Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Revenge of the Hair Clog

It is not that I hadn't noticed the water in the shower draining slower than it should, I simply decided to ignore it. But once the soapy standing water started interfering with the "toweling off" process, I knew it was time to put on the handyman hat.

Armed with a Phillips head screw driver, plumber's helper and an unbent clothes hanger, I removed the drain gate. The noxious smell was overwhelming, but I steadied myself and peered into the hole. Because my view was obscured by the remaining soap suds, I recklessly plunged my fingers into the drain to clear the residue. What I brought back was the largest clump of hair I had ever seen. Fighting a retching sensation, I fished the remaining follicles with the coat hanger, depositing my catch into the bucket. The water was still standing, indicating more blockage, but I could not clear the obstruction with the improvised snake. I went to work using my trusty plumber's helper. What the helper brought up from the pipes shall not be described, but suffice it to say, I wept for five minutes, while my wife retrieved the big gun: Liquid Draino.

Typically, I do not read instructions: uncap the product and pour it in, pray that the chemist know more than I (most likely they do). But not tonight. I had to be assured of some victory. Two cups, fifteen minutes, then flush with warm water. Repeat if necessary. Oh yes, it was necessary.

The hair was removed, and water drainage was restored, and I slept the deep sleep that only plumbers know.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Ritter Correlation

I want to dedicate the post to a friend of mine, serving over in Germany with the Air Force. I thought about it today as I was chatting with Rickwell.

The Ritter Correlation goes like this: How good, or bad a movie is going to be is directly related to the number of trailers that are put before it. A really bad movie will have many trailers, while a good film will have few.

Luckily, TMNT only had three trailers.

Saturday with the Girls

You know, sometimes my thoughts about Saturdays tend to be slightly selfish. After all, it is my day off after a long week of work. Sometimes, during the winter when it is to cold to work outside, it does turn into my day off. But, today was a bit warm when I woke up. I had already finished the bills the night before, and I was itching to fire up the lawnmower. The Scotts' Turf Builder that I put down earlier in the month apparently is doing its job. The grass has greened up nicely, and has been growing. Chickweed has also been growing, so, after a quick "pre-10:00" trip to Lowe's for some weed and feed, I fired up the lawn mower for the first time since...October? Something about yard work kicks in. Once you start, you just keep on going - trimming, edging and cleaning up all the debris.

Cindy was preparing for a gig today, and Kate and Megs wanted to go see TMNT. Ok, I wanted to go see it also. Both girls are really great going to the movies. They know not to ask too many questions during the show and know how to navigate to the bathroom when nature calls. They are good movie buddies. The film was pretty decent. I must admit that I saw the Turtle movies back in the day. But this one was much better. Completely computer animated, what made it realistic was the camera movements. It felt real. But, then again with movies today, what is real. There was a fantastic battle scene between two of the brothers in the rain.

Coming home, we rented Eragon. I knew that the film had pretty much gotten panned at the movies, but, I was looking forward to it. I put a Red Baron's Pizza in the oven, and we cranked up the Xbox 360 to play the 1989 TMNT Arcade game. Fortunately, I did not over cook the pizza too much. But slightly burnt pizza was nothing compared to exploding Grape Fanta. The pizza, not wanting to be upstaged, decided to fly off of Megs' plate to decorate the floor. It was a comedy of errors, and I could not get mad about it. So, we settled into Eragon. Again, it proves that if your expectations for a film is really low, it has no where to go but up. We really liked it, and cheered the first time the Dragon blows fire.

So, we are now settling in. It looks like Cindy might be getting called to play for the Mannheim Steam Roller concert. Which really means is that she is getting back into the gigs again. That in and of itself is not so bad. The girls are older now, and not as much work, but, we will need to make sure that we don't loose all of our Saturdays.

Because, I am a bit selfish when it comes to Saturdays. And I want all of my girls with me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lazy Sunday

First of all, if any candidate comes forward and runs on the change Daylight Savings Time change over to a Saturday Morning instead of a Sunday Morning, has my vote. Period.

