I Just Don’t Get It

As I grow older, I am becoming more and more convinced of one thing: I cannot be anything or anybody I want to be. There are limits to my abilities and regardless of how hard I try or train, there are certain skill sets I will never attain.

I have saws, drills, levels, and tape measures, but I’ll never be a carpenter. I can barely build a tree house or install trim without needing wood filler, extra nails, and a sore thumb. I just don’t get it.

I have paint rollers, brushes, paint, and smocks, but I’ll never be a painter. All the painter’s tape in the world won’t keep me from making you feel sea sick as you inspect my work. I just don’t get it.

I have pipe, wrenches, glue, and tape, but I’ll never be a plumber. I can change out a faucet, repair a toilet, and even look like a plumber while performing these tasks, but the multiple trips to Home Depot and the hours staring at the fittings tell me I’ll never make a living doing this. I just don’t get it.

I have a garage full of motors, fantastic tools, a stereo playing classic rock, and hand cleaner, but I’ll never be a mechanic. Some people, like Dad, can just stare at an engine and get it to crank. Not me. I can read mountains of manuals, listen intently, get my hands dirty, and watch videos, but I can’t get it to work. I just don’t get it.

I have landscape beds, hanging baskets, grass, and a little land, but I’ll never be a gardener or landscaper. I can barely keep native trees and weeds alive, nevertheless actual plants, fruits, and flowers. I can buy the best equipment, get the advice of buddies, and pray for rain, but nothing grows for me. I just don’t get it.

I have a cabinet full of tupperware, an attic full of stuff, a messy garage, the closets of two little girls, and a degree in engineering, but I’ll never be organized. After dinner, I have nine green beans in the largest container, three pounds of rice in sandwich baggies, and the steak wrapped in foil. The fridge is stacked three deep with last month’s milk stuck in the back. When I try to clean the garage or the girl’s closets, I just sit there in a Xanax filled state, sucking my thumb. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get organized. I just don’t get it.

I have two piles of wood, reams of paper, cool utensils, and a large pack of lighters, but I can barely start a fire. And even if I do get it started, I struggle keeping it burning. This may not be a bad thing – unless you like slow cooking succulent meats for long periods of time! I spend most of my time tending the fire rather than prepping the meat. I just don’t get it.

However, if something stops working, bring it over here. Have a new electronic device? Let me show you how it works. Don’t understand a sport? Pull up a chair. Math problem got you frustrated? That’s no problem. Your young child is crying? Watch this. Random song or fact stuck in your head? We’ll figure it out.

While my talents may not solve practical problems – or save us money – they’re still my talents. And someone somewhere needs them. And I’m okay with that, because that’s how God made me.

That I get.

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What is Stealing in a Digital Age?

As I write this post there are two files downloading in the background – each a fairly new release that we may never watch.

And every time I do this, I wonder to myself where the line between stealing and borrowing falls.

As technologies and the ease of file transfers continue to develop, we will be faced with a new set of ethics related with the copyright and ownership of digital media.

I want to be clear – this is not an issue of piracy or peer to peer networking (where you both host and download). Piracy involves the reproduction of copyrighted material for distribution or financial gain and in peer to peer networks you are uploading content that others may use for illegal purposes.

This is about whether or not it is okay to download material produced by someone else without their consent.

While a senior in college, Napster emerged. Content was no longer confined to cd’s or dvd’s. Once we figured out how it worked, it only took a week to exhaust the list of known songs and artists. We then used Netscape Navigator to search Billboard’s lists to think of any others we may have missed.

And we never thought twice about the ethics of what we were doing. For one, we were in college and everything goes – and two, we didn’t know any better.

And then Napster was deemed illegal. Plausible deniability was no longer a viable defense.

A decade later the debate still rages on. What is stealing – and who is the responsible party – the one who uploads or the one who downloads.

The first question we must ask is whether or not the internet is open source. When someone posts something to the web, do they still retain ownership of it? The platform with allows it to be available to millions also allows it to be copied by millions. Words and images can be copied while music and videos can be downloaded. Does the opportunity to share your work override the ownership of it?

My personal opinion is the content is provided on an open source website, such as Google, YouTube, Vimeo, etc… then it is fair game. This is not content produced by them and is available to the public for free. However, if it is behind the walls of a paid site like Netflix or an official journalistic website like ESPN or NY Times, then it is off limits without consent or proper crediting.

The next question we need to asked is whether or not it is okay to download content from the internet. Even if we’ve already established material from the internet is open source, is it okay to download it? Some websites offer links directly from their pages to download content while most browsers offer add-ons to allow you to do the same thing. And if neither of these work, shareware products are readily available.

The silence of large corporations against the use of browser add-ons and shareware for downloading has only further solidified my opinion allowing the downloading of open source content.

The next question we need to ask is whether or not downloading content from the internet is any different than the use of VCR’s and tape decks, the ripping of CD’s, and the use of Tivo and DVR’s. Other than the time lag between the DVD release and the TV premier, not much. DVR’s already allow for the skipping of commercials, the exportation to the computer, and the burning to DVD. Sounds pretty similar to me.

The final question we need to ask is if all content is created equally – and to me it’s not. Downloading music and adding it to your library is different than dowloading an episode of a TV show or a new release movie – it’s worse.

Music is created by an individual or group, contains their creative licensing, and is for enjoyment over a period of time. It’s like stealing art and should be treated as such.

Also, avenues exist allowing for the previewing and listening to music without the requirement to download. And if the music is worth listening to over and over again – and on multiple devices – it needs to be purchased. It is of higher quality and supports the artist themselves.

Movies and TV shows, on the other hand, are totally different. They are mass produced and insanely expensive all the while being made for a singular viewing.

And this is how I treat the two. I will download a video, watch, and delete. And if the movie is worth watching multiple times, then I will get it. Or if it needs to be watched in higher quality, I will purchase it. But if it’s just the latest episode or another Nicholas Cage movie, I’m not paying for it. If you make me, I just won’t watch. Your call.

So – all that said, music is off-limits except for streaming and freebies while movies and TV shows are fair game – as long as it is not for multiple viewing or distribution.

The written word needs to be purchased, rented from the library, or borrowed from a buddy and photographs most belong to their creator and need to purchased, unless they have been released to open source websites for viewing and distribution.

For further reading, check out Derek Webb’s take here.

What about you? Your thoughts? Am I a bad guy? Did I confuse you?

40 Before 40: The List

So – I’ve finally finished the list and thought it worthwhile to summarize them in a single post. Mainly so my mom doesn’t have to click through multiple posts just to reread them.

So here they are in the same order they were presented:

  1. Eat my way through Italy
  2. Have my name on giant check
  3. Leave a $100 tip anonymously
  4. Play Santa Claus
  5. Teach a class
  6. Wear a tuxedo
  7. Attend the Army-Navy game
  8. Get someone to say “Amen” while I’m speaking
  9. Ride in a hot air balloon
  10. Solve a community problem
  11. Play a round at Augusta National
  12. Take a tour of Krispy Kreme
  13. Own a car still in production
  14. Be a sous chef
  15. Be on tv or in a commercial
  16. Ride a roller coaster with my kids
  17. Spend the night in a hammock
  18. Win a trophy
  19. See the good parts of the White House
  20. Take a road trip
  21. Attend a European soccer match
  22. Take my children on a mission’s trip
  23. Wear the Tiger mascot costume
  24. Cater an event
  25. Jump out of an airplane
  26. Be a guest on a radio show
  27. Own an orange blazer
  28. Never join Facebook
  29. Host a concert
  30. Spend a night on a boat
  31. Grow a beard
  32. Get a real shave
  33. Run for public office
  34. Read a literary classic
  35. Act in a play
  36. Be published
  37. Go viral
  38. Run down the Hill
  39. Have a great Valentine’s Day
  40. Ride in a military aircraft

Please check back often as I will be updating this page as I complete, or change, my goals.

I’m nearly ready to cross off my first goal as I just finished “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Quite the uplifting and encouraging read… I think I know why I haven’t read all that many literary classics – they are depressing.

40 Before 40: 15-11

Shocker – still none of the goals have been completed. However, I am not deterred. Below is the next list of five:

  • Be a guest on a radio show
    To me radio, especially sports (talk and/or play-by-play) radio, is still one of the most honest and nostalgic forms of communication. There is something almost romantic about being heard and not seen. It allows you to fill in the blanks and put yourself in the middle of the conversation. It breeds imagination and adds much more to the visual highlight.

    In addition, very few television announcers have given me goose bumps, but radio calls can still nearly bring me to tears – Braves Win! Larry Munson. Shot Heard Round the World. Vin Scully.

    Back to the goal – I think I have been on radio twice – once to share a quick opinion and once to answer a trivia question. My sentiments on the opinion didn’t quite get across (shocker – me not expressing myself properly), but I did answer the question correctly. Only problem was I had to drive 45 minutes to pick up my prize – $10 off at a local restaurant. I would’ve needed to spend more than $10 in gas, not counting my time, to get the coupon. Needless to say, my radio experiences have not been great.

    But I think I could change that if it was more of a relaxed, back and forth setting. Not quite sure what the topic would be – maybe 40 before 40, sports, religion?

