Awkwardness Survival Guide

March 30, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Life 

I Stumbled Upon this website today:

Awkwardness Survival Guide

I’ve done all of them except for the last one.

I’ll add my own to the list.  My wife usually accompanies me to hockey games.  Sometimes my sister comes instead – mainly when my wife is too tired or has another appointment.  As a result, primarily at hockey games, I’ve been known to confuse my wife’s and sister’s names.  Sometimes in front of them.

At least my sister and I haven’t come up on the “Kiss Cam” on the big screen.  My seats are in a place where it’s REALLY hard for the cameras to reach.

(If you decide to join StumbleUpon, add me as a friend – markrsmith83)

Bad Day Tomorrow?

March 29, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Work 

Here at work, all signs point to layoff tomorrow.

The company changed the vacation policy at the end of last year.  They used to grant an entire year’s vacation on January 1 and if you left the company you’d get paid for unused time.  Your time was “earned” last year.  After the change, you get 1/4 of your time every 3 months.  They grandfathered us this year by allowing us to take vacation ahead of schedule but having to “repay” it if we left having used more than we were granted.
It’s the end of a quarter.  If people are working here Monday, they get more vacation.

Our Minnesota office had layoffs last Friday.

We’ve been told that all departments had to cut their salary budgets 8-10%.

HR has apparently requested vacation and Paid Time Off (personal and sick days) information as of TODAY from all departments.  Not the end of the week.  Not the end of the month.  Thursday the 29th.

I should be OK – in my department the highest paid two employees have left in the last 6 months and their salaries will apparently cover our needs.  The restructuring consultant responsible for IT has said to all of us that we don’t have to worry.

However, I’m looking at 10% of my non-IT co-workers being shown the door tomorrow.

I hope I’m wrong – but all of the tea leaves point to this happening tomorrow.

UPDATE: Nothing happening as of lunchtime.  It appears that this rumor isn’t true.  I do know that the company recently negotiated a deal with lenders, so maybe they won’t be doing layoffs after all.

Church membership dwindling? Move to where the people are!

March 29, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

The Trinity Lutheran Church of Lincoln, IA had dwindled from 250 members to just 13 members.  A decision was made to close the congregation.  However, there was a strong pull to preserve the historic church building.

So they moved it.  It now stands in the Heritage Park in Manning, Iowa.  The church is now available for touring and use in Christian events such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.

This site chronicles the move.  This site is about the filming of the move for National Geographic Channels “Monster Moves” TV program.

Apology to LSU Fans

March 27, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Sports 

As long as I’m apologizing ….

Rutgers Big R

I’d like to apologize in advance to my readers who are LSU fans (and I know you’re out there – I see in my statistics) for the trouncing that the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team will be giving your ladies this Sunday.

It’s nothing personal – they just have to win the game in order to reach their proper place as the National Champions.

An Apology to Classical Presbyterian

March 26, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion, Shoot Yourself in the Foot, Weblogs 

A few weeks ago, Toby Brown on Classical Presbyterian published two articles (Here and Here) regarding his decision to file charges against the Rev. Janet Edwards for her performance of a lesbian civil union and related matters.

In Toby’s comments section, I took him to task for his decision (here, here, here, and here).  I stand by my words regarding the filing of charges in a case where the accuser does not know the defendant, does not have special knowledge of the situation, and where someone else who fits the other criteria is able to file the complaint.  However, I was intemperate in my remarks.

I had an “AHA!” moment regarding this today over at the Truth in Love blog.  I had imputed motives to Toby’s actions.  I do not live inside his head, and there is no hole in the wall behind my cubicle that allows me to inhabit his brain.  I cannot truly speak to his (or anybody else’s) motives for taking an action or making a statement.

Toby – I am sorry for my less than reasonable language.  I am also sorry for assigning a motive (particularly a negative motive) to your action.  I will take steps to avoid a doing either again in the future, though I suspect that I will backslide again at some point.

Mea culpa.

Prayer Request Update

March 24, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

JP is apparently doing much better.  He is responding to treatment and they expect to wean him off the respirator and sedation in the next few days.

Continued prayers are requested, and thanks for prayers received.

Per Capita Games

March 24, 2007 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

I got another letter from church (Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville) today.

This one is from the Clerk of Session.  The session decided to ask the members to pay their per capita separate from their pledge in order to save the budget $18,000.  We were given an envelope in which to return the $22 per household person who is a member of the church (including confirmed children).

Here’s the interesting part.  Per capita for New Brunswick Presbytery in 2007 is $21.24.  I found that out from the presbytery website.

I will give the session the benefit of the doubt for making the amount easy to write and multiply out.  It’s also a tricky way to pay for the cost of sending out these letters (at 75 cents per member, that’s about $600).

I paid $21.24.

To committee or not to committee

March 23, 2007 by · 10 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

I got a letter from my pastor last night.

He wants to invite me to join the Stewardship Committee.  Next year, the committee will apparently be using Herb Miller’s “Consecration Sunday Stewardship” program, focusing on the spiritual need to be “givers” rather than the church’s need to “receive”.

It’s nice to be asked.  However ….

When I joined the church, we were asked to fill out a stewardship questionnaire.  On the page were a list of major church committees, and we were asked to check those that we were interested in.  Unless I’m remembering incorrectly, Stewardship is one that I chose not to check.

I also have some fundamental issues with the way that the church in general goes about asking for money.  Giving is too often a demand in the church.  I feel that giving in the church should be voluntary – each gives as they feel moved (called, even) to do so.  If the church comes up short, they tell us so and we adjust our giving to make it up.  I really don’t care what other people give – it’s only important to consider my own giving.

This past year, the church (through the pastor) threw around actual numbers.  In one sermon, Pastor Vamos said:

One tangible indicator of our generosity is this–our giving to the
church. The health of this organism. We need to say that. If our
congregation is struggling to meet the bills, something is wrong. Your
giving to this church is an indicator of whether you’re living
generously. If you’re making over $90,000 and giving $50 a week–your
intent may not match with the reality. There’s something wrong with
that picture.

The use of an actual dollar amount in the sermon is what bothered me the most.  That sermon almost caused me not to pledge this year.  In a later sermon, a guest preacher exhorted us to take risks with our giving, knowing that God will make it work.  On the basis of that guest’s sermon, I increased the amount that I pledged by 25% over what I’d planned to give.

Later, Pastor Vamos compounded the error of using specific numbers.  During his “State of the Communion” sermon, he spoke about the actual pledges received:

There are some interesting statistics that you can take home and mull
over. I remember from college statistics that the mean is the average,
and so our average pledge from this past year is $2,206. And that’s a
lot more than it was last year, and so that’s terrific. But the
median–as I remember it’s that number where half are above and half
are below–is $1,500. And I’ve been told that the mark of health for a
congregation is when the mean and the median are close together,
because it means that we’re not as dependent on those large pledges.
And don’t get me wrong–if you’re one of those larger givers, we hope
that you will increase your giving, because that really affects our
ministry greatly. But this really represents a challenge to those who
are below that mean and are able to, if you have the gifts, to be able
to do more. It’s a challenge for us to think about that, how we can try
to make the mean and the median match up a little more closely.

It was even worse than that.  We were given a bulletin insert that showed a bar graph with each pledge from smallest to largest (the smallest being under $100 and the largest being $20,000).  We were also given the average household income for the county, the average household income for the town that the church is in, and what a 10% tithe would be for each of those incomes.  These were compared to the average and median pledges.

The use of specific numbers in financial stewardship is the use of guilt in the church.  It’s measuring us against each other rather than measuring us against Christ.  There’s no question in my mind that the church must be funded in order to survive.  There’s also no question in my mind that giving of your time, talents, and money are required for a faithful Christian.  It’s just the use of specific numbers that bothers me.  Following Christ is not about guilt – it’s about the grace of Christ’s sacrifice and our attempt to be as Christ-like as possible to thank God for that miracle.

Lest you think that I’m griping because I’m cheap, my pledge was above the average.  It’s important to remember that I am a part of a two-church household, and Carolyn pledges a similar (probably identical, but I’m not sure) amount to her church.

So the problem for me is this:  If I’m uncomfortable with asking others to give money, if I’m uncomfortable with the way that stewardship campaigns have been handled in the past – should I join the stewardship committee?

Perhaps my presence would moderate some of the things that bother me.  On the other hand, I really don’t want to find myself at odds with the rest of the committee and my pastor on a regular basis.

What do you think?

I really wish they’d chosen me for one of the other committees.

The letter says that “in the next couple of weeks, someone from the current committee will be calling to see if you are willing to serve.”  I hope I have an answer by then.

Prayer Request

March 22, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

Please pray for JP, a former camp co-worker of mine from 20 years ago.  He’s been hospitalized with breathing difficulty and is not responding to antibiotics (for suspected pneumonia).  His wife is expecting their 4th child on April 1.

UPDATE 3/23/07:

The doctors think it’s definitely pneumonia–a bad case–and today they took a fluid sample from his lungs to determine precisely what type. The test results should be back tomorrow, at which point they’ll be able to determine a more targeted, aggressive treatment than he has received so far.

He’s on a ventilator–apparently that’s SOP for pneumonia–and still sedated, because reportedly the conscious patients don’t enjoy the ventilator so much.

His wife is doing reasonably well and has the support of family.

Healthy Kitties

March 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

Yesterday was the day for our feline senior citizens Isaac and Albert to take their annual trip to the vet.

I think I made one error in judgment.  Generally, my wife and I get home in just enough time to get the cats into their carrier, collect the community stool sample, and get to the vet on time.  Yesterday, we both left work a little early.  The result was that we had time to give the cats their evening feeding before we left.

We bundled the cats into their carriers and drove away.  We do this is Carolyn’s Chrysler Concorde so that there’s enough room in the back seat for both carriers and me in the middle.  I sit between them and try to calm them.

Unfortunately, Isaac got so upset that he threw up in his carrier just as we reached the vet.  The nice folks at the vet’s office cleaned his carrier and gave us a clean towel for him to use on the way home.

Our cats are 11 years old, and BIG.  They have large frames rather than being fat.  Albert weighed in at about 14 lbs. – down from a high of 15.  The vet says that Albert is at his optimal weight – he’s just really big.  Isaac is the larger cat at 15 lbs. down from a high of 18 lbs.

Albert had some odd kidney readings a few years ago, so both cats have been on annual blood and urine tests.  Those were taken.

Carolyn clips their claws and brushes their teeth regularly.  She thought she saw a problem on Albert’s molar, so we checked.  The vet pronounced their teeth wonderful for their age.  In fact, she said that Isaac’s teeth were what she’d expect from a 3-year-old cat.

Isaac has been moving a bit slow lately – particularly up and down stairs.  We asked the vet to check for arthritis, and she thinks there might be an issue with his hips.  We decided that it’s a little early to do X-rays, but we’re going to try Cosequin (glucosamine and chondroitin) on both of their food.  We’ll see how he does.

Otherwise, the cats are in excellent shape!

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