Thursday, August 30, 2007

WDO?

David Pogue writes a technology column for the NY Times.  While I don't read his blog every day, I do get the weekly e-mail with updates of new technologies (ok, toys) coming out with a brief review.  While some of the content may seem boring (why Camera X is better than Camera Y, he has a way of keeping it all fresh and interesting. 

I was laughing out loud (er, LOL) at this weeks post The Next Generation of Online Shorthand.  He suggests some new online shorthand items.  Some incredibly silly and useless like this:

12OF — twelve-o’clock flasher (refers to someone less than competent with technology, to the extent that every appliance in the house flashes “12:00″)

Then there are some really useful ones like:

WDO? - What are you Doing Online?

GI — Google it

WLF — with the lady friend

SML — send me the link

CYE — check your email

You definitely need to check out the whole list.  I could see myself using a bunch of these in casual conversation.  He even has a section for you iPhone users.

That's it, Tom (MBLO) signing off.

Peace,
+Tom

*MBLO - Much Better Looking Online

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Portrait Innovations

I mentioned in a previous post that I surprised Erin with pictures from Portrait Innovations of Rachel, Colin and (a few) of myself.  This generated more comments than 99% of my posts receive (read that as I received one comment).  Because both Erin and I have gone separately and had great experiences with the company, I figured I would spend a post explaining how it works, what's different from Sears and a professional photographer, and why I like them.

Great Shots

Erin and I went to Sears a LOT when Rachel was born.  We went every month to track her growth.  So far Colin's on an every 3 months cycle (second kid, life sucks, get over it and quit whining to me about being "fair").  One of the things with Sears that kind of bugged me was the set positions.  You know, laying on the floor with head propped on arms, sitting on stool cross legged.  While I think having some set poses are a good idea, at both Sears we've used, it's too extreme.  The photographer won't take the picture until everyone is in position.

There were times where Rachel would run to the side, grab some random prop, come back to the center of the picture and gaze at it lovingly.  Unfortunately it wasn't on the pose sheet, so the photographer never took a photo of it, just waited until it was gone.  While we were incredibly happy with our Sears experiences, I believe the fact that I might be on the floor with Rachel tickling me, laughing and happy, is worth taking a picture;  Sears doesn't always agree.  So we'd end up with about 30 picture or so to choose from, which meant we had fewer "amazing" shots.

I'll digress for a minute.  As an amateur digital picture taker, I believe that 5% of the pictures we take are amazing, 10% are great, 25% are cute and good, while the rest are crap.  If you do the math it means 5 pictures out of every 100 are worth printing and sharing.  I've found that having a huge volume of photos of one event (I'm known to take about 250 - 300 pictures a day when vacationing) guarantees I can find a few I like.

While it seems that Portrait Innovations (PI from now on...  I'm lazy) must have some set poses, they seem very willing to stray from that.  They are also willing to take lots and lots of pictures to get just the right one.

For example, Colin wasn't being very agreeable that day (neither was Rachel actually, don't bring the kids right after nap time).  So we saw a bunch of pictures like this on the left.

But they just shot and shot and shot.  Another  woman came in to help at some points, and you come out with pictures like this on the right.  At the beginning our photographer said we'd get about 90 photos to choose from, we ended up with 132.

Then Portrait Innovations walks you through each photo, comparing three at a time to choose a first rough batch, then you whittle it down to the 8 to 13 pictures you like.  This is something our professional photographer, Mark Gregory (awesome guy, I'd highly recommend him) did as well, and it was incredibly helpful.  While Mark projected the pictures on a big movie screen and we sat in plush, leather seats sipping coke (or was it water), we only get plastic chairs at PI, though they do have a bunch of 60 inch (or so) plasma screens, which do a great job.

When it comes down to it, getting the best photos it what matters most to me.  While Mark Gregory got better photos of Erin, Rachel and I, PI really comes in a close second.

Great Price

As sad as it is to say, money's kind of important to me.  I think family portraits are important for a family and, when done well, become great conversation starters and express to strangers the type of family that we are.  When it comes down to it though, posed family portraits (while these are officially "professional" I only count Mark Gregory as the professional photos) are an extravagance that 99.9% of the world will never have.  It just about killed me when I saw we were spending over $3,000 for the book and photo montage Mark Gregory made for us.  While it's great, I don't have the photos online to share, and I'll never have the photos he took that we didn't purchase.  So, the only way you'll see them is to come to our house, which happens less often than you'd think. . .  Just ask my friend Melissa.

Sears has price beat, hands down.  We can order the top 5 or 6 photos we want and be out of there spending about $45 to $55 total.  That price has gone up since they now let you purchase royalty-free, full-size versions of all photos on CD.  So we always get some photos and the CD, spending about $120 total.  What annoys me about Sears is that while sheets are about $6 each, that's only if you decide right after the session.  So, if Rachel is overly cranky and I choose a bad picture, getting a new photo costs a $15 order fee plus about $12 per sheet.  Though with the CD this is no longer a problem.

 PI though comes in a very close second.  Both time's we have gone they've had a sale where you get three sheets of a 8 different shots, three 11x13 collages and a CD of thumbnails of the session (Looking the larger files are encrypted and I don't think you can just print them out without returning to the store) for about $130.  They also have a get a gagillion sheets of one shot for $10.  Doing the math (though I don't think the CD or collage is included) I could get 10 shots with a bunch of wallets, 5x7's and 8x10's for $100, which isn't bad at all.

Personality

In this area, all of the photographers were about the same.  Mark Gregory was awesome at getting Rachel to warm up to him (she's good with strangers, but more reserved with men in general).  He gave us hours (I think we were there 2 1/2 - 3 hours for the shoot) and came up with some amazing shots.  He was funny, performed magic for Rachel, and in general had her laughing.

Sears has always had female photographers, and they've always been incredibly nice.  I have liked that at Sears we had the same three photographers for the two years we went there.  They remembered us, and Rachel warmed up to them quickly.

PI also did a great job.  We started taking photos and I was nervous Rachel was never going to smile.  But soon Rachel was joking and teasing along with our photographer.  So, from my experience, all of these photo places do a great job of hiring kind and personable talent.  If you're going some place where you don't really like the photographer, move on.

The Shoot

So, down to the shoot.  Here's how it worked at PI.

We went into the store, told them our name, and went over to the bathroom to change clothes.  We then went over to the portrait room.  She asked why kind of back drops I wanted, but I had no idea.  So she picked burgundy for the ones in our jerseys (in retrospect white would have been better since the Redskins jerseys we had were burgundy), white and black.

She asked why kinds of photos I want, and then we began shooting Rachel and Colin.  I was impressed that the photographer used the camera free form, and moved all around the room.  At Sears the camera is mounted on a tripod, ensuring that the shots are straight.  While almost all of the PI photos ended up rotated a little bit in some way, I was happier than there were pictures from all kinds of angles.

After about an hour or an hour and a half (and one outfit change to our jerseys) we were done.  Rachel and I played at a Lego table while we were waiting for the photos to download to the computer and they made some basic photo montages, which took about 10 minutes or so (I'm going to marry the person - guy or girl - who figures out how to instantly copy photos form a card to the computer).

I headed over to pick photos.  This went somewhat quicker than it should since I was already incredibly late for picking up Erin.  It still took about 20 minutes or so.  We went through each pose, three at a time.  I picked my favorite one or two of each set.  Then we went through those final pictures three at a time, choosing my favorite one or two from that list.

This left me with about 13 photos, though I was keeping it to 8 or 10 for cost (I preferred to pay $130, not $165 for 13).  The photographer made some suggestions, which helped me pick a photo I wasn't completely in love with, but I've found is Erin's favorite.

Rachel and I then went and got ice cream and watched a karate demonstration over snow cones while they developed the photos.  Yep, they do all the developing in house on a professional printer, so it comes out looking like you'd sent them off to be printed.  Within 20 minutes we got to walk out with our CD and photos.

While Sears offers this, the photo quality hasn't been as good as when you send it off, and they charge more for the service.  If you couldn't tell already I'd definitely recommend Portrait Innovations.

This was much longer than I'd expected.  Sorry about that.  But it was a great excuse to post a ton of pictures of my kids.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rachel Meets a Friend in the Forest

Rachel, Winnie and her daddy decided to go for a walk.

"Where do you want to go?" Asked her daddy?

"Back to the forest where the animals talk." Rachel replied.

"That sounds like fun, let's go!" daddy said.

So they headed off from the house.  They walked a long way.  Over hills and through valleys.

They walked for a very long time, but soon they came to the edge of the forest.  The trees were thick in front of them, and they could barely see in.

As soon as they stepped into the forest Winnie began to talk.  She said "Oh Rachel, I'm so glad I can talk to you again.  I love you so much, you're wonderful.  Thank you for coming back here."

Rachel smiled and gave Winnie a big hug.

They walked on through the forest, looking at all of the different animals.

A snake said "sssshhheeeloooo" as is slithered past on the ground.

A deer ran up and stopped in front of them.  It turned it's head and asked, "how are you doing today?"  Then it turned back and pranced off deeper into the forest.  Soon a mommy deer and a their baby doe ran along after the daddy deer.  They bounced through the forest with their white tails popped up behind them.

Rachel turned to her daddy and said, "I love this forest.  I wish I could live here."

"That's a great idea" her daddy said, "how could we make a house and live here?  We don't want to cut down any trees and ruin this beautiful forest.  How could we live here...  hmmm..."

Rachel had an idea.  "I know, we could get a lawn mower and cut the tall grass.  Then the animals would be able to eat it and make nests.  We could make our own nest to live in."

Rachel and her daddy got the lawn mower and began mowing down the tall grass.  They mowed this way and that way, back and for, back and forth.

They mowed over one spot and as soon as they went past from out of the ground popped Lydia!

Rachel turned and smiled at Lydia.  She asked, "Hi Lydia, where did you come from?"

Lydia stretched out and replied, "I found this forest and lay down in the tall grass.  Before I knew it I was fast asleep.  When you mowed near me it woke me up and I jumped up to see who was there."

Excitedly Rachel explained about the forest.

"This is the magical forest!"

"The magical forest?" Lydia asked.

Rachel quickly explained, "Yeah, this is a magical forest.  There are all kinds of animals living here and they can talk to us.  When I was here last time there was a big lion who let me ride his back, but it was just my daddy.  When we left the forest he turned back into daddy.  It's so much fun here, even Winnie can talk to us."

"Really?" Lydia asked.  "That's so cool!"

They all stood together began to walk through the forest. They came across an anteater with his nose in the ground eating ants.  He turned to them and gruffly said, "Nice day for eating ants.  Would you like to share some?"

Rachel and Lydia looked at each-other, thinking "Eww, eating ants is yucky" then turned back to the anteater and politely said, "no thank you."

"Suit yourself" the anteater grumbled.  "Have a nice day." and turned back to the anthill, sucking up and chomping happily at the ants.

They continued walking and soon saw a squirrel.  It called out "HiHowAreYouToday?MyName'sReepicheepWhat'sYours?I'mFineThankYou."

Lydia looked surprised and said, "What did you say?"

The squirrel replied, "ISaidHiHowAreYouToday?MyName'sReepicheepWhat'sYours?I'mFineThankYou."

Rachel asked, "Did you say Hi, How are you today?  My name's Reepicheep, what's yours?  I'm fine, thank you?"

Reepicheep the squirrel answered, "That'sWhatISaid. IDon'tKnowWhat'sSoHardToUnderstand.HaveAGoodDay."

With that Reepicheep bounded up a tree in search of more nuts.

Rachel's daddy turned to her and said, "I think it's time to head back home and have some dinner."

They began to walk toward home and Rachel asked, "It's a long walk home.  I wish there were another way we could go."

Soon two huge eagles glided down through the trees and landed right in front of them.  They had wings wider than Rachel and Lydia were tall.

The eagles leaned down their heads to the ground and said "hop on."

Lydia and Rachel climbed on one eagle while Rachel's daddy climbed on the other.  They flew straight up, up, up into the sky.  they soared high above the trees.

The wind blew against their hair as they glided through the sky.

The eagles landed gently in front of Rachel's house.  Winnie came bounding up beside them.

The eagles leapt back up into the sky while Rachel and Lydia waved goodbye shouting "Thank You for the ride".

They went inside and enjoyed a good dinner, changed for bed, brushed their teeth, read stories, had water (except for Lydia, who doesn't drink water before bed), sang songs, and headed off to sleep.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Gift

Rachel, Colin and Daddy laying on the floor Well, it sounds as though some of you don't think that being married to me is enough of a gift for my wife.  So I decided maybe I'd give her a gift beyond a blog post which pretty much just talked about how great I am.

So, based on a side conversation we had this morning, I decided to have a "meeting" and take the afternoon off.  I headed out and grabbed the kids from daycare and got their pictures taken at Portrait Innovations.  All wives need pictures of their perfect husbands...  and kids too I guess.

Seems like Erin loves the ones I got developed, as well as a few I decided we didn't have to pay for.  If you're looking for them though, you can check them all out herePortrait Innovations does an amazing job of taking tons of pictures (we got 135) and walking you through comparing them in groups of 3 to find the perfect ones.

Sometimes God just puts a great big arrow in the sky and all you have to do is follow it.

Happy Birthday Erin.

Peace,
+Tom

P.S. For those of you who commented here to with Erin a happy birthday, I've forwarded on all of those comments.  She's laughed and one and been thankful for all of them.

My Screwed-Up Head

Ok, here's how messed up my head is.  I came across this news article title Two-year-old punished in dryer.  My first thought was:

Punished?  My two year old would have thought that was fun!

I created this thought thread almost immediately and thought it was pretty funny.  It's entirely inappropriate, and would anger some people.  Heck, I could never use it in casual conversation.

I am convinced I have the brain of a comedian but seriously lack the timing or ability to take inappropriate thoughts and make them funny.

The ghetto water slide Or course, you are talking to the person who made a ghetto water slide in his back yard by running water down the 10 foot slide on her swing set (thankfully my intelligent wife at least convinced me to put the kiddie pool at the bottom).

I have to wonder though.  What other things would my kid think is fun until she actually followed through with them?Rachel smiling at the bottom of the water slide.

She absolutely loves to bonk her head on things.  She also likes knives and hammers.  I bet she'd think it was fun to bonk her head into a hammer (or is that the other way around).

Heck, she also loves holding and hugging her 4 month old brother Colin constantly.  But how much fun will it be when she hugs him so tight around the neck that his head just pops right off and rolls onto the floor?  I have to think there may be just a little emotional scarring there.

Ok, I've done this to death.  The father in the story is ridiculously stupid but, I actually do find it admirable that he was open and honest enough to admit what he was thinking, what he did, that he regrets it, and that he needs help.  He didn't blame anyone, and I think he truly cares for his daughter. 

Heck, how many times have I wanted to throw Rachel in the dryer when she has a tantrum?  Ok, none.  But that's not the point.

In this world where everyone has "legal counsel" and won't speak for fear of retribution, I admire some clear honesty and recognition of our own faults.

See, and I bet you didn't think there would be any kind of lesson in here at all.

Peace,
+Tom

The Woman Who Has Everything

Erin, Colin and Rachel professional photo Today is Erin's birthday, so everyone should wish her a happy birthday.

Personally, I'm left with the same question I have every August and December.  What to get the woman who has everything.

Erin herself says she doesn't really want anything for her birthday.  Of course I recognize this as a clear statement that she has the best husband in the world, and could want for nothing more in this, or any, lifetime.

Being the best husband this universe has ever seen may seem pretty cool, there's a lot to live up to.  What sort of romantic gift does the best husband in this, and every, future get to outdo himself?  What could she possibly receive which will further help her recognize the sheer awesomeness of her beloved's gift to her?

