Thursday, November 08, 2007

There have been a few comings and goings in HR lately. To say the least.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween in HR

For some odd reason, there's been this running bee motif in human resources, where I work. I guess it's all been building up to this.

The cute little red riding hood in the picture is a coworker's daughter. Aww.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Album Review: Nightwish's Dark Passion Play

Nightwish has changed since Once. But it's not as shocking a transition as you might think. The sudden departure of Tarja Turunen in 2005 was nothing short of traumatic for the fans – as well as the band, from the sound of the first two tracks of Dark Passion Play.

One signature element of a Nightwish album is an epic ballad, usually right near the end. Not this time. “The Poet and the Pendulum” opens the album with nearly fourteen minutes of exceptional, ruthless metal. Imagine "Planet Hell," but more. In the lyrics, we see the dark in Dark Passion Play. There are some disturbing moments in this song. It's noteworthy that Tuomas Holopanien, songwriter and keyboardist for the band, hauntingly describes his own death in “the year of our Lord 2005.” This is a song about uncertainty and suffering. Some of the imagery the lyricist invokes leaves me feeling uneasy. Undoubtedly, that was the aim. The song drives and pounds, swells, and releases with a slow, melodic outro.

Perhaps appropriately, new singer Anette Olzon is not the first voice we hear on the track, but she is the last. Let's get the inevitable comparisons out of the way. Right away, we notice Anette has more grit in her voice than Tarja ever did. She's definitely not an opera singer, nor does she attempt to be. She's different. But she's fantastic. She's versatile. Her voice is a crystal laser. She will destroy you if she must. She's not Tarja, and I'm okay with that. One track in, and I like where this is going.

But the last word on Tarja has not been spoken until track two, “Bye Bye Beautiful.” If the metal movements of the first track were driving, the beat of this track is just brutal. Pounding guitars give way to Anette's melodic verse, invoking Nightwish's old trick: lure 'em in with a siren song, then blast 'em with the chorus. By the time the drums hit, it's too late. Marco Hietala's in your face, killing you. It took a live concert and a Megadeth cover for me to learn to appreciate the bassist's vocals, but now, he's in rare form. His angry viking voice is only appropriate for the lyrics it hurls: "did you ever read what I wrote you / did you ever hear what I told you..." and so on. Don't worry. The song is actually more hopeful than it initally sounds. But at its end, the matter, for the moment is closed. Catharsis done. On to business, with "Amaranth."

We saw shades of Nighwish using pop elements in "Romanticide" and "Wish I Had an Angel." "Amaranth" is the logical conclusion. The orchestra is still in the background, but it's in a major key. The vocals still soar, but Anette actually vamps a little in there. Really, some of the little vocal touches she throws in make the song for me. Listen for that moment of gravel in the bridge, and the hint of a scream at the end. Mmm. The first two tracks speak to the past, and this one runs headlong into the new.

And then they throw "Cadence of Her Last Breath" in there, just to show us what Evanescence should have been. Honestly. It's like they sat Amy Lee down in the studio and said, "No no no, honey. Like this." Again, the orchestra is there, and hints of the choir. This is fully Nightwish. But in all reality, it's a really hard alternative song. I honestly think this song is on the CD just to prove they could do it.

Speaking of proving something, the next track is "Master Passion Greed." Question: has Marco ever had a song to himself and the choir? Hmm. If he did before this point, would it have worked as well? Turns out he's pretty versatile, too. Screaming, growling, generally menacing the audience, all the while thumping away on the bass. The tempo changes and expert, sparing use of the orchestra get me fired up. The song is rough overall, though, and the use of synth at the beginning is borderline awkward. Get past it, however, and you'll find an angry metal anthem worth listening to.

Eva: slow song. Pretty.

Sahara. Oh, my goodness. If at this point, you're wondering, "what happened to the Nightwish I knew and loved?" they are. I don't care if the Arabian Nights took place nowhere near the Sahara. This may be my new favorite Nightwish song.

The album has more surprises in store, not least of which are a Celtic-style ballad and a gospel choir. No, that wasn't a typo. For the moment, I'll leave you to wonder, or listen for yourself.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Regime Change

There's been a slow revolution in my thinking. Not in the sense of a slow turning that ends up right where you started; I mean the Che Guevara sense. Revolu├žion.

For years, I've been wrapped up in worry, convinced on some level that I have an important purpose for my life that I'll never be able to accomplish. I've looked into a calling I felt to enter the ministry, and the worry continued, perhaps with more focus. I looked at my own character and shook my head. No way.

In recent days, however, I've seen God at work - in me, no less. And now I have hope.

Furthermore, my readings in the Bible and other books, sermons at church, everything is pointing to a line of thought that blows my worries away. It goes like this: if God calls me to a course of action, my personal inadequacies will not prevent our victory. Lack of faith or open rebellion will. The question becomes not can I do it? but rather, what is God calling me to?

I don't need to know what I'll be doing in ten years. I don't need to plan out the rest of my life. Indeed, I can't. What I need to do is learn to recognize God's leading, and train myself to follow it the moment I hear. If I learn to do that, I can't lose. More and more, I believe it's actually possible. And slowly, I'm getting there.

Trusting God, and following Him moment by moment: this is the foundation of life.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Hood cat

I back out my car, and Shadow doesn't seem to mind. He runs, though, as soon as i start moving forward.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Whether you think they look anything like me or not, this has gotta be one of the most bizarre groupings of people I've ever seen.

So, it turns out I'm visually a cross between Neo and the Unabomber.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm imagining a frantic, and very funny call for help: "where are you, sir?" / "THE CRAPPER!"

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Station 523 is active.

Life update: I've gone from living on my own in apartment 30, to rooming with Cody in apartment 50. Contact me for the rest of the address, if you like.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cheering section

A little personal insight: I have very low expectations of myself.

God doesn't.

Two obvious facts that still seem like a revelation when you set them right out in the open. Which means I'm supposed to do something about them. I have some basic ideas to learn about my own responsibilities, to whom I am actually responsible, and how important my life really is. Not just to me.

Funny thing is, I have pretty high expectations of other people. I'm more optimistic, more hopeful. I expect them to thrive. My Christian friends, especially. An uphill battle though it may be, I expect them to fight well, and stay on the narrow path. My outlook for myself is more bleak. I expect to be stuck in the same nonsense for years to come.

Most often, that's not what I'd say out loud, or even think consciously. It's just that, perhaps, I've come to accept certain failings within myself, and started to think of them as part of the landscape. I don't think of habitual sins as temporary. I fail to recognize that they can be overcome.

Just because humanity is imperfect doesn't mean we can't make progress. It's possible. In fact, living in close proximity to God, there's hardly a choice.

I am always His student. But what I often miss is the fact that I am first and foremost His student. I should always be learning. Growing in mastery. For our sensei, our sifu, always has another trick up His sleeve. As good as we can get, He is always better. And He expects us to keep up with Him.

Thus, we live by grace, and we study the master. We imitate, emulate. We let His heart work in ours. And we never stop studying, or improving.

High expectations. Higher every day.

All this is said assuming God's love. He's crazy about us. When we stumble, He loves us. When we want to quit, He loves us. And when we push forward and train until we bleed, He still loves us.

Something (not just) to think about.

Monday, March 05, 2007


My dear friend Brett Mynsted recently lost his father to cancer. In his honor, Brett is shaving his head for St. Baldrick's Foundation, which raises money to fight childhood cancer.

His site can be found here. Drop by, and consider donating to the shiny, bald cause.

Das Klown!

Beth was kind enough to draw this rendition of Zippy, this time in a more modern mode. I like it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

God > everything

This morning, I was hit by Daniel 6:5.  A little background: at this point in his life, Daniel has seen at least two Babylonian kings on the throne, having himself been exiled from his homeland and sent to the royal palace to be trained as an advisor.  He's now been at this for a while, and his name is well-known in the court.  In fact, Daniel is the third highest official in Babylon, and Darius the Mede, the current king, is so impressed with him that he's thinking of promoting him even higher.

The other officials are less than pleased, and they start a conspiracy to bring Daniel down.  Problem is, Daniel has such integrity that they can't dig up any dirt on him.  So, in verse 5, they realize this:

"We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless is has something to do with the law of his God."

After years  of being surrounded by decadence, in a position of power, Daniel's only political weak spot is that he worships God above the king.  And the people around him know it.

That inspires me.  I want to live the kind of life that says, what that guy cares about, above all else, is what God wants.  To be that kind of example... man.

In case you're wondering, the conspiracy works.  In a way.  Read the rest of Daniel 6 for one of the coolest stories in the Old Testament.