They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own
Now, I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria
So we'll argue and we'll compromise
And realize that nothing's ever changed
For all our mutual experience
Our separate conclusions are the same
Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason coexists with our insanity
And though we choose between reality and madness
It's either sadness or euphoria
How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don't fulfill each others fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities
It's either sadness of euphoria
- B. Joel, Summer, Highland Falls
Saturday, May 31, 2008
They say that these are not the best of times
Friday, May 30, 2008
I guess I would be more understanding of Twitter if, on day two of using it, it hadn't already lost (at least) two of my posts.
Still deciding, but let's just say so far I am underwhelmed in the extreme.
"Twitter- the CB radio of the Naughties."
Thursday, May 29, 2008
My lovely wife has tagged me with this one. These types of memes I usually classify as "Austin Powers" ("It's not my bag, baby!") I will comply however because she needs the traffic to incent her to blog more and, um, I know what's good for me. :o) If you want to play link back to Les and answer the following in one word answers (ah, now we see the hard part!)
- Where is your cell phone? Desk
- Where is your significant other? Office
- Your Mother? Friend
- Your father? Hero
- Your favorite thing? Mountains
- Your dream last night? Work
- Your favorite drink? Margaritas
- Your dream/goal? Colorado
- The room you're in? Office
- Your fear? Irrelevancy
- Where do you want to be in 6 years? Colorado
- Where were you last night? Home
- What you're not? Heroic
- Sandwich? Reuben
- One of your wish list items? Himalayas
- Where you grew up? Colorado
- The last thing you did? Volunteered
- What are you wearing? Shorts
- Your TV? TV?
- Your pets? None
- Your computer? Which?
- Your life? Ongoing
- Your mood? Mellow
- Missing someone? John
- Your car? Dakota
- Jewelry you're wearing? Ring
- Favorite Place to eat? Domenico's
- Your summer? Work
- Like someone? Many
- Your favorite color? Turquoise
- When is the last time you laughed? Yesterday
- Breakfast today? Breakfast?
- Last time you cried so hard you couldn't stop? Dunno
- Texas Polygamy case? Whatever
- Weather now? HUMID
- Your first love? Mary
- Your first kiss? Cousin
- Sex? Here?
- Favorite Spectator sport? Darts
- What scared you last? Gasoline
- Favorite clothing? Polos
- Love or Like? Love
- Presidential Election? Again?
- Favorite number? 00000111
- Best TV Show? Futurama
- Last movie you saw? Snatch
- First time you smoked? Which?
- Spare time spent? Computtering
- Leader or follower? Follower
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Jeff has tagged me with Brother Maynard's meme to name my favorite book in the Bible. It's been interesting reading the responses of the bloggers I follow. Anyway, mine's easy, and totally unoriginal (both Cindy and Grace have mentioned it, too). It's John's Gospel. I love the Gospels, the different aspects and flavors each brings to the life and teachings of Jesus. But it's John who makes me love Jesus and want to believe He's the Christ. John makes Jesus someone I can relate to. It's John who captures the heart of Christianity in one sentence. So that's my response to the meme.
But here's my dilemma and it's been ongoing for a long time. I am somewhat of a Bible translations freak (and in fact now own probably three or four more Bibles since I wrote that). My first journey away from Christianity was triggered by discovering Biblical criticism - how could I believe in God and Christ if I couldn't believe in the texts proclaiming them? It took two decades to recover from that, but the echoes still linger. Just the other day I was reading in John in my TNIV The Books of the Bible (which I like, a lot) and discovered in a footnote that the following passage is considered suspect because it isn't in any of the earliest translations. And yet it's one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible. I love the Jesus presented here:
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
What to do? What to think? (And what was He writing on the ground? I've always wondered.) Anyway, that's my deal to figure out. It's things like this that actually make me shrink back from learning more about theology - I can see it just killing my belief deader than a doornail (again). I wonder how pastors get through school with any of it intact?
Back to the meme. I nominate the following folks. Make sure to link back to Brother Maynard's original post.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Well, the kids are out of school now and because Les is in RN school and not working weekdays and Morgann is here so there's another adult around when Les is at class, this is the first summer ever where we haven't had to get the kids up at the same time as for school to get them to day care before going to work. I awoke a half an hour later than usual this morning and got ready for work in a leisurely manner and didn't have to yell at anyone for taking ten minutes to tie their shoes or remind them to brush their teeth or put on a belt (school dress code) or anything. I left a quiet house full of five sleeping people and drove to work with no sound of bickering from the back seat.
Here's to enjoying two and a half months of unfrenzied mornings. I could get used to this!
Monday, May 26, 2008
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license
Attribution: Tony Massey
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Here's a movie tidbit for you, what with the recent release of Indiana Jones and the Walker of Doom (credit to Patrick for that). I don't watch sequels. I consciously avoid them. If you can't get your point across in one movie, I am not interested in parting with more dollars while you fumble around trying.
Of course, there have been a few exceptions over the decades. I watched Godfather II and it was worth it, yet I have studiously avoided Godfather III. I have seen all three Terminator movies (although I think the third was a let-down and just proved my rule - I knew better going in). Someone gave me Star Trek IV as a birthday present once and I dutifully watched it and then wished I hadn't and ended up giving it away (and yes, yes, I know about The Wrath of Khan - I am just not interested). And then there was a recent attempt at watching Be Cool, which was just execrable and I had to stop within the first 20 minutes.
So, along with all the other ways I don't fit into society, I have never seen:
- Any Star Wars movie besides the first, er, I mean the fourth one (it was the first when I saw it in the theater in 1977).
- Any Star Trek movie besides the first one (at least, not willingly).
- The second and third installments of LoTR.
- Christmas Vacation or any of the ones following.
- Any Indiana Jones movies after the first one.
- Ditto Rocky.
- Any post-First Blood Rambo movies.
- James Bond movies since I was a kid.
- Any besides the first Matrix, Batman, Road Warrior, Alien, Austin Powers, Blade, Silence of the Lambs, Mission Impossible, Shrek and Robocop for me, thanks.
It's a wonder I can hold a conversation at all!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
So, Tina suggested I try out Grazr as a feed aggregator that then can publish feeds itself. I signed up for the lowest paid level (which comes with a 30 day free trial). It has some nice features, although it still doesn't get me to the "one feed" concept, since it is missing email and SMS notification capabilities.
