Sunday, December 31, 2006

Geek Weekend

We had the first Geek Weekend party yesterday, which consisted of many friends coming over to worship at the Altar of Entertainment for several hours. We watched Firefly; not the whole series (although we feasibly could have), but most of it. Despite the hour-long socializing breaks between discs, we managed to stuff 11 epsiodes down our television-gluttonous gorges. It was freakin' lovely. Good friends came to hang out, sit on our couches, eat our food and watch far too much TV in one sitting. This is pretty much the reason we have the place that we do. Yes, my eyes are tired and my legs are cramped, but it was a successful day of fun geeking.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Dilemma

As many newly married couples find out, our friends don't contact us much anymore. There is the unconscious attitude that the married folks are busy being with each other, and don't so much want to be bothered. I've been that way myself with friends who have gotten married, and even with friends who have had children. I assume they have too much on their plate to get together. In any case, that ends up leading to a dull social life for the newlyweds.

Part of the problem for me is that I'm a suburbanite now, and most of my friends are city folk. It takes an Act of Congress for either of us to get out to each other's location, and it makes for a bit of a problem. I have a lot of suburban Mensa friends, which is freakin' awesome, but since I used to be a city person, I'm not so used to hanging out with them. Time to change the social circle. Heidi has a lot of friends here in the 'burbs, but they are under the "no time" impression.

This is exacerbated by the fact that we don't have a church home yet. When I was at First Free, my social schedule tended to revolve around my serving schedule. I got a lot of interaction through that, and being the inrovert that I am, that was pretty good for me. Admittedly, I was serving 2-3 times a week, but that was good. I like serving, I like getting to know and hang out with people who serve in similar manners, and it just tends to be a lot of fun.

However, since we don't have a church home, we are relegated to one-shot serving opportunities, occasional local dinners, etc. These are good opportunities to get to know people, but it generally is a random assortment of people that are significantly different than us. I have no problem mixing with people that are different than me, but there's not much of an opportunity to really bond with them, and that's what's missing.

So here's the quandry: there are two churches that we're considering, and that makes for some interesting problems. I like to serve, and I like people (usually). At Willow Creek, it's a freakin' monstro church. There are serving opportunities galore, and it's a very art-friendly church. They have great music, great preaching, great drama, even great set design. However, we have attempted serving there, and A) people either don't care to get to know you or they are just difficult to connect; and B) they're REALLY disorganized. Both issues would likely be less of an issue in a production environment (sound or music or drama), but it's a bit of a challenge to get into those groups.

Harvest Bible Chapel is also a great church. It's a lot more organized, and Heidi has a lot of friends there, which would make it easier for me to get friendships going. The music is pretty good, the preaching is freakin' AMAZING, but they're not particularly creativity-friendly. Neither of us have really "served" there, but from what I understand, they are much better at administration and thinking through things before they're implemented. I could certainly do sound at that church, and I'd be pretty good with it (and they do have a really nice sound board). And doing that, I'd probably hook up with some good geeks. Their small groups are much easier to get into, and the church, while still pretty big, is of a much more manageable size. But it's still a church in which creativity is somewhat stifled, and that's a huge bug up my craw.

So that's where we stand right now. It's becoming more of an issue, because, for the first time in my adult life, I find myself sitting around and watching TV because we're bored (as opposed to watching a freakin' fantastic show that I would pay to see). Meh, I'm sure it'll come together eventually, but it's a bit of a quandry.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Brew #3: Dwarven Ale

I just finished brew #3, my admittedly inexperienced take on a Dwarven Ale. Darrick (Heidi's brother) commissioned this brew, and here's hoping it comes together the way we both expected. I chose a base of a Scotch Ale kit, and added spices on my own.

3.5 lbs Plain Amber Malt Extract
2 lbs Plain Amber Dry Malt Extract
8 oz Crushed Crystal Malt 60L (grain)
4 oz Crushed Chocolate (grain)
1 oz Crushed Roasted Barley
1 oz Fuggle Hops (Bittering)
1/2 oz Fuggle Hops (Finsihing)
11g Nottingham's Brewing Yeast

3 tsp Cloves
1 Tsp Allspice
1 handful, Cinnamon bark

This is a kit from Brew & Grow, the local brew store, as opposed to my usual morebeer kit. My concerns are the following: there was no clarifier, so it'll likely be kinda cloudy, and all the spices we used were fresh; they tend to float, and I know some got into the fermenter. This will change the flavor dramatically, and could be a little overpowering. I'm thinking powdered spices are a much better choice in the future, but I'll wait until I've seen how everything comes together. What it boils down to, though, is that I'm not particularly thrilled with the kit I bought at the brew store. It's a great store, just not the greatest place to get a kit. When I get more experienced, I'll probably go with recipes found here and there, and then I'll go to Brew & Grow.

