Ironworks Gang 2: What makes a healthy small group?

??Jode Poley?? (“Existential Stillborn”: and ??Darin Pesnell?? (“Peznet”: join me for a discussion about what makes a successful small group ministry (Ironworks 1.0 was our college small group back in the day). Big ups to Vessel for use of the intro.

*Ironworks Gang Drinking Game*: Do a shot for every time we use the phrase “There’s a sense where…”

We’re still playing with the format. The next podcast will likely include more awkward silences. And I won’t talk, I’ll just tell horrible jokes. And laugh at them. The whole time.


My “brother-in-law”: would like to write about his addiction to Guitar Hero II, but he’s still too busy trying to master that solo in “Psychobilly Freakout” at the Expert level, thankyouverymuch. We got a chance to develop some repetitive stress injury on their new wireless fender during our last trip into the frozen Ithaca tundra. It was a lot of fun, but what I’m really waiting for is Bluegrass Hero — I’ve already got my 37-button wireless mandolin on order at Amazon.

“Danny and Kim Iverson”: came over last weekend with their son DJ. They’re working on growing a church in one of the more impoverished areas of Newark, not more than a couple miles from our place: real, front lines, give away everything you’ve got and come follow me ministry work. Danny lit up when he saw the guitar case in our living room. “You play?” he beamed at me. “I hack,” I said, admitting that I had learned some chords to lead worship at our college Bible study.

I opened up the case and showed him the axe; the strings were embarrassingly old and the guitar out of tune. I toyed with it for a minute or two before handing it to him, watched him place the capo at the second fret _backwards_ leaving open the top E, B and bottom E strings (“for that alternate tuning, but open sound”, he explained), and noodle through a few things he had written. He held us captivated for a few minutes before handing it back.

Later that night I went back to my to-do list and added, “practice guitar more often”.

Podcast Beta

Okay, it might not be called Ironworks Gang when it’s done (even if it would be a nice nod to Steve Gillmor), but here it is, the inaugural podcast. In this week’s episode I was joined by ??Tom Wilkinson??, the soon-to-be-famous movie writer/director, and ??Darin Pesnell??, soon-to-be-famous pastor. The model is this: get a bunch of smart people that I like to talk to on a “free conference call”:, gab about stuff that’s interesting to us for an hour, and call it a podcast. Here’s this week’s topics:

* “Open Secrets”: by ??Malcolm Gladwell??
* the “iPhone”:
* the upcoming “IAM conference”:
* “Wal-Mart Puts Some Muscle Behind Power-Sipping Bulbs”: (if that doesn’t work you can “read it here”:

Enjoy, let us know what you think, and leave a comment if you want to be on the next one! Oh, and special thanks to “Vessel”: for use of their music.

Full Circle

We went to our first birthing class last night to, you know, figure out how to have a baby. It was hosted over at “realbirth”:, and taught by a good friend of ours at The Village Church.

While I’ve talked to Hallie quite a bit, it was _amazing_ to watch her teach a class on childbirth. She spoke with passion and a frankness that visibly relieved the worries of many of the parents-to-be in the room. Better, it was high-bandwidth communication: we sat there and absorbed every word, every gesture, and every silence she dealt out with the hope of getting a better handle on this wild and messy process.

Better still, I got the special privilege of seeing my work benefit countless couples in the city. A number of times throughout the class, Hallie pointed us back to “her site”: for reference material and resources for expectant parents. Just tonight, I went back to flip through and remember how “Scott”: and I put it together: the design was Scott’s, the Movable Type templates, PHP magic, markup and stylesheets were my responsibility. We shot for the moon when it came to extensibility — everything from the color schemes to the content to the photographs are changeable without writing a single line of code or modifying a stylesheet.

There have been a few times since we finished where Hallie mentioned how great the site has been for her, and it’s always a wonderful feeling to hear from a client two years after the fact that your work is _still valuable_ to them. But, being in that room full of young, scared, and hopeful New Yorkers and together dutifully jotting down her site address for future reference, it was apparent that all the effort from those nights and weekends had come full circle.


Sarah’s been feeling really good with the pregnancy, and we’ve been having fun getting together to talk about baby stuff: baby names, baby food, baby strollers, baby toys, “babies everywhere”: We’ve got mad, mad plans for the apt (which we’re staying in for now). The “office” will become half office, half nursery with crib, changing table, wardrobe, uh, desk and, er, filing cabinet. I’m hoping to introduce the geekdom early into our child’s education.

We never cease to be amused at the world of baby: the clever marketing tactic that Babies R Us uses to “highlight items”: you maybe “forgot” to register for, or the “$700 designer strollers”: you can buy, or the “endless”:, “fearful”: reminders to enforce Baby Rule #1: do not kill the baby.

Thankfully, Sarah’s been doing a ton of research and we’ve been reading some very level-headed books, so we feel as though we can transcend some of the baby madness. Russ & Sarah, Irene, Marla (our midwife — whose name I can’t help think of without adding “you _tourist_”), Hallie, and a dozen couples at the Village Church have all been really helpful with advice and insight so we can maybe move on to Baby Rule #2: do not screw up the baby’s life.

One day my son or daughter will look at me and say, “your blog was so boring before you were a dad.”


Steve Jobs speaks next week (Tuesday! 12PM EST!) at Macworld. The world waits with baited breath. Well, okay, maybe that’s just me. But with good reason as we’re considering adding a new Mac to our household. You know. For the baby.


The redesign of the site continues with Flickr photos up top. Jai’s right, the stylesheet needs some love so the site doesn’t look like an embarrassment for a 1997 web designer. I’ve still got to integrate some RSS feeds into the timeline to build out the “attention stream,” just as soon as I figure out how. I was considering using “Planet”:, but it’s kind of a kludgey solution given that I have no real love for the command-line. Why can’t someone just build this in PHP and slap a web-interface over top of it?

You, too, Tom

Our friends, Tom and Alissa, are getting married next weekend! We couldn’t be more excited for them. They’ve even asked me to particpate in their celebration by being the best man.

Being best man is an honor that I don’t take lightly. Signing the witness statement, encouraging the groom, holding Alissa’s wedding ring, and making the best man speech are important responsibilities for the day to go smoothly.

But, the Bachelor Party: this is something we must ensure brings the greatest nobility and respect to our dear friend, who is about to embark upon a new milestone of adulthood. And, just for the record, I happen to have video evidence of just how my groomsmen — _including_ Tom — brought this same honor upon me. Tom has helped set the bar for the level of dignity which we might now, four years later, be privileged to bestow upon him.



I can’t wait. 😉

On the Radar: Digg Dug Edition

* ??Chris Welch??: “Misconception: Renting is for Suckers”: (“via Matt”: Many of my friends are reaching that point in their lives where they’re considering buying a home. However it’s unfortunate that so many choose to buy over rent, especially in this expensive market, because many well-intentioned people are buying homes that are actually damaging their finances.
* ??Fresh Pursuits?? “Canvas”: Canvas brings the freedom to express yourself through design without needing to know CSS or PHP. With Canvas and Ink for WordPress, you can easily rearrange, reconfigure, and colorize your entire blog without ever touching a line of code.
* ??Michael Barrish??: “Hell Freezes Over”: Revamped and redesigned, it uses haikus in place of business copy (I couldn’t bear to write business copy) and features a new weblog about making websites (you’re soaking in it). Wondering what “Michael”: is up to, I find his new, angsty, neurotic web design company website. Brilliant work.
* I’ve really begun to dig “digg”: lately. As usual, I’m behind the curve (“digg just launched version 3 of their site”:, but I think I’m just one of those people that has to see something working well before I can grok it. For the uninitiated, digg is a news site that has its content submitted by users. I had initially dismissed it as another “mob rule by the masses” type app (you know, enhancing the “echo chamber”: effect of blogs), but it regularly produces some interesting results. Check it out, and “add me as a friend”:.
* ??Granite Consulting??: “Late Binding in Microsoft Access”: In essence: if you’re exporting to Microsoft Excel from Access programmatically, just use late binding.
* ??Joshua Porter??: “The MySpace problem”: Joshua gives some thought to what aspect of “design” MySpace really excels at. Hint: it’s not the graphical type. Instead of wondering what MySpace could be, let’s learn from what it is. Let’s assume (forgetting visuals for a moment) that MySpace is well-designed instead of condemning it as a visual failure. Let’s ask the obvious questions: why is it so popular? What makes it so successful? The answers to these questions might make us rethink our basic assumptions, but will make our future designs stronger as a result.
* ??Jason Calacanis??: “The new publishing model”: (“via Matt”: Here is the new model: 1. Start a blog with adsense and make spare change. 2. Scale a blog to 250k to 1M pages a month and become big enough for Federated Media, AdBrite, and Blogads to care about you (i.e. sell you’re inventory)–now you’re making a living. 3. Scale over 1M pages a month and become big enough that you can afford your own sales group and fire Federated Media for taking 40% of your money because your cost of sales will be 15-20% as a stand alone business.
* YouTube: “Pirates of The Caribbean Ride”: (“via Mike”: Johnny Depp meets an animatronic version of himself as Captain Jack on Disney’s new Pirates ride. Very cool.
* ??Lifehacker??: “Windows Vista Beta: A tour in screenshots”: Wow, not bad, Microsoft. I mean, after some five years of development, you’d hope that Vista wouldn’t be incredibly atrocious. There’s quite a bit of OS X influence in the finder here (nudge–hey Apple: time to get past “brushed metal”: in “the finder”:, by the way), and I’m glad they’re getting away from the “Fisher Price”: school of design.
* ??Angela Wu??: “So much rage”: I’ll agree to this mission if I can be assured that your rage level (which was off the charts that unforgettable night which still haunts me) will stay at a reasonable level. It’s true: I’m hosting Anglela’s website because she strong-armed me into it. Fear the rage.
* ??Jen Poley??: “1966 Plymouth Fury II”: What can I say? Jode and Nathan wanted a car to work on….we found this in Lincoln, and bought it. We hope to restore it, but if you can believe it, for now we are just really enjoying driving it around town. I can just imagine how much Jode is enjoying this.


