A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 1

Hey there! You’re reading this because, well, ok to be honest I don’t know why; but I’m going to guess.  It’s because you are, or were, a student at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), and you’re looking for advice, or to laugh at some of the things you wished you had known.

I am writing this guide because I think there are many things students would have benefited from knowing when I was at BSSM.  I’m an engineer with a knack for teaching, so seeing how things work and educating are parts of my ‘gift mix’.  I hope this guide, part 1 so far, helps you have a smoother time in Redding.

Housing

Finding A House

Finding a house is, hopefully, something you’ve already done.  But you may find that the accommodations you have now aren’t a good fit.  Here are some tips and info you will want to know.

Questions To Ask:

  • Are utilities, internet, laundry included? If not, who provides them and what did it cost the last tenant(s)?
  • Ask for photos if you are unable to physically visit, make sure they are recent.

According to FindTheData.org, the cost of renting in the 96001, 96002, and 96003 zip codes (a.k.a. Redding area) are in the table below.  Note that this is the base cost, no utilities included.  If you find places to live at in these price ranges, you are likely getting a fair offer.

Rental Type Price Range
Studio Apartment $670-740
1 Bedroom Apartment $680-760
2 Bedroom Apartment $860-960
3 Bedroom Apartment $1,270-1,410
4 Bedroom Apartment $1,410-1,580

Now, you’ve found a place you can afford, but is the location right?  Look at a map of Redding, how close are you to ‘it all’?  Consider the primary locations:

  • Bethel campuses (College View or Main, and Twin View)
  • Commercial Downtown (Hilltop, Churn Creek, Dana, Browning area)
  • Old Downtown (Market and Placer area)
  • The Civic (school for 1st years)

The further you get from these places, the more fuel you, or your chauffeur, will burn.  You will be less likely to go hang out on a whim, or be spontaneous.  Perhaps this isn’t a goal for you, but at the very least make sure you have a plan for getting to the locations above from where you will be staying.

Running A House

This is advice on how to run a household, or the operations of a home.

Pick An Executor

Executor is a fancy dancy legal term for ‘the person who makes sure it gets done.’  Essentially, the executor is the financial face of your household.  They pay the bills, deliver the rent, and collect money from the rest of the house.  This is a lot of responsibility, but picking someone to handle it means that you have someone to thank when everything’s fine, and someone to confront when it isn’t.

The executor should have a small reserve fund to cover emergency expenses; such as rent.  As a Bethel household you already have a reputation for paying your rent, on time and in full.  Beyond that, it is the honourable thing to do.  If you have a roommate unable to make rent then you deal with that internally (i.e. do not involve the landlord/landlady).  Confronting a broke roommate is never fun, so I recommend you meet as a household to discuss what to do (see Have House Meetings below).

Finally, consider that being executor is a burden.  Think about giving the poor soul a break on their rent, or free internet, or pancakes on Sunday?  It’s hard work and can be stressful.  Remember, somebody’s managing a part of your responsibility so the household can run more smoothly, how can you help them out?

Have House Meetings

As a passive aggressive person, I still struggle with communicating my needs clearly.  But if you give me a lay-it-all-on-the-table situation, I’ll do just that; because that’s when I feel safe.

Having semi-regular house meetings is an amazing way to clear the air, to get people talking about what’s on their mind, what their struggling with, what they need, what they can offer, and so on.

How often should you meet?  As often as is necessary.  Schedule time now while you still have it and make it a priority, Tuesday night lets say.  Plan to have Tuesday night free, it is time you spend catching up with your family, or at least time time to air out concerns before they fester into resentment.  It is a sacred time that takes precedence over the coffee date with that cute guy/girl, to talk and share with your mates on what’s up with you.

If the meetings are less than ten minutes, have them less often.  Don’t let them get longer than a half hour though; after that people start to get impatient and the effectiveness will break down.

Final thought: Talk to each other about what’s an issue for you.  In this time of rapid growth and change expect that ‘issue-list’ to change with you, and with your mates.

Build relationship

When you think of the place where you live (in Redding), are you in a house or a home?  Are you 3-12 people who happen to live in the same house?  Or are you a household, a family?  The benefits of having roommates be like family are many, I hope that, at the very least, your Revival Group, and later your Small Group, show you what I mean.

Until then, I recommend you do things together!  Spending time together is a prime ingredient in bonding; sharing experience is another.  “But author,” you ask,  “however will I/we do this?”

  • Game night: Board games, card games, poker, D&D

  • Movie night: Seems everybody watches Father of Lights, but any movie y’all can agree on will do.

  • Drunk Holy Spirit party: If it’s going to be loud make a plan on how to handle it, because your roomies may be tuckered before its over.

  • Worship session: Soak, sing, play, listen

  • Friday morning pancakes: Any morning really, but make it a tradition.  Krusteaz pancake mix can be found at Winco, $8 for a 10lb (4.5kg) bag.  Our house used three in the year.  Invite neighbours to mix it up!

  • Friday night pizza: Westside Pizza has $1 slices after 10pm on Fridays.  Most of the students from the Friday night service go there.
  • Frisbee or some sport at the local park/field

Jobs

This next sentence could be misconstrued so stay with me.  Unemployment is not ‘living by faith.’  Every Christian lives by faith in God every day.  We rely on God for everything, and that includes our ability to work.  You have a responsibility to do all you can use what God gave you to take care of yourself.  I’m an engineer by trade, but right now I’m working landscaping and construction while I go after the job I really want.

International Students

The official law is that it is illegal to work under a student visa; notice how there’s nothing in the Bethel info package.  However, a charitable donation to your missions account, or a gift, is not income.  That’s all I’ll say.

Americans

If you have been looking for work in Redding, you may have already noticed that it isn’t a walk in the park.  There isn’t a lot of industry or manufacturing, the city’s biggest source for work is the medical field.

However!  That’s no reason to give up.  Look for work with the big retail chains, see if you can get a reference from another student.  Working for Walmart or Starbucks isn’t glamorous, but you can transfer to your home one, and back again, consistent work through the year and the next summer is huge.

A popular source for work is sitting.  Babysitting, house sitting, pet sitting/walking.  It’s most effective if you build relationship with the people you are looking to sit for.  In general it’s an organic business.  I babysit for the Parkers, they are friends with the Marleys, who mention that they need to find a sitter, the Parkers recommend you, and so on.

I’ve found that if you visit with someone and ask them about what they need done, you open a door for some labour.  Forty dollars for a morning of work is better than nothing right?

This guide is a little late for this piece of advice.  In general, moving here earlier means less students looking for jobs at the same time.  The early bird gets the worm.

Job Sources

Ask around, always

“Seek and you shall find….”  If you don’t look, you will never find anything.  As Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky said,

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

iBSSM Bulletin Board

This place is a gold mine for all kinds of things.  Make it a part of your daily internet check-in.  Link Here (you’ll have to login to iBSSM.)

Craigslist

http://redding.craigslist.org/jjj/  This is the jobs section, read and apply.

General

A lot people seem to find jobs at restaurants and cafes; especially ones owned by Bethel associates, so they are a good place to start the job hunt.

Finances

Let’s talk a little bit about money management.  In Redding, not spending a dollar is easier than making a dollar (see Jobs).  The general pay rate is lower than you may be used to, but everything important is cheaper (except dry cleaning, don’t get things dry cleaned in Redding).  Because everything is cheaper, saving money will be more effective than working more hours.

There are two amazing tools I use to help me with my, and my household’s, finances.

Mint.com

This site connects to your online banking and reads and categorizes your spending.  I have found nothing that was as easy when I wanted to see how much I was spending, and where I was spending it.  You can set limits on spending, and alerts if you’re spending too much in a particular month.

We Split It

Track any shared expenses between your roommates.  I was an executor for my house (see Elect An Executor) and put all the house bills here.  

WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.
WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.

Ways To Save

Go easy on the climate control:  Pay attention to the thermostat, windows, AC/Heat, and temperatures during the night and day.  We were diligent in opening the windows and blinds at night and closing them during the day, and we allowed the temp to go from 68-80 °F (19-26 °C) on our thermostat.  Because of those two things, our power bill was half that of comparable houses.

