Friday, July 1, 2016
Blogging is a little weird. There is a fine line between good blogging and what amounts to self-absorption. I'm pretty sure I've crossed that line a few times. And perhaps blogging at all crosses it from the get go. Hard to say.
So what's new?
We recently refinanced our home with Quicken Loans. We were able to drop PMI, cut 8 years off of the term of our loan, and lower our monthly payments. That was pretty sweet. And we'd only had our original mortgage for barely over two years.
We hired a new guy at work who is from India named "Bala". He's going to learn to do what I do. So I'm responsible for helping him get up to speed. He is an experienced developer (Oracle) but has no experience on the IBM i or with the programming language we use (RPG). So there will definitely be a learning curve. He's a really nice guy and very articulate. I really like working with him. I hope he doesn't get too frustrated with all the new stuff that he will have to learn.
Speaking of the IBM i, we brought our company up on a brand new Power 8 a little over a month ago. That was pretty sweet. I did much of it myself over the course of one weekend. Very nice to be up on a new box.
Yesterday was the last day of employment for another of my co-workers who also did what I do (Programmer/Analyst). Unfortunately his health was not such that he could continue.
So that leaves me the senior guy with a relative trainee working along side. While he doesn't know RPG or the IBM i, he's familiar with most of the concepts. I have high hopes.
On a different note.... I've taken to listening to over the ear headphones both at work and at home. This resulted in a very undesirable effect I will call "headphone hair". After getting frustrated with that... about two days after my last haircut I'd had enough. We went by a hair salon and I went in and had them do a #3 clipper all around. Yes... pretty much a shaved head again.
The funny thing is... even with hardly any hair... I still have a semi-permanent dent in my head where the headphones sit.
Ok... that's enough for now...
Saturday, September 13, 2014
As I am driving with the top down and the sun shining, I tend to crank the tunes. I often find that Christian music just doesn’t capture the mood. Although I can’t for sure tell you why. Except that the SiriusXM Christian station is way more pop than it is rock. And I’ve always been a rock fan. Pop often makes me cringe.
So I will often find a secular rock station and crank it to 11 while I’m cruising down the highway.
That’s all good right? Or is it? Here’s where I wrestle. As I observe my own behavior and the music I choose, I’ve noticed a few things.
First, let's establish one thing. God hates pride. A lot of folks think that God is love and everything is good. Well God definitely hates certain things and pride is on the top of his list. Here are a few quotes out of Proverbs.
“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 16:5)
There are many other quotes I could add, but that is a small sample. As I was listening to certain secular rock, I was thinking to myself... I don’t know anything at all in this world that exudes pride more than secular rock. I mean think about it! Much of it really boils down to artists thumbing their nose at God and authority in general. And according to the Bible, God really hates that. He doesn’t use the word “abomination” lightly.
Does all secular rock fit that stereotype? No. But I believe the great majority of it does. I think maybe it was AC/DC that I was listening to when I had the thought about pride. But there are any number of bands that fit that description.
The other thought I had was this… why do I listen to the music I do? Of course part of it is the enjoyment I get. I really love a wailing guitar. But there are people I know, maybe not very well, whose main knowledge and information they have about my personal life consists of the music they hear me listen to.
And maybe I listen to what I do in part, because I sub-consciously want to send a certain message. It's sort of fun to listen to "cool" music and have people be a bit surprised that this 54 year old guy is rocking out.
Jesus tells us that His people will suffer persecution because they believe in Him. I wonder if He appreciates one of His children essentially identifying with the rebellion and pride of the world by way of what music they listen to. Should one of His children really want to gain the acceptance of the world in this manner?
When I have Christian music turned up loud in the convertible, do I turn it down at the stop light so those around me don’t hear? If there is a really good ZZ Top tune on… I might be way more tempted to leave it cranking at the light. Maybe?
This is my observation. That much of secular rock exudes pride. And when we listen to that, we are participants and are actually identifying with that mindset. And we are likely transmitting that to others around us.
Well, I don’t think that’s something that God feels very good about. Historically I've pretty much blown this off as a "gray area" that cannot necessarily be categorized as sin. But not caring about this is quite prideful in and of itself.
In psychology there is information about a phenomenon that is quite interesting. When we view movies or listen to music. Our brains play certain tricks on us to make us feel like we are participating. Can anyone identify with playing the air guitar? or invisible drums? Of course! And when you see a very moving film. Why do you think it has that effect on you? Because you feel part of the story!
So there you go. Maybe the choices we make about the “media” we consume are not as benign as we like to think.
Friday, June 27, 2014
There is a lot of variety. Certainly more than you'd find on over-the-air radio. Being an ex-hard-rock-addict, I found myself listening to a few things that aren't good for me. So I started searching for stations on the service that were more morally neutral.
I've found a few stations that are ok. But so far the best neutral music I've found is the SiriusXM channel that plays elevator music! Totally harmless and not half bad. I think I'm getting old!
If I want to be completely purist about this, elevator music is NOT 100% harmless. Because when you listen to a song you know, even if it is an instrumental version... the words play in your head. However, most of the songs they play are songs I do not know. So it's probably about as good as it will get.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I have wrestled for many years in my head over the morality of rock music. When I was young, Led Zeppelin were far and away my favorite band. The first rock concert I ever attended was Black Sabbath. And one of the first rock albums I ever bought was their album “We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll”. Little did I know that I'd be fighting these demons for the rest of my life.
When I turned my life over to Jesus I had the standard ritual “album burning” in my driveway where I doused my worldly music with flammable liquid and set it on fire. In the years following that, I have gone back and forth quite a number of times. As a matter of fact, if my life history is open to ridicule, this would be one area where I am vulnerable. On four or five occasions I have sold large collections of rock music worth multiple thousands of dollars, at a huge loss, primarily for moral reasons.
In the Bible Jesus states “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”.
To me this is what it boils down to. It’s the attitude, the lifestyle, and the culture. In the day, Led Zeppelin went hand in hand with rebellion, dope smoking, and partying. I think it’s undeniable. As much as I’d like to say that I just “appreciate the music” or attempt to detach the music from the activities and attitude that typified those who listen to it, I just don’t think it can be done. And believe me I've tried.
You could take ZZ Top, Motley Crue, and any number of rock bands you want. Their whole style really amounts to thumbing one’s nose at God. And I think listening to that type of music makes me a participant in that.
In the last 6-8 years or so, I've tried to diversify my listening habits. I wanted to listen to stuff that was spiritually and morally neutral. But’s that type of music is extremely hard to find. I don’t even know that it exists.
Even if you chose the instrumental variety of “new age” music that supposedly has no connection to any sort of religion or spiritual belief, there is a high risk that you will be exposed to music expressly designed for use by folks practicing a set of very real spiritual beliefs that are decidedly contrary to Christianity.
Music appeals to our passions. And in a fallen world, it will frequently appeal to passions that are of a fallen nature.
Regarding Led Zeppelin... I read a recent interview with Robert Plant. Even he is a little creeped out by the music they did together. Asked what the meaning of their song "Stairway to Heaven" was... they really don't know. And calls for a reunion of the band are met by them with clear hostility. Maybe they are fighting some demons of their own.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Shawna and I bought two 2-door 2012 Honda Civics about a year ago. We traded in our cars which had about 90k miles on both of them, effectively extending the life of our automobiles about 5 more years. In the process we moved from two fairly expensive cars to two economical ones.
It wasn't too long before we realized... the two-door Civics were not big enough for a lot of things. Obviously we expected that to a certain extent. But we actually had to rent a truck just to move a few things from our apartment to our mini-storage unit.
So, in late December we traded the red Civic I had been driving for a 2013 Honda CR-V. I then switched over to driving the black Civic that Shawna had been previously driving because I have a 122 mile-per-day commute.
I immediately noticed that the black Civic had a problem that the red Civic did not. It manifested itself in the form of a rapid vibration in the steering wheel around 70-75 mph on the freeway. Since I mainly drive the freeway on my commute, this became severely annoying.
After a fair amount of trouble shooting at the Honda dealer, they concluded that the vibration was caused by either the poor pavement or was a characteristic of the tires (which are not covered under warranty).
Of course the only way determine if the problem was caused by the tires, would be to shell out $650 for new ones. And if that didn't correct it, there seemed to be a strong likelihood that they would then blame the road... which would essentially be denying that there was a problem at all.
After already throwing over $500 down the toilet at Les Schwab for this problem, we decided to cut our losses and trade the car in. While not necessarily that great of a move financially, it didn't turn out to be that bad.
We ended up with a new 2013 Honda Fit. Nice little car. Certainly a step below the Civic in some areas. But a lot more practical in others. For one, it's a hatchback, where (unlike the Civic)... the fold-down feature of the rear seats actually is a functional advantage. It's also a four-door. And it feels much roomier than the Civic.
