A gross but interesting pondering…

This morning while I was in my staff meeting (which was a phone conference), we heard a lot of background noise going on.  Just when it was about to get unbearable, the high-up manager chimed in "Guys, I’m really sorry for the noise.  I’ll be honest, my son just got sick and threw up at school, so I’m picking him up."

While on the phone a few of us were IM’ing back and forth, saying how bad we felt for her son, then one of my co-workers mentioned how embarrassing it must be for the kid.  "Probably the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you at school."  At that point I started thinking WAAAAY back to when I was in elementary school.  Is getting sick the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you at school?  From this spawned my list of most embarrassing things that could happen to you during elementary school.  Getting sick ranked #2.

So think back to when you were really young, and in that mindset, what are some of the worst things that could happen to you?  Maybe some happened to people you knew, or maybe you were the unfortunate victim of one of these incidents…  As you start forming your list, check out mine.

10. Showing up with a lame lunchbox

9. Getting Nerdy Glasses

8. People finding out about your 1st crush, or worst yet – your 1st kiss!

7. Getting kissed by your parents in front of everyone

6. Getting caught snapping girl’s bras

5. Major food spillage

4. Getting sent to the principals office

3. Forgetting to button your fly, or having your pants ripped in a revealing area

2. Getting sick and throwing up

1. Having a "bathroom" accident, soiling your pants

I know, I probably left off something majorly embarrassing, so make to make any additions/revisions to this list in the comments section!

DMB Red Rocks CD-DVD!

SWEET!!!!

WEEKEND ON THE ROCKS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

Dave Matthews Band’s 2005 summer tour ended with four spirited nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. We are pleased to announce that we’ll be bringing the Red Rocks concerts live to you with the release of Weekend on the Rocks and The Complete Weekend on the Rocks. Weekend on the Rocks features the highlights of all four nights, 9.9.05 – 9.12.05 and will be available as a 2-CD / 1 DVD. The Complete Weekend on the Rocks will feature the four full-length shows and will be available as an 8-CD / 1 DVD set and an 8-CD digital download.

Highlights of the Weekend on the Rocks CDs include rare songs such as Don’t Burn the Pig and Halloween, a cover of the Zombies’ classic Time of the Season and an extended version of Bartender. Weekend on the Rocks DVD highlights include So Much To Say, Stand Up (For It), Recently and Louisiana Bayou featuring Robert Randolph on pedal steel.

Weekend on the Rocks and The Complete Weekend on the Rocks are available NOW for preorder! Given the custom nature of The Complete Weekend on the Rocks, preorder early to insure delivery on the release date and to take advantage of the $10 savings on the price of the box set.

All preorders of Weekend on the Rocks and The Complete Weekend on the Rocks will receive a free Red Rocks sticker and be automatically entered to win a grand prize of an out-of-print Red Rocks Amphitheatre Event Poster, framed, autographed and personalized by Dave Matthews. Ten runner-up winners will receive autographed copies of The Complete Weekend on the Rocks.

That makes two shows I’ve been to that they’ve turned into CD’s/DVD’s!

YES!!!

As the world turns at J23…

So the latest drama out of our church, and another sign that times are still bad for our faith community – our music minister has resigned, after less than 15 months on the job…

I don’t blame her one bit for leaving, and in all actuality understand and support her reasons for doing so. J23 has to be a tough place to work.  It’s disappointing when volunteers aren’t adhering to your requests and completely ignoring any policy that you’ve set.  It sucks because the previous music minister had this "laissez-faire" approach and really wasn’t all to invested with the music groups, so these groups have spent years doing pretty much anything they’ve wanted.  The leadership at the church has been pretty hands-off as well, which hasn’t helped the situation.

On top of all that the leadership amongst the staff has become weak.  This starts with the Pastor drastically cutting the music ministry’s budget, without even having the courtesy to inform the music minister.  Then with members of staff failing to acknowledge the music minister’s presence doesn’t bode well for that staff member’s perceived value.  Whether this was done intentionally is not an issue – the damage that has resulted is still the same.

The music minister’s departure is especially concerning for both the staff, the music ministry and ultimately our faith community at John XXIII.  Her hire 15 months ago was part of a massive turn-over we had, with 4 (of the 9) staff members leaving within weeks of each other.  In my opinion, her hiring was the only staff upgrade we made between the old staff and new staff (with the other staff members leaving big shoes to fill).  I’m really anxious to see if we’ll be able to find someone who has a skill set remotely comparable to our departing music minister.  Quality, talented people will not come in to work for weak leadership.

With that comes my greatest fear and likely prediction: that they’re not going to replace the music minister.  The pastor is going to make the same statement he made about the former "Director of Campus Ministry" position we had: That the money isn’t available, the search process would likely be difficult and there will have to be a period of time that will need to pass before we can hire someone.  Better yet, in order to make the books look better, we won’t hire someone until the end of our church’s fiscal year (June 2006), and the choirs will just have to manage on their own for a while.  Then when the summer roles around, the leadership will claim that we really don’t need a music minister, and there’s no need to hire one.

Mark my words: something like that will happen.  The result with the music ministry will be catastrophic.  The musicians are all hard-working, thinly-stretched and under-appreciated, and have this desire to be recognized for the contributions that they make.  They need to feel relevant, and the church needs to support them by providing a competent, organized staff member that can coordinate their efforts and serve their needs.  If a music minister is not hired before the spring, you will see 1-2 more choirs disband by the summer.  This will be a grave situation for our faith community, being that our strong music ministry has always been a staple of our liturgical experience (and for many, one of the few reasons to go to J23 rather than another Catholic church in Fort Collins).

I just hope I’m wrong…

Busy October Weekend

Another busy week down, another week gone by with virtually no posts…  This last week has been an attempt to plan and schedule my time effectively, fail at doing so, then just putting out fires that need to be put out.  I had a few big deadlines at work that needed to be met, and I was lucky to get them in under the wire.  So with that, I had a very nice and relaxing weekend, and a few "Weekend Warrior" stories to share…

Friday Night – The Fritzler Maize – For those of you who don’t live in Colorado (or any other areas where corn-growing is prevalent), you probably don’t know about Corn Maze’s.  Essentially, it’s all in the title, an entire maze, made up from a corn field.  Oftentimes the maze is created with a special design that can be viewed from an aerial view (this year’s design were pictures of Ray Charles & Elvis).  During the day it’s a very interesting experience, at night it can get downright scary (think of the movie Signs).  Throw in a bunch of people going through the maze dressing in black, wearing masks, then essentially having a Haunted House in the middle of the maze, it turns into a night of Halloween entertainment.

The key to going to a Corn Maze is to go with people who get scared very easily (especially if you’re someone who really doesn’t get scared).  Part of the fun is watching them scream at every turn, squeezing your hand, and then watching them get freaked out when you ditch them in the maze.  In our group of 5, two people fill the role very nicely and made it funnier.  The actual haunted part was pretty neat, they had a haunted school bus, this big circular tunnel that made you dizzy, and of course, lumpy ground with a chainsaw guy running after you.

Something interesting/weird that happened that evening.  As we were going through the haunted part of the maze, Shannon realized that she no longer had her cell phone.  We then began to go back in an attempt to retrace our steps (not at all easy to do in a maze) and try to see if we could find it .  We also started calling it over and over again, hoping that it would ring/glow.  Then after our third attempt to call the phone, someone picked it up.  Michael (who was on the phone) started asking him questions to see if there was a place he could drop the phone off, or perhaps meet him.  Then the next thing we realized is that the guy on the phone was on the other side of the corn hedge talking to us.  Shannon really lucked out, I didn’t think she was going to get her phone back (at least not that night anyway).

Overall, not a bad way to spend a Friday night in October.

Saturday was a relaxing day for the most part.  I got to sleep in, play some Madden, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon before church.  I did manage to get one productive thing in – working on my T-shirt design idea.  I’m trying to do this play off from the iPod commercials.  Let me know what you think…

Saturday night Bethany and I went out to dinner and saw Flightplan.  It didn’t really live up to any of the hype.  Basically the whole movie ended up on the plane, and if you’ve seen one airplane movie you’ve seen them all.  The plot wasn’t very complex, and you spent the last half of the movie saying “Get to the point already!”.  The only cool thing about the movie was getting to see the new double-decker plane.  It looks really sweet!

Another Sunday, another day of football – I love Sundays in the fall.  Matt, Amanda joined Bethany and I as we went to Wild Buffalo Wings to watch the Broncos game.  We are all such Fantasy Football junkies that I brought my laptop and we were taking advantage of the free wireless over at Wild Buffalo, hence the random posting yesterday from the bar.   I love going to the bar to watch football games.  It’s so neat to watch everyone get excited when something big happened in the Broncos game, but it made losing all the more worse.  When Toomer caught that last touchdown with 5 seconds to go, people just filed out of the bar in droves.  It was most depressing…

So those are my “weekend warrior” stories, ready to kick off another busy week!

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man… better learn how to create visually-impaired accessible web sites!

Something I ran across in my free time over the last few days.  I was surfing the web for student/campus ministry sites, when I saw that FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) had re-designed their web site http://www.focusonline.org* .  It looks radically different from their original site (which was designed using a black background, with white & yellow text).  This looks a little bit cleaner in design, the color scheme is a little easier on the eyes and the site is a little better organized than their previous site…  Pretty good site, except for one problem…

99% OF THE DESIGN ARE GRAPHICS!  The site is completely made up of completely uncompressed images!  The front page of their web site is 245k, where by comparison, Yahoo!’s front page is 24k.  That’s right, FOCUS’s web site is 10x bigger than Yahoo’s main page.  What does this mean?  Well if you’re looking at this web site through dial up (which believe it or not, is still pretty widely used today), you can expect to wait 95 seconds on your 28.8 modem connection.  With a 56k modem (the fastest dial-up speed), your wait time is cut down to a mere 49 seconds!  On average, a user would be lucky to spend 15-30 seconds waiting for your page to load up.

It’s not the fact that the web site is graphics intensive, because there are graphics intensive web sites for legitimate reasons (i.e. an art web site, movie web sites that use a lot of Flash animation), but not only did they go overboard with using non-compressed images, but they committed the ultimate web-design sin of WRITING TEXT with their graphics editor.  Someone opened up Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro or whatever they use for graphics and started typing in there as if it was Microsoft Word!  Instead of taking a mere few seconds for your browser to download and format the text on it’s own, you’re now at the mercy of waiting for these graphics to download so you can read their web site!  Unbelievable!

I know what you may be thinking – "Big deal, I have High-Speed Internet and I don’t have to worry about download times, this site still comes up in a few seconds over here."  While that may be true, you are also blessed to be reading this with your two working eyes.  You may not realize it, but visually-impaired people surf the internet as well, but they do it with the help of a browser that actually reads the web site to them!  The browser software identifies anything that’s text and reads it to the user.  With sites that incorporate graphics into their logos, menus and graphics with other useful information, the site relies on a TAG called the "Alt tag" (HTML 101 lol).  This tag is meant to be displayed if the graphics have not yet loaded (or cannot load at all for whatever reason), if the user chooses to turn graphics off when they browse the web (and yes, there are many people that do this), or for visually-impaired browser software to read.

Well the FOCUS site, being 99% graphics intensive (actually out of the whole site I only found 1 line of actual text), you would think they would be using ALT tags for people who cannot or will not load all of their graphics.  Well they haven’t, and shame on them for not doing so.

In the business world, not conforming to web accessibility standards (i.e. visually-impaired users) means that you’ve alienated part of your customer base.  In the world of religious web sites, failure to adhere to accessibility standards means that you have shunned the disabled brothers and sisters in your church, and have effectively turned your back on a segment of the people you are ministering to.  Personally, this is a grave Social Justice issue.

Additionally, all those great search engine sites like Google & Yahoo, their "bots" or spiders aren’t intelligent enough to read graphics, so whatever you have that’s not text or an ALT tag, has just been passed up by two of the most powerful search engines on this planet.

Recently, many resources have come available to assist developers in making their web sites accessible.  Dreamweaver 8, the latest version of Macromedia’s awesome web design solution, allows you to set up accessibility standards in the program, so that when you insert an image or something that may not be full accessible it prompts you with the steps in order to fix the solution right there. This only takes a few extra seconds of your time, but makes a world of different to blind people viewing your site.

One of my favorite de-bugging/troubleshooting tools is the Web Developer extension for Mozilla Firefox.  Which has a really cool option called "Replace Images with Alt Attributes", which paints a pretty decent picture of what a web site would "look" like to the visually impaired.

I pointed this over to a few web sites that I feel effectively illustrated this issue.  I took screen shots of the "with graphics" and then "with alt tags".  You can get a few screen shot by clicking on the image.

Yahoo.com

NCSC – CatholicStudent.org, A site that I’ve sent a lot of time designing

John XXIII University Ministry – The site that I used to do, but now has been changed (Note: I did incorporate ALT tags into my original design, what you see is the new design that replaced mine) – Body text looks ok, no menus though…

And finally FOCUSOnline.org– Now you see it, now you don’t!

Moral of the story:  Just because a site looks "sexy" with a lot of pictures and images all over the place, it doesn’t mean it’s "Professional".  Mix in some source code and stop designing in Microsoft Paint or whatever you used to build the site.

*Note: One of the commonplace rules about URL’s – don’t ever incorporate "on-line" or "web site" into the actual URL.  We know it’s on-line, that’s why we’re accessing it on the Internet.  I understand that FOCUS.org was likely taken, but I can think of 5-10 other possible alternatives than using the word "on-line".  It’s like saying "I on ‘Pine Avenue’ street."  It’s just redundant.