Tuesday, March 30, 2010

100th post...

It's my 100th post.  So, here's some good news from the techie world to share!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bingle Tiger

When I need to find something on the web, I now do a Bingle search.  First Bing, then (if I need to) Google - in that order.  It used to be the other way around - Goobing.  Not that I'm representative of the general internet user population mind you.  But this is a trend that does seem to be gaining some momentum.  Of course, there are conflicting reports.  But I think Bingle may be catching on...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dates and Dragons

Ah, date night.  My beautiful wife and I got to get out of the house for a few hours while a friend put the kids to bed and house-sat.  So very wonderful.  With the new baby growing a lot lately, Beth didn't feel like doing anything that involved much walking, so we wound up seeing Dreamwork's new pic, How to Train Your Dragon in 3D.  Wow.  No really - WOW!  Great and mostly original plot.  Visually stunning.  Fast-paced, and action packed.  And the 3D enhanced the story rather than distracted from it.  A little light on the humor, and female characters are noticeably under-represented, but it's by far the best non-Pixar movie we've seen in the theater in a long time.  Actually come to think of it, Pixar's last one Up was mostly meh.  And with their next one being a tired old sequel from last decade, Pixar may be past their prime. Anyway, what are you waiting for!?  Go see this one!  (Not suitable for kids under 10, despite the marketing).

There's no place like home

The Columbus Dispatch posted an article and a map of how home values have been affected in Columbus from 2005-2009. Very interesting...

Friday, March 26, 2010

The crazy part lost its grip momentarily, and the light shone true and bright... then 'twas quelled forevermore

His conscience managed to squeak a word out before the crazy part of his brain knew what was happening.  That part was promptly shouted back down, and it shrank back to the dark recesses of his rotted soul, and The Crazy reigned supreme once more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You think it's easy being the Tooth Fairy?

I had one of those - "I'm the worst parent in the world" moments this morning.  Ian lost his fourth tooth yesterday after days of working on it.  He bravely let me pop it out with some floss.  He was so excited.  He phoned everyone.  Then, I let him download one mp3 (he chose the Spiderman theme song) as a reward for his bravery.  After all the hoopla and celebrating, he went to bed with a ziplock bag under his pillow.  And he woke up this morning... with a ziplock bag under his pillow.  Oh God help me!  I raced into his room hoping he was still asleep, but alas... with quivering chin he surmised that the tooth fairy had forgotten him.  I showed him a $1 bill, and told him that I actually found it under my pillow.  "You see Ian, the tooth fairy thought that I had loaned you the money to buy your mp3 yesterday, so she gave me the dollar thinking you were going to pay me back.  She's so silly - she didn't know that the mp3 was a gift."  He smiled, and then we both laughed.  Laughed at the worst... tooth fairy... ever....

Interesting eBay dynamics

I recently made a little purchase from eBay.

Before I did it, I watched some of these sell on eBay.  It's interesting... these things retail for $259 from Amazon today.  The shipping is free too.  But they used to be $359, then they were $299.  Some people obviously bought theirs at the previous prices, because they're listing them on eBay for way more than $259.  Why anyone would pay MORE to get a product from eBay than they would to get the new one from Amazon is beyond me.

Then, as I watched a couple of auctions for the reasonably priced ones, I noticed that the auctions that closed earlier in the evening would have a lot of competitive bidding at the end that drove the price up by sometimes more than $15.00 in the last 5 minutes of the auction.  The ones that closed later (Pacific time) had fewer late bids so the final prices were lower.

I also noticed that some people charged shipping, while others didn't.  But, the final bids seemed not to account for shipping at all.  People would bid up to $240ish, which might have been an okay deal if the shipping was free.  But with shipping at $13, it's no deal at all.  For a few more dollars, they could have gotten a new one from Amazon.  Either people can't do math, or they get caught up in the emotion of trying to beat everyone else and lose all sense of reason.

Granted I picked one product and only watched it sell for only a few days.  My research is nowhere near conclusive.  But it seems like if you're going to sell something on eBay your best strategy would be to:
  1. Be aware of what time your auction will end.  Specifically, you probably want folks in the Eastern time zone to be at home and still awake when it ends in order to maximize your bidders nationwide.
  2. Separate your shipping fee.  Don't offer free shipping.  People apparently can't do math - they just bid on the product and think of shipping costs as an afterthought.
  3. Include a real blurb about the specific item the buyer will receive.  So many people just use stock photos and copy-and-paste product descriptions.  People know they're buying used, so they want to know about the minor scuff mark on the back, or that the product comes in the original packaging.  The stuff that seemed like it was being sold by a real person received the most bids.  30-50 in some cases.  The auctions that were not unique with rubber stamp photos and descriptions would get 9-15 bids.
 Once my Kindle 2 arrives, I'll have to post a review.  It was a tight race between it and the smaller, sleeker, but less featureful Sony PRS-300.

How do we go about getting copyrights on our DNA?

In Ohio this week, Governor Strickland was just sent a bill that would allow for the collection of a suspect's DNA if they are arrested in connection with a felony crime.  Not convicted mind you... just anyone who is picked up off the street will now be compelled to give up their DNA.  And, of course, it's not just for a one-time use to exonerate someone - once you give up your DNA it's in a government database forever.  And once it's gone, you don't get to control how it's used.  Think about that...  when you're proven innocent, you don't get to force them to delete your DNA data from their databases.  Or restrict who it's shared with.  And even though it's only for felonies now, this seems to be a slippery slope.  It doesn't seem so far fetched anymore to wonder if a routine traffic stop will someday result in a swabbing.  Or, maybe we should get all Minority Report and swab all newborns.  Pre-crime is the future!

Of course, the sound byte on this is that this will help law enforcement identify criminals and get them off the street.  You aren't soft on crime, are you!?  You're a law abiding citizen, so you have nothing to worry about.  This will make you safer.  That's always the tradeoff, isn't it?  Liberty, or security.  Security or liberty.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

iRobot wasn't just a good movie...

...they also make really neat toys...


How on earth does W00t! wind up getting these prices on new condition items?  These things sell for around $400 here.  Granted, what W00t! gets must be previous generation overstock Roombas, but I for one can't see paying full price when these regularly show up on W00t! for less than 1/2 MSRP.

Now, if only I could get a Kindle or a Nook in the sub $200 range...  eBay perhaps.  Ah, the internet... where the free market thrives and where the real price point of a product for each demographic can be found.  If only you didn't get gouged on shipping.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pop quiz, hotshot! - 3.23.10 edition answer

The question was: What are Ceres and Eris?
And the answer is...

...Ceres and Eris, (along with Pluto, Haumea and Makemake), make up the five dwarf planets within our solar system.  Why is that significant?  Well, Ceres is actually the smallest known dwarf planet, and it resides in the asteroid belt between  Mars and Jupiter.  Eris is the largest known dwarf planet in our solar system, and has an orbit more distant than Pluto's.  There's a great image of the three of them here.

I have a poster from National Geographic in my cube at work that has some facts and relative size depictions of the 8 planets in our solar system along with 3 of the 5 dwarf planets - Ceres, Pluto, and Eris.  This poster was put out shortly after the IAU decision in 2006 to define what is and isn't a planet.  That was nice of them since every other space poster since the 70's depicting 9 planets just became outdated.

That decision wound up with Pluto being demoted, and caused some public outcry.  People, it seemed, were very attached to Pluto as a 9th planet.  Well, that's really an understatement.  Some people (including astronomers) were actually outraged at the reclassification.  There's even a petition website.  In Illinois last year the state senate voted that Pluto was to be a planet again for a day.  Pluto is the underdog, and people like to root for an underdog.  Pluto has 3 moons for goodness sakes!  It's not a planet?  Who says?

Well, actually some really smart and very well reasoned people said, "look, we weren't right originally".  We need to alter our thinking to go further.  We need to shift our paradigm a bit.  There are other bodies in orbit around the sun - some larger, and some smaller than Pluto.  It makes more sense to group Pluto into this other classification with these four other celestial bodies.

I like having that poster in my cube because it is a daily reminder that often people get caught up in their way of thinking and can't break free.  And then one little piece of extra information can alter their view of a topic, or push someone to a different way of looking at the world.  Those are the kinds of stories that energize me.  Being open to learning something new or different.  Being willing to admit a mistake.  Knowing when to hold on and when to let go.  We didn't lose a planet with Pluto - we gained Ceres and Eris and a bit more understanding.

Pop quiz, hotshot! - 3.23.10 edition

What are Ceres and Eris?  No internet searches allowed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snapple does math

I gave up pop for lent.  Since  February 17th, I've not had a single carbonated beverage.  My work has fridges stocked to the brim with free pop, so this has been quite a challenge for me these past 30 days.  16 days to go.  Not that I'm complaining... I went from 3-4 cans of pop a day (plus who knows how much from the fountain at Chipotle) to nothing.  A co-worker today told me he's taken on the same endeavor.

I had dinner with my family last night since my sister is in town.  My mom knew immediately - she's probably never in the past 26 years seen me at a restaurant where I didn't order a pop.  Since age 5, I've been hooked.  Five was when I tasted a can of Tab for the first time.  The crack-fizz of a can opening is perhaps the most effective advertising in the known universe.

One of the strange side effects has been that I started drinking tea.  I've never liked iced tea. When I've given up pop in the past, it's been replaced by mass quantities of lemonade.  Really, I know it's H2O that I should be drinking - and I have been - but surprisingly tea has been my #1 choice this go-around.  I attribute it to the fact that I switched to diet pop a couple of years ago, and my sweet tooth has diminished because of it.  Tea has gone from tolerable, to somewhat enjoyable to me now.

Anyway, my work offers free Snapple too, and on the inside of one of the Snapple caps today was this:
111,111,111 * 111,111,111 = 12345678987654321.  I thought that was pretty spiffy.  I haven't decided if I'm going back to drinking pop after Easter.  I might miss out on some useless trivia on the inside of those caps.  Ahhh... Addiction.  Habits.  Routine.  Even when I break free of one, I succumb to another.

There's a scene from The Devil Wears Prada.  Yes, I'm admitting to having seen it - shut up.  The protagonist, Andy, has no interest at all in fashion or the fashion world.  But, through a series of only-in-a-movie circumstances, she has somehow landed in the middle of the fashion universe with a dream (well, nightmare actually) job.  She has the following interaction with her boss, Miranda, who is the 'Devil' from the title:
[Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same]

Miranda Priestly: Something funny?

Andy Sachs: No, no, nothing. Y'know, it's just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y'know, I'm still learning about all this stuff.

Miranda Priestly: This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.

I try to be really conscious of consumerism.  When the kids see an ad on TV, they are transfixed, and Beth and I try to pry them back to reality by asking, "What are they trying to get you to buy?" or "What are they trying to get you to do?" or my favorite - "What are they trying to make you believe?".  Their answers aren't very sophisticated yet, but my own answers are when I ask myself these questions.  I sound so immune from consumerism in the conversations in my own head.  But there's this other part of me that wonders about that jingle I keep humming, or the way that the crack-fizz makes me salivate like a Pavlovian K-9, or the way I ritually turn over my Snapple caps.  Am I really free?  The math just doesn't quite add up...


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ruminations on the now infamous Health Care Bill of 2010

I keep hearing variations of these phrases over and over in the discussion on health care:
  • "We cannot do nothing"
  • "Doing nothing is not an option"
  • "Even if this bill isn't really what we wanted, it's still better than doing nothing"
There's been a lot of articles about the cost of doing nothing.  And I mostly agree - things can't go on in the direction they're going.  We probably shouldn't do nothing as far as health care goes.  Of course, it seems odd that the number one priority of the American voter is the economy, and doing nothing is the very strategy being implemented to address those problems... but I digress.

As I was saying, I don't have any trouble with the statement that we cannot just do nothing - the problem I have is with the continuation of that statement - that what is being proposed now is somehow better than doing nothing.  I don't believe that's true.  Not for a second.  I believe that with our country facing record deficits, two wars, a disappearing job market, an out-of-control housing market, an insufficiently-regulated and poorly understood banking system, baby-boomers about to retire, and Iran making nuclear threats that are eventually going to force us to act - we are in for a world of hurt if we do the wrong thing here.  Doing nothing is actually a better option than doing the wrong thing.  And that's what I think this bill is in it's current state - the wrong thing.

Now, should we do something - yes.  There's no dispute.  Should it be the most pressing thing congress is doing now? Should Obama be the proverbial emperor Nero? Fiddling-with-Health-Care-as-Home-Burns? Well, lets forget all that. Lets just pretend for a minute that our country isn't in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and that unemployment isn't in double-digits; lets pretend we live in some alternate era where most rational people could agree with Health Care as the #1 priority on the docket.  Lets look at just a few of the problems with our Health Care system in this country in no particular order in a list that is far from exhaustive:


Some problems I see with our current health care system:

  • Health care costs are increasing at a rate vastly greater than inflation.  The rate is not sustainable.

  • The young and healthy are less likely to contribute to the system since they don't need to utilize the system.  And they have no way to invest in it in any reasonable way for the future when they will inevitably need more health care - you pay your premiums for a year and that's all there is to it.  No future thinking - this isn't a 401k.

  • Health care is often tied to your employment and subsidized as a benefit.  This means:

    1. Free-market principles don't work - consumers cannot shop around for comparable insurance - they either take what their employer subsidizes, or pay extravagant premiums for their own, or they go without and pay out-of-pocket.
    2. If you leave your job, you're all of a sudden without insurance.  You can do COBRA, but without the subsidy from your employer it's not worth the cost.  The only reason to do COBRA is if you have major medical expenses, or have a pre-existing condition where you fear having a gap in coverage.

  • Free-market principles don't work in the doctors office - the consumer is not knowledgeable about the cost of tests, labs, and procedures - nor do they know about their necessity, effectiveness, or alternatives.  Often, there's just a race to meet the deductible, and then all the real costs of health care get buried in insurance EOBs.
     
  • The quality of care and the knowledge of your doctors varies.  One doctor may order a bunch of unnecessary tests (hey, insurance pays, right!?) or recommend costly surgeries.  Another doc may treat with medications or non-surgical options.  Practicing medicine is sometimes an art, not just a science.  Some people are better at it than others.  Some are good docs, but are out of date.  Some run up a tab like it's an episode of House.

  • Big Pharma spends big dollars educating docs on the newest meds they sell - less costly generics may be just as good, but the docs don't always hear about those alternatives.

  • People don't understand their health care - it's often very confusing.  The Dr. is in a hurry, or the patient doesn't know what questions to ask.  This leads to misuse or non-use of medication, re-admission to the hospital, and all sorts of other costly health care incidents.

  • People self-refer to specialists (often the wrong one, so big $$$ wasted), or they use the ER or Urgent Care as their primary Dr. office.

  • Americans are (statistically speaking) fat and lazy which contributes to all sorts of health problems and costs.

  • Doctors don't (and often can't) easily share information.  Is that procedure duplicative?  Did that patient just have an MRI that is usable from last month?  ERMs (electronic medical records) are not ubiquitous by any stretch, and are still too costly for many small practices.

  • Many, many people are uninsured, or unisurable.  They're often poor, or very sick, or both.  The number being bandied about is 30 million.
...and I'm sure that you can think of 100 other problems with our health care system off the top of your head.


How many of these problems is the president even talking about, and how many of these will have solutions in this bill?  The one and only one appeal I've heard lately from the president is the last bullet point I mentioned above - we keep receiving the emotional appeal about the 30 million uninsured.  They're hell-bent on fixing that one, at a cost of who knows how much.

I'll be the first to admit that it's easier to be a critic than it is to create something of real value.  I don't envy those we've sent to Washington.  They're tackling an issue that, quite frankly, career politicians probably aren't qualified to understand.  The trouble is, they're unwilling to admit that they don't really understand the implications of what they're doing.  They keep saying "trust us", while we keep begging them to "please just listen to us".  Doing the wrong thing here will have more severe consequences than doing nothing.  At least with doing nothing, you're not under the delusion that you've made progress.  Of course, I'd much prefer that they do the right thing than nothing, but it's doubtful anyone can agree on what that even is.

