Saturday, December 19, 2009

C.S. Lewis On Originality

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Day of Accomplishments

My time with Terra Gardens came to an end a couple of weeks ago, though I will still continue to maintain their website, along with some of their social media and email marketing, until they can find a suitable replacement. Today I started my new job working for the Oregon Department of Justice. I will not be able to share much about the actual work I will do, other than that I will be transcribing interviews and basically typing all day. I think it will be interesting work, with lots of benefits that will be good for me and my family.

On another note, today is the final day for NaNoWriMo, something that I said I was doing this month. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November (hence the name "National Novel Writing Month"), which is the length of a short novel. I followed through and finished a very poorly written novel in those 30 days, and now I will be taking some time off, probably through the end of the year, from writing much fiction. I will probably post occasionally on my writing blog, but now that the daily writing discipline is very attainable, I think I need a small break from it.

I want to get back to writing on this blog more often, plus I restarted my vocal percussion website and want to add more content to that. I have a few more ideas rattling around in my brain, and I can't wait to see what next year will bring!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sing-Off

I like a cappella music. I know, it's a big surprise to a lot of the people who read my blog right?

I've watched a lot of American Idol, and while listening to the people sing I think to myself a lot of the time that the singers on the show really need the band in order to sound good. There is a new show coming in December on NBC that I can forsee myself liking more than American Idol, except for maybe the audition process where I get to hear people sing horribly and experience the reality part of reality television.

The new show is called The Sing-Off, where a cappella groups compete against each other for a recording contract. They will have judges from other musicians familiar with a cappella music such as Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men and Ben Folds.

On a related note, I am in the process of reworking my vocal percussion website to make it more functional and interactive. Instead of a static website, it will have tips and audio that will be put into a feed that users can subscribe to. There is more to come, with the possiblity for articles and audio from guest musicians or even a podcast.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

At Least It's Paid Off

We only have one car. It is something we decided to do in order to save money. Our job situation is such that we are able to car pool to and from work. Not long after we bought our house, we paid off our car, using the first time home buyer's credit to do so. This way we figured we would have fewer bills and we would just drive the car into the ground and the need arose to buy another car. It was a great thought, and it's worked well for us so far.

Hopefully we will be able to get our car fixed. Tonight my wife was out driving and someone rear-ended her. It was dark and rainy, and the intelligent driver decided these were the optimal conditions for holding a conversation on her cell phone while attempting to drive down a busy street. I have said it before that trying to hold a conversation on a cell phone has been proven to be equivalent to driving drunk, whether you're using a hands-free device or not.

The most important thing is that my wife is not injured. I suppose we are lucky that the person didn't take off, and at least they were insured, but I can't help but wonder what might happen if getting a license required a little more proof of driving ability than they do now.

I also am taking the night off from NaNoWriMo. Not only have I been having to figure out what to do next with the car, I'm also getting a cold.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Church Marketing

If you work for a retailer, like me, marketing is something that you just have to do. To sell products you have to be visible to your customers, which means advertising and marketing. I also think about marketing because of my hobbies. If I want to be a writer or a musician, especially at a professional level, then I need to be able to market myself as such. If you are in a church that wants to reach out to people do you need to be able to do marketing, especially considering the growing numbers of internet-savvy generations? I would venture to say for churches that you have to be able to do marketing, whether you like it or not.

Marketing gives people a sense of who you are as a church. It triggers emotion in people. Advertising gets people to the events you plan. If you advertise and people find it off-putting, they will not come to your event and are less likely to ever come to your church. If you do not advertise then the only way they will find out about you will be through word of mouth (a form of marketing) and the sign in front of your church (again, whether you like it or not, a form of advertising).

These days a lot of marketing gets done through websites, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (ick), and the like. To have someone who can regularly update these things with events like clothing drives, concerts, and movie nights can be invaluable. The thing about online social media is that much of the marketing is done by having that initial connection with people, both members and visitors, creating an entry point at all levels.

The challenge lies with managing time around these things, for they can become a hindrance to your work schedule and an excuse to not interact in person. I know they are for me. They keep me from doing things that I should be doing, and really that I would rather be doing. What are your thoughts on church marketing?

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Free Food

Earlier this year I alerted you to some free food offers, which didn't even include the free burger and ice cream you can get on your birthday. This year KFC tried to give away free chicken, but thanks to the marketing power of Oprah, they had too many customers, ran out of chicken, and had to cancel the promotion. Today they are trying it again. For today only, you can get one free piece of grilled chicken. You may have to wait in line, or they may have annoyed enough customers that the promotion has worked against them. Who knows? But hey, free food.

Working in marketing can be challenging, especially when a promotion goes sour. You risk the danger of actually turning away customers who may never come back again. Bad commercials can offend people, which is one reason I can't eat at Carl's Jr. even though I think their food tastes good. A bad promotion can do the same thing. When customers think you are so inept that you can't create a valid coupon or have enough product to back it up, they are more likely to think you are inept in other ways.

I think I feel a post on church marketing coming...

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Every Day

I have been doing a lot of writing over the past year or so. Most of that has not been on this blog. Some of it has not even been on my writing blog. I have been working on a novel for several months now, slowly chipping away on the word count while forming characters and plot. In the past I have mentioned participating in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. While I have participated in this venture a couple of years, I never really quite made it to the final word count. I think it must have been the mental block most people run into when they try climbing the 50,000 word mountain for the first or second time.

The thought of spending 30 days of agony trying to write at least 1,667 words every day makes me sort of cringe, especially knowing how much free time I actually have, how much of that I want to spend with my wife, and how many stupid distractions there are to keep me from the goal. I am now fairly certain that the 50,000 word goal has nothing to do with writing a good novel, but has everything to do with the discipline of writing through the distractions, the boredom, the pain, sort of like one does at a job. That's the ultimate goal for many who participate in this thing isn't it? They want to be writers. If someone really wants to be a full-time writer, they need to be able to write every day, regardless of how they are feeling about it. I think it is for this reason that I will be dusting off my NaNoWriMo chops and giving it another go, not that I think I will be a full-time writer any time soon, but if the option were there I would like to know that I could do it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wasting Tim

I've been a little lax on writing on my blog. Most of my recent writing has gone into my writing blog or into working on one of my novel ideas. This isn't to say that my ideas are novel, just that I have this strange desire to write them.

A couple of months ago, after wrestling with crashing issues on my not-so-awesome PowerMac, we finally decided to buy a new computer. For this, we purchased one as cheap as possible, which happened to be a $500 17" Toshiba laptop. Our only problem now is figuring out how to share it. We considered buying a second one, but since we are fairly frugal folks, we figured that we could do without.

Apparently, when computing becomes easier, you waste more time doing it, and it is for this reason I have been saying for a while that I "secretly" want Facebook to go away. To all of my friends playing with your mafias and farms, don't be surprised if sometime in the near future I suddenly fall off the Facebook map. It is a time sink, and for someone who has the desire to be a creator and not a consumer, I have to choose what I put my time into. Five years from now, what will I have to show for myself with all my efforts?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On Writing Daily

Writing daily has been an eye-opening endeavor. I began this experiment to test myself to see if I had the chops to write every single day for an extended period of time. It started off well, following the rules I had set for several months. I then decided on pushing myself into the process of writing a novel. This did not last as long, until more recently, when I lowered the daily word count to something I felt was more attainable. During this time, I have come upon several things which I think could be helpful for others interested in writing.

Some of these thoughts are as follows:

  1. Your daily writing does not have to be good. Editing is much easier when you have something to edit. It is much more difficult when there is nothing there. Get it written even if you think you'll remove it later. What you think is horrible now may actually turn out to be worth keeping in the final draft.

  2. Your word count does not have to be high. One hundred words a day is attainable, as I have already written more than that in this post. If that is too much, try fifty. If it is too little, make it five hundred. Every little bit adds up over time, and it may even lead you to write more each day than you have set as a goal.

  3. The more you write, the more ideas you will be able to build on. Several ideas for short stories and novels have grown from simple writing prompts or randomly generated ideas from various sources. If you keep the ideas in your head, you are not very likely to ever write them.

  4. Find a time that works best for you to write. At first I wrote right before I went to sleep, but I found myself staying up later than I should have in order to make my word count for that day. I recently used a drop in my work hours to my advantage, finding an extra hour after work where it made no sense for me to go home before I had to pick up my wife from work. This extra hour has been invaluable in that I have found it to be productive in writing anywhere from one to five hundred words each day on various projects.

  5. Life has distractions, and they can be an excuse not to write. I found a nice place to write in the local mall. I found some tables near the front door with heavy foot traffic. The tables are across from a Starbucks where everyone orders their drinks. It can be noisy sometimes. Try writing during lunch breaks, with your morning coffee, or even sitting on the couch while someone else watches T.V.