  • Own an orange blazer
    I want a new blazer, and it must come in one of two colors – orange or green. Let’s be honest, I will never earn a green jacket, know anyone that does, or financially qualify to get one. And even if I did, what the crap what we talk about? Thinking BBQ and religion are not big topics in Butler’s Cabin.

    Unless it’s with this guy:

    As such, I think I will go with the orange version. And it will be AWESOME! Not sure how to qualify, but worst case is I buy one from M.H. Frank (may cost more than my trip to Italy).

    Good thing blazers button and don’t have to fit over the head because my head will be too freakin’ large for any article of clothing to fit over it.

  • Never join Facebook
    Facebook is a previously established pet peeve. Already there are places using Facebook as the only source of login or use. And I’m afraid it may grow.

    But who’s to tell me I must use one product in order to use another. Who cares if they “team up”. I should have the right to pick and choose which products I support – and which I don’t.

    Also, my disdain for the masses has been previously established. And the more people try and force me to use something, the more I am going to push back.

    P.S. – if I haven’t spoken to you in multiple years – it may be for a reason…

    Follow me on twitter @willypowellpe

  • Host/Coordinate a concert
    I love music. The art, the creativity, the making of something from nothing. Some people appreciate watercolors and others literature and others photography. My thing is good, solid, well made, and honest music.

    And I want to help artists get their art out to the world. I want others to see and appreciate music the way I do. And there would be no better way than to have someone share their art in your home.

    More and more musical artists are building their fan bases through small, intimate shows rather than the larger, heavily produced versions. I’ll let you know when one will be staying at Chateau Powell.

  • Spend the night on a boat
    Cruises don’t count. Neither do all day & all night fishing charters.

    I’m thinking more along the line of White Squall. A schooner that needs my help. Or maybe a sailboat moored off the coast somewhere. I don’t know – and don’t really care. I just want to spend the night on the water in legitimate quarters.

    Hopefully it’s as peaceful and romantic as it sounds. And hopefully my bride is with me – for those same reasons. My luck it won’t be, but that’s okay because either way, a goal will be accomplished.

And then there were ten…

I’m an Amateur

If “pro” is opposite of amateur, then call me Miles Davis (see Billy Madison).

I’m come to realize there are a few things I am definitely not “pro” about, like shaving daily or driving to work in the dark.

In fact, there may be more than a few things I am not “pro” about and having a blog gives me the chance to get them off my chest:

  • Coffee
  • Hate the stuff and am actively researching the production of coffee and the coffee bean to show it is actually more harmful than McDonald’s or Hummers. Plus, grown men who fawn over venti this and grande that are the downfall of the American male.

  • Inefficiencies
  • I’m lazy, but not inefficient, which is totally different than being fat, but calling yourself “big-boned”. Doing things the way momma or daddy did them does not cut it for me. Find the most optimal approach and go for it, regardless of how unorthodox it sounds or looks. I will actually like you more the if you think outside of the box.

  • Fan Boys (and girls)
  • Here’s to you Apple, North Face, Justin Bieber, and Twilight fans. Way to think for yourself and spend your money on what you want. What’s that? You didn’t? You bought what everyone else bought? Why? Because you have no sense of yourself and, ultimately, no self-confidence. Enjoy living your life so someone else can hopefully one day like you.

    Sorry – maybe that was the actual reason behind this post. I feel better – don’t you.

  • Peanuts in Candy
  • Snickers could have been the indisputable greatest – like Ali, but they decided to add the peanuts. What could have been. What could have been. Thankfully Twix stepped in and became the greatest ever. Don’t agree? Blame Snickers – it could have been them.

  • Drama
  • Irrational, unfounded, maniacal, elevated. These are the things I could do without. Come on, I’m talking to you, Come on (see Tears for Fears). I’m talking to you, embarrassed teenager (you won’t even be friends with these people in 2-3 years). I’m talking to you, morning coffee drinker, you who are somehow able to get ready for work, drive 30 minutes, but as soon as you walk in the door, forget how to function. Really? Drama! I’m talking to you Mr. rich man having to wait in line. That’s right. You have more money than me, but you are still behind me. Whoops, I dropped something. This may take a while to pick up. Debit/Credit/Cash? No, I think I’ll pay with check today. Take that money drama!

I’ve said before one of the benefits of having a blog is to think through things and process them. while this post may seem like it was written by a petulant little man (I’m not all that small), it actually serves a therapeutic purpose, so Ms. Drama caused by judgment, SORRY!

So – are you an amateur about anything? Let me know, because misery loves company (see Soul Asylum)

Christmas Happens

Christmas has that unique ability to take us back to a special memory or moment in time, which we only think of during the Christmas season.

And as my girls get more and more into the Christmas spirit, I am reminded of many great Christmas memories.  Memories that are probably only be special to me, but that is exactly what makes them so special – the fact they’re mine.

However, what good is a good memory if it can’t be recalled.  About the same as a good story that can’t be retold.  So, here are a few of my favorite, or most unique, memories of Christmas:

  • Night before Christmas
  • Not so much the evening before Christmas as much as the time between evening and morning.  I could never sleep Christmas Eve.  I would fight going to sleep until I finally gave in to exhaustion only to wake up at 4:00 am. Only problem was I was not allowed to leave the room to see if Santa came until 6:00 am. This meant 2-3 hours of Nintendo, reading, movies, etc… By lunch on Christmas Day, I was shot. And to be honest, I still get excited and don’t sleep very well.

  • Complete football uniform complete with helmet and shoulder pads
  • After seeing the complete football uniform, I opened it right of way and put it on. I then marched into my parents room slapping the helmet and pads thinking I was ready to play some ball. After getting into a three point stance and yelling “Hut, Hut” a few times, I was quickly reminded it was only 6:05 and everyone else in the house was still asleep.

    The uniform set got much play as we used it for every game. To make it fair, we would separate the set so one person got the helmet and the other got the pads.  Didn’t take long to figure out you wanted the helmet.

  • My first bottle of cologne – Stetson
  • The cologne didn’t last long as I tried to put it on that evening for dinner and it spilled. I didn’t care as I figured I was just being covered in more awesome. I no longer wear nor own cologne, but every once in a while I’ll get a smell of some good stuff and want to bathe in it.

  • My first Walkman
  • The very first “Music Monday” occurred on a Christmas morning as I received a Walkman and two full length cassettes. My introduction – Vanilla Ice’s “To the Extreme”, with smash hit Ice, Ice, Baby and my favorite Stop that Train, and MC Hammer’s “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em”. It’s been downhill from there.

  • Alan Kulwicki remote control race car
  • Complete posthumous replica of Kulwicki’s championship car. This was the fastest remote control car I’ve ever driven (from what I remember) and Dad and I enjoyed racing and playing with this thing. However, the car didn’t last long though as it met a brick wall and rolled a few times on the driveway/street. The debate still rages as to who really finished it off, but this is my blog, so I’m laying the blame on Dad (even though he could literally drive circles around me).

  • The scooter
  • My favorite memory of all. Some of the details are fuzzy, but I remember coming upstairs (my room was on the bottom floor) for Christmas and everyone was already awake. And as I came to the top step, I was able to look into the living room where Santa leaves the gifts. However, it wasn’t Santa’s gift area I noticed first, but my grandmother, Memaw, riding one of my gifts around the living room.

    This was the year of the scooter and its first foray came not from me, but from Memaw. I’ll never forget her trying to figure that scooter out and having the worst time trying to stay up. Not because it was hard to ride, but because she was laughing too hard to keep her balance.

We try hard to make Christmas special for those around us, and we have good intentions. However, it isn’t the parties or the gifts or the sweaters we remember the most, but the moments. And these moments can’t be bought or planned. They just happen.

And they are better than any gift I’ve ever received – outside of Vanilla Ice, of course.

And my goal is to create memories and moments for our girls to have, because they’ll soon forget about the tea set and the dollhouse and the dress up clothes, but hopefully they’ll remember me the way I remember my youth.

Is Christianity in Dire Straits – Part II?

Part I was about the similarities between the dissolution of Dire Straits and living the Christian life. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately if you like British rock), there is another way the too are connected…

Lyrics…

Dire Straits really hit it big with Money for Nothing and the chorus “You get your money for nothing, and your chicks for free” – which men would consider the best of both worlds, if they’re being honest…

And that made me think of Christianity (not the free chicks part) and how we as Christians like to have the best of both worlds too…

While we may not be as concerned about money or women (hopefully), we do like the ideals of Christianity. The nostalgia, security (salvation), purity, and maybe even the romance…

We then like to wear our Christianity with pride for all the world to see (or at least those who won’t be offended). We want others (non-offensees) to know we go to church. And on Sunday mornings – watch out. We pull out all the Christian stops to let others know (a little ironic we are most open our Christianity to other Christians)…

But that’s about where our Christianity ends – especially our public version. We like the idea of Christianity. We like being known as Christians. We are proud of ourselves for our Christianity…

But for many of us, our Christianity is in Dire Straits. We want the shiny suit of Christianity – just don’t make us wear one of those cheesy sweaters…

We don’t like the real costs of Christianity – the cost of telling others of the Gospel (not just where we attend church) or the cost of truly loving others or the cost of standing up for the the unborn or the cost of caring for the orphaned and widowed or the cost of purity…

We don’t like these parts. We’d rather have the facade for nothing and the grace for free…

Please give us Christianity, just don’t ask us to give anything…

We don’t like that…