Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rebates are industry's best scam.

Rebates suck. Plain and simple. They are industry's best scam. It's a win-win-win-win-win-lose scenario, and guess who's on the losing side... that's right, it's the consumer.

First of all, you pay an inflated cost. The salespeople win out on commission, the store wins out on profits, the store and the manufacturer wins out because a product appears to be a lot cheaper and thus more attractive to a consumer, and the governments win out on taxes. You lose.

Second of all, you have to actively fill out the forms, cut out the UPC, address the envelope, waste a stamp, and relinquish your receipt (although some stores offer a rebate receipt). You typically can't do this until you're at home, and unless you're well-disciplined, you'll put it off for later. There are so many things that can go wrong:

- You forget. They win, you lose.
- You lose the receipt. They win, you lose.
- You lose the box. They win, you lose.
- You wait too long (often a very short window). They win, you lose.
- You address it incorrectly. They win, you lose.
- You mark any information incorrectly. They win, you lose.
- The package is lost in the mail. They win, you lose.
- The package is never processed. They win, you lose.

Thirdly, they make money off of your money and you lose that potential yield. That six to eight weeks of "processing" time? Your money is sitting in their banks earning a high-yield while they "process" a lot of laughter.

And then there's the rejections for whatever reason they want to reject for. I just got a $10 rebate rejected because the UPC symbol was invalid. How can a UPC symbol be invalid?!? It's a scam!

Sure, it's nice to get an semi-unexpected check in the mail, but my hit ratio with rebates is less than 50%. They ought to be illegal if you ask me. When I run for congress, making rebates illegal will be one of my priorities.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Breaking news: Fox Is Conservative

Sources have confirmed what we've always known: Fox is in bed with the republicans. Fox has brown-nosed the republicans so much that the white house finally gave in and brought one of Fox's top commentators on board.

Tony Snow, known for his conservative rants, has accepted the press secretary job in Bush's team. This was all done in a shakeup to improve record low approval ratings for dubya. To that, I say, "good luck."

The conversation probably went something like this:

fox president: "Do you think the American public is on to us?"

dubya: "Well, as long as you say you're fair and balanced, they can't possibly think you're our pawn."

fox president: "Oh, good.. that Snow guy almost gives us away from time to time."

dubya: "Good point. Give him to me. Nobody will suspect anything when he goes on his conservative rants anymore."

fox president: "Deal."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jade just doesn't quit.

No, really. Jade doesn't quit. Jade is the java multi-agent platform that follows FIPA specs pretty tightly and it actually isn't too bad of an agent platform. But the stupid thing refuses to shut down. You'd think it'd be really easy, like invoking a single method call called "shutdown" within the Runtime instance. That doesn't kill the VM for whatever reason.

After following a maze of method calls, I finally realized that I have to construct an AMS message with an Action object passed inside that tells the AMS agent to shutdown the container. But there's a gotcha - apparently, this only works with containers other than the main container. So there's a shutdown platform action that you can pass to the AMS. This closes the platform, but the stupid VM won't die.

So finally, there's a setCloseVM method that does the trick.

Here's the full code to shut down the &$%#& platform via code:

ACLMessage msg = new ACLMessage(ACLMessage.REQUEST);
msg.setLanguage(new SLCodec().getName());

msg.setContent("((action (agent-identifier :name " + getAMS().getName() + ")(shutdown-platform)))");


You might get a few interrupt exceptions. Just ignore them. Hopefully that won't break your unit tests! Grrr!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What not to say in a tragedy

From an AP post:

A small plane crashed while trying to land in the fog, killing five students from Indiana University's school of music, a university spokeswoman said Friday.

"This would be a tragedy for the school," spokeswoman Susan Williams said. "It's an important school. Some of the best music students in the world come here."

Wow. Can you believe that?!? Five students and presumably the pilot were killed, and the first thing that comes to mind to the spokeswoman is to plug her school?

She thinks that the tragedy is that this almighty great important school lost what could be "some of the best music students in the world." Unbelievable.

Five students lost their lives! That's the tragedy! The school is insignificant at this point! The spokeswoman's comments were completely insensitive.

If I were the spokesperson, I would have said something along the lines of "This is an absolute tragedy. Indiana University will do everything we can to help the families involved."

This plane accident really hits close to home. When I was at Manhattan Christian College, we lost three of our students to a car accident coming back from a camp. I used to jam with one of them. After she passed away, the group completely fizzled out. Although she was extremely talented, it wasn't the talent that we missed. It was simply her presence that helped shape the group.

I will be praying for the families involved. The article doesn't tell us about the fate of the pilot, but I can only assume the worst. The next couple of years will be the most difficult time for all involved.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hollywood does it again. And again. And again. And ....

Hollywood financers are brave. They love to earn money by sticking their necks out on untested waters. Their extremely mind-boggling creativity has resulted in the amazing summer lineup of Rocky 6, Indiana Jones 4, Superman 4, Mission Impossible 3, X-men 3, and probably Harry Potter 5 (or is it 6 by now? I've lost count).

A quote by Joel Siegel wraps it up:

"The average budget for these summer blockbusters is $160 million, according to The Wall Street Journal and the Internet Movie Data Base. And what do we get for the money? Four sequels, two remakes and one best-selling book. Not an original idea in the bunch."

I mean, come on.. how ridiculous is this? Hollywood does one thing really well - it milks money out of solid ideas. It just so happens that those ideas haven't changed over the past fifty years and it's amazing that their apathy hasn't done them in. Yet.

Alright, I'll admit that I'm kind of interested in seeing Superman Returns. Although, it probably won't live up to its hype and it can't possibly compare to the potential that a movie based on the epic book "The Dark Knight Returns" would be. I would love to see a movie based on that. Let's face it - a mortal Bat Man is more appealing than the all-powerful Super Man generally speaking. And besides, Superman plays a pretty awesome role in "The Dark Knight Returns." Come on, Hollywood, if you're going to do a Superman movie, why not do the best of both worlds? Now that is a movie I'd actually pay to see.

Anyway, I digress. I refuse to go to the theatre for any of these regurgitated plots. The thought of spending 20+ bucks to be mildly entertained and mostly disappointed is just not all that appealing. The only way Hollywood has stayed in the black is that the sheep keep paying up when theatres increase the ticket prices.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Creativity in Programming

Programming is a very creative art, no matter how technical it seems on the outset. Programming is pure-thought stuff. It's the closest thing to transcribing the contents of your mind. Learning how to be an innovator is all about being creative. So the question is, "how can we be creative?" While I don’t have the silver-bullet answer to this question, I’ll try to share a little insight from my 20+ years of experience and give some tips for increasing creativity.

It's not all that surprising how many programmers are musicians. I would say roughly 40% of the developers I know are significantly musically inclined in some manner, but that's just me. I wasn't able to find any official study, but I would guess that this isn't far from the norm among programmers, which seems to be a much higher ratio than the general population. Playing music is sometimes like solving a puzzle. We ask ourselves questions like “how loud do I play this crescendo”, “how fast do I speed this section up”, “how long do I hold this note”, and “how much contrast do I have between these two sections?” How we answer these questions really set us apart from anyone else who plays the same piece. All of the answers to these questions combined come up with a solution that we typically find pleasing. It just so happens that programmers love solving puzzles as well. Solving puzzles is a very left-brain task.

On the other hand, people love to express themselves. Some do it through fashion, some do it through sports, and some do it through music. Programmers often do it through code. Sometimes, it's the little things like brace placement or naming conventions. Other times, it's the intricacies like object representation or control flow. I can look at a piece of human-generated code and learn quite a bit from the person who wrote it. I can also look at a piece of code generated by any one of my coworkers and usually tell you who wrote it without cheating and looking at the comments. My whole point here is that most people have their unique coding styles which express themselves, styles which typically reflect a little about the personality and a little about the creativity. Self expression is a very right-brain task.

It just so happens to turn out that some of the best programmers I know are active musicians. Is there a link? Probably. I’d love to say for sure, but I haven’t done a formal study. I do know that musicians use the “right side” of their brain in an increased amount compared to your average Joe whereas programmers use the “left side” of their brain more than the average Joe. Combine them together and you got someone who, well, uses their brain more than the average Joe. The right side of the brain is responsible for a lot of abstract thinking, creativity, and pattern recognition. To improve creativity in our programming, it seems that we should focus on improving the right side of our brain.

So here are some tips to doing just that.

- Try drawing or writing a story using your non-dominant hand.

- Learn to juggle. Studies have shown that learning to juggle (and keeping the skill active) actually increases the amount of gray matter in your brain.

- Pick up an instrument and make your own melody and play that melody several times. Write it down.

- Pick up an instrument and practice over and over again. Studies have shown that practicing an instrument has several benefits, such as improved hand-eye coordination, improved memory, improved concentration, improved hearing, improved eyesight, etc.

- Look at a three-dimensional object and draw that object.

- Write a short fictional story. Try restricting the setting to a unique time – “The year was 1492…” or “He closed his eyes and braced himself as he pushed the warp-speed launch button..”

Studies have shown that when one side of the brain is significantly more developed than the other side, people have problems in learning. My guess is that a lot of programmers have a dominant left-side of the brain. Improving the other side will bring about a lot of change in abstract thinking, creativity, and etc.

One other aspect that a lot of people often forget is diet. Eat right. Have a glass of orange juice in the morning instead of that Dr. Pepper. Eat a salad for lunch. Have an apple as a snack instead of that bag of chips. A healthy diet and proper sleep actually improves awareness, memory, focus, and even intelligence.

Improving the right-side of the brain and eating right will be a huge step to sparking more creativity in your programming.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Accountability: It does the soul good

Let's play a little game. I'll give you a bunch of facts and you try to guess the person I'm thinking of.


1. He was one of the most powerful persons in the world throughout all of history.

2. He claimed to be a devout Christian.

3. He was the leader of a great military.

4. He ignored international law and launched a preemptive war.

5. His war was against an enemy whose threat was either inflated or fabricated.

6. He used nationalism and the flag to shield himself from accountability.

7. He spied on citizens and encouraged everyone to report suspicious behavior.

8. He defended holding prisoners without charges in the name of war.

9. His war resulted in the death of thousands upon thousands of people.

Alright, that ought to be enough. What's your guess?

[insert theme music from Jeopardy here...]

Okay, time's up. If you guessed Hitler, you're in the wrong millennium. I'm pretty sure if you think hard enough, you'll be able to figure out who it is.

Hark, what's that sound? I do believe that's the sound of a bazillion eyeballs rolling around as if to say, "not another idiot!"

A lot of Christians automatically protect their leaders, often over-zealously. When a leader is accused of doing something wrong, many Christians will automatically dismiss the accusation and assume that it is completely unfounded, then attempt to silence or ridicule the accuser. However, accountability is an integral aspect of being a Christian. We are to keep each other accountable, even our leaders. Leviticus 19:15 says "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly."

There are several verses throughout the Bible that teach accountability. Verses such as Lev. 19:15, Deut 19:15-16, 1 Timothy 5:19, Proverbs 28:13, and 1 John 1:9 all provide good guidelines for dealing with accountability and sin.

Being a leader is a challenging task, no matter the scale. Praying for our leaders is an important part of being a Christian. No matter how much we like or dislike our leaders, we need to pray for them. However, keeping our leaders accountable is simply common sense. Blindly protecting our leaders is as ridiculous as blindly dismissing scientific evidence that shows the Earth is much, much older than 6,000 years old.

Keeping each other accountable is a powerful way to keep our relationship with Christ strong. Accountability will keep us from sinning and it will give us strength in numbers - when Satan attacks, the whole accountability group will be there to support you.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

That's Why We Praise Him

Since it's Easter Sunday, I thought I'd share a snippet from a song called "That's Why We Praise Him", which pretty much wraps up the Easter message:
He came to live, live a perfect life
He came to be the living Word of light
He came to die, so we'd be reconciled
He came to rise to show His power and might

[...] He gave His everything
His name is Jesus. He gave His everything for whoever believes in Him. Whoever, not just some select few.

This is not something we need to be keeping to ourselves. The whole world should know this!

I am writing a song right now, and its tag line is this:

"he came, he died, he conquered and arose".

Share this good news in anyway you can. Get a bumper sticker. Hand out easter eggs with the message inside. Write posts on the internet. Write songs. Anything... just share the good news! That's why we praise him!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Liberal media? Try manipulative media.

An AP news report was released yesterday about a person who died after health complications stemming from a Disney World rocketship ride. As tragic as that sounds, the tragedy is how the story was conveyed.

You see, it’s not the overall story – it’s little bits here and there that seem hardly noticeable until you consider the big picture. For example, consider this quote:

“Disney officials told state inspectors Wednesday that the woman felt dizzy and nauseated after getting off the ride, and may have suffered from high blood pressure and other health problems, Terence McElroy, a state agriculture spokesman, told the Orlando Sentinel.”

If you can see past the grammatical error, you’ll see that the official was coyly passing the buck. “May have suffered from high blood pressure and other health problems.” That to me is a gross statement. Do you know how many Americans have high blood pressure? One million? Five million? Try 65 million. That’s right – nearly one out of every three Americans over the age of 20 have high blood pressure according to the American Heart Association and the US census. And other health problems? What, did the lady suffer from acne? Please! Shame on the official for making such an observation, and shame on the AP editors for allowing the grammatical error through, and shame on the reporter for including that statement next to the word “official” and biasing the view to make it seem as though nothing was wrong with the statement.

Why does that seem so crazy to me? The official could have said, “The woman felt dizzy and nauseated after getting off the ride, and may have been human.” The media through the official’s quote are trying to manipulate us into thinking, “well, she had health problems, so she should have thought twice before getting on that ride.” NO! That’s not how this works! Disney World’s (and other theme parks’) rides have serious health risks, no matter how unlikely the risk is. A single sign that says “For safety you should be in good health, and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness or other conditions that can be aggravated by this adventure” is not acceptable. The side effects, including DEATH, should be listed as prevalently as the FDA’s medicine warning requirements.

The article continues, “Two adults in poor health and a 12-year-old Virginia girl died last year at Walt Disney World, out of the millions who visit the park each year.”

There are three things that really get me here. First of all, the words “in poor health” really irk me. Again, they’re passing the buck. “Well, they had poor health so what do they expect?” NO!!!! That is NOT what we should be thinking!

And “out of the millions who visit the park each year.” There are two things wrong with this – first of all, “each year” is irrelevant – we’re talking about “last year.” And “millions who visit the park” - out of those millions, how many were risky enough to ride the lethal rides? Half? A third? Not likely. Sure, I’ll buy that thousands of people rode the lethal rides, but still – four out of thousands is still four.

The point here is that these little snippets of innocent comments make a huge impact on the unquestioning reader. This is just one article. It happens almost every day. The media is extremely manipulative. They are there for one purpose: get viewers to look at advertisements. How do they do that? If it bleeds, it leads.

By the way, never trust a positive movie review you read on major news sites. Why? The parent company usually owns the movie and has a vested interest in making sure the reviews are good, no matter how bad the movie is.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Some video games really are evil

Okay, so after I published the "why video games are not all evil" post, I got sucked into Oblivion. The game, you insensitive clod.

One of my friends back in Kansas was raving on and on about the game, and he's usually been pretty fanatic about games I usually wouldn't enjoy that much, so I was a little skeptical. But apparently, Oblivion is the game to get these days. It's like World of Warcraft without all the little kids.

I'm borderline addicted to the game right now. Remember how I said that games which encourage murder are bad news? Well, this game has certain paths that you can take that involve murder. So it's bad news, right? Yeah, it is. Don't let your kids play it. The game is perfectly playable without the darker elements, so I don't roleplay the darker elements of the game. The game is really whatever you want to make it into.

I was emailing with Jessica and I came up with the following addiction levels:

Stage 1: Trying the game out, testing all of its intricacies, having fun exploring.

Stage 2: On a mission. Don't know what that mission is, but I'm on it and won't stop until it's finished.

Stage 3: Hopelessly addicted. I have finished the game twice, but now I'm doing it in creative ways. I constantly think about the game and wish to play it during all of my free time.

Stage 4: I have created more free time by neglecting all of my responsibilities. I can't get enough of the game. Haven't eaten in days.

Stage 5: Reality sets in.. There is life beyond the game. I realize this and quit the game.

Stages 6-9 are a repeat of stages 2-5 after a couple months have gone by.

Stages 10-13 are a repeat of stages 2-5 after a couple more months have gone by.

Stage 14: I come to the realization that the game is crack and I never play it again.

Stages 15-18 are a repeat of stages 2-5.

Stage 19: I burn the game.

Stage 20: I buy the game.

Stages 21-40 are a repeat of stages 1-20.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Judas Priest!

One of the more popular news stories hitting the rounds is one of a recently discovered and translated account of the gospel from the perspective of one of the most vilified persons in all of history: Judas. Extensive tests have revealed that the manuscript is a genuine copy of Judas' account. The copy, presumably from an authentic source, was written a couple of centuries after Judas hung himself.

There are some radical ideas coming out of the newfound discovery. Perhaps the most ground-shaking idea is that Judas did not truly betray Jesus. Instead, the manuscript reveals that Jesus asked Judas to betray Jesus. Now, before anyone says anything about how this would dramatically affect a host of religions, there are a lot of ifs involved.
First of all, we have to have faith that the actual copy is truly an authentic antiquity. Carbon dating shows that the article is truly ancient. Let's assume that these tests are accurate and that this copy is from the third century.

Now we have to assume that this copy is verbatim from an original letter from Judas. The Bible has gone through extensive copy procedures. People devoted their whole life to making flawless copies of every single character from the scriptures, both old and new. The gospel of Judas probably did not enjoy this strict copy procedure, particularly since the New Testament wasn't even established until several centuries after the fact. The person copying the letter might have had his or her own agenda. Words might have been changed, introduced, or even omitted. In actuality, the whole letter could be a work of fiction, a prank someone was playng, an attempt to stop the spread of Christianity. We have no idea.

But if we buy that the copy is a perfect copy straight from the horse's mouth, we have to believe that Judas was honest in his account. He isn't denying what transpired; he really did receive a bounty for turning Jesus in. With that in mind, we now have to psychoanalyze the mind of someone who committed such a traumatic action. What do we know about Judas' character? Not a whole lot. We aren't told much about Judas Iscariot other than his call to be an apostle, his great betrayal, and his death.

"Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him whereas he was one of the twelve" (John 6:71-2).

Since we don't have a lot to go off from, let's consider what I would do if we were in Judas' position. I would want acceptance. 11 of my closest friends have completey shunned me. I am talked about in many towns. Every time the story of a humble carpenter who performed mind-blowing miracles was told, there my name is given. I cannot possibly show my face in my home town any more. There's only one thing I could do: clear my name.

How many convicted criminals are serving time and are claiming to be innocent? Many criminals would have you believe that they didn't do it. They were framed, witnesses lied, evidence was planted, wrong place wrong time... Yeah, right.

People need to feel accepted. They need to feel significant. Judas couldn't possibly have this need met unless people thought he was righteous in his actions.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why video games are not all evil

Some Christians I know are completely anti video games. Me? My motto is "Shut up and frag." I love games. I play all kinds of genres - rts, fps, rpg, simulation games, turn-based games... the whole enchilada.

Games that involve magic or wizards or dragons or ghosts are supposedly so evil that one risks excommunication if one were to reveal that he took first place in a frag fest. For the record, I only took second place. This time.

But to the point, some games I play involve magic. One of my favorite games is simply titled Magic. Does this make me a non Christian because I play games? I think not.
First of all, it is a game. It is not any attempt to channel energy or invoke demons or worship Satan or denounce God. It is a game.

Second, these games are another venue for me to reach others. Every time I play a game with someone, Christ shines through me and my behavior influences those I play with.

Third, it's no worse than watching something like "The wizard of oz". It's obviously not reality, it's imaginative and fun.

There are obviously some games that are simply over the edge. Games that encourage rape or murder are bad news, no matter how detached someone is from the game. But in general, a game that involves magic is not by that fact alone a Satan-inspired game.

The chronicles of Narnia are riddled with magic. Does that make those books evil? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite. The books have been a beacon for reaching others with the gospel through imagination.The use of magic in these books and in most video games are simply a device in an imaginary world completely unlike reality.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Death and Taxes

"Change is inevitable. Change is constant." -Benjamin Disraeli

"In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes." -Benjamin Franklin

"Some things never change - Hollywood plots, for example." -Benjamin Perry

Oh, okay, so maybe I'm not as well-known as Benjamin Disraeli or Benjamin Franklin, but I've got to be honest with you - forget Franklin and Disraeli - some things really never change! Like country "music", for example - it will never be worthy of being called music. Or Hollywood plots. I mean, seriously, Rocky 6?!? Indiana Jones 4?!? Oh, the humanity!

I was sitting in my office today looking out the window while I pondered how I was going to implement an agent communication protocol for disseminating subsets of large datasets across potentially different subnets when I suddenly saw a single blossom smoothly glide its way through the air. That single blossom was followed by a host of blossoms as the wind picked up. It was as if I was watching a light snow, but of blossoms. It was one of the most serene sights I've seen in a long time. That reminded me of seasonal changes, which reminded me of Ecclesiastes 3.

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven." (followed by a host of contrasting examples of things for which a time is appropriate.)

Spring is here, blossoms are blooming, critters are coming out of hiding, all of which are constant reminders of change. As sure as the seasons change, though, some things really do never change. God's love for us never changes. God's commands never change. God's promises never change. God's forgiveness is endless.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Prayer doesn't work?

A scientific study was recently published - you've probably read about it in mainstream news - saying that prayer simply doesn't work. At least, not for people in hospitals who aren't aware that complete strangers are praying for them. Now, I'm not one to say that the scientific method is bogus since I use it quite frequently, but trying to test God in the process of prayer seems kind of silly. I mean, seriously - didn't those guys in 1 Kings 17-21 figure that one out? I always envisioned Elijah talking smack to the Baal worshippers .. "Maybe he is sleeping" .. classic! But back to the point. Deuteronomy 6:16 says, "Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah." Jesus quotes that in Matthew 4:7. So, it seems kind of pointless trying to test God when He specifically says not to. I know the reasoning almost appeals to the supernatural, but perhaps the results are the way they are because of God's insistence of not testing Him. And after examining the experiment itself, I'm not truly convinced of the scientific integrity of the study. But that's beside the point. The point is, don't test God.

But for all of the doubters out there, I thought I would open this entry for comments from users who have empirical proof that prayer works. If you have ever had a prayer answered, post a comment about it. The sheer number of answered prayers speaks much louder than a botched "scientific" experiment.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Man's best friend? Yeah, right!

Dogs are supposedly man's best friend. A friend of mine pointed out that dogs can lead the blind, help police do their job, learn all kinds of tricks - they can even be movie stars! Cats? Well, cats just look pretty. We finally got a dog about a year ago. "Yankee" is part Pembroke welsh corgi and part spawn of evil. He knows so many tricks, but he also knows exactly what to do to be evil. Like yesterday, for example. He snuck into my book bag and destroyed a restore CD for my laptop. It was my own fault for leaving the bag out in the open, but I still think Yankee somehow knew it would make me upset. I called for a replacement, but Toshiba wants 40 bucks for a license I already own!!! (Don't buy a Toshiba product - they are terrible to their customers) .

One thing that dogs have, though, is absolute love for their owners. Yankee puts up with a lot - he humors us when we ask him to do tricks, he was a sport when we took him to see the ocean (he even took an unexpected swim in a large tide), he welcomes us home even when we're late... He's really a great pet.

That reminded me of God's absolute love for us. God loves us in spite of our several flaws. God loves us no matter what we've done in the past. He will forgive all of our sins if we ask Him and welcomes us in his open arms. One of the most famous verses in the bible, John 3:16, says that God loves us so much that He sent His only beloved son to die for us so that whoever believes in Him will share eternal life with Him. Think about that for a minute. God loves us so much. So much. He loves all of us so much that he gave the greatest sacrifice that any parent can give. Don't ever think that He can't possibly love you because of what you might have done in the past - He loves everyone unconditionally. Christ died for all of our sins. Remember that as Easter sneaks upon us!