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

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.