Steve Jobs in RollingStone

RollingStone has an interesting interview with Steve Jobs, the quasi-CEO (or some lame title) of Apple, mainly about the digital music revolution (link via

My favorite part is when Jobs is asked about the threat of Microsoft building their own version of iTunes, and Jobs points out that many other Internet-based companies have been successful in the face of Microsoft.

“As you may know, almost every song and CD is made on a Mac — it’s recorded on a Mac, it’s mixed on a Mac, the artwork’s done on a Mac. Almost every artist I’ve met has an iPod, and most of the music execs now have iPods. And one of the reasons Apple was able to do what we have done was because we are perceived by the music industry as the most creative technology company. And now we’ve created this music store, which I think is non-trivial to copy. I mean, to say that Microsoft can just decide to copy it, and copy it in six months — that’s a big statement. It may not be so easy.”

I think there’s a bigtime reason all those creative types use a Mac, and that’s because they work simply. I’m not trying to be a Mac pusher here (I’ve never even owned one), but can you imagine a Microsoft music store? The equivalent of the blue screen of death every other time you try to play a song. No thanks.

And I love this comment, about the lack of interest in subscription services: “I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model, and it might not be successful.”

OK, that’s my Steve Jobs/Apple plug for the day. I just had to beat Josh.

P.O.D. Rocks the World; Gets Banned

MTV has a couple interesting articles on P.O.D. The first piece is an interview with the band focusing on their new record and life after Marcos. They talk openly about their faith and their difficult upbringing.

The second piece isn’t quite so happy. It focuses on the 85% of Christian bookstores that have refused to sell the newest P.O.D album, Payable on Death, because of the album artwork. The artwork features a nude female figure covering her breasts and a banner with the word “Sanctus” covering the rest. Apparently Christian bookstores object because the woman’s pubic bone is visible and a sacred word is used in a sexual manner.

The P.O.D. web site addresses the controversy, pointing out that a previous album, Fundamental Elements of Southtown, was likewise banned until the band agreed to issue a black cover version for Christian bookstores. Apparently that album’s artwork was too confusing for the average Christian bookstore customer. After sales of Fundamental Elements soared, Christian bookstores reportedly asked for the original version.

This time around, P.O.D. is refusing to cave saying, “This is sad… not because P.O.D. need to be carried in those stores but because for thousands of years the church LED the world in great art and music… provocative art that moved and inspired people… art that is STILL relevant today.”

They go on to encourage their fans not to bash Christian bookstores and affirm their support for the Christian music industry, citing an upcoming appearance at Cornerstone and interviews with Relevant and HM magazines.

Sometimes I wonder what we’re doing as Christians. We bemoan the lack of our faith in the larger culture, but when Christians try to take our faith to that culture, we pummel them.

Honest Politician, the Oxymoron

After reading blogs from my friends like this and the comments on this one, I start thinking about politics. Of course nothing polarizes a room quite like a political discussion.

Why does it have to be that way? Why do we have to be so bent on our own ideological views that we can’t even be civil? Is it that hard to have an honest discussion of the issues, where — gasp! — we might even admit when we’re wrong?

Time recently did an article on President George W. Bush, “The Love Him, Hate Him President” (of course you need a subscription to Time or the willingness to actually pay for it to read it online). The piece covers this polarization of American politics pretty well.

Maybe I’m just naive, but is it that hard to be honestly critical? I’m not a big fan of Bush, but I’ll acknowledge he’s done some great things. He’s offered amazing leadership after 9/11. His package of tax cuts seems to be jump starting the economy. He helped get a prescription drug benefit for seniors.

Those are all good things, but let’s be honest. The unilateral approach and lack of a follow-through plan have really hindered Iraq. While I applaud Bush’s efforts to consistently root out terrorism, a lot of his actions aren’t helping the problem.

While his tax cuts may be helping the economy (not being an economic expert I’m not sure how much credit Bush can claim, and being unemployed I’m not sure how healthy the economy really is), I can’t help but wonder about the nation’s ballooning debt. Sure, fighting terrorism is worth some debt, but that’s not the only cause. Are tax cuts really worth it when we just end up paying for debt in the long run?

A drug benefit for seniors is great (again, I don’t know how much credit Bush gets for this — it seems more like Congress did the legwork), but again I wonder about the cost and why they didn’t fight to lower drug prices. The way I understand it, the bill abandoned a provision that would allow the Federal government to use its massive buying power to lower the drug prices. I don’t understand why we’d abandon that.

Every one of these issues is not a cut and dry issue, and I wish we’d acknowledge that. I wish a politician would forget about the bumper sticker slogan and admit that while the Medicare bill is a start, it falls short. Or what about the Energy bill that’s bloated with add-on expenses to buy votes? It’s multiple times more expensive than what Bush asked for, but you don’t see him rolling it back and urging Congress to pass the original vision.

That’s the problem today. We’re all a bunch of Michael Moores and Ann Coulters. You call my guy a jerk so you must be a jerk! Mud-slinging at its finest. And through it all we can never rise above to have anything close to a clear discussion of the issues.

Maybe that’s just my overly idealistic vision of what politics could be. I guess by its very nature it won’t happen. Bah. And we wonder why voter turnout is so lame.

Missed the Mark

Today in church the sermon hinted at a concept I pondered about some time ago. The basic idea is that sin is defined as missing the mark. It’s not defined by a list of wrongs, it is defined by good things going undone.

I wrote about this at great length a while ago, and I find it’s still a concept that is just barely getting into my head and heart. I think of myself as a decent Christian. I go to church, I give, I volunteer my time. I don’t drink, smoke, or tell dirty jokes. I avoid certain movies and I don’t break the law.

So what? Does any of that really matter? What good am I doing? As I think about that, I realize the challenge of Christianity is so incredibly hard. Jesus called us to take up our cross and follow him, and that’s about how hard it is. It’s not pew-warming on Sunday, it’s choosing to do hard and difficult things every day, every hour. It’s choosing to be uncomfortable and socially awkward, and possibly even put yourself in danger. It’s complete denial of self, and I think that’s an unheard of concept for us today.

There is such a lethargic, apathetic spirit permeating Christianity. I know it squelches my life, and I let it. How can so many millions go to church every day and completey miss it? How can we be so ineffective?

Christianity has become an inheritance, a faith passed down from our parents that entitles us to eternal life.

But John the Baptist warned the Israelites not to get comfortable with their inheritance: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and throw into the fire.” (Luke 3:8-9, NRSV)

That was the precurser to the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist went on to call the people simply to do what was right. He called for social justice, for those with extra to give to those who have none. He called the tax collectors to collect only what was right. He called the soldiers to do their jobs and not threaten or extort anyone. He didn’t call anyone to a strange or difficult journey. He just asked them to do what they were supposed to do.

Why is that so difficult? Why is it so hard for us to do simply what we’re supposed to do? I would guess that apathy is not a recent plague upon the human race, but something that has daunted us throughout time.

No Mac for a Monkey

Friday marked the fifth anniversary of my ponderings, my thoughts, my blog. As usual, it passed with little fanfare. But on December 5, 1998 I started this whole online journal thing. I’m amazed it’s still going.

Part of the reason such a milestone passed with so little noise is probably due to the fact that I was a bit miffed. Maybe I have reason to be miffed, and maybe I don’t. Either way, I do recognize that’s there’s a large bit of pride swelling up inside, and for that I ask your forgiveness. Pride is rarely thought of as a sin, but that doesn’t make it OK. Being an introvert I wouldn’t think I’d be especially vulnerable to pride, but I am.

I was miffed because a few days ago I posted an entry asking for a response, and I didn’t get the response I was looking for. I didn’t even get the response I expected. I posted an entry proposing this whimsical idea that perhaps the readers of this blog could help me get a new computer. Of course I’ve been bemoaning the sad state of my computer for some time now, and in my financially fragile state just buying a new computer isn’t much of an option.

I thought a plea to the masses would be fun. I could do a hokey pledge drive with goofy graphics and all sorts of ways people could help me raise money. Of course donations are the simplest and most direct method, but probably the least popular. I was thinking why not harness all the methods of support that don’t really cost anything. is one of the biggest. You buy products you were planning on buying anyway, and I get a cut. It doesn’t cost you a dime, but it helps me get a new computer. And there were other ideas, products I could sell, auctions I could hold. And of course a lot of it would be simple motivation for me to liquidate my junk.

It was a grand idea. I didn’t think it was totally off base. Asking for donations is never a popular thing to do, and that’s why I wanted to put the emphasis on methods that really don’t cost you anything. The whole thing was really more of a project to build momentum, mostly momentum on my part. At the same time I had this idea that it’s not such a terrible thing to ask my audience for some support. It’s not like I’m a beggar off the street asking for something for nothing. I’ve been writing these thoughts for five years. Some of you enjoy this site multiple times a week. I’m delivering an honest service, and it’s not out of line to ask for something in return. You pay $30 for a yearly subscription to a magazine, so what’s a one-time shot of $5 to support a web site? At least that’s what I thought.

I should have realized that there’s a vast majority of people out there who want to get something for nothing. I’m one of them. I read magazines and do research in Barnes & Noble because I’m too cheap (and frankly can’t afford) to buy all that stuff. In an age when people would rather download songs than pay for them, how can I expect that same audience to give money for some words on a page. Laughable.

Of course I really held out hope that things like referral links to Amazon and the less direct forms of support would really come through. And I really liked the idea of putting together a version of FX-77 Spacefighter, the story I wrote in third grade. I actually pulled the story out the other day and looked it over. Believe it or not, it’s a full blown series. There’s FX-75, the prequel; FX-77, the original; FX-77 Part 2, the sequel; and FX-78, the second sequel.

So I had a grand idea and some rather high expectations. I was hoping one of two things would happen: 1) Everyone would rally around me and jump at the chance to buy T-shirts and bid on photos and donate money and buy their Christmas presents through Amazon. Of course not everyone would be gung-ho. Some would just share ideas and give suggestions, some would wish me luck out of their own poverty, but for the most part it would be supportive. 2) I wasn’t hoping for the second possible outcome, but I did recognize it was much more likely to happen. That second outcome would be a bunch of people throwing water on my idea, basically telling me I shouldn’t use my audience like this, it’s a crazy idea, I won’t make any money, who do I think I am, don’t be such a conceited jerk there are other people in the world who need money.

In the end, neither of those expected outcomes happened. I think apathy happened instead. A number of people did respond, some even exceeding my expectations with their ideas and willingness to help. But for the most part I received the equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. Eh.

I probably should have seen it coming. But some of the problem, again, is my swelling pride, expecting my audience to rally around me as if I were some literary superstar. I’ve said in the past that I write these thoughts for me, and in some sense asking for donations or even support is violating that simple notion. So please forgive me for my pride and greed. Just because I have comments doesn’t mean people will comment, and just because they comment doesn’t mean I’m going to like what they say.

If you were one of the many Eh’s, I don’t blame you and I hope you’re not feeling bad or sorry. This is more an example of botched expectations on my part. I was miffed at you for something you didn’t do, and I just need to learn to deal with the reality. I should have listened to my mother.

One of the comments I received in particular really burned me. Again, the comments are an open forum and I should really be prepared for that kind of thing. But I guess I’m not. For the most part, I don’t think people have any understanding of my situation, being an unemployed freelancer who collects unemployment some of the time, and I shouldn’t expect anyone to understand that.

For those of you who don’t know, unemployment is a service of the government that exists as a safety net for the economy. It provides minimal support for people who lose their jobs so they can get back to a similar job in their field and not have to face financial hardship like defaulting on loans, eviction, or bankruptcy, all of which are an even more expensive drain on the public. Sure a person who lost their job could take a job at the Gulp ‘N Blow to make ends meet, but they’ll most likely come up short. And even if they do manage to make ends meet, they have no time or energy to pursue a position that will put them back on track for their career. They’re stuck in a dead end job. Instead, unemployment allows them to pursue that job, to regain their position in the economy, so they can continue making money, paying taxes, and being a productive member of society.

