Drive Through Church

This is hilarious!

Happy Birthday, Joshua!

On July 27, 2004, I made the following note into Pocket Outlook on my Pocket PC:

Joshua Thomas- born 1552 in the middle of a thunderstorm. 8 lbs 1.2 oz, 20 inches long.

I was working the swing shift at the time. I took my wife to a routine OB/GYN appointment around 9 AM that morning. I planned to take her home, eat lunch, then go to work. Joshua’s due date was Aug 11. My wife hadn’t packed anything. In fact, neither of us had clothes for another day because laundry was going to be done after the appointment. Her blood pressure was slightly high, so we were told to go to the hospital. The hospital concurred and suggested inducing. Then they brought in an ultra-sound and said that Joshua’s shoulders were too big and needed to be delivered by C-section. I’ve since learned that New Jersey has the highest rate of C-sections in the nation and doctors won’t chance anything here. Somewhere around 2:30, the room filled up with doctors and nurses and it seemed like equipment was flying all over the place. My mother-in-law had arrived for support. While Christina was being prepped for surgery, the power went out. She freaked. I figured the hospital had a backup generator, but the power was out for a lot longer than a generator *should* need to kick in. Especially in hospitals, those things should have millisecond tolerances.

Christina was taken back to surgery while my mother in law and I were left in the labor and delivery room. I was fetched to come back to surgery. I didn’t see Joshua taken out. The next year, I watched as Caleb was taken out, but I didn’t get to see as much with Joshua. He came out with a full set of lungs, really ticked off at being removed from his safe warm place. After cleaning him up, I followed him to the nursery, then bounced back and forth between the nursery and my mother-in-law until Christina was wheeled out of surgery into a room. When the doctors felt she was ready, I went down the hall to get Joshua from the nursery. After Christina’s dad and sister arrived, her sister and I drove back to my house to do laundry and pack several days of clothes for Christina. As I said, Joshua was born during a thunderstorm. Several roads were still closed due to flooding and damage while I drove home. We missed it all.

Ultrasound- Dec 24, 2003

Ultrasound 01-13-04

Walking down the hall, Jul 27, 2004

Daddy walking Joshua down hall

July 27, 2004

Joshua laying down

Pictures from July 2008

Joshua 72108 Joshua close up afterr Blueberry picking

10 Reasons Gen Xers are Unhappy at Work

This was an interesting blog post, which came from a discussion on Harvard Business Review. At least, it could spark an interesting conversation. I’m considered to be a member of Generation X. I was born in 1974. My parents were Baby Boomers, from the early part of the generation. I’m reaching that point in my career where I don’t entirely have a lot of power, but I’ve built up more than 15 years of experience. I work mostly for Baby Boomers, and the Gen Y members of the workforce already have a few years of experience. I currently work with at least one person who was still in diapers when I started high school yet he is old enough to drink today. It’s an interesting position to be in.

Harvard Business Review makes some assertions that I don’t exactly agree with, but I’m only going to discuss this from my perspective rather than assume that all Gen X’ers see things my way. I do find myself frustrated as a member of Generation X working in a corporate type environment, but not simply because it’s a corporate environment. The original article states:

Many of you X’ers are not thrilled with corporate life. You tend not to trust institutions in general and deeply resent the Boomers’ confident assumptions that you will be motivated by the same things that Boomers have long cared about. Many of you have told me that you are planning to leave corporate life “soon” – to start entrepreneurial ventures or work for smaller companies – options you feel will suite you better than the corporate roles looming ahead.

