A Top Ten List

A special Top Ten List, dedicated to my son:

The Top Ten Things You Shouldn’t Touch When Your Face And Hands Are Covered With Ranch Dressing:

10. Your recorder (the instrument, not the the electronic device, although that could apply, too)
9. The walls
8. My shirt
7. Mommy’s computer
6. The phone
5. Doorknobs
4. My computer
3. Any guitar in the house
2. My iPod Touch
1. Me

25 Random Things

Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this , go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click post.

PS: If you’re reading this on my blog, this is a Facebook thing, but I thought it might make a fun blog post.

1. I am an unashamed Mac snob, but that’s mostly because I know Windows so well.
2. I’ve known my wife Jen since eighth grade Spanish class, where she couldn’t pronounce her Spanish name well at all. For years after, she thought my name was Nacho. I love her more than anything in this world. We’ve been married since 1994, just before our senior year in college.
3. I adopted a son in 2008. His name is Jonathan and he’s five years old going on four. I was a foster parent to five other children before that.
4. I’m a worship leader at my church. I’ve been involved in leading worship since college, when I helped out at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
5. I named my daughter Grace because she is a gift from God.
6. I was in a Christian rock band called Anonymous Joe for two years in the ’90s. I sang and played guitar. My wife played bass.
7. I wrote a complete student information system using REALbasic and PostgreSQL. It was called Kodiak and it will be retired this summer.
8. Watership Down is probably my favorite novel.
9. For years I was obsessed with The Kinks. I still think they were one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.
10. I can’t tolerate corduroy and I don’t like to wear navy blue pants.
11. My dog and my son both have reactive attachment disorder. It’s funny in the dog. Not so much for my son.
12. Music is an extremely important part of my life. I almost always have music going, whether I’m at my desk or in the car. I don’t understand people who crave silence.
13. I went years without really watching television, aside from whatever children’s shows my daughter was watching (I loved Bear In The Big Blue House and pre-Joe Blue’s Clues). But lately I’ve been into Battlestar Galactica, Chuck, Dexter, LOST, Heroes, and The Big Bang Theory.
14. Jen and I lost our first son on October 31, 2000. He was stillborn. To this day, I hate Halloween. His name was Robert, in honor of my maternal grandfather, who is one of the greatest men I know.
15. I have owned six guitars. I currently own two, a Parkwood H4 and an Alvarez White Fusion.
16. I may have mild OCD.
17. The first concert I ever attended was INXS in Philadelphia in 1989, part of their Calling All Nations Tour. The opening act was Ziggy Marley. I later learned that my friend Tim was there, but we never met until 2005 or so, when he started going to my church and joined the worship team with me. The last concert I went to (as of this writing) was Chris Tomlin in Hershey, part of his Hello Love tour.
18. Speaking of INXS, Anonymous Joe played a show at Javacasa the night that Michael Hutchence took his own life. It was one of our best shows ever.
19. I have a BSE in English and I’m a certified English teacher. I’ve been working in technology since 1992.
20. My middle name is Russell, which is my father’s first name. My son’s middle name is Russell, in honor of my father.
21. I bought my first television in 2008. Actually, two of them. Up until then, I’d never paid for one. I only got hand-me-downs from relatives and friends.
22. I have a tie clip made from the battery of Dwight Eisenhower’s watch.
23. I don’t pay much attention to money. I go to work and money shows up in my account. Jen handles almost all of the finances, because if I did it, we’d be homeless.
24. I am starting a new band called Superficial Charm. I sing and play guitar. My wife plays bass. My good friend Tom plays lead guitar.
25. I am saved by grace alone.

A Long December

“A long December and there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.”
— Counting Crows

In 2008, I:
– adopted a son
started using Twitter
– started a new band with Tom
– bought a house
– sold a house
– paid off my car
– said goodbye to David, at least as a co-worker/boss
– didn’t get the promotion I applied for, but…
– got a new boss
started using an iPod Touch
– set up a home media server with one terabyte of storage
– switched to DSL and satellite TV, dumping Comcast
– bought two televisions, one LCD and one plasma (I had never paid for a television before 2008)
– watched all episodes to date of LOST, Battlestar Galactica, and Dexter (currently working on Heroes)
– bought some new music (I heart Weezer)
– bought some old music (and rediscovered the magic that is Brian Setzer)
– bought a couple DVDs (Cloverfield really kinda sucked, but Charlie Bartlett was cool)
– got a sweet Danelectro vibe pedal
– found a great used tube amp
– really got sucked into Facebook
– became an uncle for the fourth time
– found out my cousins-in-law are having a baby
– helped my wife’s sister and her husband move
– went to Fenwick Island, DE
– went to Ocean City, NJ
– went to Austin, TX
– moved to Columbia, PA
– helped with renovations at my church
– started a website about worship issues
– played Warfish… a lot
– drank way too much caffeine, particularly in the form of Diet Cherry Vanilla Doctor Pepper
– got a coupon for a free Doctor Pepper
– found a new pizza shop
– installed Linux a couple times, OS X a bunch of times, and Windows way too many times
– played at the Art & Soul Cafe four times (I think)
– hacked two Linksys routers to enable bridge mode

How about you?

The Bacon Cheeseburger Project

Wow. That was probably the most satisfying sandwich I’ve ever had.

Or maybe I should say sandwiches.

click for bigger image

Yes, that was my lunch. A gigantic bacon cheeseburger. And the astute gourmet will notice that instead of a single hamburger bun, we’ve substituted two grilled cheese sandwiches. We made six of these bad boys today, and almost everybody in my department ate one. I opted for onions, peppers, and pickles on mine as well.

I am stuffed. I think I’ll just have a salad for supper.

Malfunction

I’m pretty sure I have mild OCD. Nothing severe. I’m not compulsively drawn to light switches or anything like that, but I do have some personality “quirks” that are getting harder to hide as time goes by. My co-workers have been discovering some of my “issues” and showing absolutely no mercy. So I figured, why not take the bull by the horns and show everyone just how deep the rabbit hole goes?

When I eat sausage or hot dogs, I always cut them into an even number of pieces, which are eaten in twos. I save the end pieces for last. No exceptions, unless eating them in a bun.

I chew gum in pairs. You will rarely see me bum of a stick of gum off of someone because I’d feel like a moocher taking two pieces. Exceptions can be made on airplanes and in cases of very bad breath.

If I step on a sidewalk crack or even a seam in a tile floor with one foot, I strive to get the other foot onto a seam or crack of similar depth as soon as possible. The longer it takes, the smaller the second crack or seam needs to be to even out the sensation, although it never goes away entirely on its own. It has a half-life or something.

My favorite pretzels are Herr’s Sourdough Nuggets. I eat them in pairs, one on each side of my mouth, in order to keep the saltiness on my tongue relatively balanced. This requires examining the pretzels as I remove them from the bag in order to pair up nuggets of roughly equal saltiness. Exceptions can be made only in two cases: extreme hunger and lack of beverage, in which case pretzels may be consumed one at a time.

I sort crackers by saltiness before eating them. My daughter has not only started doing the same, but she recently actually solicited my input on how well hers were sorted, because independent verification can be valuable. I’m pleased to say that she sorted them well.

As for colorful candies, like M&M’s, well, conjure up a picture in your head, and it’s probably spot on.

I get these sugar free wafers at Darrenkamps or Stauffers sometimes. To eat them, I remove the top wafer from two of them and then combine the remains to make a double stuff. Bonus points for when I have a box of chocolate flavored wafers and vanilla flavored wafers, which can be combined into a multi-flavor double stuff. Exceptions can be made when there’s a troublesome top that doesn’t want to come off, in which case a one-point-five stuff will work.

I count syllables. I count them as I speak or think phrases, and I count them when other people speak. I prefer even numbers of syllables that are multiples of three. Six is good. Eighteen is best. I don’t know why. Even though they’re odd numbers, five and seventeen are okay. Twelve is good, but not eleven. And no, I will not do it for your entertainment, so don’t ask. Yes, I’m doing it anyway, but no, not for you.

I’ve also recently started, when typing titles, to capitalize articles, prepositions, and other words that should not be capitalized according to the rules of proper grammar. It pains me to do so, because I was an English major and my grammar is otherwise relatively flawless, but I simply can’t stand how unbalanced the lower case words look.

If you look at my hand when playing Uno, you’ll find that my cards are sorted first by color, then by point value. In other cards games, they’re sorted by suit then value. I thought everybody did this until we got the version of Uno where you swap hands with each other. I saw some horrifying things.

Maybe this is why I’m drawn to databases and programming, where traits like this actually come in fairly handy. One thing’s for sure: I can’t help any of it.

All Kinds Of New Stuff

So, I haven’t mentioned it, but my dear friend David has moved onto greener pastures. At the end of October, he left Etown for Boiling Springs High School, where he now teaches Business and Computer Technologies. As sad as I was to see him go, I’m happy for him. I love David like a brother, and I could see that he hadn’t been happy at Etown for a long time. He seems much happier since the move, and I’m glad for that.

Of course, that leaves the good ol’ Etown technology department without a director. Well, as you might imagine, I’ve thrown my hat into that ring. I’ve been at Etown for more than a decade, and right now, we have the strongest tech team we’ve ever had (slightly less so since David left, but still). My hope is that I’m chosen to lead that team.

Onto musical issues. As you might have guessed from a previous post, I’ve started a new band: Superficial Charm. So far it’s me on vocals and rhythm guitar, Tom on lead guitar, and my beautiful wife on bass. Astute devotees of traditional rock music will notice the lack of drums, but I’m working on that. My buddy Steve was gracious to jump in and drum for us at our first gig last weekend. Not much else to report yet, but when I have more to say about the band, we’ll probably set up a new site.

One final note: my friend Brett and I have started up a new site dedicate to connecting and supporting the worship community in the Lancaster County area. We envision a place where worship leaders and others can connect, share ideas, share resources, and share their lives with each other. We’re still getting things off the ground, but we have big plans for the future.

(On a side note, through putting up the Lancaster Area Worship Network site, I fell in love with WordPress again. It’s simply magnificent software.)

Message From The Queen

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, seek we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.) Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ with out skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise’. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up ‘vocabulary’)

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of -ize.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables.
Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline)-roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

11. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.

12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body Armour like a bunch of nancies). Don’t try Rugby – the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen

Original source unknown, but this was sent to my department by our secretary, who, as you may assume, is English, and quite a hoot about it.

Chapter Titles In The Book I Someday Want To Write About My Son

I’ll probably never get around to writing this book, but I hope I do. I’d like to read it when it’s done. Should be interesting. Anyway, here, in no particular order, is a partial list of the chapter titles from the book.

Downtown
In which I discuss the circumstances in which we first found him.

A Tale Of Two Cities
In which I discuss our “courtship”: the expanse of time between meeting Jonathan and moving him into our home.

Free At Last, Free At Last
In which I discuss the days leading up to his adoption and the great relief we felt when it was finally done.

The Path Of Most Resistance
In which I discuss his tendency to perform every task in the most difficult, cumbersome, awkward way.

Love Will Tear Us Apart
In which I discuss the initial effects of Jonathan’s presence upon my marriage.

And Along Came Emmi
In which I discuss the birth of my first niece and the effect on Jonathan.

Millions Of Peaches
In which I discuss Jonathan’s uncanny ability to identify songs after one hearing and the possibility that his knowledge of alternative rock will someday be encyclopedic (assuming I can keep him from listening to too much of his sister’s Hannah Montana, which could corrupt him).

Can You Make It Bigger?
In which I discuss some of the peculiarities of Jonathan’s language development.

It’s My Birthday!
In which I discuss Jonathan’s early insistence that every day was birthday (and also the birthday of Joe from Blue’s Clues (Joe, by the way, is no Steve, and never will be)).

Pete And Repeat
In which I discuss the reasons why Jonathan’s media consumption is now very, very limited.

Angels Watching Over Us
In which I discuss Bethanna, and how very helpful they were to us throughout the process.

Kindred Spirits
In which I discuss the strange, unique, and strong bond between my father and my son.