free web stats Lost in the Eternity of the Here and Now: August 2006
Sola Scriptura · Solus Christus · Sola Gratia
Sola Fide · Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Beware the Sniper

I wasn't even sure I would get to play this time. I sent my stock off to be repaired because it was leaking air. Luckily, the guys at SpecOps rock, and it arrived Friday aftenoon, the day before we played. Now... if only we have more people show up! We had a better turnout this time than we did last time (three if you recall), but still far less than I had anticipated: Randy, Stephen, Justin, Chris, Tommy, Jarod, and myself; seven in total.

There are several rolls that a paintball sniper can assume. Two of my favorites are the Ambush Sniper and the Ghost Flanker. As always, the sniper position is best used as part of a team tactic. If left on his own, a sniper lacks the firepower to hold his own against a well-organized opposition.

Get your Ghost Flank on

One of our first games was four (us) on three (them). I had Chris, Stephen and Tommy. The plan was to have those three stay left-center while I circled around to flank. Good plans can easily fall apart once the whistle blows, and this was no exception. As I made my way along the right edge of the field along the creek I heard several exchanges of fire. Since I was out of contact with my team, I wasn’t sure who had been eliminated, my teammates or theirs. An eerie silence fell on the field. Then I knew… it had been my teammates who fell. By this time I had made my way to a good vantage point from which to see a considerable amount of the field. Judging by the lack of movement on their team though, they had no idea where I was, and not wanting to walk into an ambush, were reluctant to move forward. Suddenly I glimmer of hope filled me. From the far left I heard a whistle. I could tell by the pitch that it was Stephen. He was still hiding behind a bunker. The odds were stacked against us, three of them, two of us. From his whistles I imagined what he must be thinking. “Mike… help… there’s three of them, and they know I’m up here.” “Mike, where are you.” “I could use some help here.” They were feeling confident, having taken out two of our four. Confidence should be guarded when a sniper is on the loose. They started firing at him, and I knew I had to move fast. I would only get one shot at this. I got on my belly and crawled under the branch of a short tree. I saw my first mark. Randy was launching a volley at Stephen who was pinned down from three angles behind a bunker on the hill. I slowly raise my gun, put Randy in my sight and fire a few shots his way. Two hit true. Now it is two on two. I fall back, having given my position away, and swing around a fallen tree and hug the bank of the creek. I hear more fire now. The other team is desperate to eliminate the man on the hill so they can focus on me with force. “Mike’s on the hill!,” I hear Justin shout. …Excellent, they think that’s me up there they’ve got pinned down. I move quickly up the steep bank edge, slipping and falling back twice. Time is short, and Stephen is taking heavy fire from two people, and I want to capitalize on their confusion. I see my next mark. Justin is behind a tree across the field firing at Stephen about 40 yards away from me. The tree blocks Stephen’s return fire, but Justin’s side is completely open to me. I raise my gun, find him in my sight, adjust for the distance, hold my breath, and squeeze off a single round. THWAP! A single, deadly shot finds its home on Justin’s chest, and my spirits soar! One shot, one kill… that’s the motto. He is amazed, not seeing me, or even hearing the shot, but nonetheless, knew he had been eliminated. Two down, one to go. Jarod, realizing what is happening, quickly runs for cover. He makes a daring move between us and crosses behind us. However, now Stephen and I have the upper hand, and he is pinned down. After running around a bit, playing the rabbit, we finally eliminate him. Walking out I congratulate Stephen and Jarod on a game well-played. Stephen’s distraction proved invaluable to my ghost flank, giving me the anonymity and time needed to get into position. My only regret is that we lost two men. Hopefully they learned from whatever mistake caused their elimination. Ghost Flank, w00t!

Unfortunately Tommy had to leave after another game. The teams, however, were now even.

The Ambush

An Ambush Sniper uses stationary concealment as his primary tool. Once the whistle blew I dashed as far up field as I could. I found a nice fallen branch with considerable surrounding brush and fell to the ground to wait. My team, Chris and Justin, though lacking Action Ghillie, took up positions on my flank and hid. Minutes ticked by. The other team is playing cautious. Knowing a sniper is on the other team and the lack of movement on our part smells of a trap. I see movement. Randy is slowing creeping up the field, ever so carefully, so as not to walk into the ambush he must know is waiting for him. He is really close, no more than fifteen yards, but there is too much brush to make a clean shot. I know he can’t see me, because I’m in my ghillie, so I just wait. Suddenly I hear a small burst of fire. “Out!” I recognize my teammate Justin’s voice. He never even got a chance to return fire. I found out later that his leg had fallen asleep and when he moved it to get the blood flowing again, Stephen (on the other team) saw him and quickly eliminated him, leaving us in a sticky three vs. two mess. In order to exit the field Justin would have to walk right past Randy, and I knew this was my chance. Just as I had anticipated, he stopped a moment to talk to Randy. While they were talking and I knew Randy’s attention was diverted, I sat up and took aim through the brush. Justin exits. Randy resumes his advance. He takes two steps and I launch three shots at him. He looks in my direction moments too late as two paintballs strike him in the chest, another in the arm. Now the teams are even again. I drop back down and wait, knowing that my position, while no longer secret, is not exactly known either. Stephen and Jarod (opposing team) are even more cautious, because they know I’m there, just not where. Stephen makes a bold move to a bunker to my right, but is unable to drop behind it completely. I take aim and start firing, not wanting to give him a chance to find better cover. I hit him in the hip as he futilely pushes against the bunker trying to avoid my barrage. Now only Jarod remains. Chris and I quickly dispatch him and secure victory for our team.

Overall, it was a good day for paintball, for me especially. I left the field with seven kills and no eliminations. I wished more people had been there so I could have really wreaked havoc, but it turned out okay. gg.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Weekend - Part I

Every journey begins with the first step

Our first step was at 6 AM, and for a Saturday, that is far too early to consider walking, much less driving! Our destination: Lake LBJ, a little west of Austin. The party kicks off between 10 and 11, so I informed my passengers, Jarod, Amy and Stephen, the night before that we would be leaving promptly at 6 AM, and that anyone not belted in was getting left. We pulled out two minutes late, but before the sun has even risen… who cares right? My prayer, aside from a safe trip and a enjoyable time, is that God would show us his majesty today, that we would appreciate him for who he is. The drive up was wholly uneventful, aside from making one wrong turn. Signs for Hwy 2322 and 2233 look an awful lot alike at 75 MPH. Aside from that 30 second detour we drove right to our destination. Pulling up we saw a newly renovated lake house with a beautiful wakeboarding boat parked out front, though surprisingly, few other vehicles. It turns out that even though we were a little late (10:45) that we were the first to arrive. I was then reminded that it was a Sunday school class party full of Baptists, not known for being punctual, so I didn’t feel so bad.

The First Outing

A few more guests arrived, quick introductions were had and we out on water. Aside from Kevin, Rachel and myself, no one had ever wakeboarded before. Kevin went first to show everyone how it was done, and because being the only driver, would not get to go much more during the day. Next Rachel. Both, seasoned pro’s, had no trouble inspiring awe in the passengers eagerly awaiting their turn. Surely it was as easy as these two make it appear!

“Okay, who’s next? …Anyone?”, Kevin asks.

Silence. No one wants to be the first one to look stupid.

“I guess I’ll go,” Stephen boldly declares.

After a short how-to session Stephen is in the water. Last minute tips are yelled out from Kevin. Stephen motions and Kevin puts the boat into gear. Stephen, unprepared for force, looses the handle and the boat speeds away. They get set up again, this time resolved to not let go, he yells out, “Ready!” This time he holds on, but unfortunately is pulled over the top of the board and lands face-first in the water. “Keep your chin down against your chest.” “Try to squat on the board.” “Try angling the board as you come up.” A lot of people don’t even get up on their first tries, but Stephen is freakishly good at everything he tries. Being a quick study, he’s got the hang of it and successfully gets on top of the water for several of his next run. Of course, getting up is the easy part of wakeboarding. Once you’re up, it’s like trying to balance the board on greased marbles while being dragged behind a truck. Great fun. Once he had gotten the hang of it Stephen was starting to like it.

Next Jarod attempts to outdo, or at least match, Stephen’s newfound prowess; heeding all the advice hastily thrown at Stephen, and now having watched several people do it. On about the fourth try he makes it up, though not for long. Like I said, it’s slippery on top of the water. Here he is wiping out on one of his first runs.

Undeterred, he tries several more times, each staying up a little longer. The best part of staying up longer, at least for those watching in the boat, is that the added speed makes for much better wipeouts. Saying up longer each time built his confidence, and we got a better show each time. After a few too many face-plants into the water he’s had enough, though from the smile afterward, you’d never know it.

I went next. Having not done this in a year and a half, I was a little reluctant. The first time I let go of the handle, just like Stephen. The second time was much better and I got up like I had done it yesterday. It wasn’t quite as slippery as I remembered. I wiped out a couple of times, providing much entertainment, I’m sure. The last time, having seemingly mastered getting up and balancing, I wanted to try to go outside the wake. “No guts, no glory,” I think to myself. I approached the wake and went for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t angle the board right. The nose took a dive under the wake and took me with it, face first into the water. I’m glad I was wearing the helmet, and glad that the camera went dead just before my turn.

And here is a picture of Amy, just because it is a good picture
It was lunch time so we headed back. Hamburgers and Hotdogs for lunch hit the spot. After a very filling lunch, with cookies and brownies galore, the next group headed out, leaving us to fill the time until their return. We ventured out to the dock.

Part II tomorrow...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Weekend - Part II

A Moment to Breathe

During the down time I take a few moments to just enjoy the setting. I sit in an office all day, and just being outdoors is a pleasant change. Everything is so much slower here. Life is still life, instead of one moment strung together with another equally frantic moment. Here I am not a slave to the god on my wrist. The feel of the cool breeze on my face, soft sounds of the water splashing against the dock, the expansive sky streching seemingly forever, filled with soft, white clouds. I don't see clouds in Houston; we move too fast to see them. This is the mark of the creator. A day created to reflect on him, on all he has created, and enjoy it and thank him for it.

Boredom Sets In

Reflection is good for a time, but it doesn’t take long for them to start playing in the water. Jarod and Stephen start by floating in a life raft tied to the dock. Soon that is replaced by taking turns overturning each other in some water battle. Seeing all this, and being bored myself, I jump in and join the fray. That left Amy sitting on the dock alone. Plans soon hatched to get her in. Stephen distracts while Jarod approaches from the back. Had the water been a little deeper they would have thrown her in, but eventually she gets in of her own accord. Battle resumes. Soon even throwing the raft about is not enough, and the weed clinging to lake bottom becomes a projectile weapon. After getting covered in weed, Amy opts out and returns to the dock. We three remain, and lake weed abounds. Finally we grow bored with that and return to the dock for the last trip out.


Stephen and Jarod each go again. Stephen has trouble getting up, already sore from the first outing. Wakeboarding works muscles you forget you have. Jarod struggles a little, but manages to get up again. Finally Amy’s turn has come. She’s had all day to watch everyone, and kneeboards regularly with her family. She gets up on her first try. “Girls seem to get up faster than guys,” Kevin says. Girls tend to listen when you tell them how to do it, and guys want to pretend their previous athleticism will help them, which it won’t. She’s a natural and continues to get up with regularity, wipe out just as often, and enjoying every minute of it.

The Drive Home

I don’t know what I was thinking… A four hour drive up, a day of strenuous activity, then a four hour trip home. Not a good plan, but we did it anyway. Though... I don’t plan on ever doing that again. Jarod offers to drive early on, but I’m okay so far. It was after stopping for dinner that things started to get a little rough. About two hours from home I was starting to get moments of dizziness, though not so much as it could impair my driving. About an hour out, my eyelids were drooping and I wanted nothing more than to be in my bed. I considered letting one of the others drive. Around this time Jarod, in a half-sleep stupor sits up and exclaims, “Oh my God Michael, look out!” It seems he thought he saw a car backing up from a side street and looking like it was not going to stop. There was no car, and not even a side street. At this point I realize that I’m on my own.

Things to do while trying to stay awake:
Listen to music
Sing to music (softly, so as not to disturb my sleeping passengers)
Wake up to music (kidding)
Drive faster (the adrenaline kick helped, though only for a short time)
Force myself by a sheer act of will to remain awake

Once we got to a part of town I recognized I was excited enough about getting to sleep in my own bed that I was wide awake. The last 30 minutes were a breeze. We pulled up to the house a 12:45 AM. I thanked God he had seen us safely home, told them to get everything they needed out of the car, and went to my room. I was asleep before I hit the bed.


What a great day. I’m thankful for friends like Kevin and Rachel, my brother, friends like Stephen and Amy, and safe trips. It was a long day, but well worth it. All my prayers were answered.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

mmm... banana.... *drools*

People have always told me that I think too much. They are probably right. I analyze everything. Take a conversation for example. For days after a conversation I might analyze every word, every intimation, tones, body language. I think the end result is that I create a firm image in my mind of events, sometimes widely divergent from the actual. But, as the post-modernist would say, truth is what I believe, right? Regardless of the absolute that exists around me, my perception of it is all that matters. </sarcasm> I like to think that I see clearly (but who doesn’t right?) and am able to distinguish fact from fantasy, the real from the imagined. But I wonder… if I spend so much time thinking about things, and in the process of doing so I make a mistake in my logic, then I can create an entire world that is not real whilst fully believing in its existence. I think that we all do this to some extent, that is, deceive ourselves, whether intentionally or by faulty perception. The question though is to what extent and at what cost? Is any kind deception ever healthy? Alternate realities? Little white lies? Some would say that they are necessary in society, others that truth should always be pursued. I don’t know where I stand. It’s easier to live in denial, or be socially courteous by lying to someone, but does this serve to edify, or rather isolate people so that they can avoid reality and never know what is real? Do these lies become so commonplace that they permeate our being, defining who we are, serving to invalidate our very integrity? I think I would rather err on the side of truth.

However, since I think too much, and this post has been largely philosophical in nature, I thought I would share something that I ran across yesterday. This made me laugh.
Though you know where you want to go and what you want to be you haven't quite reached your goal. You are unsure of yourself and embarrassed by your shortcomings. But don't worry, there are plenty more like you that have yet to ripen. Be patient. Someday you too will make it to that supermarket shelf!

Given that I hate green bananas, I wonder if this says something about me? Maybe I’m a brown banana desperately trying to escape from a green banana. Or maybe I’m just insane, trying to find reason and meaning from a banana! Vive la brown banana!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Prophetic Untimeliness

On the advice of someone I trust I just finished reading a book by Os Guinness called Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. Guinness takes a serious look at the modern church in his well articulated critique.
“Never have Christians tried to be so relevant. But never have Christians ended up so irrelevant. How can this be? The problem, says Os Guinness, is that our views of relevance and our efforts to redefine ourselves are captive to the seductions and pressures of our modern clock culture. Ironically, we end up as neither relevant nor faithful. And in the process we are in danger of losing not only our identity but our authority, our significance, and even our very soul.”
I feel this book is only the continuation of what God has been teaching me over the past several years, namely that the gospel is timeless. It reaches across the ages and across cultures, because it addresses not the problems of the day, but the deepest and most daunting problem that all men face, namely their union with Adam. This book is ultimately a wakeup call to the modern church, though like most prophetic words I fear it will go unheard as its title intimates. R.C. Sproul says that the evangelical church is mired in a modern-day Babylonian captivity of Pelagianism. Guinness says we are in a Babylonian captivity of modernism. I think King Solomon spoke wisely (go figure) when he wrote in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. I think Sproul and Guinness both speak of the same thing, and while one speaks to antiquity and the other to the obsession with the future, both resonate with the same theme: the exaltation of Man.

The modern church culture seeks to be relevant by courting the ideas and patterns of the world around it. How can this be? We are told to live in the world, but not be of the world, to not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed in our thinking, yet the modern church subculture bears a remarkable resemblance to the world which it purports to oppose. We have abandoned the gospel by trying to making it relevant to the day instead of acknowledging that, “it is the power of God to salvation;” that it never needed help, we did. The battle cries of the reformation, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria, have been abandoned because they are old, and new is always better. They have been abandoned for the new battle cry of the enslaved church: Sola Cultura! The modern, the progressive, the ever changing world about us has become the driving factor in the church, instead of the sound and inspired truth revealed from God.

This is why I feel I have been led to focus so much on reformed teaching and sound Biblical exegesis. I believe that the gospel is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago and it does not need to be updated to accommodate the ideas of modern pop culture. This is why Christians have become so irrelevant in the world. Instead of knowing God and being firmly planted in the Word, the modern Christian’s entire faith is based on subjective spirituality, sloganeering, and bumper sticker theology. We have lost sight of who God is and who man is in relation to Him. If there is to be a revival in this nation, a new reformation, if we are to escape the fate of Europe’s secular implosion, then we must return to God. We must embrace the gospel as written, not as we imagine it to be, or would like it to be. We must stop focusing on trying to be relevant and become relevant by honestly seeking after God. Only by being obedient to the truth can we ever hope to be relevant again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

On Judgment

Recently there has been a recurring theme around me that I cannot seem to escape, namely that of judgment. Conversations, sermons, posts, conviction… you name it and it’s been there. The same verses keep popping in my head to follow it too, from Matthew 7 “1Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” The more I ponder these verses though, I find myself in a quandary. I do not think the purpose of these verses is overly clear, certainly as clear as one might think or is beguiled into believing based on their seemingly clear language. Jesus also said that he did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. That being the case, his statement is not a blanket condemnation of human judgment. To condemn judgment would be to invalidate the entire Law of Moses, clearly not the intent. Reading his words I find myself not thinking, “Judge not lest you be judged,” but rather, “How can we not judge?!” It is a basic human trait to see something and make a classification of that object. If I see a steaming plate of spaghetti, rest assured, I have already judged that plate to be one of the most beautiful things on the planet, just as I am repulsed when I see two gay men holding hands demanding recognition by the state. If Jesus' words are to mean that we are to abandon our mental faculties of good reason and critical thinking, then the necessary result is the abolition of accountability and the renunciation of God’s punishment through established authority, be it a parent, pastor or the state. I fear the mantra of “Judge not lest you be judged,” has been hijacked by secularists to justify immorality, and repeated so often that Christians have come to believe it as it is in its perverted state. Christians are no longer pillars by which one can measure a standard because they fear to stand up for what is right lest they be labeled intolerant, the battle cry of the liberal establishment. The pillar of Christian authority has been toppled and replaced with reluctant acceptance of the sin around us, both in and out of the church, to our shame!

So, if Jesus was not issuing a blanket statement of “judge not,” which I feel it is clear he is not, then what did he mean? Jesus states shortly after, “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?” Jesus is NOT saying, as we have been fooled into believing, that we are not to acknowledge the sin in the lives of our brothers, ignoring it because it is not our place to speak. Look at what he says. “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye.'” He makes no argument to such ends. Instead it is clearly seen that there is a speck is in the eye of your brother. There is no question about its existence, it is plain for all to see. This is not the judgment we are warned against. Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment that comes from self-righteous indignation, condemnation from a false sense of superiority. This is where I think we have the most trouble. Seeing sin in our brothers and condemning them because WE are not in that sin, and it makes us feel better perhaps, the proverbial yard measuring against the foot, and in this case coming up long.

Jesus speaks as to how we are to confront our brother, and we ARE to confront them. We must not be overwhelmed by that same sin. We are to be free from that sin, not of our own will, which is wholly corrupt, but by the grace that comes from God. We are to approach him in love, and with care (Matthew 18). James instructs us to hold each other accountable in prayer (5:16). Clearly these things do not exist in isolation from judgment, from clear thinking, from critical reasoning. I believe the heart of the message is judgment is not only fine, but expected (1 Corinthians 5:12), but not as a means to exalt yourself, to condemn others because it is easier than dealing with the sin in your own life. Paul’s constant message was faith through grace, and this from God! “Where then is boasting?”, he asks. "It is excluded!" Instead we boast in Christ, in his saving work. So yes, we are to judge, but to edify, not to tear down. Sometimes what appears to be such a clear message (Matthew 7:1) is not so clear after all!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rejoice for the Sovereignty of God!

Tonight I had the opportunity to get together with an old friend of mine who I had not seen in over a year. I enjoy his company, we are very similar people, yet could not be more fundamentally different. He professes to be atheist, though I think he leans more toward the agnostic side. According to him, the purpose of existence is fate. His objections to the existence of God, primarily to the Christian God, are largely experiential, though not ignoring the seeming logical improbability of a benevolent deity. He cannot accept how there can be a good God that allows the evil in the world. How can this loving God allow children around the world to die of hunger, AIDS, wars, etc…? He cannot accept that death is the consequence of sin, that the children suffer because of their parents actions (Adam and Eve). When I look at the evil and suffering in the world, it clearly points to the depths to which man can sink, revealing not the lack of care on God’s part for his creation, but rather that of the true heart of man: sin. It is not that we do sins, it is that we ARE sin. It is not that we do bad things; we are fundamentally bad, evil creatures. God did not create us this way, he created man perfect. That is not to say that man being perfect is therefore incapable of sinning, man was created perfect as a moral being. It was his choice to sin, and to do so with clear warning of what would come, regardless of whether he understood the full consequence of death. To see sin, and man as he truly is, God appears all the more gracious, all the more benevolent. Yes, people are dieing, yes children are suffering. That may sound callous, and maybe it is, but it is the truth. Hiding from that truth behind self-righteous indignation at God, blaming him for man’s sin, declaring him culpable for man’s sin on the basis of foreknowledge (omniscience), does nothing for man’s case, but rather strengthens my faith in God’s love. For God so loved the world (in spite of their sin) that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him would have everlasting life. (emphasis added by me) God in his benevolence, in his grace, passed over sins previously committed and placed them on Christ, the propitiation for that sin. God saw what would happen before he flung the stars into their heavenly resting places, and instead of abandoning man to his self-wrought prison of death and despair made provisions, provided a means by which to save some, namely those in Christ. Praise God!

I pray for my friend. I think he is seeking, and has been for a long time, but his mind is still hostile to God. I know from experience that in this condition that anything I say will be met with criticism and mockery. You cannot argue anyone into salvation by clever theology and logical trickery. It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves lest anyone boast. I pray for God’s grace to open his eyes, that being born again he might see the kingdom of God, to which his mind is hostile, being in enmity to God. It is liberating though, that my words, imperfect as they are, are not the pivotal factor in converting anyone, but rather it is him who wills. I trust and hope in that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wait a sec... Who won this?

It has been a while since my last post, I know. For the faithful few who are strangely interested in these things, I am sorry. I mentioned several posts before that I had several projects in the working. Another has finally come to completion satisfactorily.

First, a little history. Last February it was my father’s birthday. When looking for a gift for my father I try to think of something that he will enjoy, but more than that, something that he will actually use. Now, we spend plenty of time in our theatre watching movies, but short of aesthetic appeal, the theatre is complete. Next, the television takes most of his time. It is the one place you can come in the evening after a long day at work and sit down, relax, without any responsibility or thought. But that begs the question, what can I do to improve the television experience? Cable is out of the question, one for the recurring bill, and two for the lack of quality programming. Broadcast TV offers the best line-up, bar none. A new TV won’t do, since analog is going away in 2009, and digital is still far too expensive. So… what about time shifting TV? I researched TIVO, and within a week had purchased a 40-hour unit with a lifetime subscription.

Let me say, TIVO is great. Commercials are a thing of the past. Nothing irks me more than the incessant drone of people hawking their wares, things I wouldn’t buy in a million years. Plus, the ability to catch all the programming you miss at work, or late at night, or because of other obligations is great. No more VHS tapes and their sloppy interface. Life is good… or at least it was until the TIVO started having problems! About two weeks into TIVO paradise an obnoxious line appeared on every channel! I tried new cables, restarting the TIVO; I even bought an amplifier. All to no avail. I spent three evenings on the phone with TIVO technical support trying my best not to pull my hair out while they asked me idiotic questions like, “Is it plugged in?” “Is the unit powered on?” “Have you tried a different cable?,” after I explicitly had told them I had gone through the website’s troubleshooting guide, in totality. Finally after talking to three of the most stubborn and non-tech-savvy people on the planet, they transfer my call to someone with a brain. It is quickly determined that the video card in the TIVO is failing and the unit will need to be replaced. Fair enough. I arrange to have the unit shipped back (at their expense), and they will refund my money so I can purchase a new box.

After a month of waiting for the shipping label it arrives and I send the unit back. After another month they still have not credited my credit card. It takes three more calls just to get them to do it, twice they had no record of previous contact! Idiots… I don’t see how you can afford to run a business by employing the lowest common denominator, it just doesn’t compute. Anyway, I finally got my money and went to order a new TIVO. Guess what, they no longer offer life time subscriptions. TIVO, in this brief two month window, has decided to do away with life time subscriptions in favor of a monthly service charge. So, now I’m infuriated. I have no TIVO, largely because of their slowness, and I am beginning to experience withdraw symptoms. I didn’t want recurring fees, that’s why we didn’t go cable. What kind of low life gives a gift to someone that the recipient has to pay for the next year? Further, the only real service they offer is TV Guide, that’s it. The hardware is nothing special, no magic, nothing proprietary. People in the computer community call it cripple-ware, because in effect, you are paying for services that are offered free elsewhere.

I refuse to pay TIVO another dime, both for their new pricing structure and their substandard service. Enter the PVR (personal video recorder) computer. I started with an old computer I had sitting around. I purchased a new TV card for it and I was off. Immediately there were problems. The video would skip every five seconds or so. I spent hours trying to diagnose the problem. After a week of endless tests, I gave up. The computer sat for another month while I contemplated (fumed), letting my thoughts coalesce. After much thought I realized that it must be an issue of processing power. I finally bit the bullet and ordered a new motherboard and 64-bit processor, ram, the works. Not quite top of the line, but two generations newer than what I had been working with. Once the new equipment arrived I ecstatically installed all my new components. Now the video was not skipping, hooray! But wait! Now the audio was not in sync. RAR! The only possible piece still underperforming was the hard drive. It was brand new, but I got it at a bargain price. Now I know why. The old adage is apt; you get what you pay for. I put in an older, yet more reliable hard drive, and it works like a champ! I’m even using a beta copy of Windows Vista, the next generation windows environment not even commercially available (I have hook-ups).

All is well with the world. Our TIVO is back. Yes, I realize TIVO is a brand name, but it has become synonymous with any PVR system, much as Kleenex is used for any tissue. I wonder though, did my pride again bring more hurt than gain?

New motherboard, processor, and Hard Drive: $344.
New TV Card and DVD Drive: $160.
New 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound Speaker System: $216.

Spending countless hours troubleshooting and finally stroking my ego, thus not having to pay TIVO $400: priceless…
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