Sunday, April 30, 2006


Yesterday, Amanda and I hid her first cache at a park near the house. Today, we got an e-mail alert that a new cache was hidden about 160 feet from where we hid our cache. We tried to be the first to find this new cache today, but we could not find it...neither could anybody else who looked for it! The real bummer is, we will have to move our cache because it did not get approved due to the close proximity to this other new (now missing?) one. The other person submitted his cache yesterday as well, but his went through first so he got the spot. Oh well...we'll just move GeoPunkin's first hide. But after that, we went on to find 8 more cachces today...a one day record for seekhim17 & GeoPunkin. We were tired afterwards, but we had fun. Our stats, as of today, are shown here.

This is going to be a busy week. Next Saturday is my first work day since I've taken over as administrator. I've got lots of guys coming so we should get lots done...just hope I have enough jobs ready to go for everybody to work 3 hours. Wow...20 guys x 3 hours = 60 man hours! That's a lot of work!!

And then we are going to be starting a 'special campaign' with our Life Groups starting next week. I'm excited about what we are doing, but I didn't think we'd be doing it or else I would have started weeks ago! This week, I've got to order curriculum, talk to potential new leaders, do up a bulletin announcement about it and put all the info on the web page. Great stuff...just lots to do.

Well, I was going to blog, pay bills and then work on this new campaign stuff, but I've got the first one done and now I'm outta gas. Gonna spell check this, start my computer backups for the night and hope to get enough sleep to go at it full throttle all day tomorrow. Will probably be a tiring week, but it should be fun. I get to organize a big work day (I LOVE to organize stuff) and promote a campaign I am 100% behind (I meant I support it, but I am a bit behind schedule-wise, too!). Busy week!

- Rob

Saturday, April 29, 2006

That Was Enough Motivation For Me

In a previous post, I mentioned a silly little mistake I made. It was a $39.50 "little mistake". Thanks in part to Texas changing the look of both their inspection sticker and registration sticker since last year, in part to being in a hurry to get Brooke out for our date night and in part (ok, MOSTLY) to my own lack of attention, I peeled off the wrong sticker when I went to put on my new vehicle registration sticker. I found out it was going to cost me $40 to 'fix' my mistake, so I've been procrastinating a bit. Who wants to spend money on the same thing twice?

While I am not motivated to pay for the same thing (a vehicle safety inspection) twice, I am motivated not to get a ticket for not having a current sticker on my car. Last night, Amanda and I were geocaching at a park and in a matter of 10 minutes found ourselves surrounded by 14 police cars! I eventually figured out that they were setting up for a license/registration/insurance inspection traffic stop. That's where they stop every single vehicle and check to make sure all of your "car stuff" is up to date. Guess who's inspection sticker was not up to date!? I decided that might be a good time to leave the park. It seems this was a good choice. When we drove by 5 minutes later the park was blocked off so that everybody leaving the park had to stop on their way out.

So that was enough motivation for me...I got my car reinspected today.

- Rob

Thursday, April 27, 2006

If You See Me On The News Tonight...

...and they are saying I'm a terrorist or something, tell them I was GEOCACHING. Check out this story about a guy who was almost arrested as a terrorist because he was trying to hide a cache.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Up And At It Early This Morning

Last night, when Amanda and I came home from geocaching, I received an automated e-mail telling me another cache has been placed near my home. It was too late to go back out, plus I am not good at night caching, so I set my alarm for 6am and decided to see how I felt about it in the morning.

When the alarm went of at 6:00, I felt I had gotten enough rest for the night, so I got up, got dressed, grabbed by GPS, my Palm Pilot and a pen and headed out for the new cache. You see, being the FTF (first to find) is a big deal.

The park was right in front of an apartment complex. It was still dark when I arrived, so I followed my GPS signal and took my flashlight with me. It seemed clear that the cache (it was a 'micro' so it was very small) was hidden in one of two trees. The apartment complex overlooked the park, and as I was shining my flashlight in every nook and cranny of this tree, one of the complex tenants came out onto his balcony for his morning smoke. I had to choose between continuing my search thus looking suspicious and having some sort of security called or acting like a casual park walker and sit on a bench thus loosing precious time. I chose to sit on the bench until he was done with his smoke.

The guy finally went back inside, and it took me another 15 minutes to find the cache. When I did, I took it back to the bench to fill out the log. As I was doing this, another car pulled up next to mine, turned around and left. There were only two parking spaces for the park (since it was mostly for the apartment people), so I figured it was probably a fellow geocahcer. Sure enough, the car left, pulled around to a parking lot nearby and waited. I finished logging my cache, went on to find the bonus cache (the one I found had the GPS coordinates for a second cache within walking distance). I walked back to my car after finding the second cache (second FTF for the morning!) and saw the car was still sitting in the other parking lot. I waved and got in my car to go home.

