Swim Upstream

I have been reading Francis Chan’s amazing book Crazy Love since I got it for Christmas. I have been gleaning a lot through reading it, and I’m so glad God used Chan to put it out in the world. One thing in particular struck me the other day while I was reading though.

In the chapter entitled “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God,” Chan discusses how it is so easy to give to God the little leftovers that are easy to give but fail to give Him our whole lives, which is what He actually wants from us. The passage that really hit me was this:

If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.

Wow. That is so true and hard hitting. More importantly I think it explained an oddness I sort of felt about my walk with Christ since I went to college. It was kind of subtle and I honestly didn’t really notice it until recently, which is I guess is why I never really talked about it to anyone. Basically, I let it stagnate. It’s really one of the most dangerous things that can happen since it is rather unnoticeable. I think I just kind of went into college with the attitude that I would get a baseline for church and such, then just hold that until I got everything settled and figured out with college. Oops, big mistake.

The first thing I should have done was to start looking for ways to get involved with a church and, well, just other ways to chase after Christ with all I’ve got. That’s what my life is supposed to be about. All the time. Not just when  finish college, or on weekends, or when I finish my assignments. Every moment. Everything is either part of that or it should be secondary. Am I saying I should neglect my school work? No, not at all, just that it should all be with the goal of glorifying and pursuing God.

Now, this part of the post I’m writing a few days after that first part. Incidentally my involvement at 12Stone called me away (hey, that’s a good thing!) from writing. Admittedly I don’t remember exactly what I was going to write next, but I definitely have more to say. God just keeps reaffirming this whole point in multiple ways. I love how He works.

Yesterday my good friend Wes and I went to visit our old youth pastor Anson at the church that he is currently in the process of planting. It was great to see him again and how God is already working through the young church. Anson’s message really struck me though. He preached on six Biblical reasons church membership is important. The main point, of course, is that it is absolutely crucial to become a member of a church rather than just attend a service every week or two and walk out. This means getting involved, getting to know people there, and serving. Church shouldn’t be a one-way experience. It’s simply how growing closer to God works.

So, basically, I’m going to be doing a whole lot more chasing after God during this upcoming semester. I’m definitely going to try to get involved with a church somewhere, be it the Crossing or somewhere else, in much the same way that I am at 12Stone. I also intend to spend a lot more time with the scripture. In fact, I started a one year Bible reading plan on YouVersion today (great tool) today in order to have the Bible completely read by the end of the year, and I fully intend to carry it out. I know it will do a whole lot to help me grow closer to God, both because it will keep me focused on a daily basis and because spending time with the Bible is just so important, and it’s an area I’m admittedly a little weak in.

I would definitely like to ask that my Christian brothers and sisters, both at home and in Tampa, would pray that I would just stay focused and active in this respect, and that it would create an amazing impact in my life and in others. I love you all, thanks!

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Discovery Sues Hillstrands

I just saw an interesting article on Yahoo. The Discovery Channel is suing Deadliest Catch personalities Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand for failing to complete their obligations for a spin-off show called Hillstranded. Basically, the production team completed principal photography, but the Hillstands decided they did not want to come back to complete the interview segments needed to finish the show. You can see the full article on Yahoo here.

This just struck me as very odd. Why would these two guys say they would make this show and just stop? If you read the article, it says the brothers did not even directly respond to the Discovery Channel when they tried to contact the brothers to set a date for the interviews. Their lawyer did, simply saying it would be wise to not contact the brothers again. There has to be a deeper story here. The interviews would take a day or two at max. Probably not even that. So why not do it? It can’t be laziness.

Motives aside, I have pretty mixed feelings about the result of this. I don’t think the Discovery Channel is necessarily wrong in attacking these two. They said they would do the show, and they did not fulfill their obligation. There’s no telling how much money the Discovery Channel spent on production up to that point. It could very well be a few million. In that sense I definitely think the Hillstrands have an obligation to repay what they cost the Discovery Channel by turning their back on the show. I guess my mixed feelings come from the fact that it could cost the Hillstrands their boat and crew if they end up having to pay $3 million dollars, but at the end of the day I really don’t have much sympathy for them. They said they would do the show; I would imagine they signed a contract, and they did not go through with their promise. If there was some deeper reason, they should go public with it, or at least say they have personal reasons, not just break off contact and hide.

So what do you think? Is the Discovery Channel going too far in suing them, or are the Hillstrands asking for it? Discuss.

Attacks that re-affirm

It’s no secret that college is a tough place to tread for Christians. Professors attack it, your friends attack it. It just gets attacked. A lot. I’m really thankful that I’ve already found a good group of fellow Christ followers to help keep me strong, but it doesn’t get rid of the fact that I deal with attacks on my faith daily.

