Blogging at PAX

I’m flying out to PAX in Boston in a mere seven and a half hours, and the only electronics I am taking are my Kindle and my iPhone. I’m going to try something new this time around and blog exclusively through my phone, but I won’t be doing it here.

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Envisioning a Recording Studio

As someone who loves to write and also really enjoys reading, book reviews seemed like a natural fit to my activities. Read a book, write a bit about it, be happy. However, as I delved into the world of book reviews, I found that I really didn’t enjoy it. I lack the ability to make such things wholly entertaining, and I have trouble conveying my feelings on books through writing. I love to talk about books, but I just don’t enjoy writing about them.

The idea to do book reviews through video crept upon me slowly, so I can’t point at a flash of insight where I finally hit upon the idea of a video book review. Nevertheless, I have begun doing them, and specifically I recorded two today. Expect to see those on Saturday for the next couple of weeks, and who knows, maybe it’ll become a regular feature here. I enjoyed doing them quite a bit, and the process was relatively painless. YouTube makes it pretty simple.

iTunes, on the other hand, has been rather frustrating when it comes to podcasting. In addition to the Online Bible Study I am writing (which is essentially where I study the Bible and then write what I’m thinking), I wanted to record a podcast on the same topic. The podcasts are on the same verses I thought and wrote about, but generally expanded with more thoughts. I can speak a lot more quickly than I write, so where I might have spent a couple of hours thinking and writing, I can record in twenty minutes and be done with it. It’s not professional by any means, but then again neither am I.

Unfortunately, the plugin I use for podcasting with WordPress has designated an RSS feed location that I simply cannot find. I wanted to burn the feed with FeedBurner so I could track how the podcasts were doing, but there’s no way to easily modify the URL in iTunes that it pulls from, and I also can’t find the XML file locally to edit. This means that I pretty much need to just pull the original feed from iTunes and set up a new one.

I sent in a request that the current SilverPen Publishing thing on iTunes be pulled, but when I tried to create a new feed on there, it kept reporting that iTunes had timed out. In looking at Apple’s forums, they’re having a lot of complaints on this issue, so I’m glad it’s not just me. At the same time, I receive no solace from knowing other people are having problems with this too. I wish it just worked.

At any rate, I did create a new podcasting feed to which you can subscribe if you are into such things. Both videos and audio podcasts will be on here (if I did it right, anyways) and you’ll see them trickle in over the next few weeks. Hopefully I’ll get things straightened out with iTunes soon and can link to that as well.

And if you’re the retroactive type, I recorded a podcast for my first OBS entry. It’s pretty rough because this was my first recording and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was saying or where I was going with it. Please be assued that the podcast going live this coming Wednesday is far superior in every way.

Now that all that’s out of the way (about four hours of work so far), I think I’m ready for a cup of coffee and maybe playing some World of Warcraft with April. Because I obviously didn’t get my fill after yesterday’s all day adventure.

God is Love?

[podcast]https://mstublefield.com/podcasts/godislove.mp3[/podcast]

As an opening to our weekly college ministry meeting, Brian showed a music video he had found on YouTube that proclaimed “God is love” and that “He loves everyone.” The song was decent and the video was well done, so when I got to work the next day, I found myself looking it up so I could watch it again. While waiting for the video to load, I began to browse the comments down below and was a little surprised at some of the negativity. Contradictory to the message of the song, someone named JesusFreakRKG had posted that God is not, in fact, love and that the video was harmful and wrong.

As I read over JesusFreak’s comments and those who replied to him, I realized that the names looked familiar. It finally dawned on me that JF is the little brother of a friend of mine, so I sent the video to that friend and we later had a long conversation on the subject of “God is Love.”

The arguments against the video are reasonably sound, Biblically-speaking, but perhaps a little too restrictive of God’s sovereignty. Regardless, when deciding where to begin my Online Bible Study, I thought that 1 John would be an excellent place to start examining the nature of God and his love and/or hate.

1 John 1:1-4

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our  joy complete.

This concept of the “Word of life” hails from the Gospel of John, where he speaks at length about the Word of God, and this passage is generally interpreted as speaking metaphorically about Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John achieves a variety of things with these two short sentences. First, he links Jesus (the Word) with the creation of the world and specifically with the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible where God creates by speaking. Each creation phrase begins with, “And God said,” with all of creation springing into being in response to God’s statements. Second, John intimates that Jesus was both the word spoken as well as one with God, neither greater nor less than, but equal to the Father. And third, John states in verse two that Jesus, or the Word, was with God in the beginning, a statement that is later used by the Council of Nicaea to disprove Arius and state that Jesus was not created down the line, but rather was always with God because he is God.

To Bible-believing Christians, at least mainstream ones, this is all old-hat. We’ve been told that the Holy Trinity is just how things are, so we know (or think we do) that Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are all the same. John, however, is writing to people in the first century of the Year of our Lord when Jesus had just been a guy they saw walking around, giving out fish and healing lepers. If they were reading John’s letter, they had presumably heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, but it’s still quite a leap to go from “resurrected” to “God Almighty.”

Though it mattered a great deal then, does it still matter now? As I read the verses over and over, letting them resonate in my head, I decided firmly that they do.

One of the great joys of Christianity is knowing that we have a God who is sympathetic to our weakness because he was tempted just as we are. Jesus does not respond to humanity as one completely removed from humanity, for he descended to live a mortal life as a human for thirty-some-odd years, and was subjected to all manner of temptation and cruelty during that time. Though he never sinned, he knows and understands the struggles we face.

But it’s not like he just finally figured this out. God knows all things at all times, and when he spoke the world into creation, he knew what was going on. Jesus was there at the beginning.

This has two implications. First, that God created the world knowing 1) what we’d be faced with, but also 2) what we could overcome. He has balanced all things so that we can manage, and though life is almost unbelievably difficult sometimes, God’s strength will carry us through because he designed it that way.

Second, and perhaps more astonishing, is that God let things go down this way at all.

Let me try to put this into a brief timeline to highlight how crazy yet awesome this is. ((I had intended to expand on this in the podcast, but then got distracted by God’s crazy-awesomeness and lost track of what I was saying. Perhaps another time))  Before God created the world, he knew everything. He knew that we would sin and be separated from him, he knew that we would subsequently suffer, and he therefore also knew that he would forgive us and provide the means to rejoin him. God knew that he would sacrifice his son, himself, to pay the price of our sin. He knew that the very Hell created to hold those angels who had rebelled would be the place of punishment for our sins, and would therefore be the place his son would have to endure for three days. And he also knew that despite the resurrection of Jesus, there would still be many, many people who would ignore, avoid, or turn away from his love.

This is all very intricate, complex stuff with a difficult web connecting and justifying all decisions. Each statement in the above paragraph could each have their own subsequent blog entry (or four) explaining why things had to be that way. Let’s try and stay on this topic to the end, though.

The bottom line is that God 1) wanted us to have free will, 2) wanted us to have a relationship with him, and 3) had to provide a means to forgive sin that would be meaningful to us so both justice and mercy could occur. The means of achieving all this is Jesus. He was the Word spoken and he was the sacrifice needed.

This is the Word of which John writes in 1 John 1:1-4. John saw Jesus. He heard him, ate with him, touched him, walked with him, and knew him as a friend. And John wants to share those memories, stories, and wonderful revelations with us so we might have fellowship with him, with God, and with the greater Church.

God’s joy is complete when we, his followers, are in fellowship with each other and with him. It is the reason we were created, for God certainly didn’t need us. But he desired and loves us, and so by entering this fellowship, we bring joy to the Father. What’s more, though, is that John assures us that joining the fellowship of God will likewise bring us joy.

A life with Jesus is a life fulfilled, more pleasing and wonderful than you can imagine. John saw it and shares it through his first letter following his gospel of the life of Jesus. Next week, we’ll dig into verses five through seven of chapter one.

To be honest, Liches make me a little queasy

I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for bananas.
I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for cuddly puppies and kittens.

I finally received my copy of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King last night and set about installing it on Linux. Even though I got home pretty late last night, I wanted to at least give it a try, and since the installation and patching only took about 30 minutes, I went ahead and created a Death Knight.

My first impressions were…. *drool*. The opening video is stunning, and I was anxious to get rolling. After configuring my appearance, I began my demented existance.

As I continued playing, however, my apprehension grew. I’m the sort of guy that, when I play Knights of the Old Republic, I’m invariably a light-sided Jedi. It makes me uncomfortable to slaughter people for no other reason than my own self-advancement, and I don’t delight in rampant carnage… unless they be Stormtroopers. Even the Horde on World of Warcraft are billed as misunderstood, noble, and generally decent people. They take care of their own, and if anything can be said about their actions, it’s that they had little choice but to fight for survival.

But the Death Knights… they’re just plain evil. You start out serving the Lich King, and one of your first tasks is to go into a town and slaughter the inhabitants. You’re specifically ordered, in fact, not to worry too much about the guards, but to focus on chasing and cutting down the civilians because that will strike greater terror into the hearts of the Lich King’s enemies.

I’m going to keep going with my Death Knight, because I’m assuming you eventually break away from the Lich King to join your respective faction (Alliance or Horde) and things return to normal after a while. But these opening quests so far have just made me just a little uncomfortable.

Why I don’t use Flickr

Note: I’ve closed the massive photo gallery once hosted at SilverPen of well over 3,000 images we had taken and uploaded. We’ll continue to maintain a smaller set of public photos on Flickr, but will reserve the local photo gallery for our backups and friends/family who want to see more images.

I know, I know. This whole article is about why I don’t use Flickr, yet I’m moving there. I’ll write a new one and link it from here about why I have changed my mind and habits.


As I was uploading pictures from our housewarming party to our photo gallery over the weekend, I thought I might take a gander at the other offerings in the photo-hosting business. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should speed up our sites as much as possible, and a good/easy way to do this is to host videos and pictures on someone else’s web server. After all Flickr, Google Photos, and Youtube are all free, so why not use them? That way, when people are looking at our pictures and videos, they’re using Yahoo’s or Google’s bandwidth, not ours.

And while it’s true that having the pictures hosted there makes your site load faster, it can make setup take a lot longer. Let’s take a look at my photo gallery.

I’m not really much of a photographer. April and I usually forget to take our camera anywhere we actually want to take pictures, I’m not artistic in the least, and when we do have our camera, we still have a tendency to forget to use it. That being said, take a look at the text just at the bottom of that picture.

7 albums, 40 subalbums, and 3,168 images. I hadn’t really used my camera until I met April, so that’s all within the last 3 years, and while Flickr et. al. have many good qualities, dealing with a large photo gallery is not one of them.

Since Flickr is free, there are a number of limitations on its use. One of these is the number of images you can upload at a time. Right now, when I have a few hundred photos to add to my photo gallery, I simply zip them up in a file, upload that single file to my web server (start the several hundred MB upload and walk away), then unzip them on the server. Bam, a new album has been added to my photo gallery.

On Flickr, however, you can only upload 5 images at a time with the free account. Google Photos starts you off with 1gb of storage space, and you can pay to get more, but my photo gallery is currently sitting at 6.7gb. I’m not sure on Flickr’s pricing, but either way, it’d be a lot more work to upload and orient my photos. Flickr also has a limit on how much you can upload in a day. Right now, I believe that limit is 20mb, and while I can resize my photos to make them smaller, just 85 photos = 14mb for me on average. If I don’t resize them, or have 2-600 (like I usually do in a batch upload), I simply wouldn’t be able to upload all of my images in a day. It’d take me a week to get everything uploaded.

What’s more, you lose control when you use those services. Right now, I have my photo gallery, and I can style and organize it any way I like. Since I’m not an artist or stylistically inclined, it’s not phenomenal, but it’s mine. Someday, I may try and make it better, but I like how it is now. (::Aside:: Except for only having 15 pictures per page, but I did add a slideshow feature (bottom left when you’re looking at an album), and only having 15 images per page speeds up load time quite a bit and cuts down on bandwidth usage, so it really is a good thing.)

I feel like I’ve been rambling, so let me conclude succinctly. I don’t use Flickr (or other hosted solutions) for my photo gallery because

  1. Too many limits on how many pictures you can add at once
  2. Too small storage size
  3. Have to pay for larger storage size (and I’m already paying for web hosting)
  4. Can’t style the photo gallery myself

Therefore, I use Zenphoto. It’s not as full featured as what I was using before (Coppermine), but it’s a lot easier to use and a lot more attractive. The administrative interface doesn’t have many options, but it’s simple and it does its job well. I recommend Zenphoto, and I enjoy using it.

What’s more, I discovered ZenphotoPress today, which should make it easier and faster to add images from my Zenphoto gallery to my blog articles. As someone who self-hosts WebPress, there’s no better way to manage your photos than to self-host a photo gallery as well, and WP and Zenphoto integrate pretty seamlessly.

As for videos… well, I don’t do any of that right now, but I suspect I would go ahead and use YouTube for that and embed the videos here. They take significantly more bandwidth and storage space, and I doubt I’ll ever be to a point where I would need more space than they offer. However, if I did go into video production and had a lot of them to share, I would most certainly self-host those as well.