January 29, 2008

Church IT in Davos

Did you see the interview of Rick Warren by Robert Scoble at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland?  Now that's some church IT! 

I am a huge Rick Warren fan.  This video shows how amazingly tech-savvy he is.  Definitely worth 9 minutes to watch it.

Tim Berners-Lee and the "Giant Global Graph"

Tim Berners-Lee (the REAL inventor of the Web) recently posted on his blog about the idea of a "Giant Global Graph" - a name intentionally chosen to suggest parallels with the "World Wide Web." 

People have recently begun using the term "social graph" in reference to one's network of family, friends, and acquaintances along with the data about those individuals and relationships.  The word "graph" here is used in the mathematical sense of a set of points together with lines representing relationships among the points.  For this purpose "graph" and "network" are essentially equivalent terms.  The Internet is a graph (a set of computers and the communications circuits that interconnect them).  So is the Web (a set of documents and the links that interconnect them).

Tim points out that the Internet is an abstraction that hides all of the complexity of the physical communications links.  It's computer-centric in that any computer can talk to any other computer on the Internet without having to know the details of the communications links connecting them.

Similarly, the Web is an abstraction that hides all of the complexity of computers, folders (directories), and the documents in those folders.  It's document-centric in the sense that any document can link to any other document and users can navigate from document to document without having to know the details of the computers and folder structures that hold them.  The Web sits on top of the Internet and simplifies the process of accessing information in documents.  While the Internet links computers, the Web links documents.

Now, Tim says, along comes another layer in the abstraction hierarchy.  The Semantic Web asserts that it isn't necessarily the documents that are important but the subject matter they cover, the information they convey.  The Semantic Web is object-orientation for the WWW.  It presents information in such a way that software can reuse it, combine it, and mash it up in ways perhaps never envisioned by the original publisher of the information.  It's a programmable web that hides the complexity of which information is in which document.  It's information-centric in that users can navigate related information without concern for which document holds it.

Tim suggests that when it comes to one's social graph, what we really need is a way to create, store, publish, and reuse information about ourselves and our social network such that it no longer matters which document (or service or platform) holds which information.  Such a structure would constitute a Giant Global Graph - an abstraction that sits on top of the WWW and aggregates all of the interesting data about ourselves and our relationships into a database usable by computers.

This powerful idea shows the flaw in Chuck Russell's (my fellow Appian Way blogger) analysis of Facebook.  (Yes, we're having the argument here in the blogosphere for everyone to read!  As a political science graduate, Chuck LOVES to argue in public.  Who am I to deprive him of such joy?) The walled garden may persist for a time, but eventually it gets replaced by a system with radical interoperability.  "Small pieces, loosely joined" (as Dave Winer would say) results in a richly diverse ecosystem that over time benefits everyone involved. 

For example, AOL used to be an online service - a 1980s era computer bulletin board updated with a graphical interface.  Once the Internet and Web became popular, AOL connected to them under the hood but still presented users with a proprietary user interface and search system (remember AOL keywords?).  So the question for Chuck is, do you want to bet on Facebook (a walled garden like the AOL of old) or the entire rest of the Internet?  Short term, no question Facebook is popular as was AOL in its day.  Long term, I'm betting on the Giant Global Graph. 

None of this is to say that we shouldn't work with Facebook for right now since it's popular.  Nor am I saying that Facebook won't eventually open up and become part of a highly interoperable GGG.  I'm just saying that their current model is flawed and our investment in Facebook-specific strategies should be modulated accordingly.

By the way, Tim Bray agrees with me.

January 28, 2008

MinistryTECH and Spring CITRT

ministryTECH 2 logo

This year Terrell Sanders of MinistryCOM fame is starting a new conference for ministry A/V and IT called MinistryTECH.  The inaugural event will be in Oklahoma City, April 3-4.  The next day, April 5, we will have the Spring Church IT RoundTable (CITRT) at Crossings Community Church, also in Oklahoma City.  See details on Tony's blog.

I am planning to take a couple of people from my team to MinistryTECH and the RoundTable.  I will be presenting a breakout session at MinistryTECH about how church IT teams can provide excellent customer service.  Here's my breakout description:

Users or Customers?

