Today's Mighty Oak


Today is the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo, which has been a lot of fun!  My goal for the month was to update my site, as well as get back into the habit of writing each day (not for work).

And I’ll say that was a success.  There were a few days where the writing was a little different (setting up the podcast page, for example), but I was still creating words.  In the process, I got the portfolio section organized, mobile editing set-up, added a new blog and did some other cleanup work.

This week is the second week of my training plan for the GAP Relay, so I’m actually good to be able to take a bit of a breather, but I’d like to continue writing more regularly.  I also want to dive in and get back to work on Warhol’s Phone and The Great and Secret Show.

But for now, I’ll raise a glass with the other members of our Camp cabin, the Drunkest Slytherpuffs, and enjoy the feeling of meeting my goal.  Thanks for reading along.



I’m returning once again to write about my bishop, as well as the General Convention.  This comes with some baggage.  Not only did I write about this earlier this month, but it’s also something I discussed at Global Entropy

The bishop did put together a good summary of the actions taken at the General Convention (a summary of just the same-sex matrimony resolutions), which I really do appreciate.  Gears of any large organization take a long time to move, the Episcopal Church is no different.  It’s disheartening, especially since waiting to be fully accepted by your own church hurts, but it’s what we’re dealt, so we can just try to urge things to move along faster.

However, what threw me for a loop, and what I didn’t catch during my first wiring about the General Convention is this:

3. Established a Task Force on Communion Across Difference [A227].
Background: The language of this resolution was drawn in its entirety from Resolution B012 as originally offered. The commission establishes an on-going channel of communication to explore a way forward together, and to avoid future conflicts.
The 2018 General Convention:
• Set membership at no more than 14 clergy and laity, half who believe marriage is a covenant “between two people” and half who believe marriage to be exclusively “between a man and a woman”

This is, again, as we saw in Pittsburgh, bullshit.

Once again, the process is based on the forced inclusion of those who believe I should not have access to the same sacraments as other people in the church.  The bishop writes:

steps were taken to include LGBT people more deeply in the life of the whole Church, and to honor their relationships

I’d love to know how (thankfully not me, as I’m not on any committee), having to sit in a room and defend your right to God’s love to people who want to force you into a loveless life honors and includes us?

The Episcopal church is leaps and bounds ahead of others, and has always been a home for me.  My parish is easily one of the most liberal in the country, and I’m proud of that fact, but this kind of process drags us all backwards.  This did not work in Pittsburgh, although I expect the larger church, with such a small committee, will have no problems filling up either side of the ‘debate.’

And for me, I’ve always been much more of the ‘doing’ rather than going to church every week, and that won’t change.  I go, especially when I need a bit of recharging, but I’ve always been drawn more to the community events and volunteer work I can do through the church.

All my best,

Mike



Just a quick note, today was another one of those ‘behind the scenes’ days.  I did some updates that were more involved than I thought, but should be working fine!  When I add things to the portfolio section (or others in the future), they won’t show up on the main page, leaving that just for announcements and blog posts.

I also added a sticky post directing anyone to the three main parts of the site, now the last piece of the puzzle is getting the photo galleries up and going, but that still maybe be a few weeks due to APIs and development of plugins and whatnot.  But overall, I’m really happy with where I’ve gotten the site in this month, so I’m calling Camp NaNoWriMo a success!



Part of my Camp NaNoWriMo project has been working on this site, so doing a lot of behind the scenes work as well as getting some public pages finally up and sorted.  I have two projects left for that.  The first is a minor change, but will take a bit of work to future-proof it.

The second, was what I was working on yesterday, so I want to take a minute to write about it, because, it’s a story.

So, one area I’d like to include is photo galleries.  I tend to take a lot of pictures (especially of signs) and I do enough interesting things that I have a sizable photo library.  Years ago, on an older version of this site, I uploaded them into galleries, but then I realized that I didn’t want to deal with server space and manually uploading everything.

Enter Picasa.  I was able to upload images to it and quickly and easily create shareable galleries.  Worked great (and I do still like the, no unsupported, desktop client), but eventually Google moved to Google Photos.

Here’s what I’ve found out in the last few days: they didn’t make a Google Photos API, meaning, there was no way for other websites to communicate with Google Photos.  The Picasa API still exists, it just hasn’t been updated in the last two years (and my galleries are still out there, thank goodness).  So while there are plenty of plugins to make image galleries easy for Picasa, all my photos which are now automatically uploaded to Google Photos, had no where to go.

There are workarounds, but it takes quite a bit of know how, and I stumbled my way through about half of it, but I”m still working on getting things how I actually want them to be.

But all of that changed a few weeks ago!  Google released an API for Google Photos and now extensions are being updated and added.  So while I won’t have the galleries up for July, it will still, finally, be a thing!  So look for that sometime soonish, I hope!



Alright, let’s see what we have today.  A bit of a shorter update, but still some fun things to pass along.

Downton Abbey is officially returning with a movie!

In case you haven’t seen Randy Rainbow’s latest, it’s genius:

An important read about how Aquaman represents fans of color.

Like I said, short update today, but I’ll be back with more soon.  Just a busy week with the start of my training plan and a team meeting for the GAP relay.



I have a hard time deciding what is my actual favorite musical. I have a top five:

  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Hamilton
  • American Idiot
  • Avenue Q
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Some of it may be determined by when I last saw or listened to something, but usually, Hunchback is at the top of that list. And after this last weekend’s performance, it is cemented in that place.

Hunchback has always been special and my favorite Disney animated movie. The stage production is even darker and really expands on quite a bit. I was able to see it performed here by a community theater group, and while it was good, the professional touring company blew me away.

Hunchback is one of those shows that really does benefit from having a bigger budget for sets and lighting. The way this product has moving pieces, from the opening number when my jaw dropped as the curtains did, revealing what Quasimodo and the gargoyles and statues would be climbing on, to the spinning stage that let Quasi transform from actor into himself, I could not believe how amazing the set itself looked.

Divine is the only thing I can think of to describe the lighting. When the rose window was revealed on the back way behind the choir, the light from it seemed to change with the setting sun and the arches of the theater itself lit up in reflected light, and it was nothing short of dazzling.

The actors were amazing (I didn’t care for this Esmeralda, mainly she kept changing the rhythm of the songs, but she could dance like no other) and the choir was massive.

Hunchback is unique in that is not only has a (seated) choir on stage, but that they sing the entr’acte, albeit in Latin. The show also leans into the fact that it is a morality play, and we first see the actor playing Quasimodo as himself, before he puts on his costume on stage, transforming before our eyes into the stooped character, before changing back at the end of the show.

It’s a rare show to be produced, but if you ever get the chance, go see it. The cast album is amazing (staring Michael Arden as Quasimodo) and many times when I listen to it, and each time I’ve seen it performed, I cry during the finale.

Of course, there is also a blanket recommendation to go to live theater, it’s a wonderful, immersive experience and a wonderful way to give back to the community through the many outreach programs theaters do. The Fulton Theater in Lancaster was really a hidden gem and I’m so glad I got to go there!

I’ll leave you with a few lines from the Finale:

The world is cruel
The world is ugly
But there are times
And there are people
When the world is not
And at its cruelest
It’s still the only world we’ve got

Someday
Life will be kinder
Love will be blinder



Alright, let’s see how this works! I’m attempting to post this from my phone, so far seems good!

I volunteered at the Liberty Mile last night, then drove to Harrisburg to stay with a friend to see a show tomorrow.

Got in a wonderful five Mile run with a member of the PRorER Ultra Team this morning and currently I’m enjoying some delicious cold brew coffee, reading a magazine and just living my best life, as the kids say! Also, trying mobile image upload for the first time too!



I’ll be back to some more regular writing next week, but this weekend I’ll be trying a bit of an experiment.  I have a half day vacation from work this afternoon, so aside from being an adult and taking care of a few things, I’m heading downtown to volunteer at the Liberty Mile (and avoid the crowds at Picklesburgh).

From there, I’m driving to Harrisburg!  I’m staying with a friend and seeing The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Fulton Theater nearby and meeting a friend from my ultra team to run with Saturday morning!

I think I’ve gotten my phone setup to be able to submit posts from there, so I’m going to see if I can do a bit of remote writing this weekend!  At least that’s the plan, we’ll see if it work!

A great thing I’ve worked on this month has been finally getting this site up to where I’d like it to be after the migration from Joomla.  Hopefully I’ll be getting the last two bits of the puzzle in this last week of Camp (at least the last two that I can do, some of the dates got messed up from Metblogs and I don’t have a way to know the correct dates to fix them).  If all goes well, I’ll be adding back in photo galleries as well as a small behind the scenes change to finally get the homepage how I’d like it!



A couple weeks ago, the YMCA of Pittsburgh announced it would close three branches.  One (West Hills) due to the fact that the needed repairs from recent flooding would be more than the building was worth, made sense, especially since it was too dangerous to be in the building.

The other two are the primary and back-up locations that I go to.  What surprised me the most, was the number of people who are members.  In the letter they sent out to members, they listed over 1,100 members at my branch.  For how small of a building it is, shocked me, actually.  Although based on the parking lots, maybe it is pretty accurate.

I started going to the gym when I worked in the Hill District, stopping at the Y in the Steel Tower before walking up the hill to work.  After that, I transferred to Penn Hills and then finally to Wilmerding.  All in all, aside from a few bumps along the way, it’s been a great organization and I’m sorry to see it go away.  The impact that the areas will feel will hurt, Penn Hills especially I think.  Penn Hills (and to some extent Wilmerding) served as a community center, and losing that space will be tough.

But this has sent me on a mission to find a new gym.  There are a couple gyms close by that are mostly personal trainer based, which for some people, is what they need.  I mainly need a gym so I can utilize a treadmill when it’s too hot or icy to be outside, do some stretching and do bodyweight work away from home if I want a change of pace.

I checked out Planet Fitness, and it was decent.  I was impressed by their one bodyweight area as well as their extra amenities.  They have a ‘red light therapy’ machine, that while most people call complete bullshit on the ‘melting fat’ claims, seems to be a nice pick-me-up in the dead of winter.  Like other PF locations, they do pizza nights and have a huge bowl of Tootsie Rolls out, both of which have dairy, so it’s a no-go for me anyway.

I also checked out Crunch.  While the hours aren’t like PF’s (since they’re 24 hours), it’s still more than what I had access to at the Y.  The gym itself was a lot bigger than I imagined, and had a huge array of options, including multiple TRX’s and some other stuff I could use for bodyweight stuff, which is exciting.  Plus, their treadmills were a lot better quality and will be more useful for me (especially since the school with the track I use is up for sale).  Crunch has a big emphasis on group classes, which aren’t really my thing, but I guess it’s nice to know they’re there if I want to upgrade my membership.

Sadly, both places really push the tanning beds.  Which, no thank you, I don’t want skin cancer today.  They also both offer hydromassage, which seems unsanitary at best, again, not something which is swaying me, but both offer it.  Must be the latest trends.

In the end, I’m going to try out Crunch and see how it goes, it’s a little more inconvenient, but with traffic will only be about five minutes, so nothing to really think about.  The staffs at both locations were very patient and helpful with my myriad of questions, and both locations mentioned they were getting quite a few of the Y’s members, so I’m sure I’ll see some familiar faces.  PF may have been closer to Wilmerding (and there’s a PF near the Penn Hills Y, so I’m sure they’ll be very busy now), Crunch seemed a bit less of the totally casual crowd.  While I have weird needs of a gym and am not looking to be a bodybuilder, I also don’t want to deal with the ‘showing up to a gym to use the tanning bed’ crowd.

I’ve been a member of the Y for almost a decade, and while we were given the option to try out other locations, Plum is really inconvenient for me (and looks intimidatingly large).  I might still check it out, since I’ll have three free months, might as well do a tour!

I’m starting my next running training plan next week, so as much as this has been sad and a hassle, it’s good to have it wrapped up.



Note: Yesterday I wrote up a recap for one of my DnD games, so while I wrote, it’s not here on the blog, I’m still on track to write everyday in July!

Today marks what would have been Nelson Mandel’a 100th birthday.  I remember where I was on the day he died: I was on a treadmill at the Penn Hills Y watching the news coverage, saddened and tearing up.

His story shows both some of the worst and best that humanity is capable of, and I think that’s why I’m drawn to it so much.  I’ve listened to Archbishop Tutu speak of his close friend, and read many of his speeches, but what I know Mandela barely scratches the surface of what he did and who he was.

Still though, his dedication to democracy, and his example of the spirit of reconciliation are admirable and at least in myself, I feel unattainable.  But much like other shining examples, I hope I can strive to be the man he knew that I was.

On the news of his death, President Obama said this:

The day he was released from prison gave me sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.

And maybe it was because 2013 was such a different time, but I can remember how much his death affected me that day and those following.  Mandela’s work continues on through his foundation and The Elders, and I hope that we can all continue to live up to his giant legacy.

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