A boring day

I can't find anything that really sets off a reaction in my brain, so I'm going to give you a few little news stories that I found interesting:

A Canada.com story about Peter Mackay calling people names. Interesting... I don't know if he did it or not, but it just goes to show you that there is some merit to the way the US runs their houses... one speaker at a time + no heckling = no question about what was said.

I have flat-out been ticked at Republicans for the past two years. … [But] this country is at a crisis point. Whether or not the Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening."- James Dobson, at a Pennsylvania rally in September. (One of several quotes at CT's quotation marks this week.)

Finally, an MSNBC story about how American political groups are using Google's Ad service to ensure that last minute researchers find negative information about politicians they might otherwise vote for. Man, the internet makes everything easier, even smear campaigns!


A little too convenient?

So, I'm a nerd... I'll admit it. I like to follow trends in technology and all that. But, sometimes I find myself thinking that technology writers may write things the way they hope they are rather than the way they are.

This morning I read an article about how CRT televisions are sliding into oblivion. For those of you who don't know, CRT is the kind of tv you probably grew up with. You know, weighs a ton, is really big even when the screen isn't, that kind of stuff.

Now, interestingly, the following is tucked into the article:

...Video experts say CRT technology still represents the gold standard in picture quality with the deepest blacks and best color accuracy. But the performance of LCD and plasma displays have improved dramatically in just the past two years, making the differences in picture quality insignificant to all but discerning videophiles.
Say what? Now, I've looked at LCD and Plasma TVs lately, on the low end... you know, the ones Walmart sells... the ones that can't handle high level digital signals (1080), and I've thought to myself, self these just don't look all that good. They aren't horrible, but they seem to lack a little clarity in details. And folks, I'm certainly not a discenring videophile. I don't even know what that means.

All that to say, maybe it's just a little early to pronounce the "gold standard in picture quality" dead. Not that I don't drool over LCD tvs... you just have to be careful that what you're buying is actually better than what you've got at home.


Christian Business?

Okay, on a personal note, this morning as I went outside to take my wife to work, it was snowing. This is not acceptable! ... So Cold!

So, Christianity Today had an article about the alleged Kinkadian fraud. I'm actually not interested in exploring whether he perpertrated a fraud or not... I'm just not much for his type of art, perhaps because I don't get most visual art, or perhaps not.

I am interested in some of the issues around the edge. I thought the following quote was interesting:
Still, Christians are eager to support businesses they believe will share God with others, said Stephen Christensen, managing director of the Center for Faith and Business at Concordia University in Irvine, California. "Perhaps we would not do our diligence in counting the cost because the business seems like it would be a good way to advance God's kingdom."
Is that good or bad? I'm not a hundred percent sure... I face confusion on this one almost constantly. I purport to be a capitalist. I believe in a free market. So, do I support a business that purports to be run by Christians (ie, Steve's Window Washing, who hypothetically has John 3:16 on his sign) or do I support a business that is the most cost-effective value for the services I'm looking to receive? Similarly, if I'm starting a business, do I bring more glory to God by having John 3:16 on my sign, or by being the best value for the services I render?


Gotta keep those kids safe

Kids are constantly being regulated in schools. I guess I must've lived in the renaissance of something, cause lately all I do is reminisce, but really... can't kids just play? This article from yahoo talks about schools regulating recess. Here's a quote:

Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school responsible. Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School Principal Gaylene Heppe.

How does that strike you? I guess I think that there are some elements of contact games that are part of life... including the occasional scraped knee. Is tag a dangerous contact sport? Are parents really this litigious? Or are we just taking better safe than sorry to a ridiculous extreme?


Whatever happened to theme songs

Remember how you used to be able to recognize a tv program by it's theme? The A-Team... Full House... Cheers... Mash... Any of the three distinct Boy Meets World themes? (I think it was three... anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) The art of the theme song is no-where near as oft-practiced as it used to be. This article on yahoo talks about the demise of the theme song.

What a shame... I mean, really, are we in such a hurry? I guess there's just something nostalgic about the whole theme song thing. I remember the thrill of hearing Will Smith start his theme to Fresh Prince every Monday as I sat down with my brothers to watch it with a bowl of chips and a glass of pepsi.

Is it legitimate to be nostalgic about something that was only 12-13 years ago? Am I even old enough to be nostalgic? Who knows... but, bring back the theme songs! ... In West Philadelphia, born and raised... Whatever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, evening t.v. ... to a place where everyone knows your name... When this boy meets world, boy meets world, travelling down this road the we call life...


A scary survey

this just in from USA today ... it appears that marriage is no longer the majority reason that households exist in the United States of America. I'm sure that if this survey were done in Canada, it'd be even worse. Really makes me wonder what we'll be handing to our kids... There were some things that Communism was good for... it showed that if you want to change things, you start by attacking the nuclear family concept. And, since the end of the cold war, we've taken over their fight by attacking the nuclear family from within.

The only problem is, unlike Communist thought says, the destruction of the nuclear family does not lead to Utopia, another step in evolution, or anything like that... it leads to trouble.


technology nerds unite

For you technophiles out there, Wired News (again, man, they really are just that cool) has a great article on the birth of the Ipod. It was neat, at least to me, to see how products develop. Teamwork really does pay off. At least for Apple Computers, who owns a ridiculously high share of the digital music marketplace. … Lucky!



So, Wired News, perennially a favourite of Trivial Pursuit (if you've played the 90's edition, you know what I mean), has a review of Sony's new e-book reader hardware. As one with a vested interest in the future of books, I read it over. Keep in mind that this review was done by a fairly technically minded person (I mean, I suppose you'd have to be to work for Wired, right?) Here's the writer's conclusion:

Having used the device for many hours, I found it to be a comfortable, pleasing way to read, after initial hesitance. And it's a sharp-looking, techno-wow device with a durable feel. Its size, its screen, its general "thingness" were all appealing. But I love the feel, heft and smell of books, the tangible touch of the page, seeing their spines on the shelves.

I'd have to say that if this Technology writer was still pining after books, I imagine the rest of us will be too. And that's a good thing for me!


From the Streets of Laredo... or Albuquerque

On Monday I was in Albequerque... if I'm spelling that incorrectly, I apologize. Anyway, we saw some pretty awesome things...

We couldn't decide what was up with this guy... until we realized that he used to have a cigar, and he decided to quit. He hasn't quite broken the hand motion habit yet. But, they're holding out hope.

You never know when you might see a rattle snake.

If this guy was half as good at playing guitar as he is at looking cool, he'd be in Leno's band or something. What a sweet outfit. And, are those aviators?

A rattlesnake museum. I didn't go in, but what a weird idea.

And of course, why come to New Mexico if you aren't going to meet Zorro. Or a life-sized cardboard cutout of him.

It's been fun!


On Legalities

So, apparently the internet posting world is reeling after a Florida woman won 11.3 million dollars in damages (that's a lot of zeros) in a lawsuit about defaming internet posts. I don't get it. It's not that I don't get the award. In my line of work, I've been responsible several times for warning authors about potentially libelous passages in their books. How is it surprising that internet writers should be held to the same standards as "ink" writers?

So, if you blog, or if you write at all, keep in mind that if you post/write unsubstantiated accusations about people, especially people with money, you are liable for your lies under laws pertaining to libel. (That's an alliterative writing warning for you). It's not hard. Just don't say things that aren't provable. Or, in America (Sorry Canada, your libel laws are just too plaintiff friendly) make things clear statements of opinion. There's a vast difference between "I really find myself thinking that FoxNews has a pro-Venezuelan bias" and stating "FoxNews makes millions of dollars from Hugo Chavez." One is opinion, one is libel, and both are ridiculous.

This stuff really isn't that hard.


These things need not be mutually exclusive

A quote:

Things of this world are overdone
Things like theology and philosophy – oh yeah
- FFH, "Good to Be Free"

Tonight, I listened as an otherwise excellent speaker made a distinction between spirituality ("falling in love with the wonder of God") and theology ("Theology attempts to analyze God. If you are comfortable analyzing God, please stop writing about Him.") as though never the two shall meet.

And this frustrates me. I'll concede that I probably tend to be on the dryer side of most arguments when it comes to this stuff. I don't cry often, I don't get excited often... etc. But good theology is not exclusive of a love of God. People who have good theology (I'm looking at you Jonathan Edwards) tremble at the thought of being in the hands of angry God. They understand the incomprehensability of the great bounds of His love.

I will concede that I may be part of this problem, because sometimes my theology is not lived-out as it ought to be.

But the problem there isn't theology... it's me! So, I'll leave you with a paraphrase of Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy: the most important thing about any group of people is what they think about God. Because what we think about God impacts our spirituality, our actions, our mindset. Don't hold it against good theology when people prove through their actions that they don't actually believe what they claim to believe.



(written Monday on my way to New Mexico).

I’m seated at probably 30,000 feet, overtop of the appalachian mountains. Actually, I think that at this point, I’m probably out past them, but I digress. I’m listening to AndyO, and watching the fog. I’ll hopefully have a picture of that for you guys…

I think flying is one of the ways that God subtly reminds me of His greatness… I mean, where else can you watch fog in a hundred valleys, watch lights turn off in big cities as they slowly wake up to the sunrise, watch clouds form and disperse?

So, while I may not thoroughly enjoy every part of flying, I’ll appreciate the goodness of the God who reminds me that He’s in charge, every time I’m in the air.


What's wrong with urban planning?

This story from USAtoday.com about a little town where neon signs and fast food are basically unwelcomed in the downtown (more like down-village) core made me think of the city I call my hometown. There was a time when Peterborough, Ontario wouldn't let box stores develop, requiring instead that they fit themselves into existing retail areas. My understanding was that they were allowed to build, they just weren't allowed to go to the outskirts of town, find a big open lot, and set up a new plaza. It made a lot of sense. Walmart was forced to take over a spot in a mall... is that so bad?

Then one day, Futureshop said "We'll bring in jobs and money, but we want the freedom to set up wherever we want." And shockingly, instead of saying "Hey, we've got empty space in this mall downtown that's dying," the city said "Why not? Everyone else is doing it." And all of the sudden, shopping became decentralized, and less pretty, and nonsensical because the city's retail space is haphazard.

Then I moved away. Now I live in Beckley, West Virginia. There are two malls here. One is nearly dead. Seriously. The other is barely hanging on. And all the retail development is taking place in open mini-mall sort of things... why? Because Walmart is there. Seriously, there's more retail life in a one mile radius of walmart (formerly undeveloped space, mind you, because it was kind of the middle of nowhere, and required lots of money to make it flat... this is the mountains, after all) than there is in both malls combined.

So, then I read this little article about a village forcing retailers to fit into their style and space, and I think... why not? Isn't that what planning should be? Making it easier for both retailers (if we all look nice and similar, it makes customers happier, which should result in more sales) and customers (hey, we don't have to drive to the Walmart area, and then 7 miles to the mall to get that item from JC Penney, and then another 7 miles to downtown where we can shop from local vendors) to live?

Naw, lets do what Kingston, Ontario, did... tear down a developed mall so that we can put box stores in its place.

Fleshing out a Tim Hortons Economy

At the beginning of February, Tim Hortons raised their prices again. I posted about it then, whining about the extra five cents. One commenter mentioned that perhaps the Canadian government could start providing it--like healthcare. Another said that wait times might become an issue.

And I thought to myself, how about that? So, I gladly present Coffee Canada--what would happen if Canada's major political parties took over Tim Hortons.

First, the NDP.

Ottawa -- Prime Minister Jack Layton proudly announced a government takeover of Tim Hortons parent company, TDL, along with a national franchise buy-out offer, in connection with his new Coffee Canada program.

"Canadians love their coffee, it's up to the government to provide it for them. Just as healthcare is a basic charter right for Canadian Citizens, we've ammended the charter to show that a quality Double-Double is also a basic charter right," Mr. Layton prefaced the announcement.

In addition to buying out TDL, the NDP have announced a franchise buy-out offer. The terms of the offer state that each franchise owner will be given twenty cents for every dollar their franchise made last year. The business community was outraged, however Mr Layton called it a very basic redistribution of wealth. In addition to this offer, Mr Layton offered to let the owners continue operating the franchise, not as franchisees but as government employees. While they would not benefit from profitable business, there would be a $300,000 annual government pension once they had served for ten years.

TDL announced that it's first move under new ownership would be to expand its services. It will immediately launch Tim Hortons pizza and Tim Hortons Burgers, in order to fully expand into the market. Economists expect that the government may even try to resurrect Mary Brown's chicken through their new service. And of course, all products are now being given away.

Reaction amongst customers was mixed: One client complained, "There are waiting lists now! You have to be registered with a specific Tim Hortons location to get service, otherwise you're stuck with walk-in Tim Hortons, or the emergency Tims, but you're going to wait between three and six hours for service at either of those." Another was heard to say "Hey, free coffee!"

In other news, the Layton administration admitted that he has in fact had coffee from Starbucks, the privately owned and operated coffee company in the past, but has realized the error of his ways and is dedicated to improving the government service.

Next, the Bloc Quebecois:

Quebec City -- Prime Minister Gilles Duceppe announced today that the Government of Canada was buying all shares in Tim Horton's parent company, TDL. He further announced that the federal government would pass control of the corporation over to the province of Quebec.

TDL, in turn, announced a new two-tiered pricing structure, as well as new ordering guidelines. Tim Hortons pricing will go up by triple in provinces where English is the primary spoken languages. In Quebec, prices will drop down to just a tenth of what they were. A special "I'm from Quebec" identification card will allow Quebec residents to get Quebec pricing in other provinces.

In addition to the new pricing structures, TDL announced that orders would no longer be taken in English. "If it is not ordered in French, it is not an order, non? Si vous voulez un café, vous apprendrez à parler la langue de Dieu." We think that means "If you want coffee, you will learn to speak God's language. " Vive le double double!

Customer reactions were mixed. In Quebec, there was joy in the streets... by the twelve Tim Hortons fans living there. Everyone else was still going to locally owned bakeries for baguettes. In Ontario, response ranged from credulity to outrage. "I flunked out of grade nine french! Come to think of it, I flunked out of grade nine everything. What am I supposed to do now, drink CoffeeTime?" ranted one truck driver. In other news, enrollment in French Immersion programs sky-rocketed with the announcement.

Then, the Liberals:

Ottawa -- Interim Liberal Party leader Bill Graham announced today that the Liberal party had completed a buy-out of Tim Horton's parent company, TDL. Speculating on the future of the company, Mr. Graham stated that the only thing he knew for certain was that a special "Liberal Wheeling and Dealing" back room would be retrofitted in every Tim Horton's location. Based on the technology found in Maxwell Smart's cone of silence, this will allow the Liberal Party to conduct important party business with virtual impugnity. He was reported to mutter under his breath, "No more sponsorship scandal for us." In addition, Mr. Graham is proposing a bill to issue a special "Tim Horton's membership card" to all Canadians. This card will allow Tim Horton's to track the customers preferences, and to provide their order without actually speaking to them. Mr. Graham said that any further developments would depend on who ended up winning the party's much-contested leadership race. He did say, however, that automation and back-room dealings were the wave of the future.

Customer reaction was mixed. In Quebec, every Tim Horton's store front was torched. "The people will not stand for further Liberal dilly-dallying," announced the Bloc Quebecois. Elsewhere, nothing had changed. And, as most Canadians have learned, under the Liberals, nothing ever will.

Finally, the Conservative party:

Ottawa -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that there was absolutely no chance of a government buy out of Tim Horton's parent company, TDL. "After all, I'm a conservative. That means free-market economy. Besides which, we'd have to buy it from Wendy's... and that Dave Thomas guy always freaked me out when I was little. No chance." Rumour around Parliament has it that Prime Minister Harper actually doesn't drink coffee, preferring Starbucks Chai in the morning. A confidence motion on the matter is pending.


Daily blogs...

Why does it seem so hard to blog every day? I mean, seriously... there are guys on talk radio who talk for 3 hours every day! And I can't blog one topic, once a day?

As I asked myself these questions, I checked some blogs that have a lot of readers... specifically, I checked out some of the top blogs on the Truth Laid Bare ecosystem. And you know, they're all about politics. And, I can usually understand politics, but I'm not sure that I want to make a career blogging about it. And, on the each of the top ten blogs in the Truth Laid Bare ecosystem's front page you can find an article about the Hastert / Foley thing (the congressman who made advances to congressional pages). It's gross. And, I don't really want to track it on my blog. (But, right there I got suckered into mentioning it. Dang it!)

I guess I could start a celebrity gossip blog. That'd be great! Seriously though, if someone has some ideas about how to keep this stuff going, I'd love to hear it.


And, since politics are where it's at...

James Dobson weighed in on an apparent potential presidential candidate who is a mormon. (HT: CTBlog)
Here's what he said:

I don't believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess," - Mr. Dobson.

Is he right? Maybe, maybe not. I think the far more relevant question for a Mormon is, "Have you ever met Jon Heder?"

If he answers yes, he's got my vote.
Oh yeah, I'm an immigrant... I can't vote.