Do you struggle with getting users to follow your policies and procedures?  Do your users make unreasonable demands?  Do you find it difficult to know how and when to say “no?”  Frustrations with the users we serve are nearly universal across church IT teams of every size and situation.  Learn how you can think of users as customers, earn high marks from your customers, and reduce tensions between IT and customers through a default answer of “yes.”  Hear how Church of the Resurrection has built a customer-focused IT organization without creating a monster of unmanageable expectations.  This session will challenge some of your most basic assumptions about how you manage your IT infrastructure and serve your customers.

I hope to see you there!

January 27, 2008

How far to Antarctica?

Tony posted a comment, asking how far south I was at Cape Point. He question was prompted by my wise crack that there was "nothing to spoil the view but Antarctica."

Clif at Cape Point

My head getting sunburned at Cape Point

The southernmost tip of the Cape of Good Hope is called Cape Point, which is the southwestern corner of the continent of Africa. (The southernmost point in Africa is actually Cape Agulhas, 90 miles SE of Cape Point.). As you can see, the sign says it's at 34° 21' 24" South latitude. Amazingly, that's only a little further south of the equator than Atlanta is north of the equator. (Atlanta is at 33° 46' North latitude.) It's mind boggling to imagine Atlanta as the northernmost point of North America.

Cape Point distance sign

According to the sign at the Cape Point lighthouse, it is 6248 km (approx. 3900 miles) to the South Pole. A bit of web research tells me it's approx. 2600 miles from Cape Point to the nearest coast of Antarctica. So no, you can't really see it from there. It's just cool when you're standing there looking south and realizing the only land mass in that direction is Antarctica. Glad to clear that up. ;-)

January 25, 2008

The beauty of Cape Town

Belatedly, but as promised, here are some pictures showing the beauty of the Cape Town landscape.

From University of Cape Town looking NE

Above the University of Cape Town, looking NE

Cape Town waterfront

Cape Town waterfront

High School in District 6 with cloud-covered Table Mountain in background

High School in District 6 with cloud-covered Table Mountain in background

Haut Bay looking west

Hout Bay, looking W - the most beautiful ocean drive I've ever seen

Cape Point looking NE into False Bay

Cape Point, looking N into False Bay

Cape Point, looking S (nothing to spoil the view but Antarctica)

Cape Point, looking S (nothing to spoil the view but Antarctica)

January 23, 2008

Cape Town Wrap-up

What lingers the most with me is the contrasts, perhaps even contradictions of Cape Town.  The city is beautiful with mountains and ocean views in every direction.  The weather was perfect (except for the wind).  The people were hopeful about their young democracy (less than 14 years old).  The economy seems dynamic and entrepreneurial.  Yet, unemployment is very high - we were told as high as 40% in some areas.  HIV infection rates are in the 30% range.  People are living in near 3rd-world conditions just blocks away from areas you could easily mistake for a beautiful ocean-side city in the US such as San Diego.  It's a complex story, difficult to articulate or put into easily-digestible sound bites.  Maybe I'll have more to say later upon further reflection.

I will also remember the people, particularly:

  • Peter, the retired New Testament scholar from Minnesota who owns the B&B.  His eyes sparkle as he talks about South Africa, his adopted home.
  • Raymond, the native Capetonian who taught us about Cape Town and South Africa with grace, charm, humility, and humor as he took us where we needed to go.
  • Dan, the elderly black man who was forcibly removed from his home in District 6 during apartheid and then was among the first to return there years later.  He has a picture in his living room of Nelson Mandela handing him the keys to the new place.  Today he glows when he talks about his life.
  • Charlotte, the vibrant resident of Masiphumelele who was our tour guide there.  She arranged for the marimba band that entertained us royally followed by afternoon tea at Zukie's bed and breakfast.  It was among the most memorable experiences of the trip, yet very difficult to describe in words.
  • Tembo, the founder of SHADE who speaks with such passion about her life and work that you leave inspired to come along side and do anything it takes to help SHADE's vision become reality.  She is a powerful woman.  Look out world.
  • Otto, the Lutheran pastor from Germany who serves the people of Philippi with grace, love, an entrepreneurial spirit, and impressive attention to detail.


1. Consequences of load shedding as reported in an e-mail yesterday morning from our B&B host, Peter Kjeseth:

Today, the day after your departure the headline story in the Cape Times:  BLACKOUT STRANDS CABEL CAR.  Load shedding hit while the Table Mountain cable car was half way up leaving 37 people dangling in the car in a heavy wind.  When the electricity went back on, the cable car malfunctioned so it could not land properly.  Rescue teams got the 37 off to safety.  The 500, yes 500, stranded on top of Table Mountain were not so lucky.  They spent a chilly night up there.  Their rescue began only in the early morning hours. 

Several people from our group took that cable car up to the top of Table Mountain on Saturday, our free day.

2. Diarrhea isn't fun, especially on a day when you're on four flight segments over a 33 hour period.  Imodium helped, but didn't fix it.  We were assured that it's safe for Americans to drink the tap water in Cape Town.  I'm not saying I have any evidence tap water was the cause of my distress, but ...  (Was that too much information?)

3. You can't bring biltong into the US, even if it is sealed in the original package.  See US Customs FAQ here.  That's 30 rand we'll never get back.

4. I'm still picking grains of sand out of my hair, blown there by the constant wind.

4. Did anything happen here in the US while we were away?

January 22, 2008

Cape Town Day 6

This is my first chance to report on our last day in Cape Town, having been in transit for the last 33 hours.

Day 6 for us was Sunday, now a continent away.  We went to worship at JL Zwane church in Guguletu township.  Guguletu is also in Cape Flats, right next to Philippi where iThemba Labantu is located.  (Guguletu and Philippi are essentially adjacent suburbs, if it's proper to call them that). 

The entire service except for a couple of songs was in Xhosa, a cool African language that uses click consonants.  The music was all a cappella with a little bit of hand percussion.  It was classic African style: simple, repetitive chord structures with luscious but straightforward melodies and harmonies.  I'll post a bit of recorded audio when I have the opportunity. Occasionally an English word would pop out such as a number or Bible book.  Otherwise, we have no idea what the sermon was about or any of the song lyrics.

JL Zwane is a thriving place where worshippers come in their finest clothing each Sunday and enjoy passionate preaching, singable and danceable music, and rich community life.  It is an open and accepting community that deals head-on with AIDS, unlike many African churches where the subject is taboo. 

South Africa is so westernized that it's almost possible to forget you're in Africa until you worship at JL Zwane.  Cool stuff.


1. We finally saw and photographed the penguins at Boulder's Beach.  Penguins are quirky and compelling creatures.  It was a special opportunity to see them outside captivity.  The wind was blowing so hard when we were there, it almost knocked us down.

2. We went to Cape Point (the extreme southern tip of the Cape of Good Hope which forms the western side of False Bay).  There is an argument over whether Cape Point is properly designated as the place where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean.  While there, we ate at the Two Oceans Restaurant, so at the very least it's clear where the restaurant management comes down on that question.  ;-)

3. We saw a number of baboons in the wild at Cape Point and along the road leading to it.  Through a bit of cunning and aggression, one of them was able to abscond with an ice cream cone that the human who purchased it did not wish to surrender.  Very impressive.

4. Did I mention that the almost 19-hour plane ride from Joburg to DC is a butt buster?  We left Joburg at 6:15 pm local time.  This gave us late evening sun and twilight for the first 90 minutes, or so.  After that, since we were going west, we stayed in darkness for the entire remainder of the flight, arriving in DC before sunrise.  Our night lasted 17+ hours.  Very disorienting.

5. As the official trip photographer, I took more than 1,100 still pictures.  Laura took another 150 or so.  On the butt buster flight we reviewed all the pictures and deleted those with technical problems - motion blur, subject out of focus, bad exposure, etc.  We also picked the best shot where there was redundancy.  That left 800ish usable images.  After that, I went back through and picked 131 favorites that tell the story.  Completing the multimedia projects about the trip are going to take more time than the trip itself.   Eeek!

