29 December 2009

Around The Fire


I don't know how it is for you, but for me, many of my fondest memories can be traced to fire. No, I don't mean in the little-pyro-boy sense, though I did have that phase in my younger years. What I'm referring to is the time spent in front of the fireplace at home, around the campfire in the wilderness, or a chiminea in a friend's back yard. There's something about the warmth, the smells, and the dancing flames that bring people together. And I love it.

[mccracken]

15 December 2009

Brilliantly Executed Adorableness


Kids (or anyone, I suppose) can send a doodle to these folks and they'll hand-stitch a stuffed animal-toy-thing for you! Awesome. I want one.

:::begins working on a raptor/unicorn/cthulhu doodle:::

[mccracken]

03 December 2009

A Unicorn Chaser




Bwahahahahaha....

I'm really looking forward to having more time to write something worth reading here...

[mccracken]

27 November 2009

Pop Quiz

I took this series of pictures recently. I really like how they turned out. Can you guess what they are?





[mccracken]

09 November 2009

Three Very Different Cafes

Windows Cafe

The Windows Cafe is in a bland store front. The furniture consists of straight wooden chairs with tables with sharp angles. Unfortunately, every so often when you sit in a chair it crashes the to the floor, but you get used to this and figure it's just part of the experience of going to the Windows Cafe. (To be fair they have been testing chairs from a new manufacturer and they are reportedly less prone to breaking in this fashion.) Pictures of a smiling Bill Gates and Windows logos adorn the walls. The coffee tastes fine most of the time, but a surprising number of patrons get sick there, so that it's become standard practice to use hand sanitizer before you go in to protect yourself. The coffee is expensive, and refills are definitely not free, but it's a known quantity, and many people are comfortable going there.

Linux Cafe

The Linux Cafe is a funky place in an artsy neighborhood with eclectic furniture donated by the patrons. It doesn't match, but it's comfortable and the walls are covered with donated pictures and paintings by local artists. The coffee is free, served in black cups (or you can just bring your own), but you need to make it yourself. If you can't do it yourself, the cafe has consultants available to help you for a fee. It's great for people who know about coffee brewing, but many people are intimidated by the idea of making their own coffee and stay away, even though very few people ever get sick who go there.

Apple Cafe

The Apple Cafe is a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The tables are stainless steel and the chairs are ultra-contemporary. Shrines to Apple CEO Steve Jobs are dotted around the wide space. The cups are cool and come in a variety of bright colors. The coffee is well made by a highly trained staff, and even though it costs a lot more, people line up around the block for a chance to drink it. Just don't ask the staff about their coffee-making techniques because they are extremely tight lipped about this. People occasionally get sick there, but it's rare enough for the cafe to brag about its safety record.

{Daniweb}

Love it.

And yes, I realize that these are very crude metaphors, at best.

[mccracken]

23 October 2009

How I Was Nearly Scammed

At about 17:30 today my phone rang. All it said was "Blocked." A man identifying himself as "Potter County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Porter" told me that one of my employees was being held on a DUI charge and had chosen to use her one phone call to ask me to post bond for her. (For reasons I can't detail, he said things that made this sound especially legitimate.) He knew my name and occupation, her name, her description, and that she'd been sick with the flu recently; he knew my whereabouts, even claiming to be "tracking my iPhone via GPS" and telling me which streets I was turning down/parking lots I was pulling into.

I don't know anything about being arrested or posting bond. It's been awhile since I watched Law And Order. "Deputy Porter" was a very authoritative and compassionate sounding man. He sounded like pretty much every cop I've ever known. He quoted laws, statutes, and regulations. He was never pushy in the slightest. It was intense but laissez-faire at the same time. He put me on hold several times to "push paperwork through" and "see if he could get her into the final court for the day."

As I was about to send the money to "the bail bondsman" my trusty paranoia finally kicked in to combat my adrenaline. I realized I had no way of really knowing who it was I'd been speaking with for more than thirty minutes. I hung up the phone and used Google Maps to get the Potter County Sheriff's phone number. I called and asked to speak to "Deputy Porter." Yeah. No such person.

I almost sent $700 via MoneyGram to a "bail bondsman." It was surreal. I'm still in utter disbelief, even hours later. I ended up giving a sworn affidavit to an Amarillo Police Department officer. It is being forwarded to their Fraud/Forgeries Division.

Always be certain of who you're talking to on the phone. Tell them you'll hang up and call them back. I know I'll never again smirk at the thought of someone falling for a scam. These guys really are pros.

[mccracken]

04 October 2009

Witty Title Here

Had quite an experience this evening. Attended an Evensong service in which three local church choirs performed John Rutter's Gloria together. My parents were singing in the choir so I went to support them and experience the performance. There was an organ, trumpets, trombones, and percussion instruments accompanying the choir--all of which were phenomenal.

For someone who was born into and has spent all of his life in the church, the whole experience was very alien. At least 95% of the audience had been AARP members for many years and were dressed in very formal attire. There were objects I hadn't seen in a church meeting place in a long time--pews, a pipe organ, offering plates (passed to help cover "the expenses of the evening"), hymnals, programs, fresh flowers, a large wooden pulpit, and the flag of the United States Of America. We stood and sat, stood and sat, and stood and sat. I felt very badly for many of the elderly folks who I saw struggling and cringing each time this took place.

The music was spectacular but the whole experience was a bit strange to me. It felt awkward and very sterile; too clean for my tastes. I need to be able to get down and dirty at church. Does that make any sense? I don't like things too polished.

I'm watching Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions right now and feeling closer to God than in that austere building with Latin beautifully sung over me. I'm not entirely sure what that says about me. And I'm okay with that.

K, love you, bye.

[mccracken]

29 September 2009

Condescending Jerk Merit Badge

I'm sure I've earned mine many times over. I can be a cynical, condescending, judgmental fool all too often. And I hate that.

“In judging others one labors in vain, often errs, and easily falls into sin, but in judging and examining self one always labors to good purpose.” -- Thomas a Kempis

It can be something as simple as one's taste in music or choice of attire. It can be their political or religious affiliation. It can things they don't even have control over. Why do we look down on others? It really all boils down to pride (as I believe most everything does).

The reasons we look down on others are inconsequential. We are called to love. No matter how big or how small the subject at hand is, the answer is unconditional love.

I'm making it a real priority in my life to daily give serious thought to how I treat the socially awkward, the marginalized, and those who disagree with me. I'm trying to expunge the "Us Versus The World" mindset that I have (the "Us" being the church). I want to look past points of contention.

I'm not arguing for a pluralistic or relativistic idealism. I believe there is Truth. I'm just saying that, first and foremost, loving people is what we are called to do.

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." -- Matthew 7.1-5 (The Message)

Amen, Maranatha, Amen.

[mccracken]

22 September 2009

Which TV Shows Are Right For You?


Seriously? This is what we've come to? Which show is right for me? This is a Newsweek headline that came in via my RSS feed to Google Reader.

"Matchmaker, matchmaker, what should I watch? We're so glad you asked, because we've figured out which fall TV show is your new soulmate."

That's a direct quote!? I find it almost unbearably sad. I love a good bit of entertainment as much as the next person, but my soulmate won't be found on TV or the radio, or Netflix, or Nintendo, etc. How much time does the average person spend watching TV each week? I won't bemoan the statistics.


"I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book." -- Groucho Marx


[mccracken]

12 September 2009

Microsoft, Grow Up

A quick search for "Microsoft FUD" brings up all kinds of nonsense. Most recently, M$ shipped materials to Best Buy extolling Windows 7 and trashing Linux (with largely incorrect assertions). Ridiculous. I do love that M$ is admitting that Linux is "competition." :-)

If you've never tried Linux, you can do so without making any changes to your computer. You can download an entire Linux operating system and run it via a Live CD. I highly recommend that you try Linux Mint, but there are many other options. There is no shortage of help out there and the Linux community is amazing. So, what are you waiting for? Give freedom a chance!

[mccracken]

01 September 2009

Loans That Change Lives

Yeah. Like those student loans changed my life? Pssh....

No, this is actually really amazing. I don't know how I only heard about it recently. I'm talking about engaging in microfinance through Kiva.org (or one of the other organizations out there, though I don't know anything about any of them). Please read more about it here.

The interwebs being used for good!?

^__^

[mccracken]

25 August 2009

Donald Miller Is Overrated

Naw, I'm just kidding. Well, he probably is, actually, but I'm reading Through Painted Deserts and really digging it. So far it's a great travelogue with a lot of beautiful imagery and provocative thoughts. It's the first book I've picked up by Miller. I wanted to start with his first.

I'm pretty sure I'll be picking up his second book before too long. It may not be the heaviest or most solid theology, but TPD has made me laugh, cry, and take pause for serious reflection and I've only just finished the second chapter. Not bad, eh?

I'm too damn busy. Need more time to read. Grrr....

[mccracken]

19 August 2009

Grocery Store Adventures

Meg and I were strolling through our local United Supermarket a couple of days ago when we saw two men by a small table. The table had sausages and bottles of hot sauce on it. The men had on well worn cowboy hats, aprons, pearl snap shirts, blue jeans, and well worn cowboy boots. One immediately introduced himself as E. Z. Earl Greiner. He asked us if we'd like to sample his award winning Blazin'-Hot Sauce. We did. He signed a bottle for me and we bought it straight away. Damn fine stuff. E. Z. Earl drove all the way down from Washington to Texas just to sell his hot sauce. It felt really good to talk to someone about their product and then purchase it from them. I don't think many people believe in their products these days. E. Z. Earl, and men and women like him, will always have my business.

[mccracken]

18 August 2009

N. T. Wright On Beauty

Sorry for the big upcoming block quote, but I found this very inspiring and Bishop Wright says it better than I can.

[Another] feature of many communities both in the postindustrial West and in many of the poorer parts of the world is ugliness. True, some communities manage to sustain levels of art and music... which bring a richness even to the most poverty-stricken areas. But the shoulder-shrugging functionalism of postwar architecture, coupled with the passivity born of decades of television, has meant that for many people the world appears to offer little but bleak urban landscapes, on the one hand, and tawdry entertainment, on the other. And when people cease to be surrounded by beauty, they cease to hope. They internalize the message of their eyes and ears, the message which whispers that they are not worth very much, that they are in effect less than fully human.

Part of the role of the church in the past was--and could and should be again--to foster and sustain lives of beauty and aesthetic meaning at every level, from music making in the village pub to drama in the local primary school, from artists' and photographers' workshops to still-life painting classes, from symphony concerts... to driftwood sculptures. The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be the place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise.

I've taken these excerpts from Surprised By Hope which I'm still working through. I don't agree with Bishop Wright on every point, but he has opened my eyes to some new ways of viewing several areas of my faith. This chapter, which the above quoted material only begins to touch, on the mission of the church really resonated with me. I'd recommend this book to all.

[mccracken]

17 August 2009

Quiet Time

I woke up this morning adamant about starting a renewed, regular devotional time at the start of each day. Sleeping in is for chumps. I feel refreshed and re-energized having spent some time this morning with my Creator.

[mccracken]

13 August 2009

Less Sex, More TV

No, I'm not advocating what this post's title exclaims, but India's health and welfare minister is.

On World Population Day this year India's new health and welfare minister came out with an idea on how to tackle the population issue: Bring electricity to every Indian village so that people would watch television until late at night and therefore be too tired to make babies. {CNN}
...


I weep for the future.

[mccracken]

12 August 2009

Lobbyists Cost Too Damn Much

How much cheaper would my AT&T bill be if they cut out their lobbyists?

:::RAGE:::

[mccracken]

09 August 2009

Pathetic

(Click the image to enlarge.)

Wow... This is the knowledge that people are seeking? Just... wow...

[mccracken]

30 July 2009

Pterodactyl Attack!

Bah!? One of these things just tried to eat my face. I think it was only a baby, but still!


Hmm. Well, upon further research, it turns out it may not have been a pterodactyl. It might, just might have been a White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth. But still...

[mccracken]

03 July 2009

A Terrifyingly Great Read


This book is great. I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight. It makes Orwell's 1984 feel like a lullaby.

[mccracken]

28 June 2009

Great, Another Addiction

Went down to Lubbock on a (mostly) business trip one day this week. Ended the trip with a fine ale and a fine cigar. One of the few times I can remember advertising actually grabbing my attention. Here's the poster I saw.


How could I pass this up? I settled on the KinkyCristo. It was an excellent smoke. And it paired with the dunkelweizen very nicely.

[mccracken]

12 June 2009

A Damn Fine Sandwhich


Look at this beast I made. I deserve some sort of award. Let me break it down for you, top to bottom. Whole grain wheat bread, Miracle Whip, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, smoked turkey, wasabi horseradish, whole grain wheat bread, wasabi horseradish, smoked turkey, bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, Miracle Whip, and another slice of whole grain wheat bread. BAM! That's a sandwhich! I rule. And I am a benevolent sandwhich maker. I give my masterpiece away freely. Go. Enjoy. Be merry.

[mccracken]

11 May 2009

Democracy: Suck It!

Here in this great city of Amarillo in the magnificent state of Texas we had 5% voter turnout. I'm so very happy to see our apathy rising to such exceptional levels. Wow. Well done, my fellow Americans.

[mccracken]

01 May 2009

Wha-Huh?

The folks that own our duplex informed us that they want it back.

Minus us.

We have thirty days.

It's all for the best, really. We've decided to use this as a push forward. We're going to move in with my folks instead of finding another place. We'll take all our extra dough and throw it at student loans. Should have them paid off before the end of the year. We'll be having a massive garage sale next weekend if all goes according to plan.

After our student loans are paid off we hope to partner with New Missions Systems International and get back to England. There will be a lot of planning and preparation in the coming months. Your thoughts and prayers and :::cough::: money :::cough::: will be greatly appreciated.

Blessings to you and yours.

[mccracken]

21 April 2009

Exopolitics

What is it?

Exopolitics is the study of political relations between humans and extraterrestrial civilizations by those who believe that aliens exist and have already made contact. {Wikipedia}

Also: http://www.exopolitics.org/

Bwahahaha...

Awesome. If you ever get a chance to tune in to Coast To Coast AM, please do. It's a riot.

[mccracken]

17 April 2009

I Tell You What

Some people may think that King Of The Hill is a hilarious bit of hyperbole that lampoons life in Texas. Those people don't live here. This show is as real as it gets. I suspect it may be a documentary. Hell, I think I may be related to a few of the regulars on the show.

Enter a story from today's news here in my home town: "An apparent comment about a hat is to blame for a shooting Friday afternoon in the San Jacinto area of Amarillo." Yes. A comment about a hat. You can read the whole, brief account here.

[mccracken]

28 March 2009

Picture Is Unrelated

I've found another gloriously frivolous site to add to Google Reader. It's good for a laugh or a "What?" but it's also a bit NSFW at times, so beware. Below is a sample and you can visit http://pictureisunrelated.com for more weirdness.



[mccracken]

01 March 2009

Nostalgia: Dr. Demento

I've been listening to Dr. Demento the last few weeks when I'm working on Saturdays. It's probably been 15 yeas since I last listened, when I was a kid and I spent time with my cousins and Uncle Rodney. We'd mow lawns and listen to Dr. Demento as we drove around in his ancient Ford pickup, Old Blue. Good times. I still love the gloriously absurd humor and songs. Bravo, Doc. Keep it up.

[/nostalgia]

[mccracken]

18 February 2009

I Beg To Differ

80%



I got docked for being overweight/out of shape and living in a densely populated area...

[mccracken]

09 February 2009

Diagnosis Needed?

I see things all the time that don't quite seem to be there. I think my spectacles may be possessed or cursed. I'll be looking forward and see a dark blur dash in my peripheral. But there's never anything there. This happens at home, work, and in public. Give it to me straight, Doc--am I going crazy?

[mccracken]

04 February 2009

Truly Epic

I just watched American Graffiti for the first time. Inebriated. Holy crap, I sure am using spell check a lot already. Thank you Google--I don't know what I'd do without you. And you too, Bulleit bourbon--thank you for helping to make this film an incredible experience. I can't believe I'd never seen it before. AG is definitely in my top ten now. Brilliant.

[mccracken]

03 February 2009

So Far, So Lame

I'm not doing too well as far as blogging goes this year. For that, I apologize. My dedicated (albeit nonexistent) fanbase deserves better.

I'll get right on it. For realsies. Just as soon as I...


[mccracken]

P. S. -- How's your 2009 going so far?

17 January 2009

Interests > Time Available

I simply don't have enough free time--that which is outside of responsibilities and obligations to work, family, or friends--for all my hobbies. I'm sure many people feel the same way. Precisely why anytime I hear someone proclaim that they're bored, I want to smack 'em upside the back of their head.

I'll never get anywhere near being satisfied with how many books I've read, how often I was able to play guitar, how many great films I was able to take in, how many old NES/SNES/Genesis/PSX games I played, or how much I was able to learn about FOSS/GNU/Linux/computers. And don't even get me started on travels and cultural experiences! Alas, there's just not enough time. How can people ever be bored? Astounding.

[mccracken]

07 January 2009

Cry/Rage

I didn't realize that the folks at the Westboro Baptist Church were franchising, but we have a group here in Amarillo that makes that prospect seem likely, however unfortunate it is.

I know when I think of Christ Jesus, I sure picture him picketing and protesting all the while yelling, "Repent or Burn!"

This breaks my heart.

Love (is a verb).

[mccracken]

P. S. -- Sorry I didn't start off the new year with a happier post. :-\