Sunday, January 16, 2011

Canada - Thou Foul Villain!! - Part Deux

I knew after halfway burning down part of Canada that there may be a day, or a time in my life I would have to return to the land sometimes referred to as North Wisconsin.

There came a call from my supervisor and one of the VP’s about 8 years ago and said that we purchased an office up in Ontario.  And the question was – who in IT has a passport?  I knew I had a passport.  In fact – I was one of 2 people in IT that had a passport, and the office integration was a 2 person job.  But, was it too soon?  Were the old wounds healed?

Canada and I never got a fair shake together.  The first time I went there it was to discover nature and bears and lightning and rain and stuff.  Canada instead showed me its dark side…which contained nature and bears and lighting and rain and stuff.  This time though, it had to be different, this time it was on my terms.  I was going into Canada to integrate an office for America.  Land of the Free and Home of the Not being Canada.  I would hoist Old Glory over their front door and declare them part of the USA corporate machine.

That didn’t happen.

I arrived in Canada with 4 days to accomplish a 7 day project.  You see in America, much like the Dollar vs. the Loon our time is 30% more efficient than their time. Their clocks have no 5-7PM on them, it’s true.  Instead, Canadians appear to use that time to visit restaurants not FROM America.

I should know.  One of the places we would dine at was called the Outback Steakhouse.  Now I know what you’re thinking, Craig we have those here, that is an American Establishment.  You are so right, but Canadians think this eatery is from Australia, making it more palpable to visit.

There are only a few things from this trip that I really remember.  Most of my time was spent in a room trying to upgrade the IOS on a Pix520 Firewall using a soldering gun and an rs232 cable.  I became familiar with the Microsoft ISA server.  I spent 2 nights putting antivirus on 15 workstations and removing all sorts of internet porn.  Yes, Canadians love their internet porn.

We (my coworker and I) visited several places while there; talking with staff at restaurants and even a church we visited.  Everyone we talked to had the same line of questions.  How long you in for, what are you guys doing, where you staying at?

It’s when we got to this question that people seemed to offer the most colorful reaction.  You see, we were staying at a Holiday Inn Express, and although the hotel we were staying in was very nice, clean and tidy with friendly service it appears everyone was aware that around the Holiday Inn Express there were several murders that week.  How exciting!

Another memorable moment included a trip to the local mall and radio shack store to try and find a specialized part I needed for a piece of Cisco equipment.  This inadvertently led to a “battle of wits” with the Shack employee Doug.  Michael Jackson had just released a new video that was playing on all the screens, and hiding my USA identity I asked Doug how that particular video was selling.  He said it was great everyone loved it.  I replied “Yeah, but he isn’t as popular in America anymore.”

Shack employee Doug replied “Yeah but they are stupid people, they’ll buy anything right?  They just elected the terminator as a Senator…”

Now…I can take a friendly jab or poke in jest.  I cannot however take a full on assault to my country’s intelligence from Doug at the Canadian Radio Shack.

I opened my mouth.  “Ya see Doug, its true Americans buy lots of Crap.  But what we don’t purchase we send to you ice chimps up here to buy. As far as the Terminator, he was elected as Governor not a Senator.  Our system of Government allows something like that to happen.  By the way, you can have Alan Thicke back”

I left the store…they didn’t have my part anyway.

In the end the office was integrated and no lives were lost around the Holiday Inn Express Hotel that week.

But just barely.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Theocentricity and other places to visit while Free-Willin'

I firmly believe it you speak with a British accent you are automatically smarter than people who don’t.  Idiotic?  Maybe… But were the Wright Brothers idiots for owning a Bicycle shop?

Yes.  Yes they were.  If they spoke with English accents they would have figured out that plane thing so much earlier.

I heard a new word this week and thought it sounded super smart.  If I could force a British accent I would say it all day long, maybe as long as a fortnight.  What’s a fortnight?  I have these with my kids sometimes.  It involves building structures out of couch cushions then having small pirate or ninja battles for the evening. 

But the word I heard was Theocentric*.  How awesome is that word?    I bet it can power a whole city, like hyperdynamics.  OK, I just made that word up.  But Theocentric is a real word!  Honest…

It means centering on God as the Prime concern.  Now I know I have both Christians and non-Christians read my blog.  I love you all.  So if you don’t wish to read about God this week, tune in next week for my part 2 telling of my second trip to Canada.  It will not be as preachy because…well, God doesn’t like Canada.  Especially the French side.

Ok, if you are still reading… there are things as a Christian I often have wondered about.  Many, many times I hear from people in Christianity about praising God every day.  And worship him, don’t forget to worship.  And thank him; you need to thank him for everything he has done for you.

And I begin to think to myself, wow, God seems pretty insecure if he needs all that.  What type of all powerful being needs me to tell him how great he is?  I mean, doesn’t he already know?  Cool kids in school knew they were cool, no one had to tell them they were cool, that’s what made them cool.

I had spent a lot of time on this, because if you ask other Christians these questions, they look at you sometimes like you must not have been reading your bible to see how awesome God truly is.  I understand the awesomeness, but God needs to be told he is awesome?

Someone said to me “But Craig, don’t you like being told when you do a good job, or when given praise for something you have accomplished?”  Well, yeah, but I’m not God.  I have self awareness issues and some psychosis and flawed perception of myself.  I am pretty sure the Almighty does not suffer my personal faults.  He’s perfect right?

Why do I need to tell God how holy he is?  He knows that right?  Or how good?  Is he not aware of that either?

I refuse to accept the assertion that the Lord in Heaven needs me to tell him for his own personal benefit how extravagant everything he made is.  It makes no sense.  How can a divine being require praise from a human being?  That’s like a 4 year old telling a physics professor that the professor is really good at counting the apples that are in the flash card picture.  The praise is insufficient and irrelevant.

So, I started digging into it and the answer was not that hard to find.

To the shock of some, it appears human beings in general are selfish.  Now I know what you’re thinking….Craig give me back my lawnmower you have had it long enough.

Follow me on this though.  Self preservation is very intrinsic to who we are.  We as individuals must make sure our basic needs are met (I am not going all Maslow here on you I promise), before we are capable of meeting the needs of others.  And when we become families, our selfishness extends to those we love.  We guard and protect our own.  As a man, husband and father I make sure the day to day needs of my family are met.  If I lost my job and times got desperate there is no telling what lengths I would go to protect my family.  I’ve never been in that situation, but I could imagine I would make sure my wife and kids had what they needed.

I don’t think we are all that different.  And I think God probably knew this.  Or had some idea.  Maybe a manual or something.

I notice though in my “Thanking God for All I have” requirement it forces me to stop and think about, on a point by point macro level what I truly do have, and what I should be thankful for. 

And it makes me… thankful.

I see my wife, who I still have despite some health issues.  My kids, two of which we almost lost to us during or before childbirth due to complications.  A job, when unemployment is 10%.  The fact that I am not French-Canadian.

Immediately when I become thankful my attitude shifts to people who don’t have what I do because of loss or some other circumstance and it then motivates me to be more giving in general.  Being thankful generates contentment and makes me aware of others needs.

The “Be sure you Praise God for his Awesomeness and his Creation!” requirement forces me to stop looking at the mundane and look at the extraordinary.  I have caught myself sometimes, driving home from work, pulling in the driveway and although I drove home, not once did I take the time to notice a thing outside my windows besides what was immediately in front of me.  There are some people who post pictures on the internet and they capture stills of nature that are awe inspiring.  If you don’t take the time and force yourself to look at what is, you will fail to appreciate how small you really are.  Humans in their arrogance and all their shining achievements are dwarfed in comparison to a clear night sky.

Each one of the crazy requirements that I am told to do for God in the end doesn’t benefit God very much at all.  It just removes the focus off of me long enough for me to realize certain truths and realities that exist and that funny enough, God is pretty awesome.

Theocentric, centering on God as a prime concern, reveals more about my humanity and my place in this life rather than me, focusing on my needs, first. 

The Wright Brothers were famous, but they were also Christians.  They felt that studying God’s awe inspiring creation of birds and how they fly would lead them to the proper dynamics of propulsion and lift to take flight.  They left what they knew about flight and gliders and bike frames and saw something extraordinary.

*word provided by Yankee Biz: Poet, Muse and thinker of random accurate thoughts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If Life was an iPod

I never use the shuffle on my iPod. It makes absolutely no sense why I would want the songs to play out of the order I originally placed them in. I allow songs to illicit emotional responses from me when I need them. Some songs put me in a different state of mind, some for reading, some for being at the gym, some for listening to in the car.

All the songs I listen to have a special meaning. Who I was with when I heard it, or a time in my life that is associated with a certain brand of music. Kind of like Christmas Carols are for Christmas.

So it occurred to me, if I use that shuffle feature it would disjoint the events and responses that I am looking for at that specific time. I know what you’re thinking – Just make a play list Craig and select that to play THOSE songs. Well I would, but my iPod is old and doesn’t have that feature. Besides, I would rather hate to change it for another iPod when I love it so very much.

And that got me to thinking about how much we hate change. Most of the time you would expect to see change as something we look forward to and anticipate. But it’s not. Change is scary. One minute Roxette is telling you to listen to your heart and the next minute nSync is screaming bye bye baby. And you think to yourself how the crap did nSync get on here? Was that in my library? Was it in my wife’s? Who would do that to me? But you see it’s too late. Your rhythm is off and the plan that you had of having Shiny Toy Guns sing Major Tom to you is gone, and you are stuck. Even if you switch songs by now the fruity bubblegum pop sounds of a boy band are stuck in your cranium.

And there was nothing you could do about it. Sometimes life appears to be the same way in an oversimplified context. We all have plans that we want to stick to, they look great on paper. Then, life throws in John Tesh, and you are like…what the crap. There John Tesh is playing along, and even though he doesn’t mean any harm you listen and say, dude….you were a host next to Mary Hart, Where is my Entertainment Tonight?

Let me put it in another completely off the wall illustration from a fictional story that doesn’t matter much. In Lord of The Rings, after the Hobbits destroy the ring and make it back to the shire, something happens to the lead character Frodo. He’s changed by his journey. The events that occurred in his life had, well, changed his life from super death metal play list to Enya. He had changed, even though others around him had changed in their own way to, they didn’t grow how he had.

Let’s take a quick look at how that all went down shall we?


Farewell, my brave Hobbits. My work is now

finished. Here at last, on the shores of

the sea, comes the end of our Fellowship.


GANDALF (cont'd)

I will not say: "do not weep", for not all

tears are an evil.

GANDALF (cont'd)

It is time, Frodo.



What does he mean?



We set out to save the Shire, and it has

been saved ... but not for me . . .



You don't mean that - you can't leave.

SAM looks down . . . FRODO is holding BILBO'S RED

JOURNAL out towards him.


The last pages are for you, Sam.


FRODO hugs MERRY and PIPPIN, and last of all SAM . . . and

climbs on board the SHIP a look of WONDERMENT crosses his face . . . as


released from his pain, care falls from his face . . . he is

the young FRODO we first met so long ago.

SAM, MERRY and PIPPIN comfort each other as the WHITE SHIP

glides away from the DOCK ...

The WHITE BOAT sails away towards the HEADLANDS,

disappearing into the GOLDEN LIGHT of the SETTING SUN.

SAM in growing darkness, still follows the

departing SHIP with his eyes, MERRY and PIPPIN are already

preparing to leave.

SAM walks up the path towards his house . . .

A LITTLE GIRL toddles up to greet him.



He hugs his daughter . . .

FRODO Voice Over

My dear Sam. You cannot always be torn in

two. You have to be one and whole for many

years. You have so much enjoy and to be and

to do. Because Sam, your part in the

journey goes on.

ROSIE COTTON steps up and kisses SAM on the cheek

. . . she gives him a TINY BABY BOY to cradle.

SAM with his FAMILY . . . he draws a deep breath:


Well ... I'm back.

SAM looks at his LOVELY FAMILY with GREAT HAPPINESS, tinged

with a little SADNESS . . .

Frodo made a major life change, and it affected, well, everyone. But it mostly affected Sam. Sam had been with him the whole journey step for step.

People who walk so long together begin to build predictability in their steps. A huge change like this is often unaccounted for. And often unwelcome.

Our perception on friendships is that a constant effort must be made for the relationship to continue. In some cases this is true. I had two great friends in College. After I was married and had my first daughter, I lost contact with both of them and haven’t talked with either person for 12 years or so. These are people I walked on many journeys with in growing up and becoming a man. And they were both gone.

My perception on friends is now a bit different. Friendship is something that is at the same time both temporal and everlasting. I may not always have my friend near me, but I will always have the friendship.

And when they do leave, to quote a fictional Gandalf “I will not say: "do not weep", for not all tears are an evil.”

Sometimes, you are Fordo, sometimes you are Sam. And sometimes, John Tesh creeps in when you know CCR was up next.