Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My Novel

So I’ve been working on the novel, again. And I had mentioned, in a previous post, that I’d had an idea for another novel.

Well, I had a brilliant thought, and I can combine both books together as one. And it’s going very well, because I’ve already done some work on it. I think it’s turning into a pretty good story, with a possible twist.

Of course, the real question is if I can square, in my conscience, doing a book like this, at the same time I’m doing a book called Leaving God in the Driver’s Seat.

Oh well. In the meantime, I’m enjoying writing. Or, at least, I would be enjoying writing, if I wasn’t so stressed from work...

Friday, August 26, 2005


I’m having a heckuva week. Lots of stress, let me tell you! But I took a look at Psalm 46 this morning, which was a big help.

Especially verse 10:

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

We often don’t take time to reflect on God when we’re stressed.

But we should.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I found out something interesting today. A colleague was adding me to his MSN Messenger list, and when he saw that my name is sernaferna, he mentioned that this is very close to a word in his language, searfira, which means something along the lines of “crazy person”.

Update on serna's life

Man, I’ve had the worst couple of days. Of course, it’s all work related, so I won’t go into it here. So... once again, I’ve wasted your time with a blog entry.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More Publishing Woes

Because of my problems finding a Canadian Christian publisher, my pastor found one for me. Unfortunately, when I took a brief glance at it, it looks like it might be a vanity press. Which isn’t necessarily bad... I had been considering using a vanity press before.

But, on the other hand, I’d really love to be able to publish this through a “real” publisher. It almost seems like I’m giving up on that, by going to a vanity press. It’s like I’m saying “well, I know I can’t get it published, so I’ll go this route instead”.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Children's Story: The Bible

My last children’s story was on August 14th. I won’t bother doing this one “transcript style”, though, since it was very short.

The point of what I told the kids that morning was simply this: although the Bible tells us much about how to live our lives, it doesn’t tell us everything. That’s why we have also been given prayer, and good ol’ fashioned faith.

My Friends

Sometimes, when I’m reading blogs by friends of mine, I get very worried for them. And it’s often kind of a grey area, as to whether it’s any of my business to get involved or not. (They are my friends, after all, but at the same time, it’s not like we’re best friends, so if people don’t come to me for advice about some things, I don’t know if I should be offering it or not...)

So, yeah. If you’re a friend of mine, and I know your blog URL, then I probably am reading it from time to time, even if I’m not always commenting. And if you need to talk, you know I’m always here. I don’t always like giving advice, because that can be very dangerous, but on the other hand, my friends from church also know that I don’t shy away from letting them know when they want to stray from the path. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but, on the other hand, sometimes you don’t have to have it all figured out, you just have to be objective about the situation.

But they also know that I only do it in love. If you’re a friend of mine, I only want what’s best for you. I don’t want you to get hurt, I don’t want you to be sad, and I don’t want you to be depressed - either now, or, perhaps more importantly, in the long run.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Still Breathing - Just Not Blogging

Faithful readers will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a while. Fear not, I am still alive.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve just

A) Been busy
B) Not had anything to say.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My HTML Editor

Well, I’ve been trying it out for a while now, and I’m ready go go ahead and recommend the HTML editor I’ve been using. It’s called HTML-Kit, and you can get it here.

Now that I have a good HTML editor, what I’ve been able to do is create an HTML template on my computer which looks just like the blog, and then see exactly what my posts will look like, before I post them. It’s also easier to save them and come back to them, for the longer ones, than it would have been if I were using Notepad.

As well as being a good overall HTML editor (and general text editor), it allows you to create plugins, which are your own custom macros, to do various types of things. For example, for the definition popups that I use in this site, I use a <span> which looks something like this:

<span class="definition" onclick="openDefinitionWindow('popups', 'This is a popup.')">popup</span>
(On some browsers, that long line of code is going to cause grief...)

I’ve created a macro where I can just select a piece of text, click a button, and HTML-Kit will surround that text with the <span> open and close tags, with the class and onclick attributes already filled in. All I have to do is fill in the specifics of what text to go into the popup window.

Also, because of the way that I set up my blog, it automatically replaces newlines with <BR> tags, when it displays posts. This was fine when I was using the Blogger editor, but now that I’m basically just copying and pasting my HTML right into Blogger, I kind of regret it. But I get around that by using <BR> tags when I’m writing my posts, and then I have a macro that can go through and remove them all for me.

As another example, I’ve created some macros for working with quotation marks, so that I can use “smart quotes”, rather than the usual "ASCII quotes".

So, yeah, I’m sure most people don’t care about all of this. But if you’re looking for a good, light-weight HTML editor, give HTML-Kit a try, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If you do, and you want a plugin that will help you work with quotes, let me know. The one I’ve created does the following:
  • If you select a piece of text, it can surround it with “smart quotes”
  • It can do the same to surround with ‘smart single quotes’
  • If you select some text, it can replace all apostrophes with an entity, representing a “smart apostrophe” - that is, it will insert the text &#8217;
  • It can do the reverse, and replace those entities with regular apostrophes again.
  • It can “escape” apostrophes within Javascript strings. So something like 'I won't do it' will become 'I won\'t do it'
  • It can insert a single open quote entity - &#8220;
  • It can insert a single close quote entity - &#8221;
  • It can insert a single apostrophe entity - &#8217;


When it comes to TV, my life is full of coincidences.

For example, this happens to me all the time: There will be a show that I’ve never seen before, and I’ll give it a try. Then I won’t watch it again for months or even years. But if I watch it again, those months or years later, it will be the same episode that I watched the first time.

Another example: My wife and I were talking about Home Movies the other day, a cartoon that we watch (on Teletoon, if you’re from Canada). We were trying to figure out our favourite episodes, and she came up with one, and I came up with another. The next night, one of those episodes was on, even though it hadn’t been on for months. The night after that, the other episode was on.

But most of the coincidences happen around The Simpsons. It happens all the time - I’ll be thinking about some particular Simpsons episode, and then the next day I’ll see it on TV. People may think “oh, big deal serna, you watch the Simpsons all the time” - but I don’t, really. I watch it fairly often, sure, but not that often. And considering that there are now 16 seasons worth of episodes to air, what are the chances that I’d end up seeing the very one I had been thinking of?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Microsoft Producer 2

A while ago, I was asked if I knew of any tools that could be used for doing screen captures and such, for producing training. Since we’re developing a new internal website, it would be great if we could provide some training on it. (Which might include videos of someone using the site, for illustrative purposes.)

Last night I found out about Microsoft Producer, which is an add-on for PowerPoint 2003. It’s a pretty cool little program - you can combine PowerPoint slides, video, and audio, to create your presentations, and have the slides automatically advance through the presentation. There are some examples of the types of things you can do here. I believe you can also create a transcript to include with the presentation, which automatically moves along as the speaker speaks. However, I wasn’t able to figure out how to do it.

As it turns out, though, my team doesn’t actually need to create the training materials. Which is good news, because we don’t have time to do it. But it’s also bad news - because I thought the tool was really cool, and it would have been fun to play with.

Now I need to think of a reason why I might be able to waste some time using it. Hmm...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Publishing Woes

So, further to my earlier post about a publisher informing me that they’re not taking anything for 2-3 years, I did a quick search on Google, to see if I could find another Canadian Christian publishing firm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped it would be.

Oh well. I guess I’ll have to devote a bunch of time and energy to researching the issue, only to find out there aren’t any Canadian Christian publishers [probably], and then let the book sit and rot for a few years, since I don’t want to have it published by an American publisher...


For a long time, I’ve been under the impression that antiperspirant is bad for you. Well, it may very well be, but I haven’t been able to find any articles about it on the internet. I did find out, however, that it doesn’t cause breast cancer.

Although it may help it grow - they still need to look into that...

But American Cancer Society epidemiologist Michael Thun, MD, says even if the parabens do promote estrogen-dependent tumor growth, the risk from cosmetic use is “minuscule” compared with other known tumor promoters.

So, yeah. I hope that helps.

[One of] My Book[s]

So I sent a query letter to a Christian publishing company yesterday, about my Christian book, and I was fully expecting to wait three or six months before hearing back, because that’s usual for a publishing company. But they got back to me in two hours!

Unfortunately, they got back to let me know that they’ve gone through “significant changes” over the last two years, which means that they’re not accepting new books. Which is unfortunate, because I don’t know how many Canadian Christian publishing companies there are. I did a quick search this morning, and found another one, but they don’t exactly have the same dedication to the Word of God that the previous press did:

Although our primary focus is on Christian and titles of high moral content, we also publish works that contain a balanced quality message in social, political and spiritual matters.

A “balanced quality message”? Jeez. Why not just put “if it feels good do it” right on your website?

“Do you call yourself a Christian? Hey, that’s good enough for us! We’ll publish whatever you want to write, no matter what you say!”

So, needless to say, I’m on a new search for a publisher who is Canadian, Christian, and actually cares about the Word of God. Could be a tall order... Or maybe not. Who knows? When I get some free time, I’ll fire up Google and see what I can find.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Children's Story: What I Learned At Summer Camp

Here’s another of my children’s stories. I told this story on August 7th.

(I didn’t actually expect to get three stories posted in a row, but it happened to work out that way. There will probably be one more, next week, since my paswor is still away.)

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family; we never went to church when I was a kid. So I didn’t know much about God, or the Bible, or the types of things we learn here at Church. But one summer my family sent me to a Christian summer camp for a week. And I learned two things at that summer camp.

The first thing that I learned was that if you open up your Bible, and leave it sitting on your nightstand beside your bed when you sleep, it will keep the Devil away. However, I’m a bit older now, and I understand things a bit better, and I don’t think this is actually true. The Bible is the most special book ever written, because it’s the only book that was written by God, but it’s the contents of the Bible that are special. The book itself isn’t magic.

The second thing I learned at summer camp was this: When you pray, you have to say “amen” at the end of your prayer, to stop sending it to God. If you forget, and don’t say “amen” at the end, your prayer will keep going, and all of your thoughts will keep getting “transmitted” to God. This worried me, because I used to pray at night, after I went to bed, and sometimes while I was praying, my mind would start to wander, and I’d stop praying to think about something else. And then a half hour later, I’d realize that I hadn’t been praying at all, but that I’d been “transmitting” these thoughts to God. But it turns out that this isn’t really true, either. Yes, people do say “amen” at the end of their prayers, but God knows all of your thoughts, whether you’re praying or not. A prayer is a special kind of thought, which is directed at God, but even when you’re not praying, he always knows what you’re thinking.

So it turns out the only two things I learned that summer, at my Christian summer camp, were both incorrect. And the point is this: Not everything that you learn in life will be correct, either. As Christians, we have to be very careful to think about all of the things that are taught to us, and try to figure out if they’re really true or not.

We’re lucky enough to go to a church where the people who teach us things do a good job, and almost always, if not always, teach us things that are true. But they might sometimes make mistakes. And sometimes we’ll be somewhere else, where people aren’t as careful to only teach things that are true, and we have to be careful there, too.

The best way to be on your guard against this is to read your Bibles as much as you can, so that you’ll be better able to recognize the truth, when you see it.

As is often the case, I don’t actually remember how I ended this. I usually end up fumbling along, by the time I get to the end of these stories, since I don’t write them down ahead of time...

I’m lucky, though, that I go to a church where the leadership takes the teaching of the Word seriously. If I tell the kids that they have to pay attention to the sermons, because not everything we teach might be correct, the pastor(s) and elders are in total agreement with me. They want people to be thinking about the sermons, and trying to discern if they are true or not.

As I say, I’m fortunate to attend the church I do.

Children's Story: God Always Has A Reason

Here is another one of the children’s stories I gave for the children at our church. I told them this story on July 31st. (Or possibly July 24th; I can’t remember anymore whether I told this story first or this story first...)

Regardless, whether this story was first or second, here it is.

Does anyone know why a cat has whiskers? [various children raise their hands at this point, and then, upon further consideration, lower them again] No? Well, how about this: does anyone know how long a cat’s whiskers are? [again various children raise their hands; one girl guesses 5cm]

You’re close. Actually, the length of a a cat’s whiskers depend on how wide the cat’s head is. The whiskers are just long enough that they stick out to about the width of the cat’s head.

And the reason a cat’s whiskers are this long is this: When a cat goes to poke its head in a hole, it can tell by its whiskers whether its head will actually fit or not. When the cat goes to stick its head in the hole, if the whiskers brush up against the hole, the cat knows it’s too narrow, but if they don’t, then it knows the hole is wide enough that the cat’s head can fit in, without getting stuck.

I have another question for you: Does anyone know why we have two ears, instead of one? I mean, we only have one nose, in the middle of our face, and only one mouth... Why do we need two ears? [some more guesses; one little boy guesses that it’s so that we can hear people on both sides of us] That’s a very good guess, and you’ve got it almost exactly right! We have two ears, because that helps us to tell where sounds are coming from.

For example, suppose someone calls me from over here. [At this point, I hold up my right hand and mime someone speaking, while saying in a silly voice “Hello, Dave!”] When this happens, because the sound reaches my right ear slightly before it reaches my left ear, there is a little part of my brain that’s specifically designed to examine that information, and figure out that the sound is coming from my right. Similarly, if someone calls me from over here, [same mime, left side this time], I can tell that the sound is coming from my left, because the sound reaches my left ear first, and that little part of my brain figures it out for me. If someone right in front of me speaks, because the sound reaches both ears at about the same time, that little part of my brain figures out that the sound is coming from the middle.

In fact, I have a friend who is deaf in one ear. Her left ear works, but her right ear doesn’t. So if someone over here were to speak to her [again, mime the speaking thing, from the right], the sound reaches her right ear first, but nothing happens, because her right ear doesn’t work. And then when the sound gets to her left ear, it does work, but then that little part of her brain that processes this information gets confused, and it sounds to her like the sound is coming from her left. So what I take for granted, knowing which way the sound is coming from, she has to actually think about, and purposely not trust her instincts, when she hears a sound, because it will always sound to her like every sound is coming from her left.

So what’s my point? My point is this: God has a reason for everything He does. When He created cats, He had a specific reason for making their whiskers a certain length. When He made humans, He had a reason for giving us two ears, instead of one. And, although I don’t know what it was, He even had a reason for making my friend deaf in one ear!

We may not always know what God’s reasons are, for doing things a certain way. We may not even always like the way that He has done things, as I’m sure my friend doesn’t like being deaf in one ear. But we can always trust that He does have a reason, whether we’ll find out what it is or not.

Children's Story: Am I A Good Person?

Here’s the first children’s story that I did while my pastor was away. I told them this on July 24th.


This particular story began with a few quick questions, which went something like this:

Me: Do any of you know my name?
Children: [aren’t quite sure; eventually end up getting my first name, but not my last]
Me: Do any of you know who I’m married to?
Children: [various answers; eventually get the wrong answer]
Me: [after each of these questions, I pause to let the kids answer, but they don’t know the answers to any of these] Do any of you know where I work? My favourite colour? My favourite movie? My favourite TV show? My favourite type of music?

This ends the Q&A, and at this point I simply start talking.

It’s not really that surprising that you guys couldn’t answer all of these questions about me, because we don’t know each other very well. If you were to ask me the same questions about yourselves, I bet I wouldn’t be able to answer either.

But there are a few things you do know about me, because we go to the same church: You know that I lead the services sometimes; you know that I play guitar in the church sometimes, and that I play for the choir; if you’ve heard the announcements in the mornings, you know that I help lead the Youth Group; you might even know that I’m a deacon.

So, based on everything that you know about me, would you say that I’m a good person?

[the kids respond with a resounding yes]

Sure. If I knew someone, and the only things I knew about him were what he did for the church, I’d think he was a good person too. And there are other people in this church who don’t know me any better than you; all they know about me are the same things you guys know about me. And I bet they think I’m a good person, too. In fact, sometimes Christians use the term “super Christian”, to describe someone who’s a really, really good Christian - I bet some people in our church think that I’m a “super Christian”.

There are some other people in the church, who know me a bit better. We’ve had conversations, and they’ve gotten to know me as a person, instead of just “a guy at church”. I bet they think I’m a good person too - but they know that I’m not a “super Christian”. Sure, they probably think I’m a good person, but they know enough about me to know that I’m not perfect.

The kids in the Youth Group know me even better. They see me every Friday night, during the year, and some of them see me two or even three times a week. They’ve gotten to know me really well. They’ve also seen me get impatient, and sometimes even lose my temper. I don’t know if they think I’m a good person or not; they probably think that I’m usually a good person, but not always.

But the person who probably knows me best is my wife. We live in the same house, and she sees me every single day. If anyone has seen me at my worst, it’s my wife. I don’t think she’d think I’m a good person at all, because she knows me too well; I think she just thinks I’m a “sinner saved by Grace”.

And of course, I know myself better than anyone. I know myself even better than my wife does, because I know even my sinful thoughts, that I don’t share with anyone.

So it turns out that the more you get to know me, the more you realize that I’m not such a great person after all. But here’s the weird thing:

Remember those people in the church that think I’m a “super Christian”? We probably don’t consider each other “friends”. I’d say we’re more like acquaintances; we just don’t know each other that well. Those people who know me a bit better would consider me their friend, but probably not a close friend. We know each other, but we don’t know the details of each others’ lives. Now the kids in the Youth Group, on the other hand, I consider them to be close friends. We know each other really well. They feel that they can come to me for advice on things, and I even talk to them about my problems sometimes. My wife, even though she knows how sinful I am, loves me more than anyone else in this church. And I know myself better than anyone else, but I love myself more than anyone else could.

Weird, eh? The more people get to know me, the more they get to know how sinful I am - and yet the closer our friendship becomes, and the more they love me.

Here’s the point: God knows me better than anyone else, better than I even know myself. He knows my thoughts better than I do, and He never lets me off the hook, the way I sometimes let myself off the hook. But even though He knows how sinful I am, God loves me better than anyone else. God loves me even more than I love myself, if you can believe that! And God loves you too, and has promised to never stop loving you.

Even though you might sometimes do bad things, like I sometimes do bad things, God has promised to forgive you for that, and keep loving you, if you’re His child. You should never feel that you’re not as good as other people in the church, because they’re just as bad as you. But luckily, God knows how sinful we are, and He has promised to always be there for us, and to always forgive us.

Stupidly enough, I forget how I actually ended this one. I’m sure I said more, to really drive the point home.

I guess I should have written it down right after, instead of waiting three weeks, eh?

Children's Stories

At my church (and probably at many if not most if not all other churches), we have a children’s story before the sermon, for the children in our church. My pastor usually does these stories, but while he has been away on holidays I’ve been filling in. So, in an attempt to fill up some space in the blog, I’ll probably be sharing those stories here.

Of course, they won’t be exact word-for-word transcriptions of the stories, partially because my memory is not that good and partially because I don’t know if that work work for a blog anyway...

But now if you see posts with a title that starts with Children’s Story you’ll know what that’s all about.

Book Review: Absolute Friends

I like spy novels, and as such I really like Robert Ludlum’s books. But recently I read an article that mentioned another author, John le Carré, and mentioned that he’s more highly regarded, so I thought I’d give him a try.

I don’t know if all of le Carré’s novels are like Absolute Friends, but this book had a very different pace than Ludlum’s novels. Ludlum’s writing is fast-paced, and action packed, while le Carré writes like someone who enjoys the English language, and takes great joy in meandering through the story. I had already finished one or two chapters before I had to make myself slow down and read the book properly, since I’m so used to rushing through a Ludlum novel.

One of the things I liked about this book was the politics. It takes place in 2003, with the Iraq war prominently featured, and le Carré’s politics seem to match mine. But even better than that, I loved the ending. I can’t say what the ending was, just that I liked it.

Overall, I like this book, but if you don’t like spy novels, you may not like it. (On the other hand, even if you don’t, this book may interest you because it’s not the typical spy novel.) But I’m not going to add it to the Recommended Reading list, because it’s probably not the type of thing most people would read.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Book Review: Everything's Eventual

I finished reading Everything's Eventual, by Stephen King. It's a book of short stories - except that they're not as short as usual.

Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed with this one. He's definitely gotten more comfortable with his writing, over the years, but there's just something missing from these. There are two, three, maybe even four stories in this collection that are very similar to stories he's already done, and done better.

So, unfortunately, I won't be adding this book to the Recommended Reading list.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fun with blogging

So, I downloaded an HTML editor from the web, and I’ve spent the last couple of days configuring it, writing little macros to allow me to easily write blog entries, that I can then just copy and paste into Blogger.

And now that I have, I’ve realized that I don’t really have anything to say.

Socially Awkward

It’s no secret that I’m pretty socially awkward. I guess it’s a trait that all computer nerds suffer from. (At least, that’s what I tell myself...) For example, I’m in the elevator today, a woman comes on, and the following conversation happens:

Woman: [notices I’m holding a coffee] Oh! I had a coffee somewhere, and I forgot it!
Woman: [runs her hands over her pockets out of habit, as if the coffee might be in there] Oh well. I’m sure it’s probably cold by now anyway, right?
Woman: [gets off elevator at next floor]

Just in case you didn’t notice it, let me point something out to you: In that entire conversation, I didn’t say a thing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


It's been a busy morning this morning, but there's only one thing that's really stuck with me from everything I did:

Don't ever lie to anyone, about anything. It's probably not worth it. As a friend of mine on MSN Messenger can attest...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New Book?

Although I didn't like the movie I saw on the weekend, it did give me an idea for a new novel.

Of course, the novel I'm currently writing I haven't touched in months. (Which means that the word "currently" is misleading. One might even say it was a lie, if one was so inclined.)

So I might soon have two novels I'm "working on", that will never get finished.

Movie Review: Man on Fire

Saw Man on Fire on the weekend. Meh.

Here's the synopsis: Ex-assasin/mercenary type takes on a job as a bodyguard, for a family in Mexico. Daughter gets kidnapped. Man goes bananas, and kills everyone involved with the kidnapping. The End.

Normally, this would be the type of movie I would like. It was just done badly. Here are the two major problems I had with it:

  • Because it's Denzel, they didn't want to show him as a cold-blooded killer, without giving lots of justification for it. So they spent like an hour showing his relationship with the girl. Aww! The cold-blooded killer has a heart! Isn't that touching? (Answer to rhetorical question: No. It wasn't. It just wasted a lot of time, at the beginning of the movie.)
  • The director was doing really weird, distracting things with the camera. It
    1. made the movie take longer than it should have, because every scene was twice as long as it had to be, with all of the camera motion going on
    2. made it hard to follow what was going on, because you're so disctracted by the camera movements you forget to listen to the dialog
The other thing about the movie was that the screenwriter tried really hard to come up with these over the top ways of killing the bad guys, but that's pretty typical, I think.