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31 December 2007

Life with Xbox 360

For those of you who care to know the outcome: I went with the Xbox 360 over the PS3. I read a lot of reviews, talked with friends and then flipped a coin...

It took a while to acquire it since there was a Xbox drought in our area for a good week over Christmas. But after numerous phone calls and a short drive south of town - I finally found one.

Current Games: Forza2/Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (came with the system), Halo3 and Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

Next in line: Call of Duty 4 (for sure), NHL08, Tiger Woods PGA 08 and hopefully a cool RPG someday, like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (currently only for PS3).

Love so far: The media server functionality is nice. I have the Zune software on my desktop and it acts as the interface for getting pictures, music and video to the Xbox. Streams fast with minimal lag time.

Worries me a bit: Connecting my gamertag to my Windows Live ID has proven a bit stressing. It says my current Live ID is already connected to an Xbox. Had to create a new one - which just isn't the best way to do it. Probably a quick fix - just can't find the answer.

Not much to say other than that. Looking forward to learning to play better and having fun watching my 5 year old daughter show me how to operate the Jedi in the Star Wars game...

27 December 2007

Tis' the Season for Family

I was looking through the hundreds of pictures we took this Christmas - looking for ones that were "blogworthy" - when I came across these two. They aren't funny. They aren't exciting in and of themselves, but they are perfect summaries of what took place.

This picture gives you a good shot of the chaos that ensued Christmas morning. This was after one good cleaning - preparing for Papa and Uncle Ryan to come over for round two. The floor was covered in paper and presents for the majority of the morning. Little kids love lots of presents, and I keep telling myself to enjoy it. After all, when the get older they'll each open two or three presents - each costing an arm or a leg :)

The other thing that "happened to us" this Christmas involved music. It started with Allison wanting a Hannah Montana guitar, and ended with Rachel asking for drums at the last minute. Throw in a tambourine for Tyler and our house has been filled with beautiful music.

Here is Rachel on the drums, Allison on the guitar and Tyler (off camera) with the tambourine...

Gotta love it.

20 December 2007

Desktop Wallpaper

WDC Wallpaper: Click this picture to get full size image. Then right click on large version to see options for saving or making it your desktop wallpaper.I like a dark background for my desktops so I created this the other day. It's 1680x1050 to handle the typical widescreen monitor. But it's also pretty easy to crop if you need 4:3.

I'm Game (Finally)

The last real video game I played was The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was a two dimensional RPG that led you through a virtual world full of people, strange creatures and one evil villain. You had a sword, a couple bombs and a bow to fight with. There were puzzles to complete and riddles to figure out along the way. It was fun - seriously...

Since then I have done other things like grad school, psychotherapy, writing, web design, middle management, chess and stuff like that.

During my little break, video games have come out of the dark ages. Gone is the two dimensional look. Now you feel like you're actually in the game. Controllers respond to gravity and position and can offer feedback through vibration - all adding to the experience. But I still had no desire to get back into the game - until I realized that my other passion (all things HD) was on a collision course with the gaming consoles.

I've had my eye on Blu-ray disc players for a while now. They typically run $400 to $500 dollars. But then I realized you get a Blu-ray player inside the PS3 - for $399!

To me this is a no-brainer. I can get a Blu-ray player and a gaming system for the same price as a stand alone Blu-ray player.

Enter the dilemma: Everyone I know has the XBox 360 - which doesn't come with a Blu-ray player. One other piece of information: I'm not really interested in playing the multi-player games online (which is what all my friends do with Halo 3).

So what is the right choice?

  • PS3 ($399.00) Gets me my Blu-ray player, great gaming system, bigger hard drive.
  • XBox 360 ($349.00 or you can add an HD DVD player for $180.00) Gets me the ability to play Halo 3 (and probably a few other games) online with my friends. I have a Zune so it would be compatible with the XBox 360.

Any ideas?

Let the games begin!

16 December 2007

Openings @ SCBC in Texas

I don't typically do this, but the team at Sugar Creek contacted us the other day and asked if we had any leads on good applicants for the following positions. If interested give them a call.

14 December 2007

Are You as Passionate as Romeo and Juliet?

I was watching a documentary on the production of the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano the other day and I couldn't help but be awed by the level of precision and attention to detail that goes into the car.

For starters, it takes over two months to build one of these cars. A large team of craftsman working together to build thousands of parts, each created with a level of precision that boggles the mind.

Most everything is done by hand except for things that are more efficiently done by robot. For example, I watched the robot install all 12 valve guides into a cylinder head and then cold soak it – all in a matter of what seemed like a couple of minutes. Robot picks up guide, dips it in liquid nitrogen, head is heated to expand slightly. Guide is precisely inserted by robot, repeat 12 times – drop entire head into cold water to seat everything... [more]
The quote above describes what I saw in the documentary. Ferrari has developed a set of robots (called Romeo and Juliet) that work in tandem to "marry" two parts that play an integral role in the overall performance of the car. One part is dipped in liquid nitrogen while the other is heated. This changes the size of the parts so that when they are joined and dropped in water, they actually fuse themselves together. This ensures the parts can endure the extreme heat and friction created in the powerful engine.

All that to ask this: Are we as passionate about what we create as Ferrari is about their automobiles?

In other words, do we fall for the lie?:
It's for the church so the expenditures must be low and the quality shouldn't matter.
Or are we the Ferrari of the church world? Do we create Romeo and Juliet applications that turn our ministry from ordinary to extraordinary? Do we value our product (message) enough to tirelessly choose innovation over tradition?

I'm inspired by what we could do in the church today if we took Ferrari's approach to precision in the smallest of things.

What couldn't we do?

10 December 2007

In a Pinch with Attendance on a Snowy Day

Problem: It's a Saturday. The forecast calls for severe winter weather during the night. And you want as many people as possible to be able to attend the three services scheduled for Sunday morning.

What would you do? Business as usual? Pray for better weather? Just accept that what happens, happens?

Or would you be willing to try something outside the box?

Opportunity: This is exactly what happened last weekend. And we decided to step out of the box. Instead of waiting until Monday morning to put up the streaming version of the message, we transcoded the 7:30 service Saturday night and had it uploaded by 3 a.m.

Next, a short email was sent to our enews mailing list letting people know if they were unable to make it to church, they could watch it online (on Sunday).

Kudos: Since this wasn't my decision, I can say (without being arrogant) that I thought it was very insightful. Those making the decision took the time to think outside the box, allow technology to solve a problem and in doing so endorse an element of our ministry that has been growing in popularity since it was introduced in January of this year.

The Stats: So this is how it all shook out with the streaming version of the message:

  • Total page views on Sunday: 881 (compared to 237 the previous Sunday and 528 the previous Monday which is typically the first day the new message is available)
  • Total page views from Sunday and Monday: 1672 (942 on Monday and Tuesday of the previous week)

07 December 2007

Do You Have an Anal Retentive Chef?

Watch SNL Video Clip on JibJabBack in the glory days of SNL there was a skit called the Anal Retentive Chef. Idea being, the chef was so obsessive compulsive that he couldn't get the recipe completed. And while we laughed and poked fun at this guy, some of us (me included) also resonated with his attention to detail.

Now don't get me wrong, too much attention to detail is detrimental and typically ends in a failure to deliver.
But if there is no one on your team that's a little OCD (perfectionistic, pays attention to detail, rigid, anal retentive, etc.) there is no way you'll deliver with excellence.
Our department is "teaming" with such individuals. But we recently hired someone whose attention to detail has taken us to the next level. I'm not going to tell you her name (it rhymes with Sheena Diller) otherwise you might try to steal her.

From the moment she came on staff our quality control process has been revamped and our sites are running smoother and cleaner than ever before. Its fun to see her question the current reality, test the processes and suggest that things be changed for the good of the end user.

Do you have someone on your team like this? If not, start looking.

Thanks for all you do Jeanna...

06 December 2007

Take a Better Look Around

Traditional "religious" upbringings can do crazy things to your world view. And I was no exception. I saw people through the good/bad filter for years - and still struggle with it at times. You know, where you write people off as not being Christians because you see them sin, or because they cuss a lot, or in some way live out their spiritual life differently than you?

Well, over the years I have matured a bit and realized just how different people really are. Sure there is a big difference between Christians and those choosing to go the opposite direction. But there is also a huge difference between people inside the church. You have the drinkers and the non-drinkers, the naive and not so naive, those that hold their tongues and those that let it rip, the happy and the depressed, the humorous and the up tight. And the list goes on and on.

But this is exactly what Jesus dealt with on earth. Take the disciples for example. One had severe anger problems. One let anxiety and doubt get the best of him. And two were so into themselves that they fought over which one would sit next to Jesus when He became king. And these were the cream of the crop!

Amazing! And herein lies the key for me. The disciples in all their glory experienced each others inadequacies, and yet at any given moment could look each other in the eye and take heart in knowing they were walking the same direction. They had the same goal. They were following the King and were part of the greatest revolution this earth has ever known.

So this is my new filter. Understanding that we're all different (including me) but at any given time the cool thing is two Christians that look and act totally different can lock eyes and know they are walking toward the same God. That's liberating...

02 December 2007

Analyze Your Blog for Shelf Life

A while back I posted on what a rating scale might look like for "blogworthiness." The BlogWorthiness Rating Scale (BWRS) as I called it was a way to categorize blog posts on things like the following:

  • Significance: If the post appears significant or insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
  • Relevance: If the post is relevant or irrelevant to the reader.
  • Impact: If the post has the power to inspire/uplift the reader or if it is damaging/harmful to the reader.
  • Validity: If the post is fact, opinion or completely inaccurate.

But there's another thing we can look at when it comes to blogging. For lack of a more imaginative term let's just call it "Shelf Life." In other words, how many people read it? How often do they read it? How long will they read it? Would they recommend someone else read it? Is the content rich enough to keep people coming back?

Maybe it looks something like this:

5 Read Religiously: Your blog has just the right combination of functionality, fact and fun. It hits the mark with your intended audience, is well written and has just enough of the real you in it to keep them wanting more.

4 A Literary Masterpiece: Your blog serves as your literary playground. You put pen to paper (or pixel to html page in this case) and people can't help but read, because it flows, inspires and should really be in a dusty old book too.

3 A Fun Distraction: Your blog definitely doesn't solve world hunger, but it's so funny that people keep coming back just to escape reality.

2 Too Little Too Late: Your blog may have started strong, but its either missing important elements or after a period of consistent blogging you backed off to the point where people stopped checking in.

1 A Flash in the Pan: Your blog may have started strong and then fizzled, it may have been missing so many important elements that people unsubscribed, there may have been too many posts for people to keep up with or maybe it just wasn't relevant to the average person.

Nothing scientific, I know, but it's just the way my brain works. Think big picture and the rest falls into place...

Our Battle is Screen Time

Lest we forget. Being part of a communications team at a church is NOT your typical 9 to 5. We don't just oversee communication strategy, keep the website running, create eye catching print pieces, etc.

We're knee deep in the battle. You know, the one between good and evil? This struggle that has been raging between God and Satan since our world began?

Our role in this battle is to promote a "product" if you will, developed by the "good" side. And its so much more than a Nike employee trying to communicate to the world that their product is better than a competitors product. I mean a shoe is a shoe. But when people's lives are at stake...

So when I run across websites like divorce360 I recognize our opponents handiwork work for what it is - an intentional battle strategy - meant to lure people to the side of "evil." And I again dig in for the battle. A renewed passion. A renewed vision.

In our line of work (specifically web development at a church) its all about Screen Time. With all the negative stuff out there we need to do everything in our power to offer the "good" alternative. To let people know there is hope. And to help people find the Truth amidst so many lies online.

Like I said, "Not your typical 9 to 5."