So far I think I'll simply dedicate this blog post to her.  Finally a post specifically and entirely about her and her life.

Oh yeah, I may also mention her two great kids (though she'd say she has three, I have no idea where this third kid is, probably locked in the basement . . . or he should be).

Peace,
+Tom

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Magical Forest

Rachel took her dog Winnie on a walk.  They walked for a very, very, very long way away.  They walked past any area Rachel had ever been before, deep into a dense forest.

The trees surrounded them, reaching far up into the sky.  There were all kinds of animals all around her.  She saw squirrels and mice, cats and all kinds of birds.  She saw tigers and lions, leopards and cheetahs.  All kinds of animals were around them.

Rachel took one look at the lion and shook a bit, scared of what it might do to her.  The lion slowly walked over to her and gave her a big, slobbery lick on her cheek.  Then the lion grumbled and growled, grrred and garuffed.  Rachel jumped back, scared.

Then, in a low, whispery voice, the lion spoke.  It said to Rachel "Grrruh'm sorry if I scared you.  I was shhhlimply trying to say hello."

"You can talk!" Rachel screamed at the lion.

Then her dog Winnie barked and called out "We can all talk here.  Thank you for the walk, and bringing us to this wonderful place.  I love you very much."

Rachel responded, "I love you too".

She petted Winnie's neck, then headed over to the lion.  She gave it a big hug and swung her leg over his back.

The lion grrummbbled and began to run.  They ran faster and faster with the trees whizzing past.  Soon the lion began to leap up into the air.  It bounced a few times, then leapt up onto the trees and up out into the sky.  They were flying high above the tree tops with the forest whizzing beneath them.

While they were flying the lion's thick paws began to get smaller.  His big, string legs shrank down, smaller and smaller.  His back got more thin and the hair began to fall away.  His big head and huge mouth began to shrink more and more.

Soon Rachel looked down and saw that she was riding on her daddy's back!

They swooped down out of the sky and landed softly on the ground.  Winnie came bounding out of the forest after them.

Rachel climbed off her dad's back and gave Winnie a big hug.  Winnie barked back at her with a huff, haruff, arrooo, humph.  Rachel wasn't able to understand her of any of the animals since she left the forest.

They walked home, with Rachel holding Winnie's leash.  That night they shared the story over dinner, brushed their teeth, read stories, said prayers, and cuddled right before drifting off to sleep.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Impossibility

Is there anything more impossible than getting out of bed in the morning to the soft, soothing patter of rain overhead?

Peace,
+Tom

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Organizing for College

CollegeCase I came across this Managing Collegiate Paperwork article and thought I'd pass it along with some of my own thoughts.

I love the idea of the CollegeCase.  Heck, I wish they had something like this for projects I lead in the "real world".  They do have one for taxes, but then I have a wife for that.  I do think $25 is kind of a lot of money, but you are getting a bunch of good checklists and overviews of what needs to be done.  They also have one for college applications which I may get for some of our seniors in HS, it looked great.

As for myself, when I was in school I had a big 1 1/2 or 2 inch ring binder which held lined paper with my notes and all handouts in the pockets.  This worked great for me, though now everything is filed on my computer or in my GTD list.

Which brings me to the last point.  I read Getting Things Done a bit over a month ago.  So far I'm still using it, but struggle when time gets busy.  My list is so ridiculously long and sometimes feels overwhelming, but it has gotten me to really follow through with things I have put off, and it's increased my confidence level enormously.

I actually use the GTD ideas with RememberTheMilk (sometime soon I'll post exactly how I've set this up).  I can't express how useful this has been.

So, there are my college organization thoughts, as stolen from other people.

Peace,
+Tom

The Fifth Way to Ask

I'm sure everyone wants to know what happened with my "example" from Four Ways to Ask.  Turns out there was a fifth way I hadn't considered.

There's the option where your wife never even reads your blog post and you take care of the problem yourself.

In my example, we ended up at school and I picked up Rachel's blankets and brought them home.  It wasn't until after we got home that Erin read the blog post.

The problems with this solution abound.  Not the least of which is that I had to do something to solve the problem.  What do people take me for, a helpful husband and father?

There's also the problem that I wasn't able to "educate" my wife in the ways she made a mistake.  I couldn't even make it a subtle chastisement.

In the long run though, I suppose this is really the best solution.

There was nothing we could do to have the blankets washed before school.  It was just fine to wait and solve the problem without causing any grief.  Besides, it turns out it was my suggestion to wash the sheets Monday, so, in some small way, it was my fault for not magically getting the blankets without entering Rachel's classroom.

Truly though, taking care of the problem yourself really is the best answer.  Why cause grief when you can actually support your spouse, or someone else, by solving the problem and simply moving on.  It's those behind the scenes support and help which, in the long run, change the world.

Just so you know, Erin enjoyed pointing out how I was partly responsible.  She also did realize she forgot to pick the stuff up, but decided it wasn't that important.  Not that important that our daughter slept in her own filth, I'm not sure I agree (but I'm a guy, we do everything in our own filth).

So, in all it worked out very well, and I think I have to recommend this fifth solution.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four Ways to Ask

Blanket I was recently thinking about how we interact with each-other, especially our spouses.  I got to thinking about how the simple way we phrase a question changes the outcome.

Let's take, for example, a question I wanted to ask Erin this morning.  

First, a little background.  We forgot to pick up Rachel's blanket from daycare last Friday to wash over the weekend.  So we planned to get it yesterday afternoon and wash it that night.  Erin was picking up Rachel, while I brought Colin over to the doctor's for his 4 month check-up.  This morning I was wondering if Erin remembered to get the blanket and wanted to ask her.

You didn't remember to get Rachel's blanket yesterday, did you?

Spoken by myself, this could sound endearing.  When I cock my head just-so, it may even be cute.  I quickly threw away this way of asking the question though, since it conveys the message that I already know she messed up and forgot to get the blanket.  Never mind that I forgot it in the first place on Friday.

Trust me, it's never good to point out your wife's failings.

So I considered this second track.

Did we remember to get Rachel's blanket last night?

This is a far better response.  It makes clear that both of us are in the wrong.  I share the responsibility by not being forward thinking and getting the blanket myself.  Unfortunately, it's obvious my wife was the only one there at the time, so the quickly sees through the "we" veil.

I did change the question so that I no longer assume she made a mistake.  That's what makes this response better.  But it still wasn't quite right.

I know it was pretty hectic yesterday with Colin's doctor's appointment and Rachel's swimming.  You didn't happen to remember to get her blanket yesterday, did you?

This one is a great response.  I almost used this one when it finally hit me.  It gives Erin two different reasons for forgetting the blanket and it doesn't convey the message that I think she's an idiot for suggesting it in the morning and forgetting to do it in the evening.

This response also opens up the conversation for me to respond to whatever her answer is with "it's ok".  Clearly a winning method in any case.

Of course, before I could speak this final version, a far better one came to me.  Here is the 4th, and in my opinion best, way to ask the question.

You let her read it in your blog.

See, here you're able to expound about the problem, create witty responses to your own reactions and make the point without having to hear any immediate response.  Heck, if I turn off comments and shut off IM, it's a simple one-way conversation.

Clearly, I am a man of relationship genius.

Peace (until Erin reads this),
+Tom

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Amazing People

Jodie Leach at VBS I was thinking about my friend Jodie just a minute ago and realized that some people just consistently amaze me.  If you need something done incredibly well and you don't want to have to follow-up at all, Jodie is your person.  She's about the most detail and process oriented person I know.

This isn't what amazes me.  I mean, simply being able to do something extraordinarily well that I suck at isn't that impressive.  If I went by that criteria the entire world would be full of amazing people and I'd never get any sleep from dwelling on how these amazing people make me look useless.

No, what amazes me about Jodie is her ability creatively take everything into consideration.

