More Election Perspectives

I love to study history, if for no other reason than it can put current events into perspective. I recently came across a couple of artifacts that to me show that in our political system, there is nothing new under the sun.

The first artifact came from my in-laws’ basement. My wife and I had planned to sell our house and take over their house, and expecting a quick sale we moved a lot of our things into their basement to make our house less cluttered for showings. Now, a year and a half later, we found ourselves sorting through our things that had been down there for a year and a half looking for items to take to Goodwill to make some room in the basement. While my wife made a run to Goodwill, I rearranged some items and walked around a little bit. I saw a stack of books that had been in the basement for years. Looking through them, I saw a book titled “Is Eisenhower God’s Man for America?” I didn’t pick it up and read it, but I’m sure I’ve seen similar titles for more contemporary (Republicrat) Presidents.

Another thing I saw was in a book. Our library has a book sale at least once a year, and we went to the fall sale somewhere in the last couple of weeks (I’ve been so busy everything tends to run together) and I picked up some interesting titles. Once of the books I picked up was “The Memoirs of Richard Nixon”. While flipping through this rather large hardcover book, I saw a picture of one of Nixon’s campaign ads when he was running for the house. Guess what it said? “America needs change! Vote Richard Nixon, WW II Combat Vet for House.” Heh, don’t we have somebody campaigning on the “change” platform this time around?

There is nothing new under the sun.

The Samsung BlackJack III (Epix) Is Here


I think it was about 3 1/2 weeks ago when my wife and I got our Samsung BlackJack II’s. I just learned today that the BlackJack III is out. My BlackJack II is the best implementation of Windows Mobile that I’ve had yet, with the exception of the SMTP issue that is currently endemic to Windows Mobile 6.1. I’ve also run into a problem of not being able to sync with my work laptop. My personal laptop established a relationship with the BlackJack easily enough, but for whatever reason my work laptop doesn’t see it. It detected the BlackJack and installed drivers, so I can charge from my USB ports, but the Windows Mobile Device Center doesn’t see it at all. I just had a ton of work crop up and I have several projects I’m in the middle of, so not being able to sync with Outlook on my work laptop is getting to be a hindrance. Also, as much as I do like the BlackJack II, I’m missing having a touch screen device. I find it ironic as well that the BlackJack II is not a touch screen but the screen gets smudged and scratched easier than any phone or Pocket PC I’ve had to date.I finally put an old iPaq screen protector on it last night. My last complaint is that the battery life is kind of short for me. By lunch, all I’d done was check email, text my wife, and look at my calendar and my battery was already halfway gone.

I think considering all that, AT&T should let me take it back and get the BlackJack III. I’ve also considered the iPhone and the Tilt, but the Tilt according to our salesman is the most returned device to that store.

Election Perspective 2: John Stossel’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics

I can’t find a way to embed video from ABC News, so click this link:

Talk about reading my mind. John Stossel is a great reporter for turning out this kind of content. Besides, how can you possibly go wrong by invoking the question “What would Brian Boitano do?” That question is especially cool when Brian Boitano actually shows up. This isn’t like South Park where they have to draw him in. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have heard of Brian Boitano without having seen South Park.

And of course, let’s not forget Brewster’s Millions. None of the above, 2008!

Perspective on the Upcoming Presidential Election

The purpose of this post is not to place anybody in a bad light, nor is it to start a fight. I only want to attempt to put things in perspective, if only for myself. Yesterday morning, as I was going through my email, I came across an email from the American Family Association. I’ve been on their email list for years. Sometimes they put out interesting updates or let me know about issues I hadn’t heard of before. At other times, they seem alarmist and silly. One time, they wanted to call for a boycott of a certain company. I can’t remember if it was Comcast or DirectTV, but the commercial dealt with things being pulled toward the TV and the characters in the commercial would make statements like “Our cable sucks!” I personally thought it was funny, and didn’t see it as damaging to my children, so I deleted their email asking me to call whichever company and complain.

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First Impression of the Celio Redfly

I got my Celio Redfly today. My previous post was written from a standpoint of frustration, but I’ve found that I can use gmail’s web client to send mail, and Pocket Outlook to receive. So far I’m impressed with the Redfly. It’s not perfect, but it will definitely expand my BlackJack II’s capabilities. The keyboard is cramped, but is a little easier than typing on a thumbboard. I’m typing this blog entry in Typepad’s Windows Mobile client on my Redfly.

The picture is from my BlackJack’s camera. When connected to the Redfly, the phone’s screen blanks out. That is a good thing. The screen is one of the largest power drains on any smartphone, so even over BlueTooth my phone should last a long time. The Redfly promises 8 hours of battery life, and can charge your phone while you’re using it. In that case, I won’t to worrk about getting the extended battery for travel.

