Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life in Wisconsin


Every once in a while the state of Wisconsin will come up nationally and usually we are described as a back water or fly over country or a place of weird people.  I wanted to say a few things about living here.

The weather does change rapidly.  It can be sunny and nice for a few hours in the day but then changes to wind and rain not too long thereafter.  It is more often cold than warm.  We may have four or five months that could contain some warmth.  July and August are really the only reliable warm times that we get.  Otherwise, it could be cool enough that jeans are required.

Speaking of clothing, we are not a dressy type of people.  I was recently in Chicago and I saw people in the hotel lobby that were wearing suits.  It surprised me.  I didn't think anyone actually dressed up that much anymore.  I think people dress down here in a relaxing manner.  Jeans, sweatshirts, and t-shirts are popular.

The people are mostly descendants of northern Europeans.  There is a reserved nature and people are close to their family and friends and not necessarily looking for new friendships.  So there might be a closed nature to us.  However, because of this, there is a sort of stability to the region.  People do not move far.

The economy is steady as well.  It isn't a place where there is a wide difference with incomes.  People work hard and want to improve their lives through work.  Agriculture and manufacturing still play a big part in the states economy.

People also play hard.  Recreation is a big thing here.  Fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, biking, running, and sports in general.  People like to restore and collect cars so there are several auto shows here.  People also like their beer and strong drink.  There are many bars and most towns have several in addition to restaurants that have a bar.  I think the bar culture came over from Europe but it is also a place to gather to keep warm.  

The big cities have an unhealthy balance.  Madison and Milwaukee often determine the outcome of any election.  Unfortunately those two metro areas lean left so our state comes across as liberal.  It is true that socialism has crept in like it has through out our nation.  However, I think there is a conservatism that runs deep.  People believe in personal responsibility, protecting life, and personal property.

I think if you are considering moving here, be aware that the cold and darkness are hard to put up with.  People can be closed and it is difficult to really get to know others.  The economy can have some stability to it.  The politics are divided.  It is reported to be an affordable area to live and it is compared to San Francisco or New York but I would not say it is really cheap.   Bargains can be had if you look for them but food, gas, housing, taxes all seem high and relentless to me.  

If you have any questions on life here or if you want my opinion or would like me to research something for you, please let me know.  I can be reach by this blog or keithjameskemp at gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I look for in a car

When I am looking to replace a vehicle, I have some basic criteria.  It must be rust-free, low mileage, and paid for.  When I was growing up, our cars were no beauties.  We usually had only one and it would likely be an old style van, and that van would have dents and rust.  My dad had no auto interest whatsoever unlike many today we are into racing, collecting, and restoring.  That disinterest has been passed down to me.  Yet I don't like the looks of rust but I do like having a car clean so rust sort of spoils that preference.  I like low miles because the car will last longer.  My cars must be paid for because I refuse to be in debt.  Many people see an auto loan as their only way to make it.  I don't believe that.  I would rather save up my money, pay cash, and keep my freedom.  Yes, I would like to have better cars.  Something of better comfort, class, acceleration and that may happen.  Who knows, I could make it really big where buying a new car is a small expense.  But for now, I have what I have and I am content with them as they get me and my family from point A to point B.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Glass containers

I hope our society can go back to glass containers.  They are easy to clean, they don't leach, they can be reused, and they break down in the environment.  Glass has the disadvantage though that it can break and those shards can be sharp.  However, when it does shatter out in the world, it will break down to eventually become one with the earth.  Plastics and aluminum do not break but they also do not meld into the environment.  Studies have shown that these two materials will leach harmful chemicals into the human body.  Therefore, I am hesitant to use them.  I see people discard them along the roadways and there they sit until someone generously picks them up.  I would like to see more companies return to the healthier, lighter impact material of glass.  It is a favorite of mine and I hope it is what you choose to use also.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The prayer of the tax collector

