Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waking up was such a disappointment

Dreams are so weird.

Last night I went to Taylor Swift's concert with my friend Peter and his girlfriend. An understatement might be to say it was an "odd" concert; I don't remember all the details but basically it started out like Disney on Ice, and somehow I was skating around on the ice with all the camera crew. Then I was sort of getting in the way of the performers, so I got off the ice and went back upstairs and sat with Peter and Stephanie in our car... which shortly afterward became plain old folding chairs. We had awesome seats, like, practically front row to the elevated stage (above the ice?), and that meant that during one of her songs, Taylor and I made eye contact.

A couple songs later, our eyes connected again, and she gestured for me to join her on the stage! I questioned, "me?" and she beckoned again. On the stage there appeared evergreen bushes (bushes with tiny evergreen trees growing on their limbs) frosted with snow - she picked one and handed it to me, I played along with the act and picked one to gift her in return. I held her coat (snow means it was cold... and maybe there was still an ice rink below?), joked around, and then we ran off backstage, because she had to do a costume change while her band kept playing. She ran down a staircase and said "stay right there I'll be right back" while I waited in the hallway.

When she came back she was in a hurry (obviously, because she had to get back to the screaming fans), I followed her back to the stage, and on the way she asked if I preferred to do dinner or dancing; I realized the flirting earlier when we'd been picking tiny evergreens had been authentic, not just part of the act, but then before we could finalize our plans I got stuck holding the stage door open for a tour group of senior citizens, while Taylor went back onto the stage. By the time I found my seat, Taylor was sitting across the auditorium from me, and an African American pastor was stepping onto stage to give his sermon. Taylor signed at me: "6:30?", I nodded. "Do you have my number?" "No," I replied, so she stood up and wrote her phone number on a chalkboard so I could type it into my phone.

Then I freaking woke up. Before our dinner. Noooooo!!!!!

While it lasted, quite possibly best dream ever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Punch 1 on the old speed dial"

I'm working my way through the complete series of Stargate SG-1. In the episode I'm currently watching, Colonel O'Neill, in describing the current crisis to General Hammond, suggests the General might want to "punch 1 on the old speed dial" (his assumption being that speed dial #1 goes straight to the President). General Hammond's response is priceless: "My grandchildren?"

This is priceless for two reasons: first off, it's comedic relief. More importantly in my mind, though, what a wonderful role model this man is, that, even though he's a high-ranking, decorated, career military officer, his family comes first. This isn't the first time we've seen General Hammond put his family above his career, either. And it just warms my heart.

Back to Stargate now.

Valuing each word

A few months ago Molly, one of my AWAKEN friends, pastored to me and described how she ponders at length each word when reading a scripture verse. Still wary of the Bible, I chose to explore this with a song lyric instead: "You make all things work together for my good"

You. The God of the universe, the one who knew me before I was born, the one who knows my past, present, and future better than I do myself. You.

Make. You not only create from nothingness, but you make from what is already here, from my current circumstances, and you form it into something, you bring about something new, you make it happen. Make.

All things. Not just some things. Not just the "good" things. You take all the things, all the broken pieces, all the joyous moments as well, and you piece them together. All things.

Work together. It's not all disparate. Everything is interwoven, all the mistakes, all the excellent choices, all the events that happen because of my choices, and all the events beyond my control, you bring them to work together as one, unified, God-driven motion. Work together.

For. There is a purpose. This isn't aimless. You have a direction, you're heading somewhere specific, and I want to come along for the ride. For.

My. Me. Little humble me. You are a personal God, you listen when I talk, and you speak to me when I ask. You're focused not only on the cosmic big picture, but on the tiny small Jeremy-picture as well. My.

Good. What you're doing is good. You have a goal, something great that will be, but is not yet. And I can trust that you know better than I how we'll get there. I need not worry, I need not despair, because ultimately, you've got this. Good.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leftovers


I went to market today. All I wanted was just to buy some bread, maybe a few figs; the usual, boring ordinary. I got swept up in a crowd, though, saying they'd seen a prophet. Skeptical, I sat and listened. Couldn't really hear anything - too many people in the way.

Unimpressed.

Then these guys started handing out lunch. I realized I was hungry, having not made it to the market yet. Bread and salmon. Free meal in these tough times? Twist my arm, I guess I'll have some. Wonder where they got it all? I mean, there are a LOT of people here, thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Math isn't my strong suit. That had to be expensive. Must be someone important from Rome or something. No matter. Good food.

I never made it to the market, but I came home with my basket filled of leftover scraps of bread. Guess they overbought for the crowd. It all worked out: my neighbors have been hungry for a while, maybe I can help.

Never did figure out who the man was that was speaking. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Plumbing Mayhem

Aka, "when you think it can't get worse, you're wrong."

Murphy took a dump on my house's plumbing mid-October. It all started innocently enough: shortly after midnight on Sunday night / Monday morning, I noticed a small pool of water around the basement floor drain. As far as I could tell, not raw sewage, just accumulated H20 from the de-humidifier and the furnace drainage tubes. I mopped it up, and emailed the plumbing company we've used in the past. I also emailed my boss and let him know I'd have to work from home Monday morning while I waited on the plumber.

The plumbing company called me bright and early, and said they could have a guy out there that morning. Whew! Good.

He showed up on time, we found the main line access, and he started snaking out the line. Meanwhile, I moved my computer upstairs to work, because once he opened up that access pipe, an awesome smell began permeating the basement.

Zach the plumber was great - he was friendly, explained everything clearly, and kept me updated on his progress. Unfortunately his progress was slower than he'd hoped: he was pulling out, in his words, more tree roots than he ever seen. So it was going to take more than the one-hour he'd originally quoted. "That's fine," I said. "Do what you need to do."

He ran his snake out a half dozen times, pulling more and more roots off each time it came back, and then... it got stuck. No going forward, no going back.

What does that mean?

Well, first it meant having another plumber dude come out with a camera, to sneak a peak at the pipe and see why the snake was stuck. The camera was an additional $200ish (on top of the plumber's original $99/hour). They discovered the pipe was completely filled with roots, and that the bottom had rusted or somehow dissolved away almost completely, so it would need to be replaced.

Zach got on the phone with his office, and within hours a series of trucks started arriving: one to paint and flag the gas line, one to mark ... I don't know, something else, and so on. Then the giant backhoe arrived with a digging crew, and they dug a ten-foot-deep hole in my front yard. The cost? $4,500. (they did at least deduct what I'd already paid for the morning's plumbing work).

Meanwhile I'm still trying to get work done. Email my boss and tell him I'll be stuck at home all day with this catastrophe. Also called my parents and kept them in the loop.

The hole got dug, a giant pile of dirt appeared over the rest of my lawn, and my 4-year-old neighbor and her grandma parked their chairs out front to watch all the action.

By evening, the digging crew couldn't quite dig deep enough, and so told me they would have to come back the next day with a different backhoe that could go further. They put metal barrier walls in the hole and covered it up so no one could fall in, then left.

Next day I went to work; the plumbers came, dug, and then called me with the cheery news that they would need to dig a second hole, under the sidewalk, to replace a second section of pipe that was also broken because of the invasive roots. This would double the price to a total of $9,000.

Ugh.

At this point, I called Dad and said, in so many words, "Your turn, I don't trust myself to deal with this anymore." He and the plumber talked, approved the work, and the company started getting more city permits in order to dig up the sidewalk. Because it was late in the day, they weren't able to get approvals to start that night, and had to wait until Wednesday. However on the plus side by this time they'd freed the first plumber's snake, so he could get that out of my basement. And they'd unclogged from the yard to the house, so at least we could use water again, though sparingly. "Military showers" and minimal flushing were the rules.

Wednesday... nothing happened. The crews must have been dealing with even larger emergencies, because they weren't at my house.

Thursday when I came home from work I had a second giant hole, this one in the middle of the sidewalk. That day they successfully replaced both sections of pipe, and used an extremely-high-pressure thingy (technical term) to blow out all the roots in the line. We could once again use water in abundance! Showers, laundry, dishes, toilets, sinks, LOTS OF WATER!

End of story, we lived happily ever after.

I wish. This story's only half done.

The city inspector couldn't make it out until Friday morning, so the crew covered both holes again, and came back Friday to "backfill" - put all the dirt back into the holes.

But Thursday night, after taking my first shower in several days, I found a 1" LAKE of water in my downstairs bathroom. Leaking from the ceiling.

I called my parents, and started mopping. At least the drain worked this time, so I didn't have to fill a bucket and lug it outside. Mom and Dad showed up, and my friend Peter, who I'd planned to hang out with that night, also came and helped out. Dad turned off the electricity to the bathroom, pulled out the heating / fan unit in the ceiling, and identified the source of the leak as the pipe leading to the outdoor water spicket. Fortunately, this meant it wasn't the upstairs bathroom leaking again. (a few months ago we'd just had the tub replaced because it was leaking into the basement - another costly venture).

We put a cup under the pipe and I emailed the pluming company again. Parents went home, Peter and I hung out, I went to bed exhausted. On top of the plumbing chaos, my two co-workers who are the resident experts on the software I am charged with testing, were both on vacation that week. And there were lots and lots of bugs in the software. And a new site was just going into acceptance, and needed that software. Trial by fire, and I rocked it! But still: long week.

Friday afternoon a different plumber came to look at the bathroom ceiling pipe. Embarrassingly, all he did was tighten a nut. Though he refused to concede, my / my parents hypothesis is that, when the digging crew high-pressured out the roots from the main line, some of that pressure came back into the house, through the slightly loose nut, and flooded the bathroom. Because the total amount of water that leaked overnight was minuscule compared to what was on the floor Thursday evening. In any case, the plumbing company didn't charge us for the extra trip, which (since I'm still sure they caused it) was the right thing to do.

Three-quarters done.

Now, let's talk about the state of my yard. When the crew left Friday evening, in my yard I had: two giant mounts of dirt where the holes used to be, two missing panels of sidewalk, yellow marker flags left from the gas line guy, wooden retaining beams askew, a blue glove left over from a worker, and clay all over the sidewalk. I mean ALL over the sidewalk. And, to top that off: no communication whatsoever from the company about when this giant mess would be cleaned up. For $9,000, I expected more. I was pissed.

My parents came by and reassured me they [the plumbing company] couldn't possibly leave the yard like this, and that the crew must be coming back Monday to finish up. It was late Friday, after all. Okay, fine, I'll buy that. I mean, I was still mad they were leaving it in this embarrassing state over the weekend, but, if they come Monday and make it right, that's okay.

Monday I got home from work and... nothing had changed. I called the company and asked when the cleanup crew was coming. They had Zach, my original plumber and apparently the point person for the entire project, call me back, and he asked if they hadn't filled in the holes? I explained yes, they did the backfill, but everything was a mess. He explained the mounds of dirt need months to settle - okay, I'll accept that, but I asked for them to clean up the rest of the mess. Ugh. Long story short, he had a supervisor come out that week, who agreed it was kind of messy, and said they'd send some people to do something about it. My parents' largest concern was the sidewalk, with Halloween coming up it presented quite the tripping hazard.

Then I went to LA for a week and a half, and when I came back... hardly anything had changed. They filled in the sidewalk a little better, enough so it's not a major issue until the city comes to pour new concrete. But all the other issues were not addressed.

In the end I hired a friend to do some cleanup, and then spent half an hour out there with a hose spraying the clay and dirt off the sidewalk. I got most of it looking decent.

I sent a letter of complaint to the plumbing company last night, and Zach called back within a few hours. I re-explained the situation to him, particularly emphasizing how, when we used this company to replace the tub, our plumber was exceptionally consciencsious about cleaning up after himself inside the house, vacuuming, leaving it better than he found it, etc. For $9,000, I expected the same or better from the outside crew, but they blatantly didn't even try. Zach said he'd pass this along to his manager. I doubt anything will come of it; they probably think I'm just a huge whiner. I don't think I'm whining, I've taken great care to speak facts, but I just find their behavior unconscionable.

On the plus side. At least all the house plumbing is working swell.

The end?








Friday, November 09, 2012

Only the Beginning of the Adventure

Blast from the past: this post should have been written and published in May 2012

"Welcome to the Adventure" is just something I have to say anytime I talk about AWAKEN. Also, listening to the AWAKEN soundtrack seems almost mandatory while writing about the drama. So that's what I'm doing right now.

AWAKEN's final performance was Sunday, April 29, at Riverside chapel in Story City, Iowa, the very same venue where the ministry was born seven years ago. By the end of the show there was not a dry eye amongst the cast or crew, because this was the end of the adventure. AWAKEN isn't happening next year. It may never happen. Jon and Tiffany feel God's calling to devote themselves wholly to serving their church, where Jon is a lead pastor. The other three AWAKEN leadership folks are 1) moving across the state next year, 2) having a baby, and 3) getting married. All good reasons to need to step away. Thus, AWAKEN is entering a "season of discernment" while the board discerns God's call for the future of the ministry.

We arrived, set up, and performed Saturday the 28th, then spent the night in the Riverside cabins. Sunday after church, the team ate lunch, and gathered for the end-of-year party. Normally this event happens several weeks after the last tour stop, but since there are always a few people who's schedules conflict, having the party during our last tour weekend allowed everyone to be there. Unlike most tour stops, we had lots of extra time - because we were performing in the same venue two nights in a row, we hadn't needed to tear down Saturday night, drive to a new tour location, and load-in and setup on Sunday.

I don't remember the exact sequence of events. But in roughly this order, the end-of-year-party started with Jon and Tiffany reading to us from "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," by Dr. Seuss, followed by a mini-sermon. We had time for team members to share memories from the season, funny stories, what AWAKEN has meant in our lives, how we've been changed. Then came the AWAKEN awards - ridiculous "awards" presented to each team member. Mine, for example, was the "I spend more time listening to audio books than being at AWAKEN," award (I listened to a lot of audio books during my drives). Afterward, per AWAKEN tradition, we went outside to play whiffleball. Everyone was "required" to enjoy it and have fun for "at least 15 seconds", even Beth, who hates whiffleball. It was cold and a little rainy, so we only played one inning. I had fun (even past the requisite 15 seconds).

Inside we had a large group prayer, and an hour of free time before dinner. "Team Bad Guys" (the demons) met backstage for a small group prayer. And that's when I first started crying. I'd been doing okay denying "the end" up until that point, but large group, and especially our small group time after, my tears started coming. Reality sunk it and it sucked.

Dinner happened. I snuck over to leave thank you cards backstage and on the control center, all signed by the team the previous night. Make-up happened. Family photo (all the cast together with our makeup) happened. Prayed out our voices. Then walked over to the chapel and took our places for Creation, one final time. Surreal.

My memory is a blur. Months have gone by now, which, added to the emotional finality of that night, means my specific memories are scant.

I remember in the 'calling of the disciples' scene, normally Howie, who played my fisherman son, gives me a bear hug when he is called to follow Jesus and leave me - this night, he literally picked me up off the ground when we hugged. He's done that during rehearsals as a joke, but never in a live performance. I had to resist the urge to laugh out loud.

I remember hearing someone from cast saying, after the show, how easy it was to bring out tears during the mourning scene while Jesus hung on the cross, because the tears [of mourning AWAKEN] were real, not much "acting" required. I remember a lot of people crying in the back of the venue during the mourning, and into the resurrection, scenes. I was near Kindra and Jess, and I gave them both a big hug right before their cue to go back into the scene. And when Haley, as Satan, was cast out after the resurrection, I made sure I was waiting to catch her as she ran out - I knew how very, very emotionally difficult that role had been all season for her to play.

And my favorite memory from the show itself: during the resurrection song ("Take Heart" by Hillsong), Jon walked up to the sound board, and he and Blair turned up the music as the tomb light faded and Jesus prepared to come back on stage, resurrected. Jon and I both, independently, gave a little punch into the air as the music climaxed and Jesus appeared. Maybe you had to be there.

As the show ended, we angels left the stage, but instead of heading to the makeup room like we normally would, everyone stayed in the sanctuary to listen to Jon's final closing talk. He was choked up, but somehow held it together; the entire cast/crew though were sobbing. It is finished.

Pause for a moment of silence, please

As Jon spoke, many hugs were going around amongst the cast and crew. Somehow, I wasn't crying, not at that moment. My "pre-mourning" earlier helped me keep it together at this moment, so I could try to support my friends. An understatement would be saying we were heart-broken. AWAKEN is more than a performance, more than a show; it is a community. It is Church.

Walking back to the makeup room, it had rained, and the ground was wet. My slippers were soaked and muddy after only a few steps. My brain works in funny ways: the metaphor I drew was that my slippers, much like me, had given their all, and might now be ruined. Weeks later I could look back and say that my slippers, much like me, had given their all, and then after a good washing, were ready to tackle life again.

As usual I was the last one to finish taking off my face paint. Beth waited for me. We shared a moment, not ready to go back into the chapel to start tearing down for the last time.

We were the last two back; I was about to put my gloves on and start wrapping cables, but... I couldn't. I walked over to Beth and Amanda, gave them a big hug, and Kindra, seeing me tearing up, came over and gave me a huge hug.

Blair commented to me that, "let's be honest, tear-down's gonna take a lot longer tonight than normal." I concurred. Marginally because the venue was not well suited for moving road cases around; but mostly because no one wanted to make it real.

While putting away the feeder (a ridiculously heavy cable that feeds electricity to all the equipment), I found a penny. ... Apparently I never blogged about this in the past: the backstory is when my Grandma Sue was dying, she promised to throw pennies down from heaven as a reminder that she's thinking about us. It makes finding a penny a bit more meaningful.

Loading the truck took longer than normal as well, because carpools were leaving, and that meant lots of goodbyes. With many of these friends it is not goodbye forever; I know I'll see them individually, maybe in twos or threes, but not again in this entire large group. So taking time for goodbyes was important.

There was a funny sight of Jon, Tiffany, and Chad driving around with a ridiculously large ladder on the back of a truck - I can't do it justice, other than to say they were having way too much fun.

Truck loaded, the few of us remaining took a short breather. On our way back out to the cars, Jon and Tiffany had just finished locking the chapel - we said our goodbyes, though I knew I'd see them again in a few weeks.

Blair, Alica, Levi, Jacob, Lyndsay and I caravanned from Riverside to the locker in Ames, where we unloaded everything back into storage for the last time. What I feared would be a somber task turned into quite the laughter-filled time with friends; sad, yet joyful, simultaneously. I think, too, we are all people of the mindset "get things done, then process emotions later." We really did have a blast, lots of jokes, lots of laughter.

That night I stayed with Blair and Levi in Ames, planning to drive home in the morning. Morning came, and I couldn't bring my car to get on the freeway toward home. Instead, I ended up back in Des Moines, to visit Beth at work. A 40 minute drive for a 10 minute conversation, but it's exactly what I needed: to see her in "normal" life, carrying on. After Beth, I went back to Blair and Levi's apartment, where they, and also Jacob and Alica, were hanging out, watching a sports game. You know how much I love me a good sports game. Spending time with people who were wrestling the same emotions as I, who knew exactly how I was feeling - invaluable. Even though we didn't talk much about AWAKEN, just being there, not being along, was what I needed.

I finally left Ames at 4 p.m. Along the way I needed to stop at a gas station and take a nap, because I was just so emotionally exhausted from crying - I had cried most of the way to DSM, remained on the brink of tears while talking with Beth, and then cried most of the way back to Ames. It reminded me of the 2010-2011 mime, after Jesus died, when I was playing a disciple and all the disciples hugged each other goodbye, and tearfully went back to our normal, every day status quo lives. In a very real sense that's what we all did at the end of AWAKEN, too.

What's amazing about that parallel, what gives me hope, is that our mourning wasn't the end of the story: in the mime, a few minutes later, Jesus resurrects, and called us back to living a meaningful life. I would like my life to parallel that. Like the disciples who walked and talked with the living Jesus, in what is perhaps an indescribable way, our lives from being in AWAKEN are changed and marked forever.


In the months since AWAKEN, Beth and I wrote a proposal for continuing the ministry, essentially volunteering to take over Jon and Tiffany's roles. We met with Jon and Tiff, during which they were exceptionally open and honest. A month later Beth and I met with Jon plus two members of the board to talk about our vision, and get to know each other. Beth and I felt the meeting went incredibly poorly (though later we were told the board members had not felt that way at all).

Two months after that, we met with the entire board. In the end, they said "no," they do not feel God's calling for Beth and I to become the core leadership. That is not to say the board doesn't see AWAKEN continuing, only that we are not the ones they see in those roles. Which is okay, for three reasons: They said "no" for [what I consider to be] the right reasons; neither Beth nor I really wanted to be the "buck stops here" people in AWAKEN leadership (our desire to see the ministry continue overruled that non-desire); and there are at least one or two other proposals on the table from others interested in seeing AWAKEN continue, and even though Beth and I will not be the "it" people of leadership, that does not preclude us from being on a larger leadership team, were it to happen.

The board's answer, while it could be seen as disheartening and disappointing, was neither to me. People who know me know how much I need "one more thing" on my plate, and, though AWAKEN would have become my priority over all else, it is admittedly a relief not needing to make those time-management choices that would have been required in my life.

My prayer after AWAKEN ended, and again after meeting with the board: "God, I don't know what my future is in AWAKEN, what you have in store, but, here I am. That's it. Here I am."

That applies to life, as well, not just AWAKEN. Major life changes from 2012 have included: a new job, starting a new company, the end of AWAKEN, acceptance into candidacy for seminary, a new roommate, a relationship starting, and ending, and, most recently, a major house plumbing kerfuffle (blog post coming soon). When I look at how much change could happen in a matter of two or three weeks, I realize I have no idea what to expect from the next two or three months, years, etc. God only knows. It's not something I need to solve, I just need to keep myself open to possibilities, and understand that reality will look vastly different than anything I dream up; my imagination is limited, His is not.

On April 29, before shutting down the sound system the final time, Blair and I played the song "Only the Beginning of the Adventure", from the Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack. It seemed fitting.

Welcome to the Adventure.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vietnamese Vegans

Los Angeles brings me the weirdest adventures. Yesterday, Anne and I went to watch two of her friends in a softball game - apparently TV shows here have softball leagues, and they were both playing with the crew of The Middle. Afterward, Anne's friend Laura told me about a show she's assistant stage managing: a musical about Vietnamese vegans and vegetarians. No, seriously, those words were used to describe it.

Laura offered Anne and I comps for that evening to see the [one and only] performance. Anne likes musicals, I like musicals, so sure, why not?

Turns out this show was a freaking big deal. Red carpet, fancy dresses, tuxes (I felt soooo out of place in my business casual - blame it on being out of town, it's not like I packed a suit), and TONS of cameras. Picture the Oscars. Except Vietnamese. And vegan.

Will Call had trouble finding our tickets, so ended up giving us seats in the fourth row. Center. $75 seats. Free. Win. The acrobats in the first act were literally flying right over our heads.

The show took us on a whirlwind tour across the globe, featuring songs and dance numbers from more than a dozen countries, all based on the poetry of Ching Hai. Truly awe-some performances. The songs were interwoven by the story of strangers on a train, struggling to find their inner peace. That part of the show was predictable, but didn't detract from the amazing musical numbers.

And of course, also nerd-tastically fun to watch, were the cameras - a dolly right in front of us, a steadicam operator walking near us, a couple jibs/cranes. Quite. the. deal.

I'm still coming down from the high. What a night.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PSA Against the Marriage Amendment

Minnesotans will vote in November 2012 on a constitutional amendment that would prevent marriage equality. On religious and personal moral grounds, I strongly oppose this anti-family, anti-marriage amendment, so when my friend Maggie approached me with a script for a "vote no" PSA, I immediately agreed to produce it. We shot for one day in May 2012, and this is what we made.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One reason why I'm voting no

One of my best friends got married last weekend to the love of her life. Their ceremony was beautiful, a mixture of traditional liturgy with modern influences (one example coming to mind: communion open to all, and served by the couple).

What got me, though, was a sentence from their vows: "...Every day when you wake up, until the day you can't, I will be there...." I teared up. So. Beautiful.

I am a Christian, and that's one reason why I am voting "NO" in November.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The sign of trust

My past month has been emotionally tumultuous. Yet flying through the turbulence I'm finding zen. The Spirit constantly is reminding me: "worship". Part of my worship experience has included learning ASL to sign along with the song lyrics. I don't know much. In fact every song I hear reminds me just how little I know. But I know enough to sign a few lines, and to make my own prayers. They're not anything complex, just the bare essentials. And I'm probably not signing all the signs perfectly. It's all right. God knows what I mean.

One sign I really love is "trust" - it's beautiful: two hands, grasping in the air, grasping at something I cannot see, but then grabbing on, clinging to what I know is there.

Help me to trust, Lord. Help me to hold on to You.



"I trust in you, Lord, because I know that you love me, and your love never fails"

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Goals - October 2012 revision

Last summer I set some lofty goals for myself. By New Year's I'd not made much progress. Let's see how I'm doing on that list:


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


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


Continue working toward my CD album
Failed.


Finish post-production on The Vacationers, Paperclip, and start working again on Far Away
Failed. Vacationers has been in a constant state of "almost" for six months - soundtrack almost done, editing almost done, color almost done, etc. Paperclip still is in rough cut. Volunteers are wonderful human beings, but by the very nature of them being volunteers (meaning: I have no budget to pay them), I am on their schedule, not mine.

My life was too busy to work on Far Away.


Read at least 1 more book
Success. Several audiobooks were "read."


Let God start leading and stop trying to force it
Minimal success, and still a constant battle. In my "old age" I'm working toward a more zen-like lifestyle. But I worry. A lot. Too much.


Prioritize friends over work
Success. Even better, I have found a good balance between spending time with others, and taking time for myself.


Keep diving straight into deep questions
Moderate success.


Explore the wonders of Netflix
Success.


Discern my calling to Los Angeles, and what I hope to accomplish
Decided "not yet." I am at peace with this.


Be honest with myself
Absolutely. (and even independently confirmed by a psychologist).


Become a more persuasive speaker
Failed.


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




Goals for 2012-2013

Set reasonable, achievable goals
(I know it's ironic.)

Setting "reasonable, achievable goals" means being specific, and focusing only on outcomes that are actually under my control. For example, rather than goal-ing to "get hired at ___" (an outcome over which I have no ultimate control), instead I might say "apply for a job at ___", an action I can control.

Setting "reasonable, achievable goals" also means being realistic about what I can actually accomplish in my limited waking hours. I'm a list-maker. I even make lists of lists I need to make. And as a result I constantly disappoint myself by not finishing everything on my lists. I need to curb my todo list optimism in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed at the end of each day.

A sub-goal of setting "reasonable, achievable goals" is to change my habitual tardiness into punctuality (because saying I will be somewhere at a specific time is, in a sense, a "goal," and should therefore be something I create under the influence of being reasonable and achievable).


Avoid procrastination
I spend too much time making and re-ordering unrealistic lists of things to do, rather than actually doing things. Also, I put off difficult or time-consuming tasks, which inevitably stresses me out more later. This may be the second most difficult challenge I face on this list (the first most difficult being setting reasonable and achievable goals).


Focus on tasks that matter
I desire to prioritize todo items that actually matter, then forget about everything else on the list that is not important and does not matter (inspired by Randy Pausch's speech on time management).


Focus on people that matter
Similar to the above; focus on the people that matter most, and be discerning about where I spend my time. Both this goal and the one above involve learning how to say "no."


Stop stressing about how much I can't accomplish
My coworker Keith was fond of the phrase "if it gets done, it gets done". Que sera, sera. This goes against my nature, but I feel is an important goal toward which to strive. Sort of. Being completely laissez-faire is not good, however neither is getting worked up from self-imposed expectations and deadlines. Yes, sometimes there are things that simply have to get done, but usually it's not as urgent as I think it is.


Take one thing at a time
Multi-tasking can be a great asset, but it can also cause thrashing. And so, while some tasks naturally lend themselves to running in parallel (for example, laundry and vacuuming), far more often I am most efficient tackling projects serially, focusing on only "one thing at a time."


Accept that I cannot solve every problem
An alternate way of saying that: not every problem is one I am required / expected to solve. This relates to the previously mentioned 'learning to say "no."'


Strive toward better anger management
Stupid people, and more specifically "stupid people emails", make me angry. I need to take this under control. My new process is as follows. Before responding to a stupid-person email, first:

  1. Check my motives. Am I angry at
    • the person?
    • the circumstances?
    • myself? (aka, I’m too busy and don’t want to waste time on this)
    • other extenuating circumstances?
  2. Wait at least one hour before sending anything; cool down
  3. Call someone and talk it out.
  4. Try to put myself in the other person’s shoes, see it from their perspective.
  5. Think about what I want to happen. What is my desired result? What will writing this email do, what will it benefit, what will it hurt?
  6. If absolutely necessary, write the nasty email, then delete it without sending.

Remember that eating some humble pie will win brownie points in the end; I don’t have to admit fault, but I can apologize that the situation has escalated, and suggest courses of action / resources.


Move on from Minnehaha
I am ready to be done. Yes I will still have friendships I want to maintain, but as for employment, it is finally time to move on. This has been a slow process since April; now that they've finally hired a replacement, I am/will be working to teach him all about all the custom code I wrote. This will likely last into the beginning of next school year, because there are some things that only need doing at the beginning of school. But aside from those tasks, I would like to get everything else transferred over to him as soon as possible, and have one less time commitment in my life.

You may note, this is the only concrete, action-item goal in my list here; that's part of setting "reasonable, achievable goals". However, moving on from Minnehaha also involves a considerable amount of emotional energy - the school was my home for 10 years, and leaving that behind is not easy.


Eat more healthfully
Subway counts. And I'll try to cut down on the sweets. Gotta watch my weight after all. No, that part is a joke. But I do really need to eat better.


Take responsibility for my own actions
When I make an important decision, I first logic it through on my own, then consult my parents and friends (depending on the weight of the decision, sometimes multiple conversations with each person are involved).

A life-altering lesson I learned in September, though, was that at the end of the day I don't need to justify myself to anyone other than myself, and God. I love and respect my friends and family, but I will never be able to make everyone happy, especially when their opinions/advices do not mesh cleanly. At the end of the day, I need live with myself without feeling I settled, and without feeling regret.

A sub-goal here is to stop worrying so much about what other people think; or, perhaps more accurately: "be discerning about whose opinions I let matter." Getting others' input is valuable; then the onus is mine alone, and I need to trust my instincts.

A second sub-goal is to find my value in the Lord; aka, be myself, and do so unashamedly.


Spend time with God
This includes time spent in worship, in prayer, or reading my Koran, Bible, or other theological books (Winnie the Pooh counts).

In addition, listen to the Spirit's leading.


Continue maintaining a healthful life/work balance
Step 1: phrasing it "life/work" rather than the other way around.
Step 2: take time for myself, don't overbook myself.
Step 3: continue to allow time in my schedule for the unexpected, for helping a friend, for something spontaneous, and, most importantly to me [right now], for developing a relationship when I enter into one again.


Take more risks
Be courageous.


Don't ever settle
Don't settle for anything less than what it ought to be.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Glasses for under $60

Advertising isn't my strongsuit, but, please allow me to shamelessly plug a fantastic website, introduced to me by my coworker Carl:

Zenni Optical, www.zennioptical.com

What's so fantastic, you ask? Hundreds of dollars not spent, that's what's fantastic.

I haven't bought new glasses for a couple years, so I'm due. But like most of my friends, I don't have an extra $400 lying around burning a hole in my pocket. At Zenni, I didn't need $400. In fact, I didn't even need $60. That's right, for under $60, I got a pair of glasses, bendable titanium frame, special "expensive" oleophobic lenses (means they resist oil and fingerprints), and shipping. I ordered on September 12, and they arrived today, less than two weeks later.

At this price, I might get a few more pairs, just for fun. Maybe some bright pink frames...

How I didn't fix freeradius on Snow Leopard Server to work with RADIUS authentication

Preamble
Highly technical post ahead. If you are a friend/family member reading this post, skip it, not worth your time. If you’re an IT professional running Mac OS X Server 10.6, using OS X’s RADIUS service + Open Directory to provide authentication for your network, and are experiencing an issue where OD users who have the “Password must be reset on next login” checkbox checked cannot authenticate on wireless machines, this post will be very interesting to you.

Also, I should note up front: I was never able to get a working solution to this problem. However, if you're technically minded and have command line administration experience, perhaps you can take my work and bring it to fruition. If so, please add a comment with your solution!



Introduction
Minnehaha (high school where I work) recently implemented an enterprise-class secure wireless network, using Aerohive access points, tied to RADIUS running on Mac OS X Server 10.6, integrated with Open Directory. The idea being: rather than our wifi network being wide open, rather than requiring users to authenticate each time they open a web page, or rather than installing a buggy authentication daemon on school-owned laptops, users would instead log in to the wifi network itself, using their own personal username and password (as opposed to a single shared password approach, which would create an even larger maintenance nightmare than the wide-open network).



The problem
RADIUS + OD work as expected for normal users. However, users whose passwords must be changed at next login (aka, ALL of the students at the beginning of the school year, because we reset their passwords over summer), could not log in to the wireless network until they had changed their passwords.

It’s a catch-22: the laptop cannot authenticate to the wifi until the user’s password has been changed, and the user cannot change their password until the login window is allowed to access the Open Directory (which requires being on the wifi).

Logging in to a wired machine worked as expected: the OS X login window prompted the user to change their password on first login. Subsequent logins for that user on wireless machines then worked as expected, because the checkbox requiring the user to change their password was no longer checked. (you can Google for directions on setting up a login window profile for 802.1X authentication on Mac OS X; there are numerous resources on the web that walk through those steps, so that will not be discussed here).



Desired result
Rather than requiring users to sign in to a wired lab machine before using the wireless network, we wanted to grant them access to the wifi, even if while the “change password” box checked.

Theoretically this opens a situation in which the student could bring their own computer on campus and never change their password, and theoretically someone outside of the school could figure out the student’s default password, but this was deemed a low risk compared to the hassle of requiring all users to find a wired workstation at the beginning of each school year. If and when that situation arose, we could deal with it on a case-by-case basis.



The cause
RADIUS denies access because of two lines in its source code (freeradius, the RADIUS implementation packaged with and used by OS X Server, is open source and available for download from http://www.opensource.apple.com/release/mac-os-x-1068/)

/src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c

 switch(odResult)
 {
 case eDSNoErr:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_OK;
   break;
   
  case eDSAuthUnknownUser:
  case eDSAuthInvalidUserName:
  case eDSAuthNewPasswordRequired:
  case eDSAuthPasswordExpired:
  case eDSAuthAccountDisabled:
  case eDSAuthAccountExpired:
  case eDSAuthAccountInactive:
  case eDSAuthInvalidLogonHours:
  case eDSAuthInvalidComputer:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_USERLOCK;
   break;
  
  default:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_REJECT;
   break;
 }


Courtesy of http://www.mentby.com/Group/freeradius-users/password-policy-expired-password-mschap.html, those two lines in bold need to move right under the eDSNoError case, so they return an authentication OK:

 switch(odResult)
 {
  case eDSNoErr:
  case eDSAuthNewPasswordRequired:
  case eDSAuthPasswordExpired:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_OK;
   break;
   
  case eDSAuthUnknownUser:
  case eDSAuthInvalidUserName:
  case eDSAuthAccountDisabled:
  case eDSAuthAccountExpired:
  case eDSAuthAccountInactive:
  case eDSAuthInvalidLogonHours:
  case eDSAuthInvalidComputer:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_USERLOCK;
   break;
  
  default:
   ret = RLM_MODULE_REJECT;
   break;
 }



The solution I attempted, but eventually could not get to work
First, on your Mac OS X 10.6 Server, enable the root user and change his password to something you'll know: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1528. You will be using this password frequently.

Open a Terminal window. (if you're not sure what that means or where to find Terminal, then please stop reading now; if you go further you WILL end up breaking your server)

Type "su -" to switch users to root. Type your root password.

WARNING: Seriously, if you're not comfortable using the command line, stop now, because you will break something. Not my fault if you rm -rf / your server's hard disk.

First I tried downloading the freeradius source from Apple: http://www.opensource.apple.com/release/mac-os-x-1068/. Untar (fine to double-click in Finder if you'd prefer), and make the two line code change from above.

I tried configuring at this point (using the command from freeradius's /doc/MACOSX, but ran into dependency problems, needed something called libiodbc. Google led me here: http://www.iodbc.org/dataspace/iodbc/wiki/iODBC/ODBCMacOSX. Download, ./configure, and make install that. (I encountered no build errors. It is worth noting: you need the Xcode environment installed in order to compile).

The other issue I encountered was something related to libtool, but this site suggested a workaround: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Libtool2#old_libtool_files_may.2Fwill_cause_problems.

All told, my configure command for freeradius looked like this:

root# ./configure --disable-shared --with-iodbc-lib-dir=/usr/local/lib --enable-developer --with-system-libtool

And now, a couple weeks later, I don't remember if that actually worked or not, but after trying that I decided to go a different direction: MacPorts. Maybe I decided this because I was worried the make install would overwrite my existing /usr/sbin/radiusd and I didn't want to irreparably break the currently-mostly-working version.

Useful information:
The freeradius daemon is called radiusd and lives in /usr/sbin, along with its friends, radwatch, radmin, rc.radiusd, and a few others. The configuration files are in /etc/raddb. You need to be root anytime you edit these files.


Moving forward with MacPorts
Download MacPorts from http://www.macports.org and install.

As root ("su -"), enter "/opt/local/bin/port fetch freeradius" (or edit root's .profile to include /opt/local/bin in your $PATH, so you can type just "port fetch freeradius").

Once it's been fetched, create two files in
/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/ports/sysutils/freeradius/files



patch-configure.in.diff

--- configure.in.orig 2009-12-30 09:44:35.000000000 -0600
+++ configure.in 2010-04-05 01:23:46.000000000 -0500
@@ -92,7 +92,7 @@
 dnl use system-wide libtool, if it exists
 AC_ARG_WITH(system-libtool,
 [  --with-system-libtool   Use the libtool installed in your system (default=use our own)],
-[ AC_PATH_PROG(LIBTOOL, libtool,,$PATH:/usr/local/bin) ],
+[ AC_PATH_PROG(LIBTOOL, glibtool,,$PATH:/usr/local/bin) ],
 [
   LIBTOOL="`pwd`/libtool"
   AC_SUBST(LIBTOOL)



rlm_opendirectory.diff

--- src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c.orig 2010-05-24 00:40:58.000000000 -0500
+++ src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c 2012-08-24 20:36:53.000000000 -0500
@@ -308,13 +308,13 @@
  switch(odResult)
  {
   case eDSNoErr:
+  case eDSAuthNewPasswordRequired:
+  case eDSAuthPasswordExpired:
    ret = RLM_MODULE_OK;
    break;
    
   case eDSAuthUnknownUser:
   case eDSAuthInvalidUserName:
-  case eDSAuthNewPasswordRequired:
-  case eDSAuthPasswordExpired:
   case eDSAuthAccountDisabled:
   case eDSAuthAccountExpired:
   case eDSAuthAccountInactive:



These files are unified diffs, and can be created on your own by duplicating the file you want to modify, modifying it, then running this command:

root# diff -u modified-freeradius/src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c original-freeradius/src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c > rlm_opendirectory.diff

Note: if you run that command instead of copy/pasting the file contents I provided above, note that you will need to modify the file generated by diff, so the paths are relative, not absolute. Example:

--- /absolute/path/src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c.orig 2010-05-24 00:40:58.000000000 -0500

becomes

--- src/modules/rlm_opendirectory/rlm_opendirectory.c.orig 2010-05-24 00:40:58.000000000 -0500

Now edit the patchfiles value in
/opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/ports/sysutils/freeradius/Portfile

patchfiles              patch-configure.in.diff \
                        rlm_opendirectory.diff

Note: A less elegant and less-effectual way to accomplish this (aka, what I tried first), is to download the source, make the changes, re-tar and bz2, generate new hashes (shasum -a 256 and openssl dgst -ripemd160) and put those in the Portfile. But that didn't work, because MacPorts would figure out the new bz2 archive didn't match the repository, and would re-download and overwrite it. The unified diff and patchfiles are the correct way to go.

I ran into an issue after configuring, again a libtool issue. https://trac.macports.org/ticket/12961 suggested adding a "--tag=junk" into the LIBTOOL portion of the Make.inc file. At first I tried making a unified diff and applying it to the Make.inc file after I ran configure, but that didn't work. In the end, the solution is to add this to the Portfile:

post-configure {
    reinplace "|/opt/local/bin/glibtool|/opt/local/bin/glibtool --tag=junk|" ${worksrcpath}/Make.inc
}

This was a frustrating learning experience, due to a near-complete lack of documentation or useful Google results about this syntax. But, what I have there, works. It acts as a simple find/replace: find this normal glibtool path, and change it to have junk included. Refer to the link above for why this counter-intuitive change makes things work.



Installing freeradius
Finally! Let's try installing.

root# port install freeradius
Note: if you tried installing, then went back to correct a mistake in the portfile/diffs/etc, I found you must port clean freeradius before trying to compile/install again.
Copy some files into /opt/local/, because that's where the new version of radiusd will look for them:

root# cp -pr /etc/raddb /opt/local/etc
root# mkdir /opt/local/var/run/radiusd

Shut down the real radius, then try running the new radiusd in debug mode (the -X flag):

root# serveradmin stop radius
root# cd /opt/local/sbin
root# ./radiusd -X

When I tried that, mine failed with this error:

Could not link driver rlm_sql_sqlite: file not found
Make sure it (and all its dependent libraries!) are in the search path of your system's ld.
/opt/local/etc/raddb/sql.conf[22]: Instantiation failed for module "sql"

Googled it, found this link: http://wiki.freeradius.org/FAQ#It-says-%22Could-not-link-...-file-not-found%22%2C-what-do-I-do%3F. Also found this page, which may or may not be useful: http://support.apple.com/kb/TA25017



Installing MySQL
Download the source from Apple: http://www.opensource.apple.com/release/mac-os-x-1068/, which links to http://www.opensource.apple.com/source/MySQL/MySQL-55/.

Compile with this command from http://hivelogic.com/articles/compiling-mysql-on-snow-leopard/ (plus a few things I figured out on my own):

root# ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/mysql --with-extra-charsets=complex \
--enable-thread-safe-client --enable-local-infile --enable-shared --with-plugins=innobase \
--with-mysql-include-dir=/usr/local/mysql_new/include/mysql \
--with-mysql-lib-dir=/usr/local/mysql_new/lib/mysql



Re-configure and install freeradius
Use this suggestion to add configure arguments to the Portfile:
http://superuser.com/questions/306550/how-do-i-install-php5-via-macports-with-a-custom-configure-option

Finished version looks like this:

configure.args          --with-openssl-includes=${prefix}/include/openssl \
                        --with-openssl-libraries=${prefix}/lib \
                        --with-system-libtool \
                        --without-rlm_krb5 \
                        --with-mysql-include-dir=/usr/local/mysql_new/include/mysql \
                        --with-mysql-lib-dir=/usr/local/mysql_new/lib/mysql


This time it should launch successfully:

root# port install freeradius
root# cd /opt/local/sbin
root# ./radiusd -X


Yay! But now authentication wasn't working for any users. The output (and log file) showed many many errors like these:

Sat Aug 11 11:29:13 2012 : Error: Ignoring request to accounting address * port 1813 from unknown client 10.1.111.112 port 32774
Sat Aug 11 11:29:14 2012 : Error: Ignoring request to authentication address * port 1812 from unknown client 10.1.111.113 port 32778


After lots of Googling, my first effort was re-adding all the Aerohives into the sqlite database manually:

root# cd /etc/raddb
root# sqlite3 sqlite_radius_client_database
sqlite> DELETE * FROM nas;
sqlite> PRAGMA table_info(nas);

0|id|int(10)|1||0
1|nasname|varchar(128)|1||0
2|shortname|varchar(32)|0||0
3|type|varchar(30)|0||0
4|ports|int(5)|0||0
5|secret|varchar(60)|1||0
6|community|varchar(50)|0||0
7|description|varchar(1024)|0||0

...
sqlite> INSERT INTO nas VALUES ("12","10.1.111.112","AEROHIVE-NAME-12","Aerohive","","passwordvalue","","");
...


But that didn't work. Then my coworker found a solution: add the Aerohive base stations into the clients.conf file:

root# cp -p /etc/raddb/clients.conf /opt/local/etc/raddb/
root# vi /opt/local/etc/raddb/clients.conf

client NC-AHAP-12 {
        ipaddr  = 10.1.111.112
        type    = Aerohive
        nasname = 10.1.111.112
        secret  = passwordhere
        shortname       = AEROHIVE-NAME-12
        nastype         = other
}

# add one for each access point

Note: the MacPorts compiled radiusd wanted to read files from /opt/local/, because that's where it lives; honestly it got very confusing, though, because sometimes it would read from /etc/raddb, and sometimes from /opt/local/etc/raddb; my solution to this was hard linking the files, or symlinking the raddb directory.
Note: in order to make your custom radiusd the default as launched by Server Admin.app or the serveradmin CLI, it needs to live or be hard-linked in /usr/sbin/ (along with radwatch, radmin, rc.radiusd, etc):

root# ln /opt/local/sbin/radiusd /opt/local/sbin
or
root# cp -p /opt/local/sbin/radiusd /opt/local/sbin

When we next launched radiusd, the "authentication address" errors disappeared and radiusd said "Ready to process requests." We were able to authenticate on a wireless device as a normal user, but still not as a user with the reset-password box checked. I don't know why.

Also, we saw these errors in the log constantly, for all the Aerohives:

Error: rlm_radutmp: Logout entry for NAS AEROHIVE-NAME-20 port 0 has wrong ID

I tried editing /etc/raddb/users as suggested by http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20071130134610850:

DEFAULT Auth-Type = opendirectory
        Fall-Through = 1

But this didn’t work, either.

The new radiusd was left running overnight, since it appeared to be working. But at some point it stopped working, so the next morning no users were able to log in at all. I reverted to my backups of the original radiusd and raddb, though oddly the "wrong ID" error messages have persisted despite everything being put back to normal (/usr/sbin/radiusd, /etc/raddb/, et al).

At that point, I am sad to report, I gave up. By then I had already spent 14+ hours on the project, and since:

A) we could not keep the new version of radiusd functional, and
B) we had a viable workaround (users sign in to a wired machine to reset passwords before using a wireless laptop), and
C) Apple has already started phasing out Open Directory in future versions of OS X Server, and
D) we have other options to explore for RADIUS server devices, such as our smart switches, or a Windows-based server (blech!)

it was deemed not worthwhile to pursue this particular solution any further.

Even though I was the one who suggested abandoning efforts, I am still very bothered that I couldn't solve this. The journey was educational, but frustrating, as I felt perpetually "this close" to cracking it. I hope what I have written here will be useful to some other server admin out there, and that you are able to take this the rest of the way into a working solution. Good luck.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Where's Jeremy?

If you haven't seen much of me recently (be that online, in person, via text/email, etc), it's because I'm working two jobs, both of which are demanding full time attention, and there are a limited number of hours in the day. Let's take last Friday, for example: started at Cray at 6 a.m., went to MA in the afternoon, and didn't leave there until 10 p.m. Or today: Cray at 6 a.m., MA in the afternoon, just got home now (13 hours later), and I'm about to remote in to Cray to finish an install after-hours.

This will calm down, I think, once the school year gets rolling, but right now it's crazy, and I don't like it. I'm tired. And I miss seeing people.

For anyone else struggling with time management, may I commend to you this amazing lecture by the late Randy Pausch:


Friday, August 24, 2012

Sermon niche

We're playing Taylor Swift's song "Safe & Sound" (from the Hunger Games soundtrack) in church this week, and I'm just a little bit SO COMPLETELY EXCITED!!!

When Justin (JW's worship leader) solicited the band to send him song ideas, naturally I suggested we should play more Taylor songs, and I justified this by explaining I'd once given a sermon about her song "Mine". Justin replied:

You have a particular . . .

niche when it comes to sermon topics.

I thought that was hilarious, so wanted to share.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Minnehaha Academy Chapel Talk - April 2, 2009

Three and a half years later, I finally found time to edit this video and post it. This has been one of "those projects," the kind that keeps getting delayed by the tyranny of the urgent. Doesn't mean the task isn't important, just that I was too busy putting out other fires and kept back-burner-ing this one. Well, no more! Finally done. Whew.

Now. Some disclaimers. I played three songs I wrote. In retrospect I really wish I’d had some live Auto-Tune for my vocals. Slash, had memorized the words better. As for the talk, I wish I’d been more animated and read less. And, unlike most Jeremy-talks, there were no references to Taylor Swift or Hannah Montana. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Special thanks to Cathleen Gosselin for pulling the band together - Cathleen on piano, Sam Terfa on electric guitar, Matt Ridenour on bass, and Chris Clark on drums. Special thanks also to Rich Enderton for taping, Jeff Crafton for giving me the opportunity to speak, and Brian Hallermann for recording and editing/mixing the songs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Adjustment Bureau Sermon - Part of Jacob's Well's Godflix Series 2012

Each summer Jacob's Well does a series of sermons about movies. Last year I got to give a sermon about Winnie the Pooh; this year I chose a more dramatic movie, and one of my favorites: The Adjustment Bureau.

What I found out only a few days ago, was that Pastor Greg had never actually seen the movie until our church gathering/screening. I questioned his judgement, trusting me that much :)





Monday, August 13, 2012

Line Producer

Blast from the past: this post should have been written and published in February 2012

In late January I helped cast a short movie called The Invitation, a "romantic comedy about lutefisk", as I describe it. After auditions finished, I got talking with Brad, the director, and mentioned that if he needed more crew people I'd love to help out. Turns out he needed a line producer slash AD-type person, and when I elaborated on my skillset, he pretty much hired me on the spot. Merry gave me the time away from MA so I could take the job.

We shot the movie for six days in late February. What an amazing adventure. Exhausting also.

In that week, I learned so much. I'm used to working with an all-volunteer crew and cast; the difference between that, and working with a professional (paid) crew: night and day. The professionals were always on the ball. For example: day 1, the adage was true: "if you're 15 minutes early you're on time, if you're on time you're late." Everyone was there early, eating a walking breakfast, and setting up equipment 10-15 minutes before call. Second example: when we started shooting the first scene, the wardrobe and makeup people were on set outside in their parkas (it was cold that day), ready to swoop in on a moment's notice for last looks and touchups. Same with art department and the grips/gaffers. Third example: I never had to call "we're back" from lunch - everyone was already back to work. I've loved my indie crews, but now having seen 'the other side', if you will, I want to work with professionals more often.

Other assorted observations:
  • Everyone spoke the same language, everyone knew what they were doing, and they did it well. For once I was the one learning lingo.
  • The group meshed well. Everything flowed, and even when we ran behind schedule (which happens on every set, from what I've observed), everyone worked hard and maintained their composure / professionalism.
  • No one complained about the 12.5 hour day (12 hours work, half an hour lunch), because that's what's normal in the "real" world of filmmaking.
  • Speaking of lunch, it was catered from a real catering company (www.creativecateringllc.com). I could get used to this.

I had a chance to minister to one of our crew members the first day. An interpersonal conflict had come up, and because I was in my position (line producer), it made sense for her to talk to me about it. I listened, gave her the best advice I could, and then asked if I could pray for her. I don't know if she's a believer or not, but she let me. Who knows if it meant anything to her. It meant something to me, though; not the prayer itself, let's face it, wasn't my best prayer ever; but the fact that I could listen, console, and help (aka minister to) someone on set: eye-opening for me. As relates to my journey toward seminary, another reminder that God can and will use me, whether or not I have a clerical collar.

On Thursday we shot all morning on an outdoor hockey rink, and had a genuine high school girls' hockey team on set with us! They even brought an extra uniform for our co-star to wear. For much of the morning, I helped direct the background action, and what made directing them so much fun was that any time I needed the entire team's attention, all I had to do was get one or two of them to listen, and then they took care of wrangling the rest. The first time this happened really caught me off guard, because all of a sudden I had the whole team circled up around me, padded up, with sticks, and they're all on skates so some of them were a full foot taller than me. If you've never been in the middle of a hockey team's circle-up, it's intimidating. Anyway, the team was wonderful, and the coach told me they really enjoyed being on set. But what made this even more heartening, the coach emailed me the next day and said that one of the team's friend's father had passed away just one or two days prior, a man who had coached many of them when they were younger, so being able to come to the movie shoot was a much-needed and uplifting distraction from that sadness.

That afternoon we shot our lutefisk dinner scene with 20 or 30 background actors. (some of them said they'd only come if we had real lutefisk for them to eat! We had it, and they ate it. Crazy) When it came time to shoot, instead of yelling for everyone to be quiet on set, I tried something new, an idea I'd heard from one of my LA friends: I calmly made a "shhh"ing noise. Within seconds, the room was silent! This took me aback, I hadn't really expected it to work. Made my day.

It also helped relieve my stress from running behind schedule on the hockey scenes. We'd been given a "hard out" from the location, which meant we had to be off the rink by a certain time. And we ran very behind schedule. Something similar happened on our final shooting day: the DP, his assistant, and their cameras had to get on a plane, so our time was very limited. What amazed me in both cases was that no one freaked out, even though the clock was looming. It's not that folks were unaware of the urgency; to the contrary, from what I observed they understood better than many crews I've worked with. It just didn't phase them, or keep them from getting the job done.

Everyone on set was gracious. Each department knew their stuff, and did it well, but also chipped in if they saw another department needed a hand. It's a sensitive line, I've learned, because one never wants to appear that you're stepping on another department's toes. At the same time, there is such a thing as simply helping your fellow human being. And that's what I witnessed.

As for me, I worked for pretty much every department at one point or another, filling in as needed. My primary jobs were: creating daily call sheets; making sure everyone on the crew and cast had signed their paperwork (and, at the end of the week, got paid); and booking the extras for our lutefisk dinner scene. I was also in charge of importing and backing up the footage and sound recordings throughout the day. But when I wasn't doing that, I was on set in the midst of the action, helping grab equipment from the grip truck, running slate, moving scenery, getting status updates on actors' makeup/costumes, and the crew's ETA to rehearsals and shooting, etc. I did a lot of running around. It was a stressful job, but I loved it so much. And I got paid. I got paid to do something I love. How awesome is that?

At the end of the shoot, Brad sent me this note:
Jeremy, thank you! You are incredible at this! I don't know how you did everything you did! Your work ethic and enthusiasm for film making is inspiring. And you handle everything with grace, humor, and humility. It's been such a pleasure to work with you. I can't thank you enough. I will let you know if there is more work on this or future projects.

Thank you Jeremy.
-Brad

Above all else, I met a lot of phenomenal people. I do hope sincerely to work with [almost] every single one of them again. Tom the sound guy was hilarious; Daron the DP never lost his cool, was always on top of things, always knew what was going on - I want to be like him when I grow up (and he wore an awesome scarf); Dave the gaffer / key grip not only let me help set up stands, but taught me along the way; really, all the grips were friendly and encouraging. And then there were Brad's parents. They were adorable. Completely clueless about how a movie is made, but hearts made of absolute gold.

A week well spent.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Update on Cray - August 2012

Depending when we last spoke, you may have heard that I was stressed at my new job, overwhelmed, or possibly enjoying myself. The latest is that I feel like I've finally got my feet on the ground. I can get through a morning software update without [many] questions, only when weird things come up. And for the workload manager software that I've been testing/learning, I once got through an install in a record [record for me] 45 minutes! One of my mentor/coworkers was mightily impressed at that.

I've also grown to really appreciate a Canadian coworker of mine, one of the resident experts on the aforementioned software I test. He reminds me very much of myself, except he has a much cooler accent. At first when I would talk with him over the phone, I thought he was annoyed that I was bothering him, and he would say things in a "this should be obvious" sort of way. Which for me as a newbie with no experience, well, no, they weren't obvious. Over the last two months, we've built a rapport, and though hard to explain, it's good. I feel somewhat validated by the experience - for all the teachers at Minnehaha who complained that I was rude or short or lacked tact, I never really felt sorry, because I always felt they were not giving me a fair shake; my experience with this coworker at Cray validates this feeling because of the similarities: he's not rude at all, he's not mean, he's just direct, and highly highly intelligent. Much smarter than I.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Hitting Pause

This will be another episode of "Some plain ol' open honesty."

Earlier this month I was approved for candidacy in the ELCA Minneapolis synod, the culmination of a four month journey before actually applying to a seminary (presumably Luther in St. Paul) itself. For many reasons, now felt like the right time... again... to pursue this dream. I know I am Called to ministry, and my current understanding of that Call points me toward pursuing chaplaincy in a hospital or prison setting. After enough years pining over the idea of seminary, I decided to chase it.

Now, after taking many steps toward that goal, I'm at a logical resting point; time to take stock, see where I am, and where I'm going.

My life has seen more change in the last four months than I could have imagined. As it turns out I was not ready for most of it. I'm coping, but I'm overwhelmed, and constantly on the verge of breaking down from stress. I have a strong support network, but at the end of the day I just have too much on my plate.

Seminary deserves more than a half-hearted effort. It deserves more than doing the bare minimum to pass classes and "get by." When I go to seminary, I need to devote myself to it wholeheartedly. And where I'm at right now in my life, I just can't do that.

There's an irony here: three weeks ago I was afraid the candidacy committee would say to me, "not now, but wait", and to me that would have been the worst possible response to receive. The difference is, I needed to reach that conclusion on my own terms, not have it dictated to me from outside. And now I know, for my own well-being, for my own spiritual growth, I need to be the one who says, "not now, but wait."

I'm not giving up on the dream, I'm just hitting pause.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First World Problems


First World Problem Reality Check
My car needs repair again I have a car
I'm a month behind in rent Paycheck's in the mail
Shower's leaking to basement ceiling I have safe, clean running water
Overworked and exhausted I have three jobs in a tough economy
Business is slow I own a business
Can't follow through on all my plans and ideas I'm creative and have a strong support network
Don't have all the answers I have time free I ponder the questions
Life isn't perfect Life is good

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Approved for Candidacy

Last Thursday morning I met with an interview panel from the ELCA; this was my final step before actually starting the application process for seminary itself. (some people enroll in seminary before getting an official thumbs-up from the synod, I'm just not one of those people)

The interview took place at Luther Seminary in their media center; when I walked in the door I was surprised to be greeted by student worker Becca, one of my seminary friends from Jacob's Well, who is also responsible for encouraging me on this track. It's not entirely her fault that I'm pursuing seminary, but she was a major influence.

Glenndy from the ELCA Minneapolis synod office was also there - she was the one with whom I'd conversed many moons ago when I first started this candidacy process.

I randomly met the new bishop, she was there to sit in on someone else's interview. And bumped into two other friends/acquaintances from Jacob's Well, both there to be interviewed like me.

In my small, crowded, interview room, I met my panel: 6 pastors slash congregational lay-leaders, including Pastor Tom, with whom I'd chatted last month.

To say I was "nervous" truly would be overstating it. My attitude all along has been: I would like to do this, but if, for whatever reason, they say "no", I have other career choices I can pursue. That said, I really wanted my panel to say "yes", so, rather unexpectedly, I found myself slightly anxious.

They asked questions. Lots of questions. Which is fine, I like talking about myself. Some questions I expected: tell us about your faith history, tell us why seminary, why now, those kinds of things. Others completely caught me off-guard: what does "sacrament" (communion & baptism in the Lutheran church) mean to you?

At least one friend had encouraged me to tailor my answers, not to be too honest about some of my beliefs, just in case they raised red flags. I couldn't do it. I don't know how to not be myself. I admitted several times to the panel, "this probably isn't the answer you want or are looking for, but it's where I'm at." And they just told me to stop apologizing.

After about 75 minutes, I left the room, and they deliberated for a bit (from outside we could hear laughter in the room, and joked that they must be saying, "he wants to be a pastor? Bahahahahaha!"). When they called me back in, I was nervous. They'd explicitly asked before I left, "what if the answer is 'not now, but wait'?" For me, that would have been the absolute worst possible answer. I wanted either a "yes" or a "no", not uncertainty.

I sat down, we joked about the laughter and what we'd thought it meant out in the lobby, and then the moment of truth:

Yes.

My panel approved me for candidacy.

Whew.

The rest is a blur. They had several suggestions for personal growth, I took a few notes on that, then left. In my car I said a prayer. Not knowing where the journey would lead, I knew I had taken at least one more step.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Intrapreneur

Minnehaha's end-of-year worship service / brunch / recognition-of-service-for-folks-who-aren't-coming-back-next-year happened this morning.

Unbeknownst to me until this morning, I was also to be recognized at the event, since I've officially left full-time employment (I still work there part-time, but rather sporadically, and in any case, most everyone thinks I'm long gone; some people seem to think I moved out of state, which catches me off-guard).

Merry (my boss) gave a wonderful, heart-warming speech about me. She claims she's not skilled at speaking off the cuff, but I thought she did wonderfully.

In her speech, Merry described me as an "intrapreneur". Whereas entrepreneurs go out into the world, start their businesses, and try to make a difference, that is what I did within Minnehaha. She reiterated how blessed the school was/is to have me, how I have always and continue to push technology forward for the good of the school, how much I've made an impact.

I'm reminded of the phrase, "living your chosen eulogy". It's perhaps too rare that we get to hear stories of what our legacy will be. I count it as a true blessing to know what legacy I leave behind.

Of course, I don't do anything "normal" - most people leave a job and that's it. I'm still working at MA, doing my thing, and will be for the foreseeable future. Just not full time. For me, and for the school, it's a good arrangement, and as far as I know we're both happy about it. So, one day at a time, we keep on keepin' on. And I'll keep intrapreneuring, because I don't know how to live any other way.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Some plain ol' open honesty: Singleness

Last week I sent the first payments to actors who had done work for Samaritan Casting. Deep sigh of relief. This feels really good. Everything's coming together. I met with my accountant, I've got my QuickBooks all set up, I've got my lawyer; almost all my ducks are quacking happily.

Life has forced me to grow up rather quickly since February; I've had to deal with a lot of major life changes in a short period of time.

And at the end of the day, I am living the American dream: I have my job (three jobs, really), my house, my car, my custom license plates, my home office, my movie projects, truly amazing friends, supportive and loving parents, great prospects for the future, and I finally even have my email syncing properly between the iPhone, iPad, and laptop. I have pretty much everything I could ever want. Except the one thing I pine for more than anything else. Let's just be honest about my life:



My heart longs for a relationship.



This whole "being single" thing, I'm over it.1 Like, years ago, over it. No, I've no idea how I can fit a relationship into my chaotic, overcrowded, bustling life right now. But I guarantee you: I would make it work. I never can remember how to fail.

Let me also clarify: what you hear is the sound of lament, not desperation. Finding myself in a bad relationship, not something I'm anxious to do. The bar is set high.


This has been an episode of "Some plain ol' open honesty." Thanks for listening.


1 Please, if you're talking to me about this rather sensitive issue, avoid any of these clich├ęs, as they do not help: http://www.thefrisky.com/2011-10-14/the-9-most-annoying-things-to-say-to-a-single-person/

Who are you and where's Jeremy?

Going into the three-day weekend, I had zero plans. None. (okay, other than taking my roommate to the light rail, and going to church). No production meetings, no appointments, no out-of-town trips, no dinners/coffees/lunches, nothing.

If you know me then you'll know this is, to put it mildly, highly unusual.

When I told this to Ben (coworker at Cray, roommate from college) he demanded, "who are you and where's Jeremy?!"

It was a beautiful weekend. The end.

Pursuing Seminary: Initial Interview

On May 9 I sat down with Pastor Tom Zarth of Oak Grove Lutheran Church for my "initial interview," a conversation focused on me and my feeling of call to seminary. This interview is meant as a stepping stone before meeting with the larger panel of 5-6 people in June. Tom asked a lot of the same questions I've already answered in essays and at my psych eval; we talked about my family history, work history, faith history, and so on. I also asked Tom questions about his experience being a pastor, the rewards and frustrations therein, and his advice for me as someone starting out on my journey. It was a good conversation. By this point I'd already given up assuming I knew what my particular seminary path will look like, so I went into the conversation with a relatively laissez faire attitude. Que sera, sera seems to be my new motto.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cray: A sight he'd never expected

My boss's boss at Minnehaha just emailed me:
Saw a sight I never expected to see this morning - you in your car heading across the Lake Street Bridge at a little after 7:30am. I can recall your not recognizing that there was more than one 7:30 per day, and AM was NOT it!! Welcome to the world!
This made my day :)

Cray: Now I'm the expert?

Let's be honest, my last post about Cray was fairly negative-minded. I'm over myself now.

The new contractor, Brad, is a great guy, and a very fast learner. Yesterday he started sitting in the driver's seat for the morning system upgrades, with supervision, but he was the one doing everything. And yesterday, I was the one "supervising". As in, when Brad had questions, I was sort of able to answer some of them. We still ran into glitches that required help from other admins, but for many questions that came up, I was astonished not only at my ability to answer them, but also how comfortable I've become in the jargon we use. This experience was very heartening for me, realizing how much I've learned, and how much of it is becoming second nature.

Also, though I'd never have thought I'd say it, I almost "like" starting at 6 a.m. Who am I? It's like I'm a grown-up with a real-person job now. Scary.

Clearing my head

I went for a run.

I know, right? Me? Running? I just needed to. I can't explain it.

It was worship-ful. More words would ruin the description.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cray: Buzz Lightyear has arrived

Now that I've finally learned how to do system updates, time to switch things up so I don't know what I'm doing again. They hired another contractor to take over running system updates, he started yesterday, and that means I'm off that particular task and on to other pastures. Not sure if they're greener or not, just different.

Supposedly this means I'm moving toward what I was actually hired to do, though, so I guess that's a good thing? Maybe. Whatever.

Just wish they'd told me before I got here [unnecessarily] at 6 a.m. today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Retired from dirt-biking

I joined a Christian dating site several months ago, then promptly ran out of time to do anything with it. In those months, though, I've let my thoughts percolate on writing a catchy profile; this was inspired by my friend Mike's story of a ridiculous profile he once wrote. Last week I finally took time to put thoughts to paper (er... iPad), and here it is.



I recently retired from a career in professional dirt-biking, in order to lead a quieter life herding prairie dogs. In many ways it's similar to cat herding, but carries more respect amongst the animal community. Last year I came in fourth place of all the NAPPERS (North American Prairie Puppy Everyday Racing Shepherds).


This may come as a shock, but I feel obligated to tell you: none of the above is actually true. In truth I'm just Jeremy; a Minneapolis native, filmmaker, musician, computer nerd, and aspiring pastor. My friends on Facebook described me as: loyal, good-hearted, "weirdly awesome", geeky, competent, and genuine.

I am terrified of worms. Also dogs and small children. I'm trying to overcome that last one, because someday I'd like kids, whether they're biological or adopted. And if life works out such that I become a stay-at-home-Dad, I would consider that a fulfilling career. Much moreso than dirt-biking.

Sports aren't my thing. I mean, I'll watch a game with you, sure, I just won't be the one yelling at the referee, or generally having a clue. I'd rather have a conversation about life and God and stuff. But, if somehow we do end up watching a sporting event, none of this beer ickiness; I'd like something pink, fruity, and alcoholic, please. (full disclaimer: I do actually watch at least one sports game each year: they usually play in January, the players run and collide with each other, then try to throw a pointy brown ball from one end of the grass to the other. I only watch because of the great commercials).

Let's talk about movies, shall we? Yes, let's. If you ever find your mouth forming the words "Have you ever seen...?", sadly, the answer is almost always: no, I haven't. "But wait," you ask, "didn't you say you're a filmmaker?" Why yes, yes I did. I produce movies, but I don't really watch them. Netflix slowly is helping me culture myself with the classics, but I wouldn't object to outside help, too.

Speaking of "outside," I regret that I'm not much of an out-doorsy person. No, it's not because I sparkle in the sunlight. Partly we can blame my borderline-worm-phobia. So camping, not something I remember enjoying. Especially when it rained. *Shudder* (if you promise to protect me from the worms, I might consider camping again... maybe) Mostly my interior lifestyle comes because all my work has to be done on a computer, and as awesome as Mother Nature is, she hasn't [yet] installed those electrical outlets I've been asking for. However. With all that being said, I do enjoy taking walks, especially down by Minnehaha Falls. It's beautiful.

What exactly do I do with my computer-laden, cave-dwelling life? I do web development, server management, and software testing. Exciting, I know. I think it is. Most days. I also run a film/TV/commercial casting and extras casting company, because my life wasn't busy enough and I needed something else to do with all my free time. One of these days I hope to get back to recording my music, too.

Okay that's really enough about me (if you want to know more, Google me, I'm about the easiest person to find on the Internet; or you could message me on this site, but that seems way too easy).

Who are you? How about laying some ground rules. Here's what *doesn't* matter: it doesn't matter if you're divorced, a single parent, always been single, whatever. It doesn't matter if you're rock solid on your faith or struggling through a lot of questions. It doesn't matter if you're shy or outgoing. And it doesn't matter if you do or don't know where God's calling you in your life. We can walk that journey together, if you're willing.

It *does* matter if you have a negative attitude toward life. It matters if you don't communicate and assume other people can read your mind. It matters if the status quo is "good enough" and not worth changing. And it matters if you think you're perfect, because I'm not and I'd feel very intimidated around someone who is.

Think we have something in common? Think we're total opposites but wanna hang out anyway? Great! Let's do it.