DST probably explains my total lack of energy today. Typically on "Time Change Sunday," we Bryan's are in bed an hour early, but not this time. Last week, I had lost my wife to Sweeney Todd. Not that she went in for a shave or anything, but, she played violin in the Princess Anne High School's Production. I had asked for tickets to come and hear her play, but, I was very surprised with the production: it was really good. The male and female leads were both strong and I enjoyed the show. I am always amazed when I hear my wife play. Sometimes I just forget how good she is (makes my trombone playing look pale by comparison).

So, we are just chilling out today.

I did get news this week on the MRI: there was nothing found that would explain the hearing loss. But, they did find an old style Soda Can pull of ring. Explains the radio signals that I pick up from time to time. But, I kid. The only other "typical" cause involves fluid in the middle ear, but, that presents with vertigo, which I have not really had. I do not want to throw medication at something that I don't have the symptoms for. So, it looks like, in the meanwhile, that I will wait and see if this gets any better on its own and I will have another hearing test in a few months.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More venting

My wife categorized my last post as a "vent", and suggested that I not send it to my pastor, so, I'll just get over it (for now). Today at work was pure frustration. I am supposed to be code complete on a section of work by Friday, and I can already tell that, if the problems that I will have this week match the problems for today, it doesn't bode well.

It's funny how I can define a bad day at work.

Let's see, at the movie theater, a bad day at work was working the midnights with "Rocky Horror." At Blockbuster Video, I seem to recall many bad days, but the worst revolved around a string of BBV Robberies happening at closing. My worst day in the Air Force was a ground mishap involving a helicopter shatter a blade on a light pole throwing debris into the hardened shelter where I was working. But, programming. Hmmm. I whine because I have to not only produce new code and enhance our product, but, I also have to support our peeps in New Jersey. I constantly find myself being jerked between differing levels of concentration. The cube farm where I work is fairly noisy. And, our application seems to bog the IDE down, thus making trivial tasks somewhat aggravating. I did carve out what I was working on into another project so that I can just work on the parts of the application that I care about. Perhaps this is the way to go.

Venting done.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tithing Defined

Tithing is a perennial topic at my church. The tithe is always defined as 10% of your gross income. I remember using this definition before on this blog, but, last summer, I started searching scriptures on what the Tithe was, and what I found did not match the definition.

This morning, we were given an "Anonymous Giving Survey" in church, that officially defined Tithes and Offerings as:
  • Tithes - 10% of gross income. Tithing is the act of giving 10% of your gross income to the work of the Lord (your local church). [Seriously, can we get 10% of your gross income in one more time?]
  • Offering - Giving additional amount over and above the tithe to support the work of the Lord.
Using these definitions, you were then asked to fill out one of four surveys:
  • Group A: Regularly giving both tithes and offerings
  • Group B: Regularly giving tithes
  • Group C: Regularly giving something (less that 10%)
  • Group D: Not regularly giving (less than twice a month)
If you were part of the good group (A or B), your first question on the survey asks you "How long have you been tithing?" If you were in the bad group (C or D) your first question was "Do you understand the biblical teaching of tithing?"

The problem lies with the definition.

Most sermons on tithing are fairly predictable. Let me summarize the points that will most likely be hit upon:
  • 10% of the top, before taxes (ok, we get it)
  • God loves a cheerful giver
  • Bring your tithes and offerings into the store house and God will bless your socks off
  • It's all God's anyways, we are only his stewards
  • God doesn't need your money (my personal favorite)
What I would really love to hear is a good sermon that really digs into what the tithe was used for once Israel came "into the land". How the tithe was the first 10% of a harvest, or every tenth animal that passed under the rod. How the tithe went to God, but God gave the tithe to the Levittes , who had no inheritance from God. How there was a second tithe taken that was to be consumed in Jerusalem, and if you had to travel a long distance, you could purchase your food once you and your family arrived. And that there was a third tithe taken for the poor every third year.