But I did some testing by building a "file" in Grazr and adding some feeds to it and turning it into a "stream" (a feed itself). It works. But while I was doing all of that I just got more and more depressed for a variety of reasons. Let's see if I can capture them all:
- There wasn't a single church or volunteer organization Web site in all of Jefferson City that is set up to support RSS/Atom. That's fine - I used Page2RSS for all the relevant pages I could find, but that's kinda kludgy if you ask me. I mean, it's nice that service exists, but...
- I found a few pages already set up that gathered together some volunteer information for multiple organizations. That was good. But for the most part all the pages I found were static and woefully out of date, whether it was for a volunteer organization, a church or whatever. That is not necessarily surprising.
- Church sites, supposedly consisting of the Body of Christ that is to then reach out and represent God's love for all humanity, were terrible about mentioning mission, especially mission here in the community, especially mission disengaged from "outreach". Out of the 30 sites I looked at one (1) church had specific pages talking about specific programs for helping the poor and needy in the community. There were a couple of others that mentioned mission in general ways or pointed to all the help they were doing elsewhere. But even those were in the minority. Again, not surprising, just depressing.
So, I think I am going to step back from the idea a bit and think about how to help in other ways. It is fine to want to be a clearinghouse for all sorts of exciting volunteer activities - if such things were happening. I think the organizations in this town in the middle of nowhere need a bit more fundamental help in getting their word out than that. I don't want to become volunteer Webmaster for 20 worthy organizations - it's frustrating enough being one for a single church. But I am thinking of still trying to set something up where it would be falling-off-a-log easy for all of these organizations to get their word out. Maybe volunteering to offer some basic classes in blogging would be a good start. Dunno.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I think the hardest challenge parenting is raising a child who is the polar opposite of yourself and raising them to be themselves, not who you think they should be. Our youngest (by a minute) is that challenge for me. She is very smart (she reads way above grade level), but I've long said that she thinks in a "non-linear" manner that results in her interjecting complete non sequiturs into conversation that leaves even her twin brother blinking and exclaiming, "Where did that come from?" She loves to read but hates to write. In a house of talkers she is exceedingly quiet. She is athletic and graceful and artistic (all things I am not), a total tomboy who hates dresses but loves having long flowing hair so that she can feel it bouncing when she runs (and she's always running). In a house of computer nerds she would rather be falling out of a tree in the back yard.
This year was a struggle for her scholastically whereas in the past she was always the best student. Her brother and older sister both went from indifferent B averages at public school to straight A's in their first year of parochial school (and that on a grading scale that stops A's at 95, B's at 85, etc.) And here's the thing - we didn't have to fight them to do it, they just buckled down and worked hard on their own. I think for the first time they were both feeling challenged in school and loved it. But our youngest fought to even pass. She did in the end, and through a lot of hard work brought all of her grades up this last quarter even with being out of school for a week with chicken pox, but they were nowhere near where they had been in prior years or where they "should" be, if I want to hold her up to my own expectations. I have a lot of theories about why, but I won't go into them here.
Because here's the thing that struck me in the past month or so - she was trying. At first I thought it was just that parochial school was stricter and expected more and she just didn't want to work that hard (she was a bit of a teacher's pet in the past). I thought she was just being lazy and went super-strict for a while but that just made things even worse. So then we paid for tutoring at Sylvan and had her do homework in our office with us every night so we could watch her and help her and that helped some, but in the end it was just a struggle for her (and for us, because some nights it took her hours to work through everything she hadn't gotten finished at school). And through it all I watched her confidence get shaken and I don't like that most of all because the one thing she has always been is confident in her own uniqueness.
Over this past month I have been consciously trying a different tack (I wish I had started earlier, but I am frail myself). Being as positive as possible while still being firm - after all, the homework still has to be done. Celebrating every accomplishment. Remembering that when I was her age I was also an underperforming student struggling from moving schools multiple times combined with being a rather clumsy and unathletic outcast. Really making sure I listen to her and for her, since her voice is often lost in the hubbub of the five other people in the house. Being her advocate. And I think it is helping her recover some of that self-confidence. I pray it is.
In the end I have to remember that as one of God's children we are all made in His image but we are also all "polar opposites" from Him. How frustrating we must all be to Him! Yet He is still our loving Father and wants each of us to succeed and to do it by being ourselves. Being completely the people He made us to be. And as a pale shadow of that I want the same for my daughter and I want to be a parent that will love and nurture her for her - not for my hopes and dreams for her.
Father help me be that father.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
- Does your geographic location have any influence on your faith? - No. Not positively anyway. You can have any faith outlook you want to in Jefferson City, as long as it's Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran or evangelical, pretty much in that order (not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your thing).
- Does your faith "fit" in the place you live? - Absolutely not. Of course, neither do my politics, philosophy, life experiences or anything else.
Well, that was a depressing exercise. Not that the answers weren't predictable.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Over the years I've used hundreds of email sig lines. I know it's in the hundreds (at least) because for quite a while I had a program set up to randomly generate a new one out of a large database of quotes and humor for each and every email I sent. But usually I pick something that catches my eye or ear in a book, song, movie or email and latch on to it until something else matches my mood better.
Here is a sampling of the sig lines I have used in the past year and a half:
"I hope your stay is a blessed one. If you need anything, let us
know and we'll teach you how to live without it."
- a monk to a spiritual retreat visitor,
from Mark Thibodeaux's "Armchair Mystic",
as recounted by Philip Yancey in "Prayer"
"Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?"
"I can't remember."
- Chumbawamba, "Amnesia"
"I wanted to be like Jesus,
but I turned out like Judas.
I schemed a lot
and I cheated my way through.
I lied to me and I lied to you."
"I wanted to be liked Buddha,
but I turned out like Nixon.
Betrayed the trust of the common man.
Don't look down there's so much blood
on my hands."
"I wanted to be like Gandhi,
but I turned out like Hitler.
A little whacked, a little power,
I killed 'em all in my finest hour."
- Anne McCue, "Gandhi"
Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and
you know it.
"Well I got nothing against the press.
They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true."
- Joe Jackson, "Sunday Papers"
"Albania - that's the capital of New York, right?"
- Ted Baxter
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.
The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the
Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."
- G.K. Chesterton, "Illustrated London News", 4/19/1924
"Are we everything we wanted?"
- Big Head Todd and the Monsters, "Bittersweet"
"Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions."
- Mr. Trips, "Angels In America" (should actually be "Mr. Lies")
"All my worries
worry about me for a change."
