Monday, December 17, 2007

TGIF - December 17

I do some of my best thinking and planning while I'm driving. Good (and some not-so-good) ideas pop into my head and I ponder them for a few miles, then lose them before I commit them to long term memory or write them down. It might be an item for my to-do list, a person who I need to contact, or a program idea, but most of the time it used to be lost because I didn't keep it in my head until I could actually use it. Enter Jott, a free service that transcribes voice to text and sends it to a variety of places. It's also useful to keep track of those pesky expenses!

I have Jott assigned to a quick-dial key on my cell phone. When I think of something, I just dial it, tell the name of the folder or service that I want the message to go to, and it shows up in that folder. There is a desktop application that you can use to manage the messages you've sent yourself or you can use the website. You can have Jotts sent via e-mail, text message, or carrier pigeon. (They're still working the last option out, but it may very well be coming.)

The real beauty of Jott is that the designers are working to interface with lots of other online entities. You can send a Jott to and you will get the top 5 search results for your request sent as an e-mail. You can send a Jott to your Google Calendar and have an appointment show up. You can send a Jott to Remember the Milk and add something to your to-do list. You can send a Jott to Twitter and update your status. You can Jott reminders to yourself and have them sent back to your phone or e-mail a few minutes prior to what you might forget. You can also send Jotts to other people on a contact list. I haven't used this feature myself, because I am more accustomed to using instant messages and e-mails, but some folks might find it useful.

You can find out even more about Jott and sign-up by visiting and clicking on the Learn More link.

God's blessings on the ministry you do each day,
Pastor Andy Arnold
ELCA Youth Ministry Network's Tech Geek

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The 12 Days of Christmas by Staight No Chaser

My brother sent me this video that shows about how generally muddled most of us are around the twelve days of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vox on Fox

My brother Matthew is the Executive Director of the Columbus Gay Men's Chorus. Their audition group was recently on Columbus TV.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tech Geek - December 10, 2007

What are you up to? Whatcha doing? Busy? I was late to the whole blogging game and late to the mini-blog game as well. I've been playing with Twitter for just a short amount of time and I find it an interesting exercise in sharing what I'm up to throughout the day. Sometimes I only update it once a day and sometimes more frequently. Probably no one even cares! But maybe there are folks in your youth flock that do find it interesting.

Twitter is a service that lets you post mini updates about life from the web (, by e-mail to a special address, from your phone via SMS or mini-browser, from a Google Desktop Gadget, and probably a bunch of other ways that I have not yet figured out. Each update can only be 140 characters long, but you can post as many of them as you wish. You can also set up people that you want to follow and see their updates in a variety of ways. This is somewhat interesting, but what I was really interested in was ways to post a single update and have it show up in multiple places.

I only update my blog every once in awhile, when I have something I feel like updating about. But, by using the Twitter Badge for Blogger, my Twitter updates are shown right on the blog. So there is at least something new! To add that, I logged into my Twitter account, then went to and installed a badge on my Blogger page. You can also add badges for MySpace, Facebook, TypePad, and just about any other site.

I also added an application called TwitterSync to my Facebook page. This copies my most recent Twitter update to my Facebook status. The official Twitter/Facebook badge is supposed to do this, but I have heard people had problems and I've had better luck with TwitterSync, available at while you're logged into Facebook.

God's blessings on the ministry you do each day,
Pastor Andy Arnold
ELCA Youth Ministry Network's Tech Geek

P.S. Don't forget, if you have questions or topics you'd like me to address, e-mail at techgeek-at-elcaymnet-dot-org.

Monday, December 03, 2007

TGIF - Tech Geek's Informational Feature

Many of us know that Google has practically become a verb up there with Xerox, Band-Aid, and Kleenex. We use it to refer to searching for something even if we're using another site like GoodSearch to do the actual work. GoodSearch is a site that donates a penny or so for each search performed in its site to a charity of your choice, including Lutheran Disaster Response, the ELCA, or Lutheran World Relief.

Google has lots of other great features in addition to searching for web sites. I'm writing this very article on Google Docs, their online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program. I keep my calendar at Google Calendar, because it allows me to access it from any computer or even my cell phone. I use Picasa Web Albums and the desktop photo management software, Picasa (available for Windows, Macs, and Linux), because it lets me easily tag photos and use them in web albums, blog posts, or e-mails. I even use GMail for my e-mail, because of the sorting features, and my chat client.

