Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Girl of my Dreams

I met a girl last night. She had black and blue and blonde hair - mostly black, with a large patch dyed blue on top, dark royal navy blue, and a streak of blonde on the side. We met on a tour bus. It looked more like a school bus, brown non-cushy seats, and it was very crowded. Not smelly or anything, just crowded. I stepped on board and took the only seat that was open, maybe halfway back. Actually I wasn't even sitting on a real seat, I was in the middle aisle sitting on someone else's knee, that's how crowded this bus was.

We drove around Burbank, California. I recognized a bank, some of the shops, and knew approximately how far I was from home (Anne and Brooke's) if I needed to walk back. As the bus turned, I noticed next to me was this blue-haired girl. I smiled cautiously. She returned it. Over the next few minutes I clumsily attempted small-talk. I hate small talk. After a few failed attempts and what seemed eternal seconds of silence, I turned to her and said how I really liked her hair. Then immediately I turned to face front again, giving up, afraid she'd think I was a creep. She didn't. She thanked me for the compliment, and we started talking. Actually talking. I have no recollection what about. But it was "good awkward."

Suddenly the seat to my left opened up, I guess its inhabitants has disembarked. I claimed the seat, and asked her if she'd like to join me. She did. We sat together as the bus pulled on an on-ramp and onto the freeway. She told me she lived in Barclay, California, and was happy I was from the area. I broke the news that I was from Minnesota, and would be going back home next week.

By the time our bus reached its destination we were holding hands. It was really cute. We were really cute.

When we got off the bus we were at a zoo slash amusement park kind of place. There were pools, and I slipped and got wet up to my knees. I was thoroughly embarrassed, she just giggled. We continued to hold hands as we walked.

After we parted ways I was horrified when I realized I didn't have her email or phone number, and had no idea how I'd find her again. I don't know whether a relationship would have worked out or not, but I sure wish I'd had the chance to find out. At least I knew her name, and her town, so I'm hoping Google can help me find her.

Then I woke up.

If you ever meet the girl from my dreams, tell her about me, please? I rarely remember my dreams after waking, so I know she was special.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pragmatic Christmas

I lucked out this Christmas - every gift my parents and family gave me was practical. Even including socks, which I'd asked for :)

My parents know me well, I discovered: they bought me a water-proof, fire-proof, theft-proof safe (no seriously, it's theft-proof, because it's super HEAVY). This was not something I thought I needed, so my first reaction was "I don't know how I'm going to use this." After some convincing I realized it will actually be very useful for hard drive storage, protecting all my movie-making footage if my house ever goes up in flames. The best part of the story, though: Dad explained afterward, 'I told Mom beforehand he [me] won't like this at first, he's not gonna see the use for it, and say "I can't use this", but once he gets his mind around it he'll figure out it can be useful'. Which is exactly what happened. My parents know me better than I do, apparently.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday Celebration

Earlier this month I turned 26, and, as has become tradition the last few years, I invited literally hundreds of Facebook friends to join me at IHOP for a celebration. Amazingly, this year we had really good weather: no snowpocalypse, no ice storm, just plain ol' cold temperatures. In total, 16 friends and family braved the freezing temps to come celebrate.

The IHOP folks dealt very well with the sudden influx of guests - I'd not had a chance to warn them in advance about the large group, but when my family showed up the manager decided to wait on our table personally. Given the numerous comings and goings through the evening, perhaps a wise choice.

For me, the greatest gift someone can give is time, and looking around the table I knew for some of these friends, time is a precious commodity right now. I was humbled for them to spend their evening with me. I was also mildly upset, because as soon as the group grew to a certain size, I couldn't talk with everyone. And by mixing friend groups, I run the risk of people not knowing anyone besides me. This was especially concerning when I looked at the other end of the table and saw many of my quiet, shy friends gathered at that end. Oops. The "get all your friends together and hit the restaurant" idea worked super well in college, where everyone more or less knew each other, but I'm finding it might work less and less well in "real life".

It turned out okay - the shy people were mixed in with just enough extroverts that it worked - and halfway through eating I switched ends of the table to spend time with those friends. But still, I'm not sure if I'll do this again next year. I'd rather spend quality one-on-one time with all these friends, than limit our conversations (both in time and depth) in order to get around the table and see everyone. And I left the evening feeling as if I'd missed out, because no matter who I was talking to, there were other conversations I probably should have been in, too. I feel like I couldn't win.

Time to start brainstorming for next year. Maybe laser tag.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Minnehaha iBand

Faculty and staff with iPads performed in an "iBand" for the Minnehaha Academy Annual Christmas Musical Variety Show, December 13, 2011.

Inspired by the North Point iBand: http://youtube.com/watch?v=F9XNfWNooz4

Special thanks to Nicholas Freeman for recording and editing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Life is Good


At 1:06 a.m. I turn 26. And Life is Good. I say that because my life is going "as planned"? Not exactly the words I want to use. Hm. But to say it's "going well" sounds so boring.

Just got home from a production meeting, where we did our post-mortem on the last movie shoot (not nearly as much name-calling and yelling and gnashing of teeth as I'd expected :) and also figured out roles for the next project. I'll be production managing, and I'm super excited.

Our star from the last movie just emailed me a draft she's written for a sequel. I enjoy reading scripts, and I'm very excited to read what she's done with the character.

Friend Pam took me to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert earlier this week. What a light show. Wow. Great music, too, but really: total techie-drooling over all the cool toys they had.

Work has been busy; boss approved all the projects I want to be working on, as well as the potential of me working remotely from LA for a week every now and then.

I have so much to do that life will never be boring. I need to take time to pause and listen to God's Calling, though, because I'm just going my own way and not really taking the Holy Spirit into account. Prayers for that appreciated. And frankly, call me out on it if you ever feel so inclined. I need the reminders.

Chapel talk last Thursday went well. Lots of folks have commented how it meant something to them. Folks who wouldn't have to say anything; they've gone out of their way.

In my friendships I'm noticing how much I've matured from the person I was a year ago. I'm forcing the relationships less and listening more. Part of it's from busy-ness. Part of it is maturity. Let's pretend the larger portion is maturity :)

At AWAKEN this past weekend the director and her husband (the founder) announced they will be leaving the ministry at the end of this year, in order to focus full-time on their church (he's the pastor). So there won't be AWAKEN next year. The board might find new leadership for the year afterward, they might not, it's a "definite maybe" :) In any case, it's interesting because since October 4 I've been coming to peace with this being my last year in the drama (without knowing this may possibly be the last year it even exists!), and I feel good about it. Again, everything just feels like a natural progression. I'm not trying, life is just falling into place.

Oh, and one more piece of evidence for that theory: I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to hear if school will hire me to work the Madrigal Dinner event in February. I've worked it every year since 2004 (except last year because they took a year off), but this year I resolved that they needed to approach me, I would not go begging for the contract. This is mostly because, in many areas of my life, I'm tired of pushing my way onto a situation, or trying too hard to make something work. I chose in this case to resist that urge. It's been hard, but finally this past week I got the email that the director wants to talk with me, and though I don't want to count the chickens before they hatch, I'm pretty sure they'll hire me. So that's exciting.

One last vague example, I recently chose to do the "right" thing even though I thought it was going to cost me significantly. In the end, it didn't, but I still have the satisfaction of making the right decision.

My conclusion is that God's calling me to live my own sermon: live the Pooh-wei, allow life to happen and don't waste my hours fretting.

And at 1:06 a.m. I turn 26. Life is good.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Chasing the Miracle of Trust

Speaking in chapel at Minnehaha seems to have become an annual tradition for me. Special thanks to Jeff Crafton for the opportunity, Rich Enderton for videoing (Nicholas Freeman for providing the camera), and Brian Hallermann and Van Donkersgoed for lighting and recording me today. Everything went off with only the very minor-est hitches. I'll take partial credit, for planning ahead, communicating my needs, and having backup plans in place, just in case. In fact, I was complimented by the tech crew for being the most prepared speaker they have all year. We even had sappy "cry music" queued up just in case I broke into tears on stage (which I legitimately thought might happen). The techies set up special blue lights on the black curtain to look like a Stevenote, and my notes about slide transitions and lighting fades must have made sense, because they hit every cue spot on.

The audio in the recording is a little hissy, but my words are legible. Er, understandable? Here's the video from this morning.



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Failure

God's at work. "Failure" is a recurring theme these last couple weeks. Friend and mentor Dan at school counseled me that the best thing I can do right now is take a risk and fail. Because I'm scared of failure. In so many areas of life. It's not something I "do". I need to learn that failure isn't the end. I need to fail at small things, and see that the sun still rises tomorrow (though honestly I have my doubts).

Today my financial advisor encouraged me to take risks with my life. And we weren't even talking about money at the time, we were just catching up on life and she blurts that out.

And it's come up in one or two other conversations over the last week, and on signs and posters and stuff. I can't escape it. Partly Baader-Meinhof, and larger-partly God, I think.