- Tift Merritt, "Ain't Looking Closely"
"Still a man hears what he wants to hear
and disregards the rest."
- Simon and Garfunkel, "The Boxer"
"Little problem in the kitchen - nothing trivial."
- Walter Fielding, Jr.
"The revelation will not be televised."
- Kevin Sites, "In the Hot Zone"
"Just assume lots of pithy comments, and respond as if I had actually made them."
"I've never been too good with names,
but I remember faces."
"If you have to make a pros-and-cons list to decide, then it already sucks."
"We could slip away, wouldn't that be better
Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater"
- Yo La Tengo
That last one is current.
What do you use for a sig line? Do you change them? When and why?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
- Friends see shared items - Erin commented that she likes to see what I have shared in her Google Reader. Which is cool, and a variation of #2. You can also add notes to an item when you share it, although I haven't totally picked up on that habit yet.
- Saves time - see my prior post on that. Use the gained time to blog more.
I learned about all of the above (except #4) through the Google Operating System blog. You should subscribe. At least once a week there will be something posted there that will make you exclaim, "Kewl! You can do that?"
I have had a terrible time keeping up with writing responses to some posts I've read recently, so I am just going to do one of those "go read these posts" lists that everyone else finds handy from time to time.
1) Theology is for Nincompoops - there's a provocative title for you, which is shocking since we all know Erin is rarely provocative! :o) In it, she writes:
Through the course of conversation with this friend, I found myself saying something surprising, the gist of which was this:"People with wide-open faith get a lot of heat from the theological busybodies, but in my mind, theology is for nincompoops. It doesn't bring us any closer to God...it only serves to make us feel smart and give us fodder to judge people by."The fact that I thought this didn't surprise me. However, the fact that I said it aloud (in a sense) did. For it's what I really feel, and it's bound to get me into trouble.
I have to be careful here to differentiate. In a general sense, I don't mind theology, those who love it or proclaim it. I mind when theology is wielded as a weapon with which to cut people down, a method by which to minimize others' faith experiences or to by which to size God into a more manageable deity.
In other words, I dislike theology when it is used to tell me my relationship with God is not valid nor acceptable for my inadherence to some supposed theological certainty.
Amen. I will add that the more I learn about following Christ the less I am interested in theology. Which is an interesting phenomenon since in most things in my life that I've gotten involved in the first thing I usually do is try to learn everything about it. But in the case of loving God there is almost a danger of learning too much. My first break with the faith came after such an event ("How can you keep them down on the pew once they've read Biblical criticism?") And I don't know - it seems the more I read about what God wants for me and for me to do, the less I actually do.
To any pastors reading this - was there anything in your learning formal theology that changed you from bright-eyed believer into...something else? Was it for the good or bad? If it was good, should everybody do it? If not, why not? (c.f., priesthood of all believers).
2) No Bull - Erin again (she's on a roll!), this time writing a moving piece about being bullied while growing up and the effects that continues to have upon her, including her attitude about church. I will admit it - I was also bullied growing up and it shapes me to this day. I am inspired by Erin's example to dig deeper into my psyche and weed out the bad that came from that experience while making sure to leave the good.
Yesterday there were three in row, bam, bam, bam:
3) A cry for renewal - Erika on the need to see God's creation as ongoing and to call for it in the midst of turmoil:
4) Making the Unclean Clean, Not the Other Way Around - Jeff on how we believers need to get out there and be a lamp unto the world, not hide in church and be "safe".
Just yesterday I was reading Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places where Eugene Peterson writes that creation is not something that God did in Genesis, but rather the thing that God keeps doing in our midst: “it is not confined to what the Spirit did; it is what the Spirit does.”. He makes the point that the verb to create is used more times in Isaiah’s preaching to God’s people in exile than in the whole creation narrative: “The Spirit of God created life out of nothing in the Babylon of the sixth century B.C. just as he had done in the formless void when the ‘darkness was upon the face of the deep’.”
Hollowness. Darkness. Chaos. These words can describe our community, a community than can feel almost exilic. And when I think of my friend watching her baby tipped over in front of her; when I hear the cries of a youth’s broken life; when I consider the addictions and desperation that fuel gang wars and rapes and robberies, I can only drop to my knees and cry out for a new creation.
5) #467 - ASBO Jesus. 'nuff said.
And then a couple that aren't about Christianity directly, but still have something to say to us trying to follow the Way, especially in IC:
6) the cultural problem - Hugh writing on how many corporations end up going into crisis mode. He updated the post with a comment from a friend:
Go read the whole post and in light of it change all instances of "companies" and "businesses" to "church" and I think you'll see why I liked it. I also liked his cartoon:
I find it striking that all the different kinds of managers I meet in all kinds of different sectors still prefer to describe and draw their businesses as if they were a machine or some technical thing at least; how they prefer technical sounding strategies and definitions of their challenges ("the business planning process" etc) to the honest acceptance that the reason why all businesses are tricky beasts is that they're built on, with and by humans.
Of course, it'd be easier if businesses were more like machines but they're not. And if strategies were like mechanical (i.e. human-lite) things - borne of a robo-mind and implemented by an army of replicants, maybe.
The sad truth remains that everything in business is about people, their interactions with each other and the ideas and assumptions that shape those interactions.
7) The Responsibility Project - Interesting site/blog. Here's the post that caught my eye. Apparently sponsored by Liberty Mutual, but it doesn't have a "corporate" flavor from the quick once-over I gave it. I have subscribed to check it out for a while.
There. Now I feel caught up. :o)
There's been an ongoing conversation on Erin's blog about community or the lack thereof among many of us who don't fit in the boundaries of the institutional church (IC). By "ongoing" I mean 58 comments as of right this moment. And it's in the comments where the discussion has gotten really interesting. Erin recently wrote one about being burned in a past "community":
For me it has so much to do with the fact that my "family" walked away from when things got ugly and people needed them most. So that's a HUGE fear for me. Where can I find a place where people aren't scared of REAL life, with ALL it's possible ugliness? Is there really such a thing?
Because so much of what I hear about people and fears and community being "family" and being "real" with each other and supporting each other through anything is NOT coming from people who had a "family" where when we really "got real", it turned out that in a group of 12, more than one someone was on meth, more than one someone had an affair (past and actively), someone was an alcoholic (actively) and someone had an active gambling addiction...
Whoops...we had no idea how broken we really were until we "got real", and some people couldn't cope. Suddenly "getting real" and having "family" didn't look so good to those who didn't fall into the above categories. That was the point of breakdown. And I was simply a casualty of war caught in the crossfire for loving on the hurting people.
