28 July 2005

Honduras & Italy

According to Kiplinger's Personal Finance two of the best places to buy vacation homes outside the country include Honduras and Italy. Of course, the case they make for Italy is not look in the trendy places.

How come no one ever suggests Denmark or Malaysia?

Where would you choose?

27 July 2005

The Poor Kids

The federal Kids Count report was released recently and barely made back-page news. This is really sad considering that kids are supposed to be our future.

Among the morass of details there were some good things...
  • teen birth rates down (43 per thousand)
  • high school dropouts decreased (8%)
...and some not so good...
  • 18% still live in poverty, more than the 16% in 2001
  • only 68% live with two married parents
  • serious crime among juveniles is up to 18 per thousand
Meanwhile, WalMart still refuses to allow its workers to unionize and has one of the lowest average wage rates in the country. Not that anyone is counting or anything.

25 July 2005

Minding the Store

As far back as I can remember, I've been an avid Pauly Shore fan.

Okay, just hear me out. The guys got skills. He's truly funny. And like Sinbad, he doesn't have to be gross or dirty or foul-mouthed to get laughs.

I was watching Minding the Store and it just reminded me how much I wish todays entertainment scene had more solid people like Pauly.

23 July 2005

Lightening My Load

Tonight, I was having dinner with a friend and something hit me.

Okay, it wasn't an epiphany or anything, it was just another in long line of self-obsessed analysis of my own inner workings. What was mildly divergent about this was that I came across it whilst in the middle of a most excellent conversation about, among other things, someone else!

So by now, you all realize that under the facade of generousity and guilelessness I remain a steaming pile of egomaniacal eccentricity. Or at least you should realize it. If you haven't you should either wait awhile or hang out with me more often.

In any case, this friend was honoring me with insights into their experiences and a dialog on world-views. And pop, there goes a spectacularly clear perception about none other than yours truly!

You would think by now that I would have learned to constrain my moments of self-reflection and enlightenment to those periods when, say, I'm not in the middle of a conversation that isn't about me? Perhaps that is just so rare an event these days, that my inner monologue decided it wasn't in the mood to wait. In either case, no sooner had I realized this new perception of myself, when off my mind goes wondering why on earth would my mind choose this moment for such diversions?

To be clear, one cannot fault the company or the conversation in the slightest. I remain solely to blame for the mental failure. Needless to say, I put the immediate kibosh on my fickle mind and focused more resolutely on my companion.

The evening then progressed and much merriment was made by all. Skip to drive home...

In the car driving home I was zooming across the pitch-black desert and across the sky the streaks of lightening just crackled and crashed. Whole sections of night sky would light up and freeze momentarily like a huge camera was suddenly snapping a photo. The only thing I could think was a Psalm "The spacious heavens declare the glory of our God. The firmament displays his handiwork abroad."

Even in the dark of night, the heavens never cease to shout His fame. When I can't see past my own self to the wonder He has made, the night sky lights up of its own accord to ensure I pause and offer my praise.

21 July 2005


So I've been doing two-a-days for the last couple weeks and they seem to have broken me out of my slump. That and eating mostly fruit for every meal. ;-)

Bottom-line, down another 10 and I needed to punch a new notch.

Oh...and Troy picked up a Polar like mine. He seems to be doing the lifestyle thing pretty well.

I recommended that he get a Zen Micro because it would work with Yahoo! Music. After checking out what he got, I'm considering picking one up too. It's pretty outrageous.

19 July 2005

A Fellowship of Two

Right now I've been thinking about my perspective as a believer who is in-between the church as a building and the church as a lifestyle. I think a key to having church be a lifestyle is knowing how to walk alone.

By no means do I think we should cease assembling together when we are able to do so. On the contrary, my life wouldn't be the same without the strength I receive from worshiping with others. But I do think that God wants us to truly learn what it means to fellowship with Christ, and sometimes this must involve walking a lonely road.

An insidious way we are led astray is when the desire to find other like-minded believers ceases to become a spiritual desire. Rather it is our emotions and our poor sense of self which yearns to be around people who understand us, who will complement our walk. By itself this isn't wrong, as long as we remember that we are called to forsake our own lives and be willing to go for a time without the comfort and fellowship of brothers and sisters. This is simply the natural reality when God has called us unto Himself. It is when we find that we absolutely have to be in the company of other believers in order to have any sense of Christ that we have ceased abiding in Him as we should.

In many parts of the world believers are not able to meet together for various reasons. They may desire to, but if they cannot, how will they maintain fellowship and connectivity to the Body being unable to gather? They must know Christ as Fellowship. It is through abiding in Him that they are able to maintain connected to the Body.

On the other hand, there are those with the freedom to gather. Shouldn't they take every advantage of their liberty to fellowship at every opportunity? Of course! Thank God for our freedom and make the most of it. That's not the issue. Instead consider what your spiritual state would be like should that liberty be removed? Is your usefulness to God limited by your ability to fellowship with others? Can you maintain connected to the Body when isolated? Do you grow faint and fall away when fellowship is removed?

Many of us can maintain a sweet spirit while they are in fellowship with other believers. But when that fellowship is interrupted, how quickly they turn sour. I've even heard them acknowledge this and say things like, "My attitude is going downhill since I haven't been getting to church. I have to go back this week." Then they go back to church, feel uplifted, and their attitude improves. Unfortunately experiences like this are common for those who haven't yet learned to make Christ their lifestyle. They aren't truly walking in the Spirit, they are walking near the Spirit.

In no way does this mean we should be isolationists who avoid fellowship with other believers. However, we cannot allow the absence of such fellowship to adversely affect our walk. If time apart from believers causes us to fall away, then perhaps this is the reason we go through periods of solitude; that we may be learn to truly see and experience Christ as our Fellowship.

13 July 2005

The Casual Adventures Company

Here's another great business idea that was bouncing around in my head a while back. A friend suggested I should be writing them down. So I figured why not do that in the blog?

Imagine a company that organized team events for the casual adventurer. For example, the basic offering would be the 8 hour weekend race which is like a mini-Amazing Race around a particular town. It would promote public transportation, could be make use of bikes or roller-blades or even go-karts. Anyone can register and show up ready to play; Everything is provided and it's just a small fee which goes into a pot to cover costs and reward the winners.

A more advanced offering would use GPS waypoints in a rally race where every team has a different route; Or on foot in Colorado wilds for a more expensive total-package get-away. Then you could have rallies where part of the team stays behind and solves the riddles to uncover the next way-point on the journey.

You could have the sophisticated mystery adventures that involve role-playing, hidden doors, and secret codes. They might require researching special topics, completing puzzles, or giving directions from remote locations.

The key to it all is that everything is provided for the player. They just register and show up for the activity; All the gear, the meals, the equipment, everything is ready to go. All the events are scored across several categories so you can have different kinds of adventurers who focus on different things; puzzle solvers, strategists, athletes, drivers, navigators, etc. Stats would allow the formation of guilds or tournaments in different areas.

It would certainly be a fun business to be involved in.

Not sure about Justice

It's nice to see that Mr. Ebbers got a nice big sentence for his part in the WorldComm debacle. Personally, I think if you have managed to swindle any public company into giving you a salary in excess of 10 million a year you deserve to go to jail for fraud. At the very least you should be required to have disclosures similar to what a public company is required to submit.

In this day and age, when world poverty is rampant, we can't afford to pay teachers, healthcare is outrageous and infant death to treatable disease is at an all-time high, a public company has a responsibility to the world to share the wealth.  I'm not talking charitable donations, simply issuing proper dividends and paying appropriate wages to the working class would suffice.

For a CEO to make 20 million a year for a company that has 5 thousand workers earning below the poverty line is just disgusting. The hourly laborers could all make 3 thousand more a year and still pay their CEO a respectable (5M) yearly salary. That doesn't include the perks and benefits consumed by these no-talent hacks; we're just talking about the number on their paystub.

Consider how much money that only the 20 highest paid CEOs remove from the economy every year.  Taking back the compensation only from the 20 highest paid CEOs would be a shot in the arm of the economy to the tune of 1.4 BILLION dollars. If only the 20 highest paid CEOs were reduced to 5M salaries that would be more than 1.3 BILLION dollars that could be shared amongst workers, shareholders, and reducing cost of goods and services. That sounds reasonable doesn't it?

Here's some tidbits to close:
  • Approximately 35.8 million people lived below the poverty line in 2003, or about 12.5 percent of the population, according to the US Census Bureau.
  • There were 12.9 million living in poverty last year, or 17.6 percent of the under-18 population. That was an increase of about 800,000 from 2002, when 16.7 percent of all children were in poverty.
  • The Census Bureau's definition of poverty for a family of four was $18,810, while for two people it was $12,015.
  • Nearly 45 million people lacked health insurance, or 15.6 percent of the population.
  • The median household income, when adjusted for inflation, remained basically flat from the previous year at $43,318.
I'm going to go weep now...

12 July 2005

Fellowship Failures

As a full-time traveler it can be hard to keep relationships running smoothly. We all know that any relationship takes work, but when you don't have that day-to-day forced contact from a shared experience like work or a club it becomes arduous at best.

Once again my self-perception of uniqueness deludes me into thinking that I can keep these balls spinning and that my friends and family will "understand". In reality, every single one of my relationships ends up being significantly more about me then the other person. This is just another nasty side-effect of my unrelenting egomaniacal behavior. I don't mean to be that way, it just comes out that way!
Your walk talks, and your talk talks. But your walk talks louder than your talk talks.
The crux of this is that keeping these relationships healthy is what helps me grow, mature, and be less self-centered.

Growing up and today within conservative circles the passage from Hebrews 10:25 is used to bully people into going to church.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Not surprisingly, I tend to have a more pragmatic interpretation of this particular Scripture. At the core I (more than many) really understand the value of fellowship. I have an exceptionally gregarious personality and find no greater joy than the company of others. This is, of course, as shock to many of you. ;-) Instead of seeing this as a call to Worship, which what I believe is a primary function of Church, I see this as a call to congregation, a call to a life of fellowship.

I see a common mentality that is a symptom of the spiritual deadness in organized religion these days. It is a holdover from those who go to Church to "be fed". One weakness of the institutional church is that the majority of members are coming to receive, to be edified, to be encouraged, to be fed. It is all take, and very little give. Hence, there is very little Life.

To be clear, I am a huge (spectacularly, vigorously, blatantly) fan of organized Worship. I find that it is empowering and fulfilling. The take away is that I am simply in love with my God and cannot cease to Worship Him regardless of the setting, organized or personal. My Worship is no less empowering when I'm singing all-out in my car, or in the shower, or in the back of the Church on a Sunday morning. I rush as eagerly to pray and to praise with myself as I do within the confines of a service. For me, Worship is how I live, Church is just an opportunity to do more of that publicly.

Somehow I seem to have gotten off my original topic of why it's hard to keep healthy relationships with friends when I don't seem them at church. Perhaps I'm secretly distressed that so few people can manage a relationship without an organized structure within which to do it. I need to think more about that. And I'll try and frame some thoughts on Worship and Church for upcoming posts as well.

11 July 2005

The Swiss & The BBC

One of my friends has been doing so tooling around overseas. Evidently Basel is the place to be right now. I'll have to go check it out. Anyone else have recommendations?

I'm finally getting my hands on Season 3 of that most remarkable show Spooks. The way the last season ended just really got to me. What an amazing show. In truth, I think those blokes across the pond really know what they are doing when it comes to writing dialog. They all speak so beautifully compared to the mostly disgusting slang we speak on this continent. Surely that factors into how great the writing is in these shows.

For more excellent writing, check out Hustle and Coupling, both of which are exceptional.

06 July 2005


It took long enough, but finally another prediction has come true.

A relatively new company Sling Media has released the SlingBox, a device which retransmits an video signal over a broad-band connection. The call it place-shifting but really it's just piping the signals from your tuner card out through a broad-band connection so you can watch it from another computer. An idea that has long been predicted and finally someone is trying to make it commercially viable. Gauging from their initial sales, I'd say they are doing pretty well.

An interesting note is that this company is another example of a start-up pushing their research and development overseas to create products for release in the US. In this case, Bangalore, India serves as the off-shore incubator for this technology company.

While a fan of the innovation and respectful of their ability to bring this to market, I'm more engaged by the underlying moral dilemma this creates. Being on the road constantly I deeply understand the desire to have access to media from anywhere. However, this is such a blatant retransmission of copyrighted content, it is sure to create a firestorm of debate. I for one am anxiously awaiting the day that mainstream media produces realize their ultimate wealth is the sale of media as a source, not a distribution channel. The same awakening we see in music we'll eventually see in all copyrighted forms. It surprises me that not one mainstream producer can see the direction the water is flowing and jump into the stream. The first that does will have a significant advantage for certain.