Interesting Post: How To Waste Your Seminary Education

I came across that link yesterday in my Google Reader feeds.

iPods and Rental Cars

Because I travel a lot in my current job, I’ve come across a minor complication: I hate the radio. Ever since I got my first Pocket PC and discovered that I could copy MP3 audio files onto it to listen to, I’ve done all I can to avoid listening to the radio. I got a cassette adapter and somehow every car I’ve had has had a cassette player. But now that I’m renting cars, I’m finding that nobody makes a car with a cassette player anymore. All rental cars have CD player. That does me no good. As I said, I hate the radio.

Why do I hate the radio? Sure, there are some decent songs and talk programs, but for the most part, listening to the radio for me is painful. I may hear a good song, maybe I’ll hear a helpful talk program, but in between are the horrible songs, the mindless DJ chatter, and the pointless at best and annoying at worst commercials. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple (and my Dad’s generosity,) I’m on my second iPod, the 32 GB iPod Touch. I love it. I have hundreds of podcasts that I can listen to, anything from This Week in Tech to Theology Unplugged, from Chuck Missler to John C. Dvorak, I can listen to what I want just about whenever I want considering the mood I’m in. That is unless I’m in a rental car. In a rental car, I’m stuck with the radio. The radio is painful considering the podcasts I could be listening to.

When my family went with me on a week long trip to the Virginia Beach area, I stopped and bought an FM modulator, as I expect to have lots of rental cars in this job. I found that it didn’t work very well. Even driving around the block I couldn’t keep a decent signal on any given station. Then, leaving the area, leaves you constantly tuning the radio and the modulator. That’s no good. I returned the modulator to Circuit City today.

On my last trip, since I rented a car and drove 5 hours rather than deal with another butter knife issue with Homeland Security (I’ll write on that later), I solved the problem by bringing my own speakers. But that really only works if I’m driving from New Jersey to my business location. If I’m flying, the speakers might take up too much room in my luggage.

Why can’t rental cars just include an iPod dock? I don’t know about the rest of you, but it would make my life so much easier. Does anybody really listen to CDs in a rental car? I guess I have one case of circumstantial evidence. One car I rented for a business trip in 2005 had a Steven Curtis Chapman CD left in it.

Technorati Tags: CDs,Rental cars,business travel,radio

eBook Headaches

Brad Isaac wrote a blog post the other day about ebooks. His intent was to ask if the Amazon Kindle is worth it. He reads ebooks on his Pocket PC, something I’ve always wanted to do but I have discussed my other blog. I haven’t reached the point of trusting ebooks enough to spend money on them. I’m starting to open up to Mobipocket, which at least offers a free reader and a free converter, but other than converting free books I’ve already downloaded to this format, I’m not yet ready to purchase content. I just discovered something interesting on the description of Mobipocket Reader:

Personal eDoc Publishing : Beyond eBooks
Tired of scrolling through this 250 page technical manual in PDF? We’ve got the answer. Drag and drop it into the Reader Desktop and read it on any mobile device. It also works for Microsoft Office files, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and RTF TXT files as well. You can compile your favorite lyrics into an eBook or your best cooking recipes.

I will have to try that when I get a chance. Up to this point, my attempt to read ebooks and other content on my Pocket PC has been to convert to Repligo format. Repligo is designed to mobilize office documents, but I’ve found it efficient for publishing public domain books into a mobile, mark-upable format. However, Repligo is abandoneware, as the company has abandoned all but the Blackberry platform. I can’t even get the print client to run on Windows Vista, so I have to keep an XP machine or XP virtual machine around in order to maintain it as a platform. I invested in Repligo while I was working on my degree at the University of Phoenix so I could take my textbooks with me on the go while my wife dragged me around (or while I took my beautiful bride about the town on errands.)
I think I will experiment with dragging and dropping pdf documents into MobiPocket Reader to see how well and how quickly I can convert my content for syncing on my Pocket PC.

Technorati Tags: ebooks,Windows Mobile,Pocket PC,pdf,adobe,Repligo

What Is the Point of Going to Church?

I co-lead a small group on Sunday nights for my church. Our church has bought into the small group "craze", and heartily endorses small groups. Every year, Dan, one of our ministers, likes to have a small group leader training class. It’s usually on Wednesday nights in the summer quarter but this year to try something different it was moved to Sunday morning in the Spring quarter. It worked out better, I think. A lot of people aren’t around on Wednesdays in the summer because of vacations and travel. Sunday morning also presents a longer time period for classes.

