I love the smell of ignorance in the morning

I woke up this morning to find a rather interesting comment on yesterday’s post about Christmas. My first instinct was to delete it, with all the other spam I get. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to approve it. Finally it struck me that the author had put so much thought into it, that I couldn’t just let it sit in obscurity, buried under a post. This comment deserved to be seen by everyone. Here’s what they had to say…
Maybe you should go back to Canada since you don’t like America very much, except for the job you took away from an American.
Signed: A Proud American, from WA
Now there are so many problems with this comment, that I hardly know where to begin. I do have to point out that this comment was in reply to a post about Christmas. Apparently the commenter believed that by leaving the States and returning to Canada, I would be able to escape the stresses of Christmas. Perhaps they weren’t aware that we have Christmas in Canada too. Granted, the traffic isn’t as bad because we’re all on dog sleds, and a Christmas tree doesn’t fit in the average igloo. But we have plenty of pine trees (those being the only kind that can grow in the extreme cold up there) that we can hide our presents under.
In fact, Christmas is a mostly global phenomenon — you might be surprised to learn that Christ wasn’t even born in America. He was actually born in Bethlehem, in what we know today as Israel. His birth is celebrated around the world.
Speaking of global phenomenon, my employer is also global. I got the job in Canada, and could have chosen to work out of the Edmonton office, if I’d wanted. I decided against it though, because I was sick of wearing snow shoes all the time, and wanted to see what living in a first world country would be like. I guess you could argue that I stole my cubicle from an American — but you’d have to convince the two Asians on either side of me about that first.
Which reminds me, I needed to ask, what generation immigrant are you? Second, or third? Perhaps your family came over on the Mayflower, and you can proudly proudly trace your lineage back to the first people to steal this land from its original inhabitants — when they were done conquering and displacing them, that is.
After a brief look at history and understanding that, save for the Native Americans, 100% of your citizens are immigrants or descended directly from immigrants — my own son being an American citizen himself and having as much claim to this country as you — it would seem that temporarily working here under a legitimate NAFTA Visa would be one of the most innocuous forms of “immigration” imaginable.
Finally (only because I’m restraining myself here), I need to make clear that I don’t hate America. I’m opposed to its current war, and not in favor of its current President — but I’m in good company, as 61% of your countrymen are opposed to the war, and 71% of you disapprove of your President along with me. Aside from those things, and the declining US Dollar (which is no fault of mine), we actually quite like this place. As I pointed out, not two days ago, mostly you folks are pretty great people… Mostly.

Why I Love Apple

It could be because of the elegant and daring industrial design.
It could be because of the legends surrounding the development of the little Mac that changed everything.
It could be the culture of “thinking differently.”
It could be because of the tight integration of software and hardware that ensures that everything “just works” the way you expect it.
Or it could be because of the insanely great customer service.
I’ve been having a few troubles with my iPhone lately. The headphone sensor got really confused, and the built-in speaker wouldn’t work anymore — for calls, or for music. Along with that, I had a couple other small complaints that could have been firmware glitches (from my adventures in hacking) or could have been genuine defects.
Whatever the cause, by 6:15 this evening, I had enough. I hopped online and made an appointment at the Apple Store’s “Genius Bar” for 7:15. By 7:25 I had a brand new iPhone.
Of course I restored my original handset to the non-hacked Apple firmware — although they could have proved I’d hacked it if they’d taken more than a cursory look. But they didn’t hassle me with that. I explained my problems while the “Genius” nodded along. He started to clean the headphone port with compressed air, then seem to think better of that, given my explanations, and instead opened a drawer full of iPhones. He pulled out a box, opened it, and swapped out my SIM card, and handed me a new phone.
He didn’t ask for my receipt. He didn’t give me the third degree. He didn’t examine it for signs of “abuse” (typically retailers look for any excuse to refuse warranty service). He didn’t ask me about my usage habits, or if I’d installed “unsupported software.” He didn’t even send it away for 3 weeks for servicing. Instead, he heard my issues and resolved them immediately, in a way that was beyond expectations.
The best part? A friend of mine managed to scratch my iPhone the week after I bought it, and that scratch, although tiny, had always bugged me. Now I have a brand-new, scratch-free handset, which I will never let Tara touch.

