Our story

Marcia decided that we are going to start keeping a family journal.  I think this is a great idea, except she keeps insisting that we can’t actually start it until I write my version of how we met and fell in love and got married. Every time I sit down to start writing that story (and while she won’t believe me, I have started many times), I realize that there needs to be even more back story, and I give up and scrap what I’ve written.

So tonight, I decided to take a different approach and instead of writing a novel, I started writing it in the style of a children’s book. Marcia rejected it for inclusion in the family journal, so here it is:

How we Met

One day in church there was a pretty girl named Marcia.  We skipped a church dance together and walked around outside.  I liked her.  We went back to her apartment and…

played cards.

Then I went on a mission.

Then she went on a mission.

Then I got back.

Then she got back.

Then we dated for like 5 years.

Then she moved away.

And I missed her.

So I asked her to marry me.

She said yes.

And we got married.

And I liked it.


I wouldn’t look for it in the Scholastic book catalog any time soon.

Dear Insurance Companies

Dear Insurance Companies,

If I wanted to talk to your salesman on the phone, I would have called you. Instead, I went looking for information online, because I wanted to get the information, you know, ONLINE.

Oh, and since you have my address along with my phone number, I would expect that you would figure out that your particular insurance company doesn’t insure ANYTHING in my area before you call me and try to sell me insurance I can’t possibly use.


Strike 2

“Borrowed”  wifi is cool, but we are stuck in Carthage, IL with a rental car with a faulty shifter.  A rental car that was supposed to take us to Kentucky tomorrow.

This is getting interesting.

In related news, we have crossed the Chevy Cobalt off of our list of “cars we might want to own someday.”


We’re back in Macomb now (about 3 hours later), and the car got towed.  We’ll resume this adventure tomorrow morning when the rental agency opens (which, incidentally, is exactly when we expected to be departing).

Megean: DON’T PANIC.  We will find a way to get there, one way or another.  We’ve even discussed buying a new car.

Mistakes made by other people

Last week, we had two experiences where we derived benefit from the mistakes of others:

Story #1:

We were at one of our local department stores, buying pieces for a halloween costume.  We went as convicts, which was simple to do: scrubs with a number painted on, and some makeshift waist-chain handcuffs.  We found the scrubs, but the top didn’t have a price tag on it.  No big deal, we assumed it was the same price as all the other tops, which was $10 or so.

When we went to check out, the cashier rang up our things, and when he got to the scrub top, he started looking for the price tag, which was nowhere to be find.  He looked a bit perplexed and annoyed, and Marcia said “it must be free!” (This is something we often say when a price isn’t immediately apparent, and doesn’t usually get much response from cashiers, especially at this store that doesn’t like to give up a cent if they can avoid it.)

The cashier looked at Marcia, and then said in a rather pathetic I-have-a-cold-and-feel-like-crap voice, “And I’m gonna give it to you free too, because I’m sick and don’t want to be here.”  And then he put the scrub top in the bag without another thought.

Free scrubs! Score one for Marcia and the sick cashier.

Story #2:

Saturday night, we decided to order pizza.  We had a coupon: Buy an extra large specialty pizza at regular price, get a large one-topping free.  We thought that was a pretty good deal, so we called and ordered.  This particular pizza place has a specialty pizza that Marcia really loves.  To protect the innocent, we’ll call it the “spinach” pizza.  We ordered an extra large spinach pizza, and got a large pizza with tomatoes (yes, tomatoes are excellent for a one-topping pizza) free.

We went and picked up the order, and when we got home and opened the pizzas (ALWAYS check the order before you leave the store… I know better), we found that the spinach pizza had onions and mushrooms all over it – both things that Marcia doesn’t like on her pizza, and which I didn’t remember ordering.

I called back to the pizza place, and explained that I thought there was a mistake.  At first, the guy said “that’s what comes on the spinach pizza, which is what you ordered.”  Then he realized what had happened: There is also a “spinach DELUXE” pizza in their computer system, and he had printed a ticket for the deluxe, when we had only ordered the regular.  He asked if I wanted a regular spinach pizza instead, and I said yes.

I went to exchange the corrected pizza (they did offer to deliver it free, but it’s faster to just go pick it up), and when I took the original offending pizza in, they said I could keep that too, since all they would do is throw it away anyway.  While Marcia won’t eat the mushrooms and onions, I will, so free pizza for me!

So, TWO extra large pizzas and one large for the price of one extra large – that’s a pretty good deal.  Score two for me and the pizza guy with marginal reading comprehension skills.

We got gas

A few years ago, when gas prices crossed $2.00/gallon, I decided that gas cost too much and I was going to save money by buying a bike and riding it to school and for other transportation around town.  Of course, I discovered that I really enjoyed riding the bike, and became a pretty hardcore cycling enthusiast.  I bought a nice racing bike, have discovered the wonders of spandex cycling shorts, and have legs that are disproportionately strong when compared to the rest of my body.

But I digress… The point is that yesterday, more than 3 years after $2.00 gas prices prompted me to make a major lifestyle change, we filled up our cars for $1.93/gallon, a price unseen since early 2005.

Here’s how:

We have a local grocery store that has an associated gas station.  If you buy items at the grocery store, you get a discount on fuel from the gas station.  The discount is progressive – spend up to $50, get 3 cents off; up to $75, get 5 cents off; up to $100, get 8 cents off; and if you spend more than $100 at the grocery store, you get 12 cents off of each gallon of gas.

What enables this whole plan is that the grocery store’s customer service counter will accept payments for our gas/electric company.  So yesterday, we went to the grocery store, paid our utility bill (which was well over $100), and got our reciept, complete with 12 cent gas discount.

Gas prices have fallen pretty dramatically over the last few week.  The going rate for the cheap stuff in town was $2.05/gallon yesterday.  $2.05 – 12 cents is $1.93!

So we, filled up both cars for under $2.00/gallon.

My iPhone game is finally available

I’ve written a new game, Boomshine, for the iPhone/iPod touch, which has just become available in the App Store.

It’s a fully authorized recreation of the original Boomshine game that took the web by storm last year, which you can still play at k2xl.com.  Here’s the official description:

Boomshine is an addictive casual game.  Touch the screen to start a chain reaction an try to explode as many dots as needed to pass a level.  The game contains 12 levels ranging from the easy to the hard (25 tries on average to beat level 12).

It was a lot of fun to write, and Danny Miller, the author of the original Boomshine, was a great help in putting it together and getting the gameplay to match the original as closely as possible.  If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, I hope you’ll try it out; it’s highly addicting, and great fun.

Click here to open iTunes and view Boomshine in the app store.

Technology issues in the election

OK, I’m really going to try not to be political with this. It’s already pretty clear who we support in the upcoming election, but I thought putting together this list would be interesting.

The following is a list of four major technology-related issues that are important in the upcoming presidential election, and the candidates’ positions on them. I will say that I don’t agree 100% with either candidate here, and I’ll try to be as objective as possible in putting together this list. Here goes…

Net Neutrality

What it is: Currently, your internet service provider (ISP) is required to give all internet traffic equal treatment, whether you are looking at ebay, cnn.com, or jacobandmarcia.com. This basically ensures that you can get what you want, when you want it. Some ISPs have announced their intention to begin treating some traffic with greater priority than others. For example, yahoo.com might pay your ISP to give preferential treatment to them, which means that yahoo will work faster than google, or any other website that doesn’t pay for priority handling.

Barack Obama’s stance: Supports enacting a law to ensure a neutral internet

John McCain’s stance: Believes ISPs should be able to determine what content they deliver and how they deliver it

Intellectual Property Protection

What it is: Copyrights, patents, and all that stuff.

Obama: Wants to ensure that intellectual property (IP) is well protected both in the USA and internationally

McCain: Says government should handle blatant IP issues, but warns against “protectionism”

Broadband Availability

What is is: Helping as many people as possible have access to fast, always-on, internet connections.

Obama: Supports government involvement in getting broadband access for everyone. Also wants to change the legal definition of “broadband:” Currently the government defines broadband as 200kb/s or faster. Obama wants to raise that number so that it has to be faster to qualify as “broadband.” (For the sake of reference, at 200 kb/s, it will take about 3 minutes to download a typical pop music mp3).

McCain: Supports increased broadband access via competition between ISPs, instead of government intervention. No comment from McCain on the definition of “broadband.”

Internet and Telephone Privacy

What’s the big deal? The internet has created a whole new world of privacy issues: How long should a website that you buy something from keep your credit card number? How much personal information should myspace and facebook be allowed to publish to the masses? What about information about your children? Also, the national security climate has led to government agencies listening in on phone calls or monitoring internet use without a warrant (“warrantless wiretapping”). Many believe that this is unconstitutional, while others argue that it is not actually “search and seizure” as defined by the constitution. When the issue finally makes it to the supreme court, IF it is deemed to be unconstitutional, an interesting legal question arises as to the liability of the telephone companies and ISPs that participated in the wiretap.

Obama: Wants to increase the Federal Telecommunications Commission’s budget to give them more resources to track down cyber-criminals. Wants to update laws to ensure that information gathered for national security is properly used, and that all intelligence-gathering is done by completely legal means.

McCain: Supports retroactive immunity for companies that participated in warantless wiretapping. Believes the government should use all instruments of national power to fight the war against terrorists. Says that this must be done without “impinge[ing] on the rights of our own citizens or restrict[ing] their freedoms.”

As already stated, we’re supporting Obama this time around, but I tried to make this list as objective as possible and to not take anything out of context, giving each candidate a valid representation in terms of the technological issues that we currently face.

Without pushing my views on you, the only thing I’m going to encourage you to do is to make sure you’re registered to vote, and when the time comes, go out and vote!

Being an organist…

Most musicians who are actively performing live in a world of “gigs.”  A jazz musician might have a gig playing Tuesday afternoon in a coffee shop.  A rock band gets a gig playing at a club on Saturday night.  Pianists often get gigs accompanying a singer or someone playing another instrument.  Gigs are the lifeblood of the working musician.

LDS Conference Center Organ FacadeNow, I’m not a full-time musician.  That is, I don’t depend on music gigs for my living, but I do play a lot and I teach regularly, so I consider myself a working musician.  Most of my playing these days is on the organ.  I play in church nearly every week, which is very enjoyable.  Occasionally, however I will get a real true-to-life gig.

And for an organist, gigs are weird.

Basically, you are either playing for people who are really happy (weddings), or people who are really sad (funerals).  You never get a gig playing in a club or a coffee shop or anything that would be relaxed.  Perhaps it’s just the nature of the instrument that it is only used in the most formal and solemn occasions in people’s lives.

One of the odd things about organ gigs is that you become sort of a go-to person for information about how the event in question is supposed to work. Couples planning a wedding ask you what order things should be in (sometimes the MINISTER asks you what order things should be in).  A survivor planning a funeral asks you what you think they should do at the funeral.

On one hand, this makes sense.  Most people only get married once, and so have never had a wedding before.  “The organist must have been to a thousand weddings, so he would know what to do, right?”  Hopefully, most people don’t plan a whole lot of funerals either, but “surely the organist has been to his share of funerals, so he would know what to do.”

Are you wondering what an organist says when it’s his first wedding too? Ask Ronda.  Whatever I told her is what you say when it’s your first time. 🙂

What prompted this? I played at a funeral about a month ago.  “Tim,” (names have been changed) the son of the man that had died, was a professional funeral director.  He knew what he was doing.  He called me and asked if I would play, and told me what music he wanted and when I got there for the service he gave me the order of service and that was it.  Nobody asked me how I thought things should be done.  I wasn’t a funeral expert, I was simply an expert on…the organ.  It was one of the best services I’ve ever been to (probably because I didn’t meddle in it).

The last weird thing about being a working organist is return customers.  When you’re a rock band, if a club calls you to come play a second gig there, that’s awesome.  It means that they liked you and that their patrons liked you and they think it will be good business for them to have you back.  When you’re an organist, and someone calls you for another gig, it means that either 1. They got divorced (sad), and are getting remarried (happy), or 2. Someone died and you played at their funeral (sad), and now someone else died and you’re playing at their funeral too (sad).  That’s only a 25% coefficient of happiness.  Not good.  Basically, in order for you to get a return customer as an organist, something bad has to happen to somebody.

Tim called me again today.  His cousin passed away.  Tuesday will be third time I’ve played for him. Tuesday will be Tim’s third funeral in a month.

Of course I will accept every gig I can, because I enjoy providing magnificent music for these solemn and important occasions in people’s lives.  I also, as any musician, enjoy every opportunity I have to use the skills that I’ve spent many thousands of hours honing.

But Tim is a good man and a good friend, and I hope he doesn’t have to call me for any more gigs in the near future.

And that’s weird.

Tag, again

Ronda tagged me with the new game going around, so I guess this time I’ll play.

10 years ago I was studying for A.P. exams, graduating from high school, and practicing a lot for my summer tour with the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps.

5 things on my ‘to do’ list today:

  1. Get a haircut
  2. Participate in a conference related to my responsibility at church
  3. Take care of legal and financial stuff for a new business I’m starting
  4. Replace the battery backup for my computer
  5. Watch American Idol

Things I would do if I became a billionaire:

  1. Pay off Marcia’s student loans
  2. Build my dream house
  3. Buy a Steinway grand piano, MarimbaOne marimba, and some other great instruments to put in the music studio of the dream house
  4. Mustang and Murcielago. One for driving, one for show. You figure out which. Or maybe a Tesla Roadster.
  5. Flying lessons and an airplane. Probably something like a Velocity Turbo.

3 of my bad habits

  1. Impatience – when I decide I want something done, I want it done perfectly, now.
  2. Weird circadian rhythm – My body seems to like a 25 hour day, so each day I want to stay up about an hour later than I did yesterday, then sleep in an hour later than the day before. Thankfully Sunday usually resets that before I get too out of whack.
  3. I can be a bit of a slob, especially in the kitchen, just because I hate doing dishes, or at my desk, because I always seem to be in the middle of a half dozen different projects, instead of doing one thing at a time.

5 places I’ve lived

  1. Provo, Utah
  2. Mesa, Arizona
  3. Moscow, Russia
  4. Minsk, Belarus
  5. On a bus

5 jobs I’ve had

  1. Doctor’s office janitor
  2. Floor associate at an office supply store
  3. Piano teacher
  4. Database administrator
  5. President and proprietor of my own business

Things most people don’t know about me

  1. I know how to cross-stitch, but I don’t particularly enjoy it
  2. I’m scared of bugs
  3. I’ve only had 3 organ lessons in my whole life
  4. I once threw a rock so far it landed in Poland, even though I’ve never been there.

It’s time…

We have avoided anything political on this blog for a while, but the time has finally come…

There were a few candidates of varying persuasions that we felt an inclination for, but most have dropped out of the race, and only one remains: Barack Obama.

We do not agree with everything that Obama stands for, but we agree with most of it:

“I don’t want to just end the war, I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.”

“We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.”

John McCain still thinks the war in Iraq is a good idea.  He wants our troops in Iraq forever, or indefinitely, whichever comes first.

Clinton still refuses to admit that her voting in favor of the war was a mistake.

Obama has opposed the war since the beginning.  We want a president who had the foresight to know that this would not turn out well, and the integrity to stand up for that, even when it was unpopular.

“Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let’s set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let’s recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let’s make college more affordable, and let’s invest in scientific research, and let’s lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.”

Obama believes in keeping the internet open and free (did you even know that many of your representatives are under the influence of lobbyists who want to close up the internet and allow your internet provider to charge you extra for visiting any web site that they don’t run?).  Obama believes that education, not war, is our future, and wants to put our money where it will help rather than hurt.

“We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates… My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

Imagine that you could provide for yourself any kind of health insurance you want.  You could simply declare “this is my health coverage, because I said so.”  That is what you get to do when you’re a U.S. Senator or Congressman.  As a result, they have pretty good coverage.  Obama wants to give every American the opportunity to have that same coverage, and to ensure that every American has health insurance – that no one will be forced into poverty and bankruptcy as the result of some circumstance beyond their control or their ability to foresee.

“I believe that America’s free market has been the engine of America’s great progress. It’s created a prosperity that is the envy of the world. It’s led to a standard of living unmatched in history. And it has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery…We are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other’s success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.”

Obama wants to make taxes simpler for the majority of Americans: the middle class.  Obama wants to provide tax breaks to the middle class, instead of the rich upper class, who got tax breaks they didn’t even ask for from the Bush administration.

Now for a call to action:  This week we celebrate the birthday of a laywer from Illinois who, through integrity and hope, made a difference, and saved our nation: Abraham Lincoln.

In the spirit of that hope, we have made a donation to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  We followed a call to action from dailykos.com, who has asked people to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday by donating a multiple of $5.01 to the Obama campaign (Lincoln appears on the $5 bill and the penny).

We’ve contributed what we could responsibly afford, but it’s going to take more than just us and the others who’ve acted so far.

It’s going to take a movement. It’s going to take millions of people to beat back the avalanche of dollars from Washington lobbyists and special interests, who are planning to spend more money than ever to try to own our political process and dictate our policies in Washington.

Barack Obama will not play that game.

Barack Obama is not taking any contributions from Washington lobbyists or political action committees.

Barack Obama is transforming the political process by bringing together hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans in a campaign that’s owned by no one but the people.

Will you join us by making a donation?  Can you spare $5.01, or $10.02, or $25.05 to show that you have hope for the future?  That you hope for your children to grow up in the land of the free?  That you support a candidate who believes in you?

The future is coming, and it is time to make it happen the way we want.  Please join us: