Sunday, December 4, 2011

The last two(ish) months

Good day to you! I wanted to throw up a quick update about my life on here since It's been a while. Lots has gone on in the last two(ish) months, but rather then go through a couple stories, I'd rather just post some bullet points and pictures that might give you a snapshot of where I'm at.

Suffice it to say that I am ready to go home for Christmas. I'm ready to hug my family, roll around on the floor with my dog, drink my mom's eggnog, stay up late with friends, go to the movies with my dad, and play with my nephew. Christmas is beginning to seep into my being - that holly-infused goodness that brings to mind the smell of evergreens and the taste of goodies. And, most importantly, the warmth of being with my family.

What I've been enjoying lately:
  • Coffee from Old Bisbee roasters. They're out of Bisbee, Arizona, which is my roommate's hometown. Check them out here.
  • Playing way too much Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Halo Reach, and Zelda: Skyward Sword.
  • Inheritance, the last book in the "Eragon" series.
  • Smoking cigars with my best friends in my company here at school.
  • My new flannel that I picked up from Pac Sun on Black Friday.
  • Scoring better on my APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) then I ever had before, after majorly struggling with it earlier this year.
What I've been struggling with lately:
  • Being sick with a bad cold for the last week. I had to take a day off of school to just do nothing. That's a pretty big deal at West Point, especially during a week when a million assignments are due.
  • Economics and Arabic. Both of these classes have gotten progressively harder throughout the year. I'm thankful that this semester is almost over and that I'm passing in both of these classes.
  • The struggle of desiring to stay in community with Christians here, but not being fed at the church services that are offered.
  • Missing home.
  • Missing the daily conversations with my friends from Boise. 
Music I've been listening to:
Pictures of this semester at school:

After successfully running in a 5k "zombie race" in October

Hanging out with one of my friends, Ted Kostich, at #OWS

A fall day driving to the mall from West Point

A beautiful barracks latte I created from scratch

A slightly emo picture of me. I don't remember the context, but I like it.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Why I bought an Xbox.

Screw you Water Temple.
I've only ever owned two console game systems in my entire life. My parents got my brother, sister, and I a Nintendo 64 right after Zelda: Ocarina of Time (the best game ever made) came out, in 1999 if my memory serves me right. I remember watching my older brother and his best friend Mark play that game for hours. The wolves at the entrance to the Forest Temple still frighten me to this today.

When I got a little older, around Jr. High age, I remember my class held a garage sale. As I was helping put out the boxes of assorted clothes and other paraphernalia that you find at such sales, I spotted an atypical gem in the mess: a Playstation. Now mind you, this was when the Playstation 2 was in its hayday (there's a DVD player built in?!) Still, the mere thought of owning a system that played its games from CDs as opposed to cartridges made me splurge the 20 or so dollars that it cost.

Today I bought my third game system that I've ever owned: an Xbox 360.

If you know me, you know I'm kind of a gadget geek. Ever since I figured out how to check my email using my dad's sprint flip phone on a road trip to California I've enjoyed figuring out how to allow gadgets to make my life easier.

That being said, I've been called an Apple fanboy by more than one innocent bystander. Allow me to lay those accusations at rest: I don't buy Apple products because they are made by Apple. I buy Apple products because they are the best gadgets on the market.

So why would I spend $300 on the 4GB Xbox 360 Kinect package? Aren't Apple and Microsoft sworn enemies? Maybe once, not so long ago. But today?

Take a look at where Microsoft has come from. The Windows that we knew and loved last decade is evolving into something no one anticipated. And, with Microsoft unveiling Windows 8 recently, it's become clear that they are headed into the next era with all haste.

Exhibit 3: an ecosystem.
My love for any given piece of technology goes only as far as the ecosystem that the given technology communicates with. With Apple I can seamlessly sync things between my iPad, laptop, and iPhone using one or more apps. With Amazon I can buy a book on my Kindle and have the ability to read it on any of my devices. With Dropbox I can share my documents with others and access them from anywhere. A gadget or service is only as good as what it's connected with.