Honestly, I don’t see it like that. I grew up in the Air Force, and served in the Navy, and I’ve been working around the Navy ever since. I’m honestly very comfortable with it. I don’t mind it one bit, and I’m mostly happy to continue my career in this direction. I’ll address two points that stood out to me, then put in my two cents:

2. When you were teens, X’ers witnessed adults in your lives being laid off from large corporations

I was in my class “C” technical school in San Diego in 1993 when IBM went through it’s historic layoff. That really shocked everybody. But to be honest, I’ve come to the conclusion that an adult is an idiot to get into one job and expect it to last forever. I know that the WWII and Boomer generations were able for the most part to start working for one company and expect to retire from that company 40 or so years later. I’ve never been able to do that. I spent 6 years in the Navy, 1 year as an alarm installer, 5 years with one company, 3 with another, and I started with my current company this past March. I’m 34. In today’s work force, I realize that in most cases, the only way to move up is to move out. When I’m working for one company, I do the best job I can, but I realize that stagnation is my enemy. I always have to keep the next step in my career planned ahead. Today’s workforce is highly volatile, and I never know if I’ll get the axe. I haven’t had to worry about it, and I don’t expect to, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t plan for it just in case. I do the best I can, but I have to keep learning new skills to keep moving ahead. I’m honestly tired of having to keep moving from company to company, but I’ve come to expect it for the time being.

My dad’s career has been good to him. He served for 21 years in the Air Force, a few months in a pawn shop, then after getting his associates degree, he’s been working for the government. He hasn’t had to worry very much about job security. One thing I grew up watching my dad dealing with that I’m not about to is taking too much “crap” from his bosses. I guess my dad grew up and started working in an environment where you weren’t allowed to question authority. My dad was often under the influence of decisions that he disagreed with, but he would simply suck it up then take it out on us later when he gets home. I do my best to be diplomatic, but if I disagree with something or can think of a better way to do it, I will pipe up. I refuse to be complacent in that regard.

Back to job security, another point to keep in mind is that many markets are changing thanks to “globalization.” I don’t like it personally, especially since many policies coming from Congress and the executive branch seem designed to destroy our economy and move jobs overseas. Look into it. Like it or not though, it’s happening. People in manufacturing jobs are finding out left and right that those jobs just can’t compete against Communist Slave Labor in China.

8. Many X’ers’ are guarding a closely held secret: you’re not all as comfortable with the technology that is changing the way things are done as everyone seems to think you are. While it’s perfectly acceptable for Boomers to feign ignorance and ask for help, it’s embarrassing for X’ers to do so.

I don’t buy this one, but maybe I’m on the wrong end of Gen X. I’m not putting myself forth as a representative of the generation by anything more than my own experience, but I still don’t think this point widely applies to all of Gen X. I have an IT degree, for crying out loud. I’m perfectly comfortable with the technology that I work with. This is where I find myself running into problems in the workforce: it’s not me that’s uncomfortable with the technology, but I get highly frustrated dealing with people making policies about the technology who aren’t comfortable with it. Where I work, there are still a lot of Windows 2000 workstations. Windows XP workstations are just now starting to be widely deployed. Windows XP has been out since 2001, and although it will be supported until 2014, Windows Vista has been out for more than a year and a half and contrary to Apple’s “switcher” advertisements, is mature and stable. But the idiots making the policies need 20 years to be comfortable with the technology. By the time they deploy Vista, it will have been out of service for at least a year. One guy I work with told his company that he wanted a company cell phone because he was starting to use a lot of his personal minutes for the job while working on other sites. He was told to find a land line. Sumbitch, that’s cheap and narrow minded thinking for a technology company.

So to summarize, I don’t agree with most of the ten points, and I specifically don’t agree with these two. I don’t have a problem with Boomers (as long as they’re not setting technology policies) and I like the Gen Y people because I can talk tech with them.

Planes and Cars- Travel Woes

I went on travel this week. Perhaps you picked that up from my Twitter feed which at times became quite cynical as my frustrations grew and my time since awaking went longer. I went up to Maine for a meeting. The meeting went well enough, and I learned a lot, and I believe it was very fruitful. I even me some people that I dealt with in my last job. It was good to see them again.

The travel was another story, although in the end we met our objective, arriving home, 24 hours late. We started on a flight out of Philly. About the time we should be pulling away from the gate, the pilot came on the intercom. Apparently, the plane had been fueled twice, and had too much fuel and was overweight for takeoff, so fuel had to be taken out. That would take about a half hour. It finished within the estimate, and we pulled away from the gate and began taxiing. As we taxied, the plane pulled over and the pilot said that all of the fuel was taken out of one wing so one wing was full and the other empty so the plane had to transfer fuel, but had internal pumps. My piloting experience is limited to Cessnas and Pipers (about 12-16 hours total flight time), but I’m sure that like the small planes, the big ones have fuel gauges in the cockpit and the pilot is supposed to check these things before pulling away from the gate. Perhaps everybody involved was on his first day of work. I don’t know. We eventually took off, and arrive in Portland, ME after our scheduled time. Most people book tickets for specific flights, especially during the workday, because they need to be somewhere by a certain time. Time is money, and incompetent pilots and fuel truck drivers could end up costing somebody money.
Our stay went well enough. The meeting was productive and we had a good time after work in downtown Portland.

Wednesday, we got to the airport around 4 PM for a 6:20 PM flight. We pulled up at the terminal and I got out to check the flight status. The monitor said "On Time," so we returned the rental car and checked in and got our boarding passes. We then entered the police state through the TSA checkpoint. We then holed up at the Shipyard brewpub with a beer. The other two guys broke out their laptops. I plugged my Pocket PC’s cradle into one guy’s laptop to top my battery off. The battery in my 6945 does kind of suck for serious business travel. We took turns checking on the flight. Everything from New York got canceled due to storms. We heard that our plane was on the ground in DC, but could not take off. Eventually, our flight was canceled. By this point, 8 people from our organization were at the airport waiting for that flight. It’s "Parents’ Week" at summer camps in Maine, so there is not a single hotel room or rental car available in the Portland area. The only hotel room we could find was over 50 miles away, but there was no way to get to that hotel or back to the airport. One guy broke out his cell phone and we all took turns rebooking on a 7:15 AM flight out of Boston while we worked on finding a way to Boston. Enterprise Rent a Car told one of my coworkers that they had two cars available so he reserved them, but when we called the local office for a pick up, they told us they had no cars as the email confirming the reservation dinged on his Motorola Q. By this point, we were hanging around the rental car counters looking at options. I took a few moments to chew out one of the workers. I said "This kind of thing happens every single year. You know it’s coming, so why don’t you have any plans to deal with it?" He suggested we take a 3 AM bus to Boston. Sure, great idea. At one point, I asked if we could find a copy of the classifieds. Perhaps somebody was selling a $500 beater that we could abandon in Boston.

We managed to find a limo service with a van that could drive us to Boston, so we booked rooms at the Renaissance hotel in Boston. We had no desire to stay at the Portland airport if we could help it. The van ride cost us $66 each, and it took 2 hours to get to Boston. We rolled into Boston at 11:30 PM, and decided that a 7:15 AM flight was a little too ambitious. We called US Airways to reschedule. The two guys I work with had unrestricted tickets, but because I’m a contractor to the organization and have to book my own travel, I didn’t have that luxury. US Airways wanted me to either pay $700 to reschedule or I could buy a new ticket for $500. I’m not going to cry "poor" because I do have a corporate card and this is a reimbursable expense, but just because it’s reimbursable does not mean this policy isn’t bullcrap. I asked to speak to a supervisor.
By the time I got to speak to the supervisor, it was after midnight. Between the meeting and the travel time, I was already over 16 hours on my timecard and in no mood. I tried to plead my case to the supervisor, who in turn tried to explain to me that the other guys had unrestricted tickets and I had a restricted ticket. I cut her off and said "I understand what the small print says, but I’m not some silly teenager who overslept and is trying to plead for another flight. Your airline STRANDED me in Portland Maine where no hotel rooms or rental cars are available. I rebooked for 7:15 AM out of Boston and had to pay a lot of money to secure my own transportation to Boston. By now it’s after midnight, and I’m not really in the mood to get up in three and a half hours to go back to the airport. Your airline put me in this, and you have the authority to make the change.This policy is bogus and is nothing more than a shell game…" At this point, the phone I was on died. This irony is that earlier in the day, I was complaining about the battery life on my phone and the guy who owned the Blackjack that died on me was bragging about how long his lasts. Ah, irony. I called back on my phone to find that like my coworkers, my flight had been adjusted to 11:30 and no charge was required. Sometimes yelling at a manager, especially when the policy is BS, does get things done. With that settled, one of our traveling companions bought us a round of beers at the hotel bar. I went up to bed in my room, which honestly was really nice.