Our utility bill was so much lower we thought our friend’s houses had insulation problems.

North Valley Bank: They don’t charge huge transaction fees for withdrawing cash from international accounts.  They also have drive-through ATMs, and that’s pretty cool.

Thrifting: Technically this is also a fun way to hang out.  There are five or so thrift stores in the area (it fluctuates).  Salvation Army, Goodwill, and A Second Time Around were my favourites, but there are many more to check out.  Get clothed for a pittance, arrange it correctly and you can be a hipster.

Just don't be uppity about your new found coolness.
Just don’t be uppity about your new found coolness.

Food

Originally this was under finances, since food is such a big part of where and how we spend our money; but then it almost became bigger than the finance section itself, so here we are.

There are five main places to get food:

Walmart: cheap, and you can one-stop-shop.  Quality varies with product, great tea though.

Winco: cheap-er, but avoid the meat (I never had a problem, but friends with more refined tastes told me it was questionable).  I found the quality fine for most things, great bulk section, and organic greens.

Trader Joe’s: It’s where the cool people shop for their ovo-lacto-organic probiotic yogurts and such.  It’s expensive compared to pretty much everywhere else but you can’t deny the quality of their products.

Costco: You’ll have to be sharing food to really take advantage of this (see Sharing Food below), but Costco carries very good food at excellent prices.  I recommend the meat and pretty much everything else.

Roadside fruit guy: Ok, so there are two fruit stands you’ll see often.  They sell whatever is in season, it’s super fresh and tastes amazing.  Support local economy!

  • One is at the end of Hilltop Drive, across the road.
  • The other is at the corner of Browning and Churn Creek

Share Food

Unless you have crazy allergies, or are really picky, or hate each other, as a household you will mostly definitely save money, time, and heartache by sharing food.

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Read on!

You cook less:  Agree to cook once or twice a week, pick a day.  Now you are cooking less, and still enjoying the benefit of hot or prepared meals most nights.  Also, when you do cook it isn’t for just one person, which makes following a recipe easier.

You eat better:  In general, if you cook less often, you can take time to make better food when you do, and you don’t have to do dishes; which brings me to my next point.

When you cook, you don’t do dishes:  That’s the deal, every time.  The cook always works more than the dishwashers anyway.  Now your kitchen is being cleaned completely several times a week, how awesome is that?

You are bonding and sitting as a family several times a week:  Eating together helps build intentional community; and you are happier when eating with friends, so you’ll like your roommates more just by eating with them.

You save money:  I spend about $160-240/mo on food when I don’t share.  When I do share it can be as cheap as $80-120/mo.  That’s over 50% in savings, and over the course of the year, you’ll be able to eat out more, or grab that coffee, or take a weekend trip out of town.  The low end of the budget is a leaner lifestyle, less beef more chicken; less juice, more water, choices like that.  How is this possible?  Three things:

  1. Costco: You can buy lots of really good, quality food here.  The problem is that you have to buy them in quantity.  Milk? At Winco the cheap brand is about $3.50 for a gallon; Costco is $3.25 for better milk, but you have to buy two gallons at a time.  Sharing food with other people allows you to take advantage of the savings.
  2. Big meals:  Pasta and soups are cheap and nourishing.  Learn how to make them.
  3. Avoid meat: If possible, try other foods to get your protein, have a meatless Monday.  I’ve made a spaghetti that was half chick peas half ground beef, delicious and affordable!

I hope you’ve found this informative, I’ll be releasing more sections, be sure to comment on what you think I should be covering!

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Online Piracy, One Commodore’s Opinion

Yo ho ho and all that nonsense,

In this post I’ll be talking about the sharing of information and media, principally music, movies, and television. This is not a tips and tricks guide to getting what you want without paying; it’s my observations on society’s reactions to piracy, industry’s reactions, some historical examples of similar issues, and the effects of piracy on the average pirate. That’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in.

What is piracy?

For the purposes of this post, we’ll define piracy in a general sense: the sharing or duplication of material with others without the consent of the creator of that material. Creator includes whoever has distribution rights of the material since, consent passes to them. So, this post is not pirated, Netflix is not pirated, but any movie, episode of TV, or song you download without paying for is, 99.9999% of the time, pirated material.

