Monday, December 27, 2010

New Toy: Amazon Kindle

This is a grainy picture of our new toy: a Kindle. It allows me to hold in my hands more books than I can ever read. Already, I have downloaded a few dozen free books that are now public domain, with many more to follow. While I will enjoy the ability to take so many volumes wherever I go with such ease, it still will not be able to replace the paper books on my shelves. You can't buy a used ebook, nor can you lend an ebook to a friend. A first edition ebook can't be appreciated, and there is no way to sign an ebook when you meet the author in person.

My shelves will continue to be full of books, but now I will have the ability to read classics for free without a trip to the library.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Dogs Smarter Than Cats

Oxford University recently did some research involving dogs and cats that lead them to conclude that dogs have bigger brains than cats because they are more sociable.

Last year, a study was done with cats and dogs (link to video) involving pulling on a piece of string to obtain a treat. Dogs were more able to figure out which string to pull in order to get the treat, leading them to also come to the conclusion that dogs are smarter than cats.

I have already said before that cats are evil, but now there is evidence that they are also not as smart as dogs.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Braces

A couple months ago, I got new glasses. Today, I had my first appointment to get braces. Growing up, my parents sacrificed a lot for us, but couldn't afford to get me braces. With three kids all wearing glasses, corrected vision was a little more important than straight teeth. Now in my 30s, we are in a place where we can afford braces, and with my parents' health problems I want to make sure to take care of myself now.

Now that I'm getting all this hardware, maybe the next thing on my list will be getting that implant in my brain repaired.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Terry Brooks

Yesterday I had an opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors. Terry Brooks is probably the first fantasy author I ever read. Whether or not you like his books, he is the epitome of a successful writing career. While spending about seven years as a lawyer he wrote his first book, The Sword of Shannara, which is the first fantasy book to appear on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list. He has written 22 bestsellers and has sold over 21 million copies.

Terry spent some time reading from two of his books, and then took questions from the small audience. He shared some insight behind his stories, his life as an author, and gave advice for new writers. Since this was a writer's group, there were quite a few wannabe writers in the audience, so his advice was falling on willing ears. I appreciated that of all things a writer needs to get published, he said the number two thing on the list was perseverence, while at the top of the list was luck.

Here's me fanboy geeking out:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Swear Words

I have been a part of the discussion many times over whether it is perfectly okay to swear. One point that comes up is that a word only has the meaning that we attribute to it, therefore saying a swear word is subjective based on the context. Another view is that sometimes a point can only be made by using swear words. I recently listened to a podcast from Grammar Girl on the subject of swearing that gave voice to something that I have assumed, and that is that swear words are connected to emotions. Here is a part of that episode:

...a swear word is NOT just “a word like any other.” People who suffer a loss of speech because of damage to the language-processing parts of their brain often retain the ability to curse...
~ Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips
If you follow the link to Grammar Girl's website, the text from the episode is there and worth a read. It's short so I'll wait for you to go do that...

If you didn't click the link, it goes on from there to say that swear words are processed in the limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for emotions. Swearing triggers an emotional response. With that said, this means that the use of cursing in normal speech should, at best, be limited to situations where a certain emotional response is desired. Given that, Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
includes but is not limited to the use of swear words in our speech and our writing.

I come from the point of view that swearing should be avoided, especially when it comes to Christians, considering that a fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Constant or consistent swearing shows a lack of self-control. Especially for those who are articulate enough, I see using swear words as a means of getting across a point of severity or intensity as lazy, as more carefully formulated words should serve the purpose. As noted, cursing in this case only serves the purpose to shock people into paying attention to you and not really coming out of wisdom.

This isn't to say that all swearing is necessarily unjustified, useful, or even necessarily bad in certain situations, but overused words lose their intensity, and over time they lose their meaning completely. For those who believe in shocking people into listening to you, a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is fitting:
Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Jerry Rice Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame

Since the day he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1985, Jerry Rice had a work ethic unmatched by the showboating and selfish players of today. He holds more records than any receiver in history, many of which will never be touched. After playing for 20 seasons, it was pretty much a given that he would enter the NFL hall of Fame.

Yesterday, Jerry Rice fulfilled his destiny and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, cementing his place in history as the greatest receiver of all time. Claims for any other player will go unsupported, for they just don't have the numbers or the work ethic to back it up. The only thing that might go against this claim would be that Jerry Rice caught passes from the greatest quarterback of all time and therefore made catching passes that much easier.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birthday Freebies

I'm all about getting free stuff, and your birthday is the best time to do this. Not only is it a chance for people to give you gifts (feel free to send them), but restaurants and other places use this as a chance for promoting their businesses. This evening, I will be eating a free burger at Red Robin, walking across the parking lot to the Cold Stone Creamery for free ice cream, and then going to Cost Plus World Market to spend the free $10 gift card they sent me.

I know a lot of other places that give away free stuff, including food and entertainment. I have heard of at least one MLB team that gives away a free ticket on your birthday. What other free stuff is out there?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crater Lake

Kori and I just got back from a vacation starting in Medford, and then a visit of her family in Gold Beach. Now that I am off my six month trial service at work I am able to take time off. I am under the philosophy that vacations shouldn't be more tiring than your normal everday life, so trying to pack too many things into a short period of time doesn't make much sense. Even still, our time was filled with tours of vineyards, chocolate makers, the Rogue Creamery, mountains, beaches, lakes, and rivers, and mostly all in awesome sunny weather. We spent a few hours one day around Crater Lake and made sure to take some pictures. I'm only sad that I have to go back to work now, but that's what I get for being responsible.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cat Leash Laws

Here's a law I can get behind.

It's hardly world-changing news, but a city in Vermont is determining whether existing leash laws should include cats, especially after complaints that they are using people's gardens as litter boxes. We have problems with this, and it shouldn't be up to me to spend money on ways of keeping them out. The financial and time burden should fall on their owners.

Leash Laws To Include Cats?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake

Tonight, our church had a men only cake contest. While I didn't win, I still enjoyed making a mess in the kitchen and creating this chocolate espresso mousse cake from scratch. It wasn't as sweet as most of the other cakes, which were loaded with sugar and fat. This cake was lower in fat and sugar, with the consistency of something in between a brownie and cheescake. It was quite tasty, but after sampling all those cakes I won't want to see any for a while.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Margin

After working an extra hour and a half overtime today, I got to thinking about something that I heard at a Kairos church planting workshop several years ago. It was there where I heard the idea of balance in my life put into words that we can all understand. Sonny Guild spoke to a room full of people about to embark or having just jumped into the world of starting a new church where there was not one before, and there he interjected the idea of margin, and it has stuck with me every day since then.

Margin is the idea that in whatever things we do, especially the difficult and time consuming ones, we should keep a measure of restraint to limit ourselves from pushing too much of ourselves into something lest we become overwhelmed with stress, and burn out into uselessness. There are times when we feel that something will not be done unless we are the ones doing it. Sometimes, frankly, this is true. Today I had to stay late to finish a project or else it would not have gotten done, and it absolutely had to be done today. However, if something stretches you to the point where you neglect everything, including your family and your own well being, then you must reevaluate the amount of time and effort you are putting into that thing. Even if it is something that you love to do, it will eventually burn you out and you will grow to resent it. Just ask anyone who turns their hobby into their job.

I thought I was laid back before Sonny spoke his words of wisdom, but now I think my cares are limited to only the most important things. Basically, this is me just giving you an excuse not to be lazy, but to take the initiative to sometimes say no to that extra amount of work and have some down time to yourself or with your loved ones. God took a sabbath, and so should you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Facebook Games

Facebook games are more and more getting on my nerves. I've said it before that people may start to see me abandoning them, and that they are a waste of time for someone who wants to be a creator. Well, the time has come. I just deleted one of these games from my page, and there will more than likely be more to follow. When the games started asking for me to give them my email address, apart from Facebook, it made me reconsider how much enjoyment I was actually getting from them.

I'm not abandoning Facebook (yet), but my time there is definitely going to be diminishing. My Facebook posts updates from my Twitter feed, so updates are still a text message away, but this blog, along with my other writing, has suffered long enough. On the plus side, I have written at least 100 words every day this year on my writing blog. Now I need to get back to writing that novel (or the new one that's percolating).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Closing Doors Can Open New Ones

Last year many people had to struggle through the closure of their beloved college. Some are still grieving over the loss. It was a challenge for me to fully express what the loss meant for me and what I perceived for the northwest. Seeing the good that God has in store can be difficult when in the midst of such a loss.

About five or six years ago, Cascade Hills Church of Christ was born, as my part in it was documented in my very first post on this blog. With the struggles with momentum combined with the economy and discouragement, Cascade Hills will be closing its doors this Sunday. Again, it is a challenge for me to fully express what the church has meant to me and what its loss will bring, however God is still alive and working.

Over the past years I have grown in my faith, along with my wife (who wasn't my wife when we started!) I have experienced the thankfulness of people blessed with food or clothes or money when they were in the middle of hard times. I have seen many people baptized into Christ. I have felt the support of an entire movement of church planting behind a small group of people pioneering the idea of starting a new church where there was not one before.

Here's what you can do:

  • Pray for me and my wife as we begin our transition into our new church home: the Keizer Church of Christ.
  • Pray for the members of Cascade Hills that will now have to find a new place for them and their families to feel at home and challenged in their faith.
  • Pray for the Christians who are still young in their faith, that they will not be discouraged and fall away.
  • Pray for Jason and Melissa Campbell, who have given their lives over in service to the community in Salem for the past six plus years as they move into the next chapter in their life.
  • Pray for other church plants that they can be encouraged from our successes and learn from our mistakes as they seek to spread the Gospel throughout their communities.
I am sure that I have left a lot out, but I expect many good things to come from God through this.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back to Writing

I'm back on the writing horse. In fact, I have written at least 100 words every day this year and posted most of what I've written each day on my writing blog. Having a day job keeps you from really getting the time in to get much writing done in any given day, but if the desire is there you can accomplish quite a bit. I have been taking part of my lunch break to jot down quick ideas into a notebook and type them out later, which gives me more time after work with my wife and when I want to just vege out for a while. Now I just need to figure out how to fit working on the novel into the schedule.

I found this piece of news interesting, especially considering how writing is a hobby of mine with the potential to be affected by it. Macmillan is a book publisher that has been slow to enter the e-book scene and recently they ran into an impass with Amazon.com as as far as pricing and availability of their book titles. I am sure it had much to do with Amazon's attempts to corner the market with their Kindle device, but the news came right around the same time as Apple announced its new device, the iPad, which has one of its functions to be used as an e-book reader. I have already heard enough from authors that Amazon and other discount stores like Target and Walmart have already done enough to kill authors trying to make a living by cutting down their profit margins, but it makes me more and more want to buy things from local businesses instead of from global enterprises.

On a somewhat related note, there is a growing trend of authors willing to give away their books in the form of podcasts or e-books in order to build a fanbase that is proving to actually help them sell more physical books. By doing this, they end up making the relationship with the reader a more interactive and personal thing. They are using social media in order to connect with readers on a daily basis, which gives the readers a look into their lives, that they are real people and that being a full time writer is not necessarily as glamorous as it is sometimes portrayed. For some reason I find myself still wanting to write, but I've written enough for today. And my readers can't complain as of now because sometimes you get what you pay for.