Gift Certificates – who wants one?

I use siteground.com to host my evolving website (http://pedalinfaith.com). They have given me $20 gift certificates to pass out. I’m not sure what the minimum purchase would be. But I’m very happy with them. I signed a three month contract (which averages out to $7/month) and have been impressed with their reliability, service, and tools so much that I’m going to up it to a 2 year contract (which averages about to about $5/month.)

If any of you have been thinking about getting a website (a domain name of your choosing is included in the cost), leave your email address here and I’ll send you a gift certificate for them. (I’ll make your post private as soon as I read it so you won’t forever expose your email to the world.)

For those of you who care about the geeky stuff, Siteground can host Joomla, Drupal, and Mambo sites as well as wikis and WordPress blogs and osCommerce stores and your homegrown CGI and PHP scripts (with MySQL backend for db users) as well as a variety of bulletin boards (forums). Other features include a private FTP upload area, email address, and website statistics monitoring. I’ve personally tried some of those features and will be adding some more. (You won’t see them on my site, because I haven’t made them public yet.)

Nice things happen to me

I was at the library on Friday and happened across 40 used National Geographic magazines for sale for $.25 each. What a windfall. I don’t know when I’ll have time to do collaging again, but I’m stocked for cutouts.

Then, this morning, kitty was his usual patient self, sitting next to my pillow, waiting for me to wake up enough to pet him. But then he snuggled in, laying down and spooning the back of my head, and throwing his arm over my neck. It was the epitome of comforting.

Welcome to My Hangover

I have an old friend who rolls through town about once a year on a company expense account. He calls me, usually with a day or less notice, and says to plan something extravagant. Last night, we indulged in decadence at Boulder’s finest hotel. This guy knows how to live it up. He is an executive and is accustomed to being treated like one. Not that he feigns superiority. Not at all. But hotels like this are created to cater to people who expect only the best as a matter of course. So, when we go out, I take lessons from him on how to own whatever room I’m in and allow myself to be treated like a queen.

Here’s how he orders dinner, “I don’t feel like reading the menu. I’d like something light and flavorful. Perhaps fish. Something that would go with a good bottle of Viognier. Can you find something that would suit me?” And, of course, at places like this, the waiter is totally comfortable with his tip riding on how well he can read this guy’s mind.

And here’s me: “Um, we better finish our wine before we hit the spa because they probably won’t allow it in the hot tub area.” Whereupon my friend gives me this look, calls me by name, and reminds that we are guests here, and therefore we get to do pretty much whatever the hell we want.

So, we started with appetizers and wine at the bar. (He sent back his Manhattan because he decided he was in the mood for wine instead.) Then we got into comfy robes and sat on couches, with hot wraps around our necks and our feet marinating in some frothy concoction of hot liquid. Then we each got hour long massages. (Now, I see why they tell you to not drink and sit in the hot tub or get body work. It pretty much immediately replaces all the blood in your arteries with alcohol and makes the less hearty among us get overly nauseous and dizzy.) After some post-massage lounging and grape eating, we got hot showers and proceeded to dinner. And more wine of course.

Jeeez, I’m such a lightweight anymore. I rarely ever drink just because I rarely ever get a craving for it. And when I do, one glass of wine is enough to give me unwelcome physical reminders that the word “toxic” is embedded in the word “intoxicated”. Last night, I had 3 1/2 glasses over about 4 hours. Not a lot by college standards, but enough to make me wake up at 4 AM to seriously need to empty the contents of my intestines and want the room to stop moving ever time my eyes shifted focus. (Why I didn’t have this problem before I went to bed is a bit odd.) The good news is that, although I could get used to being a bit of a louche, I’m at no risk of becoming a lush.

Breakfast today: graham crackers, gingerale with lots of bitters, and some naproxen sodium.

Still not saved, but definitely more sane.

OK, I know I’ve said here in the past that I thought I’d make a good nun (except for the small issue of me not being Catholic, OK, yeah and there’s the celebacy thing), but, after this past weekend, I’m pretty sure I would go bat shit crazy if I ever tried (and that’s aside from the unwieldy doctrinal and moral theology). Not that this was a serious risk, mind you.

This past weekend, I decided to get away from it all. I’ve been feeling a bit wound around the axle this week, and the nearby Benedictine Abbey promised just the right distance and solitude that I needed. A friend had gone there on retreat years ago and her recommendation stuck with me, especially her recounting of the nuns trading chant verses in the resonant chapel. I was not disappointed. I joined Vespers at 5 and Compline at 7, and the sound of the voices in slow, repetitive unison mellowed me right out. When I left to walk back to the retreat quarters in the dark, the stars were out in force and two owls were trading calls of their own. It was sublime. I liked the whole experience so much that I thought might get up for 6:30 AM Matins and Mass as well. But, out there in the middle of nowhere, sleeping in a bedroom labeled “Queen of Peace”, with nothing to disturb me, I thought wrong. 🙂

Saturday, I rolled out of bed and helped myself to breakfast by the crack of 9. A nun (and biblical scholar) from a Benedictine Abbey in Kansas was visiting and offered a program on women in the Old Testament. Now, I’ve heard that the folks who are really in the know in the theology world are actually quite hip to the debatable historicity of the Bible and the ambiguity of its directives and the general magical thinking of the characters and authors (yes, authorS). But I was pleasantly surprised when she also took up a feminist stance as well, pointing out that pretty much any time a woman appears in the Old Testament, it’s because she is taking on responsibility for something that was often the joint or sole responsible of an ineffectual male and then she gets found guilty for it. Her whole approach to the teachings of the day was really one of “Where would Jesus and the other heroes of the Bible be without all these women intervening of behalf of their destiny?” In fact, the only really eye-rollingly close-mindedness I saw came through on the anti-abortion issue. (She suggested that Pharaoh’s daughter saving Moses was a pro-life argument. Uh, yeah, hmmm, and I suppose then that the next time your husband violates any commandments, you should probably circumsize your son with a sharp rock and rub your husband’s penis with the leftover foreskin, just to be sure that God doesn’t come and kill him in the night. Yeah, that line of thinking holds. Riiiiiiiiiiight. Talk about heresy.)

