advantage, it doesn't make sense to transcode to Vorbis. Royalties are also not an issue here, but there is no compelling reasons to use OGG.

Finally, many folks, just as myself, have portable MP3/WMA players. Vorbis and other formats I have considered are usually not supported, or not supported at low enough bit rates for me to worry about them.

I initially used LAME to produce the smaller, lower-quality MP3 files to save space. I use all2lame (although any LAME front-end will do) and us the following encoding parameters:
--short --athtype 3 --lowpass 9.1 --cwlimit 7.2 --substep 0 --ns-bass 6 --ns-alto 13 --ns-treble 21 --ns-sfb21 6 --strictly-enforce-ISO --vbr-new --abr 24 --verbose -q0 -b 8 -B 40 -mm
For notes on which version of LAME to use see this forum link at HydrogenAudio. I started out using LAME version 3.93 because 3.90.3 did not work with All2LAME & tag.exe. The file is about 20% the size of the original.

I'm not an audio engineer or anything like that. I've done my homework and a lot of reading, but I'm just a computer geek that loves Jesus and wants to further His kingdom. I'll try to help you if you are trying to setup digital recording at your ministry, just don't expect a pro. You can contact me via email by looking in the footer on the main blog page.

Software to consider (also free)

LAME version 3.93 MMX (, see also
all2lame v1.9.1 (
RazorLAME (
Audacity (
DeepBurner (
CDBurnXP (

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Mango Fandango" is Fun to Say

Mom just asked me what I want to drink for dinner, and we have been consuming Knudsen juices recently. My favorite flavor is Mango Fandango so far. It tastes good, and it's fun to say!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vito the Kitten Update

Vito has gotten even cuter! He now drinks water from the bowl, and he runs like the wind! I've gotta get some video of that.

I think he's cutest when he sleeps, though. He prefers to sleep on the tile, oddly enough. Vito also tends to clean both of his front paws at once, which looks like he's praying. How cute!

In a week or two he will be ready to be neutered; Toms are not allowed to be adopted out intact. Pretty soon, we'll be taking him to the adoption center on the weekends to look for a good, permanent home. *sigh*

Tests Should Assess Learning

this is an audio post - click to play

I think exams should help you determine what you know instead of being a focal point of a class. What's the point of being able to pass an exam if the material isn't useful to you after you finish the class?

Anything I'm learning at the seminary should improve my ability to preach, teach, or otherwise discharge my responsbilities. Focusing on an exam does accomplish anything; focusing on the acquisition of knowledge is far more valuable.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

New Link: Del Rosarios

I want to point out our friends, Mikel & Christine Del Rosarios, who are in the Philippines as missionaries. We are glad to know them and love what they are doing. You can also check out their blog which chronicles these early months after their arrival.

Ice Cream Makes Everything Better

Cathy hasn't been feeling her best (Saturdays are tough), but I picked up a quart of 31 Flavors Rocky Road which really cheers her up. What doesn't chocolate icecream fix? I find this appropriate since William Dreyer (of icecream fame) created the flavor during the U.S. Great Depression, ostensibly to help calm nerves.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Whattalotta Cabinets!

I did not realize how much cabinet space we were installing in the kitchen... and I haven't even installed the bottom ones yet!

(click image or reload page to see animation again)

I spent the remainder of yesterday afternoon and most of the evening finishing the upper cabinets. You gotta level cabinets and anchor them to each other. That took a surprising amount of time.

We were going to use the stainless steel legs for a modern look, but I'm having a hard time finding a diswasher with stainless steel legs. A short dishwasher would also do, but I can't find anything 30 inches tall (the smallest I found is 33.75). Oh well.

Tonight I will install the bottom cabinets (and hopefully the counters and sink). Cathy ordered the appliances from Home Depot, so I will likely be putting those in this weekend. Looking forward to playing with that miter saw!

God and the Blog

Interested in how blogging may be useful to a Christian? Check out the GodBlogCon God Blog Convention. It appears the sessions will become available in one form or another to those not able to attend.

