Archive for January, 2009

old-skool

10 Things For Non-Football Fans To Do During The Superbowl Party At Your House

This Sunday, thousands upon thousands of the sports illiterate and “sportarded” will find themselves in one of life’s most dire situations; to be at a Superbowl party hosted at your own house.  So, to the confused, the frustrated, the bored and those who couldn’t tell a fieldgoal from a field mouse, I present to you the “10 Things For Non-Football Fans To Do During The Superbowl Party At Your House.”

1.  Wear a Manchester United jersey and explain that foot+ball=soccer
2.  Intermittently read sections of “Twilight” aloud from the kitchen.
3.  See if you can ask every person in the room (individually and secretly) “Who’s winning?”
4.  Game idea: Every time the color analyst uses a word out of context, look that word up and read the actual definition aloud from the kitchen.
5.  Every time Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner does anything positive, remind the room that it’s because he’s a Christian.
6.  Every time the same Kurt Warner does anything negative, remind the room that God doesn’t care about football.
7. Game Idea: Keep a running tally of the number of times one of your friends watching the game says “C’MON!!”  At the end of the night award the person who uses the phrase most by taking a picture of him sadly slumped in a chair (chances are his team lost) and posting it online with the caption “C’MON!!”
8.  Every once in a while, when nobody is paying attention, rearrange the beverage cups on the table.
9.  Constantly insist that this is not the best HD image you’ve ever seen
10.  Twitter

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Vonage Customer Support

In a followup to my experience with AT&T’s automated help desk, recently had to work out some issues with my VoIP line.  Vonage’s automated desk rather quickly directed me to one of their highly skilled Customer Service personnel, and was glad to have a real person on the line.. until…

Telcom Customer Service (VCS): Thank you for calling Vonage Customer Service.  How can I help you?

Me (JM): Well, I can’t get a dial tone on my Vonage line.

TCS: Is your phone connected to the Vonage device?

JM: Yes.

TCS: is the Vonage device on?

JM: … Well,.. Yes, of course.

TCS: I only ask because you sound kinda dumb.

JM: Um…

TCS: Are you currently using the Vonage line to call Customer Service?

JM: No.. I’m calling on my cell phone because the Vonage line doesn’t work.

TCS: One phone isn’t enough for you?

JM: I don’t think that’s the point.

TCS: Have you tried re-booting the Vonage device?

JM: You mean kicking it again?

TCS: No, I mean powering it down and then back up again.

JM:  I’ll try that right now.. (*setting phone down)

TCS: You probably should have tried that before you called to bug me.

JM: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that, I was restarting the device… Was it important?

TCS: Not really.  Is the device restarted?

JM: Yes

TCS: What are the lights on the device doing?

JM: They’re kinda blinking off and on.. then they’ll just turn off and then turn back on for a few seconds then they’ll start blinking again.

TCS: The word you are looking for is “intermittently.”

JM: Is it on the original packaging? I don’t have that anymore

TCS: No, Mr. Roberts; the LED activity you described is known as “intermittent blinking.”

JM: It’s “McRoberts,” actually..

TCS: Thanks, Mick, but I’m required to call you by your last name  I’ll have to connect you with Tech Support.

JM: Oh. Okay, thanks.

TCS: Please listen to Katy Perry and the Jonas Brothers while you wait…

JM: argh

—————————————————————————–

FOUR DAYS, TWENTY HOURS AND 13 MINUTES LATER
—————————————————————————–

Tech Support (TS): In light of your problem have you tried to Ваш голос змушує мене вірити, що ви нерозумних і дуже коротким?

JM: …

VTS: (huffing and clearly upset) Have you even attempted to ja Jums nav saprast, jūs nevar neko!?

JM: … (blink)…

VTS: Most clients with these issues tend to Bạn gọi cho tôi. Perhpas you should Không chỉ có ngồi trong im lặng. Or even Tôi có thể chơi “Call of Duty” ngay bây giờ thay vì with the latest version of nghe bạn không biết cách sử and update your dụng những thứ bạn mua.

JM:  This seems.. like.. a bad time to call.

VTS: जितना भी?… (click)

—–

Note: I love using Vonage for my business line… Hear that Vonage?  Even if I feel like a 12 year old after being on the phone with your Customer Service reps, I like your product.

star_trek_movie_image_-_new_logo

Letter From 2011 (part 3.. The Final Installment)

A few months ago,  a letter began circulating the interwebs positing a vision of the future four years into Obama’s presidency.  It is a bleak picture to say the least.  As I read the letter, I am particularly struck by the sense of hopeless that undergirds the writer’s ideas.  Believe me when I say it is not the politial opinions of the writer that I am responding to, but the quiet idea that if we don’t have “our guy” in the White House, we have lost something of our cause.

