I’m on Facebook

I just got a Facebook account, and I’m loving it.  I confess that Facebook – along with three crazy kids – is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging much in recent days.  But in just a few days I’ve made over 60 friends – some of whom are close friends or family I’ve kept in touch with for years, but others of whom are folks I haven’t seen or heard from in a long, long time.  It might not be a high school reunion or family Thanksgiving Dinner, but it nonetheless connects people far and wide in an engaging, entertaining format.  My favorite feature is something called "SuperPoke" which allows me to, among other things, "use the force" on my friends.  How cool is that?

I was trying to come up with a really insightful post about the distinct emotional, social and identity issues involved in blogging vs. social networking – they’re very different phenomena – but that was late last night and I was getting pretty weary. 

So, if you’re on Facebook come and make me a friend.  If you’re not on Facebook, sign up.  It’s fun. 


Peanut Butter Chocolate Heaven

One of the joys of Halloween is sampling my daughter’s candy.  One of the treasures I found in her pumpkin candy basket from yesterday’s church Halloween party was a wonderful Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar.  As a lover of peanut butter chocolate candy, I ate this treat and was immediately transported to heaven.  The chopped peanuts, the peanut butter, the chocolate and the crispy peanut butter bar thingy in the middle . . . wow. 

Most religions have festive meals or holy food.  If I were to start a new religion, I think this would be my religion’s sacramental food.

What’s on the radio: Philly vs. Washington, and other radio musings

A radio station billed as "NPR with caffeine" is going off the air after only an 18 month lifespan.  Washington Post Radio, which tried to turn newspaper reporters and columnists into talk radio hosts in the DC area, never took off, earning only 1.2% of the listening audience.  I guess that NPR doesn’t need caffeine, after all.

I’ve listened to Washington Post Radio a few times since moving here, and I’ve been unimpressed.  It blends diverse political perspectives with the antics of standard conservative talk radio, creating annoying programs that have no point.  (Much of the same can be said for some segments of the church attempting to mix diverse theologies and odd worship styles to create a nonsensical mess, but that’s not the point of this post.)

I don’t like most of what’s on radio: conservative talk, most sports talk (though I like much of what ESPN Radio puts together), religious broadcasting or pop music broadcasting.  In other words, there’s lots of territory on that radio dial that I don’t explore.  That’s why I got an XM Satellite Radio, though currently I only have it at home, not in my car.  In Washington as in Philly, there are only three reasons I listen to standard terrestrial radio:

  1. News, Weather and Traffic – KYW 1060 in Philly, and WTOP 103.5 in Washington
  2. National Public Radio (NPR) – WHYY 90.9 in Philly, WAMU 88.5 in Washington
  3. Baseball – Phillies on WCAU 1210AM in Philly, Nationals on WTWP 107.7 in Washington (Washington Post Radio, which will soon have a new format and new name)

Making the transition from my old Philly stations to my new Washington stations has been interesting.  I catch traffic on the 8’s here, rather than "traffic and transit on the two’s" back in Philly.  I’m learning a new NPR broadcast schedule, and when I’m not listening to the Phillies on XM Satellite Radio I’m really enjoying the National’s broadcast team.  So with that, here are my comparisons:

  1. KYW vs. WTOP – Washington’s WTOP is head-and-shoulders better than KYW.  Whereas KYW broadcasts a series of taped reports that essentially repeats every 30 minutes, WTOP has much more live content and "life" among their reporters and announcers.  They have an overall lighter feel than KYW, and sometimes even make you laugh – which is a good thing, considering most roads around here are worse than Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Expressway.  Washington 1, Philly 0.
  2. WHYY vs. WAMU – Philadelphia’s WHYY wins, hands down.  Perhaps it is simply because I have been listening to WHYY since my late teens, but I find their schedule much more appealing than WAMU’s schedule.  WHYY offers more of the national NPR fare, including Talk of the Nation and Day to Day, programs not carried on WAMU.  And whereas The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU is excellent – including the best two hours of radio on her Friday weekly news roundup show – locally produced The Kojo Nnamdi Show and KCRW’s To the Point don’t compare with the NPR shows that could be in their time slots.  Washington 1, Philadelphia 1.
  3. Phillies Broadcast Team vs. Nationals Broadcast Team – The Phillies, though a better baseball team, are much worse in the radio broadcast department than are the Nats.  The Nats’ straightforward approach to broadcasting – the same two guys the whole game, rather than the Phillies rotation of Hall of Famer Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Larry Anderson, and Scott Franzke – is much easier to listen to.  Additionally, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler, the Nats broadcasters, generally stick to the game, unlike the Phillies broadcasters who talk about golf, make inside jokes, and discuss plans for their day off while on air.  The only complaint I have about the Nats’ broadcast is that Charlie Slowes often makes a very long and complicated call on exciting plays – "a deep drive to left center field, Joe Schmo is back, back, to the warning track, under the Geico Insurance sign, it goes over his head and it is gone – bang, zoom! – into the visitor’s bullpen, scattering opposing players from the bullpen bench for Joe Blow’s 4th home run since the All Star Break, ending a three-week drought and bringing his team to within 18 runs in the bottom of the 4th inning here on a starlit night at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, where the crowd is on their feet hoping for more as their Nats continue to bat against the 32 year-old lefthander from the Dominican Republic . . ." This is only a slight exaggeration.  The Nats broadcast team, which features a guy who got his first big league baseball gig with the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is head and shoulders above the Phillies.  Washington 2, Philadelphia 1.

