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opinion

‘Walmart on Campus’ and the Transformation of VCU and RVA

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VCU announced today that a new ‘Walmart on Campus,’ the shopping giant’s relatively new college store concept, is coming to the university. The 4,100-square-foot store will be located at 912 West Grace Street on the lower level of a new academic building. It’s Walmart’s fifth ‘mini’ on-campus concept and is slated to open late this year or in early 2015 at latest.

At first glance, the news kind of made my stomach turn. I’m admittedly not a big fan of Walmart or what the company stands for, like some of their employment practices, the way the company has been known to strong-arm its way into communities, and the resulting loss of locally owned stores that sometimes occurs when a new store opens.

I initially remarked on Twitter that I didn’t think a Walmart fit the ‘vibe’ of that area of campus:

Despite my reservations about the retail behemoth coming to campus, I was offered a few counter points in reply:

https://twitter.com/veggiegirlrva/status/497040377720102912

So while I may not be thrilled about a Walmart coming to VCU, it does prove two points:

1. VCU’s “vibe” that I spoke of has changed and evolved rather quickly.

It’s amazing how much VCU has changed and grown in the short time since I went there. The school’s been put on the national map (and really, helped solidified Richmond’s place on the map as well) following the success of the VCU Men’s Basketball program and Shaka Smart’s leadership. The VCUArts program is rated the best in the nation, too. We’re no longer some vague, hipster-y school.

Sure, there were chains on campus before, right down the street from the Grace Street development, like Barnes & Noble, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Qdoba Mexican Grill, and Extreme Pizza, to name a few. But since then, even more have popped up.

On West Grace Street, where the new Walmart is coming, the surrounding blocks are barely recognizable compared to a few years prior:

grace-street-transformation

2. National interest in Richmond is on the uptick.

Just as VCU has gained a fair amount of national exposure over the past few years, so has Richmond. We were named ‘Best River Town in America‘ by Outside Magazine. Another study ranked RVA as the ‘Happiest Metropolitan Area’ in the United States.’ Richmond’s dining and brewing scenes have exploded, and chefs and entrepreneurs continue to raise the bar, many receiving national attention.

Chains that once never even considered the Richmond market are either testing the waters with their first RVA locations–Wegman’s, for example–or expanding their presence–such as Whole Foods Market.

The bottom line is, in my opinion, it’s an exciting time to live in Richmond. The city continues to thrive, grow and change. Change is not always easy though, especially for Richmonders (remember the great #Ukropalypse of 2009?).

While I’m not particularly excited for a Walmart at VCU personally, there will be many positive benefits for nearby students and residents alike looking to take advantage of a discount retailer, of which there are very few in the immediate area. Plus, it’s a small store as far as Walmarts go.

Finally, the fact that a corporation the size of Walmart sees a downtown store as a viable location is good news in general for the city–a sign of just how much this ‘big small town’ has grown up, perhaps.

24 Perspectives On Life At 24: My Views, Thoughts & Beliefs Thus Far

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I turned 24 on Sunday, and before you scoff at a 24-year-old who you think is about to claim that he knows a thing or two about life at some ripe old age, please know that’s not what I’m doing here. Not in the least. What I want to do is provide my perspective on life thus far, what I’ve learned, and what I currently believe, keeping in mind the fact that I have so much more yet to discover about myself and my life. Hopefully this will serve as a sort of time capsule I can look back on later as well.

  1. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and quite often, doing the right thing can be the most difficult route. It’s sometimes tough to know which road to take, but as long as your moral compass is always pointing north, you’ll be guided to the end point eventually.
  2. People don’t listen to advice because, though they might say they do, they don’t actually want your advice, they want you to tell them what they want to hear–something that’s favorable to the outcome of the situation they’re seeking advice on.
  3. People that make fun of, bully, or belittle others do so to fill a void in their lives, whether that void is their own insecurities, skeletons in their closets, or general unhappiness with their current situations.
  4. Those that are too nice to others often times end up being doormats, whether others intentionally or subconsciously take advantage of their level of kindness and willingness to help that  goes above and beyond what most people are willing to do.
  5. If you like someone, never be afraid to tell them how you feel, whether it ends up coming back to bite you or not. If the feelings aren’t returned, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. And besides–things are only awkward when you make them awkward.
  6. Fear doesn’t exist outside of our own minds, but it’s a powerful force that can hold us back from our true potential and should (and can) be controlled. You can either have faith or fear in your heart, but there’s not room for both. Which do you choose?
  7. Surround yourself with people that lift you up, encourage you, and genuinely care for you. Toxic people might make for great “good time” friends, but you’ll quickly discover your true friends in times of personal crisis.
  8. Most people are genuinely good at heart, but so many put on façades to appeal to others, fit in, or other reasons that end up taking them off the straight and narrow path in life and cause them to treat others badly as a result. That being said, those same people usually tend to act totally different in a group of people versus one-on-one. It all goes back to insecurities.
  9. Nothing constructive usually happens on the comment sections of websites, especially news sites. People will do and say some awful things when their faces and identities are hidden from view. Would most of these things be said to anyone in person? Probably not. But behind a computer screen, anything goes, apparently.
  10. Always stand up for what you believe in, no matter how much it goes against the grain. Going back to what I said earlier, what’s right isn’t always popular, but what’s popular isn’t always right. Stick to your values–what makes you, you. In the words of the great Thomas Jefferson, “In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
  11. There is nothing more important, and in most cases, anyone that will ever love you more, than your family. Hold onto them and cherish them more than anything else if you have close family in your life. Everyone and everything else comes second.
  12. Respect your elders, but don’t ever be afraid to question anyone above you or in an authoritative position in general. Don’t always go along with something just because you feel like you’re supposed to be subordinate to someone else, especially if it just doesn’t feel right.
  13. Don’t gossip about people or tell anyone besides a close friend anything that you don’t want getting around. Because everything gets around and comes right back to you eventually.
  14. Do something every day that challenges you and puts you just outside of your comfort zone. There’s no reward without risk on some level.
  15. There are countless analogies between conducting business and dating. Many of the same principles apply, but in totally different capacities. But on a semi-related note, it’s best to not mix the two.
  16. You’re never going to make everyone happy or every person like you, no matter what you do. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying. Plus, the way I see it is that if you’re going to do anything great with your life, you’re going to make a few enemies along the way. It’s just the way it goes.
  17. Never rely on anyone else to fulfill you or make you happy. Happiness comes from within, from finding (and being) yourself, and just being okay with who you are as a person. You need to be happy with yourself before you try to be with anyone else in any relationship capacity, otherwise you’ll just end up in a hollowed out relationship and when the cards fall, it’ll most likely end badly. Too many people I’ve known over the years have made it seemingly their mission in life to find a significant other to date/marry/be with, and most all of them end up so focused on the destination that they don’t enjoy the ride. And isn’t that was life is really all about?
  18. Some of the most fun things I’ve done in my life have been completely unplanned, unscheduled, and totally spontaneous. I hate making plans for the most part, and most big events that are planned, especially on holidays, such as New Year’s Eve, end up having these big expectations attached to them that end up leaving you disappointed in the end. Sometimes you just have to roll with things and take them as they come.
  19. Life really is 10% about what happens and 90% what you do about it. Your reactions, your ability to learn from negative experiences, and your attitude about everything is what makes all the difference in the world.
  20. You get out of life what you put into it. A simple act of kindness goes a long way and just might brighten someone’s day. Donating your time to a charitable cause or giving back to someone or something that’s added value to your life will make you feel richer in your heart than any amount of money ever could.
  21. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, no matter what. You get what you pay for. As the old saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
  22. There are very few problems a long walk, great music, or a hearty laugh can’t at least make better, if not fix altogether.
  23. Life is way too short to hold grudges or not forgive people. There will always be folks who say and do terrible things to you, but carrying that baggage down life’s road with you will only weigh down your spirit and diminish your potential. It’s never easy to forgive someone, and doing so doesn’t justify their behavior. But it’s the right thing to do and necessary to fully heal and/or move on.
  24. Finally, take the time to get to know yourself on the deepest level possible. Discover your passions and what makes you tick–what makes you get up on a Monday morning, full of energy and ready to take on the day. Once you find that, you’ll live a more purposeful and meaningful life, and if you put some energy into it, you can probably make a living doing something you love. And if you can accomplish that, you’ll never truly work another day in your life, but rather make an income doing something that makes you incredibly happy.