Update: if you loaded this page in the last hour or so and saw a bunch of garbage — yeah, that was me. I was trying to set up the “FlickrRSS” cache so this site would load a little faster. I think I got it working; the the site is loading a lot faster!

On the Radar: Slow Week Edition

Uninteresting week? Or has Ken been busy? You decide.

* ??Slate??: “The Misunderestimated Man”: Fascinating piece about Bush’s “aggressive anti-intellectualism,” viewed through the lens of his relationship with his dad.
* Don’t drink and blog. Some revelers from Portugal day a couple of weeks ago found the Newark blog and “voiced some opinions about the party”: I’m glad they found the site, but it looks like they were maybe a wee bit tipsy…
* ??Jen Poley??: “Route 34, three liars, road kill, and the truth”: Oh, those Poleys…
* ??Jason Fried??: “Getting in too-much touch (interruption is not collaboration)”: Being productive isn’t something that just happens. You don’t just sit down and be productive. Real productivity takes time. It’s a process. You make your way into it. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes or a half hour or an hour or more to really get in that zone. And when you’re in that zone you are actually getting real work done.
* ??Mark Liberman??: “PHPEnkoder for WordPress”: Ooh, this could help us fight spam for emails posted on the “Village Church site”:
* Oh, and check out “these photos”: of Owen Pesnell from “last weekend”:

Weekend Update: Revenge of the Babysat

Spent Saturday cleaning up the apartment for our guest, whom Sarah brought home with her from Manhattan in a carseat. Owen Pesnell stayed with us overnight Saturday so Darin & Krissy could celebrate their anniversary. Owen did really well with us, and we even returned him mostly-undamaged. A short jaunt down to the Independence Park gave us lots of photo opps as Owen slid, climbed, rocked, and ran himself out of baby-steam.

Unfortunately, with all his frivolity, he (and we) didn’t notice his collision course with an oncoming miniature bicyclist. After bouncing his noggin off of the sidewalk, we thought for sure we were in for a full-fledged freak out. Instead, he shrugged us off and proceeded to the nearest climbing wall. When I told Krissy, she nodded sagely and replied, “Yup, that’s our son.”

Dina was very excited to greet our new guest, who was less-than-enthused to be covered in dog saliva. Most of our effort that night was in helping Dina resist the urge to inspect the squeeling, taunting, food-flinging toddler. Pictures forth-coming.

Sunday at the Village Church, where Darin _rocked_ the “Deuteronomy 8 passage”: he and I had discussed only a few days earlier. It was cool to hear some of our conversations surface in his message. Great job, Pez.

That afternoon we treated Charlie to all the _paella_ and _sangria_ he could consume, and 3 months of Netflix for Father’s Day.

After Charlie and Irene had gone, Dina, Sarah and I collapsed on the bed and napped.

Then I installed “this”: to replace our “crappy webmail”:

Monday came too soon.