Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Wife is Awesome!

I know the title of this one seems obvious but let’s face it, all guys marry up.

Anyway, my wife is awesome for many reasons but here is the latest one. Next month I’m attending a church IT event in Southern California. Our schedules worked out so that Heather can come with me and take some vacation time around the event. While we are in LA we wanted to see some of our favorite TV shows being filmed. On our honeymoon we attended a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman in New York. We were able to get some tickets online to a few shows but the one I really wanted to see was The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory is about smart geeky people. You may wonder whether I’m smart but I think the verdict is long in on my being a bit geeky. However, due to the popularity of the show the taping while we are in LA was sold out.

Heather has an uncle who is well known in Hollywood. To protect his privacy I’ll leave out the details lest you all try to get TV show tickets through him. Heather emailed said uncle asking if he could possibly score us a couple of tickets to The Big Bang Theory since that’s the one show I really wanted to see. Two days after she emailed we received confirmation of VIP tickets to the sold out taping of the show.

The VIP letter told us where to park, not to bring our cell phones, and how to check in as VIP guests of the production. Once we check in we get a private escort to Stage 25 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank.

I’ve been doing some reading online from various sources about what to expect at a taping and it appears we are in for a good time. The tapings usually last until after 9pm and we have to be there at 5:15pm so I’m not sure how I will survive without my cell phone for so long but I know it will be worth it.

Will we get any autographs? Will we meet any of the cast or producers? Is the pizza they serve the audience any good? Will we run into anyone else on the studio lot? Stay tuned.

My next post will be My Wife’s Uncle is Awesome!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The One with Two Titles

This post could have easily had two titles. Since I like them both I’m going to let you decide.

Option 1: My Father the Terrorist

Option 2: Chinese Food is Explosive

This past week was our Biblical Counseling Training Conference at our church. A lot of my immediate family is involved in serving during the BCTC and attending it. As a result we usually try to get together for a meal with everyone one night during the week. This year my wife, mom, dad, uncle, cousin, grandpa, and grandma were all involved in the conference. Our kids were there too but they were doing their normal weekly school stuff.

My uncle, from Peoria, IL found out about this new Chinese Buffet that had opened near the church. Since we all enjoy that kind of food we decided to try it out. The food was good and we were having a great time when we noticed several police cars from the city of Lafayette pulling up in front of the restaurant. Thinking nothing of it we kept eating until a third office arrived from the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department. My mom, getting up to get some more food, went to the window and noticed that they were looking in my dad’s van with flashlights.

To understand why that matters you have to understand my dad’s vehicle. He drives a 1988 vintage Ford Econoline cargo van. Its original color is white but due to the amount of rust it is hard to tell these days. It has a blanket hanging behind the driver and passenger seats to keep the front warm in the winter and is full of odds and ends in the back. It has a side window and two rear windows which is what the officers were shining their lights through to see what was inside.

After getting back from getting a bowl full of ice cream dad decided to go out and see what they were looking for. As he was getting his coat on one of the office came into the restaurant and asked if anyone owned the white van. Dad and the officer went outside.

Watching from the window we noticed that dad was letting them into the van. Finding that odd my uncle and I decided to get our coats on and go out to see what was going on. In Indiana it isn’t legal to search a vehicle without a warrant so I was surprised my dad was allowing them to poke around.

When we got outside we found out that the clothing store next door had been robbed a lot lately around closing time, 9pm. The thieves would pull up in a van, similar to my dad’s, and while the store clerks were locking the door to leave they would push them aside, grab a bunch of clothes, throw them in a van and drive off. So the store clerks seeing the van parked there called the police thinking it might be waiting to rob them when they closed. When the police showed up they noticed some items they viewed as suspicious in the van leading them to want to search it.

To understand this part of the story you have to know a bit more about my dad. He is a profession pyrotechnist. He launches fireworks, designs and tests fireworks, and trains others on explosives. The mild mannered chemist from Purdue is just a cover for the pyro inside. However, dad is also legal about all this. He has more licenses and explosive permits from more levels of government than I have Microsoft certifications. He has done training sessions for the local bomb squad and even took chemicals for making explosives across the US/Canada border for a ChemEd teaching conference he was invited to in Vancouver. Last year there was a deflagrating fire in a chemistry lab at one of our public schools and the Sheriff’s Department consulted with dad during the investigation. So, the fact that he had some electric igniters, an old cardboard box with diamond shape explosive decal, and other odds and ends in his van should be no surprise. The fact that he had all the paperwork for all that in his van should also be no surprise.

The tension came from the fact that dad believed procedurally they should have asked more questions and investigated his paperwork before searching. However the officers were determined to search. While dad initially refused giving them permission to search he grudgingly then gave permission considering how long the process would drag out waiting for the bomb squad to show up and waiting for a judge to issue a warrant. So dad, with nothing to hide allowed them to poke around. They found nothing of interest although they never asked to see further paperwork; they only saw dad’s hazmat endorsement on his license.

The bigger issue here is that suspicion by someone else caused a loss of privacy and liberty for my dad. I realize this is a much more complicated issue but here is a quote from my dad’s Twitter account that I think sums it all up:

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Again, I get how complicated this can be and I understand the threats of the world we live in however a citizen with all his ducks in a row, who has trained law enforcement on these very situations was himself subjected to a loss of liberty and privacy for doing it all the right way. One of the officers suggested that dad simply hide the stuff in plastic bins so that if someone does look inside they can’t see anything. The logic here fails me as while that removes the element of suspicion it doesn’t solve the real problem.

I think I’m going to drive around town with a fake foot hanging out from under a blanket in my backseat and see how long it is before someone suspects I have a body in there and calls me in for murder.

The next day dad called the sheriff and the sheriff called back. They have a meeting setup to review the case with the Sheriff’s Department as well as officers from the Lafayette Police Department. At issue is procedure and helping those men of zeal gain some understanding.

More on this story to come I’m sure.  Dad's biggest objection to all this was that his ice cream had melted by the time we got back inside.

Oh, and speaking of dad being a terrorist my grandfather (dad’s dad) actually is a terrorist. He is on the official terrorist watch list because of his name, Bob Smith. Apparently that is a common alias used by terrorist so grandpa can’t check in online for flights, gets all the extra screening, and now that he has a metal rod in his hip, well, let’s just say flying with him is fun.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Pulpit and Monitor Stand Fever, part 2 of 3

This week our church is hosting the Biblical Counseling Training Conference. We typically try to get things looking nice before our guests arrive but sometimes we do things a bit late in the game. Years ago we would do major upgrades to the auditorium sound and video system the weekend before the conference started. In those days the BCTC started on Saturday evening and often we would work from Friday evening straight through trying to get things ready. The older I get the less I like working at 3am when I started at 6pm the previous day.

Having learned a few hard lessons we haven’t done anything major like that at the last minute in several years. We try to plan ahead and schedule our upgrades with enough time for a little Beta testing before the next major event.

Back in November I posted about a fire we had in our pulpit on a Sunday morning. You can read about that here. This is part 2 of a 3 part story. In early January our worship pastor started shopping for a new pulpit. We landed on one but it was going to be close to get it installed before the BCTC. I had to get mic specs to the manufacturer so that part could be completed as well and the unit still ship in time.

Once we realized the pulpit would be here we also had to create a new stand for the LCD monitor our speakers use to see their video feeds. Before the monitor stat on a pedestal that matched the pulpit. We wanted to upgrade that so now we have a larger screen attached to a steel pole that comes up from the stage. This was custom designed by myself and a few others and built by the company of a church member that has a full scale metal shop. You should really come see it.

In a true reminder of the good ole days version 1.0 of the pulpit stand was tested on the Thursday before the conference. It had a few issues so we decided to get another version made on Thursday afternoon. Version 2.5 went into production on Thursday and we got to test it on Friday night. The pulpit also arrived on Friday night and thanks to the grace of God was all installed and working as planned by Saturday afternoon.

The next step in the process is to get the lift working again. Now that the pulpit has been updated we would still like it to lower down into the floor. Upgrading the lift will be part 3 of this story. We are hoping to make several improvements and are doing some engineering work now. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The BCTC is Coming!!!

The Biblical Counseling Training Conference is coming up fast at Faith. Our team is working hard to ensure an enjoyable learning experience for our guests that allow them to focus on their walk with the Lord so that they can help others who are hurting. We are blessed at Faith to have over 1550 folks from all over the world attending an event in Lafayette, IN in February to learn about the Bible’s sufficiency.

As you know the weather in Indiana in February is often less than ideal. Anyone remember the blizzard of 2007? I think that one will go down in conference history. We had radar loops showing on all the screens so folks could track the storm progress.

I’m often asked what’s new in the tech realm so here are some things we are excited about and are working on.
  1. If our friends at UPS come through for us we will have a new pulpit and video monitor stand in the auditorium. We have been working on this for a while due to an earlier blog post I wrote about the pulpit catching on fire during a Sunday morning service. This week we are replacing the pulpit itself and the video monitor next to it. After the conference we will begin working on the whole up-and-down part.
  2. Our wireless network coverage has been increased. We were hoping to have additional bandwidth available but construction delays have that part on hold until the week after the conference.
  3. In the Community Center we have made some functional improvements to 2 of our sound systems.
  4. We use 10 laptops for the various conference sessions and tracks. We typically rent those and they arrived today so our team is working hard and getting them imaged and pre-loaded with many PowerPoint files, drivers, video codec’s, and other teaching resources.
  5. We have added another LCD announcement board in the school wing of the building and are planning to use that to communicate announcements and other upcoming events.
  6. We go through a lot of CD’s during the conference as folks take media home with them. We have increased our duplication capacity so we can get as many orders completed before the end of the BCTC as possible.
  7. We run 12 full audio/visual systems during the conference. While our gear inventory has increased over the years we still rent some of the equipment. That arrives Friday afternoon. We begin setup on Saturday morning and complete it Sunday afternoon after our morning services.
Another new thing I’m excited about is the use of Twitter to submit questions during the 2 Q&A sessions in Track 1. This is something new for us and if it goes well will probably be expanded. More details about this will be provided in Track 1 and I’ll be there as the Twitter moderator.

My thanks to the many of you who have inquired about my grandfather and have been praying for him. His recovery is going well and he is back to his schedule as it was before he fell. He’s excited that he will be able to participate in the BCTC as he originally planned.

As for the Super Bowl where the Indianapolis Colts are going to beat the New Orleans Saints, I know the BCTC and the Super Bowl are on the same night.  That happens every so often depending on how the calendar falls but since we all know the Colts are going to win anyway it really doesn't matter if you see the first half of the game.  One year I taught a session on Super Bowl night and would periodically update folks with the score from my cell phone.  Even though the Saints' Drew Brees is a former Purdue QB, a fine institution of which I am an alum, I'm still rooting for the Colts.

For those coming next week I look forward to seeing/meeting you. I'm usually running around but I can be found making the announcements in the lunch room in the Community Center so be sure to stop and say 'hey'. For those who are not coming please be praying that God would be at work in all our lives.