Don’t Try And Label Me: A Rant On Political Assumptions Amidst Increasingly Polarized Parties

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Let me start off by saying that I think I’m a pretty charitable person. I participate in or fundraise for no less than probably ten different organizations from across the political spectrum (and those that have no political affiliation at all). I do it because I wholeheartedly feel that we’re all in this thing together–life, that is–and that we should all do our best to give back to those in need and lend a hand to those that need it when we’re able. I love finding opportunities to help those who are less fortunate or raise money for a worthy cause I believe in.

Lately though, a couple of things I’ve participated in have resulted in more than just a few questions (a couple of them may be better filed under “interrogation”) from those that I know. I’ve heard things like “I’m surprised to see you at [event], I thought you’re a Republican,” or “I can’t believe you’re going to [presidential candidate]’s breakfast, do you really support him?”

First off, I really don’t share my political or religious views that often. Especially online, over social media, etcetera. I have my views and to me they’re both a private matter and not something that I feel like I should have to debate with anyone. I do from time, but I just don’t feel like any good has ever come out of a conversation like that. Part of that might be because I’m someone that generally avoids conflict like the plague, but it’s also because such conversations end up being so polarizing.

I have friends that I can have a mutually respectful conversation about things of this nature with, but by and large I feel like it ends up being a death match. A lot of times when I’ve been in the midst of a discussion like this, the other person will end up arguing until they’re blue in the face, out of breath, or have gotten angry enough that they seem worried they’re causing irreparable harm to our friendship.

It seems as though nowadays some people have to have to tell everyone else why their opinion is wrong and their own is unquestionably right. This may come as news to some people, but an opinion can’t be either right or wrong. It’s an opinion. But I’m getting slightly off topic.

Having run a news website for the past eight years, I’ve tried to be completely unbiased in my reporting and have covered and written about things that go against my own views even. But it’s that very attempt that’s gotten me the most critical comments at times. The one thing I’ve noticed the most is that the people who claim to be the most tolerant are often times only that way until you show that you’re against their views, and then end up being sometimes the most intolerant. And that has nothing to do with party affiliation, I’ve seen it from both sides.

All this being said, if you must know, I consider myself independent. There. I have a variety of views across the board on a myriad of issues (both social and fiscal) and don’t completely line up with the views of either party enough to consider myself on one side of the fence or the other. Now I know there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos (also a book title), but I vehemently oppose certain things going on in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Here’s how I can best sum up how I feel: I think the Republicans should get out of our bedrooms and the Democrats should get out of our wallets, and I believe in the ideals of our Constitution and our Founding Fathers’ vision for our great nation, which I feel we’re straying from more and more. I’d say I respect the ideologies and political thinking of Thomas Jefferson more than anyone else. And there you have it. Oh and I’m a Christian who believes that God is love, and love conquers all. There. Any further questions? Now back to your regularly scheduled, vitrol-infused, heated Facebook comment threads, already in progress.

But seriously, I think we all (I’m not excluded from this, either) need to think twice before both assuming the political affiliations of those around us, as well as be a little more respectful of viewpoints that differ from our own. Because like I said in the beginning, we’re all in this together (cue the slightly cheesy Ben Lee song from that TV commercial) and plus, how boring would the world be if we all had the same opinions on the issues? I doubt it’d be as utopian as you might think.

Black Friday 2011: Midnight Chaos Edition

By | funny, opinion, rants, sarcasm | No Comments

My photo of the line at Urban Outfitters that made it onto Mashable.