This post is more of an effort to see how quickly I can type on a 7″ keyboard. I’m getting better. All of the keys are where they belong, but due to the small size, I find I have to stretch to hit a few keys like backspace. If you have a compatible Windows Mobile smartphone, you might want to consider the Celio Redfly while it’s on sale for $199 through Oct 31. I have a meeting tomorrow, so we’ll see how well it does for taking notes. First Impression of the Celio Redfly

Is This the End of the Road (for me) on Windows Mobile?

I think I’ve laid out my qualifications and experience with Windows Mobile extensively on my blog. I could use some better reader statistics, so if you don’t believe me, go back through my archives.

I’ve been meaning to post for a while about my new phone. My wife has had trouble with AT&T since we jumped from the old AT&T Wireless to Cingular in 2005 to be bought back to AT&T a few months later. She’s been through 5 phones and still kept having problems. Since we reached a point of both being eligible for an upgrade, and I was near the breaking point with my iPaq 6945 and the total instability of Windows Mobile 5 and HP’s and HTC’s implementation of WM5, I gave my wife an idea. I told her that her problems *could* have been caused by always going with the cheapest phone possible. My Pocket PC phone had enough problems, but those weren’t AT&T network; they had to do with being a Windows Mobile product that was implemented by HTC for HP branding. I find the faults to lie with all three companies. In any case, I told her we could spend the money to get halfway decent phones, and if her problems persist, we can return the phones, sit out our contract, and jump to Verizon or T-mobile. I never really saw the point to Sprint.

While I did drool over the iPhone 3G, my wife picked out the Samsung BlackJack II, which impressed me also so we went with it. I found out a Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade was available for both phones, so I upgraded them the first day. All along, I was impressed with the BlackJack II. After all of the Windows Mobile devices I’ve had over the years, this was the most stable, powerful, and easy to use I’ve ever had. Sure, it had an issue or two, like for some reason I can’t sync it with my work laptop, but I was able to overlook that.

Then yesterday hit. Suddenly, I couldn’t send email through my gmail account. I couldn’t tell at the time if the problem resided with Windows Mobile, AT&T, Google, or some combination of the three and their associated applications and services. Since the cat woke me up early this morning, I decided to search on Google before I left for work, and found out that Windows Mobile 6 (including 6.1) has a KNOWN but dealing with SMTP. For those not educated, smtp stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. Exactly, it’s very simple and should be the staple service of any device calling itself a “smart-phone.” Not being able to send email through an smtp service is not very smart.

I tried a few hacks that I found around, but none worked. I deleted and recreated my account several times. I was able to send two or three emails at the most before my email sends started to error out. I installed Windows Live Mobile in and effort to use my MSN email account for sending, but that developed a problem.

At this point, I’m giving serious consideration to taking the BlackJack II back to AT&T and getting an iPhone. Sure, the iPhone doesn’t natively handle Outlook tasks, which is going to suck because I use them heavily. I’ll have to buy yet another licence for Pocket Informant (had to buy a cross-grade license when I switched from WM Pro to Standard). On the other hand, even though an iPhone won’t do as much, at least I won’t have to spend endless hours hacking on it to get it to perform a basic function like sending email.

How Cell Networks Work… And Why You Have to Shut Off “Portable Electronic Devices” on a Plane

I came across this today during my trip through my RSS feeds on Google Reader.

I’ve lately become annoyed at the airlines, especially since U.S. Airways decided a small cup of crappy coffee is worth $2. Since my life is going more and more digital, I am starting to hate the direction to turn off my electronics during take-off and landing. I keep books on my Pocket PC Phone (now a BlackJack II) and the dead time that I can’t read bothers me.

On my last flight, I found myself sitting next to a pilot who was commuting to work. I know people who complain that they can’t get a quiet minute on a plane; anybody they sit next to wants to talk the entire flight. I suffer from the opposite problem: I don’t mind talking but I tend to get seated next to people more anti-social than I am. I did strike up a small conversation with the pilot. I asked him a few questions about his job. We also talked about the iPhone, which he had. As we landed in Philly, I asked him if he knew of any real evidence that small electronic devices could interfere with a plane, or had that rule just been on the books for so long that nobody ever bothered to question it anymore. I remember an episode of Mythbusters where that rule was put to the test onground, and the Mythbusters could not find a cell phone that interfered with the plane’s electronics. The pilot confirmed that he could only recall one incident where he had trouble with one of his communications systems, and the modern planes are so well shielded that there shouldn’t be a problem with me watching a movie on my iPod or reading a book on my phone (with the radio turned off) during take-off and landing except for that rule. He said that the pilots are usually talking on their cell phones as the plane taxis, since that’s the most convenient way to communicate with dispatch.

