unChristian faith & Christianists

Ask any gay man or woman who grew up in a Christian church and they’ll likely be able to tell you about the time in their life when they dealt with self-hatred and shame. Self-hatred that you felt something that the church was adamantly telling you was sinful and wrong. Shame that you couldn’t stop feeling the way you did.

Luckily some people get past that — I did. Some people even get past that without leaving behind their religious beliefs — I did. I, however, seemed to have gone to the extreme and began to be ashamed of being a Christian. In the gay community the only thing worse than a gay Christian is a gay Republican.

I mean, look around – you have God Hates Fags, the “Gays caused 911” Jerry Falwall, and James Dobson’s anti-gay “Focus on the Family” organization — all of whom purport to be Christians. Throw in all of the Christians who are adamantly against gay marriage (Prop 8 anyone?) and it isn’t at all surprising to see how being labeled a Christian isn’t something one wants advertised. Even some atheist/agnostic blogs see the massive disconnect between the Christian beliefs (love your neighbor, God loves everyone, God’s grace covers all sin, don’t judge, nobody’s perfect) and the flat out anti-Christian behavior and have given them a new label: Christianists.

Some Christians see the disconnect too and have tried to publicly distance themselves from some of these extremist persons and organizations. Two individuals, David Kinnaman and Gave Lyons, have written a book that discusses the current image problem Christians have: unChristian, What a new generation really thinks about Christianity … and why it matters. I read the book and couldn’t help but nod through the whole thing — these guys get it. Now if only the rest of the Christianists would step up and pay attention.

The authors, one of whom works for the Barna Group – a Christian organization who does statistical research and polling, summarize and explore the extensive poll results gathered by the Fermi Project. The book is broken down into 6 big areas:

  • Hypocritical
  • Get Saved!
  • Antihomosexual
  • Sheltered
  • Too Political
  • Judgmental

Each chapter delves into one topic and explores why Christians are seen in these lights. What I liked about the book is that they are up-front and honest that the perceptions are real, real because of how Christians behave. Christians really are seen as anti-homosexual, judgmental and too political. Many times they use such verbiage as “you may not like being labeled as judgmental but our research shows that if you tell someone that you are a Christian x% of people will paint you with that brush”. One excellent line that sticks with me:

We [Christians] have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.

The book offers suggestions and thoughts on how to change these perceptions by being less unChristian, and more like Christ — more, well, Christian. All along the way he emphasizes why fixing the perception is important: without a change in perception Christianity will become irrelevant. The new generations, Mosaics and Busters (currently folks between ages 17 and 30), are leaving Christianity in droves — who wants to be a member of an organization seen with the attributes listed above?

The good news, at least in my mind, is that we really can take back the label Christian and I can eventually stop being ashamed of the label myself. There is most certainly a need for an organization that serves the poor, welcomes all into the church to worship, feeds the hungry, provides shelter for the homeless, treats all people with respect and dignity, and recognizes that no one is perfect but that we’re all trying to help each other along. That organization should be the Christian church as those things like up perfectly with what Jesus did.

I started reading the book with an “us vs them” mentality – “us” being mostly gays and “them” being Christianists. And part of me still feels that way (see aforementioned anti-homosexual reference) but I’m working to internalize that I too exhibit unChristian behavior (judgmental and hypocritical at the very least), behavior that I need to work on. That said, I still want to buy a dozen copies and send them out to a few select people :)

TMJ, or more properly, TMJ disorder

I’ve self-diagnosed myself with TMJ disorder. Well, not completely self-diagnosed myself as my dentist did find evidence of teeth grinding during my last visit.

Over the last month, however, I’ve noticed that it has gotten much worse. I frequently find myself clenching my teeth during the day. I’m not sure exactly why this is and I’ve made a concerted effort to try and stop it. I have an appointment scheduled with my dentist on Feb 13th to talk about it in addition to my semi-annual cleaning.

Layoffs, customers, and new focus

As you’ve probably heard, IBM has recently done some layoffs. My grandmother has seen something on the news about it and called my mom at 8am on Monday morning to ask if I was impacted. [Unrelated aside: I was going to use the word affected here, but since I don’t know if it is effected or affected and most folks won’t grok [a|e]ffected I opted for impacted instead :) ] My mom assured her that “Casey is indispensable”. What I think is funny is that my mom turns around and calls me yesterday evening to validate that assessment. Guess she didn’t trust her judgment of my indispensableness! Just in case anyone else is reading this and concerned: thus far my project and my position have been spared.