That triggered the following from me:
What popped into my head is maybe "real" community starts with something like AA (NA, GA, etc.) If the group is predicated on everyone in it being broken in the first place, then there's no surprise about it. Instead, there is real support for getting through the brokeness, understanding when there is backsliding, and celebration when there is progress.
Maybe we should found "Brokens Anonymous" (I wanted to call it "Christians Anonymous" but that would be too provocative and send the wrong message). Somewhere for people who admit to having problems get together to support each other and heal through Christ.
"Hi, my name is Jim, and I am broken."
So I dug a little deeper. In the pamphlet A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are outlined the following 12 principles:
THE TWELVE TRADITIONS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Hmmm...Let's change that a bit and see what we get, shall we?
THE TWELVE TRADITIONS OF
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon our unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for church membership is a desire to stop being broken.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or church as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the broken who still suffers.
6. A church ought never endorse, finance, or lend the church name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every church ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Church should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. Church, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Church has no opinion on outside issues; hence the church ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Now that's interesting, don't you think? I am not saying I agree with all of the above, but just stop and think what would church be like if we were all in a truly open, confessing community and yet anonymous enough that we could not only feel safe doing so but also be a bit (not completely - humans are humans) free of the hierarchies and personality issues that arise in IC? Compare and contrast modern IC with the following second century view, which I lift from Dan's post of just this morning:
They dwell in their country, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country and every country of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred."
I think that sounds a lot more like Brokens Anonymous than the IC. I have changed "alcohol" and "alcoholic" to "brokeness" and "broken" in two places in the following. Think about what it would mean if it were the only "program" a church had. What if "church" met every morning at 6:00 a.m. to drink coffee and have people get up and talk about their struggles and triumphs in the following terms? Think we'd have a community?
THE TWELVE STEPS OF BROKENS ANONYMOUS
1. We admitted we were powerless over brokeness — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other brokens, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Finally, think about the following from the pamphlet. Isn't it really in sync with the Lord's Prayer?
Through the example and friendship of the recovered alcoholics in A.A., new members are encouraged to stay away from a drink “one day at a time,” as the A.A.s do. Instead of “swearing off forever” or worrying about whether they will be sober tomorrow, A.A.s concentrate on not drinking right now — today.
"Give us this day our daily bread..."
[Also check out today's post on the same topic by Gary arising from the same comment thread.]
Monday, May 19, 2008
There are now 14 tomato plants in the garden, nine of which are Romas.
Which means there's a gonna be a $#!+load of Romas come August and onward. But here's the deal - I have a killer roasted garlic, tomato and habanero (as in, all three ingredients are roasted) salsa recipe I've been making for the past decade and canning for the last year. Last summer I figured out if you leave out the habaneros while roasting the garlic and tomatoes and then take the results and mix in some garden herbs and a bit of wine you have the best pasta sauce on the planet. So now my goal is to can enough pasta sauce to make it through the winter. And every ingredient of it except the garlic will be garden-grown (next year, I plant garlic).
I am sure I will live to regret the above plan. :o)
Anyone need any 'maters? ("mater" [long "A" sound"] is a contraction of "tomato" in Midwesternese, or at least the dialect I speak). I'm sure out of the 14 plants I have I'll have some extra in late summer. Just stop by Jeff City and I'll load ya up. :o)
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Cindy wasn't surprised by her results, and this left-hander was not surprised by his, either:
Brain Lateralization Test Results
|Right Brain (50%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.|
Left Brain (42%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
personality tests by similarminds.com
I think I would be even higher on the right brain side and lower on the left if I had ended up in a different field than computer programming. In a little over two decades my career has taught me to be more rigorous and disciplined than I was naturally inclined to be. Oddly enough, so has being a parent.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I finished building a second raised bed today to match one I built a week ago. Dad and I went to the free compost pile here in town three times today and carried three loads up into the back yard and filled the raised beds three quarters full. Now I am sore (and I bet Dad is, too).
Tomorrow I will top them up with top soil, sphagnum peat moss and some sand to help with drainage and will then decide what to plant. I already have three Roma tomatoes, six cayenne and six jalapeño peppers planted in last year's beds along the south side of the house, plus all the herbs (anyone need any mint? :o). There are eight habanero pepper plants in two flats waiting to go into the new beds, and then probably some "eating" tomatoes and a few bell pepper plants. And then? I don't know. We'll see.
I already have plans for raised planters around the patio, too. The kids want to plant some flowers and I think that's where I'll let them do it, since that's where they play a lot anyway. It will go well with the porch swing Les asked for and received for Mother's Day.
What's happening to me? This gardening thing is just taking off. Of course, as a cook I know what part of it is - the sheer joy of having fresh ingredients at hand. With the herbs, in fact, I have to hack them back and throw handfuls away just to keep ahead of them. And that's with cooking with them and drying them, too. An embarrassment of plenty. But it's wonderful.
Have you planted a garden? What do you have growing? (I already know Cindy's answer.)
Friday, May 16, 2008
OK, so the following links are going to point to very crude "mock ups" of what I have been trying to talk about. When I say "very crude", I mean very crude (read as, "They suck"). Got that? Think of them as wireframes or storyboards, not anything like how the real deal would look or even interact. I am just trying to get a high-level conceptual demo going so that those of you who don't do well with words-only descriptions of things can see a bit more of what I am talking about.
So, the first place a person would probably find via a search engine (let's say we're targeting search engine optimization, or "SEO", around searching for a given city/town name and "volunteer" or "volunteering") would be a page describing the local M6M effort for that city/town and giving them a chance to subscribe to a feed for all the events. There would also be a main directory page (most likely searchable, not static as shown) that would allow someone to drill down to the local M6M page.
But here's the thing that's just hit me - the "one feed" principle (which is actually three feeds in one - RSS, email and SMS - a "trinity" of feeds if I can say that without being sacrilegious), that is, something that can aggregate any number of posts from any number of sites, is the key. Because that allows one source for any number of already existing listings and Web pages. This throws the rest of my worries about a "platform" or an app right out the window!