Maybe some of you think the fact that I don’t have a job right now is lazy. Frankly I feel lazy sometimes, though the only time I’ve ever sat on the couch and watched TV was one day when I was too sick to sit at the computer. But whether or not I feel lazy, I need to look at the long-term picture. Sure, the Gulp ‘N Blow will help pay bills, but is that really where I want to be? Is that even a helpful place to be? Considering my debt, it’s not a place I need to be. A low-paying job would help, but in the end I need to make more than that. My debt demands it, not my lifestyle.

And I’ve certainly questioned where I’m at. I’ve cut expenses everywhere I can. I took a hard look at the computer I was thinking of getting, the 20 inch iMac, and I realized I’d probably be much better off with the budget-friendly eMac.

So yeah, I was miffed. Not so much at all of you reading this, but more at myself and the situation I’m in. Patience is never easy, and I’m the kind of person who likes to know what’s going on. I’ve been financially adrift since July, and that’s not easy. Freelancing has been a great solution lately, but the nature of freelancing is unstable, and that’s just as scary.

In the end, I’ve decided not to do any kind of ‘Mac for a Monkey’ fund-drive. I’ve learned a lot about these thoughts and what I want them to be. I’ve learned I need to expect the unexpected and move on. If you’d still like to support these thoughts, great. You can make a donation or buy things through Amazon or PETCO, and I appreciate it.

I’ve also learned that I’m busy and I don’t have time for this. Maybe the flood of work I’m struggling not to drown in will produce enough excess cash that I can afford the Mac. Maybe it won’t, but I’ll get lucky and my computer won’t die just yet.

Sometimes I think I need to recognize an idea as an idea, and not invest so much in it emotionally.

Bono on AIDS

Wow, just caught Bono rocking the mic on C-SPAN. It was a conversation with the Kaiser Family Foundation about DATA and AIDS in Africa.

Bono is a runaway freight train when he talks about AIDS. He’s so passionate and has so much to say that he can’t get all the words, stats and stories out, and he can’t stay on topic to save his life.

Maybe we all need to be saving our pennies.

Mac for a Monkey

[OK, I realize this is long entry, but please bear with me. I’m hoping to get your input on a crazy idea. Even if you think this is a stupid idea, please post a comment so I know what you think. Thanks.]

The Computer Dilemma
Here’s the deal: my computer is three years old this month and is starting to crap out. I reinstalled Windows a few months back and that helped stabilize things, but it’s still not at 100%. Now I’m beginning to have problems again, and it’s not a pretty picture. When you’re unemployed and subsisting on freelance work, your computer is your livelihood.

So buying a new computer in the very near future is a must. In trying to find the best computer to go with, I think it’s time to switch to a Mac. I’m sick of fighting my computer, and with my recent forays into design and publishing, I think a Mac is the way to go. Unfortunately, that means spending a pretty penny (an equally powerful PC would be pretty expensive too, but my 5+ year old software would help me cut some corners there).

The Replacement
I’m looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500 for the computer (20″ iMac, extra RAM, a bigger hard drive, AppleCare plan, etc. — maybe I don’t need all of that, but a lot of it seems worthwhile, i.e. larger screen for $300, extra RAM for $100, etc.) and almost $1,500 for the software (Adobe CS Premium, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, and Acrobat, as well as Office X Student/Teacher edition which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Entourage). The fancy design software is the really expensive part, but that enables me to pursue a lot of my business idea dreams. That $1,200 chunk of the puzzle might have to come later.

The Debt
The main obstacle here is that I’m unemployed and already overburdened with debt. I’m giving freelance work a go, and pretty much taking any paying work I can find, and that’s just enough to pay the bills. Trying to squeeze a new computer out my current finances isn’t going to happen.

The Idea
The reason I’m blabbering about all of this is because I’m considering doing something unorthodox, and I want your opinions. I’m thinking about doing some sort of money-raising pledge drive, a psuedo-tongue in cheek, cyber-panhandling sort of thing.

I’d come up with a dollar amount goal and try to reach that goal through the kindness of you folks and whatever bright ideas I can come up with. While straight up donations would be a part of it, I’d hope to rely more on things like referral fees, selling products, even doing a special benefit auction of some of my stuff (photo prints, copies of early and embarrassing writing, etc.). I’d hope to offer lots of options for ways you can help that don’t cost you anything, or at least you get something out of the deal, rather than just giving me money.

At least 100 people read these thoughts a day, so my thought was if lots of people did a little bit, we might be able to reach that goal. If 100 people bought a $15 book as a Christmas present through Amazon, it would bring in $225. If 25 people bought a T-shirt, it would bring in $100. If 100 people donated $5, it would bring in $500. You get the idea.

Doing My Part
In addition to all the ways you could bring in cash, I’d be doing everything possible to liquidate my crap. A number of childhood collections are gathering dust in the basement, just waiting for their moment on eBay. I also have books and CDs I could cast off, and this whole project would be tremendous motivation to actually get rid of this stuff. And of course I’d continue to bust my butt freelancing and provide witty and entertaining tidbits in this blog. I don’t want to be a freeloader — if anyone were to take part in this grand Mac-buying scheme, I’d want them to feel like they’re getting something out of it, that this site continues to be fun and cool and worth their time.

So that’s my grand idea. At this point it’s just an idea because I’m chicken. Sometimes I get these ideas and I jump on them too quickly and suddenly I’ve wasted an afternoon. This time I wanted to hold off and see what other people think. Is this a fun and plausible idea, or am I just a mooch who needs to get a real job? Would you actually participate in something like this, or would you just roll your eyes and move on?

Leave some comments about what you think, yeah or neigh.

More Fun Ideas
I’m already enjoying some of the random ideas I’m coming up with, like auctioning copies of some of my original stories, like FX-77 Spacefighter from third grade, or Fred and I the Spies from fourth grade. Or selling bound volumes of Joe Gentlemen’s Dating Tips for the Truly Romantic Gentlemen (that dates back to high school — Joe and I have kept in touch). Or how about a CD collection of the greatest moments from my college radio show, Mission Control (of course I should probably talk to my co-host first, seeing as he’d be entitled to half the profits and has the actual audio files)? Maybe my nearly 5 months of unemployment is finally catching up to me.

Thanksgiving in Kansas

Our Thanksgiving with the family in Kansas was good. Nothing like sitting around in flat country with not a lot to do. I did manage to avoid posting while I was there, but I couldn’t completely avoid the computer. I had to checka the e-mail, and couldn’t help but read the news (when the local paper doesn’t even mention Bush’s gutsy Thanksgiving Day visit to Iraq, you kind of need to plug in). But that’s about it. It was kind of nice to disconnect from everything for a while.

I even managed to take some pictures in Raymond. For once I managed to get some pretty decent light. A couple of these shots really illustrate the flatness of Kansas. Some places are really as flat as a tabletop, and it’s more bizarre than you’d think.

The old railroad sign below is about all that’s left of what was once a booming stop on the Santa Fe line. There used to be a train depot there, built in 1905, but it was torn down in 1961 for lumber. For some reason the history of Raymond really interests me. I spent summers there as a kid with my grandpa and step-grandma, and it’s where my parents grew up. I think the town amazes me in its near-abandonment. The more history I learn about the town, the more I realize that my dad grew up watching most of the town be disassembled. I wonder what that does to your pscyhe. It’s no wonder my dad and his two siblings left for extreme ends of the country (Michigan, Arizona and California).

Railroad tracks heading southeast out of Raymond, Kansas.

Railroad crossing sign in Raymond, Kansas.

The original railroad sign for Raymond, Kansas.