The past two weeks I have been doing performance testing of the ITIM SAP adapter for a Large UK Bank (what’s with me and large banks?). Today I presented the findings to the bank. They were both glad to hear how well the adapter performs in our test environment and yet not so happy given how amazingly poorly it is working in their environment. I left them with a todo list on some steps to diagnose it. From here I’m leaving the customer in the very capable hands of ITIM Support.

At my management team’s request/orders I’m shifting my focus from customer issues to testing the performance of ITIM 5.1 which is still under development. I’m somewhat glad about this as it gives me an easy out for not getting involved in new customer issues and hopefully being able to decrease my involvement with existing customer issues. I’ve felt worn a little thin lately given the many customer issues I’ve been involved in the past several months. Granted, I haven’t yet determined how I’m going to transition out of some of the existing issues or who to hand them off to, something high on my todo list. Tomorrow I have a total of 9 calls with at least one every hour, sometimes two per hour. 5 of them are directly related to my new ITIM 5.1 work so I’m most certainly hitting the ground running. The ITIM 5.1 performance work is high enough profile to not only merit pulling me off customer issues but to also get me some help! My manager let me know yesterday that the Powers That Be decided to pull someone (Eme) off an already under-staffed sister project to help me with the ITIM 5.1 performance work. I’ve worked with Eme before and am thrilled to be working with him again as he is very intelligent, self-motivated, self-directing, and even interested in performance work!

Names and indicators

Today Benjamin received something from the March of Dimes in the mail addressed to “Benjamin G. Peel”. I have no idea where they came up with that, his middle name doesn’t even start with a G! What makes me scratch my head even more is that he received another identical piece of mail with his correct name on it.

That did bring to mind an ongoing conversation that B and I are having recently about names. We are considering changing our last names. The objective would be to change them to be the same name, but one that is different than either of our current last names.

The impetus behind this came from B a couple of weeks ago. It finally hit him that there is nothing that ties the two of us together besides our verbal commitment to one another. No children, no marriage certificate, no civil union document, nothing at all tangible. In fact, he said it wasn’t until he mentally went down that road did he feel the full force of being unable to get married. He finally “got it”, and then he got pissed :) His proposed solution to address this was to have us change our last names.

While B feels strongly about it, I’m still warming up to the idea. While I would love to be able to get married, mostly for the 1100+ federal rights that it bestows onto you, I’m content with what we have. My vow to B won’t change if we decide to change our last names, nor will it change if DOMA is repealed and we get legally married. That said, I don’t discount that it would mean a great deal to B, so I’m pondering it over.

B has taken our last names and has come up with several dozen last name possibilities — some of which are downright scary. My favorite thus far is: Garcel. Benjamin & Casey Garcel?

I’m not sure where this venture will take us, but I’m sure if we take the dive and change our last names our families are going to flip their lid.

2008 PBC Rating: 2

I was unable to continue my “PBC rating of 1” streak 3 years in a row, but really – that’s OK with me because this year I was compared to all the band 9s thanks to my recent promotion so the competition was a bit harder.

[From my post last year:] For the uninitiated: At the beginning of each year, IBM employees write down their goals for the year and put them in the PBC tool. At the end of the year employees write up how close they came to achieve those goals and submit them to management who reviews them. Also at the end of the year management gets together and rates employees according to how well they did compared to their peers. Ratings can be one of the following

  • 1 – Extraordinary
  • 2+ – Exceeded Expectations
  • 2 – Solid Performer/Met Expectations
  • 3 – Needs Improvement
  • 4 – Your Ass Is Getting Fired

Because PBC ratings are tied to bonus payouts, the number of 1s and 2+s are limited – generally at a 3rd line manager level.

This year I thought I’d include an excerpt from my manager’s writeup (partially redacted):

Casey remains a focal point in the Tivoli Security organization for all matters relating to performance and scale testing and associated environmental “tuning” considerations involving operating systems (platforms) and middleware. Casey is continually requested, by name, to assist with and support external customers. For many of these customers, Casey has assisted L2/L3 with crit-sit and PMR/APAR activity. In a number of instances he has also traveled to provide on-site assistance. Casey ended the year on an strong note in this very fashion, by providing technical support and assistance in a sale to [Large US Bank]. Here is a quote from a Security Sales Leader for the East, ‘ I can not thank you enough for the contribution Casey Peel brought to last week’s performance tests with [Large US Bank]. Not only Casey exceeded [Head Bank Guy’s] expectations but he also delivered the message in a trustworthy and warm way. We are facing [competitors] still, but last week we showed what Team IBM can do for Identity and Access management and Casey was an instrumental part of that.’ This was followed with a comment from a Specialty Software Sales Representative, ‘…..Thank you. If we win this deal, it will be in no small part attributed to Casey’s efforts.’ These particular comments were sent to our VP of Storage & Security Development as well in December. I have become accustomed to being on the receiving end of comments like these regarding Casey’s contributions on an ongoing basis.

Overall I’m content with my rating — not thrilled but certainly content. A 2 puts me pretty much out of the running for any bonus or merit-based salary increase although I might get a corrective salary adjustment based on my new market reference point as a band 9. Still, given the economy and layoffs I’m just glad to be employed at a job I enjoy.

IBM: 2008Q4 results are good! Layoffs around the corner?

IBM released really good 2008 Q4 results today which was, to me at least, very surprising given the economy. Par usual, Sam sent out an email to all IBM employees thanking them for their work and giving a synopsis of the results released to the public (obviously after they were released to the public). Of particular interest to me was the information that the bonus and salary plans are still funded — something I was not expecting given the current economic conditions.

On the flip side, there are still rumors that IBM will be issuing layoffs. We’ve (obviously) not been told anything internally although someone I trust has a feeling that if something were to go down, that it would go down this Friday. I’m not overly concerned about my position but you never know for sure until the dust settles.

2009/01/21 Update: IBM didn’t wait until Friday. Some number of layoffs are happening within my organization starting today. We weren’t informed how many or who was affected although I was told that I was not impacted.

The Ctrl-Z President?

There comes a time in all great nations when it’s necessary to hit the brakes and back up. My hope is that today we’ll start to see Obama hit Ctrl-Z several dozen times such as:

  • Rerouting funding for abstinence-only education to programs that provide education on and help obtaining condoms and birth control.
  • Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allow everyone who wishes serve their country with dignity and not in hiding.
  • Repeal the “Defense of Marriage” Act and federally recognize same-sex unions, under whatever label, just as the federal government does opposite-sex unions.
  • Provide more stringent requirements on the financial industry to prevent a occurrence of this last financial fubar.
  • Hold all government agencies responsible for constitutional violations such as warrant-less wiretapping and ensure future violations do not occur.
  • Mandate more fuel-efficient vehicles and remove our dependency on foreign oil.
  • Listen to scientists who tell you the environment and planet is going to hell in a handbasket and act on the information.

Most of the above (with the exception of DADT) were done under Bush’s watch, if not by his hand. I’m hoping over the next few months we’ll see Obama make judicious use of Ctrl-Z and undoing some of Bush’s (and in the case of DADT, Clinton’s) screwups either via Executive Order or working with Congress. I don’t think Obama is the nation’s savior and I don’t think I’ll be happy with everything he’ll do, but for the first time in 5-8 years I have some confidence in our executive branch.

And, borrowing from my friend Mark, lets hope the undo buffer is big enough to support these actions.

Ubuntu and Fedora

Two months ago I was pondering what Linux distribution to use for my personal machine in the IBM Austin lab. I ended up going with Ubuntu Intrepid – Desktop. At first I had some problems with it albeit all user error like forgetting to disable the power settings so the machine went into suspend mode. After looking back on it, I should have installed the server, not desktop version. Now it seems to be operating just fine.

For my desktop, however, I decided to stick with what I know and went with Fedora 10 for my desktop. After running with Fedora 10 for 1.5 weeks I decided to take the jump on my T60p laptop as well and spent today getting that reinstalled. Overall I’m much happier than I was with the Redhat Enterprise Linux 5 Workstation-based image. Having a recent version of Evolution and other oft-used applications sure is nice, not to mention the little improvements that come with recent Gnome versions.

My desktop is suspending and unsuspending correctly (that should save a few kilowatts of energy over the course of a month) but every time I hibernate the machine it immediately boots back up after successfully writing out the hibernation file. I haven’t had a chance to play with it too much however. I’m hoping I’ll have more luck with the T60p.

2009 Travel – A first glance

We’re going to be doing a lot of travelling this year, and the cost is adding up fast.

Last week I was in Littlefield doing some work for my Dad’s business. Thankfully because it was directly business related, the business paid for my $370 flight. The downside is that getting to Lubbock, the nearest airport, is a pain in the ass. My flight there was: Denver > Amarillo > Dallas Love Field > Lubbock. Keep in mind that Amarillo is only 2 hours via car north of Lubbock, a fact that was going through my mind as we went from Amarillo to Dallas Love Field. My flight back was: Lubbock > Dallas Love Field > Tulsa > Denver. Aside: Tulsa and the surrounding area looks just as boring and dull as Lubbock does, at least from the air.

In February we’re travelling to Kingsville for Benjamin’s Dad’s 50th birthday party. After weighing several different options, we’re flying Frontier to San Antonio, renting a car, and driving it 2 hours to Kingsville. We bought those plane tickets yesterday evening. Estimated cost for entire trip (including gas): ~$560. If we had flown in to Corpus Christi, the closest airport to Kingsville, it would have been ~$750 with very non-ideal travel times.

In March Benjamin is flying to Houston to attend a Britney Spears concert with his best friend Eric (don’t ask me, I don’t get it either). We bought his plane tickets this morning. I think those came out to ~$130.

In April we’re flying to Austin to attend Nick & Sarah’s wedding (yay!). We’re flying in via Frontier and getting a rental car. Benjamin bought those tickets this morning as well and I think the cost with the airfare, rental car, and gas is ~$625.

The very next week weekend we’re flying back to Texas, this time to Kingsville for Easter. Benjamin’s family is really big on Easter — even bigger than they are on Thanksgiving. We didn’t go last year so we’re going this year. We’ll likely fly into San Antonio via Frontier and take a rental car. We’re hoping to get the tickets with miles. We’re just a few miles shy so we’re waiting until after Benjamin’s trip to Houston to get these tickets. With luck this will only cost us ~$200 total.

In July we’re flying to Lubbock to attend my youngest brother’s wedding. At least I assume it will be both of us — there’s a whole can of worms that could be opened depending on the bride, groom, and the rest of my family. Best case, however, there will be two of us travelling to Lubbock, likely via Southwest through an ungodly number of stops again at a cost of ~$700. Getting to Lubbock just sucks no matter how you consider it. [a pause to check Southwest’s website] Strike that – we’re flying to Amarillo, renting a car, and driving south. I’m guessing that’ll cost us, even with the rental car and gas, only about $350.

And then there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re having Thanksgiving with this family, presumably in Kingsville, and Christmas with my family, presumably in Austin. Luckily I don’t have to think about those details until at least July.

In addition to all of that, Benjamin initially wanted to attend some school-related conferences but after buying all of the tickets above and the few days of classes he’ll need to miss already for the above plans, we opted to not attend any conferences at least the first half of the year. That’s unfortunate because I think he would really benefit from some of them but there’s just no reasonable way to make it happen.

New workout routine

The last week of 2008 I started a new workout routine and I’m excited about carrying forward to at least the first quarter of 2009. In the last several months of 2008 there was a new guy at the gym (Paul) who was doing some circuits and had recruited another gym regular (Steve) to join him. Mid-December he and I got to talking and he invited me to join them as well. Their circuits are different enough from my boring old routine that it sounded interesting.

The workout is 6 of the following circuits:

  1. wide-grip pull-ups
  2. seated rows
  3. dips
  4. overhead triceps extensions
  5. close-grip push-ups
  6. bicep curls

Ideally you’d do 12 reps for each set and increase the weight on each trip through the circuit. My very first time through I only made it through 4 circuits with about 8 reps for each set. The second time I made it through 5 circuits at 8 reps per set. Today I made it through all 6 circuits with between 6 and 8 reps per set. Now that I have an idea of the weights that I should be using and the number of sets needed to make it through all 6 circuits I can start working up to 12 reps.

One of the big changes between this routine and my previous routine is the amount of rest. In my previous routine I would superset two exercises of opposing muscle groups and rest between each superset. For this routine you rest very little and only between each circuit.

I was happy with today’s workout — now lets see if I can drag myself to the gym tomorrow for some lower body exercises, which I hate with a passion.