Thursday, December 16, 2010

3 down, 6 to go

Annual employee performance review forms that is. It's always hard to evaluate someone's performance especially when you're considering the entire year. Essentially I have to boil all that down to a number between 1 and 5 that will then be used determine their raise for the following year.And their performance throughout the year determines my raise so I want to keep them happy and productive.  It's a symbiotic relationship between management and people who actually do the real work. I'm growing into my new role as manager more and more. I'm not sure whether I really enjoy it as much as slinging code, but I'm getting better at it. I try to continually remind myself that my job is to enable others to do their jobs better. I don't get to do some of the fun stuff, but I do get the reward that comes with orchestrating a successful project completion. I try to stay out of their way and be a buffer from the agonizing administrative details of contracting, proposal writing, and other necessary but painful overhead. And I get some satisfaction from doing that effectively.

So at the end of this year, looking back on the work that everyone is done I can relax and do my best to see that everyone remains happy and productive in the coming year.

Now back to those review forms.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook, the Portal to the Internet

Maybe it's just that the game Portal is on my mind but Facebook seems to have some resemblance to GLaDOS (the psychotic/sociopathic AI guiding you through the game): using us as lab rats in their social experiments, making money off the research, promising cake but we all know about the cake (pssst. The cake is a Lie). The main difference is that Facebook doesn't make you a neat gun.

The current top suggestion in Google search for "how do I" is "how do i delete my facebook account".

Random news (aka what Twitter and FaceBook do to my will to blog)

Sean is about to turn 11.
Just celebrated 14 years married to a wonderful woman.
Ironman II was almost as good as the original.  All the haters are just annoying.
The Lich King just won't die.
My iPhone has a small crack in the plastic on the back.
Preacher at church is resigning.
Brother graduated from college and is looking for gainful employment.
First outdoor pool trip of the year resulted in 4 sunburned peeps.
No travel in the month of May?!? That's unpossible!
Lost about 40lbs since January.
Something I'm eating/doing is making me nauseated most mornings.  Or maybe I'm pregnant.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Parenting win

I had an interesting parenting experience yesterday.  The kind where you actually feel like you may get some pearl of wisdom imparted to your kids.
Sean and Joshua each wanted to play the computer.  We had told them "No" for a while but finally decided to let them have their 30 minutes of play time.  So I asked them "Who wants to play computer first?"  They were standing near each other and Sean rushed forward not quite pushing his brother saying "I do!"  I replied "Sean can play first for 30 minutes, then Joshua can play for 40 minutes."  Sean looked shocked.  Needless to say, he wasn't happy about it. He threw a fit so I then let Joshua go first with his 40 minutes.  Now Sean was really not happy.  He then tried to apply it to all future times where he could get more time by going last.  I told him it didn't work like that.

Then the lesson started.  I explained to him Jesus' words "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."  When we rush to be first we don't often end up with the best.  You could see the wheels turning in his head as he didn't want to believe it or accept the application. Only time will tell if it sinks in, but it was one of those times where I actually felt like a wise parent.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Cultural Transformers

I listen to a lot of podcasts covering a wide variety of subjects.  Some are pure fun and some are informational for personal or professional development.   One of my favorites that I’ve listened to for several years is Dave Ramsey’s radio show.  Recently while listening I started thinking “This guy is really crazy.  He wants these folks to go totally against the cultural financial norms.”  Dave is certainly more dogmatic in his teachings than someone like Clark Howard.  Clark (or Mr. Howard if you want to irritate him) tells people how to work the credit system to keep a good credit rating and credit score, useful advice for living in a culture that values and relies on credit for its daily sustenance. If you’ve listened to Dave for 10 seconds you know he couldn’t care less what your credit score is. Dave refers to Bank of America as BoA (as in constrictor) and often says “If you play with snakes, you’re going to get bit.” While Clark teaches you how to play with the snakes safely so as not to get bit, Dave teaches you to stay away from the snakes.  Clark teaches how to play the game.  Dave refuses to play the game and goes off to have his own fun playing a new game (based on old principles) and tries to get everyone to come and play with him.  I learn useful things from both of these men and am not trying to pit them against each other.  But the difference in philosophy is one to consider in many areas of our lives including religion, health, morals, and work.
This goes right along with my previous post on change.  When something in our lives is not going as it should how should we work to change it? The world is full of quick remedies and partial solutions. Get rich quick schemes, the lottery, fad diets,, and protein power drinks are thrown at us from every form of media. The verse comes to mind:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” Romans 12:2
How did Jesus live? Did he ask the Pharisees what they thought, study the culture and try to find the best way to live in it.  Did he go off and live atop a mountain, take a few people with him, and wait for his purpose to be fulfilled?  Or did he live his life counter to the culture, working with individuals to change their lives.  He didn’t try to change the government policies.  He wasn’t bullied by threats or name calling.  He stood up for his convictions, and everyone knew where he stood.  He worked to heal people’s hearts and spirits, not just their physical maladies.  And when they left him, they were changed and inspired to spread the change to all around.
We have options for living our lives:
  1.  Embrace the culture and it’s values
  2. Fit in to the culture and maintain your values
  3. Separate from the culture to protect your values
  4.  Work to change the culture and infect it with your values

You can thrive in various aspects by 1, 2, or 3.  But only through 4 can we be fulfilled and truly Christ-like.  The wisdom of the world won’t get us where we need to be.  Fortunately God gave us a healthy dose of common sense as well as a bunch of proverbial wisdom to go along with it.
Too many times (especially in the church) we focus on #3, separating ourselves from the culture for fear of letting it infect us.  We teach our kids “do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2). We stay within the confines of our church buildings without venturing out into the communities that we are supposed to minister to.  We must separate ourselves from the ACTIONS and WISDOM of the world, but not from the people.  We don’t live the way they live, but we must LOVE the way that HE loved.  Jesus never once shunned attending a gathering for fear of what he might hear or see.  But when he was there, he would infect those around him with his compassion and love.
In, not of. Transformative, not conforming. Loving and living in a culture that doesn’t like us or understand us and yet that is our mission. I have several mentors from afar that I thank God for their transformative message:
  • Dr. James Dobson for his tireless work to protect and strengthen our families.
  • Dave Ramsey for his encouragement to “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else”.
  • And most recently Dr. Josh Axe for his simple yet healing message of eating the foods our bodies were meant to eat and living all around healthy lives.

These men and their organizations refuse to conform to the conventional wisdom and values of the masses. They live according to a different set of rules and refuse to play the game the world wants them to play.  Instead they demonstrate great love, great compassion, and great wisdom open to anyone who will listen.  Sound familiar.

Personal Challenge:
I was just reading the book Re-Create by Ron Luce and he challenged me to challenge my children to become transformers of culture rather than conformers to it.  Now I need to figure out how to impart that mission to them. Shouldn’t be too hard; I bet they’ll like the idea of being transformers.

How to Have a Healthy Marriage

I started thinking as Kathryne commented that we’ve been really happy recently in our marriage as to why that was.  I’m sure there are lots of reasons but I think one of the causes of this is the fact that we’re working together towards a common goal.  Not a general goal like “raising children” or “having a good marriage” but a very specific goal of transforming the way our family eats.  It’s the same kind of feeling I remember having right after we started working on our plan to get out of debt.
Something about having a specific, near-term goal and working together to achieve it seems to bring us together.  There’s nothing really deep or surprising about this.  Mainly I just want to record this for posterity so that next time we seem to hit a bump in the road we won’t have to rediscover this highly effective tool.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Kathryne and I were talking a bit today about the changes in our lives in the last few years.  We used to live as pretty normal American Christians.  Plodding along in live doing the things we do, going with the flow, following the wisdom of the masses.  The main problem with that is the wisdom of the masses is not very wise.  This is summed up quite well when the Apostle Paul writes:
 18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
   "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
      the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 1 Corinthians 1:18-19
Three (3) years ago we started attending a class at church entitled "Discovering God's Ways of Handling Money" put together by a ministry called Crown Financial Ministries. What we discovered was that the way we were living was, to put it bluntly, STOOPID!  Or in the terms of Proverbs: foolish.  And yet to all those around us we looked perfectly normal.  The problem is that normal in America is broke, overweight, deeply in debt, chronically diseased, and generally not happy with life. The class forced us to examine our financial situation, and gather more information on how to do things the right way.  The results were quite dramatic as I described in detail earlier.

We were greatly focused on our finances which added an intensity that accelerated the whole process. The problem with focus is often that other things suffer.  So while our relationship with regards to money was improving we also saw the need to work on other areas of our relationship with each other as well as our relationship with our kids.  So we've read many books over the past few years on these subjects and attended several seminars to help in these areas.  The signs are not as outwardly visible as with our finances but we see them in small things in our lives.  In a couple weeks we'll be attending the Focus on Marriage simulcast seminar put on by Focus on the Family.  In addition to books, we often listen to the Focus on the Family free podcast which brings us their daily radio program right to our computers to listen to at our leisure. The interviews and speakers they bring in are amazing.

There's one more major change we're currently undertaking that I'm not quite ready to write about in detail.  But I do want to consider what are the circumstances under which change occurs. Not just temporary change, but lasting change.
  • First, you have to recognize the need for change.  When we recognized our mountain of debt and it's impact on our lives, it served as a great impetus for us to make look for more information on how to get better.
  • Second, you have to gather information.  Often it is information that is the impetus in #1.  But you can't just gather any information, you have to gather the right kind of information from knowledgeable, non-biased sources.  Examining the motives of your sources of information is key in this. Gathering information on getting out of debt from your credit card company is going to be suspect.
  • Third, and this is the hardest one, you have to make a COMMITMENT TO CHANGE your actions. James 1:22-25 says:
 22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Many people I've talked to recently know the information needed to effect positive change in their lives, but they're not willing to add or remove the necessary actions from their lives.  Whether it's how you spend, how you serve, how you parent, how you love, how you eat, or anything you do you will have to change your actions and make sacrifices in order to change your life for the better.  And when you make those sacrifices, you may just realize that the sacrifice is not that great and where you are is so much better than where you were that you kick yourself for not making the change earlier.  I know my legs are tired from doing just this.

One final verse, Romans 12:2 
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.