Some Pretty Awesome Deals from Amazon for eBooks.

Amazon is holding their “The Big Deal” which goes through February 2nd and offers up to 85% off over 600 books. When my brother told me about it, I was hesitant. I’m trying to pair down my library – but ebooks do take up less space than physical books…so maybe I’d take a peak.

I knew that if I did get any books I only wanted the best I knew I wanted to read. Everything else could wait – I’m really trying to only get the books I am going to read and read soon. So, here is my list…of those I bought as well of those I thought looked quite interesting (and actually, I left a huge number off my list, b/c I didn’t want to type all day).

I Bought It…

On Relationships

Self-Help

Counseling

History

Politics

Ministry

Compassion International: A Charity Worth Supporting.

Compassion International
Compassion International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Compassion International is an awesome charity I’ve been supporting for years – and want you to know about and support as well. Compassion focuses on providing for the basic needs of children in third world countries around the world. They provide food, water, education, medical care, opportunities, and the gospel to children who are in need. For $38/mo. you can sponsor your own child. You’ll receive photos and biographical info. about your child as well as the opportunity to communicate with them via letters.

Compassion isn’t just another charity – they have a sterling reputation. They’ve received the four star award from Charity Navigator putting them in the top 1% of non-profit organizations for the last eleven years!

Compassion provides a real, tangible, easy way to do something meaningful.

Mashable’s Social Good Summit.

I love being involved in the technology world – in part b/c of the great opportunities it provides to be involved in movements for the social good. Technology has made it possible for anyone to get involved in meaningful projects that enhance humanities’ common good. Mashable is currently holding a neat conference on this subject called The Social Good Summit. Here are links to their daily summaries / highlights of the conference:

And here are the items which stood out to me from each day:

Day 1:

  • “Even if we don’t know if we’re going to make it, what else can men of good consciousness do but fight into the bitter end… I’ve got a lot of flags on my boat, but I don’t have a white flag.” – Jacque Cousteau (as quoted by Ted Turner).
  • Suicide is the number one cause of death in the United States, Australia, and Japan amongst teenagers.

Day 2:

  • More than one million children die of malaria every year.

Day 3:

  • “Best-selling author Peter Sims took the stage to talk about how great ideas are developed from small gambles. He said ideas are not developed instantaneously but require little mistakes and modification before they take off.”
  • “Ms. James spoke about how organizations and non-profits need to think of the people they help as partners. She pushed entrepreneurs and activists to not just to help those in need across the world, but to engage them in dialogue and bring them into the solution as well.”
  • “Exposure to indoor smoke pollution from coal stoves is the fifth largest killer in the developing world.
  • “Robinson said 10 million women worldwide are forcibly married before they’re 18. She added that 64% of illiterate adults are women and that girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth.”

Standing for Something.

Running from Politics

Map of Darfur, Sudan
Image via Wikipedia

I follow politics, I can discuss politics, but I try to avoid taking a position – especially publicly – on politics. As a child of the evangelical right – including the fundamentalist response to sixties counterculture – I have seen first-hand the diminishing of the gospel, of love, of faith when politics is mixed with faith.[1]

Taking a Stand (on a Political(?) Issue)

In spite of this experience, I feel obliged to take a controversial position in at least one area – the question of foreign intervention, or isolationism. It is not uncommon in the circles I frequent to hear comments such as, “America needs to stop being the world’s policeman.” Now, I certainly am not advocating that America needs to be the puritanical big-brother for the rest of the world nor that America should be involved in policing every conflict. Further, I would suggest that while I am an American and this statement applies to an American context I see no reason for it not to apply to any other context: “Germany needs to stop being the world’s policeman.” “Nigeria needs to stop being the world’s policeman.” “China needs to stop being the world’s policeman.” The point is not that a nation or a people group, defined by geography or ethnicity, should oppose a strict policy of isolation and non-intervention – but rather that those who are able should reject apathy.

I remember a comic strip I once saw (and that is frequently mentioned, usually tracking back to Shane Claiborne) in which two individuals are talking. One says to the other, “I wish I knew why God allowed all this evil and violence in the world.” The other replies, “Why don’t you ask him?” To which the first replies, “Because I am afraid He would ask me the same question.”[2] Point being, so much of the evil we see in the world on a day-by-day basis is something we could choose to stop.[3]

Tonight I finished watching Uwe Boll‘s[4] 2009 film Attack on Darfur (R).[5] The film is slow. It spends a lot of time in a village in Darfur building empathy for the inhabitants. This sort of drags on and on as one watches scene after scene of conversations and interactions that might appear on National Geographic. Then the movie picks up pace as the village comes under attack, but unlike movies where the combat is an adrenaline rush this is simply a massacre – and Boll is in no hurry to bring it to a speedy conclusion.

In horror films the length of the gore is played for gross-out effect – in this film it is played for moral power. Yes, yes, we all know what happens over there (wherever that may be, somewhere else, not here) – so why do we need to see it? But there is another baby being smashed or impaled. Another woman raped.[6] And another. There are old men being plastered with bullets, children lying in bloody heaps, and don’t forget the agonized screams of those who are forced inside of huts and then burned alive.

The film concludes with a less lengthy, but (still) drawn-out visiting of the aftermath by American survivors…haunting us with our inaction and impotency. While the film makes us feel helpless in the onslaught, it also offers up “hope” in the form of intervention by a few brave souls[7]. Yes, its a Hollywood-esque hope in which The Magnificent Seven hold off armed hordes with a slightly better tinge of realism – but the point is apt. It would not require that much to intervene.

The film is spattered with profanities – including religious profanities – but I think God is probably more ticked off at our apathy than the fact that we’ve heard a few more bad words. It reminds me of another well-known anecdote in which Tony Campolo said to a large audience, “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a —-. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said —- than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”[8]

Call to Action

As I write this I am reminded of a song from John Reuben‘s album The Boy and The Cynic entitled Cooperate. The song tells the story of a dude:

“This dude took pride in his cause everyday / Put on his costume which defined who he was / He said he didn’t care he liked being unique / Accused the rest of the world of being a bunch of sheep / Lived his life going against the grain / Spent all of his time with those who felt the same / Hit his mid-twenties and still nothing’s changed / Except his boys who chose to grow with age / Now he’s looking for friends with the same behavior”

Reuben replies to the dude:

“Ignore the truth and neglect your responsibility / Because you can’t decipher the real world from your hobbies / This whole starving artist shtick you’ve been running with is wearing thin / … / Time for you to start cooperating cuz rent ain’t free / … / What you want and should expect are two different things / You think the rest of the world likes their suits and ties working nine to five just to get by? / … / But that don’t sit well with you’re anti-authority / Me against the world sub-genre category that you’ve placed yourself in / Do you honestly think the average man celebrates the system / But they cooperate”

I can empathize with Reuben’s frustrations in this song. Too often some of the loudest screechers for reform are those who couldn’t make a living any other way.[9] I don’t want to be a screecher.

I also know there is plenty of angst in this world – and most of the time I don’t need any more guilt thrown on my shoulders – so I don’t want to be someone who throws that on others either. I also know that shouting loudest doesn’t (always) make you the winner.[10] Getting everyone in a panic doesn’t help much – we temporarily mobilize and then the next big thing occurs and we lose our focus. I find it much more useful to look for small, real, practical ways in which we can make a difference rather than screaming a lot and getting frustrated over our inability to change everything.

So what can we do? The situation in the Sudan has alleviated to a great extent, not that there isn’t need for ongoing vigilance…but now and in the future there will be many other crises which will present themselves to us…how do we respond?

During the peak of the Darfur crisis I bought the t-shirts, wore the t-shirts, talked to people about the crisis, and did some minor advocacy in other manners. Did I do enough? Nope. How will I change that? I’m not sure. I suppose admitting that I failed, that we failed, and evaluating the current crises might be a good first step. Where are the current humanitarian crises in the world? What is being done about them? How can we find a balance between intervention and isolation?

