Monday, January 20, 2014

Fantasy Life, by Matthew Berry

This book is basically a bunch of anecdotes about fantasy sports leagues - 80% football, 19% baseball, 1% other. Those stories were sent in mostly by readers/listeners to Berry's EPSN content. The through-line of the book is Berry's story of how he came to be the Senior Fantasy Analyst at ESPN, and how his pursuit of that job has affected his life. His story is one of persistence (often to the point of stupidity), and trial-and-error.
Many of the anecdotes are jaw-dropping - because of the players' ridiculous dedication to their fantasy sports team, or because of co-incidences, or because of the players' circumstances (soldiers in the field of battle, husbands on their honeymoon, etc). There were a few heart-tugging stories as well - bonding father/son, husband/wife, etc.
It was a fun read - certainly a self-centered book, but that's to be expected: it is essentially a book about Berry.
He comes across as a "knocked down 7 times, got up 8" kind of guy. Humbled by the journey, yet also proud of his own persistence and success. He's self-deprecating and deflects his spotlight toward those he deems worthy.
In the last chapter, he mentions that this book is a "love note to fantasy" - and that is the perfect summary. He showed how he, above all others, loves fantasy sports.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013, in order

2013, in order:
 Got married! Honeymoon! Moved into the barn! VU trip!
 Normal Christmas upheaval and fun. Found a major leak in the water lines. Most normal-feeling and restful month this year. Won a fantasy football league.
 Bought a washer and dryer. The Wife's Chicago trip. VU Jamaica trip! Wrestling with House Title Company about the Deed. Thanksgiving fun! Feeling very married and happy!
 Started preparing my house for sale. Life was pretty chill.
 Got a bad medical diagnosis 3 days after health insurance stopped. Arkansas wedding trip! Finally bought the house! Moved. Won a fantasy baseball league.
 My grandma died. Started another new job! Church Men's Retreat! VU Branson trip! Wrestling with House Title Company about unpaid fees and their foibles. Busted my finger up real good playing softball.
 Lived as a guest in my home whilst emptying it into storage units. Continued some pre-marital counseling from last year.
 Trying to piece life together (new stuff and repairing from the job loss). Car trouble, navigating buying a house, job search, health insurance? Got a new job! Long commutes with no schedule flexibility.
 Stress of continued planning for the wedding. And the honeymoon. Still homeless.
 Lots more prep work for the house (carpet, painting, cleaning, emptying). Life was less chill. Sold the house, which was a stressful debacle. Gave away (or threw away) a lot of my stuff. "My" started disappearing.
 Moved out of my home. Became "homeless" and felt very unsettled. Had to commute through nasty traffic every day. Throes of engagement. Had to leave The Fiancee every night. Planning a wedding. House hunting. Wedding shower.
 Wife's grandma died. Lots of house hunting drama. Found a house we liked! I immediately got laid off. Lots of not sleeping and anger.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Password security

Minor problem:
So, if you type in the wrong password 3 times, you're locked out, right? Well what if you're really close? I don't think that should count as one of your 3 chances - because you're probably not a hacker trying to brute-force your way in. I think there should be more lenience for close guesses.

My solution:
Have a higher threshold for number of incorrect guesses allowed. Say, 10. If your first 3 guesses are way off, you're locked out. But if you're pretty close, you can get up to 10 chances.
You may say, but wait, a bot might be able to see that it's guessing close because it got more than 3 chances, so it can narrow its search that much more.
To that, I would say, "Yes, that's a good point." To counter this, have two different "Locked Out" attributes for a user. One that is "Locked Out" and the other that is "Report Locked Out."
If 3 wild guesses are made, "Locked Out" is set. But "Report Locked Out" is not set until there are 10 incorrect guesses - regardless of how wild they are.
The response to the user is keyed off of the "Report Locked Out" field. If it is set, return "You're locked out" to the user, otherwise return "Login Unsuccessful" - or whatever you are saying for an incorrect password.

Now the only thing left is somehow to define what a "close" guess is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Walking Alone At Eve

Walking alone at eve and viewing the skies afar,
Bidding the darkness come to welcome each silver star;
I have a great delight in the wonderful scenes above,
God in His power and might is showing His truth and love.

O for a home with God, a place in His courts to rest,
Sure in a safe abode with Jesus and the blest;
Rest for a weary soul once redeemed by the Savior's love,
Where I'll be pure and whole and live with my God above!

Sitting alone at eve and dreaming the hours away,
Watching the shadows falling now at the close of day;
God in His mercy comes with His Word He is drawing near,
Spreading His love and truth around me and everywhere.

O for a home with God, a place in His courts to rest,
Sure in a safe abode with Jesus and the blest;
Rest for a weary soul once redeemed by the Savior's love,
Where I'll be pure and whole and live with my God above!

Closing my eyes at eve and thinking of heaven's grace,
Longing to see my Lord, yes, meeting Him face to face;
Trusting Him as my all where-so-ever my footsteps roam,
Pleading with Him to guide me on to the spirits' home!

O for a home with God, a place in His courts to rest,
Sure in a safe abode with Jesus and the blest;
Rest for a weary soul once redeemed by the Savior's love,
Where I'll be pure and whole and live with my God above!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Fiddler's Gun

I'm realizing that I can't remember the books that I've read very well, so I'm going to start trying to write "book reports" when I finish them. Maybe that'll help. Maybe not. Maybe I'll remember that I'm really bad at writing book reports. Oh well. Nobody reads this blog anyways ;)

Yesterday, I finished The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. "Pete" Peterson. This historical fiction is a beautiful tale of loss, love, action and pirates!
The setting for most of the book is colonial Georgia, around the 1770s. It doesn't take a historian to know that there is a lot of action to be found there, and Peterson finds it, to be sure. The protagonists is a young lady named Fin Button who is a stereotypical Tom Boy who is thrown into a set of circumstances that very unusual. At every step of the plot, the scenes, feelings and conversations are so decorated with imagery, that the reader is not only taken to 1770s Georgia, but he enjoys every nuance of the surroundings.
Not all of this book would be appropriate for young readers. There is death and slightly course language (though not nearly as much as one would expect, given the subject matter).
The weaknesses of the book were in the action scenes. They meandered and were sometimes hard to follow. Other than those blemishes, the book flows smoothly and the story is well-crafted.
The Fiddler's Gun is the first of a 2-book series. The last volume, The Fiddler's Green is due out on December 7th, 2010 and it is already on my Christmas list.
These book are (or will be) available at

If you want to read this book, don't read any more of this blog post. It'll give away most of the plot.
Fin Button was born to a couple who had 12 girls. Her father was so disappointed that she (the 13th) wasn't a boy, that she was abandoned and sent to an orphanage in Ebenezer, GA. I wonder if this is a veiled allusion to Bilbo Baggins having 13 companions on his journey in The Hobbit.
She was a tough girl, living up to her fathers expectations (though he was completely out of the picture), beating up most of the boys in the orphanage... except Peter. Peter is the man she fell in love with and would eventually be engaged to.
One day, she was assigned to help Brother Bartimaeus in the kitchen. Because she was a teenager, and had antipathy for most authority figures, she grumbled. But she acquiesced. She came to love Bartimaeus (don't call him Bart) and he taught her how to play his violin. In the violin case, he also kept Betsy, his blunderbuss. Eventually, Bartimaeus (or was he Bart at this point?) used Betsy to save Fin's life after she ran away. This brought Bartimaeus out of the hiding he had been in and led directly to his being hanged for his past sins, when he was Bart. That of stealing, pirating, murder.
This ripped Fin up. She briefly took over for Bartimaeus in the kitchen until 6 British soldier came in demanding a meal. One of them was a near-victim of Bartimaeus's knife and Fin couldn't hold herself together. She killed all six of them and went on the run.
She left Ebenezer for the first time and landed on The Rattlesnake, a merchant ship headed by Captain Creache. Creache was a greedy, vile man who stayed in his quarters most of the time. Jack was the first mate and a bear of a man. He and Fin got along well, but her best friend on the ship was Tommy Knuttle. Knut was a shell of who he used to be, his life-force and sense beaten out of him by Creache some years ago.
Creache's greed put the crew in harm's way and Jack led an overthrow of the ship. The captain and his loyalists were set adrift and the rest of the 'Snake's crew took over.
Creache found land, reported the 'Snake's crew and what they had done and they were branded pirates. The British army wanted them for the Privateering they had done and now the colonies would hang them if they could find them. They had nowhere to go.
Eventually, the were captured and put on a British prison ship (the Justice), which they overthrew. This was rather worthless because the vessel was barely sea-worthy. As they sailed away, two British ships were easily gaining on them and when the ship-to-ship battle commenced, the colonial Marines stepped in to save the day. (It should be noted that the author is a US Marine.)
Jack, Fin and the rest of the crew make for Ebenezer which becomes the epicenter for the final battle scene. Creache discovered a map that Fin had, which told of a large cache of gold that Bartimaeus had buried at the orphanage. (Yep, 6 prepositions in that sentence.)
Creache was looking in the wrong place and Fin now knows where the gold is, but she doesn't dig it up.
The last action scene of the book shows Fin killing Creache, but losing a good crew-mate in the process. Also, Jack has lost the bottom half of one of his legs. I guess the pirate stereotype has to be achieved somehow, eh?
Peter rides in on a horse and tells Fin of the house that he has built for them. But both of them know that she has to run. She is wanted by the British for murder and she can't return unless and until the colonies win the war.
The book ends with Fin officially being made Captain of the Rattlesnake. They're sailing out into open waters to see how they can help the colonies win the war.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Andrew Peterson

I was reading The Fiddler's Gun (by Pete Peterson) today at lunch when a friend from church came over for a brief chat. In my attempt to describe how I came to meet this book, I started with "have you heard of Andrew Peterson?" AP has become so ubiquitous in my own life (and this friend is an avid and long-time church-goer), I assumed a quick "sure" would be the answer and I would move on to the subject of The Rabbit Room and then the Hutchmoot, which is where I met Pete and bought his book.
However, I received a "no." I didn't hide my surprise very well and the unexpected answer derailed my response to his question about the book. I stumbled through explaining that the "A.S. Peterson" on the cover is not Andrew, but his brother Pete (prompting more quizzical faces) and mumbled a few incoherent thoughts about Rich Mullins and The Rabbit Room. I think I successfully conveyed my passion for AP's music though because toward the end of our brief conversation, my friend requested that I send him an email with a "top 10" list of AP's songs to whet his appetite.
I was giddy with excitement over a willing subject to my proselytizing AP's music. However now that I'm facing the task of compiling this list, I feel a weight of responsibility. I want to craft this list as carefully as AP crafts his songs, to win another pair of ears for my favorite Truth-teller.
My plan was to send him an email with 2 options. 1. The ADD Option: simply the list. If he just wants to get the list and judge for himself, have at it. 2. The More Involved Option: includes a description of why I included each song.
Then I thought, "I wish I had written something on my blog that I could show him. That way, he'd see that I've been a fan for a while and that it's something I really care about." In an attempt to avoid that thought in the future, here's the list (along with the enhanced attention span version).
As an aside, the order is intended not as a ranking, but as a playlist - how the songs would best flow.

1. Hosanna (Resurrection Letters, Vol 2)
2. The Chasing Song (Carried Along)
3. Queen of Iowa (The Far Country)
4. Song And Dance (Clear to Venus)
5. Canaan Bound (Love and Thunder)
6. Deliver Us (BTLOG)
7. After The Last Tear Falls (Love and Thunder)
8. Love Is A Good Thing (Resurrection Letters, Vol 2)
9. Isn't It Love (Appendix A)
10.The Ninety and Nine (Carried Along)

Honorable mention:
Fool With A Fancy Guitar (Counting Stars)
All Shall Be Well (The Far Country)
Romans 11:33 (Appendix A)
God Of My Fathers (Counting Stars)
Have Your Way (Resurrection Letters, Vol 2)

The plain list feels so hollow. I have gotten to know these creations fairly well over the past few years and they have helped to shape me into who I am. I feel like I'm introducing you to a person I love by simply telling you their name. No! If these were people, I would tell you what they do, how I met them, how they've affected my life, what we have in common and maybe a funny story or two about them. It's a little different for songs, but not much. With that in mind, here is the extended version of the list.

1. Hosanna
The album title begs some explanation: no, there isn't a RL, Vol 1 right now. He's pulling a George Lucas on us here. The prequel is yet to be written. For a more complete explanation, buy the album. The liner notes give a beautiful description.
"Hosanna" is a song that caught me up and tossed me around. It sounds like something I would hear on Christian Radio (safe for the family) with a Praise Band chorus of "Hosanna! See the long-awaited King, come to set His people free!" Yet the verses describe something heavier, far from safe. He describes himself as a liar, a hypocrite, an addict, a self-centered sinner. And this is what makes the chorus make sense. "Hosanna!" means "Save us now!"
2. The Chasing Song
This one is on his first CD (that I know of). It calls to stories from the Old Testament and the New to describe what different characters chased after and it questions what we chase after.
3. Queen of Iowa
I hope I get this story right. I believe AP wrote this about a woman from Iowa who was raped and developed AIDS. For some reason, this increased her faith. I don't get that, but praise God! Her fiance (not the perpetrator) stayed with her and they got married, but her life was obviously devastated. Apparently, AP is one of her favorite artists, so he and Ben Shive went to her house to play a few songs for her. It is a beautiful song about a beautiful woman.
4. Song and Dance
This song is a river flowing from King David through nature and history into today, declaring God's unchanging faithfulness.
5. Canaan Bound
This, the first track on Love and Thunder, also speaks to God's faithfulness. This time AP uses Abraham's story.
6. Deliver Us
The title of this CD is Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. This concept album should be the subject of an entire blog post. But the idea of the album is to tell the story of the coming of Christ from Genesis through Jesus's life.
This song comes at the point in the story when the children of Israel are crying out to be delivered from Egyptian oppression, but is sung from an American Christian's point of view. (At least, that's my interpretation.)
Just as an informational note, Derek Webb sings this song on the album.
7. After the Last Tear Falls
This one cycles in and out of the #1 slot on my "favorite songs" list. I'll let it speak for itself though.
8. Love is a Good Thing
AP describes Love so beautifully. This is another example of that.
9. Isn't It Love
This song appeared on "Clear to Venus," but on his "Appendix A" album, he has a live version where it's slowed down to reflect the gravity of the message.
10. The Ninety and Nine
"But a Shepherd-made answer: 'This of mine has wandered away from me.'"

Honorable Mention:
Have Your Way
This one is #11. I love it, but it's kinda short. It's a beautiful Celtic prayer.
Fool With A Fancy Guitar
I felt like I should have a "Counting Stars" track on the list. Honestly, I don't like his most recent release as much. First, I haven't spent as much time with it, so I don't trust it as much. But secondly, he talks a lot about marriage, kids and family life on there - which is something that just doesn't connect with me in my current season.
I do like this song though, just not top 10 worthy.
All Shall Be Well
I love the melody, rhythm and storytelling in this song. Other than that it sucks. Haha.
Romans 11:33
I hope this makes it on a future recording some day. This is a live version of this song, but I love scripture songs and this is a good one.
God Of My Fathers
Another good one from Counting Stars - very family-oriented. Written by Ben Shive before he was married or had kids, interestingly enough.

Most importantly, if you have any interest in hearing any of these songs, please visit The Rabbit Room.
If you buy the songs through the Rabbit Room, they cost just as much as they would through iTunes, but a higher percentage goes to the artist.

Also importantly, please send me your input on these and other Andrew Peterson songs. I love discussing them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Have a Little Faith

The following is an excerpt from Mitch Albom's book "Have a Little Faith." He's quoting a sermon delivered by the character he calls "Reb."

A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, "He sleeps in a storm."
The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man.
Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley.
Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.
So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed.
He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins.
He races to the silo. The doors are latched, and the grain is dry.
And then he understands. "He sleeps in a storm."
My friends, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of "I could have, I should have." We can sleep in a storm.
And when it's time, our good-byes will be complete.