Thursday, December 11, 2008

advertising in a recession

Advertising messages are becoming more and more complicated as we dive into this recession. The message used to be:
"You like this product. Go buy this product!!"
But now it's getting messy. For instance, on the radio last night I heard a commercial from a local jewelery company. If I can remember correctly, I think this is the basic premise of the message they were trying to communicate to me:
  1. We are in a recession and times are tough.
  2. And you don't have as much money to spend on Christmas gifts this year.
  3. Therefore you need to make sure you are getting the most of out of your money in the gifts you buy.
  4. You get the most out of your money when the gifts you buy really make your loved ones feel special.
  5. Therefore you need to show your loved ones you really care about them by shopping for a fine piece of jewelry from our store.
  6. You'll find that while our jewelry is not the cheapest in town, it is extremely high quality.
  7. Your loved ones will feel special by receiving such a high quality piece of jewelry, knowing you went to great lengths to sacrifice during these difficult times.
  8. And making your loved ones feel special is of course the true spirit of Christmas... isn't it? Isn't it??
Christmas certainly got messy this year didn't it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

i want to be like that

I just received the kindest, most genuine, most encouraging and uplifting email from one of the men I most admire and respect in this world.

I used to work with this particular guy. He is an executive within the company, well respected across the industry, and certainly at the top of his class in his particular field. He is brilliant, passionate and intimidating. You don't want to sit across the table from him. Not necessarily the type of person you'd generally expect a kind, genuine, encouraging email from.

And yet in the last few years I've gotten to know this man, I've come to realize that at his core he is a person who cares deeply for other people. He is compassionate and wise. He speaks with truth into your life, directly and honestly. That's not to say he is putting on an outward front in his professional life - he really is brilliant and intimidating, and that is the result of how much he loves his job.

But it's been incredible to get to see this personal side of him the last few years. Humbling that I get to experience this side of him. And I think to myself, 'I want to be like that' - to exude such grace and encouragement and kindness to other people, and to do it without hesitation. Who am I but just a little guy in his eyes - he's an important executive - but he doesn't care... really don't think he even sees that. I'm just a friend, a brother to him. Just amazing to me.

I'm uplifted by the fact that I am encouraged by other people like this. I observe these traits and I want to see them in my own life.

I think that takes practice.

Monday, December 08, 2008

stop online piracy in five easy steps

This article popped up in my feed yesterday... all I could do was roll my eyes and share it with you. At first I was going to blame this on Reuters (mainstream media) attempting to offer insightful commentary on the music industry. Then I looked closer at the article credits today, saw Billboard was involved, and realized we've all been royally punk'd.

Anyways, according to people that think-they-know, these are the "Five Easy Steps" to cutting short the leak of your new hit record on the internets, including such worldly wisdom as...
COMMUNICATE WITH FANS: In cases where the leaked album is not the final version, artists and labels should get the word out to fans that what's available online is not the finished product. The goal is to convince them to wait for the final, official version by promising better sound quality or other bonuses.
I mean, you're kidding me right? Tell me these people aren't serious. This article treats online piracy like it's a couple four-year-olds screwing around in the back seat... "OK kids, settle down, or I'm turning this car around!" And seriously, the article title - Five Easy Steps To Plug Online Music Leaks - Really? Really??

While they're at it, they should have thrown in a #6 - Call up the RIAA and have them sue the pants off everyone under the age of 20 on the pretense they're "guilty-by-association".

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

what's the word

OK, so I'm two and a half weeks into the new job at Word Records, and it's been going well! Everyone I work with is great, it's fun to work in a slightly larger team of people, and I'm looking forward to really digging into a lot of the new accounts and artists I have headed my way.

The commute downtown isn't near as bad as I thought it would be, and so far the drive has been enjoyable. Music Row is surprisingly quiet - sign of the times, probably, and unfortunately - but it makes for uncrowded streets and isn't anything like trying to navigate Maryland Way in Brentwood at noon-hour.

The first couple weeks has been a bit overwhelming though. There are a lot of expectations throughout the company (regarding what needs to happen with digital sales), and my head is trying to get adjusted to a new catalog, a new distribution process, and an entirely new set of relationships. But I've had some small accomplishments. I spent a good portion of last week crafting the official Word digital & mobile retail strategy. I'm quite happy with it and will give me some guidance as to what I need to focus on over the next year.

And that, my friends, is the word.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

my thoughts on last night's election

November 5, 2008 is the first day in the history of the world that an African American has ever been elected President of the United States Of America. That in and of itself is a reason to celebrate as a country. That is no small feat in the course of human events.

I am a social conservative and an economic libertarian. I think Barack Obama's political policies and agendas are foolish and wrong for the country. I did not vote for him.

But I can still appreciate - and celebrate - the fact that the country has made this great leap forward as a democracy, and I am proud of us for that fact.

All that being said, America made an unwise decision last night in regards to political policy. But I'm not really surprised by that decision though. We've grown weary and disillusioned with the war in Iraq. The economy is in the bucket and we're fearful for our future (not to mention whether or not we'll have jobs next week). I was pretty mad myself for having to pay flippin' $4.45 / gallon in gas not just a few weeks ago.

'Change' is a pretty simple and compelling platform in times like these.

The next 4 years are going to be rough and painful for us social conservative economic libertarians. At the same time, this 'loss' - presidentially speaking - is exactly what we needed.

Going into the election, I was never a huge fan of McCain. I mean, who was? How could the Republican party possibly expect to show up for the big homecoming dance with a candidate like McCain and think they could get a date. It was wrong - all wrong; he exuded too much of the 'rich old white guy' political party that everyone had come to hate over the last decade.

In a political atmosphere where Obama was the new, slick rock-star, the Republicans tried to compete by trying to come off more Democrat. It didn't work.

You can't out-Democrat the Democrats. The Democratic stronghold would never support a pseudo-liberal like McCain, and in going through the charade, the Republican party deserted their loyal base.

We could go on about everything the Republican's did wrong the past two years. But it's pointless to do so. Frankly, for the long-term health of the party, and the eventual turnaround of the country, I'm glad we're in this spot. The Republican party has 4 solid years to rebuild - maybe 8, who knows - and they must rebuild.

The Republican party needs a redesign more than a Zune in an Apple store.

But it can't be a simple facelift - some marketing ploy to make the "Republican party cool for the 21st Century". That's too short sighted. This needs to be an honest to goodness reorganization. A restructure that restores the faith of the American people in a party that is pursuing what's best for the country and it's people.

The Republican party needs to inspire and motivate us again.

Personally, the root ideals of the Republican party - which currently lie buried beneath layers of personal agenda and political mumbo-jumbo - are invigorating to me. The idea that I can shape my own destiny. The idea that my liberty is not dependent on the government. The idea that democracy is worth protecting, and spreading. The idea that freedom is a gift which enables us to be productive, generous, and gracious, and demands that we be humble.

This year, Barack Obama bought the vote of the American people through fiscal promises and uber-slick marketing tactics.

In four years, I hope to see a Republican party that compels the vote of the Amerian people through an inspired vision that motivates us to strive once again for the historic ideals of our country. Not a bleak socialistic future rooted in government reliance and self-defeat; a liberating future where once again WE are the American people.

If they play their cards right, the election of Barack Obama may very well be the very best thing that ever happened to the Republican party.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

mixed feelings about daylight savings time

Today we got an extra hour of sleep, and by midnight last night I had already wasted it by staying up late reading a book (of all things).

I have mixed feelings about the ol' daylight savings time thing. After a little Wikipedia research I now realize that summertime is actual daylight savings time, and now here in the fall / winter we're on standard time.

I guess I wish we could be on daylight savings time all year long without this fall back in fall business. It's in the wintertime that I wish we had more daylight in the afternoon (right when the sun is setting at 4:00 on a January afternoon). Of course I realize that by doing this, we'd be celebrating sunrise at 9:00 AM. Hmph.

The flip side of all this though is that falling back in fall is a nice signaling of the seasons for me. Beginning now - the next two months - is my favorite time of year, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and all that goes with it. I can't wait!!

So as it's now 4:30 in the afternoon, and the sun is beginning to set, I'm thinking ahead to a giant roast turkey on our dining room table, and that somehow makes it worth it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

i voted

Tim Ferriss pointed out today - while early-voting in San Jose - that no one checked his ID before he exercised his Constitutional right.

"Interesting," I thought... "no one really checked my ID either". I mean, I showed up at the polling place and handed them my voter registration card, but my card is basically a piece of paper with my name and address printed on it. Easily forged with any inkjet printer and cardstock paper.

So what gives? Why didn't they cross-check my voter card with my picture ID? It just seemed to me that there wasn't a lot of diligence in that regard.

But the touchscreen voting machines worked very well. And there was no line. Overall, my Nashville voting experience went extremely well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

how not to buy a used car

As you now know, I've gotten myself a new job. As such, the wonderful carpooling arrangement Steph and I have had for the last 3 years is being disrupted and we need to get a car so she can get to work. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my time off so far has been dedicated towards this end, and if I'm honest, this has been the most awful car buying experience I've ever had.

I'm now going to offer you a detailed case study on how not to buy a used car:

This is the story of how Steph and I purchased a lemon bomb of a terrible car and then blew $600 extra dollars on a car I never truly owned.

We started out two weeks ago with your typical internet searches and used car lot shopping. Our goal was something truly inexpensive - cash only - reliable enough to get Steph through for the next year, 10 miles of driving a day. We had some decent leads, but nothing remarkable. But then we stumbled upon a '97 Infiniti i30.

The price was right: $2,500. The car looked good on the outside and according to the owner - a private seller - had been an extremely reliable car for the past two years. Now hear me through. Regardless of the debacle about to unfold, I still have no ill feelings toward the seller... he's a good, honest guy and I think we both got sucker punched.

The Ill Fated Purchase
After a couple test drives we decided to buy the car. We were both comfortable with it, were aware of it's known quirks, and were anxious to make a purchase because I was leaving town for the week.

Now it's important to know that I, a fool from Minnesota, bought a car with the 'check engine' light on. Um, OOPS!! In my naivety I didn't think that a 'check engine' light was a big deal, and in Minnesota it's not. We don't perform emissions tests in Minnesota and growing up it seems my family has always owned a car with that silly light on. It's not a big deal - usually some obscure electrical fluke.

Well, in Davidson County, Tennessee they don't treat the little orange light as obscure. As soon as we bought the car we took it to the testing facility where it promptly failed. The $10 test indicated that our Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing.

Flailing Attempts To Fix Our Failing Car
We figured we should take it to the closest mechanic shop to see what was up, so off to Christian Brothers Auto. They charged us $85 for a diagnostics test - likely used a piece of equipment that cost little more than that - and told us our Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing, and causing the 'check engine' indicator.

Estimated cost to replace both sensors: $938.

After gathering the bits of shattered bone lying on the floor from our jaws dropping, we hightailed it out of there.

May I Have A Second Opinion?
Since the car was in fair working condition I left town for my road trip, leaving Steph with the new Infiniti for the week. Miraculously it worked ok while I was gone.

Then on Friday when I got back we took the car to a local mechanic, recommended by a friend whom we knew could be trusted. He again charged us $75 for a diagnostics test and told us that the Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing. Thank you for the insight.

But this particular mechanic did offer some helpful advice and cautioned us that these error codes we were seeing were likely the result of other hidden issues impossible to detect, most likely an imminent car computer failure ($800+ to fix). Our $2500 car was quickly becoming a $5000 money pit, just to pass the emissions test, and I guarantee this car was NOT worth $5000.

3rd Down And 9: Punt
By this point we are quite angry and beyond frustrated. It's clear we have to unload this worthless piece of junk - this ridiculous lemon of a car. So we went to CarMax to get a quote for dumping it.

$1200 is what they offered.

But that was before the alternator failed on our way out of the parking lot.

On A Search For Grace
Please understand the fury I am trying to restrain within myself at this point on a cold Friday night.

The long and short is I've got nearly $3000 sunk into a car that I've purchased and desperately need to get rid of. But I cannot even sell it!! I cannot sell the car because I technically don't "own" it. I don't own it because I can't get a clean title. I can't get a clean title because I can't get it registered. I can't get it registered because I can't pass the emissions test. And I can't pass the emissions test because total repairs will cost me well in excess of $2500. And this I can't afford.

Reluctantly I call the previous owner who sold me this time bomb on wheels and explain my awful plight. I present a scenario where either he buys the car back from us at a reduced price, or he helps us sell it at CarMax (because we need his signature).

He requests some time to think about it. Steph and I go to bed stressed out of our ever-loving minds.

Meanwhile we begin shopping for another new car for Steph, knowing that one way or another the Infiniti is going bye-bye. We spend a better portion of Saturday traipsing all over Southern Tennessee used car dealerships.

And then somehow, in an act of charity I'm still trying to comprehend, the previous owner of the ill fated Infiniti calls and offers a full $2500 buyback of the car. Talk about dodging a bullet. In a moment of gracious weakness I offer to help him split the cost of fixing the alternator since it "happened on my watch".

Adding Insult To Injury
My act of charity involves getting the car to an affordable mechanic to fix the alternator, so after some phone calls Monday morning I get the thing hauled to Firestone. $400 repair on the way.

I spend the rest of Monday and then Tuesday (today) shopping for cars (this time from dealers... no more private sellers). And I've learned my lesson here as well: demand that the car be taken to a mechanic for review.

Adding insult to injury, on my way back from a mechanic reviewing a car, I get pulled over by Nashville's finest on Old Hickory Boulevard. This particular cop is unhappy that I am driving 50 in a 45, and is also curious if I can show the registration and proof of insurance for the car... which I explain that I cannot because it's obviously a dealer's car (hence dealer plates on the back). He is not all that amused and proceeds to cite me for all three offenses.

Total cost of the moving and non-moving violations: $162

Oh, then Firestone called and said the alternator on the Infiniti was fixed, but the battery is now dead.

New battery: $80.

Infiniti = Infinite Problems
I'm sure many people own Infiniti's and don't have a problem, but my two week experience was excruciatingly painful.

Finally this evening we made a purchase on a new car for Steph (an Acura), and we unloaded the Infiniti on the previous owner (which I feel bad about, but it was necessary).

So here's a tally of the total damage...

Lessons Learned
I'll leave you with these final tidbits of advice...
  • Never buy a car with the check engine light on; it will fail emissions test
  • Never buy a car without first having it checked out by a mechanic you trust
  • Don't speed while test driving a car
  • Ask the dealer where they keep the registration and proof of insurance before you leave the lot
  • Kelley Blue Book and are your friend
  • Make friends with a mechanic - I highly recommend Tom Chubb at American Tire (Antioch) or Blake Sellars at Firestone (Brentwood)
  • Don't buy a used '97 Infiniti i30

Monday, October 27, 2008

why i quit my job and got a new one

Assuming there's an outside chance that one of my few diligent readers hasn't heard yet, a couple weeks ago I resigned my position with EMI and accepted a new job with Word Entertainment as their Director of Digital Sales & Marketing.

This is a good thing! (People always ask me that... I tell them I switched jobs and they give me that, 'oh, really?' as though my dog died or something). So I have to sound excited when I say it, because I am excited!

Anyways, after nearly 5 years at EMI, switching companies is a big deal - it was an incredibly hard decision to make, and didn't come easily. I have a ton of great friends at EMI, and not working with them everyday is going to be sad. EMI had become home, just like highschool had become home, and then college. Additionally, I really respect a lot of people at EMI - they have great and supportive leadership, and from the top down some brilliant minds that I have learned a lot from. But now it's onto something new.

So, why did I leave? There are a few reasons...
  • At Word I'll be working for a record label instead of a distribution company. This means instead of working nearly 250 releases in a year, it will be more like 20 - if that. Ideally this means that I'll have the opportunity to create a closer relationship with the artists I work with, and dig deeper into each release - spending the time on each one that they deserve.
  • At Word I'll be working with all digital download, streaming, and mobile accounts. Previously I had 95% of my focus on iTunes, which was necessary, primarily because of the amount of titles I had running through the system. Ideally now I'll be able to dig a little deeper with each one - there's some cool new accounts doing some great things, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to spend some time with them.
  • Word has a different perspective on approaching digital music and internet marketing. Not to say that Word has the 'right' way, and EMI the 'wrong' - it's just different and I need that fresh perspective. Like I said, I'll be working within the label, and they're putting a lot of focus on 360 degree artist deals, direct-to-consumer commerce, and fully integrated internet marketing teams. I'm looking forward to being part of a bigger team, and in a position to have more open discussion with radio, A&R, and so forth.
So that's the brief run down. My last day with EMI was October 8th, and I don't start with Word until November 3rd (which means I've been enjoying the most amazing fall break ever). This is my last week on my own, which I am doing my best to dedicate towards completely refreshing myself. I've been reading some good books, enjoying some good coffee, taking some nice trips, and trying to refrain from anything that reminds me too much of corporate gobbledigook.

imperfect post

I haven't posted for a long time, and every day I think of something I want to write about.

It dawned on me why I don't do it though. I'm too obsessed with being a perfectionist (especially when it comes to writing). I want it to cover everything, and not lack anything.

I create grand plans of writing a 7 post series on this, and a step-by-step analysis of that. And in the end I don't think anyone really cares, but I feel like that's what I need to do.

So I end up not writing. And therefore, no post in weeks.

To that end, I'm purposely writing this little tidbit in less than two minutes, and then I'm going to publish it without so much as a proofread. This is me pushing my horizons.

PS: I lied... I proofread this, but I think I'm still within two minutes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 6

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

August 1, 2008

Our hiking today was relatively short, and all downhill... a first for us on this trip. Steph, Josh, Rachel, and I started out early right after breakfast. The hike down to the Piney Creek trail-head went fairly fast - almost a relaxing walk.

Josh and I made it down to the parking lot first, and our job was to drive my car to Cottonwood Pass to pick up our parent's car. That process took 30 minutes and by the time we got back Rachel and Steph had just finished packing out. Mom and Dad arrived a short time later and then it was time for the drive to Colorado Springs.

After a long drive we checked into our hotel, showered up, and then went looking for food. This is my second favorite part of a backpacking trip: prime rib following the trip. We went to Outback and ate way too much.

So that's it. Collegiate Peaks Wilderness backpacking trip done and in the bag... er, the backpack.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 5

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 31, 2008

I don't think any of us realized just how difficult climbing Mt. Yale would be - oh my gosh.... We woke up at 6:30 and made an early breakfast. We did not have to break camp, so we just packed up day packs with a minimal amount of food. The hike up Mt. Yale was a 3.6 mile trek from our base-camp that rose over 3,200 feet. Mt. Yale is 14,192 feet high.

There was not one part of the trip that was easy. In the first part the path was tree-covered, but the path was still steep with a lot of switchbacks. Once we broke tree line (at 12,000 feet) the trail got immensely more difficult. Josh broke head and did not stop until he reached the top. Mom, Dad and Rachel hung behind - Rachel was feeling a little sick at times, but she stuck it out. Steph and I were in the middle, and Steph was amazingly strong.

In the lower part, just above tree line, the trail was wide and almost all gravel. It then turned to a scattered boulder field, and finally near the saddle a long string of rocky switchbacks. Every step up was painful and required tremendous effort. Most of the time the trail was at a 45-degree angle, and sometimes even steeper. There was no break or flat part - it was always up. Steph tended to climb for quick intervals and then take short breaks often. I tended to be more slow (really slow), but tried to climb for longer periods. In the end we were climbing at about the same pace.

The saddle was a flat gravely area just below the last 100 feet of large boulder mass (the summit). When we reached the saddle we could finally see the other sde - Mt. Harvard and the town of Buena Vista were ahead of us. A small airplane was actually flying below us! At this point a guy name Doug made it up to the saddle with his awesome dog Charlie Brown. Doug has climbed eight 14ers and Charlie Brown has climbed 4! Coolest dog ever with a lot of energy at 14,000 feet... he even chased a marmot around the saddle.

Next we tackled the summit which was a large, rocky boulder mass, the trail marked by kairns. This took some delicate scrambling, but a welcome change from the hiking. Finally we reached the peak, and the view was magnificent. We could see in 360 degrees for up to 100 miles. We could see Pikes Peak and the Texas Creek Reservoir. After an hour spent on the summit we began the trek down. This was hard too and wore badly on my feet. It took half as long to go down as it did to go up (which took 5.5 hours), but felt like an eternity longer. The worst part was once we got down from the Yale trail we had to hike up another 300 feet to our campsite. Torture. But the pain was worth it and the view from the top, incredible.

Tomorrow we pack out, then hotels, showers, and prime rib.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 4

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 30, 2008

Today was definitely the hardest and most difficult day yet, but the most rewarding. We left Texas Creek at 9:30 this morning and started hiking towards Brown's Pass - a full 1,000 feet climb in elevation. Not gonna lie - it was pretty difficult at times.

Saw some great scenery today on the way up including a couple boulder fields which were a nice backdrop against the canyons below. Near the top was an old gold miner's cabin that had been destroyed - the roof caved in and house sunken below the foundation. Finally around noon the low valley of the pass came into view... my favorite part of any backpacking trip. I love watching the next mountain range come into view from across the pass, and you can always see for miles and miles. I was the first one to the top, so I set up my camera to take pictures of each person in our group as they approach the pass.

Once everyone was on top we grabbed a quick lunch and took some photographs. We also met a couple other groups at the top, including a youth group from Austin, MN. Going down the pass was 10 times easier and faster. We found a really nice campsite where we met the stream again and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing there. Steph and I made supper tonight - well really it was Steph - minestrone soup and beef stew.

Tomorrow we go up Mt. Yale, sans packs thank goodness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 3

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 29, 2008

It's Steph's birthday today!

Definitely lighter day today - only 2.5miles - and slightly uphill. It didn't rain anymore last night, but it was extremely cold, to the point that Steph and I both had trouble sleeping. Our camp last night was a nice open pine setting with some cool boulder formations in the back part sitting at the base of a mountain.

We reached a fork in the trail around noon (which was our destination), but required a river crossing to get to the campsite. The girls all waded through the river, but Josh got in his head that we wanted to do some Indiana Jones-style feat by jumping rocks. He also wanted to build a pulley to pass the packs across the river which was entirely unnecessary, but well, why not. Unfortunately the line snapped and Josh snagged his pack just before it went in the river. No harm though - we all just ended up hopping across the rocks and getting over fine.

We spent the bulk of the day just walking around the area, taking pictures, and spending time at the creek. We celebrated Steph's birthday with some dehydrated ice cream sandwiches. Yum. :o)

Difficult day tomorrow - our hardest yet, must go up the pass.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 2

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 28, 2008

Today was a difficult day, our first real day of hiking. We began at the Continental Divide and headed north from Cottonwood Pass. Of course, we made a mistake about 20 minutes into our hike and ascended a peak that we didn't at all need to climb because we lost our trail. Even still, the view from the needless peak was good and we could see down into both sides of the Divide valley, and we could also see our correct trail again from up there.

As I suspected, it was quickly apparent that my pack was way too heavy, meaning too much food and too much camera gear. We hiked down from the Divide all day, dropping nearly 1,000 feet or more in elevation. We ate lunch on a ridge right before the major descent began, and we saw the storm clouds starting to roll in. We covered our packs and kept the rain gear handy. The first storm ended up missing us, but we got hit by the second one below tree line. Put the rain gear on quickly and waited it out beneath a grove of trees.

The last couple hours of hiking were more hard on my feet and knees. We arrive to camp around 4:00 PM but had to cross Texas Creek first, which was extremely cold, and I had to go across three times. We hurried to set up camp and got everything moved in just before a 3rd rain storm came. no hail this time though as it did during the afternoon.

Mom made supper and somehow we got a fire going with wet wood and insect repellent.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 1

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 27, 2008

Today after buying our last supplies in Pueblo, CO and a late lunch at Arby's - our last meal - we headed west towards Canon City, up the Arkansas River Valley towards Salida. We stopped briefly in Buena Vista and then made our first ascent into the mountains, driving West into the San Isabel National forest, and The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area.

We'll spend the next five days hiking the area around the base of Mt. Yale and surrounding peaks with my Dad, Mom, brother (Josh), sister (Rachel), and Steph. Our first night here we're spending 'car camping' at a roadside campsite - the Denny Creek Campground. It's relatively cool tonight and overcast - the forecast said it would be about 45-50 degrees tonight . My pack is pretty heavy - definitely the heaviest I've ever carried on a trip like this, and my camera gear is to blame. I even dropped 5 lbs of food this morning at the hotel, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

After setting up camp, Dad was in charge of our first camp supper, which was dehydrated spaghetti. And after supper we drove up to Cottonwood Pass to take a few pictures and go for a quick walk. We saw a moose on the drive back down, but it moved too fast between the trees to get a picture.

Tomorrow morning we'll start hiking from the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass - elevation 12,000 ft.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: 2008 Backpacking Trip

As promised, a few posts on our recent backpacking trip are forthcoming, including pictures from the great wide open.

Our destination was the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of Colorado, which is directly West of Colorado Springs about 2 hours. This area is located in the San Isabel National Forest and part of the Sawatch Mountain range; named Collegiate Peaks because a handful of the key mountains are named for universities (e.g. - Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, etc.)

My best estimation is that we hiked a total of 20 miles, including a non-pack ascent of Mt. Yale. In backpacking terms, it wasn't really a long trip distance-wise, but in my opinion it was quite difficult. Maybe I'm just getting old, and sitting in a cubicle 50 hours a week is catching up with me, but several stretches of our trip took lot of effort. But the effort was worth it and the views incredible at multiple points.

So over the next few posts as I write about each of our days on the trip I'll include some pictures, and I'll refer to my new best friend, the Google Map. Of course, I couldn't help myself - I had to plot out our route on the map, and I'll refer to it as I write. If you want to check out our route, you can see it here (and be sure to change the view to 'Terrain', it's more interesting that way).


Thursday, August 07, 2008

10 states in 10 days

Well, we're back, and wow, what a trip. I look forward to spending a few posts to 'unpack' the trip, especially the backpacking portion. But to kick things off I thought it would be fun to start simply with a cartographic representation of our trip. This will go to great lengths to demonstrate just how nerdy I am.

10 states in 10 days was accomplished by leaving Nashville and heading north towards Kentucky, then Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. We changed things up a bit for the return trip and visited some new states, starting with New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and finally back home to Tennessee.

Anyways, check out this handy dandy Google map I made of our trip. You can see our route, and you can also click on the place-markers to see some comments and pictures.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

into the woods

Today we start in on backpacking, which naturally means this will be my last post for a week. We drive up into the mountains from Pueblo this morning towards Buena Vista. We'll camp at the trail head tonight and then start hiking Monday morning.

I've gotten a lot of questions over the past few weeks regarding such things as: Are you really going to sleep in a tent for a week? Are you going to have to carry all of your food on your back? You mean you're not going to have running water out there?

Yes, all this is true. I consider this true camping - back-country backpacking, carrying all your needed items on your back in a pack, and far, far removed from civilization. We sleep in a tent, not a cabin. We cook our own food. We do not have bathrooms. We do not care if we smell bad this week.

This in my opinion is the purest form of a vacation, and I absolutely cannot wait.

Our trip this morning will take us up one the prettiest drives in Colorado, that being the Arkansas River canyon from Canon City westward. It features 100-300 foot sheer cliffs on either side of a narrow canyon which twists and turns upward over the course of 30 miles. The road is right at the bottom of the canyon, bordering the Arkansas River which at this point will be quite narrow, though moving quickly and appears extremely pure with a blueish green tint. Very beautiful.

Buena Vista is the closest town to where we will be hiking, though even that will be about 20 miles away from us once we get up into the back-country. But to give some sense of placement, we'll be about 100 miles directly west of Colorado Springs up in an area called the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. It's called this because the primary mountains of the region - reaching upwards of 14,000 ft tall - are named after a handful of the Ivy League schools such as Mt. Harvard, and Mt. Yale, etc.

So that's the plan folks. Five days from now (Friday) we'll be exiting the wilderness - hopefully much refreshed, and inspired by some of the most beautiful country in the world. Priority #1 will be finding a steak restaurant to partake of a medium-rare prime rib, after a week of eating dehydrated meals in ziplock bags. But after that I'll post an update or two here to bring you up to speed on how the week went.

I will say this, if you don't hear from me for say, I don't know, two weeks from now, you may want to call the ranger station in Buena Vista, CO. But I don't anticipate any issues... let's just pray for good weather, and safe hiking. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

oil fields and corn wells

Today was Kansas. All of it, in all of it's hot, flat, windy, dusty glory.

We hooked up with my parents, brother, and sister this morning in Olathe, KS - stocked up on required caffeinated beverages and took off down the road. We stayed on the Interstate for all of about 40 miles, and then hit the ol' US Highway. My dad had it in mind to take the scenic route today, which is fine - we have no real time barriers, so sure, let's experience the American Midwest.

My Grandma Burns lives in Ellinwood, KS, which is this tiny little hiccup in the middle of the country. We figured this was a good opportunity to see her, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousin (along with her new baby boy). But first, we had to visit our oil well. Well, not our oil well... my Grandma on my mom's side inherited a share of an oil well that was drilled back in the 1930's, and by a share I mean .000009%, which is not a lot at all. I think she may get a check once a month amounting to about $25, so what the heck right? Now if you do the math on .00009% per quarter, it equals out to be $2,700, so the thing is pumping some oil. I don't expect to become a millionaire via an inheritance on this thing though.

So we visited the oil well, and well, you know it was an oil well. Doing it's drilling - pumping it's oil. I mean, what do you say about an oil well? Next we were off to Grandma Burns' house, and it was great to see my family again. I especially love my Uncle Rob - funny, funny guy. Uncle Rob taught me when I was little how to eat my mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, by making a 'lake' with my potatoes, and filling it with gravy, the 'water', and then putting little kernels of sweet corn, which naturally were my 'ducks' swimming in their lake. Fun times huh? Anyways, the family was doing good, and we ate ice cream together, and then were on our way.

But dang, we got one of those true honest to goodness thunderstorms on our way out from Grandma's. Huge clouds, big wind, heavy rain and lots of lightning. Drove through that for about an hour, then it cleared up and on the back side of the storm some of the most beautiful cloud formations I've ever see. The Midwest has the best clouds.

The rest of Kansas was pretty predictable. Lots of corn, lots of oil rigs. Cow pastures all over the place. And now it's late at night and we're heading out the west side of Kansas toward Pueblo, CO. We'll sleep there for the night, and then take off for the beginning of our backpacking trip Sunday morning.

Friday, July 25, 2008

the great american roadtrip

Today, after staying up until 3:00 AM for the most epic night of bag-packing ever, we left Nashville for the American West. Destination: Colorado. Mission: Backpacking the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area.

We're taking 3 days to get out to our starting point, which will be a trailhead near Cottonwood Pass west of Buena Vista, CO. But the short term goal for today is Kansas City, MO where we visted with Steph's dad, and will meet up with my family to caravan the rest of the way out to CO.

We left Nashville in a rainstorm, which was fine - the car needed to be washed and we didn't have time to do it before we left. I'm certain my backpack is much too heavy. I pride myself on loading a light pack. During highschool packing trips I would load up a 24 lb. pack pre-food (which is pretty dang light). But on past trips I've always been a little light on food, and as a result have been left feeling a little too hungry some days. Never a good combination when you're exerting yourself physically.

So I've got food for this trip. Lots of food, and it weighs a lot. I'm afraid I'm going to have to thin things out a bit before we hit the trail.

Another thing adding the weight is my camera gear, which I've resigned myself to accept. I've never taken a really good camera up into the mountains before, and it's something I've always wanted to do. I've got my Canon 35mm SLR, which is a great camera, and 9 rolls of black & white film (I'm fascinated by really good black & white film landscape photography). I've also got two lenses - a standard zoom and a wide angle zoom (which I just bought off Ebay last week). And finally the tripod. Got to have the tripod for good landscape photography, and here's why:

Good landscapes show incredible detail as a result of a great depth of field. This means that things really close as well as really far away are all in focus, which means you need to set your aperture very small, which means that only a tiny amount of light is allowed to hit the film. This automatically means that your exposure time has to be set relatively long. And you know what happens when you have a long exposure time and you're holding your camera by hand - blurry pictures. Unacceptable, and this is fixed with a tripod.

So here we are in Kanasas City, ready to meet up with the rest of the family tomorrow morning. We'll drive through the entire breadth of Kansas, stopping off to see my Grandma Burns and aunt, uncle, and cousin. We'll get into Pueblo, CO late Saturday night and stay in a motel, and then it's off for the mountains Sunday morning.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

electroshock therapy works on cats

We have a cat. His name is Linus. He's two years old now.

Recently he started the bad habit of making incredible amounts of noise beginning every morning at 4:30 AM in the form of meowing, scratching, pawing, and general cat-play. It's incredibly annoying, to the point that Steph and I are losing significant amounts of sleep because of our crazy cat.

Without going through all the details, suffice it to say we've tried everything to quiet him down. We let him roam the house - he makes noise. We lock him in our bedroom, he makes noise. We lock him in a different room, he poops on the floor because he's bitter.

The most annoying of his traits is his incessant pawing on our closed bedroom door - believe it our not, this keeps us up the most. So we made a little investment the other day. While perusing through Petsmart, amongst all the cute little well behaved puppies and kitties, we picked up a feline torture device known as "The ScatMat".

This handy little tool, when rolled out on the floor, sends 9 volts of electric current through the feet and/or paws of any trespasser who steps on the mat. For the last three nights we have rolled out the ScatMat in front of our bedroom door, and I must say... works like a charm.

Night #1: About 20 minutes after we rolled it out he started sniffing around and investigating the mat, and finally he ventured onto it. Hair on end. Tail puffy. Jumped straight up in the air about a foot, ran into the wall, and dove under the bed, not to make a peep for the rest of the night.

Night #2: We read that for effective "training" we should try covering the mat w/ a sheet or towel so that eventually we can remove the ScatMat and simply leave the towel on the floor as Linus will have associated the shock with the sheet, not the mat. To work effectively through the pillowcase we threw on the floor we had to turn the power up one notch. Oh my. He hit the thing at about 5AM and it sounded like he had climbed halfway up the wall in shock. Once again, not a peep for the rest of the morning.

Night #3: Linus has now picked up a new trait when entering or leaving the room. Regardless of whether or not the pillowcase is on the floor he now jumps a full three feet through the door frame in attempts to "clear" whatever is shocking his little paws. He steers clear of the door from now on, has settled himself down, and Steph and I have been sleeping wonderfully.

And that. my friends, is how you train a cat.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

jon's pears

It's 4:53 PM. Long day at the office. My esteemed colleague Jon, tired from a long day's work returns to his office craving a fresh can of... pears. Actually, they're not fresh. The can of pears has been sitting in his desk drawer for months, maybe years. He finally brought a can opener into work earlier this week so that he'd have one on hand just-in-case. Came in useful today.

Jon was proud of his Spoiled-Chef can opener, or Coddled-Chef... whatever it is, I can't remember. He demonstrates how it has a handy little magnet on the top of it to lift the cut can lid from the can and transfer it to the waste basket without touching it at all. Oh wait - magnet failure. He dropped the lid. Pear juice everywhere.

Come on Jon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

picturing myself backpacking

Less than a month from now we leave for Colorado for our summer backpacking trip with my family. I am truly excited for this because it has been far too long since I’ve been packing in the Rockies.

This will be Steph’s first time backpacking, so that’s going to be an adventure in and of itself. She’s a little concerned about the bear issue though, and I’m not really sure how to reassure her that things are going to be ok. Truthfully I’ve never seen a bear while backpacking, and I figure as long as you make a decent amount of noise while you’re moving along the trail, and don’t keep beef jerky in your tent at night you’ll be ok. She’s not convinced though.

We have a couple of goals to outfit ourselves with some camera gear before we leave. First of all, we need to hook up Steph with a new digital camera because the one she currently has, I believe, is running DOS as it’s operating system. I think it measures resolution in Kilo-pixels. This is obviously unacceptable, so we’re gonna fix that.

As for myself, I’m all analog. As much as I’m all about the techie stuff I have a great appreciation for good ol’ black and white photos captured on film, and I enjoy removing myself from digital world when I go out to take pictures. I have a very nice SLR that I’ve had for a few years, but I’m in desperate need of a new lens. Ultimately I’m looking for a good wide-angle lens as well as a nice zoom lens. I’ve been seeing some good deals recently on lenses, so I may in fact try to find myself a wide-angle lens this weekend, as that will be the best lens for big mountain scenery pictures.

Which reminds me… something I want to do by the end of the calendar year is to try my hand at developing my own film. I’ve been reading up on developing 35mm film and my understanding is that it’s relatively uncomplicated. I need to do some additional studying to see if that’s something I can pull together over the next few months. Note to self – need to add this to the 101 in 1001 list.

Other note to self – review your 101 in 1001 list because you haven’t looked at it in months, and let’s face it, time is ticking.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

goodbye and hello

So it’s been pointed out to me several times now that I haven’t blogged recently. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

In truth I’ve been taking a bit of an intentional “sabbatical” from writing because, well, because I wanted to. And it’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed stepping away from feeling the pressure to keep on the blog from week to week. Also, I've been embracing the world of micro-blogging via Twitter, and that's been fun too, keeping the world up to date 140 characters at a time.

So I would say the biggest news from the last month is the fact that we had to retire our dear purple Cavalier – the fine piece of American machinery that we purchased from good friend and ex-blogger Timmy a few years ago. We pushed it past 200,000 miles earlier this spring, but the transmission finally gave in on us, and it just cost too much to fix.

So, we went out searching and in one short weekend actually found a car that we really liked! We landed on an 2003 Mitsubishi Galant that we picked up from a used car dealer in Murphreesboro. We like it a lot, and it’s treating us well. Can I just say that I truly enjoy entering the 21st Century by now having a car that has power windows, power locks, tinted windows, and brakes that don’t shake like an earthquake every time I try to stop. And as much as I like a manual transmission, I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic arguing with a clutch anymore, and that is glorious.

Thanks for bearing with me through my sabbatical. I hope to offer up additional reading material soon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

today belongs to indiana jones

Seriously, I have been waiting for this day for 18 years. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull opens today. I shall be there. It shall be glorious.

To celebrate an already fantastic legacy and to get myself all pumped up for tonight, here are my Top 10 favorite Indiana Jones quotes to date...

Indy: "Sallah, I said NO camels! That's FIVE camels; can't you count?"

Professor Jones: "Look what you did! I can't believe what you did!"

Indy: "There's a big snake in the plane Jock!"
Jock: "Oh that's just my pet Reggie!"
Indy: "I HATE snakes Jock, I hate em'!"

Professor Jones: "Well I'm sorry about your head though, but I though you were one of them."
Indy: "Dad, they come in through the doors."
Professor Jones: "Ha, good point."

Indy: "Since I've met you I've nearly been incinerated, drown, shot at and chopped into fish bait. We're caught in the middle of something sinister here. My guess is that dad found out more than he was looking for and until I'm sure, we're going to continue to do things the way I think they should be done!"


Indy: "I'm going after that truck."
Sallah: "How?"
Indiana: "I dunno I'm making this up as I go."

Professor Jones: "They're trying to kill us!"
Indy: "I KNOW DAD!"
Professor Jones: "Well, it's a new experience for me."
Indy: "Happens to me all the time."


Indy: "I like Indiana..."
Professor Jones: "We named the dog Indiana."
Sallah: "The dog? You are named after the dog?"

Elsa: "What's this?"
Indy: "The Ark Of The Covenant."
Elsa: "Are you sure?"
Indy: "Pretty sure."

Indy: "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

culture shock

I had a disturbing conversation with Steph this morning that I felt the need to share. It started as an offhand discussion we had this weekend regarding race and marriage and whether or not it was acceptable for people of different races to marry each other.

Both Steph and I are from Minnesota, so I think our views of this are in general a little more accepting than maybe other parts of the country. Neither of us think that interracial marriage is inherently wrong. If two people love one another and they want to get married, then they should, regardless of what color their skin is.

Steph works outside of the city (Nashville) - that is to say, she works with a handful of true red-blooded Southerners. She decided to do a little investigation Monday and get their take on the whole interracial marriage bit. What she discovered really shocked me. I was naively living under the assumption that we've made great strides in overcoming racism over the past few decades in America. I was wrong. Here's a smattering of responses:
  • "My dad would kill me if I brought a black man home for dinner."
  • "My pastor taught us growing up that it was wrong to marry black people."
  • "If you spend too much time with black people you start to act and talk like them."
  • "The Bible says not to associate with people from different cultures."
  • "I don't want to hang around black people because I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea."
  • "There's a difference between black people and niggers. There are some good black people, but then niggers are like the black version of white-trash, and it's just not right to associate with those people."
  • "It's a sin for people of different races to marry."

Allow me to be very clear here: If you agree with any of these statements you are wrong and you disgust me.

I cannot believe that in 2008 we are still using the Bible to justify our cowardly selfish racist mindsets. That is absolutely utterly shocking to me. I'm sorry I was so naive to think that we had progressed beyond this sick and disgusting state. I also can't believe that I have to spend a blog post outlining why the above statements are the most ridiculous and stupid things I have ever heard.

Specifically my comments are aimed at white Christian Americans who find themselves agreeing with some semblance of the above statements:

God Does Not Operate On A Class System:
At the core of all these statements is this sentiment that one race is better than another - that somehow God has selected white American's as the preferred culture of people, and all other races are lesser and degraded forms of the above. Sounds like a Nazi propaganda if you ask me... while we're at it, should we weed out the blond haired, blue eyed folks and just do off with the rest of us?

When it comes to a "chosen" race in the eyes of God, I assure you it's not white Protestant Americans... it's the Jewish people of ancient Israel. This is a culture through which God first spoke and demonstrated his love - and wrath. What color do you think their skin was? The great thing for all races though is that he made His love accessible to all of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus... this is the reason we all get to share in the blessings of God. The Apostle Paul effectively tore down the barriers of race throughout his life and persistent ministry to those outside the Jewish culture. All are welcome at God's table.

It Is Not A Sin To Associate With Other Races:
I'm having trouble figuring this one out - where did this idea come from that white people aren't to associate with black people, or anyone else of another race? Since when are Christians isolationists? Weren't Christ's last words on earth "Go into all the world and preach the good news"? This doesn't sound like separation to me... rather, this sounds like a command to start making some diverse groups of friends. And no, I don't simply mean a four day mission trip to Columbia - the gospel of Christ is a genuine message of relationship that speaks to true lasting friendships and acceptance of people from all walks of life.

It Is Not A Sin To Marry Outside Your Race:
I understand that precedent and tradition have led to a general societal taboo of interracial marriages, and that is what it is. But it doesn't make these marriages wrong. For Christian's to take a verse like Genesis 28:1, "So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman,'" and then improperly conclude that God has commanded Christians not to marry individuals of other races are incorrect in their interpretation.

This command, and ones like it, speak to spiritual matters - not racial matters. The Canaanite culture of the time was known for their blatant disregard of God, and as such, it would not be right for a Jewish person to be married to someone who did not share their worldview and belief set. Likewise, it would be unwise for a Christian to pledge their life to an individual who does not share their beliefs, but again I emphasize, this has nothing to do with race.

It really saddens and frustrates me that thoughts like the ones I listed above are prevalent in our culture - it really irritates me that I'm hearing these thoughts from a group of self-professed Christians. I'm certainly not trying to say that Christians are "morally better" than the rest of society, however, Christians have been given an example in the Bible as to how we should treat and interact with the people around us. We need to strive towards this and as a faith-group set a positive example of how to treat those around us with respect and without prejudice.

You tell me if you think I'm out of line here, but I think you'll be hard pressed to find an argument that holds water.

Friday, May 16, 2008

steph bought me a goat for my birthday

My birthday was Monday. I meant to write this Tuesday, but I was busy, as was Wednesday and Thursday. Here we are on Friday, so now here is my update four days late.

Birthday was good. Friends took me to lunch at a favorite lunch stop - the Chile Burrito... authentic TexMex on a budget. Gotta love that.

Then later that evening Steph took me to the Genghis Grill, which is always a thrill. Get to pile a bunch of stuff into a little bowl and then watch the guys cook it on a big circular stone grill. Awesome.

Then Steph gave me my birthday present, which was really exciting. We've been wrestling with this for a few years... now that we're married, going out and getting a birthday present, using dollars that we both worked for seems silly sometimes so we're trying something new out. Instead of splurging on some gift that we don't necessarily need, we're going to help some other people out with our money.

So Steph got me a goat through World Vision. They offer a cool program where you can purchase actual tangible items - like a cow, or a well, or malaria vaccines - and they go directly to help people in need. So that's what I get to do this weekend - go buy a goat for a family so they can provide themselves with fresh milk and cheese. Cool huh?

Monday, May 05, 2008

gedney: the minnesota pickle

We went home to Minnesota this weekend for the wedding of our good friend James. Great wedding, great to see old friends.

I imagine everyone has those things that make home, home. And hence the ridonkulously large jar of dill pickles. We grew up eating Gedney Pickles. They're Minnesota grown and jarred in Chaska, MN, and their slogan is "the Minnesota pickle", so we're loyal to them. They taste great too!

Steph has an obsession with dill pickles - no she's not pregnant - so my family was nice enough to take us to Sam's Club and buy us this goofishly big bottle. I don't know if you can tell or not from the picture, but that's a full gallon there - a nearly 12 inch tall bottle! I'm sure it seems odd, but having a bottle of dill pickles grown in your home state on hand is one of those nice things that gives a sense of home when you live miles away.

Of course, now that I'm looking at the bottle, I see it says "Refrigerate After Opening". We may need to buy an additional mini-fridge to accommodate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Graphing Of Tim's Bloggings

Over the last few months, a strange pattern has developed on the blog of my friend Uncle Tim. It's sad, really, to see how a once prolific writer has simply disappeared from the blogging world.

Unfortunately, Tim is in denial of all this. He feels that the blogging world has up and left him - that no one out there is writing anymore, when in fact, he's the one who has forgotten how to turn his computer on. Posts have been pretty minimal from Uncle Tim the last few months, and I miss his gluttonous musings on food and his incessant whining about cats.

I took it upon myself to demonstrate graphically how Tim's bloggings have changed over time, and the visual impact is startling:

So Tim... if you're out there, somewhere, reading this... come back.Post about how you've been binging on chocolate and beer over the the last two weeks since the Biggest Loser finale aired, and how you're just not going to be able to control yourself until next season. Post about how you've somehow conned society into buying plastic Frisbees from you in order to make a living. Post about how you kidnapped your neighbor kid's cat last week and taunted it with a pen light until 3:00 in the morning by making it run off the edge of your balcony.

A Concerned Subscriber

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

azariah southworth comes out

The always punctual cultural trail-mix that is Perez Hilton reported today that "Azariah Southworth, host of the popular Christian youth show The Remix has come out of the closet and announced he is gay."

First let me say I have never watched the show before, so I know nothing about the program or Azariah. That aside, the show has a significant impact with weekly viewership of 200,000 and a reach of 128 million homes. Here's what he had to say in a statement to the press:
"This has been a long time coming. I’m in a place where I’m at peace with my faith, friends, family and more importantly myself. I know this will end my career in Christian television, but I must now live my life openly and honestly with everyone... I know I will be cut off from many within the Christian community, and if so, then they didn’t get the point of the life of Christ. I believe by me living my life honestly and authentically now, I am able to be a better person and a better Christian."
The response on Perez Hilton has been interesting. The comments fall into basically one of three categories:
  1. Overwhelming support and votes of great courage for coming out
  2. Statements that Christians are all homophobic hypocritical bigots
  3. That the photo on the website makes Azariah look like he has a huge head
All of this leaves me really frustrated and quite conflicted. As a Christian I find it incredibly unfortunate that the general perception of Christianity in America is that we are hypocrites and homophobes and unloving of people... basically everything that our faith claims we are not. I hate that Azariah's initial assumption has to be that he will be cut off from the Christian community. And undoubtedly he will.

I'm not going to disagree with the perception. It's an unfortunate reality, not unfounded and largely the fault of a segmented and disoriented Christian church.

Christians have a huge problem with hypocrisy. We are viewed as a body of people who teach one thing, yet say and do another. We talk about sin, we condemn sin... and then we go out and do sinful things. Our credibility is minuscule and waning, and it leaves the world at large utterly confusd.

So now what?

There is a profound sense of hate towards Christianity, and it's evidenced by people who commented on the post at Perez Hilton. People that have been segmented, written off, ostracized, and condemned by the Church and as a result have given up on it. I'm not sure how to respond to this hate. Also I think there are people out there who genuinely want to extend this discussion - about life and faith and belief - who have questions and are seeking answers, but their curiosity is overpowered by the voices of anger that seem to take control on topics like this.

So I'll end this with a vague and open-ended question, and see where we go from there... What do you think?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the bible: now in color

So what are you looking at?

I will tell you. And once I do, you will be absolutely fascinated by what you see.

What we've got above is a graphical representation of the Bible that was constructed by a Lutheran pastor and Chris Harrison, a doctoral student studying Human Computer Interactions. Together they took a list of over 63,000 cross-references in the Bible and displayed them graphically.

Across the bottom of the chart you see a bunch of vertical gray lines - each of these individual lines represents a chapter of the Bible from Genesis 1 on the left to Revelation 22 on the right. Each arc in the graph represents a unique cross reference. For instance, a passage about 'God' in Genesis 1:1 is linked with an orange arc to a passage about 'God' in Revelation 22:21. Likewise, a passage about a 'Dove' in Mark 1:10 is linked with a blue arc to a passage about a 'Dove' in John 2:16. The color of the arc is directly dependent on the "distance" of the cross reference, with short references being blue or violet, and longer references being green or orange - this creates the rainbow effect you see.

To truly appreciate this you need to take a look at this high resolution version.

Now What?
The first time I saw this it just really struck me. There's something incredibly complex, yet strangely simple about this graph.

Look at the symmetry. I think it's amazing how a document that spans some 2000 years maintains the same ideas and themes throughout. There's consistency and everything is interrelated.

But also look at how you can pick out sections of the Bible you're familiar with just by glancing at the graph. I can see three sections pop out based on the groupings of arcs - the Gospels & Letters on the right third of the graph, the History books on the left third, and the wisdom literature throughout the middle.

The books of the Prophets are going to fall slightly right of center - the purple arcs that you see branching off to the right from these books are literally the prophecies about the Messiah being fulfilled in the Gospels.

The letter to the Hebrews is traditionally thought to be written towards a Jewish Christian audience because of it's strong emphasis on ancient traditions and themes. Now you'll have to look at the hi-res version for this... notice how slightly in from the far right side of the graph an array of green and yellow arcs drop down, seemingly out of nowhere. This is the author of Hebrews explaining the gospel story in a language a Jew would understand - by referencing the ancient texts and speaking directly to those who believe in the God of Moses, Isaac, and Jacob.

And So...
There you go... I don't know what you'll pull from this, but this chart continues to amaze me each time I look at it. At the very least hopefully it will be a greater appreciation for the most influential and powerful text of all time.

My thanks to Jon for first sharing this chart with me a few months back. And if this sort of thing piques your curiosity you need to go check out some of the other visualizations Chris Harrison has posted on his website. Fascinating stuff.

Friday, April 04, 2008

embrace: this new day

I would say save the best until last, but after all, these are some of my favorite albums that I've been featuring this week, so it would be unfair to make that distinction.

That said, I'm extremely happy to share with you This New Day by Embrace. Why this album hasn't been released in the States is beyond me. I was first turned on to Embrace about four years ago with their international debut Out Of Nothing, featuring among other things a co-write with Coldplay front man Chris Martin. The follow-up success of This New Day actually earned the band the honor of performing "World At Your Feet", England's Official 2006 World Cup Song. This New Day is everything I love about Brit rock: big, epic, glorious, worthy of a soccer stadium.

Hope you've enjoyed the music this week - glad I could share with you some of my favorite artists and albums!

Click here if the player is not showing in your feed.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

glen hansard & marketa irglova: the swell season

It's a sad and rainy day in Nashville, and this is the right music for it.

A couple notes on this album: This is a side project for Glen Hansard who is the lead singer for an Ireland-based band called The Frames. He's been getting a ton of publicity recently because of his work as lead actor and musician on the independent film Once - a brilliant modern day musical about a chance encounter between a guy and a girl.

Here's what I need you to do:
  • Listen to Track 3 below, "Falling Slowly"
  • If you like the song, go rent Once and watch it this weekend without exception
  • If you like the movie, come back here and listen to the album The Cost by The Frames
Finally, want to give a quick shout-out to friends who lost their jobs yesterday. I'm sorry... it sucks... I hate it very much, and we all miss you.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

the arcade fire: neon bible

Continuing the series this week of "Five favorite albums that aren't on Napster, but are available on Imeem", this is Neon Bible from The Arcade Fire. I'm afraid this is as close to America as we're going to come this week... and we'll have to settle with Canadia.

This band is huge, literally. Seven permanent members and an additional six that travel with the band on the road. I came across them on NPT one night performing on Austin City Limits... what an incredible live show. These guys are true musicians, and they know their stuff well. High points of the album... well, of course "Keep The Car Running" and then "No Cars Go". Basically they need to continue writing songs about cars. Oh, and yes, that's a real pipe organ on "Intervention".

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

british sea power: do you like rock music?

Epic, sweeping, and decidedly British... what's not to like about British Sea Power's third album Do You Like Rock Music? Welcome to album #2 in my series of "Five favorite albums that aren't available on Napster, but are available on Imeem".

Admittedly, critics didn't care for this album much, comparing their epic attempts to 2001-era U2. In their defense, I really don't feel that this record feels forced in arena-rock attempts. While U2 has ended up sounding relatively formulaic in recent releases with predictable moments of sonic largeness, Do You Like Rock Music? is seamless and seems to flows naturally. I don't pick up on any absurd attempts to simulate a yellow-sunglasses encased uber-cartoonish rock star.

Form your own opinion I guess, but if you like this album you definitely need to check our their previous release as well, Open Season, which as luck would have it, is available on Napster.

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