Piracy Is Not New

Remember VCRs? Watching those christmas specials and fast forwarding through the commercials? How about recording your favourite songs off of the radio on a casette tape? Well technically, that’s piracy folks. The movie and to a lesser extent the music industry were not happy with these developments at all, as we’ll see soon.

Some History (Heavily Paraphrased)

We live in a capitalist society. That means to live you need to have money, and if you are a creator of things, be it paintings, sculpture, film, photos, music, or something else, you need to be paid for what you create (this will be covered further in my upcoming post on creativity).

Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to hear music, it was live. In my opinion far more people had a reason to learn an instrument, if for no other reason than to entertain themselves. Almost every public establishment had some form of musician, from saloons to high class restaurants to hotel lobbies. At this point, movies haven’t been invented, so plays and *overly dramatic british voice*, “the theeahtorr,” are the equivalent. And software or games? You hired people to make life easier I suppose.

Let’s jump ahead to the industrial revolution. Inventions are sprouting up everywhere that are threatening the livelihoods of artisans by making them obsolete. As an example, Singer’s sewing machines received a tremendous backlash from the seamstress and tailor communities since his product had the potential to put over 90% into early retirement (the fastest seamstress could do 40-50 stitches per minute, while Singer’s machine could do 900). Personally I can’t think of a world without sewing machines, and am grateful that I can clothe myself so affordably. I do regret that I can’t get a hand made suit like I could have in those days, but in today’s dollars I think I’d still be looking at $1000-2000.

Let’s jump again! It’s the turn of the twentieth century. Thanks to Tesla, electricity is becoming practical, and Marconi has made long distance wireless communication possible. Edison is on the scene, and his inventions are really shaking things up. He’s invented a device for recording music and another for recording video. Interestingly, there was a backlash from sheet music publishers who were worried that Edison’s recording device would put them out of business.

More importantly, film is born, and it’s so expensive that to actually produce it as mass media huge investments are required. I can’t do this topic justice, so if you want more information check this guy out. Point is Hollywood ended up owning the way movies are made. The world today sees movies that titillate and appeal to our baser instincts for the sake of profit. More about that later.

Radio befalls a similar fate. Eventually radio moves from being something where you put a pole on a hill and you have a radio station, to a regulated system to costly to run without sponsorship. Regulation here boiled down to having to pay to use specific frequency bands to broadcast over an area (e.g. AM 940). In theory, this makes tons of sense and I agree with it. The problem starts when sponsors want to maximize their listener base, which leads to our modern day ‘Pop’, ‘Best of the 80s, 90s and now!’, ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Oldies’, and ‘Public Radio’ stations. Unless you live in a city with over one million people, you’ll be lucky to have stations dedicated to Classical, Jazz, Indie, Alternative, Techno, Electronica, Metal, or World; because it simply isn’t profitable.

Alright, I’m going to skip the software part of piracy, but suffice it to say that from the birth of the internet free sharing has been a philosophical idea people have made their camp in.

Present Day

Today, we can already see the effects piracy has had on the industry. In 2009, the movie Avatar revived 3D, a technology still largely exclusive to theaters. Companies make most of their money, and all of their budgeting decisions on ticket sales. 3D allowed theaters to stay a step ahead of home theaters, for a time at least.

Another effect besides technology is massive declines in cost. CDs cost a fraction of what they used to, and now you can rent movies in HD online for just four dollars. Software is cheaper too. Apple’s OS X Lion sold for $30, and it’s newest Mountain Lion is selling for $20. Compare this to Tiger (2005) which had an MSRP of $130. I can assure you that the software didn’t cost 75% less to create, but Apple recognizes that in a world where spending nothing to 99 cents on a program is normal, $130 isn’t going to work.

Societal Perspectives on Piracy

Generally, people believe piracy is wrong; and generally people think speeding is wrong. When I was in college I earned a reputation as a man who could ‘get things’. You want the second season of Captain Planet? Done. You want the original version of Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) in the original Japanese, and in HD? You got it. A set of acoustic recordings of Sigur Rós? My pleasure. People asked me because I could do it, and because they wanted to distance themselves from the affair. I got a kick out of it.

Most of the things I dug up in those days were so obscure they didn’t exist anywhere else. Only because some guy in Sweden had a copy on his computer could I too take in these pieces of entertainment. Of course there were the more common things like current American television shows, but that was played off as ‘well I would have watched it on TV, but I was busy at the time.’ If it wasn’t for piracy, I don’t think TiVO, and later PVRs, would have become as ubiquitous as they are today.

Why I Like Being A Pirate

There are many reasons, but here are a few:

  • I have opinions regarding music/film that can be backed up. I have watched over 700 movies by now, some were real gems, and most I never would have seen due to availability. I’m not saying it would have been impossible for me to watch ‘Funny Face’ with Audrey Hepburn, just that I would not have marked my calendar for the once in a year time it’s on TV, or mail ordered the Audrey Hepburn collection in hopes that it would be good. Music follows a similar pattern.
  • People can rely on me to advise them on movies. I like being able to help people. I like saving them money. I like telling them that ‘Fast 5’ or ‘Expendables 2’ are not worth it, but maybe ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘The Great Escape’, or ‘Predators’ are (for their tastes).
  • I know when I’m being conned: The music industry doesn’t want you to know about any music they aren’t selling. Hipsters are the first to say that, albeit condescendingly. Now getting your music out there is easy enough for anyone to do. The number of styles are as numerous as there are people making it. But I digress.
  • I wouldn’t be who I am today: Every time I learn a new computer language, I used pirated software. Assignments from school, same. Music I’m listening to? Also pirated. Almost everything on my computer, with the notable exception of video games and the operating system itself, was not paid for.

The behaviour I’m modeling has forced dramatic shifts in the way media is produced and distributed. It’s led to crowd funded television, free CD promotions for live shows, and (one day) a better enriched public.

Imagine a world where movies had to be innovative and original, where endless sequels would stop and TV shows wouldn’t make money after 7 seasons (it’s rare outside of America for shows to run as long as they do, with the notable exceptions of Dr. Who and Japanese shows based on popular manga series). This is the kind of world I want to live in, when I hear that Fast & Furious 6 is coming out next year, my heart sinks. We can do better! Inform yourselves, and then:

Use that information to vote with your money. It’s capitalism so that’s how they react, to money. Don’t wait for DVD, don’t wait for the dollar theater after the accountants stop caring. If you want to see more awesome stuff, pay for it. I know this seems like a sudden switch from all the free talk I was making earlier, but I want to be clear. I pay for videogames, especially from indie developers. I pay for concerts and performances, and I pay for tickets to the big theater experiences. These are the things I believe are worthwhile and we need more of. That’s why I’m voting for them. And if it wasn’t for piracy, and pirates, and this guy again, I never would have known any of this.

Closing Thoughts

So really I’ve only scratched the surface. But we’re talking about seven years of personal experience and over a century of deeply mixed social, economic, and political history. Piracy will never go away entirely, it will continue to cost companies money, but never so much that they will all fail. Hopefully, people will regain an appreciation for live music since it’s somewhat scarce, and musicians can find money there, doing what they love. Hopefully, people will go to the movies, but wait to see cookie cutter style film on DVD, because they aren’t worth it.

Ultimately, piracy is a threat to a norm, just as sewing machines, phonographs, the radio, and VCRs were threats to seamstresses, musicians, newspapers, and theaters. But in time norms shift, and society adjusts to accommodate it, as we’ve begun to see with digital distribution, the removal of DRM, and the plummeting prices of songs, film, and software.

Acknowledgements

I have to thank my friend Andrew ‘Birchy’ Birchall for introducing me to electronic music, it changed my life. While I’ll never sit on the bleeding edges of the genre with him, I can enjoy the more mature, collected work produced later.

I also have to thank Bob ‘MovieBob’ Chipman, for his extensive insights on Hollywood. MovieBob is a movie critic for The Escapist and also has a weekly show entitled ‘The Big Picture‘ which I linked to twice in this post and discusses topics surrounding pop culture, the internet, movies, comic books, television, and whatever else crosses his mind.