Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Technology revamp

It's almost a new year, and it appears that all-of-a-sudden I have this need - almost a compulsion - to revamp some of my most highly entrenched tech habits.

Firstly, I've used Firefox since it was called Phoenix/Firebird.  What a great browser!  I'm typing in it right now.  One of the main things I use Firefox for is my RSS reader.  But lately, I've become dissatisfied with that feature.  I found myself expanding each feed individually 10+ times a day just to check and see if I could get my "what's new on the 'net?" fix.  Any idle moment caused me to be drawn to my bookmarks toolbar.  I finally said, "enough" and succumbed to Google reader.  I'm still not entirely thrilled with the whole "read/unread" e-mail metaphor for RSS feeds, but it solved my problem - now I only check my feeds once a day, and no longer get pulled away from Visual Studio by the need for a quick-fix-link-fest.  And for low volume blogs, I don't even have to click through to see if I've seen everything.  For the high volume stuff, I mark huge swaths of uninteresting junk as "read" while clicking on the occasional nugget here or there.

But then - something strange started happening.  Without the draw of the Firefox Bookmarks bar, I started getting interested in Google's Chrome browser.  And things have snowballed from there.  So, in honor of a new year I've decided to enumerate my top 10 major tech swings of late - really more for my benefit than yours - so here they are in no particular order:

  1. Switched from Firefox to Google Reader for RSS feeds - outcome: Satisfied
  2. Started using Chrome more since Firefox isn't my RSS reader - outcome: Scared of Google's continued hold on me
  3. Switched from Zune to iPod nano 5th gen for my tunes/podcasts - outcome: LOVE IT
  4. Switched from Windows Media Player to iTunes because of the need to manage my iPod - outcome:  iPod == good... iTunes == evil.  I miss WMP, but since not even my Zune let me use it, I'd given up on it long ago...
  5. Switched from OpenOffice back to MS Office - with the home edition being sold for only $100, it finally seemed worth it to me to use Office - outcome: Satisfied
  6. Received a Garmin for Christmas - switched from old fashioned hand-written directions and Google maps printouts.  Amazed at how much I really like it despite my previously mixed feelings from last summer's trip.  - outcome: Strangely addicted to it, and slightly happy to reduce Google's hold on my life in one small area
  7. Switched from buying mostly paper tech books to buying mostly PDFs for tech books.  Uploaded them to a private Google docs account  outcome: Meh.  I don't read the PDFs as thoroughly.  But being searchable, readable on my phone, accessible anywhere (yeah... there's Google again), and taking up no physical room in my house are big wins for me.
  8. All family contacts are now managed via our family GMail account, which should make it easier to keep up-to-date and do our Christmas cards next year.  outcome: Why didn't I do this before!?
  9. We finally are going to get a texting plan for our cell phones.  outcome: Yet to be determined.
  10. Strongly considering ditching the land-line and getting an iPhone or Android phone this Summer. Especially after reading  this news and this news which came out today.  outcome:  Still deciding
And here are some tech trends I've managed to avoid this year:
  1. Facebook - (mostly)
  2. Twitter - I've no desire what-so-ever
  3. Craigslist


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blessed is the man...

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers - Psalm 1:1

What a powerful statement from the opening words in the book of Psalms!  I taught my Sunday School class this a few weeks ago, and God has been teaching it to me since then.  It has permeated my thoughts, and I cannot shake it loose.

How often do we walk in the counsel of those who are not righteous?  We seek those who will tell us we're justified in our actions and thoughts so that we can go on doing our own will.  Perhaps we don't even do it actively, but passively accepting the world's standards for our beliefs and behavior.

How often do we stand in the way of sinners?  We would rather not be "set apart" as the Bible commands, but instead seek acceptance and to fit in.  We see the short-term "delight" of sin, rather than its true nature - the Addictive Consuming Destroyer. We would rather be silent than have fire in our bellies.  We would rather sacrifice standing up for what's true and good and right for comfort and acceptance and the status quo.

How often do we sit in the seat of mockers?  Concentrating on the negative.  Sarcastic.  Back-biting.  Gossips.  Hiding behind the guise of "constructive criticism".  It's a whole lot easier to be a critic than to actually produce something of value.  It's easier to mock failure than to risk it ourselves.

Notice the progression... walking, standing, sitting.... we move progressively down the path towards complacency.  Towards redefining our true identity.

Thank you God for sending your son to earth to redeem me from that path.  For showing me my true identity in you and who you created me to be.  I pray that that truth is real to others this Christmas as well, and that we would walk with you, stand with you, and sit at your throne.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random thought for the day - 12/23/09 edition

The spelling of the word committee appears to have been decided by one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Gore Effect

Reading some blogs today, I was just introduced to a new term I hadn't heard before - "The Gore Effect".  Essentially, the concept is that wherever there is some large gathering to talk about global warming and climate change, there seems to be some unseasonably cold weather or there are huge snowfalls.  It started in '04 at a rally in New York where Al Gore spoke during one of the coldest days on record, and apparently the trend has continued since then.  The Gore Effect apparently struck again in Copenhagen during international climate talks, and a blizzard hits the East coast this weekend as President Obama flies back from the talks.

Obviously there is no scientific basis to the Gore Effect, and just because there are very cold days doesn't mean that global warming isn't true.  However, this sort of thing does serve as an embarrassing sidebar to the significantly more serious infractions of global warming "scientists" that have been in the news recently.

Whether global warming is scientifically proven - I don't know, but I suspect it can't be proven with the limited data we actually have.  Whether global warming is true despite being unproven - I don't know that either, but I do believe there is an very real impact to the Earth from deforestation and pollution.  But, what I do know for sure is that we didn't create this place where we live, but we were given dominion and stewardship of it by the one who did create it.  And while we should do everything we can to take care of it for future generations, it is folly to think that we have all the power over the Earth ourselves.  I believe the Gore Effect to be a good reminder of that, with a dash of God's sense of humor thrown in for good measure.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas party games

We had our annual Christmas party with our adult Sunday School class on the 5th.  As the host and hostess, Beth and I had to come up with some activities.  Last year, we did the Christmas Song Quiz which was quite fun.  This year, it was Christmas Carol Pictionary.  I looked online to see if anyone had posted something printable.  There's a version of it for $7.00 here, but I was unwilling to plop down any money for an hour long game I'd only be able to play once.  So, I got a list of songs by browsing the web, put the list in my most favorite text editor - TextPad, and recorded a macro to generate a three-column HTML table from the list that I could use for Pictionary cards.  I printed the result to PDF using CutePDF writer, and printed the cards and cut them up with a paper cutter.  The whole thing took me less than 1/2 and hour and saved me $7.00.  Though I'm sure that the official game has some topics outside of carols, I thought they'd probably all be too easy.  I'm sharing the results for you to enjoy at your Christmas partyInformation wants to be free.  Happy Holidays!