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see george, you really have a wonderful life

Ok, fine, fine… FINE! I’m a sappy sentimentalist and I like “It’s A Wonderful Life”. I watch it every year during December. Last night was my annual viewing, and yes, I enjoyed it. So go on you naysayers, you cynicists, you apathetics, make fun of me… see what I care. I will continue to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” every year, and I will continue to be encouraged by it’s simple, yet profound, look at human nature and will be reminded once again that Christmas is a holiday to celebrate the higher things of love, relationships, and life. I happen to think it’s a fantastic movie, and it’s one of my favorites.

Today you should listen to…
Ray LaMontagne “Lesson Learned


I feel it is nothing less than my duty to offer my thoughts about the lastest MP3 player to pop up on the market. With the Christmas season in full swing, some of you may be considering what MP3 player to buy for your mom, or brother, or dog this year, so you can consider this insight. Being that it is my job to work with the digital music accounts on behalf of my company, I guess I have some sense of authority on the subject… or something…. I doubt it’s worth too much…


Anyways, good ol’ Microsoft. I almost feel guilty dedicating a blog to them, but since they have burst into the market this year with the self proclaimed “iPod Killer”… well, they’ve brought this upon themselves.

So the brains in Redmond, WA all sat around a table one afternoon and said to themselves, gosh, we need to get into this digital music business. Forget the fact that they already had a digital music store called MSN Music that failed miserably… it pretty much sucked.

The brains of Redmond decided to call their new invention Zune. It rhymes with “tune” I guess, which is kinda like iTunes. So, Zune it is. They spent months upon months planning the great “iPod Killer”. Throughout the whole thing I wanted to keep an open mind, because you know competition is good and I wished for them the best. So the Zune was created in top secrecy, utilizing I’m sure absurd amounts of money that has been collecting dust in an aircraft carrier parked in the Pudget Sound.

At first glance, the Zune looks decently cool – it’s got a nice big, color video screen, it’s about the same size as an iPod, yet it has some sense of character that places it on it’s own. It comes with a built in FM radio and has a wireless sharing function.

Then you pick it up.

When I first held the Zune about three months ago, my initial thought was, “my gosh, it feels like a toy.” One of the other guys at my label joked, “yeah, they should just stick a Fisher Price sticker on it”… ouch. But there’s truth in that. I pick it up and it just has this clunky feel to it. I shake it… dear heavens, there’s things rattling in there. Yikes.

I turn it on.

Now here’s one of their biggest mistakes. Obviously they didn’t want to remove themselves to far from the iPod design, so they included a scroll wheel… except the scroll wheel doesn’t scroll. It’s a four directional button in the shape of a circle! They would have been better off putting an old four-arrow Nintendo controller on it.

The big video screen is cool I guess, but the resolution is about the same as the video iPod, which means in terms of quality, the iPod has the better screen. The buttons are so small, spaced so awkwardly at the bottom of the device that it almost forces it to be a two handed player… unlike my iPod which I can simply hold in one hand and operate with my thumb while I drive down the road. On top of the buttons being small, they don’t light up so you can’t see them in the dark, and they’re also difficult to press, so after a while your fingers just get tired.

The thing is really hard to balance – in fact, I would say it is off balance, which means that when holding it in your hands it feels awkward, and you’re more prone to dropping it. At this point, a drop may do it some good. There’s already stuff rattling around inside so it probably won’t hurt anything.

The Zune comes in three colors: white, black, and poop. It comes with a little bag that is so tight at the opening you can hardly get the thing back in there. The wireless sharing function… leaves a lot to be desired. If you want to simply send a song to someone, it stops the music you’re currently playing. Same when you receive a song. And all the potential the wireless function has to be cool is lost because you can’t “request” a neighboring Zune for a song… you have to go physically ask the person for them to send the song, and then you can receive it… that would be like me having to call you on the phone to ask you to send an email.

As I was discussing with my friend the other day – the difference between an iPod and a Zune is this: Apple designed the iPod… Microsoft engineered the Zune. And you can tell. It’s all function OVER form, and I think that’s a mistake when it comes to “social electronics”.

MP3 players are more than just a functional device – the lend insight to your way of life and they are a fashion accessory. They are interwoven into the way you live your life and become integral to the way you experience entertainment. For as much as Zune is promoting the “social” aspect of their new device, I feel they’ve really fallen short on making it something people want to engage in a social setting.

If the Zune is the “iPod killer”, then they’ve gone into battle with nerf guns.


Two years ago my friend Ashley was diagnosed with cancer… again. When she was in highschool (before I knew her) she had already had a bout with it, but with a lot of cemo came through it ok. But this time was really bad. It had gotten into her bones and was affecting her spine and the base of her tailbone. I don’t know a lot about cancer, but I know that when it gets that deep it’s not a good thing. Medically they were out of options.

The doctor’s gave her three months to live, and we braced for the worst.

Ashley is one of the sweetest, most caring, Godly girls I know, and like it always does with people like that, it just pains you to face the reality that they could die very soon. I remember in those first few weeks I was so diligent about praying for her. I took it upon myself to be her prayer warrior (as many did I’m sure). There were days I would pray multiple times, begging God on her behalf to heal her in the midst of such a tragic outlook. Other days I would be really rushed, but would not fail to pray at least once, even if just for a few seconds. It was a good experience to be so closely and purposefully tied to something I was praying for – a lot times I feel my prayers are meaningless, and drifting off into empty space. But praying for someone’s life wasn’t meaningless. I remember feeling good about myself as I prayed daily for her – one month turned into two, which turned into three.

Summer rolled around, and I figured she was living on borrowed time. I was grateful for that, for her sake – more time to spend with her family and such. And as the weeks drew on, my habitual praying eventually slowed down and then altogether stopped. It’s weird how that works. The first few months I was in such a driven, almost panicked state, but then as time goes on the sense of urgency dwindles.

Over the summer Ashley and her mom started looking into some alternative treatments for the cancer. They looked into a lot of nutritionally based stuff, and some really advanced radiation treatment. Some stuff seemed to help, but it was hard to tell. Ashley’s mom would send us email updates from her clinic in Houston, and you know how those are… she tries to stay really positive but you can read between the lines and know things aren’t going all that well.

Time goes on. Six months turns into a year, which turns into a year and a half… in October we get an email saying that the most recent scans show that the tumors have spread and grown. One is pushing against her pancreas. Another is located at the base of her neck – not a good place for a tumor. And while I want to stay positive, and stay faithful, deep down I know it’s just a matter of time. They’ve been doing some pretty invasive cemo on her, and I know it’s getting her down – emotionally, physically, etc.

And now it’s December. I haven’t heard an update from Ashley in quite a while, which honestly is typical… when things aren’t going all that well, the updates are a lot less frequent.

So I’m walking out of my house this morning and I get a text from my friend Brian that says, “Ashley is healed! The cancer is gone!”. WHAT! I call him up and get the full story – it’s true, the cancer is gone. Ashley took a step of faith a couple months ago and decided to stop the radiation for the time being… and what do you know, the girl doesn’t have one trace of a tumor in her. They did a full CT scan last week and she’s completely clean! Amazing.

I’m awed and amazed. I’m so happy for Ashley. I’m disappointed in myself for not continuing to have faith throughout the whole thing. I can’t comprehend the power of supernatural healing, but I’m glad it still happens.

Merry Christmas Ashley.

this freaking meeting will never end

Yikes! Almost two whole weeks since my last post. I am shame-faced.

I am literally sitting in a meeting right now that is scheduled to last three hours. I am literally not even paying attention, and for good reason I might add. This is one of those stupid meetings that I get dragged into once a month because I need to be “in the loop”. There’s 18 people in here right now. Three of them are talking with each other… discussing budget stuff. Blah. The purpose of this meeting is to determine the number of units to ship into stores on upcoming projects… I work in digital retail – I don’t ship to stores. I so don’t care.

This is really annoying.

In other news, we finally got the Christmas tree up. But of course, the cat wanted to play with all of the ornaments, so Steph took all of the ornaments off the bottom half of our tree. Our tree is like a guy doing a meeting on a webcam… he’s got a shirt and tie on up top, but only wearing boxers off camera.

Ok, that was a bad analogy. Anyways, I suppose I should try to pretend like I’m paying attention here….

the most stellar youth handbell choir out of southern minnesota (it has a ring to it, don’t you think?)

So I threw on a little Vince Guaraldi Trio today to get in the Christmas mood – that would be music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. You know the song “Skating”? The one that starts out going [start with a high pitched voice and go lower] “da duh da da da, da duh da da da, da duh da da da, duuum… duuumm… duummm….” Yeah, anyways, nothing gets you in the holiday festive spirit more than hearing that song. For me it calls to mind images of being younger, all bundled up in the blue snowpants, going outside in the freezing cold of winter with my orange plastic sled, and those mittens that didn’t quite cover the skin on my wrists at the end of my jacket. I will forever have little stripes of frostbite across my wrists. Not to mention it gets dark at like 2:30 in the afternoon during winter in Minnesota, so I was always racing home to go sledding in the pitch black of night… err, afternoon.

“Skating” also calls to mind other memories, namely, handbell choir in highschool. Ah yes, handbell choir. Looking back on it, it feels so odd that I was actually in a handbell choir – just the sound of it seems so… girly. For some reason it wasn’t though. Everyone who was anyone and could count to 4 was in our youth handbell choir at good ol’ Evangel UMC. Those who could only count to 3 played the bells in the bass cleff, because they only had to ring them once or twice a measure. We were pretty awesome though. We were, in fact, the most stellar youth handbell choir out of Southern Minnesota. We showed up many an adult handbell choirs in our day.

Anyways, to make what should have been a short story long, our senior year in high school we played the song “Skating” in rockin’ handbell style. It was amazing, and hilarious, and one of the oddest things to ever resonate from the tip of a hinged plastic clapper.

please leave a message

Happy Post-Thanksgiving everyone – hope it was fantabulous. I called my parents to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving this weekend and got the answering machine… believe it or not, my parents finally changed the little message that plays on the machine prior to you leaving a message! I was shocked!! Please understand, my parents have had the same voicemail message since I was in, I don’t know, 5th grade. I guess since all the kids moved out of the house it was time to move on with the voicemail as well. Tim always used to make fun of me for the message that my dad said… he’d always recite it for me.

Timmy, bonus points for you if you still remember what the Burns Residence answering machine used to say…

blogs are like dead rabbits falling from pine trees

I was sick yesterday – that was a whole lot of no fun. But I got a day off of work, and I tell you what… sleeping until 1PM and watching crappy daytime TV the rest of the afternoon wasn’t a bad tradeoff. All of that reminded me once again of how strong a proponent I am for the four day work week. I think I would gladly sacrifice a few extra hours during the week in order to justify having a three day weekend four times a month. How awesome would that be?

I got a rousing welcome into the blogging world by Uncle Tim today. Thanks Tim. Tim thinks that my blog is entirely based around making fun of him, which is an interesting concept (and one to consider), but not entirely true. However, I realized that the vast majority of my posts have been relatively sarcastic in nature, and it was always my intention to have a blog that fairly balanced a sarcastic view of life with a healthy dose of meaningful discussion.

The thing is, I haven’t been all that stimulated with any deep thought provoking life questions recently. I almost feel that since I left college I haven’t been asking many deep thought provoking life questions. I feel bad about that, because it kind of points to the direction of my spiritual life in general – it’s important to stay sharp and focused by asking those types of questions, and more often than not I’m not giving that area too much attention.

So, to change the direction of this ship and rattle some cages I’m tempted to throw something out there like “Anyone who wasn’t baptized as an infant is not truly saved”. I doubt that would go anywhere though. Of course the one time Tim asked a serious question on his blog it flopped like a dead rabbit falling from a pine tree, so maybe seriousness isn’t the direction to go on blogs.

No one has taken me up on my standing offer to talk about anything though. After all, this space is for rent and we can talk about anything for a nominal fee. And the fee isn’t all that bad… you just have to put up with Tim’s sarcastic remarks as he makes a mockery of us all. So I have an idea, you should offer me some good deep topics to dig into and then I’ll return a response supported by my heathen Methodist upbringing. It will be awesome.

oh, by the way…

I applied for a new job within my company a few weeks ago… actually, it was two months ago, literally. That is point of frustration #1, but oh well… I understand it takes time to decide these things. So I applied for the job – I felt really good about it too – figured I was a perfect candidate, and it was something I was really interested in. Figured I had a good relationship with the guy that was hiring. But in the end I didn’t get the job. I’m ok with that I guess. I was excited about the possibility of something new, but I also appreciate what I have.

But the thing that really frustrates me about all this is the way I found out that I didn’t get it. I was out of the office Thursday and Friday last week, and on Friday I start getting all of these messages from my friends in the office (who knew I had applied) saying that the “new girl” was there and was being introduced to everyone. The guy had never said anything to me… it would have been nice to know I hadn’t gotten the job and get some feedback, but I got nothing. I mean, they probably made the decision two weeks ago – that should have been plenty of time to talk to me. I figured that was standard HR protocol. And then to top it all off, I have a regularly scheduled meeting with this guy at 9:15 this morning, so I walk into the meeting and new girl is there, and he introduces us, plays it off like it’s completely normal, and that’s that – end of story.

Alright, I vented. Now I’m going to write a nice and calm note to HR and then be done with it.

all up in my grill

For our first year anniversary my parents got us a new grill – a real grill! Far different from the little camping grill we were using before that we had to haul out of the storage closet and prop up on cinder blocks while cooking – the one that burned through a little canister of propane after about 17 minutes of use. But my friend Dave gave that little thing to us for our wedding, and it served us well, so thank you Dave.

Apparently the “giving of the grill” is a family tradition. My grandparents bought my parents a grill for their 1st year anniversary. My dad had to put the thing together himself, and in my dad’s words he’s “still trying to find a way to get him back”. So that’s the predicament we have been in for the last two weeks… we’ve had grill parts strewn around the house, and we’ve been living in fear having heard horror stories from others who have attempted to assemble a grill in the past. We’ve received numerous warnings from various people encouraging us to avoid this endeavor at all costs. My mom even begged us to call the people at Sears, saying that they would probably be willing to come out and set it up for us. Goodness.

So this morning I decided to take on the challenge. I got plenty of rest last night, had eaten my Cheerios, put the Nebraska-Missouri game on – figured I was good to go. Now, where’s the instructions…?

In all seriousness the assembly went quite well. I imagine the grill companies have greatly improved their instructions on how to put grills together in recent years, following many irate customer service calls and bomb threats I’m sure. The hardest part was keeping Linus from eating the Styrofoam packaging and suffocating himself on the plastic wrapping. There were a couple moments that needed a sledgehammer, but I made Steph do that part. All I have to do now is go out and get a propane tank, which is probably where it will all fall apart for me… I’ll surely burn down the woods behind our house.

So, that’s done. There’s some pictures below of the assembly for those that care.

Oh, and Nebraska won! Sorry Melissa… kinda.

Click To Enlarge

a slight change of font

While guest blogging for Tim over the weekend, I realized that the font he uses for his blogs is Verdana, not Arial as I mistakenly once assumed. When writing emails at work I much prefer the use of Arial over Verdana… for some reason Verdana in emails just grates on me.

I’m going to overlook this however, because I have always liked the font presentation on Tim’s blog, especially with the “small” font size. Unfortunately Arial is ridiculously hard to read with the “small” font size. And because I would ultimately prefer a smaller font, I am going to bite the bullet on this one and make a slight change to my blogger fonting… I am now a Verdana blogger.

I am sorry for the time you wasted just reading this post. If you would like something a little more entertaining, check out the three posts I wrote on Tim’s site this weekend…