Thursday, October 4, 2012


Siri is one of those things that you either use a lot or not at all. I am on the new phone cycle for Apple, meaning I had a 4 before upgrading to a 5, and am a year late to the Siri party because I didn't own a 4S. I started using the 5 this week, but have been extremely busy and have spent almost no time just playing with the phone.

Yesterday Patty and I were driving around, and we needed to pickup a replacement headlight bulb for our van. The one auto parts store in Lititz had moved to a neighboring town, so we were driving a bit aimlessly looking for something else when Patty said "why don't you use Siri?"

So I hit the button and said "I need an auto parts store" to which Siri replied with 17 nearby options. Yes, there was superfluous information in there, but she did identify a Pep Boys not too far from us. Because of where we were, I asked Siri where a Honda dealer was, and she identified Jones Honda about a mile away. Rather than just drive down there, I said "Call Jones Honda" which she did, and I was able to confirm that the parts counter was closed for the day.

After finishing that I realized that what I had just done was the stuff of science fiction just ten years ago, and inconceivable twenty years ago. Sure, twenty years ago I would have had to dig through the yellow pages to find something, but consider what I would have done without Siri:

(1) I couldn't have done this (safely) while driving
(2) I would have used google maps to search for an auto parts store.
(3) After filtering through the chaff, I would have clicked on one of the dots to find the phone number.
(4) I would click on the phone number and called them.
(5) Repeat the whole process for the Honda dealer.

I did all of that without having to type anything, no need to lookup the phone number and no need to figure out what was closest to me, Siri had already sorted by distance.

The biggest point was that I didn't even think about doing it in the first place. It took my wife, who had seen the commercials, to suggest it. Of course now that I've actually seen how awesome it is, I will do it again. I also had a lengthy text conversation with someone while were driving, entirely by dictation (and having her read the replies). That was pretty cool as well.

Siri may be misunderstood, but when you actually use it, it's pretty amazing.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Facetime & elevating baptism

I've been quiet for the last few months. Starting a new job tends to take up a lot of time, making things like blogging take a back seat for a while. And being an executive pastor means I'm not as immersed in technology as I was at HDC, but it doesn't mean I've stopped caring or paying attention to what is going on in the tech world.

LEFC does not own a baptisty. Instead of doing baptisms in the auditorium, they are done across the street in the stream. Everyone I've talked to thinks that is "really cool" but there is a big downside: We can only put about 100 or so people on the bank of the stream, and there are around 1000 adults that go to this church.

Baptism is one of the most exciting things in ministry. In baptism we see and hear the testimonies of those whose lives have been changed by Christ! To "hide" this away for only a hundred or so people just seemed wrong, but at the same time, nobody really wants to go away from doing it in the stream because, and I quote, it's "really cool."

For this past weekend's baptism, we decided to try something to bridge the two issues. We did the baptisms in the stream during our service, and then used Apple's FaceTime and two iPads to bring a live feed of the baptisms into the auditorium. The setup went like this:

Sound System for Baptisms by the stream connected via a cable to the iPad's headphone jack (which can also accept audio-in, giving us a direct feed from microphone to sound board to iPad).

iPad 3 mounted to tripod with Fat Gecko mount from B&H.

A second iPad located in our auditorium, connected via a VGA cable & a 1/8inch audio cable to our sound and projection system.

FaceTime to connect the two.

We used FaceTime rather than Skype because the video quality is better, and we needed all the quality we could get.

To get our wireless signal all the way to the stream we used a 200 foot ethernet cable and a similar length extension cord for power to put a wireless switch directly across the street from where we were filming. We ran tests and were getting about 2.5mbps from where we were filming, so we could get decent quality.

At the end of the day it wasn't perfect, but it did the job of putting baptism in front of everyone, rather than just those who are willing to stand at the side of the stream after church. In a weird twist of scheduling, I was out of town, so although I helped design and test the solution, it was setup and run entirely by Kathy (our IT staff) and a few volunteers.

Since we already had the iPads and wireless equipment, our total cost was about $60 for the audio cable and iPad mount, and the marginal cost of a 200 foot ethernet cable. This was a huge win for a very little amount of money. Woohoo!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stress is deadly

Recently we packed up our life, got in our van, and moved to Lititz Pennsylvania where I have taken the role of Executive Pastor at the Lancaster Evangelical Free Church. Generally I am a guy who does not "stress out" and is, in fact, pretty good at knowing when to shut down and blow off stress to keep my life balanced.

A quick google search of the top five causes of stress led me to this article which identifies five points. Lets go over them:

1. Financial Problems - We are doing ok, but having a house in California that has not sold yet while needing to add the cost of living in Pennsylvania plus having a lower salary than before, well, lets just say that there might be a TINY LITTLE BIT of stress here.

2. Workplace Stress - I believe that I finished well, very well, at HDC. I didn't coast to the finish line, I collapsed over it. That's great for my work ethic, but not so good for the stress-o-meter. Add to that the stress of starting a new job, which is huge, and well, I think we are two for two so far.

3. Personal Relationships - Move 2600 miles away from all your friends and see if this doesn't mess with your personal relationships a bit. Add to that the fact that my kids are stressed about the same thing...

4. Health - Had some personal issues crop up here as a result of all the stress of working, packing, moving, trying to sell the house, trying to find a house to buy, learning a new area etc. Add to that some issues with my children (which is MORE stressful to me because I worry about them far more than me) and I think we are 4 for 4 so far.

