The Power of Presence

I’m reclining in bed, looking out the window, watching the wind blow the newly leafed-out willow tree branches. Lu is sitting in the rocker, reading the just-delivered latest edition of World magazine. Bethany is next to me, working on homework, though I think she’s really spending more time playing Draw Something on her iPhone. We are together, even though not constantly interacting. There is power in presence.

I’m then reminded of those who will come for a visit, and be content with merely looking out the window with me. No grand philosophical discussions, no constant conversations, no entertaining or being entertained, just a desire to be together. While others might think that a waste of time, I know what you are really saying is, “I care enough that I’m content to just share the same space for a while.” There is power in presence.

And then I wonder, is God like that, too? Must I fill time together with reading the Bible, praying, meditating on the Word? Or is there a satisfaction that comes from merely being together, sharing an occasional thought, looking out the window, watching the wind blow the newly leafed-out willow tree branches?

Yes, yes, I think there is.

The Wig and Pen

As we were leaving the UIHC around lunch time, Matt, our prosthetist, recommended the Chicago-style pizza at The Wig and Pen.

The Wig and Pen, featuring a Dr. Who style phone booth.

Honestly, based on its exterior appearance, I probably wouldn’t try the Wig and Pen without a recommendation. I’m still not used to the effects of Iowa’s no-smoking-in-restaurants law, so when I see buildings like this, I subconsciously think “smokey dive”. (I’m OK with dives, just not smokey dives.) However, we had a recommendation, so we gave it a try.

The Wig and Pen is decorated as a British Pub, or at least as a middle American who’s never been to a British Pub imagines it would look like. It has a bar area, but a much larger seating area. The menu includes sandwiches, pasta, and pizza.

Since the Chicago-style pizza had been recommended to us, we gave it a try.

Chicago-Style Union Jack Pizza

It was very good. I probably still prefer Zoey’s, and Lu probably prefers Tomasso’s, but it was still very good. Zoey’s and Tomasso’s suffer somewhat from a lack of seating, which isn’t a problem at The Wig and Pen. The Wig and Pen also offers more menu choices. And, like Zoey’s and Tomasso’s, there was plenty of left-over pizza to bring home!

Who Hasn’t?

David Kim, Businessman:

“Sometimes I feel like a walking hypocrite and I’m ashamed.”

— World, January 14, 2012, Page 67

Windows Phone App Hub Makes the Naughty List

I am not an idiot.

For the past 4 working days, I have been trying unsuccessfully to join a Microsoft Windows Phone program that will help with developing and publishing applications for Windows Phone 7.

These two facts seem at odds with one another, do they not? After all, how could anyone except an idiot fail at placing a simple $99 order at a Microsoft owned and operated Web site?

Never-the-less, these two facts are not at odds with one another. It is in fact true that I am not an idiot (I hope you’ll agree) and that for 4 days now, I’ve been unable to place a simple order.

My first error occurred after entering my contact information. The resulting page simply said that there was a problem, but didn’t provide any clues as to what the problem was. After trying it from two different browsers in two different operating systems, and receiving the same results, I concluded that I might need some help. I painstakingly identified the Web site address, the data, and the results, and sent the information to Microsoft’s registration help desk.

Fortunately, Microsoft was “quick” to respond, and two days later, I received a form letter that didn’t address my problem.

It did, however, prompt a new thought. So, today, I created a new Windows Live ID and attempted to make the purchase with this ID. Eureka! It worked, if by “worked”, you mean got to the next step of the registration process.

This next step required me to create an XBox “Gamer Tag” to use with my Windows Live ID. Since I’m an imaginative fellow, I figured I could come up with something. I tried:

  • OneLeggedMan
  • TheOneLeggedMan
  • tolm
  • HotDogsDontWearSunglasses
  • HotDogsWearSunglasses
  • dskldfldjdslskdfjdljsflkdsldfjslkfjsdlfjaldjalkdj

Strangely, none of these tags were available. Obviously, I wasn’t as imaginative as I thought.

t finally tried entering my publisher name, and, eureka again, it worked, if by “worked”, you mean got to the next step of the registration process.

At this point, my payment information was needed. “Piece of cake,” I thought, but I’m still stumped on this one. Regardless of which credit card I’ve tried to use, the system tells me that the credit card number is invalid. I’ve tried different Windows Live and XBox billing pages (one of which let me create a PayPal account with the credit card that Microsoft refuses), but none will actually accept credit card information for my Windows Live account.

