July 29, 2008

We've moved

Some of you still have your feed readers and aggregators pointed here.  All of us Appian Way bloggers now have our own blogs and feeds.

I am now at clifguy.comMy feed is here.  I have recently blogged about our trip to LifeChurch to benchmark their Internet Campus.

Brian Slezak is now at officecurmudgeon.comHis feed is here.  He has recently done a series of posts about his mission trip to help Navajo people in New Mexico.

Chuck Russell is now at All But LoveHis feed is here. 

Leo Johns has many sites and blogs where he occasionally posts content.  His main site is leojohns.com.  He has lots of stuff there, but no menu to reach it.  You'll just have to guess!

Ian Beyer was never an Appian Way blogger, but I would be remiss if I didn't tell you his blog is at ianbeyer.comHis feed is here.

Please reconfigure your feed readers and aggregators accordingly.  Thanks for reading The Appian Way.  We look forward to continuing the conversation from our new homes.

June 11, 2008

The Curmudgeon Goes Live

I'm announcing today, keeping with the next evolution of our team blogging, I've released my own blog @ http://blog.theslezak.com/
You can read my release post.

Thanks all!

June 09, 2008

What's next for The Appian Way?

Today is the third anniversary of this blog, The Appian Way.  It began as an experiment.  Web 2.0 was new to me and my team at Resurrection.  We wanted to learn by doing.  We wanted to find out if this tool would have ministry value.  At first I mainly posted links to other things I read with a couple of sentences of commentary or questions.  The other members of our team posted too, but we quickly noticed that I was writing about 80-85% of the posts; the other three contributors posted the remaining 15-20%.

Over time the blog grew and changed.  It became less of a link blog and more personal.  Brian asserted that the Church (big "C") was failing, from his own struggles with finding a life-giving faith community.  Chuck shared his excitement at the launch of Resurrection WestI told you my wife lost her best friend to breast cancer

I also began to speak about major IT projects and initiatives at Resurrection.  For example, In a long series of posts I talked about our need for a better church management system and then I chronicled our project to select and implement one.  I shared both successes and failures.

And then there were the RoundTables: first South Bend, then Houston, then Kansas City, and finally Oklahoma City.

Over the last few months it became clear that this group blog needed to give way to individual blogs.  Chuck broke away with separate blogs for his trip to Israel and the Methodist General ConferenceIan had his own blogLeo stopped posting long ago.  And I was posting all kinds of stuff that had nothing to do with church IT or our team.

At the same time, Matt was pushing me hard to purchase clifguy.com.  It has been available for years and he couldn't believe I hadn't snapped it up.  Acceding to his pressure, I made the purchase, at which point the end of The Appian Way was only a matter of time.

The final piece was Ian setting up a WordPress MU server at our new data center.  I had the domain.  I had the software on a server we control.  The anniversary of this blog seemed like the perfect milestone.  (Brian and Ian are also in the process of setting up blogs on the new server.)

And so I give you my new blog, Clif Guy all the time at clifguy.com. 

Clif Guy All the Time

Subscribe here.

I'll post in both places for a little bit until I see that most of you have subscribed to the new feed.

I still love the slogan of The Appian Way:  "The Web is the new 'Appian Way' - a technology for spreading the gospel throughout the world - and we get to be some of the builders. How cool is that?"  At clifguy.com I will continue to talk about technology and the gospel.  Please join me there for the next adventure.

May 31, 2008

Our new web home

Our Resurrection web sites are currently hosted on a pair of dedicated servers at Vine Hosting in Philadelphia.  (Vine Hosting is affiliated with Web Empowered Church, which has received major funding from the Methodist Foundation for Evangelism.)  Vine Hosting's data center is colocated with XO Communications in a massive carrier hotel at 401 N. Broad.  From there they have direct access to bandwidth from XO, Verizon, Level 3, and Internap.  This is a true, world-class data center facility.  I don't recall having a single outage or service interruption with Vine since they moved into the carrier hotel. 

Through our time with Vine Hosting, Glenn Kelley, its founder and high-energy leader, has become a trusted friend and partner in ministry.  No one is more passionate about sharing the gospel through the use of technology than Glenn.

So why are we moving?

Before I settled on Vine in 2005, I did an exhaustive search of hosting facilities in Kansas City.  I found a couple of decent ones, but nothing at the level I was seeking.  So we eventually hooked up with Vine and the ensuing partnership has been excellent as I mentioned.

Three years later, the situation has changed.  Kansas City now has a world-class carrier hotel of its own.  The 70 year-old, 26 story Bryant Building at 1102 Grand sits right on AFS's KC metro fiber ring.  All of the major telecom companies in KC are connected to the metro fiber ring and all of them except Sprint have a presence in 1102 Grand.  Fiber comes into the building via diverse underground vaults.  The building gets power from two separate KCP&L substations, has a 2 MW diesel generator in the basement, and provides centralized UPS power for those tenants that want it.  To keep everything cool, the building has 1100 tons of cooling.  Physical security is provided by card and code access and monitored video surveillance.


Ian and I got a tour in March and knew right away we were seeing something special.  Our wheels began turning.  We immediately recognized the potential for 1102 Grand to be the hub of a regional network connecting all of our church facilities.  We already have staff located in Leawood, Overland Park, and Olathe.  Our next campus will be in downtown KC, just two blocks from 1102 Grand.  We have land in Cass County for a retreat center.  And we're beginning to dream about a campus several miles south of our Leawood location.  Over the next few years we will need to come up with an elegant, cost-effective way to connect all of these locations.

Next, we thought about 1102 Grand as a potential disaster recovery site.  Business interruption/disaster recovery planning has been on my radar since I joined the staff in 2003.  Each year we have made incremental improvements in our DR posture.  For example, we now use Iron Mountain for offsite backup tape storage.  But I could never find an affordable, nearby DR site.  Until now.

The more we thought about it, this opportunity was simply too compelling to pass up even though we are extremely happy with Vine Hosting.

Move in

Yesterday we moved in.  Below is Ian setting up his web cam before starting the install.  The cage behind him is part of the carrier-neutral Meet Me room operated by the building owner where tenants, including carriers, ISPs and end users like us, connect with each other.  Our provider is KCNAP.  They have a patch panel in the Meet Me room.  From there it's just a short cat 5 cable drop into our cabinet.  We have the bottom third of the cabinet in the background (they charge less for the bottom third and we're very price-sensitive!).

Ian preparing for install

Below is the front of our cabinet.  Note the broom in Ian's hand to sweep out the dust and debris from the floor before installing any equipment.

Resurrection's cabinet

Below is the back of our cabinet.  A 3U-tall power distribution/fan unit is at the top.  Fully redundant power (two city power grids, diesel generator, and UPS) comes into the cabinet in the outlet box at the left.

Resurrection's cabinet

Below is what it looked like after physically installing the four 1U servers, network switch, KVM switch, and a flat-panel monitor.  The rack rails we got from Dell won't work in this cabinet, so we'll have to get the right ones in order to permanently install the Dells.  You can see them temporarily sitting on top of an Appro server donated to us by Tradebot Systems.  Note the jack hanging down in the upper right corner of the picture.  That's the drop from KCNAP.  They are multihomed to multiple tier 1 providers via BGP.

Resurrection's cabinet with servers installed

We have some high-quality Cat 6 patch cords that are too short for our data center on campus so we brought them along.  Too short for our main data center and too long for this cabinet!  So Ian did what all good techs do: he broke out the tie wraps!

Resurrection's cabinet with servers and interconnect cables

Although the physical installation went very smoothly (except the Dell rack rails), we had to leave yesterday afternoon before we could establish network connectivity.  Ian was having trouble with the pfSense firewall/router he configured.

We have until the end of June to move all of our existing sites and services from Vine into the new data center. We're very excited about the new capability this represents for us.

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May 29, 2008

Not keeping up with the price of gas

I bought gas at the Phillips 66 station in Parkville last night.  The van tank holds approximately 23 gallons and it was nearly empty.  Price was $3.799, so that's an $85 fill up.  Towards the end of the fill up, I noticed the flow slow and then stop exactly on $75. Apparently the pump had authorized my card for $75 and it wouldn't allow me to pump any more.  I had to complete that transaction and then initiate a second one to pump the last $10.

At $2/gal, $75 would fill any tank except the largest commercial vehicles.  At $3.799, $75 won't fill an ordinary Ford Freestar.  You think they should change the pump software to authorize a higher amount?

May 23, 2008

Plan the celebration too

The next time you have a large project that takes months to plan and execute, be sure to plan the celebration too. For the Arena implementation project we recently completed, we planned two celebration events.

First, we invited all staff to an ice cream social in the Student Center on the afternoon of go live. We took Shelby down starting at noon. At 2:30 pm we brought Shelby back up (now in a limited role), turned on Arena for all staff, and started the party. At the party we used the Internet cafe computers for staff to log in and try a few simple things in Arena. The timing turned out to be really cool. By having the party exactly as the system was going live, we weren't buried in help desk calls and it was too soon for anyone to have had a negative experience. Bonus!

For the two weeks immediately after go-live, we beefed up our help desk by increasing the hours of our contractors, Philip and Leo. This allowed us to have a "dispatcher" physically at the help desk at all times to take calls, e-mails, and work orders.

When this period was over, we had a second celebration. This time it was just the IT Department (Ian's daughters crashed the party). Six months ago Brian moved to a house just 3 miles from the church. We decided to seize the opportunity to invite ourselves over to sit on his back deck and just relax. We all brought something to put on the barbecue grill. God provided a spectacular spring day and a good time was had by all. Here are a few pictures.




