Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Being Deliberately Generous

I'm not writing this to brag on myself or my spouse. I'm also not writing this to put a guilt trip on anyone, either. What I hope is to influence others to be more generous in their life and make the world just that much better.

As my wife and I were discussing our finances before we married, we agreed that we would tithe to our local church. That means we give 10% of our incomes to help support our local church. One can argue this way or that to prove tithing isn't necessary under the new covenant, or that churches are "just out for the money." Certainly, there are Biblical arguments for not tithing and there are churches which are only interested in profit, both of which sour many on giving to the "church." Still, I believe there are good arguments in favor of tithing.

First, it's a practical thing: bills need to be paid. Personally, I like having lights, air conditioning, heat and coffee in the church's building. There's a mortgage to pay, water bill, salaries, etc. That money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is supposed to be from the donations of the people who call that church "home."

The next reasons are more spiritual. This is, perhaps, the most oft-quoted verse when it comes to tithing: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,' says the LORD Almighty, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!'" (Malachi 3:10 - New Living Translation)

The God of the Universe is offering a challenge: "Try it!" This isn't a command, this isn't a guilt trip, this isn't some kind of religious zealousness. God is simply telling us to give 10% and see if He doesn't return it and more to you. It's like an investment. I can honestly say from my own experience, I live a whole lot better on 90% of my income than I ever did on 100% of it.

There is another spiritual aspect to this I call "God Karma." In eastern religions, Karma is the process by which when you do good things, good things are returned to you. In Christian circles this is known as "sowing and reaping." St. Paul wrote to the Galatian church: "Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow." (Galatians 6:7 - New Living Translation)

By sowing generosity in your life - not only in tithing but in all you do, generosity will come back to you. I can't explain why and how - I just know it works. For the past four years, my wife and I have taught ourselves to be generous in all circumstances. We give to our church, we give to many charities, we over-tip (even when the service is bad), we give to those we find in need, we try to pick up dinners for our friends and family members when we go out, and the list goes on. This isn't a way to show off or to make people think we have more money than we really do. This is all done on a "cash basis" using very little, if any, credit or borrowing.

One thing we find is that we don't worry about money. We never have to because we always have more than enough to meet our needs and have plenty go give away. This takes a lot of the stress our of our lives and out of our marriage. It's wonderful that when we see a need, we always seem to have enough in our savings to make things happen. My friend's son passed on; I was able to buy plane tickets with little notice so I could attend the funeral. My sister's son passed; we were able to pay for a part of the headstone. Another friend needed gas money to take his son to a missionary event 12 hours away; we were able to help out.

We believe that out of this generosity comes things which benefit us personally. When we want to take a trip, we have money for it. On gift-giving occasions we're able to give wonderful gifts. When our cars need repair, we have the money to get them done. From where all this largess comes from we can't really calculate because it doesn't make sense. When we need or want it, the money's there.

Now, I will caution against taking this too far and falling into the "Prosperity Gospel." I've heard preaching which instructs people to give because God has to return to us 100 times what we give. I don't believe, though, that God "has" to do anything. As in many spiritual matters, I believe it's the attitude about the giving rather than the hard numbers. Give because you want to give, because it's the right thing to do. If you give out of greed you won't get the "God Karma" going. It's a delicate balance in your heart and in your head, but it can be done.

"You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully." (2 Corinthians 9:7 - NLT)

Click here for a list of charities we help support

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Social Network Fundraising

I was going through my Twitter updates this morning, and saw a post from Danny Sullivan with a link to Beth Kanter's blog about social network fund raising. This is a novel idea which I've done in the past on a small scale, but it never "clicked" with me that it could be more successful.

The basic idea is to request donations from your friends and colleagues via your social network links. You put the idea out there and let people respond, or not, as they desire. No nagging, no phone calls, no guilty feelings - just doing something to help someone else.

I belong to an email list with a group of friends from the Army. Any time one of them is involved in a fund-raising activity, they throw out a short message asking for assistance.

Many of you may be thinking "DUH!" I have a difficult time asking people I know for donations in person, on the phone, or via direct email. But, though Twitter or MySpace, a simple posting is all that's needed any everyone has the option to help or ignore. That method appeals to me much more. It might also help me reach a larger audience of potential donors.

Later, I'm going to post a list of charities we regularly give to. Anyone is free to assist no not as they see fit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geek-Speak for Marketers, Marketing Speak for IT

An interesting session at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose this week was recapped on Search Engine Roundtable: How to Speak Geek: Working Collaboratively With Your IT Department to Get Stuff Done.

When I started as Webmaster for my company, my boss and I set down our "prime directive" that we don't "own" our web sites. Some may view this as an attempt to dodge responsibility for the content and look of our sites, but we look at it as empowering those who can best determine how the sites are used and what is communicated through them.

