Almost finished

The standing joke is that for the last several months, whenever someone asked how my project house was coming along, my response has been, "It's almost finished."

Well now it really must be almost finished since the things left on my punch list are things I really loathe doing like working with insulation. It was 94 degrees in Atlanta yesterday--10 degrees hotter than in Dallas/Fort Worth, so why I didn't do this when temperatures were conducive to wearing long sleeves, jeans, gloves, and a respirator are beyond me, but the job is now finished and the basement walls are insulated. Next step: hang the drywall.


North Point again fails to honor Memorial Day

For all of the wisdom and leadership that exists in this church, there is one thing at which North Point Community Church fails miserably: knowing how to address Memorial Day.

The most offensive tribute was the Sunday service Memorial Day weekend in 2004, after which I sent our pastor, Andy Stanley, a letter, which included this paragraph:

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor American soldiers who have given their lives in defense of freedom. I’ll confess my sensitivity in holding to this purpose: my hero, mentor, and cousin, Lt. Col. Timothy Kehler, was an Air Force fighter pilot who was killed when his Phantom F-4E crashed in 1986. This past Memorial Day, North Point made no attempt to honor American soldiers who have given their lives defending the freedom we all enjoy. The song “American Soldier” followed by the recognition of former and active American armed service members was patriotic and heartfelt in its sincerity, but these are more appropriate for Veteran’s Day in November. The slideshow of U.S. soldiers shown during the song appeared to be desert images which reminded me of the 700+ service members killed in Iraq, but yet no mention was made of them. In ignoring them, the church also ignored tens of thousands of American men and women who have given their lives in wars and conflicts before. Was a proper acknowledgement of Memorial Day too solemn for North Point’s upbeat service format or does remembering the deaths of service members run contrary to someone’s politics?

Regrettably, Andy never responded to this note unlike my letter a year later.

While North Point wisely ceased stunts like those of two years ago, it still fails to give honor and respect to our dead armed service members and their families while patronizing current and veteran members of our armed services by acknowledging them instead.

And perhaps it was nervousness, but insulting nonetheless were the announcements made by the Navy officer (in full uniform) at the 8:30am service on Sunday when he twice mentioned celebrating Memorial Day "today" when in fact Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, never a Sunday.


Worst Tech Products

PC World just came out with a list of the 25 worst tech products of all time, and it just goes to show that the bane of one man's existence is another man's love. I thought it funny that I really liked two of their 25 products: #11 Priceline Groceries & Gas and #13 IBM PCjr.

The Priceline Groceries & Gas was awesome for consumers. I'm not convinced it ever helped out grocers or gas stations. I lived in Orlando at the time and remember being able to pick up staple groceries like milk and eggs for next to nothing using Priceline. At the time gas was a buck and change per gallon, so I'm sure consumer demand wasn't overwhelming, but I'm a cheap bastard and managed to save about 10 cents per gallon from one of three gas stations that were on my route to/from work using Priceline Gas.

And I've already discussed my love of the PCjr.

I also really liked and still use my Timex Data Link Watch which made it onto PC World's list of dishonorable mention, though today I only wear it when working on my project house.

The only place to stay when visiting Orlando

I've learned that when we're traveling with kids, we need to have a suite if the trip is to be enjoyable and for everyone to get a good night's sleep. My definition of suite requires a door between the bedroom and living area which has a pull-out sofa sleeper, whereas a studio implies there is no physical barrier (door or otherwise) between different funcional areas in the room.

Many hotel chains use the term "suite" in their name when what they really mean is "studio", including Homestead Studio Suites (you may as well drop the "Suites" since all of their rooms are studios), Staybridge Suites (yes, most of their rooms are suites but usually 1/3 of the rooms are only studios), and AmeriSuites (no door between kitchenette, living, and sleeping areas).

Examples of all-suite hotel chains are Homewood Suites and Residence Inns, and these two chains even offer complimentary breakfast!

For our Orlando vacation, we discovered that an alternative to these all-suite hotel chains is a timeshare/condo. Timeshare developers never sell out their development; there are always unsold weeks, and there are always timeshare owners who drop out of the system by not paying their annual maintenance fees. To maximize revenues, many timeshare/condo resorts have gotten wise and are now renting out their excess inventory through sites like Expedia and Orbitz. We decided that for Orlando, timeshare/condo resorts are the only places to stay.


"Daddy, I want to ride car"

These were the most oft spoken words by my toddler during our trip to Orlando/Disney World, and what she meant was that she wanted to leave the park and go riding in our car back to the condo. By the time we left, however, she did incorporate several other requests into her vocabulary:
. "I want to ride boat", meaning she wanted to ride the boat from the parking area to the entrance of Magic Kingdom
. "I want to see castle", which meant she wanted to go back to Magic Kingdom and see Cinderella's castle
. "I want to go sweeeming", meaning she wanted to stay at our condo resort and swim with her water wings

I've never been more tired after a vacation, but I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.


Off to see the Rodent

Yes, it's that time again to make the annual pilgrimage 300 miles south to visit Disneyworld. After Andy's sermon last Sunday about "greed", I'll feel somewhat guilty paying $56 to feed my family hot dogs and Coca Cola for lunch, but that's just part of the experience.

We had planned to stay at one of the Disney resorts, but a contact of mine in Orlando completely dropped the ball. Things have a way of working out, though, and we're now staying at a condo resort between Sea World and Disney. I think we're going to be much better off anyway, as we'll have a two-bedroom suite, and it's just right for the budget: $188.75 for 6 nights. Fortunately I don't have to sit through a timeshare presentation to get this deal.


Rain, rain, go away!

I'm still holding out hope these bands will pass as I wanted to install facia in several places after work. I've painted the Harditrim planks, cut them to size, and even have someone coming to help me (because of their weight).

The Weather Channel's Desktop Weather application gives an hourly forecast for the next 24 hours, and it's been incredibly accurate throughout this project. Unfortunately it's telling me I'll see thunderstorms until 3:00am.


God in a box

When you encounter difficult circumstances, have you ever wondered why the easier path is always wide? It's because that's the path everyone takes. Matthew 7:13 speaks to this issue, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." In practical terms, here is how this plays out: Do you have trouble in your marriage? File for divorce. Are you in a financial dispute with someone? Sue them. Do you have a particular beef with someone? Gossip about the issue rather than approach the individual directly. Are you having challenges in your community group? Quit.

James 1:2-4 says to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Some like to place God/Christ in a box and pull Him out on Sunday mornings, but in doing so people miss out on seeing how He's working in our lives the other 6+ days of the week. We're supposed to reflect Christ--his attitude, his grace, and his love--and the path to becoming more like Christ requires trials. With a little bit of perspective, though, it's easy to see that the trials we face in America pale in comparison to the trials Christians face elsewhere in the world.

I don't speak for God, and I've got a long way to go before I'm able to have a Christ-like worldview, but here's how I'd see Him addressing these problems: Do you have trouble in your marriage? Seek marital counseling, pray, and surround yourself with happily married couples who can be role models. Are you in a financial dispute with someone? Pray, approach the individual in love, and discuss your differences one-on-one. Do you have a particular beef with someone? Pray, and then humbly go to the individual and discuss the issue in a mature manner (and don't do this via email!). Are you challenged in your community group? Approach the subject with grace, pray, reach out to other group members by making it a priority to invest time outside of the group meeting, give others the benefit of the doubt (i.e., don't assume malice when it's probably just a misunderstanding), and to paraphrase Dr. Phil, you can't change others; you can only change yourself, so look inside your heart to see what is keeping you from being open, honest, and transparent, and ask God to change you.


Google's new tool: SketchUp

I recently mentioned Google's plethora of tools, and they've just added another one to the list: SketchUp. As someone without an architect's license, I found it to be an easy-to-use tool for doing basic CAD drawings. And being from Google, of course it's free.


Almost done

I spent the entire weekend praying for no rain while doing prep work, and then painting the project house. If the president is a decider, then I'm a doer. I don't like prep work; I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I can see real change.

For the task of painting this house, I have the proper tools--a pressure washer and an airless paint sprayer. Even with the right tools, though, I had several challenges this weekend. The first challenge was what to do with fascia that was being destroyed by carpenter bees. They're really bad this year, at least at this house. I decided to take the gutters down and remove the damaged fascia rather than plug the holes to repair the damage. It took trips to two Home Depots, but I finally located Harditrim fiber cement planks that are designed for use as fascia. I'm really happy with the James Hardie siding I installed, and carpenter bees won't stand a chance against fiber cement.

As I removed the fascia, I noticed that some of the gutters had rust spots on the bottom, and upon further inspection, I realized that these were galvonized metal gutters rather than aluminum. This sucks--galvonized metal eventually rusts, which is why it's not often used today as material for gutters. An inspection of all of the gutters revealed several that need to be replaced because they've actually rusted through. Replacing the fascia and gutters will be a project for another weekend, however, as the cement planks are heavy and gutters are simply a two-person job.

As I was painting, another challenge was that the hose from my airless paint sprayer to my spray gun was about 4 feet too short to reach the top of the house. I bought a 30" extension for the tip of my spray gun, but even that wasn't long enough. My first solution was to elevate the sprayer and paint by making my own scaffolding between two ladders as you can see in the picture above. After a paint accident taking the sprayer and 5 gallon bucket of paint down, though, I got wise when it came time to paint the other side of the house. There I moved the sprayer inside the house and ran the hose out the window.

It did rain a couple of times on Sunday, but never for more than 15 minutes. I'm bruised (mostly from catching an extension ladder in the chest), battered, sore, and I feel like I'm coming down with a cold. But I was able to get the house painted... well, mostly. In my state of exhaustion, I neglected to notice I hadn't painted the upper section as you can see in the photo. I'll get to that soon along with painting the trim.

And my belief that this was a wise investment was partially validated today. The neighborhood where this home is located feeds into Walton High School, which was the 2nd Georgia school listed in Newsweek's Top 1,000 U.S. High Schools, coming in at #181.