I’ve always hated shopping. Absolutely loathe it. I still have nightmares about being dragged through the JCPenney as a small child all Saturday at Regency Square. The few times I’ve been out doing it for more than a couple hours (which has usually been as the mercy of a bargain-hungry female companion), I’ve practically been able to feel my soul slowly departing my increasingly lifeless body. Jokes aside though, the one day I set this all aside has always been Black Friday. Something about that day has always made me set those feelings aside.

Whether it’s the adrenaline of fighting the crowds for merchandise or just being in the midst of chaos and enjoying some five-star people watching, I can’t be sure. But I’ve always been all about it, albeit just a day out of the year.

For years, the concept has been simple: Get to bed early and wake up around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and drive around Short Pump, snap some photos for my website and buy some stuff that I probably would have anyway and get a deep discount on it. Perfect.

But, alas, this year all of the big box retailers apparently had a secret roundtable meeting in which they decided that they were going to opening at midnight (and of course Walmart, in its typical “let’s one-up them all” style, decided to open at 10:00 p.m. Thanksgiving night). Workers required to leave family celebrations early in some cases (over 200,000 Target employees signed a petition against the early opening), which I can’t say I agree with.

Still, I decided to take my sister out for our annual tradition, at midnight. You know, because I love fighting crowds before the tryptophan has had time to wear off my sister asked me to take her.

So we rolled out of the house at 10:30 p.m. for what my sister claimed was an 11:00 p.m. opening of Urban Outfitters, the slightly out-of-place hipster retailer that happens to be in the heart of Prepville USA, beautiful Downtown Short Pump.

We were some of the first in line because, well, the store opened at midnight, not 11:00. So once I swallowed this wonderful news, we enjoyed the picturesque scene of two 12-year-olds smoking in front of us in line and another kid that wasn’t much older brown bagging it. Classy.

Line at Short Pump Town Center from second floor.

Anyway, so once the doors opened, these kids practically trampled one another, so they only let a few people in at a time and cut all the lights off in the store so no one could see anything. The logic of anything going on at this store was fleeting.

So having lost my sister at this point in the sea of insane teens practically killing one another over cheap clothes, I opted to hang out outside the store by the fire pit and think warm thoughts until she came out an hour later… literally.

Next it was on to Target, where the line of people had wrapped around the building an hour earlier, and adjacent Best Buy, which almost circled the building a time and a half. What these people were lined up for is beyond me, considering there was no hot item or toy this year to speak of. Most people coming out had TVs if I could find any one theme or pattern.

Once we actually got into Target (the outrageous line was gone at this point), it was worthless to even buy anything that was on sale, considering the checkout line weaved through about 15-20 aisles in the front of the store. Nothing was worth waiting in that.

So I guess to conclude, and to put all sarcasm aside, I was skeptical as to whether people would actually come out in droves at midnight as opposed to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. like usual, but boy did they. In much bigger numbers, too. I guess will be the new normal. Heck in a couple years stores will be open 10:00 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, right?

The upside was that the following day, while the mall itself was pretty packed, Short Pump as a whole didn’t look much more busy than a typical Saturday around the holidays. Midnight shopping took care of the daytime crowds and effectively killed the typical gridlock of Black Friday morning.

Fortunately, I didn’t see anything like the crazy people at a Walmart that rioted over $2 waffle makers, but hey, my photo of the line at Urban Outfitters made it onto Mashable, which was pretty cool. Only thing I saw was a fight over a parking spot at the Short Pump Target. Three police cars showed up. It amazes me how people turn into animals over something so silly.

Why I’m All For Facebook Places And What It Means For Location-Based Social Networking

By | business, opinion | 2 Comments

About two and a half years ago, when I first signed up for this new thing I had heard about called Twitter, and long before I had ever uttered the word “social media,” I was introduced to what was probably the first location-based social network. It was called Brightkite, and only a handful of people I knew were using it, probably 90% of whom I knew through Twitter.

Needless to say, Brightkite has gone the way of Bebo and Friendster, joining a growing list of startups that ended up in a “failure to launch” kind of situation.

Flash forward to late 2009, and along comes Foursquare. I got an invitation to join when the Richmond network was in some stage of beta, and next thing I know, 50 people I knew were on board. About 10 months later, my list of Foursquare friends sits at around 350, a much smaller number than my Twitter or Facebook lists, but for several reasons.

One of those reasons is privacy. I asked myself, did I really want everyone knowing where I am at all times? Through built-in connection options on the Foursquare iPhone app, I’m able to selectively choose which check-ins I share with my broader social media family and which I keep to the smaller group I’m okay with knowing on Foursquare.

Just this week, Facebook announced what I see to be a complete game-changer for location-based social networking. Facebook Places, as it was dubbed, is the social media giant’s entrance into the market. With such a small number of the total population using services like Foursquare and its smaller competitor Gowalla, it would seem a safe bet that Facebook would take the concept mainstream with their base of over 500 million (and counting) users worldwide.

In my opinion, Facebook is off to a great start with Places. It’s simple and intuitive, and seems to pull places from a database such as Google Maps, much like Brightkite did, as opposed to relying on users to create venues. But, if a place isn’t listed or has incorrect information, you can still add or edit the venue. What’s more is creating a venue makes a Facebook Page for that place.

I’ve noticed that most of the places I’ve checked into so far that have an existing Facebook Page don’t have the venue linked to it, rather Facebook creates a new, bare bones page for the venue, if that makes sense. This is kind of annoying and I would think could become frustrating for end users and business owners alike, but I’m sure it’s something that will be tweaked in the near future.

Another issue is privacy. Facebook allows you to tag friends at the venue you’re at, without their consent. With Foursquare, another person had to check themselves into a venue before they’d show up in anything you posted from Foursquare to Twitter or Facebook. While that information will only be visible to your friends by default, you can choose to share it publicly.

In summary, I’m excited about the possibilities of Facebook Places. As more of my friends have signed up for Foursquare, it’s been cool to walk around The Fan or similar places and see a friend check in and meet up for a drink or other spur of the moment activities. Facebook is no doubt going to make location-based social media a household concept, unfortunately at the expense of the smaller startups. While there are privacy and technical issues to work out, I think this is about to spread like wildfire, and just like the advent and evolution of other social networks, I’m ready for the ride.

First RVA Social Media Club (SMCRVA) Meeting

By | business, events, life, opinion, technology | 2 Comments

I went to the first RVA Social Media Club (SMCRVA) last night at Morton’s Steakhouse downtown. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I walked in the door, I knew I had just entered the best business networking event in Richmond. I had the opportunity to put a lot of names with faces from people I follow on Twitter (maybe a more appropriate name for the organization would be “Richmond Twitter Club!”), as well as catch up with some old friends. It was an all-around great night, albeit a bit overwhelming with around 150 people in the room to meet. I think the first night was a great success and is just the beginning of big things to come from this organization. The networking opportunities are awesome. It really makes Richmond feel like one big family of friends.

I’m really amazed at what’s happened to Twitter over the past year or so. Back when I first got my account, well over a year ago, it was a novelty service. No one I knew was really on it, but that was the coolest thing about it. I got to know so many interesting people in Richmond and around the world, and even had “tweetups” (Twitter terminology for “meetups”) with some of the nice folks I met on the service. Now, though, everyone is on Twitter. Businesses are beginning to realize what great benefits social media has and they’re all jumping on the bandwagon. Twitter is just one big social experiment if you ask me, opening the doors to a new way to exchange news, ideas, support and business information in under 140 characters. Richmond is becoming a lot more close-knit because of it, and that’s a really cool thing in this day in age where everyone’s always on the go.

New Home Demolition: Our “Throw-Away” Society

By | environmental issues, opinion, rants, sarcasm, videos | 2 Comments

This is an absolutely disgusting example of how much of a “throw-away” society America has become. It’s one thing to tear down an old, non-historic house that’s beyond repair, but this is just a blatant waste. According to the video description, the house you’re about to see being demolished was torn down because the new owners didn’t like the house itself, only the lot. It can’t be more than 10-15 years old and it’s a gorgeous house that must be close to, if not more than, a million dollars. Once again, it’s one thing if you’re talking about a multi-million dollar oceanfront lot, but this one just appears to be in the middle of a typical neighborhood.

I hope the owners are ashamed of the wastefulness of their demolition project. It just further solidifies my opinion that we don’t value anything anymore. Just throw it away and get another one. Maybe that’s why we’re in such a mess ecomonically speaking right now, or why we’re in the midst of climate change. We always seem to think there’s endless resources out there. But I digress. It’s ridiculous nothing in this entire house was saved or reused. I’ve seen much older houses that were being demolished have almost everything stripped out of them first to be reused or recycled. Nothing in this house appears to have been salvaged. Shameful. Watch the video below. I’m sure you’ll agree in some way or another.

Following Christ: Duty Or Delight?

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I was incredibly inspired by the sermon this morning at Redemption Hill Church. There were so many things packed into one half-hour message it was amazing. The first question posed was a very thought-provoking one: Is following Jesus a duty that you perform or a delight that you have? It’s a very, very good question, and one that I never really gave much thought to.

How many of us have gone to church all our lives and never really stopped to think about why? It sounds strange, but chew on that for a second. I think we can become complacent over time and even start going for the wrong reasons, whether we think it’s just because we’re supposed to or to gain the acceptance of others, or a plethora of other reasons.

I feel that I’ve been this way throughout my walk with Christ for far too long. It’s only been recently, through the sermons and small groups of Redemption Hill, that I’ve really examined myself to see my true motives for why I do what I do. What I’ve found is that for at least the past 3-5 years, I’ve made going to church more of a dutiful thing than a delight. The thing I’ve come to realize is that once you really take a look at how God is working in your life and helping you to become the person you’re supposed to be, you’re filled with a sense of joy unlike anything else in this world. As that’s happened to me over the past month or so, I’ve begun to take great delight in both attending church and striving to live my life in a way that honors God. I have an understanding of myself and of God that I’ve never quite had before, and it’s a beautiful thing.

The next question that was posed was also a good one: Do you follow Jesus hoping that he’ll love you? What difference would it make for you to follow Jesus because He loves you? How is the source of motivation different? This is a powerful question. As human beings, we tend think that if we do more things that please God, He will love and accept us more, when in fact this is totally backwards. Jesus loves each and every person unconditionally, no matter their situation or how much (or little) they honor Him with their lives. The basic message of Christianity is Christ’s love, and this is the foundation of that principle.

Once we fully understand these two questions fully, I think we’re more inclined to delight in following Christ. I know it’s completely changed my outlook. We’re also more inclined to spread the love and joy of Jesus once we realize our glory is secured by the fact that Christ has died for us, and not based on how we follow Him. That’s not to say we shouldn’t live God-honoring lives. That’s paramount, but all too often this is the only message that is conveyed about Christianity. The message posed in these two questions is the one I think needs to be shared more often with non-Christians. Unconditional acceptance and love is the quintessential meaning of Jesus.

Finding A New Church Home

By | life, opinion, spirituality | One Comment

I’d like to preface this post by saying I started going to the church I attended up until this Sunday in mid-2003. There’s no need to mention its name to the masses here on the Interweb because this isn’t meant to be a knock on them. That being said, some of you from Redemption Hill probably know where I’ve been attending. I’d like to share my church history with you all to help you understand what point I’m at in my life and walk with Christ. It’s a bit long, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

I’ve considered myself a Christian since I was old enough to understand what it meant, maybe a little older. But only recently have I understood what it means to be a follower of Christ. I’ve grown to understand that Christian and Christ follower are not synonymous, contrary to my thinking for years. Anyone can say they’re Christian, but there are a lot of people that fail to back up this statement with the way they live out their lives. Anyone can “talk the talk,” but a smaller number actually “walk the walk.”

I feel like I’ve been one of those people. Sure, I’ve always gone to church most every Sunday, I pray, and consider myself a pretty good person. But lately I’ve really taken the time to examine myself and my actions, and realized that those things, while good, aren’t nearly enough. Truth be told, I’ve never actually read the Bible in any depth before. That’s probably the biggest thing, and I guess that’s because I’ve never connected with a small group that’s motivated me to take my faith to the next level. Truth be told, it was always difficult to connect with anyone in the congregation at my former church, my age or otherwise. The people always seemed cold to a certain extent, even when I made a concious effort to connect with them. It was just the demeaner of the church, I suppose.

Throughout my half-decade at this particular church, I began to get heavily involved in several ministry teams. I started by running the on-screen lyrics and video in the back of the auditorium. I then transitioned to the multimedia team, where I helped edit videos that the church produced to coincide with the coming week’s Sunday morning message. I found this work very rewarding at first, mainly because I saw how people were touched, and even came to Christ, on various occasions after seeing the end result of our production efforts. But after a while, I started to get burnt out and realized I wasn’t volunteering for the right reasons anymore.

I was basically volunteering my time because I was pressured to do so by others and because I felt obligated. I therefore no longer received the joy that came from seeing how peoples’ lives were touched by our productions. I took some time off from my duties to take a step back and see if it was what the Lord was calling me to do or not. I didn’t get an answer right away, but that didn’t mean He wasn’t listening to my prayers. Everything is done in God’s time, not ours, which I think we all fail to remember from time to time.

To make an incredibly long story a bit shorter, it was when I returned to the ministry that I realized it was not where God wanted me to be. The Technology Director, whom I worked under, and I had major personality differences. He, as well with most leaders of this organization, are very rigid, structured people who focus on putting on a big, polished production every Sunday. I, on the other hand, am very laid back and not into the high-pressure environment that encompassed the church. I also felt that it got to the point where there was much more focus put on aesthetics and putting on a show than nurturing personal relationships with Christ. The church is run very much like a corporate office.

I do realize that the goal of this church is to reach people who have always been turned off to church, never liked it, or would otherwise never give it a chance. At the same time, though, I think too much attention was put on bringing new people in, and not enough was put on fostering growth of those already there. The “turnover rate” that I’ve seen clearly exhibits this.

I started feeling the same way. My soul hungered for more than the church was providing. I even attended a few small groups but didn’t seem to connect with the people or the curriculum. But I still talked with Kamen, who I met when we volunteered together at this church in the video production team, on a regular basis, and he told me about Redemption Hill. Before long I decided to give it a try.

I’ve visited Redemption Hill 3 times, and I just have to say I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. The first morning I walked into Linwood Holton Elementary, I didn’t know what to expect. My family is still attending the other church, so I came by myself, and sat in the back. Not even a minute or two later, three people my age had come by and said hello, and before I knew it there was a whole group surrounding me. These people took me in and treated me just as if we’d been friends for years. It may not be a big deal to people who are used to that simple gesture of kindness, but it meant the world to me. I almost couldn’t believe it, simply for the fact that it was so unlike anything that would ever happen at my former church. At that church, you could attend every week and remain completely anonymous if you so chose. At Redemption Hill, I found that’s not the case, and I really think that’s a great thing. I really want to thank you all for being so warm and inviting. It really gave me renewed hope in what a church could be. I also attended one of the small group meetings at the Goodletts’ home and connected with the group and the discussion immediately.

Over the past month or so since I first attended, I’ve been back to my old church a few times, partly because my family still attends there, and partly because I was still thinking and praying over where I was supposed to be. It meant a lot to me that you guys cared enough to call, text, and send me messages on Facebook asking where I was on those weeks.

I’m happy to say that after that month of deliberation, I’ve found a new church home at Redemption Hill. I’ll be attending every Sunday now. I’m looking foward to entering this new chapter in my life, and I know that God has led me here for a reason. I also look foward to growing in Christ along with each and every one of you. Thanks for showing me the love of Christ with your actions. I’m excited to have finally found a new church home.

XM & Sirius Merge Channel Lineup: My Thoughts

By | business, music, news, opinion, rants, technology | 3 Comments

I’ve been an XM subscriber for a good year and a half now, and have always enjoyed their programming lineup. Well, the rumor I had heard lately, that XM and Sirius were going to merge their channel lineup, came true just two hours before posting this. At midnight, the switch took place. It appears more XM channels were replaced by pre-existing Sirius channels than vice-versa. It makes sense, considering Sirius technically bought out XM in the supposed “merger of equals” as the deal was described. (I’ve personally never understood why XM wasn’t the one buying Sirius, considering their significantly larger subscriber base). I have a lot of mixed feelings about the merger. Let’s get started.

First off, I know the merger of redundant programming on two channels (one on each service) into one channel on both will save the company, currently hemmoraging money, lots of coin. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of many long-time employees at both satellite radio services. I heard the number of people let go was in the hundreds. As far as consolidation goes, I think some of the names of the stations Sirius previously had, that took over XM stations, are silly. I don’t even necessarily listen to the following stations, but they’re relevant examples. Why replace XM’s light alternative rock station “The Heart” with “Sirius XM Love?” Silly name. Then again in some cases neither station’s equivilent station makes any sense. XM’s classic alternative rock channel “Lucy” got replaced by Sirius’ “Lithium.” Go figure either one of those. Some replaced stations do have better names now, though. My favorite station, ’90s & ’00s hot adult contemporary station “Flight 26” was replaced by Sirius’ “The Pulse.” I do like the name better.

I’ve been listening to The Pulse for the past two hours and haven’t really noticed any big differences. I’ve caught a few “new” (to the station) songs sprinkled in, like a catchy track from The Killers I hadn’t heard before, but nothing else out of the ordinary. My guess is the same program director will stay at the reigns, and the only shift will be in the name. The on-air personalities now include two from each station, with the exception of one Flight 26 personality, P.J., who was either let go or was moved to another station. Even the voiceover guy is the same, as I’ve discovered with most other respective channels as I’ve flipped around the dial tonight. The new imaging packages by the voiceover team all say “[Name of station] on Sirius XM] now and come wrapped in a much tighter package, all sounding very quick, snappy, and punchy.

What I don’t get, and don’t agree with, is Sirius XM’s decision to integrate programming lineups but keep channels different on both services. In fact, I think if they’re going to do this, they should go big or go home. What’s the point in having the same channel lineup on both services, yet have different channel numbers for each? I know nothing about exactly how the technology will now be implemented and combined, but my guess would be they could decomission either the XM or Sirius (one or the other) satellites and have only one previous company’s satellites serve the combined subscriber base. It would most definitely save the company a lot of money. Plus, XM’s channel bandwidth could then be used to expand Sirius’. The sound quality on either service has always been questionable. I’ve heard better stereo sound from a cassette tape. The biggest difference can heard when you switch between highly-compressed XM and an insanely-processed, polished-sounding radio station, such as Q94. Using XM’s bandwidth for Sirius’ channels would allow the combined company to allot more bandwidth to each station, effectively dramatically improving sound quality. I’ve heard that music channels are compressed as low as 64kbps (half of what is considered mediocre to good MP3 quality), and some talk channels as low as 16kbps. I can’t confirm this, but I believe it.

Why not just lose the silly Sirius XM moniker and pick one name? I think, for simplicity’s sake, just one should be used. Also, get rid of the channels hardly anyone listens to, like the three French music channels and “The 40s.” How many people do you know in their 80s (that’s how old you’d have to be to reasonably remember music from the 1940s) that listen to satellite radio, much less even know what it is? It’ll be interesting to see how all this plays out, and the response from subscribers. We all knew this was coming. The company is looking to bring value to its shareholders by cutting costs, and this was the quickest way to do just that. I think in the long run, after customers such as myself accept and adapt to the changes, it will be a good thing for everyone.