News for October 2006


Radiation tri-blade 31.october.2006 - Back on the 26th (see below), I mentioned noticing my reflection in a mirror while walking thru the Fashion Island mall, and thinking (for the first time in years) that I actually looked good (fit).

Yesterday, while working out at the club, a girl there gave me 'the look'. You know what I mean by the look?

It has been a long time since anybody gave me the look. Heck, the last time was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Dirt was a recent invention. And fire was still in development.

The only 'looks' I've been receiving in recent years is that (all-too-familiar) I-want-you-dead look.

Of course I could tell this girl was nothing but trouble (you know the type), but it was still good to get.

My fragile male ego (which fluctuates between feelings of invincibility and inferiority) said, "Dude! Did you see that? That girl totally gave you the look."

I've been trying, these past few months, to get in shape, as a strategy to beat the blues. Regarding that, I still have good days and bad days (today is a good day), tho more good than bad.

In other news, happy Halloween. Many houses in the neighborhood here are decorated with elaborate scenes, straight out of scary movie sets. Downright enchanting.

The little guy will be dressing up as a tiger tonite (I think), complete with tail and ears. Miss Julie will be dressing up as Pippi Longstocking (her childhood hero), in a great costume her mom made, sure to be a hit at every party she attends. (Here's a picture.) I'll be dressing up as .. Radman! Defender of digital freedoms everywhere. =)

Radiation tri-blade 28.october.2006 - Returned from my very first rock-climbing trip (to Joshua Tree, see yesterday's entry for details) .. safe-n-sound. But totally exhausted. So tired I could lay down on the ground and fall asleep (tho I didn't).

Got scared at a tricky part near the top of a 5.7 route (~80 or 90 feet up), and when the adrenaline wore off, I was spent.

I heard Tom call out from below, "Your left hand needs to be where your right hand is." His words echoed thru the canyon, cuz he was standing so far below.

And I thought, "There's no way I can do that." And I was burning lots of energy just staying where I was, looking for a way out, getting weaker by the second. So I had to do something quick.

I made it, but it took everything I had. I was shaking afterwards. I even drew my first rock-climbing blood on that climb (which rock-climbers call a 'gobe'). I cut back of right hand, jamming it in a crack.

He was extra nice, even bought me my own chalk bag (black, $25) .. claimed it was a "climbing tradition". (I think he just made up that story.) I tried to give him money for gas, but he wouldn't take it, saying, "I was going anyway, whether you came or not."

They drove out of their way to pick me up at my doorstep (and dropped me off at my doorstep).

His wife came along, too, who's an accomplished climber in her own right (on the cover of a French climbing book). He met her rock-climbing. And Tom's 6 year old daughter (from a previous marriage) also came along, but played more than she climbed.

What surprised me most was how good his (new) wife was with his daughter. Very attentive & affectionate. At the dinner table afterwards (we ate at a place called the Crossroads), when his wife & daughter went to the rest room, I told him, "She's really good with your daughter.

"I know," he nodded, taking another bite. "I mean, she not just faking it," I said. "She's really good with her."

"I know," he repeated, more emphatically. "That's why I married her. She spends more quality time with her than her mom does."

My favorite part was when they let me clear/clean a route they set up (removing fall protection), so I was carrying all the cool gear by the time I reached the top, where I felt and looked like a real climbing stud. =) Jingle jangle goes the gear.

They were very safety-conscious, telling me all the safety things they were doing on the various routes we climbed (much of which I didn't really understand).

Most impressive was to watch Tom climb a route rated 5.11b (three times) which he made look easy. I could get no where on that route, but they still encouraged me to try.

While we were at the climbing store (where I rented a pair of climbing shoes for the day), there at the entrance to Joshua Tree, a mom-n-dad brought in their 4-year-old and bought him his first pair of climbing shoes (Mad Monkey). He looked *just* like the bug, too. How cool to be introduced to the sport that young. Happy little kid.