I Hate Christmas, 2007 Edition

For the last few years, around this time, I’ve ranted about how much I hate the Christmas season — not Christmas itself, just the season surrounding it. This year, I think I’ve finally pinpointed why.
Of course there’s the gaudy lights, and monotonous Christmas carols.
And obviously Christmas usually brings with it snow and slush and generally stressful road conditions, which, given the amount of traveling we do by car, certainly adds to my dislike of this time of year.
But today I figured out that the real reason I hate Christmas is the traffic.
Car traffic, foot traffic, whatever. Christmas brings out the worst in drivers — and it brings out the worst drivers.
I noticed on my way to lunch today (for which I have to drive around the biggest mall in the area) that there was an unusually high number of white-haired drivers, drifting between lanes, stopping for nearly a full minute at every four-way-stop or yield sign, and driving at half the speed limit or less. See, these folks don’t usually drive. The only reason they’re on the roads at all is their obligation to buy gifts for their grandchildren. For some of them, this may be the only time of year that they get into a car. And they’re scared, and confused.
And on top of that there’s the “herd factor.” Here’s my theory: the stupidity of a crowd is directly proportional to its size. A couple hundred people in a mall at once is a manageable level of stupidity. But jam a few thousand in there, and suddenly everyone becomes cattle. They bump into each other, they wander aimlessly, and they generally frustrate anyone who has an idea what they’re doing.
See if you want to go to lunch, or do some shopping at Christmas time, you have to get through the herd of stupid people milling around — on the roads or in the stores. Your best bet is to maintain your focus on your mission: get in and get out. But most of the crowd has been there long enough that their intelligence has dropped sharply to herd levels, and they will inexplicably cut you off, run you over, bump into you, or stop dead in front of you, at the worst times.
Panic ensues as your own intelligence begins to wane, and if it doesn’t get replaced with aimlessness, it becomes rage. Rage that your 5-minute jog out for lunch is now up to 25 minutes — and you’re not even at the restaurant yet. Rage that running into the mall to buy a pack of CDs or something else equally simple is now a 2-3 hour trip. Rage that it takes twice as long to get to work at 7:30 in the morning, and three times as long to get home in the afternoon.
How is this conducive to Christmas-cheer? How does this make anyone happy?
Give me a quiet, reverent two-day celebration of the birth of Christ, restrict any gift-buying to online purchases, and ban all crowds and all people who can’t drive, and I’ll stop being a Scrooge…
PS: Just for the record, Nicole loves Christmas, and I am the only Grinch in the family.

Fenway Park

A stumbling economy. Thousands dead in a war with no end started for questionable motives. And a government eroding its own constitution…
But then a moment like this happens at a baseball game, and reminds you that this is still an incredible country, and that most of its citizens are actually pretty wonderful people:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhcZRFcjbhw&w=425&h=355]
It was Disability Awareness day and the folks at Fenway did a lot of great things for kids with challenges..here is one who sang and when he got nervous the Fenway Faithful helped him out.

Hot or Not?

A couple new things on the site for you to check out:
– Posts can now be rated. After the whole ClickComments fiasco, I’m a little gun-shy about putting this up, but this plug-in prevents multiple clicks from the same user, so hopefully this will be more useful for actual feedback. As before, this is for all of you out there (you know who you are) who read the posts, but keep your thoughts on them to yourself. Now you can let us know what you think without having to actually write a comment.

– The Flickr feed is updating with some pictures from Thanksgiving, and other fall events — as sparse as they may be.
– Here’s a video we put together of Benjamin doing a couple of his favorite things: wandering around the house, and watching the bathtub fill up. Its from the digi-cam, not the crappy camcorder, so although the white balance is better, the frame-rate sucks and I had to do massive adjustments to the audio to make it sound like we weren’t shooting the video inside a jet engine. Not our best work, but I figured I’d get it up there for the grandparents…
http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=259765678816848325&hl=en

Standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand

So I got a call from my good friend, Jon Bates, tonite. 3 calls actually, but I was in a movie, so I didn’t hear a single one of them (it was Beowulf, not bad, but not that great either). He’s been on a submarine for a week, and they’d returned to port for the night, so he was making his calls. He doesn’t have a cell phone while at sea, so he was calling from a pay phone using a calling card, and on his last attempt, he had given up getting a hold of me. That was at 9:15.
At 9:47 I got out of the movie, and checked my messages. I was totally bummed that I’d missed his call — knowing I wouldn’t likely hear from him again until January when his sub returned, but given how he was calling, I knew there was nothing I could do.
Then, as I was getting in the car to leave, I randomly decided that I’d call back the number anyway, just to see what happened. On the first ring, someone picked up with a curious “Hello?”
It was Jon, and get this: the pay phone had no ringer! He had just happened to pick up the handset at that exact moment to make another call! What are the odds of that?
Anyway, life on a submarine sounds very interesting — about what you’d imagine from having seen movies, save for the complete lack of non-stop action. That, and apparently they get really good food.
So, a random chance connection with a pay phone in Hawaii, and a couple nice meals with our good friends Jason and Brooke managed to salvage what was set to be a rather lonely Thanksgiving weekend. Thank God for good friends and little miracles!

