Month: August 2006

Ernesto Veers Away

Image of Tropical Storm Ernesto's Predicted Path across Central Florida

Ernesto’s Predicted Path
across Central Florida

Instead of getting hit square between the eyes with our first hurricane, we’ll just get some rain and wind this afternoon. Ernesto veered east back toward the ocean this morning, giving us a sigh of relief and a day off school. Campus Crusade closed the office today, too.

Rob found this cool map. It’s a cross between Google maps and a weather prediction site; a “mashup.” (Say that in passing to impress your friends at being up to the minute on Internet culture).

Please Tell Me What You Think

The ads that run in the right sidebar are a learning experience for me. In two weeks they have earned $5; not enough to quit my day job but possibly enough to pay my annual web hosting fees – after making my promised contribution to charity. At this point I have learned what I wanted to learn, so I could take them away and be satisfied. On the other hand, I like watching the little account grow. It’s like magic.

The money makes far less difference to me than what you think, though. Will you leave a comment? Tell me if you think the ads are negative or positive – or if you simply don’t care. (If you have never left a comment before, it is easy. There is no need to register and no need to leave any personal information. Just click the “_Comments” link below.)

Unpacking Progress

Our Unpacked House

The Back Half, Unpacked

Our shipment came at a terrible time; the day before school began and the day before I resumed working full time. It meant any hopes of quickly unpacking were gone, and we resolved ourselves to the probability that boxes would be with us for several months.

Today I came home to find the entire back half of the house is now unpacked! That means we are halfway done and might have things finished by the end of September. Woohoo! I was so excited I took a picture.

Our friends from Budapest, the Southards, are staying with us tonight for the send-off of their daughter to the University of Central Florida (UCF) just up the road. Grandma Inez, Aunt Pam, and brother Sam are here, too, along with one of Audrey’s friends. That makes ten people under our roof for the night, and we’ve had a great time with everyone. Glad those boxes are gone.

They Packed The Milk!

milk box.jpg

Milk Boxes

The box I unpacked today had quite a surprise; our milk!

I thought we had left these boxes, adorned with models of European health consciousness, behind forever.

So after three years I finally did what I have always wanted to do; put clothes on one of them.

Where I Sat Today

My New Office

My New Office

Today was the first day our ministry group, the Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, reoccupied our newly renovated workspace. My earlier glimpse of the office was accurate but not as bad as I feared.

File cabinets are available, and the carts are wider than I thought; a full 42″. Best of all, the place where I sat today has a great view.

But I don’t know if the place I sat today will be the same place I sit on Monday. I don’t have an assigned place. The good view I had today might become no view at all if this place is occupied when I come in next.

The idea is to conserve space by allowing those who need to work in the office to choose their location ad hoc. Those who travel frequently and aren’t in the office won’t displace someone who is there everyday or someone who needs to work in the office when they are gone. Some people have regular cubicle-looking spaces assigned to them, but most spaces are generic.

I like change, and I am willing to give it an honest effort.

Nevertheless I can see the future.

Pretty soon they will need to install gates at the entrance to the office to prevent the early birds from getting all the good spots. Once the gates open there will be a mad dash for carts with a view.

Or maybe they’ll implement a boarding policy like Southwest Airlines.

Tickets for certain dates and places will go on sale in about a month. If the day you need to work in the office is sold out, you can get a “standing room only” ticket and steal someone’s desk when they leave for lunch.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” will be the new office greeting.

“I’m saving this one for my friend” will be the new office snub.

In communal settings like these where everyone takes only what they need, those who are more equal than others always end up getting more and better than the rest. It’s the same thing in the parking lot. The boss at the top of the pecking order still gets the best parking spot. Likewise, the “more equal” team members will somehow always end up with the best spots.

Me? I think I’ll get myself a good pair of headphones.

Life Is Burritoful at Chipotle’s

Chipotle's t-shirt

Chipotle’s t-shirt

Free dinner for the family. Free t-shirt for Dad.

The neighbors said Chipotle’s near our house had just opened, and they were giving away the food. It was true.

Chipotle’s is probably my favorite restaurant here, so I would have paid extra to eat there on opening night – but instead it was free.

In exchange for some helpful feedback the manager gave me this t-shirt.

Their website is really cool, too.

Life is good around here!

Iran, Syria, Hezbollah – 1; Israel, US – 0

That’s the score as I see it this morning as the U.N. cease fire seems to be taking affect in southern Lebanon. Unless Israel has a hidden, surprise attack in the works, it looks like they lost this war. Hezbollah survives to fight another day. The fact that they survived means they won. They could fire more rockets on Haifa tomorrow if they wanted to, made clear by the 250 rockets they fired into Israel yesterday.

Which really means that Iran won, too. With the defeat of George Bush/Condi Rice’s diplomatic efforts to give Isreal more space and time to fight, and with the apparant loss of power to do this, the US will have less power to restrain Iranian nuclear developments and, more significantly, Iranian growth of power in Iraq.

Reuters has a good summary of the situation.

Wag the Dog

Four days ago I started running ads on this site from Google, and in that short amount of time I’m already corrupted. Or at least I’m tempted to be.

So far none of you fair readers has clicked an ad, and judging by the ads I’ve seen and what I know about you I’m not surprised. I’m not interested in meeting Jewish girls either. What interests me is that the same category of ads has run for four days; ads related to my post about Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Clearly Google found that post and matched it with advertisers interested in that subject.

Where does that leave me? Suddenly I’m not trying to think of something interesting to write about. Instead I’m trying to anticipate who might want to advertise on my site if I write something related to them. Like maybe I should have named the manufacturer of my new office furniture more prominently. Steelcase. There, let’s see if they take the bait. Or maybe if I discuss my burning passion for mortgage rates it will create some diversity. If I were 50% smarter I would have figured this out long ago and had several posts ready to go.

Culture Shock

Steelcase desk/cart

My New Desk Cart

Moving to Budapest, Hungary three years ago gave me culture shock, but not the kind you might expect. Hungarian culture was different, sure, but I expected that. Nothing shocking. Campus Crusade for Christ culture in Budapest shocked me. I had not expected differences, so when differences appeared I was surprised. They were all minor changes, but they required unexpected energy.

There were nice changes, too. My office was relatively enormous compared to my 8′ x 8′ cubicle in Orlando. It had a great view of the hills behind our village. It was normally quiet but had enough people around to avoid the deserted feeling. I knew that moving back to Orlando meant giving all this up, but I was prepared for whatever cubicle God had waiting for me.

Reverse culture shock hit me today. Having not learned the first time around, I was surprised to find unexpected changes at Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters. Apparantly God didn’t have a cubicle waiting for me at all, but rather a cart. Really. While my seating assignment has not finalized, judging by the looks of the partially redone work area I’ll be in, my new location will be a cart!

Words cannot express my befuddlement over this discovery.

Once you place a phone on this working surface, and then a small laptop computer, there no longer remains any free space. I am a paperless kind of guy for sure, but occasionally I like the feel of using wood-based products such as paper. Have I become this old fashioned in my absence? Frankly, I don’t know what I’ll do. The situation looks so bad that, for now, I will assume I have been sorely mistaken and that I will either wake up from a bad dream shortly or will find that the carts I mistook for desks were really intended for the espresso machines they will be issuing each of us.

Glad They Changed Their Mind

But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm. – Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, developers of Google

Call me a nut, but I don’t blame the founders of Google for selling out on their high-minded ideals. While my integrity is theoretically worth more than any amount of money, my aesthetic ideals are not. For even a tiny fraction of ownership in Google I would quickly abandon my sense of search engine purity.

And I’m glad they did, because once Google established a trustworthy reputation as an uncomprimising search results producer, their ability to advertise became enormous. It’s that power that we use at EveryStudent.com and GodLovesRussia.com to find people who are searching for spiritual truth.

Here is my other favorite quote from this paper:

PageRank … can be calculated using a simple iterative algorithm, and corresponds to the principal eigenvector of the normalized link matrix of the web.

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that earlier! Now I’ll just go fix that low Page Rank of mine that I’ve been dealing with.

Three Days and All Is Well

Three days does not a school year make, but the last three days of Andrew’s high school experience have made us very happy. Every day he tells us about a new friend he’s made in addition to the ones he knew going in. He had his doubts about how it would go earlier. Timber Creek High School teaches over 4,200 students (1,700 beyond its designed capacity), and Andrew does not like crowds. He has learned how to navigate the horde fairly well, though, and hasn’t complained about the crowds yet.

The horde of boxes in our house is coming under control, too. Now there are only 50 boxes, and we have found everything we need for survival from them. The situation certainly begs the question: If all we need exists outside those 50 boxes, wouldn’t everything left inside the boxes be unnecessary? I’m tempted to make one big Goodwill delivery and be done with it.

Annie Runs - Jerry Rides. Click for the movie

Annie Runs – Jerry Rides

Annie had a banner day today as well. She got to run with the bike tonight. It has been almost two years since the crash, her last opportunity at running ahead of me on my bike. Tonight she did just fine, and we both made it back in one piece. Here’s a video of our daily bike-run ritual that Audrey made three years ago (~4 Mb. 0:13 seconds. QuickTime format).

Sponsored Links

Today I learned something new; how to run Google ads on a website. See the new “Sponsored Links” section to the right. I did this as a learning exercise rather than a money maker. The way it works is that Google selects ads to display on this site that relate to the topics on this website. The ads are from sponsors who selected keywords, and when their keywords match keywords on this site, Google displays their ad here. Every time someone from this site clicks one of those ads, the advertiser pays Google, and then Google puts some of that money in an account for me.

If it ends up making money, something that would require about 10,000 clicks before I see anything, I will donate the money to a good cause. If it ends up making lots of money, maybe I’ll quit my day job. Ha. (Actually my friend over at www.budapest.com makes a living from advertising on his site, so it is possible.) And, of course, if it is a complete flop, you will no longer see any ads at all. Given that there have been only about 20,000 total visits to this blog over the last two years, I’m not quittin’ my day job yet.

Now, according to my agreement with Google, I am not allowed to incent you to click on any of those ads. It would only “inflate the cost of advertising” for the good people posting ads in that space. This seems very odd to me, as the entire point of posting the ads is so people will click on them. Nevertheless I will play the game and act as though I do not want you to click them. I am expressly FORBIDDEN, by Google, to click them myself. So if any of you want to click them for me and tell me what it’s like, I’d appreciate it. Kind of like dying, going to heaven, then coming back and telling the living.

If you are tempted to click on any of those ads, just know that you didn’t get the idea from me. I am NOT trying to get you to click any of them. In fact, the more ads you click, the more money I will make. So, as you can see, I am entirely disinterested in what you do with those ads.

Right now there is just a public service announcement in that space soliciting donations to hurricane victims. This means no one wanted to advertise here yet.

First Day of School

First Day of School

First Day of School

This year the first day of school came early, both on the calendar and on the clock. It has been three years since we’ve begun school this early in August, and it has been since – well, never, that we’ve left for school this early in the morning. In order for Andrew to make the 7:20 am start of school, neighbors told us we needed to leave before 6:30 am to make it through traffic. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The honeymoon phase of our move from Budapest to Orlando is over, too. Every transition involves several stages, the honeymoon stage being the first and most enjoyable. After a few months the newness wears off, and the reality of the new environment sets in. During the next phase we get to adjust to both the negative and positive aspects of our “new” lives in Orlando. Waking the kids up at 5:30 am this morning, I began to suspect what some of our upcoming negative adjustments will be!

On the bright side, in spite of the morning schedule, I was able to get in a run/swim workout before work. Looking back a couple years, I see I was doing similar things then, too.

Israel, Lebanon, and Syria

The latest conflict between Israel and Lebanon – or Israel and Hezbollah – or Israel and Syria/Iran – however you view it, has intrigued me in ways the Palestinian conflict hasn’t. It is clear that Hezbollah pushed a button that the Palestinian cause has been unable to find. I’m curious to watch how this plays out. Will Israel win another decisive victory as they have always seemed to manage in the past, or will Hezbollah deliver their first defeat?

This morning Ronnie Stevens in Budapest added some wise historical thoughts on the matter. It seems Israel has an extremely short fuse when it comes to Lebanon and Syria. In Luke 4 you can read how the Jews of that time went from holding Jesus in high esteem to trying to kill him, all in a few short minutes. The cause of the transition? Jesus reminded them that God loves the Lebanese people and Syrians, too. That set them off.

Deep hatred aside, I don’t fault the Israelis for attacking Hezbollah. Having a militia on your northern border which has sworn your defeat and begun taking action toward that end requires you to eliminate the problem. Yet I’m glad my allegiance is to a spiritual kingdom rather than to any one nation and that, for now, I am not forced to pick sides in any of the current world wars.

My Third Enjoyable Wedding

Weddings aren’t my favorite activity, but there have been three which I really liked: mine, one other, and today’s wedding of our neighbor, Elikam.

Getting ready for this wedding included a last-minute search for clothing through the maze of boxes in our house. Cathy wore the dress she found, but I never found my jacket, and as I put on my tie, I also noticed I had forgotten to shave. We finally began pulling out of the driveway with barely enough time to get there, and I began wondering if we’d be walking in behind the bride. Just then Cathy spotted our neighbor, the groom, pulling out of his driveway – and the pressure was off! Our neighbors are originally from Ghana, so we immediately knew the wedding would be on African time rather than American time. Now we were relaxed.

When we arrived we were surprised to discover how the relationships of our neighbors intersected with relationships in our own lives in ways we hadn’t realized before. I saw Ivan whom I had met in Baguio, Philippines, our neighbors who had emigrated from South Africa, and our Egyptian friends who are part of our school, Trace Academy. Some of the people there were ones we had only met since we returned from Hungary, but almost everyone there was someone we felt an affinity for. Only after we left did we figure out why; everyone there had lived outside their native culture for an extended period of time.

You Moved?

When we lived in Orlando before I always felt a little bad at how little time we spent with our neighbors. I knew most of the people who lived on our cul de sac, but some of the houses are rentals and have more frequent turnover. Yesterday I saw one of our neighbors that I had known before, and I greeted him as he stopped to get his mail. He said hi and turned away as though we saw each other every day. That was a little odd since I hadn’t seen him in three years.

Disregarding his rudeness I asked him how he had been. “Busy” was his reply. “I’m working three jobs, seven days a week.”

We talked for a few minutes about his ventures. His choice to work three jobs didn’t appear to be from necessity but rather a desire to be more financially independent soon.

As we were wrapping up our conversation he asked me, “What was that big semi truck doing in front of your house earlier this week?”

I explained that it was the shipment of our household goods arriving from Hungary.

“How long were you gone?”

“Three years. Goes by fast, no? Did you meet the people who stayed in our house?”

“No. I never met them. In fact, I didn’t even know you had moved.”

Such is life in American suburbia.