I use all of these services from Google because they get how the web should be used. I can get into my stuff from different machines, even different technologies. They provide interfaces for other programers to use in developing tools that branch out from these services. I've also used Google to create web pages and, yes, even to search for things! As the ELCA Youth Ministry Network's new Tech Geek, I'd like to share with you, my youth ministry colleagues, some of the ways I've found to use technology to enable ministry and relationships. I'd also like to hear from you about the sites, widgets, and gadgets that you use in your daily life and ministry. E-mail me at techgeek-at-elcaymnet-dot-org with your suggestions and thoughts for use in a future TGIF.

God's blessings in your daily ministry,
Pastor Andy Arnold

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Three things to think about...received in an e-mail today

Three things to think about:

1. Cows
2. The Constitution
3. The Ten Commandments

COWS: Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a single cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington? And, they tracked her calves right to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.

THE CONSTITUTION: They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq . Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this: You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery", and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians -- it creates a hostile work environment.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007


While visiting my brother Matthew in Columbus I got a chance to ride on a second generation Segway courtesy of one of Matthew's friend. Thanks Paul!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Train Spiral

Laura and I were impressed with Costco's Brio train layout and especially the fun spiral. We've tried to build something like this for our nephew Caden, but it has never worked as well as this one does!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We Made It!

We rolled a bit slowly through Canada as we enjoyed the scenery of Jasper, Banff, and Kootenay National Parks. We took the Icefields Parkway and climbed near glaciers and beautiful lakes. We ended up staying in Lake Louise, which was beautiful as well. We plan on making a trip back at some point, maybe to ski.

We arrived safely in Kalispell, with the trailer intact, on Tuesday evening. We're moving and unpacking a few boxes and then we'll hit the road again to visit a variety of family and friends and take advantage of the time that we have before I start here at Northridge Lutheran.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Getting there...

Internet access hasn't been as readily accessible as I had hoped on this trip. We were supposed to have it on Saturday night and I could see three different wi-fi hotspots from our room, but couldn't get a connection to any of them. We have been moving right along and making pretty good time.
  • Thursday: We left Wasilla at about 6:00 p.m. after getting the last of the stuff loaded into the car and dropping the keys and the garage door openers off at the realtors. We drove as far as Glennallen, AK and stayed there for the night.
  • Friday: We got up bright and early and headed for Tok, AK to have breakfast at Fast Eddie's. Each of us had the most enormous omelets we'd ever seen. Which was good, since we didn't eat again until we got to Whitehorse, YT late at night, after many miles and kilometers of bumpy roads.
  • Saturday: Up early again and driving before breakfast. We stopped for a snack in Watson Lake, YT, and then continued on to Muncho Lake, BC. I had hoped to spend the night there, but the hotel was full. So we ventured onward to Fort Nelson, BC, where we finally ate a real meal and slept.
  • Sunday: We slept in a bit after the early mornings and because the Steelers were on TV. Watched the game and then headed out on quite good roads, past the end of the Alaska Highway, and on to Grande Prairie, AB, where we spent the night.
  • Monday: We're up and moving out this morning. We may make it all the way to Kalispell or we may stop somewhere between here and there, as it's about 700 miles.
In the post above are some pictures of some bison, a bear family, and other things that we saw on the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Route Choice

You may notice that the route I posted below has a diversion to take us to British Columbia Highway 93 and US Route 93. There is a reason for that. When Ron and I took the U-Haul down, we wanted to follow Alberta Highway 2 and cross where it becomes US Route 89. This seemed like a good combination of not too many extra miles and a fairly straight and flat road. We had debated it a good bit and come to this conclusion. Then we'd swing around the east side of Glacier National Park and end up in Kalispell. This is the route that Google Maps proposes.

But...after driving for 21 straight hours, when we got to this border crossing at 7:10 a.m., the US Border Patrol wouldn't let us cross. They didn't like our choice of route and didn't think it made sense to them. As they didn't have an X-Ray machine at that particular crossing, they told us we had to go to one of the two in the "area" that did. We we drove an extra 187 miles to the nearest crossing to the west, where we had no problem getting through (and they didn't X-Ray our truck). This trip, Laura and I are just heading for the crossing to begin with, it's a beautiful drive and takes us straight into Kalispell.

So...what's the plan?

Laura and I haven't had too detailed of a plan recently. We've been running around taking care of lots of details and saying good-bye to lots of folks. We're staying with some friends near Wasilla and going over to the house every day to pack the last few items and organize the paperwork for it to sell. The good news is that our house was only on the market for 3 weeks and we had a buyer. We're under contract, we have our home inspection report back, and things are looking good. We're hopeful that we'll be able to close the sale in the next couple of weeks.