Yours truly










Philip and Jeremy

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May 20, 2008

Fall RoundTable, yeah baby!


Attention all church IT people.  The Fall 2008 Church IT RoundTable will be hosted by Trace Pupke at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (Charleston area) October 8-10!

Seacoast is among the largest, fastest growing, and most innovative churches in the country. Don't miss the opportunity to see and learn about this awesome church while connecting with your fellow church IT people.

I will be there along with Brian and Jeremy from my team at ResurrectionI strongly urge you to join us in Charleston to meet a bunch of amazing people and find out if this for you.  We learn a lot from each other and, more importantly, we draw inspiration from each other.  To understand what I mean by that, read my posts after the Fall 2007 RoundTable and the Spring 2008 RoundTable.

Trace has set up a separate blog just for the Fall 2008 CITRT. Check it out here and subscribe to the feed in order to keep up to date with all the details as they come out.

I'm jazzed!  Are you?

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May 19, 2008

IDF rewiring project

We've been working with our Facilities Dept. since March on a new office suite for our pastors of caring ministries who handle the traditional "pastoral" functions such as sacraments, weddings, funerals, hospital visits, counseling, and worship leadership.  Over the last 5 years this group outgrew one office and spilled over into two additional offices in separate parts of the building.  We hired a contractor to come in and remodel a set of classrooms into an office suite large enough to consolidate all three groups of staff. 

The part of the building where the new suite is located is served by IDF 2E. Like the other IDFs in the older East Bldg., 2E was originally wired by well-meaning volunteers who had no concept of professional cable installation.  Everything was a tangled, unlabeled, undocumented mess.  There was a wall-mounted half rack for the data patch panel and a traditional telecom mounting board with a 66 block for the voice.  There was no way to expand the existing design to accommodate the additional 40+ voice/data pairs for the new suite.  Plus, the long-term plan is to convert that entire wing of the building from classrooms into offices.  So it made sense to completely rebuild the IDF to make it neat, well-documented, and expandable.

The electrical contractor for the new wing installed all the jacks and pulled the new cable to the IDF.  They installed a standard 2-post rack and dropped the cable through the ceiling in a pair of large sleeves.

Unfortunately, I didn't think of taking pictures until halfway through the project.  Here is a typical tangle of four different colors of existing voice wires in the ceiling above the IDF.  This is actually much better than it started because by the time I took this we had already cleaned up all the data cables.


Here is Ian working on the new rack.  All of the old data lines have been moved and he is almost finished with the new data lines.  You can see the fiber tray at the top, a rack-mounted power strip, two HP 2650 switches, and four rows of patch panels.  All the new cabling is Commscope UltraMedia Cat 6 - blue for data and white for voice.  The unterminated bundle of white voice lines is at the right.


We used the beautiful (but expensive) Panduit Cat 6 RJ45 jacks and their companion patch panels.  You can see how Ian had carefully labeled each wire with the new numbering scheme we will use throughout the wing served by this IDF.


The Panduit patch panel allows you to connect a jack to each wire separately and then snap the jacks into plastic brackets holding 4 jacks each.


This is the almost finished rack.  All of the new voice lines have been terminated.  We still need to move all of the old voice lines.  Notice the really cool floor plan pinned to the wall showing every jack location and its number.



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May 16, 2008

Bill Hybels breakfast

Yesterday was one of those days when I pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming that I'm on staff at Church of the Resurrection.

We had 300+ church leaders from 70 area churches in to hear Bill Hybels and to promote the upcoming Leadership Summit.  After a delicious hot breakfast, our senior pastor, Adam Hamilton, introduced Bill who gave a great talk on the Reveal study and the implications for every church.  Can't wait for Leadership Summit 2008!

My friend, Mark Baltzley, who earns his living taking pictures, brought his camera along and took more than 160 shots.  Here are a few of my favorites.  (All are copyright 2008, Mark Baltzley Photography and Design.)

Adam Hamilton at Bill Hybels breakfast

Bill Hybels in the Resurrection Student Center

Bill and his 4 circles

Bill Hybels in front of white board

Bill Hybels

May 09, 2008

Arena communications plan

Subtitle: "Another lesson in how difficult it is to communicate effectively"

Regular readers of this blog know that Church of the Resurrection went live on the Arena church management system earlier this week.  Travis (the project manager) and I knew that frequent and effective communication would be critical for the success of such a large project impacting all staff.  We developed and executed what I think is a model plan not only for selecting and implementing a church management system, but also for keeping the staff informed throughout the process.  The below outline shows the many ways, times, and occasions on which we communicated to large numbers of staff regarding the project and the status.