Since I had to drive past the parking lot where the other car had been sitting in order to get home, I pulled into the parking lot to see if it was indeed a fellow geocacher and to say hi. He was leaving, but when I stopped, he rolled down his window. I asked if he was a geocacher and he say "Yes, I just thought I'd let you finish before I came over." We talked for a few minutes then he went on to be the second to find (not nearly as prestigiouis as FTF!) and I went on home to get ready for work. I was up and at it early this morning.

- Rob

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

2.5 Hours, 7 Geocaches

Brooke helped Amanda do a "homework marathon" last night so she could finish up her homework for the week and we could go geocaching tonight. We set out around 6:00 PM and got back home at 8:30 PM. I think 7 geocahces in one day is a record for least in that time frame.

Here's a giant month Amanda saw while we were out

Here is GeoPunkin in action. This was cache #2 for the night
and she spotted it before I did.

Just Chillin

So our backyard pool thing is not going to happen,
but fortunately Amanda has a Pastor who loves her
and invited her over for a swim Sunday afternoon.

Just chillin'. Do all models have that gap when they smile?

Hey, can YOUR kid walk on water?

Kite flying on a breezy evening. A great way to relax after homework is finished.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Devil Doesn't Carry Cash

I remember a guest speaker we had come to our church when I was in Jr. High...I guess that would have been around 1982. He told us how the government was spying on us through our television sets and how a cashless society was just around the corner. This cashless society would, of course, usher in the anti-Christ. I don't remember all the details, I just remember it was interesting and scary at the same time.

So yesterday we were at Sonic for ice cream. They have their 'new' debit/credit card machines so you can pay directly from your car instead of having the car hop take your card inside. Handy for me except that they are not set up to add a tip. I always tip, but now I can't add the tip to my debit card and I don't carry cash. Fortunately, Brooke had a dollar in her purse so we tipped (something like 25% since all we bought was ice cream!).

But the incident at Sonic made me think back to this guy I heard in Jr. High. I guess I am rushing toward that world he was talking about...I hardly ever carry cash. I pay for everything with my debit card. I rarely write checks...if the place takes a debit card, that's what I use. And then tonight, I read this article Let Your Fingers Do The Paying about how companies like Wal-Mart and Costco are looking into bio-metric payment methods. They scan your fingerprint along with your checking, debit and credit card info. When you check out, they scan your fingerprint and then let you choose which method you wish to pay with (hoping you'll choose checking and save them money). In Jr. High, I would have told you this was a tool of the anti-Christ. As I read the article, I was thinking it might be handy. Which is it?

I know a number of people, including my parents, who will not shop online, who do not use debit cards and certainly would not use any form of biometric payment. Are they just technophobes or have I slowly been lulled into a system that ultimately has a bigger plan for me? If there were no cash, it would certainly be easier to implement a 'mark of the beast' system. But then, a fingerprint scanner at Wal-Mart and other places could also help reduce identity theft. But then again, if we all used cash, would identity theft be the problem it is today?

I guess all of this has made me go "Hmmmmm". I
'm really not living in fear, but I think it is obvious that the anti-Christ will use the technology of his day. I'm certainly comfortable with the increasingly cashless society in which I live, but biometric scanning, chip impants to track/keep kids safe, GPS tracking on cell phones and my every move be it financial or on the Internet being followed/recorded is becoming more interesting and scary at the same time. What do you think?

So anybody got a chapter and it true that the devil doesn't carry cash?

- Rob

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Great Church Website

I have had a couple people mention church web sites that have evites where members can invite friends to a specific church activity with a few simple mouse clicks. My search led me to a great church website: National Community Church in Washington, D.C. They have two at Union Station. You can check out the site, but I wanted to share from their "Our values" page. Wow...good stuff.

Our Values

NCC's twelve core values are part of the DNA of National Community Church. They are both descriptive and prescriptive of who we are as a church:

  • Expect the unexpected
  • Irrelevance is irreverence
  • Love people when they least expect it and least deserve it
  • Playing it safe is risky
  • Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you
  • Everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable
  • Everything is an experiment
  • You cannot out give God
  • Maturity does not equal conformity
  • Go the extra mile
  • It's never too late to be who you might have been
  • Do it right and do it big

The one that really caught my attention was "Everything is an experiment". I had lunch with my good friend Steve Hammond a few weeks ago (Steve is lead pastor at Mosaic Arlington). He was talking about how they try to practice this philosophy at Mosaic. He pointed out that business knows how to change to stay with the times, but too often the Church thinks the only way to things in the 'way it has always been done.' We were sitting at Shady Oaks BBQ. Steve pointed out that it was basically a 'Spring Creek BBQ on steroids'. Somebody made it more of a sit down feel instead of cafeteria style, put a little more money into the decor, increased service at the table and charged a little more for what they do...they adapted. Why is it that the church has such a hard time with this? I personally a very low need for adventure, but I have definitely seen the advantages of living life with the 'everything is an experiment' attitude.

