Monthly Archives: April 2014

The More Things Change…?

beach1When I was a teenager, I was bombarded with images of people my age, but far more attractive, frolicking on the beach with perfect airbrushed tans and perfect teeth including, of course, the requisite surfboards. (Cue the Beachboys…)

seniorgolfcommunities.net

seniorgolfcommunities.net

Now, many years later, I am bombarded with images of beautiful people my age, around the pool just off the beach with perfect photoshopped skin covered with myeloma resistant sunscreen and perfectly crowned and veneered teeth, including, of course, the retirement home strategically placed in the background. (Cue the Beachboys…)

I’m not sure, but they may be the same people.

Celebrity Does Not Equal Expertise

Daryl Hannah & Tom Hanks in "Splash"

Daryl Hannah & Tom Hanks in “Splash”

I saw today that Fox News in its never ending quest for journalistic excellence had a video of Daryl Hannah and why she opposes the Keystone pipeline. I confess, I didn’t watch it, as I despise videos, preferring a well written article for absorbing data. I also have a problem with our national fetish for celebrity.

However, I decided to check out Ms. Hannah’s bona fides to determine if I should, in fact, watch the video.

Daryl Hannah is a beautiful woman. She caught the eyes of both John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Jackson Brown both of whom had long term relationships with her.

She’s a beautiful woman who comes from a wealthy family in Chicago. According to Wikipedia, she attended the noted progressive Francis W. Parker School where she played on the soccer team. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in theater. Her education also included ballet drama at the Goodman Theater School of Drama in Chicago. Obviously, she took her craft seriously and prepared well for it. Her work speaks for itself.

She was particularly exotic and beautiful in “Bladerunner,” and especially engaging and beautiful in “Roxeanne.”

Even Albert Einstein spoke of the pleasure of speaking with a beautiful woman, but so far I’m just not seeing any qualifications in geology, petroleum science, transportation, environmental science or economics that would entice me to include her thoughts in my calculus about the Keystone pipeline.

Don’t get me wrong. Ms. Hannah is educated and no doubt intelligent. However, her education and intelligence does not entitle her to practice law or medicine, to lead troops in battle, or even, in most states, to cut hair. There are criteria to be met and credentials to be obtained before one is acknowledged to be competent in many fields. Expertise is usually dependent on the recognition by other credentialed members of one’s advanced knowledge and experience. While she no doubt has deep felt opinions about the pipeline, Ms. Hannah’s expertise is in entertainment.

Fox’s motto is “We report – You decide.” So I’ve decided that while Daryll Hannah is a beautiful woman, an accomplished actress, well educated, and quite possibly a delightful and fascinating person, I’ll look elsewhere for my relevant information on topics such as the need to build or not build a pipeline.

And I have to wonder about Fox News.

Weekend

SONY DSC

I guess I could claim that I didn’t get anything done this weekend.

Spent all day Saturday with other ham radio operators providing communications for the local “Tour de Cure” – a bicycle ride/fund raiser for diabetes research.

Sunday, after church, went and babysat my granddaughter so my daughter-in-law could catch up on some chores. Grabbed a nap then cooked dinner for my son’s 16th birthday.

On the other hand, I everything done that was important.

It’s Only Words

Word /wɜrd/ [wurd] noun 1. a unit of language, …. blah, blah, etc., etc.

If you can’t bedazzle them with brilliance, befuddle them with bullshit. On the other hand, if you have something to say, why not say it plain enough for others to understand?

Today while reading the Bible, there was a footnote that said a certain verse was omitted because it was a “dittography” of another verse. Excuse me, do you mean duplicate?

I spent years in healthcare, which is famous for its jargon. We couldn’t say “after a meal” but had to say “postprandial” instead. However, no one ever said, “Hey, let’s go down to the cafeteria and grab some prand!”

Computer types love to use confusing terminology like “enterprise wide solution”, “GUI”, “WYSIWYG”, “platform independent”, and “Windows 8.”

The entire federal government uses a wide range of acronyms, synonyms, homonyms, and occasional cinnamons.

And why do police officers always “exit the vehicle” instead of “getting out of the car.”

I would rather read a great thought plainly written than mental pap dressed up in fancy technospeak.

I hope it happens, but I’m not holding my breath. After all, as my father used to say, “Never calculate the quantity of juvenile poetry before the process of incubation has thoroughly materialized.”

Shakespeare – To Be or Not to Be

417px-Cobbe_portrait_of_Shakespeare

Shakespeare turns 450, the media tells us (although he doesn’t look a day over 225), and the Globe Theatre is planning on performing Hamlet in every country on earth.

Well!

In the spirit of modern journalism, I submit the following issues to remove the happiness from these tidings and replace them with appropriate 21st century doom and gloom.

What if it isn’t really his birthday? According to Time magazine, he was baptized on the 26th, which usually followed the birth by three days. But we can’t be sure. What if there was a blizzard?

If the Royal Shakespeare Company starts performing in various countries, what if new countries are formed or several countries merge. This might mean that some new counties get skipped, RIGHT WHEN THEY NEED A LITTLE HELP, THANK YOU! And if two countries that merge already had their Hamlet performance it means that they got more than all the other countries.

Besides, there’s always been doubt about whether William Shakespeare REALLY was the one who wrote these works. Some claim they were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Donne or Queen Elizabeth. Could have been any one of them – or even all of them in a giant conspiracy!

Then, of course, there’s the infinite number of monkeys hammering away at an infinite number of typewriters. (Can’t use computers because of the spell checker.)

Or, maybe it was Al Gore.

Leaked Operating System Memo

From: MicroHard Executive Suite

To: Software Engineers, Designers and Other Assorted and Sundry Geeks

We keep hearing about features in our 8.x operating system that customers actually like. We cannot allow this to continue. Our Operating System 7 was far too popular with customers. Why in the world would people spend hundreds of dollars every other year for a new OS if they’re happy with what they’ve got? We’ve successfully discontinued support for our successful Expee system. Its successor “Scenic” was a phenomenal success in that every user couldn’t wait to replace it. However, Seven continues to haunt us with users who refuse to upgrade because they’re happy.

Our founder and guiding light, “Willie” would not approve. Just because he’s helping people in Africa doesn’t mean that we are to stop, shall we say, “having conjugal knowledge” of our customers.

Let me make this perfectly clear – if you don’t make it so that everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is happy to drop a couple of hundred bucks on our next operating system, the following steps will be taken IMMEDIATELY!

  1. All software employees will work from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM with an hour for lunch. No eating at your desk, so you’ll have to leave the building and mingle with other people!
  2. There will be NO telecommuting, so kiss your bunny slippers goodbye.
  3. Daily baths/showers will be mandatory; the company nurse will conduct inspections as appropriate.
  4. A new dress code will be implemented requiring pressed and starched white shirts, dark dress trousers for males and dark skirts (1″ below the knee) for females with practical black leather POLISHED shoes.

In other words, make our customers seek happiness in our NEXT software release.

Got it?

Good

An Easter Thought for All

SONY DSC

Easter is a time of hope, optimism and looking forward. Because of its ties to Passover it occurs in the spring, with its focus on life. I propose that we take this time to harness our creative energies as we look ahead.

The prolific Thomas Alva Edison was self-educated, and, before some of you protest, let me remind you that Facebook wasn’t invented by a large corporation, and Apple started out with two guys experimenting in a garage.

So, now to the challenge – What is frequently in the news because we have too much?

Carbon and heat.

Someone is going to figure out what makes carbon – or more specifically carbon dioxide – valuable. When they do, I’m sure that the rest of us will bemoan how obvious the answer was and that we all should have thought of it. As near as I can tell, carbon in many other configurations is preferable to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Likewise, we’re always looking for new sources of energy, particularly renewable energy. W commonly measure energy in terms of heat (calories, and BTU – British Thermal Units). Somehow it must be possible to efficiently capture the extra heat in the atmosphere and store it for use elsewhere.

It’s a time of beginnings, worldly as well as other-worldly, beginnings and possibilities.

Thy Will Be Done

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

As Jesus prayed in the garden, we see Him as bowing to the Father’s will as the “Suffering Servant.”

I suspect that just as Jesus was both divine and human at the same time, many of His messages have meaning with regard to both worlds. Yes, he was obedient to the Father, and gives us the perfect example to follow. On the other hand, I think He’s also teaching us that God’s will is inevitable.

The most evil person who works tirelessly against God is not going to change the ultimate outcome. God’s just too powerful.

We can follow Christ’s example, and be an active participant in God’s plan, or not. The end result will be the same.

 


Misnamed Religious Days?

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane  1746   Pinacoteca, Vatican City, Vatican

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane 1746
Pinacoteca, Vatican City, Vatican

It seems odd that we call this Holy Week. After all, it’s a week when everything seems to have fallen apart.

“Holy Thursday” – Jesus asks for Peter, James and John to pray with him, but they fall asleep. He’s betrayed by one of his closest followers. Those charged with representing His Father are the ones orchestrating His demise. His trusted right-hand man denies Him.

“Good Friday” – Jesus is tortured, humiliated, abandoned and condemned to a death reserved for slaves who threaten the emperor. His own people don’t so much choose Barabbas to live as condemn Jesus to die.

“Holy Saturday” – The hope for the world lays cold and dead in a sepulchure.

But, as God told Samuel as he looked at each of Jesse’s sons, and as Jesus told Peter – God sees things differently than we do and His thoughts are not like ours. The week is Holy because it unfolded according to God’s plan – not ours.

Why a Dove?

HS

None of us understands God or the Trinity, and perhaps most of all, the Holy Spirit – the part of the Trinity that represents the very power of God.

When Jesus allowed Himself to be baptized by John, the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove.

After Jesus left them by ascending to heaven, the apostles did what any normal men would do– they gathered, locked the door and basically asked, “Now what do we do?” The Holy Spirit arrived, their doubts were erased, and they went out and faced the world, and even death, fearlessly.

So why would such a great power (actually the Greatest power) appear as a dove? Even more profound, is that some biologists tell us that the dove in the New Testament was the rock dove, or what we today call the common pigeon.

Why?

I can’t answer for God, but I remember that when Elijah was told to prepare for God to pass by, He wasn’t in the earthquake, or the fire or the wind. He was in a whisper.

I remember that Jesus the Messiah came not as a king or a warrior, but as the “Lamb of God.” Instead of taking the role of the high priest, He offered Himself as the sacrifice.

So, at least in my heart, the Power of the Holy Spirit comes as a dove because God in whichever way He discloses Himself, Father, Son or Holy Spirit, He comes to us peacefully to invite us even though He has the power and the right to command us.

The next step is up to us.

Jesus’ Timing

Superstar

If you have followed my blog for a while, you may remember that during Lent I listen to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Although it’s an artistic musing, it does cause me to think of my scripture reading from a different perspective. In the recording, Judas asks why Jesus came, “in such a backward time in such a strange land.” He goes on to say, “If you’d come today, you’d have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

It’s a fair question, and I pondered it for a while and arrived at an answer that at least makes sense to me.

I think that Jesus’ aim was to inspire, teach, challenge, and demand that we take things into our own hands and do God’s work. It is up to us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and perform such works in His name and to give glory to the Father.

But what if He had chosen today? I suspect for a while He would be the top story on the news and a meme on the internet. But would we take Him any more seriously? Personally I doubt it. Besides, in a few days some other story would have pushed him out of the limelight.