  6. Having other people read your writing as you go can lead you to be a better writer. Putting my stuff out for everyone to read and comment on has made me more receptive to criticism. I think it has helped my writing improve, and like anything, the more you do something, the better you will get at it.

  7. Even if you get out of the habit, you can forgive yourself and get back on it. There have been a few times that life circumstances have made it impossible to write. There have been times that I have just been lazy and found excuses (not specified in my list of excuses) to put off writing. The temptation is to give up completely, but by putting the past behind you, the ability to keep going is always there.
I hope some of these things I have learned are helpful and encouraging to others. Hopefully there will be much more to read from me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some Thoughts About Writing

Imagination is not, like thought, concerned with abstractions from particular things, experiences, and relationships. Both [C.S.] Lewis and Tolken as writers, therefore, valued looking at reality in a symbolic and mythopoeic way.

Fiction, for Lewis and Tolkien, was therefore the creation of meaning rather than the literal restating of truths. It reflected for them the greater creativity of God, when he originated and put together his universe and ourselves.

~ Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship by Colin Duriez

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back From Gold Beach

My wonderful wife and I just got back from a trip to Gold Beach for a memorial service for her grandmother. It was a good reminder to me that this life is tainted by sin and the corruption of death, but that those who have faith in the Lord Jesus are covered by grace and will have a new body on the new earth when the Christ returns. God has plans for His creation, to resurrect it from the death we all face. Thanks to Jesus for confronting death, for taking away the sting, for giving us the Spirit which is the love of the Father and the Son with us. We are known by our God, and He makes himself known to us, and on the day Jesus returns, we will see God in His full glory. Keep my wife and her family in your prayers.

With all the traveling we've done and stuff that is happening right now, my writing has suffered, but the good thing is that I've done lots of reading. Sitting in a plane or a car for hours can do that. I'm thinking that Facebook and Twitter are getting in the way of blogging, but it may not be a bad thing for everyone. Many people started a blog because they wanted to give people a way to keep people updated with things happening in each other's lives. Facebook and Twitter is an easier way to do that more frequently and quickly. Blogging is a more formal way to fill this same function, but also a more suitable place for lengthier thoughts. The writer in me likes blogging more than Facebook, for it gives me a better outlet for forming thoughts. I think a lengther post on the subject of social media and writing is called for, but I will save it for another time. I thought I would just let everyone know I am still here. Life is good.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

No Excuse for Cheating

Manny Ramirez was recently suspended for 50 games for getting caught using steroids, adding him to the list of players suspected of using or getting caught using these drugs. I have thought about this topic for a while, and have heard various viewpoints on it. Many think that steroids will not help you become a better baseball player. Many people think they help you hit home runs. Here is my take on it.

Steroids will not make you a better baseball player. I should qualify that statement. Steroids will not make you a better hitter. If you are already really good at hitting the ball, however, they will help you get more hits, and a higher percentage of those will be home runs. Let us look at this logically. A player that routinely hits line drives and fly balls will hit many of those for home runs. Take away the performance enhancing drugs and twenty feet off the flight of the ball, and instead of going over the outfield fence the ball goes into the outfielder's glove, or at best between or in front of the outfielder for a base hit.

Now consider even with the steroids that the player is simply good at hitting the ball in the gap. A faster, stronger runner will more likely be able to run out a base hit and turn it into extra bases or stolen bases. Consider the four players who have hit 40 home runs and had 40 stolen bases in the same season. The first was in 1988 and following: Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano. Soriano is the only one on the list not suspected of using steroids.

So while baseball is still just entertainment (some people would argue otherwise), there is no logic in thinking that steroids do not help baseball players, or for that matter baseball teams, achieve higher performance in the sport. When one player does better, the whole team does better. This is one reason why you do not see much effort on the part of the owners to do anything about this epidemic.

Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa — don't cry for any of these guys. In fact you should be glad something is being done for the sake of the kids that look up to these players or aspire to be one of them. As for Manny, I only wish he were still playing for the Red Sox so that I could enjoy his suspension even more.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Don't Believe Everything You Read On The Internet

April Fools!

Sorry to anyone who believed what I posted about not blogging anymore. While my blogging has been a little sparse recently, I am not giving it up entirely. I have been busy doing other things, and blogging is not at the top of my list of things to do. I do secretly wish that Facebook would crawl back into the depths from which it came with its stepbrother MySpace, but until that time people can continue to stalk old high school friends or send pillow fight requests to their hearts' content. Just know that I will not be accepting any of them.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

R.I.P. Blogging

While I have found this experience fulfilling in a way that allows me to discover my thoughts on certain subjects in an organic and public way, I have decided that blogging is dead. No one wants to hear people's opinions on theology or robots, unless they are sufficiently qualified to form an educated opinion, likewise no one wants to hear my opinion on politics, movies, or any other topic. I have decided that it simply takes up too much of my time, and it is not fair to others anyway if I hardly ever post anymore, so I am done blogging. You all should be done too. Besides, we have Facebook now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick is Dead...

...or at least that is what this day signifies. Chasing out snakes, leprechauns, shamrocks, green beer, and pinching. These are all things we probably think of when this holiday comes around. It was initially, however, a holiday: a holy day to remember the death of Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick used a shamrock to describe the relationship of the Trinity, superimposed the Sun onto the cross to redeem a pagan symbol into God's plan. He brought Catholic Christianity to Ireland, essentially taking a pagan people and bringing the love of God to them.

Is that not what the church is called to do?

This is why church plants exist. We each go into a pagan world that worships different gods (money, sex, the self) and we bring the love of God to the world. If only there were a Saint Patrick for the United States, it would take the burden off individual Christians to remember that it is up to each of us to do our part. Our country and world can be redeemed, and the message of hope that comes from Jesus is on our lips to share. We can use everyday things to get our point across, or even use a once holy day to share with others what is truly holy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Want Some Free Food?

If you're trying to save money, today there are a couple of deals going on where you can get some free food.

IHOP National Pancake Day
Between 7AM and 10PM you can get a stack of three pancakes for free. The only string attached: they ask you make a donation to Children's Miracle Network

Two Free Tacos
Between 12AM and 11:59PM Jack In The Box is giving away two free tacos to support Jack and his broken head. You must print out the coupon to get the tacos, but that's all you need.

These two deals are only going on today, so you've got to move if you want your free food.

Million Subs Giveaway
Quznos is giving away a free sub sandwich if you give them your contact information. Once you have signed up, you can go back and opt out, or you can also sign up to win subs for a year.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stephen King Blasts "Twilight"

Since I have yet to post anything vampire related, and the backlash was so great when others did, I'll put my neck on the line (pun intended) and throw out this article that I found, where Stephen King compares J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer's writing. His comments for Meyer are less than complimentary.

Stephen King Says Meyer Isn't Very Good

Stephen King said, “Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
Since I am on the subject of vampires, I am reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and so far I think it is actually pretty good. Now on with the random drive by comments.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wealth

One of the things my wife and I have been putting effort into over the past year or so has been to be good stewards of our money. We have done this in order be able to purchase our first house, which we did in November. We made changes in order to help support some friends that are missionaries in Uganda. We also did this so that one day we might actually be able to retire, and with the current state of our country's economy, it looks like we were doing this just in time.

The temptation is there to do this in order to make ourselves more comfortable financially, or to be able to buy bigger toys in the future, but I have to tell myself that I do not do this for myself. I recently came across some good verses about wealth and riches that reinforced what I already know. Hopefully it will only focus me more as I grow to know God more every day.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
~ 1 Timothy 6:17-19
This tells me that the things I have are fleeting, and even making wise financial decisions does not mean that all I have cannot go away. Anything can happen to take away everything, such as illness, accident, or theft. Even more convicting to me than this is that it says I am to share what I have with others. I can save money so that I may retire someday, but these verses tell me that I have a responsibility to share with others no matter what I have, but especially if I am rich.
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
~ Ephesians 4:28
The work that I am commanded to do, and do well, not stealing from my employer, is done so that I may have more than enough for myself in order to share with others who do not have enough. Riches are not for myself to make my life easier or more comfortable, and even in churches our culture tells us the exact opposite. We assume that if we are unable to pay our bills that the problem is that we do not have enough money. God gives us all we need, the only decision is what we do with it.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
~ 2 Peter 1:3-4
I sometimes wonder if I don't read scripture as much as I should because I am lazy or because scripture is too convicting. The question is: can't it be both?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Facebook Sacrifice

Burger King came up with a promotion that if you install their Facebook app and delete ten of your friends, you will receive a coupon for a free Whopper. We all have those people with whom you were acquaintances with in high school that now comment daily on your Facebook wall, this is your chance to remove them with the excuse of "Hey, I need to save all the money I can."

Whopper Sacrifice

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Curriculum Graphic - Lost

This is a first draft version of another curriculum image I am making for my brother. The city in the image is Portland. I have a couple others in the works as well.