So, it ends where it all began…(or hasta la vista iPhone as a music player)

Hello, Sony Walkman it is our time to journey together once again.  I have been growing increasingly frustrated with using my iPhone as a music player.  Especially since I found out that Apple’s drive to make your phone be cloud-reliant will cause even a 256gb iPhone like mine to not play all of the music that you have supposedly downloaded to it unless you have internet access or data signal.

Yeah, you read that right, if your iPhone can’t call home to Mama then it won’t play all of your music even if you have downloaded it to the phone repeatedly.  Apple really wants you to use Apple Music.  For someone like myself, this is unconscionable.  This is why Apple killed the iPod classic.  They don’t want anyone to have access to their own massive music collections without a monthly fee.

Well, Apple can jog on because Sony has completely redone the Walkman line and it has VASTLY superior sound and will take a 128gb micro sd card.  No moving drives to go bad and Sony’s proprietary sound processing.  Thank you for your service, Apple, but I have to say that it isn’t me…it’s you.  Our iTunes relationship has been suffering for quite some time.

I have spent the afternoon comparing the sound of my iPhone and this gem of a Walkman on my Audio-Technica MX-50x studio monitor headphones.  The winner is clear: Sony’s Walkman by a country mile.

Sorry, Apple, we are done here.

I wish this were a surprise…

I wish that I could say that this article from Newsweek was a surprise.  I wish that I could say that I’m shocked, but after all my years in counseling, working with at-risk youth, and in property management, all I can do is shake my head.

How many times is this story going to repeat?  The Newtown, Connecticut shooter’s mother had supplied her mentally ill son with access to weapons after repeated issues.  The Florida shooter still had access to firearms after repeated infractions.  This guy’s own father gives him back an AR-15 after he was picked up at The White House for mental issues and weapons violations.

I’m not worried about more laws.  I want to know when we are going to start enforcing the ones that we already have in place.  Also, when are we going to drastically overhaul mental healthcare in America?  What we have is clearly not working.

Lessons from the Drop-Off Line

Today was one of those days where I had to drop kid #1 off at school because Jessica got called out in the middle of the night to help with a birth.  As we are making our way around the drop-off line at school, we see that one of the parent’s has driven into the prohibited bus area that has a separate entrance in order to facilitate efficient and safe bus travel for the students.  The dude proceeds to park his car right in the entrance and gets out to walk his daughter up to the sidewalk because he can’t be bothered to go though the line like the rest of us.  Clearly, the 3 minutes that it takes to get through the line is far too long for this guy…he’s got things to do.

Kid #1 looks over and says, “Hey, they aren’t supposed to park there.  That is for the buses, only.”  I decided to acknowledge her astute observation and reply with my standard: “He thinks that he’s special and that the rules do not apply to him.”  Kid #1’s reply is a thing of beauty.  She says, “Yeah, his daughter thinks she’s special, too.  She is always really snooty to me.”

In the 30 seconds that I have left before she gets out to the car, I take a moment to remind Kid #1 that it is exactly this sort of situation that reminds us of why we are not to put ourselves before others.  What that man did was not only selfish, but unsafe, as it causes a traffic snarl for buses on a busy 2-lane road.  Even worse, the behavior is rubbing off on his kid.

No one likes the person who cuts in line.  No one likes the person who walks into a restaurant with a line out the door and sends a member of their party to hold a table (which messes up the flow and makes seating impossible).  No one likes to person who just leaves their cart in the store parking lot.

I don’t know what happened to being polite and following the same social conventions as everyone else, but I sure wish that we could find a way to restore that practice.  If we are all going to live together, we have got to get along.  Getting along is so much easier when people aren’t jerks.


I simply had to make a formal post about this album.  I have listened to it no less that 40 times in the last two weeks.  It is an album that I helped to crowdfund by one of my favorite bands. I have listened to it on somewhere around 5 stereo systems and I finally had a chance tonight to listen to it on my Audio Technica M50x headphones, which I have for when I mix sound.   This album is nothing short of amazing.  It is the album equivalent of a Hattori Hanzo sword.

If you know who Stavesacre is, my explanation is simple:  This may be the greatest Stavesacre album ever made.  If you don’t know who Stavesacre is, then you can look them up on Wikipedia.  If you love good hard music, give it a shot.  If you love Stavesacre, buy it.  It will be your favorite thing for quite some time.


Squad Five-O Was Right

Squad Five-O is a band from Savannah, Georgia that came out of the 1990’s Christian alternative music scene.  The were Ska-Punk, then they were Glam-Punk, then they were Glam, and finally, they just ended up being Rock and Roll.  Now that I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, I would simply like to say that they were right.  They had a song that they wrote about the Georgia State Flag of that day and it was entitled: “Our State Flag Sucks.”  That, good people, pretty much sums it up.

This article is mostly for my Christian friends, but if you are not a Christian and inclined to read along, you are welcome to join us for this one.  I’m not going to make any apologies for being a somewhat conservative Christian who grew up Southern Baptist but really found Jesus in the 90’s Christian Alternative music scene.  I was there and along with most of my cohorts, I have got the tattoos and the theology to prove it.  The reason that this is important is that I feel like a lot of the bands from that scene had and still have a prophetic voice, calling a challenge to the American Christianity of their day and echoing against whatever we are calling this mainstream, comfortable, prepackaged, and marketed Evangelical Christianity that allows folks like Joel Osteen, Stephen Furtick, and all the other members of the cult of personality to lead us over the cliff of actual relevance and into the abyss of navel-gazing, self-righteousness.

Here’s the thing:  We Christians who grew up in the Southern United States have got to quit defending our Southern Heritage for two very important reasons.  The first reason is that it has become an idol.  The second reason is that it has allowed the rise of White National Socialism and a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.  These are two things which we simply can’t abide.

Let me tackle the first point with a simple question.  Do any of the Confederate memorials, flags, or markers have anything to do with furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  I want you to really think that one through and if you somehow think that the Gospel and these things have something in common, you might be a member for the Christian Identity Movement.  I’ll wait right here, you can go look that one up.  Simply put, all of these monuments and statues are just a part of our modern southern history because they have always been there in our lifetimes.  However, if you really dig into the history of some of these statues and monuments, you will find some really shady goings-on in relation to how they ever got there in the first place.

Now, on to the second point and this one is so easy to illustrate that I’ll cut-to-the-chase and make it quick and concise.  WE HAVE GOT WHITE NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND OTHER WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUPS MARCHING IN THE STREETS WITH TORCHES!  That is not okay!  I don’t care how much you disagree with the Antifa or Black Lives Matter movements and their tactics, when we have got Nazis marching in the streets, we have jumped the shark with our Southern Heritage.

If taking down every Confederate flag, monument, and marker is what it takes to keep white supremacists out of the streets and by extension causes one less incident like we had in Charlottesville, then let’s get to it.  It seems to me that for those of us who are Christians and Southerners, that we need to apply some of the instruction of the Apostle Paul.  Clearly, these monuments and such are stumbling blocks for so very many people, from so very many walks of life.  They are clearly things that cause people to sin, as proven by last weekend’s actions.

Apparently, Georgia’s state flag isn’t the only thing that sucks.

Bank Error In Your Favor

I know that most of us feel like this is a completely untrue premise…that this never actually happens in real life.  This week, however, either some of the old Ernest Greene luck or divine providence kicked-in.

Since I was a youth minister for so long, I worked for a very long time in positions that paid well below market rates for people with $124,000 educations.  Couple that with some genuinely bone-headed financial decisions between 1998 and 2003 and I ended up with a student loan that stayed in deferral for far too long.  Now, I’m forty-six and still paying off a student loan where the balance is actually greater than the original principle from twenty years ago.

Thankfully, and to my great surprise, I got a notification from my lender this week.  Apparently they had made a serious error on their end some years ago.  Although I have been faithfully paying for well over fifteen years, they had not been billing me properly or in accordance with our loan agreement.  As a result of their error, they credited my student loan balance to the tune of about $6,600 and adjusted my payment terms.

As a result of their error and subsequent adjustment in my payment terms, I should be shed of this burden in about five years.  At that point, Master will have given Dobby a suit of clothes and he will be a free elf.  Dobby will finally be freeeee!

Seriously, modern student loans feel so much like indentured servitude and all it takes is the mistake of taking out a consolidation load to remove most of your rights and stick you with a ridiculous interest rate.  This is such a huge blessing.

So, it’s been pretty intense…

It’s been a rough year, but this last month or so has been particularly difficult.  I lost my Dad a little less than a year ago and I knew that it was going to be a big change, but I figured that since I had so long to prepare for it that it wouldn’t be quite as severe.  I’ve got to say that I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

Dad’s passing seemed like a necessary part of life, but the circumstances still don’t entirely sit well with me.  Either way, Dad is gone.  That fact was cemented in my mind while I sat alone with his body, waiting for the funeral home to drive quite some distance to come pick it up.  What was left there in that room was not my Dad.  He was gone and I was left to grapple with some very concrete concepts of mortality and the human soul.  It has stayed with me longer that I thought it might.

The year has progressed, with lots of challenges in completing not only a couple of very large personal projects, but also with trying to get Mom’s house in order for her to be there by herself.  That struggle seems to be coming to an end, but I wouldn’t relive the last couple of months for all the money in the world.  Please allow me to elaborate.

We moved Mom in with us after Christmas so that they could redo all of the floors in her house.  During that time, it became painfully evident that Mom had been hiding a great deal of physical limitation and disability.  Still, she really perked up at the new flooring and although it was an enormous undertaking, it seemed worth it to see her happy with her home…until she fell forty-five minutes after we got her home.

After that, we ended up with Mom on a walker in a house that still needed the kitchen reinstalled.  I started working as late as I could every night after I got off work and most weekends, trying to arrange all the details and install the kitchen.  Many days became sixteen hours of work and six hours or less of sleep, but even that seemed worth it.  I had even hired a couple of guys to help me with the kitchen and it really started to come together…that is, until the bottom fell out.

My Aunt Frances had some complications with some surgery to remove a gall stone and I guess something went way wrong.  She was well into her mid-eighties and her body just couldn’t fight anymore.  They brought her back to the same hospice center that my Dad was in last year and I went straight out to see her, planning to return the next day and every day thereafter until she passed.  She’s always meant a lot to me and I hated to see her go.  Fortunately, I got to see her that one last time.  Unfortunately, on the way home I stopped off to let a tenant back into their apartment and on the way back to my Jeep Cherokee, I fell and broke my left arm, my nose, and I did my best to take all the skin off of large sections of my face.

In a matter of seconds, I found myself covered in blood and helpless to get myself off the ground for a few minutes.  I just laid there and bled…alot…I mean a bunch.  In fact, there is still blood on the concrete if you were to check out that sidewalk.  This all led to the most disturbing trip to the emergency room that I’ve ever had.  The highlight for me was when the woman next to me passed out and started throwing up blood.  Yeah, it sucked.

So, for the sake of expediency, here’s a summary of how it has been since then: awful…it has been awful.  I couldn’t go back out to see my Aunt Frances because we didn’t want her to be worried because I looked like I had been in a car wreck.  I spent the next several weeks as an invalid, because it unbelievably hard to do just about anything when you can only use one arm.  Even the simple stuff is hard, like tying my hair back.

Finally, I was starting to feel better and a bunch of friends had chipped in to keep everything moving forward.  It looked like I might be able to start catching up and finishing Mom’s house when I did something stupid and reactivated a near-record level of sciatic pain.  Thankfully, there are Prednisone and Percocet.  Those were starting get me moving again when something happened that really put the topper on this whole last year.

I took Mom to a quick doctor’s appointment.  The short version is that she had some trouble with her walker and fell backwards with me trying catch her with my bad arm.  Yep, totally helpless, watching my Mom fall backwards in slow motion while I tried to catch her with a useless arm and with a walker between us which made it impossible, anyway.  Her head hit the ground and she died for somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute.  It felt like longer because she turned blue and was non-responsive and the world seemed to stop, but either way, it was the worst.  Thankfully, she revived and after a couple of hours in the emergency room, we were on the way home.

So that’s been my year…intense and sucky, but with lots to think about, which made it even harder, at times.  Now, we are counting down the final days until we can get my son’s spleen removed so that his health can improve.

IMAG1278With that and the rest of my year, I’ve got something that I would like to admit:  It has been a really humbling experience, to say the least.  It has been really hard, but it has left me with some very lucid realizations.

  1. I would really appreciate your prayers for my son, Bruce.  Like me, they are going to have to take out his spleen so his body will quit destroying his red blood cells.  This will relieve his jaundice and he will no longer be yellow, but he will also be no longer able to fight off encapsulated bacterial infection.
  2. I would also appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  This whole thing has been so humbling and most days I have just enough stamina to finish my work day and spend the evening fighting the pain.  It’s getting better, but some days are better than others.  Also, it has become apparent that I am sometimes a real jerk and also that life is fleeting, at best.  I’m making a real effort to apologize to some folks with whom I need to make amends because I feel like it is the right thing to do.
  3. Most of all, I want everyone to take a really hard look at where we are right now.  Our country is eating itself over racial tension, bathrooms, and an election where we get to decide between two very large bags of crap.  I don’t know what to say to everybody, but I do know that I would like to remind Christians that the same Jesus who said to love your neighbor also said to love your enemy.  Frankly, I don’t see enough of that happening.  We need to start making amends with everyone or this election will be the least of our worries.