Specifically, I was opening up one of my two gift bags for volunteering at Vacation Bible School, which she organized.  In it is an Old Dominion Root Beer bottle.  This goes right along with the theme of VBS, Avalanche Ranch.

I consider myself to be moderately creative.  But while I'll run around Michael's and Five Below to find things which match the theme, it would never have occurred to me to get Root Beer.

don't even get me started on the absolutely incredible Halloween costumes she puts together for her kids.  Maddie was an M&M one year, and you'd have thought she bought it directly from those animated M&M characters.

This creatively and thoughtfulness comes so naturally to Jodie that she doesn't even recognize she has this gift.  Come to think of it, most of the best teacher's I've met in the past few years have this ingrained, creative, flexible, think-outside-the-box mentality.

I think about Jodie and others a lot because I often ask myself this simple question.

What am I so good at that I don't even know I'm good at it?

What about you?

Peace,
+Tom

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Monkeysoft Office

It's a light day because I'm insanely busy and exhausted from Vacation Bible School (check out the pictures from Flickr).  So I'm going to mention Monkeysoft Office.  I doubt I'd every buy this, but it's pretty darned funny.  I'll let David Pogue of the New York Times explain.

Monkeysoft Office Upgrade ($20, monkeysoftoffice.com). OK, I don't even know where to begin.

 

This kit includes software for a Windows PC, a foam caveman-style hatchet and a U.S.B. motion sensor.

 

You affix the U.S.B. sensor to the back of your monitor. Then, the next time your PC starts driving you crazy, you grab the mallet and start pounding your screen. SMASH! CRASH! SHATTER! With each pound, realistic sounds and animations make it look like you're breaking the glass of the screen.

 

And then, on the fourth smash, the glass shards fall away to reveal what's really causing your computer problems: a roomful of juvenile, out-of-control monkeys.

 

O.K., how does someone even come up with something like this.and who'd believe in a product like this enough to bring it to market?

 

Well, whatever. I'm just glad someone did, because it's hilarious.

A point to take away?  No matter what you may think of someone's idea, or even what you think of your own ideas, run with it.  It'll affect someone, and that's worth taking the risk, isn't it?

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

100 Thing Challenge

I came across a blog by Dave who is taking on a 100 Thing Challenge.  This is pretty impressive.  This guy, who has a wife and two daughters that I don't think are taking part, is going to throw out every personal item except for 100 things.

He's tracking his progress, and you can bet I will be too.  I wonder if I could do that.  Just looking at my desk there must be more than 100 things there.

anyone want to try the 100 Thing Challenge with me?  Seems like it could be interesting.

Peace,
+Tom

These Orange Summer Days

We were talking to our three year old Rachel and asked her how picnic day was at school.  Her answer?

We didn't have a picnic today because it was too orange outside.

It must have been a code orange day for the heat and humidity.  But what images must have been flowing through her mind?

I love thing heard around my house.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Just When I'd Seen it All

This is just downright amazing. Someone took a picture, well a TON of pictures, of a dog and have it move around, watching your mouse pointer.  You've definitely got to check it out.  Too bad they didn't use a golden retriever, they have far more expressions to convey.

Looking more at MotionPortrait, the group who did the dog, it turns out they got all of that from one single picture.  Amazing.

Peace,
+Tom

Who's Important?

I was reading over a comment from my great friend Cindy (how I missed her form the hero list, I have no idea) and had this horrible thought.

Why is it that the only people who comment on my blog are my friends?

Somehow I relegated my friends to some place where they weren't important.  I mean, if my blog was good then cool and important people (whom I've never met) would comment.

The truth is that my friends are incredibly important in their own right, and I could only wish to be as collected as they are.

I wonder how often we do this in life.  How often do we put our friends and people we care for on the back burner so that we can get acceptance from people we barely know.  When have you chosen to work late to impress the boss instead of heading out to happy hour to be with friends?

How often have you gone to a meeting you don't want to attend at church so that people know you're committed to their activity and blown off time with your family?  Heck, how often do you look at your blog statistics and hope you see people coming from farther away than your home state?

In our search for importance we forget what really makes up important.

Peace,
+Tom

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Criticism

I was nobody until I became like everybody and criticized everything! Yesterday I received a bit of criticism because I was near someone who was talking.  It's amazing just how much one small statement can change your outlook on the day.  I was doing ok during the day until I heard the criticism.  All of a sudden my energy level plummeted and didn't really come back all day.

I was reading Isaiah 40.27-31 today which says this:

Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. 
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind.

That was definitely an example of how I felt.  I felt far from God and felt exhausted from this distance.

I could go into the happy discussion about mission trips and how much working you butt off for 12 hours or more for God really does give you energy.  I could talk about how I can spend 20 hours a day awake in the hot sun leading people at CreationFest and still wake up full of energy.  But that's for another day.  just know that in my life this statement is definitely true.

When I read this today I had these thoughts.

God isn’t criticizing the work I do; He’s excited that I’m doing it. God’s also not critiquing everything and making sure that it’s up to standard; He’s happy that I’m working to spread His message in the best way I know how.

We all need constructive criticism, and there are times I’ve really messed up. Being regularly reminded of those times, even small ones which don’t have a lasting effect, seems to create in me a belief that I’m really not that good at this and I should let it go.

Somehow, criticism also creates a relationship where I am trying to “live up” to the person doing the criticizing. When a parent complains that their child isn’t “spiritually mature” enough, whatever that means, I begin recognizing the ways in which I’m not deepening the faith of teens.  I’m more on my toes, subconsciously trying to live up to the standards of the criticizer.

In the end though, the work we do, and the energy we receive, comes from the joy and energy God gives us for working in Him.  I get to accept the screw-ups because He did.  I get to enjoy making mistakes because He'll make things right.

The next time you're ready to criticize someone, especially your spouse (man do I know what Erin should be doing sometimes), remember that screwing up and living the life we see God leading us toward makes Him happy.  He gives us energy to continue to grow and work for Him.

Even if it's not done the way you'd do it, that doesn't mean it wasn't done right.

Peace,
+Tom

Friday, August 3, 2007

Forgotten Heroes

Smoke and Shadow In talking about heroes with Taylor she asked another question.

Do you think that heroes will be remembered forever or are all heroes going to be forgotten?

Definitely an interesting question.

My answer was this.

I think that the person may be forgotten, but the change they made in your life will be remembered forever, both by you and by the lives you impact because of that change.  Generally though I think that the hero is remembered.

I still hold with that answer.  What do you think though?

Peace,
+Tom

Heroes

Superman As a youth minister, or previous youth leader anyway, you get some requests they never tell you are part of the job.  The one I tend to get the most is "help me with my homework".  Sometimes it's simple like review for the science part of the standard tests (thankfully I was correct more than I was wrong, I guess I'm smarter than an 8th grader).  The more interesting times for me though are when I'm asked my opinions for a paper.  These times tend to spur on some really interesting conversation.

One of the questions was for a paper and it was answering the question, who is your hero.  Oddly I found this to be a really hard question to answer.

God, of course, and Superman (I'm pretty sure Superman isn't Jesus, but they may be close relatives).  But when I really thought about it my heroes were authors, like Orson Scott Card in high school (a meeting that went sour for me changed my view of him and I can't get off of it), Rob, our rector for his spiritual and career guidance, my mom for her openness and some school friends who stuck by me even when I was a jerk to them (thanks Allison, Heidi, Coretta, Melissa, Mandy and Chris).

In the end, the overall picture of a hero for me is this.

Friends who stick with me and will take one-on-one walks to listen without speaking and speak when I want advice, the one or two friends I've had like that have been my heroes.

As I went through all this I really recognized that we have heroes for different things.  People who have taught us different aspects of how to live.  My life has been changed by everyone I've met, but my heroes are those who have so profoundly changed the way I see and live in the world that I'm no longer the same.

How would you define your heroes?

Peace,
+Tom