Current Response

My current endeavor to respond to my own “call to action” – which is ongoing – is the slow and painful process of bringing life into order…in ways that can be and may seem entirely unrelated to acting on behalf of others. By this I mean things like: (a) wisely managing my expenditures[11], (b) managing my health[12], (c) creating community[13], and (d) reducing expenditures.[14], and (e) developing my relationship with God[15]

  1. [1]Perhaps another time I will discuss this topic more extensively. I recently delivered a series of messages on this topic at Calvary Community Church in Penndel. To briefly sum, I do not necessarily believe Scripture indicates that either political involvement or political absence are wrong but rather that we must begin at a much more basic point (no matter our position) of humility, love, and consideration for those we disagree with.
  2. [2]This is my rough, from memory paraphrase. If anyone knows the original source of this illustration and perhaps a digital image of the comic – I’d love to know!
  3. [3]Perhaps another time I’ll share my thoughts on chaos theory and how I think it may answer the traditional further challenge of natural disasters…
  4. [4]Better known for creating horror movies.
  5. [5]If you have Netflix, it is currently available to watch instantly. It is also available from Amazon Unbox for $2.99.
  6. [6]No depiction of rape can be done in an inoffensive way, but Boll shows great restraint in his rape portrayals. There is no hint of sexual excitement, no innuendo – just the harsh and brutal reality. There are no exposure of the private parts – male or female – in the entire film.
  7. [7]Interestingly enough, some of these brave souls are the souls who ran as cowards earlier in the film, but now those who spoke tough are running and the cowards are the ones left fighting for justice.
  8. [8]I’m not advocating the use of profanity, I am concerned that we (evangelicals) sometimes get more upset about the presence of profanity or any of a number of hobby-horse issues than the massive suffering which we have a (great amount of) ability to stop or relieve.
  9. [9]Frankie Schaeffer in Crazy for God reflects great disillusionment with the evangelical movement in part b/c of its doom-and-gloom salesmanship by folks he feels couldn’t do anything but sell angst.
  10. [10]Unfortunately, too often it does, as those with the loudest voices overcome those with reasoned voices. This is certainly a weakness on the part of the loud, but the reasoned must also accept culpability for the failure to stand up and speak truth even when others are being loud, annoying, and forceful.
  11. [11]So that I can free up disposable income for use with a purpose.
  12. [12]My struggles with depression and ocd oftentimes paralyze me. I know my ability to persevere in pursuing a call to action over time is correlated with my health.
  13. [13]Especially within the church, which can be activated for mission. Going alone our ability is limited, together we are greatly strengthened.
  14. [14]Finding areas in which I really don’t need this or that.
  15. [15]So that I have His heart and do things in His strength. When my ego and selfishness get in the way my good deeds are as dust, evaporating into the air in spite of their momentary appearance of solidity.

Larry Powell: Setting an Inspiring Example

downtown fresno
Image via Wikipedia

Tracie Cone has a great article over on Yahoo! News about Larry Powell, a school superintendent in Fresno California responsible for overseeing 325 schools with a total of 190,000 students. Larry has made the decision to give back the vast majority of his salary to the school district for the upcoming three years – totaling around $800,000.

Criminal Background Checks.

Update: See the end of this article for some important updates.

Recently I’ve been looking into what options are available for folks who need to run criminal background checks. This field has been changing rapidly over the past several years with technological advances and if you have been using a provider for a long period of time it may be worth your time to consider whether that provider is still the best and most cost effective for your needs.

In this article I’m going to focus specifically on criminal background checks with a focus on the needs of non-profit organizations such as churches. I’ll be discarding without note the various providers who while providing background checks (including criminal) are not meant to be used officially to perform such checks and which may not include all the information that a provider giving official checks might provide.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. in the comments section to this article.