Things to consider when debating whether or not to have children:

#1 – Forget having nice stuff
It may seem worthwhile to have an HD-TV… but the picture doesn’t really look that good when the screen is perpetually covered with grimy little hand prints.
And that sleek universal remote you’ve got that controls your entire home theater? It doesn’t work as well when a little monster chews the buttons until half of them don’t work.
As for your cutting edge laptop with a high-res 14.1″ display… well it doesn’t look nearly as cool when its covered with snot and caked-on bits of Cheerios…

More Raving about Babylon 5

OK, I know most people aren’t into sci-fi like Nic and I are… but I’m telling you, there has never, in the history of television, been anything like this show!
We just watched an episode, midway through season 3, that was seeded by an episode near the middle of season 1. All the pieces for this season-defining two-parter that we’re watching now, were put into place in a cute, but somewhat ambiguous, little episode written two years previous.
J. Michael Straczynski‘s writing makes George Lucas look like a remedial English student. Babylon 5 makes Star Wars look like a children’s story. This is the most intricate and ingenious TV series — possibly even story — ever weaved…

The Possibility and Promise

I woke up this morning, near my usual time, slightly before 7. Benjamin was crying, so I gave him his 7:00 bottle a few minutes early, then went to take my shower. Usually he drinks that and then goes back to sleep until 8 or so, while Nic gets some beauty rest. This morning, though, by the time I got out of the shower he was fussing again, and by the time I got my pants on, he was crying loudly. Frustrated, and mad that he was waking Nicole up, I went back in and changed his diaper, calmed him down, and put him back in his crib with his unfinished bottle. The second I walked away, he started screaming again. It crossed my mind that if I opened the window and set him outside, it would be a lot quieter and I could finish getting ready for work… but I picked him back up, sat down in the rocking chair, and tried again to get him back to sleep.
Nothing worked, and finally I just brought him in to lay beside Nic so I could do my stretches and get out the door. A few minutes later, Nic had given up on sleep and let him down to play. As I was putting my shoes on, I heard a little giggle, followed by the clumping of not-quite-coordinated feet, as Benjamin ran out to find me. I gave him a hug, and put him down to leave, and he started crying again. Nic picked him up and we held him between us until he clambered back into my arms, whining to be held by daddy.
I was in such a hurry to leave for work — which isn’t even that great a destination — that I didn’t understand what his problem was this morning. It turns out, my son just wanted to be held by his dad.

As I drove to the office, I passed a little girl standing in front of her house, waiting for her bus. The weather was an ugly hybrid of various kinds of precipitation. The ground was covered in a thin layer of white, as if it were snow, but when it hit your windshield it clicked sharply like hail, then melted instantly and soaked everything like rain. I couldn’t imagine how it must have felt for her, a hood barely covering her head, a grimace on her face as she bravely stared into it, looking through the mist for her school bus.
I had to wonder where her daddy was. This was someone’s little princess, someone’s precious daughter. She was in front of a nice house, in a nice neighbourhood. But she was alone. With no one to defend her against the elements, and no one to stand with her as she waited for life to sweep her away.

A few weeks ago I was in a Dunkin Donuts, getting my caffeine fix. As I waited in line, I noticed a very large man, squeezed into a chair in front of a table. He was one of those body-builder types, and he was so large that he made the furniture look like toys. He wasn’t fat, or sloppy. Rather, he was well dressed, handsome, and obviously in great shape. And he was listening with rapt attention to the blond beauty across the table from him.
She was maybe 6 or 7, clearly his daughter, and they were out on a date. She was talking animatedly about her day at school, her feet swinging back and forth under the chair. And he sipped the little coffee clutched in his giant hand, and hung on her every word.
I wanted to go up and pat him on the back, or thank him, or shake his hand — I might have, except I was scared he might break me in half. I wanted him to know what I’ve seen, in the kids we’ve met in our years in ministry. I wanted him to know that his love for her would make all the difference as she became a teenager and then a young lady. I wanted him to know that there was one little kid who would grow up knowing that she was special; that she had value, and a purpose in life.

Yesterday an old friend from elementary school IMed me to let me know that one of our classmates was back in the hospital — her second bout with cancer. She won the first battle, but this time its not looking that good.
She and I aren’t close, but we shared similar childhoods, even went to the same church. She went to high school with Nic, and actually had a little part in setting Nicole and I up, a decade ago.
We’re 27. We’re just now coming into our own: getting married, starting families, taking leadership in our careers and churches. What if she doesn’t get any of those things? She started in the same place as we did, with the same foundation and the same value. But her story contains chapters no one can control, and that she could never have planned for or strategized around.

Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we stand in cruel weather, waiting for a future that we can’t ever really be ready for. But if you have a family, or some good friends, or a partner who will stand in the rain with you, or hold you, or listen to you, then you have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
And if you don’t, I hope you know your Father in heaven won’t ever let you go.