Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Awkward New Year's Eve Moment

Just traveling down memory lane.  This "Awkward Moment" was recorded on New Year's Eve in 2004 in Princeton, MA.  Claudio at his best!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Concert Calendar

I thought I would round up some of the concerts I will be a part of this coming week.

First up, Rachel Macy at Fellowship Church - Holden on Friday, December 26th.  Rachel has been writing, singing and performing in Virginia and Massachusetts for over 6 years now.  Before that she was a major contributor to Holden Chapel's youth group band.  It's going to be a great night with coffee and many friends.  Let me know if you need directions to the venue.

Also, this is a big week for The Black Raspberries.  The guys have been invited back to a couple of their favorite venues... and great places to see them perform their brand of high energy rock!  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

5 Ways to Avoid a Wireless Data Plan

Is your wireless data plan really worth the money?  With money being tight for so many of us, you may be wondering if your wireless plan is really justified.  iPhone users may be the exception to this phenomena thanks to a great browsing experience and plenty of 'apps' to pull down content that is useful. The rest of us are stuck with 'smart phones' that have a mediocre browsing experience. Is it worth the extra $30 to $50 per month in data charges? For me, the answer is "No".

Here are 5 ways that I avoid a wireless data plan.

1) Use a mobile phone with a cross platform operating system.

Over the years I've had plenty of phones that relied on some sort of proprietary operating system built by the manufacturer or the carrier. Unfortunately that means that all content also comes from or is licensed by the manufacturer or the carrier. The biggest problem for the end user is that it squeezes out a lot of innovative apps and cool games that are out there. Right now I'm using a Windows Mobile phone. While not a completely open platform, it is more flexible than a straight-up Verizon phone. Google's Android has some promise to be the most flexible OS for a phone, but will need to gain some market momentum before I'm really interested.

2) Microsoft ActiveSync.

In selecting my most recent phone (Motorola Q9m) one of the most important features was being able to sync with my Outlook Calendar at work.  By simply connecting my phone via USB, I let ActiveSync do all the work of updating changes I've made via the phone, in Outlook itself, or even via my Google calendar (also synced via Google Calendar Sync).  Another huge bonus is that I also have all of my contacts and phone numbers backed up on a regular basis.  Throw in the ability to have recent emails, tasks or Audio/Video files synced and it becomes a powerfull way to keep your phone up to date.  I do have plug my phone in about once a day, but it usually while I'm sitting at my computer anyway - any easy price to pay for avoiding wireless sync costs.

3) SMS Alerts

I do have to confess that my strategy is not entirely free.  I pay $10 a month for a large amount of text messanging.  Verizon throws in the free V to V texting and it gives me more than enough value to cover these communications.  SMS Alerts are available from just about every service you can imagine.  

Here is a list of alerts I get on regular basis:  
  • Yahoo Sports Alerts with scores from my favorite teams (Boston - thank you very much).
  • News alerts from Boston's WBZ.
  • Stock Market Updates at the end of the business day.
  • Email alerts from my work's email server (available via Rules and Alerts... in Outlook).
  • Updates from Facebook and Twitter.
  • Traffic alerts (for whatever area you select).
The reality is... you can create an alert out of just about any content available on the web.  Just utilize RSS feeds and push them through Yahoo or Google.  I never feel like I need to get on the mobile web because the information I want to see just comes to me in real time.
AvantGo is a great application you can download for your 'smart phone'.  Just think of it as a 'Google Reader' for you phone.  Go to their website, set up an account, select content they suggest (MSNBC headlines or CNET), create your own channel with just about any RSS feed, then sync your phone while your connected via USB.  It even captures images and gives you a pretty decent browsing experience for the money (free).  I use it to catch up on news and blogs that I didn't get a chance to read while I'm at my computer.

Suggestions:  It would be great to be able to sync this type of application with Google Reader so the stories you've already read online are removed (and vice versa).  

5) WiFi

This option is kind of cheating... but is on my wishlist.  I don't have a WiFi enabled phone, but if I did I would use my broswer for that mediocre browsing experience I was talking about at the begining.

Ultimately, I wish I had an iPhone, but I'm somewhat locked into Verizon because of the better coverage in my area and the fact that so many friends and family are on Verizon as well (big savings on minutes and texting).  So for now, I'm getting by without the wireless data charges. 

Do you use a wireless data plan or sneak by with other means?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Worcester Ice Storm '08

On Thursday, December 11th we sat in the house watching the ice build on the trees around the house.  At 12:30am on Dec. 12 we lost power.  As I lied in bed I listened to the sounds of trees cracking and crashing down.  We all woke up around 7:30 am to a very cold house.  Little did we know how bad things were on our side of Worcester... including Holden, Paxton, Spencer.

From December 2008
WBZ Ch. 4 on Brighton St. (off of Burncoat) in Worcester.

From December 2008
Looking down Brighton St.

From December 2008
Tree down accross Hope Ave in Worcester
Trees leaning on powerlines on Rt 9 in Worcester.

It may be a couple of days before electricity is restored.  In the mean time, we are at Chris and Kelly's house in Sturbridge.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I haven't posted on this blog in almost a month.  Why?  I've been working on building a new blog for The SoulFest.  I'm really excited for the opportunity to represent the SoulFest in the blogosphere and I hope you'll subscribe.  It's been a couple of years since I've followed the Christian music scene... in fact we had a bit of a break up.  About a year ago I posted a blog on my frustrations with Christian music and said that I was 'moving on'.  My feeling was that there was a lack of creativity in the industry.

I'm here to announce that Christian music and I are reunited!  What caused the change of heart?  Two factors come to mind:  Me and the music industry as a whole.

Music Industry:  There is less and less money available in the music industry.  You've probably already heard that selling songs on iTunes & AmazonMP3 generates less revenue than selling CDs.  Full album sales are down dramatically.  Moving forward, record companies will have less and less incentive to release full albums that contain lousy or re-tread music.  In fact, more and more artists will have to figure out how to release their own music and rely on the Internet and touring to make a living.  This has already to begun to force more creative material to the top of this newly shaped environment in the music industry.

Me:  The years from 2006 through parts of 2008 had brought me to a place of increasing cynicism.  My attitude toward any Christian organization was basic disapproval.  I'm not totally sure why at this point, but I felt like it was impossible to be a sincere follower of Christ and also sincerely run an organization that directly or indirectly promotes Christ.  I'm still struggling with how to shape that concept... perhaps it will be the basis of a thesis someday... but for now... it is a little window into how I have been thinking.
In the late summer and fall months I had the opportunity to reconnect with a person whom I consider a role model in my life.  His name is Dan and it's not a formal mentor relationship, in fact, I sometimes feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose when he's talking, but I did catch something that I needed to hear.  "Jason, you need to reconnect with your soul!"  On my ride home that afternoon, I turned off the radio and focused on what that meant for me.
The number one thing I had to do was to change my attitude.  I felt beat down by life in 2008.  It's been a bad year financially and I lost my grandfather.  Perhaps it was understandable, but my poor attitude was building on itself... to the point where it even affected my relationship with Erin.  She let me know that I needed to cheer up, but I wasn't ready to hear it until I heard the words, 'reconnect with your soul'.  Later that week we coined a corny phrase for our relationship that Erin and I repeat to ourselves when we feel down... "Neeeew Attituuuude!"  It's cheesy, but it's helped.
Back to the point of Christian music.... I'm back with a "Neeeew Attituuuude!"  I'm so grateful to have gone through a bit of a pruning process in my affection for the Christian music scene.  I won't be as much of a 'Yes Man' for the industry and perhaps I can be a voice (in the chorus)  that promotes the most creative parts of the music industry as it forges forward.