When I first met my wife, she was working at a call center on a contract for American Airlines employees to buy computers (can’t remember if it was Gateway, Dell, or whatever was big in 2000) at drastically reduced costs. Supposedly she was only required to verify eligibility for the program, but her management couldn’t seem to decide from day to day if the call center would offer tech support or not, so she often had to take support calls. I told her to post some of them on Tech Tales, as they were interesting. One woman couldn’t connect to the Internet, but it turned out she hadn’t plugged in a phone cord to the modem. Actually, all she’d done was unpack the monitor and set it on a desk. She had other calls along those lines. I think the most interesting call was from a pilot IN THE AIR. He was calling from 34,000 feet with a tech support question about his laptop. I think his call might have been patched through the airline’s comm system rather than a cell phone call.

In any case, from the article linked above, here is the reason I’ve been looking for, why I can’t read a book on my phone or listen to my iPod during take-off and landing:

As a side note, the main reason airlines make you turn all your electronics off during takeoff and landing is so you aren’t distracted and can hear and follow directions if something goes wrong.

That’s all it is: to make sure you’re paying attention if something goes wrong.

Best Buy Selling iPods in Airport Vending Machines

This is cool: . Since I travel a moderate amount for my job, I can appreciate this. I tend to take my own gadgets with me, so I can’t see a need for buying an iPod from a vending machine, but I think I could appreciate just looking at the vending machine while I’m waiting for a flight. I agree with the author of the post on this point:

I also wondered just what you’d do with an empty iPod on a trip, business or otherwise, but I guess people who would really buy their iPods from airports probably don’t worry too much about when they’ll find the time to get music on there.

Heh. I still need to post about my new Samsung BlackJack II, and the Celio Redfly that I’m expecting on Thursday. My wife said I could go ahead and buy it. I hope she wasn’t being sarcastic… I have to sell enough of my old gadgets to pay for it. Anybody want a vintage Rev D iMac? It’s blue.

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Goodbye, Olive Garden

I came to the conclusion tonight that I have somehow outgrown the Olive Garden, which has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Our experience tonight pushed it over the edge and I told my wife that it will be a long time before I ask to go back to the Olive Garden again.

It all stared innocently enough. I’ve been seeing the commercials for the yearly “Endless Pasta”, one of my favorites. I’ve been wanting to go, but something always got in the way, from my wife claiming that she can do it better and cheaper, to the kids getting way too cranky and us chucking a trip to Olive Garden in favor of Friendly’s. Finally, tonight things lined up and we made a trip to the Olive Garden, into an experience that pretty much killed whatever magic has been bringing me back year after year. I’ve always enjoyed going to Olive Garden for my birthday and other special occasions.

First we showed up and were seated. Looking at the menus, we saw no Endless Pasta. Our waiter confirmed that Endless Pasta ended yesterday. OK, fine, poor timing on our part. Then we find out that we had been given lunch menus. The waiter took them and brought back dinner menus. Since there was no Endless Pasta, we thought about leaving, but elected to stay. Our waiter took a long time to do anything, and while he wasn’t incompetent, he also didn’t seem very experienced. My wife and I were texting each other back and forth, which is a heck of a lot more fun and convenient than complaining out loud.

Like I said, we were given lunch menus when we sat down. The waiter gave us dinner menus. My wife asked, since we originally had lunch menus and Endless Pasta is over, can she just get the lunch soup and salad? Request denied. We ended up with food that was good but not terribly great and a $52 tab for us, her sister, and both boys.

It took the waiter a long time to come back to see if we needed more water. After we finished, it took him a long time to come back to see if we wanted the check. Then my wife asked for a box, which he forgot. I started thinking about some “heuristics” that I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden under for years.

I expect an upscale but not ridiculously expensive service and meal at the Olive Garden. I expect competent and friendly service. What we got tonight we could have experienced at any diner in the local area for less than $40. Over the years, the Olive Garden has gotten rid of just about any menu item that I really liked. Years ago, they had this chicken pesto ravioli that I loved. It was discontinued. Have you ever had one of those meals that you leave feeling really good, like you are on some kind of high? Tonight I left dinner feeling really disillusioned and ripped off. I told my wife I’m going to have to find a new favorite restaurant. I don’t see myself asking to eat at the Olive Garden again.

So goodbye, Olive Garden. Take your overpriced low-class diner (that is diner not dinner) experience with you. I’ll find another place to enjoy eating. I really don’t feel like going back to the Olive Garden again.

