01/12/07

Permalink 10:46:56 am, by Kris Email , 363 words
Categories: A Day in the Life, Church, Work

A Great Start

Here's some incredible news to kick off the new year.

There's a certain guy (I'll withhold his name) who I had worked with for nearly seven years up until our company was acquired. He was a nice guy, but not a "church" guy, if you know what I mean. I had invited him to come to Cornerstone many times over the years, and he said several times that he would, but never did.

In the year or so before the acquisition, he was in a downward spiral of depression, and it affected his work a lot, and many of us (his co-workers) were concerned for him personally. When the acquisition closed, he was in a small group of people who were severed from the company for performance reasons.

After that, he pretty much disappeared, and most of us feared the worst. But one day, out of the blue, he called me. He wanted to let me know that he had hit bottom and come back, and he was getting his life on track again. He had quit drinking, and "a lot of other things", and he was doing well and holding a job in another city. But it gets better...

This past Sunday, I ran into him at church! He was there with his mom, and told me that she had wanted to come to church that morning, and he said "I'll go with you if you'll go up to Kris' church." I was so glad to see him there I barely knew what to say. He told me I had planted a seed a long time ago, and it just took a while to produce, but it was there.

He called me later this week, and told me that he really enjoyed it and planned to show up earlier this coming Sunday so he could sit closer to the front. There are no words to describe how excited I was to hear that. If my eight years at this company came down to nothing more than I planted that seed and affected his life, then I would consider that a huge success.

Praise God! This is going to be a great year!

01/08/07

Permalink 11:59:30 am, by Kris Email , 394 words
Categories: A Day in the Life

A Brand New Year

Happy New Year!

Yes, I'm well aware that I'm a week late with that. Better late than never, though, right? For some reason, I've been looking forward to 2007 for a while now. I've had the opposite problem that you usually have around this time of year. Most people have trouble remembering to write the new year on checks, documents, etc. - it takes a couple of months to instinctively write '2007' instead of '2006'. But I have been instinctively writing '2007' for several months, and had to constantly remind myself that it's only 2006. Now, I can finally enjoy the new year.

The first part of the year is usually a slower time for Mary and me. It seems like we have a little less going on in the first quarter, and things pick up in the Spring, get busier in the Summer, and go pedal-to-the-medal in the Fall and leading up to Christmas. Then, it slows down again. Maybe that's why I enjoy the first part of the year so much. I like being busy, but it's good to slow down after a while.

Usually, in the first part of the year, I have time to do some sort of side project, like developing a website for someone. This year, I have several personal projects in mind, and an unfinished one from last year that I'd like to pick up again. I need to finish my office (as in, actually buying a desk instead of using folding tables and old file cabinets). I've also got a lot of reading that I need to do - I've purchased several technology books over the last year that I'm sorry to say are mostly unread. And then there are some other commitments that I've been putting off until I "have more time", and things like re-evaluating our insurance and investments, and making sure our budget is still in line... This part of year is starting to feel busier after all.

Still, though, I'm looking forward to 2007. I really think exciting things are ahead - like this is the year that God is really going to bless us. Not that He hasn't blessed us in the past - we are very blessed. But there can always be more. You can never have too much blessing, you know?

Anyway, I hope this year is as good to you as it is going to be to me!

12/22/06

Permalink 02:34:47 pm, by Kris Email , 331 words
Categories: Technical Talk

Portable Apps

A guy at work recently told me about Portable Apps, which is a set of programs you can download and run directly off a USB thumb drive or memory card or something (you can even run it off an iPod). The apps have been specially built to run directly off your memory device, and save all their configuration, temp files, etc. to that drive. The result is that you can take your thumb drive and plug it into any computer (running Windows), and have your e-mail, your browser, your office programs (spreadsheets, documents, etc.) all right there with all your settings and preferences applied. And, you don't leave anything behind on the computer when you remove your drive.

With computers becoming ubiquitous these days, and high-speed internet almost as prevalent, it's a nice way to carry around your basic essentials without actually lugging around a laptop.

All of the programs are free, open-source apps like Firefox and Thunderbird, which I currently use for web browsing and e-mail anyway.

I've been meaning to try it out, but I don't actually have a very large USB drive. The biggest one I've got is only 128 MB, and they recommend more than that for the full install. I've just never had a good reason to buy a larger one, but maybe I'll have to look for a good deal on one just to try this out.

Many times, especially when I'm traveling, I have a laptop with me, but it would be nice to just carry a small memory stick in my pocket instead if I know I'll be somewhere where there is a computer available.

My current answer to this is that I have set up a secure tunnel into my network so that I can just use Remote Desktop to get to my computer at home from anywhere that there is a high-speed connection, and the whole session is encrypted. I'll have to describe that set up some other time - it's pretty cool.

12/21/06

Permalink 10:04:34 pm, by Kris Email , 387 words
Categories: A Day in the Life

More Laugh Break Info

I thought I'd mention that the 350+ e-mails that I have waiting to be posted do not include the thousands of e-mails that I have deleted because I didn't think they were funny enough. I get several submissions per day, and I read them all, and I apply what I call the "laugh out loud" test. I don't actually have to truly laugh loudly for it to make the cut, but if I can read it with a completely straight face, it gets deleted.

So, I'm not just throwing up anything I get in order to build ad revenue - I really do try to keep it high-quality.

And then there are those few e-mails that are not really "funny" in the conventional sense, but they do make me laugh, either because they are so incredibly stupid, or they just don't make sense at all. These, I will call "Laugh Break Bloopers", and I have a special folder in my e-mail box just for them. Here's a sample:

My friend..he's big and dumb, but really smart.

Yes, that's the whole e-mail. Great story, eh?

I hope life isnt a big joke because i don't get it.

sometimes i wish i were dead....no wait...not me...you.

Hey, if wishing I were dead makes you feel better, then wish away. Of course, you can wish in one hand...

Once there were two guys who both died on the same day. One was barried at a sematary in New York, and the other was barried at a sematary in Sarasota Florida. one day the ground shook at a sematary in Los Angeles and the guy in New York rose from the dead. The next day the ground shook at a sematary in Washinton D.C. and the guy in Sarasota rose from the dead. Since they had risen from the dead, they could now walk through walls. They climded out of their graves, started traveling and met each other in Atlanta. Together they entered a bar full of drunk men. One drunk guy noticed them and stagared over to them. He wanted to see if they were real (because drunk people often see things that are not there) so he poked one of them in the stomach and the dead guy said, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Now, that, my friends, is comedy.

12/19/06

Permalink 10:13:11 pm, by Kris Email , 657 words
Categories: Technical Talk

Laugh Break Upgrade

For years now, I've had this website called Laugh Break which was one of the first websites I ever created. It was mostly just something to experiment with - I was learning HTML and needed a project, so I decided to make a site with a bunch of those forwarded e-mails that you get from everyone (well, at least the funny ones).

Over the years, I've upgraded it several times, mostly by changing the look or switching the software that I was using to create and maintain it. There have been a couple of times that I almost shut it down, but when I started reviewing the log files, I realized that it was getting quite a bit of traffic. Mind you, it's not going to be one of the 100 most visited websites or anything, but it was getting tens of thousands of visitors a month, and I hated to just cut off all those people. I left it alone for a while, but last year I decided to try out Google's AdSense program, and see if I could actually get some money from all that traffic.

It turns out, I was sitting on a gold mine! Ok, not really. But it is generating enough extra cash to warrant renewing the domain name every year and continuing to add to the site. The problem is, adding to the site was a totally manual process that consisted of creating the HTML files manually and linking them all together, and it had to always be done on my desktop at home, where I had all the files and templates. It was too tedious for me to ever "get around to it".

So, here I was, with 350+ e-mails in the Laugh Break inbox that could be turned into pages of content with revenue-generating ads on them, but I just didn't have enough time to do it. So, I decided to invest in an upgrade.

In less time than I thought it would take, I was able to convert the entire site to use a database-driven Content Management System (CMS). Now, I can easily add content to the website from anywhere that I have an internet connection, and I don't have to create any links or update any menus - it's all done automatically.

The CMS I chose is called CMS Made Simple, and the main reason was because of the simplicity. I've tried out other, more popular CMS / Portal systems like Joomla and PostNuke, but they are very community-driven, which is not what I needed. CMSMS is really geared towards managing a plain-old-website, but doing it more efficiently. It's almost as if the other products had too many features.

In fact, what I needed was so simple, that I almost just wrote it myself. The main reason I didn't is that I wanted an integrated search feature, and I knew that could be a little tricky to write, and that most CMS's would have that built-in.

The biggest trick was setting it up so that all the old URLs would still work, because my log files showed me that a lot of traffic came from individual links that other people had created to specific pages on my site. I didn't want to break all those links and lose a bunch of traffic just to make updating the site easier. I was able to do that with the CMS, and from the end-user's point of view, you can't really even tell that anything has changed.

So, as of today, I plan to start updating Laugh Break more often. My goal is going to be to add at least 5 new pages each week, until I get through my mailbox. At that point, I'll just try to keep it up as new material comes in.

For those of you that used to visit the site often (Travis), but quit because it got stale - take note: it will be updated much more often in the future.

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Random thoughts and experiences from a husband / father / teacher / computer guy living in the heart of God's Country (called "Nashville" on most maps).
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