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.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Gift For My SciFi Wife

I had exchanged messages with that Shelley Norman person and she reminded me that Stargate SG-1 Season 8 was to be released on DVD today. Cathy mistakenly thought the release date was to be November 7th...

5:38 P.M.
this is an audio post - click to play

I had checked Costco, but they are backordered in Los Angeles and Orange County. I checked Best Buy and called a store and had one reserved.

6:12 P.M.
this is an audio post - click to play

Boy, was Cathy surprised! I was quite pleased with the results.

What Would YOU Preach?

Can you imagine having been a pastor in the Gulf Coast these last five weeks? What would you preach? How do you communicate God's love and compassion in the midst of destruction?

Compared to the initial (over?) projection of 10,000 dead in Louisiana alone, the low death toll is welcome news.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Matrix Pong

You have to be fond of The Matrix movie (or at least the first one) to appreciate this ping pong video clip. View from Google Video or Japan's Nippon TV... Cathy and I laughed ourselves silly!

Vocational Turbulence

Caveat Lector: really long post.

Eeek. So… I just got out of a meeting with our HR VP and my new manager. The short version is that I have withdrawn from a voluntary departmental transfer. Lord willing, my employment here will remain fruitful and the decision will prove to be a good choice, apparent to everyone.

A little history… We’re trying to fill an internal staffing problem by transferring me from our equivalent of an IT department to the Service Management department. The goal is to get a new trainer and support staff person for our plumbing, heating and A/C market. Recruitment of qualified individuals has been difficult.

Previously, I had approached our VP with some questions on Accounting. I figured that I could better support our clients if I learned some Accounting, and he agreed. When we started having difficulty filling the position, our VP thought of me. After our VP discussed the opportunity with me, I agreed to try it out. After three months, we would make a final determination. In the mean time, I would answer to both my current boss and another manager. My manager-to-be had only one reservation: would I be happy doing the job? Only time would tell.

In several important situations, I have ignored a “gut feeling” about what I should say, or something I should do, and each time I have regretted it. It was almost three weeks between the initial discussion and the official announcement. Between then, I grew increasingly uneasy with the prospect, but I suppressed the feeling by dismissing it as a baseless fear of failure.

Days before the official announcement, someone I would be working closely with asked me why I was scheduled for training with him. In other words, he had no idea. He indicated that the manager said I would be learning the product to help them take up the slack. I agreed that this was true. This was my primary motivation for agreeing to participate; what’s good for the company overall is ultimately good for me, too. Several co-workers heard (through the grapevine, not from me) of the upcoming changes. Everybody suggested that I was capable of performing the job function; a few suggested it was a bad idea.

On the day before the company meeting two events transpired that made me give more attention to my nagging doubts. First, while driving home from dinner with my wife and mother-in-law, I ignored a strong intuition to make a u-turn and detour around a certain intersection, which led to my family being stuck with me in lousy traffic for some time. This incident caused me to introspect, and I confessed to Cathy that I had misgivings on the upcoming transfer. Secondly, my wife then confessed that she was being submissive in her support for the transfer, but in fact the change was a concern to her.

Note to the ladies:
your husband wants to hear your opinion,
even when and often especially if you disagree with him.

The announcement came the next day, stating that I was switching departments. I then went onsite to a client for training, and went home more convinced that this is not a good fit.

That next day I approached my new manager. I told him that, even in this early stage, I was becoming convinced this was not a good fit. Further delays would only hurt our recruitment efforts, so I thought it best to tell him sooner rather than later. He met with the VP, and it was decided that we should wait until early October to revisit the issue.

Virtually nothing happened in the intervening time in terms of my training.

Well, it is October now, and we revisited the issue. My feelings have not changed. I think our VP was truly rather disappointed; not only was this a convenient was of filling a staff need, it would also do so without increasing costs, and I as an employee would become more valuable to the company.

I have two weeks to change my mind, and after that the offer is no longer available. Cathy had already expressed a fear of retaliation, but I doubt that would occur here. I really am a loyal employee, and I do work hard. I also pointed out that I still want the training, so my value as an employee should increase. But, the position will likely have to be filled by recruitment.

Ultimately, the company has the right to inform me I am being reassigned. And, frankly, I could not afford to be unemployed, so I would do the job. As a Christian, I would do the job to the best of my ability, but I doubt I would be happy. God has blessed me with a good job; to do other than my best would be just plain wrong. Still, a reassignment would significantly reduce the attraction this place has for me, and I would start looking for full-time ministry opportunity after my schooling was completed.

I am reminded of a scene from “Ever After”, where Danielle speaks for her step-mother, Rodmilla:
Danielle: I want you to know that I will forget you after this moment and never think of you again. But you, I am quite certain, will think about me ever single day for the rest of your life
Rodmilla: And how long might that be?
I am wondering how long it might be…

News: Movies Show No Negatives Sex or Drugs

This is news?
A team of Australian medical researchers published a new study today that said Hollywood movies fail to show the negative consequences of sex and drug use.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Photo: Vito is Growing Up!

Vito is certainly growing up! Over this last week, Cathy weaned him, so Vito is now off the bottle completely! He is also potty-trained now, so he's free to roam the aparmen for longer periods of time with less supervision. Vito has taken a liking to Rhonda, but she is trying real hard not to get attached. :-)

We've been trying to do better with each litter. This time, we're acclimating Vito to the dog. We didn't do that with Fanny, and she can't stand Oliver. We're also trying to get Vito used to being fed by different people, and different foods. Vito has gotten used to the dog already, and we've had as many friends handle him as possible.

In fact, Laura came over to visit yesterday. She stayed for quite a while and delighted Cathy with her company; she's actually the first friend to visit Cathy. Anyway, here's Vito relaxing in Laura's arms.

Zechariah, our tuxedo, is very mothering to Vito. She taught him to bathe. Our mom (Rhonda) has a 7-month-old kitten, and he's been playing with Vito. Malachi tries to play with Vito but isn't sure what to do with him just yet.

I have uploaded videos of Vito running, wrestling, and bathing. The links should go live in less than 24 hours.

What to Preach?

I have to prepare two sermons for my class. I think I will direct one only at my fellow students, but the other one I will try to reuse in church.

Usually, when someone preaches, they ask God for guidance and select a passage to preach on based on the needs of the church he is serving. In my case, I am supposed to preach to my fellow seminary students. There are only twelve of us in the class (that is the maximum due to the time required for all of us to preach), and they are my target audience.

On the one hand, it would be easier to select a verse for my church; the needs are familiar to me and broader in scope since we are looking for a pastor. On the other hand, my fellow seminary students should share similar struggles (bonus points for alliteration!).

The idea of regularly preaching the Word of God is both an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility. I don't think I can preach "do not steal" if I am pirating software, or "do not commit adultery" if I am watching Internet porn. I certain do not want to be like those who opposed Jesus, of whom he declared they "do not practice what they preach."

With my fellow students in mind, I was thinking about the end of 2 Timothy 3 and the beginning of 4. But, I think I'll settle on 1 Timothy 4:15-16 (full chapter text).
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
We all get to preach twice. The first time, each student gets 12 minutes to preach one verse (or two at most) from a New Testament letter. The second time we each receive 15 minutes to preach any section from the entire Bible. I think the second time I will look for a sermon that I can use at church as well as at school.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

News: Free WiFi coming to San Francisco

One way or another, San Francisco is getting free WiFi Internet access for the entire city. There are multiple bids in, but I find Google's entry into the bid yesterday very interesting.

Template Obsession

I redid the template for our blog twice (last night and this morning). I decided that a blog's layout should be different from a web site. Anyway, hope you like the new look. Cathy made me put my profile back in the corner, though, since she loves that animation of Malachi! I'm planning on adding divergent content to the bottom the main page.

Ah... and a shout-out to my good friends, the Van Zwienens.