6. Weather at CPT when we left: 79 F and sunny.  Weather at MCI upon arrival: 10 F (also sunny, if that matters!).

7. Besides a mild sunburn on my balding scalp, what did I come back with that I didn't have when I left?  Stay tuned for a future post on that.

8. We're home.  Dilemma: take a nap now or try to wait until this evening and then try to sleep through the night?  Everyone has their own theory on that.

Out of Africa

I'm writing from the floor of Dulles airport at 8:23 am Eastern, having left Cape Town at 7:00 am Eastern yesterday.  Let me say, for the record, that 19 hours on a single aircraft (Johannesburg to DC) is inhumane.

They just now called our flight.  I'm KC-bound.  Will post more later.

January 20, 2008


As promised ...





How to make your electrical stuff work in South Africa

South African switched outlets

The is a dual South African outlet.  (Each outlet has a switch above it, which seems to be common here.)  Before leaving, I went online and bought a cable with a "universal" 2-pin connector on one end and a South African plug on the other.

universal 2-pin

South African plug

The South African plug looks like something you'd use to plug in a 40-amp, 220 V clothes dryer, but it's just their every day plug.  A power strip with 3 of these is the same length as a power strip with 7 or 8 standard US outlets and a good bit wider.  Heh.

One would assume that the Dell power supply would take the universal 2 pin connector.  I mean, that's the point of a universal power supply - you just change the power cord to the local standard and viola.  Right???


A standard 2-pin almost fits into those 2 pins on the right, but not quite.  What was Dell thinking?

So now I'm in trouble.  I have my laptop, but I've used up the batteries on the flight.  Without a way to plug in and recharge, all the computer stuff I brought is just dead weight.

I have another, similar problem too.  I bought an external charger for my camcorder batteries but it came with a 2-pin North America plug and no interchangeable power cord.

camcorder battery charger

It's has a universal internal power supply, but a non-interchangeable plug. 

As it turns out, this is a very common problem with an equally common solution.  In my short time here I've seen many outlets with adapters such as the one below plugged in to them.  This adapter plugs into the SA 3-pin outlet and provides a SA 3-pin and two European 2-pin outlets.  (There are lots of things sold around here that have European plugs on them.)

South African outlet adapter

So what I need is something like this but with a North American outlet on it (into which I must take care to plug only universal power supplies).  A small, local computer shop had just the thing.

SA outlet adapter

SA outlet adapter with North American outlets

This plugs in to the SA outlet and provides an SA outlet on the front and two multi-country outlets on the sides - a 2-pin and a 3-pin.  Although it looks a bit odd, it does accept NA plugs.  Eureka!

adapter with Dell power supply plugged in

As a side benefit, this adapter also solves the problem of my camcorder battery charger.  Here is the SA outlet with the NA adapter, a European adapter, my Dell power supply plug, and my camcorder charger all stacked up.  It's ridiculous, but it works!

adapter stack

Moral of the story, instead of buying universal power cords for the country you're visiting, find out if it's easier to use an adapter.  I did have a use for the one power cord I bought, though.  It readily fits the camcorder power supply.

camcorder power supply

Why couldn't Dell have made it this easy?

January 19, 2008

Cape Town Day 5

Saturday was our one and only "down day" of the trip.  What a refreshing break!  Laura and I took the commuter train two stops south to Simon's Town, home port of the South African Navy and the famous Boulder's Beach penguin colony.  We saw the ships;  we didn't see the penguins.  Maybe tomorrow?  (I did see a penguin on Robben Island, but I wasn't in a position to take a picture of it.)


1. Every day since we arrived we've had a couple of hours without electricity.  This is due to a planned program of "load shedding."  In other words, there isn't enough power being generated to meet the needs of everyone at once.  So at any given time, some people don't have it.  As I've said, this is a mostly 1st world metropolitan area, and then you're reminded by lack of electricity for a certain part of each day that you're not in Kansas any more.

2. Laura ordered springbok for dinner today.  It was quite tasty.

3. We're going to worship in a church in Guguletu township tomorrow.  We've been told to expect an amazing experience. 

Cape Town Day 4

On Friday we drove along the coast of False Bay from our B&B in Fish Hoek to Philippi, a very large township in the Cape Flats area.  We saw a mixture of affordable, middle class starter homes close to the beach.  Further inland there is a sea of small, concrete block houses.  Our guide, Raymond, explained that most families in the area have taken in relatives who build shacks like we saw in Masiphumelele in the tiny back yards. 