A google search reveals that this is not an uncommon problem. However, the same search refused to yield a solution.

So frustrating. Windows Phone App Hub — you’re on the naughty list.

Nokia Lumia 800

As faithful readers will recall from a previous article, I have managed to retire my old Windows PC and Windows laptop, and am now getting along quite well with only my MacBook.

Unfortunately, I am not completely divorced from Windows. I’ve been doing some work related to Windows Phone 7 (which may eventually turn out to be used on the new Windows 8, who knows?). This requires that I run some development tools from Microsoft that work on Windows, not Mac. And that requires that I either (a) have a Windows computer or (b) be able to run Windows on my MacBook. I’ve opted for the second option, and am running Windows 7 as a virtual machine using Parallels Desktop. This is great (well, sort of), as it lets me run the needed Windows programs along side my Mac programs.

Unfortunately, both Microsoft and everyone on the Internet (except one guy) believe that the Windows Phone Emulator, which is itself a virtual machine, will not run within a virtual machine. Or, in other words, the Windows Phone emulator won’t run on my MacBook. For a while, I was able to somehow thwart that and run the emulator, although quite slowly, but after a Parallels upgrade, I cannot.

Since I cannot run the emulator, I cannot test any of the code that I’ve written to verify that it actually works. Since it’s important to know that the code actually works, I need to be able to run it. Since the emulator won’t run, I need to run it on an actual Windows Phone.

And this long introduction brings us to the title of this article: Nokia Lumia 800.

Not wanting to commit to swapping my iPhone for a Windows Phone, I shopped for an “unlocked” phone — a phone that does not come with a contract or a carrier. There were many such phones using the 7.0 version of the OS available, but I opted to buy one with the newest OS, 7.5, code named “mango”. All the phone needs to make it a phone is a SIM card, associating it with a phone number and a contract. However, it can also be used without a SIM card, in which case everything except the phone works. That’s the way I’ll be using it.

I opted for a Nokia Lumia 800, and placed an order from

It arrived yesterday. The first thing I noticed was that the box contained both another box (the phone) and an electrical adapter. “Uh oh,” I thought, “this is a European phone.” Sure enough, the included power charger needs the adapter to fit a standard US outlet.

The next thing I noticed was when I turned on the phone. The interface was in German. I poked around a little bit, and was somehow able to find the settings to turn it into “English (US)”.

The next thing I noticed was that the Quick Start Guide was also written in German. Fortunately, a google search quickly found an English user guide in PDF format. Score for google!

The next thing I noticed was that the micro-USB port is cleverly hidden behind a hatch that doesn’t appear to be a hatch. After performing a maneuver that I would have thought might break something (except that I’d read about it in the user guide), I was able to find the USB port and charge the phone using the included charger and adapter.

The next thing I noticed was that it didn’t include a CD or any other additional software. Having found the English user guide online, however, I was able to determine that I needed to download and install the Zune software. Easily done, and Zune connected to the phone without troubles. Nice!

Which gets me to the phone itself. It looks nice and feels nice. I’m getting used to the Windows Phone interface. It just takes poking and pressing things until I discover what works. For instance, after setting it up to monitor my Facebook account, I wanted to also set it up to monitor my Twitter account. Finding the “add account” option wasn’t obvious, but with enough poking and prodding, it was discovered.

I’ve read some reviews of people that switched from iPhone to Windows Phone, and think the Windows Phone is more elegant. My initial impression doesn’t support that, but I’m willing to give it more time. Maybe with more poking and prodding, it will grow on me.

Are the Iowa Caucuses a Sham?

Last night we attended another Iowa caucus, possibly our fifth in our current precinct. Except when our precinct has been combined with others, we’ve had the same caucus chairman for each of the meetings. We learned last night that he’s had 45 years of experience as a caucus chair.

The caucus consists of a non-binding straw poll, election of people to serve at the county convention and on various committees, and approval of planks. A plank is a statement of the values or beliefs or desired actions of the Republican party of Iowa. Each caucus approves planks that are eventually bubbled up (or not) to the state level.

At some caucus events, the discussion, presentation and voting on planks are said to be lively, as zany ideas are squashed and controversial ideas are discussed. Likewise, non-controversial statements are said to sail through.

