Monthly Archives: August 2008

Enviromaniac?

There was a really interesting article on NPR Marketplace this evening titled “Is an Enviromaniac Loose in Your Office?  Some of the people at my last place of employment would probably answer, “YES”. Listening to the article, I found myself laughing out loud at the beginning and then furling my brow at the end saying “I wasn’t that bad, was I?”  The article is interesting for a couple of reasons:

 

1.       It is funny – I related to a lot of the commentary at the beginning of the article.  After starting the Green Team at my last place of employment I did find myself pulling water bottles out of the trash and breaking down boxes to be recycled.  Once you get started recycling, it starts to affect you.  For instance, my neighbor works at Dinner By Design (a place that has a menu of meals you can cook at the shop, take home and freeze, and eat nights in the future).  The place didn’t recycle anything, and most of the “waste” was a recoverable material.  She now brings everything home and puts it out with her household recycling.  Between her work recycling and all of the recycling that Amanda and I bring home from the youth on Sunday nights, we have quite a mound of recycling on Monday morning for the drivers to pick up.

 

2.       It is truthful – The response to the Green movement is summed up by two camps of people, “those who consider bottled water a civil right [and] those who see it as a crime against humanity”.  After the “Dump the Pump” day at work, I encountered a lot of people that won’t take public transportation or carpool because they can’t give up the freedom that their automobile affords them.  There are many other examples, but back to the quote.  Both camps are a little crazy.  Like driving your own car, bottled water is convenient, and has its place as.  The bottles are portable and a much healthier alternative in vending machines than any of the garbage made from high fructose corn syrup.  On the other hand, most people blindly shell out big dollars for “bottled water” or a lot of gas just to drive themselves.  It is no different than tap water in most US cities (as a matter of fact it IS tap water from most US cities).  It’s a waste of money especially when we integrate it into our daily lives and elevate it to “ipod” status.  Plus, the bottles really are a nuisance.  Go to any kids sporting event and look at the “trash” as you leave.  It’s mostly #1 plastic bottles – a recoverable material.

 

3.       It reflects the growing frustration that many green koolaid drinkers feel – It is easy to get consumed by your movement (and this applies to any movement).  The part in the article where the girl quit trying to inspire with Ghandi quotes and started ridiculing those that don’t follow the Green Rules is a great example.  I know I had inclinations to do the same at times.  Luckily, I had a few friends that saw me going into the right half-plane and told me to relax a little.  You have to realize that you can’t change a culture overnight.  There are going to be those that do things out of a labor of love.  Some will follow just because they respect you and see some of the benefits.  In the end, for green options to catch on, an infrastructure must be set up for it to make life more efficient.  Otherwise it taxes peoples already busy schedules and it won’t be sustainable.

 

4.       It highlights everything wrong with the marketed Green Movement – I read an article talking about the new Green-snobbery that is occurring in the suburbs.  “Did you see the Jones’ new Hybrid vehicle?  What are they trying to prove?”  Even in going green the market treats us like consumers and wants us to purchase our way to a greener lifestyle.  Buy the more efficient car, buy solar panels, buy all new energy star appliances, buy, buy, buy.  The first question we should ask is “How can I use less energy?”  The first step should be a little sacrifice, not more debt.  Early adopters for green technologies are needed, but we should first look to reducing our needs- it goes back to the entitlement issue.  Plus if you purchase your way to a greener life, it has the potential to become a fad.  “What? You can’t afford to be green?  You must be poor.”  What about the lower middle class family that is has no room in their budget to cope with higher gas prices, higher energy prices, and higher food prices.  It’s awfully arrogant to try to guilt these people into purchasing green just to fit in. 

 

I set a goal with this blog to stay out of the rant world.  I know this post bumped up against the rant-curb but hopefully I kept it between the discussion-lines. 

 

Do you have an enviromaniac at work?

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Filed under Green Team, Observations

Journaling

A recent Time Magazine article describes the power of journaling with weight loss.  A study in the August 2008 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine describes a study where participants were encouraged to use weight-loss maintenance strategies including calorie restriction, weekly group sessions, and moderately intensive exercise.  About half of the group was encouraged to keep a food diary.  The lead researcher describes the results by saying, “hands down, the most successful weight-loss method was keeping a record of what you eat.”  In a six-month study, participants who kept a food journal six or seven  days a week lost an average of 18 lb (8 kg), compared with an average of 9 lb (4 kg) lost by non-diary keepers.  The article goes on and describes the author’s personal experience with food journaling. 

 

Here is what I find interesting about the article:

1.       Writing down everything you eat will increase the results of your weight loss goals by a factor of 2 (3dB).  WOW!  I guess just writing it down makes you aware of how much junk is included in your diet.  Once you become aware of it, you will at least have to rationalize to yourself (and your diary) why you need another Coke in the afternoon or why you put chips on your kid’s dinner plates instead of fresh vegetables.

2.       Accountability will make this even more effective.  The author shared his food journal with his wife.  When another person is involved you now are not only justifying junk to yourself and your diary, you have to justify it to someone else.  This someone else can look for trends that you want to ignore.  “Wow, you are an entire carton of Oreos last week and another one this week.  Are you stressed?”

 

What’s great is the practice of journaling extends to other areas of our lives-

 

Finance: My parents both encouraged me to journal.  It all began with a Money Book.  In order to get my allowance when I was young (age 8 and up) I had to present a money book that showed all of my income and expenses for the month.  The money in my cigar box (my piggy bank) had to equal the balance of my money book for the month before I got my allowance.  This was a very good practice for college.  My parents made me, my brother and my sister sign contracts before attending college.  The terms of the contract stated:

·         Mom and dad would pay for 16 quarters of college (4 years).

·         All of the money for each quarter was paid at the beginning of each quarter.  We had to pay tuition, books, rent, food, entertainment, …  If we ran out of money for the quarter, we could not ask mom and dad for any more money – we had to get a job.

·         The amount they paid was fair.  It was enough to have some fun, but not enough to really get into too much trouble.

·         If we got a scholarship, the amount left over was ours to keep.

I still continue my financial journaling today.  It took a while for my wife to see the value in it, but we both see the monthly budget as a tool to help us reach our financial goals in life.  It also ties into food journaling in that I guarantee you will be amazed at how much you spend on fast-food when you integrate the cost over an entire month, quarter, year.  Just like your diet, your spending can get out of whack, and it takes an objective look at it in entirety to put you in a position to start prioritizing again.  This is a very healthy practice – highly recommended to start keeping a financial journal (budget).

 

Work: I keep a journal at work as well.  I jot down daily activities.  Sometimes they are detailed technical notes and sometimes they are a few words on what I accomplished for the day.  It’s also a great place to store records and notes of phone calls with customers and other contacts.  This really comes in handy when it’s time for an annual review.  Flipping through the pages written over the past year helps pull out specific actions that are worth noting on the review.

 

Personal (public): For some reason I feel the need to publish my personal thoughts in a blog.  Is it narcissistic?  Maybe, but I like to dialog with others (my sister would say argue instead of dialog, but I think I have matured a little).  Blogging is an outlet for me.  I read a lot of different things, and if I don’t try to formulate my thoughts on a particular subject, it will be lost.

 

Personal (private): I also keep a personal private journal.  I do not write in this journal too often.  I usually carry it with me when I go on a big trip or if I am working through some important private issues.  I find that it is comforting to work through the subject to the point where I can rationally put it on paper.  Once it is on paper, I can work through different scenarios that ultimately help me make a decision.

 

Prayer: I need to work on this.  Tony, the Youth Pastor, showed the youth group his prayer notebooks from college.  I thought this was really cool.  Tony said that ACTS prayers are a good way to start.  ACTS is a template to help guide you through your prayer standing for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (or intercession).  I currently don’t keep a prayer journal, but would like to start.

 

Do you journal? 

Do you find it a nuisance or a comfort?

 

Share you journaling habits to help inspire us all to start/continue.

 

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Filed under exercise, Personal, work

Reliving WILCO

On October 9, 2006 the band WILCO played in Huntsville.  I started listening to them about six months prior to the show.  I am a WILCO late-bloomer – I started with Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, A Ghost is Born, and the live Kicking Television CDs.  I didn’t follow them during the Uncle Tupelo days and at the time of the show was not familiar with their previous CDs.  I was shocked that they were coming to town, and even more shocked that they were playing in the concert hall instead of the arena.  The concert hall is a 2000 seat venue with incredible acoustics.  All the ingredients were there for a great show.   I was excited!

My brother and I got tickets to the show.  It’s always a treat to go to a show with my brother.  For a while he was into recording live shows as a hobby.  (He only records bands that allowed live taping).  He had all the gear – high end microphones, microphone stands, cables, a four-channel digital audio recorder, and a lithium-ion battery power supply that he created from instructions on the internet.  In the days after a show he would mix the digitized channels together, and, after a little editing, created a digital reproduction of the show.  The recording he produced were great quality – and the WILCO show was no different.

Kevin was able to pre-order tickets before pubic release, and he got perfect tickets for recording – center stage about 10 rows up.  He set up the gear before the show started.  WILCO played 22 songs that evening.  I was familiar with most of the songs, and enjoyed hearing some of their old stuff for the first time.  The show was great, but the music was not what made the event memorable.  During the first intermission I bought the limited print posters for this show (see image below).   Very cool print showing the back end of the Saturn-V rocket with WILCO coming out of one of the nozzles.  These posters play a part later in the evening.  After the show, we were one of the last ones to leave after breaking down the recording gear.  We exited the concert hall and passed by the guarded entry way to the holy grail of any concert – BACK STAGE.  We decided to try to dupe the guard and get back stage.  I walked through first.  The guard asked for my back stage pass.  I told him I lost it.  He told me to get lost.  Strike out.  Kevin walked through next – holding all of his recording gear.  The guard asked him where his pass was.  Kevin said he is working with the band archiving their shows.  The recording gear he was holding made this seem legit, so the guard let him go through.  I passed him the concert prints and away he went.

He emerged an hour later with the entire bands signature on the prints – along with other random articles from back stage.  The poster is framed and hung above my desk at home.  I love looking at the print – there were only 100 prints created and Kevin is sure that we have the only ones with all signatures (He was the only person backstage that went out to the tour bus to get Tweedy’s signature).  On top of that the recording of the show turned out great.  They actually played new songs that later turned up on their Sky Blue Sky CD (Great recording of Impossible Germany).  It is really cool to listen to the show that you were out.  I listen and remember Tweedy’s banter with the crowd.  I can hear myself yelling during a couple of the songs (Kingpin).  I have the show in my ipod and occasionally listen to it in entirety.  These are two personal treasures to me, and I don’t know if I ever thanked my brother for the experience and the gifts.

 

Kevin, Thanks for being an incredible “little” brother.  I hope that I contribute as much to your life as you have contributed to mine!

 

 

Here is the set-list for any fans:

1.       Poor Places

2.       Muzzle of Bees

3.       Shot in the Arm

4.       Impossible Germany

5.       Break Your Arm

6.       Kamera

7.       Handshake Drug

8.       Jesus Etc

9.       At Least

10.   Airline to Heaven

11.   Walken

12.   Theologians

13.   I’m the Man

14.   Via Chicago

15.   Hummingbird

16.   Late Greats

17.   Always in Love

18.   How to Fight Loneliness

19.   Heavy Metal Drummer

20.   Let’s Not Get Carried Away

21.   Kingpin

22.   Misunderstood

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Organic or Universal Expression of Faith

There is a theme in a couple of blogs I have been reading lately that has given me something to chew on.  Pastor Sherill is starting a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed.  This creed is said in some churches throughout the world as a corporate reminder of the story we believe, the God we believe in, and the life we are called to live. Duncan and his blog community have been discussing the use of music in a worship service (second link here).  There is a strong desire there for their faith community to create artistic expressions of their faith unique to their community.

Should we continue reciting ancient creeds and singing traditional hymns, or should we be actively creating new artistic expressions of our Faith?

I grew up attending a traditional Methodist worship service.  Near the beginning of the service, we would always recite the Apostle’s creed.  As a child and youth I mostly recited the words with the rest of the congregation without giving much thought to the meaning of the entire creed.  I would catch myself thinking, “Why is He judging the quick – kinda unfair to the slow”.  It didn’t mean much to me then, but I recited it.  It was etched into my brain.  Now, whenever I hear it, the words just start pouring out.  It is comforting when visiting another church to recite the creed with them.  It’s something we share and connects my Faith community to theirs.   And, now that I am maturing in my Faith, the creed is intriguing and the words have new meaning.  The same goes for traditional hymns.  Most of the time my mind wonders and I lose my place somewhere around the middle of the second stanza.  Most of the words lose their meaning during the song as I just start humming the tune of the song.  I really don’t get much out of most traditional hymns (sorry Charles Wesley), but there are exceptions.  It is comforting to hear certain songs in specific worship services (i.e. “Up From the Grave He Arose” at Easter, “Joy to the World” at Christmas, and the “Doxology” every Sunday after the offering was collected).  I also read an article by a pastor that was worshiping at a Christian church in Korea, and he described how comforting it was to recognize the tune to Holy, Holy, Holy and sing it in English while the rest of the congregation was singing it in their native tongue.  This is another example of a traditional (or universal) expression that links Faith communities.

Currently, I attend a contemporary Methodist worship service (same church where I used to attend the traditional).  There are no creeds and no traditional hymns.  We sing contemporary Christian songs and occasionally express ourselves in the service with original dramas, interpretive dances, and songs.  Most of the time we sing the contemporary Christian songs that are on the Christian radio stations, and we watch movie clips that relate to the sermon.  Some of the songs are solid and really connect with me on an emotional and intellectual level, and some are very thin with weak theology but maybe have a catchy hook.  Trying to follow the lyrics to contemporary songs you aren’t familiar with is just as bad as losing your place in a six stanza traditional hymn.  We have continually battled the “entertainment” vs “participation” elements of the service.  The part of the discussion that I think is interesting is the attempt to create expressions of faith in your faith community, or better yet, on a personal level.  For example, how many of you have ever tried to summarize the gospel in your own words (i.e. develop your own creed).  It is difficult.  I tried it and quickly realized that I am not as familiar with my faith as I think that I am.  Before you create, you have to have a firm understanding of the subject.  This requires intentional study.  New expressions that truly resonate with your faith group require you to know the subject well enough and the group well enough so that you can relate one to the other.  Again, very difficult, but I think the process of trying this will lead you to a deeper understanding of your group and the subject.

So, back to the original question (stated differently) – Should we continue to sing traditional hymns and recite ancient creeds that, on one hand, connect us to the church universal, but on the other hand, are so foreign that they don’t exactly relate to me today, or should we strive to create our own expressions of faith that, on one hand, require us to intentionally study and know the subject deeply, but, on the other hand, may alienate others that are not indigenous to our worship services?

The obvious answer is “yes” – we should practice organic and universal expressions of our faith.  We should appreciate the songs and indigenous expressions of faith that other faith communities create, and we should appreciate the traditional expressions of our faith that have existed throughout the evolution of Christians understanding and application of the Faith to our lives.

I want to challenge you to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs or hymns you sing in worship and the words of the creeds you recite.  Do they speak to you?  Do you find lyrics distracting, and do you prefer instrumental songs?  Do you find instruments distracting and prefer a cappella singing?  Does music in general distract you? Are creeds just something you robotically recite, or do you truly believe what you are saying?  Do creeds and traditional hymns have any relevancy in your lives today?

The even bigger challenge is to attempt to create new expressions.  Try to write your own creed or song.  Once you are done, I bet you will have a new connection and appreciation for the traditional creeds, songs and hymns.

 

 

 

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GATR Employee #10

After seven years working as a radar systems analysis at TSC-Phase IV Systems, I am moving on.  I am the newest employee at GATR Technologies!  My first day is Monday, August 11th.  I have helped Paul Gierow, GATR President, develop and mature an inflatable antenna technology for satellite communications over the past five years, so I am very familiar with the GATR technology, company, and staff.  The current staff has done a remarkable job of getting the technology working and demo systems in the hands of users.  I am looking forward to joining the GATR team and helping take the business to the next level.

 

GATR is a small business (10 employees) that has developed an inflatable antenna solution for satellite communications.  Visit the link above to GATR’s website to get a detailed description of the technology.  Basically, they have created a lightweight, quickly deployable satellite dish.  Instead of requiring a big rigid heavy dish to access a satellite link, The GATR inflatable antenna can be stuffed in a backpack, set up in remote areas, and on a satellite in less than an hour.  When inflated, the antenna is electrically equivalent to a rigid dish of the same diameter.  You essentially get a lot of bandwidth without much of a weight or volume cost.  It was named one of Popular Sciences 2007 Inventions of The Year.

 

Some of the uses of the antenna include:

 

My position at GATR is Vice President of Engineering.  My job responsibilities include technically managing the development of the antenna for new applications, managing the engineering staff, pursuing new business through proposal writing, managing a large customer set in Washington DC, and pursuing alternative users for the technology.  It is a small company, and I will be involved in all aspects of operations.  I am really excited about the change and looking forward to the challenge of getting this product in the hands of users across the globe.  The potential applications for this technology are numerous.

 

I am truly grateful for my experience at Phase IV.  I started working there straight out of graduate school.  The founders, president, and the other managers helped me mature into a leader in the company.  The most difficult part of the transition is leaving the personal relationships I have developed over the past seven years.  There are some truly talented people at Phase IV, and I will miss working and dialoging with them. 

 

I will write more about the inflatable antenna technology in future posts!

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Filed under Culture - Technology, GATR, work

E-Waste Export

We all have computers, and we all get news ones.  As a steward of this Earth, pay attention to where the E-waste goes.  I work in the electronics industry, and there is some nasty stuff in the circuit boards, plastic enclosures, and monitors.  Be responsible with you old computer when you get a new one.  This video opened my eyes to where some of our E-waste goes.  I didn’t realize that some “e-waste “recyclers” just shipping it to developing nations to get burned or thrown in their rivers.  Yikes!

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Filed under Culture - Technology, Green Team