Survey of Christian bloggers

Michelle from mikao's world is doing a survey on Christian bloggers, and asks to spread the word (via Darren).

I've signed up. I love doing market research. I once did a really great market research where, over two nights, I was asked to sample beer. And I got paid for it!

I was a star...

Thomas S Williams on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

From Boutell.Com's web site.

Why do people blog

Chris Pratley (a Microsoft guy) asks the reflective question "why do people blog?"

He writes that he is not "...naturally someone who feels an urge to communicate unless I am having a dialog with someone...", which I really understand. Writing an online journal that's neither private or public happens in stages: the first stage is excitement at just doing it, the current stage is more like asking "am I doing it well enough?" and "is there a reason?", just like Chris asks. Right now I'm not concerned about the number of people reading - I'm keen to get better at writing and communication in general, and I am really happy when anyone makes a comment or I get an e-mail from someone new. Thanks for reading!

Christianity Today reviews "The Passion"

At Christianity Today Movies.

The Passion

I have a confession to make: I haven't seen "The Passion" yet.

It seems so controversial, so many for it, so many against. Some average reviews, which have been reviewed by others as people who "just don't get it".

I have enjoyed previous movies about Jesus in many ways. I have been emotionally affected and touched by the personal nature of a well-made film and imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus perform the miracles He did, and witness Him say the things He said. I am intrigued at how a film-maker sees Jesus and portrays Him, and I am fascinated by the difference between a movie=show or a movie=evangelical tool. I'm a movie lover. I'm probably going to see it.

Of course every time we put Jesus on the screen we fall far short. Just like every time we speak or write about Him - I know I can't do justice (until I'm in heaven) to what Jesus has done, let alone in my own life. I don't see this as a reason to stop talking or writing or making movies about Him, the One that deserves our praise/attention/adoration.

As far as opinion goes, there's plenty of articles to back the film (see the film's website, which also has merchandise), but it's interesting to note articles I found (I'm sure there's more) that really don't like the film at “The Passion”, Soul Food for Fat, Stupid Religionists and A Bible critique and alternative view of Mel Gibson’s movie about the last twelve hours of Jesus Christ’s life.

So here it is: my personal opinion is that this film is not the road to salvation for the rest of the world, or the cure-all for Christian outreach (yes, even before I've seen it). Jesus act of dying on the cross - the real thing - did the work. This film is not going to make more impact than that, hopefully it is going to bring people back to the actual event and consequences in our lives forever.

Stephen Said on "The Passion for Celebrity"

Fellow Melbournian Stephen Said (whom I have met once, even if he may not remember) has a great reflection on the current craze surrounding Mel Gibson's new movie.

Hamo Gets His Gear Off

What a great illustration of going to church from Hamo.

Paul Colman Trio Concert Review

Well, Friday night (February 20th) was great. I left work early to take Olivia to the PC3 concert in Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne) - thanks Mum for looking after the kids! Our excitement for this event had been building for months, and just early last week we heard that all the seats were going to be taken out to get more people in, raising the energy level even more. The doors opened at 7:30 and as we drove past in search of a KFC for dinner the line looked really long...

We got in just before 8:00, missed out on having Paul sign a CD by about 2 seconds (we bought "the official bootleg" CD recorded in '99) and then edged our way into the main hall. The band started at 10 past 8, with Paul, Phil and Grant and Jack Jones on lead guitar and [I'm not too sure] on keyboards and played (in no order):


  • Your Love, Big Blue Planet and I'll Be With You (all from the "One" album)

  • Selfish Song and Save My Soul (from "New Map of the World")

  • Turn, Sun-Stars-Moon/Amazing Grace, I Dream (from "Turn")

  • Dip (with the didgeridoo bit), Run (which morphed temporarily into George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"), Dear God, Your Sweet Voice, The Killing Tree, Fill My Cup (from "Serious Fun")

  • All U Need

A set list from the Brisbane show is at pc3fan Message Boards

I forget what song they opened with exactly, I reckon it was "Save My Soul" (doh! Olivia and I were having bets on what it would be, and we were both wrong). For the encore, they came back on and played "Solution" and "Into Your Arms" from "One". At the end of the show Paul brought out his baby girl Elizabeth, which Olivia loved. The band went off stage for the last time at around 10:30.