Friday, March 12, 2010

.NET DST Calculator

I have a common .NET library written in C# that I use everywhere.  I call it mattmc3.Util, and it contains helper methods (static classes or extension methods) that correspond to Microsoft's BCL.  So, for example, I have a DateTimeHelper with static methods that corresponds to the System.DateTime class.  The DateTime class is one of the most anemic in the .NET library, mainly because MS has to deal with international customers, so methods like DateTime GetMemorialDay(int year) are too regional and clutter the BCL, but are essential in the American business world.

In honor of Daylight Savings Time beginning this weekend, I decided to post some code from my DateTimeHelper class.

First off, a little bit of helper code.
public enum Month {
   January = 1,
   February = 2,
   March = 3,
   April = 4,
   May = 5,
   June = 6,
   July = 7,
   August = 8,
   September = 9,
   October = 10,
   November = 11,
   December = 12
}

public enum WeekPlacement {
   First = 1,
   Second = 2,
   Third = 3,
   Fourth = 4,
   Last = 5
}

public static DateTime GetLastDayOfMonth(DateTime theDate) {
   int daysInMonth = DateTime.DaysInMonth(theDate.Year, theDate.Month);
   return new DateTime(theDate.Year, theDate.Month, daysInMonth);
}

Then, the workhorse method that does the calculations.
/// <summary>
/// This method calculates a date for you.  For example, Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday
/// of November, so you would call GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.Fourth, DayOfWeek.Thursday, Month.November, DateTime.Now.Year)
/// </summary>
public static DateTime GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement weekPlacement, DayOfWeek dayOfWeek, Month month, int year) {
   var result = DateTime.MinValue;
   var intMonth = (int)month;

   if (weekPlacement == WeekPlacement.Last) {
      result = GetLastDayOfMonth(new DateTime(year, intMonth, 1));
      while (result.DayOfWeek != dayOfWeek) {
         result = result.AddDays(-1);
      }
   }
   else {
      result = new DateTime(year, intMonth, 1);
      while (result.DayOfWeek != dayOfWeek) {
         result = result.AddDays(1);
      }

      var weeksToAdd = (int)weekPlacement - 1;
      result = result.AddDays(7 * weeksToAdd);
   }

   // Post condition
   if (result.DayOfWeek != dayOfWeek || result.Month != intMonth || result.Year != year) {
      result = DateTime.MinValue;
   }

   return result;
}

And finally, some of the methods that allow me to calculate holidays and other calendar events that are important for our business applications.
public static DateTime GetNewYearsDay(int year) {
   return new DateTime(year, 1, 1);
}

public static DateTime GetMemorialDay(int year) {
   return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.Last, DayOfWeek.Monday, Month.May, year);
}

public static DateTime GetIndependanceDay(int year) {
   return new DateTime(year, 7, 4);
}

public static DateTime GetLaborDay(int year) {
   return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.First, DayOfWeek.Monday, Month.September, year);
}

public static DateTime GetThanksgivingDay(int year) {
   return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.Fourth, DayOfWeek.Thursday, Month.November, year);
}

public static DateTime GetChristmasDay(int year) {
   return new DateTime(year, 12, 25);
}

public static DateTime GetDaylightSavingsTimeStart(int year) {
   if (year >= 2007) {
      // Second Sunday in March
      return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.Second, DayOfWeek.Sunday, Month.March, year);
   }
   else if (year >= 1987) {
      // First Sunday in April
      return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.First, DayOfWeek.Sunday, Month.April, year);
   }
   else {
      return DateTime.MinValue;
   }
}

public static DateTime GetDaylightSavingsTimeEnd(int year) {
   if (year >= 2007) {
      // First Sunday in November
      return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.First, DayOfWeek.Sunday, Month.November, year);
   }
   else if (year >= 1987) {
      // Last Sunday in October
      return GetCalculatedDate(WeekPlacement.Last, DayOfWeek.Sunday, Month.October, year);
   }
   else {
      return DateTime.MinValue;
   }
}

Enjoy! Spring is nearly here!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sharepoint WSS 3 search problem

I just spent 1/2 my morning troubleshooting a SharePoint issue that Google was absolutely no help in resolving.  Mainly because the user facing SharePoint error wasn't very good, and because I didn't recognize that my Google results weren't getting me to a valid solution.  Here's the scoop:

