Sunday, April 10, 2011

How to lead?

You know those times when everything comes to full emotion and there really isn't anything you can do but be overwhelmed? I had one of those moments today.

Rewind a few weeks and I'm in my car driving home after a long day, work then straight to night class. I would normally have the radio on new talk, but at night after school it's Mark Levine on the radio and he is a bad person, I can't listen to him. He is too mad and has no respect for authority. All that to say that I had the radio on Way-FM. There was this song that they started to play recently that I really liked. I didn't care to pay attention to the lyrics, it was just a great song musically and that is what I focus the most on when listening to music: does it sound good and make me feel good? The song came on briefly, then stopped so Wally, their night time guy, could talk. The song got my attention so I listened to what he had to say. He was talking about the song I liked and what it meant and why the artist wrote it. Sanctus Real sang it? Really? I have a few of their albums, cool, they still make good music.

The song, Lead Me, was written because the guy was married with a family, but he wasn't doing a good job at being a spiritual leader of his family. The song is sung fro. The perspective of the wife and family. They just want to feel secure and have someone to lookup to spiritually.

I know this is probably a big deal for many families and as the dad, I feel that burden to be that leader for my family. But I don't have a great devotional life. I don't have a predictable prayer time. I don't study the Bible for hours. I feel inadequate to effectively lead in this way. I know all this stuff of what I should be doing, I just let life get to me and business sets in. I try, I want to be that guy for my family, I just can't stay consistent anymore than a couple of weeks at a time. That really sucks for me.

One thing Wally emphasized that the song said was that our wives and family aren't looking for us to be perfect. They just want to know we care and are trying. It is still so hard to do for some reason, even with that knowledge. The excuses that come are plentiful and I have found myself listening to them.

A podcast that I listen to very often is Just Thinking and Let My People Think and this last week I listened to the same message through both. Is God trying to tell me something? Well, yeah, that's pretty obvious to me. The message was about Moses and the things he did that helped and contributed to being the man of God he became. The point that stood out to me was how it is so important to have time set aside to par and be with God. I want that, especially to set that example to my family. I don't though, well not consistently.

So this afternoon I had on one of my Pandora stations and the Sanctus Real song came on while we're doing laundry. All I can remember is saying that I really like this song then my attention goes to the lyrics for the first time with purposeful effort. I just started crying. I felt so inadequate and overwhelmed with responsibility. What was I going to do with three kids? So much I have to do, so many good habits I need to form, so many bad ones to lose. What am I going to do?

Well, let's see if can do this early morning thing again. My alarm still goes off early, I've just been hitting snooze for the past couple of weeks. No more. Tomorrow morning it begins... again.

Sanctus Real - “Lead Me”

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shoes and the Gospel?

Tuesday was Toms One Day Without Shoes. I was happy to hear this was going on again as I missed last year's event. But why was I happy?

This day meant something different to everyone who participated. I wasn't sure what my purpose was for participating until late at night on Tuesday as I lie in bed thinking about my day.

One thing about yesterday that was really encouraging was that my work encouraged everyone here to participate. It made sense, we work with kids in poverty. Toms gives shoes to kids in poverty who don't have shoes. Toms partners with Compassion to provide shoes to some of the kids in projects we support. It's a beautiful circle of love and care!

Walking around at work and overhearing people's conversations is where I realized not everyone was on the same page with the reason for participating. Well, not on my page.

"Oh, are you kidding me? I'm not walking into the bathroom with out shoes." I heard this many times. I understand, it's not the most ideal place to be bear foot. But don't millions of kids have to walk bear foot through nastier places than this?

I think days like this can be more damaging to me than helpful. Here I am, these judgmental thoughts going through my head and these people I'm comparing myself to are just trying to do something simple to make a difference.

Why do I have the underlying desire to be hipster? Does it go back to high school when I was? Aren't I old enough to not care anymore? Is this just a personality thing? It's probably a bit of all of that, but whatever it is - it's wrong.

I could get all cynical and say the underlying point of the day was for Toms to sell more shoes. But that's good too, because they are a business and they are there to make money. The more money and shoes they make, the more they can give away. While that may be a reason, I believe that was not the main purpose.

Kids have to go without shoes. This is a big deal. We wear shoes, it's normal. We don't wear shoes, people notice, people ask what the deal is. I know I was asked a few times at school yesterday. It's a way to bring awareness by inviting conversation. We are not going out and having PSAs on TV and radio talking about the hazards of not wearing shoes in developing countries. We just don't wear shoes here and people ask.