The concert was lots of fun. Paul talked about an upcoming PC3 DVD (and threw out a few sample copies into the crowd). There was a real sense of sadness at this being the last tour for the band (from them and the audience). One particularly funny bit happened about half way through where the band stopped and had champagne (non-alcoholic) and strawberries brought out for their wives. A personal wish eluded me as they didn't play "One" which is my favorite track from their last album. Spewing!

A great night. Thanks, Olivia. Thanks, PC3.

Paul Colman

Going to the Paul Colman Melbourne concert tonight with Olivia. We've been looking forward to it for months - PC3 is one of my favorite live acts, perhaps my favorite!

Videos We Own (February 2004)


When I go to someone's house for the first time I usually find myself at some point scanning their CDs, videos or books in an offhand kind of way (not like staring or judging or anything). I reckon you can tell a lot about that person by these things, especially when they start saying things like "Oh I love that book" or "That's something someone got me for my birthday, I've never read it" or "I love Bruce Willis movies" etc.

So here's my transparent review of the videos/DVDs we own in no particular order:









Space JamSlingbladeShrek
Toy StoryToy Story 2The Star of Christmas (Veggietales)
Finding NemoWallace and Gromit: A Close ShaveWallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day OutStar Wars: Attack of the ClonesSweet Home Alabama
The Princess BrideLearning To Fly: The Chicago Bulls 1st ChampionshipStar Wars: A New Hope
The Air Up ThereGooniesGroundhog Day
Untouchabulls: The Chicago Bulls 2nd ChampionshipDaffy DuckThe Interview
The Lion KingLord Of The Rings: Fellowship of the RingLord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
Jimi Plays MontereyThe Three Little Pigs

What does this say about me?

My Next Computer Monitor


Grand Canyon Monitor


Only joking...

(via MP's blog on Exchange Server)

Neave.com

Neave.com has some crazy stuff like web-browser based games (Asteroids! Great!) and some other cool stuff in the labs (check out 'Imagination'). I was put onto it by the e~mergent kiwi. What a great site design!

Website for my Bro, the Arguing Pro

Sorry Simey, couldn't resist the rhyming title that I just made up. When we were little you were such a good arguer, I despaired of ever winning another dispute with you.

In my quest to reason like a pro I found (via, who else, User Friendly) a website documenting common fallacies in reasoning called Fallacies. I had a really interesting time reading about deductive and inductive arguments, and what make a good appeal to higher authorities, and more. Simey, this is for you.

Where am I on the Political Compass

One of my New Year's Resolutions last year was to learn something about something I knew nothing about (that sentence sounds better said than read). One of the things I tried to learn something about was politics.

I realise that I've only scratched the surface with my reading, and that merely reading two books isn't going to help me understand centuries of political thoughts and ideas (but it is interesting discovering new stuff). A site I came across (again via the Link of the Day on User Friendly) was The Political Compass which asks a series of questions to find where you stand in regards to the Left wing/Right wing (which they describe as an economic scale) and Authoritarian/Libertarian (referred to as a social scale) continuums.

I was slightly left wing, slightly libertarian. The questions were really interesting. Recommended.

Chess

Here's a link to an online chess site called ChessWorld (via the Link of the Day on User Friendly).

I know a little bit of chess and have played maybe 20 games this year - more than I've played in the last 5 years - which is great because I really enjoy the challenge of chess and to get better you really need to play. I taught Olivia how to play over my holidays and the majority of games I've played have been with her.

I don't have what you'd call stacks of free time on my PC but maybe I'll play a game online (or at least read their tips section).

Physics in comic books

An article on Uncanny physics of comic book superheroes (via Chris Sells) tells of a University professor that uses pop culture (like comic books) to teach science. His classes address important questions like:
# Is it possible to read minds as Prof. X of the X-Men does?
# If Spider-Man's webbing is as strong as real spider silk, could it support his weight as he swings between buildings?
# Can the mutant master of magnetism Magneto levitate people using the iron in their blood?
# If you could run as fast as the Flash, could you run up the side of a building or across the ocean, and how often would you need to eat?

I wish I had been taught Physics that way. I dropped it after just a couple of weeks because it was so much like Maths, and I didn't really get along with the teacher (it's all about people, isn't it?)

CDs I'm listening to (February 2004)

Here's the CDs that are in my stereo/PC/car, and what I think of 'em:
 Let Your Glory Fall (Phillips, Craig and Dean) - gemtle listening, with two original tracks and the rest covers of worship songs. The highlight is "How Deep The Father's Love For Us". This CD is Olivia's.
 Payable On Death (P.O.D.) - a Christmas present that has not really left my ears for more than a couple of days since Christmas. Thanks Mum! Great album, and a different, more melodic sound than "Satellite", by my favourite band right now. I reckon I like them because of their passion and energy and good quality musicianship.
 One (Paul Colman Trio) - their latest, taking Olivia to see them in concert on Friday (their last concert as a band?) and a decent pop album. The best song is "One". PC3 is one of my top 5 bands, we have the last 4 albums (not the live ones) and have been to see them twice before. Their concert is great entertainment, I think one of the most appealing things though is Paul's uncompromising message for the church - which is really for me!
 Offerings 2 (Third Day) - Olivia and I loved Offerings 1, which together with Offerings 2 are Third Day's "worship" albums. Simey gave me a lend of this CD months ago, and I listened to it solid for one week, so I was glad to add it to my collection. The highlights are the live tracks (especially "Nothing Compares").
 New Map Of The World (Paul Colman Trio) - remixes of PC3 songs. I didn't think I'd like this one - bought it on special for $17.99 - but it has really grown on me.

So that's primarily what I've been choosing to listen to, in addition to occasional Jennifer Knapp (The Way I Am), Newsboys (Adoration, Thrive) and Sons of Korah (Shelter, Redemption Songs).

As an aside - hardly any of these articts/bands tour Australia (how am I gonna see DC Talk in concert?)

Sigh.

Valentime

Our Valentine's day was pretty busy, so I took half a day off on Friday the 13th to spend with my wife and cook dinner. It was semi-romantic, and I really enjoyed the "bonus" time spent (we called it "Valentime").

Spending time together and just talking really gets me energised. My love language is 'quality time', followed by 'words of affirmation'. Olivia's is 'acts of service' - that's a bit of a foreign concept to me, but it's amazing how much she appreciates me doing little things like putting away the dishes. I'd recommend the 5 Love Languages book (some reviews here) to any couple.

Social Ineptitude

Warning: in this post I use the word "toilet".

Increasingly I'm thinking I don't have much social intelligence. I just don't know the customs of the culture, like how to act or what to say in certain situations: if you've observed me in a tricky situation, maybe on the outside I look confident, but I can tell you on the inside I'm wildly looking around to see what I should do.

My comeback to this "lost" feeling has been to use humour. Say I go to someone's house I've never been to before. We're sitting talking, and I feel nature's call. I announce "I'm going to the toilet" and leave the room in search of the loo. Now, what if I walk around for a litle while and can't find the men's room? I surely can't be expected to know, of course - in this situation I would probably sheepishly find my host and proclaim something like "I couldn't find a tree", my wife would get all embarassed and the host would show me where to find the little room.

In the above situation humour works (for me). But I've got a list of situations I've been in where I didn't have a clue what to do or say (in fact, I think saying something might actually make the situation worse). My lack of self-confidence starts coming out here:


  • you eat a meal with acquaintances and some meat isn't cooked (I chose to eat it and let my iron guts sort out the problem)

  • the toilet is in close proximity to where everyone else is, and I know I'm going to be loud (I held on till later - can't this damage my spleen or something?)

  • you're with mutual acquaintances and one of them starts crying (I stood by feeling embarrassed)

  • you're at a wedding and the ceremony is over, and you want to leave but no-one else is (we left once, and stayed on another time)

  • you go to someone's house that you've just met, and the husband kisses your wife on arrival, and I just say hello to the wife (I'm not a kissy person)


Of course there's more. I reckon I should do a course or something to learn social etiquette!

Some Ideas for Men on Valentine's Day

While I was over at Man In The Mirror, I found an article about ideas for men on Valentine's Day. I'm going to try 'em...

Accountability Questions

I was introduced to accountability by my friend Jarrod. The concept was: get a couple of blokes meeting once a week (we met over breakfast, and I didn't know any of the others for starters except to say hello to) for about an hour, eat, and talk about our week using some accountability questions.

For the first 6 months we each used questions that we'd devised ourselves with some common threads. After 6 or so months (I think we'd lost a group member by then) we switched to some other questions and a format called "Life Transformation Groups" (LTG's). Maybe 8 or 9 months later (we'd lost another guy, and it was down to two of us) we used a set of questions from Pat Morley, sometimes read a chapter of a book and chatted about that, and set ourselves a goal of 8 chapters of the Bible a week.

The group of two eventually dissolved after another 8 or so months. I now go to church with 3 of the 4 group starters and know them a whole lot better, and I don't have an accountability group happening right now. I wonder, was the whole thing a fad? I also wonder, could I do that sort of a group via e-mail or phone, or would it be better in person?

I'm currently reading Pat Morley's Man in the Mirror and he values accountability very highly, in relationships, faith and work.

So to my purpose: a very useful list of different accountability questions from The Journey (via Darren).

Alternative Names, by the Crazy Specialist

From a really old post that I'd saved for a rainy day (What is in a name?, via Lance's blog): today is that rainy day, and so here's my name according to several online sources -

 Thomas Williams = Crazy Specialist (Wu-Name Generator)
 Thomas = Transforming Humanoid Optimized for Mathematics and Accurate Sabotage (The Cyborg Name Generator)
 Thomas Williams = Skarbad the Strongclaw (The Middle-earth Name Generator (Orcish))

I like the Wu name. I should have that put on my security pass.

New Year's Resolutions, One Week On

I'm glad I wrote out my New Year's Resolutions last week on this blog, because it motivated me to start doing them! Wow! I also subscribed to a "read the Bible in a year" web site so I will read the Bible every day.

I know that not everyone makes NYR, and that's fine. I like 'em because it gives me something to remember throughout the year. Last year one of my big NYRs was to not take things for granted. It worked for about 5 minutes...I'd like to be able to stick at things a bit longer...

My Development Environment

I'm a programmer/developer who sits behind a computer all day. So what programs do I use most of? What do I do all day, anyway?

Here's my list of tools that I use all day, every day, in the order of time spent:

  • MS Outlook XP - this stays open all day. I generally read and respond to e-mails as I get 'em (at my internal address), use it for my calendar and often post myself little notes. The only thing is, using it adds an overhead to my job because I have to organise and file all my e-mails. I also use Outlook to mass-mail reports out internally.

  • MyIE Web Browser - my web browser stays open all day too. MyIE is a free web browser that groups Internet Explorer windows into a tabbed interface (kind of like Excel) so I can have 10 web pages loading at once. It does a couple of other cool things too, like opens up the pages I last visited the next day, has a pop-up blocker (no annoying ads) and has some shortcuts for opening pages in new windows, closing them, going back and forward. I got it at MyIE Home.

  • Windows Explorer - der.

  • SQL Server Enterprise Manager - an admin tool for SQL Server.

  • Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 - this is the main tool I use for programming, in a language called VB.NET. I had trialled the 2002 version, but just as my boss was ready to buy it the 2003 version came out.

  • MS Excel XP - for the quick-and-dirty analysis stuff. It's a program most managers here understand, so sending them stuff in Excel format makes sense.

  • MS Access XP/2000 - I got my current job on the basis of my strong Access 2000 skills. Access is a database program for small-to-medium databases; when a new database comes along, 99% of the time I'm going to create it using SQL Server instead. Access still gets a bit of a workout as the stuff I've written over the last two-and-a-half years was developed in Access. One gripe I've got is that I still have to keep the 2000 version on hand as I find the occasional incompatibility between XP and 2000 (mainly in my scripts). As with all the Office programs I use, I can't notice a difference between the 2000 version and the 2002 (XP) version, except in Outlook where I reckon the XP version is faster and more stable than the 2000 version.

  • Chami HTML-Kit - I'm starting to use this less and less for writing web pages, but only because I'm doing less and less web-type work recently. I still also use Notepad for quick edits sometimes. HTML-Kit is free at HTML-Kit.

  • Webshots - this changes my desktop wallpaper daily and is my screensaver. I use a stack of photos that I've scanned. Webshots is at the Webshots Desktop.


After this list comes MS Word XP, Paint, Microsoft Photo Editor, and Windows Media Player to round out my daily tools.

I'll write more about what I actually do with the above programs another time!

Ninja Flash Game

In addition to the games Brian put me on to, here's a game "...to kill those lunch hours when you've run out of blogs to read..." (thanks to Justin King):

  Shuriken Challenge

Sunburn

I don't think I'm very smart. I almost never use sunscreen. Olivia uses it (I get to put it on her, which is either a treat or a pain, depending on what mood I'm in); TJ gets it liberally (it must be horrible for a kid to be sunburnt, because their parents didn't use sunscreen). I don't use it.

I know I grew up with the "tanned is good, tanned is healthy" kind of attitude. Maybe I figure I can't prevent any more damage than has already been done. Maybe I'm too lazy. Maybe I don't like the oily feel or horrible smell. I reckon I'm pretty healthy in other areas (I drink plenty of water, I shower regularly, I brush my teeth sometimes), but not this one.

All I know is I got mildly sunburnt yesterday at the beach in San Remo. We swam in the water near the pier for about an hour and a half, then spent 45 minutes looking at a classic/hot rod car show, all sans t-shirt. Ouch.

My First Friday 5

5 questions from this week's Friday Five:


  1. What's the most daring thing you've ever done? Either don't know or can't remember. Are all the questions going to be this hard? Oh, I remember one thing: walking across a broken, unused railway bridge about 15 metres off the ground while on a Youth Group camp (I was very anti-social). I didn't even realise the danger.

  2. What one thing would you like to try that your mother/friend/significant other would never approve of? I know my Mum wouldn't like me to get a motorbike (neither would my wife), but possibly I don't want one anyway. Does the not being allowed to have one increase the want (which would never be there otherwise)?

  3. On a scale of 1-10, what's your risk factor? (1=never take risks, 10=it's a lifestyle) About in the middle (what a risk-less answer). 5.

  4. What's the best thing that's ever happened to you as a result of being bold/risky? Getting married. Maybe it was a sure thing that Olivia would say yes, maybe not. It was worth it either way! In fact there was a number of times over our relationship where boldness in the face of bad situations "payed off" by bringing us closer.

  5. ...and what's the worst? I crashed my car into two other cars because I was driving "riskily", and I didn't have insurance because I was cheap. $5000 dollars later (and being chased up by a debt collector) has taught me to look after my vehicles (e.g. get them serviced) so they aren't putting me in danger. I can't prevent my own driving from putting me in danger! Which reminds me, I wonder if I've got car insurance?

So, have a good weekend!

Spam Fighters

I've found links to a couple of anti-spam products that it might be time to try out:


Any others worth looking at?

Parenthood

Rodney left a comment on my Maya Update post saying that before he had kids, other parents would warn him "You'll never get a good night's sleep again":


I do wonder about all those parents who warned us before we started a family. Did you get all the, "You'll never get a good night's sleep again." kind of comments?

So many people tried to make out that having kids ruins your life. Our experience is just the opposite.



I get those sort of comments too. Rodney, thanks for the encouragement. Hearing this sort of negative stuff makes it kind of hard to be happy about your kids around people that aren't having the same kind of time as you are. I often find myself feeling guilty about telling people something so simple as my 2.5 year-old going to the toilet on his own (well, possibly I do gloat).

Yet, it is also fun to commiserate with other parents about what's going on (e.g. temper tantrums). I have to watch that my sarcasm doesn't get me down...

Things I Read Today, Thursday February 5th

I caught one or two good links today:

  • Fontifier - a site that allows you to make your own computer font, from your handwriting (at a cost of $9). That would be terrible for me - my wife says I have doctor's handwriting! Perhaps for leaving secret notes for myself. Via someone?

  • Search Engine Relationship Chart - a graphical chart which shows who search engines get their information from (namely, other search engines). Via someone?


Sorry I can't credit who put me on to these - the search facility for my previously-read entries doesn't quite work. Also, I notice the Google search on this site doesn't quite work either. Oh well...

Maya Update

I've long lamented that I can't show pictures on this site, most recently because Maya is an absolutely beautiful little girl. She's started sleeping through the night and she's prepped to move to her own room. She's reached 12 pounds and grown 2 centimetres in a month. What a good girl!

She's just started smiling too which is almost hypnotizing to Olivia and I. TJ, her older brother, is also taking good care of her by putting her dummy back in, covering her over with blankets, playing with toys in front of her (which must be entertaining for her) and telling us when Maya needs a nappy change!

There is so much joy in parenthood...

Weblog Redesign

Finally updated the look and feel of my site, added my e-mail address and search capability, and made some other little changes that I read about in a book The Weblog Handbook (which was pretty useful) and on some other blogs (XFN by Tantek and The Cardinal Sins of Blogging by Alison Hawke).

Anyway, I like my new design. And I'll have to review "The Weblog Handbook" in greater detail some other time.

New Year's Resolutions

I'm a bit behind in my New Year's Resolutions. I've got an idea of what I'd like to set, I just haven't got around to putting them on paper yet. I reckon my key thing is to improve on the skills I've got: I play guitar (I'd like to be able to read music), I write on this blog (I'd like to be able to write better - I used to love writing in High School*) and I play basketball (how can I get better at that? Play Simey more? Hmmmmm...)

I know one of the reasons I haven't finalised these ideas is that I'd have to start doing them, and that would take hard work. My other big one is to read the Bible every day. Hard work.

Any advice, hints, commiserations?

* My principal once said that one day there'd be books by Thomas Williams in a bookstore. Funny thing is, there is a Thomas Williams who's an author! (At least, I thought it was funny)

Public Internet Access

While I was on holidays I decided to check my main/update my blog from a public library. I've read about others who do the same on an ongoing basis; I'd planned it as a one off.

In the 45 minutes I was on the computer I visited 6 excruciatingly slow pages. I am certainly spoilt by the speed I get from work. Next time I have to check from on the road I think I'll try an internet cafe. I wonder what the prices will be like?

The one thing I did do in my 45 minutes (I had an hour, but I got some books instead), was to check some of my regular blogs. It's strange - I started off reading IT blogs exclusively last year, but when I was at the library I only checked my regular Christian blogs, and Dilbert. Now I'm back into the swing of things I'm reading both, but I didn't "catch-up" on the IT blogs for the time I was away because there were too many...

Back From Holidays

Well, I'm back from time off from work (and time off from my computer). Thanks for all the comments and well wishes from my family and friends!

I'm still blown away by our beautiful daughter. I spent my month off being a husband and father - you know, playing toys, helping out, not invading on Olivia's space too much(!), and getting to know Maya - and we got around to doing a few things and catching up with friends. Went to the movies, watched videos, read plenty of books, did some things around the house. It felt like every night was a Saturday night (to do something social or watch a video or play a board game, cards, chess, etc.) and every morning was a Sunday morning (to sleep in a little). Great!

I plan to write about all of this in the week ahead. Must get back to work and keep catching up!

 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Copyright Thomas & Olivia Williams 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009