For example: Our corporate Intranet is used to communicate information to employees. The content, therefore, is logically best determined by the departments needing to communicate with employees. Our public web sites are used to communicate with customers. It seems best to let the Marketing Departments create their messages and how to present them. In this way, us IT folks can focus on what we do best: keeping the lines of communication open and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Because we work closely with our our departments, all participants are able to lend their strengths to the process of getting a site completed and launched. None of us in IT are very artistic, so we leave the creative part to those who are better at it (or we outsource it). The marketing folks don't always stay on top of search optimization or new technologies, so they leave that to us to provide advice and assistance. In the end, we get an excellent result which is much better than if only one group or the other had done the work.

I remember a couple years back in another session at SES San Jose where Danny Sullivan did one of his "on the spot" surveys and asked how many marketing folks had to fight with their IT to get optimization and search marketing incorporated into their web sites. I was quite amazed to see most hands go up. I would hope things have changed since then. I firmly believe the best work comes when marketing and IT come together as a team and work the process.

To all you IT folks, geeks, nerds, and what-have-you: It's not bad idea for you to learn some "Marketing Speak." The more you learn about the other's job, the better you can assist in putting together an excellent web site.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Figured Out SQL Server Problem

We finally figured out how to solve our SQL Server SP2 problem. I'll post it here in case someone else runs into the same problems and finds no other solution (like us this past week).

The SP2 install updates all of the pieces of SQL Server. The part we could not get to install was the Notification and Client Tools piece. Each time we ran the install, this part would fail.

I found quite a few items through Google searches posted by folks to had the same problem, but none of their solutions worked for our install.

Since we couldn't find a quick solution, we went through Event Viewer and searched for each and every error message in there which resulted from the install failure. I don't remember when, since I was getting dizzy from all that reading and searching, but we stumbled upon an item which described a problem with SQL Server's job scheduler and the Message Queuing service in Windows.

We don't install things we don't use, so when I set that server up, I did not install the Message Queuing (which is part of IIS, BTW). I installed it then ran the SP2 install again. This time it succeeded.

Now our jobs are scheduled and working properly.

SQL Server Frustrations

We're installing a new SQL Server at work. The hardware our current installation runs on is a dual PIII Compaq/HP with 1GB RAM. Hardly the stuff of dreams, but was adequate until recently. Our new server is an HP with dual Quad-Core 64-bit Inter processors and 8GB RAM. Now that is a screaming system.

The only downside is trying to connect to the current server to migrate the data over. This is something we've done many, many times in the past and haven't had any trouble doing. Until now. For some reason, when we try to connect the servers to either import or export the data, the old system doesn't like the authentication of the user and won't work with the file share it wants. We can connect any other SQL Server to our new box, except this one.

We've managed to narrow it down to authentication, mainly Windows Authentication within SQL Server. We can map a drive and connect via Remote Desktop, but when the SQL Server ex/import gets to the "Select File Share" part, the job dies. I don't remember the exact error message, but the idea was that Windows Authentication failed.

I'm very sure the problem lies with the old SQL Server, but I'm not sure where. I've gone over all the settings but I can't seem to work out where the problem is. If anyone has any ideas, please feel free to send them.

Ice Road Truckers

Jen and I have been watching "Ice Road Truckers" second season.

On a whim, I decided to look up Tuktoyaktuk on Google Maps. It was very interesting. If you start there and follow the road south (called "Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road") to Inuvik, you find that the road is actually on the water most of the way. The road is marked "Closed Apr-Nov" so you can't miss that it's an ice road.

Check it out yourself: Click here to check it out on Google Maps

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm A Bad Blogger

I've been so wrapped up in family stuff and other projects I haven't taken time to blog here. It's not that I don't have anything to write - there are always things floating around in my head begging to be typed out and shared with the world. I just haven't made the time to do so.

But, here are some random thoughts:
  • The US is heading headlong into socialism. It's not that some evil group is plotting a takeover, it's just that people would rather trade in some of their freedom so they don't have to worry about things and let the government take care of them, instead.
  • Christians don't get involved enough in the political process. Most of the ones who do are coming from such a "religious" bent that they become objects of scorn - which in turn is reflected on all of us.
  • Kids grow up way too fast.
  • We're not going to solve our energy problems without a comprehensive plan. We're not going to get a comprehensive plan from either of the presidential candidates nor from the Congress. There are no leaders with enough backbone to forget politics and do what is right.
  • Speaking of that: My opinion of the candidates is that neither of them is fully qualified enough to be mayor of the town I live in (population a little over 60,000), let alone run the country.