For example, I recently posted about Page2RSS, a service that monitors feedless Web pages and generates an RSS feed for when they change. So for some churches or organizations they may already be posting volunteer information on their Web pages, just without a feed. Fine, keep it up. Other organizations may be blogging about it. Fine, keep it up. Some may have a Google calendard, Yahoo! or Google groups, Twitter, Facebook or Myspace or MyChurch pages to advertise such things. Fine, keep it up. Don't change anything you're doing. Don't repost any information simply to get it on M6M. Instead, you would simply register the Web pages/blogs/calendars/groups/social pages that denote your volunteer efforts with M6M and all M6M would do is make sure it is published via an aggregating feed for your area.
That idea is so simple! I like it a lot.
I have set up a prototype of that, referenced in the first page linked to above. It uses Google Reader's feature to allow you to tag various feeds you've subscribed to (basically making them into a folder) and then share that folder so that it becomes available as a feed - a feed aggragator available as a feed. So the concept works. But now what I want is that last bit - I want email subscriptions (both individual and digest modes), SMS subscriptions plus the ability to show them all on a dynamic basis on a Web page (see the sidebar at the test blog, which is using a widget that is feeding off the Google Reader link). That part is so that people searching the Web have yet another way to stumble across the information, plus some people are still just more comfortable Web surfing for things than they are with feeds, email subscriptions, etc.
So now I'm off on a new search for such a feed aggregator/publisher. But hopefully this search is a simpler one than trying to find a whole platform that does what I want. And if I can't find what I want then I just may write that myself, because it's smaller than a whole platform and it would be fun.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I am looking forward to tomorrow, a well-earned mental health day off from work while Les is on break between semesters in nursing school.
Weather looks to be good and the kids will go to the grandparents after school so we will have most of the day together, one of the few times since she returned to school in January. Maybe we'll even pretend gas is cheap at half the price and take a drive somewhere. The possibilities are endless!
Ironically the above was drafted but not posted when the doorbell rang with the pizza guy (Thursday nights are pizza night here) and while we were upstairs the school automated phone calling system called to remind us that tomorrow is a "half day" with the kids getting out at 11:00...So...strike all of the above and substitute something much less romantic - at least until the grandparents get off work. With that let-down I will probably make the kids clean the house in the afternoon just so it'll be nice for the whole weekend while they're gone.
And really, with gas prices where they are why would any school have a school day that's only three hours long? Quit being namby-pamby and just call the whole day off!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I have been getting a lot of good feedback on the last two posts - thanks to all of you! It has proved to me that I need to always be sharing with others. I don't think God likes it when we try and do things by ourselves.
An email Erin sent to me made me turn how I was trying to make things work on its head, so to speak. I have been experimenting with a new way of trying to accomplish my "one feed" strategy tonight and it is hopeful. Still some kinks, but hopeful. It may be a little quirky, but all I am trying to do right now is get a working demo going. From there we can flesh out what it really needs to be and do and then from that decide how to actually make it all work.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
OK, so yesterday was an elevator-speech approach to what I had been seeing in my head as an opportunity to get churches more involved in their communities and with each other. After emailing the original version of that to some friends over three weeks ago I then spent some time trying to make it happen. I had the following high level goals:
- Administration should/would end up being decentralized. Each city/town would have to have its own administrators and moderators (I think it will always have to be a moderated approach to keep spam under control).
- Getting a new city/town up and running and then administering it should not be "technical". Anyone of reasonable intelligence following a "cookbook" level of instructions should be able to do it.
- The platform shouldn't be developed "from scratch". It should use existing applications as much as possible. Even though I am a developer I have a reasonable set of expectations for what I could and could not get done after hours along with raising a family. Plus, I wanted all underlying system administration stuff like backups and maintenance to just "be there".
- It should be free, if possible, for obvious reasons.
- It should be scalable, both in the sense of the number of users and how many cities/towns get involved.
- Finally, and most importantly - I wanted event notices (which include calendar additions, photos, documents as well as "posts" about needs) to be able to be sent out in a variety of ways - reading the Web site, email, RSS/Atom feeds, SMS - and I wanted there to be only one such source for each site. What I mean by that is I didn't want to have people have to sign up to get feeds (emails, SMS, RSS, whatever) from posts and then sign up to get feeds from the calendar and then sign up to get feeds from document changes or uploaded pictures or videos from events, etc. Every change that happens for any given city/town should propagate out to all subscribers from one publishing mechanism. In the rest of this post and from now on I will call this the "one feed to rule them all" (or "one feed") principle.
"[I]f I can pull this whole thing off in MySpace, Google Apps, or whatever, I will/would."
"One of the coolest thing about Blogger (and I believe some of the others) is you can post blog entries via email and SMS text messaging. That seems like about the easiest thing possible. 'Sign up here, and then from now on if you send an email toRichmondVA@M6M.com, it will show up as an event'. Have to guard against spam, etc., but I want it to be that simple. I want people to be able to text 'Kewl thing happening in the park with the homeless RIGHT NOW' and get the word out."
"This is COMPLETELY meant to be not-for-profit. Any initial investment will be my own money. Anything past that will be based on donations, but I am really skewing the delivery platform more toward something that would never require that. Which means that after some more thinking last night right now I am really leaning toward the Freecycle model - a main page somewhere to direct people to the appropriate city/region/geographic area, and then everything past that being ran as Yahoo or more likely Google Groups. That also means that very early on I can outsource administration for different cities/regions/geographic areas to people in those areas, since the first thing I would worry about 'scaling' would be my time."
"Grassroots is a perfect point. The more I think about it, the more I like the Freecycle model (he said repetitiously). Decentralized admin, minimal moderation (but enough to make sure posts stay on topic and are not spam/inappropriate)."
"Google Maps are certainly a part of the vision."
The following is a longer block of my original "vision". It failed for a very simple reason I'll get to following this:
I am thinking of basing it on Google's "platform" because I expect them to be around for a while. That's first and foremost in my head.
Now, that said, Google Groups is only part of the answer. Google Calendar (which then can integrate with Google Maps if you put an address on an event schedule item), Google Docs (which can be shared) and Picasa (for pictures that can be shared) are also part of the answer, I think. In all cases, though, the focal point would be Google Groups. It supplies an RSS feed for the cool kids who like feeds. It supplies an email feed (both one-by-one and digest mode depending on your preference). It also allows you to browse and search through the posts online if that's your bag.
Now, the thing I was thinking about was how to tie all that together? Well, one of the things you can do with Google Groups is post to it via email (we would restrict this to registered users, of course - always have to worry about spam). And one of the things you can do with Google Calendar and Google Docs is have it send email(s) whenever they are updated...Ah-hah! So the email address they can send updates to would be the Google Group email address. Which means that while you could subscribe to a feed straight off a city's Calendar, say, you would be better served just to subscribe to the feed of the Google Group, which will be a feed aggragator for all the bits and pieces. If a doc gets updated in Google Docs, then an email notice is sent to Google Groups, which then sends out a new RSS item and emails to all who are interested. When a new item gets scheduled in Google Calendar then an email notice is sent to Google Groups, which then sends out a new RSS item and emails to all who are interested. And so on and so on. My biggest concern is making sure such a system would be "spam-proof".
My reasoning for making Google Groups (and in a broader sense Google's suite of offerings) the "engine" is manifold:
1) It is free (currently - maybe not forever), so cost of entry is purely (my) labor costs. I'm willing to pay that.
2) It is single-sign-on - once you are logged into Google, then you have access to all of the parts. I don't want to try and stitch something together from multiple providers.
3) Most of it is easy to use, and since I don't plan on being the only (or perhaps even primary) admin in the long run and I envision it be a decentralized admin scheme based on volunteers in each city served then ease of use by "non-techies" is pretty high on my list of requirements.
4) There is very little involved in the way of "system administration", which is a Very Good Thing in my humble opinion. I really don't want to get sucked into having to worry about backups and database index tuning and hosting providers and software updates and all of that. I am trying to get out of that as much as possible at home (where there are 8-10 machines depending on the day), and even as a programmer I am loaded down with it at work (thanks to all the different virtual machines I work on daily). I sure don't want to do all that as a hobby! :o)
5) But even more important than #4 is it all allows me to get something up and going very quickly. And that to me is key. I've have been highly influenced of late from reading Getting Real, and one of the focuses there is get something going quickly and iterate often. So my focus now is going to be mock up something quickly (hopefully over the weekend) and send it out for all of you to review, get feedback from you all, tweak it, rinse, repeat, and then when I think I have something worthy "launch" something for Jeff City/Columbia and go "market" it to the local churches. I want to have the site pretty well thought out and up and running when I go to market it - it will make the sales job of getting churches to use it much easier.
So, ultimately, Google Groups may not be sexy and have the kewl Web 2.0 front-end. But it will have the right features to be the "engine", as you say. And there's still the front-page of it all, how we get people to the right city, etc., if this thing should take off, and that can still be sexy. :o)
So, that sounds all well and good. But unfortunately it doesn't work. I could not get Google's calendar to successfully and consistently email a Google Group resulting in a post on that group (meaning it would email the group, but for some reason the group didn't consider emails from Calendar to be a post). Ditto with Google Docs. So that throws the "one feed to rule them all" right out the window. And while Yahoo! groups have an integrated calendar (and is in fact what Freecycle runs on) I disregarded them after some early testing because:
- The group calendar doesn't result in posting a new event that can be aggregated into the "one feed" from the main group. I see this as critical.
- Yahoo! sucks even worse than Google re. their actions around helping the Chinese government with censorship and jailing dissidents.
- Yahoo! may or may not be viable as a long-term platform.
- The Yahoo! groups site is really way more cluttered up with annoying ads than Google's groups, and I didn't want to have to worry about that, too (including the ever-present fear of inappropriate ads showing up, etc.)
So now I've been considering a few other options. I've been wanting to learn Ruby and Rails and have been tinkering with that but in the end that violates many of the original requirements I placed on the whole thing and I just don't think building it from scratch is viable (in fact, I think it's a waste of time). I looked briefly at some commercial offerings but the cost is just too prohibitive. So now I am thinking about either looking into bulletin board/forum software (phpBB, vBulletin), but I fear it is still going to break down on the "one feed" principle yet again, plus then I end up having to get it hosted, pay for that, make sure it's all getting backed up, updated, etc. Perhaps one of the social networking sites? I have a Facebook account and haven't really delved into using it that much so maybe there are some capabilities there. Or MySpace? I don't know anything about that. I even looked at Remember the Milk or just using Google Calendar but that's thinking too small and the interfaces then are really too limiting to add the kind of information I see this thing would need over time.
And that brings us up to yesterday and today. I decided I was tired of pounding my head flat and could use some help, and yesterday's post generated some interest (and yes, I will get around to replying to everyone's comments). So here's the deal - given the requirements as laid out, what do you see as being a viable option? Or should I just throw my hands up in the air and point all the local churches at VolunteerMatch and move on to something else?
Monday, May 12, 2008
[The following is excerpted from an email I sent to a select group of readers and friends about three weeks ago. I've made a little progress on it so far, but not what I'd like. Some of what I've looked at and why will be "part 2". For those who got this as email, sorry about the repeat.]
I have been noodling about a project for the past six months or so, and lately have decided to actually get off my duff and channel some energy into it. I am writing this to share some high-level ideas about what I want to do and get your feedback. I am not looking for criticisms to shoot it down, although if you see it has a fatal flaw or has already been done and I just don't know about it then I guess I do want to hear about that. What I really want is feedback - more ideas, pushing me to clarify fuzzy points, things I haven't thought of that would be cool, etc.
Think of the following as a series of presentation slides. [I have added a few additions in square brackets containing feedback received from friends.]
Matthew 6 Ministries (M6M)
What - the "elevator speech"
- Build an online community program and volunteering clearinghouse of upcoming volunteer events (event oriented, not program oriented). [Erin has also convinced me this could include local "needs" that aren't "events", such as a school letting people know there is a serious need for winter coats for the poorer students there.]
- Have the ability to post upcoming charity and volunteer events by city or geographic area.
- Existing models include Hope for New York (especially the calendar) - think about that for all cities across the country. c.f., Freecycle, Craigslist, Angie's List.
[Chris has since brought my attention to Hands On Richmond and VolunteerMatch, although I really dislike the latter's need for the volunteers to register for events, but maybe that's necessary, I dunno. Anyway, I didn't see anything in VolunteerMatch much for my surrounding area, and I think mid-sized and smaller communities are where my mind's really at with this.]
- The idea is to get everyone away from "our church's community programs" to simply "the community's community programs". Trying to get churches involved in each other's community service events for the good of the Church as well as the community.
- Multi-faceted - should include social networking, shared calendar, feeds (of course), blogs, alerts (emergency notices, for example), search, pictures (for posting what happened at events). Build community around the community, if you get the drift.
- More dynamic and up-to-date than 2-1-1 and most charity/church Web sites.
- Not replacing charity/church Web sites, but supplementing them. Another way to get the word out.
- Me to start.
- A few people as advisers.