I'm hoping failure doesn't play a large role in my chapel talk at school tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stalking WWDC12

Today I got the email I've been waiting for since last June: official pre-approval that Title II (government funds for educators' education) will pay for me to attend WWDC again next June. This will be my fourth trip to Apple's annual WorldWide Developer's Conference, a fantastic opportunity to meet the true movers and shakers of all things Apple, from the developers who wrote the apps I use everyday to the engineers who build the operating system powering my laptop and iDevices. Not only meet them, but learn from them, and learn [a little bit] about the future of Apple's software, where they're heading. Possibly, WWDC12 will focus on iOS 6 and Mac OS X 10.8, neither of which has been officially announced, but everyone knows they're in the works.

But pre-approval was only half the battle. The other half is I actually need to get a ticket. Two years ago tickets sold out in 8 days. Last year, 10 hours. I'm not taking any chances.

Last year I wrote a little script that pinged the WWDC home page every so often and then texted my phone if anything changed. Today I re-worked that script to be quite a bit more robust, and also set it up so I'll get two emails (personal and work accounts) and a text message on my phone as soon as anything changes. Granted, dates probably won't be announced (and tickets put on sale) until February/March/April, but like I said, I'm not taking any chances. I'm stalking that website starting today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reading in the 21st Century

No fewer than a dozen friends have suggested I read The Hunger Games. (Or perhaps not a full dozen, but many, in any case). So earlier this month, with a 4-hour drive to AWAKEN ahead of me, I acquired the audio book from audible.com, and was instantly hooked. In fact, I was so hooked, that I finished the entire trilogy, all 35 hours of it, in under a week. Every spare moment was spent listening, even down to my 3 minute morning commutes. That's probably the most reading I've done since the last Harry Potter book hit the shelves.

And, as always happens, my addictive personality took over and made me purchase more audio books, so on tap I now have the Steve Jobs biography, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Shack, and Mere Christianity.

Call it lazy, but at least, in a sense, I'm "reading", something I never have (or take) time to do otherwise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Butterflies

Everyone kept telling me I would love Donna Noble by the end of Dr Who season 4.

That hasn't happened yet, not exactly, but I do appreciate her. And considering how much I... we'll say "disliked"... Donna's know-it-all attitude when I began, that's saying something. (sorry Jessie)

Near the end of the season, the writers throw in what I have affectionally called the "It's a Wonderful Life" episode, in which we see what the Doctor's life, or, more accurately, the Earth's life, would have been like, had Donna Noble not met the Doctor. A simple decision to turn right instead of left, that's all it takes, and the world's a completely different place. I can say that much without giving away any spoilers.

For me, this was a turning point. I now understand Donna's complex involvement in the Doctor's story, how she became, quite literally, the most important person in the world.

And it makes me wonder about the people passing by me every day. About their choices. About my own. About the seemingly simple, presumably inconsequential decisions to turn left or right.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Spoilers

I'm watching Doctor Who. I feel for him. I feel like him. Putting others ahead of myself. I'm not as noble as he is, but some days it feels kind of like it.

This morning I finished the killer-shadows-in-the-library episodes in season 4 (10th Doctor). In it, the Doctor meets River Song, a woman who has known him for years and years and years, but because of the whole time travel thing, this is the first time he's meeting her. She has a journal of all her past encounters with his future. "Spoilers," she calls them, when he asks to read it.

At the end of the episode, the Doctor has a choice. He has River's journal in his hands. He can open it, and read about his future. Or not.

I wish I had some spoilers to read about my life right now.

Or not.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

2008 in Review

Blast from the past: this post should have been written and published back in January 2009

In 2008, lots of stuff happened.

And every English teacher I've ever had just cringed at that atrociously terrible awful topic sentence.

Quick run-down:
  • In January I dyed my hair (red) for the very first time
  • In April my laptop was stolen
  • Also in April Marissa moved into her very own apartment! She'd lived with me while she got her feet back on the ground after coming back from Japan. After joking about being "married"for so long, we still call each other "honey"
  • I saw AWAKEN for the first time
  • In the last few months of college I spent a lot of time with friends, going to Applebees, and doing not very much homework
  • I achieved my goal of playing in Selah (Sunday night worship group at college) before graduation
  • I graduated from St Olaf College in May
  • After graduation I led the worship band at Abundant Life, a church in Northfield, for 5 months
  • At the end of May I got to be a stand-in for the movie Nobody, a major (but I think still technically indie?) film in town
  • In June I started working full-time at Minnehaha Academy
  • Also in June I helped chaperone a group of MA middle schoolers to Italy
  • I got an iPhone :)
  • Over summer I developed an online back-to-school forms database for parents to use instead of paper forms
  • Once a month for the next year I organized a group of musicians for The Mix, a worship service that combined youth groups from many of the Northfield churches
  • In September I joined AWAKEN for the 2008-2009 season
  • In October Marissa got baptized
  • In December was the Wildfire premiere... (read my friend Shawn's blog post about this atrocity)
  • Also in December my Grandpa Ray passed away
That's most of the big stuff. I did leave a few things out, but this gives a good bird's-eye view of the year.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

If only

If you told me to move, I'd run. If you told me to jump, I'd free fall into your arms. If you told me in plain words, I'd understand.

If only I could read between the lines.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Homeless Bags

Blast from the past: this post should have been published back in August 2010 Do you feel awkward when you drive by beggar with a cardboard sign? I do. In her sermon a couple weeks ago Dawn (one of my pastor's at Jacob's Well) played a video of a woman named Ladonna Witmer speaking years ago, and something she spoke struck me hard:
If you talk to my roommate, Colleen, and you tell her about God's unconditional love, she'll just look at you and say, "well what have you done for the homeless lately?" Because if you can't prove to her that you... can take what you believe about love and show it in your life, then she's not going to pay any attention to you.
In a non-trivial way that was a life-changing moment for me, because I felt, I knew, immediately, that I had to do something about that. And the reality is I can’t help everyone, but I can make a difference in a few people’s lives. Long ago I’d heard from my Mom this idea of making bags of food and stuff to hand out, and keeping them in the car. So I went home and assembled some: gallon zip-lock, a Gatorade, water, and cereal bars. Hardly costs me anything, I buy that all in bulk at Sam's Club. But it’s something. On day 1 I was running late to a car appointment and passed a guy on the corner. I didn't see him in time to slow down, but after driving past felt a niggling feeling, so I double-backed and gave him a bag. He said "thank you", we talked briefly, he seemed educated, coherent, and I felt good about myself. My prayer was, "Okay God, no more people today, I'll get the rest of the bags in my car for tomorrow, I promise". I was convicted that I needed to do more of this. That night I brought the rest of the bags out to my car so I'd be well-stocked and ready. On day 2 I saw another guy, he might have had some mental issues and didn't seem quite as alert as the guy from day 1; but he mumbled a thank you when gave him the bag. He then went back to his street corner, threw down his sign, plopped open the bag and downed half the water right then and there. I guess he must have been thirsty. I realized I would have to make more of these little bags. This is worthwhile. And I've been doing it since, in some form or another. I write this blog post as a journal for myself, not because I want to guilt anyone else into following my steps, nor for anyone to give me praise. I don't want it. If you happened to feel inspired to do something of your own, then that's great! But truly, this is just my own personal journal.

Friday, October 07, 2011

AWAKENing the LCMC, and new season starts tomorrow!

Tuesday night AWAKEN performed last year's drama for a gathering of LCMC pastors and church leaders in Des Moines. Half our cast was different because not everyone from last year was able to make it back, so there were a lot of subs, and even those of us who'd been in it previously saw changes to our roles. Fortunately for me my changes were minor, but some people had completely different roles to learn!

It was hard walking in to the space during setup and seeing the LCMC logo, just because of my own personal beef with the LCMC. I had struggled with this decision months ago, whether I could in good conscience help out with this performance. In the end I figured I'd be quite the hypocrite if I didn't, passing judgement on those I judge for judging. We're all imperfect human beings, who am I to assume I'm any better? Still, it was unexpectedly difficult being in that space at first.

We set up most of our equipment Monday night. Easiest load-in ever: the convention center had a real loading dock, so Derek backed the truck right up to the building and we never needed to use the lift gate. And the main room was about 10 feet from the dock.

Adding to the "make my life easy", we tied our audio into the convention center's system that was already set up, so we didn't need to set up 4/5 of our audio gear (not entirely true: we set it up, then tore it down when we finally figured out we could use their speakers... don't get me started). For tear-down after the performance this was absolutely wonderful.

The convention center staff stayed extra late Monday night helping us finish rigging our truss and focus lights. Meaning no need for the truss stands. And we used their projector, so we didn't have to set that up, either.

I make it sound so easy. Setup still took 4+ hours Monday night, and then Tuesday we couldn't get into the room until 5:30, performance starts at 7. In that hour and a half we had to set up the entire stage, re-set the floor lighting, test everything and hope it all still works, have the cast run through a couple scenes and then set props and put on makeup. Stressful. We didn't end up starting on time :)

Special thanks to Beth for putting on my makeup!

My role was mostly the same as before, but still, it's been 5 months, so almost everyone was using a notecard. This got awkward because I was borrowing someone else's shorts, and to avoid logos they had to be inside out. So throughout the drama I'd be standing either backstage or in the back of the auditorium digging in my pants trying to find that pocket. Hopefully no one noticed.

The performance itself went splendidly. Not perfectly, but given so many new people, and the rest of us who haven't looked at the script since April, and no real rehearsal in the space, everything went really, super great. We exited before it happened, but I'm told we were given a standing ovation. As Jon mentioned to us, we did more promotion for AWAKEN in that one hour than in the entire 6 years of its history. Because every single person in that room is a church leader with the power to bring AWAKEN to their church. Apparently there were a number of folks wanting a west coast tour: Montana, Washington state, California, and a few others. Who knows if it'll happen, but how exciting that we just got national exposure.

Clean-up went well. Their worship team for the next morning rehearsed while we wrapped cables and tore down. I noticed many of us were singing along, and it was nice to have a little bit of our own worship time after the chaos of the previous hours.


The new season of AWAKEN starts this weekend. Heading to Des Moines tomorrow for our first Attack. There will be many familiar faces: my AWAKEN family, I call them - and many new faces: friendships waiting to be made. Welcome to the adventure. Again.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lessons Learned from Hannah Montana

Blast from the past: this post should have been written and published back in January 2009

Before diving into the lessons I’ve learned, I should probably explain why I ever started watching Hannah Montana in the first place.

Around Christmastime 2008 I purchased a DVD named Bridge to Terabithia. Maybe I’d heard a good review, maybe Amazon recommended it to me, I honestly can’t remember. In any case, it arrived, I watched it, and fell in love, an instant favorite. If you’ve never seen it, you simply must.

At the end of Bridge to Terabithia, the first song during the credits is one by Miley Cyrus called “I Learned from You”. Another instant favorite. I’d never heard of Miley before, but I knew I loved this song, and I needed to have it in my iTunes, so I ordered the soundtrack (the rest of which is also quite enjoyable). After further investigation, I also discovered that Miley stars on Disney’s Hannah Montana, and so, for kicks, I thought I’d check YouTube and watch an episode or two.

I highly doubt I’m among Disney’s target audience for the show, and you can judge me all you want, but I enjoyed it. Why? I like the premise: it reinforces the truth that celebrities are normal people, too, apart from the idealistic pedestals upon which the public places them. They have real lives and real friendships; celebrities may live in a different societal world, but they’re still people.

For those not familiar with the show (which I'm assuming is everyone reading my blog), the story is about teenager Miley who leads a double life as pop-star sensation Hannah Montana. During the day Miley goes to school, and no one knows she's a celebrity. She does this because her fans are, in a word, crazy (not like padded-cell crazy, but autograph and picture crazy), and Miley would never have a normal life if people knew who she was. Only her family and two closest friends know about her split personality.

I love the parallel to reality that Miley/Hannah’s life necessitates: the desire to be treated normally, and because of that, the inability to reveal her complete self to anyone but her closest friends. Isn’t that the world in which we all live? Trapped by societal expectations. For fear of judgement, or simply being “treated differently”, we each keep secrets and hide much of ourselves away. Thought of this way, Miley’s story, and much of Hannah’s music, hits home in a whole new way.

Now I’ll grant that, in her rebellious teen years, real-life Miley is not always a positive role model for the tween/teen crowd. Sadly it seems few teen super stars survive the spotlight unscathed. Nevertheless I contend there are valuable lessons to be sought from her on-camera alter-ego. I will grant that many of my observations are eisegetical, meaning I’m reading more into the text, or in this case TV show, than the author intended. I’m okay with that. I believe in a God that speaks in new, surprising, and unexpected ways, and so whether the Disney screenwriters had the same agenda as I draw out doesn’t really matter to me - the lessons stand regardless.


Season 1

Episode 1: Miley worries about telling her best friend about her secret double identity as Hannah Montana. “If she knew the truth, I’d never be just _Miley_ again”. Fill that in with your own name. Don’t we all have those feelings? ‘If so-and-so really knew who I was/what I’ve done/where I’ve been/what kind of person I think I am, they wouldn’t see me as myself anymore, they’d only see that label, they’d only see the headline.’ We’re afraid of being treated differently, which is why we’re scared to open up.

For me, this is where I find the appeal in Hannah’s songs “Just Like You” and “The Other Side of Me”. And similarly, Joy Williams song “We”.


Episode 2: Miley and Oliver are close friends, but Oliver has a crush on Hannah. Side-note, Oliver hates gum. What’s admirable about him: even after learning of Hannah’s disgusting [albeit feigned] gum-chewing habit, Oliver looks past this surface blemish and continues to profess his love and affection.

As someone who too often tends toward the superficial myself, Oliver’s example serves as a potent, however comedic, reminder that no one will ever be “the perfect match”; true love means learning to live with the imperfections.


Episode 4: Miley has a hard time asking a guy out. Typical teenage drama, whatever. Here’s why it hits home, though: Miley is a rock star, used to performing in front of thousands of screaming fans, but a one-on-one conversation intimidates her.

The largest crowd I’ve spoken to in recent times was 600 students and teachers at Minnehaha - certainly not thousands. But speaking/singing/playing in front of a crowd doesn’t freak me out. But one-on-one conversations, man, those can be absolutely nerve-wracking! Especially if she’s cute.

Lesson #2: Lack of honesty can ruin a relationship. Miley’s crush invites her to a Hannah concert, and in typical sitcom fashion her double life completely train wrecks their date.

For Miley, physically being in two places is impossible, and leads to romantic catastrophe. For me, being divided emotionally means a failure of commitment. Being divided spiritually means failure to live up to my potential. A servant cannot have two masters.


Episode 6: Miley’s grandmother comes to visit and gives preferential treatment to Miley's brother Jackson, almost to the exclusion of showing any affection toward Miley. In the end Miley learns this is because she’s always been in the spotlight, relegating Jackson to life’s backseat. Grandma knows this, and that’s why she pampers Jackson on her visit.

There are some deep theological truths here. First, God doesn’t necessarily treat everyone equally. I can identify with the sadness Miley feels over being ignored - how many times have I wished for the blessings others have? How many times have I wished God would have given me that new car, that new job, that new guitar?

The flip side is that I'm not privy to the details of that other person’s life. How could I know the gift I coveted came to them timed exactly to lift them from a financial crisis, a deep pit of depression, or a feeling of worthlessness to the world. That’s God’s business, not mine.

Even when it looks like God is playing favorites (and that favorite doesn’t happen to be me), that doesn’t change His unending, uninterruptible love! Miley’s grandma loves her just as much as she loves Jackson, but *shows* it more to Jackson because, after so many years living in the shadow of Miley’s Hannah fame, *that’s what he needs*.

There’s an object lesson for Miley, too: all the time she felt like her grandmother was ignoring her, all the hurt those feelings brought, maybe that’s how Jackson felt with the entire family’s agenda structured around Hannah all the time. So, the next time I’m feeling like God’s ignoring me, I’m going to try to remember all this. Because it’s not all about me. Maybe someone close to me needs Him more urgently.


Episode 10: Miley's Dad says something like, “Sometimes it’s not about what you say, but having the courage to say something.”

This wisdom was given to Oliver specifically as it relates to getting a date, but I see applicability in more areas of life than that. Namely, simply standing up for what you believe. Even if you’re not well spoken, the act of speaking, possibly disagreeing, says more than the mere words ever would. In college intro psych class I read about a study which affirmed people are more likely to stand up for their own beliefs if someone else in the group does so first. Have courage: be the person who puts themselves out there. Sometimes you’ll find yourself alone, but my guess is, more often than not, you’ll find unexpected allies.


Episode 11: Miley, as Hannah, encourages a girl to ask out Oliver. Later in the episode, Miley sees the girl in the lunchroom with another boy… As it turns out, she’s breaking up with her former boyfriend, but the way her email is worded it’s unclear. It’s a sitcom, so everything works out happily in the end.

Appearances are deceiving, which reminds me how crucial getting both sides of a story is before jumping to a final conclusion. For me, this episode also illustrated the idea that God looks at a person’s heart, whereas people only see the outside (1 Samuel 16:7).


Episode 12: Miley encourages her Dad to go back out on the road to perform. He resists, “But–“. She cuts him off: “But nothing. But’s just a word you use when you’re afraid to try.”

“But” is the story of my life: “I want to do more with my music but–“. “I want to be a full-time filmmaker but–“. “I want to exercise and eat healthy but–“.

Miley’s retort hit me instantly, and it hit me hard. Time to stop making up excuses. Time to live.


Episode 14: Another teen superstar enrolls at Miley’s school, and he milks his fame for all it’s worth. Miley (rightfully) becomes upset.

The deeper meaning may not apply to everyone. Or maybe it does, I’m not sure.

I’ve often dreamed what fame might be like. And as I’ve written about before, my ambition toward that end is my Achilles heal, having previously robbed me of meaningful connection to God through my music. Watching Miley play out the scenario of revealing her Hannah identity helps keep me in check. I don’t like the culture I see looking in on Hollywood, and I don’t relish the prospect of giving up my privacy as happens to the stars. My best plan of action is either to stay anonymous, or, since that’s logistically unlikely (at least on local scales), to seek “background” fame, meaning, a recognizable name, but not necessarily face.