I write “said to” because that’s not been our experience. Here’s how our caucus works.

  1. The party man nominates himself to serve as chairman. He is approved.
  2. The party man nominates another party man to serve as secretary. He is approved.
  3. One speaker for each candidate is allowed to give a short speech regarding his preferred candidate.
  4. Caucus attenders vote, and votes are collected.
  5. It is announced that planks may be turned in, and all will be submitted to the county level.
  6. It is announced that there are openings to serve at the county convention, and anyone wanting to volunteer should add their name to a list.
  7. The caucus was closed.

No discussion of planks. No opportunity to squash zany ideas or eloquently promote a great idea. Yet, other precincts purportedly do discuss planks, and sometimes put quite a lot of effort into it. What should one conclude?

Here’s my conclusion: it’s a waste of time. The planks discussed at the caucus level have little if any impact on what happens at the county level. Your caucus may have done a great job submitting different planks, but ours submitted everything anyone cared to take the time to write down. Loony, socialist, whatever. It all went through. Your caucus may have done great work; ours wasn’t given the opportunity. Why not? Because our party man knows that it’s a waste of time. Oh, he won’t say that, but his actions show otherwise.

How about elections to committees and the county convention? The county convention is where the real action begins, as the planks that you so carefully labored over and the planks that Crazy Uncle Eddie submitted at our caucus begin to coalesce. So, the committee members and county convention delegates have an important job. You’d think that we’d care who does it. But we don’t. We leave it up to our party man to look at the list of volunteers and fill the positions. “The people are practicing democracy at the most basic level.” Bah. Not at my precinct. We just let the party man do it.

But, wait, we still have the straw poll, right? Sure. We have a non-binding straw poll, the results of which have absolutely no impact on how Iowa’s delegation to the national convention will vote and which candidate will be nominated. It serves a valuable purpose only because the media uses it to gauge the people’s response to the candidates, and the candidates use the results to determine how well (or how poorly) their campaign is doing. It is valuable because it helps shape perception. However, technically it has no effect on the nominee that Iowa will support.

So, what do you think? Are the Iowa caucuses a sham?

RomansRoad eTract

I received this tweet from a business acquaintance (@kapurcell):

“wanted to tell u. Friend led person to Christ with your Romans road app this month.”

How awesome is that! Praise God!

I think he’s referring to this app for iPhone / iPad / iPod touch.

Albert Pujols, Part 4

And now we hear from Tony LaRussa, recently retired Cardinals’ manager, in this St. Louis Post Dispatch article by Joe Strauss. Here are some significant thoughts from Mr. Tony.

“I believe in Albert’s case he was disappointed there wasn’t more enthusiasm from the Cardinals,” said La Russa, who said he didn’t speak to Pujols during last week’s whirlwind negotiations that coincided with Major League Baseball’s winter meetings in Dallas. “The (Miami) Marlins came at him hard and then here comes Anaheim. I think that the Cardinals were being careful.”

La Russa, the franchise’s winningest manager, believed once Pujols reached free agency that market forces would make it extremely difficult for the Cardinals to retain him. Insisting he didn’t want to play Monday morning quarterback regarding talks, La Russa nonetheless allowed “there may be something to it” when asked if the club might have fumbled its best opportunity at a resolution long before Pujols filed for free agency.

“The organization has a certain value it can afford,” La Russa said. “It has good money but it doesn’t have great money. I wouldn’t second-guess the value they attached, especially given the fact they wanted to see what the market was for Albert. In the end, that’s probably why they didn’t come out too hard. Then there’s a big blowout offer (from the Angels) that I don’t see how it can be refused.”

“I think he (Pujols) made a mistake when he said it wasn’t about the money,” La Russa said, referring to Pujols’ oft-quoted claim in February 2009 that he would stay in St. Louis for millions less per year. “If the Angels had offered the same exact thing he would have gone back to the Cardinals.”

Read the full article here.

The Representative Cardinals Fan

As I’ve been reading various opinions about how Albert Pujols came to sign with the Angels, there are many different opinions on the subjective nature of the negotiation. There are also different opinions on what should be facts, that is, information that is quantitative and not qualitative, such as whether the Cardinals offered a guaranteed contract. There have also been some comments of surprise from the Pujols family about the vitriolic fan reaction.

While I can’t address the questions of details of the contract, I can set the record straight on vitriolic fan reaction. Vitriolic fans are not representative of Cardinals fans. Yes, some Cardinals fans have been vitriolic, but they are not representative.

  • People who burned Pujols jerseys are not representative of Cardinals fans.
  • Most people who leave comments on online newspaper articles — and especially those that get into arguments with other people who leave comments on online newspaper articles — are not representative of Cardinals fans. Take everything those anonymous posters write with a grain of salt.
  • People who say that the Cardinals will be a better team without Pujols than with him next year are not representative of Cardinals fans.

So, who is the representative Cardinals fan?

  • People who cheered and watched with anticipation when Albert came to the plate, even as he was busy setting a new season record for grounded-into-double-plays.
  • People who said, as Pujols 2011 season got off to an awful start, “He’ll turn it around by year end; you just wait and see.”
  • People who took pictures of Pujols’ at-bats late in the season, knowing that it could be his last time at the plate as a Cardinal.
  • People who genuinely wanted Pujols to be a Cardinal for life, even if it meant offering a long-term contract that would probably make the team less competitive in the latter years of the contract.
  • People who are mostly sad (and somewhat confused) that Pujols signed with the Angels.

Cross Pollination

Faithful readers probably already know that for the previous year or so, I’ve been maintaining two blogs: this blog, and a blog related to my cancer diagnosis and treatment ( I don’t mention the other blog much. I figure if you’re interested, you’ve probably already found it.

However, every now and then, I put something there that I hope more people will read. Such is the case with an article that I wrote earlier today. It’s titled “Lord, who would we go to?” and I hope you’ll read it.

Albert Pujols, Part 3

As I wrote in a previous article of what is quickly becoming a series:

“I wanted to play somewhere where I was wanted, so I took a pay cut to play for them” is an easier sell than “I wanted to play somewhere where I was wanted, so I took the offer worth more than $4 million more per year.” It makes it hard to swallow that it wasn’t about the money.

Yet, I’m willing to swallow it.

St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz isn’t willing to swallow it. Bernie has long been a moderate voice during the attempt to sign Pujols. He hasn’t been one to give Albert a pass (probably much to Albert’s dismay) but has also argued in his columns that the Cardinals should make every reasonable effort to resign Pujols.

Now, however, Bernie’s tone has changed from just a few days ago. In his article “Poor Albert Had No Choice“, Bernie makes it clear that he is not swallowing the line “it’s not about the money”.

No matter how hard Pujols and his handlers worked to portray Pujols as a victim forced into this life-changing decision by evil Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., the strategy wouldn’t end in a home run. At best, it was a hard ground ball to third base, and a 5-4-3 double play.

Are we really supposed to believe that this was all about the love? That Pujols didn’t feel wanted by DeWitt? That he had no choice but to rush into the waiting arms of Angels owner Arte Moreno based on one phone conversation — just because DeWitt declined to offer to wash his feet if he stayed?

Even if Pujols was hurt by the Cardinals’ decision to approach the contract talks as a business negotiation instead of handing him a blank check to fill in — gee, imagine that — was it still the right thing to do?

Pujols didn’t like his boss. Didn’t feel appreciated by his boss. Didn’t get that personal touch from his boss. Welcome to the real world, Albert.

Even if DeWitt blundered by not courting Pujols with roses and chocolates, we’re left to ask this: What about the fans who worshiped Pujols? Didn’t they count for anything? Didn’t their affections make up for DeWitt’s freeze-dried personality?

Bernie is sounding a bit bitter about Albert’s explanation, and concludes again that it was about the money. Many St. Louis fans will share these thoughts, I think, feeling somewhat like a jilted lover.

Albert Pujols, Part 2

A few days ago, in a previous article I wrote:

If you haven’t yet heard (or have forgotten already), former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols has left the Cardinals to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, being wooed away by a contract valued at 254 million dollars over the next ten years and perhaps other as yet unknown motivations.

Some of the “other as yet unknown motivations” are now becoming a little clearer, based on a St. Louis Post Dispatch article by Joe Strauss, which includes extensive quotes by the former St. Louis Cardinal star.