I finally convinced my team to evaluate SharePoint as a replacement for our Linux PM Wiki site. I have SharePoint WSS v3 up and running on our DEV box, with a DNS entry to it so that we can get to it via http://sharepoint.  Most everything about it worked correctly out of the box, except for the search feature.  When I tried to search the Wiki, I got a lovely error about my URL not being enabled for search that said something like "the system administrator may need to add a new request URL mapping to the intended application".  Let me just tell you I hate messages that send me to the sysadmin when I am the sysadmin and I have no idea what they're talking about.  Foolishly, I turned to Google instead of looking for a more detailed entry in the event log.  After a series of breaking and then figuring out how to fix a bunch of things that turned not to be at all related to the problem, I finally made it to the event log and found this:

The description for Event ID ( 8214 ) in Source ( Windows SharePoint Services 3 ) cannot be found. The local computer may not have the necessary registry information or message DLL files to display messages from a remote computer. You may be able to use the /AUXSOURCE= flag to retrieve this description; see Help and Support for details. The following information is part of the event: A request was made for a URL, http://sharepoint, which has not been configured in Alternate Access Mappings.  Some links may point to the Alternate Access URL for the default zone, http://dev01.  Review the Alternate Access mappings for this Web application at http://dev01:6204/_admin/AlternateUrlCollections.aspx and consider adding http://sharepoint as a Public Alternate Access URL if it will be used frequently.  Help on this error: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=114854.

Finally!  I followed the directions and searching now works on our WSS wiki... but lesson learned - I take it for granted that Google is my first line of defense.  While that's not a bad default, I would have saved myself a bunch of time, effort, frustration, and pain by recognizing sooner that thousands of Google hits on my various searches do not necessarily mean I can find the solution there - unless I had a better error message, Google just wasn't going to be the right tool for this job.

Mainly I'm bogging this in the hopes that someone else out there who makes my mistake will find this in their Google search results and then it won't be a mistake anymore.  Adding one more result for the search engine that will someday become Skynet...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where moth and rust destroy

Confession time.  Something I never really knew about myself until I became a parent is that I lose my cool over the destruction of property.  There is no faster way to make me mad than when my kids mistreat furniture, or break something, or make a mess for someone else to clean up.  In my house, the saying there's no use crying over spilled milk ought to be there's no use making someone else cry over spilling their milk.

There were small signs that I had trouble with this - immediately after we purchased our house, we re-carpeted the place.  I yelled at my own father for declining to take off his shoes when he came over to visit.  Recently, Ian threw a high-bounce ball in the kitchen after being told not to, and it exploded into a full cup of juice on the counter.  It was everywhere... floor to ceiling.  We were finding missed droplets for hours afterward.  I stayed upstairs while my pregnant wife dealt with it initially because my blood would just have boiled.  I'm not really a hot-headed person in general, but this issue gets to me.

Take today - this morning, I came into work and discovered that some raucous behavior had taken place in the office last night - everyone in the office found little piles of mulch on their desks and the floor of the bathrooms, there was soap foaming in the atrium fountain, and confetti on the floors.  I was irritated and disappointed in my co-workers, but not nearly so much as the guys out cleaning the fountain were.  Then, I come to find out that my wife has to talk to Ian's teacher today because he disobeyed direct instructions from his teacher and ruined some classroom materials, all to get some laughs from his peers.  Wait until I get home tonight, buddy!  You're writing your teacher a full apology letter.

I look at these incidents and like to feel justified in my righteous anger over the blatant disrespect for other people and their property.  But as I look deeper into myself, I think there's a little more to it than that for me.  I think I am in love with stuff.  Property.  Ownership.  Newness.  Not like the keep-up-with-the-Jones' kind of behavior.  That's much more easily identifiable as a problem. My issue is I often act like I value material objects and their condition over the condition of people.  A more subtle (and serious) variant.

During one of his talks in the Peacemaker series, Ken Sande uses Bill Gates as an example.  He tells a fictional story of Bill going into a meeting one morning and acting surly and treating his co-workers poorly.  When asked what was wrong - Mr. Gates, one of the richest men in the world, replied that he had lost a nickle on the way to work.  How absurd!  Ken's point is that through the redemptive power of Christ, we have all the riches in the universe, and that all these material things we care so much about are just nickles in comparison.  My wise and wonderful wife has adopted this into her daily vocabulary - reminding us both constantly of the worthless nickels we keep focusing so intently on.

The bible reminds us that things of this earth are temporal, and that it's other people that we need to value the most.  Matthew 6:19-21 says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Lord, grant me the wisdom to recognize the nickles I place so much value on so that I can turn from them and see what's really valuable.  Give me a heart to love other people.  Move my anger and frustration aside when my children act as all children do, and help me to teach them the value of hard work and respect for others.  Thank you for your everlasting patience with me, renewed daily.

H2O

How short sighted of this family's local government. This family is doing the right thing in a responsible way, and the laws in their city have restricted their personal liberty.  This comment on the story seemed pretty insightful to me too.  I don't understand why we've moved towards this "zero tolerance" society with little regard for common sense or common decency.  What ever happened to a government by the people, for the people?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Awkward

My workplace is really big on doing up every life event for its employees.  Baby showers, funeral flowers, birthdays, going away parties - the works.  I'm the sort of person that likes to maintain solid work/life boundaries.  I care about my co-workers, and it's touching that they care about me too - but I struggle with knowing how to ask that we maintain healthy boundaries.  I somehow managed to escape any hoopla for my 30th birthday - perhaps because I was only there for less than a year when that event occurred.  However, today I had to address the issue of a baby shower head on.  Awkward.

Beth and I couldn't possibly be more thrilled to be having our first daughter.  What a joy God has granted us!  He answered our most fervent prayers and the deepest desires of our heart.  Our lives will be forever changed.  But, as far as material things go, we have everything we could possibly need.  And as far as parties go, the lower key the better.  Beth's closest friends are going to do something really nice for her, and that's really exciting for us.  But, for my workplace to do something for Beth and have people who don't really know her feel obligated to come and bring gifts just seems wrong to me.  Even if they think they want to, it makes me very uncomfortable.  Am I just overly sensitive?  Is this the sort of thing I should just shut-up and bear, knowing that the intentions are good?  Or is it better for me to have been honest like I was and spoil their fun by putting the kabosh on it early?  How do you kindly let people know that the way they like to express caring towards you isn't really all that caring in your eyes?  Is it better to just fake it - to pretend they're accomplishing their goal all the while having the opposite impact?  That somehow doesn't seem right to me - if their intention is to show caring, isn't it less selfish to express how you really feel knowing you're disappointing them versus hiding the fact and just going along with it with the intent to show them caring back?

Pop quiz, hotshot! - the answer

In yesterday's pop quiz, I gave you four card combos that have special significance.  They were:


J♣ 55♠ 5 + 5♣
J 5♣ 5♠ 5 + 5
J♠ 5♣ 5 5 + 5♠
J 5♣ 5 5♠ + 5


The answer is that these combos are the four perfect hands in the game of cribbage, each worth the maximum of 29 points.  Using the first hand, we would count it like so:

J♣ 5 - 15/2
J♣ 5 - 15/4
J♣ 5 - 15/6
J♣ 5 - 15/8
5♣ 55♠ - 15/10
5♣ 55 - 15/12
5♣ 5 5 - 15/14
55♠ 5- 15/16
5♣ 55♠ 5- Four of a kind for 12 making 28 (which is really just means 6 pairs at 2 points each)
J♣ + 5♣ - and nobs (or nubs as we say in our family) for 29

There are 12,994,800 possible hands in cribbage. The chances of getting one of these four hands in a two person game is 1 in 216,580.  My grandfather once told me he had seen the hand, but I don't recall how many times he said he had seen it or if he had gotten it himself.  Still, all I can think of is that that would require playing a lot of cribbage.  At 10 hands per game with two people playing, that's 20 hands seen per game.  It takes about 20 minutes to play, so statistically speaking, you'd have to play 10,829 games to see one perfect hand, for a total of 3610 hours of game play.  That's a lot of cribbage.  I ordered the same board grandpa and I used to play on, and played my first 'open' hand with Ian (6) this weekend.  Maybe by the time I'm 84 I'll have seen the hand too.