Article at The Christian Post: First Religious Blogging Convention

Article at Fox News: Bloggers Seek to Mix Faith and the Internet

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Recollections of My Father

this is an audio post - click to play

Let me add that my father is well and living in Taoyuan, Taiwan (map) with my mother. I know I was very pirvileged to have such an attentive father.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Voice Calls Over the Internet

I've found a free service which allows you to receive phone calls on your computer from land lines (regular phones). You get to pick a New York area code and a random number is assigned to you when you sign up. You get free voicemail, free incoming faxes and free incoming phone calls. You can check messages online or have them emailed to you. You can find out more or sign up at

StanaPhone is still in beta testing, so don' expect it to be up and reliable 24x7 just yet. If you just want free voicemail and incoming fax, check out; very solid service, also free. I waited a bit to blog about this, but I finally got to test it.

Free voice conversations over the Internet are nothing new... my first such conversation utilized NetMeeting some time in the late 90's. While free, the converstation required two computers and a shared service, usually an Instant Messenger service such as Yahoo! or MSN.

Free PC-to-PC calls was made popular by services such as Skype... all users of Skype could call other users for free. These services started allowing users to dial out to real phone numbers for low rates, so a Skype user could call my cell phone, for example. Basically, "SkypeOut" became a cheap calling card for computer nerds. While computers could call real phones, the reverse was not possible until recently. Skype started testing "SkypeIn", a service allowing Skype users to receive calls for a monthly fee. As Skype puts it:
So, if you have a Chicago-based SkypeIn number, but you’re living somewhere in the suburbs of Paris, your Chicago area friends - or anyone! - can just dial your SkypeIn number, and your Skype on the other side of the world starts ringing... and your friends are only paying whatever their phone company charges them for making a phone call to Chicago.

In other words, if my parents were using Skype, I could call a local number and talk to them for Skype's monthly fee. That's great... but free is better, right? I don't know how StanaPhone will make money, but the service is free (for now). I'll be trying to talk my overseas friends into signing up, that's for sure.

Nothing Interesting To Say

We're still here... I've just had nothing interesting to say. Cathy was not feeling well this weekend, so we stayed home and I worked on the apartment and studied Hebrew. I did get the cabinet support rails up, so I'm planning on hanging cabinets tonight.

I did figure out that we're (almost) break-even on the apartment remodeling. Doing it all yourself takes time, but it saves money...

Update: I did hang all the top cabinets tonight... they actually look straight!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cabinates, Class, Cathy

God has been gracious to me again, in fact today, in the area of cabinets, class, and Cathy...

God has continued to demonstrate His goodness to Cathy & me. When I asked God for more faith, specifically that His promise that nothing that came our way would be too overwhelming for us, I wasn't expecting a fast answer.

You'll probably recall the 650 pounds of furniture that was unloaded on Thursday. Here's a visual representation of the task which was before me.

I was planning on assembling the cabinets on Saturday and hanging those cabinets over a period of several evenings. Unfortunately, I forgot my class was this Saturday... but I figured things would work out.

To thank Laura, we took her and Chris out to dinner at Outback Steak House. It was a great time of enjoying pleasant conversation and company. Laura indicated she would make some time to come by on Saturday to help again. I wouldn't be there, but Laura and Mom would do whatever they discovered they felt comfortable doing.

I attended class and enjoyed my training a great deal. Over lunch, I read chapter nine of the Hebrew Grammar again, and this time it made sense! I was able to reproduce the paradigms with a high degree of accuracy, truly an answer to prayer!

I was greeted by this sight when I return from class late in the afternoon.

I estimate that 2/3 of the cabinets were assembled already! I joined the work, and by the time we all quit for the day, only two cabinets remained to be completed, and all of the drawers are ready to install.

Cathy tried to keep Mom and Laura company throughout the afternoon and the effort has drained her a great deal. It is 10:15 P.M. now, and she may soon be retiring for the evening... in my experience, when Cathy depletes her energy on a Saturday, Sunday is not a good travel day for her. We may not go to church tomorrow at all, thus allowing Cathy to recuperate. Given recent events, however, I believe we can handle this week together with God's grace

If I could preach on just any topic right now, I would probably speak about God's sustaining grace. It is remarkably clear to me right now! I will remember this post the next time I feel like circumstances are becoming too much for me to handle. God will provide and give me further cause to praise Him.

Friday, October 07, 2005

God is Faithful

God has been faithful and gracious to me, and I want to share this with you.

As you know, I have been been struggling of late with some aspects of faith, which has been brought into focus by my concerns at work, at home, at school and even abroad.

It was shortly after my recent cries for faith that God revealed something about my relation to Cathy; I am not strong enough to care for her myself, and when I attempt to do so by my own merits I tend to hurt her rather than help her. This is a great insight God has granted me, and I am striving to make the best use of it.

Having requested Thursday off, I had made arrangements for purchasing all the kitchen parts at Ikea. However, I forgot to rent a truck; providentially, a truck as available, but reserved for Friday morning. I was able to rent that truck and purchase almost the entire kitchen (save two doors and a side panel) and bring it back. There were over 120 pieces that weighed almost 650 pounds total. I had help loading the pieces but I dreaded the long hours I would take to unload the truck into the apartment... I was a mere 3 minutes from home when Laura called Cathy and offered to hep with the cabinets when needed. She was a godsend! With mom's help and Laura's help we got the truck unloaded in less than 1 hour! Not only did God provide a truck but a friend to unload!

I was concerned for my friends in Haiti, but receive mail Thursday night that they are well and merely experiencing computer problems. As a matter of fact, they will be stateside in November! I look forward to speaking with my brother in faith again.

I am still concerned with renting the triplex, and I am facing a potential difficulty at school... but I won't go into it right now. I am having trouble with chapter 9 of my Hebrew Grammar; it's like trying to walk through a wall! But with God's faithfulness being demonstrated in so many parts of my life, I feel confident that God will continue to provide, in His time and in His ways.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


We got carpeting in Apartment One yesterday! I had wanted to seal the living room floor concrete first, but oh well. It looks really nice, a warm, chocolate color that is very easy on my eyes; it also matches the fireplace and the bathroom tile!

Today we'll go to Ikea and Home Depot to pick up the remaining cabinates and plumbing fixtures. I'll be busy, and soon the apartment will be ready! Yeah!

One of Cathy's Better Weeks

Cathy's treatment doesn't change much... it's still a self-administered shot on Friday and two pills with meals daily. While the side-effects no longer last the entire five to six days after the shot, the duration of the negative effects appears to vary now three to four days.

Cathy will likely not be able to return to work during her treatment. She has wanted to be a housewife before, but not this way; she still does not have sustained energy to expend on any extended tasks.

I do believe that her mood is greatly improved, though. Her insecurity seems to be a thing of the past now, and her outlooks is increasingly positive. I pray only for the grace of God to be extended to us both so that I can continue to life her up.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rosh Hashanah

Today was part of Rosh Hashanah (רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, from sunset October 3, 2005 - nightfall October 5, 2005), so we spent the first part of Hebrew class praying. I offered prayers for Cathy and for my missionary friends in Haiti, from whom I've had no contact since Hurricane Katrina...

Hmm: Insecurity, Resumes and Faith

What is the relation between fear and faith, at least in my life? I must have been fairly stressed as I actually thought about updating my resume, which has not been touched since 1999. While several co-workers have indicated that I "could find a job anywhere", I am unwilling to test that assertion. I tried to discern the source of my harried thoughts, and I think the root cause is stress.

Fundamentally, my stress comes from an undercurrent of insecurity. Cathy & I have stepped out on a financial limb, while at the same time exercising our faith as faithful stewards of the money God has entrusted to us. The remodeling of the triplex is more physically and mentally demanding upon me than I care to admit often or out loud. Deep down, my attempts to continue to control my environment, even on a subconscious level, feeds my insecurity and manifests itself as stress in the arena of daily life.

My insecurity, I believe, runs insidiously beneath my subconscious, and is rooted in a fundamental disbelief. Of all the things I fear, I fear losing the ability to protect and to provide for the ones I love. If I truly believe in God, would I not seek first His kingdom and His righteousness? Do I really believe that God will provide my daily bread? Can I entrust "my" future into His hands?

God has never let me down before, I do not think He will do so now.

Free: OpenOffice (plus Google?)

Have I never mentioned Sun Microsystem's OpenOffice before? OpenOffice (aka OOo) is a free (of charge) suite of office software, very much like Microsoft Office. You can download and use use OpenOffice free of charge at I use OOo 1.9 for Cathy's laptop.

Google has been making strides to become... something... more, and has been pushing Microsoft's buttons. Anyway, Google and Sun are partnering on OpenOffice. The download will likely be slow with the news, so give it a couple of days.