Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This and that...

Jose, can you see...

Younger son Benjamin got to have another musical experience I've never had -- singing the National Anthem at a professional sporting event! He and the 100+ other kids in our church's children's choir were invited to sing before the Frisco Roughriders game last Friday (Frisco is a AA minor league team of the Texas Rangers). The performance capped off a week of The Heights' music camp. They performed the musical "Pirates of the I-Don't-Care-ibbean" on Thursday night -- Benjamin actually did play a character named "Jose"! -- and then sang at the game on Friday.
They did an awesome job, and this dad was pretty proud!

iPod, uPod, we all Pod

As much as I love new technology, I'm usually a slow adapter -- mainly because of my budget, not a lack of desire. My boys both bought their own iPods before I got my hands on a decent MP3 player -- and even then, mine is a refurbished Creative Zen, not an iPod. (Maybe I need to rethink how much allowance I'm paying them...)

In any case, it's dawned on me recently how I don't listen to CD's any more. I'm old enough to remember when they were the new audio technology in the mid-80's, and now they seem to be going the way of LP's.

Oh, my new Honda Civic has a CD player, but it also plays CD-R's filled with MP3's, and with that feature I can fit 9 or 10 albums onto one CD-R. But since getting my Zen, I've even stopped doing that. Now I just listen to my Zen in the car. The Civic didn't come with an MP3 input, but its radio is wired for it. (It's available as a dealer add-on for $100 plus labor, but I just found plans for the modification online and used about $10 worth of wires from Radio Shack.) Even 10 albums on one CD-R is no match for even my 4GB Zen, which currently has 671 tracks from 51 albums, along with over 2000 photographs, 20 videos, and a 1GB SD memory card inserted with even more.

This hardware shift doesn't seem to ruffle my kids at all -- after all, CDs are old technology to them, having been adopted a decade before they were born -- but it's pretty mindblowing to me. I find myself more and more starting sentences with, "Boy, I remember back when I was young..." Sigh.

I am consoled by the fact that they will have to face new technology themselves in coming decades, and they'll have to hear their kids saying things like, "Wow, Dad, you used to have to carry something with you to hear your music???"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How I spend my time...

Arggh!!* Has it actually been a month since I last posted???

Well, no, just 28 days -- if you count that brief snippet I swiped from Mark Cuban as a post. But still, it has been a while.

So what have I being doing with myself since the last entry here? Well, lots of things, but here are the main ones:

1. Singing with Swedes.
2. Burning myself.
3. Repairing chasms in the Earth's crust.
4. Building Walt Disney World.
5. Helping a village in Uganda.

"Yeah, yeah, Wombat, sure you have," I hear you saying. (Yes, I can hear you where you are. Yes, you. Stop looking around, you can't see me.) But those things are all certifiably true. (Where does one go to certify such things?) Here are the facts:

1. Singing with Swedes. The Vocal Majority had the honor of hosting a men's chorus from Sweden, the Entertainmen, in June. The Entertainmen were traveling to compete in Nashville at the international convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society, but wanted to come to Dallas first and spend some time with the VM. Apart from rehearsing together, we got together with the Fort Worth chorus, the Texas Millionaires, and put on a show for each other. The Entertainmen were wonderful, fun, and sounded awesome, and a good time was had by all. It gave new depth to the society's anthem, "Keep the Whole World Singing," when the three choruses gathered together at the end of the show to sing it.

2. Burning myself. Two hours, blazing Texas sun, outdoor swimming pool. Yes, I did use sunscreen -- SPF 45 -- but roasted a bit nevertheless.

3. Repairing chasms in the Earth's crust. Okay, I may have exaggerated this one a wee bit. My house is blessed with a big yard -- although I say "blessed" with some degree of sarcasm because of the care it takes, especially since yard work is not my favorite thing in the world. And my big yard does not have an automated sprinkler system. Or any sprinkler system, for that matter. So, it is dependent on me to give it the water it needs, poor thing. If my neighborhood held a "brownest grass" competition, I'd take first, second, and third places.

I'm finally getting my act together, but only after cracks started to show up in the dirt large enough to swallow a minivan.** Since I'm making up for lost time, I'm hoping that I can get it almost back to normal before any watering restrictions kick in. (It's also possible that I could be the cause of watering restrictions. I can just imagine the conversation between city officials: "The reservoir's water level has dropped a foot in the past day! What's going on?" "Oh, Wombat is trying to rescue his dry yard.")

4. Building Walt Disney World. From the comfort of my computer chair, I might add. My wonderful family got me this incredible train simulation program, Trainz, for Father's Day. It comes loaded with all sorts of scenarios and geographic areas to explore, and you can drive all types of trains or just order them around and watch them run. You can also create your own worlds, molding the landscape, adding trees and buildings, and laying tracks. It's like a virtual model train kit.

Some brilliant person with too much time on his hands actual used the program to create the Walt Disney World monorail trains and track as a add-on to the program, along with the Contemporary Hotel -- the giant toaster-shaped building that the monorail runs through.

What he did not create was Walt Disney World itself, for the monorails to run in. And so I (a less-than-brilliant person but still with too much time on my hands) (when I'm not singing with Swedes, at least) have taken it upon myself to recreate Walt Disney World within the program, or at least the parts of it that the monorail runs through -- over 3.2 square miles of theme parks, roadways, trees, lakes, and parking lots! I've had to learn a lot, particularly in the area of 3-D object modeling, but it's fun and interesting. (And it costs much less to visit this Disney World!)

5. Helping a village in Uganda. This one's serious. I haven't gone over to Uganda, but my family has just begun sponsoring a child through World Vision International. Nabiiru is six and lives in the region of Kyalulangira*** in southern Uganda, a location which my church has adopted as a missions focus and which is at the earliest stages of World Vision intervention. It's amazing how much impact $35 a month can have in an area where people have almost nothing, and I certainly can do with one less time eating out each month if it means making a difference! My boys and wife and I are excited about this opportunity and are looking forward to hearing from Nabiiru and seeing the changes that are made in his life. Check out the World Vision link above to learn more.

So, you can see I keep busy. Almost enough, perhaps, to excuse not writing here. So... what have you been up to???

*Pronounced "Arggh."
** I'm exaggerating again. The cracks would barely swallow a moped.
***Pronounced "Arggh."