So, just as was the case with the last two installments, I have been writing a fictional letter from the future, not so much as a defense of Obama but more a call to a more Christian handling of politics and history… one rooted in hope rather than fear. It seemed appropriate to post the last installment on the day of the inauguration.

Because of the length of the total piece, I broke it up into a three parts. Here is the promised continuation (part 2) of the “Letter From 2011″…you can find the other installments under listed under “Letter from 2011.”

Without further au juice, I give you the final installment of the nail-biting thriller “Letter from 2011.” Closed captioning unnecessary.

Education
…Sacramento Mayer Kevin Johnson and DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee have set a hopeful tone for public schools throughout the US.  Johnson with the success of his St. Hope Academy.  The overall impact of charter schools nationwide has given energy to a system that desperately needed a shot in the arm.  We’ve also seen a reconstituted effort to invest in the arts with academies and while public education still has miles of roadwork ahead, the map looks somewhat clearer than before.

Military Policy/Foreign Policy/A Changing Global Landscape
Following the lead of Ahmed Maher and the April 6th community in Egypt, the online community in Iran and Afghanistan has made it’s youthful, energetic and politically moderate presence felt.  Over social networking sites like Facebook, dissenting voices from these countries have formed bonds with other users all over the globe, drumming up sentiment and support.

Similarly in Afghanistan,  Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh’s “Prison Letters”, which, despite the best efforts of a repressive government, continue to make their way onto the internet and are now being published internationally.  Originally sentenced to death for openly questioning the treatment of women within Islam, his sentence was (mercifully?) lessened to twenty years imprisonment.  He immediately began writing and somehow these letters continue to find their way out of the prisons and onto the computer monitors of an enormous and growing Muslim populace.  Popular rumor is that many of Sayed’s own prison guards have been swayed by his writing and are assisting in the release of each document.

In Iran, Ahmadinejad’s presidency is loosing footing among neighboring Arab nations and even more-so among his own citizens. Much of which has to do with maturation of the generation coming of age now in Iran.  The hushed tones of quiet grumbling among a generation who, four or five years ago, was still too young to effect much change, has become the constant harangue of Iran’s largest demographic.  While these young men and women certainly aren’t looking to replicate a particularly American way of living, they are not the least bit anti-western and have a vision for a more globally integrated Iran.  The cautious and oftentimes nervous patience of the EU and the US is starting to pay off.

Joseph Cirincione’s contribution has also paid major dividends as he has been instrumental in brokering de-proliferation agreements between several nuclear powers, beginning with the US and including Iran.  Fewer nukes means a safer world… period.

What I am most stuck by in all of this is the underlying historical truth that when revolutionary, redemptive ideas finally do make their way onto the public stage, we often find that far more than we thought share those ideas.   The efforts to suppress revolutionary ideas never last as long as the ideas do and the same goes for the repressive regimes themselves.

Another effect of the connectedness of people over the internet is that the public categorization of whole nations as “evil” or even “good” is a political game whose day has likely seen its last.  The tone set by the Obama white-house in this area has been very helpful but once again, the shrinking world has meant citizens of greatly divergent nations growing to know one another more personally and more completely.  We are, all of us, growing more comfortable with complexity and closeness.  The international  community has ceased to accept “because they hate us” as a viable explanation for or justification of international conflict and even local violence.

Unfortunately, The US pullout from Iraq was not what some had hoped.  There is more of a US military presence remaining in Iraq than many congressional Dems expected.  Still, the Iraqi people have responded to the pullout in mainly positive ways.  Unqualified support from the US had the positive effect of helping the Maliki government deal militarily with its strongest military foes (including the Sadr movement).  Yet the adverse effect was that the open-endedness of the US commitment allowed a lackadaisical  approach to Iraq’s long term development.  Life is still quite trying in Iraq, but the worm is turning and it is turning on the will of the Iraqi people.

Brother, I know I don’t need to convince you of this but there are forces working in the world whose influence and reach is much greater than that of America.  Some call it the Force of History, some Progressive Social Evolution,.. I choose to see it as the Hand of the Divine.

The Economy and The Poor
Financially, this has been one of the most difficult times in most of our memories.  The market has yet to stay above 9,500 for very long despite the recovery of major sectors of industry as well as new growth in others.  There is fear that the accelerated growth in green industry will only end in a bursting of the “green bubble” much as we had seen with previous patterns in tech.  We’ll see how that plays out.  In the meantime, the largest sector of job growth nationwide has been with companies like Amyris with whom I know you finally applied; good call.  I always thought the “Men’s Bakeware” idea was better left an idea and glad you didn’t pursue it.

In light of the hard times we’ve seen, there have been a few very positive repercussions.  For instance, the decline in overall consumer spending has definitely had it’s down side, but it also has meant that we’re beginning to learn to live more simply.  It began with some simple things in my case, like making coffee at home and cooking more often, but has extended to my spending habits overall.

I read a report detailing how the physical size of the average house has started leveling out after years of fostering our tendency to take up far more space than we need.  Sales of consumer electronics have taken something of a hit as well.  In fact, Kansas City artist Dylan Mortimer recently installed a piece in downtown Kansas City whose centerpiece is the 120 inch plasma television Sony produced just a year previous.  The piece is comical and powerful all at once, entitled “Nothing’s On.”  You, as one of the few guys who held on to his tube television until the bitter end, are going to love it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a trend of generosity has grown out of our financial hardship.  Once again, concern for the poor in Africa, South America and India has begun to take root here in our own neighborhoods, particularly among a generation whose lifestyle is simpler and less encumbered, influenced by the popularity of “The New Monasticism” and voices like Shane Claiborne.

Meanwhile, during the last few years middle-income Americans have faced some of the questions low-income Americans have always wrestled with (long-term savings, retirement fears, end of the month bills) and this tension has given birth to a sense of solidarity, you might say.  I’ve watched several friends whose live were turned upside down financially who have gotten back on their feet with a renewed commitment to use their time and treasure more redemptively.  Donations to local shelters as well as commitments to child sponsorship programs like Compassion International have spiked, which few would have seen coming when the “financial crisis” first hit.

Open Source Industry
David Rowe’s telecom model and Massimo Banzi’s Arduino board have quite literally opened the door to a new direction for industry worldwide.  The term “Open Source” has become as much a buzzword as “Green” ever was and equally important.  The level of creativity and innovation we are seeing in the tech world is exciting and unparalleled.  The sharing of ideas and designs among Open Source enthusiasts has breathed a vibrant new life into the DIY spirit of America in particular where, even the products and programs teenagers are developing have been both useful and profitable globally.

Of course some of what is being produced is a bit over the top but that comes with the territory, I suppose.

In Closing
Before I end the letter, I wanted to offer a couple words of wisdom from the few that I have.

First, is that while Obama’s platform was “Change” and the expectations he entered office with were rather over-dramatized, we’re all coming to grips with the fact that change happens slowly.  Always too slowly.  After three years what we are seeing is still more or less a shift in trajectory rather than a flamboyant revolution.  I suppose the very fact that there as many inspired and active communities as there are is something of a dramatic change itself.  Perhaps that’s the most important kind of change a democracy can see; the investment of its people.

Second and more importantly, I’ve learned a great deal about hope.  Specifically, that hope is a choice we make.  Hope is what we read into the future.  It is infused into the days we see before us by our wills and is rooted in our dreams.  I’ve realized that to look blankly at the destructive patterns currently at hand and extrapolate the future is to rule out not only the influence of our better selves but also the goodness of the God.  So, take hope; not because there is evidence of it but because there seldom is and because in order to remain human, we must.


Sincerely and in Love from The FUTURE,
Hiro Nakamura


ten-pence-picture

Letter To My Church Community After 10 Years

This year (2009, in case you missed the turnover) will be choc full of landmarks for me.  My 10th wedding anniversary, my 10th year of full time music and tonight, the church I helped plant in 1999 (still my home church) celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.  My being at Malone University tonight meant that I unfortunately missed the celebration-gathering.  I’ve been receiving tweets and texts off and on through the evening that make me feel missed.  Knowing that I’d miss the actual event, I asked my wife to read a letter of mine to the people who have been a part of this 10-year journey.  Below is that letter:

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In a way it is fitting that I cannot be with you this evening.  Much of my relationship with this community has been marked by my absence over the last few years.  I am currently in Canton, Ohio where it is twenty degrees below zero.  I’m here for the same purpose I go anywhere; to announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that it would be best if we quit playing at life and, instead, lived it fully.  That is a quality I have valued deeply in our community of people; that we have chosen to embrace “life to the full.”

While there is far more to the celebration of this community than what I can collect in words, I wanted to share a few snapshots of what 10 years of being together has meant, at least as I see it…

-It has meant having had long memories and short accounts.
-It has meant knowing more about one another than we’re comfortable knowing at times, but still choosing to care.
-It has meant being known by another to a depth that we are uncomfortable with, but still choosing to trust.

-It has meant carrying the weight of another person’s life for a while when they could not walk in their own strength.
-It has meant sharing our strength when we weren’t sure we had enough for ourselves.

-It has meant joyfully forgetting who paid last for coffee or dinner.
-It has meant paying someone else’s rent.

-it has meant learning that we are blessed to become a blessing.
-It has meant buying a truck for our friends in Liberia, Africa.
-It has meant raising money on Facebook to provide a motorcycle for another Liberian brother to start his own taxi service
-It has meant helping our African brethren build a medical clinic, an orphanage and start their own businesses.
-It has meant telling children in the poorest parts of the world “I’m here for you.”
-It has meant telling High School and JR High kids in our own valley the very same thing.

