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.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Current favorite commercial [Gator]

It made me laugh. If you know basketball, or are familiar...even a little bit...with college basketball, this may make you laugh, too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

One of those ideas I wish I had thought of [Mc]

This would probably be a good Mother's Day idea for Trudi (if I hadn't just spoiled it by saying that.)

The Thumbsaver looks like one of those things we ALL should have thought of, but someone else did, and they'll probably make a mint off of it. I saw it on GeekBrief, and instantly thought of all the thumbs that could have been saved...and the young ears that wouldn't have heard language they shouldn't have heard, and the mouths that said words they shouldn't have said...if they only had this gadget.

(I'm not the handyman in the family, so - no, it wouldn't be a good Father's Day gift for me. But maybe for someone else.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

That criminal software thing [Mc]

Trudi said something the other day about "that criminal software thing you posted about." She was talking about a status update I had on Facebook concerning the latest MacHeist.

If you don't know, MacHeist is a promotion involving a number of Mac software developers who are offering there software at a greatly reduced price as part of the MacHeist 3 Bundle. This version of the Bundle includes a wide variety of utility and specialty applications. Some of them are very useful, such as photo editor Acorn and recording utility Wire Tap Studio. I was really excited about Kinemac, a professional 3D animation app, which regularly sells for $299.

At present there are nine applications with a total value of $601.80, available in the Bundle for only $39. That's the price for all nine together, not the price for each one. That's an incredible value, especially if you have a need for a few of these applications.

And the catch? Actually, I wouldn't call it a catch - just a bonus. As I said, at present there are nine applications in the Bundle. When the Bundle was released (a few days ago) there were only eight. The catch is that when total sales of the Bundle reach a certain pre-determined point, they unlock more apps. Currently, we are waiting for the next unlock point, which is $400k. When sales hit that point, BoinxTV will be released.

That's why I'm writing this post, because I really would like that program. It's actually something I looked at for the church, but at $199, it was a little too much. But it looks great. So, if you have a Mac, and you like really good software at insanely cheap prices, go take a look.

The other thing about MacHeist is that 25% of every sale is donated to charity. You get to pick, from a list of 10 charities, where your donation will go.

Of course, if you've never heard of MacHeist, then you probably have never heard of the MacHeist controversy. In a nutshell, the people don't like MacHeist think it's unfair to the developers, that they are being robbed, and by purchasing the Bundle, consumers are being mean and dirty and cheap and favoring the big, bad marketer over the innocent, pure developer.

One blogger actually said, "Put it this way: would you rather pay $10 to Universal Music Group for a music album, or $15 directly to the band in question?"

This might not be obvious to you - as it wasn't to me - but his answer is that we should spend more because the creator would get more.


So...I'm not going to link to that blogger, because he offered that piece of advice to me for free. Instead I'll link to Apple, since his blog is hosted on their servers and they paid a lot of money for those servers so that he would have the ability to post idiotic, link-bait, gibberish like that. (And I'll also link to John Gruber, where I got the link to the blogger's blog.)

In the meantime, I'm going to download SousChef and see how Trudi likes it.

[Update: I should also mention that the applications in the Bundle aren't trial, demo, or previous versions of the software. They are full, up-to-date versions. In fact, SousChef is a new version as of the release of the Bundle, as are a couple of others.]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keep Walking [Rev]

Here's an inspirational piece from ESPN, brought to my attention by Curtis Vass. It's about 10 minutes long, so I wasn't planning to watch all of it, but after 5 minutes I couldn't stop. Enjoy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Breakneck speed [Mc]

Ever have somebody say, "You'll break your neck doing that!"? Ever travel at "breakneck speeds"? Ever tell someone that you were so mad you wouldn't mind "breaking somebody's neck"?

Of course, all those are metaphorical and no one's neck ever really gets broken.

So, it was odd to hear my dad telling people that my mom "broke her neck" this week. Specifically, she broke the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Surgery went well and she is now in a neck brace for about 3 months. There was no nerve damage, therefore, no paralysis or other things that can happen when vertebrae and the spinal column get messed with.

Healing will be a slow process, but we are thankful for the prayers and love of many, and the healing and power of God.

Monday, March 9, 2009

But for $3.99, it's not bad [Mc]

The best thing that I can say about U2's new album,No Line On The Horizon, is that I paid less than four bucks for it. It's not that it's bad. It's not, not bad at all. That assessment would be sure to get any U2 fans riled up (if they read this blog).

But really...if you didn't know who made this collection of songs, would you like it that much?

With any established artist, the fan base will hope that it's the best thing since...well, since their last album (thank you, Tim Hawkins), and they will love it - LOVE it - even if it's only mediocre.

Not saying this effort is mediocre. But maybe it is. Or maybe it's one of those albums that will grow on me and over time I'll really like it. But if so, then it won't be any different than a lot of music I own.

The first Switchfoot album I heard - that was great, and I had no idea who they were. Sanctus Real - same thing. Nevertheless, The Afters, Britt Nicole...I could go on, but I think you get the idea. All had albums that made you go, wow.

But they also had albums that made you go, ehh. That's this one from U2. Ehh. S'okay. Not great.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Et tu? [Mc]

Let's just say, for the record, that I'm no U2 fan. Don't dislike them either. Ambivalence would be the best word to describe my attitude towards them.

But they are the biggest band going at the moment, and I've never found anything I've heard from them to be outright objectionable. (Okay, I haven't heard much, so you might set me straight about that.)

So, I've given into culture-pressure and purchased their latest release, partially because it's cheap on Amazon right now.

I'll let you know what I think after I listen to it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reunion [Mc]

When I saw the name of my sister-in-law come up in the caller ID on my cell phone, I silently prayed that there would be some reason she was calling me in the middle of a Sunday night service other than the one that I knew was coming. Julie and Trudi's dad, Holton, has been battling cancer for some time, and his condition was steadily growing worse.

Trudi was scheduled to fly to Asheville on March 5th, on what would be Holt's 74th birthday. We knew he didn't have much time. We didn't know how little time he actually had.

As I made my way from the Production Suite at the church down the back stairwell, Julie confirmed what I had already guessed. Holton had peacefully passed from this life at 6:30 pm, February 22, 2009.

Trudi and Julie had been with their sister, Christi, when she had passed away 2 1/2 years ago. Her death had been unexpected, but they had been able to rush to her side to share her last few hours on earth with her. When Christi finally slipped into the arms of Christ, no one had to tell them that the end had come.

But on this night, Trudi was part of the offering counting team at church. Julie, Casey, their brother, and Holton's wife, Jan, had been unable to reach Trudi, as the noise of the counting room drowned out the buzzing of her cell phone.

I stopped before entering the counting room, quickly called our daughter, Shae, and told her to pray for her mom. And me.

This is one of those things you dread ever having to do.

What do say? I prayed again for the right words, and gently opened the door.

Trudi was in the rear of the room, entering checks into the online deposit system. The other four members of the counting team were chatting about something. I have no idea what. I knew that the rest of the family had left messages on her cell phone, but I didn't want Trudi to see her phone before I had a chance to get her out of the room.

"Do you have some gum?" I asked, trying to act innocent and normal. It wasn't really working. They could tell I was a little uptight about something. I wanted to get into her purse so I could slip her phone out.

"In my purse."

I couldn't find the gum. I found a mint and put it into my mouth.

"Would you check my phone? I thought I heard it buzzing a while ago." I found the gum.

"Um...yeah." I pulled the phone out and slipped it into my pocket.

"Who called?"

"Um, it's okay." I'm not sure if I specifically lied, but I definitely left her with the impression that no one had called. Suddenly, I was unsure what I should do. Maybe I could just wait until we got home in thirty minutes or so.

I walked out of the room, and paced for a minute. No, I needed to get her out of the room and let her know so she could call Julie and Jan and Casey and begin the process I knew we would all go through over the next few days.

As I went back into the room, I moved over to the corner, where I knew Trudi couldn't see me. I tried to silently let the other counters know that they needed to take over for her, then I asked if I could talk to Trudi outside.

Lots of questioning looks from everyone followed us into the hall. Church would be ending soon, and I knew I had to give her the opportunity to get out of the building first. I gave one final plea for the right words, and knew I had none. All I could do was look into her eyes.

As it turns out, those were the right words.

"What is it?" Then the realization came. "Did my dad pass away?"

Later, when I went back to the church to pick up Sam, Summer and Sawyer to take them home, we sat in the parking lot while I tried to explain what had happened.

Sad? Yes, I said. For us. But not for him. He's happy to be free of pain. He's happy to be whole and well. He's happy to see Jesus face-to-face.

There were several pictures of both Holton and Christi that I had to choose from, but I ended up with this one of Holton and Christi's son, Jason. It was labeled as being of Holton and Christi in my computer, and even though it's Jason, not Christi, I believed it was her, because Christi always seemed to like things that weren't "girlie" - motorcycles and cleaning off her roof come to mind.

But it's still a great picture of Holton. This is the easy-going, down-home guy I knew. He loved to have fun. He loved his grandchildren.

I'm sure Holton and Christi are enjoying a great reunion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I hate when News people use statistics to lie [Gator]

A new article from the AP sounds the alarm: PEOPLE HATE FLORIDA!

Actually, using driver's license data, it says that only 410,000 people a year are moving here, as opposed to 585,000 in 2003. Okay, that's down 30%...but still it's 80% of the population of Wyoming. Moving in. Every year.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A library in your pocket [Gator]

One of the coolest gadgets out there is getting updated. The updated Amazon Kindle, now version 2, was announced today. The first version was widely criticized for its clunky appearance, but actual users seemed to love their Kindle.

Version 2 actually looks kind of cool. What is it, you ask? It's a web-enabled, anywhere, anytime, book-reader. It allows you to download books and magazines and other web content quickly. It will even read it to you.

UPDATE: 2/10/9…new links.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Nines - iLife and iWork

I've been using iWork '09 for the past couple of weeks and iLife '09 for the past couple of days. Here are my first impressions on the two suites. Keep in mind that I have used every version of both programs since their beginnings. (And these are not exhaustive reviews.)

iWork '09 adds some nice features in this iteration. It includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Apple counterparts to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The Apple suite still doesn't have the depth of features that the Microsoft offering does...but who cares? Not me.

The basics of each program remain unchanged. Pages still is basic word processing and page layout with a Mac feel. Numbers still does its spreadsheet thing. And Keynote still outclasses PP with its cool transitions.

I work on a Powerbook G4, which Apple recently reclassified as obsolete, so performance for me is sluggish in every application.

But what's great and new that would make you want to upgrade if you already have an earlier version of iWork? I'll take it one app at a time...

Pages - For me the biggest addition is Outlining. I usually use OmniOutliner Professional for my outlining needs, and I'll may continue to do so. But it's nice to have it in Pages.

The other two big features - being able to view your document in full screen view and being able to use iWork.com - are irrelevant to me. Additionally, there are several new templates that are pretty cool, but I don't know if I'll ever use them.

Numbers - There are a couple of nice changes here. The ability for categorization - actually, a second-level sort - is nice. Numbers also adds a quick view of all the formulas you are using in your worksheet.

Keynote - The star of iWork is Keynote. The incremental changes in this version of Keynote are apparent right from the beginning, in the theme chooser, where a mouse-over of a theme shows you the different options available within the theme.

I like the new Keynote, but my biggest frustration with the entire suite comes here. They took out a feature, one I actually used! The feature is Webview. It allowed you to insert a live web page into your presentation. And they took it out....aargh.

They did put a few new transitions and effects in, though. That's good. And they upgraded the presenter's view to give you more control. Very nice.

The best thing, however, is the integration between the three apps and the ability for a Numbers chart to be updated with a Keynote presentation or a Pages document.

I purchased the iWork '09 Family Pack, since I have several computers to upgrade. (The link takes you to Amazon, where you can get it for $10 less than from Apple.)

iLife '09 was the more anticipated of the two suites. It contains Garageband, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD, and iPhoto. And I'll just tell you right up front...it rocks.

The bad - I can't use the new iMovie on my computer. Of course, I couldn't use iMovie '08 either. My Powerbook just doesn't have the horsepower. But that was okay with '08, because a lot of people stayed with '06, so much did they hate the new '08 interface.

That won't be the case with '09. I have used it on the church's 24-inch iMac, and it is much nicer than '08. iMovie now includes a Precision Editor that makes editing much better. It also has a stabilization feature which - although it takes a long time, even on a 3.06ghz iMac - will be very useful.

There are also some added transitions, themes and effects that will dress up your vidoes. Spiffy.

iDVD - well, it is what it is. Unchanged. I didn't even see any new themes.

Garageband - although some learning abilities have been added, functionally nothing else has changed for '09. Cosmetically, the look has changed, to a nicer, darker feel. Not important, but nice.

iWeb - probably the biggest thing here is the ability to publish to your own domain. There are some nice little bits of this and that, but nothing else substantial has changed for my use.

iPhoto - THE app. The new Faces feature alone could sell this entire suite by itself. If you don't know, Faces allows you to tag your pictures with the names of people in the picture. Faces will then search your library for similiar faces and let you tag them. This makes organizing and searching your photo library very easy. And fun.

Places allows you to add location information to your photos. This lets you organize your photos by the places you've been. Very nice.

I would highly recommend iLife '09 Family Pack. (Again, this link let's you get it from Amazon for $10 less.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heavy [Rev]

"But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again [made his heart heavy]." Exodus 9:34 (NLT)
The economy is in turmoil. People are scared. The pressure is on. Some would be tempted to say that God's judgment is at work. Others would say it's just a normal part of life. Whatever the case, God always uses circumstances to try to get our attention.

People are looking for answers. People cry for reform and change when the pressure is on. But when the pressure is off, then what?

Greed and financial recklessness seems so out of place now. But what happens when the threat of financial collapse disappears?

Scripture...and history...tell us that greed and recklessness will return. Worse than before.

Unless there is a true change of heart. Lightened by obedience, instead of heavy with stubbornness and selfishness and sin.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Famous Google-Wide [Mc]

Even though I'll be posting this picture on Facebook, I thought I'd post it here, too. The picture is from Google Maps, in street-view mode. On the skateboard is Dalton. Well, we mostly call him Dalton, even though his name is Russell and that's what a lot of people know him as. We know him as our "son/brother/friend/the-kid-who-comes-over-and-eats-our-food."

Dalton is graduating from high school this year. Immediately after that, he is scheduled to head off to the Marines. We'll miss him.

Wonder if he'll take his skateboard?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Gator Pix [Gator]

A couple of pix sure to be unpopular with the non-Gators who may read this blog...the first comes from my Gator daughter, and the second was taken from the Orange and Blue Hue blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Who You Really Are [Mc]

Saw this great video on the Ragamuffin Soul blog. Great for a few reasons.

It's a great follow-up to my previous post about the President. What a wonderful tribute by two who know him best.

It is also thought-provoking for any dad, but especially any dad with a public title. I'm in the ministry, on staff at a church, so I have one of those titles. Pastor. Different than a president, but with some of the same pitfalls. You can forget who you are. You can forget what - and who - are really important. And you can forget that while you try to change the world and try to bring change into your sphere of influence, the greatest purposes are found under your own roof.

That's as introspective as I intend on being for the next couple of days. happy birthday to me. tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Godspeed, Mr. President [Mc]

It's really rather remarkable when you think about it.

The elder President Bush gained access to the White House in 1981 as Vice President. By extension, so did his son, George. For the eight years after, then for four years when his dad was president, George became increasingly familiar with the place.

For the last eight years, it has also been the home of his family, with Laura, their daughters, and their pets.

It must be a strange feeling tonight, the last they will spend as primary occupants. Tomorrow they will leave, and many will be gleeful and rejoice. Enemies - no less a term will do - of President and Mrs. Bush will enthusiastically try to expunge any trace of the former tenants' presence in the place. They will trumpet "change" and "new hope" and denounce the backward and bumbling steps of those that have gone before.

I will be praying for President and Mrs. Bush. Only Divine Wisdom could tell which steps have been best and which have been faulty in the past eight years. But I am thankful that these great Americans have been leading us. I am thankful for the energy, wisdom, caution, strength, patience, generosity, and goodwill that they have used in serving our country. They have served every person in this country - rich or poor, black or white, conservative or liberal - with dignity, sincerity, and faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God bless you and your family in the years ahead.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Kind of Counseling [Rev]

I saw this on Jeff Leake's blog, The Launch Pad. He said that he was not recommending this counseling methodology...but I like it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Live and Learn [Rev]

[Warning: The following post is technology-filled and totally about me. I mean, even more about me than normal. Really. You've been warned.]

The beginning of 2009 has been almost completely about software for me. I am in the middle of editing the video for last month's Gospel According to Scrooge. This is a time-consuming project for a couple of reasons.

We shot video from four cameras on two different nights (Sunday and Monday). That means there was 16 hours of video to import and work with.[1] On top of that, I'm not experienced with video editing, nor with the editing software. Most of my video editing experience has come from the last few years of editing the Scrooge video.

During that experience I have been using Apple's Final Cut software. Because of some software and operating system issues, I was forced to upgrade[2] to the latest version, Final Cut Studio 2
. It's very powerful software with many cool and wonderful features. That's what makes software powerful - cool, easy-to-use features, that give great depth and complexity to what you can accomplish. It also means there is a lot to learn. So, I'm learning.

One of our choices[3] this year in Scrooge was to use some pre-recorded video as part of the production. We used four different video segments this year: the opening montage, taking us from the opening titles to the opening song; the bedroom sequence, which shows Scrooge entering the bedroom, undressing, hearing the voice, then encountering Angel #1; the graveyard, with the Cratchit Family; and the final bedroom scene, where Scrooge discovers he is still alive. In order to accomplish some of the effects used in these segments, I used a trial version of Adobe After Effects CS4. After Effects is widely used by video professionals, but I had never used it. I quickly had to learn some key features in order to have the video ready for Scrooge. But, as I said, it was a trial version, so I had to purchase the full version in order to finish the edit of the DVD.

I ended up ordering Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, which includes After Effects. Again, it's another powerful program with many wonderful features. More learning.

Both of these programs are more than one program. They are suites that include several programs, each with many parts and pieces.

With so much to learn, I've turned to a some internet sources for instruction and help. The first is MacBreak Studio, a podcast from Pixel Corps. These are short video podcasts that cover one specific feature for video producers in each show. Usually these are features specific to Final Cut Studio. Some of these shows originated in Pixel Corps' original podcast, MacBreak.

Another great podcast is ChurchMediaDesign, or CMD, from the media guys at Watermark church from Grand Haven, Michigan. This is a phenomenal show that gives a lot of great how-to's. (They also give some free resources to use in your own ministry.)

A third informative podcast (can you tell I love podcasts? It's because they're free!) is Creative Cow's Creative Cow for Photoshop Video podcast. As the title says, it's video help for Photoshop users.

After I wrote the previous paragraph, it got me thinking, so I searched iTunes and - duh - it turns out that Creative Cow has a range of podcasts covering the range of both Adobe and Apple products. I'll have to check them out when I'm done posting this.

I'm also exploring Lynda.com. It has a tremendous amount of video tutorials on all of this software and more. Unfortunately, it's not free. However, it's not that expensive, and they have a trial period.

Although it's not theologically correct, it does bring to mind something I often quote from my dad...

Live and learn.

Die and forget it all.

I hope to work on the first part...and delay the second part for awhile.
[1] Okay, not exactly 16 hours. One camera didn't film the first act on Sunday. Very disappointing. But the import of the video was only the beginning. Two cameras shot in LP mode, which our JVC was unable to replay. I didn't discover why until after I spent most of one day trying to use the JVC. Editing will mean going through all of the captured video frame-by-frame.
[2] When I say "upgrade" or "bought", I mean that I did it on behalf of Faith Assembly. This software is more than I can personally afford. Although the upgrade to FC is cheaper than the full version, and, since I'm a homeschool dad, I can get the education version of CS4.
[3] And when I say "our choice", I mean "my choice." Yes, I asked the opinion of everyone in the leadership team of Scrooge, including Pastor Goss. Those that liked the result can thank them for their decision. But those that didn't can blame me, since it really came down to me pushing this through. More on that later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Superman would be if he didn't have to deal with kryptonite [Gator]

Tebow Skips Senior Season, Ascends Directly Into Heaven

MIAMI (SP) -- Shortly after leading the Florida Gators to a national championship with a 24-14 win over Oklahoma, junior quarterback Tim Tebow announced he would skip his senior season and ascend 
directly into heaven...{Read the rest of this story here}

I guess this is meant to be a jab at the press, including the Fox announcers, ESPN announcers, CBS announcers, and every other person who has ever met Tim Tebow. I just think it's funny, mostly because Tebow doesn't believe all this stuff. (And I don't think his friends and family would ever let him.)

Thanks to Bob Henley for sending this my way.

(And if you haven't seen this video, then you probably don't watch much sports news.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

More to come [Gator]

Where do I begin?

A great, great, great day to be a Florida Gator. From the moment that Major Wright separated Oklahoma's Manny Johnson from his senses, it was a wonderful thing to watch the Gators capture their 3rd National Championship. [The picture is from GatorSports.com]

And there's more to come, we think. It's good to be on top. It's good not to be Florida State or Miami or Notre Dame or Tennessee or many other teams that can only look up from their position far down the mountain.

One of the best things about this was being able to share it with my children, having been able to attend games with them this year, so they got to experience what a championship season is like. It's good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Kodak on Vimeo [Rev]

Among the new things I'm trying this year is Vimeo, a video service that is much like YouTube, but allows free upload of HD content. I shot this HD video at 60 frames per second on the Zi6 at Sammy's basketball game last night. When I play it back, it doesn't look very good on Vimeo on my computer...don't know how it will look on yours. (The video on my computer, straight from the camera, is amazingly good.)

Also, the preview here is only 400X300. When you click the link and go to my Vimeo space, it's in full resolution.

Sammy playing ball from Tim McDaniel on Vimeo.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Name to Have in Ministry [Mc]

This past Sunday Trudi and I were trying to figure out which church we would like to visit. I was on vacation, so I did a little web surfing to see where we might go on Sunday morning. There are many great churches in Southwest Florida, so it's not an easy choice.

I was able to rule out one church right away - Cape Christian Fellowship. Not that I have anything against CCF. I've heard good things about both the church and its pastor, Dennis Gingerich.

But their youth pastor - whom I've never met - is...Tim McDaniel. Great name (even if his middle name is Kenneth, thereby distinguishing him as the Tim K. McDaniel who is a pastor in Southwest Florida, as opposed to myself, the Tim D. McDaniel who is a pastor in Southwest Florida.)

Tim McDaniel wouldn't seem to be the most common name. To have two of us serving on ministry staffs just miles apart...strange. And probably wonderful. (But I'm the Tim McDaniel you'll find at www.Twitter.com/TimMcDaniel.)

We went to First Assembly instead. Good service. And no one on staff was named me.

[Edit: No, the picture is NOT me, it's the other Tim. I have (a little) more hair.]