Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Summer Sunday

While it is the Sunday before Labor Day, technically its not the last Sunday of the summer, which is fine with me.

Its in the 80s here today, but it cools down to the mid-60s at night so its actually nice in the evenings, unlike some areas where it just drops to the mid 70's with 80% humidity.

So ... besides worship, what else is on my plate for today. Time to cut the lawn again, then treat for crabgrass. Its been dry, and the crabgrass tends to take over unless something is done. So out with the Weed-B-Gone and the lawn sprayer.

Then there's my computer play. No, I'm not doing gaming (at least, not today), but I've been working on setting up an online registration form for Stodgy Presbyterian so that people can register for classes, and so on. The church website is hosted on a Linux host, so using .ASP pages is out (not that I'd want to use a M$ solution for this). I did some research and chose a Joomla backend which is a great open source content management system, and added CiviCRM which is a great add-on component that will allow non-profits to do stuff like online registration, online donations, etc.

I needed to get it up and running fast, so before I went on vacation, I had it going, but it wasn't very pretty as far as design. I wanted a signup form, and nothing else. However, an online friend of mine asked for some assistance with a church website, and was looking for something that could be very easy to maintain.

Well, Joomla is the perfect software to do this with. It allows people without any web programming or HTML experience to update a webpage by using a browser. So, along with the Visual Basic stuff I did over the vacation, I'm getting into the documentation for Joomla and getting ready to play with templates. What I want to do is eventually have Stodgy Presbyterian's website moved to the Joomla platform in its entirety and away from the M$ editing system (FP) that I'm currently using. OK .. it was available and its fast, so sue me !!

So, for the rest of the afternoon, I'll be reading online docs, and playing with a test system I setup. That is, until a local friend calls me to say he's home, and can I fix his firewall. As my wife says, "He's at his happiest when he's got a computer or programming problem to work on !!"

And so it goes ....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five

I don't belong to the RevGalPals bloggers, but I do read a lot of their blogs. I saw this meme today and I thought I'd play:

Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals writes: Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth nieces and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
Worked as a consultant on an EDS project as an employee of another consultant firm. EDS didn't have anyone who knew anything about IBM mainframes at this location (weird huh), and we were hired.

Because we were not employees we were able to do as we liked, but for the same reason, we didn't get the type of perks that the EDS employees did. And because we were working directly for an EDS person, our consulting company boss didn't know what we were doing, so our reviews were VERY average, even though the EDS guy rated us top notch.

Turns out that at this consulting firm, the account manager got his raises on how much he brought in, and how much the company got net. So, by not rating us higher, we didn't get as high a raise, and he looked good so he got the bucks, not us.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
Its a toss-up between working as a Nuclear Weapons Technician in the US Air Force, or later on in my Air Force career working as a programmer supporting Tactical Air Command headquarters. They were both interesting and fun in their own ways, and I met a lot of good people.

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
Own my own programming firm of consultants. If I had my own source of income so I didn't have to worry about my salary, I'd work at providing the best working environment for my consultants.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
Um ... read my previous post on Surprise - Surprise

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
I work at Trader Joe's, and now that the kids are back at the universities and we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, the business picks up and I'll be getting more hours to work. Which can be a bad thing ;)

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?
Well, being in the Air Force for as long as I was, the book Catch 22 seems to sum it up nicely.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting Ready for Alpha (and other nonrelated drivel)

I've been spending a few days just winding down from vacation, along with putting in some days at work. Today was an off day, and I spent some of the time doing some I.T. work at the church.

Upgrading the computer to WinXP's Service Pack 3, fixing an issue with Outlook and a ghost email in the outbox, making sure the backup software is backing up the church files.

I also spent some time getting ready for the Alpha Course we'll be having at our church this fall. If you don't know about Alpha, you can find out more here Alpha USA/North America. As the Elder for Evangelism at Stodgy Presbyterian Church, it is my responsibility to lead the Evangelism committee, trouble is most of the people who sign up for the committee, never tend to appear when needed.

OK ... so its a sign of church member burnout. So, what do you do? You try to grow the church by reaching out to the unchurched, or in the case of Alpha, those who have never been a Christian, or who have fallen away. In many cases, I suspect we'll have current members as participants who have never been taught about Christianity.

The problem is that Alpha was written without delving into the differences between branches of Christianity. So, how does a Reformed congregation teach Alpha? Luckily there is a book Alpha From a Reformed Perspective that will help us through that sticky wicket. Trouble is, the last time I checked, they were out at the bookstore, I reordered it, and have not heard back, so I'm hopeful that all is well.

Anyway ... as the Alpha Coordinator, I need to get volunteers to lead small groups, help setup for dinner, man the buffet line, provide drinks, etc, etc, etc. This is going to be the fun part. I need to have everything in place by the end of September. We shall see.

I'm also taking some time to read a book I picked up on the 50% off rack at a Cokesbury store. Debating Calvinism is a series of debates between Dave Hunt of the radio program Seach the Scriptures Daily and James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. With my R.C. background, I'm finding White's lumping of Hunt's anti-Calvinism in with the R.C. churches anti-Calvinism very interesting, and Hunt's arguments as familiar teaching from those R.C. days.

Yet, leaning in the bookcase behind my recliner is my copy of H.P. & the Deathly Hallows, which I'm re-reading again just for the pleasure of it. Now with the new Harry Potter flick bounced from this Thanksgiving to next Summer, I may just start from the beginning again to take care of my Harry Potter jones.

And so it goes ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Personal DNA

OK ... my wife turned me on to this site, It supposedly will reveal your true self !! Its a personality profile that asks questions, then comes up with what they claim is your Personal DNA. So here's mine:

What does it prove ?? Who knows!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Outrunning Fay !!

Well, we're back from vacation, and while the first 8 days were relaxing, the last two were somewhat worrisome. Our flight was out of Orlando around 1pm on Tuesday, and as of Monday afternoon, it looked like we would not be flying as Tropical Storm Faye was due to pay a visit to the Mouse and environs.

Well, we had to decide whether to change the reservation to the next day or so, or just try to see if we could get out. There wasn't much of an option to stay longer than Thursday, as there was somewhere we had to be locally on Friday, and that was something we could not postpone.

We decided to try the original flight, but we made backup plans to stay with my wife's brother who lives in Orlando, just in case.

Come 6am on Tuesday, we're checking the Internet for the latest storm track prediction. Some showed it to the west in the gulf, others to the east, and one sending it straight up the middle of the state.

We headed to Orlando, and listening to the radio for any updates. When we reached Orlando, Faye's rain bands were coming through with heavy downpours, which then changed to showers. The winds were not that strong, and when we reached the airport itself, the storm had its second landfall, but was heading in a more easterly direction aiming for the Cape Canaveral area. Still not all that good a location for us in Orlando, but it had also slowed down alot.

So, we waited for our flight, which was delayed until 1:30pm, but we got out OK, and arrived home about 45 minutes later than the original time. All in all, stressful, but OK in the end.

Now, back to (ugh) work !

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still on vacation!!

Its been very quiet on vacation, trouble is whenever I head to Florida, it seems that I bring the rains with me. This year its not a problem, they need the rain to help keep down any fires.

That said, it also keeps down any thought of doing some floating on the water. Floats and thunderstorms don't mix well. So, its back to reading, and doing the Visual Basic thing. Finally picked up some Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan mysteries. She's the author whose character has been adapted for the Fox TV show Bones. While the locales are different from the novels to the small screen, the stories are still great, with some very interesting plot twists.

Well, back to the relaxing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Surprise ... Surprise

So .. there I was on a flight to Orlando, knowing that this year visiting the Mouse was not on the itinerary. So we get to Orlando, and we pick up the rental car, and I start thinking of a place to eat.

That's when SWMBO mentioned that we've been invited to dinner by her father, who's staying at Walt Disney World. Then she mentioned that she picked out the location, and she picked my favorite restaurant, Artist's Point at the Wilderness Lodge on property.

They make the best Cedar Plank Salmon there, I've not found another place that does it as well. So we get there for dinner, enjoy a great meal. Then my F-I-L says "Well that was the good part about the evening, now here's the bad part, you have to spend the next two days here at WDW with us." Well, I was dumbfounded. It seems that my wife conspired with her father to set me up with two days at WDW for my birthday. EVERYONE knew, even my sister who kept her mouth shut, and I was talking to her earlier that day and remarking that we'd probably have dinner at Chipotle's then head up to the Vacation Spot. I was also talking about how I wasn't taking my camera with me because I'd be hauling my laptop to do what I talked about in my last blog entry. So, no pictures of the WDW trip.

So I spent two nice days at WDW, and am now at the Vacation Spot, which is only a half-hour from my M-I-L's where I'm sitting now typing away. So, I've had a belated birthday present, and was totally gobsmacked !!