Most of all, I need to learn to accept God’s Call of being satisfied with who I am already, and know that that’s enough. If filmmaking brings me further in that path, great; and if not, if I stay just plain ol’ Jeremy, that’s great, too.


Episode 15: Miley (as Hannah) discovers Jake (the superstar from episode 14) actually does have a normal side hidden beneath his public star personality, and this discovery changes her feelings toward him.

My lesson is a humbling reminder that first impressions are often wrong, or at best, incomplete. How many relationships have I missed out on because my perception was skin-deep?

Lord, help me not to obsess over the things man looks at. Give me your eyes to see past outward appearance and into the heart. (based again off of 1 Samuel 16:7)


Episode 19: Miley's Dad lets Jackson (Miley's brother) win their basketball games, not really out of pity, rather because he likes seeing his happy face when he succeeds. Sometimes it’s not about us.

Not everything needs to be a competition; we’re all given our special talents and gifts.


Season 2

My notes kind of trailed off here, guess I stopped learning. Er... Or stopped writing down what I'd learned.

Episode 3: I personally believe it is okay to aspire to be a better person, but what I learned from this episode is that you ought not aspire to be a different person.


“A Song Sung Badly”: It’s not about how pretty your voice is or isn’t, it’s about the emotion behind it. I apply that to worship and all other areas of life.

“The Other Side of Me”: I maintain an image, I let people see what I want them to see of my life. On the inside there’s so much else going on that very few, if anyone, ever gets to see. Don't we all long to be our complete, honest selves, though?



I enjoyed the whole series, apparently I stopped taking notes mid-way through, though. Oh well. Plenty of lessons here to keep me busy for a while.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things my kids will never know

In the past several years I’ve occasionally made note of worldly things my some-day children will never experience or know about outside of history class. Most of my observations end up focused on technology, but there are some other gems in there, too. Here’s the list I’ve constructed so far:
  • A world pre-Internet (and pre-Wifi), pre-cell phone, and pre-GPS
  • CRT computer monitors or televisions
  • CDs or DVDs (in the same way my generation doesn’t really know about vinyl, but we sort of do; I played Fraggle Rock record over and over when I was younger)
  • Carbon copy (even ask some adults today, they can’t tell you what “CC” means in an email)
  • Non-optical mouses, and trackballs
  • Car antennas
  • Land line phones
  • the Y2K panic
  • Postage stamps that had to be licked
  • Cassette tapes, and rewinding
  • VHS tapes, and along with this, VHS subscription services, where you’d get one video each month with two episodes of a TV series for $20, and you’d do that every month until you got the whole series, because DVDs didn’t exist, and you couldn’t just download the entire series on iTunes. I bought the entire series of Lost in Space this way from Columbia House when I was younger.

And here’s my “I’m an optimist” list:
  • Gasoline
  • Cars that aren’t auto-driving
  • checkbooks (and balancing a checkbook)
  • hard drives with moving parts

There are other lists, too. This one looked good. Looking forward to the future. Feeling a little nostalgic, too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Faults

Blast from the past: this post should have been written and published about a year ago.

To my benefit (I think), I'm acutely self-aware - I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I'm a pretty good judge of my own capabilities. So sometimes, if I want to check my motives for a particular choice I chose, I do a little lay-person self-psycho-analysis. (admitting my conclusions to anyone else is an entirely different matter :)

As I see it, this is a complete, comprehensive list of my faults.

Absolutely kidding. But it is a list of what I consider 'areas for improvement' in my life. If you're a friend, I'd ask and encourage you to help keep me in check.

Addiction
When I start on a project, a friendship, a relationship, a hobby, I have a tendency to go overboard. When I bought my first guitar effects pedal, I didn't stop there, I ended up with an expensive pedal board and enough shiny toys to fill it. When I discovered mixed drinks I ended up buying a rather large supply of alcohol to stock a home bar. And this inability to say "no" is probably why I own three acoustic guitars and a bunch of other instruments. Knowing when to stop is difficult for me.

Argumentation
Probably the reason I did well in high school Debate, I almost enjoy arguing. Or rather, I enjoy proving that I'm right and you're wrong. This likely speaks to a deeper issue of self-confidence. Oddly, I'd much rather avoid conflict, but once I'm in the conflict, I have a hard time backing down. Especially because I'm always right. It's a difficult burden to bear.

Arrogance
I know my own expertise, and I expect everyone else to excel in exactly the same areas in which I excel. When they don't, it's obviously because I’m a better person. Nevermind that the other person excels at different skills, skills for which, very likely, I have no clue or abilities. That's totally irrelevant.

Relatedly, being a religion major, I have a propensity to assume I know more about theology than I actually do. This does not always lead to arrogance, but certainly has more than a handful of times.

Authority
Having authority, even if imagined, plays to my ego, and my ego enjoys that. Also, I have issues with authorities over me - rather than "obey" an order, my gut reaction is to question it. Sometimes that's appropriate, but usually it's not.

Attention
Squirrel!

I'm working hard on listening more than talking, but let's face it, I enjoy attention, and sometimes find myself being an attention hog. My friend Ben has called me on this at least once. Usually this only happens if I'm very comfortable around the people I'm with.

Type-A
I've been an overachiever most of my life. Not 2nd or 3rd grade, I remember being an academically "bad" student then, but shortly thereafter I changed, and most definitely by 9th grade perfectionism had taken over. This is because I know my best, I know what I'm capable of accomplishing, and so I set my standards for myself ridiculously high.

Guilt
Shoot, I had to break my chain of words starting with A.

Either by nature or cultural influence, I rarely feel guilt. I can feign it, but feeling it, for whatever reason (privileged American mentality?) is difficult.



In summary, I'm human, and I have faults. For clarity's sake: I've published this list not because I have a low-self-esteem, but the exact opposite. I know my self-worth, my esteem is quite high, and at the same time I know there are areas in my life that need work. So this list exists in the *hopes* that my friends can continue pushing me forward.


PS: and I slouch a lot.

Blasts from the past

On my computer I have a folder called "blogs to write", which has accumulated for years. I'm determined to empty it out, so over the next few weeks I'll be posting some "blasts from the past", stuff that I should have written a long time ago, but never got around to it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm proud of my Mom

Mom just started the school year at a new [to her] preschool as their lead teacher. After over 20 years as lead teacher and director at her former school, the one where I went to preschool as a 3-year-old and had Mommy as Teacher, the church decided to close that program. There were lots of stupid politics involved, I guess no church is immune to those. And in the midst of that loss of her livelihood, Mom went out and applied to other jobs, picking up part time work at the assisted living place where my Grandpa lived, and also at a teacher supply store in... shoot, I should know this... Edina? Somewhere over there. Point being, Mom worked three jobs last year, and on top of that had several interviews for teaching jobs this year.

And by "had several interviews", I mean once she put the word out that she was looking for a teacher job, people were practically knocking the door down trying to get her to come to their programs. Not even joking. I guess that's a huge perk of building relationships with so many other directors over the last 20+ years, many of them knew her and knew how awesome she is, so it ended up that finding a job wasn't the problem, it was choosing which of several offers to take!

I'm very proud of my Mom. I don't tell her that often enough, so it's a good thing she reads my blog :)

Wunderlist

I love lists. I love making todo lists, and I love crossing things off.

My quest for a viable todo list manager has lasted years, now I finally claim success! Enter: Wunderlist, a free app that syncs between iOS devices (my iPhone and iPad) and my desktop, and if needed, even has a useable webpage front-end. You can create separate lists for work and home, and I've also added lists for several upcoming movie productions.

What's special about this? Previously I had a bunch of text documents floating around with various todos, but what inevitably happened was stuff got buried, and thus, forgotten. With Wunderlist, I can assign due dates to every task, then completely forget about it until that day. When I wake up I see my list of tasks for today, as well as any overdue tasks, and can focus on finishing those without stressing out seeing the hundreds of other upcoming things.

Anyway, I love it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Should'a seen that coming

When I was little I built an action-figure-sized Jabba-the-Hutt's barge out of construction paper, then wanted to have a George Lucas action figure to run the paper camera while my other action figures acted. That should have been a clue.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life's too short

Last Monday I set out on an expedition to visit as many friends as I could between here and Chicago.

After months of being overworked and overstressed at my job, this week was my chance to escape, to do something actually worthwhile: spend time with the people I love. I even went so far as completely deactivating my work email account on my computer so I wasn't ever tempted to read those messages during the week.

All told I visited 12 friends in person and had phone dates while I was driving with 3 more. The drives were long, but worth every minute. During this week, my various friends and I:
  • ate many meals together
  • played guitar
  • went on walks
  • picked vegetables
  • attended Greek class at Seminary
  • went to a concert by The Giving Tree Band
  • drank wine* and watched a bunch of episodes of Robin Hood (2006)
  • had wonderful conversations
Given my lack of real planning in advance, I'm amazed all these schedules coordinated so well. I think it was a God-thing (some of you reading will nod your heads, others I know will shake them; that's fine). Literally, though, everything just fell into place for me. Everyone was free at exactly the right times and it "just worked". Beautiful.

I've pondered how to say what I want to say here, and nothing good is coming to me. I've been thinking a lot about death and dying lately, and so going into this trip I treated it with this mindset: "if I only had months to live, how would I want to spend them?"

My last week was a perfect answer.



* I'm kind of ridiculously happy that my wine-loving friends enjoyed the wine I brought (my new favorite), even going so far as to say, and I quote, "This wine was soooooo good."

Fired

I feel that today's Dilbert strip really hits home for me. I'll leave the interpretation of that statement up to you. Dilbert.com

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 Years

10 years ago I couldn't imagine a new morning not consumed with thoughts of that one Day.

10 years later I rarely think of it. "We will never forget", I used to say. And I suppose I haven't. But my life, thousands of miles away, is no longer overwhelmed with empathy. I'll cry this Sunday morning, I'm sure. At the same time, we've reached a new normal. Thoughts of planes and buildings stopped consuming my waking hours.

What does one even say after 10 years? The world has changed: iPhones and apps, Google, wars, political infighting, the Harry Potter movies, cell phone ubiquitousness, wireless internet. And I have changed: theology, dreams, health, family, friends - my friends from 2001, less than a handful are still in my life today.

I think change is good. It's scary, it's among my great fears, but it's Good. Finding peace with a new world, and a new version of "normal", is good.

I also wanted to find some perspective here. 3000 people died 10 years ago this day. But in the US more than that die in car crashes every single month. In the US that many people die from cancer every two days. Worldwide that many people die from hunger every two hours.

My intent is not to belittle September 11. That day is permanently scarred in my memory. We will never forget. I will never forget. But the past will not hold me captive.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vernacular from Pooh

A side-effect of my newfound addiction for Netflix, recently I re-watched the original Pooh cartoons from the 1970s, and in doing so came to realize how much of my present-day vernacular stems from those cartoons of my youth.

Some phrases I've acquired for use in my (or my family's) everyday vocabulary:

Honey Tree:
"Tut tut it looks like rain" - Christopher Robin
"Noooo" - Rabbit (it's a very pronounced way of saying the word)
"It isn’t meant to be" - Rabbit
"I did mean a little larger small helping" - Pooh
"Days, weeks, months, who knows" - Eeyore


Blustery Day:
"Windsday" - Gopher, Pooh, et al
["Pooh, did you do that?"] "I don't think so." - Owl, Pooh


And Tigger Too
"I am shushed" - Pooh
"I couldn't hear them before because Rabbit would talk" - Pooh


Day for Eeyore
Useful pot - various characters



If you ever hear me quoting these lines conversationally, now you know from whence they came.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Winnie the Pooh Sermon

My sermon about Winnie the Pooh, part of Jacob's Well's Godflix series, August 14, 2011.

(read more about it in my blog post earlier this week: http://jeremygustafson.blogspot.com/2011/08/winnie-pooh.html)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Winnie the Pooh

This past Sunday I gave my first ever sermon at Jacob's Well. (for the purposes of this conversation we'll say chapel talks in school don't count) And my sermon was about... drumroll... Winnie the Pooh!

It was part of JW's series called "Godflix", in which we pick 4 summer movie releases and talk about where God shows up, even if they aren't "religious" movies. This year the movies are Captain America, Winnie the Pooh, The Help, and Harry Potter 7 Part 2. After last year's series I asked the pastors if I could help this year, and kept pesterin– er, *reminding* them throughout the year... Originally Greg asked if I'd preach on Harry Potter, and I said I could, but I'd much rather talk about Winnie the Pooh, since there's this new Pooh movie coming out. He was skeptical, but I convinced him to let me have a go at it, and I think it turned out well.

My normal process for writing a chapel talk (aka sermon, I guess) is procrastinate until two days before, write a rough draft, realize it's way too short and panic because I don't think I have anything good to say, then rewrite the day before, throw together the slideshow the night before, and then everything turns out wonderfully, get lots of compliments, etc. Now in all fairness I'm not pulling everything out of a hat two days before, I've always been thinking and pondering for weeks or months and have a fair number of voice notes already recorded, but still, it feels like waiting until the last minute.

Couldn't do that this time. Katy, who puts together the Sunday Papers (like church bulletins, but less "churchy"), emailed me on Tuesday saying she needed my outline and a couple other things by Wednesday afternoon so she could print the papers. Thus my schedule got accelerated - wrote draft 1 Tuesday night, panicked, met with Greg Wednesday morning (met with Justin and Dawn, two other JW staff people, earlier, and ran my outline by them, too), he offered a couple ideas but reassured me I was on a good track. Did a few more revisions then by Wednesday night had it pretty much done, sent the outline to Katy, and relaxed.

Did I also mention, Tuesday night before starting to write I went to the Disney Store and bought a stuffed Pooh bear :) He reminded me to relax and not stress out.

Thursday morning the JW staff meets to talk through the service plan for Sunday, and, if applicable, rehearse the sermon. I was invited and took off work so I could be there, and got to rehearse giving my sermon. Everyone was impressed that I had come with a finished product, because apparently even though it's supposed to be a rehearsal time, almost always they're still brainstorming ideas and haven't written their sermons yet :) Did a couple small revisions, but no major changes.

We also agreed to have bears of honey at each of the communion tables. Cute.

Saturday I finally had time to Google image search some Pooh pictures and send those to Peter, who was assembling my slideshow (since I don't have MediaShout, the presentation software we use). Greg and I had found a couple movies to include, too. I got my sermon prepped on my iPad and ready to go!

Sunday morning by accident I found a different video clip I wanted to use, quick downloaded and threw on a flash drive, and, very ashamed and embarrassed, asked Peter if we could include it. I know how frustrating it is to have people bringing stuff at the last minute, so I felt very badly, but he wasn't angry at all. Whew!

And then it was time to get up and speak! Speaking in front of crowds doesn't bother me, but having Mom in the audience is intimidating :) My friend Matthew was also able to make it, that meant a lot to me.

Everything went well. Which is interesting, because I never had my "everything goes terribly" dream. Whenever I have that dream, that's how I know things'll be okay. Plush Pooh sat up front during worship and my sermon. Sermon went well, didn't stumble too much, and a lot of people complimented me. I'm learning how to take compliments. It's hard for me. One friend in particular came up and something I said must have touched him really deeply, his eyes slightly watery, and thanked me for giving that message. So I know at least one person heard something valuable. Or another way of phrasing that, I know God was able to use me to reach at least one person in the crowd. Maybe [hopefully] more, but at least one.

There is a video recording and I'm trying to get my hands on it. Will post that soon, hopefully.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Wiz

Long overdue. Back in May I tech-directed for Hope Academy's production of The Wiz. My former debate coach and teacher from 10th grade now works there as an administrator-type-person and approached me asking if I could help out. The timing was perfectly ironic. Here I was, just finishing AWAKEN tour season, praying, "God, please give me another ministry to pour my heart into", and then Dan emails me. Hope Academy is a private Christian school for poor/underprivileged kids in Minneapolis. He told me up front the job wouldn't pay much, and I knew I was really too busy to add "one more thing" into my schedule, but I also knew this was an answer to my prayer (careful what you ask for).

The Wiz was Hope's first ever musical production, so Dan said the bar was set really low for me :) They rented some basic lights and speakers, I set up all that on my own. Kind of therapeutic, actually, just working alone. For the rehearsals and actual performances I had two Hope student helpers, one for lights and one for spotlight, and then there were also two MA students (who used to attend Hope) who helped out. I ran sound myself, but tried to teach along the way. One of the students was very very excited to learn anything and everything about the sound board, very cool to have someone so excited about learning.

I had no idea what to expect coming in, so I consciously told myself up front I'd be as flexible as I possibly could be. Fortunately I'd worked with all the equipment before in some shape or form, and I got permission to borrow a few light gels from MA. Hardest part was figuring out who was who. I'd not had a chance to read the script, so the first rehearsal was a bit rocky, me not knowing who was coming onstage when, and even when they were on stage, who was who. The students were really soft, too, I'm sure they assumed having mics meant "I don't need to project". False. Constant battle. By the real performances they were doing better.

Director was super friendly and had such a passion for making this production as good as it could be. We talked for a while the first day I was there (only three or four days before the first show!), agreed to add extra rehearsal time for the kids, and she was always ready to answer questions I had about lighting/sound choices. Great teamwork.

The students did a phenomenal job. I mean, they're not professional actors, but given this was the first musical, given the nature of the school, given we were doing this in a gymnasium, given they've never used wireless headsets before, given all these things, they did phenomenal. The girl who played The Wiz character was exceptionally good for a high school production, as were a few other supporting roles. I'm actually proud of them, all of them, because they pulled it off. Wednesday rehearsal if you'd asked me I would have said "this will be a disaster". But by Friday performance, they got there, they did it.

Rewarding experience for me. I'm still way too busy, but it was worthwhile, every minute of it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Breathe

I'm stressed. Too much going on at work and personally. I have to do all the things.

No.

I get to do this.

I'm taking a deep breath. And remember that while I breath freely two of my friends are on life support, machines are breathing for them until they're strong enough to breath on their own again.

Breathe. Just breathe. Don't take it for granted.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What do you do when there's nothing you can do?

I'm not in control. I hate this feeling. My friend's husband is in ICU on life support. He's making progress, they're saying he'll make a full recovery, but as recently as two days ago they thought he would die.

I'm a fixer, I like fixing things, making it better, but what do you do when there's nothing you can do, because you're 2000 miles away?

I've found two answers:

1) Keep praying.
2) Keep the world flat. When my friend sends a text with updates, I've posted those on her FB wall and tagged her husband, so all their friends can read the news. It's not much, but it's what I can do.


This morning during church I found out another friend is sick and was just airlifted to Mayo ICU. I don't know her story, not sure what's going on.

I updated my FB status: "No one else is allowed to get sick!"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goals for the 2011-2012 School Year

Last year I wrote up some goals for myself, and gave a progress report midway through the year. Time to do both again.


Goals from 2010-2011:

Become a better guitar player
Was going great, recently not so much. I've really not played much in the last couple months, just haven't felt like devoting time to it. Yesterday I picked up my acoustic for the first time in a few weeks and was surprised how poor my muscle memory was. Each time it comes back quickly, though. That's a plus.

That said, I have made progress. At some point barre chords became not-scary anymore, and transposing on the fly has become easier.

Produce at least one short film project
Check. The Vacationers, a short about suicide, (think It's a Wonderful Life, but darker) is almost picture-locked, down to final tweaks. Also gearing up to shoot Paperclip, a Nancy-Drew-combined-with-Hitchcock style short that I wrote. Casting for that in September and shooting in October.

Record at least one song
Did not do it professionally, but recorded a couple just on my own. So I'm gonna count that.

Spend more time listening and less time talking
Yes. Honest assessment, I think I'm doing well. I can do better still. Certain people are hard to listen to - it's hard to care. That's my current struggle. Others I could listen all day and never grow weary. I seek to find a balance.

Pay off my student loans and obliterate my debt
Did not go as well as I'd hoped. Student loans are gone, but my credit card debt, while manageable, has taken until now to pay off. One more paycheck and I'll have that taken care of. Fortunately I've played the game well and paid no interest (except one month I goofed on one card and ended up paying about $10 interest. Oops). Of course, as soon as I have conquered that, homeowner's insurance is coming due, and that's $1500 I don't exactly have sitting in my wallet. Darn it!

Proactively listen for God’s Call in my life
Fail. Well, maybe that's too harsh. Actually yeah that's too harsh. My own standard is set too high. I have listened, I just heard different answers than for the questions I was asking, which is fine, I'm dealing with it. Slowly. I guess.

Read at least 1 book
Yes! I re-read Harry Potter 7 in the two weeks leading up to the HP7p2 movie so I'd be able to have intelligible conversations about it. I read a couple other books along the way, including the Tao of Pooh, which I adore.

Learn to relax
Better late than never. Great strides in the last two weeks on this one. Took a weekend all to myself, no work, and also a vacation, a few days during which I read absolutely no work emails, not even on my iPhone. This is a HUGE accomplishment for me, I'm such an email addict, it's bad, really. I also have vacations pending to Chicago in September, Los Angeles at the end of October, Washington D.C. in March/April, and at some point St Louis and Denver. And I do actually plan to follow through on every single one of those.

Be courageous, don't fear diving straight into a deep question
I've done decently. In my own mind I view myself as "that guy" who asks some of the hard questions. Again, with some friends much easier than others. I can always do better, but I don't think I did poorly.



Goals for 2011-2012

  • Play guitar more often, even when I don't "feel" like doing it

  • Learn basic chords on my banjo, even if I do not become an expert

  • Continue working toward my CD album

  • Finish post-production on The Vacationers, Paperclip, and start working again on Far Away

  • Read at least 1 more book

  • Let God start leading and stop trying to force it

  • Prioritize friends over work

  • Keep diving straight into deep questions

  • Explore the wonders of Netflix

  • Discern my calling to Los Angeles, and what I hope to accomplish

  • Be honest with myself

  • Become a more persuasive speaker

  • Eat healthier and exercise, even if it's "just" going on more walks

Friday, July 08, 2011

Legos, Deaths, and LOTR

When I was younger Dad and I played with Legos. And part of playing with Lego sets involves learning to follow assembly directions.

This skill is useful later in life, when, say, replacing a hard drive in your laptop. Which is what I did last week. My giant 250GB drive just wasn't as giant as it used to be, so I bought a 750GB replacement and found the ifixit.com take-apart guide for my computer. After re-assembly, the computer booted fine, but my fans were running continuously. Huh. That's not good. I think I broke something.

Googled, eventually brought my computer to First Tech, and Apple, and back to First Tech. Went home, tried reseating cables and sensors and stuff, still no-go. So Saturday morning I trucked over to FT again (4th time in two days); I know some of the techs from all the times I've brought machines in from work, and when I told them my story the night before one of them offered to check out the machine with me for free, if I couldn't fix it at home that night. That was a $60 diagnosis fee I didn't have to pay. And he also replaced one of my keys that had been smudged. It's the little things in life that can lift your day.

Long story short, he advised me to take Apple's offer and send my computer to Apple's repair depot, a $310 flat fee, and they fix everything. If FT were to do the repairs, parts alone were close to $1000 (because one of the hosed sensors was on the logic board).

Using the Apple Store app on my phone I made another Genius Bar appointment and meandered to the store. They took my machine, and from the sounds of it the repair depot is going to replace the logic board, another broken heat sensor, and the case. This is huge. A couple years ago my laptop took a tumble and got slightly dented; not terrible, but it's not pristine. I never looked into getting it fixed because the last time I tried (6 years ago with my first PowerBook) it was a $600 fix. Apparently Apple's policies have changed, and I might be getting back a sparkling, almost-new computer.

In the meantime I'm using a school machine and have my HD in an external enclosure. It's not ideal, but it works.




There's been too much death in my life recently, all within the last week:

- former teacher's wife, cancer
- friend's brother, killed in Afghanistan
- neighbor, cancer
- friend's mother, cancer

I have no particular thoughts on this, just felt a need to mention them.




In other news, this week my friend Jessie came over a couple nights and we watched the first two LOTR movies (compliments of Dadflix). I've never seen the second LOTR movie, at least not in full, so now I've officially been cultured (the third movie I've seen, at least in parts, a few times). It helped having someone to explain what was going on, too, since I've never read the books.

Lastly, yesterday I finally signed up for Netflix. I've been putting it off for a year, and it was finally time to take the plunge.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Force-decommissioning an Open Directory Replica and setting as Standalone

I made a whoopsies yesterday - in an attempt to "fix" my Open Directory, I broke it. (modified some of the XML in the OD's /Config settings in WGM).

Fortunately, the brokenness didn't replicate to my replicas. Here's how I fixed everything: (rebooting in between almost every step)

- promote a Replica (computer #2) to become a Master
- demote original Master (computer #1) to standalone
- set original Master (#1) as a Replica of my new Master (#2)
- promote #1 to Master
- restore OD from backup (http://www.macresearch.org/tutorial-backup-your-open-directory-server-using-launchd)
- demote #2 to standalone
- set #2 as replica of #1

Now those two machines are happy.

Oops, I have two other servers that used to be Replicas of #1. But I didn't destroy the OD Replica before doing all the above steps. Now when I try to set them as standalone in Server Admin, it goes through the motions, and even says that the server has been set up as standalone, but then the OD panel still reports the machine is an OD Replica. Gah!

Google helped. And looking at the slapconfig log. And a little bit of carelessness (aka, "it's already broke, I'm probably not gonna make it worse").

Here's what fixed the Replicas:

sudo slapconfig -destroyldapserver
sudo slapconfig -setstandalone


Then recreate the Replica in Server Admin like normal.

Unfortunate side-effect, hopefully it doesn't mean things are broken again: now nothing shows up in my OD Master's Replica Tree. (Replica Status reports all three Replicas are OK, though)

Lastly, although one of my Replicas does still show up in the Replica Status as OK, when I open WGM on that machine the users and groups are non-editable, same symptom that told me the OD was corrupt in the first place. So running the slapconfig commands was still necessary.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

California

In my Christmas video I announced plans to move to Los Angeles in January 2012. After visiting again in February/March, I hoped to move even sooner, perhaps even this summer. I purchased moving boxes, and proceeded to box up much of my life. My parents have continued to be extremely supportive, more than I could ever ask. Though I had not decided an exact date, my departure seemed sooner rather than later.

Two months ago some financial “stuff” came up (an unexpected $1300 car bill being among that), and I forced myself to look at the reality of moving soon. Credit card debt + no tangible savings = not possible. Not if I wanted to give myself a chance at success.

Therefore, while I do still plan to move, I know I cannot responsibly do so for at least another year.

At first I was in denial. Once I reached acceptance, I went a step further, to what my boss and I call the 6th stage of grief: empowerment. Acceptance is passive, empowerment is active. I have the gift of an extra year; what am I going to do with it?

