Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'll find out

Don't worry. I'll find out who put this on my office door. Come
Sunday for the cowbell solo.

The Group Former Known As...What's In A Name?

Wikipedia states, "Prince Rogers Nelson (born 7 June 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American musician. He performs simply as Prince, but has also been known by various other names, among them an unpronounceable symbol, leading fans and critics to dub him The Artist Formerly Known As Prince or simply The Artist."

How's that for a change? Prince used a symbol to be his name. And, no, I'm not related to Prince.

I don't get caught up in name games...names for music groups that is. Too much time can be spent on syntax, meaning, and brand to miss the mark on purpose, motivation, and end result. But there is a time that select a name that represents the group clearly is important. That's why I've made a significant change.

It's important that we are changing the name of the one and only foundational vocal group at TBC. When we killed the choir and killed the vocal bands last year - we created one foundational vocal group. We called it the mass vocal group.

1. "Mass" because it underscored the group size. There are a lot of vocalists in this group. All of them, in fact. If you were a vocalist, attended TBC, wanted to be a part of the worship arts ministry — then this was the doorway. No auditions. Low committment (one monthly rehearsal, lead worship monthly during the acedemic year).

2. "Vocal" because it leads worship through the vehicle singing...not because they are loud or obnoxious, contrary to some people — but not me : ).

3. "Group" because it was going to be an organized structure to this team. They were going to assemble, pray together, have fun together, and lead worship together.

So why the change? Several reasons...

1. The term "mass" recieved a joking question from some. I understood why. "We aren't catholic are we?" Well, not in the denominational sense — although some creeds we recite refer to the one apolostic catholic church (symbolizing unity, not the demonination). Regardless of what the word meant, it conveyed a meaning that we didn't want convey. TBC is not offiliated with any denomination of church — so "mass" maybe wasn't the best choice of words.

2. We lacked the meaning that this was the one and only foundational group. It needed to symbolize that this was the doorway in which all vocalists become involved in leading worship. The "Vocal Team" implies that there is only ONE vocal team. By design, the name communicates this — that we are ONE team of vocalists.

3. We lacked the meaning that we work together to lead worship. "Team" implies that we work together. Most teams do. If they don't, there will be individual voices working indepentant of each other. Think about a football team. Sorry ladies. Think about a syncronized swimming team. (Now I'm in trouble). Did you watch the Olympic synchronized swimming? If so, it's amazing how they work together. If they didn't, those patterns and flips wouldn't happen. You might as well put a football team in the pool and watch them flounder.

So that's why the group (formerly known as the Mass Vocal Group or MVG) is now called the Vocal Team (VT for short).

And thanks to the person who said it sounded like Ovalteen. I'll think of fake chocolate milk every time you lead worship.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

President of John Brown University Speaking at TBC

Happening right now. Loved his digital felt-board for visual
learners, like me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Managing Risk

Risk is a funny thing. Some people avoid it. Some people jump into it without thinking. Smart people manage it.

Does risk require faith? If so, what risk does God want you to manage? What risk are you entering into that you haven't consulted God about?
clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

Pilot completes jetpack challenge

A Swiss man has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.

Yves Rossy landed safely after the 22-mile (35.4 km) flight from Calais to Dover, which had been twice postponed this week because of bad weather.

"When we've talked to him and asked him are you worried about risk his quote consistently is: I'm not worried about risk, I manage risk.

Dover Calais map
As well as a helmet and parachute, he wore a special suit to protect him from the four kerosene-burning turbines mounted just centimetres from him on the wing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

One sweet mile

That was one sweet mile...thank you Varco Motors of Denison, KS.

Topeka, Kansas Christmas Light Show: How'd They Do That?

I'm getting some questions on several fronts, so I'll try to address some of them here.

Recently, someone asked me, "So how did you guys sync up the Christmas lights to the 17 musicians in 11 different rooms when they couldn't see or hear each other?" Great question.

There are several things we are using to accomplish this...

1. Light-o-Rama sequencing software and and controllers that line up an audio track to Christmas lights (no they don't program themselves, a human needs to create the display), all the controllers are connected via network cat5 cable

2. Hearback monitoring system: each musician has a set of headphone that allow them to hear the audio click-track that the Light-o-Rama software is sending, it's like 11 recording studios going on at the same time, if Hearback isn't your bag — then Aviom has nice monitoring systems

3. Mic each instrument and send it back to an audio mixing console

4. Main audio mix is sent to a Ramsey Electronics FM35BWT low-power FM radio transmitter set to a station that is weak in our area, you can check out weak radio signals here, this radio signal is sent to the cars who watch the production from the parking lot

Originally I thought there would be a noticeable lag between the lights and radio transmitted audio — but there was none to notice. If there was a lag in the sync, we would have shifted the Light-o-Rama sequence by a fraction of second to sync it up.

It's amazing how gelled the sound is when they are simply playing with a recorded version with click track for reference. And by the way, there was NO recorded music sent in the mix — contrary to what people thought. You heard all the mistake...which were few. We wanted it to be real — so none of the music was pre-recorded. The only pre-recorded part was the cheesy narration I did (which will be done by someone else this year).

Work began on the 2008 light show several months ago. Script is done. New concepts are in place. Additional controllers were assembled this week by two skilled guys at TBC (Matt "Sparks" Ottman, an Electrical Engineer professional; and Evan "cat5" Bonous, an Information Technology professional). Thanks guys.

If you want to stop by 11th and Mulvane on December 12, 13, or 14th - shows are 15 minutes long and begin at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, and 9:00pm for our 2008 show.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm an Putz - Like an iPutz

That's right. A PUTZ! My cell bill came out today, right after my last blog post — and obviously I used some of the data features of the iPhone when I wasn't around wifi. Otherwise, I would have had $100 DOLLARS IN CHARGES on my bill. So I called AT&T, fessed up, and they agreed to wipe the charges if I wanted the $20 data plan. Guess who's the proud new owner of an iPhone with a data plan?

By the way, I was paying $5 for 200 text messages on my previous phone. The iPhone $20 data plan includes 200 text messages. So really, our plan is going up $15. But that's three meals at McDonalds.

I called my wife, told her what happened, cried a little, then told her I'll start bring my lunch to the office — but only three times a month.

God, please help me be a good steward of Your resources. I want to use things to reach people for You. If this iPhone doesn't help me reach people for Christ, then make it drop in the toilet. I'm being honest God. Drop it.

How I Got My (Almost) Free iPhone (for $20)

Someone asked me how I recently acquired my virtually free iPhone. Well, it's not quite free. I paid $20 for it. Here's how it worked.

Someone damaged their first generation iPhone. The bottom half of the screen didn't work. Instead of taking it to the Apple Store to see what they could do, they decided to get a second generation iPhone 3G. They gave me their first gen iPhone and said, "If you can get it working — give me $20 for it...if not, then it's free."

Two weeks ago I went to and Apple Store and told them the story. I told them everything I knew about the phone. I held nothing back. The employee slide a brand new (probably refurbished) iPhone across the counter to me. Wow! I bet you the person who gave me his first generation iPhone would be ticked. So I called them — just to make sure they would be ticked.

Now comes the data plan work around. An iPhone doesn't work, unless you use special software to jailbreak and unlock the phone. Jailbreaking a phone allows you to put 3rd party software on it. Unlocking the phone unlocked the radio of the phone to all it to be used by other sim cards (not just AT&T). I slid my current card in and — and BAM, it's fully functional.

Is it legal to unlock an iPhone? The answer is yes and no. It is legal, if you are using it for personal benefit (like me, planning to use the phone with my family plan). However, it is not legal you to sell it on Ebay to someone else for profit (which I was going to do until I found out it was illegal). Check out this article for more information on the legality of unlocking an iPhone. How's that for being cheap AND legal? OK, I almosted unknowingly sinned because I was going to sell it on Ebay. Is it sin if you didn't know about it? That's for a theological post for another time, but a great question. All I know is that I'm a sinner regardless (Romans 3:23).

Warning. I'll need to be careful not to suck any data charges while I'm out of a free wifi zone. If I do, I'll pay per KB download. Not good if I was a traveling guy. But for a guy who stays near the office wifi, Burger King wifi, and home wifi — I'll be just fine. In other words, if I use AT&T's EDGE network without a data plan — I'll pay as I go (and probably through the nose).

And that's the story of my virtually free iPhone.

By the way, if you get a new iPhone with a 2 year contract — that puppy will set you back over $2000 (phone, voice, data). No thanks. I handed my measly $20 over to the former iPhone user several days ago. He begrudgingly took it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worship Leader Tip: Have Attainable Expectations

I've been asked — "What are your expectations of your musicians? Where do you draw the line?"

You know, I'd like to go through life painless — a life that doesn't upset anyone, doesn't demand much, and where I don't make waves. Unfortunately, that's not the life Christ has called me to. If I wanted an easy life, I'd scrap this Christianity thing and do what I want (or don't do anything I wouldn't want to do).

When it comes to leading a worship arts ministry, I set some expectations. They aren't meant to be a bunch of rules or something I slap people's hands with. But I'm up front with them, share them with the worship arts family, and explain why I have them.

Here's a snapshot of my main expectations:

1. Come prepared to every rehearsal using the tools provided. We provide CD's, sheet music, lyrics, and online material for each musician to know the music before rehearsal. Why? Because worship is more than excellent music — and if we spend an entire rehearsal on only music, we'll lose the point. Knowing where the breaks, rhythm, style/feel, melody/harmony, and general roadmap of the music before rehearsal has to happen for a quicker entry point to heartfelt worship.

2. Be available to be used by God regardless of the environment. Your best 'ability' is your availability. Meaning, if someone can't or won't make themselves available to sing in the full vocal team or choir, I probably wouldn't invite them to lead worship other times in smaller vocal settings. Why? It's a safeguard to make sure we are in this for the right reason — not just for the "cool" selective position.

3. Have a great attitude. Why? Because complainers are a downer for me and God. I already struggle enough with it myself, so I don't need others dragging me into the pit. When I find myself complaining, it's usually because I'm upset God didn't give me my way. I appreciate someone who comes to me and says, I need to take a break because my attitude stinks.

4. Be ready to roll when rehearsal starts. In other words, show up before rehearsal starts so then the clock strikes midnight you are set and ready to roll. Start on time and we'll end on time. Why? God has given us all a certain amount of time. I value that. And I value your time. I try hard to end on time (rarely doesn't occur). So starting on time is a must. Being there for the whole rehearsal until the end values the time other others around you.

And here are some examples things that aren't necessarily expectations, but I really take notice when they happen.

1. Helping out behind-the-scenes with grunt work when you sing like a lark or play like pro. That speaks volumes. I love guitar players and sopranos who don't mind moving a music stand. God loves a servant — especially talented ones who, in the world's view, are 'above' serving. It's anti-diva. God is anti-diva.

2. Extremely passionate beyond the music about following and worshiping Jesus. I can smell a fake. Those around you can to. If you sing words you aren't meaning or feeling in the moment — you'll be found out. If you play and it's a bunch of chords and notes and repeats, eventually people will discover it. I love guitar players who sing. I love singers who look like they mean the words coming out of their mouth.

3. Encouraging people around you. It takes WORK to turn to someone and say I appreciate you. It takes initiative to find the behind-the-scene guy/gal and say — thanks for what you do. I notice when others are encouraging people around them.

4. Following through on something they said they would. I love it when someone says, "I'm on it." Then the next thing I know, they have it done, done well, and completely done. Wow! There are parents in the kids musical earlier this year that simply has amazing follow through. Makes my job easier when I know I can trust someone who will follow through.

5. Being a volunteer who works like they are paid. I can't tell you how much the light show this past year would have cost if I had to hire out the work. But, geesh, there's a core group of people who worked like they were being paid to do it. I've learned from others to call them un-paid staff. Really, they are on staff — they just aren't paid for it.

These two lists aren't complete, but these are some of the ones that come to mind.

What are your expections? Do you have them written done? Does your ministry family know them?

Lunch with TBC Posse

Lunch with some of the TBC posse today. Nice job Hunter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Innovate Conference - Photo Tour

Want to check out the Innovate Conference picture tour from the (almost free) iPhone I recently obtained? We ended up going to Granger Community Church (Granger, IN campus), Harvest Bible Chapel (Rolling Meadows, IL campus), and Willow Creek Community Church (Barrington, IL campus). Check out all the pictures by clicking here.

I'll explain later about my (almost free iPhone). I paid $20 for the phone and have no data plan for the phone.

So you don't freak out about my haircut next time you see me

Yup. It's all the buzz. Nothing like a free haircut from your wife. By the way, this was taken at Millennium Park (Chicago, IL) on our way back from the Innovate conference.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Worship Leader Tip: Easy Slideshows without a Video Editor on Staff (TBC 2008 Baptism Video)

Needing to create a vibrant and creative video slideshow on the fly? Don't have a video editor on staff? Need it quick? Need it to look fresh and move with the music. And you want to pay from 0-3$ for it? Gotcha covered.

Animonto.com does all of this. They claim to be the "end of the slideshow." They've been around for a couple of years, but this is the first time I've used them. They offer full length slideshow videos for 3$ (30 seconds or less is free). Simply upload your pictures (tons of them), select music (your MP3 or one of theirs), and WHOLA — this is what you get. Here is TBC's baptism video from 2008 at the lake. The band played the song live while the video rolled. I sang like a girl.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Were You Mug Ugly?

I'm so glad God cares more about my inside heart condition than my outside — cause I was MUG UGLY in the 80's. I'm not going to tell you which one — but one of these looks SCARY close to what I looked like in high school.

Don't laugh too hard — until you yearbook yourself here.

The Ultimate Sound/Electromagnetic Proof Room

Check out this room used to test a special antenna used to research hurricanes. It's designed to reduce nearly all electromagnetism in the room. It also, weirdly, absorbs sound.

I'm wondering who comes up with this stuff?

But it also reminds me that there's nowhere anyone can go to escape the omnipresence of God. God really is everywhere at the same time. It's a good feeling that no one — no man or spiritual power — can separate us from God. It's both a comforting and wondrous thought.

Lord, help me to always be conscious that You are always with me. Help me live my life WITH You — instead of ignoring You or forgetting You are there.
clipped from science.nasa.gov

12, 2008:
There's a special room at the Marshall
Space Flight Center. Researchers call it the "Anechoic
Chamber" and they love to test their high-tech instruments
people think it's just plain spooky.

see caption
Anechoic Chamber is the perfect place to check HIRAD's antenna.

shapes lining the chamber's walls are made of a radio-frequency
damping material arranged in a pattern akin to soundproof
rooms. The shapes minimize microwave reflections and eliminate
electromagnetic interference.

electromagnetic quiet allows us to test and fully characterize
the HIRAD antenna," explains James. "Lack of sound
is just a weird bonus."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Christian Dance Achieves a New Level

Yes folks — when I saw this one, I realized a whole new level has been achieved. Wow.

My Tornado Filled Trip Home

This is what I drove through between KC and Topeka tonight. Welcome to Kansas.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What Your Favorite Music Says About You

I've heard of stereotyping before, but can this be? What if you like every style? Personality problems?! Regardless, it's an interesting study.

So what music would someone use to reach/target an audience?

I was talking with a radio guru the other day. They EQ stations differently to target a specific audience. Did you know they boost the highs to make a country music station sound more "pretty" and "sparkly" for that young crowd of women?
clipped from ukpress.google.com

Musical taste linked to personality

Heavy metal fans are gentle, indie music listeners lack self-esteem and lovers of pop music are uncreative, according to research.

But classical music fans have high self-esteem while heavy rock fans lack self-belief.

Heriot-Watt University psychology professor Adrian North's research into how music taste reflects personality and impacts on relationships is continuing.

He said: "We have always suspected a link between music taste and personality. This is the first time that we've been able to look at it in real detail. No-one has ever done this on this scale before. People do actually define themselves through music and relate to other people through it but we haven't known in detail how music is connected to identity."

More than 36,000 people around the globe took part in the survey, the biggest of its type ever conducted. They were asked to rate 104 musical styles in the study and were also questioned on aspects of their personality.