5. Irritants - The article defines these as the little things that add up. For me this is the fact that we are in a furnished rental with all of our stuff in a storage unit. HUGELY stressful and we really can't' relax in the rental because it doesn't feel like home. It's like staying in someone else's place where you can't change anything or resolve any issues that are bothering you. 5 for 5, plus a bonus for getting all the questions wrong...

So, after glancing at this article, I guess you could say that Joel's stress-meter has been pegged for a while now. The result? Wow. I had no idea what this could do to me. My body has been in revolt.

So what am I doing about it? Yesterday I came to a realization that I really needed to laugh. To just laugh. And not do anything that would let me be distracted from laughing. So I went into my room, turned off the lights, and turned on pandora and listened to stand up comedy. Never done that on Pandora before, but I laughed out loud frequently and by the time I turned it off, I felt a LOT better.

I then spent some time in prayer (probably always a good idea after listening to an hour or so of standup comedy...) and went to sleep. I woke up today with a regular temperature for the first time in almost five days. Finding ways to de-stress just became a lot higher on my priority list.

How's your stress meter?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Why does baseball hate it's fans?

First it was the DH

Then 7 game league championship series

Then interleague play

Now more playoff games to add to an already overcrowded off season

The latest apostasy is even more interleague games??? What is the commissioner's office smoking?

Bring back baseball!

We want an end to the half-a-skillset DH.

We want playoffs that end before thanksgiving.

We want an end to the expansion of the playoffs. Four teams per league. Period. We don't want to be basketball where the regular season is pointless and irrelevant.

We want an END to interleague play. Keep the leagues separate and preserve the awesomeness of the all star game and the world series.

We hate to admit it, but the wildcard is good for baseball.

Bring back the real game of baseball!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

90 Days of Scripture

On Christmas Eve I was talking to my friend Kyle about his year overseas. One thing he told me that struck me was that he had read through the bible something like 5 times during the year. I was blown away. One year reading plans are pretty common, but I was intrigued by the prospect of reading the bible at an accelerated pace. So on January 1 I started a 90 day read through the bible plan.

I finished it right on schedule at the end of March, and I absolutely LOVED it. There were several reasons why I enjoyed this so much:

  • The accelerated pace brought new insights and caused me to see things in scripture that I had never noticed before. 
  • It takes a lot of time to read that much every day. Spending that time in God's word on a daily basis is really good for me personally.
  • When reading at that pace, the cohesiveness of scripture is really evident. 
  • It was great discipline.
After finishing up I've rejoined HDC's one year reading plan to stay on the "same page" as the rest of the church, but I am pretty sure I will do a 90 day plan again. If you've never done something like this, consider making the time. I guarantee you will not regret it. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wagons East!

In 1983 my family packed up the house and made the move from western New York to California. My dad was helping to start the School of Intercultural Studies and World Missions at Biola University. As a kid, I wasn't amused to leave my friends and move to crazy California. It took a while, but I've made the most of living in California for the last 29 years.

In 1987 my wife Patty decided to leave Utah and head to California to attend Biola University. We met there and the rest is history. We were married in 1993 and California has always been our home.

Until now.

After a few years of feeling that God was telling us it was time to move on, He has finally showed us where. I recently accepted the position of executive pastor at the Lancaster Evangelical Free Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania, and will start towards the end of May in my new role.

We are very excited to be starting this new phase of ministry. The church is a wonderful community of believers that are deeply committed to God and have a real heart for prayer. The senior pastor, Tony Hunt, started in August and the current executive pastor is retiring. When we interviewed we had a great time getting to know everyone, and are really excited to be part of what God is doing at LEFC.

This new role will change the focus of this blog a bit, as I will necessarily not be as deeply involved in the technology side of ministry; however, I do not intend to stop writing.

Exciting times ahead!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Mac OSX Lion - Safe for networks at last?

Back in July we installed Mac OSX Lion on the machines of the IT staff to evaluate for use at HDC. It didn't take long before we discovered an absolute show stopper: Using files on network volumes almost guaranteed dataloss with Lion. Read my first report, and then the followup (with video) if you need a refresher on what was happening.

With the release of 10.7.3 it is now safe to allow people to use Lion on your network without worrying about them inadvertently destroying files on your server. There is a new dialog box that looks like this:

This is a lot better, in that now a user can click one button (revert) and have it put everything back the way it was and quit the program. My only complaint is that "Do not show this message again" only works for "OK" which is the worst possible choice (OK destroys the data forever).

Is this a fix? Not really, but it's a big step forward. At least the user has the opportunity to intervene without wiping out the data, and can actually get out of the program with the click of one button.

Now if they could only fix the rest of the problems...


Thursday, February 2, 2012

How will you be remembered?

I am reading through the bible right now on a 90 day reading plan. I have never had so much fun reading the scriptures before. Today I was reading in 2 Chronicles, and something really struck me:

“Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”
(2 Chronicles 21:20 NIV11)

Jehoram passed away, to no one's regret. 

He was king of Judah. A descendant of David.

And when he died, NOBODY was sorry to see him go.

How do you treat others? What kind of a mark are you leaving on the world? When you die, will it be good-bye or good riddance?


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Multi-Campus, Multi-Cultural

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” - Acts 1:8 ESV

This is a picture of a hitching post. Most of you reading this blog have probably never seen one. What is remarkable about this hitching post is that it is installed at our Phelan campus, and these horses were ridden here for our Sunday morning service. Phelan is rural community and is very different than Victorville, where our main campus is. 

The people of Phelan tend to be up early to feed their animals, and indeed, Phelan is the only campus where the early service is the larger service. Phelan also is horse country, and the installation of the hitching post was met with great enthusiasm by our people. It would never work at any of our other campuses, but in Phelan, it's perfect.