Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Global Chocolating

Winter has never been my most favorite time of year, and I usually make the chilly drive to work hoping for warmer climes to arrive soon, thinking of long days when shadows stretch far into the evening and the thick aroma of summer saturates every deep breath. But since that's still a bit far off, one might as well make the best of the situation:

And, as Scotty said, there's no use in crying about things which cannot be changed. So what to do? Few things will suffice save for a steaming mug of hot chocolate, which, upon consuming, almost makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's The Big Things That Count

The following is from a devotional I try to read each day, and I thought it particularly poignant (how's that for alliteration, eh?).

Years ago, an expert on time management spoke to a group of business students. As he stood in front of these high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table. Next he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone said “yes.” The instructor came back: “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of sand. As he poured the sand, it filtered into the empty spaces left between the rocks. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Without replying, the expert grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour until the jar was filled to the brim.

He then asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is no matter how full your schedule may be, if you try really hard, you can always fit more into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.” Do you know the point? Take a few moments and think. The professor told his class, just like I’m telling you, the point is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.

So, what are the big things in your life? The things you dare not neglect? As a Christian, I am firmly convinced that there is no more important thing than to believe on Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then, when that is done, the next biggest thing is to share Him with those who are close to you. Beginning right now, share with those special people—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—how, through Jesus, they can be rescued from sin, death, and the devil’s power.

You may do many things with your life, see many sights, and have a lengthy list of accomplishments. Still when your last day comes, you will know the biggest thing you have ever done is to have believed and shared how Jesus suffered and rose from the dead for you and for all the world. The big thing is to share Jesus right where you are, in your own Jerusalem.

(from the Lutheran Hour Daily Devotion, January 28, 2007)

All in a Day's Work

Many good things have happened in the last two days:

- We helped a friend move, and it was the easiest move of which I have ever been a part. Afterwards she fed all us helpers some very delicious chicken chili.

- We got to see a bunch (isn't that an odd unit of measurement? It's not as good as my all-time favorite, the loaf, but it's still pretty good) of relatives in Saint Cloud where we...

• Played a game called "O Caption My Caption" with my cousin Beth, her boyfriend, and several other relatives

• Had some delicious food, of course

• Played some Catch Phrase

• Sat around and chatted about work, school, life, the universe, and pretty much everything

• Had some strange licorice tea

• Discovered how nice it is to have a car whose heater pumps out steaming hot air after only a few minutes, even in zero-degree weather

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What A Deal

If you haven't visited DealMeIn, you really ought to. I have, on occasion, been in need of some item or other, and found it for a great price using that web site. It lists great deals on all kinds of stuff from all kinds of online retailers.

Case in point (and the reason for this post): I have been searching for a cheap SD card to fill with photos that I can display on my Nintendo Wii. Thanks to the aforementioned web site, I found a 1 gig card for $9.99, with free shipping. I placed my order on Monday evening, and it arrived yesterday. Now that's service, man.

And, on a rather related note, a friend called us last night to see what we were doing, and if we were interested in hanging out. Our answers were going to the bank, and absolutely. So she came over after we finished our business with the bank and we spend the evening running errands and chatting. I also used the last of my Starbucks gift card to get a "Caramel Frappuino" which is kind of like, but nowhere near as good as, the "Caramel Cooler" from Caribou. And after flipping through hundreds of photos on the Wii, made possible by the cheap memory card, as well as a game of Wii Sports Bowling, it was far past bedtime even though it was only a little past midnight.

I used to stay up super late during college, doing nothing in particular, but I always felt like I wasted a huge chunk of the following day by sleeping it away. I much prefer going to bed at a decent hour and feeling like I'm actually accomplishing something the following day, even if it's simply updating my blog. :) Later on we will be in Saint Cloud with a bunch of my relatives, and a good time (as well as many games of Trivia and Five-Hundred) will, almost certainly, be had by all.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One Minute and Counting

I heard recently that for the month of January we gain an average of one minute per of additional daylight per day, and when put like that, it sure doesn't sound like much.

But when one considers that, about one month ago, it was dark out by 4:30, that extra minute sure gets to seem like a lot. Tonight we were in the living room and my wife noticed that it was a quarter past five and still kind of light out--a realization that can only enlighten the spirit and herald the coming spring. Bring it on, say I! I'm not much for the chilly winters here, even though it's not been that bad lately, but knowing it will soon be warming up for real, as well as light out for several more hours, is enough to make me smile.

Also, on an unrelated note, the Tombstone Brick Oven pizzas are, by far, the cream of the proverbial frozen pizza crop. I highly recommend them. :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No Digg(ity?)

It's been over a week since I visited digg.com.

And now I think I have to explain that a little. Several years ago, a guy I worked with (*ahem* with whom I worked) showed me a site called slashdot, whose tagline is "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." And boy howdy, they aren't kidding. Every day that site is continually updated with news about the latest version of such and such Linux kernel, instructions on how to construct sci-fi origami, new insights into quantum theory, news on Microsoft's ever-expanding software empire, and on down the pocket-protected list.

Believe it or not, stuff like that can be pretty addicting. :)

So slashdot became one of my favorite sites for several years, and I would visit it a few times a day for weird and/or nerdy tidbits of information. Well, about two years ago a guy named Kevin Rose, who made a name for himself on the TechTV network as a co-host of a technology call-in show called "The Screen Savers", invented a site kind of like slashdot only without editors. See, slashdot has thousands of users submit nerdy news stories which are combed over by a few editors and then submitted to the front page of the site. Digg, on the other hand, has its own users vote on (or "digg") the stories they find interesting, which then get promoted to the front page.

The result? A site that is constantly changing and updating with cool stories from all areas of life--sports, gaming, computers, politics, etc. It's all very interesting.

And very, very addicting.

For me it was never a must-have-it-or-I'll-suffocate addiction, but I did check digg.com a few times a day if only to read about exploding soda cans with Mentos and how to construct a Starship Enterprise out of a floppy disk. Something about having all that nerdy stuff in one place, constantly updated and refreshed, was kind of comforting. Sort of like a shot of cyber-endorphins right through an internets tube into my brain. But I recently realized that much of my time on digg.com was just wasted.

Think of it: 20 minutes a day reading dumb stories that don't amount to a hill of beans in the real world translates to over two hours per week. That's two hours I could spend with my wife, or reading actual news from my community, or studying my bible, or emailing friends, or who knows what else. So a week ago Thursday I decided to quit cold turkey, and have hardly touched the site since.

The result? I'm not exactly sure, but I do think I'm making better use of my time. And one of my prayers for the last several years has been "Lord, help me to make good use of the time you have given to me."

In other news, we made some wicked awesome enchiladas last night when some friends came over. Thanks, J and S...it was a great time. Scattergories was lots of fun. :) I also finished Ran, which was really good, though I should probably watch it all at once next time instead of several short chunks. And we are finally to the last episode in season one of TNG, which means we will only have seasons 6 and 7 after we finish. Tonight's episode was the infamous dude-with-an-exploding-head one, which I had heard about but, upon viewing, thought was far too cheesy to really bother me. :)

Time to hit the sack and gear up for another week!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wings and Ran

One of my favorite foods is the buffalo wing, particularly those prepared by the folks at the appropriately-named Buffalo Wild Wings. I'm fond of their hot ones, and can go for some wild if I am in the mood, but the blazin' are just a bit too spicy for me. And yesterday I got a hearty dose of wings because they were on sale (Yay for 35-cent Tuesdays!), brought them home, and started watching the Japanese masterpiece Ran. It was a nice way to kick off the postwork, lemme tell ya.

As of this writing I am currently 1:18 into the movie, and I am beginning to understand why it has gained such notoriety for Kurosawa. It is epic in every sense of the word, and the battle scenes are masterworks of direction. I am eager to finish it, but at nearly three hours, it does require a rather lengthy investment of time. So hopefully in the next day or two I will be able to finish it, but we'll have to see, I guess.