Windows Phone 7 took the tech industry by storm. I remember listening to the Engadget podcast when the change in the Windows mobile platform was announced. Nobody believed that "Old Faithful" was capable of altering its DNA and evolving. What would the new UI look like? What did this mean for Windows? As the first phone models were released many of these questions were answered, while some only festered and produced more questions. The unveiling of Windows 8 brought many answers: Microsoft is in it for the long haul.

And through all of this, the Xbox stood as (arguably) king of the gaming industry. Kinect only added to that perception with its seamless integration and fun-factor. Now, with all of these announcements that Microsoft is making regarding their next version of Windows, it is clear to me that they are tying everything together. They are making an ecosystem that is worth being a part of. They are making an ecosystem that I want to be a part of.

Go big or go home, that's what I always say. I had no intention of returning to my place of residence today, so I walked out of the West Point bookstore carrying a tried-and-true gaming system.

As I stood looking at the box that held my new Xbox 360 today, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the first step in my becoming a Windows fanboy. I'll have to make a note of that on my iPad.


Do you have a gaming system that you prefer? What ecosystems are you invested in?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Move. Eat. Learn.

I was blown away when I saw these videos. The guys say it best on their vimeo page:

3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage... all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ....into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films.....

= a trip of a lifetime.

move, eat, learn
Watch, be amazed, and be inspired.


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Fatherless Father's Day

In my family holidays have always been a pretty big deal. Mother's Day and Father's Day rank high on our scale of important holidays, and that goes for our whole family - not just for my sister and I. My parents always make it a point to call their moms and dads and wish them a happy day.

Father's Day is a little strange for me this year. Why? Well, it so happens that I'm missing my father. My mom and dad are currently volunteering their time at Campus by the Sea, a family camp out of Catalina Island. They will be there for a majority of the summer. It's really cool, and I am so ecstatic for them...and it makes celebrating today slightly difficult. See, they don't have cell service which means I won't be able to call my dad. They don't have internet, so there's a good chance he won't even read this for a few days until he can get to a cafe in Avalon, the city one cove over from CBS.

I figure the least I can do to honor my dad today is to write about how thankful I am for him.

My dad has made me who I am today. Without him, I would not at all be the same person.
  • My dad taught me the value of teamwork, and the value of leadership. The last year that I played little league baseball I was on the Phillies, and my dad was the coach. Our team consisted mostly of misfits and players that hadn't been picked by other coaches for better teams. My dad did more than coach us that year - he gave us hope and encouraged us to believe in ourselves. We went undefeated the entire season, made it to the championship game, went into extra innings, and barely lost by one run. It was the best season of any sport I have ever played.
  • My dad has taught me the value of money, and the value of spending money. "Food tastes better when you share it" is something my dad taught me early on, and it is so true. I've watched my dad build entire businesses from the ground up. I've seen him spend incredible amounts of money on his campaigns, and help save other candidate's campaigns with mere pennies. I've prayed with my dad for money to come in, and I can't count the amount of times a mysterious check has arrived on our doorstep or a friend has walked up and handed my family money out of the blue. I've helped my dad spend ungodly amounts of money at the movies, just because that's a part of the experience. What would a movie without popcorn and milk duds be, anyways?
  • My dad has modeled love for me, in the most valuable ways. He's taught me how a gentleman acts, and how to treat ladies. He's shown me what a great marriage looks like with my mom. His ever growing love for her never ceases to amaze me. He's been verbal in his love towards me, speaking to me in my love language of words of encouragement.
  • My dad has shown me the value of growth. He calls it being a "lifetime learner." That is, the type of person that never stops absorbing new truths and never ceases growing. In many ways my dad is a completely different man then he was even 10 years ago.
  • My dad has taught me the art of humor. When I was 5 or 6 we watched Austin Powers together. Multiple times. Need I say more?
  • My dad has shown me that anything is possible. I've watched him inspire people to do things they never thought possible, and I've been on the receiving end of that inspiration. He often reminds me that "it's not what you know, it's who you know." If you know my dad, you're two degrees away from everybody else in the entire world. When he says something can happen, I know better then to doubt him by now.
  • My dad has set the best example for what a personal relationship with Christ can look like.

My dad has impacted me more than any other human being on this planet. He has believed in me when few others have, and he has loved me when I've been at my absolute lowest. We've been through the hell of losing my brother and losing my grandma, and we've been there for each other. My dad has always been there for me.

My dad, Dennis Mansfield, is the finest man I know. I aspire to be like him, and I am honored to call him my father.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Broken nose, black eyes, my birthday, and the Easter bunny.

Well, I've gone and done it. Playing intramural rugby last Thursday I dove towards an opponent only to be greeted by my teammates forehead to the center of my face (he was diving towards the same opponent). The impact of his head on the bridge of my nose - right where my nose meets my head between my eyes - caused some of the worst pain I've felt in a long, long time. Convinced it was just bad bruising, I went back to my room feeling like I had a moon-sized crater in my face. The days that followed brought swelling, black eyes, and assurance by others that I had indeed broken my nose. I guess that eliminates me from being Jesus, though I'm still in the running for Rocky Balboa.

Days 1 through 4 of the broken nose saga.

If you're my friend - whether on facebook or in real life - you probably know my birthday was yesterday. Being that it's also Easter weekend, I took the opportunity to take pass away from West Point to Washington D.C. for the weekend to spend time with my Aunt Janet, Uncle Tom, and cousins Shannon and Matt. This is my first ever birthday away from home, and I'm really, really glad I was still able to be with family for it. My family has always put special emphasis on birthdays, to the point that they rival holidays as poignant moments in the year.

Spending my birthday with my extended family was a great choice. My Aunt treated me to a trip to Mt. Vernon (they live right down the road!) where we basked in American history, and in conversation with each other. I process best by talking, and this was a great opportunity for me to do some processing, and also hear about my Aunt's life. Later that night I made blondies with Shannon and Matt, then we watched some movies together.

To end a great weekend, my Aunt cooked a fantastic breakfast this morning. We celebrated Easter Sunday with laughs, conversation, and good food.

How blessed I am! I go to a great school, I have an amazing family, I have a girlfriend who loves me and who I love back, and I have so many friends who are constantly there for me. It's easy for me to get caught up in the individual moments of stress, fatigue, and personal failures. Sometimes it takes weekends like this for me to step back and take a look at everything Papa has blessed me with.

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. May God continue to rebirth a spirit of thanks and gratitude in you and in me. May his Love envelop you and me so completely that we are overwhelmed with thanks.

When everything is stripped away, isn't that what the Gospel, the good news, is all about? God giving us something we neither expect or deserve? I am humbled by Papa's Love. I don't know how to react to it. It paralyzes me, and in that paralysis a whisper, a single breath resonates. "I Love you, Colin." That resonance ripples throughout my body and I am overcome by a sense of gratitude that simple words cannot express. No actions can express this gratitude, this humbling sense of worth.

Will you join a 19 year old with two black eyes and swollen nose in celebrating powerful Love?


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Music, as of late

I'm always interested in what music people have been listening to lately. Here's the bands I've been listening to recently. Please comment and let me know what music has greeted your ears lately!
  • Jack Johnson
  • Coldplay
  • Mae
  • Shawn McDonald's new album "Closer"
  • Ingrid Michaelson
  • Old Switchfoot (as in, Legend of Chin and The Beautiful Letdown)

It's so awesome to me how memories get associated with music. For instance, whenever I listen to The Beautiful Letdown I think of Jr. High and...well all the crazy emotions and everything that goes with that. Mae, on the other hand, brings to mind High School and chilling with friends on summer afternoons.

What music means something to you, and why?


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Having Grace for Myself

Grace is something that's hard for me to understand.

"Reap what you sow," "you get what you pay for," "he got what he deserved," "justice was served."

Experiencing grace is always a humbling experience for me. Whether it is receiving something I DON'T deserve, or not receiving something that I DO deserve, my first reaction to grace is often a feeling of "I'm not worthy."

I love being able to show people grace, but sometimes that's incredibly hard to do. Choosing to respond in love, instead of responding in anger, is so rewarding, and worth it.

This school year, but specifically this semester, I've been placed in a position that I never experienced in high school. I've had to have grace for myself. See, I'm an extremely competitive person, and that reveals itself most when I'm around people who are bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than me. At West Point, I'm always around people who are bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than me. I've learned that constantly living in a state of competition doesn't work for me, and is in fact incredibly exhausting, both mentally and emotionally. How do I push myself to succeed and get better, without getting discouraged by looking around? Where's the line between healthily caring what other people think, and needing their approval?

There's a tension between my competitive side, which wants to fight to be #1 and is constantly getting frustrated with itself, and the side of me that wants to keep the status quo, equilibrium.

Having grace for myself is the only remedy to this tension, it seems. Realizing that my competitive side can push me to get better, but also realizing that it's ok if I'm not He-Man is refreshing. But it's not easy. At all.

It makes me wonder how Jesus does it. If I get frustrated with myself on a regular basis, how much more does Papa have the right to be frustrated with me? Yet He doesn't. His grace is eternal, everlasting, all-encompassing.

It's a mystery I'm not sure I'll ever understand.

Do you have an experience with grace that you'd like to share?


Monday, February 28, 2011

Love Wins.

I've been following the recent surge of tweets and blog posts regarding Rob Bell's new book entitled "Love Wins" with some interest. Bell put out a video trailer for his upcoming book. Here it is:

I was first introduced to Rob Bell in Jr. High through the Nooma videos that my church youth group used at various camps and Sunday morning services. Since then I've read Bell's first book, "Velvet Elvis" as well as his most recent short "Drops Like Stars." I also listen to his sermons regularly via the Mars Hill Bible Church on iTunes. In some christian circles I'm already disqualified as following a false prophet.

For those of you still reading:

Because of this video Rob Bell has been accused of being a "universalist." The tweet that sparked the forest fire on twitter was by John Piper. In it, he simply said "Farewell Rob Bell" with a link to a blog post by Justin Taylor entitled: "Rob Bell: Universalist?" You can read his entire post yourself for more context, but Taylor's key point can be wrapped up in this quote:
It seems that this is not  just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.
If you follow Christian tweets or blogs at all I'm sure you've heard the response to these accusations and labels. Now that the waters have begun to settle, the overall equilibrium response seems to be "Ok, what Rob Bell said is definitely a little out there. But let's just wait until the book comes out before we judge." I agree with this response, for the most part.

I've written about asking questions in the past. It seems that many people are scared of questions. The mere act of asking a question shows that you don't know it all. In the above video, you'll notice that Rob Bell makes no statements. He asks questions. And I believe that the content of the video is not what scares people the most and has invoked such strong responses. I think the scary thing to people is that they just might not have all the answers to his questions.

So yeah, I eagerly await the release of Bell's new book so that I can read it and hear exactly what he has to say. I'm not going to hop on the hatred band wagon because Rob Bell said some things that conflict with what some people consider to be doctrine.

But what happens when the book is released and Bell asks more questions that make me uncomfortable? Is it then alright for me to string up the noose, put the firewood around the stake, and nail the cross together?

What if the real problem is that I am simply unwilling to take a brick out of my wall of theology in fear that everything I believe in will come crashing down?

Here's one of the more tactful responses I've seen to the social media flurry:

I have more thoughts floating around in my head about this topic; those will have to wait for another post. I've done posts in the past regarding similar topics, feel free to check them out. Many of them have interesting comments as well.
What are your thoughts?


P.S. here are some other thought provoking blog posts regarding "Love Wins." Great reads.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Android fragmentation and why it matters

If you follow Engadget at all, you know that their journalists are pretty unbiased. If there's anything they collectively hate, however, it's Android fragmentation.

I'll break it down a bit:
The Android OS is on many different devices (Google phones, Motorola's Droid line, HTC phones, and Samsung phones, as in their Galaxy S line). Each of these hardware manufacturers are able to put their own "skin" (or UI) over the stock Android software. They do this to differentiate their phones from the competitor's and to make any "improvements" that they see fit. The skins have various names: MotoBlur (Motorola),  Sense UI (HTC), TouchWiz (Samsung). These are the most popular, and are put on top of the stock Android software that you find on the Nexus 1 and Nexus S (Samsung's only Galaxy S phone without TouchWiz).

What the consumer gets then, is a wide variety of devices all running the same software (Android) but with very different user interfaces. In other words, a Motorola user could be very confused when they pick up a Samsung device. Confusion, however, is the least of the consumer's problem.

When a new version of Android is released it takes time for the hardware manufacture to put their trademark skin over that software. Their devices, in turn, are unable to be updated to the latest version of the Android OS until the manufacture puts out their updated version. This might not be so bad, except lately some manufactures have decided to not even put out the newest version of the skinned Android OS to their older phones. Users with phones that are a year old are left in the dust, while only brand new users get the latest software coupled with the latest hardware.

A great example of this is when the latest version of the mobile Android OS was released, Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The flagship Android 2.3 phone was the Nexus S, which (surprisingly) ran stock Gingerbread with no TouchWiz UI. This was a great update to Android and was praised as such. However, many phones could not be updated. Some phones, such as in Samsung's Galaxy S line, had yet to be updated to 2.2 Froyo, let alone 2.3!

How does this affect the consumer in the long term? What we end up getting is a host of Android devices all running different versions of the software under skins that arguably subtract from the best Android experience possible. If you buy a phone now, there's no guarantee that you will receive the next Android update when it comes out, months after it comes out, or ever. Some users may be ok with this, as they might not update their phone even if the update was available. This mentality seems to work fine at first, but what about when a security issue is brought up about the current version of Android? I for one want the most updated software possible, to minimize issues like this.

Android fragmentation is very real and has the possibility to have a very negative effect on users, especially now, in the year of the tablets.

Have you experienced Android fragmentation? What are your thoughts on it?
Interested in what Google has to say? " a red herring"


My take on tech

I've always loved technology. I remember when my big sister set up my first email account for me, and I remember showing it off to all my friends off of our dial up network and thinking I was so cool. I remember the first time I changed the background on a windows computer, and added that annoying mouse trail that all elementary school kids seem to love.

More recently I've grown to love social networking. Starting with facebook, this love quickly branched out to twitter, tumblr, and various other sites fitting the description.

I say all that, not to reminisce, but rather to illustrate that I'm by no means some sort of 'expert.' What I am, if anything, is a consumer that does his research. I enjoy paying attention to tech blogs, like Engadget and Gizmodo. I frequently listen to Engadget's podcast (iTunes link), and have attended one of their shows in New York City.

I've considered writing a tech blog for the last few months and have decided not to. Mostly because I don't have the time, but also because I fell like I'm nowhere near learned enough on the subject. That said, I have some opinions that I want to express, so I will occasionally do posts about tech labeled under the tag "technology" (which I have provided a link for in the sidebar). My hope in this is stimulate intelligent conversation about the topic. I would ask for commenters to stay away from the "Android is way better" type comments. I want to hear your opinion, but please back it up with why. This benefits everyone.

My first post is on Android fragmentation.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Real Relationship in 2011: I'm not looking for an "effective way to become closer to God."

An out of context picture of the Hudson from West Point
An out of context picture of the Hudson from West Point

I suppose a "Happy New Years" is in order! This is the first real post I've done since winter break due to the usual suspects (including but not limited to a school, laziness, and distractions).

I've never really been into the whole "New Years Resolutions" thing. This year something hit me though. I've never really made my relationship with God a priority in my life. By that I really mean my relationship with Him has been more passive than active.

In my experience, an important part of cultivating a relationship is quality time with that individual. How am I going to get to know someone well without specifically making the time to be with that person? That's part of my focus for this upcoming year: to be with Papa. I want to spend time hearing what He has to say, and reading His words. I don't want to force something to the point that I feel guilty if I'm not engaged. I talk to my girlfriend everyday, whether it be by text message, email, facebook, or phone, not because I feel like I have to in order to grow our relationship, but because I simply want to talk to her and hear how she's doing.

I'm not sure exactly what all this is going to look like. I do know that my heart is to Love Papa and accept his Love.

Example of something I'm not looking for.
I'm not looking for an "effective way to become closer to God." Because really, what does that mean? Is there really a prescribed way to develop any relationship, let alone one with the Almighty? Are there really seven things I need to do in order to feel God's love in a tangible way?

I'd love some advice. Do you do a daily devotional? What works for you? What doesn't work? Does what I have to say challenge you at all?


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Hugs

This poem by Bradley Hathaway says pretty much everything I want to express on this Saturday morning. May you experience a hug today.