It was hot at Joshua Tree today - 90 degrees (and desert-dry). We saw the smoke from the fires burning out there, but thankfully the winds were blowing the other way.

Radiation tri-blade 27.october.2006 - Going rock-climbing tomorrow, with my new climbing buddy (see entry for 24.Sept). We're going to Joshua Tree (National Park). He's picking me up early. This will be my first time (virgin) climbing real rocks.

He's been asking me pretty much every weekend if I wanted to go climbing in Joshua Tree with him. Says it's a climbers paradise .. that climbers from all over the world go there. But I've never been comfortable with the idea (uh, scared) .. until now.

I spent a few sessions at his climbing gym .. learning the ropes, so to speak. Feel now like I know what's going on .. like I got a handle on things. I'm still a little nervous. But he assures me we we'll be totally safe. (His 6 year old daughter will be going us, which made me feel better.)

In other news, today completes another week of me playing Rad dad. Received a notable compliment today.

I say 'notable' cuz there's a guy at the coffee shop where I bring the little guy (Rad Jr, aka the bug) for my morning triple-espresso, and this guy doesn't like kids.

I mean, it's fine. Not everyone likes kids. And he's not nasty about it. He tries to be nice. But you can tell by the things he says (which always seem to have a negative hook) that he's just not into kids. Otherwise, he's very nice (and a sharp dresser .. unlike me).

But the bug leaves the guy alone, as if he senses the guy doesn't like kids.

Anyway, today this guy (who doesn't like kids) said (as he was leaving), "You're good with him." .. meaning I was a good with the bug, or in other words, a good dad.

This compliment was more meaningful to me than if someone who loves kids would've said something far more complimentary.

I brushed it off, saying, "I only have a little time each week." .. meaning it's easy to be a good dad when you do it so little.

But the guy refused to accept my brush off, saying (more emphatically), "No, you're really good with him." (like he genuinely meant it) .. before getting in his car and driving off.

His comment stuck with me all day. I mean, if someone who doesn't even like kids thinks I'm a good dad .. well heck, maybe I really am. I have my doubts, cuz some people tell me on a regular basis (like this morning, for example) that my parenting skills suk.

I try to do the best I can .. to be patient, kind, understanding, loving, affectionate, fun, playful. But I'm human. I make mistakes (like anybody).

Anyway, by the time you read this, I might be working my way up a 5.9 route at Joshua Tree, which is the technical limit of my climbing skills.

My climbing buddy (Tom) has huge forearms. He's been climbing for 15 years. He's impressive to watch at the climbing gym (like spider man), so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

I enjoy his company cuz he's understanding of my limitations, both physical and otherwise. (He's been thru a break-up too, and knows how that can affect you.) Wish me luck.

Radiation tri-blade 26.october.2006 - You might recall that I've recently begun working out regularly, trying to get in better shape .. as a strategy to beat the blues .. sort of a mental-health thing, you might say.

A side benefit of this psychological-improvement strategy .. is that I'm starting to get in decent shape. My body-fat percentage has dropped from 24 to 19 .. and I'm finally starting to look leaner.

Yesterday for example, for the first time in years, I walked past my reflection in a mirror and thought I actually looked good (trim, fit).

I was strolling thru Fashion Island (outdoor mall here in Newport Beach) with the bug, on our way to the carousel there .. when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my reflection in a big mirror sitting in one of the display windows we passed. I backed up and stopped for a better look.

Almost didn't recognize myself (wearing jeans & a t-shirt). Normally, I always think my gut looks too big. Now don't get me wrong: I can definitely stand to lose another 10 pounds of fat. But yesterday (for the first time in years), I really thought I looked pretty decent (respectable).

I haven't really gained very much muscle, or lost much fat, so it must be a combination of the two, which seems to be making a difference.

The fat-loss strategy I've been following has been to first add muscle (which burns more calories than fat). Once you add muscle (they say), it's easier to lose fat, since your metabolism will be operating at a higher level (to service the increased muscle).

The mistake most people make (they say, when trying to lose weight) is to stop eating, cuz then the body goes in to starvation mode (thinks you ran out of food) and kills your metabolism.

They say you need to keep eating .. to keep your metabolism up .. but eat smaller meals, more frequently, and eat things that burn more slowly, such as salads, etc.

After a few months of trying to build muscle, I started doing cardio this week (with increased muscle), and it seems to be making a (visible) difference.

Radiation tri-blade 24.october.2006 - I changed the email address associated with the Donate button (Paypal) located in the lower-left corner of this page, cuz I was getting lotsa spam at that (email) account.

But folks have been sending me mail recently claiming they got notices from Paypal that their donations have gone "unclaimed".

So I called Paypal today to see what gives. They said I can't change the email associated with my Paypal account without reflecting that change in the Donate button. The problem .. is that the public email account (*any* public email account) is quickly harvested by spam bots.

Anyway, long story short, I re-opened the deleted email account that I previously used for Paypal donations and .. found some (generous) donation$ waiting.

Donations are especially nice, cuz I don't have to pay tax on those funds. By contrast, monies earned by Google's AdSense program (ads seen here), are subject to self-employment tax (which is even worse than regular tax).

The site receives donations from folks in practically every state, but folks in Texas are the site's #1 contributors. (I normally ask where people are from when I receive a donation.)

I made donations available at the request of readers. If folks feel moved by the spirit, the option is there. Regulars know I never urge folks to donate. If the donations stopped coming, I'd still keep doing what I'm doing {.. but probably eat a little more rice-n-beans =)  }.

Radiation tri-blade 23.october.2006 - Woke from a disturbing dream this morning .. that I had taken the little guy (Rad Jr, aka the bug) backpacking .. up in the Sierras.

As the day wound down, we wandered into a campsite, located in the middle of nowhere. Many other hikers/campers were meandering about. At the center of the site was a big (two-story) lodge.

I moseyed into the lodge, found a chair and opened my pack .. when I realized I'd forgot to pack some of the food. Folks sitting nearby mentioned that a guy outside was preparing to make a food-run to a grocery store located a mile or two away.

I stepped outside to speak with the guy, who agreed to get me some food. Since cuz I had no cash, I gave the guy my ATM card and PIN.

I didn't want him to run off with my card, seeing I would be in the mountains for the next few days. So I asked him to step inside and meet the bug, thinking he'd be less likely to screw me if he met the bug. But when we stepped inside, the bug was gone.

I asked around, and an old lady said she'd seen him upstairs. I know how much he likes to climb steps, so this made sense.

But when I got upstairs, no one was there, and I started to get concerned. I asked a few more people, who seemed like they were hiding something. That's when it became a nightmare and I started freaking. Then I woke.

Ironically, I wasn't happy about waking (realizing it was just a dream). Rather, I was so distraught that I tried to fall back asleep so I go back and could find the bug .. but of course I couldn't (fall back asleep).

Normally, the only time I'm disappointed about waking is when I meet some hottie in my dreams and she's sweet for me.

So I've felt somewhat disoriented today. On a more positive note, hiking to the top of Half Dome has always seemed like one of the coolest things a father/son team could do together .. when he gets older, that is.

To close with some good news, I had my bodyfat checked yesterday. It's down to 19%. That's a 5% reduction in 2½ months.

Five percent of 200 pounds (91 kilos) is 10. So I've lost ~10 pounds of fat in 2½ months .. a healthy rate of loss. I *do* feel better (healthier). I also noticed that I'm able to lift more weight, so I must've gotten stronger, too.

Radiation tri-blade 21.october.2006 - Good news! .. regarding cousin's Restraining Order hearing (which I mentioned at the end of the previous entry).

His wife admitted she made a mistake running off with another guy, and said she is going to retract the charges of domestic violence. His lawyer said, "that's the best news you could get."

He still can't see his son yet, as he needs to get some counseling first. The custody hearing has been postponed until Monday. But he withdrew his filing for divorce, and it seems there's a chance for reconciliation. So like I said: good news. Nice to see when things don't degrade into all-out nuclear warfare.

Radiation tri-blade 19.october.2006 - Just noticed that the most recent daily entry I converted to a blog entry is dated August 20, titled: Feeling Sad, Blue, Depressed: Not Sure Why ...

... which is somewhat telling, cuz (since then) I've been trying to determine why .. trying to figure out (troubleshoot) what's behind those blues. Friends with experience in that area tell me it's a classic case of clinical depression. Me, I'm not so sure.

What I *do* know, and what I *have* figured out, is that I'm always tired (feeling fatigued) when I'm feeling sad. (Altho I can be tired and not be sad.) And when I'm feeling energetic, I never feel sad.

Which begs the question: which came first? the sadness? or the fatigue? I'd like to think it's the fatigue, cuz that's something I can do something about.

Which is why I've been hitting the club regularly, using the Max-OT workout as a guide (OT = Overload Training), cuz it's a method that lets you get in-n-out in 30 minutes (tho I usually take longer), which therefore minimizes the chance of over-training.

And this has been helping. I'm feeling stronger. Throwing around more weight, too, tho not getting very muscular, which is fine, cuz I'm more interesting in fitness than physique.

Yesterday I did my first cardio work-out: 45 minutes on the stationary bike (sweat like a pig), at a target heart-rate of 120 beats per minute (resting = 60), which should start trimming the fat.

Yeah, I still get bouts of the blues, tho not nearly as often now. There are many factors to consider (some of them too ugly to mention, yet I also have much to be thankful for, hence the confusion), but the biggest thing that makes me feel sad is when I feel like I didn't do a good job with the little guy (Rad Jr, aka the bug) cuz of fatigue on my part.

Of course, I've never been accused of not doing enuf with him. Quite the contrary, I always get accused of doing too much. And yes, it's true: we do do lots of fun stuff. Guilty as charged. (The trampoline is his favorite thing now. You should see him bounce.)

I should mentin that last week was the first week I felt strong after bringing him back to his mom at the end of the week. Usually I'm pretty worn out by then. (It's like carrying around a 25-pound bag of rice everywhere you go.)

Speaking of the little guy, I have another developmental milestone to report. He got his first pair of high-top converse all-stars today - red, no less. Relatives from the East coast sent them out.

I know it's not one of your traditional developmental milestones. But every guy knows it's definitely a marker on the way to manhood. (And they look pretty cool, too, thanks to cousin Diane.)

Speaking of relatives on the East coast .. another cousin got hit recently with a Restraining Order (something I know a bit about).

His wife took off (with his 3 year old son, Jake, who he adores) .. and is living with another guy, in another town. My cousin wanted to see his son. His wife was in the car, wouldn't get out. So he, uh, broke the window. Cops came, arrested him. You know the drill. Restraining order. Now he can't see his son.

He goes to court tomorrow. His eyes well up if anyone even mentions Jake's name. (Been there, done that, tho I never broke any windows.) He filed for divorce yesterday.

I grew up with him. (He lived upstairs.) The baby of the family. Never violent. He flew down to Florida to chill out while waiting for his day in court.

He needs to beat the domestic violence rap, or they make it difficult to see your kid (monitored visitation, costly anger management classes, etc., lotsa hurdles to get over). Heard he got a good lawyer: "the best money can buy," I'm told. Say a prayer. Cuz boys need their dad.

Radiation tri-blade 17.october.2006 - Going to a meeting tonight: the Orange County chapter of the Society for Technical Communicators (OCSTC, technical writers) .. who will be talking about how to make your web site and web pages Google-friendly. See HERE.

I already know a thing or two about how to make web pages Google-friendly, but maybe I can learn some new tricks. Sounds interesting. Cost $30 to get in.

Radiation tri-blade 13.october.2006 - Friday the 13th. Beware of black cats and sidewalks cracks.

Radiation tri-blade 08.october.2006 - As previously mentioned, I had a good week playing Rad dad. This was the first time the little guy (Rad Jr, aka the bug) stayed overnight here .. since the break-up .. well over a year ago.

His mom was gonna take off work the next day, thinking he was traumatized, missing her. I said, "Uh, I think he's okay. Save it for when he really needs you .. like when he gets sick."

I am trying to normalize relations with his mom .. and there *has* been progress, but not without incident. It's sorta like: two steps forward, one step back.

Not as nasty as it used to be, but I still get accused of everything you might imagine. You shoulda heard the message I got yesterday on my cell. (I've learned to turn it off.) You'd think I was Charles Manson.

"You're a sick man .. sick, sick, sick." .. because my "discipline method" isn't the same as hers. I'm not making this up. Would be funny .. if it weren't so pathetic. So yeah, it's a job. Nothing I do is ever good enough.

Discipline? He's a year and a half. "My discipline methods," I tell her, "are L.O.V.E and P.L.A.Y. When one doesn't work, I try the other." (I don't have any "discipline problems" with him.)

As they teach in co-parenting classes, you have put behind the animosity and resentment and focus on what's best for the child.

That's exactly what I've been attempting to do. First hint of an argument, I walk away or hang up. Don't even think twice about it. I've learned a lot over the last couple of years.

If they eat your liver, you can't retaliate with shenanigans of your own. You just have to say, "I didn't really need that liver, anyway." The two of you (it's clear) are never going to agree on everything. But I try to move toward that direction.

For example, when I took the little guy back to his mom last week, I stopped at a park on the way and picked a flower for him to give her.

Was pretty dang cute watching him walk up to the door, calling, "Momma, I'm home," .. with a flower in his little hand. Now, every time I take him back, he wants to stop for a flower, saying, "Momma flower. Dada help."

It's also cool, in the morning, when I pick him up. Sometimes I can't even see him yet, but I can hear him .. shouting excitedly, "Dada!" (Doncha know how that warms my heart.) He knows a fun day is in store.

Another cool thing is .. the neighbors have a trampoline, which they told me I can use when ever I want .. "even if we're not home," they said. You should see the bug bouncing around on that trampoline.

In other news .. I went to that new mega-church again today (see entry 01.october .. heck, I need all the help I can get).

Today's message was about how fathers need to put spending time with their family ahead of their job/work .. and how God will bless that (and never the other).

I don't have a family in the traditional sense, but I sincerely try to spend as much quality time with the little guy as I can .. especially while he's still so young, still in the developmental years, developing trust, which is crucial (they say) to being able to develop intimate relationships later in life.

Several times this past week I've had people stop me (always women) and say things like, "I see you around town with your son and I just wanna say I think you're doing a great job."

Finally, I had my body-fat measured again today, and I'm down to 19.5% (love that teen sound) .. a lean, mean love machine, as the Dog would say. =)

Radiation tri-blade 07.october.2006 - Feel like I have lotsa catching up to do. Finally archived September's entries. The home page was getting (too) long. Still need to convert last month's entries into blog entries. Last blog entry is dated August 20.

The movie [The Departed] was good .. enough to include on my official Recommended list .. something I do only sparingly. Funnier than I thought it would be. Found myself laughing out loud, spontaneously (not trying to laugh), at odd times. Sometimes I was the only one.

I definitely have a warped (dark) sense of humor (I've discovered). And you know, we can't control what things make us laugh (what we find funny).

Maybe it's true what some people have told me .. that I need psychological help. =D [Take a wild guess who.] Bloodier than I thought it'd be, too. I enjoy a gritty, rubber-meets-the-road flick. Also a great sound track (Stones Gimme Shelter, Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb, etc.). Mostly old school music.

Don't want to spoil it for you. My favorite scene was when Matt Damon finally calls Leonardo on the dead guy's cell .. but neither says a word. Both remain silent. Terrific tension in that scene. You could hear a pin drop.

Radiation tri-blade 06.october.2006 - Received the following email yesterday from Len:


On the cover of the
Marketplace section in today's Wall Street Journal there's an interesting article about how Blogs in Japan are being adopted into books (called blooks), comics, movies, and TV shows.

Think Radified: The Movie! I think you've had quite a story to tell over the years. Keep up the good work.

I don't have access to the online version of WSJ, but here's the topic blurb:

Blogs Inspire New Media Trend in Japan

Blogs, chat rooms and other Internet formats are increasingly providing the inspiration, and in many cases the verbatim content, for books, television shows and other old-media products in Japan.

Speaking of interesting stories to tell .. the little guy (Rad Jr, aka the Bug) slept over last night for the first time since the break up (well over a year ago). Woohoo!

It was sweet. I was actually kinda nervous. Wanted everything to go perfectly. Gave him a bath & everything.

Tell ya more later. Gotta run now .. heading to see the new Scorsese flick (The Departed, opening night) with new rock-climbing buddy (Tom, see entry 24.sept) .. on the giant screen at the Big Newport. Ordered (reserved) tiks online, to make sure we get in, even if it's sold out.

So ya, I'm pretty stoked about the bug. Brought him back to his mom's at 6AM this morning .. for a little brecky. Then picked him up an hour later (after my triple-espresso); we spent the day together. I think she was more freaked out than he was. It was her first night away from him - ever.

Regulars might recall the last time the bug stayed over, or we tried that. This time I made sure he was good and tired before bed. We went for a walk, with the full moon. Many houses in the neighborhood were (are) decorated colorfully for Halloween. Jack-o-lantern city.

Did I mention being stoked? =) Oops, Tom's here. Gotta run. Later. Full moon tonight. (Howl.) October full moons are the best ones of the year. (More howls.)

Radiation tri-blade 05.october.2006 - Friendly reminder for those of you who live here in sunny SoCal .. today is the First Thursday Art Walk (in Laguna).

Things get underway at 6PM and wrap up around 9. Hope to see you out on the town for some culture, art, hors d'oeuvres and free vino. Tomorrow is the official full moon, so it should be pretty bright tonight.

Radiation tri-blade 03.october.2006 - Had a weird (perplexing) problem today .. with the Rad Community forums, one which I just resolved .. by adding a .htaccess file (permissions) to the forum's main directory.

Certain people (like Ghost4me & NightOwl) were generating 403 (Access Forbidden) errors .. in certain threads .. but not all the time. These intermitent-type probelms are the most difficult to solve. But this is where I excel .. I've always been good at troubleshooting (aka "problem solving").

On the nuclear submarine I was stationed aboard, they would come get me only when no one else could resolve the problem (which is not as cool as it sounds, getting woken at all hours). I just try to take a methodical approach .. and find out what we know, and what we don't know.

Then I try different variations to see if we can isolate the problem. I've always enjoyed that stuff. Many people hate it. (Requires lots of patience & dogged determination.)

Troubleshooting suks when you're tired. Studies (German) have shown that both problem solving & creativity (both related) are dependent on sleep. See HERE. So, sometimes the best thing you can do to resolve a persistent problem is .. go to bed. (I sleep like a rock.)

I refuse to get my butt wupped by a piece of software. The problem (and troubleshooting methodology) is described in this thread here:> Problems posting: Access Forbidden

Radiation tri-blade 02.october.2006 - Looking forward to seeing the new Scorsese flick: The Departed, which opens Friday (at a theater near you).

Stars Leonardo DiCaprio (who has worked with Scorsese before in Gangs of New York & Aviator), Matt Damon (who I always like), and for the first time in a Scorsese film, Jack Nicholson. Should be interesting.

Other big-name talent include Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen. Impressive cast. Loads of talent. Strong reviews. Trailer HERE.

Scorsese is one of my favorite directors (my #1 favorite is Coppola), maybe cuz he's based on the East Coast (New York), where I grew up. I see everything he does...

...and I always wonder if this will be the year he gets an Oscar. New York directors seem disadvantaged there, since the Academy is based here on the West coast.

Anyway, in other news, here's a note I received today, titled Sincere thanks:

To the Rad man (whoever you are)

I've been a PC user for a long time - when discs were are big as dinner plates - but this is the first time I've built my own PC. I found Radified by accident, a bit like everyone else it seems and have found the advice and guidance to be sound, clear and friendly.

Docs FDISK guide sorted out my hard drive problems along with a little help from Ranish Partition Manager. Ahh, good old DOS, it's still hard to beat when the chips are down.

I'm a native of Scotland, now living in England and will be using the PC mainly as a music server. Your advice on Lossles audio recording has been invaluable and was just what I was looking for.

Keep up the good work - I like the style!

Stuart McEachan

Re: "I like the style!" .. I bet y'all didn't know I had style. =) Always good to get feedback from readers, whether positive or negative.

Radiation tri-blade 01.october.2006 - First day of October. If I had to spend the rest of my life living in one 30-day period, I'd pick the last half of September and first half of October. So we're smack-dab in the heart of my favorite time of the year.

Growing up in Connecticut (where the leaves change color so dramatically) is probably where I came to prefer this time of year .. when the days are warm and nights cool (good sleeping weather).

In other news, I went to a new church today: Mariners. Was gonna meet Miss Julie there for the 11 AM service (it was her idea), but she couldn't make it. So I went by myself.

Never been to a mega-church like this before .. located at the end of Newport Coast Drive (which ends at Crystal Cove, a place I love).

Out front you pass fountains, waterfalls and a pool as you're welcomed by smiling greeters (who wear name-tags). Lots of pretty people coming & going (leaving the previous service) who all look tan & fit.

Upon entering the sanctuary, you feel like you've stepped into a concert arena. The place is big and the sound impressive. The auditorium is dark, with ceiling painted black. Lots of speakers and lighting systems mounted above you.

A choir or 50-or-so people are on stage (mostly women/girls), off to your left, swaying to the music, singing their hearts out. Surprised to see someone playing a chello. The rear half of the auditorium consists of stadium seating (like in a movie theater).

Two giant screens are mounted on either side of the wall behind the stage. (I think these are hi-def.) There you see close-ups of the worship leader, or handsome faces in the choir. Again, impressive.

I found a seat near the middle, so I could take it all in. Everything seemed polished, with high production value, almost too polished (for me). So I liked it when I saw a simple wooden cross, off to the right of the stage, about 10 or 12 feet tall.

After several songs, a man came out, said a few words, which I thought was the start of a sermon. But then he left, and the worship group continued singing more songs.

I really liked the way the singing part was broke up like that. Not sure why .. but it seemed to elevate things to another level.

Then the pastor came out. Very polished .. at ease addessing a large congregation. Almost too polished (like a game-show host), I thought at first. But he got more real as his message continued.

Good sense of humor. Made me laugh out loud several times, and smile others. Hard not to like someone who makes you laugh. Certainly not uptight about anything. Colloquial. Just the right amount of drama (more funny drama, less serious drama).

His message was about returning good for evil, about how God reserves the right to judge, and doesn't invite you & me to participate in that (judge not, lest ye be judged).

He used examples from David's life .. how David was totally screwed over time & again by various people (especially Saul), but refused to retaliate .. even when given the chance (to kill Saul).

So yeah, I could relate to the sermon .. which is probably why I was laughing more than most people there.

I also liked that they didn't take time to pass a collection plate in front of you, but rather set up containers on the way out where you could drop an offering. Best of all, they have a cafe, where you can get lunch and an espresso. Now *that's* a church. =)