Oddly the Fit is not rated as good as the Civic when it comes to gas mileage. But after buying four brand new Hondas this year, we are now committed to keeping the two we have until they crap out.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
As a Christian, I like to consider what pleases God or what bothers him in our behavior. The journey of the Israelites in the desert with Moses was a picture of the Christian life. Out of a million Jews... only two entered into the promised land. Why? If you read through the story, those people experienced many awesome miracles from God, but they were largely ungrateful. They whined a lot. And that did not turn out well for them. They whined about not having food. Then, after God started providing food for them daily, they whined about the lack of variety in their diet. At one time God caused the earth to open up and swallow several thousand of them in one fell swoop. Because they wouldn't stop whining. This is a big deal to God.
If one believes the Bible, one must conclude that things and circumstances in our life occur for a reason. One of God's primary wishes for us is that we grow. This is way more important to him than our "comfort". When we encounter things that we consider unpleasant, it's often an opportunity for personal growth, specifically engineered by God for our benefit. What kind of people would we be if everything always went our way? Spoiled brats perhaps.
Do we really believe that God is in control? Then what exactly are we doing when we whine about our circumstances or problems in our life? We are essentially questioning the fairness of God. It's like saying that we don't approve of His handling of us or the affairs of our life.
In addition, consider how Christ suffered on His way to the cross. More than we can possibly imagine. After all, He was God. And He submitted Himself to the most humiliating suffering and death that was possible. At the hands of His own creation. He did this for us.
And we complain when we have a stomach ache.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Each of the Medi-Fast meals is 100 calories. And they are entirely interchangeable. There are about 70 different things you can choose from. They all have basically the same nutritional profile.
So what we're talking about is basically around 800-1000 calories per day. They actually warn you against exercising during the first 3-4 weeks of the diet. And they give you measures to take if you suffer from headache or dizziness as a result of the low caloric intake.
The Medi-Fast meals are interesting. Many of them are simply powder that you mix with water and microwave. Two such meals I had yesterday were eggs (egg whites) and vegetarian sloppy joes. These were both surprisingly good.
The program also calls for drinking a gallon of water per day, or 1oz of water for every 2lbs of body weight, whichever is greater.
It's certainly too early to draw any conclusions. Based on our experience with day one, we think this is something we can do. And with one month of Medi-Fast food coming in at over $600, we had already decided that this was a commitment we were determined to make.
I personally think that one of the bigger factors in the success of this program will be the almost complete removal of decision making from our diet. We totally don't have to think about it.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
"The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president."
~from a Czech newspaper
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Roughly three months ago my employer reduced my hours (and pay) by 40%. Otherwise known as a partial layoff. The reason given was dollars. Government budgets are tight everywhere and the particular services I am employed to support are not bringing in the revenue to justify the cost. And I was the last one in my group to be hired... so that made me the first to go.
If you count both of my stints with the ESD... I've worked there for a total of 9 years. By far longer than I've been with any other programming job. Most of the people I work with have been there that whole time. My coworkers have been great. And no matter what else has happened... it's the people I work with that made the ESD a great place to be. I'm definitely going to miss that.
So a new chapter is beginning. I'm moving from a government job back into the private sector. And this is not only a private sector job I'm taking, but it's in a family-owned business. About as far from a government job as I'm likely to get.
I mentioned to my new boss today that I might experience a little "culture shock". But I made sure he knew that I fully intend on stepping up to the plate and doing a good job for them. One of the notable things about my new boss so far... it's obvious that he really *wants* me there. They are totally glad to get me. That's a nice feeling.
Regarding the culture shock... at the ESD we are limited to 40-hour work weeks. At my new job, they are scheduling me for 48-hour weeks right off the bat. I will be one of two programmers... and the other guy typically puts in 50 hours a week. But the job is salary... so 48-hour weeks pay the same as 40-hour ones do.
They don't award sick leave at my new job. They just figure if you're sick, you're sick. I guess with overtime being the norm, they assume you'll make that up and it will still work out in their favor.
They are initially going to have me working four 10-hour days in the office, and one 8-hour day from home each week. In addition to the mandatory overtime, I will have a one-hour commute each way. That's going to make for some long days. Each workday that I'm in the office will be about 12 hours long if you include the commute. I haven't figured out how lunch will factor in. At least I will only have to do that four days a week.
I feel like I'm making a big leap. Not really sure what I'm getting myself into. Not sure how it will all work out. A lot of unknowns. But I have high hopes and a sense of adventure. I am feeling pretty good about a challenge. I think I will probably find out a few things about myself in the process.
My wife has also taken a new job. She has one day left to work on her current job before she starts on with the office of the state fire marshal (part of the state police). I will see if I can get her to blog a little about that.
Monday, October 8, 2012
“But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity