Tuesday, December 05, 2006


There are a few events each year that seem to exemplify the spirit of what St Olaf is, and I think last Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for St Olaf's new Science Center was certainly one. From the Christ-filled words of the speakers, to the Fram Fram song, to the view of the distant windmill spinning over the science center, the crowd of hundreds of students, adults, alumni, parents, Americans, Norwegians, and more, standing faithfully in the cold to show their support, and the seven symbolic shovels manned by leaders of our community: this is St Olaf.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's so much to be said, I'm at a loss of where to start. It's really a day that can fit the opening of A Tale of Two Cities well:

It is the best of times: life is really good for most of us, and I'll admit I feel this especially so right now - God has seen me through from my absolute worst low of lows just two months ago and brought me to being "pretty darn good" now. It's also my first Thanksgiving "living on my own" (and trying to deal with the clutter of boxes that contains my life right now).

And yet it is the worst of times: we are a nation at war, and many families are celebrating Thanksgiving while a loved one fights for our nation half a world away. Many other families are celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time without a beloved relative. This will be my family's first Thanksgiving without my two Grandmothers. For the family of one of my friends, this will be their first Thanksgiving without his mother, and for another friend, their first without her uncle.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade just ended with Santa going by on his float (preceded immediately, I'll add, by Christian singer Natalie Grant!), and in my family, that means the official start of the Christmas season. More specifically, it means we are now "allowed" to play Christmas music. The required first song of the season: Mannheim Steamroller's "Deck the Halls". My parents, I'm sure, had the real CD at the ready at their house, and I had my iTunes cued up and standing by, plugged into the speakers on my desk ready to blast out the notes and thus complete the morning.

The one unfortunate part of the opening of the Christmas music season is that KTIS will start playing lots of songs that I like less well. I'm not a fan of most traditional Christmas music, favoring instead some of the more contemporary rock-ish renditions. This is not to say all of the 'old' Christmas songs are bad, I'm just jaded and tired of hearing the same ones over and over year after year, which is why it will be exciting to start branching out to newer recordings by Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, Avalon, Big Daddy Weave, Barlow Girl, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, et al.

But I digress.

For today, like most other days, I take a moment to pause and remember to live a life of "Thanksliving", rather than one day of "Thanksgiving". Here are just a few of the things I am thankful for each morning when I wake up:

My Mom and Dad and the rest of my loving family
My wonderful friends
My education
My car
My guitar
My nation
My Awesome God

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

Homework done, my studying began late last night, or rather, early this morning, for what ranks among the most important tests I have taken this semester: my vote. Okay, before today, I was passingly familiar with the candidates and issues, but not well enough to consider myself well-informed enough to vote. Huge thanks to my roommate Ben for walking through the important races' candidates and issues with me.

There are so many amazing things about the test I took this morning. For one, it's not graded! I can put whatever answer fits me and know that I'll still get 100%, and if I don't know the answers to some of the questions, I can leave them blank and not be penalized. All tests should be this way.

I woke up early this morning, prayed for friends in need and the election day on the whole, and soon made my way over to Buntrock to get my second-ever little red circle sticker. After re-registering so that I can vote in Northfield instead of having to drive home, I received my ballot and started filling in ovals. Governor, senate, house, and amendments, those were the most important ones, and honestly, I skipped the rest. To me, it doesn't really matter who the new Northfield sheriff is - I don't know anything about the candidates, so it just seems right that I leave that decision to better informed voters. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying here: I do not take voting lightly at all–it's one of the most important rights and duties that we have in this country–, but for me it's only critical that I am able to cast my vote for the races that really matter to me, in other words, the big, non-local races.

The machine scanned my ballot and told me I was voter number 124. Not terrible for 9:30 in the morning. Most importantly, though, I'd made my voice heard, and I got my wonderful sticker to wear proudly all day long. And now, with the polls closed, I pray May God Bless America, no matter what the outcomes are from today's vote.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Pain?

It's seemingly an oxymoron, I know, to say there is such a thing as a "good pain", but the slight tingly pain I feel in my fingers is exactly that. Why? Because it comes as a result of learning how to play my beautiful new guitar. It's a very satisfying, moreso than truly painful, feeling, knowing that my fingers worked hard to press down in these newfound contortions that musicians call chords.

I bought my shiny new toy about two weeks ago, and I did a very little bit of independent learning by way of the Internet, but nothing much. And then, yesterday, I had my first real lesson! I owe a huge thank you to Adam for being willing to tutor me, or, more accurately, put up with me :) Mini-lessons included just getting acquainted with the instrument, then tuning (being a non-music major, this gave me challenges), and finally some basic chords, enough to very slowly strum out Amazing Grace. Okay, so I wasn't good at it, but I'll get there eventually. I am bound and determined to make this pretty instrument make equally pretty noises someday.

My First Scripture Reading in Chapel

Last Friday morning was slightly traumatic and yet, in another, more important sense, fulfilling. Last Friday was the first day I've ever read a scripture passage in Chapel. Remembering only my short chapel presentation a year ago as one of five speakers, I came fully expecting to have shaky legs with a moderately shaky voice to match, and of course, since the reading was rather lengthy, I knew my mouth would dry out quickly. Discreetly gulping down as much water as I could, I sat waiting quietly at the front of the make-shift Urness Chapel.

I had no real reason to be nervous, of course. I'd printed out my own 'large print edition' of the reading (which was now waiting patiently for me within the Bible on the podium), and I'd rehearsed several times - mostly silent lip synching, but once out loud, too. And I'd already done a sound check with the microphone, so I knew what to expect when I started reading out loud again.

Now, I really do like speaking in front of people, but this was a brand new crowd of mostly unfamiliar faces to me. In all honesty, the previous Wednesday had been the first day this year I'd gone to chapel, and I only went because my former psychology prof was speaking. Why had I now been asked to accept this privilege of reading in front of everyone? I knew I couldn't screw up; I did not want to make a fool of myself, not here, not in front of these people. Today I needed to make a good impression, today I needed to try my best to offer some semblance of actually appearing intelligent.

All told, the reading went just fine. My over-the-top nervousness ahead of time disappeared once I was at the microphone - at that point the previously almost overwhelmingly worrisome task became almost routine; "you've read out loud before, and you're a good sight reader, and for goodness sake, you've practised this text, to boot!" is what I told myself. My mouth did run quite dry (I'm sure it didn't help that I had not fully re-hydrated from giving blood several days before), but somehow I made it through, and in the aftermath actually received several compliments from friends saying I'd done just fine. In short, all my worries had been for naught. Thank you, God.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thank You, Grandma Ruth

Not too many weeks ago I wrote about my car breaking down on the freeway. Very exciting. And very ironic, too, because earlier that day my parents and I had been talking about how they wanted this car to last through the winter, and then we'd buy a new one next spring. So of course the motor chose that day to die.

Our choices: pay $4000 to replace the engine in a 13 year old car, or start looking for a new car. To my glee, we opted for the latter, which meant the Monday after my ordeal on the entry ramp my parents and I got to go car shopping!

Mom came down to Olaf to pick me up (since I had no transportation of my own), and we met Dad at the dealer. After a small amount of looking around, we came back to the first car we'd spotted a few days previous when the tow truck dropped off my old one: a really nice condition three year old car with all the great features: leather interior, moonroof, CD player (none of our vehicles have ever had one before), power seat, etc. It was just a really really nice car. And it was used, with a number of miles on it, so the price was actually affordable. The best, and also scariest, part is that they let me take it on a test drive. That was... fun, I guess, but nerve wracking at the same time.

We bought it. I had to leave to go help with an event at Minnehaha, and it was a good thing I left when I did instead of waiting, since it took Mom and Dad another several hours of waiting and writing before the paper work was all done.

Now, I didn't get to drive the new car right away - the dealer has a three-day return window, so Dad drove it for the next several days, including a longer journey into Wisconsin with Mom and Grandpa for a funeral, before I was allowed to wrestle the keys out of his hand and start calling the vehicle 'my own' on Thursday night of that week. (Dad is still fond of asking me how "his car" is doing, since he did, after all, pay for it, and I just get to drive it).

Why is the title of this blog entry "Thank You, Grandma Ruth"? Because, in a very practical sense, it was the inheritance money that bought the car (cash, no loans involved). So, sincerely, Thank You, Grandma Ruth, for buying us a very nice car for me to call my own.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I Think I Finally Get It

Not to say that I've solved all of life's mystery's, but, in short, I think I finally got it. I heard this song [Matthew West's "More"] playing on KLOVE on my way back to St Olaf this evening:

"I love you more than the sun
And the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again

And I see you
And I made you
I love you more than you can imagine"

I was singing along with it, and then I realised what I was saying, how that's truly how God feels toward us, how much God loves us, how much God wants to take care of us.

It's been a really, really bad week, but this was just what I needed to hear. It finally sank in: God loves me. No matter how much I've screwed up, no matter how much God knows I'm going to continue to screw up, God still loves me. It was an amazing moment of clarity. Thank you, God.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Broken and Beautiful

Mark Schultz has a great new song called "Broken and Beautiful", which has been making its rounds on Christian radio in these few weeks before the CD release. Why do I think it's so great? Because it echoes the reality of so many different people from so many different walks of life:

"There's a business man
There's a widowed wife
A smiling face with a shattered life
A teenage girl with a choice to make
It's crowded here in church today"

When I step into church, I know all too well the worries and stresses that I'm facing in my own life, but I often forget that everyone is coming weighed down with their own burdens, too. Everyone has struggles, everyone has pain, and everyone comes in need of healing. Which is why the next part of the first verse is so applicable:

"And the preacher says as the sermon ends
Please close your eyes
Bow your heads
Is there anyone in need of prayer?
Oh Jesus wants to meet you here"

To me that's just really powerful, to be reminded that no matter what we're going through, God still loves us and wants to help. Hearing those words above really touches me, because I know how important it has always been to me to have that prayer time in church. But then, sadly, Mark's song becomes less good, and by that I mean he completely misses the point, ruining everything he had just built up:

"'Cuz we all fall short, and we all have sinned
But where you left, God's grace begins"

That first line is beyond appalling in its simplicity, ignorance, and condemnation, all of which are too commonplace in the Christian Church today. Mark just finished talking about four people who have come to church in need of prayer and love and support [at least two of whom are not themselves guilty of nor responsible for their situation, the first and fourth, I think, are being deliberately left to individual interpretation], but now the blame has been placed back onto these distraught souls, anyway. It's appalling to me because this game of blaming the victim is, sadly, the most common refrain I hear coming from the ultra vocal, ultra conservative Christian right, and I'm dismayed to see this attitude has now creeped its way into my favorite music genre. These people Mark describes to us came to church seeking renewal and relief, not pulpit-imposed guilt for crimes not their own.

This isn't to say that the church should be all feel-good, all lovey-dovey, without any talk of culpability and responsibility for one's actions, but when sin is invalidly assigned as the root cause of suffering when it is clearly not (as was the case for the lives talked about in Mark's first verse), I am forlorned. It's really just that one line that's a kick in the pants. The rest of the song works. The rest of the song, in my opinion, paints a beautiful portrait of what can happen when we come to God, hearts opened, begging for healing and restoration, and the end result truly is beautiful.

An Exciting Afternoon!

This afternoon, as I was driving back to campus from Minneapolis, I was preparing to exit from Highway 77 (Cedar) onto 35E, when all of a sudden I felt a very noticeable jerk and noticed my speedometer begin to drop. At the very outset I assumed it was the cruise control inelegantly readjusting me down a mile or two, but then the engine started to make a lot of noise: a very loud and unnatural clicking noise, along with the painful sounds of going much faster on the inside. "Hmm", I thought. "That's probably not a good sound. I'm already committed to take this entrance ramp onto 35E, but I'll take the first exit once I'm on that freeway." I turned off the cruise control. "Hmm", I thought again. "I'm pressing the gas pedal, I should be speeding up to about 70mph, but I'm slowing down. That's odd." Meanwhile, the engine is still making the loud clicking noise. I was down to about 50 on my speed and I realised I probably wasn't going to make it to the next exit. I put on my hazards to warn the car behind me and started to slow down. The real excitement came when I started to pull onto the shoulder, though, because that's when the SMOKE started coming out from under the hood! Yikes! I finally stop about 200 yards back from the merge to 35E, park, turn off, and get out as quickly as I can, convinced the car is going to catch on fire, an assumption not helped by the fact that more and more smoke kept coming out of the hood in greater and greater quantities. I had two thoughts, and two thoughts only: my computer is in the trunk, and that's more or less my life, so I really hope the car doesn't become engulfed in flames; and, more importantly: I have too much to live for to be caught in an explosion, so I must get away quickly. I prayed along the way, too.

Now, good for me, I had my mobile with, so I called my parent's house where I thought my dad was. No answer. I call again. No answer. I call my mom's cell, planning my first words to be something like "Get in the car now and I'll explain on the way". No answer. Distraught, and in a huge panic, I call the AAA emergency number and give them the details. They send a tow-truck on its way to rescue me, and I eventually get a hold of mom and dad, both of whom come on their way. (My real first words to my mom were "The important thing to know is that I'm okay").

While I waited (half an hour), two other cars stopped on their way to offer help. Knowing both my parents and the tow truck are now on the way, and seeing that the car was no longer smoking, I graciously sent the good samaritans on their way, my faith in humanity's potential for goodness restored.

The tow-truck arrived first and starts making preparations to load the car onto the flatbed. Dad arrives a few minutes after, we load all of the video equipment I was carrying in my trunk into the van, and wait for the truck driver to finish loading my car. I call mom to let her know how it's going and that we'll meet her at the car dealer (Freeway Dodge, where we were having the car towed to).

And then we're on our way. We all met up again at Dodge, glance around at some of the used car stickers in case we find ourselves needing to buy a replacement instead of repairing, and then mom brought me back to school, several hours and a good deal much more excitement later than I had originally planned.

Things could have been a lot worse. If I'd driven any farther, I'm fairly certain the car would have actually caught on fire. I could have not had a cell phone to call for help. We could have not had AAA coverage. And I could have been much less composed than I was. Now, admittedly, on the inside, I was very very nervous, but I still managed to evaluate, process and react to the situation in a very orderly and outwardly calm manner. I pulled off the road so I wouldn't block traffic, I attempted to call my parentals, I successfully called AAA and coherently gave them the information they needed, and even before that phone call I had very consciously thought through the situation: do I need to call 911? Do I call AAA? Do I just call my parents? Who else can I call if they can't come rescue me? In short, in the end, I feel that I did quite well, which gives me a realistic confidence that I'll be able to remain clear-headed if I'm ever in a worse situation in the future.

Friday, September 15, 2006

PHP Email Validation using Regular Expressions

This is a very geeky post, but I spent a good three hours making this code work perfectly, and I'm kind of proud of it, so there.

The idea is this: I needed a function that would validate the email address entered by a user on a new Tech Request System that I'm writing for Minnehaha, but I also wanted the user to be able to enter comma separated email addresses in the form and have those parsed correctly. Google didn't seem to have a ready-made function available for me to use, so I knew I had to take on the challenge and write my own. It was fun, too, so I can't really complain. The code may not be the most efficient it could be, but it works, and for a small scale application like this that's really the only requirement.

The following PHP function, validateEmail($email), checks the input ($email) to see if it contains valid email addresses. This is done first by parsing the input string into an array, each location in which will contain an individual email address to be parsed (this is assuming the original input was a comma separated list of emails; if only one email address was entered, this array will only have value associated with it). I then create a variable to return (cleverly named $return) and initialise it to be the returned value from calling validateSingleEmail on the first item in the aforementioned array. If there are more items in the array, the for loop goes through and checks them by calling validateSingleEmail on each. If the item is a valid email, that text is returned and appended (with a comma and space) to the $return variable. If the item is a blank email (pure whitespace, that is), validateSingleEmail returns an empty string and nothing is appended to $return (this is useful to catch any trailing commas and spaces in the original input so that they don't cause an error). Otherwise, if the item is an invalid email address (not matching the format abc@def.ghi), a validateSingleEmail returns false, thus causing validateEmail to also return false, which, in my application, causes an error message to appear on the user's screen when they press submit.

If all goes well, though, the function returns $return, and also sets the POST variable $_POST["Email"] to be this return value (that way everything is entered into the database correctly when the rest of the data is sent).

That's it. Very exciting for the non-computer people, I know. Actually, I'm sure it's not all that terribly exciting for the computer types, either, but maybe it will be useful to someone else someday.

function validateEmail($email) {
  $emails = preg_split("/,/", $email);
  if($return = validateSingleEmail($emails[0])) {
    $count = count($emails);
    for($i = 1; $i < $count; $i++) {
      $addition = validateSingleEmail($emails[$i]);
      if($addition !== false) {
        $return .= ($addition == '' ? '' : (', ' . $addition));
      } else {
        return false;
    $_POST["Email"] = $return;
    return true;
  } else {
    return false;

function validateSingleEmail($email) {
  if(!preg_match('/[^ ]+\@[^@ ]+\.[^@ ]+/', $email, $matches)) {
    if(preg_match('/[\S]+/', $email, $matches)) {
      return false;
    } else {
      return '';
  } else {
    return $matches[0];

Sunday, September 10, 2006

That's a wrap! And let school begin

Finally, my long overdue post announcing that, *drumroll*, Harry Putter has wrapped! Our last day of shooting was on August 26th, starting from a 6:00 am call and running until about 7:30 pm that night - a long but absolutely wonderful day! We had an awesome crew, an awesome cast, and an awesome time all around - huge thanks are owed to Matthew Feeney for making it all possible; without his time, effort, and connections, the whole project would have sunk months ago.

So what's next? Everyone I've talked to asks me when the premiere is going to be. The answer is I don't know; we need to get a rough cut done first, and then it has to have the music score added, and then we'll be putting together the bonus features for the DVD, and then we will think about what premiere we can have, if we can have one at all (renting out a real theatre is expensive, and as I discovered would probably cost more than the entire budget of the film). Summary: a premiere, if there is one, is many months away.

In the while, I dropped off all the tapes with Tony Peltier (he ran sound during the HP production), who will be editing the film. Now it's in his hands - I just sit back and wait patiently. Which means Ben Latz, Matthew, and I can start looking toward other projects for the future, such as writing HP2 (this is, of course, based on the assumption that HP1 will turn out well - prayers are appreciated).

And it also means that I can start to focus more on school, now that St Olaf is back in session. I'm taking my final semester (third) of Norwegian, after which I will be done with my foreign language requirement! And I'm taking an Intro Astronomy course, which, aside from being of interest to me on general principle, will also be the last of my science GE requirements. Lastly, I'm taking two courses in the Computer Science area: Algorithms & Data Structures and Client Server Applications, both of which are highly project and programming intensive (C++ and Java, respectively), and thus both of which may very well be the kind of classes I've been waiting for out of the CS department here, thus, I'm excited.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Love My Job

During the summers, and in a limited sense during the school year, I work in the Technology Department at Minnehaha Academy, a Christian, Covenant affiliated high school in Minneapolis. My job consists of helping the faculty and staff with their [sometimes / often really simple... oh, was that my out loud voice?] computer questions, helping teach technology workshops, and work on the school website, be it mere updating or full scale redesign, as well as implementing individual web projects (such as our new Tech Request system, which was my little baby). And I help with the creation process for the image that we put onto each of our computers (it's "ghosting" in the PC world, it's "imaging" in the Mac world).

And I love my job.

I love knowing almost everybody in the building (moreso office and other staff than faculty, but still), and I love that almost everybody, even some of the new people, know me. I love being able to learn on the job, be it about life and theology or more specific tasks such as PHP and database programming. I love being able to have fun, have real life conversations with my boss, share jokes with my colleagues and former teachers, or put a picture of a stuffed Tigger toy on the front page to our admin mail login (our admin mail is hosted on a server named "Tigger"). And I love helping to lead the tech workshops - that's my one chance to really get to know the teachers at the other two campuses that I never had, and it's almost always a really fun mix of people. Plus I get to look smart, since we usually only teach basic programs like Word and PowerPoint.

So anyway, the moral is, I love my job. I know I won't be at Minnehaha forever, and this may even be my last summer there, but for the time that I am working in that school, at the end of the day, no matter how stressful it's been, I know I'm doing good, and I'm having a good time, and I like to think those two things are the most important in choosing a vocation.

When Technology Just Works

Technology is an awesome thing, and we've all seen how it can be used for both good and bad. For now, I like to focus on the good - and I'm not necessarily talking in terms of computers right now.

About two weeks ago or so, I was in an informal meeting at work when my phone vibrated. It wasn't a call - I could tell from the vibration pattern that I'd received a text message. Assuming it to be from a friend, I flipped the cover open and realised, no, this isn't from Matthew or anyone like that, this is actually important, dare I propose emergency-level information: an Amber Alery had just been issued in the Metro area, and, because I'd signed up some many months ago to receive the text alerts, I was now able to read, on my phone, within minutes of it originally being posted, an alert about a missing child. Now, granted, the message was somewhat cryptic, lacking any sort of punctuation or line breaks, but still, this was a neat thing: technology working for the better in order to help save lives.

The same thing happens on the interstates - when an Amber Alert is issued, the overhead electronic signs that normally tell you how long until the next major interchange or landmark change to display the alert information, along with phone number contact. To me, anyway, I think that's just really really neat. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see how our modern marvels of the electronic age can be used for the good and protection of our citisens. Now granted, it still takes the vigilant eyes of the public to take the investigation from search to rescue, but it's that initial mass network of critical and life-saving information dissemination that makes it all possible.

The Hidden Costs of Cruising

I got home late last night from my first ever cruise, and, though it was tons of fun (see previous blog entries), I also feel inclined, for my future benefit and the benefit of others, to note that there are a lot of what I like to call "hidden costs" associated with cruising.

The 4-night cruise we booked was fairly inexpensive (about $300 something), and this does include all meals (including the choice of several different restaurant areas to choose from for breakfast and lunch) at no cost - you can even order as many different dishes (like escargot or shrimp) from the unique daily menu as you please, all "free" (ie, 'all included in the original ticket price') - and their dining room service is exemplary! And there are a number of onboard activities, such as swimming pools and hot tubs, and high quality nightly shows, to keep one occupied. Again, all free.

But what the ticket price doesn't cover are any special excursions to land: guided tours, rides, extra adventures, nothing. Nor does that initial price tag mention the air fare required to get to and from the port of departure, nor the cost of taxis to and from the hotel (from the airport and from the cruise - a total of four trips for us this past week), nor any specially elaborate or alcoholic drinks onboard, nor the added gratuities for the waiters and other servers onboard the ship (no dispute that they earned every penny, I'm just saying that the price isn't included on the initial figure).

And the price tag doesn't include what were, for me, the most significant expenses: the financial opportunity cost of taking a week off from work (which, for those of us who work several jobs - one in the day and freelance projects at night - this is significant), and the killer: the time spent away from loved ones. It was this last one that really got to me all week, not being able to be in email contact with my friends and loved ones back home.

So, worth going? Sure. It was an experience, reasonably fun, and now I know a lot more about how to prepare and what to expect for the next time. But I'm not going to go on a cruise again with only just friends. Yes, I'd want to make sure I had lots of friends with, of course, but frankly, the next time I go on a cruise, I want it to be shared with a significant other.

My Cruise Vacation: Day 6

Friday, 18 August 2006:

We were once again rudely awakened by the sound of the PA in our room, saying all guests who have white, lavender, or grey luggage tags could disembark. Who cares? I'm still asleep, and we were assigned green tags anyway.

So instead of sleeping until 7:45 like I had planned (we had to be out of the room by 8:00), I woke up at 7:00. Oh, the pain.

After journaling the events of last evening, we left the room to meet the others up in the Windjammer for one last meal onboard. And I needed to grab a new customs card, since the one I picked up last night was actually in Spanish. My customs card filled out, we waited patiently upstairs for our color tags to be called. And we waited. And then the restaurant closed down, so they wanted us to leave, but fortunately, on our way out the door, the announcement came for our green tags and Chad and CJ's purple tags, so we were ready to go!

Down to fourth floor, wait in line, scan our SeaPass cards at security, and then leave the boat from the opposite side from where we came in. Down a hallway, down an escalator, and to the baggage claim carousels. Then it was time to actually cross through customs, for which there was a rather long line. Fortunately for us, one of the porters pointed out that there was actually a second line with literally no one in it, all we had to do was cross around to the other end of the barricades to enter - so we did and passed right through!

By coincidence, we found the same taxi driver (Lorenzo) that had brought us to the cruise port on Monday, so we hired him to bring us back to the hotel, where we would sit and wait until it was time to go to the airport for our flight tonight. We checked our bags with the bell man on duty, and sat in the hotel lobby for the next considerable amount of time, reading, talking, doing stuff on our laptops, whatever we could to keep us entertained. I even wrote a few letters that I won't need to deliver until next year!

One benefit of having all this spare time to just sit and do "nothing" is that I could spend a lot of it calmly going through some of my post trip "processing", such as downloading my pictures from my phone (I used my RAZR as my camera for the whole trip), moving voice records from my voice recorder onto my laptop for later transcribing and actions, and going through a few of the emails I didn't have time or interest in addressing yesterday, thus getting me closer to being back "online", or rather, up and running, so to speak, when I finally get home.

To the relief of myself and CJ, our group of four that was leaving today (Matthew, Chad, CJ, and myself) got to the airport plenty early, checked through their security, and then waited. We boarded about 5 minutes early, left about 5 minutes early, and landed 5 minute early, so not a bad deal. I called Mom and Dad as we taxied to the gate, and then met them at baggage claim a few minutes later. It's good to be home.

A couple of random cruise notes remain, but I wasn't able or didn't remember to work them at the times, so this list stands as thus:

We were the only table in our dining room (that we noticed) that drank milk with dinner. Everyone had their water and wine glasses, of course, but we were the only table that added goblets of milk each night. And our servers were very cool about it, too - they were slightly confused the first night when we were all asking for milk (I started that trend), but each night since they brought out a pitcher and a tray filled with full milk goblets - they learned quickly.

I never did make my way to the exercise studio on the boat with all their fancy machines, but I did get plenty of exercise by almost always using the stairs instead of the elevators (I took a total of three elevator trips). This is significant when one considers we lived on deck 2, while the Windjammer is on deck 11, the pool (where I often met up with the others) is up on deck 10, and the balconies looking out to the oceans were only on deck 7 and above. So I got lots of exercise on the stairs, which made me happy.

And I never got sea sick. I was worried, as I had felt a little queasy-like back in July when we took the ferry over Lake Michigan, but I never felt nauseous at all on this trip (well, not from the waves - the over abundance of food did admittedly cause an amount of stomach discomfort on more than one occasion).

That's it. It's "tomorrow" - Saturday - and, though I had a decently good time, I'm very glad to be home again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Cruise Vacation: Day 5

Thursday, 17 August 2006:

I was rudely awakened to the noise of the cruise director's voice over the intercom, telling us that we had docked at Key West, FL, and would have to go through US Customs, and that the top deck (deck 10) should start on their way for that now. Great, but for those of us on deck 2, that was not a pleasant way to have to wake up.

So I got up and going, waited, read a little, and finally went through "customs", which, apparently, since this isn't our final port of call, simply meant: "go through the line, show them your passport, and let them punch your SeaPass card with a little anchor". Seriously, that's all it was. What a waste of time. But without that little punch, they wouldn't let us off the ship.

I met Allen and Rob, and later Matthew, Debbie, and David, up in the WindJammer café for breakfast, and afterward we all (except Matthew) headed into town (Matthew stayed behind to catch a quick nap before his para-sailing adventure an hour later).

The shopping in the stores near the port was okay, but nothing all that special, and we came back after not too long a time. I went out again soon after with Debbie to meet up with Matthew and David after their para-sailing. We met up with Chad and CJ not too long after, and found a Hard Rock Café to sit down, cool off, and get a drink (the others got food, too, but I, as usual, was full from breakfast, and saving myself for the free food back onboard the ship).

We trickled out of the restaurant one by one, some back to the ship, and me to a nearby Internet Café we'd spotted earlier (I had brought my laptop along this time). After being unable to connect to their wireless, I finally wired myself into one of their waiting ethernet cords and checked my email for the first time since Monday afternoon. Oh my goodness, that was chaotic. Well over a hundred real messages, some of which could be lumped together and filed, but a number of others with some level of "I really want / need to respond to this"-ness about them. The most frustrating part of checking, though, came in discovering that several rather important messages that I had sent from the hotel on Monday never got delivered. They didn't bounce right away, they were just delayed, and then finally returned with fatal errors. So, instead of reading the replies to them that I was hoping for, I had to resend the originals. Argh. Thus is life with technology.

Some of the others found me in the café, and then we walked a few blocks to see the Earnest Hemmingway house. We saw the outside of it just fine, but none of us realised it actually cost money to go inside to tour, so we turned around and came back to the ship via the shopping street.

Not too many hours later, we pulled away from dock, which, for as exciting as one would think it *should* be, is actually a rather uneventful process. I suppose it's because we have this strange notion of procedures and safety, rather than speed and excitement. Funny that. The ropes are untied from the dock one by one, rolled back into the ship, and finally, after the last is released, we start to drift out. Then the side engines kick in on low gear, moving the boat away from dock and rotating it to face toward the open sea. About 20 minutes later, all the engines stop, there's a brief delay, and the rear engines turn on, thrusting us slowly out toward sea as the captain and crew skillfully pilot the ship through an obstacle course of red and green buoys. A total of about an hour from when they first started untying the ship and we are finally out on open sea. For as slow going as it is, though, watching the whole process unfold is very relaxing, soothing away any stresses the day might have had, and giving one opportunity for quiet introspection.

Before dinner, about half the group made our way to the theatre to watch the singing and dancing goodbye performance, similar to the Boogie Wonderland two days ago, except this time with a Latin pop music theme. I suppose I liked it better than the other, illustrated by the fact that I wasn't eagerly anticipating the end as I had on Tuesday. In any case, it was fun.

Then time for dinner - we actually got there early for once, only to discover the doors weren't open yet. There was live music playing in the Centrum, and an elderly couple enjoying the time by dancing, so we watched them - seeing "old love" like that, still so alive and active, was really heart warming for me; it reminded me a lot of my Grandma and Grandpa.

Dinner was, as always, wonderful, and at the end of tonight, being the last night, all the waiters gathered around the dining room to sing to us (they had also done this yesterday, but that was more of an audience involvement singing led by the head waiter in his fancy red suit). Afterward we each took our turn to shake our waiters' hands, thanking them for their truly magnificent service, and also to pass along our gratuity envelopes for them. Of course, this was a special dinner for me, too, as it was the first one all week that I managed to dirty all the 10 pieces of silverware at my spot (through methods like the clever use of a spoon and a fork and a knife in the clam chowder).

Following dinner Matthew and I headed to the Centrum area shops, just to look around. I didn't really see anything particularly great for buying - I'm not a huge shopper for trifles and souvenirs - but Matthew picked up an expandable tote bag to help carry all his purchased drink glasses back; he's been collecting shot glasses, margarita glasses, etc, all week to take back to furnish his new bar in his basement.

Then it was time for Bingo! I'd never gone before, but it was the last night, so I went to cheer on Chad, CJ, Rob, and Matthew. None of them won, but it was still fun. And I learned that there can be some level of formal rules to the game, such as standing when you have only one number remaining to Bingo, and a whole procedure for calling back numbers once someone has actually called Bingo. Cool to watch.

But by the time that was over, my bed was calling me. Except I had to finish packing first - Royal Caribbean required that we deposit our suitcases in the hallways the night before departure, so, even though I had done most of my suit-case packing earlier in the day, it still took another 15 minutes or so to figure out how to reduce my carry-on load for tomorrow, and then just get all those minor details of packing taken care of.

This, followed by some writing, followed by sleepy-bye.

My Cruise Vacation: Day 4

Wednesday, 16 August 2006:

Matthew was hopeful of going on a scuba excursion this morning, but of course it had to be scheduled for 8:00 am. Oh, the pain. His alarm turned on at 7:15, and I'm not sure I fell back asleep after that. So eventually when my alarm (aka mobile phone) started dinging at me at 8:50, I was ready to get up. After a short shower in the claustrophobically small bathroom, and after being unable to raise anyone else in the group on our little radios, I went on my way up to breakfast alone, and proceeded to have a most wonderful conversation about school, life, and Christianity with two of my table mates (a couple from New York, also on their first cruise, as I learned).

As I was ordering my meal, Matthew happened to beep me on the radio, which was inconveniently hiding in my pocket not within easy reach. Turned out his scuba excursion had been canceled because no one had signed up (he was going to sign up this morning right before hand), so he, Chad, and CJ were out on the deck watching the rain (yes, it has rained for part of the day every day so far). I finished breakfast then set out on my way to find them (by way of the purser's desk, whose system was still down and thus unable to fix my key card), eventually running into Matthew, who talked me into coming with them to the beach.

And when I say beach, I mean that we shuttled from the boat (or "tendered", if you will), anchored a fair distance from shore, to the Royal Caribbean privately owned island of Coco Cay. Though it's a relatively small island, there was still plenty of beach for all, and for today they were also serving lunch there. We walked around a little bit, saw a sting ray and some other fish swimming about in the near pristine water, then went to eat. Well, the others ate; I was still stuffed from breakfast, so I subsisted on a mere glass of watery fruit punch.

After lunch, Allen, Rob, and I cruised the small shopping complex of stores (at least they were selling different things from the stores yesterday!), then got back on board one of the tenders heading for the Majesty.

Coming back on board the boat is always an adventure for me, having so many things, specifically metal things, in my pockets. And for that reason I really dislike having to go through security checkpoints - it just takes so long to empty and then restock. Some day I'll learn to just carry less stuff.

I stopped by the purser's desk again in the hopes of getting a new key card, but the system was still down. Now I'm a little irritated, as I'd been told this morning that it would be functional in only a short time (ie, before I returned from shore). They called room service again, and this time they actually showed up to let me in. How kind. A little journalling later and I was off to take a quick nap before the afternoon.

Allen came by the room at about 3:15 or so, and we headed off to the Art Auction. After registering, we took the next half hour to walk around and look at the art pieces, which were sprawled over two entire levels of the centrum. Hundreds of pieces, some of which looked very nice, others of which looked, well, not to my taste. The way the auction was set up, only requested pieces actually made their way to the block, so we used our sticky notes that came with our bidding card to mark the pieces we were specifically interested in. There pieces there ranging in value from $50 to $50,000, so there was plenty to choose from. I only marked the cheaper ones (not that they had price tags, but you could ask one of the suits to look up the price for you). Then we took up prime standing spots, centered on the balcony level overlooking the auctioneer and his display, and waited for the event to begin.

The first piece up for auction was valued at around $3000, and the auctioneer started the bidding at $1. Yes, $1. And no one raised their cards. He dropped his microphone and walked off the stage, then returned a moment later to try it again (it was a joke, and people laughed). This time the bidders responded, including Allen. When the bid was up at about $120, Allen raised his card again, then leaned over to me and whispered that he didn't really want it, he was just raising the price against the woman in the front row downstairs. But then all of a sudden he was the only bidder left. The auctioneer kept asking the audience, "Should I let him have it for only $120?", and everyone shouted "Yes". So the auctioneer pounded the gavel and said "Sold!" and Allen was taken by surprise. But, not to despair, the auctioneer followed this up by saying he would do us one better - he'd let him [Allen] have the piece for free! Seriously, Allen won the piece for free, just for being the last bidder. So that was exciting.

Allen placed bids on a number of other items, and, for better or worse, won about 5 of the auctions. And in the midst of that, he also won a $500 certificate to use on the art, just for laughing loudly at one of the auctioneer's jokes! And then the auction was over and it was time for the raffle drawing. Three $2500 art prizes. We knew our odds were getting to be pretty good, since you had to be present to win, and a majority of people had already left, so we were happy campers going into it. But then Allen won!! We were both stunned, but really excited. He has an appointment tonight at 10:00 to go pick out his free art from the gallery (this segment of my journal being written at 7:30, I don't know the results of that yet).

Not only was the experience downright fun (especially once the auction staff started paying special attention to Allen, giving him some heads up on upcoming pieces, etc), but it was also educational - we learned all about some of the up and coming artists, like "Max" (full name is Peter Max, but everyone just says "Max"). He's the European-born-now-American-citizen who raised millions in donations to refurbish the Statue of Liberty not too many years ago, and almost all of his recent paintings (of which there were quite a few brand new ones in the auction) combine images of the Statue, American flags, and hearts. And their colourful and nice to look at. That was my culturing for the day. But in addition, those several hours proved to be good friendship-building time for me to get to know Allen better, and vice-versa, which, him being one of Matthew's best friends, and me also being one of Matthew's best friends, seemed duly appropriate.

After the auction, I stopped by the purser's desk again, and this time they were finally able to re-magnetize my keycard so I can get into the room again. Then it was time to run off on my own with my computer, write this (sitting in yet another seating area that I haven't tried before), and just relax before dinner.

Dinner time was fun. Or rather, the dessert time was fun. About half an hour before dinner started, I approached our table's waiter in the dining room and asked him to deliver a special present to Matthew at dessert time tonight - the Mickey Mouse hand lotion gag gift that has been going back and forth between us ever since New Year's Eve. So at dinner time, after we were done stuffing ourselves (in my case, with shrimp), our waiter delivered our dessert menus, took those orders, then proceeded to bring out the special dessert. At first Matthew didn't see it coming, but as our waiter cleared around the corner of the table with the Mickey Mouse hand lotion prominently centered on an elegant white plate, he said something to the effect of "no way", and then started with a combination of laughing and blushing. Everyone else who had been at the New Year's party and knew the story, once they saw what was coming, also started laughing, very hard. I got a few compliments on how clever a delivery that was.

After our real desserts (chocolate cake for me), we went up to the ship's library where the art people had set up their displays for the evening, to watch Allen pick out his winnings. Turns out he won a total of 7 paintings! Unfortunately, it wasn't "pick any painting", it was "choose a quantity from this selection of 4". But still, not bad at all for a day's winnings, and it was fun to listen to the art dealer describing some of the other, more expensive pieces, that were available for purchase.

After the art show, I took a moment to fill out the automatic gratuities form for our servers - though I had come into the trip grousing about having to pay these added expenses, after the exemplary service we've received, I'm gladly throwing in the extra few dollars per day. The way it works, I filled out the form last night, so they will charge my credit card on file and then give me vouchers to put into the envelopes to give to the servers. Then, tonight, when we deliver those envelopes, I also have the option of throwing in a little extra in cash if I want, which I think I will.

And then the would-be highlight of the evening (if I hadn't been so absolutely stuffed from dinner): the chocolate buffet! An all-you-can-eat buffet of chocolate and other sweet delicacies, held in the lower dining room. Go through the line, take what you want, then indulge. Except I was too full to enjoy any more than two and a half small pieces. Drat.

My Cruise Vacation: Day 3

Tuesday, 15 August 2006:

I woke up at 8:00 in the morning, still feeling tired, but having rested well. Knowing we had a 9:30 tour on shore, we scrambled to breakfast in the lower dining room, and a few pancakes and sausages later I was ready to go.

We made our way down to deck one and disembarked onto the Bahamas island of Nassau, where we met with our first tour guide, himself fittingly dressed as a pirate (the name of the tour was something along the lines of "Pirates of Nassau"), who led us on a short walk along the pier to our bus. The bus itself was kind of neat - since it's used for tours, it had been made very space efficient, in that the isle seats had a fold out seat that filled the isle, allowing for extra passengers. Interesting design.

Our driver took us around the local city, giving us all sorts of interesting tidbits of information along the way. For example, we drove by the police station and learned that all police stations are painted in a particular shade of light green, all public schools are painted yellow and white, and other government buildings are similarly colour coded.

And, spouting slogans such as 'the primary industry of the Bahamas is tourism', he also brought us to places to shop, cleverly positioned near an historic fort. Now, I'm not much of a shopper, so this didn't really appeal to me, but it was made worse for the fact that every single storefront (and they weren't stores, they were outdoor, one-sided kiosks) sold exactly the same stuff. It reminded me a lot of Italy, around all of the major touristy spots - everyone sells exactly the same things, usually at the same prices, and no one really has anything unique. So I was bored quickly, but then, after a long while, we moved on.

At the end of the tour, the bus driver dropped us by a pirate museum, where a separate museum guide took us around. It was okay, but not terribly exciting. Same with the Nassau tour as a whole - decent, but not necessarily worth the 20-some dollar ticket price.

Anyway, our group left the museum and went through a large covered bazaar... all the vendors in which were selling the identical merchandise we'd already seen. At some point, we split up, and I set out searching for a bookstore. I like to collect Bibles in the native languages of the countries I visit, or rather, since my trip to India, it is my goal to purchase a Bible in each country I visit, seeing as I missed out on doing this during my European adventures years ago. After a long search, and some help from local shopkeepers, I found a bookstore, and successfully located their religion section, which had quite a few Bibles... in English. Then I had my revelation: the national language in the Bahamas is English. Worse, the Bibles that they had on the shelves had themselves been published in the United States. Crumb!

Disheartened, I set back toward the boat, only to discover that, in my time inside, it had begun to pour outside. I did my best to navigate the streets that had the most awnings, but eventually I had to take the plunge and just get wet as I walked out along the pier. They scanned me back in at the ship and gave me a nice warm towel to dry off with, and I went back to the room to change into something that was less wet than my current attire.

I only had a small helping at lunch - that was all I could manage, still being somewhat stuffed from yesterday, and then went down to the room to write (the latter half of the journal from two days ago), and nap. Surprise surprise.

After the nap, I found a nice place out on deck 7 overlooking the port, where I sat with my computer, people watched, and typed. It may not be very "cruisy", but I came on this vacation so that I could have a chance to just sit back and write, so this is very valuable time to me. Unfortunately, it also happened to be a very noisy spot, just from engine and ship noise, and became even noisier when another cruise ship (a Royal Caribbean twin) pulled in to port right next to us.

Around 7:45, I made my way back to the room to change into my suit for the formal dinner, then met up with the others at our table. Dinner itself was excellent; after hearing good reviews from Chad and Matthew, I opted to try the escargot appetizer, and, a little to my surprise, it was quite delicious. I mean really really really delicious. And "free". And we could order more if we wanted, again for "free" (since it's all included in the cruise ticket price). The meal then, for me, was another salmon, which was pretty good, but it couldn't top the snails and their sauce. And then cheesecake for dessert.

Immediately after dinner, we all rushed to our rooms to grab our life jackets, then back to the centrum (right outside the dining rooms) where the photographers were doing pictures of everyone all dressed up. So we posed as a group of 10, wearing our tuxes / suits and our life jackets, garnering more than a few laughs of hysteria from passers-by.

Silly picture done, we deposited our life jackets back in our room and moved into the theatre for the 10:30 show: Boogie Wonderland, featuring musical and dance stylings of 70s artists like Stevie Wonder, Abba, and others. The show was decently entertaining, well choreographed, and well sung, but I was ready for it to be over when it finished 45 minutes later.

After the show, we all went back to the rooms to change into much more comfortable clothing, and also to find that the maid service people had some fun - they'd made a small plush animal shape out of a towel and put Matthew's sunglasses on it. Very cute. We found out the other rooms also had various animals and accouterments waiting for them. And then we made our way top deck to the pools to watch the party going-ons there. I stayed until the others decided to go upstairs to the upper most lounge to smoke cigars - I opted to head to bed instead.

Except I couldn't. For whatever reason, my keycard decided not to work. 20 tries later, I went up to the purser's desk to ask them to fix / replace the card, but it turns out their system was down. Okay, I can understand that, and it is 1:00 in the morning, so maybe the person who would be fixing it can't get to it until morning. The woman on duty (Kimberly) was very friendly, and called room service to go let me into the room. So I went and waited. And waited. 15 minutes later I went back to Kimberly, and she called room service again. And I went back down and waited again. And waited. And about 1:40 Matthew (and the others) came back, so he let me into the room. I called the purser's desk to tell them, and then fell asleep.

My Cruise Vacation: Day 2

Monday, 14 August 2006:

We had arranged for a late checkout the night before, so no one was particularly concerned about waking up early. Thus when I woke up at 9:00, it wasn't to an alarm or the nagging voice of someone saying "it's time to go", which made me happy.

Chad and CJ had already eaten, but the rest of the group met down in the hotel's restaurant for breakfast - I gladly dove into the breakfast buffet of eggs and meats and pancakes and other tasty such foods.

Because Matthew was a priority club member (or some such), our room had a luxuriously late 1:00 pm checkout time, so everyone else threw their bags into our room before we all went across the street to check out the shopping at the mall.

An hour and a half of that and we were all pretty much done, so it was back to the room to grab the bags, and then we waited in the lobby for the taxi van to come fetch us.

Our ride to the cruise ship was short, maybe 5 minutes, and upon arrival we said goodbye to our checked luggage and went inside with our carry-ons to check in. Security looked the same as at the airport, except we didn't have to do the shoe thing this time. And then we were sent into a line to check-in at a long row of desks., again, similar to the airport.

Checkin went smoothly - we had already done most of the work through the online stuff - and then we were off on our adventure... which started by going up an escalator and down a long glass hallway toward the gangway. After a quick stop for the mandatory 'welcome on board' touristy-picture op (taken by a helpful Royal Caribbean photographer), we crossed through the similarly glassed in gangway onto the boat, the "Majesty of the Seas", and then, for me at least, the awe struck - immediately inside the entrance was a large, glassy, rather fancy looking atrium, complete with all the service desks needed to sign up for the many extras on the cruise. From here, we navigated our way downstairs to our stateroom (on deck 2), which, in contrast to the grandeur of the welcoming hall, is quite tiny. We set down our carry-ons and then went to meet the others for lunch in the Windjammer café on deck 11.

An all you can eat, serve yourself buffet of salads, noodles, meats, fish, soups, and more, topped a the end by several tables of beautifully crafted desserts in all shapes and sizes. My favorite was the key lime pie. And it's all included with the price of the ticket - finally this trip is starting to pay off. But of course I was still mostly full from breakfast, so by the time we finished lunch, I was stuffed! By the time we arrived back at our staterooms after lunch, our luggage had been delivered, so we unpacked a little and then I took a nap. I know, what a waste, but I needed the rest.

Then there was the muster drill - the aquatic version of a fire drill. Starting at 4:00, when I was still asleep, the announcer came over the PA system to remind everyone that at 4:30, after everyone had boarded the boat, we would be having a "muster drill". And he did this in 4 different languages, very loudly, and thus very disruptively to those of us who wanted those extra 15 minutes of sleep. Another announcement followed at 4:15, and then at 4:30 the actual drill began (though we had already started up a few minutes early). We put on our life jackets (kindly waiting on our beds) and followed to herds of people to our "muster stations" (determined by residence deck), the areas on deck 7 right below the life boats where said crafts would be lowered to in the event of a real emergency. Finally, when all had arrived, the announcers said some things, and then at 5:00 we were dismissed. Fun fun.

In the lapse of excitement between the muster drill and dinner, I made one last call home (just to leave a message saying "we made it okay"), then stood out on one of the decks to watch us cast off. About one hour later, we were clear of the port and out on open sea. I knew it was a big ship, but I underestimated the amount of time it would take to cast off, turn around, and move out of the no wake zone.

In the evening, before dinner, the group went to the onboard theatre (this is a big ship, mind you!) to watch a comedian - he lived up to his title, having a very amusing act. I was actually a might bit surprised he could get away with a lot of the jokes, since most of them poked fun at the cruiseline itself, but I guess it was all allowed in the name of comedy.

After the comedian it was time for dinner, so we made our way into the upper dining room and were seated at our own table for the group. The menu had many options, but I chose some variety of fish (salmon and cod, I think) for both the appetizer and meal proper. The food, again, was good, and the service excellent. And the dessert was the highlight: a white chocolate fondue in a cup with a variety of fruits intermixed.

Because we are signed up for the later dinner slot (8:30 pm, which is actually good considering how long it takes to be hungry again after a very full breakfast and lunch), it was about 10:30 when we finished, and I pretty much went straight to bed. I'd made the mistake of taking a single dose of Walgreen's-brand dramamine right before dinner, purely as a precautionary measure now that we were moving out on the open sea. And I felt safe doing this because I've never been affected by medicines that say "may cause drowsiness". Except this time. This pill had me feeling drowsy and lightheaded all through dinner, so by the time we finished, I was ready for sleep. And I slept quite soundly, too.

My Cruise Vacation: Day 1

For those who haven't heard, I recently went on a Royal Caribbean cruise from Miami to the Bahamas! Here are my journals from that trip:

Sunday, 13 August 2006:

The day started so early, but well: my radio turned on at 3:45 with a song by Point of Grace, and then at 4:00, just as I had finished brushing my teeth and was almost ready to go, they played Lincoln Brewster's "Majestic", which has quickly come to be my favorite song to start a morning with. Great way to center my day before I begin.

My parents very kindly woke up at that unearthly hour of the morning to take me to the airport, then went on their way back home, presumably to get those extra hours of sleep that I couldn't. Checking my one bag of luggage at curbsite took a long time, but at least I didn't have to wait in the huge long lines that were inside, so for that I am grateful. And even security didn't take a terribly long time - people are used to the new requirements by now, so there weren't any delays in the line in front of me. Of course, there was my little blunder; I've at least wisened up to putting all my metalic pocket gear into my carry on before I get to security, but because I'm always paranoid about going through the scanners (I almost always beep, either because of belt buckle or glasses), I completely forgot to take my laptop out of my bag. I made it through the scanner fine, but the security people had to "bag check" my briefcase, remove the laptop, then run it again. Oh, how sheepish I felt.

In any case, we made it to the gate plenty early, boarded the plane, and departed a few minutes ahead of schedule. The plane ride was less than exciting. I napped for a while, then spent the rest of my waking minutes thinking about home and the future.

We arrived in Miami on time, or possibly a few minutes early, disembarked, claimed our bags, and taxied to the hotel. Because it was still only 11:00 in the morning, we couldn't check in yet, so we left our bags with the bellman and went across the street to meet Debbie and David, then eat in the outdoor mall. While we were walking to the restaurant, two of Matthew's friends from Texas called him on the phone, then he realised they were walking toward him just a few feet away. Turns out they were joining us on the cruise as well, and it all a big surprise for Matthew.

We ate lunch at Chilis - I had a quesadilla and lemonade; shocking, I know. Then it was back to the hotel room for a quick email check and a nice, long nap. The others went swimming for a while in there, but I was too busy catching up on my beauty sleep to care much.

When I finally did wake up, it was time to head off to dinner, so the whole group (10 of us by this point) met in the lobby and arranged for a large taxi van to take us to one of the more major shopping / eating outdoor malls. There we had a wonderfully long meal out under the setting sun, complete with some sparse lightning and gentle breeze. Two hours later (or so it felt, though I don't think I'm far off), we got up and started making our way along the store fronts, looking for a crêpe-serving bakery that Chad remembered from his last trip. But before lonog, that lighing I mentioned before started meaning rain drops. And about 60 seconds after I felt the first rain drop, it was literally pouring. Fortunately we were able to take shelter under a canopied entrance. Unfortunately for me it was the entrance to a bar, so everyone went inside, and, just my luck, Matthew talked the bouncer into letting me in. I was so hopeful I'd just be able to wait outside.

The next hour was torture. I hate bars, but I had no where else to go. Yes, there happened to be an Apple store across the street, but that wouldn't be able to serve as refuge for an entire hour. So I waited. In the corner. Alone. Bored. And then, after the rain had let up a slight bit, Chad and David decided they would set out to look for the crêpes (or "creeps" as Matthew called them) once more. So I joined them; we walked for many blocks but didn't see them, so we turned around and went the other way. Turns out the store was Haagen-Daas, and it was only a block away from the restaurant we started at. That's okay, though, since I really needed the exercise. Except they were sold out of the crêpes by the time we got there (of course we didn't realise this until we gathered the group and brought them down there). So some people bought ice cream instead. Then we split up - 5 of us came back to the hotel to get to bed, the other 5 went out to a nearby club or two. I'm told they had fun, though the clubs were mostly empty because of the rain, but still, for them, worth going. As for me, I was quite happy to get to sleep.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Wonderful Community

This is a short entry, but I've been reminded so many times over the past several week of just how special a place Minnehaha Academy is to work, that I felt inspired to share that today. It may sound cliché, but the reality is that Minnehaha is an exceptional and wondrously loving and fulfilling place to work (at least on the good days, which are the majority). Some of the best reminders of this in recent days have come from my friends down in the development office - I have reason to stop down there about once a week to help one person or another, but when I'm there, commonly two or three others from the office will walk by the desk I'm working at and ask me to stop in to see them, too - the key points here: they know me by name, later in conversation it's clear that they care about me and my life as a person, and when we're done it's apparent that they've truly appreciated my help. Words don't do the feeling of satisfaction justice; it's a form of completeness, knowing that I am known, appreciated, and loved within this community - by the development office, business office, faculty from all campuses (I help teach them in the summer workshops!) and even by the janitorial staff - and yes, I do know almost all of the Minnehaha janitors by name.

That's it. Long rambling short: it's a special place, and for however long I stay there, I know it's an experience that is less than common in the "real" business world.

Monday, August 07, 2006

WWDC 2006

I'm in the midst of reading "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman, and, though I'm less than 100 pages in (after starting it for the third time, now), I'm loving it. In talking about the forces that flattened the world, the second chapter is basically a history of computing technology over the past 15 years, which is, for me, the most interesting and relevant kind of history there is.

Why write about this? Because today I experienced first hand just how technology has changed the way news and information flows, or rather, how it allows news to travel instantaneously across the country. Today was the start of Apple's World Wide Developers Conference, which means today was the day when Uncle Steve gave his keynote address offering the world its first glimpse at Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. For the Mac enthusiasts out there, such as myself, this is very exciting stuff.

But the keynote isn't broadcast live, which means that there's no way to learn about all the new announcements and such until later, right?

Not in a technologically advanced, flattening world. Using Apple's wireless Internet access from within the auditorium, reporters at the conference were able to post minute by minute updates on websites such as MacRumors.com (that's the one I was watching) to tell those of us not lucky enough to attend in person all the exciting stuff Steve was showing. The page automatically pulled down new content every 60 seconds, which meant that every minute, from my desk in Minneapolis, MN, I was able to read the latest news from the Apple conference taking place hundreds of miles away.

Okay, it was really exciting for me, not just because of all the cool new toys and features we have to look forward to from Apple, but because of just how amazingly amazing this flow of information was, and how exciting it is to be living in a time with all of these realities in our every day lives that weren't even being dreamt of 20 years ago when I was born.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The River Church at Mall of America

It's such a novel idea, I've known for months that I had to try it, and today I finally had my chance: going to church at the Mall of America.

Their website said the music started at 9:55, so I timed my morning around that. As I entered the Mall, River Church volunteers held the door open for me and others, and that's when it occurred to me that most stores in the Mall don't open until 11:00 on Sunday, so all of these people around me were more than likely going the same place I was.

True to their online word, there were signs guiding the way from the west entrance all the way into Camp Snoopy to the Great Lakes Ballroom where the service is held. Smiling faces gave me a bulletin at the door and I made my way in, taking a seat in the back row (typical me).

A contemporary setting, waiting for the music to start was pecularly similar to the concerts I've been to at the Xcel Center with a timer counting down on the projection screen and Third Day playing quietly in the background. The counter reached 0, the drums started, the guitars joined, and singing commenced. I loved it, and not only because the performance was an excellent example of what could be strived for technically at Minnehaha (both sound wise and with regard to their much-better-than-PowerPoint multimedia presentations), but because here we were, a group of between 50 and 100 believers, gathered in a public Mall on a Sunday morning, coming together to sing praise to and worship God.

The music ended, the offering was taken, and the pastor introduced the guest speaker for the day, there to talk about something he called "The Jesus Manifesto". He talked. And he talked. And he talked some more. An hour and some minutes later, he finally wrapped up - a might bit longer sermon than I'm accustomed to, and also longer than I would have preferred, given the scattered and non-linear thought pattern he followed. In all fairness, though, he was a guest speaker, and perhaps no one told him that the service was only supposed to last "a little over an hour" (quoting from the FAQ on their site). To clarify, it's not that I have a dislike for long sermons (as long as they are coherent), but I just need to know ahead of time to expect it.

And then the service was over. The guest speaker sat down, the pastor said a few sentences, and we left.

The verdict: Overall I enjoyed myself, and I hope to go back again when they do not have a guest preacher in order to get a better feel for what the church is like. And thus I conclude, maybe there is something to this 'Church in the Mall' idea. What better way could there be to reach out into the world?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I'd completely forgotten how expensive glasses are in the two years since I've purchased them, but my reminder came not many hours ago as I entered Pearl Vision, fresh from my eye doctor. On the plus side, they had a 50% off lenses sale, which is nice because otherwise the lenses alone would have been more expensive than the frames. In any case, I settled on two nice pairs, one made of flexible material that will snap back into position after extreme contortionist bending. I had a similar pair up until two years ago, when one such bending demonstration caused the frames to unexpectedly snap apart (better still, this was the evening of my first night at college - very embarrassing). My other new pair is 'normal' and silvery-ish, similar to my current frames. Sadly, though, they won't be ready until Monday, so I guess I'll just have to be patient. Tragic, since I'm really really bad at being patient, but thus is life.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This Weekend's Adventures

Estate sales are such an awesome creation! Yesterday, on our way home from Grandma and Grandpa's house (my future abode), my parents and I stopped at a sale just a few blocks away. Okay, maybe it doesn't sound so exciting at first read, but while we were there I nabbed a couch, bookshelf, nice wooden table, giant moveable lamp, and 19" CRT TV for my house at a much better price than could have been had in the stores. Of course, getting it from the sale back to the house was another issue, but after bringing back an emptied van with no seats, we were able to make it all fit in just one trip. Oh, so exciting!

The other exciting event yesterday was the arrival of my aunt and uncle from Ohio - they are here for the week to finish the work of sorting and packing memories and other items from Grandma and Grandpa's house that Mom and Aunt Judi had started earlier this month. This time they drove the van up so that they can bring a lot of stuff back home with them, as opposed to trying to fit things onto an airplane.

And then yesterday evening I went over to a friend's house for a large get-together / reunion of our high school class, and it was a lot of fun. It was about the crowd I expected, maybe missing one or two people I thought would have been there, but otherwise, a very fun group, and just a relaxing time catching up with them.

Today was less relaxing - Church in the morning was good, and then lunch with the family, but after that I spent the entire day working on a new client's website. Very productive, to be sure, but still, a very long day. So that's the short version of this weekend, simply because I'm tired and have no energy left.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Inheritance Tax and the Minimum Wage

I don't like paying taxes, but I do understand their importance - it's kind of what keeps the government running (absurdly as it does, but still). Now on the other hand, I've never understood the notion of the death tax (or "inheritance tax", if you will): that money was already taxed during the person's life, so what right can the government possibly claim to be stealing from it again? They have absolutely no right nor excuse for such a preposterous behavior, and yet it still continues. Which is why I am (as of now, at least) in full support of the recent bill passed by the House Republicans. To be clear, it's not that I'm saying legislation should be aimed at "helping the rich", but a pure stance of equality dictates that it is just wrong for the government to take up to 55% of a person's estate away from the rightful heirs, plain and simple. The proposed legislation doesn't completely fix this problem, but it's another good step in the right direction.

Now of course the only way they got the bill passed was by coupling it with a raise to the minimum wage, but that's fine, because that's also a move in the right direction. And really, from the company perspective, it only adds $4200 in cost per year per employee, which isn't much. But on the employee side, this adds almost half again their wage to their yearly salary, from $10300 to $14500, which is a huge benefit.

Ah, brilliant. Congress working for the people's interests for once. I know it won't last, but it's so nice when they're actually doing their job and working for the people instead of for themselves!

(The opinions are my own, but the core information came from http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/07/28/minimumwage.ap/index.html)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Point of Grace at Mall of America

As I walked through the Mall in the hour before the concert, unsuccessfully searching for a special tshirt (I wanted to find something along the lines of a "I heart trees" shirt; this is Minnesota for crying out loud - you wouldn't think it would be so impossible to find a tree hugger shirt! And yet, alas, it apparently is), I passed by the Rotunda and saw the giant KTIS banner hanging proudly from the glass elevator towers, giving me that special tingly feeling and bringing a tear to my eye: how glorious is that! How wonderful that we live in this country where a Christian radio station can sponsor a concert in the middle of a public mall, where we can come together to share in our faith and sing songs about Jesus unashamedly and for all to see! While I do like Point of Grace's music, I didn't go because they are my favorite Christian group, but rather because this was a marvelous opportunity to join with fellow believers and celebrate God out in the open in the public square, a place where passers by could hear about Jesus and be called to worship. I'm normally not a very 'preachy' person, but this is one case where my awe and joy surrounding the event is so great that I talk like this ("this" being the last paragraph).

The concert itself began at 7:00 and ran the very short length of 40 minutes, almost inappropriately short given the amount of time people had gathered to wait (when I arrived at the Mall at 6:00, the Rotunda floor was already filled and most of the balcony levels claimed by standing crowds). But I suppose it made sense - the concert was free because it was a publicity outreach for POG's Girls of Grace conference weekend later this summer. And the group stayed around afterward to sign stuff - I left when the music was over, but if I had really wanted I suppose I could have "shaken their hands" or something.

The highlights of the concert itself, aside from the tear-factor when POG first started singing (Christian music + public Mall = touching), included seeing a group of teenagers in front of me singing along (the significance: young men and women, not much younger than me, singing praise to God... there is hope for the world), and also learning from one of the artists that the Minneapolis / St Paul metro area is number one in the nation when it comes to the purchase of Christian music. It's the little moments like those that keep my hopes alive in otherwise difficult and depressing times.

The Life of a Computer

I sometimes think about how exciting it would be to live inside my PowerBook right when I press the power button. That may sound strange, but think about all the exciting things that happen while the computer is turning on:

Power comes coursing through from wall to power board to internal hardware. The Power On Self Test (POST) is passed and the computer chimes. Next, the BootROM, a set of hardwired instructions for the computer hardware that tell it how to start the boot process, is read, directing the processor to load and run the BootX file. BootX contains just the bare essentials of information needed to load the operating system kernel from disk into main memory, and thus begin the bootstrapping chain of events that brings the grand Mac OS X experience to life.

A picture is drawn to the user's monitor while kexts are loaded to support the kernel. Then comes the most exhilarating part of this adventure: launchd is started, the almighty root process, Process ID #1. Other background processes are spawned, daemons are brought to life, and WaitingForLoginWindow is called upon to draw its placebo progress bar. Finally, loginwindow reports that it is ready to accept interaction from the user. Startup is complete, and the world of possibilities of what can be accomplished before shutdown is endless.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

My First Day Driving a SeaDoo

The exciting news is that I passed my online boater's certification two days ago, which meant that I got to drive a SeaDoo by myself today. The water was perfect for SeaDoo-ing, which means it was a might bit choppy, which in turn meant slightly scary for me on my first time out. That's okay, though. I didn't fall off, I didn't flip, and I didn't lose any limbs while I was out for that hour. Okay, I was probably only out for 5 minutes, but it felt much longer.

I took a break, dried off on the beach, and watched as Chad and Kieffer went out. Chad drives fast, and is reasonably good at catching the waves, so that was exciting to watch. When they got back we heard the harrowing story of how Kieffer had fallen off of the SeaDoo and Chad didn't notice until 2 waves later when he looked back and said, "Oh look, no Kieffer". Chad reclaimed Keiffer from the lake, and they came back in to shore.

Then I decided I would give it another go. Life jacket buckled, glasses attached to a holding-on necklace, and gloves protecting my hands, I mounted the little yellow SeaDoo, started the engine, and proceeded to drive. And then the Lake came after me. Angered that Kieffer hadn't been left as a sacrifice, the Lake sent a mighty wave to splash me, stealing my glasses over the top of my head as an offering. As I noticed that things were mysteriously blurry, I looked in the water, then at the back of the SeaDoo, in the hopes of recovering my glasses. And while I was busy looking, the Lake sent another mighty wave, flipping the SeaDoo and tossing me into the water.

I knew that there was a sticker somewhere on the bottom of the boat that would tell me which direction I should turn it to flip it upright, but amidst the continual bombardment of waves pushing the SeaDoo and me toward the beach (but the wrong direction from the Hendrickson beach), I couldn't find it. Turns out the sticker is on the back of the boat, not on the bottom proper.

Tom came running and helped me flip the machine upright, then went to park it on the beach. And then we began our quest, searching up and down the beach for any trace of my sand-brown frames with blue necklace attached, but found no trace of them. The up-side is that I have a spare pair, which I'm wearing now. But I think I've had enough SeaDoo-ing for a little while now.

And thus went the early afternoon of our last day in Michigan. We leave the house early tomorrow morning to catch the ferry, then drive hours and hours back to Minnesota. I'll miss it here.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Latest: Books, Minnehaha, Harry Putter, and Michigan

It's been a long time since I wrote anything, likely because life has been super busy!

Since the last time I wrote here, I finished the book Wild At Heart, which was an interesting non-mainstream Christian look into the male soul. By that I mean that the book was definitely written from a Christian perspective, but wasn't afraid to disagree with traditional Church approaches toward masculinity. It started out fairly poorly and rather confusingly in my opinion, but improved from there. By the end I could more or less look forward to reading it each night. One nice courtesy from the author was breaking each chapter into very short sections, each a page or two in length. This gave the reader (me) very convenient pausing points along the way without feeling as though I had to tackle another complete chapter just for another 2 minutes or so of pre-sleep reading.

Wild At Heart finished, I am now delving into its partner book, Captivating, which is a similar look into the feminine soul, coauthored by both the author of WAH and his wife. I've found this one to be much more interesting from the start, and it's turning out to be another fun read. Even better, at least once I've been able to apply the psychology from the book to a real life conversation, which makes me sound smart, so that's always a plus.

On the employment side of things, we've had two weeks of teaching teacher workshops at Minnehaha, which was a lot more stressful this year than in the past, likely because we had a few teachers who were much more, shall we say, 'technologically needy', than those in previous summers. This gets quite draining when the workshops are all about simple programs like the iLife and MS Office suites of products. Just makes me even more grateful that I'm of a generation that has grown up in the computer age. At least the food during the workshops was good, as always. I'm especially fond of the lemon poppy seed scones from Lunds.

Our website redesign at MA is coming along - and by that I mean that the company doing the design has come up with some nice looking pictures of what the site might look like. Still waiting to see any actual templates I can use for implementation in Dreamweaver.

And the biggest news, Harry Putter has begun shooting! We had an awesome first week starting last Sunday, and each day went very smoothly, especially considering this was my first time trying to direct.
The crew and cast have both done a great job working efficiently, and yet still having fun enjoying the process, which was the goal. The largest set back has been having to recast several supporting adult roles due to schedule conflicts, but that's part of the movie business, and wasn't preventable. On the whole, so far we've been able to wrap on time or early each day, and hopefully that will continue when we shoot the rest of our scenes in July.

When I got home after our shoot last Thursday, I had a mad scramble to finish importing all the tapes into my computer before leaving for the Hendrickson's Michigan cabin Friday morning. One tape imported just fine while I slept, but the last tape I didn't start until the morning. And of course it had an error, so I had to restart the import process. This meant leaving the house to meet the group for Michigan (all techies from MA), driving back to the house, packing up the camera, and then packing up my laptop and hard drives to bring along.

The drive to Michigan was an adventure. There were several major accidents on 94 in Wisconsin, each of which had major backups lasting for miles. That was fun. Because we had left about 45 minutes late to begin with, we had much less flex time available for the trip, and the slow downs didn't help. After detouring off 94 for a while, we finally were in the home stretch, running very late for the ferry in Milwaukee, and driving very fast. The police office that pulled us over wasn't particularly happy about that last part, but at least he was very nice and courteous as he delivered the speeding ticket to Thomas (he was driving at the time, so at least I can claim innocence, even if we were in my parents' van).

We took a wrong turn amidst the construction and detours in Milwaukee, and missed the ferry. The irony is that, even despite all the other time set backs, we probably would have made the ferry at the very last minute if not for that wrong turn. Oh well. The adventure continued.

Thomas' dad, Tom, arranged for us to stay at a hotel in Milwaukee, and came back from Michigan to Milwaukee on the midnight ferry in order to bring us across the next morning. We were first in the stand by line for the 6:00 am ferry, but they were full, so we had to drive around the lake, through Chicago and Indiana, and finally arrived at the Hendrickson cabin about 11:00 am or so.

So in summary, the home cooked meals have been super awesome, the candies abound all day long, and I've finally been able to start watching some of the footage from Harry Putter. A personal highlight of mine was driving through town with the group yesterday and having a van load of people singing along with the song "Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman (for those who haven't heard it, the significance and heartwarming part is that this was a group of teenagers singing along with the refrain to a Christian song on the radio; key ideas: teenagers singing Christian lyrics, and Christian music playing on the radio). As usual, words don't do the experience justice.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Prairie Home, Harry Putter, and Swimming!

It's been a few days (or more than a few), and that's because I'd forgotten just how busy summer can be. Anyway, the quick updates:

I've spent a lot of time in the past couple weeks revising my auto-biography on my website (under "About JRG") - so far I've only finished writing a bit about education, but I have my list of other things to cover started on my computer already, so hopefully I'll have time to write more of those as the month progresses.

Prairie Home Companion came out yesterday! I took my mother to go see it with me last night, and she enjoyed it (I did too - it's even funnier the second time around). And as a nice bonus, I've heard it's getting great reviews from the critics around the country, not just in the Minneapolis / St Paul area. After seeing the film now again, I'm even more glad that I chose to write my theodicy paper (from my God and Human Suffering class - the assignment was to talk about the theodicy being advanced within a contemporary piece of media or artwork - I chose Prairie Home). Even though it's a lighthearted comedy, there is so much in there about death and suffering that I hadn't remembered to include in my paper that, while I feel I could have done a better job after seeing it twice, I also feel my original decision to write about PHC was right on the money.

This morning I was blessed with two very productive meetings about Harry Putter - the first with my costume designer, who has volunteered her time to sew together capes for the production, and the second was with my location managers and director of photography to try to hash out a shooting schedule. Costumes are looking like they'll come together nicely - I'll know more later this week, but things are looking up (especially considering I thought we wouldn't have anyone available to work costuming!). And the scheduling is coming together, too. We were able to plan out a not-too-overly-aggressive shooting list for our week of principal photography in June without leaving too many scenes to pick up in July. I'm quite happy with how everything is coming together, and every day I am more confident that we'll actually get this puppy done!

My last little note, going back to yesterday, is a piece of advice for anyone who would consider swimming in a lake on a less than summer-warm day. It's cold. The water was kind of warm, but the wind was dreadfully frigid. I think there was a reason that the seven of us were the only ones in the lake, and only for a relatively short time. Fun, yes, but brrr!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci

It wasn't worth it to me to stay up for a midnight showing, but I did eventually go to see The Da Vinci Code with some friends last week. For all the fuss that's been made of it, I guess I expected something more. I expected something more original than a religion-based rendition of National Treasure, but I also expected something that would come across more controversially to me than it did (of course, I am the one who's been saying it's a piece of fiction, get over it).

So anyway, the film had definite similarities to National Treasure, with a little bit of blood and gore in the style of the Passion. It won't be making its way onto my favorites list, but it was far from the worst I've ever seen. The cinemetography was well done, the soundtrack was awesome, the acting was decent, and the story was slightly lacking. All in all a good piece of entertainment for the night.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

So as I was driving this past Saturday I was listening to KTIS, and then I happened to see a song title by Larry Norman on the little XM box: "Why Should the D". I figured, hey, that must be the old song, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?". I've heard a lot about it before, but I've never actually heard it, so it's about time I listened to it.

Because I think it's just an absolutely awesome premise for a song, I've sort of propped it up very highly in my mind, so actually hearing it for once was a bit of a let down. It's still a great idea for lyrics, but I'm not a fan of the more classic 60s / 70s-esque piano jazz stylings. It was worth listening to once, but this is one that won't be making it onto my favorites list. Well, at least now I can say I've heard it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

XMen 3

Without giving away details, great movie! And worth staying up for the midnight showing. I'm inclined to say it's not quite as good as X2, but still, very enjoyable, well-written, and well produced. The characters' struggles seemed quite genuine, making the story seem real, even if it is Sci-Fi. Everyone faced some very difficult and real emotional challenges, but it was scripted authentically, allowing the audience to feel the characters' pains alongside.

My movie watching experience would have been greatly improved had the people sitting next to me not been making comments and obnoxious gasping noises throughout the film the whole thing. And then there was the guy in front of me who answered his phone in the middle! At least he was relatively quiet about it, but still, people astonish me.

Skipping to the end, the people seated in front of me made a number of comments that the chess scene immediately preceding the credit roll is a perfect setup for the producers to make another sequel.

I disagree: Hollywood does setups like this all the time to keep the audience hanging, especially after finishing a trilogy - It's more just a gift to the audience, letting them make up their own continuations in their minds. The actual sequel never happens.

HOWEVER, after the credit roll, there is a scene that quite solidly set the stage for another film. While the chess scene wasn't compelling enough for me to have high hopes for more X movies, this final cliffhanger is definitely worthy of a sequel.

It was a pleasant, unique experience for me to see so many audience members stay to watch the entire credit roll - they must have known to expect something at the very end. Because I do work in the film industry, I now always stay to watch the credits, but I'm normally used to being the last one out of the theatre. It was nice that so many others got to stay to enjoy the names of the people who worked so hard to bring us this film, even if the ulterior motive was simply the special scene afterward.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Home Again

School is over! And summer is here! Time to relax, right?

I wish.

After tearful goodbyes to some very dear friends, hours of packing, and hours of loading the van, I moved out of Larson hall Tuesday night, and arrived home too tired to even think about unloading. It's now Thursday, and just today was I able to finish unloading the van, no small part of which made its way into a new mini-storage space we rented for my college stuff. The remainder has made its way into the house, or, more specifically, onto the floor in my room, where it is sitting until I have a chance to deal with it.

Of course, when I move my life home from college, I can't do it without saying, "hey, why don't I rearrange my entire room?" So that's how the process started - moving shelf contents across the room, resorting papers, pulling some stuff out into the middle of the floor to make room for other homeless books and equipment, etc. Of course, the benefit is obvious: now things actually have some semblance of organisation about them! Well, at least the things that are sitting happily on their shelves - my poor closet is another matter. Anyway, that's my weekend project.

But room cleaning, no matter how much fun it is (and yes, I do consider it to be fun), will have to take a back seat to callbacks for Harry Putter this Saturday! We had so many wonderful people come to audition last week that I'm now faced with the pleasant problem of having too many good choices.

And then it's back to work! Yes, starting next Tuesday, I'll once again be picking up my employment in the Technology department at Minnehaha Academy. I really do love the job, and it'll keep me pleasantly busy this summer in between friends, filmmaking, and vacationing. I'm really aiming for a good mix of those - we'll see how well I've learned from summers past.


It's been over a week since Grandma's funeral, so it's about time I finally buckled down and wrote some of my thoughts. This will likely be fairly scattered, just warning you in advance. I'm also writing as if it were last Tuesday.

This is the second time this year that I've had the honor and privilege of pallbearing, as well as driving in the funeral procession. The service itself was nice, though in all honesty it seemed a might bit short. But then, any time that you try to condense a person's life into a short speech, it's going to seem inappropriately short, so I guess it comes with the territory.

I drove our van in the procession, chauffeuring mom and dad in the same vehicle in which I drove out of town relatives for Grandma Sue's procession not too many months ago. This time we had the honor of being placed as the first car, leading the line as we followed behind the mortuary van and the hearse. While the events are inherently down beat, I'll admit I derive some amount of enjoyment from having a police escort and being allowed to completely disregard traffic laws (though I did gladly and humbly yield to the ambulance that needed to pass through - their needs are obviously greater than ours).

The grave side service was short and sweet, as it ought to have been, but because it was such a beautiful day (the only nice day of the week without rain), the family stayed for a while to visit before wishing each other goodbyes and safe travel (there were two vehicles in town from Chicago area).

And now we can move on. Mom and Dad can plan more than one day in advance, and I can step down my guard from the expectation of middle of the night phone calls. This is the fifth funeral I've been to in the past year, and I'm hoping it will be the last for a while.