iGood to iGreat

OK, if you know me then you know that I enjoy my iPhone.  I dig how it syncs my calendar/contacts from my phone, web and laptop together.  If I update a friends phone number in one device all my devices wirelessly get the new information......beautiful!

Apple’s done a lot to improve the thing too.  Now I can use it as a lightsaber, guitar tuner and more.  But they’ve missed one big potential improvement: ToDo lists.

I am a fan of using ToDo lists in Apple’s iCal program.  But I can’t view any of that data on my phone.  I want to but I can not.

Yes there are some silly ToDo programs made by third party developers.  Those programs do not sync with my iCal data.  They do not allow me print out lists and edit them on the web, laptop, etc.

Please Steve Jobs help me.  Or, if you know Steve could you pass this on?  The squeaky wheel gets the grease so here I go.......SQUEAK!

The Sappiness of Sparks

Author Nicholas Sparks often writes tearjerkers.  His stories and film adaptations of love and loss like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember continue to wring out countless tears years after their release.  If you want a good cry then grab a Sparks work.

Some of my friends resent his work as over-sentimental fluff.  While I agree that he often writes sappy novels I do not believe he should be entirely dismissed.  After reading his book "Three Weeks With My Brother" I can affirm that Nicholas Sparks has important things to say in today's world.

In his nonfiction memoir "Three Weeks With My Brother" Nicholas Sparks along with his brother Micah remind readers that life's ordinary moments are priceless.  The book recounts their family life.  The Sparks share openly their family struggles and successes.

As children in poverty they depended on creativity for fun.  In High School they bonded through cross country running.  They share about the difficulty of moving to different colleges, watching pets grow old and die and establishing new families of their own.

The more you read the sadder it gets.  Their mother, fond of horses, died at age 47 from a bizarre horse riding accident.  The authors detail that their parents enjoyed a horse ride and picnic along Sacramento's American River.  Their mother's horse stumbled on that hot cloudy day ending her life.

Three years later doctors diagnosed their 26 year old sister with brain cancer.  Her fight with cancer lasted seven years.  It ended on the steps of a San Francisco medical center where a brother and sister sat and discussed their lack of options.  They had tried every treatment possible without victory.

After reading this book it's no wonder why Nicholas Sparks writes effective tearjerkers.  He is no stranger to tragedy.  His message of not taking for granted life's everyday moments resonates clearly with me.

So while Sparks can write sappy chick-stories he can also remind readers to savor life's simplicity.  That message holds value with me.  I believe our world can benefit from it too.

It's Not About Blame

"It's Not About Blame" - Patrick Lencioni

I first heard "It's not about blame" more than two years ago from Patrick Lencioni at a conference.  Now my friends often catch me repeating the phrase.  When something goes wrong in our world many people respond by wasting precious time pinning blame on others.  Placing blame does not fix anything and it only creates more hurt and dysfunction.

Instead of worrying ourselves with where to point fingers we are often better off asking "how can we prevent this from happening again".  By focusing on preventing problems we emphasize productivity instead of sacrificing people.

Practicing this principle has changed many of my interactions.  I have transformed angry and potentially destructive moments into productive ones.  I hope more people discover the value of focusing on preventing future problems rather than merely blaming someone for a problem.

Get Physical

God gave us bodies so why not put them to use?  It seems I'm more motivated to be physically active lately.

I can remember a few years ago when I couldn’t care less about working out, stretching, etc. I was glad to be done with PE class and wanted no more of it.   Thankfully I'm out of that phase.

About three years ago a sentimental memory of biking to the beach overcame me. I decided to relive that southern California dream.  The recreation started great. Biking those 30ish miles brought a great sense of accomplishment but it also brought soreness.

For at least a week my legs screamed at me. I carried Ben-gay in my pocket during that week for instant relief when the soreness swelled up.  I was out of shape.

I then read off some website that 30 minutes of aerobics 3-4 times a week suffices for a healthy workout. So I began rowing (via machine) and running in the neighborhood.

Now, the Wii fit is my workout method of choice. My friends doubtfully smile when I speak of my intense Wii fit workouts. Who would have thought a video game can give you a full physical workout?  It teaches me yoga poses, counts/coaches sit-ups and pushups and more. Don't knock it 'till you try it.

Physical activity is so worthwhile. If you're like me you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair and we are meant for more than that. So let's get off our duffs and get physical.

The New Ride

I’ve been wanting to buy a nice/newer car for a while now and finally did so last night.  Here’s a picture of my new (to me at least) 2006 Scion xb.  I like it.

Usually I drive cars that have over 200,000 miles on them.  This one has 19,000.  So hopefully I’ll have it for a good while.

Try The Bus

When I travel outside of southern California I often enjoy public transportation. When I visit a new place I want to interact with locals and take in as much of the city as I can. I also don't want the hindrance of constantly having to find a parking spot for my ride.

So why don't I use public transit at home in southern California?  Gas prices ascended past $4 a gallon. Automobiles are not the only option for getting around. Public transit in southern California is worth trying.

A friend told me recently of his stigma associated with bus riders. He perceives bus riders to be the "duller knives in the drawer"; the kind of people who wear sweatpants all day ride the bus. I do not see myself as that kind of person and am ready to fight that stigma head on.

Economically the bus (the only public transit option for my daily commute) makes a lot of sense. Driving my car to work costs about $10 per round trip (24 miles one way).  A day pass for the bus costs $3.50. Everyday I the bus I save $6.50.  The environment is also spared my fuel emissions.

OK so I like the flexibility that having a car brings so I still drive sometimes.  I often spend late evening hours with my friends near work. The last bus leaves my work at 9:00pm and sometimes that's when the fun is beginning. So at least on Fridays I do not take the bus!

Timeliness is another downside to bus riding. I can drive to work in 30 minutes, that's at least a 75 minute bus ride. On days when every minute counts the bus is a bad choice.

On the plus side riding the bus gives me free time. I have time to write this essay. I have time to check email/facebook/surf the net on my iPhone. I have time to watch a movie or read a book. I even journal and read the Bible in this open slot of time.

Viewing my neighborhood from the bus provides me with a different perspective on the world around me. Sometimes its good to see our surroundings in a new way. Lastly bus riding gives me the chance to interact with the people I live alongside.

I am glad I explored public transit options in my daily commute. Bus riding saves money, the environment and provides more free time. Though it may require some sacrifices public transit is an option that I hope more southern Californians begin considering.

I 86ed by '86 Mustang

February 6th, 2003 was a big day in my life.  On that day I started my first day of work at the church I currently serve in.  (I just celebrated five years of serving at that church, LIFE.)  I secured an internship under worship leader Tommy Walker that same day.  It was also the day I wrecked my car.

I totaled my car by swerving into another car on a freeway onramp in Pasadena California.  That accident jeopardized my plans of driving to the new church and preparing for my first meeting/rehearsal with a new band.  Thankfully my brother rescued me and drove me to our family’s car lot (my dad’s office).  I arrived at the rehearsal a little that night...not a great way to start a new job.

I got a new car that day; at least it was new to me.  My dad gave me a car he recently purchased: a 1986 Ford Mustang our family named “Silver”.  Silver and I spent five years together.  We have been through a lot together.  Now we are through.

Maintaining an older car is an ongoing process.  Things fall apart.  The lure of a newer car called out to me with increasing strength.  So now I pilot a 1990 Acura Legend; it’s four years newer.  The automatic transmission makes eating behind wheel a breeze.

I miss some things about the stang.  The car looked pretty cool and accelerated quickly.  On the downside it leaked a lot of oil on my friends streets.  (I learned not to park it on driveways.)

I still dream of driving a newer car like a Subaru WRX, a Scion XB or a smartcar but I am learning to be content.  After all, it’s just a car and there are more important things in life than cars.

Wild Connections

Few books affect me as deeply as Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild.  This book reminds me how beautiful life can be.  In his nonfiction account the writer investigates the story of a young man from a well-to-do family that hitchhiked to Alaska and unintentionally died alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.  His name was Christopher McCandless.  He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.

During one recent Saturday night my family asked me to look after my 96 year old grandmother.  At the same time I was engrossed in this book and did not want to stop reading to entertain Grandma.  So I decided to bring my grandma up to speed on the grim story and then read aloud my next chapter to her.  I didn’t realize how powerful that chapter would be for the two of us.

It was the perfect chapter to read with her because it focused on a deep relationship that McCandless had with an 80 year widower named Ron Franz.  Franz lived alone in an apartment in Salton City, CA when he picked up a hitchhiking McCandless.  Franz took a liking to McCandless and wanted to help him straighten up his life.

Emotion flooded within me as I read of the strengthening relationship between the two men.  In the book the two men conversed about living adventurous and meaningful lives.  Franz wanted to convince Chris McCandless that wandering aimlessly in life is wasteful.  And McCandless wanted convince Franz that secure, habitual and conservative living damages the adventurous spirit within men.  It was a great debate to read aloud with my grandmother.

The most profound moment that evening came when the author writes of Franz’s special request to McCandless.  Ronald Franz explained that he had no children or siblings to carry the family name after his death.  He asked Chris McCandless if he could adopt him, if he would be his grandson.  Afraid of that level of intimacy McCandless shrugs off the proposal by changing the subject.

Franz’s proposal reminds me of how special a relationship can be between a grandparent and grandchild.  Franz desperately wanted to have a relationship similar to what my grandmother and I had.  Too often many of us forget the value of simple things like family.

The memory of reading this chapter to my grandmother with tears in my eyes reminds me how beautiful life can be.

Working The Tonight Show

I am thrilled to have worked at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for the first time last Friday.  Graham Colton, the guest musician that night, asked me to support his band by playing backup tracks from my laptop during their live performance.  (YouTube clip here.)  As I huddled off camera my laptop played tambourine, backup strings, piano and click into the shows audio mix.

Having never been to a TV taping before I found the experience surreal.  The Tonight Show is a well polished operation.  The size of Jay’s stage/studio impressed me.  On camera his studio and stage look bigger than they are.  Apparently special lenses in the cameras add depth to the images.  Things look bigger and better when Hollywood applies their magic.

As the show taped I found myself amazed at how that moment in time quickly spreads far and wide.  The sound of Jay’s voice was not reverberating from my TV, it resounded straight from the man in a suit standing in front of me.  And I had just seen that guy sitting backstage on a couch chatting with Tom Brokaw in a t-shirt.

It is even clearer to me now that TV might not be as accurate as we are lead to believe.  It sure is entertaining though.

Powerful Medicine

I am grateful that my friend Kevin introduced me to the music of Copeland and their Beneath Medicine Tree album sometime in the year 2004.  Just about every time I hear a song from this album I want to tell people how much I like it.

In this iPod generation many of us have multiple gigs of music ready at our fingertips and yet sometimes it’s still hard to find a song we want to hear.  During those lulls I shuffle through song intros hoping to find a song that tickles my fancy.  My quest for “the great song” often ends with one of these Copeland songs.

The true story told throughout Beneath Medicine Tree establishes the albums greatness.  Album in a nutshell:  boy meets girl, girl gets sick, boy stays with girl at hospital until girl dies.  Boy writes cd about it.

The guy sticks with her through good times and bad.  He takes her on walks through downtown where they try to forget the tragedy taking place around them.  He pulls back the hospital drapes so she can watch the sunset.  He portrays a sacrificial kind of love so often neglected in our world.

So much of the music getting attention in our world focuses on shallow relationships, money, rims, etc.  This cd goes deeper with heart.  Did I mention the sound/production is great?

My favorite tracks on this album are Testing The Strong Ones, Take Care, Walking Downtown, Coffee and When Finally Set Free.