Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fun Mix CD

For some random reason I decided to make a mix CD for my future bride last night.
Thought I'd share the track listing with you. There's not really a theme to it per say, but I think it will make a good driving mix. It's mainly just the latest songs I've been listening to and seem to be getting a number of requests on ONR.

1. KJ-52: Rock On
2. Hawk Nelson: The Show
3. Jeremy Camp: Tonight
4. John David Webster: Made to Shine
5. Jimmy Needham: Lost at Sea
6. Mute Math: Noticed
7. Need to Breathe: Shine On
8. Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack: Bus Rider
9. Nevertheless: The Real
10. Phil Wickham: Divine Romance
11. Relient K: Forgiven
12. Sarah Groves: Loving a Person (live mix from relevant magazine)
13. Superchick: Stand in the Rain
14. Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack: Here's Rico
15. The Fray: Over My Head
16. TobyMac: Made to Love
17. Big Daddy Weave: Let it Rise
18. Casting Crowns: Set me Free
19. David Crowder: Here is Our King (live mix from relevant magazine)
20: DecembeRadio: Drifter
21: Moby: One of These Mornings

What's on your latest Mix CD or top songs on your iPod?

Kara's off and grown up

Tim and Kara
Well my baby sister has done it. Her and Tim tied the knot yesterday and are now off enjoying their honeymoon in the Smokey Mountains.
It's odd watching your baby sister get married. The same baby sister I cried about when she was born -- because I wanted a brother.
But she has become an amazing woman of God and she (God) couldn't have found a better man for her.
They're total opposites when it comes to their personalities but like minded in so many other ways.
Kara is like a tornado when she blows into a room and Tim is the steady fortress that doesn't get tossed about with the winds of change.
I'm proud to watch her continue to grow and thankful for all the advice she's given me over the last 21 years. I pray I've been as diligent in doing the same thing.
My only wish is that Amy could have been there to see it all. When the maid of honor sang, "Praise the King" I couldn't help but get a little choked up thinking about Amy and how she wanted that song sung at her wedding.
Kara and I had a brief moment to ourselves at the rehearsal as Lindsey practiced the song -- I'll cherish that forever.
Amy was just as proud of Kara, if not more so and was a huge supporter of Kara and Tim.
Love them all.
Here's to a New Year and a new marriage blessed by God.

Honoring their sacrifice

Re: Remember our armed forces
I wrote a piece about the last flight of Master Sgt. Richardson for the WDL Friday.
Click to read it.

Verse and quote of the day

Thought this was very pertinent considering our small group just started a new study on James.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
- James 1:27-27

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
- Elie Wiesel

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Re: Remember our armed forces

Here's a copy of the original letter direclty from Blied. The only thing changed was one or two spacing corrections and the removal of his contact information at the bottom of the letter:
Date: Saturday evening, December 3, 2006

American Airlines Flight 1904, ORD – MIA

Captain Jeff Wallace
By First Officer Gary Blied

We were informed at the gate that the remains of MSgt. Shawn Richardson would shortly be loaded on our flight for the trip to Miami. He was a 17-year veteran of the United States Air Force and had been killed in the service of our country. I went down onto the ramp and found the long box appropriately stationed off to the side in a luggage cart. The curtains on the cart were pulled. It was my honor to spend a few moments in prayer with him.

The captain and I finished our preflight duties and then went back down onto the ramp and checked in with the crew chiefs to observe the loading of MSgt. Richardson. We departed almost an hour late due to our late arrival into Chicago.

We called for push and it was immediately granted. Normally, there’s a wait. We called ground for taxi and again – immediately granted. Normally, there’s a wait. We were cleared onto the runway and for an immediate take off. Passing through about twenty five thousand feet we were further cleared direct OMN (Ormand Beach) which is the first fix on the arrival into Miami. That’s basically a thousand mile straight line and the most direct clearance I’ve ever received to Miami. Not a word was ever said – but people were watching out for us.

The flight to and landing in Miami were uneventful, until we went to turn off the runway. The tower asked us to proceed a little further down where an escort was waiting for us. We did as instructed and a Miami Dade Police cruiser met us on the taxiway. He escorted our American Airlines Boeing 757 to the D terminal. The entire north ramp had been cleared of all aircraft. I’d never seen that either.

As we approached the ramp we noticed the lights. There were at least a half dozen fire trucks, no less than 15 police cars and countless other vehicles. They were all parked in rows with their lights flashing. As we taxied our aircraft to the gate, the fire trucks saluted our arrival with crossed streams of water shooting over the aircraft. My first seven years of service were in the Air Force Crash Fire Rescue Department. There is no higher salute from the fire department.

We parked the aircraft and shut down. After our checklists, Captain Jeff Wallace and I went down to the ramp level and observed the unpacking of the casket, then the dressing with a flag. It was accepted by the bearer team which was comprised of members of the Miami Dade Police Department and Air Force Honor Guard.

After the “present arms” order (when all military and former military render salutes and civilians put their hands over their hearts) and the “order arms” order, when the salutes were finished, I noticed our jet. As I looked up from the ramp level I saw a somber face in every window. Not one of our passengers had moved until our fallen solider had departed the aircraft.

When the procession left the airport, there were two cruisers in front of the hearse and I have no idea how many behind. It was worthy of a presidential motorcade and a fitting and probably all too uncommon show of love and respect for one of our fallen.

And in case I haven’t mentioned this previously – it was 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we were almost two hours late. Our reception had probably been waiting for hours and I would bet that most of the people on our ramp were not on the clock.

Every now and then you see it: the silent majority that makes this country the best in the world. I was so proud that night. Proud that my fellow citizens on every level worked to get MSgt. Richardson to his final repose. Proud of all the people who showed up on the ramp late that Saturday night and waited hours into Sunday morning to show their respect. Proud of our passengers that they recognized a greater purpose than getting off the jet. And proud that my company, American Airlines, knows how to handle this situation with humility and honor.

As you go through your day, remember that there are thousands of men and women overseas in the service of our country, far from home and in dangers way. Please remember that they have families back here who live every day in fear of the phone call or official visit with the news that their worst nightmare has come true.

Be thankful for their efforts and if you know someone who is in the service – get their address from their family and write them and thank them. It’s the least you can do.

Gary Blied
Pilot, American Airlines
Major, USAF (ret)

Re: Remember our armed forces

I just got off the phone with American Airlines pilot Gary Blied (shown to the left).
He verified the story and verified their flight time. The flight left Chicago on Saturday night and arrived in Miami early Sunday morning.
Originally I read the information from FlightAware as leaving on Sunday night, but that just shows how little I know about the airline business.
Blied also said he was glad I double checked the information and he was more than glad to share the story.
"I thought it was too good of a story not to share," Blied said.
I think the issue of my skepticism has been resolved. Look for a print version of the story later this week in the WDL.

Re: Remember our armed forces

Martha sent this to me after my previous post. I thought it was fitting to share.
This is Captain Bob Johnson with the Flight Department Hotline for Monday, December 18.
In lieu of our normal weekly recap, I want to share with you a letter we received from FO Gary Blied, written after completing his duties on American Airlines flight #1904, ORD to MIA, on December 3. This is Gary's letter:
We were informed at the gate that the remains of MSgt Shawn Richardson would shortly be loaded on our flight for the trip to Miami. He was a 17 year veteran of the United States Air Force and had been killed in the service of our country. I went down onto the ramp and found the long box appropriately stationed off to the side in a luggage cart. The curtains on the cart were pulled. I spent a few moments in prayer with him.
The Captain and I finished our preflight duties and then went down onto the ramp, checked in with the crew chiefs to observe the loading of MSgt. Richardson. We departed almost an hour late due to our late arrival into Chicago.
We called for push and it was immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We called ground for taxi and again - immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We were cleared onto the runway and for an immediate take off. Passing through about twenty five thousand feet, we were further cleared direct OMN (Ormand Beach) which is the first fix on> the arrival into Miami. That's basically a thousand mile straight line and the most direct clearance I've ever received to Miami. Not a word was ever said - but people were watching out for us.
The flight to and landing in Miami were uneventful, until we went to turn off the runway. The tower asked us to proceed a little further down where an escort was waiting for us. We did as instructed and a Miami Dade Police cruiser met us on the taxiway. He escorted our American Airlines Boeing 757 to the D terminal. The entire north ramp had been cleared of all aircraft.
As we approached the ramp we noticed the lights. There were at least a half dozen fire trucks, no less than 15 police cars and countless other vehicles. They were all parked in rows with their lights shining. As we taxied our aircraft to the gate, the fire trucks saluted our arrival with crossed streams of water shooting over the aircraft.
We parked the aircraft and shut down. After our checklists, Captain Jeff Wallace and I went down to the ramp level and observed the unpacking of the casket, then the dressing with a flag. It was accepted by the honor guard, which was comprised of members of the Miami Dade Police Department, and Air Force Honor Guard.
After the "present arms" order (when all military and former military render salutes and civilians put their hands over their hearts) and the "order arms" order, when the salutes were finished, I noticed our jet.
As I looked up from the ramp level, I saw a face in every window. Not one of our passengers had moved until our fallen solider had departed the aircraft.
When the procession left the airport, there were two cruisers in front of the hearse and I have no idea how many behind. It was worthy of a presidential motorcade and a fitting and probably all too uncommon show of love and respect for one of our fallen.
And in case I haven't mentioned this previously - it was 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I would bet that most of the people on our ramp were not on the clock.
Every now and then you see it: the silent majority that makes this country the best in the world. I was so proud that night. Proud that my fellow citizens on every level worked to get MSgt. Richardson to his final repose. Proud of all the people who showed up on the ramp early that Saturday morning to show their respect. Proud of our passengers that they recognized a greater purpose than getting off the jet. And proud that my company, American Airlines knows how to handle this situation with humility and honor.
As you go through your day, remember that there are thousands of men and women overseas in the service of our country, far from home and in danger's way. Please remember that they have families back here who live every day in fear of the phone call or visit with the news that their worst nightmare has come true.
Be thankful for their efforts and if you know someone who is in the service - get their address from their family and write them and thank them. It's the least you can do.
Thanks, Gary. That's all for today.
The letter doesn't show up on snopes but I did find a "confirmation" from a message board. The story is also listed on the Chicago Tribune's blog. I have also not been able to find any other information related to MSgt. Richardson. The DOD has no listing of his death within a week before Dec. 3 and I have not been able to find an obit for him either. There is also no mention of the death of any Shawn Richardson at the Iraqi Coalition Casualties website. Granted, the name may have been changed but not likely. And he may have died while not serving in Iraq, which could explain his lack of mention on the ICasualties website, but that shouldn't leave him off the DOD website.
I did find this blog by a soldier, Shawn Richardson who's last entry was Jan. 2006, but he apparently has already been relieved of duty in Iraq. There's also mention of a Sgt. Shawn Richardson who was a crew member of Marine One.
Maybe I'm just suspicious of this story because it's another example of "dissing the media" for not covering a "good story" from Iraq. Most of the places I've found it copied on the Net introduce it as much. Maybe I'm just uber-sensitive. But I love the story regardless and thanks to Martha for sending it on. We can always hope that it's true.

UPDATE: I did find a link to the flight information for AAL1904 on FlightAware.
The flight apparently took off at 8:50 p.m. CST from Chicago on Dec. 3 2 and arrived at 1:01 a.m. EST in Miami the next morning - Monday. Not Saturday as mentioned in the letter. Maybe a mistaken date by the pilot. Sunday.
2nd UPDATE: I finally found a possible obit for MSgt. Richardson. According to this obit, it could be the same man. The soldier died in Japan on Nov. 25, 2006 and services were held Dec. 9, 2006. As of writing this the pilot is actually on the phone with me verifying the story.
I'll post an update as soon as I finish talking to him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Horse Sense: Facing Another New Year

Another year is ending; another year begins. Each of us faces his or her New Year differently, thankfully most with a measure of hope. Many who know that big changes or challenges await face it with some anxiety. A few face the New Year and every day with indifference, which is worst of all. Indifference is a form of ingratitude, a sure sign of squandering the time. Time is too precious. That’s what it’s all about really, the annual celebrating of another New Year. Most things are renewable if given sufficient time, but time itself is a constrained resource. You can buy a lot for a million dollars, but not one second more than your allotted time. Notwithstanding, it is a strange custom to observe the passage of time at annual New Year intervals. Time doesn’t really pause, but rather keeps gliding on. Likewise, love doesn’t stop and start again on your wedding anniversary; even your Golden Anniversary is no more lustrous per se than the first one. And yet we invest importance in anniversaries, including the New Year’s. The markers, like graduations remind us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Which reminds me, I had a supervisor once who tutored me in history and criticized my emphasis on generations. His point was that people are born every day. Generations run together, and there’s no such thing as a definite demarcation between them. Nevertheless, I still say we know something of a Baby Boom Generation and something else of the Greatest Generation before them. I’m quite sure there are characteristics to Generation X, even if a lot of exceptions prove the rule.
Time is like generations. It runs together, and many things carry over from one year to the next. And yet each year is special, unique, distinct and irreplaceable. In the context of eternity, it may not seem like much—no more than a drop of water to the ocean, a ray of sunshine to the sun. On the other hand, the big picture hardly diminishes the substance, opportunity and potential of every single constituent piece of forever. Your time, as it were, has wings. Don’t neglect to spread them out in the face of the New Year’s tomorrow. The year ahead is 365 days long, and it takes some energy, courage and a bit of ingenuity to get through it. The calendar may be an artificial construct, a mere human device (other civilizations have measured it differently). True, the best made plans of mice and men are often laid asunder, and generals and privates know that plans change the moment you leave the line of departure. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start with a plan. The New Year holds unknowns and unexpected turns; it doesn’t mean you ought not to have some personal goals and ambition. Resolutions are fine: they mean you have hope enough in progress. Even if progress isn’t a straight line, neither is it a circular maze or house of mirrors. The universe may not bend to your every whim, but it gives a little when you try hard enough, work smart and face each year squarely.
Life is a series of years; an interesting proposition begins each one. Your time horizon is unclear. You never know how long you’ve got, or indeed whether you win or lose in the end, unless the adage (slightly altered) is correct, that it isn’t whether you win or lose (materially speaking), but how you play the game (spiritually) that counts. You are almost assured of a sense of material satisfaction too, if you don’t mind laughing at yourself or patting yourself on the back either, regardless of what others think. Don’t let anyone discourage you is the message; they cannot know whence you come.
If someone should fairly or unfairly accuse you, or detract from your strategy—assuming they are even competent to do so (and most people are not), you should consider it a mere flag on your play. It doesn’t mean you are wrong or that you chose wrongly in the instant of decision. Of course, you could be wrong. Oh well. You should be willing to admit your mistakes without apology. The worst thing you can do is play life and all its precious time away, afraid of someone else or some other authority, afraid they won’t see things as you do or approve of your play in advance—afraid they might throw a flag, in other words. The object as I’ve ascertained it, is to play life hard as well as you can. Faith has it that the goal line is worth the risk, worth the sweat and worth honing the skills involved in contest. So face another New Year bravely, this one in particular, knowing full well that fighting a good fight is winning, no matter how much time you have.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email:

Christmas photos

Laurie and I have posted loads of photos on Flickr from our Christmas parties. Read all about it and then enjoy the fun in pictures.
Somehow we missed out on getting any pictures on my family's activities. I think we got lazy.
Turner/Medlin Christmas
Turner Christmas and Laurie, Kara, Tim and I posing for a photo
Gotta tell you though, the funniest pictues, besides those of Brooklyn and Jake are of the four of us trying to pose for a camera on a timer.

Remember our armed forces

A U.S. Navy sailor holds his child for the first time as he returns to Naval Base San Diego, Calif., following a deployment aboard the USS Halsey (DDG 97) on Dec. 24, 2006. Halsey, an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, conducted sustained maritime interdiction operations in the Sulu and Celebes Seas during its maiden deployment. DoD photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell, U.S. Navy. (Released)

I reported on another casualty of the war in Iraq yesterday. That's the third article I've written. Luckily that's all. But either way it's hard to do. It doesn't get any easier -- which is probably why the DOD gives very little information on each casualty.
I've subscribed to the DOD's e-mail list that keeps me posted on any and all casualties in Iraq and its amazing to see how many e-mails I've gotten over the last few days. Most of these men and women died over the Christmas holiday weekend. Not how I'd want to remember Christmas this year. Remember the families of those who have served, are serving and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

President Ford has died

From the AP: Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in America's history, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.
"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."
The statement did not say where Ford died or list a cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January 2006 and underwent two heart treatments - including an angioplasty - in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking for online tracts?

If you're looking for a way to witness to your friends online - but can't find the words to say - maybe digitracts can help. Published by the American Tract Society, Digitracts has a variety of online Gospel presentations. You can send a link to a friend and see how God moves.
But remember - They will know we are Christians by our tracts LOVE.
Live your faith - don't just speak/type/link it.

Quote of the day

Here's a challenge for the New Year:
Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. ... Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of our generation.
- Robert F. Kennedy

Merry Christmas

Laurie and Jonathan Xmas 2006
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the both of us.

30 in 2007

Well I have 2 new goals for 2007, I've actually cheated a bit and started counting already.
But goal number one is to read 30 books in the next 12 months.
I started on one last night, Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance, my parents bought it for Laurie and I for Christmas. I guess they think we're getting married soon or something ;-).
It's an easy read and I'm about halfway through it as of this morning.
If anyone has any great reads, let me know. I hope the reading will make me a better person overall, as well as a better writer and blogger.
Secondly, I plan to lose at least 30 more pounds by April 28. I've lost 25 solid pounds since late May last year and I've pretty much stalled out between 230 and 240 since going to Nigeria in October. My goal was to get to 210 or lower when I started so I need to lose at least 30 more pounds to be sure and I'd like to look my best for the above mentioned wedding on April 28, hence the goal. What are you're goals/resolutions/hopes/dreams for 2007?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

And in his name all oppression shall cease

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Holy Night (verse 3)
Take a moment to read Thomas' thoughts on Christmas.
I'm glad to be able to count people like Thomas as a friend.
Merry Christmas to you all! Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Methane power

Ever want to find a use for all those cow patties on your back 40?
An agricultural college in the UK has found that eight months worth of cow patties produces enough electricity to power a farm for a full year.
Adrian Joynt, farm manager at the college's new £2.7m environmentally-friendly Harris Centre, said: "Everything that comes out of the back end of an animal goes in [the digester].
"And what we get out is 7,500 kilowatts - or £7,500 worth. We actually get enough energy to supply the farm's electricity for a year."
He added: "If you are going to put food in one end of the cow, we have to accept what comes out of the other.
"It's about what we do with it.
"We can either spread it on the field or we can put it through this digester and get the methane gas out of it."
Via The BBCI'm sure someone's got a great snarky remark or two about this. I'm just waiting to read them.

16 tips for Christmas photos

Lifehacker passes along a link for 16 great photo tips for Christmas. Here's just one example:
There are certain moments during a Christmas gathering that are filled with all manner of photographic opportunities and the opening of gifts is like no other in that it is filled with an array of emotions, facial expressions and excitement - especially if you've got kids around. Switch your camera to burst mode (sometimes called continuous shooting mode) and take lots of shots at this time of the festivities. You'll find you end up with some excellent series of shots when you do this....
Read more. Via Lifehacker.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Legislatures ready for the session

Well a new day has dawned, I received a press release from Don Burnam, State Rep. Dist. 90 (in Fort Worth). No, I've received press releases before, but not as a blogger. They've all come to my inbox because of my role as a newspaper reporter.
But you know the Legislature is getting ready to start meeting again when everyone's sending out press releases on their latest bills. Here's the release from Burnam:
Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Ft. Worth), a member of the Law Enforcement Committee of the Texas House of Representatives, filed House Bill 418 which would limit the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers. Current policy allows individual police departments and officers wide discretion as to when a Taser can be used. Rep. Burnam’s bill would limit Taser use to situations in which the officer is “justified in using deadly force” as defined in the Penal Code.
“The number of incidents in which officers use tasers on unarmed people is truly alarming,” said Rep.
Burnam. “There are currently 16 documented deaths due to Taser use by police in Texas. There is a perception out there that Tasers are safe and generally harmless. That perception is dead wrong. Tasers have proven to be lethal and that’s why they should only be used in situations in which deadly force is justified.”
The situation is bad statewide: in Austin, incidents in which police officers used Tasers went from three in 2002 to 265 in 2004; in Lubbock, a lawsuit is pending after a police officer tased an unarmed man six times even though video released to the public shows he was not resisting arrest; recently in Houston, Texans football player Fred Weary was Tasered for no apparent reason as no charges were filed against him.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Tasers have been used in Houston 892 times in the last two years; in only 39 of those incidents would officers have been justified in the use of deadly force.
“All my bill says is that if you’re going to shoot someone with 50,000 volts, it should only be done when the officer is in grave danger,” Burnam continued. “If a suspect is unarmed or does not present a deadly threat to the officer, they should not be tased.”
Analyses of statistics from around the state show that Tasers are used disproportionately on minorities. In Houston, for example, police data shows that 63% of tased suspects were black.
“Tasers are being used on minorities with impunity,” said Burnam. “It needs to stop.”
I don't know if tasering is really as bad as its made to sound here, but I would rather be tasered than shot. No doubt about that.
My initial assumption would be that the amount of tasering has increased over the last few years because the number of officers with tasers has increased. Only seems logical.

A weird Christian

Moby talks about being a weird Christian today on his blog:
i won't ever argue with anyone about religion or claim that i'm right and they're wrong.
but in my own weird and subjective way i'm a weird little christian.
i believe that there's something somehow divine about the teachings of christ, and the fact that christ's teachings compel us to be selfless and forgiving and humble and loving and non-judgemental.
this is one of the reasons that i get so annoyed with contemporary christianity and it's seemingly comprehensive disconnect from the actual teachings of christ.
but, nonetheless, i find it odd when people come to or myspace to say 'moby, we christians do this/that/etc'.
i kind of want to say, 'uh, dudes(notice the contemporary colloquialism, that's me trying to fit in)i'm one of you, ok?'
christ compels us to be better than we usually are.
christ compels us to forgive those who've wronged us.
christ compels us to love our enemies.
christ compels us to be humble and non-judgemental.
christ compels us to care for the neediest.
christ compels us to be non-violent.
christ compels us to recognize that the material world and all of our posessions will ultimately turn into dust, so we shouldn't get too attached to our bodies, our lives, and our stuff.
and, most importantly (in many ways), christ compels us to love one another and look after one another, and to see all people as our own family.
I thought this comment was interesting:
and i'll never, not for a second, say 'what i believe is right, and what you believe is wrong.' what i believe is what i believe. it's subjective and it makes sense to me and it changes as i change and as my experience in the world changes.
That doesn't seem to leave any room for absolutes. Are there absolutes in your faith that you will not negotiate? Should there be?

Important message for tea-totalers

Please read this important message regarding your beloved tea and coffee....
Don't fall into sin like your brothers and sisters have.
There might be some who allege that drinking just one or two glasses of tea does not lead to caffeine addiction. This is technically true, but unfortunately, not all Christians who partake in moderate tea drinking can stop with just a couple of glasses. It is not uncommon for Christian men and women to progress from tea, to coffee, to 64 ounce Colas or Mountain Dews. Where does it stop? How does one know when the line of addiction has been crossed? If caffeine is addictive, then why play with fire? We must conclude that Drinking tea is a sin (Counsels on Diet and Drink: Part II, Tea and Coffee, page 434).
I'm rolling on the floor spilling my coffee and tea everywhere.
Please be sure to read the entire entry and comments.

When you're done, be sure and read Lessons from Africa as well.

Finding drafts in your home

If you're looking for hard to find drafts in your house, burn a stick of incense and hold it up to the walls/windows/doors. The smoke from the incense will change direction as a draft comes through.
Via Lifehacker


Instead of wasting yards and yards of expensive wrapping paper (that will just end up getting thrown away), use these creative ideas to still have pretty gifts without wasting paper. In addition to the old favorite, newspaper, Danny Seo has created a list of gorgeous alternative wrappings at his blog, Simply Green, including this idea to use vhs tape as ribbon. To avoid paper altogether, try furoshiki, a method of folding cloth to wrap things, which was featured a while ago at Make.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's on your Christmas playlist

A church in Phoenix came up with a great video to showcase their members and their Christmas memories with music.
A great idea I think. Anyone else have any great videos you've been using this holiday season?

New Flickr Group forming for Church Media

Looking for some new background ideas or textures or just overall backgrounds?
A new group has formed on Flickr with you in mind.
Post and share your worship or media backgrounds with a collection of folks in your shoes.
All brought to you by Web 2.0.
Now if only we could get this going with video - we'd be set.
Join the group today.

Horse Sense: American Christmas

In some parts of the world, they don’t celebrate Christmas. The people in such places think they’ve done all they can, fasting and praying five times a day; and preparing for another pilgrimage to Mecca. They haven’t heard the Good News yet, but sometimes I think neither have all of us. Many countrymen never pause to think that celebrating Christmas, well, sort of means you’re Christian. We are forced to admit there are a lot of secular Christians around, who like the lights and enjoy the music, and sincerely appreciate the smiles and cheer, but who don’t necessarily infuse their personal observance with a religious signification. They haven’t heard the Good News any more than, say (as a commercial would put it), a caveman has. Mind you, I don’t wish to insult any particular caveman or any of your relatives. Indeed, as soon as they realize the auditory nerve is not in the ear but in the heart, most secular Christians will have heard, because at least they know the Story.
In our country, we celebrate Christ’s birthday. As surely as we celebrate the presidents’ birthdays, we celebrate His. As historical fact, and in memory of what He stood for. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln share their day in February, but Jesus has His own on the 25th of December, in the Year of our Lord, 2006 and forever. Moreover, His is the Season that surrounds this Day. Traditionally, between Thanksgiving and New Year, the American holiday period centers on Christmas and on the fact of Christ’s birth to a Virgin in a manger long ago.
The secular Christian knows that Christmas morning holds a special magic for every child. He also knows something of the sense of fulfillment we have as adults at Christmastime: peace and love at the hearth, joy and laughter around a Christmas tree; the feeling of warmth and safety indoors, and the crisp air and freshness outdoor as the world begins anew. All of this is pretty good news by itself, and Christmas blesses all mankind regardless of religious views. But the Good News that crowns the Season and gives the most meaning to a star or angel on top the tree, is the message God sent with His Son. The miraculous circumstance of His birth demonstrated to the world a new reality, hitherto unknown—life beyond material confines, a spiritual universe besides our own. The message was of hope, because now we could look beyond the mixed up present moment, beyond the harshness of conditions we had little control over. Jesus brought light and was the light to a benighted world. Prior to His birth, the world knew mysterious and mostly detached gods and only the desperate, temporal reality of daily struggle for survival. Jesus came to tell us, God knows who you are and loves you without measure—enough to die for the sake of the world’s notice, and for the sake of your eternal soul. God could of course erase existence, end it all at the door of death; but suddenly there it was, a way through in the form of a Baby. He chose instead to redeem your life, to make it perfect, to bring you back to an image of Himself. Through Jesus, He draws us out of the morass. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8). The message of Redemption starts at the cradle, and Life born at Christmas.
Today we live in a time that some say bodes the end. But don’t forget the message of the Babe is that all things start anew: the newness of the earth at the turning of seasons; the newness of days with each new dawn’s light; the newness of the future with the birth of every child. There’s no need to be so mopish! What’s done is done, and what is past is justified if only by the path we choose in forging ahead. The other thing to remember is that we are American, and this is our American Christmas, secular or otherwise. Our path as a nation is forged by what we choose, and since 1776 we have prided ourselves on being independent. Globalization does not have to change the fact, nor any amount of immigration, unless we succumb to a lack of will to live and to pass down the Story. We could of course trade independence for international standards of what it is we should do, which holidays to celebrate and how—whether to say Merry Christmas, or Happy “Whatever.” We could trade the strongest heritage of liberty in the history of the world for any number of lesser and unmanly patterns, for the watered-down European notions of freedom or civility sans character. We find that we can just as easily, however, reinforce the culture as well as our hope and optimism, by pledging allegiance to the flag and to the Lamb.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email:

Online Christmas Party

Hosted By: All Things New
When: Friday Dec. 22, 2006
at 7:00 PM
Where: Orange Noise Radio
Cyberspace, TX 75104
All Things New

Click Here To View Event

Want to work for Google?

Google's found a unique way to look for engineer's living in Silicon Valley.
If you can you figure out the URL to visit you may be exactly who Google's looking for.

Moby and Christmas

Moby's got a post on Christmas and the "religious right."
jesus once got angry and drove the money-changers from the temple. why? because they were commercializing religion. so...what would upset jesus more, someone at wal-mart saying 'happy holidays', or billions of dollars being spent to commercialize jesus' birthday party?
the religious right need to sit down and look at what they're doing.
christians in the 21st century should be humbly tending to the poor and needy, not opposing stem-cell research, banning harry potter books, getting upset about homosexuality, and defending christmas from the pagan infidels(well, if a few people from the aclu count as pagan infidels).
Agree? Disagree? On a semi-unrelated topic, when's Moby going to make a Christmas album? I doubt from his comments he ever will - but I'd love to give a listen to him performing his favorite Christmas carols.

Getting personal

Oh no... it's one of those Christmas questionnaires. I usually just respond to these by e-mail, but what the heck... you'll all get to enjoy my answers.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I prefer wrapping paper but often use gift bags
2. Real tree or artificial?
I love real trees but they make Laurie sneeze
3. When do you put up the tree?
As soon as I can
4. When do you take the tree down?
Jan. 2 or as soon as I can
5. Do you like eggnog?
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
8. Hardest person to buy for?
dad and Laurie
9. Easiest person to buy for?
Rolly or Matt
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I got a random old empty cologne holder from my grandma one year - I thought it was the craziest thing ever - until I found out years later that it was the cologne my granddad used on his wedding day - now I wished I knew where it was
11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I don't normally do either
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Whenever the time and budget permits
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I don't think so
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Cranberry bread on Christmas morning
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
17. Favorite Christmas song?
Carrol of the Bells
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I'd love to travel if family is with us and there's time to actually enjoy the holiday wherever we are
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Of course
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I think I have a star - except I haven't had a chance to put my tree up this year.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
I'll quote Laurie on this one, "Christmas's not Christmas on Christmas you open your birthday gifts the day before your birthday?"
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
23. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
I have years and years worth of ornaments my mom has given me for different points in my life. That's what I use to decorate with.

Now I'm going to tag: BRANDI, AARON, HEADPHONAUGHT and MIKE McILVAIN. Tag you guys - you're it.

Verse and Quote of the day

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
- Romans 13:10-10

True Christians do not know vengeance. They are the children of peace. Their hearts overflow with peace. Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the way of peace.
- Menno Simons

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Verse for the week

This weekend has been great with a lot of little lessons along the way.
Laurie and I went with friends to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra last night at the American Airlines Center - amazing show.
And I thought the message they portrayed in the first half of the show went along great with Brian's message this morning at encounter. I hope to expound on it all later this week... but until then here's the verses from Brian's message:
This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. - 1 John 3:16-17
I think that's a great summary of what Christmas should be all about. What about you? How does this impact your life or your Christmas season? Is it all about what you're wanting to get or is it about really helping your fellow man? How are you celebrating Christmas this year?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Verse and quote of the day

...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.
- Galatians 5:22-23

"You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty."
- Mother Teresa

Christian Myspace

Left Behind Games, an evangelical Christian software corporation spun off the best-selling book series, has launched a social-networking site that it promotes as a safe and profanity-free alternative to services like MySpace that have largely unregulated content.


...Because its so hard for someone with bad intentions to pose as a 14 year old boy.

The future of news

Not going to lie - this is where I believe news is going. User submitted photos, video and stories. Enter You Witness News.
A unique combination of YouTube and Flickr with user submitted news.
I make a prediction now that this is where news will be within the next 10 years at the most.
And companies like Google that can sell advertising on sites like this will be making the real money.

Kevin Sites tells you what you need to get started.

The gift of Flickr

It's now easier than ever to spread joy this holiday season by giving the Gift of Flickr.
Flickr has special gift cards you can purchase to give the gift of a Flickr Pro Account. The cards come with a special activation code that you can give to anyone, whether or not they have an existing Flickr account.
And in the spirit of giving, Flickr now gives unlimited uploads for pro users. WOW! The two gigabyte monthly limit is no more. At the same time, they've upped the limit for free account members as well, from 20MB per month up to 100MB.

What's In a (Church) Name?

What happens when a church decides to change it's name? Gordon MacDonald shares the path his church went down to change their church's name from First Baptist to CenterPoint Church.
It was a big day when our leaders unanimously affirmed their desire to go for a change. It was an even bigger day when we identified a name that every one liked. It just popped up in conversation. I'm not sure that any of us remember who had the idea. Jesus, perhaps! When we first heard it, we raised holy hands and said in concert, "That's it!" And we stopped looking. The name we picked was CenterPoint Church. It grabbed us, and it offered a meaning that we quickly embraced.
Not so the entire congregation. Admittedly, there were some strugglers out there. And we waited, month after month, for the last 20 percent of our people to jump aboard. Convincing the first 80 percent was easy. The last 20 percent, however, were harder to persuade.

Track UPS packages with Google

Yeah, didn't know you could track your packages with Google. Did you?
Informat has 15 other advanced options for the popular search engine.
Via Lifehacker

The key to the White Elephant

I wrote an article a couple years back for Relevant Magazine and thought it's relevant again with the holiday season...
Christmas is definitely here. Lights are a-twinkle around town. The advent candles are burning, and children everywhere are a part of numerous Christmas musicals.
Christmas also brings the proverbial White Elephant gift exchange. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this now common Christmas tradition, let me give you an explanation and some tips for walking away with the best gift.
The White Elephant gift exchange is a game likely dreamed up by genius guys, somewhere, who wanted an excuse for not knowing how to shop for their friends, girlfriends, wives and coworkers. Each person brings an unmarked gift, and then numbers are drawn to allow each person a turn to pick a present from the pile. The ingenious creators of the game also made a unique “out” to ensure they didn’t walk away with a disappointing gift. After a gift has been unwrapped, the partygoers who have not chosen their gift have the opportunity to steal one of the unwrapped gifts, rather than selecting from the pile of the unknown.
Click to read more.

Free Studio 60 download

The New Orleans arrangement of "O Holy Night" that was featured on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is available for free download.
A group of New Orleans musicians led by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews played the new version of the Christmas classic as part of "The Christmas Show" episode's story line.
The musicians are really Hurricane Katrina survivors as they played on the show. The vignette was coordinated by the Tipitina's Foundation, an nonprofit organization dedicated to helping New Orleans musicians affected by Katrina.
An MP3 of the song can be streamed or downloaded from NBC's Studio 60 music site.


HP and Cingular bring you the Internet

Years from now, your children will laugh about how you had to "stay in range" of a Wi-Fi signal in order to stay connected to the Internet when you were young.
HP is bringing a new laptop in cordination with Cingular to bring you the Internet anywhere there's a cellular tower.
The laptop has built-in WWAN (wireless wide-area network) connectivity that enables users to connect to the Internet via cell phone tower instead of only WLAN (wireless local-area network, or "regular Wi-Fi"). It connects via WLAN also, but you no longer need to get upset when the independent cafe you are trying to support has spotty Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Latest videos

Posted a couple new videos on YouTube...
encounter's man on the street: Christmas

Scrap Iron at Austin Street playing Amazing Grace Done Right

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monitor your power usage

I got a new toy to play with today for my tech column.
It's a PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovations.
A special monitor hooks to your power meter outdoors which sends information to a reader inside your house.
I've been doing some un-scientific experiments to see how the thing works and to see just how much power I'm using.
My loft has four florescent bulbs in the main living area. With those four on and things like my refrigerator, stove, microwave and stereo system plugged in I'm pulling only 4 cents an hour in cost. Run all of that 24 hours a day and you end up with $28.80 for your electric bill.
When I went and turned on all the lights, lamps and fans in the loft my cost shot up to 34 cents an hour. That equates to $8.16 a day or $244.80 a month. Luckily we don't do that.
Add the AC to that (granted its not running hard its only 59 degrees out) and the price jumps to 38 cents a day or $273.60 a month.
And here's an interesting statistic.
I figured out that using four 100 watt bulbs costs me a nickel an hour. Figure that out to a monthly cost and it's $36 a month to run the lights on my ceiling fan.
Compare that to 1 or 2 cents an hour to run the fan on high. That only costs $14.4 a month.
I decided to go buy four 15 watt florescent bulbs at Target. They cost me $16. As I figure it, they barely make a dent in my hourly rate. They cost less than a penny an hour or $4.32 a month.
What a difference. I'd say the light is fairly similar. Not as bright, but GE advertises it's 15 watt florescent bulbs as equivalent to a 60 watt bulb. So definitely enough light for a bedroom.
Now if I just change all the bulbs in the house we might see a big difference.
I am seeing a couple oddities though with the monitor.
I assumed my laptop would pull a lot more wattage but it doesn't seem to make a dent in my cost.
And apparently my ice box kicks on about every 30 minutes or so and pulls roughly .17 kilowatts (or $2.50 an hour).
But the device costs $50 or so (I think) and helps make you fully aware of where your monthly electric bill is going.
It also keeps a total account of how much you've spent since the last reset so you don't get a huge surprise at the end of the month.

DIY games for Xbox

Microsoft released free developer tools on Monday that will allow amateurs to make their own video games.
XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 is a framework for creating games with the C# programming language, a content pipeline for incorporating 3D-rich content, and includes libraries of 2D and 3D content that can be applied to games. XNA games can be played on the Xbox 360 itself or a Windows PC. The development tool package is free to download, though a subscription service is required for developers to share the games they create with anyone else.

Read more from CNET

Solar tiles for roofing material

This is a little dated, but while looking for other information I found this unique design for roofing tiles:

A roof tile that harnesses solar energy to heat water and generate electricity, has been invented by an Australian industrial designer.
The plastic tile is filled with solar cells and connects to a house's hot water system and electrical wiring.
Sebastian Braat, a graduate of the University of Western Sydney, says the tiles are designed with urban dwellings in mind - particularly the new generation of so-called "McMansion" style suburban homes.
It may not look great, but think of the electrical savings.
Braat says it takes about 200 tiles to generate a maximum of 1.5 kilowatts - more than enough for an average three-bedroom suburban house over a year.
Other researchers suggest looking at how the roof's pitch may change the efficiency of the tiles as well as how so many joins may lead to increased leaks in the roof.

Horse Sense: From Empire to Christianity in the History of Freedom

The problem for the ancient Greeks and Romans, indeed for any people interested in maintaining a measure of freedom, is how to bring government under control. Which is another way of saying that a fundamental problem lay with how to bring organized, legitimized power and its attendant use of force under control. Assuming you are going to have a government, then there really are only two ways: either by the diffusion of power, or by the appeal to an authority that transcends all government. Early successes at freedom involved the first method by and large. Lasting successes involve both methods, particularly the second. To illustrate, the American constitution envisions federalism and a separation of powers at the national level, i.e., vertical and horizontal checks and balances, in order to diffuse power and keep it from becoming concentrated at any one level or in any single branch. On the other hand, it is doubtful that these checks and balances alone will maintain the rights and freedoms of American citizens, except that, as a matter of almost universal conviction amongst the people, certain unalienable rights are deemed as having been given to us by our Creator—rights which may not be violated by other men, not even rulers. It is the Stoics who started to think in these terms and bridged the gap between the ancient and later Christian states. They made known that there is a will superior to the collective will of man or to any ruler’s. Their test of good government was its conformity to principles that can be traced to a higher legislator.
The great question was to discover not what governments prescribe, but what they ought to prescribe. Before God, there is neither Greek nor barbarian, neither rich nor poor; and the slave is as good as his master, for by birth all men are free; they are citizens of that universal commonwealth which embraces all the world, brethren of one family, and children of God. The true guide of our conduct is no outward authority, but the voice of God. What the teaching of that divine voice is, these philosophers went on to expound: to give men their due and more, to be generous and beneficent; to devote ourselves to the good of others, seeking our reward in self-denial; to treat others as we would wish to be treated by them. We should be at war with evil, but at peace with men. True Freedom, say the most eloquent of the Stoics, consists in obeying God. Such is the political wisdom of the ancients, touching the foundations of Liberty, as we find it in its high development, in Cicero, and Seneca, and Philo, a Jew of Alexandria. Their writings impress upon us the greatness of the work of preparation for the Gospel, which had been accomplished among men on the eve of the mission of the Apostles. St. Augustine, after quoting Seneca, exclaims: “What more could a Christian say than this pagan has said?” The best of the later classics speak almost the language of Christianity, and they border on its spirit. Nevertheless, the liberties of the ancient nations were literally crushed beneath a hopeless and inevitable despotism, until a new power came forth from Galilee and its effect was gradually felt.
The early Christians avoided contact with the state, abstained from the responsibilities of office, and were even reluctant to serve in the army. Cherishing their citizenship of a Kingdom not of this world, they despaired of an empire that seemed too powerful and cruel to be resisted and too corrupt to be converted, whose institutions—the work and pride of untold centuries of paganism, drew their sanctions from gods whom Christians accounted as devils or mere idols. No man dreamed of the boundless future of spiritual and social influence that awaited their Religion among the race of destroyers, who would bring the empire of Augustine and of Constantine to humiliation and ruin. For early Christians, the duties of government were less in their thoughts than private virtues and the duties of subjects; and it was a long time before they became aware of the burden of power in their faith. Indeed, until the influence of Christianity was finally felt, there had been no limited government. All that Socrates could do by way of protest against the tyranny of Democracy was to die for his convictions. The Stoics could only advise a wise man to hold aloof from politics, keeping the unwritten law in his heart. But when Christ said: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” those words, spoken on His last visit to the Temple, three days before His death, gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged; and they were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of Freedom.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. This piece largely abridged and condensed from an address by Lord Acton to the Bridgnorth Institute in England on 26 Feb 1877. Email:

Cheaper Solar Power - 60% less

An Australian National University researcher claims to have invented a technology that could cut the cost of producing solar panels by more than 60 percent. According to Professor Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University system works by taking a standard solar cell about one millimeter thick and cutting it into tiny slices that are just 120 micrometers wide. "Imagine a standard solar cell is a loaf of bread. When you put it out in the sun it generates energy based on its surface area. Now imagine you cut that loaf up into slices and lay them horizontally. You get a lot more surface area," he said. According to him, the technique also allows researchers to use much smaller amounts of expensive silicon to generate the same amount of electricity.

Read more at Treehugger

5ive top requested songs on OrangeNoiseRadio

5. Todd Agnew - My Jesus
4. Audio Adrenaline - Big House
3. Between Theives - Two Pennies
2. U2 - City of Blinding Lights
1. Dave Barnes - I Have and Always Will


Control your finances

Fiscal-responsibility site Feed the Pig offers a wealth of tools, tips and articles to help you keep your finances under control.
Start with its two calculators. The first shows you how much money you can save over time by brown-bagging your lunch. The second helps you pay off your credit card over a set period. Feed the Pig also has articles on establishing a budget; a worksheet for determining your personal cash-flow; tips for buying a home; and much more.
Via: Lifehacker

Taking your love for your mac to a new extreme

DIY Happy has info on a Mac nut who's installed a touch screen computer in his car with touch-screen media control, war-driving tools, mobile internet and coming soon - GPS.
There's no limit to what a man with a passion can do.

JB Hunt dead

A friend called me yesterday right after church and let me know that JB Hunt is dead. Hunt was the owner and founder of JB Hunt trucking and a huge financial backer of the recent purchase of the Superconducting Super Collider from Ellis County. I wonder what impact that will have on the plans at the defunct physics experiment.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Finals prep

It's that time of year again and Lifehacker has some pointers for those students among us getting ready to take finals. Including:

  • How to pull an all-nighter
  • LitSum free, online Clif Notes
  • How to make effective flash cards
  • Grow your brain 22 different ways
  • Tips for off-screen reading
  • How to defeat writer's block
  • Best music for studying
  • Social note taking for students
  • Automatic bibliography generator
  • Christian vs. Christ Follower has offered videos from Community Christian Church that parody the Mac vs PC ads.
    Via CMS.

    The church that produced these videos now has hi-res versions available for purchase, in case you want to show them in your church or group.

    The same group did this parody of e-harmony as well...

    Free Christmas graphics is offering several Christmas graphics for free download. Get em while they're hot. Cause no one will want to see Christmas graphics come New Year's Eve.

    Christmas bonus

    I got an unexpected Christmas bonus this year.
    I think its the first one I've gotten since I graduated from college.
    What do you do with your Christmas bonus? Splurge on yourself, buy Christmas gifts, pay bills?
    Just add it in to your regualar budget?
    Half of mine went towards buying new tires for my truck - but what about you? What do you spend yours on?

    Unique holiday LEDs

    The Evil Mad Scientists have put together a couple unique Christmas decorations that run on LED lights.
    One is a programable mesage "board" and the other is an LED menorah.

    WDL named official paper of Ferris

    From the ECP:
    With no mention of what it might mean to keeping citizens informed, the Ferris City Council voted Monday to change the publication of its legal notices from The Ellis County Press to the Waxahachie Daily Light.
    The only excuse given was the desire for a “daily newspaper” from Councilman Gary Ross, who made the motion for a change.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    CNET mourns death of co-worker

    The crew over at CNET is mouring the death of co-worker and CNET Senior Editor James Kim today. Kim's body was found in the Oregon wilderness, seven days after he went looking for help to save his stranded family.
    His wife and two children were rescued earlier this week but rescuers did not find James until it was too late.
    The tech website has posted a montage of videos in memory of Kim at
    Also read more from CNet writers

    US Population continues to grow

    Want to keep up with the latest US population? Visit the US PopClock Projection.
    According to the clock the country has a net gain of one person every 14 seconds.
    If I remember correctly, GW on Prairie Home Companion made the comment a few months back that the US had reached 300,000,000 people after another young boy was born in Mexico that morning.

    Eight-cent gas tax could replace tollways

    New toll roads aren't the only pathway to financing the state's transportation needs, according to a recent report commissioned by the Governor's Business Council (GBC). An eight cent increase in the gas tax indexed for inflation may be all that's needed to pay for new state roads over the next 25 years.
    In outlining the report at the Nov. 28 meeting of the Study Commission on Transportation Financing, David Ellis of the Texas Transportation Institute offered lawmakers several toll-less financing alternatives to meet the state's future transportation needs in the eight largest metropolitan areas.
    A flat increase in the gas tax, Ellis said, is possible but not optimal. "The fuel tax loses buying power to inflation every year because it is a tax based on the unit of volume. It's not related to costs of projects," he said. Nonetheless, he said, a 31-cent increase per gallon in the gas tax would provide for the Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) unfunded needs, as opposed to the estimated $1.21 increase frequently cited by Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) chairman Ric Williamson.

    My prediction for 2008

    Democratic Ticket - Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton

    Republican Ticket - Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

    and for kicks:
    Independent Ticket - Jesse Ventura and Kinky Friedman

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Five coupons to give this Christmas instead of gifts

    5. Walk your dog
    4. Vacuum your house
    3. Dust your house
    2. Free babysitting
    1. Night out on the town

    Wedding registry

    A couple people have started asking about our wedding registry, so to save you all some time, we're registered at:
  • Target
  • Dillard's
  • Bed Bath and Beyond

    Also you can get more info at: the knot
  • ACLU friendly nativity scene

    The Young Conservatives of Texas have made an ACLU friendly nativity scene.
    For those who can't see this small the three wise men are Karl Marx, Vladimer Lenin and Josepth Stalin. There is no Mary but two Josephs. The shepard is a terrorist. The angel appears to be Nancy Pelosi. We are told the manger is empty. Merry Christmas.
    Also from Dallasblog:
    The Young Conservatives of Texas are planning to erect a "parody" of the Nativity Scene at the University of Texas in Austin to protest the "extremity" of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to a spokesman for the YCT “We’ve got Gary and Joseph instead of Mary and Joseph in order to symbolize ACLU support for homosexual marriage, and of course there isn’t a Jesus in the manger,” said Chairman Tony McDonald. “The three Wise Men are Lenin, Marx, and Stalin because the founders of the ACLU were strident supporters of Soviet style Communism. The whole scene is a tongue-in-cheek way of showing the many ways that the ACLU and the far left are out of touch with the values of mainstream America.” The scene will also display a terrorist shepherd and an angel in the form of Nancy Pelosi. So how many conservative Christian Texans will find this humorous or even get the point?

    Sydor can now live in Farmers Branch

    From Frontburner:
    An alert FBvian passes along a snippet from last night's 6 o'clock sportscast on Channel 8. Dale Hansen said:
    "Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor is an American citizen. Became official this morning. And you know what this means -- Sydor can live in Farmers Branch now."
    [standing, clapping, sticking index fingers in mouth to make high-pitched whistle]
    Amen and Amen.

    Hail to the Chief: Dixie Chicks in Dallas

    From Frontburner:
    It was a good show last night. The Chicks entered to "Hail to the Chief," and since this was the last tour stop, I thought Natalie Maines might get fiesty. She kinda did. She made a joke about Britney Spears' crotch, but left politics alone, referring to the band's past troubles only as "the incident." They are amazing musicians, as the Morning News attests. But the crowd was sparse. I saw a block of empty seats as close as the fourth row. I wondered how many people like me went for free, the band's desperate attempt to fill the arena.
    Anyone want to explain all the backlash and hoopla over the Dixie Chicks to me? Aren't our soldiers fighting overseas to give other countries the same rights of free speech that the Dixie Chicks and the rest of American's have?

    200 extensions installed with Firefox

    A writer over at CyberNet web site installed 200 extensions to his Firefox browser, resulting in the monstrosity of toolbars (and then some) as you see above.
    Anyone want to attempt this with IE?
    Via: Lifehacker
    BTW - I'm really enjoying Firefox and Thunderbird. After a week of use I can't think of any problems I've had with either. No sudden shutdowns, no crazy error messages. Just easy fast browsing.

    Re: YouTube

    I had a recent post suggesting churches use YouTube for advertising. I think I got more hits on that one entry than the rest of my blog normally gets in a month (thanks to CMS readers). In the post I mentioned the advertising contest by Chevrolet. Here's an update on the contest via treehugger:
    In March we had great fun with the online Chevy Tahoe advertising campaign where one could go online and build your own commercial; TreeHuggers did so many wonderful parodies. Eight months later, Wired magazine analyses its effectiveness. "The contest ran for four weeks and drew more than 30,000 entries, the vast majority of which faithfully touted the vehicle's many selling points... But then there were the rogue entries, the ones that subverted the Tahoe message with references to global warming, social irresponsibility, war in Iraq, and the psychosexual connotations of extremely large cars. One contestant...a posted an offering called "Enjoy the Longer Summers!" which blamed the Tahoe for heat-trapping gasses and melting polar ice caps. An entry called "How Big Is Yours" declared, "Ours is really big! Watch us f**k America with it." The same contestant ...created an ad that asked the timeless question, "What Would Jesus Drive?" On its own Web site, the Tahoe now stood accused of everything but running down the Pillsbury Doughboy. ::Wired
    ...BY ANY OBJECTIVE MEASURE, the Tahoe Apprentice campaign has to be judged a success. The microsite attracted 629,000 visitors by the time the contest winner, Michael Thrams from nearby Ann Arbor, was announced at the end of April. On average, those visitors spent more than nine minutes on the site, and nearly two-thirds of them went on to visit; for three weeks running, funneled more people to the Chevy site than either Google or Yahoo did.
    I haven't seen any but I wonder if any churches took the challenge to see what kind of television ads their members might make. Could "the church" build a website like and open themselves up to public scruitiny?
    What do you think would happen? How would an ad built by your next door neighbor differ from an ad you might build.

    Killing phantom power

    According to experts, phantom power is a huge drain on your electric bill. What is phantom power? It's the power your television, computer, VCRs, cell phone chargers and more drain when they're not really in use.
    Your television drains power so that it can stay in standby and a picture will appear the moment you turn on the set. Your VCR drains power so that your timer will stay set and your computer may be draining power to charge it or just simply because you left it on.
    All those items around your house can add up. has some suggestions on how you can kill all that phantom power around the house.
    1) Devices like the Kill-a-Watt and Wattson can point you to devices that attract the largest load, leading you to get...
    2) A "smart" power strip like the Wattstopper Plug Load Control and Smart Strip Power Strip, that cut the power when your devices are off.
    3) The Mini Power Minder has the smarts to shut off your computer’s peripherals and doodads when the computer itself is shut down.
    4) Simply unplugging things like your cell phone charger, which is only in use a few minutes per day, will make a bigger difference than you'd think.
    5) See How to Green Your Electricity to learn more about keeping phantoms, vampires and warts out of your electrical life.
    And one for me - getting up and turning off your bedroom lights before you fall asleep will also make a big difference in your electric bill as well - especially if you leave your lights on one or two nights a week.

    Bridge over troubled water

    I was at a seminar for bridge maintenance today, being put on by the Texas Engineering Extension Service at the Waxahachie Civic Center. Learning a lot about the bridges we drive over every day. Lots of you tax dollars should be going to bridge maintenance, but it's not typically a priority for counties.
    I bet you'd be surprised to see some of the wear and tear bridges see over their lifespan.
    Might make you think twice about crossing some of the bridges you go over.

    Re: Cooking show or favorite eatery

    The discussion continues on several blogs about whether church should be about a cooking show or favorite eatery.
  • the encounter
  • Headphonaught's Nanolog
  • Headphonaught's 2nd post
  • JDBlundell's Myspace blog
    The post from Thomas that started this all said,
    While I couldn’t connect with much of what was happening there, I felt really touched by the message that was taught. But at the end of the service, I had a feeling of incompleteness. I wanted to talk about it with the others, tell them how it spoke to me and hear what it meant to them. Discuss how that could become part of our life. But there was no room for that.
    I think this is why blogs are so important for churches. It may be impossible to connect with everyone every Sunday. But with new technology like blogs and Web 2.0 people can connect at any time of the week - when it's convenient for them. Maybe someone can't make it to church every Sunday but they can connect with others via the Internet. You can discuss the message, discuss the music, discuss thoughts and sharpen each other's swords.
    I'm not trying to say churches should rely totally on Web 2.0 (or Church 2.0 as Thomas likes to call it), but it can be a very useful tool to reach those that might miss out on connections otherwise.
  • Re: Does this anger anyone else?

    From a non-blogging friend, via e-mail:
    UPDATE: McClatchy Newspapers report that in the official ceremony swearing-in House members, those taking the oath do not place their hands on anything. It says: "The House speaker administers the oath to members en masse on the floor of the House.... It's up to individual members if they want to hold religious texts.... After the official swearing-in, members often have photos taken at a staged swearing-in ceremony in the speaker's office or their own offices, where they can place their left hands on sacred texts or hold them and have their families or religious leaders present....""
    View my first post here

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Austin Street needs

    From Marni...
    Hey everyone,
    I made a new friend at the shelter on Sunday. His name is Willie. We talked for almost an hour while he told me his story. Willie has a job, but he doesn't get off of work each day until 4. By the time he gets to the shelter, we and/or our supplies are usually gone. And lately as it's getting cold, Willie sometimes isn't getting into the shelter because it fills up before he gets off work. Willie has a sweatshirt and a sweatshirt pullover, and that's the extent of his cold-weather clothing. Willie says that's not so bad for when he's outside during the day, but on the nights his job keeps him from getting in to the shelter, sleeping outside is pretty bad with no real coat to keep him warm.
    And our buddy Donald...the one from the video Jonathan shot. He was there for our coat drive, but he only got a zip-up jacket, not a coat.
    I am trying to find 2 coats for Willie and Donald. So far, no luck, but between all of us, I know we know someone who can help. Willie needs an extra large and Donald needs a large. Let me know if you are able to secure the coats for our friends and we'll take them out there on Sunday when we go back. And as a prayer request, Willie asks for a better paying job that will get him out of the cycle that he's in right now. He would like to make enough to get into low-income housing because that would guarantee his job wouldn't force him to miss his chance to sleep indoors. Thanks so much!

    Build your own "go-anywhere" tripod

    DIY web site Instructables has an anybody-can-do-it tutorial for creating your own flexible tripod - capable of attaching itself to most objects - on the cheap.
    All that's required is 3 pieces of stiff wire (you can use wire coat hangers), a 1/4" bolt, and electrical tape.
    Via Lifehacker

    D Magazine looking for new editor

    D Magazine (in Dallas of course) is looking for a new editor.
    This job is hard. It requires a skill set to which very few people can lay claim. We're not even sure why we're posting the job here, because we suspect we won't get any qualified candidates, and it makes us sad to tell people that they're not good enough. Oh, well. That said ...

    Driving a hybrid in Highland Park

    Shannon Wynne is the head honcho at The Flying Fish, The Flying Saucer and 8.0 and has gone out and bought himself a Prius while living in all places - Highland Park.
    Find out why.
    Anyone else bought a Prius or considering buying one? Why or why not?

    Verse and Quote of the day


    Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive; they are called happy in the land. You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
    - Psalms 41:1-2

    It is in community that we come to see God in the other. It is in community that we see our own emptiness filled up. It is community that calls me beyond the pinched horizons of my own life, my own country, my own race, and gives me the gifts I do not have within me.
    - Joan Chittister

    Hinn to travel by Gulfstream

    The Lord provided a miracle to televangelist Benny Hinn: a Gulfstream G4SP plane to help deliver the Gospel to the world. Except, the Lord got kinda stingy when it came time to pay for the thing, dubbed Dove One. So Hinn has written a letter asking for donations.
    I ask you to prayerfully read the brochure I have enclosed. I am praying that the Lord will speak to you to be one of 6,000 partners who will give $1,000 now or in the next ninety days to cover the remainder of the $6 million down payment for this powerful ministry tool for evangelism.
    I'd expect a free trip to somewhere if I gave $1,000 for someone else to buy a Gulfstream. But then again I'm a little stingy.

    via Frontburner

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Teacher gets audited

    A teacher in Chicopee, Massachusetts challenged himself to cut as much electricity as possible from his new home.
    According to the Christian Science Monitor, he exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents, put switches and surge protectors on his electronic equipment to reduce the "phantom load" - the trickle consumption even when electronic equipment is off - and bought energy-efficient appliances.
    The changes cut his energy bill by two-thirds. Wow!
    And the energy cut earned him an audit by the local electric company.
    The company thought he'd tampered with his meter. "They couldn't believe I was using so little," he says.

    Cuban talks about the future of newspapers

    Seems like everyone's throwing their hat in on the future of newspapers. What do you envision as the future of newspapers? I hope Cuban's right. I see his future as one the readers will want - or at least I will.
    I wrote a couple posts ago that sales should be a core competency and paper and local media outlets should be selling everywhere and anywhere that their customers allow them to. That local media has a local salesforce and thats a huge differentiation that needs to be a focus.
    The same applies to local newsgathering. Reporters have recorders for interviews (every one i do these days). Some interviews could easily be expanded to include video. Should the reporters be required to not only write a story, but also edit the audio and even video of an interview ? ABsolutely. I recommend that EVERY reporter or columnist spend a morning with a disc jockey in a radio station. Watch how quickly and easily they edit together audio into a package they turnaround in seconds and put on air. Take a look at how easy it is to use basic video editing equipment.
    Once you have packaged the interview or story, a quick fact check, and it should be posted to the net.

    Staying informed with Google News search

    TV Raman offers tidbits on how to stay up to date using Google's news search.
    In the information age, currency of information has high value. As someone who cannot see, I find having to skim many different news sites to stay caught up even more difficult than the average web user. As in most things, off-loading some of this work to the machine is the answer, and what better machine to offload the work to than Google News.
    In addition, finding relevant news stories through Google News helps me navigate directly to the news story on the originating site. Even if the originating news site is itself visually complex, Google has done most of the hard work of surfing that site and getting me to the content I need to read. Combined with Google News finding and grouping related stories on a given topic, this is an especially effective way of staying informed.
    Via Google's official blog

    CNET's recommended holiday MP3 player

    CNET's Veronica Belmont breaks down why she thinks Apple Computer's iPod Nano is the best pick for a portable music player this holiday season.

    Google and Teach for America announce joint effort

    Google and Teach For America announced Nov. 21, that they will work together to recruit some of the nation’s top college graduates.
    In recognition of the strength of Teach For America’s recruitment effort and its mission, Google is offering two-year deferrals to individuals who receive job offers from the company and are also accepted into Teach For America, the national corps of outstanding college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders for social change in every sector. The two organizations also plan to hold joint-information sessions on several campuses this winter.
    "Teach For America corps members exhibit the creativity, leadership abilities, and civic consciousness that we place such a premium on," said Laszlo Bock, Google’s VP of People Operations. "Providing these grads with the opportunity to spend two transformative years teaching in low-income communities across the country is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as they will arrive at Google with an excellent skill set developed in a demanding work environment and a greater commitment to the larger world."
    In addition to being able to defer their Google employment, participants in the program will receive a Google internship for the summer between their first and second years of teaching and will be paired with a Google mentor, who will work with them throughout their teaching commitment.
    "For decades, children in our lowest-income communities have not been afforded the educational opportunities that they deserve, and we appreciate Google's commitment to changing that," said Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach For America. "Google is enabling its future leaders to make a two-year investment that will have a tremendous impact in the lives of kids, while also creating a force of executive leadership who have the insight, personal strength, and conviction to not only do well for themselves, but do good.
    "We’re so appreciative of their help in our effort to build a cadre of future leaders who will work together throughout their lives, from business and government and every sector, to ensure that our nation fulfills its potential."

    Finding your dream job

    Ask the Readers: Get your dream job?
    from Lifehacker:
    Reader Francis writes:
    Since the age of 10, I've known exactly what company I wanted to work for (incidentally, it's the Jones Soda company). I'm not 100% sure what I want to do, but I would like to have my foot in the door, have them know that I am out there ready for anything they might need. I am even willing to start at the bottom, working as a temp or whatever need may arise. So my question for readers is this: How would you go about getting your foot in the door at your dream job?
    Got any suggestions? What is your dream job? Are you doing it now?

    We just got back

    Use - WeJustGotBack to plan our next trip and then get online after your next trip and help others plan their future trips. The site is a great way to get the lowdown on how to get around in a strange place, best local tours, where to soak up the scenery, etc. - all from typically a family-oriented point of view.

    UMHB loses against Wesley

    Maybe be old news now, but UMHB lost to Wesley in the third round of the playoffs today. They were down 28-7 and came back to finish the game 20-34.

    DIY Christmas light extravaganza

    From lifehacker:
    WikiHow has posted a primer for creating a holiday light show synchronized with your favorite holiday tune. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check the video above (and have your mind consequently blown).
    Interested? WikiHow's guide walks you through everything you need to get started down the path to a holiday light and sound extravaganza.
    Anyone blow your neighborhood away with a display like this - or have your neighborhood blown away by someone else?