As much as I find religion fascinating and relevant, I was really turned off by just how much Christian scripture, at least the Old Testament, speaks from a victim mindset. “Oh, Lord, save me from my enemies here” and “Banish the evildoers who tell falsehoods about me there”. It has been a long time since I really have sat down and read the Bible–I think when I was younger, I got thrown by the strange grammar and vocabulary. So, I was kind of re-disheartened to realize just how much the Bible harps on justice and mercy. Not that justice and mercy aren’t virtuous. But when that’s what is focused on and the way it’s presented, it seems to just manifest a lot of externalizing of blame. Really sad to me. But, given the Christian roots of our society, it sure would explain a lot of today’s ills.

As for the nun thing, you know, the monastic part still appeals to my soul (although, with a hungry mind like mine, I’d probably go bonkers without an unlimited library and internet access). And the service and hospitality part makes my heart happy. And the ritual part blows open my mind to the sense of mystery and reverance that I love so much to feel. Honestly, I kinda wish I were Christian. It would make my spiritual life a lot simpler. But I really struggle with the “Jesus as God” thing, especially since I have no direct, experiential relationship with the man. (The God thing I have no problem with but that’s a private matter.) And I have trouble with the built-in father complex. I just don’t relate to God that way. And I couldn’t find where a sense of humor was considered much of a virtue in Christianity. (I prefer a God that loves a good practical joke.)

I know the penguin suits added an air of formality to the whole thing. (Not all Benedictines wear them, but this abbey still does.) The outfits seem to make every interaction feel so formal and complex and cumbersome to me. It’s just hard to enjoy some good natured ribbing with a nun. (Although Sister Hildegard was pretty funny. Especially in the nun suit, she has stand-up comedienne potential.)

All that said, I’d go back some day just to sit in that chapel and listen to the singing. And to hear some more feminist theology.

Pimping Pandora

Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, was in Denver last night for a users’ group. It was inspiring to hear the story of a web startup that had a great idea before its time and still prevailed over the dot com bust (and other monetary and technical challenges) to become one of the coolest things on the web nowadays.

For 7 years, the Pandora folks have been analyzing millions of songs across certain attributes (e.g., tempo, instruments, genre, etc.) and have come up with a sort of “genome” of music across which they can map just about any song. What this allows them to do is create for you a personalized radio station of songs you know and songs you don’t based on songs you like. With every song offered up, you can vote it up or down and Pandora adjusts its algorithm for your song selections accordingly. So, you can basically tune your station to your liking. It has been the most enjoyable way for me to get introduced to new music that I’ve found in years.

Tim got the idea and started out in 1999 after having done a little film composing where the requirements were “music that sounds like this song but for cheaper”. So, he began to analyze songs for likeness and, at the time, he figured that he’d license it to on-line radio stations and music sales companies for recommendation engines. He had no idea at the time that it would get a life of its own. A year and a half into it the money ran out and they ran on empty for a couple of years until the post 9/11 economy started to recover a bit. By this time, broadband was much more ubiquitous and on-line radio became a lot more viable. Also, the much maligned DMCA (that was created so that the big corporations wouldn’t get undercut by services like Napster) dictated uniform royalty percentages for on-line music and therefore made it do-able for Pandora to get licenses to share with a wider audience the library they had so carefully built. (The alternative would be to be the time consuming and legally expensive process of having to negotiate agreements with *every* record company out there.) In late 2004, Pandora sent out invitations to 200 friends and family to try their simply radio application and, within a month, they had 4000 registered users where it supposed to be only the original 200. They opened it up to the public in November 2005 and have just passed the 4 million user mark simply by word of mouth.

They now have 45, full-time trained musicians whose job it is to expand Pandora’s library, which they do based on user suggestion, direct submissions by musicians, and traveling around looking for local bands that deserve a wider audience (which is what brought Tim to Denver and many other places). Tim’s personal vision is to create a musician middle class (somewhere between major record deal and completely unknwon), a place where music lovers and musicians can find each other without big record companies chaperoning and without listeners and musicians having to drag themselves around to smoke-filled bars at all hours of the night.

Upcoming features will includes social features (such as finding others who share your music interests for sharing recommendations and other music discussions), the ability to select songs not only on general likeness but on specific attributes as well (I can’t wait for this for developing my non-traditional tango station), and tracking local tour dates for your favorite artists.

If you haven’t tried Pandora, it deserves a listen. Check out my stations here. U.S. listeners only, sorry. Since the DMCA is only for the U.S., they are still in the process of negotiating contracts for European and Japanese listeners. (Of course, you can fake it out and give it a US zip code and get in that way.)

meme

[yoinked from ]

Another badass quiz from eSPIN-the-Bottle…

What’s Your Mental Age?

MY RESULT:Old Soul

You’re a great person to know ‘cause you’re so wise and mature. Plus you’re probably good at shuffleboard.

The good news is, you’re fearless, and you’ve got a healthy outlook on life. The bad news is, you’ve got one foot in the grave. Hey, that’s okay – we’re sure you’ll be partying it up in the afterlife, too.

Take This Quiz!

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