Today's "Corporate Emo Poetry" is brought to you by a Five Iron Frenzy song called Giants.
When no one looks the clouds come rolling in,
And under darkened skies the buildings grow big teeth and eyes.
They breathe and walk through unending doors,
Eating restaurants, and barbershops, and hardware stores.
With catch phrases and jingles stealing,
Steel and concrete lies,
The corridors of Babylon are craning for the skies.
Who's behind the curtain anyway,
Who pulls the levers and tells the lies?
Giants roam the land today,
Gaining dominance with every stride.
Oh don't you cry for the mom and pops,
Nothing but dry eyes for integrity's demise.
Hulking machines grind as whistles blow,
Corporate Darwinism crushes everything below.
Advances in efficiency increasing productivity,
Are narrowing the margin for liberty.
This house is haunted by the ghost of Adam Smith,
The Wealth of Nations and the further death of innocence.
To rule the world, the desire of every man,
The earth is shaking,
There are giants in the land.
See the blood red sun is rising,
On the broken carnage from the darkest days.
Giants locked together arm and arm,
Pushing all the meek out of the way.
I haven't posted a "One-a-Day" in a while, but decluttering is still near and dear to me. This is a huge pile of toys (and a box of computer parts and cables) from our Spring Fling this weekend. This is the result of having kids who never want to get rid of anything! No idea where they get that from...
Life On Hold:
Have you ever been at a point where you know you need to change, but you just don't know where to start? Four years ago, I was at that point.
I had recently moved back to my home town, had a beautiful family, and was pretty much happy. Except that I wasn't happy. I was pretty miserable in fact, but I wasn't letting on. Why? Some of the reasons were related to my job, but a lot of it had to do with me being 40+ pounds overweight. I was weighing in at 5' 11" and 215 pounds.
"That's not so bad," you're probably thinking. Well, no, relatively speaking, there are a lot of people that are a lot heavier than I was. But the reality was that I knew my life, and my weight, were spiraling out of control. I was always tired, having digestion issues, sinus problems, sleep apnea, and I plowed through it, being miserable and pretty much always exhausted.
But I knew there was a better way. Thanks to my friend Mike, I got interested in whole foods (which I knew practically nothing about) and realized how much garbage I was putting into my body. Somewhere in that time, my job started getting very frustrating. I was hating going to work, and I'm ashamed to say it carried over into my home life. I knew I needed a change, but I didn't know where to start.
So, I bought a bike.
In retrospect, it wasn't a very good bike... it was an aluminum mountain bike from a large box-goods store. It worked, and I started riding it. At first, five miles hurt. Then it wasn't so bad, so I did ten. That hurt. Then it wasn't so bad, so I worked up to fifteen.
I wasn't very fast, so riding 15 miles took me over an hour. But I kept at it. I started getting up early, before work, and riding for an hour. I did that almost every day, for about two months. I started realizing that I felt better, but I still wasn't losing weight.
I got some street tires for it, and started riding it more. I put lights on it, and started riding before daylight. I put in more time on the bike. But I still wasn't losing weight.
That's when all the information about nutrition I had researched came back to me. I decided I needed to cut way back on my calorie intake. The only way to do this, however, is to make sure you eat very nutritious foods to make sure you stay healthy... when you're overweight, your body acts like it's hungry not because it needs energy, but because it needs nutrition. I had to learn what foods were filled with vitamins and healthy things, but didn't have a lot of calories. As it turns out, my body had plenty of calories stored up, waiting to be burned.
Let me insert this here: "diet" foods are low in calories, but they are also very low in nutrition. Stay away from them! Stick to natural, unprocessed/whole/organic foods. You know... the way God designed them.
Only after I fixed my diet did I begin to see pounds dropping off at a noticeable rate. I went down to about 1000 calories a day (yes, really). I made sure to eat salads, fruit, beans, unprocessed lean meats, and more salads. I cut out all soft drinks and coffee, and switched to hot green tea. I ate sugarless cereal, unsalted nuts, and all natural everything. All natural was good; USDA certified organic was even better. I cut out all preservatives, all additives, all sweeteners. Yes, all of them.
Eventually, I realized how ridiculous it was for me to get up, ride for an hour, and then get in my car to go to work. Why couldn't I kill two birds with one stone, and ride to work? So I did. I got some panniers (saddlebags, basically) and began riding to work about three times a week on average, depending on weather, and so on. I would ride another 40-60 miles on Saturday every other week. I was knocking out 100 miles a week average, almost 500 miles a month. I started dropping 2-3 pounds a week. After three months, I had lost a solid 30 pounds and showed no signs of slowing down.
I found out that as I lost weight, I had more energy during the day, my sleep apnea (and snoring!) disappeared, I gradually got to where I could taste artificial ingredients in food because I wasn't used to them any more. I could tell when my sugar level got too low, and would eat a handful of something to tide me over. Our grocery bills went down, because I was eating less than half of what I was before for dinners. I was in top shape, I could ride for 100+ miles with no problem. I found my tolerance to heat and cold increased, because I would ride to work in sub-freezing weather, or 100 degree heat... it didn't bother me. Since I wasn't carrying all that insulation on me, my body could regulate its temperature like it was supposed to. My allergies mostly cleared up. I felt better than I had since I was a teenager. I cracked the frame on my first, cheap bike... I rebuilt it with another frame. I saved up, and bought a new road frame for it (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) and built custom wheels for it. Swapped all the parts over, and kept riding.
What it boiled down to, was I was finally in control of my life. I controlled what I ate, how I felt, what I did, and everything was just fine.
Or was it?
The truth was, I had traded one kind of slavery for another. I was now hyperfocused on health, exercise, and riding my bike. Nothing else mattered. The bike always came first. My diet was second. Everything else fell somewhere after that.
It All Comes Crashing Down:
Then, in July of 2011, the world as I knew it ended. On my way to work, a kid ran a red light in his mom's Honda Accord as I was crossing the intersection. He was doing about 35 MPH.
The impact shattered my left femur, right below the hip joint, into about ten pieces. The bumper actually hit my calf; it was the force of wrenching my leg underneath me that snapped it. The bike was knocked away (with almost no damage) and I rolled off the car's hood and windshield, and landed on my back on the road.
Three days of intense pain later, they rolled me into surgery and inserted a large titanium shaft all the way through my femur, and another large pin all the way into my hip joint ball. The side of my femur got a handful of screws and a plate to hold all the chunks together while they healed.
A week after that, I was forced to leave the hospital. I couldn't even stand up on a walker without passing out. My whole body was covered in road rash scabs, my left calf had swollen up to twice its size, and my thigh muscles had shriveled from disuse. I had a scar running half the length of my thigh, and I couldn't do anything without excruciating pain or feinting.
I held on as long as I could, but at one point, I just couldn't pretend to be okay any more. Being stuck in bed for weeks, unable to move my leg at all, I realized just how powerless I was. I couldn't go to the bathroom without help. Couldn't do anything without use of my legs, and the fog of painkillers kept me in continual confusion to where I couldn't really focus on reading, talking, thinking, or anything else.
That's when I heard it. You know that still, small voice? That one. I heard it loud and clear.
"Come back to me," it said. "I've been waiting for you."
And when I thought about it, I knew God was right. I had been focusing all my energy on myself, and ignoring the needs of my wife and kids. In the struggle to replace one form of slavery, I had embraced another. Physically, I was in the best shape of my life. Emotionally I was running on empty, and it was just a matter of time before my family would have fallen apart. I felt a lot like Jonah. Maybe being stuck in the stomach of a fish would have been better! I was completely and utterly broken, physically and spiritually. I cried. I prayed. I admitted that I had been an unfaithful servant, and slowly, I began to get better.
Crawl Before You Walk
It was three months before I could walk again. I struggled through therapy, working very hard to rebuild the muscles in my reconstructed leg. I still have quite a long scar to remind me that God can make something good come out of any situation. I eventually went back to riding my bike, but only occasionally. This was extremely hard for me! In some ways, it was harder than re-learning to walk. Cycling had become such a massive part of my life, it was like starting over. Every time the weather changes and my titanium-filled bones hurt, I'm reminded how fragile life is and how much we rely on God for things without even realizing it.
So now, almost two years later, I'm working hard to keep my promise. I'm trying not to let things get between myself and what's really important. Will I ever go back to riding to work? Probably not like I used to. Will it ever take a place of importance in my life? Probably not. I've proven to myself that I can do it, and I have nothing left to prove, not that God was impressed in the first place. All that's left is my desire to get closer to God, and if that means giving up the bike or anything else that gets in the way, then so be it.
And I couldn't be happier.
from the cubicle wasteland, the day is filled
with countless TPS reports to be killed
vicariously living from break to break
deriving my value from slideshows I make
a foregone conclusion is all that I need
to fatten the unspoken goddess of greed
whatever it takes to surpass the line
there's no inefficiency I cannot find
I press on until at last I am done
convincing myself that big business is fun
and yet there's one thing that fills me with sorrow;
I have to get up and start over tomorrow
Since we started homeschooling our kids (it's a long story, but at the time we were living in Orleans Parish) we've struggled to motivate our kids to learn, and to develop personal skills.
If you've never seen or read the Harry Potter series, a "muggle" is a non-magical person in a world of magicians. In the stories, wizards who are born of one magical and one non-magical parent are "mugbloods", or half breeds. They are viewed with contempt by the pure-blooded wizards, but the fact is they are just as powerful. Their lineage has nothing to do with whether or not they're good wizards.
So often in our life, we look at non-churched people with contempt, because, well, they just couldn't be as holy as us. Cause you know, we go to church. The same goes for anything.... homeschooling, bike commuting, cars we drive, clothes we wear... other people are different. And we're not.
As far as allowing my kids to read and watch Harry Potter, I did consider it carefully beforehand, and no, it's not perfect. There's a lot there that needs to be addressed, but that discussion is for another day.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Homeschooling.
So we've always had normal behavior problems with our kids, for a variety of reasons. I decided to take advantage of my kids' interest in Harry Potter by setting up a points system like they use at wizard school. Students can earn points for bravery, doing good deeds, following instructions, and being helpful. They gets points deducted for breaking rules, arguing, and being dishonest (we have to specify dishonest instead of lying because sometimes they will try to trick each other without words!)
We split our kids into two houses which happened to be the same as their houses on the website Pottermore.com and at the end of a predetermined time, whichever house has more points wins a prize, and the house cup. The other house will also get a smaller prize, because they earned points as well. For every point they earn, they add a bean to their house jar (white beans and red beans, because that's what we had... the kids rolled them in glitter to make them "magical") and after a couple of weeks, we add them up.
So far, it's been fairly okay, but we've had a few meltdowns over points that we've had to deal with. Last night I had to take away points for the first time, and there was a major meltdown.
I guess the main thing about it is that for us to be able to assign house points, we have to be actively watching our kids. If they do something right and we don't see it, but their siblings do the same and we catch it, then they get mad (and rightly so). It makes it very hard to be fair, so I'm required to equally spend time with all of the kids. Imagine that!
The truth I have to take away from this is that you have to meet kids where they are. You can say they need to learn something till you're blue in the face, but when you speak their language, they listen.
And a little bit of magic doesn't hurt!
flourescent flickering in the boardroom
forever humming, never going
the uneasiness hangs in the air
like so much moss on a tree
I think I may grow roots here
beneath the flaking veneer is rot
that cannot be stopped by conventional wisdom
centuries of knowledge washed away
by simple charts and graphs
and a bottom line that never goes away
Yesterday, I set up and used a Windows 8 desktop computer for the first time. And I know what you're thinking... you were a computer tech for 18 years, it's been out for almost a year, and you're just now getting around to it? I think there's some validity to that question, but the truth is, I don't like Microsoft. (This is not a secret, by any means.) I installed and set one up for some friends of mine, and I have to admit, I was both impressed, and frustrated.
I'm not going to go into what Windows 8 can do (there's plenty of that around); instead, I'm going to try to explain why the infamous Win 8 user interface (or "UI") is ahead of its time... way too far ahead.
The experience is... how shall we say... interesting. I've been a computer guy for close to 20 years, so I've seen almost every kind of UI there is. Not much fazes me, until I suddenly realize I can't find stuff, not because it's hidden, but because it's not there... and since this is Windows, there's certain things that should be there, and easy to find.
Things that are missing:
We can start with the obvious. A software menu of some sort. Metro is not a replacement for the start menu, it's a disgusting pile of "mystery Meat" navigation. No text titles? No options? What is this, Kindergarten? I can read just fine, thank you. Please put a logical list of the software I have at my disposal, so I can decide what I want to run. Or even know what I can run. With Metro, you don't even know what the machine does.
There are plenty of other things it can't do, and it's obvious that Windows 8 is basically a tablet OS, based on desktop code. It doesn't work well on a desktop at all.
It comes down to TXT.
So why did they do it? Because, on a tablet, it's actually very slick. Touchscreen PCs are slightly less usable, but who buys those? Microsoft is basically hedging their bets that the traditional desktop PC will go the way of the dinosaurs. The sad thing is, it won't, at least not any time soon.
I could see keyboards eventually going out of use, once the voice recognition of a PC can accurately dictate your voice in a room of other voices. I could see Xbox Kinect-like PCs using body motions to navigate (well, yeah... like the Xbox) but the technology for text input just isn't there yet.
Ask any tablet user what's the most frustrating thing to do on it, and the answer is almost always "typing." Why? Because touchscreen interfaces just aren't up to the task, and voice recognition isn't developed enough to replace it. So today's Windows 8 is firmly stuck smack in the dead spot of computer evolution. We still communicate by reading and writing, for the most part... even if you post a picture or video, you type a description of it. Even "txt spk" has to be typed, albeit horribly.
So Windows 8 was designed for something that doesn't exist yet. It's a desktop OS for a portable machine that isn't there. Sure, you can buy a high-end tablet that will run it, but you can get a better experience (and better performance) from an OS that was designed for portable devices from the start.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Since I have no use for Windows 8 RT on a tablet, and I have 100% more flexibility and usability from free operating systems like Ubuntu Studio on a laptop or desktop, this is where Windows and I finally part ways.
It's been interesting... since the Windows 3.1 days with floppies and DOS, to Windows 7 which was quirky, but usable... the run has been nice, but it's over. My Microsoft days are officially over.
At least for me. How about you?
Well, like the title says. If you have a business or church that wants to have freely accessible (and filtered) wi-fi for guests, it's not as daunting a task as you think. In fact, I can show you how to do it yourself... with stuff you probably already have laying around! You'll need some computer skills, but nothing fancy. If you can use a screwdriver and know how to hook a computer up, you can probably do this yourself. Interested? Read on! Much thanks to the file people at Untangle.com who made this software package freely available for people like us!
First, we put together a list of things we'll need.
- An old or used (preferably functional!) computer. You want something with at least 512MB of memory, a hard drive (10GB or more is fine) and a CD-Rom for installing the OS.
- Wi-Fi access point (you may be able to use an old router if it supports AP mode)
- Small network switch (only needs to be 4 ports, but use what you can find)
- Some Cat5 ethernet cables
- Two PCI ethernet cards (preferrably Intel or 3Com, but use what you can find)
- A blank CD-R (or a 1GB thumb drive)
- Another computer with a CD burner
- Someplace to set the computer up and work on it (keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc.)
Once you've assembled your stuff, you're going to want to give the old computer a check-up to make sure it's in good working condition. If possible, blow it out with compressed air. Make sure all the cables are connected. Make sure it has two open PCI slots for the network cards!
I saw this moron, in the span of about 10 minutes: run a stop sign, run a red light, tailgate, speed, and pass unsafely, all while talking on his cell phone. The license plate said "House of Representatives" and was plate number 052.