Granted, what I’m about to talk about isn’t a direct attack, but it is still something that could weaken my faith if I’m not careful. In my “Great Books” class today, we discussed Genesis as a piece of literature, and last Wednesday we also talked about the Flood and compared it to the similar story in Gilgamesh. Treating the Bible in such a way is dangerous ground (I mean treating it as “just another story to analyze”), but it only managed to remind me of how awesome the Bible is, amazingly.

Who knows how the flood story ended up in both the Bible and Gilgamesh. Could be cultural overlap, the actual historical influence, I don’t know. What I’m getting to here is that Gilgamesh is a story about the hero, Gilgamesh. The story involves “the gods” flooding the earth to get rid of man, but in this case they later admit it as a mistake (yes, the gods made a mistake), and the story still resolves around a human hero. In Genesis, the hero is ALWAYS God. Yes, Noah is always a very important figure, but God is the hero here, and of course as Christians one of our primary goals is glorifying God, so it’s just a reminder of how uniform the Bible is in that.

My second thought was that in Genesis, God does not say he made a mistake. He stands by his decision. He didn’t want to do it, exactly, but he never says it wasn’t what needed to be done. This is a reminder that we may not always understand God’s plan, and it may even seem a little counterintuitive, but He knows what He’s doing and it’s ultimately for the better.

I know that’s not the most sensible post I’ve ever written, but I just wanted to write it down. I just always find it funny that attacks on Christianity often only make it stronger.

Zynga, you aren’t a game company

If you aren’t actually familiar with the name “Zynga,” I’m sure you’ve heard of their products. They are the makers of FarmVille, Mafia Wars, FishVille, FrontierVille, and a bunch of other villes that are just copies of the others with new art. Many people are calling it the next big thing in silicon valley. The thing is, they keep getting counted as a game company. I read an article saying they had become the biggest game company there is, exceeding Electronic Arts in user count. As a serious gamer, that just upsets me. Zynga simply should not be counted in the ranks of EA, Bungie, Infinity Ward, Epic Games, etc.

If you ask me, Zynga is just another social networking company. Their “games” are really just thinly veiled disguises for another way to connect with people. Yes, I realize real games have elements of connecting with people as well, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main point of the product. Ask any longtime gamer and they will likely tell you [insert a Zynga product here] is an absolutely horrible game. There’s also the fact that all Zynga games are completely dependent on facebook. That just seems like a bad idea to begin with, but it also reinforces the fact that they are just social networking extensions. At the end of the day, comparing Zynga with the gaming greats is a prime example of comparing apples to oranges.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out the potential problems with these Zynga games. They make all of their money from people buying virtual “goods” in the game. Yes, paying real money to get stuff that is and always will be just in the game. Scarily, Zynga is well on the way to making over $500 million this year. Who the heck is paying that much money to get some virtual junk? It’s bad enough when people waste money on stuff they don’t need in real life, much less things they don’t need that aren’t even real.

My inspiration for writing this post was an article about Zynga in the NYTimes (I’ll post a link at the bottom), and that article mentioned a lady that said she spends $20-40 per WEEK on FarmVille. I don’t think I’m stretching it to say that’s becoming a problem. A pretty big problem. Are we going to start getting names for game addiction diseases or something? The article also mentioned an unemployed man that spends up to 16 hours per day playing YoVille, another Zynga product. 16 HOURS! Some people are unemployed for a reason. Granted, it did say he had some mental disability but I know of plenty of mentally disabled people that can still handle some jobs.

So, yes, I have multiple issues with Zynga. I don’t think they make very high quality products and should not be compared to actual game makers, and I think they’re luring people into paying money out of an addiction in a way that’s really not much better than what tobacco companies do. Thankfully, facebook has tightened down on how much spam Zynga can create in my news feed, but I still think some people need to take a step back to look at this and go “Hang on a second…” Seriously, think about it.

NY Times article – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/business/25zynga.html

Verizon iPhone doubtful

The internet has been flooded with rumors recently that Verizon is supposedly getting the iPhone in January. Some people even think it’s already been announced. One of my teachers paraded up and down for I don’t know how long that Apple actually announced it, but of course they haven’t.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but I don’t think Verizon will be getting this amazing device anytime soon, and there’s a very simple reason. Verizon’s network is STILL a CDMA network, versus AT&T’s GSM network. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on cellular networks, but I do know that making a Verizon iPhone would involve more than a simple software unlock. It would involve a hardware redesign.

But the hardware requirement isn’t the main reason Apple won’t be giving the prize to Verizon. The main reason is that GSM is a newer and superior technology to CDMA. Frankly, CDMA is a remnant of older times, and GSM won out. Pretty much the entire rest of the world is running on GSM, but some American companies (Verizon) are still sitting on CDMA. Anybody that knows much about Apple knows they are very progressive and like to abandon old technologies and push the new ones coming in. It would be a step backwards in cellular technology for Apple to make a CDMA version of the iPhone. I don’t think Apple knows how to take a step backwards.

I do want to just note again that I really don’t know the fine details of how cellular networks work, so I could be overblowing the superiority of GSM over CDMA, but this is just based off of my understanding of the situation. I don’t really care on the whole situation either, we’ve always been totally happy with AT&T, and I have had issues dealing with Verizon with my grandmother’s phone, so I couldn’t care less if Apple makes it or not. Just a thought I had on the whole situation.

Apple addresses iPhone signal “issues”

As many of you know, Apple held a press conference today to talk about the signal issues many people have been reporting, and I definitely have my thoughts about the whole situation. Apple did announce they will be giving free cases to anyone who has bought/buys an iPhone 4 through September 30.

I do want to start saying that I don’t think the issue is nearly as big as the media has been trying to make it. I can make a bar or two drop in certain places by placing my finger on the infamous spot (if you don’t know about the issue I’m sure a quick google search will solve your problem), but the bottom line is that it hasn’t caused a single problem as far as dropped calls or data rates. It’s purely a “lab” result and not a real-world result for me. Maybe others are having actual issues; I can’t speak for them, but for me, it’s not a problem. Honestly, I’ve had way more problems with the proximity sensor, accidentally activating the speakerphone mid-call and such. Jobs did mention that a software fix should be coming for that as well, though, so that’s good.

Anyway, my reaction to the actual event. I think the actual actions they are taking are about as good as they could do. Even if they do have some sort of internal way of insulating it. I think a recall would be pretty overwhelming for them to handle, considering the supply shortages to begin with. Then it turns into a big fight over who gets the new units first, and I just don’t think it would have ended well. Free cases are a good choice, all things considered.

That said, I don’t think Jobs handled the event the best way he could have. He tried a little too hard to assert the whole “Hey, it’s everybody’s problem, not just us!” thing. I agree with him, but he took it just a little too far. The thing that really gets me though is that he avoided the tough question when he opened the session up for Q&A.

I was hoping someone would ask about the fact that you can cause the drop with a single finger on the gap between the two antennas, and Ryan Block did just that, but the panel (Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and Bob Mannsfield) basically avoided the question. That’s the whole discrepancy between the iPhone 4 and other smartphones. Everybody knows you can cup a phone and attenuate the signal, but has it ever happened with a single finger? It’s not a case of absorbing the signal with body parts, it’s a case of bridging two antennas. Apple said they wanted to solve the issue rather than put a band-aid on it, but I think somebody missed the actual culprit. It has to be a case where they know it but don’t want to try and explain it to the public, but I can’t say for sure.

Here’s the thing. I have a pretty good idea of how to actually fix it. Just move the spot where the two antennae come together to a spot where people aren’t normally going to be touching. Seems pretty simple to me. I’m still not suggesting they replace everyone’s phone, it really isn’t that big of an issue, but they could easily do it in future batches.

It’s definitely a case where I feel like Apple has been unfairly treated by the media, but I also feel like their reaction hasn’t been the best either. Many people are itching to find a hole in Apple’s armor, so when they found this somewhat easy to replicate “issue,” they jumped on it. It’s unfortunate that Apple had to take the hit from the extremely vocal minority, but I think that if they are going to face the issue at all they need to face the right one instead of try and put a bandaid on what most people think the problem is.

Will I apply for the free case? Probably, just to have it, but I seriously doubt I’ll keep it on most of the time. Now I’m just interested to see how the media responds.

Instant replays in FIFA?

So obviously there has been a whole bunch of controversy about the officiating job being done down in South Africa with the World Cup. There was the yellow given to Findley for a “handball” that hit nothing other than his face, and then Edu’s disallowed goal later in the same match with no foul that anyone can find in any replay. Brazil’s Kaka got a yellow (his second, meaning a red) for an incidental elbow caused by the opposing player flat-out running straight into him for no reason. England lost a goal that the refs just didn’t notice went in apparently. Scarily that’s not even all of them, but there are some of the more  controversial calls for you.

A lot of people have mentioned that an instant replay akin to what we have with American football would solve the problem. It would, sure. Almost all of those mistakes could be overturned if the ref got a chance to watch it over from a few different angles. However, I don’t think it should be added at all. American football is naturally broken up. Soccer (as I will refer to it here for simplicity’s sake) is not at all. If the ref had to stop the clock and take a few minutes to review plays, it would totally disrupt the rhythm and momentum that makes soccer beautiful.

That doesn’t mean nothing should be done, however. I can’t remember where I saw it, but I read an article somewhere that had a great point. Soccer fields are far bigger than American football fields, yet soccer has fewer refs, only one of which actually patrols the field and watches for fouls and the like. I say add two refs to the field so we have more than one pair of eyes on the field. It is very easy for one ref to miss things or be over anxious, but having three pairs of eyes watching would undoubtedly cut down on the number of missed calls. I am a little weary of the possibility of refs getting in the way, as I have already seen the ref get in the way of a few plays this year, but as long as that didn’t become an issue, I think the addition of a few extra eyes would be an incredibly beneficial thing.