I guess I could stay on my soapbox a little longer, but I'll step down now. (especially for the 'younger crowd' who doesn't have time to read my 'near book length' blog postings). But this is one attitude I hope we can foster at the Vine Fellowship. We serve a creative God who gives creative ideas to His people...if we are not afraid to try them. Will we sometimes 'miss it' and try a stupid idea instead of a God idea? Yep! That's why it's an 'experiment'...if we miss it we try something else. We we find a God idea, we go with it.

All of this in my search for information on how to add evite to our church web page. If you know how to do the evite thing, please contact me. Thanks.

- Rob

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Will Make Better Choices Today

At 10:30 am Friday, I thought I was having a bad morning. I have been praying about and trying to figure out how to better handle a situation and somebody basically questioned every solution I had come up with.

At 1:30 pm, I thought I was having a bad day trying to set up the silly pool shown here. Somebody gave us an 18 foot by 4 foot deep pool. It was hard to manuver around and it was kinda nasty cleaning it up. On top of that, our back yard is so not level I did not think we would be able to fill it anyway.

At 4:00 pm, I thought I was having a bad day because I spent money to buy sand to help level the area where the pool is only to discover that it would cost me another $150 (at least) to get enough sand to fix the problem. Basically there is no way to get this pool to 'work' without investing in something to level the ground.

A short time after that, I KNEW I was having a bad day because I told Amanda to 'shut up' when she was trying to be funny to make me feel better (since I was obviously in a foul mood). At our house, we don't tell people to 'shut up'. And before that, I had yelled at Brooke, pouted about the pool and acted pretty much like a jerk.

At 5:00 pm, I said I was sorry to both Brooke and Amadna. And then Amanda misbehaved and I went balistic again. Then I left to play poker with the guys. I'm home now and both Brooke and Amanda are in bed. The last thing they heard me do is blow up...after doing that pretty much all day since noon.

I had a not-so-great night, too, thinking about how I treated my family. As I drove home from playing poker, I asked the Lord to forgive me for having such a horrible attitude today and reflected on the fact that happiness is a least in middle class America. And I made a poor choice...actually, SEVERAL poor choices. It amazes me how I let little things control me. So what if somebody didn't like a decision I made? I've made wrong decisions before and even if I'm right on this one, people have disagreed with me before and they certainly will disagree again. And the whole pool could have been a funny story had I chosen to react differently.

So as it's close to 3:00 am on Saturday and I am heading to bed. I've made my peace with the Lord, I kissed Amanda when I came home and I will write a short love note and an apology to Brooke before I turn in. I didn't make very good choices this day. Thank you, Jesus, that you give me second chances. Thank you for giving me a family who loves me even when I act like I did on Friday! I will make better choices today.

- Rob

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Tender Heart

Sometimes, having the right heart but the wrong theology can be a real problem (like people who believe all 'good' people go to heaven). But in Amanda's case tonight, I think the Lord saw her heart instead of her child-like theology.

We went geocaching, and one of the sites was at a cemetery. {Side note: every cemetery cache I have been to has been placed tastefully with notes to 'please respect the location' in the description of the cache on the website}. As we were walking, Amanda stopped frequently to straighten or pick up flowers that the wind had blown over. She also picked up flowers that had fallen out of an arrangement and placed them on other graves that did not have flowers. She stopped at one grave marker and asked me what it said. I told her it was the grave of a soldier who fought for the United States in WWII. The words had hardly left my mouth when she clasped her hands together, dropped to one knee right there by the grave and prayed in all sincerity, "Dear Jesus, please let him have a good time in heaven. Amen."

And it made me say a short prayer, too. "Dear Jesus, as she grows up and her theological understanding matures, please let my little girl's heart always stay this tender, may she always show your compassion, and may she always remember You are just a prayer away. Amen."

- Rob

Now I Get It!

When I was in college, I took just one literature course...the American Novel (I forgot what years were covered). It didn't take much time for me to figure out that many authors are very messed up people! I always read a book for the pleasure of reading it...I rarely considered the 'deeper meaning' of what the author was trying to say. I guess you could say I learned a lot in the class (learning how to search for the deeper meaning, the symbolism, etc), but I really did not enjoy reading those books because of all the searching.

But it all paid off today! I was reading's word for the day and I saw a whole semester's worth of work pay off. Here's what I read: (taken from HERE)

Word of the Day for Monday April 17, 2006

choler \KOLL-ur; KOLE-ur\, noun:
Irritation of the passions; anger; wrath.

And at last he seems to have found his proper subject: one that genuinely engages his intellect, truly arouses his characteristic choler and fills him with zest.
-- "Black Humor': Could Be Funnier", New York Times, January 12, 1998

I found my choler rising.
-- Samuel Richardson, A Collection of the Moral and Instructive Sentiments... in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison

You see it, right? The 'deeper meaning'...what the writers were 'really trying to say'?

choler = Chloe

Her name says it all!

Monday, April 17, 2006

In Honor of Tax Day

How Taxes Work . . .

This is a VERY simple way to understand the tax laws. Read on -- it does make you think!!

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men — the poorest — would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man — the richest — would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement — until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language a tax cut).

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six — the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, Then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man who pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man, "I only saved a dollar, too . . . It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!".

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man, "why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered, a little late what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill! Imagine that!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Where would that leave the rest? Unfortunately, most taxing authorities anywhere cannot seem to grasp this rather straightforward logic!

Please Research BEFORE Forwarding

It called Snopes, and YOU TOO can find it at It's the "Urban Legends Reference Pages" and you would do us ALL a favor if you would check out your e-mail story here BEFORE forwarding it to anybody else. If it says "pass it along" "forward it" or some similar thing, chances are somebody is laughing at the ignorance of the person who passed the message along to you. I'm not that nice...when you forward it to me, I don't laugh!

So below is just the latest in the old, rerun urban legend/Internet hoax I've been sent via e-mail. Unlike the kind folks who sent me the info, I've checked it out on Snopes. It ain't so!

FYI, not only can you check out specific stories before passing them on, but you can read {just to expand your mind} about the 25 most common Internet hoaxes at the time so when you get one, you'll know.

Here's the link that exposes the GAS WAR story.

GAS WAR - an idea that WILL work

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It 's worth your consideration.

Join the resistance!!!! I hear we are going to hit close to $4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea.

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.

BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us! By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..... not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea:

For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out at this point.... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people.

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us sends it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =3D 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 =3D 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers. If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all. (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am, so trust me on this one.)

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!

I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you?

Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.



For those of you who are not familiar with researching Internet hoaxes/urban legends, here's just a few of the give-aways in this story.
  • The effort to make it sound legitimate...retired Coca Cola executives and his engineering buddy
  • The request to "pass it on". Think about it. 5 paragraphs of this thing is devoted to trying to get you to pass it on. This is one of the biggest tip-offs.
If they want you to "pass it on", at least take the time to check it out before you annoy your "friends" with it. Then I'll laugh with you...when you stop the 'cycle of ignorance'.

Now all you need to do is pass this along to 10 people and we can get the word out!

- Rob

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not Such A Good Day for Mowing

It all started a little over two weeks ago. We had company for the week (during the Missions Conference) and I was going to run out and mow my yard real quick so we could do something with our company that day. Short version...the church riding mower died and would not start again. I can mow my front and back yard with the push mower, but there are two additional sections of church land that I mow, and those would take forever to push.

That Monday, I let my fingers do the walking. Did you know that a LOT of lawn mower places want to come to your mower instead of have you take your mower to them? Sounds great, but I figured they were gonna want more money for that, so I called around and found Arlington Lawn Equipment. I took the mower in, talked to the owner and left feeling good about the place I had chosen to have the work done. Ron, the owner, even offered to bring the mower back to the church when the work was done.

To stick with the short version, it took two weeks to get the mower back! Note to self: get mower serviced in February next year!!

I got the mower back on Monday. Since Sunday is our church's big Easter picnic, we need the grounds to look good, so I planned on doing about 4 hours of mowing today. When I went to start the mower, it would not start. I kept trying until I was afraid I was going to run the battery down. I called Ron at Arlington Lawn Equipment and he said he'd come get the mower today, fix it today and return it to me today. Here's how it went:
  • 11:00 AM - Finally got out to mow. Mower would not start
  • 11:50 AM - Call Ron at Arlington Lawn Care and tell him about problem. Ron says he'll come pick up the mower, service it and bring it back to me today
  • 1:10 PM - Still no Ron, so I decide to try starting the mower again....and of course it starts right up. Went to mow and found that belt was loose and fluid was low. This caused the mower to move very slowly and get 'stuck' sometimes, but at least grass was being cut
  • 1:45 PM - Dang it! When George and I trimmed down a dead tree, I did not cut the root down deep enough. I found what was left of the stump with a mower blade and bent it beyond repair. Called Ron and told him what was up. He said he'd have to take it back to the shop (again) to fix what was wrong with it.
  • 2:00 PM - Do more yard work outside (beginning stages of bad sun burn)
  • 3:30 PM - Ron picks up mower and says call him at 6:00 PM if he has not called me back before then. Says mower can be finished today and delivered to us.
  • 10:15 PM - Mower is finished (yes, that is 10:15 night!) and Ron personally brings the mower back.
Needless to say, I did not get all the mowing done that I needed to today, so I'll have to finish tomorrow. I'll also have to cover up better while I mow so that my sun burn does not turn into super-bad-it-hurts-so-bad stage.

Although it took 2 weeks to get my mower back, I think I was mostly to blame on that. Who in the world expects to drop off your mower at this time of the year and think you are going to get it back next week? I did NOT like waiting two weeks to get my mower fixed, but Ron worked the church a good deal, he picked up the mower and delivered it back to me. Anyway, the mower problems got fixed and Ron was working WAY after business hours. I will take the mower in earlier next year.

Today was not such a good day for lawn mowing!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Little Bat Girl

We did six geocaches this Saturday and this was Amanda's favorite treasure. Of course she wore it everywhere we went for the rest of the day. Why is it when kids get to be teenagers and think their parents do so many embarrassing things they never remember things like wearing the bat mask into the grocery store?

A Bit of Humor

I'm sure this one came off the Internet somewhere (I think I've even seen it before), but I was reading "Healthy Home News" put out by the First Class Cleaning and found this again. Hey, don't laugh...last time I read their newsletter I won two free movie tickets. Anyway.

10 Things We Can Learn From Movies, Part 2 (I missed part 1 last month)
  1. Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant
  2. One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at one
  3. Creepy music coming from a graveyard should always be closely investigated
  4. During an emotional confrontation, instead of facing the person you are speaking to, it is customary to stand behind them and talk to their back
  5. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your room will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish
  6. When they are alone, all foreigners prefer to speak English to each other
  7. Having a job of any kind will make all father forget their son's eighth birthday
  8. Many musical instruments can be played without moving fingers
  9. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off
  10. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This next one was forwarded to me from my friend Stan.

Tough Love Vs. Spanking

Most of America's populace thinks it very improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control our kids when they have one of "those moments".

One that I found very effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk.
They usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our little car ride together.

I've included the photo below of one of my sessions, with my son, in case you would like to use the technique.

It's very effective!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Now That's What I Call AMERICAN Customer Support

First it was a Netgear router at the office, and then my Dell laptop and now Magellan /Navteq software. When you call to order a product, you get are routed to an American who speaks English as their primary language, but once you put out the money...whammo, no more American customer service. It's called outsourcing, and I don't like it.

I am not (try not to be) prejudiced against people from India. I'll be the first to admit I cannot come close to speaking Kannada, Hindi, Gujarati or any of the other host of languages spoken in India (click on map to the right to enlarge) as well as tech support Indians speak English, but when I'm trying to get help, it frustrates me to have to ask someone to repeat what they said three times so that I can understand them. It's not the tech support person's fault...they are offering assistance in their second language, and it's their job. That's fine...what I don't like is companies like Netgear, Dell and Magellan using people who speak English as a second language to offer me help. And with Netgear and Magellan, I spent 75% of my time trying to explain what the problem was and how I knew what the problem was. They kept reading from a script instead of listening to what I was saying. "Try this. Try that. Now do this. Do steps 1-3 again." And I keep saying, "I did that and this is what happened. So I did this. And then I did that. Here is why I think this is the problem." And they repeat the script they just read. And 45 minutes later, they diagnose the problem (exactly as I had when I first called) as if they had arrived at the conclusion by themselves.

Again, I realize these people are doing their jobs as required of them by their bosses and I understand English is a second language. But I also understand that these companies KNOW that this irritates customers like myself and that is why EVERY sales department (at least the three I mentioned above) is based in the United States. When they want to sell you something, they do not want to make you repeat your question or ask to have the answer repeated. But once you put out the bucks...all subsequent phone calls are sent to India (literally).

Today, I called Magellan because the software that came bundled with my GPS was not compatible with my GPS unit. The first time I called tech support (routed to India), I did not know what the problem was, and although I gave them enough information to figure this out, I had to go through the script. "Blah blah blah blah blah. Now, uninstall the software, reinstall it, do the exact same thing you have tried the past five times and call us back if it does not magically work the sixth time." What else can you do? So I did what they said, and for some strange reason the sixth time turned out exactly like the previous five did not work! So I worked on it myself and did some Googling. Lo and behold, the software I was given was not compatible with my GPS...the files the software exported could not be read on my unit.

For some dumb reason, I thought finding this out was a good thing...I would have something to help the script-reading tech support people in India. WRONG! I even read from the front of the CD case that said the software was only compatible with a different line of GPS units made by Magellan, but that was not in the script. Finally I was told to get the serial number of my GPS unit and perhaps the correct software could be sent., the serial number did not match up with their database. Nevermind that it matched up with the Magellan web page database when I registered it...they were working with a different database. "I will look into this and call you tomorrow" I was told. "Try to find the original receipt" even though I told them it was a gift.

So I got the receipt and waited for a phone call today. This is going to surprise you, but I did NOT get a call today. So I called...and was promptly routed back to India. Again, we went back to script reading. Everything he said, I said "Here is my case #. We did this on the phone already." Finally this last script-reader came to the conclusion that I had the wrong software and gave me another number to call where I could 'upgrade' my software to the correct version. I asked if I was going to have to purchase the software that was originally supposed to ship with my GPS unit, and he said something about getting a rebate.

Well, I was not too happy, but I called sales. I don't know why I was surprised since it was the sales department (the first people you talk to if you are considering purchasing a product), but the lady I spoke to was American speaking American English. I took less than two minutes to explain my problem (the same one I had been explaining to Indian script-readers for two hours the past three days). When she asked for my phone number and address my heart sank because I thought she was trying to check warranty information, and I was afraid that the friend who had given me the GPS may have registered it under his name. 20 seconds after taking my info, she said, "OK, I'll get that out to you." I had to clarify, "You are going to send me the correct software for my no cost? Wow, you just made my day. I've spent two hours over the last three days talking to technical support trying to explain to them that I have the wrong software, and just like that you have solved my problem." Her comment? "I'm sorry you were given the wrong software and had to take all of that time. I'm sending it UPS and you should have it within the next 7 days."

Now that's what I call AMERICAN customer support!

- Rob

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jesus Walked on Ice?

I couldn't help but laugh when I read this story Jesus May Have Walked On Ice? I've seen desperate people grabbing at straws, but this guy takes the prize. Have a good chuckle and check out the article. And for goodness' sake, somebody tell Peter so he doesn't feel so bad!

- Rob

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Turtle Mansion

So here is a picture of Grumpy O'Mally's home. He's got a 9'x15' ranch
complete with leaf pile, logs, pool (dark blue thing on the left)
and a table (picutred below)

We went out and caught him some worms tonight, but all he wanted
to eat was the lettuce. (Those 'things' on the stone are the
worms...not poop!)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Part of the Family

Today was an eventful day. After crying for 30 minutes last night, it seemed Amanda was ready to take Grumpy O'Mally the turtle back to his home today. That was before she cried all the way to school, too. When Amanda was born, somebody told me that little girls could wrap their daddy around their little finger...and I guess it's a little true. What Daddy can hear his little girl cry about the turtle who has become "like part of our family" and then make her say goodbye?

So this morning, I had to go to Home Depot to get some caulk for the church. I thought I'd take a 'few minutes' while I was there and pick up the needed supplies to build the 'herpatarium' in our back yard. A couple 4x8 sheets of some weather proof stuff and a couple cinder blocks. First "event" for the day...took much longer than expected to find suitable materials. Second "event"...I decided I would NOT spend $50 for a silly turtle cage and thought I could get away with $30. After a second trip to Home Depot tonight, the total ended up being $48.00!

At lunch, I took the car by the Saturn dealership. I had my car inspected in February and it passed. I just got my new registration sticker and put it on Saturday. When I did that, I noticed that my inspection sticker had expired which was odd since I just had it inspected last month. I called Saturn and they told me to bring the car in and they would fix the problem. Well, "event" 3 was a good one for Saturn...they had not made the mistake, I did. You see, last year the state of Texas made their INSPECTION stickers look like a Texas flag. This year, they made the REGISTRATION sticker look like a Texas flag. So, when I put my new Texas flag REGISTRATION sticker on this past Saturday, I peeled off the other Texas flag sticker to put the new one on. You get the picture now...I peeled off the wrong sticker so I now have one expired registration sticker and one current registration sticker with no inspection sticker. The only solution? Pay $40 to have the car inspected again! Didn't have the money to do that today (since Home Depot now had my $40), so we're hoping not to have any problems until we can get the car inspected again.

After work, I started on the turtle house. Maybe I should call it a mansion...or at least a ranch or something like that (more on that tomorrow). Brooke set the VCR for 24, and we were looking forward to watching it at 9PM. "Event" 4...the VCR has no clock on it, so we did not remember it had not been adjusted for Daylight Savings Time. I'm not sure what show come on Fox 4 after 24, but whatever it is, that is what we recorded tonight!

So today I did not get my ToDo list finished, I spent $48 I did not plan on spending, I found out I've got to come up with another $40 and I did not watch 24. But, I did make my daughter very happy and Grumpy O'Mally is now part of the family.

- Rob

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Leave The Animals Alone

Yesterday while geocaching, we found a snake (see previous post). At the Hurt house, were are NOT snake people. Today, we met a much more pleasant reptile...a turtle. Although it is much less startling to happen upon a turtle than a snake, I think I used better judgment when I saw the snake. I saw the snake yesterday and left it alone. I saw the turtle today and asked Amanda (now GeoPunkin...her geocaching username) if she would like to take the turtle home. I thought "How hard can it be to keep a turtle as a pet?"

We got him home, gave him a bath a set some lettuce in front of him. While he was chowing down on the lettuce, Amanda decided we needed to name him...Grumpy O'Mally is what she came up with. This name arose from the fact that the first (and only) sound we heard him make was a hissing sound when we first picked him up.

After Grumpy finished eating and explored every inch of my office floor, Amanda and I looked up turtles on the Internet to see how to care for him and what to feed him. OK, the diet thing would not be such a problem, but finding someplace to keep him was another story. It seems, to stay healthy, turtles really need to live outside. I was going to use some chicken wire and section off a corner of our yard from him. But I guess if a turtle sees chicken wire or a chain link fence, he wants to get to the other side and will hurt himself or drive himself crazy trying to get out, so you have to buy something like vinal siding to put in front of the fence to make it appear solid. And then they have to have both direct sunlight and shade. And a water bowl thing. And leaves. And rocks and wood. The short version...about $50 to make a cage for a pet that you just look at.

So the reason I say I showed more wisdom in my response to the snake is because Amanda now "loves Grumpy O'Mally and it is like he is part of our family." The thought of taking him back to his home caused her to cry for 30 minutes! After a good cry and discussing what was best for "our newest family member", we decided we would take him back to his home and set him free tomorrow after school.

Lesson learned: poisonous or not...leave the animals alone!

- Rob

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It's Not In There

This is no Googled picture...this is the real thing. Amanda and I were out geocaching today and we were looking for a multi-cache. A multi-cache consists of two or more "parts", thus the name. In this case, the first cache was a "micro", a very small container that contained the coordinates to the cache that has the log you sign and the goodies you trade for (Amanda's favorite part).

So I saw a knot in this tree and thought to myself, "Hmmm...I suppose you could hide a micro cache in there." So I stepped up to the tree and poked my face right up next to the knot to look in. Look who was looking back out at me! I try to carry stuff I might need while geocaching, but undershorts was not something I had thrown into the backpack. Fortunately I did not really need a change of shorts, but it was scary nonetheless.

So now I said to myself, "'s not in there". Eventually we found the micro, got the coordinates to the second leg of the cache and let our "friend" be.

- Rob

My Mafia Name

Uncle Rob 'the Butcher'...that is my new Mafia name. I made a trade with a friend and that's how I became Uncle Rob 'the Butcher' today. My friend Stan and I swapped GPS units (his was nicer than mine), and part of the trade included my saving him some money by cutting his dogs' hair today. I reminded him that our dog Sully's nickname is "chemo dog" because that is what Brooke calls him after I get done giving him a hair cut.

So today, I butchered Mitizi (a Benji dog I think...shaped like a large loaf of bread) and Sam (a real sweet heart). Neither dog liked "Uncle Rob" very much after I gave them their "new look". Mitizi has this "eye thing" going on where part of her eye squishes out next to the eyeball. It's not all that cute, but it sure looks pitiful when she looks at you as if to say, "I never knew you were going to THIS to me. You are a very mean man". This was the first time Mitzi did not make a bee line for the corner behind the coffee table and hide there the whole time. That lasted only until I began my "work". After that, she would not even come out when I called her. In fact, I had to leave the room before she would come when her Daddy called her!

And then there is happy-go-lucky Sam. He was happy-go-lucky until I began my work on him. We took a break part way through. When we were ready to begin Act II, I literally had to drag him back to the clippers. Fortunately, as his Momma says, give him a little attention and all is forgiven. Before they left, Sam liked me again.

- Rob
a.k.a. Uncle Rob 'the Butcher'

Date Night With the Love of My Life

Yesterday was March 31st, but it was Valentine's Day for me and my sweetheart. Brooke wanted tickets to see Phantom of the Opera for Valentine's Day, so that is what I got her. The show was last night.

Our date started right after Amanda got out of school. No, Amanda did not go on our Valentine's date. We took her to my parents where she spent the night, came back to Arlington, got dressed up and headed out. We went to Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner and then drove to Dallas to see the Phantom.

Brooke has been VERY excited about this and I have been supportive but not exactly looking forward to it. I enjoyed the musical much more than I anticipated, but the best part was spending time with Brooke. We don't get to have date nights often enough. We've had a very busy week with the missions conference and having company, so this was a perfect way to end the week...just the two of us relaxing together.

Phantom of the Opera was good and I enjoyed seeing how excited Brooke was about it, but the best part was a much needed date night. Brookie, I love you and you are truly the love of my life.

- Rob

Can You Draft Around the Learning Curve?

Race car drivers know all about drafting. The idea is to get so close behind a car that the air travels over their car and then over your car without creating resistance in front of your car. I just found out this year that drafting also helps the car in front (click on the picture for a larger version and you can read the explanation).

So I thought about drafting as I was experiencing the "learning curve" at work these past two weeks. At the Vine, the administrative pastor is in charge of maintenance. That means when a toilet starts leaking, I can either pay big bucks to get it fixed (not a very popular option with the finance people), find somebody in the church to help me (after hours or on the weekend) or I can figure out how to do it myself. It would appear that taking out a toilet and putting in a new one is not that hard. I didn't have anybody to "draft" on this one, and it didn't go quickly, but it's in and it's working, we didn't have to pay somebody else to do it and I didn't have to go in after hours to get help. That works for me.

And then there was the "tile issue" in the foyer of the church. A number of years ago, we had a drinking fountain put in. We had a guy in the church who built his own homes come put it in for us. He ran the water lines, installed the fountain and tiled the floor and wall behind the fountain. For the past two years we've been having problems because the cooling capacity of the fountain was not enough for the number of people we have wanting cold water on a Texas-hot Sunday morning. And then the thing must have started leaking because the wood floor tiles started warping and busted the tile. I found a man in the church who has the ability to fix the problem, but he is only available on Saturdays. Well, this Wednesday, George and I got rained out on our outdoor project (another whole story), so I thought "Eh, I bet we can take up that tile, fix the wood below it and re-tile that little area before noon (George helps me 9am to noon on Wednesdays)." SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHAT I WAS THINKING! First of all, talk about a learning curve...I have never laid tile (I have never even taken up tile). George is a much handier man than I, so I thought I would "draft" him on this one. First "issue"...George had never laid tile before, either.

I still did not feel this was a big issue. I asked George to go to the hardware store and get what we would need. I figured he would ask somebody there about tiling and could figure it out (again, he's handier than I am). He was also going to price tile "just in case" since we somehow thought we could reuse the same tile. Once he was there, I called him and told him to purchase the tile since the old tiles (the ones that were still glued down and had not come up with the warped floor) broke when I pulled them up. And then I saw all the glue/cement on the back and figured out that you don't reuse tile anyway (it's the learning curve thing). That was "issue" two.

"Issue" three came up as I was removing the floor tile next to the tiled wall. I touched (that's right...I TOUCHED it, I did not HIT it) a tile on the back wall and three tiles came crashing down. Oops. Not only is that more tile, but that means learning how to put tile on a wall. In a rare move of handy man thinking, I realized we could put panel up where the tile was and not lose anything. It's not like the water fountain was squirting water onto the wall.

So George got back and we finished tearing up the tile. Of course, as with any handy man project of any size I begin, I had to go back to the hardware store now. We needed some more trim wood and the panel to put up where the tile was. George and I headed to Lowe's and then we met Stan for lunch. I forgot to mention that Stan, also tiling-illiterate, was helping us all this time.

After lunch, Pastor Shaun helped us lay out the tile and told us we were "good" across the area we needed to tile, but we were going to have to cut some half tiles to cover the length of the area. And since we were back from the hardware store already, we also found out they make some sort of little plastic spacers to help keep the tile straight? Oh well. We used an extra half piece of tile as a spacer. Short version...Shaun, who was the only tile-literate person in the bunch, had to leave. We got 3/5 of the tile laid and then saw we had a HUGE gap at the side. We had to re-space the tiles and we could not use a piece of tile to help us space it evenly...we had to eyeball it. This, "issues" 3 and 4, no guides for laying the tile and cheap tile which was not exactly the same size!

Anyway, George took charge of cutting and laying the tile while Stan helped. I sized and cut the trim and paneling. "Issue" was 4:30 PM (not noon) when we got done. If you think it has taken a long time to read all of should have been living it! Anyway, on Thursday I learned how to grout tile. All in all, I don't think it looks to bad. The grout covered up a few "issues". Maybe one day George and I will redo the trim work since it doesn't look all that great. And one day soon, we'll have a new drinking fountain to put on my new tile. Fortunately we were able to throw the old one away since the leak could not be fixed. Although I now know how to tile, I'm not in a hurry to redo that area again anytime soon.

So, I'm continuing to learn how to be a handier I ponder, 'Can you craft around the learning curve?'

- Rob