Monday, September 25, 2006

Blogging in Beta - somehow I expected more

Well, I took the plunge and transferred my blog from Blogger to Blogger Beta. I figured that everyone would have to do it eventually, so I decided I would take the plunge and be one of the early adopters. Plus, one of the features they touted was being able to put labels on the posts. This is one of the features I've lusted after ever since I saw it on Wordpress.

After making the switch, though, I'm not actually that impressed. Or, maybe I should say I'm impressed beta.

The reality is that not much seems to have changed that I'm interested in. For instance, they changed how the sidebar is handled. No longer do you have to modify the (non-standard) HTML to add links and stuff to the sidebar, nor do you have to copy and paste blocks of code to arrange everything on the blog. Instead, there is a pretty cool interface that allow you to drag and drop elements of the blog around:

The problem is you can't do anything truly interesting. Sure, now you can have an archive that is actually easy to navigate, but what about adding in picture-streaming content from things like flickr or webshots? In that case, you're out of luck unless you want to import HTML code from another site.

Something else I'm less than enthused about is the way they still force you to use the standard dozen or so templates they have in Blogger. That's right, no new templates. I would have been okay with that if they would have provided tools to build your own templates from scratch, but they leave you to futz with the same old HTML code you had in Blogger. It would be truly phenominal if they allowed you to upload pictures to use as backgrounds, rather than making you host them in a place other than Blogger.

For instance, I really want to have a template that evokes a little more feel of fear and trembling than the pastel dots Blogger selected. So, I messed with the HTML code for hours, trying to get everything to look right while hosting all of the images off-site. Ultimately what I ended up with looked more like "Calm and Comfort" than "Fear and Trembling". It's not Blogger's fault I can't pick good enough backgrouds, but it is their fault that I couldn't try out my ideas in 3 minutes rather than 3 hours. (Though you can change fonts and font colors VERY easily.) I guess for now I'm stuck with my pastel dots evoking spiritual Fear and Trembling in my readers.

All in all, I suppose I'm not truly disappointed, because there are a couple of new features that I like, such as being able to label posts, and having a useful archiving tool, but I felt Blogger Beta could have been so much more. Course, it is still in Beta, so I'm waiting to be wow'd.

Oh, by the way, the other day I was cleaning out some old stuff, and I found a video tape of a BSU Chapel Service that included Joe and Amy's Family group playing "Welcome Back Cotter". I wonder what I should do with it?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hi. My name is Ben, and I love music.

"Let me whisper things

You've never heard before"

Sometimes I feel like I need to go to a support group for people who love music. In my daydreams, this group wouldn't try to encourage me to quit music, but would encourage me to get more and more into it. Someone would bring a new album every week, and we would listen to it, groove to it, and deeply contemplate the lyrics. And we would be so good at it that we could make money. That way my title would be: Benjamin Rhodes, Music Lover.

"I read bad poetry
into your machine.
I save your messages
just to hear your voice.
You always listen carefully
to awkward rhymes.
You always say your name
like I wouldn't know its you..."

Melissa and I were talking the other day, and I mentioned that I love music for the lyrics - I love the message of the song. The music simply give the lyrics motion. Unless, of course it is classical music (think Bach), or an overpowering guitar solo, then it's all about the music. (Sigh...where is the philosphical-conceptual space for music?)

"But every now and then I'd swear I'd see
you standing
On a sidewalk,
In a restaurant,
From a taxi passing by."

Music to me whispers message about people I've met. It whispers things about places long in my past that I want to keep connected to. It reminds me of situations that made me laugh or cry or feel alive. Music speaks to me of God, and his connection to me. It speaks to me of myself, and my connection to God. Certain music becomes a soundtrack for a place and time. This doesn't happen because I sit down and listen to the song, it happens because my soul sings these lyrics to me - it whispers them when I think of people and places from long ago. Truth is, I sing about almost every person I have a meaningful relationship with in words that aren't mine, but have become mine. Sometimes I feel bad that I think most Christian music is technically and lyrically inferior to secular music. Then, I just pop in a new CD and all my worries fade as the music sweeps me away.

"He used to do surgeries
On girls in the eighties,
But gravity always wins."

Sometimes, lyrics frame how I think about things. When people analyze where they are in life, how they've fallen into particular patterns and situations, I think of music. I think of the way lyrics turn a certain phrase. I think of how creatively and descriptively and subjectively these lyrics describe life. They hold me hostage to ways of thinking about the world. Hostage in a good way.

"I stood on the edge
Tied to a noose
But you came along
and you cut me loose"

Music releases my inner muse. Music makes me more creative than I would otherwise be. I live in the lyrics. I find my space between the notes and words. I create whole worlds there and derive stories out of those worlds. I find meaning and purpose there. When everything about my bourgeoisie life seems droll and dull, music reminds me that there are ways of thinking about things that are full excitement and life. Music pulls me from crisis to creative.

Here are some of my favorite lyric snippets. (Can anyone identify where they come from?)

What are some of yours?

"Tears Stream
Down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace"

"Oh Simple thing
Where have you gone?
I'm getting old
I need something to rely on."

"Are the streets you're walking on
A thousand houses long?
Well that's where I belong
And you belong with me,
Not swallowed in the sea."

"Sundays were made for this..."

"On a platform I'm gonna stand and say,
That I'm nothing on my own..."

"The more skin you shared
The more that the air in your thoat would linger
when you'd call him your friend."

"I was waiting as you drove away.

The sunlight was falling
you were writing backwards
on a dusty window pane."

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm not dead

Despite the break I've taken from blogging, I'm not dead. I've simply been busy.

Busy with what? you might ask. Well, for one, I've been trying out this new blogger beta thing, so there are some changes to my blog. I'll post on how I like Blogger Beta sometime soon, but not today.

For another, I've been working on my house. Mel and I bought a bit of a fixer-upper last year, and I've been furiously working on that while the weather is nice. That way my southern and northern friends (that's you, Alethia!) can come and visit anytime they like and not be grossed out by the 40 year old carpet in the kitchen. Or the grand canyon plastered across our dining room wall. Or the black-and-pink bathroom.

I know, I know, the post is useless without pics. So, here they are.

First, the kitchen. Here is before:
Notice, if you will, the grand canyon in the background. Notice the carpet in the kitchen. Notice the cooktop that is literally 50 years old and ready to burst into a white-hot grease fire at any moment. Notice the knobs on the cabinet doors that went out of style with the Apollo project.

Here is the middle of the kitchen remodel. This picture was taken from the opposite direction.

Notice, if you will, the exposed studs, the wiring hanging from the ceiling. Notice me doubled-over because I've probably just dropped something heavy and/or sharp on my foot for the 100th time.

And, here is the finale:
Now, it's not entirely done, but for the most part it is. Just a little touch-up here and there and I'll be done. Notice the tile floor, the modern cooking surface. Notice the track lighting for the pantry. Notice the plastic purple shoes on the floor. This kitchen really has it all.

But wait, that's not all! We also prepped Madelyn's room and promoted her to a big-girl bed!



Madelyn's Grandmomma made the acoutriments, which have little fairies all over them. This picture doesn't do it justice. The room really looks nice.

To my delightful surprise, Madelyn has made the transition from crib to bed without any real problems. Good breeding and all.

And, not that anyone cares, but I also painted all the walls in the upstairs. I mention this because it I learned something important: use oil-based primer when covering old paint. I know, I know, they tell you that the latex based stuff is just as good, but I'm living proof that it isn't. If the paint you wish to cover looks like the chalky white paint in your grandmother's hall, use oil-based primer on it. For the love of God, use oil-based primer. That's all I'm gonna say about that.

But, after learning that hard lesson, I was able to finally work on the living room.

Notice, if you will the people having a good time even though the place is a mess. That could be you.

Also notice the chalky white paint that crawled out of the deepest pits of Hell.


And, while I think that the place looks nice, it takes it's toll.

Here is me before:


Yes, the fumes from oil-based primer are so strong they willl knock out your teeth and turn you into an old chinese man.

But it is soooo worth it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Everybody likes change.

I'm taking the plunge and switching to the new Blogger Beta to see what I think. You'll see some changes to the site, and after I get everything worked out, I'll put some posts up.

They might even be interesting.