Here is something to chew on: did the poor have to tithe? What if you were a carpenter or mason and did not have fields or cattle, were you expected to tithe?

For once, I would like to hear a sermon that encouraged the members to be good stewards of the money that God has given them, provide classes to teach people how to budget their money and how to become cheerful givers. It is hard to be happy about giving when you are in debt. Our churches need to start teaching Proverbs 22:7 - the borrower is servant to the lender. Teach your flock how to be good stewards, rather than just telling them to be good stewards. Give them the tools to be successful.

For years, I was in a category that felt uncomfortable with the messages on stewardship. I thought that if I just went ahead and gave 10% gross, I would be doing a good work, according to James. And to be honest, that was my motivation. There was no love in doing it, and definitely nothing cheerful. I even found myself a little bit scared (guilty) if I failed to give 10% gross. I was looking at a fairly sizable amount of debt, that I could not get knocked out.

I decided that I had to get my own financial life straightened out. I put to work the Baby Steps described in Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover." I put our family on a budget, and I budgeted giving to my church right in there with the rest. Why? Because I plan to give. I confess that it is 10% of my net, not my gross. Am I tithing? No I am not, however I believe that I would not be tithing if I was giving 10% of the gross income because this is an incorrect definition of the tithe.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Around the Hampton Roads Area, I have seen a ubiquitous DVD rental kiosk simply called "Redbox." It allows you to browse a list of the movies that it contains. Once selecting, you use your Visa Check Card to rent the film for $1.00. The DVD is then ejected from the machine in a plastic casing, and is not due back to ANY Redbox until 7:00 pm the next day. Each DVD has a bar code around the spindle which is used, I assume, to identify the disk.

Redbox has a website as well: www.redbox.com. The title browsing leaves much to be desired, but, it can tell you which Redbox location your title is available. Once renting online, the movie will be "held" in the machine for a certain period of time. Once you arrive at the machine, you swipe your Visa Check Card through the reader and your movie is ejected.

Redbox will not replace Netflix anytime soon, but, last night, I wanted to show Cindy "Little Miss Sunshine." My choices were renting at Blockbuster ($4.00) or using Pay Per View ($3.99...so, effectively $4.00). The PPV was an all day rental pass and the next starting time was at 10:00 pm (too late for us old folk). I refuse to step into BBV after they refused to rent an Xbox 360 Game Rental to me without a Major Credit Card, and would not accept my Visa Check Card (hence why I keep emphasizing that product).

The overall process was quick, however, I during pickup, I got stuck behind a couple who were browsing the kiosk trying to pick out a movie.

Friday, March 02, 2007


We bow our hearts
We bend our knees
Oh Spirit come make us humble
We turn our eyes
From evil things
Oh Lord we cast down our idols

So give us clean hands
and give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Oh give us clean hands
and give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Oh God let this be
a generation that seeks
Who seeks Your face, Oh God of Jacob

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Em Are Eye

Yesterday, I went for an MRI to give the Doctor's a better view of what's going on with my ear. It was of the "open" variety as opposed to the Tube that people go into each week on House. The Technicians were concerned that I would be claustrophobic, but in the end, it felt like I was under the car trying to change the Oil Filter. But instead of Oil, I was underneath there with a Jack Hammer. How come no one was concerned about me and Jack Hammers? Really, though, it sounded like some strange 20th century Electronica music that I was subjected to in College on my way to a music education degree (how's that working out for ya?).

They gave me the film/slides (whatever they are) to take back to my doctor, and, since I was near the house, I dropped them off there before going back to work. Curious, I pulled out a slide, and held it up to a window to let the light shine through the back. It is an amazing thing to be able to see your inner workings: your spine, neck, jaws, nasal cavity, eyes and brain. It's even more amazing when your nine your old tells your wife, "see, he does have a brain!"