“I don’t want to talk about negotiations. But to tell you the truth, it wasn’t about money. I’m going to die saying that, because it wasn’t about the money. It was about the commitment. It was about the way he made me feel. [Angels owner] Arte [Moreno] made me feel like he wanted me to be with the Angels forever. He doesn’t want me to be 37 years old and have to go somewhere else. It was a commitment. It was something I expressed myself, and I kept expressing during the conversation that I didn’t want to go somewhere else, that this was going to be my last contract. And whether people want to believe if it was about the money, I can’t control that. … [Moreno] wasn’t talking about the 10 years. He was talking about life after Albert Pujols’ career. That was something that touched me. It pushed me to my decision.”

Read the full article here

So, it’s not about the money. It’s about the feelings. During the negotiation process, Albert didn’t feel wanted by the Cardinals’ ownership or management, so he went somewhere where he would be wanted.

I understand wanting to feel wanted and appreciated, but surely the city of St. Louis and the vast majority of fans showered Albert with adulation and appreciation. Stan the Man stated publicly that all he wanted for Christmas was for Albert to be a Cardinal for life, voicing the desires of many fans. And it wasn’t enough?

“I wanted to play somewhere where I was wanted, so I took a pay cut to play for them” is an easier sell than “I wanted to play somewhere where I was wanted, so I took the offer worth more than $4 million more per year.” It makes it hard to swallow that it wasn’t about the money.

Yet, I’m willing to swallow it. Somehow, this became an emotional decision for the Pujols family. We fans thought that emotion would be on our side, encouraging Albert to pass on more lucrative offers and be a Cardinal for life.

Instead, it looks like Albert may wear an Angels cap into the Hall of Fame.

Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow is a fascinating guy.

I am glad to see him achieve success on the field with the Broncos, confounding the professional talking heads.

I also enjoy reading articles on the subject. Here’s one at the Wall Street Journal.

My Evolving Thoughts on Albert

As I recently wrote on Facebook, “I’d like to say I’m feeling a vague dissatisfaction with Albert Pujols, but it’s not very vague.”

If you haven’t yet heard (or have forgotten already), former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols has left the Cardinals to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, being wooed away by a contract valued at 254 million dollars over the next ten years and perhaps other as yet unknown motivations.

Bernie Miklasz, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, sums up some of my disappointment in a recent article. Bernie writes:

I’m genuinely saddened by Pujols’ departure because I wanted to believe that he’d be different, that he would stay, that he would fully appreciate what he had here. Cardinals fans and Pujols simply adored each other for the last 11 years.

I sincerely wanted to trust Pujols when he offered this testimony during a 2009 interview: “Do I want to be in St. Louis forever? Of course. People from other teams want to play in St. Louis, and they’re jealous that we’re in St. Louis because the fans are unbelievable. So why would you want to leave a place like St. Louis to go somewhere else and make $3 million or $4 more million a year? It’s not about the money. I already got my money. It’s about winning, and that’s it.”

In the end, Pujols went for the money.

(Read the entire article here.)

So, I’m disappointed that now, a few years after stating the above, when push came to shove and the millions were being offered, the millions won out.

You might think that’s a little harsh, coming from some one that’s never turned down a 5 million a year raise. However, while the scale is somewhat different, I have turned down more money in favor of other lifestyle choices. Like Bernie, I was hopeful that Albert would, too, especially in light of his own comments on the subject. But he didn’t, and that disappoints me.

Some have suggested that Albert’s pride was wounded by the negotiating process and tactics. That may be. We all know what it’s like to have our pride wounded. Sometimes our pride then encourages us to go somewhere where “we’ll be appreciated”. I hope that this wasn’t the case with Albert.

The situation reminds me of three biblical truths.

  1. Money is not the goal, and stuff doesn’t bring satisfaction. Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15 NIV)
  2. Pride is a problem. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:2 NIV), Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves Philippians 2:3 (NIV).
  3. I am not the judge. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls (Romans 14:4 NIV).

As I reflect on Albert Pujols “defecting” to the Angels, I am reminded that I should be more concerned about applying these principles to my life, than being disappointed when I don’t perceive these principles being applied in another’s life.

So, as Albert Pujols joins the Angels, I send him off with these words: “May you continue to be generous with the world’s riches, may your testimony be strong, may you abound in Kingdom treasures, and, yes, I’m disappointed to see you go.”

Fighting the Good Fight

This is where all godly warfare begins, in lonely private wrestlings.
— Andree Seu, World Magazine, December 3, 2011, page 75