Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Originally uploaded by SkipGienapp
Damien (8) and Nick (6) try out the slingshots they got for Christmas. The slingshots require a lot of arm strength. They're working on it.

This little adventure this afternoon was really only our second foray in to the outdoors this holiday break. We spent most of Christmas week being home-bodies. With the one exception of playing in the Christmas snow, we've largely been inside.

This should not be interpreted as a complaint on my part- I toggle back and forth between laziness incarnate and a workaholic. I can't figure what brings me more pleasure- doing nothing or doing a whole bunch. I've got a lot of irons in the fire between two jobs and career goals and side projects and interests- still have many leisure pursuits that I'm always promising myself I'll get to... But this year for the holidays all of that culminated in Laurie and I simply deciding to do nothing. I mean NOTHING. We neither hosted nor attended holiday parties. I'm writing this on New Years Eve, where I'm vicariously ringing in the New Year by Twittering and watching episodes of House, MD. It seems like the appropriate time to write a blog entry. Success! Another "lick and a promise" to another hobby.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Visting the Nina and the Pinta

Originally uploaded by SnLGienapp
Damien and Nick got to visit the Nina and Pinta last week. These two replica ships docked in Chattanooga last week and we got discount tickets via our homeschool group. The boys have been studying Columbus this month, having read 3 different books around Columbus day. it was a great learning experience, and a beautiful day to be downtown on the river.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flat Stanley Project

Flat Stanley Project
Originally uploaded by SkipGienapp
Be on the lookout for a Flat Stanley coming in your mailbox! Damien and Nick have started this project.

Monday, September 20, 2010

5 Success Traits God Wants Us to Have

5 Success Traits God Wants Us to Have: "

Post image for 5 Success Traits God Wants Us to Have

The dictionary definition of success is “favorable or desired outcome”. Do you want to have a favorable outcome for your career? Your marriage? Your finances? Me too.  The good news is that our heavenly father passes his own success traits down to his children.

Although I list only five, I am sure there are many, many others. Please share the ones you think of at the end of the post.Here are my five:

1. Diligence

God, of course, is diligent – he created the world in six days and never broke sweat. His children should likewise be diligent. We are told to “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23) We do not work for an hourly wage, nor do we work to keep a job or to satisfy our own consciences; our challenge is to work for the Lord himself. A Christian therefore knows that ‘good enough” is never good enough; only our very best work effort will suffice. This being said, the worker who works to please the Lord is the one who will be recognized and therefore the one who will get those promotions. He will succeed.

2. Creativity

God’s first action was creative. The first sentence in the bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. He visualized every detail of the universe and spoke it into being. If that isn’t creativity I don’t know what is. As his children, we too have great potential for creativity.

All of the following were Christians:

  • Galileo Galilei, the first astronomer to use the telescope in his research, discovered craters in the moon, moons orbiting Jupiter and the phases of Venus.

  • Blaise Pascal pioneered the laws of probability and invented early calculating machines, the syringe and the hydraulic press.

  • Isaac Newton, among many accomplishments, discovered the law of gravity and the invention of calculus.

  • George Washington Carver’s research on peanuts resulted in more than 300 by-products while his research on sweet potatoes resulted in over 100 by products.

  • Louis Pasteur’s research on bacteria led to the process of pasteurization sterilization and the development of numerous vaccines.

What does creativity have to do with success? Simply that creative people think outside the box and are therefore better able to achieve the desired outcome.

3. A can-do mindset

God has never had a negative thought. He has never doubted his own abilities and has never been paralyzed by fear of the unknown. He never makes excuses and he always finishes what he starts. As his children, we should be willing to take on the difficult, to venture into the unknown and to boldly live on the edge. Success awaits those who do.

4. Honesty

Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He was not simply truthful; he WAS truth.

Thomas J. Stanley, in his classic work, “The Millionaire Mind”, determined that the number one success factor for millionaires (according to actual millionaires surveyed) is “being honest with all people”. Does Stanley’s study validate that honesty (an inherent trait of God) really is the best policy? It certainly seems so.

5. Generosity

God is a giver. He created the world for us and, when we made a mess of things, he gave up his beloved son as payment for our misdeeds. The characteristic of generosity is the very culmination of success. Why? Because, pragmatically speaking, we can only be generous when we have goods, time or talent to be generous with. Jesus taught: “Give, and you will receive. … The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38) Clearly, the more generous we are, the more God helps us succeed so we can be even more generous.

Closing thoughts

Because our heavenly father is diligent, creative, can-do, honest and generous, his children should inherit those same traits. This being said, the more time we spend with our heavenly father, the more we will be like him. Do you want to succeed? You can do it. How? By spending time with a father who loves you and wants to spend time with you.

Sounds like success to me.

Joe Plemon, a retired engineer, financial counselor and blogger, lives in Southern Illinois with Janice, his wife of 39 years. Joe likes online Scrabble, St Louis Cardinal baseball, blues music, power naps, high school football, short term mission trips and Sunday family dinners. You can read more from Joe at Personal Finance by the Book.

The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Google: There Are 129,864,880 Books in the Entire World

Google: There Are 129,864,880 Books in the Entire World: "

How many books have ever been published in all of modern history? According to Google’s advanced algorithms, the answer is nearly 130 million books, or 129,864,880, to be exact.

We’ll admit it’s practically impossible to count every book that has ever been written, but in order for Google Books to successfully catalog the world’s supply of printed knowledge, the company needs an estimate of the amount of books it needs to scan. That’s why Google set out on the task to do just that.

In a detailed blog post, software engineer Leonid Taycher outlined just how complex counting books actually can become. The first step is defining exactly what a book is. The company decided to discount anything that wasn’t an idealized bound volume:

“One definition of a book we find helpful inside Google when handling book metadata is a ‘tome,’ an idealized bound volume. A tome can have millions of copies (e.g. a particular edition of Angels and Demons by Dan Brown) or can exist in just one or two copies (such as an obscure master’s thesis languishing in a university library).”

Google admits their definition is imperfect, but it’s workable and similar to what ISBNs are supposed to represent. ISBN, or International Standard Book Numbers, are designed to be unique identifiers for books. Because they’ve only been around for 30-40 years and are used in mostly Western countries, they can’t be used by themselves. That’s why Google took data from the Library of Congress, WorldCat and others to find as many books as possible — one billion raw records by the company’s count.

Here’s where Google’s engineering talent comes into play. The company used countless algorithms to determine and discard duplicates in an effort that required more than 150 pieces of metadata related to the world’s books to evaluate whether each book record was unique or a duplicate of another. Analyzing this data resulted in 210 million unique books.

Next, Google subtracted the millions of microforms, audio recordings, maps, t-shirts, turkey probles (yes, turkey probes) and videos with IBSNs, arriving at a much more reasonable number of 146 million. Finally, the company removed 16 million government document volumes from their estimate, getting to the 129.8 million count they announced today. Of course, publishers are issuing new books even as this post is being typed, so the company is constantly recalculating the book count.

While we don’t have an army of software engineers and algorithms to back us up, my gut says this number is too low and the company has many more books to count from the annals of history. Still, this project to figure out the world’s book supply is simply fascinating and could be useful for research and historical purposes for years to come.

Google’s next challenge: to stop getting sued over Google Books.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Not To Run A Sound Check

How Not To Run A Sound Check: "Some of you know that I work part-time for a live concert production company. One of the concerts we did not long ago was a church doing its live-CD release concert in a college amphitheatre. And this is how their sound guy ran the sound check: He started with the drummer, used his talkback mic to tell him to hit the kick. Three minutes later the drummer was still hitting the kick as the engineer was EQing and compressing it. Another minute or so and they moved on to the snare. In all, it took about 30 minutes for him to sound check the drums. There were also 2 electric guitars, a synth player with 2 keyboards, 4 vocalists, a bass player, and an acoustic guitar player. Long story short it was the most painful sound check that my boss and I had to sit through. And that was before they actually started playing music and asking for changes to their monitors.

That experience stuck with me and actually got me to thinking, is our sound check an inefficient use of time? I’ll let you guys be the judge. Here is how a typical Thursday night rehearsal is run for us. The audio guys get there around 6 to 6:15 to make the necessary changes to patching the differences between last week and this week. If there were 3 vocalists last week and this week there is only 1, microphones and monitors are struck from the stage. In all not that much changes from one week to the next so it usually doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to half an hour unless there is a choir or the layout of the stage has to be changed for something special on Sunday. At around 6:15 the musicians start coming to set up their stuff. The keyboard and electric guitar players are usually first because they have a lot to set up with their pedal boards, amps, keyboards and stands. As soon as they are up they’ll just start playing through some stuff to finalize their tones and save patch presets. This gives us a cheating start to set gain structure and maybe pull out one or two harsh frequencies in the EQ.

At 6:30, rehearsal officially starts. We un-mute the monitors and after the worship pastor discusses a few arrangement details for the first song or two, he will pray and they’ll just jump right into the first song. At that point the FOH is now working and the monitor engineer is watching the musicians to see if they use semaphore to ask for more or less of something in their mix. If changes must be made that are critical they will stop the song and ask for monitor changes, otherwise they’ll go through the whole song. After they run through that song, musicians will ask for changes to be made. However, I use The Short Guide To Mixing Monitors to train guys on how to mix monitors, that way the musicians can continue to play and speak their changes to the monitor engineer directly standing near them.

The band will go through the entire music set-list, which is four or five songs, sometimes stopping to make quick arrangement changes to the songs. After that the worship pastor will sometimes ask the tech guys if we need them to go over anything again. We usually end around 7:45 or 8PM. After that we will shut down, everyone will gather on the stage to quickly discuss the vision for this Sunday, and then we will pray. After that will go to a Starbucks around the corner to just hang out, fellowship, and keep up good relationships with the musicians and tech people who are available to come hang out. On Sunday morning we come back, do a quick run-through and turn the rough draft of what we were working on Thursday night into a final draft before first service.

Our previous worship pastor wasn’t too savvy with sound check efficiency. He would ask us to get the monitors and gain structure set BEFORE the band started playing music. Yeah, go figure that one out. In the end I’m not sure who wanted to punch each other more, us punching him or him punching the sound guys. Needless to say it caused huge divisions and distrust between the tech guys and musicians. He just didn’t get that we need to hear the music to set gain structure and levels against.

My question to all my readers is how do you run your sound checks? (Use the comment section.) Also can you spot ways we can streamline our sound checks to make better use of time, or can you spot areas where your MO is really efficient.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

July 4th 2010

Originally uploaded by SnLGienapp
A time honored ritual observed: A man, a boy, and their fireworks.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

7 Steps To Help Get Out Of Credit Card Debt

7 Steps To Help Get Out Of Credit Card Debt: "

You have vowed over and over again to get that credit card debt out of your life, but here you are, still in debt, frustrated with your lack of progress and starting to lose hope. Don’t! Millions have been where you are and have conquered that debt. You can too!

These tips will help.

1. Agree on getting rid of credit card debt

If single, find an accountability partner who will do just that: hold you accountable. Even better, find a friend who has the same goals you have so you can keep each other accountable. Either way, it is easier to maintain your financial goals if you know someone is checking on you.

If married, make sure the two of you are in total agreement. A house divided against itself cannot stand and neither can a marriage when partners are working against each other. Turn off the TV, wait until the kids are in bed, and discuss your financial goals. If you can’t agree, then agree to meet again and keep meeting until you do agree.

2. Budget

A financial truth is that you can’t manage your debt unless you manage your money. The good news: most people actually find money when they make a written budget. Why is this so? Because money that isn’t budgeted will disappear. Your budget is your Houdini antidote: it will make that disappeared money re-appear.

3. Avoid minimum credit card payments

Because the credit card companies want to keep you in debt forever, they structure their minimum payment amounts to do just that. Don’t play their game.

4. Stop using your credit cards

“What?” you say, “I can’t just stop cold turkey!”

Yes you can. What would happen if you kept borrowing money from the bank who has your car note? Right! You would never get it paid off. Every time you use your credit card you are borrowing money. Adding debt while subtracting debt is bad math.

5. Don’t run with friends who are high spenders

No, you don’t have to give up your friends, but if you have budgeted $100 a month for eating out, you won’t be able to go out with them every weekend. They might not understand, but what is more important: your family’s finances or the approval of your friends?

6. Keep an emergency fund as your credit card buffer account

I realize that it is difficult to save for emergencies while paying off debt, so save at least $1,000 for small emergencies before getting started. Why? Because when your car’s water pump goes out and you have no available funds to pay for the repair, you will reach in your wallet and pull out that piece of plastic you vowed not to use. Your emergency fund is your cushion for when life happens.

7. Review and update your goals

We started by making sure that you need to be in agreement with a partner. Great. But once you have entered a battle, you need to monitor your progress and make sure your battle plan is still in focus. If you had $10,000 in credit card debt, celebrate every time you knock it down by $1,000. You will gain momentum instead of losing steam.

Like I said, you can do this. Get started!

What other tips do you have for getting rid of credit card debt?

Photo by JudeanPeoplesFront

Joe Plemon, a retired engineer, financial counselor and blogger, lives in Southern Illinois with Janice, his wife of 39 years. Joe likes online Scrabble, St Louis Cardinal baseball, blues music, power naps, high school football, short term mission trips and Sunday family dinners. You can read more from Joe at Personal Finance by the Book.

The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Debt Consolidation and the “Orbital of Stupid”

Debt Consolidation and the “Orbital of Stupid”: "

Yesterday, I heard a very interesting story on NPR that focused on Dave Ramsey looking at Greece’s debt situation through a personal finance lens. Without going into the politics of it, Dave made the astute observation that if a person behaved in the same way that Greece (or any other nation verging on default) behaved, they would be in a deep, deep personal crisis.

The story ended with a very interesting line:

Ramsey says the data from his world of personal financial advice is not encouraging: Most people who consolidate their debt are back in trouble within two years.

This statistic isn’t surprising to me in the least. Zero-interest balance transfers, home equity loans, and the like can go a long way toward turning high interest debt into much more manageable low interest debt.

Most of the time, debt consolidation is used merely to give a person enough breathing room to continue their life as usual. It’s just another way to move around bills in the short term to extend the party a bit.

Of course, some of the time, debt consolidation can be a great tool for getting your house in order.

The difference between the two groups isn’t measured in dollars and cents. It’s measured in whether or not the debtor is actually committed to financial stability or if they just want an easy route to more short term stuff and long term problems.

Here’s the real truth. If you are in a situation where debt consolidation looks appealing to you, it won’t help even a little bit if you don’t get your spending under control. In fact, it’ll probably make things worse over the long run.

To get into that situation, you have to be spending more than you earn. In order to get out of the situation, you have to be spending less than you earn. If you’re not committed to making the changes it takes for that, then you’re just shifting the dirt around to dig yourself a deeper grave without the walls collapsing in on you. You’re reducing the interest rate on some of your debt, which gives you enough monthly cash flow to start racking up more debt, which is completely in accordance with your lifestyle.

Before you consider consolidation, get your spending under control. If you can’t go more than a paycheck or two without spending more than you earn, then debt consolidation will do nothing more than make the long term problem worse for you (simply because it enables you to get into even more debt).

The key is to get your spending under control, not finding a great debt consolidation program. Using debt consolidation as a means to extend your overspending ways is, as Dave puts it so nicely, an “orbital of stupid.”