Of course, the nice hotel was not without problems. I wanted to check email and my RSS feeds on my iPod Touch. I easily picked up a wireless network, but could not log on. I called the number and found out that you have to pay for wi-fi. Why do the most expensive hotels always nickel and dime you for little things? There were two tiny bottles of water in my room with a friendly note on them letting me know that upon drinking them, a $4 charge will be conveniently added to my bill. I kept checking the toilet paper for a similar notice.

I settled down into bed and could not sleep. I used my Pocket PC to read email on the 3" screen until I wound down enough to drift off somewhere after 2 AM.
My wife called and woke me up at 7:45. I had an alarm set for 8. I called her when I got to the hotel the night before, so I filled her in on my "conversation" with US Airways. My wife told me that the 7:15 flight was canceled, as was the 9:30. Even if I did get up at 4 AM I still would have been stuck at Logan. She suggested we get a car and drive. When I met with my companions to leave the hotel, I passed that along. We caught a cab to the airport and went through a LONG line at the TSA Checkpoint Charlie (East Berlin reference for those who forgot the cold war.) Our flight was listed on time. We got some breakfast. At 11 AM, I went to check on the status of our flight and realized that there was no plane at the gate. This was NOT a good sign, as our boarding passes CLEARLY stated that the flight would be boarding at 11. Not long after, we heard that the plane would be landing soon. The plan did land somewhere after 11:30 and we were told boarding would begin shortly. Shortly after that, an announcement was made that maintenance was called out to the plane because of a problem with the bleed air valve. If I remember correctly, the bleed air valve is what killed Payne Stewart
in 2000, so the plane does kind of need that. We were told that there would be an hour delay. Then we were told the delay would be longer. At this point, we’d had it with US Airways, weather, and sitting around airports impotent to do anything. One of the guys called Hertz and procured a one-way rental to Philly. We left. The other guy checked a bag. Bad idea. I don’t check. Even when my mom died, I only took what I could carry on the plane. The airport told him he couldn’t get his bag back. He’d have to file a claim in Philly. The wouldn’t let him file a claim at Logan. Throughout the afternoon, he kept calling US Airways about his bag, and was told something different each time. Finally, he found that his bag was in Philly and he could pick it up at baggage claim.

We picked up our car and started driving through the weather that was grounding flights left and right. As we left, the guy with the checked bag found out through his Q that our 11:30 flight was canceled. He checked again later and found that the 2:30 flight was canceled. We could have been sitting around the airport all day, but at least we were driving. We had some control over our destiny.

Of course, this trip wasn’t as simple as driving home. We had to return the car at Philly, and two of us left our cars in long term. We picked up my car, I followed him to Hertz, then took him to get his car. I got home at about 9:10 last night. I was still at work at 6:30 this morning. I’m a real road warrior.

I got a funny text from my supervisor this morning. He was one of the guys with me on the trip. My company issued me a Verizon RAZR when I started, but because it’s practically useless, I don’t use it much. When I get home from work at night, I turn it off and throw it in my underwear drawer. I forgot to take it with me when I left on Monday. This morning, I took it out and turned it on to find that I had a new message. It was from my supervisor, dated this morning at 5:53 AM, saying that he was at a certain bar by our gate at the airport. I was a little groggy, and wondered "What the hell are you doing at the airport? Haven’t you had enough at this point?" I figured out quickly that he sent the text when he got to the airport on Monday so we would know where to find him. Somehow the message was timestamped for when I got it rather than when it was actually sent. Great move, Verizon or Motorola. The Verizon RAZR sucks. It’s good for making calls while I’m at work so I don’t have to use my personal minutes, but other than that it doesn’t DO anything. Verizon has it locked down so far it’s pretty much useless outside of making calls.
Anyway, I’m back at work and I have to get ready for my next trip. I’m renting a car and driving for that one. I’m tempted to say I’ll drive for any travel from now on, even if it’s to Hawaii. Heh, heh, heh.

I might write a post later on about air travel. If you think about it, airports and airlines really aren’t equipped, nor do they seem to care, when things go wrong during travel. We had quite a few discussions during our journey about the "Passenger’s Bill of Rights" that went before Congress before being shot down. Stupid Congress. Of course, they get a lot more money from the airlines than they do from the people that the airlines screw on a daily basis. Of course they’re going to protect the airlines. The airlines have no incentive to treat customers right, because if they screw up they’ll get another taxpayer bailout.

iPhone Complaint, from the “Windows Mobile Has Done This for Years Department”

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a complaint about the iPhone’s notes program. I have notes on my iPod Touch, but I don’t use it for much more than to show people the SIP keyboard and predictive typing. I can say I’m somewhat disappointed that Apple decided that notes don’t need to be synced between device and computer. Once again, Windows Mobile has done this all along. I do routinely use the notes function on my Pocket PC.

Technorati Tags: iPhone,Windows Mobile,Notes

Bait and Switch Evangelism

This morning during my church’s Bible class hour, we had an interesting discussion. The class opened with the talk about “How many of you found that your life became more difficult after you became a Christian?” That was followed by the question of how many of us were told that “coming to Christ” would make our lives easier? I was able to answer the first question in the affirmative, but I’m not so sure about the second. I’d heard many “pitches” for the Gospel over the years. I guess it was at the right time that some friends came into our lives that I was receptive.

The question got me thinking though, and I put up my hand to talk about how sometimes, evangelism sounds like a bait and switch scam. “Oh, if you come to Jesus, everything will be easier. You won’t be sick anymore, you’ll have lots of money and friends.”

“OK, I came to Jesus, and my life is falling apart. You told me everything would get better!”

“Oh, did I say that? Well, I meant everything would get better in the next life.”

To be honest, I hate when Biblical discussions degenerate into that “well, those promises are for after this life.” I realize where people are going with that, but the entire Bible takes place over 2000 and several nations so there are some promises that are specific for Israel at specific times, others for Israel in the future, others for the church now, others for the church in the future, and yet there are others for God’s people throughout time. It is very sloppy to just slap a spiritualized interpretation on everything. There is some allegory in the Bible, but it always seemed to me that the Bible will tell you what those are during careful study.

I guess I have little room to talk though. Whether I present the Gospel like I’m on commission or not, it’s been years since I’ve tried to talk to anybody outside of the church about Jesus. My non-Christian readers should have no fear about me showing up preaching on street corners anytime soon.

$10 to Pair a Bluetooth Headset? Ouch.

Back in 1996 when I started becoming a computer geek, I was absolutely shocked to find out what stores like CompUSA were charging for simple services that I could do with my eyes closed. A friend of mine said he wanted to upgrade his RAM, but CompUSA wanted $50 to install it. I think I broke something in my brain trying to figure out how sticking a chip in a slot could cost $50. I told him I’d do it for beer and pizza. Even with Sam Adams and a Meat Lover’s, I still came out cheaper plus I fixed a few other problems he had while I was at his apartment.

I guess $10 to pair a Bluetooth headset is fair by comparison. This is a tricky and painful though quick procedure. You definitely have to be patient, and pairings don’t always stick. I’ve had some pairings, like the author of the article I linked, that inexplicably stopped working and didn’t easily want to start again.

I do feel for people who spend hundreds of dollars to computer shops to fix viruses and spyware. My neighbors spent $300 when they got infected. I could have fixed it with free software that doesn’t bog your computer down and nag you to death like McAfee.

Firefox 3, and a Few Things You Should Know

Firefox 3 was finally released yesterday. It’s supposed to be better and faster than Firefox 2. I hope so. I was fairly happy with Firefox, and the increments of Firefox 2 have been fairly painful. It was almost painful enough that I would have scrapped Firefox to use Internet Explorer, except for the fact that I have several Firefox extensions that I’ve reached the point of being unable to live without on a regular basis, so I bore the instability and memory leak on Firefox 2. I finally broke down and installed the beta of Firefox 3 on my laptop when temperatures went up and I couldn’t take the memory leak anymore.

One of the worst parts of Firefox is that every time a new release comes out. some extensions break. Either the developers stop updating them or they just fall away, I don’t know. One of my favorite extensions over the last several years is Tab Mix Plus. Firefox, by default, displays all tabs in one horizontal bar. I can have between 30 and 50 tabs open at any given time, so that gets very impractical for me. Tab Mix Plus gives the ability to display tabs in multi-rows, which is very helpful. Also, I like to open a new tab next to the current one rather than at the end of the line. That keeps my tabs together. As far as I know, only Tab Mix Plus does this. I expected to lose some extensions after upgrading to Firefox 3, and Tab Mix Plus was one of them. I found out today though, that Tab Mix Plus for Firefox 3 is available on I don’t know why it’s not on the Mozilla extensions page.

I’m Tempted to Come Back to Blogger

I hate to say this, but I’m getting tempted to come back here to Blogger. As I said in my last post (Apr 1, 2008,) I was leaving for my MSN Spaces blog. I’ve put a lot of work into Blogger over the years, and I hated to leave, but the CAPTCHA was really getting on my nerves. If I do come back here to Blogger, I don’t know if I should bring over some of the posts I’ve made on Spaces. I’ll decide. Anything between Apr 1 and this post was brought over from MSN Spaces.


When I First Remember Enjoying Writing

The earliest point in my life that I can remember enjoying writing was my Junior year in high school. I went to John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas (Class of 1992.) My Junior year obviously was 1990-1991. For English class that year, I had a teacher named Mrs. Ladson. I don’t know why some teacher’s names stick with you and some don’t. I don’t remember much exceptional about Mrs. Ladson’s teaching ability, but I do remember a lot of students didn’t like her and accused her of being mean, but for some reason I had no problems with her and she even seemed to like me. My friend Wes once commented to me that Mrs. Ladson, while chastising him for some behavior infraction, said “Why can’t you be more like my student in (whatever period I had her class) Eric?” Go figure.

One hallmark of Mrs. Ladson’s class was the journal. For the first 20-35 minutes of class, we were to write in our journals. We had to have a separate notebook (yep, one more public school teacher demanding parents spend more money on school supplies for one class) to keep a journal in. Some days, she would write a theme on the board for us to write about. Other days, she would allow us to “freewrite.” Most students used that time to misbehave. For some reason, I didn’t. Maybe I didn’t have any friend in that class.

At one point, Mrs. Ladson had a student teacher. I wish I could remember his name, because he’s truly the nexus of this post. He really took the journal time to a new level. Each day, he would put a word or phrase or concept on the board. The phrases were the best. He would put part of a sentence up and ask us to finish a story. I don’t know why, but he really inspired me, and I wrote a lot of my best work under his themes. I know I’ve kept my journal notebook from that class, although most of our stuff is somewhere in limbo between here and my in-laws’ house with the expectation that someday this house will sell.

So, to Mr. Student Teacher in 1990-1991, at John Jay in San Antonio, in Mrs. Ladson’s class, if you come across this post for one reason or another, please leave a comment. You have no idea how much you inspired me to write for the rest of my life. I’ve never made a dime off of my writing, but somehow you really did inspire me to keep it up and to even enjoy it.