Thursday, February 08, 2007

A New Passport!

Holding your very own passport in your hands can be a wonderful experience. It means you belong somewhere. You have a home you can always come back to. It gives you a group of people with which you can say you are a part of. It also means you can travel relatively freely from country to country and the one to whom you belong will always let you back in.

Now if you don’t have a passport and you wish to be a person who occasionally leaves his or her country it is now getting quite a bit more difficult. As many of you already know the rules in North America have recently changed. A Canadian leaving Canada now needs more than just their driver’s license to enter America. For those of you living outside of North America you might be thinking, “You didn’t even need a passport to go to America?!” Well actually, we still don’t, that is if we are driving over the border and we are doing it before January 2008. But if we are flying we do still need ye olde passporte.

Recently my passport was in need of renewal due to a work visa application. I applied for the express service and Passport Canada had it back to me in just a few days. This was back in November though, a very different time. My wife on the other hand applied for hers in December without the express service, as she wouldn’t need a new one until February. We figured we definitely had enough time for the 20 business days to pass. We even had a few extra days if necessary. Well we needed them.

We have a flight to Florida from Toronto leaving in two days. We are going on an all expenses covered cruise. A “working” cruise for me but a ‘paid for’ cruise still. Sherri’s passport has been gone since December and Passport Canada is way overloaded with phone calls so we have had no way of knowing when the passport may arrive. The last we had heard was the week of January 22nd. Needless to say we have multiple contingency plans, which are quite detailed and require recruiting the help of multiple family members. (Thank you greatest family in the world!!!)

The good thing is none of that matters now because Sherri’s passport arrived today. Thank you Passport Canada!! Anytime I have tried to call them and gotten a busy signal all I can think of is, I’m glad I don’t work there. (I also think how many Canadians are hearing the same busy signal and cursing.) Yet when I did get through the guy was still very polite and pleasant. Our experience wasn’t ideal but from what I have seen they are doing quite well with the unthinkable increase in volume that they are experiencing.

So, if you are a Canadian and think you may be traveling in the next year I suggest going to this website and printing the application immediately. Fill it out then BRING it in to the closest office. This will shave a few more days off the process. It’s going to take a long time so be patient but get it done as soon as possible. There will be another rush once you need a passport to drive over the border in 2008 so the sooner you take care of it the better.

So now both Sherri and I can proudly hold our passports and say we are Canadians. We have a place where we belong. We have a place that will always let us in. Even when it’s -15C and we’re not sure we even want to come home.



Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Some Good News!

We received some great news today for my band downhere. First we found out that our song "A Better Way" has reached the number 1 spot on the K-LOVE radio network. This is pretty huge as K-LOVE is the biggest Christian radio network in the U.S. It's pretty crazy too considering A Better Way was released to radio way back on March 17 of 2006.

Then later on this evening we found out that we have been nominated for a Juno for Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the year. Pretty awesome!! We even will get to be at the awards this year. They are in Saskatoon and will be hosted by Canadian artist Nelly Furtado.

And this all comes just before we get to "work" on a cruise which will be followed by a UK tour. Sometimes timing is pretty good.

All that said here's an interesting letter/article written by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, called Thoughts On Music. He talks about the business of selling music online and how he thinks it would make more sense for the record companies to not enforce digital protection on downloaded music. He makes a good case. If you are interested in music or business I think you will enjoy.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Television Effect

Does watching television make you fat? Does television make children dumb? Does it make adults dumb? Is television making us more violent? Is watching television ruining our ability to keep relationships?

I have heard all of these questions before and asked some of them myself. Obviously none of them have a blanket answer but I think just about anyone would agree that watching less television, whether child or adult, is a good thing. So I want to encourage all of us to get our fannies off the couch and away from the TV or computer or video games.

First I’ll start with some stats found online. I share these in order to hopefully scare you off your tush.

The US government's Health and Human Services Department (HHS) reports that nearly 61 percent of US adults and 13 percent of children and adolescents are overweight. The number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980. Of the 61 percent of overweight adults, nearly half are characterized as obese.

American children, ages 2-17, watch television on average almost 25 hours per week or 3 ½ hours a day. Almost one in five watch more than 35 hours of TV each week (Gentile & Walsh, 2002).

Twenty percent of 2- to 7-year-olds, 46% of 8- to 12-year-olds, and 56% of 13- to 17-year-olds have TVs in their bedrooms (Gentile & Walsh, 2002).

Children spend more time watching television than any other activity except sleeping.

Television’s impact on reading and other academic skills depends not only on the amount of television watched, but also on what is being watched as well as the age of the child (Reinking, 1990).

Successful readers read often.

(I guess this means most kids are successful TV watchers!!)

A 20-year-old man who watches TV three hours a day until the age of 70, could have extended his life six and a quarter years merely by turning off the TV.

OK, enough doom and gloom. I said this would be encouraging. Only good can come of turning off the TV. It’s actually quite liberating when you can finally bring yourself to miss an episode of whatever or a sports game or an entire sports season. So what can we gain by turning off our televisions?

How about a new hobby/skill? Playing piano? Woodworking? Sewing? A new language? Gardening? With an extra 30 minutes or more a day this is easily accomplished. Beware though; our brains are a little bit mushy from all that TV watching. We’re used to stories and concepts and ideas being given to us on a silver platter. We’re not used to creating them ourselves in our own minds anymore. It’s going to take some effort. Working out all the details of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry takes much more work and imagination when you haven’t already seen the movie. So take it slow, be patient and enjoy it!!

Want to get in better shape? Cutting out one sitcom a day will give you at least half an hour to fit a walk or run in. Or maybe you can even get that gym membership you’ve always wanted. If that’s still out of the budget check in with your local church or community center, they often have gyms and some sort of time for activities, usually free or very cheap!

The sad fact of the modern world is that, in the main, men do not read at all, and many women are captives to the escape romance novel, which is of such poor quality that it should not even be considered literature. We simply must raise our sights. (from Mark Lee's blog)

Yes, there is always reading. Lots to be learned and appreciated. Again, if you haven’t read much since you finished school then there will be a bit of a curve to get back into it. Sure a romance novel may not be raising our mental capacity much but starting with something easy will at least get you back into reading. I mentioned Harry Potter earlier, great book series to get you going. (New one coming our in March!!)

"The primary danger of the television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces - although there is danger there - as in the behavior it prevents: the talks, the games, the family festivities and arguments..." link

If you know you may have a night of television watching ahead of you why not invite some friends or family over and turn it into a night of games. The interaction with your friends will be remembered and cherished long after the memory of your television show has disappeared.

Anyone feel the same??


p.s. The ironic thing is I finish this post as I sit in the van for a 9+ hour drive watching reruns of American Idol!



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