Merry Christmas

Christmas 2018

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”



Friends, as you have noticed, my blog activity has slacked-off. It is not from lack of interest, illness, Islamic terrorists or even Vatican albino monk assassins. My daughter is marrying a fine young man tomorrow!

This month has been a whirlwind of activity. Yours truly, as Father of the Bride, has been mightily preoccupied with wedding and reception preparations. Blogging has necessarily had to temporarily take a back seat.

Next week should be back to semi-normal, while out-of-town guests begin returning to places far and wide. Look for an archive post (always a set of 3) next week and, next Saturday being the first of the month, another edition of New Evangelists Monthly.

Stylish blogger award

Stylish Blogger

I follow a LOT of Catholic blogs, some very popular ones and some lesser known gems. Getting the opportunity to bring a little more attention to those is the idea behind the Stylish Blogger Award meme. It works like this: to accept the “award,” you share with your readers 7 things about yourself and get to pass the award onto 5 worthy bloggers.

Colleen over at Inadequate Disciple, in an obviously weak moment, chose me! So, here are 7 things about me that you would otherwise not know from reading my blog (and quite honestly, probably don’t care about! – feel free to skip to my reward recipients below):

  1. In college, I was into all sorts of things: Tae Kwon Do (1st degree black belt), sky diving, Phi Sigma Kappa, hosted a “progressive rock” college radio show (at WKDU FM) and Mensa (other than becoming Catholic, I am much dumber now).
  2. While growing-up I wanted to become an electrician. My parents and their friends let me do all manner of electrical work. Starting college I thought I wanted to be an EE (electrical engineer), but that changed when I discovered computers (early 1970s).
  3. I was hired full-time onto the university computer center professional staff between my 2nd and 3rd year to assist faculty research. I was a geek not only before it was cool to be a geek, but before the term was invented. This was a unique, exceptional opportunity and a fantastic deal for me – pay, benefits, free tuition, unlimited access to computing resources and full access to the faculty club. There, I enjoyed lunch in the penthouse with my profs – often enjoying a bologna sandwich (my favorite) and knocking-back a “cold one.” (Interesting side-note: I was underage, but apparently it didn’t occur to them that someone underage could be there.)
  4. We had difficulty reaching birth of our children – and so did my parents. I was 38 by the time my daughter was born. My dad’s age was almost the same (only 76 days difference) when I was born.
  5. I created a bunch of websites to support various groups in my community (e.g. this and this). Last February I also re-implemented my parish website. I do this kind of work professionally for small businesses so I have the skills and resources to donate these services.
  6. I have been involved in my community for a long time, serving many years on our city Planning and Zoning Commission (mostly as chairman) then on city council for four years (yup, an elected politician). We also have a unique community chapel of which I served as a director and president (my dear wife of 33 years similarly served, so we have a spirited debate on who did the most when the topic comes up!).
  7. Around the house, I am excited about 2 recent projects: abandoning cable and telco landlines. In place of cable, we now use over-the-air HDTV (which is excellent, BTW), Netflix streaming and Hulu Plus for a total cost of around $16/mo (vs. $62). In place of telco landlines, I use VOIP for 2 lines at a total cost of around $10/mo (vs. $70+). In addition to saving money, this offers some nice benefits in both cases over the “old way” (some minor losses too, but more than offset by the gains).

Picking only 5 blogs worthy of greater attention is difficult. As a convert myself (and with my special focus on convert and revert bloggers), I have decided to choose from that group. There are many excellent blogs (converts and not), but I pass the Stylish Blogger Award torch along to:

Hello WordPress!

Hello Wordpress

Convert Journal has been re-implemented on a new blogging platform! Subscribers (RSS/Atom feeds, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, etc.) should not be affected. The site URL (and all old URLs within the site) should still work fine. In short, you should not have to do anything at all to read it in whatever fashion that you have been. I am keeping my fingers crossed…

Until now (18 months), I have published this blog on Google’s Blogger service. It has served us well in general and is an excellent platform for basic blogging. There have been some disappointments however:

  • Early on, the blog simply vanished and was replaced by a Google message that gave the impression I had closed or deleted it (I had not). That put me into a panic! Of course, with Google there is never anyone to contact or notice. I eventually found some hoops to jump through, waited and finally the blog reappeared. Again, without any explanation or notice. This happened twice. I moved the blog to dedicated account hoping that would help but have been concerned ever since. I remain a staunch Google fan, but my trust in Blogger was shaken.
  • Blogger comments are awkward and at least one of my subscribers has had difficulty leaving them. I suspect Blogger in this case.
  • About a month ago, Blogger went unavailable for updates or new posts for a day or two. I can live with that more than some bloggers, but it doesn’t build confidence.
  • In the last few weeks Blogger has caused my “Latest Posts” widget to be unreliable. No explanation, just odd.

Beyond the disappointments, as I learned more about blogging I kept running-up against more and more Blogger limitations. Fortunately, I am a geek with solid web skills so I was able to accomplish some things with CSS tricks, some JavaScript, sub-domains, etc. For example, the Essays page, Videos page and list of convert books were all produced by custom code.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I really appreciate Google, their Blogger service and think it fills an important need. For myself, personally (I know, redundant), I am ready for something with more capability and reliability – that is WordPress.

Before using Blogger I had setup 2 previous Blogger blogs and so it is with WordPress. At the end of last year I jumped into WordPress for another Catholic site – something I will share with you soon. I had known a good bit about their history (if not the hands-on experience until last year) of WordPress and was favorably disposed toward them. When I re-implemented the other site in WordPress I knew it would be the right choice and it definitely was. I was quite impressed. At that time, we also went with a template framework from StudioPress. That was also a very good choice as the Genesis framework is truly excellent, their prices and license very reasonable and support is outstanding. I still don’t think this is for newbies, but for those with the underlying skills, it is a powerful base upon which to build a blog. Naturally, I chose WordPress and StudioPress for this re-implementation.

WordPress is a high-quality, Open Source product that has gotten better and better over the years. Like Blogger, it is offered at as a service. They host your blog for you on their servers at no charge but with certain limitations. To fully unleash the power of WordPress, it needs to be “self-hosted.” Fortunately that is no problem for me as I already have a powerful, highly reliable Virtual Private Server for my business clients.

I keep calling this a “re-implementation” and not a “port” because so much has changed “under the covers.” Much of my custom programming has been replaced by the native power of WordPress, Genesis and plugins.

The re-implementation keeps the general appearance of the original site. Frequent visitors will notice some changes but there has not been a wholesale design replacement. There is more “polish.” The new infrastructure is much easier for me. For example, the Essays page is now generated automatically. Maintenance is easier too, such as finding and fixing broken links on old posts. I can finally make edits (such as fixing typos) on comments – something that always annoyed me with Blogger’s apparent decision that editing comments was somehow wrong.

I hope this has been helpful for my techie and blogger readers. I am sure most of my usual audience had stopped reading after the first paragraph or two! As always, feel free to comment or send me an E-mail if you like.

A night out

A Night Out

Last Saturday night I was fortunate to spend the evening at a shelter for homeless men in downtown Atlanta. I was with Derek and Tom from our men’s group and Derek’s daughter Erin as the overnight volunteer crew. This ministry of hospitality and compassion is called the Central Night Shelter and is housed in two neighboring churches – Central Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. No taxpayer money goes to this good work.

We met at our church at 6pm Saturday night and returned Sunday morning in time for the 7:15am Mass. Tom and I were new at this, but Derek (who is in diaconate formation) has volunteered many times over the last 6 or 7 years. The shelter is open from November through March offering meals, a warm / safe place to sleep, restrooms, showers, laundry and more. This video gives a good overview:

The first order of business when the men arrive is dinner. Saturday’s menu included Broccoli-Pasta Alfredo, salad, roll and drinks. Dessert was cake and ice cream. We volunteers dined with the guests and learned a little about each other. The gentleman sitting across from me was staying that night for the first time.

After dinner the room was setup for sleeping. Lights out at 9pm except for the television room which closes at 11pm (we went a little long until the football game ended). In the morning everybody is given a breakfast bag and a lunch bag for the day.

The guests are truly grateful for this ministry and it was a pleasure to be with them. They were always polite, kept everything tidy, got tables / chairs / mats out and put them away, swept and mopped floors, etc. Your heart quickly goes out to these good people and you pray that they will soon have opportunities to move out.

One special surprise was live music! The Jordan B Band played for almost 2 hours and was enjoyed by all. Jordan lives down the street from me and also plays at our 8:45am Sunday Mass. He and his fellow musicians are very talented, sincere and engaging. Here is an interview they did on a local TV station:

More interviews, along with performances of their original Christian music, is on their YouTube channel. Somehow, YouTube doesn’t do them justice when compared to the live performance. More information may be available on their website.

Jordan and his compatriots have an exceptional ministry, touching many in the greatest need. Everyone was uplifted and very appreciative of this special contribution.

Volunteering here was a wonderful experience for me too. I suspect it wasn’t so great for Tom, who must have drawn the short straw for my shift, putting up with me until 3:30am. If you have a shelter in your area, please consider volunteering your time. There are many ways to help. I know I will be back.

The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a fascinating history dating back to 1848. During the Civil War, Father Thomas O’Reilly was respected by both sides. When Sherman ordered the burning of Atlanta, Father O’Reilly used his influence to protect the church and neighboring Protestant churches. After the war, the church served the homeless. It continues in that role today. The history of the shrine is quite interesting.