Fox Feeds the Flock?

So, Christianity Today Online has been featuring some advertising from the new "FoxFaith" film distribution company. And, they have an article up that I think cleverly reveals the advertiser for what they really are (an attempt to make money off the Christian market without actually getting too involved) without putting CT in the awkward position of ticking off one of their advertisers. However, my title is taken from the CT article title... I just added the question mark, because it seemed like the FoxNews thing to do (link to a Jon Stewart Clip at YouTube).

A little background: FoxFaith, with their tagline Movies You Can Believe In, is basically a film distributor that intends to buy movies made for the Christian market and distribute them at a rate of twelve a year, releasing approx. six to theatres and the other six directly to home video. They aren't making movies. They're buying movies that are independently made and arranging distribution.

Here's a quote from the article:

Why is Fox doing this?

Steve Feldstein: It's really simple. We saw an opportunity to fill a need in the marketplace. The Christian market, in terms of filmed entertainment, has been drastically underserved, and we intend to correct that.

In a briefer, clearer sentence, "There was a chance to make money, and we decided to do it." Another quote:

Christians will be happy to hear about FoxFaith, but some cynics would say that Fox is just doing it for the money. How would you respond to that cynical response?

Feldstein: I think, unfortunately, there have been interlopers in the business that weren't committed to it. And to those people I would simply say, watch us.

Here's the thing... maybe I'm just a cynic. In the interview, Mr. Feldstein talks about being all about quality and not quantity, and not letting the agenda be above the art. And yet... and yet... Janette Oak books into movies? I mean, really? I guess I should see one before I critique, but I have doubts that the acting can rise above the writing, and... well, Janette Oak churns out chick lit.
But, this one final quote really settled it for me:

What will determine if this is working, if it's successful?

Feldstein: It's a success already.

Why do you say that?

Feldstein: We've got dedicated FoxFaith fixtures in 1,100 retail outlets that are right in our core demo. So we're already a success with our partners at retail. Everybody wins.

We've got dedicated FoxFaith fixtures in 1,100 retail outlets that are right in our core demo. I don't see anyway that his statement translates to anything other than, "Dang, we's gonna sell us some movies and make us some money."

So, maybe I'm too cynical, but I'm just a little tired of secular interests coming in and preying on the Christian market. These guys aren't interested in making good art for the Christian market. They're interested in preying on parents who are desperate for entertainment for their kids that is safe.

And this comes back to why I think we need to support guys like Andrew Osenga, Andrew Peterson, the Squarepeg Alliance, and people like them in film, art, and your favourite style of music. There are Christians who are making good art. There are Christians who are making good entertainment. Let's support them instead of supporting secular interests trying to infiltrate easy Christian retail markets in order to make easy money with lousy entertainment and art.

The Best Album I've Listened to This Year

I'm frequently afraid of being sucked in by charismatic people. You know, people that are just genuinely nice. You can't trust those people. Just kidding. I had occasion to meet Andrew Osenga this weekend (you can check out Matt's blog for details, if you promise to never call my wife BeccaMack. Geesh). On top of being the only musician I know of that can keep up with a blog, he's a wicked nice guy. Seriously.

On top of meeting Andy, a copy of his album The Morning was purchased for me by Luke the Bruce. And I've listened to it a lot since then. It turns out that Andrew Osenga isn't just a nice guy, he also makes great records. I have officially declared it to be the best album I've listened to this year. And, there have been some good albums... I'd say the closest album to this would be Andrew Peterson's The Far Country. Oh, and that album was recorded primarily in Andrew Osenga's basement, and produced in part by Andy O... so, I guess you could say that Mr. Osenga has shaped the two best records that I've heard this year. How 'bout that?

Seriously, if you get a chance, head over to Andy's website and open the album player... you can hear the whole thing. It's a well crafted, beautiful record. It's a definite rock album, big sounding... not your typical Christian rock album. By which I mean guitar driven without being just a bunch of guitars playing. Does that make sense? Maybe not... It just seems like so often I hear a sheet of guitars on Christian rock albums... instead of choking you with it, Andy uses his incredible guitar skills sparingly... it's just a really cool album.

So, go check it out. And then, if you really like it, buy it. Buy, buy, buy... it's these little, independent guys who need our support... the guys who are actually making good art and struggling to do it.

I'll have more on good art versus bad art later... for now, go listen to Andrew Osenga. I don't think you'll regret it.