  • IntegraScan – Offers background checks starting at $18.95 for a state-based check (only checks for criminal background in one state) and then progresses to $28.95 for a nationwide check (for criminal background in all states) with the final option with even more information clocking in at $49.95. They do offer bulk pricing, but you have to contact them for further information.
  • SentryLink – Offers criminal background checks for $19.95. Has a bulk pricing program one can contact them about. Also offers other reports – such as SSN traces and motor vehicle records.
  • BackgroundChecks – Clocks in at a stunning $49.95 for a nationwide criminal background check!
  • USSearch – Starts at $14.95 for their basic search, which includes state criminal background check and peaks out at $59.95 for their most comprehensive. They do offer bulk pricing, but again, must contact for quote.
  • Intelius – A nationwide background check clocks in at $29.95.
  • IntelliCorp InTouchPricing starts at $16.15 for a state criminal background check, then $17.95 for a nationwide check, and their most comprehensive is $58.45. But this is a consumer oriented product.
  • IntelliCorp – The corporate arm of IntelliCorp InTouch. No pricing is available, one must request an account and await a call to find out about pricing.
  • CrimCheck – No public pricing available, must contact.
  • BackGroundPI – $15.95 for Criminal Background search. The site lacks enough detail and references, but the pricing is good. Would require further research to see if legitimate/worthwhile.
  • eFindOutTheTruth – Site design is confusing and overwhelming, but pricing is very good and one can build custom background checks with only the desired features.

Based on my brief review of the sites, pricing, and etc. I would probably lean towards Intelius or IntelliCorp. They both offer a professional image and reasonable prices. But in the end, the best deal (for churches/non-profits) appears to be Group Publishing’s Church Volunteer Central (CVC). CVC costs $100/year and includes a wide variety of resources for running a church/non-profit and training/leading volunteers. It also includes a partnership with Lexus Nexus to perform criminal background checks.

Their basic background check is $9 and includes a national criminal search. For $23 one can add criminal records at a local county court. They also have a number of other packages available.

Update (9/24/11):

As I mentioned above, the CVC package seemed to be the best deal…but the process is quite painful, so I’ve gone with another alternative. Group (which owns CVC) partners with Lexus Nexus to provide the inexpensive background checks mentioned above, unfortunately Lexus Nexus has a frustratingly manual process before one can begin utilizing the background check service. This includes filling out detailed paperwork and faxing or emailing it to them (around fourteen pages worth) along with providing several forms of business identification (not all of which are always readily available) and several vendor verification forms (businesses which will verify that they do business with you and that you are who you say you are).

This in and of itself is a bit of a nuisance, but what really frustrated me was the technological aspect. On the form it asked questions about the IP address that would be used to access their system. Granted, I have a semi-static IP since it is a FiOS connection – but that isn’t truly static and I wasn’t looking forward to what I assume is a manual process to update the external IP records with Lexus Nexus when it changes.

I did some more searching and found that LifeWay, another major Christian company, had partnered with BackgroundChecks to offer affordable checks as well – and that their process was basically digital and simple. I went with them even though the price is perhaps $2-$3 more per check b/c of the ease. I setup my account and launched a background check on myself (as a test) without any problems. So far I’m pretty impressed.

Now, I think Lexis Nexus requires all the extra hoop jumping b/c they are providing information related to one’s financial state – and I can understand the need to maintain the confidentiality of this information, but in the case of churches and other non-profits, we don’t want to perform financial background checks – just make sure that criminal background checks are clear (e.g. no convictions for pedophilia).

For those who are interested, here is a link to the LifeWay co-brand page for background checks.

Fixing the Banking System.

2005 US cent, obverse side
Image via Wikipedia

Today as I was driving home from work[1] I was listening to NPR[2] and heard a story about the congressional battle over capping fees banks charge for purchases. Such a cap would benefit retailers (anyone who accepts debit cards) and would theoretically result in lower prices for the consumer. Apparently, the battle has been pretty thick and furious.

I understand the retailers (and stereotypically liberal) perspective that the fees are unfair and unjustly inflate prices while rewarding banks. I have very little sympathy for our financial institutions which have received tremendous bailouts on the taxpayer’s dime. On the other hand, I understand the banks (and stereotypically conservative) perspective that free market forces should be allowed to reign in this situation…

That said, I’d like to suggest there is a better way to resolve the issues of our banking system – which does not require government intervention and which would result in forcing the industry to readjust. A non-profit bank. Traditionally, companies send their financial returns into the pockets of shareholders or owners/employees, in the case of a non-profit the financial returns are largely expended in accomplishing the company’s stated goals. Thus the shift of focus moves from individual prosperity to the accomplishment of a specific goal (in this case, the facilitation of exchange of goods and services).

The difficulty is who is willing to start such a non-profit? Sure, I could start a non-profit – but I can barely pay my own bills much less facilitate the exchange of finances. It would have to be someone with a significant amount of financial resources – or a group of individuals who worked together.

It might be possible to get such a bank off the ground by starting local and small – and building business over time to cover larger regions – but even then one would need a significant amount of capital…and one can’t expect other banks to play nice if they see such a non-profit bank that threatens the very core of their financial profits expanding.

Perhaps a few of our bigger tech giants would consider undertaking such an endeavor? A Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

The easiest way to accomplish this on a nationwide or global scale almost instantaneously would be to buy out an existing business involved in the market – the most sensible option being PayPal. With its extensive customer base, existing systems, and so on – it would be a fairly simple process to lower fees and  increase features. Folks would be able to use their traditional banking means simultaneously with PayPal based non-profit banking, but the shift would be significant and instantaneous as one received significantly lower interest rates and fees on purchases and sales. Retailers (such as Amazon) might move to offer discounts to folks who used PayPal to make purchases instead of Amazon – perhaps half of the amount they would be saving from reduced or eliminated transactional fees.

Granted, there will always be interest and fees. I am not suggesting that banking should be free – bankers need their bread and butter as much as we do. Additionally, one must consider the losses which occur due to bad debts – in order to offset these losses it is necessary to charge interest and fees….but they could be cut drastically and the incentive for poor fiscal judgment would be significantly reduced without the pressure of shareholders demanding a return and the promises of personal wealth.

The credit unions appear to be a positive step in this direction – as they function on the concept that the members of the union are the owners of the union. However, I have never been part of a credit union (hmmm…maybe I should look into that…) and I haven’t heard of them having aspirations for this sort of national or global endeavor. Finally, the union, strictly speaking, exists for the benefit of its members and not for the goals or ends of the company – which in my mind can become somewhat confusing. Are my goals as an individual member or as a group of members for myself or for the method of accomplishing financial interactions as a whole? A non-profit would be committed to facilitating the exchange of services and commodities – the credit union, at least in theory, is primarily concerned with providing for its own membership and only tangentially with the facilitation of exchange of services and commodities as a method of serving its membership.

Other positive steps in this direction seem to be accruing through direct lending – such as that offered by Prosper. These services are not non-profit, but do take unnecessary middle-men out of the equation simplifying the process of facilitating lending.

There are also digital currencies like Bitcoin which might offer some promising alternatives – though they need to be significantly simplified to bring about real-world usage. Bitcoin uses the membership to manage (automatically) the financial transactions, eliminating significant amounts of middle managing.

What do you think? Is the banking system broken? How? Can we fix it? How? What downsides would exist from going with a non-profit bank? Why don’t credit unions expand more rapidly? Why has no one formed a non-profit bank yet?

  1. [1]A very short five minute commute.
  2. [2]Does that make me a liberal?

My First Two Weeks (+/-) with the Zeo.

Thinking of the Poor:

Observing the shabbath closing havdalah ritual
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not a fancy person in most areas. I try to save my money and spend it on things I think are worthwhile and valuable. For example, sponsoring a Compassion child. So, what am I doing spending $200 on a glorified alarm clock – the Zeo? I’m glad you asked. Individuals whose hearts for the poor and neglected like John Sherk and Rob Timlin may be especially interested…and, I’ll let them decide whether my thinking is valid or if I need to be lovingly taken to the woodshed. 🙂

What About My Sleep?

Let me provide a three word summary of my history with sleep: it wasn’t nice. But, most of my history of sleep is non-relevant to today’s discussion, so let’s focus in on a few relevant points:

  1. I can’t go to sleep before midnight or I wake up 2-4 hours later and then can’t sleep for the rest of the night (which is a real drag when you have to work the next day).
  2. I get inexplicably and overwhelmingly exhausted throughout the day – and without structure – will fall asleep…and usually remain asleep for 1-3 hours.
  3. No matter how hard I try, I repeatedly fail at getting up early in the morning so that I can have the time I want to have to get ready for my day…I end up pushing the snooze button and sleeping in, then  hopping out the door in  mad rush.

Now, sleep is apparently important to our health. We don’t understand all the underlying magic – just that bad things like insanity and death happen if we don’t get it. It does all sorts of great things for restoring our health, cementing our memories, and so on. Perhaps God created sleep b/c He knew we’d be so bad at take Sabbath’s otherwise?

I Want a Zeo!

So…I’ve wanted a Zeo forever (okay, okay, maybe its been like two years?) and have held off and held off…but Charity (wonderful wife that she is) in an attempt to get me to actually bill my freelance network clients (I don’t mind the work…hate the billing) suggested that I use part of the revenues from my next few checks to purchase a Zeo (incentives…they work with kids, and apparently me…)…well, guess who only waited another month before billing? Yup, that’d be me!

The Zeo Arrives

I bought my Zeo and waited painstakingly for its arrival. Finally, it arrived. I opened the shipping box and inside, low and behold, was another box! But this was one fancy – you know, like Apple aesthetically pleasing fancy. Everything inside was all nicely wrapped and fancy. Its amazing how the packaging makes the product feel premier.

Using the Zeo: For Information

The first aspect of the zeo is its’ information aggregation and analysis. You wear a comfortable headband on your head while sleeping (yes, as awkward as that sounds…I had no trouble adjusting) and this wirelessly communicates information to your bedside zeo about your sleep patterns. In the morning you can see your overall ZQ (a “score” of how you slept), how often you awake, when you were in deep sleep / rem sleep / light sleep, and view all sorts of fancy charts and graphs. Zeo also offers guided coaching that helps you modify your habits to get better sleep.

I found this information very helpful b/c it provided me with an objective gauge of whether I got enough sleep the last night. I could see patterns forming where I wasn’t getting enough sleep for a few days, and then when I made the endeavor to get enough. I could also see and record the difference in my feelings / energy / etc…though I’ve barely taken advantage of most of these capabilities at this juncture.

Using the Zeo: Smart Awake

Honestly, the feature that has been killer for me thus far is the Smart Alarm. I tell the Zeo when I want to wake up and it wakes me up to 30 minutes before that time. Crazily enough, I usually feel better – even if I get 30 mins. less sleep, than if I’d slept right to the end. See, the Zeo tracks what stage of sleep I’m in and wakes me when I’m in light sleep rather than deep sleep – reducing my feelings of grogginess.

This has made a huge difference in my sleep habits. I’m now much better at getting out of bed on time. I’d estimate that I’m “gaining” 30 minutes to 1.5 hours each day due to the Smart Alarm feature. Granted, some of this may be placebo effects – time will tell.

Doing the Math

Now the question is – can we justify such an expense in light of the needs of the world? This is always a hard-pressing question upon my heart. For the past year or two I’ve taken a more dynamic approach to this question than I had previously (where the answer was almost always to sacrifice everything, whenever possible). I’ve begun to do little auto-magical (e.g. made up) calculations within my head to try and estimate the value of my time and how much money I am “saving” by “spending.”

For example, the Zeo cost me $200. Let us say my time is worth $10/hr.[1] Lets take the conservative figure of time gained each day (30 minutes) and multiple that times a year (30 mins. x 365 days / 60 mins.) – 182.5 hours. Now, lets multiple this time gained by the amount my time is worth per hour (182.5 hrs. * $10/hr.) – $1,825.

Over a years time, I’m “gaining” $1,625 for an expense of $200. Granted, my time gained does not automatically translate into productivity…but to break even I’d only have to spend 20 of those 182.5 hours being “productive.”

The equations make sense to me, but do they to you? I use similar equations when deciding if I should purchase a video game, continue or cancel a subscription to Netflix or Grooveshark, and so on. My goal is optimal stewardship at minimal expenditure…but I think I’m trying to move beyond thinking of stewardship primarily in dollars to whole being…

Thus, while x might cost x amount, if it enables me to function x% better on an average day, I need to consider whether “indulging” will in the end “return” a value greater than the expenditure? e.g. How do we quantify the value of a honeymoon or romantic getaway for a husband and wife? Can we, should we, factor in the cost of a divorce down the road if the marriage is not indulgently cared for along the way?

This said, I think as Americans (including myself) we are grossly overspending. If we do adopt such a paradigm for measuring return vs. expenditure we must actually take the time to calculate the return, rather than using it as an excuse for gluttonous fulfillment of our pleasures.

Some Interesting Stats…I Don’t Know What They Mean…

I received a baseline report from Zeo on my sleep habits…I thought the findings where fascinating, though I’m not sure what they mean…here are the highlights:

  • I currently sleep an average of 6:01 hrs. each night, this is 1:19 hrs. less than the average for my peer age group.
  • Despite the significantly lower time spent asleep I show a significant front-runner status in both my REM and deep sleep.
    • In REM, I spend 1:49 hrs. while my peers spend 13 mins. less.
    • In deep sleep, I spend 1:50 hrs. while my peers spend 27 mins. less.
  • How is this possible that I get less sleep but more of the “quality” sleep? Its because most of my peers spend nearly twice the amount of time in light sleep (4:22 hrs.) as compared to me (2:23 hrs.).

In Case You Are Interested…

This is mainly if some sleep doctor happens to stumble across this post and is interested, here are a few other idiosyncrasies of my sleep habits:

  • I get very tired while driving or while in a car at all. Despite my hardest endeavors, if not driving, I almost always fall asleep on drives – oftentimes even relatively short ones (e.g. 30 mins.).
  • Exercise does not seem to significantly reduce my tiredness or help me push through it.
  • I get sleepy when I have been thinking a lot, this means I have a tendency to nap more on the weekends – b/c I tend to do a lot of reading/thinking.
  • While napping during the days I oftentimes prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible…but when sleeping at night I am bothered by even the smallest of lights.
  1. [1]I’d certainly hope its worth more…but I’m just being conservative.

Operation Christmas Child.

Franklin and Billy Graham, in Cleveland Stadium
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight at Nomads we continued our annual tradition of participating in Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is organized and run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit Christian organization under the leadership of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

Each year hundreds of thousands (millions?) of shoe boxes are filled with simple gifts – toothbrushes, soap, wash clothes, toys, candy, pens and pencils, notes. These boxes are then shipped to locations around the world where they are distributed to impoverished children.

For many of these children this is a significant gift that meets real needs. No longer are they using a shared tree branch to brush their teeth – which can result in bleeding and communication of diseases – they now have their own tooth brush. Even the boxes (sometimes we send plastic) are usable for carrying water or any of a number of other tasks.

It is a very small way, but a tangible way to be part of something good and to demonstrate love to those in need…so I love Operation Christmas Child. I love the opportunity to get together with the teenagers and spend a few hours stuffing boxes full of gifts. It is a great privilege and blessing to us – not just to those whom we have the opportunity to bless.

Nokero’s N100 Solar LED Light Bulb.

Nokero Solar Lights at SOCAP11
Nokero Solar Lights at SOCAP11 (Photo credit: photologue_np)

Tim Hornyak over at C|NET wrote about Nokero’s N100 Solar LED Light Bulb in a recent article and I was impressed by the technology – if it works as Nokero describes. Essentially, Nokero is targeting the developing world – offering them a relatively inexpensive device that charges during the day using the sun and then runs at night. Ideally, the Nokero will replace the use of kerosene and other fuel sources for lighting. This has a number of benefits:

  • Reduced cost – the Nokero should pay for itself within a few months time as it doesn’t have the ongoing costs associated with kerosene, etc.
  • Reduced risk – the Nokero will serve as a safer and more stable light source, less likely to explode or catch fire.
  • Reduced pollution – especially indoors, this will result in better health for those in developing countries due to less smoke and chemical inhalation.

The technology is still infantile – a day’s charge is expected to provide two hours of sunlight – with the device holding perhaps four hours total. That said, it may be enough to at least supplement kerosene and other light sources – and if one has two of them, one could use one after the other to provide lighting for four to eight hours.