-It means that many, if not most of the people on our speed dial or favorites lists are in this room.
-It has meant some late night phone calls bearing the worst news.
-It has meant some late night phone calls bearing the best.

-It has meant seeing the best in each other when we were blind to it.
-it has meant praying for healing especially when the sick and broken person no longer believed it for themselves.

-It has meant believing in the resurrection of friendships, of marriages and of whole lives.
-It has also meant celebrating those resurrections as resurrections and as miraculous.

-It has meant that “family” is a much bigger, much deeper word than we expected.

-It means we have seen something in ourselves and in each other that is more beautiful than we knew was there.  It is a beauty that makes each of our lives more colorful and more complete.  It is a beauty that provides hope for a humanity that has to learn live together in a smaller and smaller world. It is the beauty of a people who have chosen to to live faithfully instead of in doubt, to hope against despair, and ultimately to love “though the mountains fall, though the earth should shake, though the seas should roar with all the heartache, though our hearts should pound and our throats run dry.”  This is the beauty of the people of God, living in the way of Jesus and His Kingdom.  It is worth celebrating.

IMAGE OF SOUP

Recipe: Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

Begin with fresh carrots. Peel and wash the carrots.  Then put the carrots back into the plastic baggie you brought home from grocery store.  Place the carrots (still in the bag) into the refrigerator.  While you are in the fridge, you should find Trader Joe’s Carrot Ginger Soup in a carton.  Remove this carton from the refrigerator and pour the contents (should be soup) into a pot. Place said pot on the stove.

Now go back to the refrigerator, remove the carrots you peeled and washed along with some ranch dressing.  Eat a few of these carrots with ranch dressing on them.  How the dressing gets on the carrot is up to you.  After a while, you will wonder how long it takes to make this stupid soup.  You will then realize that you had not turned the stove on.

Coconut milk should appear out of nowhere.  Also, no measuring should be necessary since the immaculate coconut milk (ICM) will show up in the quantity needed. Pour the ICM into the pot with the TJCGS until someone says “Dude, what is that? What are you doing?!” Look wryly back at your friend and say something along the lines of “I know what I’m doing.” Nevermind the fact that this is not true.  TJCGS will now be transformed into TJCG&CS. Well done.

Stir the coconut milk into the soup until you are pretty sure it looks like you know what you are doing.  Then return to the couch to have a couple more carotts.  After another few minutes you will once again remember that the stove is not on.  WIthout panicking, get off the couch, move to the kitchen and turn on the stove.  Be sure the burner you turn on is the one directly beneath the pot containing the TJCG&CS.  Now that you are there, stir the soup with a knowing look on your face.  You can also add to this same effect by saying something like “yeah.. that’s gonna work” quietly to yourself but loud enough for others to hear.

The soup should heat up in about the time it takes you to forget that you are making soup because you are explaining to your friend how therapeutic cooking is. The soup will burn. At this point that won’t matter since you will have filled up on carrots and ranch, which was the genius of your plan all along.

Yum-o.

Earning The Right To Be Heard

Not so long ago I was asked to share what wisdom I had for new or independent artists.  I honestly didn’t feel like I had a ton to offer besides some of the harder lessons I had learned up to that point.  So, this is what came out of that effort on my part. In the spirit of Young Life, I called the project Earning The Right To Be Heard…

It’s what you do in silence and alone,
that earns you the right to share with the crowds.

It is what you do when you aren’t being paid
that earns you the right to be paid.

It is what you do with a room full of children or the elderly
that earns you the right to share with your “target audience.”

It is what you do when there are 5 people listening
that earns you the right to share with the masses.

It is what you do in response to the hecklers
that earns you the right to share with an attentive audience.

It’s what you do when the event is put together poorly
that earns you the right to be set up well.

It’s what you do to set someone else up well
that earns you the right to be set up well.

It’s what you do when the equipment isn’t up to snuff
that earns you the right to play on quality gear.

It’s how you treat the sound tech
that earns you the right to have someone run sound for you at all.

It’s what you do when you would rather be anywhere else
that earns you the right to be where you are at your best.

It’s what you do when you are sick or worn out
that makes working from your strength mean something.

It’s what you do when you are afraid you make no difference
that actually makes the difference.

It’s that you showed up on time and prepared
that earns you the right to ask others for their best.

It’s how you treat the young lady at the car rental counter who just botched your rental
that earns you the right to be served at your gig

It’s how well you tip your waitress
It’s how well you treat the tech
It’s whether or not you sincerely give your all when you play
It’s that you are exactly where you are when you are there rather than wishing you were home.
It’s that you believe that the opportunity you have is something you have to earn over and over until you are called to something else.