Friday, December 5, 2008

Greg Focker wasn't lying after all!


Dina Byrnes: "I had no idea you could milk a cat."
Greg Focker: "Oh yeah, you can milk anything with nipples."
Jack Byrnes: "I have nipples Greg. Could you milk me?"

Monday, December 1, 2008

It is better to dwell in the backyard than with a clawing and contentious kitten.

It is better to dwell in the backyard than with a clawing and contentious kitten. -1st Illlusions 5:14 (ESV)


The day started off well enough.

This is Moonlight drinking from Max's bowl while he waits in line. It's nice to see cats and dogs living together in harmony.




Max is an incredibly obedient animal. We trained him as a pup to not eat food but by our command, or in our absence, provided we left it on a table or counter. He's doing good with kitty but she isn't really a fan of his for some reason.

But the harmony didn't last long. By the end of the day, Max volunteered to stay in prison. The door to the cage is wide open here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Standoff

We have apparently adopted a stray kitten which showed up on our doorstep the other day. It arrived with some company which I accused of bringing the kitten; which also they adamantly deny. Getting our dog and kitten to cohabitate peacefully is our chief concern right now. The dog is impressively obedient as evidenced by the fact the cat is still alive. But for the most part we have to keep them separated.

The 2lb kitten shows no fear of the 90lb., African Lion Hound. Yesterday, due to the kids inattention to keeping doors shut, the two critters had their first face to face encounter on the ground. The kitten sat in the doorway like a Spartan holding Thermopolyae. She just sat there and stared at him as he edged closer and closer but never got near enough for her to swipe his nose with her claws... again. They both stood there, frozen, for nearly five minutes. It reminded me of this image:


I guess the analogy would be closer if the man was holding an RPG instead of a bag of groceries (Seriously- that's a 36 ton tank and he's got... groceries???) But kitty (possible name is 'Claire de lune', French for moonlight. The kids named her: not me.) stood firm and I finally ended the standoff because I didn't want to clean up fur and blood and have to console crying little girls that evening.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

WTC???

I understand the concept of "supply and demand" and think that it is generally true. However, I don't feel it is adquate to explain this:

I'm sure people were driving less when gas was well over $4.00 / gal, but with current prices as low as they are the national daily miles has certainly picked back up. Yet there seems to be no end to the bottom of the gas prices- just the same as the stock market. I have a really hard time accepting that current gas prices are driven purely by market forces and are not the result of external manipulations- that doesn't add up. Perhaps the government is driving gas prices downward in order to defribrillate the market and stave off a depression? Perhaps Lindsay Wiliams is right and the World Bank is driving this. The World Bank would, after all, have a vested interesting in halting a global recession/depression. Whatever the cause, simple market forces don't seem to add up here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Buried

Sheesh! What a season of business. Things are chaotic at work. I have three major projects, all stopped and pending... I don't even know what for. Leadership, maybe? The lady of the house is dissatisfied with the state of the bathroom and today I emptied a new bucket of drywall mud prepping the walls (bathroom, closet, hallway and our bedroom, all have first coat). I also picked up some surprise side work to develop a lease management program for buses that needs to be wrapped up by the end of the year. Our church is stepping up it's data management efforts which has generated a 'to-do' list for me. Somehow I have become the point man for organizing coaches for a wrestling club at Westport HS. It's a tremendous opportunity and a chance for our church to have some solid ministry with at least eleven young men. I pray we don't drop the ball here- that will be very, very irritating and disconcerting. I am willing to help out; but all I can really do is PT them until they wretch and then PT them some more. All this on top of the holidays and our Community Team getting ready to split and probably still be too large. Oh yeah, I've got to get our house at least presentable before January as well. I can manage the stress, but the persistent feeling of nothing being complete is very bothersome.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lock and load!

Yesterday, the wife and I went shooting with a friend of ours at The Bullet Hole to try out an assortment of handguns. We've been seriously considering getting a gun for home protection over the last few weeks. Thankfully Neufunk, who has a great student and fan of the firearms and a fellow history geek, has been our principle advisor through most of this. (Props!) But there is safety in a mutitude of counsellors, so we've been asking around also. Our shooting partner was a former SWAT member and gun enthusiast friend of ours.

We sampled a 9MM and two Glock .40cals, one with a shorter grip. My first shot hit the target in the groin, even though I was aiming at the chest. My wife's first shot was dead on in the chest. *gulp!* Between the three, I liked the .40 with the long handle best: more boom and easier to manage. I think my wife liked the 9mm the best but was okay with getting a .40.

On our way out, some other shooters let me try a .45cal. Wow! It has a nice punch and I would not want to be on the receiving end of one of those! Or any of them, really...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finally

1 hour 40 minutes. And now the line is super short- the wait is probably only 30 min. Yikes!!!

10th in line

Did I remember my license? Yes! I did.

Had I not, I would have had to seriously consider not voting. But if others aren't disqualified for stupidity then I suppose I shouldn't be either.

More drama

At about 50' from the door, a lady poked her head out from the building and shouted an anti-light rail message. I was already conversing with the ladies in front of me and they were visibly aghast. I commented to them that I'm pretty sure that was a felony. Then another lady came down the line from the front passing out pro-light rail pamphlets. A minute later, the first lady came outside with an election official to chase down the flyer lady. Assumably this was because of improper electioneering: being too close to the door. Several people noted the first ladies' hypocrisy in this.

The line inside is not being managed at all and people keep packing in. Our voting system is apparently fill-in-the-dot ballots, like the standardized tests. People are filling them out at tables, on furniture, at chairs- whereever they can. I'm about 30th in the L-R line and getting very, very hungry.

Some entertainment

After 25 minutes, a committee of four women was finally able to unlodge a small car from a moderately difficult parking situation. As I thought about maybe jumping in to help them solve this vehicular rubix cube, the lady behind me jokingly chided several youger men standing behind her: 'why don't you go help her? You know any one of ya'll could get that out of there!'. After some head wagging and laughs we continued watching. One of the ladies was finally able to break free and returned the car to the driver who crept through the mix of cars and people to the sound of applause and laughter.

The line has shortened somewhat and I have moved halfway from where I started.

Standing in line

I awoke ten minutes before the alarm went off at six today from the anticipation of voting and the elections. I was amazed to pull up to a full parking lot and Blue Ridge being temporarily jammed with people trying to figure out where else to park. After finding a place, it was a quarter of a mile walk to the line. I have never been in a line longer than five or six people to vote. This one is literally hundreds of people. A steady trickle of people is arriving, like drips in an IV that never looks more full or less emtpy. My initial reaction to this was disappointment because I know 85% of them are voting for the greater of two evils.

The line has hardly moved for the last ten minutes. The flush of red light has washed out to a brighter hue of yellow. The faces of my fellowcitizens are plainly visible now. The anticipation of the crowd has cooled to resignation. Clearly we will be here in the autumn chill for a while. We have all shared a common mistake in thinking we'd "beat the rush". Hopefully that's the only mistake I share with this crowd today.

Wow! This guy just went through the line handing out a voting guide- to all the black people! He looked right past me as he walked right past me!!! But it's okay, he's black, so it's not racism...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holding fast

I haven't blogged much lately due to general business at home and work. I have also had ample discussions lately with various friends whom I respect greatly on our differing opinions. One of the most common debates I've had has been with people who intend to vote Republican to "stop" Obama. Here is part of my response in one of these:

I reject casting a vote out of fear or as a defensive move. I want to vote for something. Even a vote against Obama is still a vote for something. So what are people voting for with McSame?

My issues with the Republican party are less idealogical and more practical. They say the "right thing" but do the "wrong thing" and they have proved it time and again over the last eight years. Voting for McSame is voting for a party that:
is supposed to be for limited government but has expanded the size and power of Federal gov't more than ever.
is supposed to be for fiscal restraint but has ballooned the largest Fed budgets in history.
is supposed to be for "law and order" but illegal immigration has gone unchecked and they mostly discuss the best plan for amnesty.
is supposed to be for free market capitalism but they have been using tax money to bail out failing companies left and right. They were silent when the Supreme Court took away our property rights, which has long been held as a cornerstone of individual liberty and economic development.
is supposedly morally conservative but when they had majorities across the board, did they defend marriage by defining it or scale back abortions? Did they scale back gov't spending on sex education or abortions or the perverseness that is the NEA? No!
claims to be a friend to Israel but ends up giving three times the amount of money to Israel's enemies than they do to Israel -and I don't doubt that Bush and the others use the aid given to Israel to bind their hands in defending themselves. The Republican platform generally looks good on Israel but still expresses support for "the vision of a Palestinian state".

The Republicans espouse Christian moralist viewpoints but have not delivered on anything. I don't like being lied to!!! And I'm not going to reward their lies with my support.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How history repeats itself

Let me be clear- I'm not advocating anything. My tendency is to notice patterns. I have to do that to be able to reduce complex processes to predictable routines that can be encoded in a program. It's how I'm wired and how my mind was trained. Todays complete failure of the Congress to heed to the will of the people and exercise any type of practical judgment reminded me of some passages I read in The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. Here are some excerpts...

Chapter 26: Section 1: The Science of Thwarting the Common Man

Our world to-day is still far from solving the problem of representation and from producing a public assembly which will really summarize, crystallize and express the thought and will of the community; our elections are still largely an ingenious mockery of the common voter, who finds himself helpless in the face of party organizations which reduce his free choice of a representative to the less palatable of two political hacks...

The comita tributa could be worked at times so as to vote altogether counter to the general feeling of the people. And, as we have already noted, the great mass of voters in Italy were also disenfranchised by distance.

There can be no doubt that all Italy, all the empire, was festering with discomfort, anxiety, and discontent in the century after the destruction of Carthage; a few men were growing very rich, and the majority of people found themselves entangled in an inexplicable net of uncertain prices, jumpy markets, and debts; but yet there was no way at all of stating and clearing up the general dissatisfaction. There is no record of a single attempt to make the popular assembly a straightforward and workable public organ. Beneath the superficial appearances of public affairs struggled a mute giant of public opinion and public will, which sometimes made a great political effort, a rush to vote or such-like, or broke into actual violence. So long as there was no actual violence, the Senate and the financiers kept on in their own disastrous way. Only when they were badly frightened would governing cliques or parties desist from some nefarious policy and heed the common good.

The real method of popular expression in Italy in those days was not the comitia tributa, but the strike and insurrection, the righteous and necessary methods of all cheated or suppressed peoples.

Section 2: Finance in the Roman State

Another respect in which the Roman system was a crude anticipation of our own... was that it was a cash- and credit-using system.

People began to buy land and the like not for use, but to sell again at a profit: people borrowed to buy, speculation developed.

We, who can look at the problem with a large perspective, can see that what happened to Rome was "money" - the new freedoms and chances and opportunities that money opened out. Money floated the Romans off the firm ground; everyone was getting hold of money, the majority by the simple expedient of running into debt...

The Equestrian order, in particular, became the money power. Everyone was developing property. Farmers were giving up corn and cattle, borrowing money, buying slaves, and starting the more intensive cultivation of oil and wine.

A small body of very shrewd men was growing immensely rich. Many patricians were growing poor and irritated and unscrupulous. Among the middling sort of people there was much hope, much adventure, and much more disappointment. The growing mass of the expropriated was permeated by that vague, baffled and hopeless sense of being inexplicably bested, which is the preparatory condition for all great revolutionary movements.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Smells like teen... er... agers?

A small incident on Sunday morning really shook me up. As we pulled into the parking lot at church, my older daughter began loudly complaining about how her brother stank. Indeed, I too noted the unsavory aroma. This was not the smell of a little kid who merely hadn't bathed for a week. This was the smell of... man... it meant only one thing: hormones. Yes, hormones have begun to work in my little boy and activating the stink-glands was their first task in announcing their presence.

He's 10 -1/2 now. This morning I remembered that by the time I was 12 my voice had already dropped and before I was 13 I had to start shaving. So by that estimation, we have just one and a half years left to enjoy our son as a little boy before the more dramatic changes really hit.

And speaking of being smelly, I now know that I can move roughly 6 yards of dirt in 3 1/2 hours. That would be nearly 14 yards in a full 8 hour day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ron Paul throws support to Constitution Party

http://www.constitutionparty.com/news.php?aid=778

Republican presidential contender Ron Paul, who has maintained a groundswell of popular support from within and without the Republican party, has now publicly endorsed Chuck Baldwin and the Contstitution Party by stating that they will have his vote this November!

I firmly believe that the two main parties will have lower-than-ever turnouts this year and that all third parties and write-ins (including "Mickey Mouse") will have the strongest showing ever. There are a lot of thinking people out there who have broken away from the two-party joke and are really starting to influence others. But grass-roots change takes the longest to take hold and we are fighting a battle for minds against a well financed, experienced and savvy enemy in the form of the existing system, including their media outlets.

If the ranks of Ron Pauls supporters follow the reasoning and come to the same conclusions as Ron Paul, then this will really strengthen the CP. Ron Pauls supporters have been ardent, highly active and contributed a lot of money. That same drive and energy would bring a lot of momentum to the CP and could make a big difference.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Whew!!!

Job 41:8 Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.

About six weeks ago my pastor asked if I could preach sometime in September, using Ezra 4-6 as a base text. I felt compelled to say 'yes' and subsequently spent the next six weeks with butterflys and jitters. But in the end, it was worth it to have experienced the hand of the Lord working in my life.

For about five weeks, my studies focused on spritual warfare as that is a primary topic of that passage. It is also what we have been studying as a church, so it seemed a natural fit. But I knew the whole time that I wasn't getting 'it'. This was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the right direction. I mentioned this to a few people by last Tuesday night- because I was starting to get frantic. That night at prayer the Lord finally gave me peace about the topic.

Studying was difficult. We had an enormously busy week and I had a zillion thoughts flying around my head about what to say. It wasn't until Friday night that I was able to sit down and get the rest of this pulled together. God was faithful to give me direction and show me some cool things from His Word! Once I had peace about what to say I started to get excited, and that definitely helped to calm the nerves.

It was also on Friday that I got some un-cheery news from my Dr. regarding low testosterone levels. Yikes! I spent the day wondering if that made me a lesbian (my wife assures me it does not) and finding out all the possible side effects of taking testostorone supplements. I decided the best course of action was not to regard this for a few days. There would be time to worry come Monday!

On Saturday our church had a work-day with some friends from other churches. What an amazing day! The amount of work that got done in such a short time frame was astounding to me. It couldn't all be chalked up to the number of people either. Every person who was there was busting their arse to get things done and it really added up! But also, for me, swinging a pick-axe and using a shovel all day was really exhausting as I am primarily an angry coder, and not an angry digger. After eleven hours of work, I was already sore.

On Sunday morning I was extremely sore- head to toe. My wife asked me where I hurt and I just replied "In my body", which was totally accurate. My hands were swollen and itchy, too and I really don't think I ever arrived at full consciousness. I was pretty out of it!

Thanks to all those who were praying me through this! While I'm sure this wasn't the best message people have ever heard, I am confident it was from the Lord and that's what it's about. I definitely would not have been able to sail through this without those who were praying, and that really was the biggest lesson I got from it. We need to pray for our pastor and for each other in the work of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Atticus Sux

Atticus Sux... from the Latin "attics suck". I spent a good 6 or 7 hours last weekend running wiring for our bathroom extreme makeover. The only thing that was truly extreme was the heat in the attick. Our power vent has gone kaputz so it was a stuffy 115^ or better. Dark, no airflow and filled with piles of dust and loose fiberglass. What a way to celebrate the labor movement! But in the end, everything went perfectly on the first flick of the breaker and we have a beautifully lit bathroom.

Palin is lie! The Republicans are just trying to appease angry and betrayed conservatives! Honestly, what good is a Vice President unless the President pops off?! Don't be fooled!

For the second time this year, while biking, I made contact with a moving vehicle. This time was my fault. I was ascending the bridge on Gregory, next to the frisbee golf field. Today I decided to take it easy on my way in, so I wasn't going too fast and was enjoying some nice tunes. Over the sound of the rythmic thumping and swooshing of cars, I could hear some distant barking. It turned out to not be distant at all but just seemed that way due to the headphones. Off to my starboard side was a pack of three medium sized dogs chasing me. I didn't know if they wanted to play or just see if I taste like chicken but in any event, I stood up quickly and pulled hard on the headset to take off, lurching to the left with a hop. This brought me into contact with the rear quarter of a white sedan. Yikes!

To add to the biker-obstacle-course for the day, heading up 63rd St, I heard sirens screaming behind me. Crap! I was getting busted for speeding and didn't have my insurance with me!!! This is the first time I've ever had to pull over to the side of the road to get passed by an emergency vehicle. Turns out the cops weren't after me at all, but it was still a weird experience.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Travelling blues

Travelling always puts me in sort of a down-on-KC type of mood. It doesn't really hit until after I've been back a day or two. I think it takes that long for me to process the contrasts of where I've just been to where I am. The honest truth is, I've never visited a place that I didn't thoroughly like more than KC. This place is horrible. The climate, the culture, the politics... the only thing it has going for it is the church I go to, my friends, and family. That's all the really important stuff, anyways, so I'm good with that. But it would be nice to enjoy the same people with a much more enjoyable back drop.

What triggered this for me was the humidity. We just returned from Albuquerque last Wed night. They are over a mile high and in the desert. It was hot, sure, but never reached 100 and there was zero humidity. The air was fresh and clean. The air was also thin enough to boost my riding speed by a solid 4mph! The views are incredible. Not only is the landscape scenic, but the thinner atmosphere and high mountains lends itself to spectacular skyscapes. Oh that we remembered the camera! It has been a long time since I've seen the moon with such clarity and so large, and it kept popping in and out of the clouds which were wreathed around it with some dramatic style. The moon there must shine five times brighter than it does here in the lowlands.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2008 Voting Guide: Which lizard best suits you?

Percussivity duped me into reading his favorite pentalogy, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (which at least I could read for free online as opposed to buying a hard copy cleaverly disguised as a Bible so I could read it during church services like some people). In book four, 'So long, and thanks for all the fish', there is a very profound passage that really spoke to me about the current conundrum of American presidential politics.

To set the background for you a bit: a spaceship has just boldly landed in the middle of London, on the earth as we know it...

After a long, heart-stopping moment of internal crashes and grumbles of rending machinery, there marched from it, down the ramp, an immense silver robot, a hundred feet tall.
It held up a hand.
``I come in peace,'' it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, ``take me to your Lizard.''
Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur...
``It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see ...''
``You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?''
``No,'' said Ford, ``nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.''
``Odd,'' said Arthur, ``I thought you said it was a democracy.''
``I did,'' said Ford. ``It is.''
``So,'' said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, ``why don't people get rid of the lizards?''
``It honestly doesn't occur to them,'' said Ford. ``They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.''
``You mean they actually vote for the lizards?''
``Oh yes,'' said Ford with a shrug, ``of course.''
``But,'' said Arthur, going for the big one again, ``why?''
``Because if they didn't vote for a lizard,'' said Ford, ``the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?''
``What?''
``I said,'' said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, ``have you got any gin?''
``I'll look. Tell me about the lizards.''
Ford shrugged again.
``Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,'' he said. ``They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it.''
``But that's terrible,'' said Arthur.
``Listen, bud,'' said Ford, ``if I had one Altairan dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say `That's terrible' I wouldn't be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin. But I haven't and I am...''

I hope this guide helps some of you to sort out this election, especially for those who are going to vote for 'Party A' simply to stop 'Party B' from gaining a victory. A vote for 'A' or 'B' is really a vote for the lizards. Choose wisely, lest the wrong lizard should win! And thanks to Percussivity for taking a few minutes to create the pic for this post!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Amused.

Not in the sense of being entertained, but rather of being uninspired. I simply have nothing to say, but felt it necessary to say something if, for no other reason, than to break the awkward silence. I also wanted to avoid having my blog get egged with premature declarations of death or ambivalence and other malevelont things. Hence there is some necessity in not having too much time pass between posts.

Percussivity has finally found a way of getting me to read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The best line so far is definitely... "Rome wasn't burnt in a day." I'm saving that one for just the right occasion- likely a meeting at the City- as a sniper spends time sanding down a bullet meant for a special target.

Speaking of sniping, last weekend I got to play paintball for the first time in probably ten years. I had a terrible time with fog on the lenses but, nevertheless, it was an awesome time. My son is now hooked, too, which is even more awesome because it means I will get to revive that part of my life but now with my son. Freaking awesome!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Political Modeling

The modus operandi for putting people in the right political "box" is to discuss political orientation in terms of "left" and "right". Graphically, this is represented by a single line; a one-dimensional element you may recall from Jr. High Algebra as "X", the X-axis or the X plane. Personally I have always chafed at this. It never really seemed to fit me and, on further reflection, it doesn't see to fit most people.

A few years back, a coworker sent me a link this site. It is called The Political Compass and attempts to describe political thought according to Cartesian coordinate plane by contrasting fiscal beliefs with moral. This seems to hit the nail on the head, at least for a simpleton such as myself.

Before taking the test, I had presumed I would still end up on the far right. Indeed I did not and was amazed at how "centrist" I really am. Taking this test a few years ago is really when I began questioning my current (at that time) political thoughts and assumptions and started to reevaluate them. Here is my current scoring:



I say all this in light of some conversation I had tonight, in which it was asserted that I am part of the "fringe right" and am company to the "kooks" and "conspiracy theorists" that dwell there. I felt the need to clear my name of such ignorant and presumptuous assertions. That being said, I can understand why some people may have that opinion although I disagree fervently. I am a Bible-thumper. Most of my compadres are right wingers after the typical vein of thought. I come from a military family (my dad was a career Marine Corps officer and an angry coder himself: double anal retentive!) and they are typically strong right wingers. I am idealistic, moralistic and still tend to divide everything into clear lines of black and white. Right, right, right!

But in reality, I am not a right winger! It's only in the last few decades that Bible believers have come to be associated with that. Traditionally, they have been very libertarian minded. After the persecutions of old Europe, they had not love or trust for established government. But the problem with the modern Libertarian party is they have no moral compass at all. There has to be a balance! It is the role of government to force morals on its citizens or else there really is no need for government. But what morals? Where do you draw the line? Murder, stealing, rape, speeding, weeds over 10", sodomy, animal cruelty, truancy, littering... Every law imposes some moral value. I felt the Constitution Party was the most libertarian minded group that still had a moral compass. That is why this is the party I will be supporting in this years presidential election.

I see dumb people

AIG is not just a wonderful insurance company, it's also a company with a heart. Who else would would be so concerned for those less fortunate, in an intellectual sense, that they would bring in a short school bus chalk full of numnums to be gainfully employed? My lovely wife recently had an online discussion with one of these special people. Here's the transcript:

Thank you for contacting aigdirect.com Auto Insurance. You'll be routed to a Customer Care Specialist in 10 seconds.
You are now chatting with Customer Care Specialist 'Anita'.
Anita: AIG Auto Insurance at your service, how may I assist you? (operator may be chatting with other customers)
(MyWife): I was wondering if our policy covers reimbursement for our car being towed.
Anita: For verification purposes, please provide your name and address.
(MyWife): (MyWife), (Address... etc)
Anita: Towing is covered for free. Are you renting the car in result of a accident or just pleasure use ?
(MyWife): We did not rent a car. We just had our car towed and fixed and got it back the next day.
Anita: No, that type of rental is not covered
(MyWife): Our car was not in a wreck.
(MyWife): It wasn't a rental, we just had to have it towed.
(MyWife): To get it repaired because it wouldn't start.
Anita: The towing is covered. But not the rental because it was not in result of a accident
(MyWife): Ok, what do I need to do to get the reimbursement for the tow?
Anita: You will need to contact 1-800(number)
(MyWife): Is this a real person?
Anita: Yes
(MyWife): Ok, I was just wondering.
(MyWife): Nevermind.
Anita: Is there anything else I can help you with?
(MyWife): That is it.
Anita: You’re very welcome. Have a good day!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight

I will not spoil this movie for anyone, but I will discuss the plot. I liked this movie. It is the furthest away from the "comic book" feeling of any of the Batman movies produced thus far. The traditional take on Batman is that he's fighting crime in a world where morality is black and white. This however is a film noir and that necessitates "moral ambiguity". The role of the Joker in this was to push people- good people, common people and moral superstars alike- into that gray area. The Joker desires to show what evil a good man is willing to do. He is not motivated by money, power, revenge or lust but, as Alfred says "Some men just want to watch the world burn." Thankfully, they weren't too gruesome when showing someone snuff it, but the Joker is still a disturbing and bloodthirsty figure. Heath Ledger was amesome in that role- he redefines the super-villan in the Bat-world (oooooh, sorry for that cheesieness!).




After watching the movie, I really had an unsettled feeling. This is not a feel-good movie, to be sure. What occured to me later is that the Joker's main intent was really not much different from that of the killer in the movie Seven (actually Se7en). They both were killing people to make a comment on human nature and, in the process, elevated killing to some sick type of art. That killing could be an art, in itself, is a sick and sad commentary on human nature. Oh that it wasn't true! But the legacy of the genocides of the last century- and the current one in Darfur- are too true and even more abominable than any one serial killer could ever be.

Another, but lesser, important question the movie explores is "what is a hero?" This one is central to Bruce Wayne as he tries to figure out what his place is in the world. Does the world need a hero? What type of hero?
If you don't wany any movie spoilage, then this is your cue to leave.





















Seriously, leave now if you don't want to know any more about The Dark Knight.
















































Not gone yet?






















































Well, you can't say I didn't warn you!
WOW! Those fight scenes were just amazing!!! Like when he flipped that diesel and the whole chase scene prior to that. I loved the plot twists. I like how Bruce really bought in to the DA and determined that Gotham needed a "hero with a face". It still seemed like a bit of a jump for the Harvey Dent to all of a sudden become Two Face. Maybe I wasn't sold on how much he loved Rachel- they weren't that convincing together. The character of Rachel will not be missed by me in future bat-movies, either. The high point of the movie to me was when the prisoner on the boat takes the detonator from the warden and says "I'm gonna do what you should've done ten minutes ago" then chucks it out the window. I figured each detonator would've blown up the boat it was on anyways. It's not like the Joker was a real credible guy by that point in the movie! Alfreds story about chasing the smuggler was pretty cool, too.
And the technology was amazing! The whole para-lift thing from the building in Hong Kong was outstanding! The escape motorcycle from the Batmobile was sweet. And turning every cell phone in the city into a sonar device fed back to a central computer- WOW! That was some freaking awesome stuff! Whoever thought that up is an evil genius. Muhahahahahahaha!

I can't wait to have this one on DVD so I can watch... oh wait...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Horn Repair

Last night I fixed up the horn on my 1993 Mazda Protege. The problem was that the horn would start honking for no reason at all, especially when it was cold, due to the material between the contact plates. For the sake of anyone else who may have to go through this, I have fully documented the process. I also decided to bust out the camera, so there are a lot of pictures which should make happy the quasi-literate and those with ADD.

First you will need to remove the horn assembly from the steering wheel. There are three, slotted screws that you undo from the back and then the assembly can be pulled from the wheel. There's also an electrical contact that needs to be unplugged.





Next, remove the horn contact plates from the horn cover. There are several screws that hold this in and, on mine, I also had to remove a little box that houses the cruise control switches. The contact plates can be separated by using pliers to pinch the plastic rivets and push them out. Once that's done, pry the two plates apart. There is a layer of old foam that separates them, and that is what needed replacing.


I used an exacto knight with a straight tipped blad to scrape the old foam off.






Then I used some fine, steel wool to buff it out and then wiped the residue off with a damp cloth and dried it.







Then I used 1/4" thick, 1/2" wide weatherstripping to add a new foam layer. It is important to make sure the foam does not cover any of the raised areas on the contact plate because these are what actually contact the copper plate to make the horn honk.
Once that was done, I reinserted the plastic rivets and- voila! The horn was repaired! And now I'd like to borrow a line from an automotive repair manual regarding rebuilding an engine "step #473: reverse procedures to reinstall". Isn't that helpful?
If you've made it this far in reading this post then you are either: a true friend, really bored or attempting to make the same repair. Good luck!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some randomness

Urologists are not nice people. They squeeze things that shouldn't be squeezed and poke things that shouldn't be poked.



I am sold on 1/2" drive sockets. 3/8" drive is just too mousey. There's nothing like the feeling of torquing down on a stubborn bolt with a 24" long, 1/2" drive breaker bar and tilting the entire engine of the car 15^ until you hear the unmistakeable sound of cold forged steel finally succomb to your superiority! Muhahahaha! (cue: "I've got the power!" by Snap)

And the Mitsubishi 48" widescreen projection device was pronounced dead at 11:45AM... My stupid TV is going to cost $450 to fix. It has a bad power circuit, apparently. In honor of this, a haiku:

I have a bigscreen
The warranty has expired.
My TV is broke.

The jacuzzi bathtub is working out well. However our dog doesn't seem to care for it too much. It takes five people to bathe that beast. He doesn't like water but apparently mud is okay, and he will not spare any plant when in the pursuit of small critters and butterflies... not even the Cilantro plants.

I don't usually do music/artsy stuff but I am going to post the lyrics to Muzzle by The Smashing Pumpkins because: it's a freaking awesome song, the lyrics are way deep and as of late I have been sharing the overall sentiment it conveys. It's probably just the exhaustion kicking in.

"Muzzle"
I fear that I'm ordinary, just like everyone
To lie here and die among the sorrows
Adrift among the days
For everything I ever said
And everything I've ever done is gone and dead
As all things must surely have to end
And great lovers will one day have to part
I know that I am meant for this world
My life has been extraordinary
Blessed and cursed and won
Time heals but I'm forever broken
By and by the way...
Have you ever heard the words
I'm singing in these songs?
It's for the girl I've loved all along
Can a taste of love be so wrong
As all things must surely have to end
And great lovers will one day have to part
I know that I am meant for this world
And in my mind as I was floating
Far above the clouds
Some children laughed I'd fall for certain
For thinking that I'd last forever
But I knew exactly where I was
And I knew the meaning of it all
And I knew the distance to the sun
And I knew the echo that is love
And I knew the secrets in your spires
And I knew the emptiness of youth
And I knew the solitude of heart
And I knew the murmurs of the soul
And the world is drawn into your hands
And the world is etched upon your heart
And the world so hard to understand
Is the world you can't live without
And I knew the silence of the world

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

That's what she said...

One of the funniest episodes of The Office is "Sexual Harassment". It is comically obvious that the boss just doesn't get it. I think the best line from that one is when Dwight askes Toby (the HR guy) "what does a female vagina look like?" Toby's response is something like "I work in HR and Toby has just asked me a question about human anatomy. All I can say is, it makes me sad that the public school system has failed you so very very badly."

To the left, you can see a quick shot I took of our trainers.

But in the real world, harassment (in all it's many forms) is not funny. It's big business and very boring. I believe it also gives us a gauge to measure the moral decay of our society. We wrapped up our "Harassment Free Workplace" training. The word "harassment" strikes me as funny, too. "He said 'ass'." I digress...

In the past I have always been sensitive to the notion that I am to "accept" gays in an effort to be "tolerant". This year, we all got slapped with some new rules: the word 'homosexual' and phrase 'altnative lifestyle' are now offensive. The discussion on gays was short, but still expansive compared to last time, and now we are to include "cross gender" people. While gays and transgendered people are not (yet) a protected class by the Feds or even the State, the City likes to tout that it has a "higher" standard! WOW! Okay, they can say that in front of God and man with a straight face... evil is good, I suppose.

The next hot button for me is freedom of religious expression. Now the official policy hasn't really changed but the discussion sure has. It used to get a nod- more brief than even the gays. Today they showed us a series if ultra-cheesy videos depicting examples of harassment. All of them revolved around sexual harassment or some type of intimidation. On the last video, they had two guys sitting in an office and one asks the other what's wrong. The other guy starts to open up about his marriage difficulties. The first guys then invites him to a marraige retreat at his church, offers him a pamphlet about the retreat and gives some first person testimony. He wasn't preaching, he didn't quote the Bible or mention the name of Jesus. It could hardly be considered proselytizing or evangelism. But this was held up as an example of harassment and the well intentioned man was now an offender on the same scale as the office ass-slapper, minority hater or gay basher. Had the man been talking about a secular conference, I doubt it would be harassment. But because man #2 "felt" uncomfy, man #1 was wrong. Wow!

The real kicker with that video was that on the finishing shot, they zoomed in slowly on a copy of the Bible that was sitting on the desk and played some ominous, low pitched tones. By which, I presume, they mean to tell us that good is evil.

I am not a very good evangelist. But I do reach out to people, especially when I see opportunity. Now I know even this is forbade by the City in the course of doing my job. I won't go looking for a fight here, and I'll trust the Lord. But in the end, I must obey God rather than man, even if it means getting kicked to the curb.

Act 5:28
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
Act 5:29
Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

It would be a great thing to be accused of filling this city with "my" doctrine!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The plumbing is now complete!

The clean-water plumbing for my project is now complete. This including running the water lines downstairs for the someday-to-be basement bathroom and installing a garden faucet on the back of the house. Next I'll need to wrap up the drain line for the sink in the basement, as well and I'll be ready to hook up the sink down there. After a little concrete patch, I can install the toilet. The funny thing will be, it's just going to be a sink and a toilet sitting out in the open. But hey, if you gotta go bad enough...

Other tasks done this weekend include opening the back panel of my Mitsubishi 48" widescreen rear projection TV. I identified all of the surface mounted fuses on the panels (and I was amazed at the complexety of this device!) and tested them for resistance (none being good). All of the fuses were good. I did some more research and conculded that I was way over my head and now is not the time for me to learn the full scope of electronics. Mrs. Angry and I then researched and selected a TV repair shop to come visit us this week.

I completed the install of the combination switch on my 1993 Mazda Protege. I've never removed a steering wheel before and I had quite an ordeal figuring it out. But thanks to my boss, I finally got it together and installed the new switches. They worked great except for one oddity: any time I turned the wheel it would also turn the switch on! Finally I realized that the new switch box was not seating back quite as far as the old one and this was causing a plastic piece, which is responsible for turning off the signals after a turn has been completed, to grab the switch toggle inside the steering assembly and move the toggle. I took this part out and put it on the bench grinder to remove about 1/16th of an inch off the back of it and reinstalled. The whole assembly works like new, now!

I didn't have so much luck working on my weedeater. I replaced the very fouled spark plug, dumped the fuel and mixed a fresh batch of 40:1 (mmmm... home cookin'!), adjusted the carberateur and cleaned the air filter. No dice. It will start but then sputter out. Dare I make a visit to Raytown Feed and Seed? The Unstable Blogger recommends pulling the carb out completely and soaking it in fuel for a day. Might be worth the try, but I just don't have the time. Maybe he'd like to do it, for fun and personal satisfaction?!

Lastly, I got my old 97 Dodge Neon running again. I has sat idle for many months and I have intended to give it to a friend of mine as a work transport. After cleaning the positive terminal with a steel brush and jump starting, it fired right up. I then filled it with fuel and was quite excited to tell my friend it was ready to go. But that night, someone observed that it was leaking fuel on the ground. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to it until after church today and by then, the $40 in gas I put in it had coursed down the gutter and evaporated under the hot summer sky. After removing a guard over the sensors for the gas tank, I observed a vacuum cap on a nipple (plumbing term- not my mine!) which had a lateral crack halfway around it. This was the culprit! A trip to O'Reilly's and a $1.25 later, it was fixed.

My friend came by tonight to pick it up. We check the oil and the radiator fluid and it was waaay low on fluid. I filled up the radiator (with pure H20- the best thermal transfer agent available for cars) and removed the thermostat (cars don't need these in the summer anyhow) for optimal performance and... it still overheated. Grrrrrrr! Time to flush it again, but that will have to wait for the morrow.

I am so tired...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Parking lot idiot

Wednesday I took off work to get some more done on my bathroom (the tub and shower are installed and functioning, praise the Lord!) That afternoon, after visiting Paradise Park and Culvers with the family, we stopped by Lowe's to check out some faucets and such. I was walking lead and my youngest daughter was next to me, holding my wife's hand and the other two were in tow. We walked down the isle of cars towards the door and, as we neared the island that divides the 'road' going between the isles and the front of the store, a truck suddenly whisked down our isle. He, turned right, clipped the curb short and drew very close to us. Not only did I have to stop walking, I actually had to step back, as did my wife and daughter. I stood and stared at this long, black bed, edging closer and closer to me, till he finally straightened out and passed.

We proceeded into the store where what had just happened finally sunk in. I've already had up to here (about the 5'10" mark) with the degenerates who bandy about this city. I decided I couldn't let this one pass- he almost hit my little girl.

I went out through the doors and met the driver and his friend in the lot and the conversation went thusly:

[I will abbreviate the driver as "AH", because he looked a lot like an Arthur Henderson.)

(me) "Excuse me, sir, you almost hit my little girl."
(AH) "Well if I did it was because she walked into it."
(me) "No sir, you clipped that curb and just about ran into all of us. She had to stop and step back."
(AH) "Then she needs to pay more attention to where she's walking."
(me) "What?! So you're blaming a little girl? It's her fault that your crappy driver?"

[I was already angry, but at this point, I start coming a bit unravelled. Note, this was an older guy and obviously a "good ol' boy". So I press on...)

(me) "Have you ever drove anything that big before?"
(AH)[with smugness] "I've drove eighteen wheelers my whole life!"
(me) "Well you drive like you've never been in anything but a Toyota before."
(AH)[with irritation] "Well you sound like a [indiscernable mumbling]."
(me) "A what? I sound like a what? [pause] I sound like an angry father!!"

[at this point we're in the store and I'm sure that I was visibly and audibly upset]

(AH) "Well what do you want me to do?!"
(me) "Well an apology would be nice!"
(AH) "Okay- I'm sorry. But you need to do a better job of watching your kids."

[mom heard that one, he's lucky to be alive at this point]

(me) "She's alive because we were watching her, jackass! I ought to go get your license plate and call you in for wreckless driving you jerk..."

At that point, my wife grabbed my shoulder and asked what, precisely, I intended to do or had hoped to accomplish from here on out. Good point, so I digressed. It took about 20 min to quit shaking and another 20 or so for the fog to clear out. Adrenaline is such a powerful drug. The thought did cross my mind that it would be "fun" to buy a 20# sledge hammer and, uhm, do some work on his truck. But that was a passing fancy. I knew better.

Had the shoe been on the other foot, I would be thoroughly horrified to know that I even "almost" hit a child. Beware, bikers! If this guy has no compassion for the absolute cutest little girl in the world (sorry, fellow-dads), then what does he think about you?!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If it ain't broke, it's probably not mine...

This year has brought a rash of broken items, most of which have been manifest in the last 30 days. Here is a review:

1. Flaky router - this has been ongoing. It "mostly" works. I have plans to replace it, maybe later this year.
2. #3 cylinder on the Windstar. It shuttered awful bad. Replacing the plugs and cables fixed it.
3. Distributor wire on Protege... this just fell out last Friday on my way to meet a Friend. $65 for the tow, $10 for the diagnostic. And "thanks" to the African Muslim guys who stopped to help!
4. Front driver side tire. Again, on the Protege. It had a visible hematoma for a few weeks but it finally popped on Saturday. Much thanks to Percussivity for his bail out. And Grrrrr...
5. Combination Switch. Again, on the Protege. It's got 190K+ miles so what do you expect? Still gets 29mpg so I can't complain too much. $35 used one is on it's way. When that comes then I'll also fix..
6. Horn contact plate on... go ahead, take a guess! This one has been a nuisance for a while.
7. Brakes on... yep... they were shot, totally, and grinding the disks. I fixed them about 30 days ago but now the emergency brake doesn't work. Getting that looked at tomorrow... oy...
8. 48" 1080i widescreen TV... **sniff**... I can't even talk about this one yet.
9. Weed eater. It just up and quit on me a couple of weeks ago. Grrrrrr!
10. Daughters bike. It's awesome that she learned to ride. The whole family is in on that now. But she learned a valuable lesson in parking: do not park behind the van!!! Front wheel got bent, I had it fixed but then forgot to secure it when loading into the trailer and somehow it popped off. Geeees... mea culpa!
11. Nerf gun. It's not a big deal, but it cost $1.20 for a new spring and took up my precious time. My precious!!!

And that doesn't even cover work! It seems I've spent a lot of time this year just fixing things that used to work but mysteriously don't any more, such as:
12. Our work managment system. It's been suffering from horrendous latency. Noone can figure out why, but it's just hammering the disks. A call with Oracle did nada; a new server has done a little but we can see it coming again.
13. FTP download process. Worked fine before I moved my office and onto a new switch. The IT dept affirms that all switches are configured the same. I move my connection to a different switch on my own (not bad for coder!) and bingo! It works like magic...
14. XML to PDF job. This little app just broke the other day because the local user account password got changed. That was a bear to figure out!
15. ArcGIS install. This went ill the first time because the license file was not adequate. After I got the right now, I decided to get fancy with the install and use non-default options. Even though it lets you do this, it apparently doesn't like it. After a support call with Apoo, I had uninstalled it, removed all directories, users and groups and then reinstalled it. Worked like a charm. Gees I hate other people's bugs.
16. BCL "Easy"PDF SDK. Easy.... riiiiight. Their words, not mine. Sure it's easy to write code to, but try to deploy this thing when it's wrapped in a web service. OMG I never knew there were so many places to set permissions!!!! This one is still open with the vendor. What really stinks is, it was working great just... 30 days... ago... hhhhhhhhhh

It's been a fun 30 days. Lets hope this phase is over!

Remodel Progress

For years my wife and I have purposed to remodel our main bathroom. From day one, it was a target. The paint was peeling off the ceiling, the vanity was made from MDF so the edges were gnarled and it was slopily painted white with black trim to match the black and white linoleum tiles. It had a vanilla-carmel swirl colored sink top and the bathtub was in awful condition as well. It was encased in beige plastic, which began coming off the walls. The rest of the walls were covered with a crappy grey and white swirl psuedo-tile. The whole room was total crap. Last year, I determined 2008 would be the year.

Knowing that then, when Percussivity had a dumpster last November and offered to let me dispose of rubbish in it, I quickly gutted the majority of the monstrosity. For six long months this room sat with naked studs and flooring. Using MicroStation SE, the last CAD package with which I have professional experience, I began charting out detailed plans. This also involved fervent negotiations with the wife as we tried to reach a unified position for functional requirements and aesthetic details. Then, last spring, when our tax return arrived, the wife and I picked out all of the fixtures and most of the supplies we'd need to finish it (using a 10% off coupon at Home Depot we purchased from eBay.)

So now the project is well under way. The framing that faces the hallway is rebuilt, extending the usable space of the bathroom by about three foot. I also added a hall closet which is sheet rocked. The toilet is in and as of yesterday evening, the two pedastal sinks have been installed and the kids inaugurated them with a good tooth-brushing last night. Tonight I will frame up the structures on both sides of the bathtub and install the drain for the tub. Should providence shine upon my efforts today, I will even run the 3/4" lines up to the tub filler. Maybe- just maybe- we'll get to inaugurate the whirlpool tub tonight!

Pictures will be forthcoming...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bathroomia

On my way to the office bathroom, and I passed someone who was leaving while I was on my way in. I approached the three stalls: will I pick door number one, door number two or door number three?! Of course I picked one that "looks" clean but to my surprise, once I sat upon the pocelain throne, the seat was not cold at all. In fact, it was quite warm. Yes, I picked the "used" seat.

As if it's not bad enough to know exactly which of my filth ridden coworkers I am sharing germs with, when I approach the sinks afterwards, I noticed that there are no water droplets in any of the basins. I doubt they had evaporated that quickly, so it can mean only one thing.... ewwwwwwwwe! I will not be typing on that persons keyboard ever!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The internet is boring

Today I'm baby sitting long running processes. It's not really that mentally engaging and normally I'll bring in a book when I have to do something like this because I can only take so much of the internet. I've got several good ones queued up at home- HG Wells' Outine of History, a couple of biographies on the founding fathers and an older Christian law journal with an excellent speech by John Adams in the 1840's (?) on the Constitution.

I'd really like to get a hold of a book called How Christianity Changed the World. This book analysis the differences between modern society and the ancient, greco-roman society that prevailed in the time of Chirst and attempts to explain how Christianity got us to where we are. I've read some excerpts and what I read was great. I love taking landscape looks at human history and then delving into details.

I've also wanted to read The Secret History of the Mongols for some time, but the times we've looked for it we haven't found it. It's the only historical document produced by the Mongolian empire and chronicles their rise under Genghis Khan. There's also an indie flick out called Mongol which looks freaking awesome!


Lastly, I noticed that my pastor has a book on the history of race relations in KC. That would be a fascinating read as well.



Ah, this process just wrapped up. That's enough thinking about what I'd "like" to read of have "almost" read.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Biker Self Defense

In light of several recent spats of violence and stupidity against bikers, I have begun researching some effective self defense measures that an urban cyclist can take. The following article leaves little doubt that mounting a pitchfork to the headset is probably not a good idea.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9E0CE6D81F39E433A25751C2A96F9C94669ED7CF&oref=slogin

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bike upgrades for 2008

Finally, I got the last of my planned upgrades installed and am ready to begin the 2008 biking season!


This is my steel frame, urban commuter tank: a Dawes "Lightning". An ironic name for such a heavy bike! But it is a comfortable ride.




The first upgrade this year was to get shifters mounted on the headset instead of the body tube. I lack the coordination to reach down to the body for shifting whilst going 20+ mph in traffic, with no shoulder and dodging potholes. It's not a fun game! I got a good deal on some used Shimano shifter from the guys at the Bike Shack.



Next up, I read some articles on the dangers of doing a lot of biking, especially for men. So I got a "man seat" by Specialized which has an ergonomic feature called Body Geometry. The idea is to protect the pipelines that supply precious blood to the boys. This is the Avatar model- their entry level racing version. I might race... someday.




Lastly, the big upgrade- a new wheelset! A friend who rides a ton more than I recommended upgrading to Mavic Aksiums. They are light, rigid and the spokes are fewer and bladeed. These are the 2008 Aksiums which are also lighter than previous models. They should make a great entry level set. After much internet scouring, I found an awesome deal at GottaRideBikes. Unfortantely they didn't carry them in stock so I was stuck, impatiently waiting, for about two weeks. Oh well, they got here and in perfect condition. If you look closesly in the pic, you can see that the spoke flattens out into a blade just after passing the magnet. This is to reduce aerodynamic drag.





And since I'm going to zero-out my odometer, I thought I'd take a quick shot of my current read from last year. Not a bad year at all!

Friday, May 9, 2008

McCrapé



Today was the day to satisfy my curiosity- and that is the only thing that was satisfied by this abomination. It tastes like over-creamed, instant Folgers. GRK and the fine folks at Parisi have naught to fear... Neither does used motor oil for that matter!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm not dead yet! I feel happy!






"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated"
-Mark Twain


Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Shield of Faith

In the wake of a tragedy which struck our church Body this last week, I had a difficult time focusing early on. I spent some time reading some historical info, trolling the internet as is my custom, just out of boredom. I was reading particularly several things about Sparta when I ran across this quote:

When asked why it was dishonorable to return without a shield and not without a helmet, the Spartan king, Demaratos (510 - 491) is said to have replied: "Because the latter they put on for their own protection, but the shield for the common good of all." (Plutarch, Mor.220)

Of course this reminded me of several scenes from the movie 300. The first when Leonidas was explaining to his son how the strength of a Spartan warrior was the man next to him and the next being when Leonidas explained to the hunchback, Ephialtes, that he could not stand with his men because he couldn't hold his shield properly. The purpose of the shield- to cover the man next to him. It seems a bit of historical accuracy crept in there!

Then I ran across this text, from a college textbook:

Legend has it that when a Spartan mother sent her son off to war, she would say to him, "Come back with your shield, or on it." If a warrior came back without his shield, it meant that he had laid it down in order to break ranks and run from battle. He was supposed to use his shield to protect the man next to him in formation, so to abandon his shield was not only to be a coward but also to break faith with his comrades. To come back on his shield was to be carried back either wounded or dead. Thus the adage meant that the young warrior should fight bravely, maintain his martial discipline, and return with both his body and his honor intact.

I was floored by a simple, spiritual concept. Epesians 6 lays out clearly that we are to wear "the armor of God" and a critical piece of that armor is the "shield of faith". In my mind- which is very visual in nature- I have always read this passage envisioning a single soldier dressed out for combat. That is very western, after all: the notion of one man, standing tall, being the hero. But this idea is not shared by all and many veterans speak quite to the contrary.

So here is this simple notion- I have a shield of faith, but it is not meant for me alone. My shield is meant to protect my comrades in the faith; and I am to rely on theirs. How simple but how profound! I am still thinking about what all that really means, but I think in this last week of trial I have seen this principle lived clearly through my church.

What keeps a person going in the hour of trial? Surely the temptation to be angry, bitter, overcome of emotion must be a constant threat. Our church massed around this family in their most dire hour. They were talked with, ministered to, cared for and prayed over earnestly by literally scores of saints. The body of Christ mustered together just to keep watch over this one, little family. I realize that they needed to be strengthened with all might in the inner man and this is accomplished by God's holy Spirit. Christ is, indeed, enough. But He has chosen to use us: so the reality is that no, He is not enough. He requires something from His people and when we answer the call, then Him, working through us and through His Spirit is enough. The Church brought our shields of faith together to cover each other, and this family in particular.

What an example! This family in turn showed up to the memorial service, man and woman, toting with them their own shields of faith. We were all covered from the attacks of the enemy bythe strength of their faith in Christ, trusting in His goodness and anticpating His good work. They responded to God and reciprocated and have covered the Body with thier own faith. Would to God that we let all the fiery darts of doubt, fear, anger and bitterness be quenched by the mutual faith of God's people!

When Paul wrote the words of Ephesians 6, Greek glory had passed into history. Roughly 200 years priory, the Roman legions proved their superiority over the Greek phalanx. (This was a much weaker version of the phalanx than what the Spartans had at their height. But the final outcome would have likely been the same.) Their methods were radically different. The Greek word Paul uses for "shield" refers specifically to a large, four-cornered shield, much as the Roman "scutum". The Greeks had a different word for a small, round shield. (per Thayer's lexicon). The Roman shield was designed to cover one man and their legions fought with more space between individuals. They did not cover each other the same way as the Greeks. However, when they would come under heavy fire from projectiles they would execute a very complicated formation called the "Roman Tortoise". The men would march, or even kneel, side by side, closing all gaps between their shields. Men on the edges would hold their shields at their sides and the men behind would loft their shields overhead ("above all"?) to cover themselves as well as the men in front. This made the entire unit nearly impenetrable. This is the same idea as the Greeks using their shields to cover each other but is specific to dealing with "darts".

Eph 6:16
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

Here's a thought regarding those fiery darts. We quench them. It's our job. That's what the Bible says. We can pray for them to magically disappear but the Scripture is clear when it says "ye shall be able to quench". We do that. God has given us the tools, the strength and the wisdom. We need to show up with our shield: our faith. When we hold our faith, side by side, covering each other, those darts will not avail. What the Church (at large) today needs is less whining in the face of attack and more obedience. We cannot be defeated except we defat ourselves.

This also requires of us that we stay "in position". If I leave- up and quit- because it's too hard to follow Jesus- I leave a hole. That hole will be used by the enemy, guaranteed, except the Church act quickly to cover the breach. That being done, the unit will be fine- but what of me? Once a believef lays down the shield and walks away from the protection of their cohort, will the enemy just give them a pass? Not likely! Now utterly defenseless, they will be consumed.

One last thing regarding the Roman shield: I have often heard how the sword of Ephesians 6 is the only offensive piece of equipment issued to the believer. I was surprised to learn that the Romans very much counted their shields as offensive as well. The shields were constructed with a wooden frame and covered with several layers of skins. But in the center they would mount a solid metal piece called a boss. They used this for pushing and punching. The tactical concept behind the legions' formations was to constantly apply forward pressure on enemy ranks. Their shield design allowed them to do this by functioning as a weapon as well as a defensive tool.

Lastly, Epesians 6 twice states that the posture of the Christian is to "stand". In Paul's days there were many different types of units, including archers, skirmishers (spear throwers, mostly), cavalry and siege engines of various types. But God chose the illustration of an infantryman- particularly a heavy infantryman- to describe how we should conduct ourselves in the spiritual battle. It seems to me that there was no more effective force to resist any type of assult (in the ancient world anyways) than a properly trained, highly disciplined and well equiped unit of heavy infantry. The history-changing victory of Charles Martel at the battle of Portiers is an excellent example of this. Outnumbered and unrespected by their enemy, they took the high ground and refused to give an inch.

"And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts of the foe." - Bishop Isidore of Beja

May God's people stand firm, close to another as a bulwark of ice and, by Scripture, lay great blows to the hearts of those angelic powers that would try to break between us the love of Christ!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

1Corinthians 12: 25,26
That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poem II

This kid is really starting to get into this. Today my wife emailed another poem my son wrote. During homeschool he has to spend one hour writing anything that he wants. We don't provide a direction unless he asks for one. So this came out of his own heart and mind and I have to say I was pretty amazed. I used to wipe this this kids butt and now he's already a better writer than me.

Jesus' Thoughts On The Cross

I lie on a cross.
I bleed and cry.
My people shout,"When wilt thou die?
You claim thou art the Son of God.
We know the truth, thou art a fraud"
These words they speak are such lies!
I die for them as a sacrifice.
I die for them so they may live.
I pass away and I give.

Well, at least I can still do math better than him. For now!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Poem

My son wrote this little poem last night at our small group meeting. I have to say, I was a bit startled at the topic. Then I thought the Musician would probably really dig this. After the initial shock, I was really impressed. I still need to talk with that boy about why this topic though!

The bullet moves slowly
I feel as if I can escape
But I can not move
Even my eyes cannot blink
The bullets hits it's strike
Then I fall into the night

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ice Biking: Now with real ice!!!

Yesterday,8AM. (Yes, I was running late. Gaming has that effect.) 25 degrees with an inch of snow on the ground and more snow falling. In a nutshell, the perfect time to ride! Since I'm still a n00b at this, I learned sevreral things on my ride into work:

1. Don't stand up to pedal when riding on packed snow. It takes all the weight off the rear wheel and can lead to a nice spill.

2. The ruts in the snow are there for a reason: use them. Don't fight them- resistance is futile! Stay in the rut or fall on your butt.

3. If you don't like the ruts you can ride in the grass. With 2" of fresh, virgin snow. This is akin to a mime performing "man walking into wind". And still, no standing.

4. When going down a hill, my inclination (no pun intended) is to wonder "how fast can I go before hitting the bottom?". Add packed snow to the picture and the question becomes "How fast do I want to be going when I hit my bottom?". Speed is no longer the goal- control is.

5. No substitutions or comprimises on gear. I didn't have on my slick 'cold gear' pants, but instead some regular slick running pants. They just weren't the same! Plus they had a small hole in the right knee and it was very noticeable after a few miles.

6. Curves are bad (well, in this context anyways!). Down hill curves are the worst. Especially when the downhill side of the curve is a small drop-off into a pile of limestone with a creek running through it.

It is often said that the Inuit have over 100 words for "snow". I bet most of them are expletives...


(oh, and this is also a myth -> http://www.socc.ca/inuit.cfm )

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ice Biking: Drat!

Sitting all cozy in my office chair with keys clacking away, the ever droning hum of small office noises fills the air. Scores of small fans whir away while industruial lighting ballasts are buzzing. The occosional soft banter or cough disrupt the unchanging symphony like leaves falling onto a still pond. "POP!" then a rapid whoooooosh... a persistant and loud hissing. I look above for a broken pipe, steam shooting out of the wall or maybe sparks from a transformer. What?! Where?! Am I in danger??!! Looking low, I see the culprit. Alas, t'was merely the front tire of my bike, burst and whistling away every ounce of pressure within it, till at last it reaches equilibrium. The clacking on my keyboard has stopped but the fans whir on and the ballasts buzz and people continue their banter and winter coughs. Guess next time I'll let off some pressure before subjecting my tires to a 70 degree climate change. Thermodynamics is a b17ch.

I wrote this for you, Musical Musician. ;-)

Ice Biking Update

After lifting weights with Percussivity, I headed home for a hot bowl of plain oatmeal and to dawn my ninja-biker apparel. By time I left, it had warmed to 13.5 d- practically summer! During the ride I was mostly shielded from the gentle easterly wind except while headed up "the hill" on Gregory where it was actually at my back. The streets were mostly clear with some packed snow and loose snow-bearings covering the right portion of the street. The cold was fine. Same story as usual there- fingers and toes. Oddly, my hands started to warm up after 4 miles. As I approached my office, I had to make a right hand turn, uphill and into traffic. The rear tire slid out from under me there and I took a spill. But no damage was done and I made it in. Once I defrosted, a strange quiet numbness set over me and for a couple of hours I felt like I was floating- totally zoned out! It was a phschotropic ride. Must've been all the O2.

I'd like to wax eloquent about the stinging wind on my nose (when I'd pull down the balaclava to clear things out), the wonders of nature or the grand silence of being the only one outside at such a time. But the reality is not that beautiful. Burning lungs, cautious turns; always pedalling, pushing and churning. Cars wooshing by and you have to balance on the packed snow. No, there was no pleasure ride today: just a frantic effort in absurd conditions to go from point A to B. For some reason, this all strikes me as 'fun' and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe next time, I'll actually catch the snowstorm.

Ice Biking

5AM. Its 10 degrees with a windchill of -1. The wind is from the east at 8mph. At 10 degrees, a 20MPH wind feels like -9 degrees. That's pretty intimidating. Time for reflection...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Living in his dream

I am posting this today in memorium of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A friend of mine posted video of his famous "I have a dream" speech which my wife and I watched. First let me declare my position on a few things and then I will make some observations regarding the speech. Lastly, I'd like to post a few observations about how we are all living in his dream today.

1. Racism is wrong. Biblically speaking, racism is absurd. There is only one race: man. If there were elves and dwarves in this world, we might have a real "racism" problem. All people are of one race but many families. If there is any classification of people in God's eyes, it is Jews, Gentiles and the Church. God is not a respector of persons. Not of the rich, the mighty or the wise. Not of whites or blacks or mexicans or anyone else.
2. The civil rights movement was due. It was just and fair for the US government to aknowledge all the rights "endowed by their creator" to the black citizens of this country. (The frame of reference of the founders is that our rights come directly from God, it is the responsability of government to aknowledge and protect, never to abridge, those rights.)
3. I believe MLK was sincere. I take that at face value. However, as a Christian, I believe he operated in error on several points. His fundamental mistake was displacing God's mission of saving souls for his own mission of securing rights. He leveraged the Church of God to conduct his mission. He drew from the Word of God to add legitimicay and weight to his speeches, but did so out of context. He handled the Word of God deceitfully.

