new toy!

Not very long ago, my desktop of seven years finally went the way of the dinosaur. Thankfully, the hard drive was not the issue; it seems like the motherboard just fried. So one hard drive enclosure later, I had our files “backed up”.  But that left me with the need for a new computer.

We have always been a two-computer family. Well, aside from Kelly’s iPad, on which she does most of her daily activities.  I have had a laptop in our bedroom for email and web browsing, and the desktop was supposed to be the “serious” machine for telecommuting if necessary, and for my own personal programming.  But I had ended up using the laptop quite often for those tasks anyway. As an example, I had the flu earlier this year, and while I was contagious yet felt well enough to do something I was working in bed.  Meanwhile, the desktop really hadn’t been used much at all in months. If I wanted to get online downstairs, I found myself taking my laptop down there to do it.

So I decided to get another laptop, ordered it online, and it came in yesterday.  This is my first foray into using Windows 8, and my initial impression is that I’m looking forward to July 29 and the free upgrade to Windows 10. But the machine itself has been performing pretty well (at least once I removed some of the trialware that came along with it). I’m not doing a whole lot of setup on it until I do the OS upgrade, but once I do, I think I can reasonably see this machine lasting me for a good long while. I love the smell of a new computer in the morning!

sealed away

Last week, I went to Pratt, Kansas, to work on a new sanctuary for First Southern Baptist Church, Pratt as part of the Meadow Brook Builders for Christ team. This was my fourth BFC trip, and it’s become a highlight of the year for me. I hope to be able to go on the BFC trips for years to come.

I have generally worked on A/C systems while on the trips; this generally boils down to “duct assembler”.  We usually get a truckload or two of steel square and round duct at the beginning of the week, and the goal is to get as much of it put together and connected to the air conditioning units as possible by the end of the week.  It’s hot, of course: it’s summer, and because we’re installing the A/C, there is no A/C! But It requires a different set of skills than what I usually employ, and I always learn something new on the trips, which always makes it fun and enjoyable, and you really get to know people so much better on the trips. I liken it to something of a family reunion – you see people from other churches that you haven’t seen in a year, and you pick up with them right where you left off.

But that’s not the point of this post.

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“Can you read my heart?”

There is a lady in our church choir who is originally from Japan. She is a joy to have in the choir; always smiling, always thinking of others. She always makes a point to ask about Kelly if she didn’t make it to choir that day. English is not her first language; in fact, one of the reasons that she joined the choir was to help broaden her understanding of the language. Conversations with her are always friendly, but understandably she sometimes pauses to consider what word or phrase fits the thought she is trying to express.

Last night, after choir, she and I were talking about her impending visit to her native country. She mentioned how she felt sad in a way because she was going to miss her family here – her church family. The conversation eventually moved to her telling me a little bit about her time growing up in Japan, and she mentioned that she had a Bible – one of the few in Japan who did, even though she was not a Christian at the time. She felt that it was – something – that she had that Bible. She thought and thought, but the word wasn’t coming, so she pulled out her phone and looked for the English synonym for the Japanese word she had in her mind. I saw the translated answer – “destiny”.

As I sometimes need to do in conversations (not just ones with her), I asked if I could make sure I understood what she was saying. My understanding was that she believed that God put that Bible in her life at that time – even though she wasn’t yet a believer, even in a country where few keep Bibles – for a reason; somehow, it was part of His greater plan preparing her for what and where she was now.

She looked directly at me. I noticed the beginnings of tears forming in her eyes. She put a hand to her chest, and asked me, “can you read my heart?”

I found this turn of phrase, spoken by someone who speaks English as a secondary language, to have incredible weight and poignancy. I found myself almost speechless in reply; I think I tried to respond that I just thought I understood what she was talking about once I saw the word on the screen that she had been trying to find. We finished the conversation and went our separate ways, but that simple yet awesome question – “Can you read my heart?” – embedded itself in my mind as I drove home. It hasn’t left me yet.

We are called to be patient with each other (Ephesians 4:2), to be kind and compassionate to each other (Ephesians 4:32), to encourage each other (I Thessalonians 5:11, among others), to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), to be devoted to each other (Romans 12:10), to be united in mind and thought (I Corinthians 1:10), and to live in harmony with each other (I Peter 3:8). If we do that in the love of Christ – really, truly – one to another, maybe we really can read each other’s hearts.

sometimes you surprise yourself

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to play in a charity golf tournament through my church. Now, I don’t play golf as often as I’d like, or that I probably should in order to play in such a tournament. There are some pretty good golfers at my church. I was placed onto a team with a fellow who has a reputation as one of the very best, and another who, when I asked how he was at golf, simply replied, “Good.” Eep.

Did I mention I count the number of times I have broken 100 on one hand?

Luckily, we were playing a scramble. For those who aren’t familiar with golf, this is a game where each player hits a shot, then you pick the best of the shots to play from, and continue until you finish the hole. This lets golfers of all abilities play on the same team without putting any undue pressure on the weaker ones. Whenever I play in a scramble, my goal is to just use my shot a couple of times during the course of play. i wasn’t sure that it would happen even once during this round.

I was happily wrong. I actually made some really good shots! I made a solo up and down for birdie from 30 feet below the green. I sank a long putt. We even used my drive more than once! There were also some times when I would have been really happy with my shot, but it was outclassed by another. We didn’t win, but I didn’t really expect to against some of the other teams that we were up against. And i feel that if I had to play my own shot for the entire round, I might have broken 100 again. It made me think about getting the clubs out more often, that’s for sure.

I need a new race

I made a resolution at the beginning of the year to run at least 50 miles’ worth of races this year. So far, due to the Mercedes Half Marathon, helping my sister run a ten-miler, and the Statue to Statue 15K on Saturday, I’m already 3/5 of the way there. The only problem? There isn’t another race on my schedule right now. I need to keep my motivation up. I’m thinking my next one will be something shorter-distance than these past three. I want to lower my 5K PR this year; maybe that’s next on the list.

I also want to find something long-term to work towards. The Birmingham Track Club’s focusing on the 7 Bridges Marathon and 4 Bridges Half-Marathon in Chattanooga this fall, almost exactly six months from now. That’d be good long-term motivation, right?

Dear Real-Life Ginny…

Dear Real-Life Ginny,

I am writing you today to inform you of a dream from which I literally just awoke. It featured your dream counterpart, and the details were such that when I awakened I couldn’t get it out of my head. I found that I needed to discuss this further with her, but as I was now awake, I had no way of passing this information on. I don’t see dream you often, but I figure you keep in touch. So please, the next time you see her, show her this, and please let her know that the following is said with the best of intentions.

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my once-a-year gardening binge

Around this time of year, I always get ideas in my mind for what I could do to make the yard look nicer. I already know that I will never have a magazine article written about my yard, or have one of those “neighborhood beautification” awards staked in my front lawn. But it’s nice to be able to be productive with my hands and make the yard look a little nicer at the same time, right?

This weekend, I had two goals in mind. Split my cast iron plants, and transplant some of the monkey grass growing out-of-control in places that I didn’t want it to line the the azalea bed.

The seven cast iron plants started from a single plant that lived in a front bed when we bought the house. It was getting too much sun, and it showed; it was overgrown, and the leaves were ugly, brown, and shredded. So I dug it up and split it into eight (yes, eight) plants. I put seven of them around a big tree in the back yard.  Fast-forward almost six years, and each of those plants had become slightly smaller versions of the original. It was time to do it again. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting eight plants from each, but I figured that three apiece wouldn’t be out of the question.

I was concerned that it might be difficult to extract them from the soil (my back yard is especially rocky), but this proved to be a non-issue, as their root system is pretty shallow. One by one, I dug up, divided, and replanted. In the end, I ended up with seventeen plants in the ground and another three in pots with potential new owners. It’s always nice to have something that grows prodigiously enough that you can give it away.

On to the monkey grass. For whatever reason, my back yard is a haven for the stuff. It has almost taken over one corner, and there are several other sections of the yard where it has popped up and clumped together. Even taking twelve clumps or so from around the yard, I didn’t even scratch the surface. Now it has a more desired home; hopefully it can take root in the azalea bed and stop the pine straw from going all over the sidewalk.

In total, about six hours of work for hopefully years of enjoyment. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

on bugs (the software kind)

This week at work, I’ve fixed quite a few bugs in the new application I’m working on.  I never know what to think when it comes to fixing bugs in an application. On the one hand, it’s good to make software work correctly, of course: it pays the bills, and there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from it as well.  On the other, there is always the possibility that I was responsible for the bug in the first place (as has been the case many times this week), so that’s never fun.

We have sometimes played a game at the office affectionately known as “who’s the blockhead” where we examine the history of code to see who’s responsible for the really insidious bugs. it’s all in good fun, really; no one’s job is at stake or anything. But even so, it’s always a little sad to see when it’s your fault.

I don’t tend to talk about my job much in this space: most people probably wouldn’t find it particularly interesting. But there is one thing that I think is pretty unique about software development: it’s one of a very few professions where workers are fully expected to have issues come up regarding their work that are a) unintended consequences of well-intentioned effort, and b) can occur some time (years, even) after the work has actually taken place.  I don’t think there’s a programmer out there that has written anything non-trivial that has never introduced a bug into their code.  In the end, you just hope that the ones that you’re responsible for aren’t too bad and that you can fix them quickly.

life will never be the same

I have graduated from the single-serve coffee pods to a 5-cup coffee maker. I also now have a canister just for coffee. I drank the equivalent of eight cups today. No, they were notallcaffeinatedwhywouldyouthinkthatwhatareyouimplyingIcannotbelieveyouthinkIhaveaproblem

Actually, all but two cups were decaf.

how to exercise with runner’s knee

I ran for the first time since Mercedes on Sunday. It was just 5K, but it was much needed. Some runners will tell you that they’ll start getting cranky if they can’t run after a few days. That hadn’t been an issue for me in the past, but this past Saturday I was just in a mood. I realized that runner’s knee or not, I was going to have to get out and run soon or things were going to get worse. 5K later, my knee didn’t seem any worse for wear, but I knew that I’d need to take it easy in the next few days. So I decided to try biking for my next cardio workout.

I determined that I would ride my stationary bike while watching a half-hour TV show. I found myself wanting that show to get over ASAP. But I managed to get through it. It’s interesting to me that I can run for almost two hours, but biking for 30 minutes is really hard. I know that you’re using different muscle groups, but come on, it’s still your legs, right?

I’m going to go back to running tomorrow. I’m running with my sister in a ten-miler on Saturday, and I need to log some more miles before then. I just hope that the by-now familiar numbness will stay away.