- Anyone that wants to help. Someone with real Web design experience (the visual, artsy side of it) would be a big plus, since I am a programmer and my idea of Web site "design" is deciding which font to use for all the text I write. :o)
- Add volunteers to manage and promote cities if and as they are added. Ultimately I see the thing being managed a lot like Freecycle (local, decentralized administration).
- "Appropriate" (churches, charities/NGOs, perhaps local gov't) entities allowed to list on the site.
- No one to start, or me to be more precise. I am willing to invest time and some money into it, at least to get it to a point where people can look at it and see what I am talking about.
- I want to build as much of it on free platforms as possible. [A lot of "part 2" will deal with my quest for an appropriate platform.]
- If it ever went anywhere and started costing real money then I would probably seek donations if and only if I couldn't swing the costs myself.
- In no way would I ever want it to charge for the listings.
- This is the first step, getting the high level direction down.
- Next step is for me to see if I can get a simple prototype up and running quickly.
- Then? Dunno. Start to promote it, I guess.
- I want to start with just a few cities. Start small, see if it "sticks".
- The Jeff City/Columbia area because so little is covered here, and that's where I am. :o)
- Maybe some mid-tier cities next. Which ones?
- Big cities last - they probably already have more info resources available anyway.
- I am totally willing to change the name - it is just a working name for me.
- When I originally came up with the idea last year my thinking around the name was simply that I thought too many churches try to do things as "Our program for the poor" and "Our food pantry" and so on. A lot of pride in there, and seemingly of the kind the first two thirds of Matthew 6 warns specifically against.
- I had the idea that churches and charities could post events where people could come and help and people could show up and just say "Hi, I'm Jim and I am here to help!" and not give their last name or their church affiliation or whatever.
- That's my dream, but to make it all work I am sure it couldn't be run that way.
- I am open to other suggestions, but for now M6M is my working title. [And even now I am moving away from that, although I still don't have a decent replacement.]
- Bad search engines on a lot of papers.
- Dying model, dying subscription base.
- No RSS feeds for most newspapers.
- Not focused on this type of information.
- Their sites tend to be more static - "If you want to volunteer, here are some organizations to go to and check."
- This would be oriented the other way around - "This Saturday First Baptist Church is sponsoring a work day on a Habitat house. Call this number if you want to come and help."
- Let's people "try out" volunteering - no up front commitment.
- Hopefully encourages reciprocity - "Some nice people from that church came and helped us on our event, maybe we should go help on theirs."
- Church Web sites (maybe make a condition of getting listed be requiring a link to M6M on each listing entity's Web site? Dunno - have to think that one through).
- Church bulletins, pulpit announcements, church boards.
- Any free online directories I can find and get the site in to.
- Want to use free or low-cost online services as much as possible. Google platform? Amazon's S3? Something else? This is a primary area of research.
- If I have to build (write code), then will probably use Linux and either Rails or Mono. There's some interesting hosting options including virtual machine hosting available. But ultimately I want to build as little as possible in terms of code and "mash up" as much as possible. The point being to get something up and running fast and to have it maintainable by mere mortals.
- May even want to automate some of the listings by using Google's new, free REST APIs and scraping content from local news sites and church and charity Web sites. Could be a lot of work though unless the search terms were very targeted and tuned often.
[After all of the above the reviewers and I got into a discussion about whether it should focus on Christian organizations only or allow just about anyone with a worthy cause to list. My original focus/position was I wanted this to be a way for churches to get more involved in their local communities, but I was kindly kicked out of thinking that way by multiple people and now agree it needs to be inclusive, not exclusive.
However, I don't want to have this be a VolunteerMatch clone, otherwise I would just send people to VolunteerMatch. And maybe that is still the right idea - I have no attachment that it has to be my idea and my system. I just found VolunteerMatch to feel a bit cold, centralized and "non-local" (Freecycle and Craig's List are really my two mental models for this). I didn't like that volunteers had to register to help at an event. And I found the focus at VolunteerMatch a bit..."broad". I mean, having a place where people can find how to volunteer for political causes is fine, but that's not quite what I am thinking about. And while they allow you to filter down to something like searching to help with the "Homeless and Housing" or "Hunger", which are in the drop down list not far under "Gay, Lesbian, Bi & Trans" volunteer opportunities (not that there's anything wrong with that :o), I was hoping the topics would be a bit more urgent, helping people climb up from the lowest rungs of Maslow's hierarchy.
I am not meaning to bash VolunteerMatch. It looks like it's a great service. I still haven't talked myself out of it being "the answer" and just saying "Oh, well - time to think of something else to help." It's just that I wanted my focus to be on (a) helping the local community, (b) helping with the real survival issues - hunger, homelessness, abuse and violence, addiction, illiteracy, and (c) getting Christians and churches in communities to pull together around local causes and not feel like everything has to be stamped with their "brand" or church name - trying to get us to be truly one body.
Fire away. Criticisms now accepted. With the struggles I've had trying to find what I see in my head and get even the crudest of demos going I am half thinking that it is a bad idea and the blocks are simply God saying, "Not what I want from you right now." I dunno.]
Sunday, May 11, 2008
For your bemusement on this, the most special day of the year (it had better be if you know what's good for you! :o)
Grace linked to A Mother's Day Moment:
But for me, the classic remains Barats & Bereta:
Happy Mother's Day!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Well, now that it runs on Linux I am trying out Flock. It's a new "social browser" powered by the Mozilla engine, the same code that underlies the Firefox Web browser. So the first nice thing about it is it picks up all your Firefox settings quite nicely. Once you've installed it and gone through and tweaked settings to your preference, you can then log into the various services that Flock supports. These include Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and most of the major blogging platforms.
Now why would you want to do that? Because Flock's purpose in life is to help you bring all of those things together. Your social networking friends can be shown in a sidebar. If you want to share photos or videos with them, you can simply drag and drop from the media bar to the friend, for example. It's sort of hard to explain, but these various tabs do a nice job of summarizing the features. Another thing it has is yet another blog post editor, which I am using right now to write this post. It seems decent (but then, anything seems decent compared to Blogger's built-in editor).
I won't use all of its capabilities. For one, I like Google Reader and like having my reader being accessible from anywhere in a browser-independent manner (in fact, I think Google Reader would be a fine thing for them to integrate with). Similarly I won't use their bookmarks because I use Google Bookmarks. And that's where my main beef so far with Flock comes in. It supports 18 services, but some of the ones I rely on the most aren't supported. Like Google Bookmarks (they support del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia instead). Or LinkedIn, where I have a far greater social networking presence than on Facebook or anywhere else (146 LinkedIn network connections vs. nine on Facebook as of this morning). Hopefully such additional services will be forthcoming. Looking through their forums I see LinkedIn is a very common request to be added. My interest in Flock would go up a lot with that single feature.
Anyway, if you're into all that cool social networking stuff those kids do nowadays, you may want to check out Flock. I don't know if I'll stick with it, but it's worth the experiment.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Jeff tagged me to blog on Abmo's meme of "What would a city look like if it were completely won for Christ?" Jeff's got a good insight on it, I think - go read his post.
But as for me...I don't even know if I'm completely won for Christ yet - c.f., the title of this blog. I want to be. I pray to be (although Tina posted something about that today that resonated so strongly it amazed me). But who am I to try to imagine such a thing? I dunno, but a tag is a tag... :o)
So tonight, at the end of a very trying week where I am dissatisfied with my job and generally on the pity pot, I don't know if I am qualified to answer that question. But I do know one thing - if it happened it would not be because of anything I, or you, or anyone did. It would entirely, completely be the work of the Spirit. Yes, it would be through people, that is certain. But we don't win anything for God. He lets us do His work. And I am entirely convinced that personal effort or righteousness has little to do with that. If it did, the Pharisees woulda been where it's at, no?
That doesn't imply we don't try, and I am not saying we can't feel God moving us. I just mean that any victory, any, is God's, not ours. I actually find the very phrase "winning a city for God" repulsive for that reason. If God moves in a city through His believers there, praise God! But not the believers. They didn't make it happen. They just opened themselves to being God's tools. Do we praise a hammer for the house it builds? Do we praise a computer for the program it runs? Do we praise a pitcher for the water it holds?
All that said, I like Jeff's idea that a city taken by God (as opposed to "won for God") would be an empty city, because He'd send His little pollen grains out to inseminate other places.
As to what I think - while such a city existed it would be full of simple friendship. Not forced fellowship. Not rigid, scheduled worship. I think there'd be parties (and I mean "par-TAYS"). I see people in the streets, shouting to each other to "Come try this great barbecue! Getcherself a cold drink out of the cooler over there!" (with two coolers - one for those of us who think it's cool Jesus's first miracle was water into wine†, and one for those of us who think the "wine" in the Bible didn't really mean yeast excrement - God isn't going to get hung up over that :o). It'd be full of people in trust with each other.
And I don't think it'd be perfect. The perfect city is the New Jerusalem that is to come. There would be poor, because the poor will always be with us. There would still be disease and death. In some sense, perhaps because it's Friday night and I am mellowing out sipping a Manhattan with some Parliament on the stereo while dinner cooks above, I think of it being more like toward the end of Groundhog Day. Not when Bill Murray finally wakes up next to Andie MacDowell but right before that. When he's figured out he can't get the girl he really wants by being a sham (because we must be true). And he can't kill himself (because we can't act outside of God's will). And he can't save the dying man (because we can't be God). So he decides to just try to be good for good's sake - not to prove anything, but because there's nothing left to try. At the end of his limits he just decides to be - and then finds it all.
Is that not the Kingdom?
But in the end I think your city is already not "won for God", but is God's. All of Earth is God's. Look around you. Sure, you see evil upon the land. So did Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But the sun rose today, didn't it? Praise God! Did you eat today? Praise God! Were you clothed? Praise God! You are alive because you're reading this. Praise God! He is at work in the land. Don't try to win something that is already His. Just try to be His. If each of us did that, He'd win the city for us.
† And when it comes to that wine-from-water thing, it is apt to point out as we approach Mother's Day that it was Jesus's mother who pushed Him to do it. He didn't want to. His protest of "My time has not yet come" sounds like any offspring's, "Aw, Mom! Do I have to?" But in the end He knew better than to cross Mom Mary and He did what she asked. That, to me, spells out more about Jesus being human and my personal savior than many other points. He was tempted. He wept. He got angry. All those lead me to love Him and know He was sent for me. But the ultimate was that at the end of the day He did what His mommy told Him to because she was His mother - there need be no other reason. Hail Mary, full of a motherness we recognize across twenty centuries!
Happy Mother's Day (two days in advance)!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Well, one thing that can get me to go to church once in a while happened last night. Erin and Jon both asked to go. For one, the parochial school they attend tracks their church attendance (and Sunday school, too, which they've never gone to because we were going to the 5:00 p.m. service). For another, they both acted like they actually wanted to go which is really odd because when we went before it was always a "Aw, do we have to?" slumped shoulders thing and then an hour of them being bored sitting in the pews. Go figure. Gloria, on the other hand, expressed no interest in renewing church attendance whatsoever, and of course Morgann is still recovering from the church experience of her upbringing and has always politely declined (I am not even sure if she considers herself a Christian any more).
I don't believe in foisting my current journey off on the kids (let alone Les, who isn't in the same place I am at on all this). So I will make an effort to get them to services enough to fulfill their desire to be part of church. I think some of it is youthful interest plus they get to see some of their friends from school there. We won't go so often that they'll grow back into being bored and we'll see how it goes. I don't think my mind on the topic is going to be changed much but I will do this for my children.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
<whine> (or <whinge> if you're reading this from outside the U.S.)
Work has been really frustrating lately. I am interrupted in person, by phone and email, all requiring some sort of answer, decision or action, often urgent, 30-50 times a day. Really. I started keeping a log of it all a bit over two weeks ago. While I am officially supposed to be a developer writing programs, that takes large blocks of uninterrupted time. I'm lucky if I get five minute stretches without someone demanding attention so I don't even pretend to be programming right now. It would be impossible.
I don't know what is worse - the stress building up to the product rollout last weekend or the inevitable hundred little problems that such upgrades always flush out in the following days and weeks. We've been pretty lucky that while there are
issues† problems there hasn't been anything that's "production down". Just lots to investigate, document, test (repeat, repeat, repeat) until it's all resolved. If it were my code that would be one thing but it's a vendor's code and all I am is a glorified support desk now. This isn't what I was hired to be and I am not really happy about that. However, short of changing jobs, which I don't want to do, I don't know what can be done to change it. It sucks.
Poor, poor pitiful me.
† You can tell I've been in software too long. I almost can't say nor type "problem". Everything's an "issue". Just one of those euphemisms every industry builds up around itself to obfuscate and not say the "wrong" thing.