Something different for Christmas gifts this year

This year Benjamin and I are doing something different with respect to gifts for our families. Like most of your families, gentle readers, our families have everything they need – not to mention a slew of things they want beyond that. Instead of purchasing gifts for them this year we’ve adopted two families that need a little help this holiday season via the Adopt-A-Family program through the Denver Rescue Mission. Each of our families know what we’re doing instead of gifts and we’ve encouraged them to do something similar. The only exception are our nieces and nephews: they will still be getting gifts otherwise we’d surely lose our Favorite Uncle titles!

Last weekend we completed about half the shopping for our families’ gifts and today we finished it. And let me tell you, we are so out of our league shopping for toddlers! One of our families has an 18 month old and the other has an almost-2-year-old who is big for his age. Even when we knew we wanted to get diapers for the 18-month-old we had to ask an associate where they were located in Target. And baby clothes!? Toys?! Thank goodness we get gift guides for our nieces and nephews from their parents!

While Benjamin was busying cooking the pot roast for dinner tonight I was boxing up gifts and wrapping them. With that finished I’m writing this blog entry as Benjamin is putting the finishing touches (ribbons, bows, and name tags) on the presents. They’ll then sit under our tree until December 12th when we deliver them, and uncooked food items, to the families.

Don’t gift less this holiday season, give differently.

PS: Benjamin is now a bow-making fiend after learning how to do it earlier today! Watch out Martha!

Mobile news apps and pay-for-news model

About a year ago I installed the AP Mobile iPhone app and was using it quite extensively to access news. Then they “upgraded” the app with new “features” and it now takes at least 30 seconds, sometimes 1 minute or more, to load the app and the initial news page. That’s just insane and a non-starter (pun intended) for me.

I tried out Bloomberg too but their news is even more market-centric than the WSJ and didn’t fill my news need adequately.

I then switched over the the WSJ application. These guys have the mobile news viewing experience down to an art. Sure it still has an ad and is still market-news heavy, but the app loads very quickly and the interface is intuitive (the navigation bar disappears when you start scrolling the article freeing up the entire screen, sans ad, for the text). Unfortunately in January the WSJ is going to start charging $2/week to access their mobile news apps. $2/week? Are you kidding me? I’d pay for $2/month or maybe even $4/month but $8/month is not worth it. Apparently I’m not alone in this view.

I realize that journalists need to get paid, but I think the WSJ is pricing themselves out of the mobile market. Granted, perhaps I’m not their target audience and they’ll do just fine. January I’ll either go back to AP Mobile, Bloomberg, or just go straight to some still-free news websites.

Ian McKellan echos my own thoughts about organized religion

Ian McKellan sums up my own thoughts about organized religion quite nicely (via the LA Times):

“I increasingly see organized religion as actually my enemy. They treat me as their enemy,” said the British actor, who came out 20 years ago. “Not all Christians, of course. Not all Jews, not all Muslims. But the leaders. . . . Why should I take the judgment of a declared celibate about my sexual needs? He’s basing his judgment on laws that would fit life in the Bronze Age. So if I’m lost to God, organized religion is to blame.”

Unfortunately, religion, not just organized religion, has begun to leave a very bad taste in my mouth. I removed the Christian station from my radio dial over a year ago. We stopped regularly attending church several months ago. Up until this month I was still interpreting at the church, but I’ve asked for a break until at least the end of the year if not indefinitely.

You might argue that I’m throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and perhaps I am. But right now religion only raises my blood pressure and reminds me about my second-class citizenship.