And one other thing that was fun to find out: we have mice in our garage, as evidenced by all the little mousy poo that was all over the brewing stuff. Fortunately, thorough cleaning and sanitization is an essential first step for brewing, otherwise I would have been really pissed off and not done my brew this year (and therefore hosed yet another goal).

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Very Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! We've finished with our Christmas festivities, having spent time with my family last weekend and time with Heidi's family yesterday. It's been a kind of stressful Christmas season, but there were two standout high points: The Willow Creek Christmas service was the most spectacular (not necessarily the most moving, but definitely the "biggest") church service I have ever attended. It was like a variety Cirque du Soleil/Comedy/Muscial show, with a Christmas message. People were saying it was going to be huge, and dang were they right! The second wonderful high point was Heidi cooking the bet prime rib I'd ever had just a few hours later.

It's always a pleasure to get together with people I don't normally get together with, and this was no exception. Heidi's brother's fiancee's parents are great people, and we don't really get a lot of chance to spend time with them because they are fairly far removed from our normal daily life. But yesterday was one of the days we got to, and that was freakin' awesome.

So in all, it was a good Christmastime. It had some significant crap to it, but I choose to dwell on the happy things.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Comcastic, craptacular

I've had my issues with Comcast before. They haven't always been very good with the actual service, but their customer service was always top-notch. Please note the use of the past tense in that last sentence.

We have a pretty fancy package with Comcast, but I have a pretty fancy TV. The fancy package does not entitle me to better customer service by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be desirable if Comcast actually cared about retaining their customers. I wanted to switch out my cable box for on with the exact same specifications, just with an HDMI ouput instead of the DVI output. This isn't so much so I can have a super-duper extra crystal clear TV picture, but more so I can plug more things into the TV.

I was told by the Comcast technicians this would not be a problem. I was told by the Comcast 1-800 number this would not be a problem. When you're ready, go to the office and switch it out. When I got to the office, they didn't have the box I needed. If that was the end of it, this post wouldn't be written.

However, this wasn't the end of it. When I got to the office, this was, pretty close to verbatim, the conversation I had.

Me: I know you don't have any DVR's available, but are there any with an HDMI output at any other offices?
Comcast: No.
Me: Okay, is there anybody I can call to figure out when one is available?
Comcast: No.
Me: Can I set up an appointment to have someone bring one out to me?
Comcast: I can set up an appointment, but I can't guarantee they'll have one.
Me: Is there a number I can call, later on down the line, that woud be able to direct me to one?
Comcast: No.
Me: When will they be in this office?
Comcast: We should get a shipment in on the beginning of the year.
Me: Can I call this office in the beginning of the year?
Comcast: No.
Me: If I call the 1-800 number, will they be able to tell me if you have any boxes available at this office?
Comcast: No. The 1-800 number are the ones telling people to come here.
Me: OK, here's what I would like to do. I want to trade out my DVR for one with an HDMI output. How can I do that?
Comcast: There's a list that some customers are on to let them know when our DVR's come in.
Me: Put me on that list.

From there, it was a pretty standard customer exchange, but it was like pulling teeth to get anything from them. Between that and the middlin' levels of service we're receiving, we may end up switching to some other company and/or companies.

The Big Flu

This weekend, I had the worst bout of stomach flu I've had in my adult life. It could have been food poisoning, but everybody I was with came out of it fine, and I was still pretty quivery the next couple days (up to today), so not sure what-all can be made of it.

In any case, I went to a brew at Mattox's place, and hung out with him and some other folks, and had some good chat time. It was my first time witnessing an all-grain brew, and it was certainly fun to watch. It will likely be fun to actually do one of these days, but we'll see what happens. Afterwards, Heidi and I met some other folks (Richard and Libby and a friend of theirs) for dinner at Red Rooster, a fabulous French restaurant in the city (I cannot recommend this place highly enough, even considering the rest of this story). Afterwards, we went to a party that Tracy and Kristin were having at their place, which seemed a lot more fun than I was able to appreciate. About twenty minutes into a good conversation with one of the guys there, I was pretty sure I was going to be sick. I figured we should go, as throwing up in a friend's bathroom during a party... not so good. It was good we went when we did, as we weren't even out of the city before I had to stop to take care of my dirty sinful business in a Jewel bathroom. Before we got home, I needed to puke again in a church parking lot. Over the next five hours, I ended up eliminating pretty much everything that was in me, out of whichever orifice was most convenient. I'm still a little achy from the violence of the sickness, but feeling significantly better.

As we were heading home from my mom's last night, Heidi said, "Well, except for the puking and the vomiting and the nausea and the explosive diarrhea, it was a pretty good weekend." I couldn't agree more.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I recently learned of the genocide of Black Africans in Darfur from Jake's blog. I will post his post in it's entirety (updating it to include hotlinks). Please spread the word. Please contact someone. Please do something.
In about ten years people are going to go see a movie about Darfur, Sudan and they are going to ask why did the world let it happen?

When Hotel Rwanda came out three years ago people were asking how could the world let that happen? The world watched that movie and got angry, just like when Schindler's List came out and everyone asked, "How could that happen?" Why did the world let that happen?

Well, right now in Darfur, Sudan the Sudanese government is allowing (encouraging) a militia group called the Janjaweed to track down and kill Black Africans. The Janjaweed are Arab Africans, which constitutes this as an ethnic cleansing. The low estimate for number of people killed is 200,000 but the number could be as high as 400,000. However, because the Sudanese government is in control and won't let anybody in for any kind of official count, nobody really knows.

The methods of the Janjaweed are fairly simple. When it comes to men they kill them. When it comes to women rape is the preferred method. More specifically, gang rape. Militia will track down young women and literally bite their flesh to mark them as rape victims then rape them. If there is a group of soldiers then it is likely that the young women will be gang raped. The bite marks are designed to bring shame to the woman and her family. There are stories of older sisters sacrificing themselves to rape in order to save their little sisters. Children and Senior Citizens are beaten and killed. Villages are burned while people are still in their homes.

The refugees try to make it to safety in Chad but the Janjaweed have begun to travel to Chad to continue the pursuit. There is no way of efficiently protecting the borders so the Janjaweed can more or less do whatever they want.

I'm writing this blog post in response to a conversation I had with my friend Erin. We were talking about this subject and she said, " I don't think people know about it." Well I know a handful of people read this post, maybe they will tell others.

After Rwanda, Senator Paul Simon of said, " If a hundred people in every district would have written their congressman and demanded action things would have been done." We as a world community have a chance to stop this; the world has been destroying Africa for thousands of years. We use them for slaves, diamonds, and so many other resources. We ignore their cries for help in AIDS and other tragedies. It is time to start doing something for them.

When pressure has been applied to Sudan they have backed off, they don't stop but they back off. When the world takes their eyes off it strikes up again. Put pressure on them.

Here are some resources

Find your congressman at

Contact the White House at

Please visit and learn about this.

If you have iTunes go to the store and go to NBC's section and download a free news report with Ann Curry. It is under video but you don't need a video iPod to play it.

In the mean time please keep Darfur in your prayers. Please pray for God's justice in this land. Please pray for the ears of the world's leaders to be open to the cries of the refugees.

It is hard for one person to change the world, I would even say impossible. But if enough people care and if enough people do something about evil then the world will respond.

Please Don't Wait For The Movie

Proverbs 24:11-12 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, " But we knew nothing about this," Does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Feet

Warning: this post contains spoilers. If you wish to be surprised about the movie Happy Feet, read no more. But seriously, who reading this would desire to be surprised by this movie?

Heidi and I saw Happy Feet recently, being that we were near a movie theatre, and the next show of the seven or eight films I wanted to see was this one. It's clearly the oddest animated movie I've ever seen that got a major release (I've seen some really odd animated movies in my time, but they didn't get much of a release). Heidi likened it to "March of the Penguins: The Musical," and it's pretty darn close for the early part of the show. Here's the crux of the story, which is pretty obvious from the trailers. All emporer penguin have a heart song, which is how they attract a mate. Mumbles is born without the ability to sing, but instead the ability to dance. And he can dance well. But here's the thing: if you're going to have a movie about dancing animals, are penguins really the best choice? Penguins have some really stumpy legs, especially the young penguins. Dancing loses some of it's charm if you can't see anything but the most broad movements.

In this show, Mumbles gets the whole penguin community dancing, except the elders. The elders are focused on their penguin god, and his call to sing and his resultant bounty of fish. There's a drought of fish recently, and the right-wing conservative religious elders assume his sin of dancing is the cause. They force Mumbles to leave, for the heresy of dancing instead of singing. Mumbles seeks out the source of the fish drought, which turns out to be Antarctic fishing by humans (or "aliens" as he and the other Antarctic birds call them), and eventually learns to communicate with humans through his dancing (it's not interpretive dance by any means, it's more of a tap dance, usually to Stevie Wonder). Ultimately, the humans stop fishing in Antarctica, and the fish are restored to their former bounty (it makes marginally more sense in the movie).

But here's the thing. Mumbles can't attract a mate the same way most penguins can, and is forced out of the community by the religious leaders for it. His mother loves him, but his father continues to suggest that he should conform to society's standards. This style of attracting a mate ends up being the way to get in touch with the aliens, who restore the source of nourishment to the community. So, here's what the movie is really about: his sexually deviant behaviour saves the community.

I have to say that this is an interesting movie, but I can't really call it a good one. There's a lot of cool music in it, and the dance scenes are amazing, and Robin Williams leads a group of smaller penguins that are freakin' hysterical. It's incredibly strange, though, and not really in an eye-opening, fresh way; it's more like a "what the hell" way.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm not old... I'm 37

The first person to get the reference and post it in the reply wins; I don't know what you will win (it will depend on my relationship with you), but you win.

So I'm a day older than I was yesterday, but I tack another year on the roster today. 36 was a good year, as I predicted, and I'm expecting just as cool stuff to happen in my 37th year here. Admittedly, different cool stuff, but big things nonetheless. Tonight, to start 37 off, I'm actually preparing Christmas presents for the "less fortunate" at church. I figure a good way to spend my birthday is to prepare gifts for someone else. That just feels right for some reason.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Clothe Our Naked Tree Day

We had our first party in our new place yesterday, and it was a raging success. Heidi traditionally throws really good Christmas parties, and I'm good with supplementary planning, so between the two of us, we had the place decked out for a good party. But the proof is not in our hands. The people at the party had a fantastic time, many of them staying for about a half hour after they said, "We have to go." We have a few Chicago friends who showed up, and they get the A for effort; driving from Chicago to Schaumburg in weekend traffic to Capitalism-land before Christmas is a trip not to be undertaken lightly. The bulk of the party were Heidi's friends for church/school/whatever and my Mensa friends.

Heidi's traditional centerpiece for her parties is the undending supply of cookies, and her wassail (apple cider with cinnamon, allspice, orange, orange peel, cranberry juice, red wine, and a few other bits n peices in there). Matt brough over the remains of the champagne he made for the wedding, and we had the chocolate fountain out for the first time. We're good with a spread individually; together we are nigh unstoppable.

We started with a relatively naked tree. It had a few lights up, and a ribbon, and three ornaments. Most people brought an ornament (really nice ones, too!) and put them on. This is awesome, because now we have a lot of ornaments to use year after year, but also we have memories that will be with us decades from now, with each ornament we put up. It's humbling to have a tree with so much love and care on it.

So yeah, first party, a heck of an accomplishment.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

It's slow at work because of the obscene amount of snow we're having right now (fewer people in the office, fewer people asking for stuff). As a result, I have a lot of time to blog.

In any case, today is World AIDS Day. The AIDS epidemic is really something most Americans choose to ignore or minimize, but it is among the worst global plagues the world has ever seen. Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the worst hit by AIDS, with 64% of the infected people in the world residing there (please note, that DOES NOT mean 64% of Africans are HIV positive, but rather that of all the AIDS cases in the world, most of them are in Africa).

Now, what does this mean to us? Well, there are remarkably few people reading this that are sexually promiscuous or like to share needles, so personally, not a lot. Yet that is the attitude of a lot of America, and I think future generation will look upon our apathy with disgust, if not horror. And honestly, I'm not sure what World AIDS Day is trying to accomplish, other than awareness.

If you have the opportunity during this holiday gift-giving orgy, buy some (RED) products, which will help towards AIDS research or support for AIDS victims. You can find more information here.

Goal Update 10

Aaaaaaand the last goal update for this year (at the end of the month I'll do a goal recap... I'm hoping December will be a busy month).

1. Get Married: Done
2. Move to a new place: Done
3. Get a different job: I actually will need to quit this job on December 6th (more on that later). The new job is in the works, but it's been in the works since September. We're actually on the schedule I expected, so should see this one done before the end of the year.
4. Get back in the gym, and establish a regular routine: We'll get to a gym before the end of the year (or at least work out at home when the schedule is a little easier), but I won't be able to say that the regular routine has been established by the end of the year. Two weeks doesn't establish crap.
5. Get at least one Voice-over gig: I'm auditioning pretty regularly these days, but nothing happening legitimately. Such is the way of acting professionally. December is a slow month traditionally, but all hope is not lost.
6. Brew at least three batches of beer: Brew #2 is OK. I'm not incredibly thrilled with it, but I haven't gotten anybody else's opinion of it. Brew #3 (an attempt at what should be a Dwarven Ale) is scheduled for Christmas Day.
7. Travel at least four times: Done. I actually did five, but there's nothing wrong with exceeding your goals.
8. Write a script: No progress. This is no longer an active goal. There's no freakin' way.
9. Read the Bible from beginning to end: No significant progress. This is no longer an active goal for this year. There's no freakin' way(next year, however...).