As I go to a church of Christ, we call our small groups "LIFE Groups", which stands for Love, Involvement, Friendship, and Evangelism. Some churches call them "cell groups." I wouldn’t want to explain that to a cop if I got pulled over on the way during a heightened state of Homeland Security. The last two years, Dan has used a video series put together by a pastor named Buddy Bell at the Landmark Church of Christ. The video series is good, but I thought Dan did a decent job when he put together his own class. One comment that really cracked us all up has to do with what happens when a group gets large. Buddy said "we multiply, not divide at this church." That small comment is funny, but at the same time is sobering coming from a pastor at a church that came out of the so called "unity" movement in the 19th century. I’ve heard of some churches splitting for some really silly reasons, like whether the table used for the Lord’s supper should have a table cloth or not. Seriously, Dan mentioned in a sermon that a church of Christ split over that issue. I’ve read the entire Bible four or five times, and I really can’t see a case for one side or the other.

That’s the case I’m laying out, if for nothing else than to put the rest of this post into perspective. Yesterday’s service was one that really didn’t appeal to me. I can’t say much of it did any good for me at all, but I also have to be very, very careful not to project my preferences onto whether something is right or not. I obviously do not mean that in a postmodern, or relative sense. The first song we sang was a very basic song, probably one fit for a young Sunday school class. I was raised in a Christian Science church, and so I’m not familiar with some of the songs that children sing in Evangelical churches. My wife is, but I’m not. This one goes, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus at the noon time…" I don’t see anything wrong with the song, I just don’t like it. The next song was "Holy, Holy, Holy." Now that, I can get into. I like that song.

We changed up the order of service a bit. We sang three songs, then took up the collection. I had been asked to help with the table, so I was one passing the collection baskets. Then we dismissed the children to Children’s Church. Then we had the sermon, and followed up at the end with communion. The sermon was like a really, really basic one. Being the day before Memorial Day, Dan did a sermon on remembering Jesus. The problem I tend to have is that I do like to study, so when we get to a basic sermon like that, I tend to think "Yeah, yeah, I know. Jesus died on a cross for our sins. I get it. I confessed it six years ago when you baptized me in my pool, Dan. I get it. I know it. This is like making me take a computer class and explaining a floppy drive to me, a person with an IT degree. I know. It’s so basic. With all the areas of theology, Christ centered philosophy, epistemology, history, etc, why can’t we just leave the milk alone and get to the meat? I’ve seen The Passion, I’ve seen some of the other movies played at Easter, I know all this."

I suddenly don’t know that I have a point to this post. Just like my Mother’s Day post, putting my thoughts here is helping me to understand them. I’m not saying that I am in any way thinking anything against my own church or it’s leadership, men I deeply love and respect. Dan came to my house after 11 PM on a Friday night to baptize me in my pool in the middle of a thunderstorm. How can you NOT love and respect that kind of minister?

As we pulled away from church yesterday, I told my wife what I believe should be the point to this post: I should be very careful not to subject my own preferences onto the rest of the church. I am, well, me. I often say that I’m not representative of any other demographic but me. I, get this, like Windows Vista. I really like it. I think I’m the only one. I’ve taught Bible classes from a Pocket PC. The last time I taught a Bible class, I just started taking my laptop to church to teach from my E-sword notes. That’s me; it’s who I am. There are some people who prefer a style of worship with lots of singing and prayer. I’d be happy if we sang two songs, had a quick prayer, then communion (though that’s optional), and a 40 minute sermon that ran so deep I had to take notes. That’s the service I’d like, but I can’t subject that onto the rest of the congregation.

I’ve long since come to the conclusion that if I ever found the perfect church, I’d also find that I don’t belong there. We’ve been going to Pitman since 2002. It’s the church I came to believe in, and was baptized in (well, in my pool, as the baptistery was broken that summer.) This church is a wonderful supportive and loving family. We’ve been helped by others, and have done what we can in return. People pray for us, and we pray for them. I’ve taught some classes, and led a small group, and been taught by other men at the church.

As I’ve pondered all of this, I thought back to Hebrews 10, which reads in part:

[23]  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. [24]  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)

I find that to be very helpful in remembering why I get out of bed on Sunday mornings. I’ve had some Sunday morning worship services that really did a lot for me, and I’ve had others, like yesterday, that didn’t. I think that’s the point; it’s not about me. Sure, I’m there, which is part of the point. I’m capable of studying for myself, often on a deeper level that our sermons and classes will go. But Sunday is where I can connect with other members of the congregation. I can share need with them. I can share joys and tribulations with them. We can serve according to our unique gifts (I Cor 12-14.) We can, as Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews but I think it was Paul) says, we should provoke each other to love and good works. I’ve found over the years that forsaking the assembling of "ourselves together" causes me much more harm that sitting through a few songs I don’t like or a sermon that doesn’t challenge me. If I miss church for a week or two, I can really see a difference in my life and outlook. Going to church is not about having my needs met, it’s about serving.

Technorati Tags: Church

Memorial Day Thoughts

I hate to think that this post will soon be eclipsed by others that I hope to write, but I wanted to commit my thoughts to some form of permanence. I’ve said before that lately I have little use for holidays and ceremonies, which is why I ended up being dragged practically kicking and screaming out the door this morning. We spent the weekend with my in-laws. They only live 14 miles from us, but the gas starts to add up at $3.75 a gallon going back and forth. We’re hoping to sell our house and take over theirs, and I hoped this weekend for us to be able to get some work done towards moving into their house. I also needed to get the grass cut, but obviously we’re getting to the point where I really can’t spare the gas to make an extra trip to their house any longer. My mother in law hasn’t been to church in a while, and appreciated the chance to go with us since we were here and able to take her.

Yesterday, my wife told me that her grandmother asked us to go to Memorial Day services at the Legion hall. I didn’t jump into the air with joy and anticipation. I tried to get out of it, but realized that out of respect for her grandmother, a woman I do respect, I should go. We dutifully got out of bed and got the kids dressed and left for the Legion Hall. It’s the same legion hall that we had our wedding reception in only seven and a half years ago. My wife told me it would be fast. I’m an introvert, and I figure I’m a veteran so I can do my own memorial service and not have to leave the house. I wanted to read a book or something.

We got to the Legion Hall at 8, and nobody was there, so we went to Wawa for coffee. We got back to the Legion Hall for the brief ceremony. Only the commander, my wife me and the kids, and my wife’s aunt and grandmother were there. I helped Joshua put the wreath in the ground. We moved from there to another ceremony at a park with a memorial set up. More people were there. Then we were asked to go to the ceremony at the township municipal complex. We went. That one is usually bigger, but the township has a baseball game so the entire schedule was moved up and a lot of the activities at the town hall were apparently moved to the baseball game. I honestly don’t care about the game, and I would have refused to go if asked. I would have drawn the line on that. It was already getting hot and the boys, while good, were reaching their limits.

While the other two ceremonies were quick. the one at town hall went on for a while. It included several speeches, including the mayor, a teacher, a "gold star mom" (who’s son died in Iraq), a state Senator from a neighboring district, the two state representatives from this district, a minister, and two school essay contest winners. It took a whole hour. They asked for veterans to step forward, so I did along with others. Joshua stepped out with me. I sort of feel uncomfortable claiming to be a veteran at 34, but I did serve and I have an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, which qualifies me for membership in the VFW if I so desire. As I said, I stepped up with the other veterans, spanning several generations.

It was definitely good to get out. I need to somehow reign in my introversion. I recognize that it is a part of who I am; what makes me unique in this world, but it shouldn’t be my master. We’ll hopefully be joining this community soon, and getting to meet others was nice. This is the kind of township/community that is made of of many long-term families. My wife’s grandmother pointed out that she knew the state representative when he was five years old.

The ceremony was very sobering. I’ve thought about rejoining the reserves as an officer since I have my Bachelor’s degree now. It did make me think of how deep that commitment could go.

As you go about your Memorial Day traditions, if you don’t already, please stop and think of those who served. I obviously came back, but please think of those who didn’t and say a prayer for their families and communities. Happy Memorial Day.

Technorati Tags: Memorial Day,ceremonies

Clutter- Why Do We Keep This Junk?

I spent Monday night in a hotel in Portsmouth, VA. I turned on the Discovery Channel at 10 and watched Verminators. I’ve really started to enjoy that show for some reason; perhaps for the educational aspect. I hated reality TV when it focused on Survivor, but I really enjoy reality TV in the context of The Apprentice, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Verminators, etc.
The point I hoped to make in this entry is that the owner, Mike, went to visit a client. The client was the friend of a woman who was not in the apartment, but had accumulated a ton of clutter. This woman had so much junk in her apartment that an entire bathroom, including the tub, was full. The problem is all that clutter caused her a vermin problem, like cockroaches and some kind of carpet bug. The only room in the entire house that could be treated was the kitchen.
The friend made a comment about the clutter "It’s all worth a million dollars to her." Where do we (I count myself in here) get the idea that all this junk that we bring into our houses is or will be worth millions of dollars someday? Most of the stuff we bring in is little more than trash.
There are two kinds of energy, as any grade school science student can tell you: kinetic and potential. I’m sure this can be applied to finances: there is kinetic value and potential value. The thing is, potential value is only useful when converted to kinetic value. If you happen to have a 1987 McDonald’s happy meal toy that you believe might be worth a million dollars, it’s absolutely worthless just sitting in your house collecting dust. Chance are, the way that you’re storing it is costing you to lose any value that the darn thing may have had, if any.
Consider this as well: an item’s value is determined only by what somebody is willing to pay for it. I’m having a huge problem with that right now. I’m trying to sell my house, but at the moment, nobody seems to think my house is worth what we have to price it at just to break even on the balance of our mortgage plus closing costs.
Just throw the darn junk away. Get rid of it. It’s costing you energy and storage space. Just get rid of it. If you believe that you may have something worth money, contact a collector. Just because you find it worth a million dollars doesn’t mean I’d give you a quarter for it. Obviously, this rant/post applies to me as well. My ATI video card driver disks for some old card that I used on a Windows 98 system will never be worth money, and are only taking up space. I’m not likely to ever need to use them again.

Work Laptop

I was able to find a temporary laptop that I could work on. I work for one company as a contractor to another organization. I’m essentially an employee of that organization but my paycheck comes from the other company. My parent company has team meetings once a month. Let’s just say I’m not the only contractor around, so they bring us together to keep in touch. Because of Friday’s meeting, I found out about a meeting that I should have been at, but our group hadn’t been invited. We will be in the future.
While I was at my parent company’s offices, I stopped by the IT guy’s cubicle to ask if I could borrow a temporary laptop. I needed something that would work with my Toshiba DynaDock, and the other temp solutions we have won’t. I’ve been spoiled by a 19" flatscreen monitor. Besides. have you ever tried to translate dimensions on an Excel spreadsheet into a Visio drawing on a 1024×768 laptop screen? It turns out that he did have a loaner; a Toshiba with a Pentium-M. It’s not my dual core AMD64 on my returned laptop, but so far it’s getting the job done.

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Minor iPod Touch Issue

I genuinely love my iPod Touch (32 Gig model). In the words of Fake Steve Jobs, it "restores a childlike sense of wonder to my life." One minor problem I’ve found is that every once in a while, the battery starts eating itself and requires a reboot. I normally like to listen to podcasts during the day while I’m at work, but when the battery starts dropping like a rock, I have to stop. I can easily get a full day out of it just listening to audio then checking email and surfing when I get home. At first I thought the battery eating was Ziphone, but I didn’t use the installer at all yesterday. I also disabled the wireless, which I should do when I get to work anyway.
At least this time my podcasts didn’t go back and mark themselves as unread like the last few times. When I got home I had to figure out what I listened to. I should just bring the charging cable to work with me, but I rarely need it.

A.W. Tozer- Troubling Book Review

I recently came across this book review about a biography of A. W. Tozer. I didn’t know very much about Tozer. I know he  was a preacher and evangelist and wrote many books. I’ve read a lot of quotes from him in other writings. Apparently he was some kind of spiritual giant. I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for his books, but I’ve also heard comments that his books can make you feel like he’s beating you up for failing to live up to a very high standard.
The book review pointed out something interesting. He did not have much at all if any relationship with his wife and many of his children. He apparently had enough of a relationship to have several children, but his devotional and travel schedule left little room for his family. That troubles me. I obviously would love to be some kind of "super saint", walking hand in hand with God. I would love to spend the time reading and learning. I do the best I can, but what kind of testimony would I have if I neglected my job and my family?
I’ve heard that Martin Luther took to family life with a passion after a life as a monk. He truly enjoyed domestic life, and I’ve heard a quote from him that "a housewife washing diapers is more pleasing to God than a monk going through his prayers." On one level, devotion and worship to God are highly important, but on another, should they eclipse everything? No doubt, I should probably choose reading the Bible or a worthy book over watching Grey’s Anatomy, but should I choose spending 4 hours in my closet praying over spending time with my boys, building a relationship and trying to demonstrate to them how to relate to the world as a Christian? I honestly never understood how people can pray that long. Should I spend my evenings reading theological works rather than try to take some of the load of raising the children off of my wife?
No doubt, these questions may seem easy on the surface, while they may go deep in exploration. We can find extremes in both directions. For a Christian, isn’t living out faith in the day to day actions of our lives at least as important as outward demonstrations of piety?

Plaxo To Be Acquired By Comcast

I’m not sure what to make of this. Plaxo will be acquired by Comcast. I recently rejoined Plaxo. I signed up several years ago under version 2, but that was when Plaxo wanted to email all of the contacts in your address book to ask each to verify his or her information. Some of my friends didn’t like that, and when I stopped using or reformatted the computer I had installed Plaxo on, I never bothered to reinstall until recently.

As for Comcast, I’ve had few problems with them until a couple of weeks ago when my cable modem stopped working and I spent 40 minutes arguing with tech support over whether or not I lost my IP address and had to call Microsoft to get another one. That sort of set me off, but ever since I left Comcast for Verizon DSL and had a terrible 6 months before coming back to Comcast, I have not complained.

Plaxo – Comcast