We have many famous prayers in the Bible.  The Lord's Prayer or as some of observed the Disciples Prayer.  The Prayer of Jabez has become popular in our time.  We recite Psalm 23 as a prayer often times.  However, I have not heard many comments, sermon's, or books on the Tax Collector's prayer.  It can be found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 18 verse 13.  He says, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"  This tax collector was probably looked at as a turn coat, someone who was Jewish but who worked for the Roman government, and therefore was seen as a traitor to his own people.  He probably had great doubts about his work.  His own conscience likely bothered him, especially if he collected more than was required by Roman law.  He was unlikely to have many friends.  So he was rejected by man and only had up as a way to go.  Notice, he starts his prayer addressing the only one who can help with the mess of his life, "God".   He asks for one thing from God and that is mercy.  In other words, he asks God to stay His rightful judgement on his life.  In the end we see what the tax collector sees himself as and that is a sinner.  I think this prayer is a model to the unbelieving world.  This is the way we should begin our relationship with our Creator.  The man had great humility as he stood afar off and would not raise his eyes to heaven.  I think this is a picture of having things in the right order.  Our view of God must be high, holy, and just and our view of ourselves must be low, common, and criminal.  I hope many express a prayer like this one as a way out and as a way to draw near to the Lord.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shopping

I find there is one person I enjoy shopping for:  me.  I know what I have, what I like, and what I can afford.  I do not enjoy shopping for others.  That may sound like I am some sort of a curmudgeon but let me explain.  In the past, I have bought presents and really worked hard at it. I went here and there, picked out some things, weighed the options, bought it, and wrapped it.  Only to never really know if it was liked or used.  I have not liked the uncomfortable feeling I have when people open what I bought.  The look on their face says it was not what they expected, or the wrong size or an odd color.  It would be nice to eliminate those feelings from my life and mostly I have as my wife will now do the Christmas and gift shopping.  I have tried to use the method of buying things for others that I would like to have but that hasn't seemed to have worked as what I would like to have is rarely what people would like to have.  It isn't a great feeling when I see things I have bought for someone in their discard pile.  I would much prefer to buy my own things than buy for others as there is little question as to whether or not it will be used and enjoyed.  I think in this mix is also that I dislike wasting time and money.  Running from store to store and parting with money that could be better used elsewhere is hard on my psyche. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I am thankful for

Here is a list of things I am thankful for in no particular order.

A measure of health.
A clear mind.
My loving, supportive wife.
My parents.
Salvation.
God's Word.
Heaven.
A good book to read.
My dog.
My church family.
Enjoyable, satisfying work.
Ice cream.
Open spaces.
Radio, audio files, music.
Paid for vehicles.
Warmth.
Sun light.
A winning home team in the Packers.
Good food.
Freedom, independence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Expecting company's to care

I was in a group this week where I heard from a man who stated that the company's he does business with don't care about him.  They supposedly only care about getting money from him.  The man was apparently unemployed and needed income.  He said that his bank only cared about getting his mortgage payment each month.  His cell phone company only cared that he pay them every month.  It surprised me that he would expect anything else.  The people he deals with at his bank are paid to collect mortgage payments and process the monies and they are not encouraged to be sympathetic or to think creatively on how someone can make a payment.  He did the right thing by contacting these places to let them know his earnings had dropped.  He was proactive and that was good because he was taking responsibility and he may have bought himself some time and prevented harassing phone calls.  However, that is about as far as it can reasonably go.  They eventually will need to get their money or he will be cut off.  But they don't want his house or his phone.  They want him to be a consistant customer.  He needed to find caring people elsewhere like his family, his friends, or his church.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Work shops at the job center

I went to two work shops today at the Fox Cities Workforce Development Center.  The first one was titled, "Where do I go from here?"  One idea that I really liked was that each of us should brand ourselves.  In a short phrase we should be able to describe our value and what we do.  So I came up with "Bringing order and efficiency to any situation".  I also scribbled this one, "Improving and upgrading the human experience".  It was suggested that I change my slogan to "Bringing I.T. order, efficiency, and improvement".  My branding might need some work but the teacher suggested that we use this phrase in our email signatures, on our resume, and in our conversations.  His other idea that I liked was that we should say to people when we are introduced, "Thank you for who you are!"  Then tell them that they are valuable and that you are looking forward to learning more about them.  That usually brings people in and so ask them for five minutes, tell them what you are doing, and see if they have anyone in their network that can help you.  But we should also be striving to broaden ourselves by learning about them and customizing our service to their needs.  The teacher also said to know what your learning style is so that you can tell an employer how to best train you in order to cut ramp up time and costs.  The second workshop was on Transferable Skills.  We were encouraged to put on our resume anything that we have learned or done whatever the source.  That includes parenting and family origins.  Put it on there if it is relevant information.  I wrote this while in class and really liked it, "Prefer intensive, deep relationships in customer service in order to get people to the point where they are independent.  Then, in several months, come back and check on them."  I think that is pretty close to what I am striving for.  These workshops are held on Mondays and are taught by John Gosling.  They are free and it is not necessary to reserve a spot.  I would highly recommend either workshop.   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Deer Hunting 2011

I went deer hunting again this year.  It has been five years in a row that I have gone.  When I was in my teens I went maybe three times.  In those years, I never tagged a deer, however in four out of five of my recent deer hunts, I have bagged a doe.  I enjoy the time away, doing something different, and spending time with my aunt and uncle.  I also like being out in God's creation, having an experience to share, and firing a gun.  Fortunately, my uncle supplies all the equipment.  I don't even have a gun.  That has been nice, but some day, I would like to have my own rifle, gear, and orange clothing.  I am challenged by the cold.  That is probably the worst part of deer hunting.  Cleaning out a deer, though disgusting, can be managed.  I would like to get to place where taking off the week of gun deer season would be possible.  I would also like to shoot a buck.  Something with a good set of antlers.  So far, the males have been elusive and the shots I have taken at them have been wild.  They come in by themselves so there is no warning, they keep moving, and they are quiet for the most part.  The property my uncle and aunt own is terrific deer habitat.  I saw seven deer on Saturday and seven on Sunday.  There may have been some duplication.  There was more activity this year than last.  I even saw thirteen turkey's on Saturday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ask me this

People will often ask, "How are you?" and though I appreciate their interest, there are better questions to ask me.  Ask me how things are going with my home church.  Ask me what books I have read lately.  Ask me what new technological item is catching my interest.  Ask me what I have learned lately from one of my favorite podcasts.  I am not the biggest, most interesting talker.  However, I do have interests and passions that I am willing to discuss and explore.  Let's move on from the most basic, uninteresting, dead end questions and let's move onto the topics that put some fire in the soul.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

27 Letters

I thought of a sure way to become famous and add some breadth to the English speaking world.  If I could come up with an acceptable 27th letter to the alphabet it would get me into the history books.  We assume that we have all the letters we need.  But isn't it possible that there are pronunciations that we are over looking because we are missing a letter?  After choosing the letter, there must be a sound that accompanies it, and there would than be new words that could be made, each of which would need to have their own definition.  People would need to start using those words, having the ability to type the letter, and gradually the new letter and words would be accepted into dictionaries and the like.  I see adding to the alphabet as somewhat the same as adding more endings to internet addresses.  We started with .com, .net, and .org but now there is .info, .biz, and .tv.  Why can't we add to the alphabet?  Are we missing an opportunity here?  Why limit ourselves?  Why stop with 26?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Grace of Interruption

In Dan Miller's book "48 Days to the Work You Love", there is a paragraph on the Grace of Interruption.  The credit of this phrase goes to a woman who was let go from her job.  Instead of looking at that as a wholly negative event, she framed it as something much softer.  When we have unexpected time, it can give us time to breath, to catch up, to meet up with people we haven't been able to see because of work, and it allows us to refocus, write goals, exercise, read, and rest.  I had a plan to leave a job that had become very routine, where any small mistake was considered unforgivable, and where the pay was stagnant at best.  I received an invitation to go somewhere with better pay.  Something I was definitely looking for.  However, the hours expected to work and be available was not communicated up front.  I could not sleep, was stressed, and could not get anything accomplished.  Now after parting ways, I am experiencing the grace of interruption.  I am doing those things mentioned above.  Yes, it is a little scary.  The expenses of life do not quit because the paychecks have ended.  Yet, I believe there is something out there for me, I am clarifying who I am, what I want, and what I don't want.  I look forward to a new challenge and I don't assume this is for the worse.  I believe that there are many opportunities out there for me.  I plan on taking initiative and doing my best.  God is my provider, I go to Him in prayer, and I have asked His people for help and prayer.  This is a season of my life that I think I will look back on in some years and see as a great time to reflect and refocus.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pixar films: most to least favorite

Below is my listing of Pixar animated films in order from most liked to least liked.  I have followed this studio from almost the beginning and anticipated each new movie with great excitement and expectation.  I like the companies commitment to quality and doing it right.  They do not over produce and thereby lose focus and put out shoddy work.  Usually it is one film a year and the release date is well planned.  For a quite a while there, they were releasing films like no one has ever done but in recent years they have made a follow up film or two that has not been original.  It would seem that they have fallen for profits over art.  I also liked that Steve Jobs was the CEO of this company for quite a while.  It was just too cool that he was running both Apple and Pixar.  I've never seen anything like that before.

The Incredibles - love the 1950's setting with the tradition family, cloak and dager, and great action.  I can watch this movie again and again and wish more films were made like this one.

Cars - this one had to grow on me but now it is my second favorite Pixar film.  I like the values of this film and the portrayal of life in a small town and the struggles it can bring.

Bugs Life - one of their early films.  I enjoyed learning about Pixar at the time this one came out and this began a long love affair with the company.

Toy Story II - the voices of Woody and Buzz are so well done.  A wonderful piece where they make it look easy.  

The next in line would be Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Toy Story I, Toy Story III, and Up.  Cars 2 I have not seen but I have heard that is more geared to parents than to children.  I will see this movie I am sure but am not in a hurry because it is a second film.  I really wish this company would have continued to create original films rather than pursuing profits by going with what already known by the audience.

My least favorite film by Pixar is Ratatouille.  I just can't bring myself to see a rat as a hero.  I also did not the spiritual dimension to this film.   

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unsung Heros of the Bible

Today for Sunday school, the lesson was on Jehoshaphat and Micaiah.   Jehoshaphat was a good king but one who allied himself with some wicked people.  He wanted to do what was right but allowed himself to be pulled into friendships that took him where he didn't want to go.  Micaiah was a god-fearing prophet who stayed true to his Lord.  He took an unpopular stand that showed he truly cared for someone who was heading down the wrong path.   It is funny how these two have for the most part flown under the radar in Christianity.  There are many heros of the Bible and some are there to be discovered on your own.  I recommend reading 2 Chronicles 18.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tech Check podcast review

Tech Check is a podcast that comes out on Thursday or Fridays where a panel reviews and comments on technology happenings for the past week.  The fifteen minute or so program comes from the studios of CNN in Atlanta, Georgia.  The host is Doug Gross and the panel is John Sutter and Stephanie Goldberg.  Doug is the most talkative and keeps things moving whereas John and Stephanie jump in and provide some short commentary.  Items of conversation are smart phones, social networking, technology celebrities, computers, and the internet.  I like this podcast because of the variety of news and opinions.  They talk about the most notable stories of the week but they usually have some newsy item that has slipped my notice.  The format is almost all the same with introductions, item # 1, item # 2, (sometimes item # 3?), the comment of the week, and finally, the tech fail of the week.  I would recommend Tech Check for those who want a short program focused on technology.  It is available for free on the Stitcher app.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ranking holidays

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Late November is well passed summer and deep into fall so there really isn’t much going on.  The requirements of the holiday are small.  A little travel, greet and talk with relatives that you haven’t seen for several months, and eat.  Then talk some more, maybe watch a football game, and say heartfelt good-byes in order to go home and prepare for a three day weekend.  
The middle of the group would be Christmas, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.  I like Christmas for the family get together redux.  However, I find buying gifts to be stressful and taxing.  I have really only found one person that I enjoy buying for and that is me.  With others, I don’t know if I have ever felt like I truly met a need or if they say thank you to just be polite.  The religious meaning of Christmas is not lost on me.  I attend church services and extra events during this time, most of which I actively participate in and enjoy.  I like Memorial Day because it gives a three day weekend and it marks the beginning of summer.  In the same vein I like Labor Day because it gives a three day weekend and bookends the summer.  I do not attend special events for either of these holidays so they end up being days off more than anything.  Come to think of it, I have gone downtown several times to listen to the band and the giving of roll call for Memorial Day.  So I have attended a special event for that holiday a few times.  Independence Day is during the summer and having additional time during the summer to enjoy the weather is a good thing.  Watching fireworks has become old to me so I don’t always attend special events for this holiday.
By far, my least favorite holiday is New Years.  Having a day off right after having a day off for Christmas seems too much too soon.  I would rather be doing something purposeful but I usually end up not having much to do on the day.  I would easily trade this holiday for one in April (Good Friday) as I would like to have time off during the nicer weather.  I do not enjoy staying out late or mixing it up with large groups of people so I have learned to stay home and keep things quiet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saturday delivery

I would be in complete understanding of the Post Office doing away with Saturday deliveries.  My mail consists of a lot of disposable advertising, not very important notices, and political ads.  Occasionally there is a wedding invitation or a financial statement.  These few real letters can wait until the week day.  My personal habit is to pile up my mail at the desk and then take 20 minutes once a week to open, look through them, and take any action needed.  I think five day delivery gets everything to me in good time and may even be too much.  But for now, I think we the public are without danger of missing anything important by shutting down the Post Office on Saturdays.  As an alternative, perhaps the Post Office could be open Tuesday through Saturday, that way people could find it easier to actually visit the Post Office building on Saturday.  Either way, I think five day delivery covers everything important.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The News from Lake Woebegon podcast review

Garrison Keillor spins a tale each week about a fictional small town in Minnesota as part of his show “A Prairie Home Companion”.  The full show is on public radio Saturday nights from 5 to 7 PM.  The News from Lake Woebegon is usually in the second half of the program and can last from 8 to 15 minutes.  Garrison will start in one place, describing someones activities or thoughts and will end up in an entirely different place describing another event by the end of the segment.  Sometimes he speaks about the church pastor or parishioners, sometimes teenagers or teachers, sometimes husband and wives, sometimes grumpy old men or dissatisfied women.  His topics are church socials, finding and falling in love, moving out of a small town, aging parents, gearing up for deer hunting, conversation at the local watering hole, and many others.  He is chronicling life in the United States but doing it in a very artistic way.  He essentially speaks back to us what we are doing and thinking.  Our quirks, contradictions, and ways of life.  Sometimes what he says ends up being a jab, other times it is confirming.  Either way, it is comforting to know that someone is noticing life in small towns.  He does not change his voice to try and mimic other peoples speaking styles.  He pretty much uses his own speaking style.  There isn’t any sound effects or music during this part of the show.  It is almost a sermon of sorts.  The humor is subtle but usually not the laugh out loud sort.  He can bring a slight smile to your face.  He does the news in an effortless way but what he is doing is by no means easy.  I believe he is a national treasure but sadly I would guess that 90% of the United States population has never heard of him or his program although it has been going on for decades.  The News from Lake Woebegon podcast is available for free using the app Stitcher.  I would highly recommend this podcast.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fire

I enjoy fire and think it is a useful tool.  I like burning twigs, sticks, and wood in our backyards fire pit.  When I am done, the fire has consumed all this material.  What was there, is not there anymore, taking up space and getting in the way.  When I drive around our world, I see large pile of brush that farmers have piled up in the middle of their field.  If I were them, I would burn them up so that the whole field could be accessible   I also see old barns that are not being used.  If I were the property owner, I would call the fire department and ask them to have a practice burn.  I see piles of burnable material in yards and property and think how wonderful it would make the owner feel if they would responsibly burn that stuff up.  I think fire is under used today because people are concerned about global warming (a small fire is not going to add to the over heating of our planet), pollution (a little smoke will get quickly taken away by the wind), or that the fire will get away from there (yes, you need to be careful but containing a fire is very doable).  Let me encourage you to have a small fire to clear out some of your piles of brush and wood.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Believer or Disciple?

We had a challenging message today at The Vine Christian Fellowship.  The question before us was "Believer or Disciple:  can we be one and not the other?"  It was not a feel good and be happy message but the guest pastor delivered it in a manner that was not judgmental or condescending.  I think the church at large needs to hear this sort of message because we are in eternal danger if we get this one wrong.  We are so fuzzy on our theology and so many worldly and unbiblical messages have crept in.  One of which is that we can believe on God and merely give recognition that He exists and somehow that is enough.  No, it isn't.  We are called to believe in Jesus as Lord and that means we surrender to Him.  We do not come to Him to negotiate and attempt to have a little give and take.  We are called to pray "Let Your will be done".  Adding Jesus to our lives like adding a philosophy is not Christianity.  Being a disciple means we are teachable, disciplined and learning.  Any child is pushed to do things for himself and that includes feeding himself.  As a child of God we are suppose to feed ourselves.  We need to be in the Word throughout the week between services.  Sundays should be like desert.  Filling and sweet to be sure but it should be on top of what we have fed on during the week.  

Here is how we can be His disciples.  1.  Keep yourself in the love of Jesus and stay there.  2.  Serve God (and yes it can be work and inconvenient).  3.  Know who you are.  4.  Remember what is important (your soul and the souls of those people around you).  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Collect a new radio station

When I travel, I like to tune into local radio.  I enjoy finding a slightly different spin on the usual music I like.  Getting local talent and local advertisements is also interesting.  It can help to widen my understanding and it broadens my knowledge of what is going on.  When I get home, I will find the station in my "TuneIn Radio" app on my iPod Touch and mark it as a favorite.  Then I will listen to this station at home and it reminds me of the place I visited.  I will think of the terrain, the smells, and what I was doing there.  Here are some examples.  I found Beach 92.7 FM when visiting Florida.  I found Love 105 FM when driving around Minneapolis.  I found Rewind 100.3 FM when I was in Chicago.  When I was in Door County, I found The Lodge 106.9 FM.  When I drive through Madison, I will sometimes tune into Life 102.5 FM.  These are great stations not on the air in my area.  However, with the "TuneIn Radio" app and wi-fi, I am able to listen to stations that otherwise I would have only been able to listen to if I was physically present where they broadcast.  Try this out.  I think it is more enjoyable to bring home a new radio station than a tourist souvenir.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Let the fans rush the field

I love seeing the fans pour down out of the stands onto the field in jubilation.  The home team has won, the arch rival has been defeated, and there is not time remaining.  The goal post is climbed and eventually it tumbles.  People are all smiles and want to do something.  The heck with the grass and safety, let the fans fun onto the field to celebrate a big moment.  Why do we have to keep the fans so separate from the players that they love?  Why care more about the one fan who falls during the mad dash than the thousands who want to express their heart?  There are so many rules today that people are not allowed to do much at all.  This saddens me.  I secretly am delighted when security is over run and the enthusiastic band of hoodlums gets loose and onto the field.