Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Moving Day

We're moving.

After much preparation and many long hours, we're not fully ready, but it's time to make the move anyway. Our time here has been good. We've enjoyed it. But now it's time to go.

Did I mention I'm talking about this blog? This, my 238th post on RevMcGator, will be the last. While this space will continue to exist - just because - head on over to our new space - SarcasticMonkeys.com. All 237 previous posts from RevMcGator are there. And a brand new post briefly explaining the move will greet you.

This has been a goal of mine for awhile. In fact, anyone that has visited my Twitter page has seen the new website address on my Twitter background for the last several months.

Come on over. We're still getting organized, unpacking boxes, hanging curtains and stuff, but we hope you'll like it. Bring the family.

(So long, Blogger!)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner [Mc]

The last week has me thinking about vision, and not in the metaphorical sense that churches and ministers often talk about. You might have seen my Tweets or Facebook status about what has happened, but here's the whole story.

Several weeks ago - and I won't get the timing of events before this week exactly right - our friend, Annette, told Trudi about a contest in the newspaper from a local ophthalmologist with a prize of free Lasik surgery. Trudi has talked before about how much she would like to have that done, but it is quite expensive. As much as she would like to have it done, she also loves me [:)] and asked Shae to write a nomination letter to get me into the contest.

They didn't tell me they were doing this. Here is Shae's letter:
"My dad has worn corrective lenses since he was a kid. He's never complained, except for muttering under his breath when he lost his contact on the bathroom floor or when we found a picture of him in his third grade "Harry Potter" look... which is not good, since he was rocking those owl-eyed specs decades before the little wizard ever existed. He's been a good sport about getting short-changed in the eye department, but when my mom read the blurb in the News-Press about this prize, we both knew we wanted to win for Dad.
So we did a little digging. I've never seen my Dad budge without his contacts or his glasses. From the moment he wakes up, he's wearing something to help him see. I knew his eyes were bad, I just didn't know how bad until we called his eye doctor. As it turns out, my poor father has 20/400 vision, plus an astigmatism. According to the doctor, without corrective lenses, he can't see a hand in front of his face. I may be eighteen, but I still haven't lost the sense of seeing my dad as a superhero who can fix anything, so it was a shock to hear that without those clunky lenses, he would be considered legally blind.

I'm nominating my dad because I love him and because, frankly, he deserves it. He's been a pastor since 1990. His job is to help others, whether they're a long-time member of the church or just a visitor passing through. He's wonderful at his job, but he's even better as a dad. He gave us his sense of humor, his values on right and wrong, his love of chocolate, and his brown eyes. I love those eyes because they're his eyes... and mine. He's done so much for everyone else, so I would love to be able to do this one thing for him. Please pick my father, Reverend Tim McDaniel. Let him ditch those Clark Kent spectacles, so everyone else can see the Superman that we see."

Okay, obviously she stretched it a bit. I'm not Clark Kent, Superman or even Jimmy Olsen. Although, I might be close to Jimmy. However, the part about my eyes is true. Without glasses or contacts, I can't focus beyond about six inches. Other than that, it kind of sounds like I'm a doddering old guy. Which I might be.

Anyway, the Giving Eyes contest is offered by Collins Vision and Dr. Michael Collins. He is a rather young-looking doctor who specializes in Lasik surgery. Ann, a very nice lady from his office, called in late April to say that I was one of four finalists. She was very excited for us and seemed to be really impressed by Shae's letter.

The next thing to be done was to be examined, to find out if my eyes were eligible for the Lasik procedure. My appointment was yesterday, May 28. To prepare for the appointment, I had to go for a week without my contacts, wearing only my glasses.

Wearing my glasses is annoying, because they aren't up to my current prescription, and wearing them is just bothersome anyway, but I was happy to do it, because of the possibility of winning the contest.

At the same time, I went into this without much expectation, not because I didn't want the prize, or because I doubted that I might win. Recently I was reading Dan Ariely's book, Predictably Irrational (see the link on my sidebar), and he was talking about how we are prone to acting in certain ways, especially when we take "ownership" of things. There are good results to taking ownership, and there are not-so-good results, especially when we take ownership of things that don't belong to us. The funny thing is, we can easily take ownership of things ahead of time. That's the whole basis of advertising, getting the consumer to picture themselves in ownership of what they're trying to sell.

I didn't want to "own" a prize that wasn't mine. As a result, I kept my expectations down. Paradoxically, I fully expected to win. I can't explain why, other than I thought Shae's letter was really good and I had been told that the other finalists had been self-nominated.

Yesterday I went to the Collins Vision office, where I was treated very nicely and got to meet Ann, Dr. Collins, and the rest of the office staff. Dr. Collins' assistant ran several tests on my eyes, and he remarked that I seemed well-qualified for Lasik.

The last thing he did was dilate my eyes and sent me out to the waiting room. As I sat there, a tall man came in and announced himself to the receptionist as Gary Danielson. For those that don't know, he was quarterback of the Detroit Lions back in 1976-1984, and currently is the lead analyst for CBS Sports' Southeastern Conference football broadcasts. Both of those things are important to me, since I am a Lions fan since before he was quarterback (Greg Landry) and I really enjoy his commentating (along with Verne Lundquist) on the CBS broadcasts.

How cool, I thought. I wanted to say something, but didn't really want to bother him, especially since I didn't have anything particularly interesting to say. In the end, I left him alone, since no one else in the waiting room seemed to know who he was. I did Tweet that he was there, though.

Eventually I went in and met Dr. Collins, who was very nice, and he did further tests on my eyes. These were the most painful. He had to shine very bright lights in my eyes, which with my eyes dilated, was like poking the sun in my eye.

After he was finished, he confirmed that my eyes were suited to Lasik. However, my left eye, which seems to be my dominant eye, is weaker than my right eye. He said that he doesn't think my left eye would be able to be fully corrected to 20/20. Because I am at the age where my close vision isn't perfect, he would normally fully correct my dominant eye and leave the other eye less than fully corrected for distance so that I wouldn't need reading glasses. But, because of the weakness of my dominant eye, he wouldn't suggest that for me, choosing rather to fully correct both eyes.

This morning, bright and early, Ann called. I was chosen as the winner! She said the surgery date would be July 10 for what normally would be a $4900 procedure, but will be free to me. This is an advanced Lasik procedure that is $1000 more than their regular Lasik.

The problem is that I am scheduled to leave on July 11 for National Bible Quiz Finals in St. Louis. Ann said she would check with Dr. Collins, because a post-op check-up is necessary. She also mentioned that they had checked online and found my Twitter account. They saw my Tweet about Gary Danielson, which they thought was "cute", and hoped to get an autograph for me.

Later, she contacted me and we've set the date. Unfortunately, my trip has messed up the July date, and surgery is now scheduled for Friday, September 4th. It's disappointing to wait, but it'll be great when it's here.

That's the story. I'm a winner. I'll keep you up-to-date here. God is good to me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Useful, but not used [Gator]

Back to my iPhone.

No, that's not a movie with Justin Long reprising the role of Marty McFly. (Though, presumably, Steve Jobs would be Doc.)

Neither is it the mythical Back to My Mac application that somehow never gets me all the way back to mine.

No, you see, a few posts ago I began a look at all the applications that are on my iPhone. Apple was approaching the one billionth iPhone app sold through the App Store, and I'd like to think I was a part of that.

Much has happened since then. The billionth app was sold. My iPhone died. It was my third, so iPhone #4 had to be reloaded and resynced. I traveled a lot. The Celtics beat the Bulls in 7 games. I listened to many podcasts. I found a need for flatulence applications.

But I'm back on topic, and ready to show you Page 8, and the 10 apps that are currently there.

See, that's the thing right there. Four weeks ago, when I began this series of reviews, I only had 8 apps on page 8. That's what happens with the App Store. There are so many interesting and useful apps, so many of which are free, it's easy to go into app-overload. In the meantime, some that were originally on the back 40 that is page 8 got moved up, and other apps got moved to the back. So, before any more apps get shuffled around, here is...

Page Eight
As the post title says, these apps might be useful, they're just not being used by me often enough for them to be nearer the front page. But, like an old belt, they might come in handy sometime, so I'm not ready to put them in the Trash just yet.

YouNote is a neat little utility that allows you to capture notes, pictures, recordings, doodles, or web pages inside this app. These can then be backup and/or restored to/from your computer using a desktop app. Both apps are free.

Scrooge & Cratchit is a free e-book from author Matt McHugh that is written as a sequel to Christmas Carol. I thought it was a very interesting way to follow-up the original story, exploring what the natural progression would look like if Scrooge had really had as much of a change of heart as it first appeared.

Stitcher is a free app that bills itself as "personalized audio" and tries to pass itself off as a radio station aggregator, ala AOL Radio. It is actually nothing more than a podcast aggregator. Once upon a time, that was cool, but since podcasts can now be downloaded directly through iTunes, it is no longer necessary. (I really should go ahead and delete it.)

Wanted is one of many silly, specialized apps that are one gag. The gag with this app is that you can make your own wanted posters from pictures on your phone. You can then save them to your photo library, which you can then sync back to iPhoto to do whatever you like.

The tools and little things you can add to your pictures are surprisingly good. As you can see from this picture of Summer, the finalized pictures are sepia-toned images, which look like the old time wanted posters. You have the option to customize your poster with names, wanted amounts and other choices. Wanted is a free app.

HandDBase is one of the few apps I've paid for, and, at $9.99 is tied for the most expensive app I've purchased so far. This relational database manager from DDH Software has its roots in the Windows world, so there are some limitations on the Mac. The biggest limitation is that syncronization is mostly on the PC side. I purchased this app because of limited choices at the time and a desire to begin some inventory management at the church. However, data entry via the app isn't as intuitive or easy as I had hoped, and the inability to store pictures in a field is very disappointing. Overall, if I lived in the PC world exclusively, I would really like this app. But I don't.

[Okay, at this point, I've got to confess...you might even be interested in all this, but I'm losing interest. I've worked on this piece several different days, for a couple hours at a time, and it seems like I'll never finish. This is it. I've got the rest of this page of apps and seven more besides, but I don't want to write about it anymore. Since this is my blog, I won't. If you have a question about any of these apps, I'll be happy to answer. Otherwise...let's go on to something else.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why many wept, but not for joy [Mc]

I did not weep for joy. But I agree with everything else that John Piper says in this video.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Showroom condition [Mc]

Imagine you've just purchased your dream car. You've worked and saved and maybe even borrowed to get the thousands of dollars necessary to acquire your fantasy vehicle.

I don't know what your dream machine is - Lamborghini, Porsche, Corvette, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes - in your favorite color scheme, with all the bells and whistles. Fancy wheels, tricked out...your absolute ultimate ride. And it's all yours.

Imagine how you would feel. Imagine how you would care for it. Picture it in your driveway.

Now picture yourself applying a "My other car is a Pinto" bumper sticker on the side of your beautiful car.

Would that be funny? Edgy? Cool? Dumb?

I don't see too many bumper stickers on really expensive cars, especially applied to the paint. Not only do they change the look of a vehicle (usually not for the better), but they ruin the paint if you ever decide to remove them.

People understand that about cars. They don't mind posting their emotions on their cars if they're sure those feelings will never change. But, even then, if they really value their vehicle and value the way it looks, they usually won't apply a sticker to it...or will they?

If you put a bumper sticker on your car, you value the sentiment you are expressing more than you value your vehicle. Perhaps expressing yourself in this way feels very important.

Otherwise, you could stay silent and it wouldn't matter.

But we think it does matter, and it's important to us that every other person on the road knows who are favorite team is, what candidate we're voting for, how we feel about hot-button topics, and where our honor student goes to school. Even if that means that everyone knows we backed the losing candidate or the unpopular position.

Of course, we know our cars won't last forever. Eventually we'll get tired of them, just as we get tired of the stickers we've attached to them. Even our dream car will wear out.

Yet, I think if we really value the car - our fabulously appointed and richly detailed dream car, or even our regular, but shiny family sedan - we won't muck it up with bumper stickers, because we recognize that a car that retains the beauty of "showroom condition" is more valuable than a car with our favorite witty saying hanging off of it.


...how much do you value the body God gave you?

[This articles was inspired by this post on TwentyTwoWords.com]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

FinallyFast = FantasticallyStupid [Gator]

File this one under "Commercials I Can't Stand".

If it was just dumb, I don't think I would mention it. If it were crass or boring, I wouldn't be writing about it. This crosses the line, past stupid, almost to criminal.

I just saw it again, and immediately said to myself - that's it, I'm writing about this.

The commercial is for FinallyFast.com. It begins with a guy complaining that his new computer is really slow. Then...well, watch this two-minute version, then we'll talk...

Did you hear the announcer? "Make any computer fast." Of course, he says that while the text on-screen tells you that FinallyFast is for PC computers only. That means, not Macs.

But, wait...what was it the first guy, the one complaining about his slow computer, was using? An old iMac. And the second person in the commercial was using...a MacBook.

On further inspection, Ascentive, the company touted as having been featured in BusinessWeek and Forbes, WAS indeed featured in Forbes...in 2002...for its program that lets users spy on supposedly private instant messages. That's right...they were featured for...spyware.

Nice. And evil. And a site and company to avoid.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Doing my part [Gator]

[Warning: for those that are bored by computer-talk, especially as pertains to software and the iPhone, this post...and the ones to follow...are not for you. You've been warned.]

Apple is currently counting towards the billionth download from their iPhone app store. I know I've done my part. Ever since the update of the iPhone last summer, when the App Store opened, there have been an ever-increasing variety of cool and useful apps. Most of the ones I choose are free.

Currently we are restricted to nine pages of apps. At 16 per page, plus the four on the bottom bar, that means you can have a total of 148 apps on your iPhone at any one time. I don't have that many, but I do have 102.

So, as a public service...um, okay, whatever...here are all 102 of my apps, why I have them, why I do or don't use them, and anything else that might help you decide to add them to your phone or not.

I've organized my nine pages from most important to least important, mostly. And the four most critical apps are on my home row - the row at the bottom that appears on every page.

We start with the least important, on...

Page Nine
The apps on this page made it here for one very important reason - I don't use them. It doesn't mean they're bad or useless...necessarily. But I don't use them. Ever. So why are they here at all? Why haven't I deleted them? Well...I MIGHT use them. Maybe. Sometime. Okay, I know I won't, but I can't bring myself to delete them.

There are some apps I have deleted. Some good ones, too. Probably the best one I've deleted is the Masters app. But the Masters is over, so I won't need it. There were a couple NCAA Basketball Tournament apps I deleted, too.

As for these apps, the top row contains four Twitter apps that all have some great features and work quite well, though somewhat differently from each other. In fact, at one time I was using all four of them, in order to manage my different Twitter accounts (follow me at Twitter.com/TimMcDaniel.) Probably my favorite of the four was Twitterific. All four of them are free.

UReport is a free Fox News app, that allows you to submit news stories to Fox. Never used it.

SmileDialLite is a neat little free app that does one thing - it allows you to store the photo of one of your contacts with their contact information. Then, when you start the program, you see your contact's photo full-screen, and when you tap the bottom half of the picture, it dials their phone number. If you tap the top half, it will send them a text. Of course, this has limited appeal, since you can only store one person. SmileDial Pro allows multiple people for $3.99. Nice gimmick, but I don't need it.

Lightsaber is the official Star Wars app. Cool, but I don't use it. (It's free.)

Air Sharing is probably the most useful app I never use. It allows you to wirelessly move files from your computer to your iPhone and vice-versa. It works. It's easy. Why don't I use it? Um...I don't know. Perhaps it's because I don't usually need to. But it's there in case I do.

I got Air Sharing for free, during an introductory offer. Now it costs $4.99 through the App Store.

You'll notice that at the bottom of my screen, in my home row, are my four most critical apps, and they're not the four that Apple pre-determined should be my four most critical apps.

Okay, three out of four are. The Phone, Safari, and iPod apps are far and away the most important things about the iPhone, because, well, it IS a phone, the internet is always important, and, as much as it's a phone, it's also an iPod.

The fourth app in my home row is one of the few apps I've paid for. It's also the reason the other four Twitter apps ended up on the ninth page. Tweetie is $2.99, and it takes the place of the other apps mainly because it handles multiple accounts. I update my Twitter status - and also my Facebook status via Twitter - many times a day. I also have Twitter accounts for the church (Twitter.com/FaithAssembly), my BibleQuizPodcast (Twitter.com/BQPodcast), and a couple of others, so this has become an important app.

Next: The 8 on page 8.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's Sunday, but Monday's coming! [Rev]

How many similarities and differences do you see between Easter for today's church and Easter for those that experienced the first one? Of course, the differences are many - egg hunts, sales and shopping, chocolate bunnies, to name a few.

But one of the biggest differences also leads to one of the biggest similarities.

The first Easter was rather low-key, I would imagine. Jesus' followers were still in hiding and shock from the events of the crucifixion. Even hearing the news that Jesus was alive, there had to be disbelief, numbness, confusion - as evidenced by the conversation of the disciples traveling to Emmaus.

On the other hand, Easter in American churches is decidedly...loud. We know that it might be the only chance we have to impress those that will only enter our doors this one time, so we pull out all the stops. For many churches that means a production - a BIG production. Even several days of the big production.

And then?

That's where there can be an important similarity. What do you do when what seems like the big finish becomes the big beginning? How do you refocus when events seem to have reached their peak, when the credits should roll and everyone should live happily ever after...and Monday comes?

For James, John, Peter and the gang, three years of preparation had led them to Jerusalem and a terrible ending. The Messiah was taken and killed. One of their group had betrayed him and their entire purpose had vanished on a cross. Then Easter morning came and the terrible ending suddenly became something else entirely.

The fatigue of wasted emotion gave way to exhilaration, then to a new reality for this small group. The Messiah HAD come, but it wasn't what they had expected. Suddenly there was the responsibility of a continued and sustained...something. Something, that would become the Church.

It became the beginning of the most important fifty days in the life of the Church. Fifty days later, there was power in the upper room and God breaking through in the streets. It all started on a Monday.

That's where we are, the beginning of fifty important days in the life of the Church.

The big productions came and went. The songs were sung, the big outreaches to kids and families were produced, all hands were on deck and the ships sailed. (Okay, I mix my metaphors and overdo it a bit...and tend to run-on my sentences, but hopefully you get the idea.)

And the question for all is...now what?


We'll debrief the weekend. We'll think about the next big event. We'll gameplan for the summer. We'll try to recover physically and emotionally from what we've used in the productions and big Easter events.

But - and I'll guarantee this - the next fifty days will be important. By the time we get to May 31, we'll know how Easter weekend really went. As we head into June we'll know whether these last few days produced life or just a lot of activity.

Yes, it's been important, and hopefully some lasting decisions have been made and new life has begun.

Yes, the tomb is empty. But Monday's coming.

And 50 important days.