Today (Thursday, September 20) is the day we're hoping to begin the trek to Montana. I already made the trip down there with a U-Haul with our stuff. Now Laura is going with me and we're going to drive the Explorer down with the snowmachine/snowmobile trailer. We won't get an early start, but hopefully we can make it to Tok tonight. Since we'll have the camera and laptop, there may even be some blog posts with pictures. If the weather stays yucky like it's been in Wasilla the last few days, there may not be anything worth taking a picture of.

When we get there, we have a very nice townhouse to stay in. Some snowbirds have offered us their home to stay in while they winter in Tucson, AZ. It will provide us with a great opportunity to get settled and take our time as we search for a house of our own. We're very grateful to them.

View Larger Map

Where are we going?

Here are some pictures of Kalispell and the surrounding area that I took when I visited in June.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Football Fans

There was a survey recently reported on in this article that showed the Pittsburgh Steelers have the highest percentage of female fans. Green Bay was second. I've always said that the Steelers and Packers have a different kind of fans. Does this prove the difference?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Halfway there!

A friend from Good Shepherd (Ron) and I are driving most of Laura and my worldly possessions in a U-Haul truck (with Laura's car following closely behind on a trailer) from Wasilla to Kalispell. We've seen some great wildlife, including caribou, bison, moose, and deer; everything has gone well so far. We spent the night in Fort Nelson and are just about to head out. We'll finish up the Alaska Highway today and head into the big cities of Edmonton and Calgary.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why have the Pittsburgh Pirates been so bad for so long?

I have no idea what the answer to that question is. I have not followed baseball much for the past decade or so. I've known they weren't very good, but I guess I hadn't really realized how bad they've been and for how long they've been that bad.

This clip puts it into perspective a bit.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Ever wondered why unsolicited e-mail was called 'spam'? It traces back to this Monty Python skit where all communication is drowned out by one word. There is really not a direct connection to the salted pork product! -AA

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sarcasm and destruction

This is a confessional post. It is one of those things about myself which, in one sense, I know, but in another I have been smacked upside the head with enough recently that it is making an impact.

In her article A small, beautiful thing from the March 20, 2007 article of The Christian Century, Stephanie Paulsell ruminates a bit on making sacrifices during Lent and the small-ness of those gestures. She writes:
But the small gestures that we are invited to embrace each Lent help us experiment with our lives; they help us try on different ways of living. Last year, a nine-year-old friend of my daughter told her, "I'm giving up sarcasm for Lent. And it's really hard."

Think of what that child stood to learn in her attempt to renounce sarcasm for 40 days. She already knew what it feels like to have a great, sarcastic rejoinder well up inside of her, a comeback that draws the attention of others to her, makes them laugh at her cleverness. But her Lenten practice taught her what it feels like to have that sarcastic reply come to mind, and then to wait and let it pass. Perhaps she learned that to say no to a sarcastic remark opens a space for other kinds of conversation. Perhaps she learned to cherish the anticipation of what might be said instead. And perhaps, through her learning to say no to a small, destructive force, her ability to resist larger destructive forces increased.

While not the overall theme of her article, this paragraph hit home for me. I am often cynical and sarcastic. I have always thought of it as a part of who I am. Partially because of my family of origin, partially because of experiences I had growing up, and probably a whole lot because of my own insecurity. I enjoy sarcasm. I appreciate comedians who use it well to make their points. I am quick to deliver a snappy comeback and assume it is alright because people know I am "just kidding." As Paulsell writes about her young friend, I want to draw people's attention to me and be amused at my cleverness. What I have not paid enough attention to is the destruction that wreaks on others. While I may preach about being a humble servant, I have used sarcasm to build myself up while putting others down. I need to work on my own insecurity issues without dragging others down.

I am going to work to change this part of myself. It will be difficult, because in some ways, this is a part of myself I like. I remember a seminary colleague telling me one time that he was impressed with how well I "thought on my feet" and could adjust a presentation as it was happening. Quick wit and sarcasm are often the same, but they need not be. I am going to work to change so that I stop hurting others and so that I allow conversations to continue instead of squelching them. Sharing this here is a way to invite others to hold me accountable and remind me when I am not living up to the change I want to make.

I am also reminded of what a deacon at my internship congregation told me. He was dieing of cancer and clinging to the last days of life on this earth. We met one day and he told me, rather bluntly, that while he knew I was a very caring person, I had a lousy way of showing it. He's right. I do care for others, and I have good ideas, but getting moving on them is difficult, especially when there are so many other things to do. Trying to control sarcasm is one way of being better at showing my care for others and not tearing others down to build myself up.

Perhaps, through learning to say no to a small, destructive force, my ability to resist larger destructive forces will increase.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ruth Update: Prayer Shawls and Todd's Hair

Ruth Update: Prayer Shawls and Todd's Hair

I have been posting occasional links in the sidebar from Ruth's blog. You can read the whole story there, but the short story is that she is a friend and member of the congregation who is dealing with breast cancer. As this post shows, she has lots of prayer support and love from family, neighbors, and friends.

(Todd, her husband, is planning on shaving his head. He thought he would dye it first and then, a day or two later, shave it off. Since Ruth isn't very good about following plans, her hair is still attached to her head and therefore, Todd has had dyed hair for a few weeks now!)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Iditarod 2007 Red Lantern!

Cabela's Iditarod - 2007 Race Coverage - Red Lantern!

Ellen Halverson, this year's Red Lantern winner, is a member of our congregation and I enjoyed reading this article about her trip to Nome.

Way to go Ellen!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

CMOS Battery in a Laptop

I own an old and cheap laptop. I bought it four years ago at Costco. It says Northgate on the outside, but it really is an ECS 731 Green. It has never had any real battery life and has always been more of a portable desktop than a true laptop. It basically works for what I need it to work for, but I also drool over the new laptops that cost half of what I paid for this one!

As often happens with computers that are four years old, the CMOS battery started to flake out, especially when I left it outside overnight in sub-zero temperatures. This is the battery that helps the computer remember what kind of hard drive it has and things like that. Having replaced many CMOS batteries on desktop computers, I figured that I could handle replacing this one as well. It's about a five minute job on a desktop, maybe two screws to get the side of the case off, replace the battery, and put it all back together.

I started by looking at the ten big screws that hold the bottom of the case on. I found that my regular screwdriver was too big for them, but the jeweler's screwdrivers were too small and didn't give enough leverage. A trip to the garage and I had found a small but easy to grip screwdriver that did the trick quite nicely. Ten screws from the bottom of the case removed. Still nice and solid. There are a variety of panels on the bottom of the case that cover things like the hard drive, memory chips, and CPU. I took the half a dozen (total: 16) screws out that hold those panels in to see if there were more screws under them. The CPU heatsink was really dirty and looked like the screws holding it in might go through to the top of the case. So I took out the four heatsink screws (20) and the four screws holding the fan in (24). Still, the case was remarkably solid.

Then it occurred to me that maybe there were more screws under the laptop battery. It's big and heavy and lasts about eight seconds, but it was hiding eight more tiny screws which I removed (32). Still not budging it, I pulled out the only remaining thing I could find on the bottom, the CD/DVD drive and found three more tiny screws, for a total of 35.

Then I flipped it back over right side up. Must be something there, but I couldn't see it. The only thing that looked removable was the keyboard. I poked, prodded, and pried and found the little latches that let me remove the keyboard. Unplugged the little cable and took out the piece of metal shielding under the keyboard and found four more (39) screws to take out. Now I could get the front and the sides of the case to separate, but the back was still firmly holding together.

I looked around for quite awhile and tried to see if there were plastic tabs holding things together but could find any. Then it occurred to me that maybe the display needed to be removed, something I was hoping to avoid. I found that there were plastic pieces covering the hinges and that I could pry them off. Underneath each of them were two more screws which held the monitor to the case and held the whole thing together (43). Now I had access to one more screw on the top of the case, which I removed (44). But still, it would not come apart.

I pried out a piece of plastic that had icon on it for the hard drive activity, shift lock, etc. Then I could see six more screws (50), two of which held down the panel with the power switch on it. Underneath that there were 2 more screws (52) and that was all I could find. But the top of the case would finally move. I gingerly picked it up and revealed another metal shield that covered most of what was there. Five more screws to remove and this shield was out of the way and I saw my goal, a $4 CMOS battery. It only took removing 57 different screws (unless I lost count and it was actually more than that) to get to it. So, almost three hours and 55 more screws than a desktop later, I pulled the battery out and put a brand new replacement battery in!

Laptops look smooth and elegant compared to desktops, but that's not what they are like underneath the cover. I was reminded of my father's memories of trying to work on the mobile home that he and my mother lived in before I was born. I'm sure that those of you who have lived in mobile homes or worked on RVs could share similar experiences. Somehow making things appear to be neat, organized, and efficient outside introduces a new level of complexity on the inside.

