1.26.2015

Paddington Hits All My Buttons

I wasn't expecting much from Paddington. The trailer was funny and my kids were excited to see it, so it was a good choice for a rainy Sunday.

It turns out that Paddington was really great. It hit quite a few spots that I love in movies.

First off, the story highlights a father's transition from being a worst-first thinking parent to a free-range parent. He went from micro-managing his son's life to actually playing and risk-taking with his son. It was a great message that "putting your kids first" doesn't mean not letting them out of your sight or do anything remotely risky.

Then there was the fantasy in reality moments that I just love in movies. Those moments when something interesting happens that isn't "really" happening, but serves to illustrate an underlying moment. For example, there is a large mural in the family's stairwell of a flowering tree. At the father's lowest moment, all the petals get blown off of the tree. It is a moment that isn't reality, but it reinforces what's happening in reality. There are several moments like that in Paddington. Each one helped the plot move along and never felt superfluous. I loved each one.

And of course it was funny! The trailer does show some great moments, but there are plenty more laughs to be had. I laughed loud and often.

Paddington was very enjoyable. I'm glad we gave this lost bear a chance, too!

1.20.2015

Finding a Safe and Challenging Church

Mike McHargue (self-described "Christian turned atheist turned follower of Jesus") talks often about safe and challenging churches (S&C). These are places where the people are open to questioning their faith and accepting of everyone who is interested in following Jesus. Reading through his posts, I love the idea of the S&C church, but how do we find them?

My initial thought was to create a website (duh, everything's a website) that would give a description of what S&C Churches are and then a Find a Store type search option. The initial results would be churches where Mike has spoken (very limited), but then expanding via user suggestions.

There are some options out there for finding a church. Unfortunately they aren't what I'm looking for. They focus on 1-5 ratings with a description. So to find a S&C Church you would be wading through all of the text to try and find reviews that highlight the features of a S&C Church. I think a better approach would be a curated list. A list where someone has personally identified each church as a Safe and Challenging Church.

The big roadblock is how to properly identify a S&C Church. It would be terrible to send a searching, possibly hurting, person to a place where they expected to be welcomed, and instead have them be "shamed and shunned". I've been thinking it over, and I don't see any option but to do the legwork. Users submit churches and then site volunteers that are familiar with the S&C Church tenants call the pastor of the church and discuss listing them on the S&C Church website. Perhaps there is a questionnaire that lists the thorniest issues that would trip up most churches in order to make the call as quick as possible. Are atheists and agnostics welcome? LGBT as well? Of course this assumes that pastors would answer frankly, or are even truly aware of the culture at their church. I don't know if that's a safe assumption or not.

I do know that having no idea where to start is demoralizing. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting a push in the right direction. If an idea like this could get off the ground, it could help people.

1.09.2015

Sling TV brings new sports option to Cord-Cutters

SlingTV is a new option for streaming sports (ESPN, ESPN2) to your Roku (or other device that isn't an AppleTV). The main site doesn't have much info yet, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Will users pay $20 a month for the small number of stations available?Will it be a quality stream?Can multiple devices use one account simultaneously?

There are a lot of questions still to be answered, but with an expected release by the end of January (with a free trial), we should have those answers soon.

12.09.2014

Standing in lines with a toddler

…or how I learned to forget the past and live in the present.

Recently I visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Christmas Town. It's one of my mother's favorite holiday activities, and we were in town for a long weekend, so let's do it!

Overall, it was a great experience. Busch has great stroller support. You can load them right on the parking lot trams (with kids still in them). The train has a place to store them for the ride. And all the paths work well with strollers. This was working really well for our toddler at first.

But the lines…oh, the lines. How do you explain lines to a toddler? They see the thing they want, and they want it immediately. In their life experience, this seems reasonable. Normally they point and someone gives it to them. Maybe they have to cry a bit to get it, no big deal. And the worst case scenario is someone says "No" and they cry some more and move on. But lines are different. They point to the thing, the adult says "Yes", but then they don't get that thing. So they move to crying. The adult continues to say "Yes" to the thing, but they still don't get that thing. And even more confusing, they don't even get to move on to the next thing! No wonder a toddler will go into full freak-out mode in a line situation. It just doesn't make sense to them.

However, I did get some useful perspective. When my toddler finally got on the ride, it was as if the line never existed. The ride was the entirety of the universe and it was AMAZING!! Seeing that moment reminded me that I, too, could make the effort to forget the line and focus on the joy of the moment.

10.13.2014

Rethinking the Catholic Church

Politics drove me away from religion. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Everywhere I looked, I saw “Christians” that didn’t believe what I believed, so I guess I started to wonder if I believed what they believed, and from there, what did I believe at all?

I’m slowly making my way back. I’ve been reading a really great series on leaving and coming back to faith. My main takeaway is that when a person is raised with religion as a main part of their life then a piece of them is always tied to that experience. There’s a religion-shaped hole that needs to be filled. Even if your brain can’t explain all the mystical bits, it still likes the feeling you get when everybody is singing along and loving each other.

Unfortunately, my wife’s Catholic church wasn’t a place like I needed. It didn’t have the loving, giving community that I needed. So I continued to stay away. It was too hard to go to a different church and besides, my wife’s religion puzzle-piece is designed for solitude and introspection. Our pieces didn’t seem to match.

But that may be changing. The new priest at her church is trying to turn things around. He is trying to resurrect a dying church by building a community around it. I have yet to hear him preach, but I’m excited. My daughters came home with good things to say. Yes, my 7yo and 4yo daughter actually paid attention in church. OMG indeed!

I’m also encourage by the changes happening at the top of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is putting the church’s focus firmly on compassion and mercy toward all people. In the most recent synod they discussed how to include and support families in all their forms. From the ideal Catholic family to divorced, cohabiting, and even homosexual families.


So the church is slowly making its way back toward my politics, so I guess I can try to make my way back toward the church, too.

9.30.2014

Smartphone Plans Make me Feel Dumb

For all of my smartphone using life, my work has paid for my phone and plan. At the time, this seemed like "not-a-big-deal". Sure it was convenient and saved me some undefined amount of money that I never thought about, but how bad could it be to deal with that stuff?

Bad. Very bad.

Now I've started a new job where they do not pay for my phone and plan. I've been cast adrift in the confusing sea of plans and discounts and fine print and OH GOD HELP ME! It turns out that I'm not good at this. I get easily confused trying to keep track of the different prices if I lease the phone, pay for the phone in installments, or just buy the phone outright. And then I have to think about the plans. The PLANS!! Family sharing, individual lines, unlimited, very limited. My brain is feeling delimited.

In the end, the issue is that I keep hoping to find a trick. Some way of configuring the plans and phones that ends up with me not paying $125 or more every month for our phones. Adding $125 to the monthly budget is not exciting, but I'm starting to accept that it is the new normal. Or maybe I'll start a trend and go back to my bar phone. You can still get those, right?

9.26.2014

Responding with Compassion

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

We all carry resentment. We all make judgments. Recently, I’ve started to prod myself to respond with compassion instead. At first I told myself to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that isn’t quite enough. That would simply withhold judgment. I want to go one step further and engage with the person. They’ve messed up. Haven’t I messed up as well? Instead of condemning, I need to ask “How can I understand?”. Take the hate, and replace with compassion.

And if I can’t tamp down those negative feelings, I repeat that wonderful quote above about the poison. My negative feelings won’t change what they’ve done, but they will certainly affect my life.

8.23.2012

Cincinnati Library calendar in iCal format

The Cincinnati Library has an online calendar that has all the events for all the branches. Unfortunately there was no way to subscribe in Google Calendar. However, after a little digging I found that you can grab the RSS feed (which is supplied) and make a small change to the URL in order to get an iCal-compatible URL. Not much to it, but I bet someone else wants to do this, too. Hopefully Google will lead them here.

So you go to the library's calendar page, then copy the link from the RSS button (usually by right-clicking on the button and choosing copy link). Paste the link into a text editor (notepad, textedit, word, whatever) and look for where it says dm=rss2. Change it so it is dm=ical. Then copy and paste that new URL into your Google Calendar or iCal or any other calendar program that can subscribe to iCal calendars.

Here's the help article.

5.30.2012

Indy 500

It was an exciting race this year. They were saying that the new cars are designed to make drafting and passing easier, so we saw the most lead changes in Indy 500 history! It was also the hottest in history, but that didn't seem to change too much.

I enjoyed seeing Tony Kanaan finish so well. I bet he could've done even better if there hadn't been that crash right at the end. Still I think Sato is a racer to keep an eye on, and Dario should've given him a little more room on that pass!

5.26.2012

Sweat

Sometimes it feels good to sweat. Today was one of those days. I haven't sweat like that in a long time. It was just pouring off. But it DID feel good to get outside and do some manual labor. Of course, a little of that goes a long way ;-)