WSJ- Secret Shopper Services for Churches

This is an interesting concept: . Secret shoppers visiting churches and grading them on certain criteria. My first evangelical reaction is to be horrified. Surely the church hasn’t stooped to this level of consumerism! How terrible! Then I started thinking about the practical aspects of this type of service. What if there were principles in this kind of service running deeper than simply drawing people into the church as an entertainment venue?

I’m going through what seems to be a strange phase. I became a Christian, I was baptized into Christ, or whatever modern buzzphrase you wish to use to describe this type of conversion, in 2002. I clearly remember it, as I was baptized in my swimming pool after 11 PM on a Friday night, May 31, during a break in a line of thunderstorms. You have to appreciate a minister and his wife who will get out of bed and drive 45 minutes during foul weather for such a thing, but our pastor did. Since that point, we’ve attended the same church, the Pitman church of Christ. I’ve done a lot of study on my own and developed my favorite set of blogs and podcasts and Bible teachers that I like to read and listen to. In any case, I’m going through a phase right now where I find myself asking questions. Not so much questions about the existence of God or this historicity of Jesus and His resurrection or the claims of the apostles, but questions about how we interpret and apply the Bible to what we today call church, or why Christians do the things we do. This article came at a decent time in my current phase.

This is why I could see a use for this type of service. For some reason, when we form churches, we also tend to form groups, communities, and cliques. My wife and I are facing a situation like this in our own church. I don’t want to go into too many details, but it doesn’t seem like we fit in well, my wife in particular. A clique has formed within the very group that you think she would fit in best, and she can’t penetrate it. The other women in that particular clique either ignore my wife or treat her with disdain. Seriously, I’ve seen some roll their eyes when she talks. It’s not cool, and it makes me a little angry wondering what exactly she could have done to them and why they won’t tell us so we can apologize. The 6th grade was many, many years in the past yet it feels like I’m watching my wife repeat the worst social aspects of middle and high school within our church. It’s getting very difficult for us and we’ve told our pastor and dropped a hint or two that perhaps it’s time to move on. Because of this, we can’t really join a small group because members of that particular clique are members of all of the small groups within range of us. That leaves us with our Sundays free, although I’ve co-lead a small group for the last two years and I do really miss it. We do have quite a few friends at the church, but it’s one of those situations where everybody lives too far away and is too busy for much more than exchanging chit-chat while at church on Sunday.

It’s even reached the point where if my wife weren’t teaching this quarter, we probably would not be attending on Sunday anymore. As it is, I’ve had excuses (work related) not to go the last two Sundays. We’ve been taking the kids to an AWANA program at a Baptist church on Wednesday nights.

With that in mind, I can see a use for these mystery church shoppers that is other than "promoting a consumerist atmosphere within the church". As I said, as humans, we have a tendency to form groups and pretty much live the same routine. That isn’t always conducive to a church, unless of course you’re part of that central group and happy with the routine. A pastor I love to listen to, Patrick Mead, has told churches "You should put a big sign out front next to your marquee that says ‘Keeping the Smith family happy for the last 30 years’". Our church does have a core group of people (outside the "clique" that is causing my wife grief) that has been involved in the church for a long time. As a congregation, some songs are preferred to others. We often sing a lot of the somber, 19th century church of Christ hymns. The problem is, that style of hymn really doesn’t inspire me that much. I can only take so much of them, but we often don’t vary our worship style because the style we have is so comfortable to the majority of church members. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with that, but the answer to the question "Why are there so many different churches" isn’t always "because there are so many apostates who don’t believe the real Gospel!" Sometimes the answer to the question is "Because there are so many people with different preferences for the order and style of worship in matters that really aren’t that relevant to salvation."

Some people would prefer to spend most of the church service singing. Some people would rather have a church service that’s heavier on prayer. Given the choice, I’d rather have a service with one prayer, two or three uplifting songs, and a 50 minute John MacArthur style in-depth expositional sermon that I could take notes on and learn something new every week. Granted, my wife would not agree that is the best format for worship, so it’s true that you can’t please everybody.

I can see a point to these mystery worshippers. Some churches could stand to have somebody come in and issue an honest critique. Some churches are happy staying as they are, but for the churches that want to grow, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to have an anonymous person come in and issue a report. "Your greeters aren’t friendly enough". "You place too much emphasis on shirt and tie." "Your classes are all fluff. You need some decent intellectually challenging material." "You are friendly to visitors, but you have some impenetrable cliques. Once visitors join your church, they can’t find anywhere to fit in."

These are honest and I believe perfectly Scriptural things a church might need to be evaluated on by a mystery shopper type of service. What do you think?