This complexity is not always a bad thing though. As we look forward to hosting the 2007 Alaska Synod Assembly, we need to have as many people involved as possible. Perhaps two families could do the job, but 57 or 114 or all of us could do the job better. We want the experience for those who come to the Assembly to be one that looks smooth and elegant. We want them to be able to focus on Workshop, Business Meetings, Bible Study, and other parts of the Assembly without worrying about food, housing, transportation, or restroom facilities. It will be complex on the inside, but it will look neat, organized, and efficient from the outside.

I hope each of you are able to find ways that you can support Good Shepherd in this effort,
Pastor Andy

Beauty and the Beast - Finished

We had an overwhelming response to the show, selling out 25 performances. It was an incredible experience and one that I was thrilled to be able to share with my wife, Laura, who played Belle. I finally have all of the pictures of the two of us posted to my photo site so click the link below and check them out.

From Beauty and the Beast

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sold Out!

The Anchorage Daily News had this to say about our show:

Review: 'Beauty and the Beast' commercial success
Posted: February 5, 2007 - 12:11 pm
By Rindi WhiteAnchorage Daily News
WASILLA – There’s a reason Valley Performing Arts sold out 18 performances of its newest show, “Beauty and the Beast.”It’s good. It’s really good.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a big, beautiful Disney production, replete with fantastic costumes, a wonderful set and a large cast. Forty-two people share the stage and another 10 are in the orchestra.
The story is a Disney classic, with heroine Belle, a bookish girl with an inventor father, being pursued by the French village’s most macho he-man, Gaston. Belle rebuffs Gaston and accidentally falls into the hands of Beast, a prince put under a spell by a lesson-teaching hag.Well-written, the play is far from serious and even pokes fun at itself. It’s peppered with puns and silly asides that the actors dish out with excellent timing and a wink here and there to the audience.
Director Larry Bottjen said more than half the cast is new to the VPA stage, including a third of the leading characters. They do a tremendous job and it looks like they have fun doing it.
Appropriately, Belle and the Beast are played by real-life husband and wife Laura and Andy Arnold. Laura Arnold is in most scenes, sings in most songs and otherwise does a lot of work in the show. This is her fourth VPA show and she proves that she’s more than up to the task. She has a beautiful singing voice and the charming good looks befitting a Disney heroine.
Garry Forrester, as the egotistical Gaston, injects a lot of fun into the performance. Forrester has a Jim Carey-like way of emphasizing his words with absurd facial expressions and twinkling eyes that leaves the audience in giggles. Michael Bailar plays his foolish sidekick, Lefou. The two deliver several sidesplitting comic routines, filled with puns and Three Stooges-esque physical comedy.
Dave Nufer, Ted Carney and Sarah Hendricks play talking clock, candlestick and teapot. These three supporting characters are strong enough to lead the show on their own. Carney and Hendricks have proven wonderful assets in every performance they’ve been in. Nufer, a VPA first-timer, does more than keep up with these seasoned performers. Hopefully he’ll become a regular face on the VPA stage.
An excellent cast, ingenious costuming and an impressive and well-crafted set that makes the small Machetanz Theatere stage seem bigger than possible make this performance one of Valley Performing Arts’ best yet. Anyone lucky enough to be holding tickets can look forward to a wonderful evening.
“Beauty and the Beast” just wrapped up its run on Broadway. Director Larry Bottjen said Disney uncharacteristically released the play for other theaters to use before the Broadway show wrapped. Nabbing it proved a good move for Valley Performing Arts.
“This is the biggest explosion of ticket sales we ever had,” Bottjen said.
If you go: "Beauty and the Beast" by Valley Performing Arts, is sold out for the rest of its run through March 4. For information about possible tickets, call 907-373-0195.


The review missed one thing. We haven't sold out 18 shows, we've sold out 25! We're probably adding a show or two so that the cast members' families can all get to see it. -AA

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | End The Rip-Off: Make Free Calls from The USA

I don't often have the need to make international phone calls, but this service looks like a great way to call a lot of places for just the cost of a call to Iowa (712 area code). | End The Rip-Off: Make Free Calls from The USA

Opening Night with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

We had a great opening night for VPA's production of Beauty and the Beast. Everything went smoothly for the whole opening weekend and now we are down to five more weekends. Weekend #2 is almost sold out and there are less than 500 tickets left for the rest of the run.

From Beauty and the Beast

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What is your accent?

I thought this was kind of fun and interesting. And, incidentally, pretty right on about where I learned to speak and my (slight) accent.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz