Friday, February 20, 2009

The Interpretation of Dreams

I don't often have memorable dreams. Or, rather, I have such a lousy memory and as such don't remember what my brain was up to at night. But Wednesday night was different. And fear not, this is all G rated...

In my dream, we as a bishopric learned that some mega church in town was offering free health insurance to members of its congregation, and, for some reason, we wanted to find out more about this. So we set up appointments for each of us to meet with some of their big wigs to find out more.

However, in our desire to be efficient, we set separate appointments, and I was to meet with the #3 at this church, sort of the business head of the operation. I don't know who the other two members of the bishopric were meeting with; they vanished from the dream at this point.

After arriving at the high-rise where this church was headquartered, I waited in the lobby for my appointment. The fellow I met with was pretty dismissive of my inquiries about their program, and sent me packing hastily. So I sat in the lobby waiting for the others.

While I waited, I did what I typically do when I wait--I got out my PDA and tried to connect to a nearby wireless network to go online. (By the way, in my dream, my old Dell Axim was replaced by some fancy piece of equipment--I referred to it as "James Bond's PDA" when relating this dream to Summer yesterday.)

The network I connected to wound up being this church's network, and I suddenly found myself perusing their files. For some reason this seemed perfectly normal to me, and not at all ethically problematic. I found some files about this health insurance plan and exulted in my cleverness.

Until the guy I had met with earlier came storming out of his office and demanded to know what I was doing hacking into their secure network. I explained that I had connected unintentionally (but neglected to mention finding the files), and he took the device from my hand and tossed it to the ground. When it didn't break, he picked it up and threw it down again.

I picked up my PDA and walked out, a bit embarrassed, but mainly upset at this behavior. Walking to the parking lot, I found my car (in this dream I, ever the eco-friendly guy, drove a Smart Car) pushed up onto the sidewalk. Apparently throwing my handheld device on the ground wasn't enough for this bully, who had at some point gotten his heavies to move my car. So, I pushed my tiny car back on the pavement, got in, and drove off.

This dream raises several questions for me. Do I see other churches as competitors to ours? (I also saw a flyer in their headquarters for an upcoming lecture: "Destroying Mormonism From the Inside") Do I covet other people's fancy gadgets and fuel efficient cars? Do I secretly want to be a cyber-thief or spy of some sort? Do I empathize with the plight of the newly-unemployed and uninsured to the point that I want the church to investigate ways to provide insurance for them? Had I simply spent too much time at the meetinghouse Wednesday night? What would Freud say?

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again, Or, Another Nerdy Plan

Every year around this time I get two hankerings. The first is to go to baseball games. Winter is clearly on its way out; in just over a month I’ll be in Phoenix for a weekend of spring training baseball and general guy-bonding with dad and Nathan. And just next week UNM home games start, so I’m about ready to get my fix.

The second yen that I get is to buy stuff. You see, in early February we sit down and do our taxes and get all giddy about our return. The child tax credit is a wonderful thing. But this year, instead of wishing for a scooter, I have more practical plans.

So does Summer, who wants to start canning. We found a starter set, which comes with a 21-quart pot, jars, and various utensils, at Along the same lines, Summer and I did a search for home flour mills yesterday, finally agreeing that we like the products by Kitchen Resources.

My goals are nerdier. You see, here’s my dilemma. I’m very organized in my virtual spaces. My folders are well-arranged, my work blogs are humming nicely, I even upload and file documents well at scribd. But when I’m forced to use paper, I’m a mess. And church stuff typically involves lots of paper.

When I served as ward clerk, I would routinely take my laptop to meetings and keep notes there. But a full-size laptop is a bit unwieldy for a three-hour block with a host of unpredictable events and meetings. But the PDA, while portable, is not practical for taking a lot of notes, and the small screen and memory keep it from being completely versatile. So I’m considering (and have Summer’s blessing to buy) a netbook.

My plan is to tote the 2.3 lb piece (about the same size as a hardback book, and certainly smaller than the binder and folder I’m currently using) around, break it out to take notes and organize myself using my new favorite tool, Freemind. I can also load up my scriptures and other books and have access to an entire library.

The are definite drawbacks. I’d still be using a screen-based technology in a largely print-based world. And the resistance from the more retrograde members of the ward might sink the plan. But if I can get things done more consistently and effectively, it’s at least a try.

And since the low-end machines I’m looking at (like this Dell mini) are in the $300 range, it’s not a huge gamble. If I find after two weeks that the experiment is a failure, the netbook goes to the kids as a second at-home computer, or Summer and I can use it and the desktop to work simultaneously. I could leave my laptop at work more often and lug less stuff around (I dream of leaving for work and coming home again with nothing more than my PDA, iPod, and flash drive).

So, does anyone out there have experience with netbooks, or suggestions regarding especially good values? I want small—a 9” screen is the biggest I’d consider, and I even like the 7” ones I’ve seen. The idea of a linux-based machine is interesting, but I’m so embedded in Windows that I fear compatibility issues when I move files back and forth. And, since I’m famously cheap, I want to spend less than $350. Actually, I’d like to spend less than $250, but that’s not very likely.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Headline Idiocy

Actually, it's the sub-title. A commentary piece in today's local paper on the Michael Phelps marijuana photo (it's by Jo-Ann Barnas of the Detroit Free Press, if you want the citation) carried this title: "Young Fans Hurt By Phelps' Actions." Fine so far.

But here's the aformentioned sub-title: "Parents Now Must Talk to Their Kids." (In my most sarcastic voice) "Heaven forbid you have to talk to your kids. Oh no! What's next--spending time with them? Dear me!"

As an added bonus, the article included this line: "Parents of school-age swimmers know they must have yet another heart-to-heart with their children." (More sarcasm) "Not another heart-to-heart. That's two in the past 5 years. Oh my!"