I went to Twitter yesterday to check some trending topics and about 1/2 of the tweets I saw were asking why #withoutshoes was trending. That is great. Dialog. Awareness. Action.

So did it matter that hundreds of people at Compassion didn't wear shoes? Not really - we were all mostly aware of the plight of children in poverty. We have carpet and just sit at desks all day. Am I judging again? People didn't ask me at work why I didn't have shoes. Did it matter that I didn't wear shoes to school yesterday? Yes. That was where I was asked what was going on. That is where I was able to share the purpose of this cause.

Wait a second. What did I just realize? Being surrounded all day by people who share the same beliefs as you is not a good thing? Aren't we called as Christians to go into the world and make disciples? How do I do that if I am only surrounded by other Christians? I think I just realized I am living in a stupid "Christian bubble" that I always have despised. I am that guy. Oh, good grief - I have some serious 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The US Legislature vs Facebook

I'm going to ignore the obvious issue of our nation still being in an economic slump and millions of Americans are out of work. Let's just pretend today that everything is OK and the members of our Congress and Senate are using their time wisely. I know, HUGE what-if and you may need to borrow some imagination from a 3 year old because that is a big leap in assuming our legislature uses time productively. Anyways, with all that being the case, let's take a look real quick at the new Facebook debate over the privacy issues.

Surprise! Facebook changed their privacy settings again and members need to go into their settings and opt out if they wish. While it would be nice if Facebook sent a message to all users to let them know this feature has been activated, we do not need a law on the books to make such a change.Listen people, the website is free to use for the consumer. You are free to not use it if you feel you are being taken advantage of. Remember what we used to say before Socialism took over our country? There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay for me to use Facebook, and it sure as heck isn't going to be me. ABC doesn't charge you to watch Lost. NBC doesn't charge you to watch Biggest Loser. What do all of these companies have in common? Advertising revenue. That is how Facebook stays free.

Now listen, Senator Schumer may have all the best intentions in calling for the FTC to begin to regulate social networking sights (which I believe he does not have pure motives, by the way) ( That does not excuse him and his colleagues from being dolts and treating the average US citizen with contempt.

Senator, if you are for an opt-in approach to privacy and collection of information, why are you not raising a stink about the US Census? I received my form and read it over. I don't recall anywhere on the form telling us that certain questions were optional. We were not informed that our answers to some questions were voluntary and if we should so choose, to opt-in to answer these extra questions (

Why does the census ask what our names are? Why does it ask for our phone number (to call us if they have questions? really?). I wasn't able to find anything in the actual Constitution that authorized such questions either. What is going on here (

Anyways, this can just be one more example of our Legislature being goofs and making laws and complaining about stuff they don't want to do themselves. Oh my oh my...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Goodwill, goodbye

I am not going to be extreme and crazy saying I will never go to Starbucks again. I can't say that. For one, today is National Honesty Day and saying that would be a lie. We can’t have that! However, I can say that Starbucks has lost me as a regular morning visitor. Once, and every so often, twice, a week I would go to Starbucks before work and pick up a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. A couple months ago I noticed they were serving up a bold coffee each week and I would get a cup of that because I do like to try new coffees. Some were horrid, some were good. So my weekly routine continued throughout these weeks; trying a new coffee, a smile or a shrug, and back to my car and off to work.

Starbucks Coffee PassportThis last Sunday I was at Starbucks doing homework and I overheard one of the partners telling a customer about this coffee passport they are doing. I then heard an advertisement on Pandora Radio of the same thing. The combination of these two encounters made me nerdy-happy and I was excited for today’s visit so I could get a coffee passport and work my way through some coffees. The bonus for completing your passport is a free pound of coffee. Why shouldn’t I have been a littler nerdy-happy?

Since I am quite regular at coming, I’ve come used to the (weirdly named) pairing of the tall coffee and breakfast sandwich for $3.95. With my own cup, the total cost is $4.15 and I hand over my (registered, mind you) Starbucks card and just walk away. It is usually around 6:30am so I’m still a bit tired and not all present mentally.

That is my history. The following is my present.

Friday morning and it’s time to give myself my assigned weekly treat, Starbucks for the AM. That’s what I call it. Actually, that is what I just now called it; I’ve never referred to it that way and, come to think of it, probably never will again. So I show up and say hello to the people I see every week and they cordially say hello, making no recognition of my face or that I frequent this location on a regular and predictable basis. I have come to expect such treatment and am not too bothered because I really don’t like small talk. It would be nice to hear a “Nice to see you again,” every now and then though.

/* Begin tangent */
I used to come each Friday morning with my personal Grande tumbler and order a Grande, 2-pump, sugar-free hazelnut, non-fat latte. That is not a typical drink. Months of standing in line and watching other people order and me, as a customer, I would come to recognize regulars that come in about the same time as I do. The partners would acknowledge them and recall their drink for them by name. “Linda, are you getting your tall, vanilla chai today?” “Chris, do you want your Grande, bold coffee this morning?” Boring, normal drinks and they could recall their names and drinks. I am sure you can guess how often did they recalled my drink. Once. (No, I’m not going to exaggerate, remember, this is National Honesty Day.) There were times when I was greeting with a welcoming, knowing smile. But those are far and few between. While I do not wish to have a conversation with everyone I meet, it does go a long way to be acknowledged and that you are more than just a face in the crowd.
/* End tangent */
I order my coffee and sandwich as I normally do and hand over my Starbucks card and decline my receipt. Something pings in the back of my mind, but I’m still not fully awake and my brain may just be remembering something from 3 weeks ago I was trying to remember (that wasn’t it, but it turns out I remembered later what I was trying to remember, those dinosaur fossil roly-poly’s – anyways). I shrugged off that brief poke in my head and asked for one of those coffee passport thingies. He looks at me weird and asks someone else what I was talking about and she tells him they are out. I then proceed to tell them that I heard and advertisement for it just on Sunday. “I’m sorry. This is the last week for doing that, we are now collecting the people’s passports.” Oh, is that so? I just looked at them with a tired, blank look on my face and dully said, “That’s great, it would have been nice if someone would have mentioned it to me. I’ve only been drinking the coffee every week now.” I was offered a non-heartfelt “Sorry.” I herd myself over to the pass-counter and wait for my sandwich to be toasted. While I stand there, I decided that since I can’t do that coffee passport, I don’t want this horrid cup of Sumatra coffee I asked for and requested it be replaced with the normal Pikes Place blend. I have tried to use my skills of sleuth-ness and I have deduced her name is Jo and she is the store manager. She is always kind and was happy to trade out my coffee. (I did find it comical that she asked if it was a tall coffee when it was in their paper cup, not my personal mug.) My sandwich is passed off to me without eye contact or a thank-you, and I’m off to work with drink and food in hand. I get to the doors and that tickle in the back of my mind I ignored earlier had transitioned to a gong in my ear. I turn back and head over to the line that is formed and wait to talk to the fellow who rang me up. To my relief the friendly, probable-manager saw me come back and stand there and she asked me what was up. I told her my remembrance of being charged $5.50 something for my drink and sandwich just a few moments ago and she said they don’t ring up the pairing automatically any longer, unless we specifically request it, and that it was being phased out anyways. Well that is stupid, just stupid. My day that normally starts off as a treat has been reduced to disappointment and sour feelings of lost goodwill I once had.

I will no longer be ordering these breakfast sandwiches. I will no longer be stopping by Starbucks for a regular cup of coffee. I will be reducing my visits to special treats with the wife and daughter and a once a month, aforementioned, special latte. This kind of sucks for me too, because I really enjoyed going in the mornings, but I am going to be voicing my opinion and voting for change with my wallet.

I’m sorry, Starbucks, but you have lost a lot of my goodwill towards your company.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Linear Programming

How important is it that I actually finish this problem? It is only 1 question of my homework assignment.

Problem 3.42
South Central Utilities has just announced the August 1 opening of its second nuclear generator at its Baton Rouge, LA nuclear power plant. Its personnel department has been directed to determine how many nuclear technicians need to be hired and trained over the remainder of the year.
The plant currently employs 350 fully trained technicians and projects the following personnel needs:
Month - Personnel hours needed
August - 40,000
September - 45,000
October - 35,000
November - 50,000
December - 45,000

By Louisiana law, a reactor employee can actually work no more than 130 hours per month. (Slightly over 1 hour per day is used for check-in and check-out, record keeping, and daily radiation health scans.) Policy at South Central Utilities also dictates that layoffs are not acceptable in those months when the nuclear plan is overstaffed. So, if more trained employees are available than are needed in any month, each worker is still fully paid, even though he or she is not required to work the 130 hours.
Training new employees is an important and costly procedure. It takes one month of one-on-one classroom instruction before a new technician is permitted to work alone in the reactor facility. Therefore, South Central must hire trainees one month before they are actually needed. Each trainee teams up with a skilled nuclear technician and requires 90 hours of the employee's time, meaning that 90 hours less of the technician's time are available that month for actual work.
Personnel department records indicate a turnover rate of trained technicians at 2% per month. In other words, 2% of the skilled technicians at the start of any month resign by the end of that month. A trained technician earns a monthly salary of $4,500 while trainees are paid $2,000 during their one month instruction.
Formulate this staffing problem using LP and solve it by using Excel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coffee Taste Test

Starbucks VIA vs Taster's Choice
instant coffee showdown

It started off simple enough. I thought, I need to write a new blog. I then thought. I don't have time to write about important stuff like government and philosophy, so why not write about coffee. I like me some coffee. About a month ago, Starbucks launched their instant coffee, VIA Ready Brew to much skepticism and ugly looks. We of course only talked about it behind their back because it's easier than saying it to their face.
Anyways, each time I've been to Starbucks this past month, they have been giving away samples of VIA so I get one each time I'm there and hoard them at my desk here at work for emergency. Some crazy person brought in a sampler pack of the Taster's Choice and left it in the break room to share so I took it upon myself to pick up the one that said "100% Colombian". Why that one and not the hazelnut one flavor? Well, I did take that one too - but now I have the two brands featuring their 'Colombian' brews. (Just a side note, coffee noobs think Colombian coffee is the best - it's not)

Of course this experiment needed to be scientific, similar to the taste tests Starbucks did when they rolled out the VIA in their stores. There big push was that you can't tell the difference between the instant coffee and their brewed coffee. I was able to tell at each of the 3 tests I did because I'm, well you know. So how do I be scientific? I used filtered water, two cups, boiling hot water, and a Jill to prepare the two cups. I gave her directions and left while she prepared the mix of granulated coffee crystals. Taste away!
My delicate palate began the task of deciphering the code of what cup belongs to which wrapper. At first, with the piping hot water and freshly prepared brown water, I was not able to tell the difference. Amazing, I thought to myself. What a topsy-turvey world we live in where foreign national terrorists are awarded the same Constitutional rights as an American citizen and that Starbucks instant coffee tastes like Taster's Choice. Oh, but all I needed was about 2 minutes and my shock would be diminished to less than awe. Once the coffees cooled down a bit I could tell a significant different betwix the 'bux and the poop. The once smooth finish and easy taste that was the Taster's Choice brand turned to bitter and acidic when it cooled down. Granted, so did the VIA, but not nearly as quick and not nearly as strong a change also. With this new flavor mix discovered, I made my hypothosis and submitted it to the authorities. Starbucks in the Pinecreek Dental mug, Taster's Choice in the Kindness mug.

"Right on", says Jill. I'm can't be fooled. What else do you have for me Starbucks?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Haiti Trip: Day 1

We arrived at the Port au Prince airport around 9:30 and sailed through customs and immigration. It helps being a large group of white people arriving in a country with no tourism business. They were happy to see us and we got passed along right away. Outside as we walked towards our bus a man just walked up and took Ester's bag to help her carry it. She wasn't very happy about that and everyone knew something was happening out of the ordinary when she said, “Excuse me!” very loudly. He let go and we piled all of our luggage onto the top of the bus.

Our first official stop was the Compassion Haiti main office, but we took a detour and headed up to a vantage point that over looked the entire city. It was beautiful up there. The country is much more green and pretty than all of us expected. The driving is a lot worse than I expected too. My expectations where shot to shreds. We didn't have guards that toted around M-16s, we had one or two guards that were huge, but they just had a handgun tucked away in their pants.

We were taken on a brief driving tour of the city too and went to a mausoleum converted to a museum featuring the countries history. It was really interesting to me and it was good to hear the many guides talk with such pride of their history. There were two things at this museum that I was really amazed by. The first was the actual anchor from the Santa Maria (one of Christopher Columbus' ship). The second was an actual crown of one of the first kings of Haiti. I'd never seen an actual crown. Of course it was encased and not touchable, but it was right there. Solid gold with four different precious stones and diamonds along all of the crown.

At the Compassion office we were able to meet a bunch of the staff and learn about the Compassion programs from their perspective. From the letters to finances to the people who oversee the projects, it was all run with pride and excellence. It brought a new perspective to my job and what I do. The office is located in the middle of the city and just like the CDSPs, the office is gated and secure. They have a small computer lab and resource books available to the LDP students in the city who need to use the computer for class work.

After our visit and tour of the country office we were off to our hotel, Hotel Karibe for showers, dinner, swimming and relaxing before we start day two. We were joined for dinner by the Country Management Team and I sat with the country director. He shared his story with us and how God called him to be at Compassion and why he chooses to stay in Haiti rather than take his skills and move away like so many business people do.

Breakfast – Burger King in the Airport
Lunch – Goat and plantains
Dinner – Chicken, goat and rice

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