For one, it means I can fully commit to AWAKEN for the next season. I can visit close friends in Chicago in September. I can visit LA again over Halloween (somewhat fulfilling my promise to myself that I would be in LA by that date). I can continue Bad Movie Night with my friends. I can continue making movies with Roo and John and Erin. I can keep spending time with my friends and family in Minneapolis. I might be given the opportunity to attend WWDC12.

In short, I can take full advantage of this gift of extra time. It wasn’t my original plan - I think it will be even better. I have faith. I’m not used to waiting for things - I’m accustomed to the American culture of instant gratification. My forced delay will serve as much needed exercise in patience.

I want to close by reassuring you, my friends, my family, that I do not have regrets. Plans change, realities change, and I’m okay with that. I’m looking forward to this year. Because, when I look back at who I was and where I was one year ago now, wow, what an adventure it’s been. The next year will be no different.

Let’s go.

2011 48 Hour Film Project: "Lilies and Lullabies"


No typo, "lilies" is spelled sans double-L.

I flew back from San Francisco Friday night, landed at 8:30, my parents dropped me off at home, and I called in to Erin, my co-1AD on our 48 team. We had our genre: horror. Draft 1 was written, she ran me through the story, and confirmed call time for the next morning: 4 a.m. Ugh! I unpacked, went to bed, took a couple hours to finally fall asleep, and then nabbed a 3 hour nap before waking up to meet the day.

For anyone unfamiliar with the 48, brief synopsis: 7 p.m. Friday night is the kickoff - team leaders draw a genre, and are given a character name/occupation, a line of dialogue, and a prop. Teams then have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit, and turn in a 4-7 minute movie.

Saturday morning, woke up at 3, packed the car and got to the producer's house around 4:30/5:00 (I had permission to show up a little late :) Cast was already in costume - victorian dresses and corsets. Poor girls. Crew loaded up equipment into our cars and took off for the location: a beautiful house absolutely full to the brim of antiques, it's as if the entire house came straight from the year 1900. The owners are good friends of Erin, so we were able to tour the house two weeks ago and just fell in love with it.

Around noon we did our first dump of footage from the camera so the editors could start editing. That's right, we had a team of editors trading off throughout the weekend. Well played on our part.

Our crew was phenomenal. Very few interpersonal issues. And a couple people that I for sure want on every single movie shoot I ever do from now on, because they were that awesome. Really, overall, everything in the entire production went very smoothly. It probably helped that our core crew had just shot The Vacationers movie not too long ago, and for sure all our pre-production planning meetings helped us hit the ground running.

Our cast was also phenomenal. Scott, the house owner, stepped into acting at the last minute when another actor bailed. And he blew us away with his performance - he's completely a natural. Best part: we didn't even have to costume him, he just pulled something out of his closet, spats and all. And he whipped up a magic trick that we needed in the script. Our other actors were also exceptional. Considering how uncomfortable those dresses must be for long periods of time, no one complained at all.

We shot all day, wrapped at about 9 p.m. that night. We were all very tired. I went home, slept, and came back early Sunday morning after getting the wake-up call saying we had picture-lock. I brought my computer and did sound balancing, someone else did color, the composer worked on music, and another guy worked on foley. Then we brought it all together late afternoon and burned DVDs to turn in. The non-color-corrected DVD finished burning about 6 p.m., so John and Erin took that and went to the turn-in spot while Andrew and I waited for the color-corrected version to finish burning. It finished at 6:48, I literally ran out the door, Andrew started driving before I was even in the car, then we made it a block away from the turn-in and it was 6:59 - I got out of the car and RAN. I made it. Then we found out the deadline wasn't until 7:30. Which was great, except that my phone jumped out of its holster while I was running, and shattered on impact. Had we known the deadline was later, I wouldn't have been running. Lame.

I'm proud of our movie this year. Even the non-color-corrected version was good, so the fact that we had a good movie ready to hand in even if Andrew and I hadn't made it in time, that was a great feeling. I don't think it'll win the audience award - that almost always goes to a comedy, but our little Victorian ghost/horror story is not too shabby. And I'm usually a hard one to impress.

Sunday night after turning in the movie, our executive team went back to Andrew's house (base camp) and debriefed: a post-mortem analysis of what went well, and what didn't, and what can we do better next time. We did a lot of things well, and learned plenty to work on. I can't wait to shoot the next movie.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

WWDC11 - Thursday - Is it over already?

Tomorrow's the last day. My flight leaves at 15:00. I'll need to skid-addle before the lunchtime speaker is even done. Which is a shame, because I'm pretty sure he's going to be awesome. Not sure I can say his name, but... he was the second human ever to walk on the moon.

Each year a WWDC becomes more valuable to me. Since I actually wrote an app last summer, and with all the scripting I've done on my servers at work, the lessons-to-be-learned here become more and more applicable, and lab times to meet with Apple Engineers more useful. Got a bunch of questions answered yesterday about deploying Lion in my school and what that'll look like. And today, just for fun, got to shake the hand of one of the guys on the Speech team - the folks who make OS X's "Alex" one of, if not the, best computer voice out there. It was an honor.

I’m learning so much. About OS X, iOS, web apps, and even learning about WWDC and how to get the most out of it. Met some good people. Even another guy from MN!

Started re-working my app with the new Xcode beta seeded Monday. Put iOS 5 on my iPad - there are a couple noticeably very-awesome features. Which are NDA so I can’t talk about them. But they’re awesome.

Had a great evening hanging out with my friend Lisa yesterday, and she issued me a standing invitation to crash at their house anytime I'm in SF. I plan on taking her up on that.

Tonight was the annual Beer Bash. Michael Franti & Spearhead performed. They were good, I enjoyed the concert. Food was good, too. (can't comment on the beer - I hate beer)

Tomorrow it ends. Sigh. Not ready. I'm never ready. Why am I never ready to leave anything? Maybe it's a good thing - maybe I love every minute of my life. Maybe it means I'm scared of change. Maybe it means I lack trust.

Maybe I'm busy living in the present.


I found a bug near my code :)



Only at WWDC. The line for the men's bathroom. (while the women walk right on in)



Apple logo.

Monday, June 06, 2011

WWDC11 - Monday

Quick rundown of the day:

Went to bed at 8:30 last night, slept light (unfortunately) and woke up a little after 4 this morning, before my alarm. Thinking "surely the line can't be that long", I found my first ever use for Twitter: I searched for WWDC to see if anyone had tweeted from in the line. Sure enough, people had, and sure enough, there was already video of the line, wrapped around the block. Dang. I got dressed, ate my breakfast I'd bought to-go last night, and hurried down there. I arrived in line at 5:10, and was physically at almost the exact same spot as last year... when I'd gotten there at 6:20. Bunch of crazies, I tell you! And I was happy to be one of them. The first guy in line apparently camped out since before 7 p.m. last night. I'm glad I wasn't him.

As someone nearby me said, "you [Apple] can't buy this kind of publicity".

About 6 o'clock, the line started compressing, so we moved forward an entire city block, from halfway along the 3rd side of the building past the halfway mark on the 2nd side. My line-mates were very friendly, we all got along well.

AT&T's wireless became slower and slower as the morning progressed, to the point of being near unusable. Not that it's very useable to begin with, but it's even worse when hundreds of other people within a one-block radius are using the same connection.

It was cold, and a lot of standing.



A 8, they opened the building, by 8:12 I was inside. We got to second floor, and had time to eat, drink, and potty. At 9:35 they let us ascend to the Presidio (the giant room for the Stevenote). Photos of that in my other post.

Then lunch, then afternoon sessions (which I can't talk about), then I visited one of the labs and talked to an engineer to get pointed in the right direction on porting my iPhone app over to iPad.

Went to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant I discovered last year (and by discovered, I mean a homeless man actually recommended it to me, and I gotta say, he had good taste). Then meandered to an after-hours unofficial party - there are quite the handful of these all week. Got there early enough to get a free drink ticket, and a cool cup that lights up. But I boogied pretty soon after I finished my alcohol, because it was ridiculously crowded and that's just not my scene. And I didn't feel like waiting awkwardly for another hour and a half before the live music started.

Now I'm back in my room, settling in to watch a WWDC session from last year (on the recommendation of the engineer).

Photos from WWDC11


Registration (Sunday)


Golden Gate Park (Sunday)


Line outside Moscone West


2nd floor in Moscone, waiting to be let upstairs


Presidio! (before the Stevenote)


Lots of smart people.


Lots and lots and lots of smart people.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

WWDC11

It all began back in March at an Apple Education event: I jokingly asked Corey and Pete when dates for WWDC would be announced, and Corey mentioned that they (Apple) were expecting to sell out within 1 day.

That afternoon I went back to work and wrote a script to monitor the WWDC home page and text my phone if there were any changes. Literally the next week, my phone woke me up, and within an hour I was registered. Less than 11 hours later, the conference was sold out.

Now I'm here! I flew in to San Fran early this morning. I was lucky to have had a seat - when I booked my flight I'm pretty sure I was one of those "overbooked" passengers, since I wasn't allowed to choose a seat assignment; fortunately when I checked in yesterday (all from my iPhone, while on a walk, in nature) I had a seat number, so yay.

Had a wonderful flight. The people sitting next to me were really friendly, we talked more than half the flight, and the conversation didn’t seem forced. This is new for me - usually when I get on a plane my neighbor and I exchange pleasantries, maybe talk for a few minutes into the flight, and then that’s it, end of conversation until we land. Today, nice change of pace there.

Flight was shorter than expected and landed over half an hour early, I got a shuttle right away, no waiting, and was at my hotel before noon. Sporting my WWDC10 jacket, I hurried over to Moscone, snapped a photo, and checked in. Favorite moment: the Apple staff member saw my jacket and said "Welcome back". It's good to be back. Ever since they [finally] announced the sessions and labs on Thursday, I've been giddy. The official app is pretty sweet, too. In a nerdy I-can't-believe-I-get-to-be-here-I'm-so-freaking-lucky-and-happy-and-excited sort of way.

Got back to my hotel, dropped off my new WWDC11 fleece, then Google Mapped a path to Golden Gate Park. Walk two blocks, catch some form of public transportation. Ummm. Is it a bus? A train? A trolley? Uhh. I'll figure it out when I get there, I guess.

Or rather, I stopped in a gift shop and asked the cashier what she thought Google was trying to tell me; she said I could take that bus (ha! it was a bus! figured one thing out...) but it'd be faster to take the train - walk a block, go to underground station, take N train outbound. She even drew me a map, complete with hippies smoking weed in Golden Gate Park.

I don't take public transportation often. Or ever. So this was going to be an adventure. I found some stairs that went into the ground, and, assuming they'd eventually lead me to some trains, I descended. I found a ticketing area, where people were buying tickets. Maybe I should buy a ticket. Oh no. What ticket should I buy? There's a "Muni" ticket and a "BART" ticket. Umm... Oh, look, a sign that has the letter N in a circle, next to some other letters. I bet those are the trains. Okay, buy a roundtrip ticket, charge my credit card, check. Now there are cattle stalls with automatic doors in my way. Wave ticket by logo. This logo? No, not that logo. Not that one either. People going by on either side, I'm standing there waving my ticket all around and the doors aren't opening. Ohh, THIS logo! Wheee!

Down stairs, now there are tunnels on either side of me. Look! A train! Wrong letter. Disembodied woman's voice announcing arriving trains. Kind of soothing. And eerie. Mostly soothing. Wait patiently. Try to blend in. "Double train N-N outbound, arriving in 4 minutes". That's mine! Doors open, step on board, take seat, try and figure out how soon I'll to disembark. If only I knew how to read that map on the wall, I bet it would tell me. After some squinting and quick learning, I figured out how to follow the colored line on the map until it said my street names, and then I knew I was only a few stops away.

Anyway, long story short, I made it to Golden Gate Park, walked around the eastern-most part, saw some flowers, trees, a lake, hippies smoking weed (several offered me some, caught me off-guard). Anyway, weird thing about Golden Gate Park is there are giant ROADS cutting through it. Major traffic all around. At first this bothered me - this is supposed to be a relaxing park! Then after walking an hour and only making it one-third into the park, and Google Maps on my phone saying it was another hour's walk to the ocean, suddenly I understood why there were roads. That place is ginormous.

I never made it to the ocean - too tired, and turned around to start walking back. Grabbed a creep for dinner (they're spelled "crepe" but I call them "creeps" because it's funner), and took one to-go for breakfast. Because I'm gonna have to be up at 4 or 5 a.m. tomorrow to go stand in line with all the other crazies who stand in line for the Stevenote that early.

Waited for the train, found out there's a really really slick website where you can watch the trains live on a Google Map and it tells you how long until it gets to your stop. When I got back I stopped over at Moscone again - there's a bug in my WWDC app that's really annoying me, and since it hasn't been fixed in the two updates this weekend, I wanted to find out if anyone else is having the same issue. The info folks were super friendly, I showed them the bug, they told me they haven't heard anyone say anything about it (until now :), and then one of them filed a bug report for me.

Now I'm here, writing this. Almost everything else that happens this week is considered Apple Confidential and under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), so I might not have many other blog posts this week, at least that are WWDC related.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Archiving/Backing up Snow Leopard Server's Open Directory fails silently

Technical post ahead

Six hours of my life. That's about how much time I spent chasing this solution.


My Goal

Automatically back up my OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server's Open Directory database weekly, using launchd.


The Problem

I found an excellent script that does exactly what I needed. But when I ran it and looked at the backup folder it created, I noticed the OD archive didn't exist. At first I thought this was a Leopard vs Snow Leopard issue (the directions were a couple years old), but then after I tried archiving through the Server Admin GUI, I found the archive still wasn't created (even though no error gets presented to the user).


Problem-Solving

Googling somehow lead me to this command line:

sudo slapconfig -backupdb /path/to/backup

which as far as I can tell, is what the Server Admin.app GUI (and also serveradmin CLI used in the awesome script) call under the hood.

Well that still failed with this error (which also appears in the /Library/Logs/slapconfig.log file)

Error in backing up keychain -25300
Error: Unable to create archive image as keychain could not be read


It was another clue to the puzzle, but not a solution.

I found this page: http://armagons-isles.blogspot.com/2009/03/od-archive-fails-due-to-keychain-25300.html and tried some of the steps he suggested. My com.apple.opendirectory keychain item wasn't missing, though, so instead I tried renaming it, creating a new one with identical settings, no-go.

Found this page, built a test server (twice!) exactly like my production server, tried copying the keychain item over but couldn't get the system keychain unlocked.

Finally went back to Armagon's Isles site and re-read some of the comments, remembering there were other ideas there I hadn't fully tried. A combination of these two solved the problem for me:


MAY 17, 2010 7:39 AM
Anonymous said...
Same issue, finally resolved. In 10.6.3 I got the same problem as listed above. All efforts to use the above directions failed. After much mind bending, I realized that the server was referring to itself as "blankety-blank.local" in the Server Admin and "blankety-blank.blah.com" in the LDAP reference. Poking into the com.apple.opendirectory keychain showed that it was pointed to the blah.com$ name in Account Name, not the .local$. I changed the Account Name to point to .local$, allowed all programs access, fired it up, and BAM, worked as expected. Yay.

MAY 18, 2010 1:47 PM
Thomas Orona said...
My server already had the keychain entry and was already set to allow all programs.
I ran hostname and compared entries. In my case the case was wrong in the keychain entry.
hostname: SERVERone.company.com
keychain: serverone.company.com
Once i changed the keychain to SERVERone.company.com everything worked.


The Solution

In Terminal I ran hostname and confirmed my server is named with a capital letter, so I needed to rename the keychain item's Account from servername.domain.com$ to Servername.local$. Then I ran the sudo slapconfig -backupdb /path/to/backup line and IT WORKED!!! Now I'm documenting it all in case this can help anyone else.

Of course, it'll probably all change when Lion lands. Now to go pack for WWDC :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Apocalypse! See you Monday.

We can know. That's what they claimed.

So on Friday my coworkers and I jokingly quipped, "Happy Apocalypse! See you Monday."

While driving around this weekend, though, I did ponder: What if? What if Jesus did come back? Or, less eschatologically, what if I died that night? What if my tomorrow never came?

First reaction, "thank you, God, for this amazing life, for the blessings You've poured out unto me, for the opportunities, the family, the friends, everything." Gratefulness.

Second reaction, after reading my friend Lynnea's blog post, "have I lived up to my Calling?" As she asked, if Jesus came back today, "would you be coming back for me?.... Or would you pass me by?"

As time went on more and more Facebook statuses confirmed the Rapture had, in fact, not come (or if it did, heaven apparently has wifi). This leads me to believe the sun will probably still rise tomorrow. Yet in my mind the questions remain pertinent.

Yes, the crazies of the world give us something to laugh about, and doomsayers will always live amongst us. Instead of brushing them off, I will choose instead to heed their warnings as a reminder for introspection.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Incomplete

Easter happened. Came and went, fading too quickly into distant memory. A thief in the night. I feel robbed.

I feel robbed because I wanted to mourn. I wanted two and a half days spent in utter despair, tears free to flow. I wanted to feel. I wanted to put myself once more in that dark place I felt approaching the cross as Peter in AWAKEN. My friend, hanging on a cross. Buried in a tomb. My life once again mundane, tedious, hopeless.

I wanted to spend two and a half days praying. Crying out to God. Pouring my heart into private and corporate worship. Gathering with friends in our own [metaphorical] upper room.

Instead I feel cheated. The Triduum, historically my favorite series of church services in the liturgical calendar, cheapened Easter for me this year. We didn't crucify Jesus until Friday night, and then barely 26 hours later, Saturday night, we rung bells celebrating resurrection. Easter. I was not ready.

A month later, I'm still struggling to cope.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Overwhelmed, and finding Peace

I have too much to do. At work. In my personal life. Maintaining relationships. Discerning theology. Too much on my todo list.

So tonight I took a walk with my iPod and worshipped instead.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Imagine

Imagine how much Good the Church could accomplish if we stopped wasting time arguing about gay marriage, evolution, abortion rights, which politicians are "Christian" enough, who's in, who's out.

Imagine if the Church focused on Love instead.

What a novel concept.