Now to catch up with the rest of the blogs.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Relearning Basic ... the Microsoft Way !!

Well, as I mentioned previously, I've been spending time in Visual Basic 2008, mainly to get myself reconnected with programming and into that regimented thought process again. Having A.D.D doesn't help much, but its surprising how compartmentalized I get when I have a programming problem to work on.

I actually have a project that will be worth all this studying. A pastor friend of mine has asked me if I could put something together that would help him create an order of worship. Something that would pull together passages from the Book of Common Worship, perhaps from the Book of Confessions, and so on, then create a MS Word document that would just need to be tweaked with announcements and so on.

Sounds like fun! OK .. to most of you it sounds very dreary, but its a problem that needs a solution and I'm all hyped up to begin work on that. I even plan to take this on vacation with me and work on it. Wait you say, you're on vacation and you want to work?? Well, as my wife says, I'm at my happiest when I have a computer and a problem to solve. So it will be very relaxing for me.

Now all I have to do is get the hang of Visual Basic. Mainframe COBOL is so much easier ... !!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not much to talk about today ...

Its been a slow day, did some errands, and played around with Visual Basic 2008 for a while. I used to program in Basic in college, mainly first year programming, but Basic over the years has been added to and modified by Micro$oft so that its now a fully featured language that can do a lot more than print Hello World on an old teleprinter.

So I checked today's mail, and the latest issue of the Presbyterian Outlook arrived. Lots of reader mail about the 218th GA, the new PCUSA's Stated Clerk and its legal eagle went over what changed with the votes at GA ... laying out what AI's were superceded, and what GAPJC decisions may no longer be correct. Those Letter to the Editor and the Stated Clerk's article are available on line for perusal if you don't get the print edition. Based on what the people in the pews are saying, and then what's coming out of Louisville, its going to be an interesting 2 years, that's for sure.

However, in that same print edition was an article by Jerry Andrews that was in a Point/Counterpoint type of juxtaposition with an article from Susan Andrews (no relation). Jerry states in that article much of what has been said by center-conservative/conservative Presbyterian bloggers. I urge you to read it if you can.

Update: The Outlook has finally posted that article online:
Some Words. They have it listed under 'Presbyterian Heritage Articles'. If the move of the PCUSA away from Biblical standards is part of 'Presbyterian Heritage', then I wonder what part of Presbyterianism it is the heritage of, surely none that Calvin or Knox would recognize.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 2nd

On this day, 57 years ago, a boy child was born to Mary.

OK .. the mother's name was Marie, it happened in a clean, sterile hospital, and his name was Reformed Catholic. However, coming from the Italian Catholic family I did, and being the first born child, it was announced with as great a fanfare as the angels did on the eve of the Saviors birth.

So ... its my birthday, and I'm going to celebrate by going to work. Hey, we all gotta do what we all gotta do. But I'm having a celebratory lunch, and will have a great time doing that.

Now, to put out that fire in the kitchen started by all the candles on the cake.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Meme

I read alot of Presbyterian Blogs, and I read one at least once a week. I found this RevGalPals Friday Five on Presbyterian Gal's blog and figured I may as well join in on this one.

I bring you the "Lock Me Out, Lock Me In" Friday Five.

1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?

It depends, if its still slowly moving, I continue my merry way, albeit slowly. If its a dead stop, I wonder what bureaucrat didn't have this listed somewhere, then look at the idiots trying to get around it by traveling in the breakdown lane. Of course, SWMBO would say that I am not that calm, and become obsessed with the #$@#$)@s who are failing to obey the law. Did I mention that I have adult A.D.D. ??

2) Have you ever locked yourself out of your house? (And do you keep an extra key somewhere, just in case?)

Yes, and basically broke down a door to get in. No extra key, just make sure that the keypad to the garage has a good code and battery from now on.

3) Have you ever cleared a hurdle? (And if you haven't flown over a material hurdle, feel free to take this one metaphorically.)

Material hurdle ... hmmmm... if you can call being a mainframe programmer with 8 years experience coming out of the Air Force who had never worked on an IBM mainframe before a material hurdle, yes I have. I basically told the recruiter for the consultant company that just give me a three month trial at the minimum rate, if after three months I don't make the grade we'll shake on it, then move on. However, if I prove myself, give me a raise to what the salary of a senior programmer would be. I worked there 2 years before moving to a new company.

4) What's your approach to a mental block?
Ummm ... ahhh ... what was the question again ??

5) Suggest a caption for the picture above; there will be a prize for the funniest answer!

Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbaya....