Monthly Archives: June 2007

"CO2" Video on YouTube

A search for “Vermont” over at YouTube will yield the “802” video as the most popular video in that category. It’s a hysterical listing of Vermont’s quirks and defining qualities.

The rappers who gave us that gem from the Green Mountain state have remixed the tune, added a pretty good rapper to the group, and produced another video called “CO2.”

In three minutes they cover all the renewable energy possibilities and call for the Vermont congress to pass an energy bill that unfortunately is meeting opposition from Governor Douglas. Though not as funny as the 802 video, it’s still entertaining and done in a beautiful spot.

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A Blip on the Radar Looking for a Soda

While slicing my kayak paddle through the waters of Lake Champlain this weekend, I had a personal sense of smallness. This enormous lake, extending far below and for miles north and south of my position, was once an inland sea and the remains of that time are embedded all about.

To the West loomed the Adirondack mountains, steady and unmoving in their layered mass. To the East ran the Green Mountains of Vermont, the craggy nose of Mount Mansfield jutting out of the steady ridge line.

Everywhere I looked I found something large, old, and intimidating.

This one little life bobbing in the wind and waves seemed so tiny and insignificant in the presence of these giants who have been around for thousands of years and are planning to stick it out long after I’m gone. It was a humbling moment that sent me crawling to God, fessing up for every time I’ve ever thought more of myself than warranted.

Though I may lead a good life and enjoy my sojourn here on earth, those deep waters and endless mountains hint at an eternity beyond the shores of my mind. I’m just a blip on the radar. Racked with my own insecurity, I called out to God.

And then I began thinking about Orange Crush soda. I don’t know when soda seeped into my holy moment, but on the return trip to our camp site along the lake, I gradually decided that an orange soda was really all I wanted from life.

I suppose the holy moment fizzled and then went flat.

It was a simple matter to procure this soda. A vending machine taunted me next to the camps bathrooms. Easy enough: bring change, buy soda, drink, and move on with life. But these small things we crave have a way of turning on us.

With one dollar and ten cents in hand, I approached the soda machine only to realize that the sodas sold at an inflated $1.50 for a 20 oz. bottle. I’m not one to pass judgement on the State Park Service of Vermont. I’d probably price gouge soda-thirsty campers who didn’t plan ahead if put in the same place.

I walked across the camp to our car, slipped out a dollar, and returned. This time I found that the dollar feeder didn’t work: a bad sign. In frustration I returned to the car to scoop any and all change to make up the $1.50. I had just enough.

With a heart-wrenching thunk the coins dropped into the change slot. The soda machine was out of order. I should have known. In my desperation I checked with the camp volunteer who shared her knowledge of a famed soda machine by the swimming pool–the pool that happens to be “broken,” but we’ll not elaborate on that.

Sensing the urgency of my quest, I revved up the car and shot over to the pavilion for my orange soda. A flashing red light on the soda machine hinted that all was well. No doubt the machine was fully operational, but sadly lacking in the orange soda option. Undeterred, I put up the stiff upper lip and punched the root beer button.

Sitting down in my chair by the lake, I sipped at the root beer that obviously didn’t taste as good as it should have. But then I looked up at the mountains and the lake and I heard a little voice say, “Now where we?”

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An Edwardian Analysis of Stress

In my previous post today I mentioned that I had a crazy day at work. Now that I’m sitting at home thinking things over, I wonder what exactly happened? How did I get to the point that I could say my day was crazy? Why did I feel so stressed, rushed, hurried, and unsettled?

My Edwardian analysis may not be the polished, complete report that doctors publish in journals, but stick with me for a second. I think we can find a few triggers to stress.

Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes we expect too much out of ourselves. We can only be in so many places at once, but we allow ourselves to become worked up because of the frustration that comes through a sense of limitation.

Inflated Sense of Importance

When we think our work is crucial, life and death, do or die, then we need to step back and reconsider what exactly we’re up to. If it really is a matter of life or death, well then you’re stuck.

More often than not we become aggravated over problems and issues that could be resolved with a simple phone call or conversation. Even if the problems are complex and difficult, they are rarely as serious as we make them out to be.

Pride

Let’s face it, each person views himself or herself to one degree or another as the cat’s meow. We’re competing with God and everyone else for the top spot in the universe.

I think of myself as so important and crucial that I can’t take a small crisis or heavy workload lightly. Pride also means that I only focus on my own problems and lose sight of the larger picture around me.

Succumbing to the Expectations of Others

We can place pressure on ourselves by bowing to the real or simply perceived expectations of others. Oftentimes we simply perceive the expectations placed on us. That’s usually enough to ruin the days of many.

So there you have it, an Edwardian view of stress. I run through some combination of these every so often, so it’s helpful to type it all out and have a look at some of the factors that influence a typical week in my life and in the lives of others.

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The Dish is the Posish

I raced home after a positively nutty half day at work. I had to meet the Comcast installation guy at our home. We had a 1:00 pm appointment for cable internet installation.

It was a flurry of activity. I pulled in and shortly thereafter an important package arrived, not to be outdone by the Comcast truck pulling in a few minutes later. My spirit was light, light I tell you.

Then the bad news came.

The Comcast installer was a young, kind, smiling fellah who gently told me that the cable stopped about one to two miles down the road.

One mile . . .

He apologized for the error Comcast made and I bade him farewell. A fellow, long-suffering dial-up bound neighbor stopped by to share her condolences after watching the scene. She had been hoping Comcast had finally come to our little slice of rural paradise.

Alas, we both shared war stories of dial-up, thunderstorms, and wayward satellite dishes. And that’s where we stand. The dish is all we’ve got. It’s slow and suffers from lighting, but it’ll have to do until Vermont’s government gets off its tail and makes state-wide broadband happen.

As Todd said to me, “nice. that is what you get for living in Vermont :)”

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Adapting to Sin

Over the past week I’ve watched my wife Julie come back to life as it were. School is out, her paperwork and meetings are done. The kids are tucked away in their respective homes. Now she has that rarest of commodities for a special education teacher: free time.

Just over dinner the other night she was animated, excited, and chatty. Even after running errands all day, something she usually hates, she was extremely chipper. We both almost forgot that life can be like this.

The trend is familiar. We become caught up in a certain way of living, develop habits and patterns, and then completely forget that life can be any different. In fact, we sometimes fear stopping, disengaging, stepping away.

Taking that a step further, our bad habits can be even more debilitating. Shame, guilt, lust, selfishness and any other vice unite to clamp us down to our sin or sins of choice. We can’t imagine life without such gripping habits. We become used to failure; the sting of stepping away from God becomes a gentle tap.

Speaking for myself I can say that I’ve adapted to sin over time, almost integrated it into my life. A few lies here and there suddenly become a habit. A harsh word about a known idiot, a little gossip, and soon a vice becomes firmly entrenched.

I think it’s easy to forget that God’s in the business of healing and restoring. There is a possibility of living in freedom from sin. That’s not to say we’ll be perfect, but sin need not hold us in place.

If we can take that step toward God and away from our habitual sins, I believe we’ll be surprised at the changes and new possibilities that arise. It just may change our lives and form a new habit.

Disappointment with Internet

In our rural Vermont setting it’s been a real trial to find internet at home. It’s not all bad. In fact, I’ve discovered that life goes on without internet at my finger tips. Nevertheless, as someone who keeps in touch with family primarily through the computer and who enjoys blogging and writing, it’s a bit of a drag to pack up the lap top for a half hour drive every time I want internet.

Our first solution to our internet conundrum was Wild Blue Satellite Internet. Without DSL or cable in our area, it was our only choice. Wild Blue wasn’t ridiculously expensive, just regular expensive. We shelled out $200 for the stuff, another $200 for installation and the router, and then braced ourselves for $50 a month just to move at half the speed of DSL. The up side was the constant connection and free phone line when compared with dial up.

In early May the dish was installed and we hummed along for over a week without a hitch. Enter thunder storm. Game over. That led to over a month of waiting for service since Wild Blue parcels out their service and installation among other companies. If they’re using a company right around the corner with a lot of availability, then you’re set. If it’s not, you’ll be waiting for the repair company to call–like we were.

The waiting ended on Monday with a quick repair of some electrical element that was fried in the storm. We were back online in a few minutes and enjoyed our internet until–you guessed it–another thunderstorm rolled into town yesterday.

Game over again.

So now, while I need to get rid of Wild Blue due to its inability to cope with natural elements, I needed to find an alternative. I decided to beg Comcast and Verizon for help. 

Selecting Comcast, since I’ve seen their trucks right down the road, I plowed through technician after technician, only to find out that the only reason why they turned us down in the first place was because our home wasn’t listed in their database or something like that.

After working their magic on the database they scheduled us for high speed installation. It was worthy of a “Napoleon Dynamite” fist pump: “Yes!”

At the end of the day, I’ll give Wild Blue a C+ and may even raise that to a B- if they can handle my cancellation gracefully. The people are really nice, they try to provide quick service, and the satellite internet is good when it works. 

The down side is they parcel out their service to so many different companies, it’s hard to control quality and the timing of service. No one wants to call about poor service and just hear about the failure of another company. In addition, satellites dishes are quirky and run into all kinds of problems out in the elements, as we’ve found out.