I realize point #3 is not a very popular idea. I will address why I hold to those opinions shortly. First, here's my observations on his speech:
1. The guy can speak. He's an awesome "public speecher"! Those great, swelling words delivered with force and conviction really sound nice. Very emotive. He's got style, too. The alliteration and imagery he used was beautifully poetic. Again, very emotive. The masses were swooned.
2. I could not escape ever present irritation at the Nation of Islam guys standing about him. Yeah, Dr. King was all about the movement, the end game. This just reminds me that Christ took a back seat: his own rights and his own glory were front and center.
3. There were two posters they showed from the crowd. One said "full rights - full employment" and the other said something like "freedom and jobs". Dr. King was of the mind that part of true desegregation would include "correcting" economic inequities. (This socialist tendancy really irritates my libertarian mindset.)

Now here's the punch. God used Dr. King, but as a two-edged sword. Yes, he was used to aknowledge the full rights endowed by our Creator. But because of the willful way that he worked, he also captured the hearts and imaginations of the black churches; he focused their minds and efforts on what they could get for themselves and he never gave them back over to the Lord. They never should have left. So what do we have today? A nearly complete breakdown of the social fabric within the black community.

2005 Blacks are 6 times more likely to be murdered than whites
2005 Blacks are 7 times more likely to commit murder than whites
(http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/race.htm)

Black men ages 18 to 65 are seven times more likely than white men to have a prison record. There are now more African American men in prison than in college.
Nationally, approximately 13 percent of African American men - 1.4 million - are ineligible to vote because of criminal records.
(also, 10% of black men now cannot vote because of felony convictions)
(http://www.cssny.org/pubs/urbanagenda/2004_03_18.html)

2004 Rate of gonorrhea 19 times higher than for whites
(http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats04/trends2004.htm)

2000 (I can't believe this is the "lates" data from Dept of Health and Human services?) Blacks are 39% of welfare recipients, 8% more than the second largest group, whites.
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/reports.htm

2003 Blacks are 2-3 times more likely to have domestic violence
(http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/abuse/a/blacer030917.htm)

2005 70% of black children are born to an unwed mother. (70%! astounding...)
(http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/prelimbirths05_tables.pdf#1)

2006 From 1970 to 2001, the marraige rate among blacks fell by 34%.
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500029.html)

2004 Blacks have the highest % of weekly church attendance.
(http://www.thearda.com/Archive/Files/Analysis/GSS2004/GSS2004_VAR1187_1.asp#I-RACE)

All of these problems and immorality, and this demographic has the highest church attendance! Why? Because the majority of those churches are spiritually bankrupt. They have become political instruments and social gather places rather than houses of truth and fervent prayer. To me, that is Dr. Kings legacy. While slavery could not break the soul and moral fiber of the black man, Dr. King stole it by leading astray the churches.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joomla!

First, let me address the poll. It seems the jury is in and 40% of respondents are hoping Jesus will return before the insanity really begins while 60% want to continue making a difference in this world and participating in responsible government through gun ownership. This poll has a margin of error of +/- 95%. That is still more accurate than the weather forecast in KC.

Psa 57:8 Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I [myself] will awake early.

I have numerous friends with all types of creative talents, a lot of which are musical. My church seems to be stacked with a disproportionate number of 'artsy' types and many 'demi-artsy' types. People write, paint, sing and strum and all for God's glory. But I'm not artsy, how could I possibly praise God? This verse in Psalms stuck out to me several months ago. David’s summons "my glory"... the psaltery and harp... and his determination to the praise and glory of God. So the real issue is not, can I write, paint, sing or strum, but what can I do? What do I do well- what would be considered "my glory"?

I'm more of a Hiram than a David. I can make stuff. I like to make stuff. Not fancy frou-frou stuff, but stuff. Endless home repairs and remodeling of everything but the foundation, car repairs, setting up computers and networks and of course, making applications. That's probably what I do best, what I have spent the most time investing in and what I believe the Lord has blessed me in. So how to use "my glory" for Gods? Does Jesus need a programmer?

Well, it seems he does! It came up a few weeks ago with my pastor, who is pretty technically proficient in his own right, that he could use me in tweaking an application for admin'ing the churches website. He commented, "This is an answer to prayer!". Yes, it is. Apparently his prayer, too.

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Warning! Boring technical stuff following. If you are already pretty much bored, do not read any further.
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Joomla is an open source content management system. This is used for collaborative web site management and does not require users to know HTML. My church has settled on using this software and I am getting involved a bit to be able to help modify and administer it as needed. This presents come challenges for me- this program does not use any technologies that I already know! It is designed for Apache on Linux and is coded in PHP and uses a MySQL database. I, on the other hand, work largely in ASP.NET with Oracle and SQL Server databases and IIS on Windows 2003 server. Plus, I haven't really though much of the entire open source trend. For professional computing, I much prefer working on large, ubiquitous and stable platforms supported by companies that have something to lose. However that opinion is largely founded on ignorance and I know it, so I thought it would also be good for my personal development to get involved with this product.

The first challenge was to get it installed. Despite it's intended design, it is capable of running on IIS and Windows 2003 (which is what I run at home) but the setup is a bit different. I first got it installed on my server several weeks ago, but then rebuilt my server and domain with some help from the Pensive Percussionist. So, I had to reinstall and kept notes the second time through. I did have some permissions issues- and am really still working them out- and have installed Joomla a second time on the same server but under a different site and with a different configuration.

Here are the steps I followed:

http://forum.joomla.org/index.php?topic=52721.0;wap2 1. install PHP (5.2.5)
a. downloaded new installer.msi. Last time this file was corrupt and had to use .zip file.
b. 3 opts for IIS install. I chose the ISAPI extension option since I am vaguely familiar with that and not CGI.--After piddling around with this... it still doesn't work. Thanks for aaaaaaall that, open sourcers...
c. give up on .msi installer and go with the zip file.
d. follow direction per http://aszelag.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!7FD523D714963B13!321.entry
e. iisreset
f. Bingo! thx to aszelag ;-)
2. install MySQL
a. downloaded latest and greatest version (5.0.45) for windows off of http://dev.mysql.com/get/Downloads/MySQL-5.0/mysql-5.0.45-win32.zip/from/pick
b. ran GUI installer and it was soooooo easy. good work there!
c. final step in config required opening firewall port for mysql. again, good directions.d. just for fun, i also downloaded the MySQL GUI tools from here http://dev.mysql.com/get/Downloads/MySQLGUITools/mysql-gui-tools-5.0-r12-win32.msi/from/pick. I can work in Oracle PL/SQL all day but I just can't get used to writing queries in DOS!
3. install Joomla
a. got the dl... simple unpackage into the wwwroot directory
b. on opening the web install, there's a problem. i remember from last time that PHP and MySQL no longer play 'nice' right out of the box. On searching I turned up this site: http://www.builderau.com.au/program/php/soa/Install-configure-and-integrate-PHP-and-MySQL-on-Windows/0,339028448,339271632,00.htm which was excellent in giving steps to config PHP 5 with MySQL. This got me in to Joomla.
c. Next problem... ok so Joomla is connected and my site is created. But I'm not get any graphic content. Just by tweaking, I used IIS 'create application' function and that did the trick.*(See ppg below)
d. next problem... everything is groovy on the server, but not so elsewhere. text only view. hhhh.... http://forum.joomla.org/index.php?topic=232853.0;wap2
e. next problem... trying to login from remote machine. argh! I OPENED UP PERMS ON CONFIGURATION.PHP IN THE ROOT DIR FOR THIS APP AND THAT SEEMS TO HAVE DONE THE TRICK.FINALLY, INSTALLED!!!

That was for the first install. *What I noticed after that was that permission on the directory became "squirelly". I kept trying to open them up to get a new module to work and they kept changing. It occurred to me that allowing IIS to create this as an application was may not a good idea. I think it started trying to help me admin the site in ways I didn't want. So I set Joomla up again under a different site name and used the same directions as above, only I didn't create it as an application. I did give IUSR_SERVER read and write perms on all subdirs and files. I know, I know... that so unsafe. But I'm a coder, not a security nut. I get satisfaction from making programs and seeing the impact they have, not from spending endless hours tweaking mundane settings to get something to work "just so". So far this new site has worked fine and now squirelliness.

Last thing- this was very important. The default site did not open for me the second time. I think this might be an IIS/Windows thing. I did set the default page in IIS but was not redirected; instead I got a PHP error. The directions included this optional step of going directly to the installation page: http://localhost/joomla/administrator/index.php Once I did that, everything ran fine from the default page (also after removing all installation files as directed).

So far I like Joomla a lot- it's growing on me. I'm going to get to learn it better by setting up my son's wrestling team web site with it and seeing if they want to run it that way. My boss is also thinking about using it for our engineering business unit to track projects with. This would be great as it would get me involved with Joomla at work and really allow me to become an "expert", which in turn would help my church!

If you're asleep, you may now wake up.