It was within His power to solve all our problems – disease; poverty; everything. Instead, He solved the biggest problem – our separation from God.

The rest is up to us, but don’t worry. He taught us how.

How to Keep Your Computer Safe

With all of the stolen identities, viruses, Trojans and other malware, here are the steps you need to keep your computer safe:

  1. Purchase a good quality anti-virus/firewall (AV/F) program.
  2. Install the AV/F program. DO NOT backup data before installing, since this will just save any malware already on your computer. If possible, boot from the AV/F disk and perform a complete system scan.
  3. Update your operating system and your AV/F program. Run a second complete system scan.
  4. Backup your data to a series of Blu-Ray, DVD or CD ROMS and store in a place that is safe from theft, fire, electromotive pulse damage, etc. Bank safety deposit boxes are ideal.
  5. Change your passwords. Do not use any word or combination of words in any language that could appear in a dictionary as these are vulnerable. The password should be at least 20 characters long and include 2 upper case and 2 lower case letters, 2 numbers, 2 special character (such as !@#$%%), 3 polynomials, an imaginary number, an augmented 7th chord, and a mathematical impossibility.
  6. DO NOT WRITE YOUR PASSWORD ANYWHERE!
  7. Remember, if you can remember your password, it is not safe.
  8. Change all your passwords again.
  9. Turn the computer off and remove the power cable.
  10. Remove all other cables attached to the computer.
  11. Remove the screws holding the cover on your desktop OR if you’re using a laptop, remove the battery and all the screws on the bottom of the computer.
  12. Remove the screws on all boards, modules and devices inside your computer. If possible, unsolder all components from the printed circuit boards.
  13. Take each of these items and hide or bury each in a different county/parish. If possible, different states or provinces. (Note: For a variety of reasons, it is advisable that you not cross international borders with your computer parts.)
  14. Consult a professional hypnotist and ask him/her to erase all memories of any passwords or portions of passwords from your subconscious. (Although equally effective, lobotomies have unwanted side effects.)

Congratulations! Your computer is now safe! Enjoy!

Who vs. What

There are things that are integral to one’s life that you ignore, but then, without notice, you have an epiphany.

For 62 years, my father always called and referred to me as “Stephen”- never “Steve,” but I never really noticed until shortly before he died. Apparently whatever is routine goes unnoticed.

For many years, I tended to identify myself with what I did to earn a living. Recently, however, I realized that there’s a big difference between what I do, not who I am.

Now, a little older and wiser, I realize that who I am is best defined in the various ministries and responsibilities God gave me. Father. Husband. Friend. Son.

Over 30 years ago a priest tried to explain to me, “You have a job to support your family, not a family to support your job.”

I think I’m finally understanding.

Science FICTION vs. SCIENCE Fiction

The_Martian_2014

My older son dislikes the reboot of Star Trek because of some of the liberties they take with the laws of physics. I on the other hand am happy to allow artistic license in order to have a good story.

Of course, I grew up on the notoriously under-budgeted original Star Trek, while he grew up on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The original couldn’t afford the sets and models for a different planet each week, so they created the now ubiquitous transporter. Considering that this was in the days before the first real world moon landing, that was a leap of faith (or a tweak of physics) in its own right.

On the other hand, there are some great stories that take great care in ensuring that the science is reasonably well adhered to. I just finished The Martian by Andy Weir.

There have been marooned stories from before Robinson Crusoe to the recent movie Gravity. The trick is to tell it in a way that’s reasonably plausible. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts on Mars that is devastated by a dust storm. His team mates see him impaled on a metal rod and blown away, but can’t recover his body because their launch vehicle is rapidly succumbing to the same storm. Recover one dead astronaut and they’ll add the whole team to the killed in action list.

Of course, Mark didn’t die, but to survive he has to figure out certain things.

How do I get water on Mars?

How do I find some way to grow some kind of food in something?

Like a detective novel, it’s the “how does he figure this one out” factor that makes this book fun, and there are many things to be figured out.

A Geek’s Eye View

The wand chooses the Geek...

The wand chooses the Geek…

Now that we’re back from the Great Wolf Lodge, as a certifiable geek, I now am working on a different project.

One of the attractions of the park is a “magic” hunt in which you buy a wand that interacts with various items around the hotel. I’m sure most end up in the toy box for a few weeks and then out with the trash.

Not here. Naturally I figured that if nothing else, it could join the rest of my illusions in the trunk I use for magic tricks.

However, while we were packing this morning, I did quick Google search.

“Great Wolf Lodge Magic Wand Hacks” [SEARCH]

Some folks have found out how to decode the wand’s signal and use it with an Arduino computer. Think opening your front door with a wand rather than a key.

I had already considered replacing the guts of the wand with a high powered laser to use at meetings in order to be the envy of the PowerPoint Rangers!

I haven’t decided exactly how, but the wand is headed for a much better life once properly repurposed.

I wonder what kind of ham radio use I could find for it…

Guilty Adult Pleasures

No, not that.

Every parent lives vicariously through their children.

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It’s a great excuse to get those toys you wanted but never had in your own childhood. The electric train that Santa forgot. The fact that you never read “Winnie the Pooh.” Now you can buy those things-  for your children.

We took a few days at Great Wolf Lodge – an indoor water park – for the benefit of the kids. I’m sure you can finish the story from there.

Why You Think It’s Funny and I Don’t

When asked advice on how he would do the old slip on a banana peel gag, Chaplin was once quoted as saying “Instead of slipping on a banana peel, have a large woman walk up, see the banana peel and step over it, and drop into an uncovered man hole she didn’t see ahead of her because she was so busy being smug while looking back at the banana peel she just smartly stepped over. Courtesy JeTamme Derouet (Charlie Chaplin historian, paid expert and top contributor) http://www.charliechaplinclub.com.

I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor, but many of today’s comedians don’t make me laugh. I’ve watched Adam Sandler, Will Farrell and others, wanting to be amused; begging to be amused; hoping to be amused, but being disappointed. Have I gotten that old?

The other day I heard a comment on NPR that pointed out how today’s humor is more slapstick, while the humor of the mid to late 20th century was more intelligent and thought provoking – not that everything today is slapstick, or that everything from back then was intelligent (after all, that same time period included the “Gong Show.”) The speaker pointed out how the older material used humor to convey a message. I believe there’s some truth to that.

Look at how Richie Pryor used humor to make a huge statement about the idiocy of racism. Supposedly, he wrote the script for “Blazing Saddles.”) Bill Cosby’s view of life in his stand-up comedy was outstanding, and his characters converted to cartoons with a message.

“Firesign Theatre” parodied just about everything, while salting the material with obscure references to computer technology, radiology, physics, and especially classical literature. These types of comedy got funnier over time because you caught more of the hidden jokes. (“Will you look at the mouth on that gift horse? I’ve never seen anything like that!”)

There’s hope, though. I like the tee shirt emblazoned with, “There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.”

And of course, “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged).”

And, yes, just as Shakespeare (the original) was corny, intelligent humor can be corny as well.

A neutron walked into the Atomic Bar and asked the bartender, a proton, for a drink, which the bartender poured and served.

“How much do I owe you?” asked the neutron.

“For you, no charge,” replied the bartender.

[And if that isn’t bad enough…]

“Are you sure?” asked the neutron?

“I’m positive!” replied the proton.

April’s Foole

worldfamousmagic.com

worldfamousmagic.com

Today is the day when we’re supposed to pull ridiculous practical jokes on one another.

However, in a world with [insert Putin, Kim Jong-un, or your favorite politician here], Kardashians, “The Real Housewives of [Insert city, town or trailer park here], Windows 8, and income tax due in two weeks, it’s pretty hard to be outrageous.