So there it is, an odd post about radio preferences.  I’m liking the Washington radio stations better than the Philly stations.  Have a good weekend!

The Seasonal Friday Five

  • Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don’t just say
    "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or
    image. Help us live vicariously through you!)

The highlight has been spending so much time with my daughters.  In early June we took them out of their wonderful full-day daycare program so that we could save money (I was unemployed as of June 1).  Yet more than a cost-cutting measure, this was a great opportunity for me to spend time with my kids – especially after working a job that kept me away from home 11-12 hours/day for the previous 9 months.  From parks to playing dress-up (my daughter dressed up, not me) to trips to the Crayola Factory and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, I’ve had tons of fun, and I’ve really gotten to know my girls . . . it has been wonderful.

And highlight #2 . . . learning that we’re having a boy in November!

Honorable Mention: Going to the Baseball Hall of Fame for Cal Ripkin’s induction

  • Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

I am.  It was a tough summer, full of change and transitions.  The girls and I spent five weeks away from mommy, and that was tiring and trying for all of us – mommy, daddy, and the girls.  We also moved to Northern Virginia from the Philadelphia area . . . With the exception of a weekend trip to Cooperstown, NY for the Hall of Fame Induction, we had no vacation and struggled to keep lots of balls in the air.

  • Name one or two things you’re looking forward to this fall.

I am incredibly looking forward to beginning my internship.  10 years ago I began my first semester at seminary, and 5 years ago I graduated.  This has been a long journey with lots of twists and turns.  It’s great to finally return to parish ministry and live into my vocation!

  • Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the
    transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away
    summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

Nothing exciting.  We’ll eventually pull out the blankets, turn off the outdoor spigots, and put away Tali’s bicycle.  Of course, I’ll listen intently to playoff baseball this October.  The beginning of football season and the end of baseball season is one of the most obvious and exciting transitions to fall for me . . .

  • I’ll know that fall is really here when . . .

. . . the leaves change color, the next baseball game is scheduled for April 2008, my church begins to plan in earnest for Advent and Christmas, and my wife’s pregnant belly grows larger than a prize-winning pumpkin!

XM is back – thanks Josh, thanks Dad

I had canceled my XM Satellite Radio subscription several months ago in a cost-cutting measure (at $12.95/month the move was more symbolic, perhaps, than anything else).  But my best bud Josh got me a few months worth of XM service as a thank-you for helping out with his wedding (I was his best man!), and my dad – who didn’t catch the XM bug the way I did – gave me his inno (a really cool XM receiver that is also an MP3 player). 

So I re-subscribed and now I can listen to XM, record songs straight from the XM broadcasts (as long as you press the record button at some point during the song, the inno captures the entire song!), and also put about 120 of my own songs ripped from CDs on the thing.  It’s pretty awesome.  Now that I’ve uploaded a ton of Erasure and bunches of other songs – from Information Society to Enigma to The Cure to Pearl Jam to U2 to Depeche Mode to Jesus Jones – it’s Just Like Heaven.

I don’t indulge in much – no cable tv, no movies, no golf, no video games, no nights out with drinking buddies, and I wear rather boring, ordinary clothing until they fall apart.  But XM is one of the few products of which I Just Can’t Get Enough.  Thanks Josh.  Thanks Dad.  You guys rock.

My computer is hot stuff

My Insp_e1505_300_2
Dell Inspiron E1505 is overheating – blistering hot near the left-side speaker (directly under my left wrist).  Anyone have this same problem?  I’m worried – it’s making a faint odor similar to the smell my childhood TYCO race cars made when we cranked their engines.

Somehow, I don’t think that my computer and childhood electric race cars should have the same performance quality . . .

The Music I’ve Missed

I’m home from work today, after spending 33 hours in the hospital from Wednesday morning through Thursday afternoon.  My wife and girls are out of town, and I’m doing some cleaning – vacuuming, dusting, laundry, mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, etc.  To get me through these tasks I’m cracking a few CDs, and breaking out some wickedly bad dance moves as I clean.

And then as I was singing/screaming at the top of my lungs into the end of a mop handle I realized something – I don’t listen to music any longer.  As one of the last persons on earth without an iPod – at least, one of the last 30-something, suburban, middle class, white guys without an iPod – I really don’t have an easy way to listen to music.  For a few years I had XM Satellite Radio in my car and at home, but I canceled that subscription a few months ago in a cost-cutting measure.  Rather than carry a clunky case of CDs in my car and listen to one disk at a time, 12 songs from the same artist in a row, now I mostly listen to National Public Radio.  But the weight and intensity of non-stop news about politics, war and other important but not-too-fun topics has a certain negative impact on the soul.  Sometimes I need to turn off Terry Gross and Noah Adams and turn on some wickedly awesome tunes.

That’s what I’m doing today as I clean house.  I’m on my third CD – The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.  Before that I was listening to Cubanismo’s Reincarnacion (a wonderful Cuban jazz disk), and prior to that Electronic’s Twisted Tenderness.  Later on the docket?  Who knows?  Perhaps some New Order, Erasure, Monaco (a New Order spin-off), Shakira (late ’90s, before she became a lame english-language pop singer), Bob Dylan, Fat Boy Slim, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, U2 . . .

That’s why I need an iPod.  Just pour all these CDs into that little sucker and press shuffle.  Until that day comes I’ll be here, sitting by my CD player, flipping disks . . . and breaking out some wickedly bad dance moves between disk changes.

Party All The Time

The Friday Five from our friends @ the RevGalPals.

1) Would you rather be the host or the guest?  Host.

2) When you are hosting, do you clean everything up the minute the guests go home? Will you accept help with the dishes?  The minute people leave?  No way, though sometimes I clean as the dinner/party is still going on – small kitchen, small dishwasher, you know.  But the truth is, I don’t host parties much, but I love it when I do.  And yes, I’m glad for people to help, though only those who are dishwasher-anal can pack the dishwasher.  My mother and my wife, for example, are barred from the dishwasher for ineffecient placement of dirty dishes.

3) If you had the wherewithal, and I guess I mean more than money, to throw a great theme party, what would the theme be?  A theme party?  I’ve enjoyed the post-Christmas crappy gift exchange parties, and also costume parties.  Otherwise, some combination of baseball, theology, and late 80s New Wave music would be fun (for me, anyway).

4) What’s the worst time you ever had at a party?  I was at a wedding reception with my host family on the first weekend of a summer program in Ecuador.  Everybody got drunk, my spanish wasn’t very good, a fight broke out, and my host father drove us home drunk.  That was pretty scary.

5) And to end on a brighter note, what was the best?  My wedding.  We had three receptions on our wedding day – a large tea reception at church, a dinner with friends and extended family at my in-laws, and a dinner-dance party with family and friends at my dad’s house.  That was pretty cool.  Second place?  High school graduation party with my two best friends . . . and half of our graduating class.

Canceling my XM (sniff!)

In a few months I’ll be done my CPE residency and earning no income.  Even after I begin internship, the pay will be, well, insignificant.  And so, as I brace for the coming fiscal reality, I am cutting back on some expenses – including my XM Satellite Radio subscription. 

My long-time readers know that I love few inanimate objects more than my XM Satellite Radio receiver.  It was a Godsend while I drove for hours up and down the east coast as a sales representative.  But now I listen to XM much less frequently, mostly at home or on short, local drives to visit Philly-area friends or family.  Hardly the worth-while expense, considering that in a few months I’ll contribute little to the economic vitality of our family.

So farewell, XM Radio.  After two and a half years of listening to baseball, ’80s music, the BBC, and C-SPAN, I’m signing off.  Perhaps I’ll re-subscribe in a year or two, after your merger with Sirius brings the odd confluence of baseball, football, Bob Dylan, Howard Stern, and NPR all on one service.  But until then, it’s back to local and lame terrestrial radio . . . and those old mix tapes I got back from ex-girlfriends in high school.