Archive for January, 2007
My friend Brian has created a free blog site for the Iowa Farm League, Cedar Rapid’s premier fantasy baseball league. Unlike the Yahoo fantasy baseball site, which is a private site only for league participants, the IFL Blog can be visited by anyone — including both you and my wife!
As the season progresses, league participants will be able to brag, negotiate, spin, and generally discuss our game. And, like a true fan, you’ll be able to watch from the stands!
Don’t worry about bookmarking the blog; I’ve added it to my blogroll at the right.
For the past few years, my sites have been hosted by Hosting Matters on a shared Linux server. Until a few weeks ago, I’d been a satisfied customer. However, for the past several weeks, we’ve experienced sporadic yet predictable delays — often over an hour and sometimes as long as nearly 5 hours — in email delivery. Correspondance with Hosting Matters support was not satisfactory, and the problem has not yet been resolved. As a result, I’m in the process of moving my sites to a new host.
I opted to try GoDaddy (yes, that GoDaddy). The process has been both easier and harder than I expected. For instance, moving my two WordPress blogs was easier than I thought it would be. Setting up e-mail accounts at multiple domains within the same hosting account has proven harder than I thought it would be. (In fact, right now it’s not just hard, it’s impossible.) And, after making a false start with one of my domains, I’ve been unable to finish setting it up. As a result, I’ve made three phone calls to technical support and had one contact by e-mail. The good news is that I’ve been generally satisfied with the responses, which already puts GoDaddy ahead of Hosting Matters.
However, one thing that bothers me is that each email account is limited to 250 outgoing emails per day. Now, mind you, I’ll never, ever send close to 250 emails in a day. But just having this limit somehow bugs me!
One other clear difference between GoDaddy and Hosting Matters is that GoDaddy is clearly a marketing company. At virtually every step of the site management process, I have the opportunity to see what else I can add to my sites and how little the enhancement would cost.
My typical Friday includes lunch with my Laridian associates. Today’s choice was Konstantinos.
Konstantinos is located in downtown Cedar Rapids, near the library and Science station, where Bistro on First was previously located.
The name — Konstantinos Casual Greek Dining — might lead you to expect a Greek restaurant, but if so, you’d be misled. Instead, you’ll find a casual restaurant with a few Greek choices, but many more non-Greek choices. If you’re looking for several Greek choices, try the Vernon Inn.
A few simple rules help guide me through life; among them:
- Don’t ever root for any sports team from San Francisco
- Don’t ever root for any sports team with “devil” or “demon” in their name
However, I ignored my rule and tried a sandwich called the Blue Devil, featuring chicken, bleu cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion, and a marble rye bread. The sandwich was OK, but next time I’ll remember my rule.
Konstantinos seems to be a popular lunch spot, as it was packed by the time we left. Unless you work downtown within walking distance, remember to take a few quarters to feed the parking meters.
I’m not sure how I happened upon this book. As far as I can recall, I’ve never heard the HomeWord show. I didn’t find it browsing at a bookstore. It was probably recommended to me by Amazon, and it sounded good, so I ordered it. As happens with many books that I order, I didn’t immediately being to read it.
Then I began to meet with a small group of Christian men on Thursday morning, and we were looking for a good book or study. We settled upon Creating an Intimate Marriage. Its ten chapters worked well, with each providing a bite-sized chunk to read and discuss each week.
The premise is that any marriage can be improved with affection, warmth and encouragement — or A.W.E. for short. The chapters are:
- Making Marriage Your Top Priority
- Create A.W.E. in Your Marriage
- Affection, Romance and Intimacy
- Communication: A Key to Warmth in Your Marriage
- Becoming a Better Communicator with Your Spouse
- Encouragement: The Friendship and Fun Factor
- Finding Intimacy and Freedom Through Forgiveness
- Attitude is Everything
- Growing Toward Spiritual Intimacy
- Renewing and Reviewing Your Marriage Vows
Each of these chapters provides ample fodder for discussion. Mr. Burns discussed some of his success and failures. While some successes — such as scheduling a weekly staff meeting with your spouse — might not work for all families, the underlying goal was clearly communicated.
While there are other marriage related books that I’d recommend before this one (such as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman), this book is a good edition to a marriage and family life library. To be effective, though, you can’t just read it. Read it and allow it to help encourage you to love your spouse more!
A more recent article on iPod Mechanic is available. Click here.
We have a 30G iPod Photo that failed within the past year. I previously reported that I’d sent it to iPod Mechanic for repair, where it received a new hard drive. We had an excellent experience with iPod Mechanic.
Between then and now, several things have happened. One is that iPod Mechanic experienced a significant backlog and even stopped accepting new orders until they were able to get caught up. This indicates that the demand for repair services exceeded iPod Mechanic’s ability to provide repair services. While no doubt the review at this site steered additional customers to them, this demand isn’t a good sign. It indicates that iPods are more of a disposable electronic item than a long-term investment.
Another event is that our repaired iPod failed again with the same symptoms of the first failure. Matt had been using the iPod, and this was the third time that an iPod had broken while he was using it. While he couldn’t be sure, he thought that the problem may have occurred when playing a specific album each time. We’re still not sure if that was the case, or if it was coincidence, but either way, that album is no longer in his iTunes library!
We returned the broken-again iPod to iPod Mechanic, where the new hard drive was replaced with another new hard drive. Since the repair was under warranty, there wasn’t any charge for this second repair.
The third event that has happened between then and now is that the iPod has failed yet again. Just today, I mailed it back to iPod Mechanic for another warranty repair. I expect another good repair experience.
This is the fourth iPod failure that we’ve experienced. A 20G 2nd generation iPod has failed, and a 30G iPod Photo has now failed three times. (Actually, it may be four times. I may have returned it twice already for warranty repair.) In contrast, we have a 30G iPod Video that is still running like a champ. It seems odd to me that we would have experienced three hard drive failures in the same iPod. I suspect that there is another problem, perhaps with the hard drive controller circuitry or in the operating system, that is the true culprit.
My fantasy baseball season officially began yesterday, as I purchased a Sporting News fantasy baseball magazine while at Barnes and Noble.
I usually skip these magazines — they’re outdated by draft day &mdash my friend Brian said that he’d like to see me base my draft solely on this magazine! That won’t happen, but I do enjoy reading the predictions and strategy tips. After all, I have a title to defend.
The past few years, the Iowa Farm League has had an opening for a new team. We play a modified 5×5, 12-team, NL-only league with a live auction draft. If there’s an opening this year, and you’d like to join the league, let me know and I’ll pass your name along to our commissioner.
The Unexpected Journey, subtitled conversations with people who turned from other beliefs to Jesus, by Thom S. Rainer, was recommended to me by my pastor.
Mr. Rainer and his wife interviewed one couple and eleven individuals who had one thing in common. Each had previously been a devoted adherent of another belief system prior to rejecting that belief system and accepting Christ. The belief systems include:
- Jehovah’s Witness
- Wiccan Paganism
Mr. Rainer focuses on the journey from false belief to trust in Jesus. What would make two highly respected leaders in the Mormon church abandon Mormonism, risking personal and financial loss? Why would a Unitarian, committed to the concept of seeking personal truth, ascribe to a faith that makes exclusive claims? What would convince an agnostic, believing that one just can’t know if God exists or not, that God does indeed exist?
On the one hand, we could accurately answer, “God did.” However, God often uses people like you and me to help accomplish His purposes. And one of the common threads in the stories of these diverse people was that they experienced God’s love, often through the caring and actions of one of His children. Another was the surprising willingness of those on their journey toward faith to accept an invitation to attend church.
Though this book is not a fact-book or a book of comparative religion, Mr. Rainer does share some basic facts about these false belief systems. However, the most encouraging is learning of the journey itself!
Back during the Christmas shopping season, I noticed that one of the dollar bills in my wallet had www.WheresGeorge.com stamped in red ink across one edge of the bill. “Curious,” I thought.
With some trepidation, as you never know where a Web address might take you, I later entered the address in my Web browser. I’m happy to report that the resulting Web site is not nefarious, unless you consider stamping a Web address on a dollar bill nefarious.
So, if the site’s not nefarious, what is it? Where’s George? is a dollar bill tracking site. Volunteers submit a dollar bill by entering its serial number and some facts about it — such as where you got it, where you spent it, etc. When another comes across the bill, notices the Web address stamped on the bill, and is curious enough to check it out, a new report on the same bill may be submitted. The result is that you can get an incomplete glimpse of a dollar bill traveling around the country.
Of course, no one will know to enter the dollar bill unless it is identified in some way, so the bill is usually stamped in a non-damaging way. While it is illegal to deface currency, you can judge for yourself whether stamping a bill is defacing the bill, and therefore nefarious after all.
Lest you think that such decisions should be non-controversial, consider this. There used to be a cottage industry built around selling Where’s George? stamps. In fact, according to wikipedia, the Where’s George? site used to sell stamps until April 2000, when it was informed by the United States Secret Service that selling the stamp was a form of illegal advertising. Where’s George? no longer sells stamps.
Fortunately for freedom lovers everywhere, some other sites still do. If you’re into conspiracy theories, be warned that these stamp sites may be ploys by the Secret Service to nab you. For the rest of you, have fun!
Carlos O’Kelly’s is a regional Mexican restaurant, with locations in the northern plains plus Virginia. The atmosphere is relaxed and the menu offers traditional Mexican-American faire. A special combination, called the 3 Course Fiesta, is currently being offered. Select on of three appetizers, one of three entres, and receive a dessert, all for under ten dollars. I chose the White Bean Chili and the Enchilada de Monterrey (thinking that the chicken was at least healthier than the beef of the Sancho Especial — every little bit helps, eh?).
The White Bean Chili was marvelous. It was flavorful and heartily seasoned with black pepper.
The Enchilada de Monterrey — hold the sour cream, thank you very much — was a good selection. The portion was large enough that I was able to bring about half of it home.
The dessert is called an Apple Chimi. It is described as “spiced apples and cream cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep fried to a golden brown, and drizzled with caramel and powdered sugar.” That description pretty much says it all. While I would have preferred it without the cream cheese, most of the bites reminded me of the original deep fried apple pies previously available at McDonalds.
I’ll need to postpone my cholesterol test for a few days.
Nothing about the exterior appearance of the Sushi House would cause you to expect what you find inside. The interior is effectively decorated to create a pleasing atmosphere, and the food is quite good. As you might expect from the name, the Sushi House is a sushi restaurant. However, it is not solely a sushi restaurant — it also offers Japanese and Chinese selections. I was in the mood for sushi today, so I chose the Philadelphia Combo: a Philadelphia roll plus tuna, salmon, red snapper, shrimp and sea clam nigiri. Part of the appeal of sushi is its presentation, and the sushi was artfully presented. It was tasty, and surprisingly filling, too.
One of my associates and I also opted to try Japanese Pickles. After all, we’d never had Japanese pickles before. (Could you have resisted that opportunity? Surely not.) We were served a bowl that I can only assume included three kinds of Japanese pickles. One was a deep green and cut into small discs, about the size of a dime or smaller. The second was yellow, cut into discs about the size of a quarter. And the third was a deep purple, served in a long thin slice, similar in shape but smaller than a french fry. Each had a distinct flavor, nothing like our sweet, dill or a sour pickles. While my associate wouldn’t order them again, I think that, given the right opportunity, I would. I found that the contrast was excellent between the various sushis.
The portions are more than ample. Only one of our party would have pleased his mother. That is, only one of us cleaned our plate!
This probably isn’t what you think it is: www.dontpassgas.org.
Our goal was to invest time in the original Web design in order to make maintenance and additions as easy as possible. We chose Mambo as our base, and Jim customized the appearance and style. As a result, we have an attractive site that will be easy to maintain. That’s the plan at least!
We still have some work to do. We need to add some more pictures, and there are still some bugs in the calendar module that we are using. For instance, it doesn’t sort events based on the time of day correctly. As a result, evening events may appear ahead of afternoon events. However, even with these issues, the site is pretty cool.
Feel free to leave a comment to let us know what you think.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette features an article titled “The God Squad” in the Saturday edition. It’s a sort of Dear Abby article, with questions sent by readers and answers given by Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman. The Saturday, January 6, edition contained an honest question and a tragic response.
Here’s the honest question:
I had an abortion in my late teens. The timing was not right for me to become a mom and certainly not a wife. A few years later, I met my husband, and we’ve been married for more than 30 years, raised children, look forward to grandchildren, retirement, etc.
We’re good people who contribute to local causes and are proud of what we’ve achieved. I believe that heaven and hell are the sorting grounds for actions on this earth, and that helps explain (to me) how bad people get away with rape, murder and torture. I like to think everything evens out in the eternal scheme of things.
So, on one hand, I’d like to believe that I’m going to heaven because I live a good life. On the other hand, based on my “sorting” system, it seems that I am doomed to hell. Is there any way to clarify this dichotomy in my mind?
The writer, a self-described good person, is haunted by a past sin — an abortion. After taking the life of an innocent child, she wonders if she is destined for hell, or whether her good life can somehow make up for this failure. It’s a question that many of us can identify with. We see ourselves as basically good people, but each with our own secret (or not-so-secret) faults. So, we’re interested in knowing more about the scales that God uses. How much does being good weigh, compared to being bad? How good do I have to be to get to heaven? This is essentially the question being asked.
The rabbi and the priest respond:
Our best advice to potential sinners, repentant sinners, frightened sinners, and just plain sinners is simple, effective, biblical: God has set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life that you might live.
Our job is to choose life, goodness, sacrifice, sharing, helping, generousity, faithfulness and repentance, and then let God keep track of the score. We’re in sales, not management. Without trivializing your anxiety about the future of your immortal soul, we just cannot know how The Boss keeps score. That’s way above our pay grade.
What we do believe is that God has an attribute of justice and an attribute of mercy. None of us could endure a cold, hard judgment of our lives and our deeds. None of us except the saintly could stand such spiritual and moral scrutiny from God. There is mercy, grace and love in God, as well. We pray that God might judge you and all of us through the gentle filter of God’s amazing grace, rather than only through God’s clear and fair judgment of our many failings.
We’re betting on you.
Unfortunately, while the rabbi and priest may be witty, their answer is not very satisfying. Boil it all down, and the rabbi and the priest say, “Who knows? Just try to do your best.” They write:
Without trivializing your anxiety about the future of your immortal soul, we just cannot know how The Boss keeps score.
But is that true?
No, it’s not true. We can know how God keeps score. We just have to look in the Bible. For instance, here’s three verses that help us understand how God keeps score.
- Everyone sins. We’re all guilty — Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein, you, and me. “All have sinned.” [Romans 3:23]
- One sin is as bad as a million. Violating just one of God’s instructions is as much evidence of guilt as violating them all. Since we’ve all violated at least one, in the eyes of the judge, we’ve violated them all. From the judge’s perspective, a lie or petty theft is as much grounds for conviction as rape, murder, and abortion. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” [James 2:10]
- The sentence for being guilty of sin — even just one sin — is death. “The wages of sin is death.” [Romans 6:23]
That’s how God keeps score: one strike and you’re out.
Just in case that’s not clear, here’s more evidence:
- We can’t be good enough to make up for our sins, because even our good works aren’t appealing to God. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” [Isaiah 64:6]
- Jesus taught that God’s standard is perfection, not “close to perfect” or “trying our best.” “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48]
Here’s the key: God doesn’t use scales of justice, weighing good vs. bad. We’re all bad, even Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and other “good” people that we know. He doesn’t need scales to know that we’re all bad. He already knows that.
So, what’s the answer to our honest question writer? Will her good life outweigh her abortion? Nope.
Will my good life outweigh the cookie I stole as child? Nope.
If being “good enough” is our only hope, then we have no hope at all. But, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Keith Ellison, newly elected congressman from Minnesota, recently used a Koran, previously owned by President Thomas Jefferson, during his ceremonial oath of office. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ellison asserted that Jefferson’s ownership of a Koran “shows that from the earliest times of this republic, the Koran was in the consciousness of people who brought about democracy” and that the Koran contributed to Jefferson’s thinking.
However, Gary DeMar clarifies that Jefferson did not read the Koran out of a respect for it or its adherents (whom he called “barbarians”), nor to absorb any good qualities into his thoughts and lifestyle, but to better understand the enemies of the United States of America and all other non-Muslim countries.
If Representative Ellison would prefer to use a Koran rather than the Bible during his ceremonial oath, fine. But let’s not fall for the lie that Thomas Jefferson, nor the other founders of the United States, held the Koran in such high regard.