You know what's cool about living in an apartment? You can get things fixed while you're at work. Case in point: I emailed our landlord on Monday about a few things that needed work at our place, and today I get home from and everything has been repaired! I know an apartment isn't the same as having one's own house, but hey, it's hard to argue with service like that.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hitting the Slopes

I could claim true Minnesotan status if I wanted to, since I was born in Saint Cloud and lived in Waite Park until I was nearly six years old. But in truth, most of my heart lies in Nebraska where I spent much of my youth and young adulthood. Even though it is a mostly flat state devoid of any true national significance (dave for the inventions of Kool-Aid and 911), it was my home, and those are, as most people would say, the ties that bind. But living in Minnesota for the past two and a half years has been a great experience, and though I don't know where we will be in five, ten, or twenty years, I have to say that this state sure does have its own unique appeal.

One thing about the residents up here: they like themselves some outdoors. No matter the season, the people up here are continually scrambling to get outside and do stuff, and one of the most highly-regarded winter activities is skiing. Growing up in Nebraska I had never skied in my life, nor even set foot on a ski slope until yesterday. That's right, folks...I finally tasted the thrill of downhill skiing.*

I was invited to go with a local outdoor club on a trip to Welch Village, one of many such downhill places near the Twin Cities. Not knowing the first thing about skiing, I took the most basic of all basic lessons which included how to put on ski boots, how to put the boots into the skis, and how to walk forward with skis on. It certainly was humbling (I was at least 15 years older than all the people with me in the lesson) but also very helpful, as I was going down the green (i.e. slow and easy) hills in no time. By the end of the day I was adept at turning, stopping, and all-around control of my body and its faculties while on those two skinny plastic mouldings.

The entire experience was great fun, and I hope to be able to do it again soon. It reminded me of my first time on a jet ski, or waterskiing, or even driving--a sense of unrelenting speed and control that, when harnessed, becomes exhilarating. I can see why people like it so much. :)

*Yes, I realize I used the word "ski" three times in two consecutive sentences. But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Non-Special Edition

Most people who know me are aware that Star Wars is my all-time favorite series of movies. I can't remember exactly when I saw the Episode IV, but I think it was in Lincoln when I was probably about seven years old. We had no VCR, so my parents would occasionally rent a VCP (as in, Video Cassette Player, not Recorder) from Havelock Video along with a few tapes that we would watch as a family. I'm pretty sure one of those movie nights involved Star Wars, and I can only recall vague images of Darth Vader and X-Wings soaring across the black sky. I quickly became lost in George Lucas' fanciful vision of a galaxy that existed long ago and far, far away, and many nights and days were spent watching the original trilogy during my all-too-critical formative years, such that I now can watch any of them and recite most of the lines as they are said on screen.

I waited in line outside a now-defunct theatre in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, from Monday morning to Wednesday night when Episode I came out. I went on to see it 12 times in various theatres. And while, along with Episodes II and III, the newer trilogy has never seemed to capture the public imagination quite like the original, I still consider the six-movie series to be among cinema's most fully-realized triumphs.

But wow, do I ever digress, as is often my wont. What all this is leading up to is that for Christmas my parents-in-law gave me the "limited edition" DVDs of the original trilogy, which include the original un-edited un-altered versions of the films that have, until recently, never been made available on DVD. I have two versions of the Special Edition (one on tape and one on DVD) and one version of the classic trilogy (THX VHS edition, 4:3 ratio), but now I have the original movies as I saw them way back when I was just a youngling. I'm in the middle of Episode IV right now (taking a break to write this and do some housecleaning), and it's still just as awesome as I always remembered it to be. Han shoots first, there's vaseline on the camera lens underneath Luke's speeder, the dewbacks look like big chunks of rubber, the video quality is grainy, and the light saber effects are so 1977, but that's what makes this series great.

I also saw Jaws for the first time last night. Wow, what a creepy movie. Sure the shark looked fake, but it's still scary as all get out.