  • 8/23/07 - Project kick-off meeting.  Key staff from every department present.  All executive management present and supportive.
  • 8/24 - 9/21/07 - Requirements gathering meetings held with each department.
  • 9/6/07 - Project overview presentation at quarterly all staff lunch meeting.
  • 11/15/07 - Selection of Arena announced in Staff Chapel and subsequent all staff e-mail.
  • 1/10/08 - Implementation kick-off meeting.  All staff invited.  Arena demonstrated.  Go live date of 5/6/08 announced.
  • 1/29 - 2/14/08 - Arena functionality and design review meetings held with each department.
  • 2/7/08 - Arena demo presentation at quarterly all staff lunch meeting.  Go live date of 5/6/08 announced.
  • 3/13/08 - Arena training plan announced at monthly senior staff meeting. 50 training classes to be held over a 5-week period immediately prior to go-live.
  • 3/21/08 - All staff e-mail stating that all Shelby users need to take Arena training, with a link to review class schedules and sign up.
  • 3/17 - 4/28/08 - Once per week all staff announcement promoting Arena with reminders about training classes and go live date.
  • 4/10/08 - Staff Chapel and all staff e-mail announcement reminding people to sign up for training.
  • 5/1/08 - Staff Chapel and all staff e-mail announcement about the scheduled Shelby outage, Arena go-live, and go-live party on 5/6/08.
  • 5/6/08 - All staff e-mail announcement that Arena is live.  First sentence of second paragraph: "Starting now, you will use Shelby only for Financials, Check-in, and Contributions (Check-in and Contributions will be moved to Arena later this year)."

Looks like a solid plan, huh?  Help desk ticket received this afternoon:

I am not able to access ShelbyEZ. I don't know if I have forgotten my login name and password or what? I think it use to automatically connect..? Could you please let me know what my information is to access it? Thanks.

In response I sent the following e-mail to this person's supervisor:

Apparently after 9+ months of heavy communication about the Next Generation Church Management System and Arena, [this manager-level staff person] still isn’t aware that we aren’t using Shelby any more. 

What lessons do you draw from this?

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May 08, 2008

Chris Randolph joins the BBQ tour


Chris Randolph, lead support tech for Arena joined us yesterday and today for the immediate post go-live support period.  In accordance with our Shelby-Resurrection tradition, we had to take him for barbecue.  (We also had to memorialize it with the traditional bad cell phone picture taken by a well-meaning waitress with an unsteady hand!)  This time it was the original Jack Stack in Martin City.  Those of you who came to the Fall 2007 Church IT RoundTable will remember Jack Stack from our Wednesday night banquet.  Good stuff, even for Memphis boy Chris.

This Arena thing has been cool.  Every time we meet with one of their team, we eat meat.  When we think about Arena, we start salivating.  Pavlov's dog had nothing on us.

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May 07, 2008

Breakfast with Bill Hybels

Calling all my KC-area church IT homies. 


Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, will be here at Resurrection next Thursday morning, May 15, for a breakfast meeting to talk about leadership and promote the Willow Creek Leadership Summit coming up in August. 

All church IT leaders are invited to come to the breakfast as my guest.  Please drop me a comment, an e-mail to clif dot guy at cor dot org, or a tweet.  I have to turn in a count for the breakfast by Tuesday morning, May 13.  Help a brotha out - I am required to have at least one guest or I can't go myself!

May 06, 2008

Arena go-live party


Jason Gant, Director of Student Ministries (youth pastor) picks his toppings


Brent Messick, Managing Executive Director of Operations (my boss)


Debi Nixon, Executive Director of Adult Discipleship is EXCITED!


Specially trained "Arena Facilitators" each received a fuzzy monkey to make it easy for their fellow staff to identify them


Andrew Conard, Congregational Care Pastor (aka "Nerd Pastor") gives Arena the thumbs up


 Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, gets his first chance to use Arena

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Arena go-live

Today is the day we go live on Arena.  We've been planning and preparing for this day since August 2007, which is 9+ months.  To track our progress, check out:

Arena go-live war room

Time line starting now:

  • Shelby V5 goes down
  • Backup V5 database
  • Change permissions in V5 to limit what users can do in V5 so they will be required to use Arena
  • Install 2-way triggers
  • Start Arena agents
  • Test
  • Shelby V5 comes back up
  • Arena is live
  • Ice cream party to celebrate Arena go-live
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May 05, 2008

Next stop on the Shelby-Resurrection BBQ Tour

Ben Lane from Shelby is here for our Arena go-live tomorrow. Continuing our long-standing tradition, we had KC barbecue for lunch. Despite the crude and blurry cell phone pictures, I think you can get an idea of the experience. Yum!

President's Platter from Gates


L to R: Linda Ronsick (data quality), Ian Beyer (cyberentomology), Matt Bradshaw (bit shepherd), Ben Lane (disc golf connoisseur and Arena trainer), Leo Johns (consultant, pro keyboard player, amateur disc golfer), Travis Morgan (MBA and disc golfer), Doug Blackwood (uber volunteer), Jeremy Grabrian (a man confident enough to wear shorts), Brian Slezak (curmudgeon)

Ian and Matt are carrying boxes of leftovers. Yes, we had so much food that even with 10 people eating we couldn't finish it. God provided abundantly for us.

Go live is tomorrow. I hope we're ready!

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May 02, 2008

How to bring your powerful database server to its knees

Don't let the mild-mannered appearance of this group fool you.



We're in our last day of Arena training before go live on Tuesday next week. Chuck is teaching the Report Builder in SQL Reporting Services.  With these eager students, his first exercise was to simply select first and last name and then run the report.  This resulted in 9 simultaneous attempts to report all 60,000 people in our database.  It soon became clear we had a problem.

We're running SQL Server in an ESX guest VM.  This has been our configuration for 9 months with no issues.  The CPU on the host Dell 2950 server (total of 8 cores) spiked for a minute or two but then settled back down.  Yet the server was still whimpering in the corner.  No one could do anything.  We had a class full of students trying to use a server that was dead for all practical purposes.

Turns out SQL Server itself was okay.  IIS (running on the same ESX guest VM with SQL Server) was gulping enormous slurps of RAM to generate the multiple thousand-page reports.  Windows responded by trying to expand its page file.  Under ESX, this is not a good scenario.  We had an unscheduled outage on our main database server in the middle of the work day.  Clif not happy.  The good thing is, you add RAM to a guest VM with just a few mouse clicks and a reboot, which Ian did.  After a 20 minute delay, the class resumed.  From then on, Chuck made sure to run the examples himself with everyone else just watching.

With the number of guest VMs we have running on that host, Ian thinks we need to add to the 16 GB of physical RAM we already have on that box.  This is why IT is so FUN!

April 27, 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour - Day 2

In my previous post, I described my experience and opinions on day one of the Everything Must Change Tour that took place on Friday evening. Saturday morning, the conference began again at 7:29 am. I have to say that is really early to get postmoderns out of bed, but plenty were awake enough for good conversation. The morning started with break-outs, and we attended McLaren's session on church plants. It was essentially just a gathering of people involved in church plants, young churches, or those trying to do something new in established churches. We sat in a circle of chairs and people commiserated about the difficulty of those tasks.

My wife and I connected with trying to do something new in established churches. Most people talked about how the old guard would work against them, and in some extreme cases just kick them out of the church. McLaren led the discussion and would interject his experience where appropriate. The conversation followed natural peaks and ebbs, and everyone seemed comfortable to participate. My wife and I agreed later that this was by far the best part of the event.

We talked about what "church" meant and how that differed from traditional ideas and the difficulty in reaching the unchurched. Brian used a phrase that stuck in my mind, "Leadership By Anxiety," to describe using the natural energy around an idea to push through making a change. It reminded me of Adam Hamiton's "Decision by Nausea" concept, which he uses to discern which of many paths he should to choose. The path that God leads you down is often the most challenging, and frightening.

Over all it was good, but here is my constructive criticism: The buzzword "narrative" was used quite a bit through the discussion. I don't understand why we as people take simple things and make them complex in order to feel more enlightened. Other than that minor criticism, the only unsettling thing about the discussion was a strange quietness about what to call what they were doing. People used phrases like, "where we are", "what we are doing here," "how we were led to this." To be honest, it made me feel like I didn't really know what was going on, like I was sitting in some sort of cult-ish or secretive meeting. Kind of weird.

Other than the morning discussion we had a morning of worship. The songs were chanted, and very meditative. So much so we almost fell asleep. After we finished, we had to leave early to attend our nieces birthday party.

Overall, still just ok. Swag was good. :-/

April 25, 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour - Day 1

This evening I attended the Everything Must Change Tour, presented (I supposed), by Deep Shift. I live-tweeted the event, if that's what you call it, which was my first attempt at using Twitter. It was very one-directional, as I did it through my cell phone and didn't have device updates on. New guy - my bad.

I registered for the event late last year after hearing of it somehow. My wife and I had heard Brian McLaren speak at one other occasion, knew he was associated with this, so we signed up. It wasn't cheap - $75+ per person at early bird price, but if you got in on the early bird deal you got a copy of Everything Must Change, one of McLaren's books. Oh, and it ended up you got a compact fluorescent after showing up. "Yeah. Check out my totally enviro-friendly bling, yo. 1200 lumens for only 20 watts dawg." So you got swag for $75. Not all bad.

I had a creepy feeling about the event from the time I registered though because of some of the language surround the event. To be perfectly blunt, it felt very bleeding-heart, tree-hugger, all we need is love ... ish. Oh well, at the very least it'll be a good experience for my wife and I. This feeling was intensified after getting to our seats and thumbing through the handouts. Let me extend this feeling to you by way of quoting some of the material:

".... Therefore we will practice 'listening one another into free speech,' 'building bridges of empathy,' 'creating safe spaces,' and other strategies of revolutionary communication."

" When I see or hear ___ I feel ___, because my need for ___ is/is not being met. Would you be willing to ___."

"When you said ___, I felt ___. Can you understand why I would feel that way?"

A short commentary: Umm - Wow. 1. Revolutionary? Really? Seriously? 2. I'm building my bridge of empathy to solitude, and I don't care where your bridge goes. 3. If I "felt" that much all the time, I'd be in therapy, or I'd be a woman. (I do not mean any offense to women, I am just a guy that's all. But if that made you feel ___ because it was ___, I would suggest ___. No ___ intended.)

During one of the discussion times, I met Al. Al asked me what I thought of this so far. (Thus far we had experienced good music, a Sierra Club video, and some speaking by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw.) I admitted I had little expectation, not doing any research about it beforehand, but felt "like it was a bunch of liberal stuff." Al gave me a concerned look, a nod, and agreed.

Brian McLaren spoke. He's a good presenter, and a good speaker, so you can't go too wrong. One thing I like about Brian is that he loves circles. Two dimensional circles. The man can explain anything he needs using circles, usually three or four ... and maybe a box. I didn't agree with everything he said, but that was ok because I wasn't supposed to. He told us that before he started, and I happened to agree with him about that, and some other things too.

We broke into another discussion time to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and Al turns around to me and states, "Yeah, I'm afraid you were right. He is off base, and just wrong about ...." Unfortunately, Al and I were on the same page. This wasn't the McLaren we knew, and to my initial concern; McLaren was veering hard left toward the target audience.

Overall, the evening was OK. The music was great, McLaren wasn't at his best, and the evening was much like a sub-standard worship service. If I didn't get books and swag, I would have been very disappointed. My wife tolerated it. That is to say she didn't go postal on me, but sternly said I owe her something in return that is better than ice cream. She and I agreed that the time progressed much like a mainline worship service. Singing, greeting, prayer, shake some hands, singing, listen to preaching, prayer, singing, benediction. There was more discussion thrown in than usual. Oh - we did miss communion, but it wasn't the first weekend of the month. ;)

It may sound like I'm vehemently against the left, but I am really not. I have some liberal views that get me chastised, and I'm fine with that. I just take the extreme left less seriously. You kind of have to, because when they state in the materials that Brian will intentionally avoiding using male pronouns when referring to God because the bible reflects God in feminine images as well as masculine; you have to call that out. At what point were all those "He" references misleading? Did I miss it when Jesus pulled out, "whoops, I meant Mother, not Father. My bad."

Regardless, we're attending tomorrow's morning session as well, and Pania (that's my wife) is even going with me when I expected her to bail. If tomorrow is blog-worthy, I'll post about my experience.

April 21, 2008

I'm giving up on iTunes and QuickTime

The continual new versions and annoying nags to upgrade took their toll.  With every upgrade I got unwanted desktop, quick launch, and tray icons that I had to delete.  The way Firefox interacted with iTunes to play MP3 files was way lame too.  Then Apple's attempt to push out Safari via the iTunes updater was the last straw.  My only use for iTunes was as a podcatcher.  It's a very good podcatcher, no argument, but I just couldn't stand the constant fooling with it.  So now I'm using Juice to download podcasts and the way cool K-Lite Codec Pack with Windows Media Player. 

All of you with iPods and iPhones, I know this doesn't apply to you.  But what about everyone else?  Are you as tired of iTunes/QuickTime as I am?

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April 20, 2008

MinistryTECH/RoundTable wrap-up and reflections

Hard to believe it's been two weeks since the end of MinistryTECH and the CITRT. I still haven't written the wrap-up post I intended to write the day I got back.  Real life stuff has intruded on my blogging time!

The Church IT RoundTable is just, simply, the coolest thing.  I always come away charged up for another season of ministry.  Why was this week so special?  Here are four main reasons:

1. The pace and variety of the week was terrific.  I enjoyed the drive down on Tuesday afternoon with Ian and Matt.  Our timing was perfect when we picked up Jason and Jeremie from the airport, followed by warm conversation over steak.  Staying at the unofficial conference hotel enhanced the experience as the geekfest continued in various rooms each evening.  We clobbered the poor WiFi, resorted to EVDO, and clobbered that too!  We had the joy of greeting old friends throughout the day on Wednesday as people arrived in OKC and joined the church tours (which I loved - thanks Terrell!).  I liked the combination of general sessions and breakouts Terrell planned for MinistryTECH on Thursday and Friday and met some new people there.  The RoundTable itself was awesome, as always (see notes below).  For dinner on Saturday we enjoyed Buffalo Wild Wings and an important strategic discussion about leading the CITRT, followed by the KU win in the NCAA tournament (sorry Justin).  Sunday morning it was worship at LifeChurch Edmond and then a safe drive home.  The totality of the experience from Tuesday through Sunday was [insert superlative here].

2. That much geek power concentrated in one place is huge fun.  Ian's parrot-cam (mentioned here and here) is a great example.  I'm old now and more of a manager-geek and leader-geek and less of a geek-geek.  So being around all of the creative energy of the real geeks is reinvigorating for me.  Let's make sure that we continue to push the boundaries of technology when we get together.  It's a vital part of our culture.

3. My fellow church IT people inspire me.  I said it at the end of my talk and I'll say it again here.  Ask anyone on my team about the mood I was in when I got back to the office.  I was glowing like Moses.

4. God has been working on me for a couple of months, pushing me to take my leadership up to the next level.  The week of MinistryTECH and CITRT was a time when that next step came into clearer view.  Many factors came together to make that possible, including some one-on-one time with a close peer.  Thanks.  You know who you are.

Day 5-6 notes:

1. Many, many thanks to Michael Foster for hosting the RoundTable at Crossings.  Everything was excellent, including a spectacular fried chicken lunch and conversation with Sunny and others about the challenges of Internet Campus in the Methodist system. 

2. At Crossings I got 4424 kb/s down, 484 kb/s up, which is good, but when 50+ IT people descend with their laptops on your network, things get hairy in a hurry.  It gets even crazier when you throw video into the mix.  I am volunteering to lead a network design team for the Fall 2008 RoundTable at Seacoast Church.  It will be made up of network people from each of the churches that have hosted the RoundTable so far.  I figure we owe Trace our experience because none of us has the ability to simulate the load and test it in advance.

3. Enjoyed the Sunday 8:30 AM service at LifeChurch Edmond before driving back to KC.  Particularly awesome was the band's offering of Charlie Hall's The Solid Rock.  That will get you pumped up in the morning!

4. As promised, I finally uploaded the PowerPoint slides of my talk, "Users or Customers?"

5. Speaking of promises, did Tony Morgan ever make good on his hullabaloo promise?

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April 18, 2008

Free upgrade to Turbo

Those of you following me on Twitter know that my wife got a call at home Wednesday afternoon from Time Warner with the news that we were getting a free upgrade to Road Runner Turbo service, which is nominally 15 Mb/s down and 1 Mb/s up.  Most of you are thinking, "sweet!"  Very shortly after they called Laura, she called me to say that our Internet service was down.  My first thought was, "idiots!" 

You see, we still had our very first cable modem.  I can't remember exactly when we got it, but 10 years ago is a pretty good bet.  It's the classic 3Com "Shark Fin" modem.

IMG_1764-web IMG_1763-web

This surprise call on a Wednesday afternoon, while not entirely unwelcome, necessitated an unplanned trip to the Time Warner store to get a new modem.  They issued me this shiny Scientific Atlanta (division of Cisco) model.


Upon installation, I was disappointed in the speed: 5,262 down/975 up - doubling the upload speed but only 20% faster down than I got on my Shark Fin pre-Turbo.  I tried a number of things that didn't have any effect.  Then it occurred to me: my equally classic, also 10 year-old, Linksys BEFSR41 router (also a division of Cisco - heh) might not be able to go any faster than 5 Mb/s. 


Sure enough, when I plugged my laptop directly into the new cable modem, I got a smokin' 14,299 down/979 up

So what to do?  I have a very recent model D-Link DIR-655 Wi-Fi router that I've been running in access point mode because my cable modem and home network patch panel is in the basement and I wanted my access point in my office on the 2nd floor.


Last night I decided, despite it not being optimal to have my Wi-Fi AP in the basement, to replace the classic Linksys with the new D-Link.  Sure enough, it handled Turbo speed, no problem: 14,423 down/982 up - hard wired, that is.  When wireless, even with the laptop right next to the router, I got 5-10 Mb/s down.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Though I'm grateful for the faster speed at no extra charge, an interruption like this can take you off down a rabbit trail.
  • Unintended consequences: Time Warner changes their service bundling and decides to upgrade me at no extra charge (good), taking my service down (bad), resulting in a trip to the cable store (bad), installation and troubleshooting (bad), network reconfiguration (bad), and ultimately a 3-4 times faster download speed and 2 times faster upload speed for all users at my house (good).
  • I've upgraded my computers 3-4 times in the last 10 years, while my basic Internet connection infrastructure stayed the same.  No more.  With the advent of these very high speed circuits to homes and businesses, your router and/or wireless connection can now be the limiting factor in download speed.
  • At least for download, WAN speed is now approaching LAN speed in many common applications.  We've already seen the leading edge of the disruption this will cause.

April 17, 2008

Apple II nostalgia

Justin Moore writes:


Wasn't it you in one night at a restaurant in Kansas City last fall telling those at your table about how you used to create graphics in assembly on old Apple's? For some reason I'm thinking it was, so I immediately thought of you when I saw this video.

Even if that wasn't you, I think you'll appreciate the geekiness of the clip...

Yes, Justin, that was me.  Here's the story.

The Apple II did nothing out of the box except flash that lonely cursor.  It was 1979 and we had one computer in a high school of 1,800 students (Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, IA).  There wasn't a single teacher who knew anything about it so it represented a great challenge and opportunity for discovery.  There was one other guy, Mark, geeky enough to stay after school every day with me and play with the computer until the teacher kicked us out of the room so he could lock up and go home. 

Our first idea for something to do with the graphics mode was to draw our school logo.  That took some doing because the pixels were not mapped into memory sequentially from top left to bottom right.  Steve Wozniak had simplified his graphics chip design by laying out the memory to follow the interlace scheme of NTSC video.  Steve was famous for building ingenious, brilliantly simple hardware that made the software more complex.  So, with a lot of trial and error and many re-reads of the Apple manual, we eventually were able to turn on the right pixels to form the ALHS logo.

Our next idea was to print the logo.  We had a 4-pin dot-matrix printer.  Consulting the printer manual, we wrote a BASIC program that would print whatever was on the screen, with each pixel on the screen becoming a dot on the page.  Again this was tricky because we had to convert from the video interlace pattern in memory to four vertical dots for each pass of the print head.  We eventually got it work but it took more than 30 minutes to print one screen because it would print a pass and then think a long time before printing the next pass, doing just four rows of pixels on each pass.  

To speed it up, Mark and I taught ourselves 6502 machine language.  With nothing more than a 6502 programming card, paper, pencil, and a well-used eraser, we wrote a program that would print the screen and then we hand assembled it into a series of 8-bit codes like the program you saw loading at the start of the video.  (We didn't even have an assembler, for crying out loud!)  That program would print the screen as fast as the printer would go, finishing a page in under a minute. 

Looking back, it's hard to believe how creative, resourceful, and self-motivated we were to do things like that as high school students with no one there to teach us.  Good times.  Thanks for taking me back, Justin.

April 14, 2008

Arena end user training

We began end user training on Arena today as we hurtle towards go live on May 6.  Since we need to train 130 people and our class size is limited to 8 students, we'll be training all day Monday through Friday for the next thee weeks.  Jeremy and Leo are sharing the teaching load.  Here are some pictures from the 2nd class of the day today.  That's Leo in the front, just as he's wrapping up the class.

Arena Basic class Arena Basic class

Leo and Jeremy are trying to build excitement about Arena and have some fun with the end of Shelby V5.  To that end, Leo made the following (awful) trophy that's sitting on a table in the training room.  Note the Arena gorilla choking the Shelby chicken and the slogan at the bottom: "Chicken chokin' fast!!"

Leo's Arena trophy

Not sure what that means.  Maybe Leo can explain it?

April 10, 2008

Adam Hamilton: Hero

I knew Adam was special but it wasn't until I read one of the chapters in his new book that I realized he had been truly heroic. During the 2000 General Conference debate over homosexuality a woman Jumped up onto the balcony of the arena and started crying and shouting at the delegates. A friend of mine was down in the Texas Delegation as one of the people who were trying to figure out how to catch her if she Jumped, Up Top people kind of looked at each other and finally some people took action and went and pulled her down before she jumped or fell. I was probably two sections over from where she stood and all of us were just stunned. Turns out Adam was one of the few people who actually took action rather than just looking around dumbfounded. Here is a picture of Adam in action. Its weird to know I was in the same place as Adam long before I even knew of the Church of the Resurrection or Adam's ministry.


April 05, 2008

CITRT: Internet Campus - Terry Storch

Terry Storch, LifeChurch.tv

Volunteers: Vols are involved in every aspect of Internet Campus: technology, greeting, communications, counseling, missions, etc.

Giving:  They have a way to permit people to donate without having an online account.  Done via PayPal.  They're working on better UIs for online giving.  Difficult to design a system that works equally well for physical campuses and online campuses.  Made a change that increased physical campus giving 20% but decreased online giving 60%.  That was a bad day for Terry.

Sacraments: They taught on sacraments in a sermon series and lead IC congregants through the process of communion.

CITRT: Laptops, laptops, everwhere!

The Church IT RoundTable Spring 2008 is underway.  One of the really cool things at every RoundTable is the sea of laptops.  Thanks to Michael Foster of Crossings for hosting and providing the power and bandwidth.  We know we KILL the WAN link when we get together.

RoundTable Spring 2008 001

RoundTable Spring 2008 002

RoundTable Spring 2008 003

 RoundTable Spring 2008 004