Laura posted about the Lutheran mission we visited there, iThemba Labantu, where they do everything from serve food to take care of AIDS patients.  It is a great example of practical, person-to-person ministry where everything, large and small, is done with excellence.  This ministry is very deserving of your support.

In the afternoon we had a chance to meet Keith Vermeulen, who is the director of the South African Council of Churches Parliamentary Office.


1. Finally had an opportunity to try some local seafood.  The fish and chips is very good here, as you would expect.

2. Kansas City vs. Cape Town:

Kansas City weather Cape Town weather

Some locals say it's always windy.  Others say the southeaster is unusual for this time of year.  My hat has been blown off my head at least 5 times.  I almost lost it twice.

I need the hat to protect my balding head from the sun.  When they say you need sunscreen here, they aren't just a kiddin'.

3. Our hosts are Peter and Solveig Kjeseth.  Both are Lutherans originally from Minnesota.  Peter is a retired seminary professor of New Testament who at one time was a colleague of Shannon Jung, the Saint Paul professor leading our trip, at Dubuque University seminary.  How did Peter and Solveig come to spend their retirement in Cape Town?  Part of the answer becomes clear in this excerpt featuring them from the book No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000.  Better hosts we could never hope for, but I wish their WiFi was better.  ;-)

4. Yes, water going down a drain rotates counter-clockwise.  Can I get some video demonstrating it?  I think I would need food coloring or something.  Hmmm ...

5. On Tuesday, our first day here, I noticed the sun near mid-day was to our north.  In all my 45 years of life, I've never seen the sun to my north.

6. I will post separately about the electrical plugs for any of you considering a trip here.  It was challenging as I expected.  Now that I've finally figured it out, it's almost time to leave.  Heh.

7. The drive along the Hout Bay coast road is the most spectacular I've seen anywhere in the world, including Maui, California, Cape Cod, and Puerto Rico.  The Cape Town area is simply beautiful.

8. Several days we have enjoyed the hospitality of Raymond, who I mentioned in a previous post.  If you ever come to Cape Town with a group, get on Raymond's calendar months in advance.  His knowledge of the city is invaluable for a group of first-time visitors.

January 17, 2008

Cape Town Days 2 and 3

I didn't post yesterday because I couldn't keep my eyes open after we got back from a long day.  Turns out when you combine motion sickness medicine with a long day, short sleep, and delayed jet lag you have an overwhelming need to sleep!  To understand why I needed motion sickness medicine, read Laura's post.  ;-)  As before, I spent time helping her select, crop, and down-rez pictures instead of working on my own posts.  So look at hers.  My own pics will have to wait.

Yesterday notes:

1. The commuter train was fun.  I met a 25ish guy on the train who asked about my HD video camera.  It became clear quickly that he knew a lot about the subject.  Turns out he works for a local TV station.  Very bright and well educated.  Asked me about the US presidential election: was I for Clinton or Obama?  Thought it was significant that our next president will be either black or a woman.  His question and comment were telling. 

2. Cape Town is WINDY.  I figured it was just a weather system moving through the first couple of days we were here.  When I commented on it to the locals, they said, "You think THIS is windy?  It's like this all the time.  You haven't experienced wind until you've been here during a storm."

3. Robben Island is a special place, but the tour itself wasn't wonderful.  Regardless, the forgiveness and healing represented there are quite profound.  Read Laura's post for details.

4. Our tour guide for the first part of the Robben Island tour told us a bit of his own story.  He has a college degree in electrical engineering but hasn't been able to find work in that field in South Africa.  When the tour was over I told him I'm an electrical engineer too.  He asked if I could get him a job.  I said, "maybe, if you are willing to come to the US."  He asked for my e-mail address.

5. Had bobotie yesterday for lunch.  The "national dish" of SA.  Comfort food, basically, with a kind of Indian curry twist.  Very tasty, although I kind of regretted my lunch choice when on the rough boat ride to Robben Island (again, see Laura's post). 

Today notes:

1. SHADE rocks!  See Laura's post for today for details.

2. Raymond, our driver and tour guide for the day, is an amazing person.  He's an independent contractor for the US Consulate here.  His job is to host visitors, mostly from the US, who come in for business with the Consulate - USAID, interns, FBI, etc.  He picks them up from the airport, drives them around, tells them about the city, points out landmarks, etc.  He told me about the turning point in his life.  As a youth he was always in trouble, got into drugs, sailed the world on cargo ships, and was a complete mess.  Then he met Jesus in a Pentecostal church and was instantly healed of his addictions and turned his life in a new and productive direction.  He's now a father and grandfather, not to mention a warm host for visitors from the US.

3. Cape Town is a beautiful city.  I'll post some pictures soon.  I promise.

4. The contrast between the upscale areas of downtown Cape Town and the townships gives one pause.  It may take me some time before I can explain what I mean by that.

January 15, 2008

Cape Town Day 1 - Masiphumelele

Instead of blogging myself this evening I helped Laura prepare a pictorial post of our trip to Masiphumelele today.  Check it out.

No time tonight for me to add much except the following quick notes:

1. Although it's a shantytown, Masiphumelele is 1st world in a number of ways.  Most/all of the homes and businesses have electricity and running water.  I saw shops selling cell phones and cell service.  One of the homes we visited had a land-line telephone, two computers, and a TV.  Some of them also had cars and makeshift garages.

2. Masiphumelele is only a 10 minute drive from the seaside town of Fish Hoek where we're staying.  Today in Fish Hoek we saw a real estate office where I took note that the price of a home up on the mountainside overlooking False Bay is upwards of $1 million.  The Cape Town area is a very strange place: 1st world and 2nd world (if there is such a thing) within 10 minutes of each other.

3. Masiphumelele has 20,000+ people living in a very small "neighborhood".  That density makes the place charmingly vibrant.  It's teeming with activity of every sort.  The people we met were happy and hopeful.

4. HIV/AIDS is an unbelievably-horrible problem in Masiphumelele.  More on that later.

Tomorrow we take the commuter train to downtown Cape Town and on to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.  Our host described it as a holy shrine to the end of apartheid and the people who brought it about.  I expect this will be one of the most profound experiences of the trip.

It's 12:30 am here.  I'm going to bed!

Online Mentoring

Over at the Life Church Blog They are talking about a new tool called Imantri which matches mentors with mentees around core competencies, skills, and goals. I woke up this morning thinking bout an idea to bring people together for spiritual guidance/mentoring that would employ web 2.0 social networking etc. Then I went to our men's bible study with Jeff Kirby and we were all talking about the need to do more daily bible reading etc. I wonder if this might be the killer app of an internet campus.

In my time in campus ministry, we focused on the Worship event and Small groups - certainly. But the real impact came in an intense focus on one to one discipleship. One of my mentors - Gregg Taylor at the University of Arkansas was fond of saying you can influence people from a distance but you can only impact them from up close. He wasn't talking about physical up closeness, i don't think, rather the intensity of a one on one relationship that guides and develops people along their spiritual journeys.

Clearly we would have to have a heavy focus on training people to be spiritual guides/mentors , but a tool like this could be developed to facilitate the matching and interaction..


January 14, 2008

Aerial photos of South Africa


Downtown Johannesburg.


False Bay just seconds before landing in Cape Town.

The buzz around social networking becoming more open

In my continuing series about interoperability and openness in social networking systems and sites, I direct your attention to

Robert Scoble - Can we get a first step in social networking portability?

Dave Winer - Bebo running Facebook apps

Aaron Linne - On the Data Portability Initiative

Joe Suh - Social Network Platform Wars

Into Africa

I write this from 33,000 feet above the central Atlantic Ocean, bound for Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town, South Africa.  While there we will be meeting a number of ministry leaders, visiting AIDS clinics and orphanages, learning about South African history and apartheid, visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, taking pictures of penguins, etc. 

Before we left Kansas City this afternoon, Shannon Jung, the Saint Paul professor who is leading our trip, asked each of us in the group to share our expectations for the trip.  I said I'm open to the experience - whatever comes will be just what God has in mind.  I hope to be able to post several times during the trip to keep all of you updated.  I appreciate your prayers for myself and all of those on the trip:

Lia Mcintosh
Morgan Whitaker
Andrew Smith
Carmen Williams
Sue Barham
Kyle Butler
Laura Guy
Tina Harris
Dixie & Robert Junk
Michael Dunlap
Dr. Shannon Jung

January 11, 2008

The BBQ tour continues

Does this look from the outside like a place where you're likely to get great barbecue? 

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City

Turns out the food is fantastic.  Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City is in a gas station/ convenience store.  (And yes, that's Travis pretending to pump gas.)  

Ben, Clif, Travis, and Chuck at Oklahoma Joe's

The staff person in the restaurant we asked to take this picture cut our heads off, making our post-dinner full bellies even more prominent than they otherwise would have been!  My only regret is that Mark White missed the fun due to a sudden bout of the queasies.  Alfred would have loved it too.

January 10, 2008

Nerds learning Arena

This morning was our Arena implementation kick-off meeting where we invited all Resurrection staff to a demo by Ben Lane, our designated Arena trainer.  After lunch we began training for the IT Department to get an in-depth understanding of how it's all put together and how it works.

Resurrection IT team in Arena training

l to r: Leo Johns, Ian Beyer, Chuck Russell, Jeremy Grabrian, Ben Lane of Shelby, Travis Morgan, and Linda Ronsick (just the top of her head)

January 08, 2008

Campaign Websites Using Technolog to GOTV

Saw something interesting on almost all of the campaign websites today. You can login register and start making phone calls on behalf of candidates in New Hampshire - from the comfort of your own home. They give you a script, and instructions on how to record the result of the conversation.

January 04, 2008


Weather or not the likes of Scoble are satisfied with facebooks business model or their direction. The only question I ask is, who has won the hearts and minds of users. And clearly on this front it is and will be facebook. They completely dominate the genre and, frankly I cant see how that changes in the future. I think any attempt to replicate or replace facebook is going to face an enourmous uphill battle. Users don't care about things like data portability, what they care about is the network and in this regard Facebook wins - Game over. Just like the Beta VHS debates of an age gone buy, we can argue Geek stuff all day long about what technology or platform is best... but ultimately to do ministry we must go where the people are....and the people are on Facebook.

I basically agree with Don Dodge - This is one of those things that programmers and techno-geeks are all fired up about, but that your normal every day user couldn't care less about. What matters is where are my friends....if that shifts and no doubt it will some day, then we go where the people go. Until then 50 million facebook users cant be wrong.

January 03, 2008

Facebook cautionary tale

If you read Robert Scoble's blog you know about his problems with Facebook today.  He ran a script on Plaxo to import his Facebook friends.  Facebook's system detected the script and blocked his account on the basis that it violated the Facebook terms of service.  When he explained what happened they reinstated his account and asked him not to run such scripts in the future. 

Bottom line: Facebook locks up user data.  Not only do they not provide an API, they get really testy about outside software that reads the data.  With this attitude, I have serious doubts about whether Facebook can have a central role in our Internet Campus.

January 01, 2008


I'm in Tucson for a family gathering to ring in the new year.  (High today in Kansas City - 22 F.  High today in Tucson - 65 F.  Yeah, we made the right decision.)

Yesterday we made the short trip down I-19 to the Mexican border to experience the culture of Nogales.  Just inside the border we were welcomed with this sign:

Welcome to Nogales

One of the first things I noticed - the Mexicans have different standards of esthetics and safety in their electrical wiring.

Street in Nogales

We had lunch at an upscale restaurant called LaRoca, complete with strolling musicians.

La Roca Mexican restaurant in Nogales

l to r: niece, Hannah; nephew, Ian; son, Rob; daughter, Beth

Beth and Hannah with mariachi guys

Before returning the USA, we took a couple of pictures of the border wall itself. This wall is the dividing line between nations, languages, cultures, currency, economies, and much more.

Border wall

USA-Mexico border at Nogales taken from the Mexican side

Cars waiting in line to get into USA 

Cars waiting in line to get into USA