Friday, June 22, 2018

Taste experience at Taste of Tacoma

We signed up for The "Experience Taste Package at Emerald Queen Casino's Taste of Tacoma, presented by BECU." All and all I am happy! A few local restaurants supplied food and there was the potential for beer and wine tasting. Lunch was from the booths after the ticket stand.

And then we walked down to the wine tasting. We gave our extra tickets to the Lisa Mitts band).

We both felt the best wine was their Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Siri on my Mac

As we age, hearing is often impacted. Despite the massive improvements in hearing aid technology, many people buy them, and set them aside. I'll bet you have a friend, or relative, that has done that. Part of the reason is that we are under-using our ears. Despite the fact our heritage is the "oral tradition", today we consume most of what we learn/know via our eyes by reading and other visual stimulation.

One of my New Years Resolutions was to learn to use the "smart speaker" technology. The dictation function that comes with my Mac allows me to speak to my computer in a way that is useful. I have an additional incentive; I have overused my hands typing on keyboards and will need to have my tendons scrapped at some point. Anything I can do to delay that is gravy. Dictation is how I wrote the draft of this post. It is a learning experience, and I hope both my Mac and I improve.

I also committed to try to use the intelligent assistants, Siri and Alexa. I purchased an Amazon Kindle Fire pad. It didn't cost much, about $40.00 if I recall, and I haven't gotten much out of it so far. Working with Alexa, I found she's very good looking up the local weather, the stock market, the news, and setting alarms. I have not had much success in ordering from Amazon with Alexa, even with repeat orders, though I have done it.

Because of privacy concerns, I shut the fire pad down when not using it. I have even removed it from the room in business meetings. The general consensus of technical writers is that Alexa is the most advanced of the smart assistants. I have not seen that yet, but it could well be that I am so far down the learning curve.

I've been working with Siri on my phone. This is also of marginal use so far, but I have friends that model what is possible and that motivates me to keep trying.  I have learned to make sure critical phone numbers such as the Kauai police non-emergency are in my contacts, or there is no hope, Siri, has problems with Hawaiian words. 

Today, I enabled Siri on my Mac. In early testing it does not seem to work as well as the iPhone. The problem, when it does not work well is that you want to quit trying, but I will press on at least for a while.

Another factor, is that when we age, we need to exercise our minds. Working with the hearing and speech part of our brains is part of that.

To summarize. I think it is important for each of us to learn to use these technologies. At first, the benefits seem marginal, but when I consider the health of my brain, the longevity of my hands, and the fact that I may actually be able to add efficiency to my life, I think it is worth the effort.

I finally met one of the 45th president's base

Don't scoff. I live in Hawaii and Seattle, most people consider them fairly liberal, so it was an experience meeting a card carrying member of the president's base. We are more alike than different, caucasian, male, older, some discretionary income, a sense of family and friendship, long successful marriages, Christian or at least trying to be.

And as we started talking, the more I listened, the more I was amazed, so I mostly listened. We are different. He was giving off the classic messaging of the base that had elected the 45th president. Full disclosure, he is not exactly the first. One of my friends on Kauai does that, but he can play any role and does. So I was ready to be schooled by the real deal.

I learned that our country's downfall began with the Obama administration. That was eye opening, I would have thought that the history books were going to put him in a pretty good light. So, I waited and listened some more.

It all started with the Supreme Court legalizing same sex marriage. Oh, my, I quietly thought, we really don't want a country where the President tells the Supreme Court how to vote. But wait, that wasn't it. Our downfall came because of the rainbow lights the shined on the White House. Now that may seem insignificant, but did you know that 25 years ago, only .4%, (less than 1 per cent, he said for emphasis), openly admitted being gay. Today, it's 43%, (must have been some light show).

If you know me, you know I am an analyst, terrain analyst, systems analyst, network security analyst, (wrote a few books with that hat on). So I ran a mental sanity check, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, co-workers, church, and I could only think of one openly gay person. Another man present in the conversation marveled saying, "I'm pretty sure all of my co-workers are straight."

Next up was millennials. Did you know they don't, some say can't, read. At this point I was getting a bit antsy, I have some experience in supplying millennials high quality, technical, reading materials. They do read them, the proof is their GIAC exams.

And, I was told, millennials don't parent, instead they send their kids to camp, bike riding camp, shoe tying camp. Anything so that somebody else raises their kids. I reflected on my brother in law's family, how those very millennial parents are so involved with their kids.

By this point, I am not saying anything, especially after the pejorative mention of long hair, (I resemble that remark). To be honest, I wanted to throw up, please Lord let me get out of here before the conversation turns to African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, or worse, immigrants.

Looking back, I'm trying to make some sense out of things, we are more alike than divergent. How then, can our differences be so stark?  We both claim to be Christians, "There is one body and one Spirit".

My natural inclination is avoidance. Arrange my schedule so that we only cross paths at the most superficial moments.  And that might be the best choice. The harder road is to listen and love, search for shared experiences, try to understand how he came to that mindset. That last is the most important.

To some extent we are all conformed to this world. I think the answer might be in Romans 2:12 NLT, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

My brother in Christ has been conformed by a set of values, but I have too, so have you. My responsibility is to look for shared interests.

In the months before the election, I would be driving around Washington and kept seeing billboards, especially in rural areas, that caused me to doubt the pundits and polls saying the Clinton was going to win the presidency. I'm guessing this "coincidental" meeting may be the start of a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon; once I learn the verbal and written clues I will be able to pick it out more readily. If that happens I will try to blog my impressions and observations.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Holiness is not a known side effect of Ambien

( This series starts with: racismpridepro-lifedebtprosperity, fear)

Holiness in this post is defined as "set apart for God". How many times have I sat in church and heard the preacher say, "the reason the world doesn't believe Jesus, is because Christians act exactly as the unsaved do".

Truer words can never be spoken. I do. I get up in the morning, drink coffee, eat something, check my email .... just exactly like the rest of the developed world. Except where and why I differ.  I realize that racism, bigotry, and prejudice has made inroads into my thinking. I realize and admit that anyone could find something about my life to say, "see, Stephen said/thought/wrote/did this, AND HE CLAIMS TO BE A CHRISTIAN", and I do not say this in defense of sinning! There is just a lot of real estate to attend to.

Peter was a fisherman, Amos was a shepherd, I'm an educator and author of several successful non-fiction books, and a few unsuccessful ones as well; one of the latter group was Ethics in IT. Oh my. Another common preacher statement is, "as I was preparing this lesson, the LORD kept causing related events to happen in my life". I get that in a big way. Not only did that happen for each issue in the book, but afterwards for a year everything I said and did seemed to elicit someone saying to me, "that's not ethical". Happened five times in a single week. I wanted to scream, at least I'm trying.

And trying, I think, is the core issue. Trying to be aware that as I am going, goal one is to make disciples of all nations. As an academician, my responsibilities are to gather knowledge, mentor the next generation, and chronicle the events of our time. I need to try to do that in a way that is sensitive to the goal of making disciples.

This series of essays was inspired by Rosanne Barr's outburst. Jeepers, what a lot of damage for one tweet that resulted from thinking about the wrong things; I know, the same thing happened to me not long ago. And what a brilliant retort by Sanofi/Ambien, they scored a huge amount of brand awareness with their tweetsponse. However, Ambien is a far more powerful drug than most people realize and Ms. Barr's story is actually fairly pale in terms of Ambien errors, sleep eating doesn't sound like that big of an issue until the entire cookie package is gone. The documented cases of sleep driving on Ambien should give one pause and sleep sex, well, I'll let you research that.

Up till now the most important Bible verse for me has been James 1:5 NIV, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. I was praying that with Fred Kerby and the Ellricks in Bowie Curry's church. I am praying that now facing the largest writing project I have ever taken on. And while I need every spec of wisdom God will grant me, eventually that project will get done and boxed up. I think for myself, Galatians 5: 22, 23 NIV,  needs to be my focus as I go forward.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Fear is not a side effect of Ambien

( This series starts with: racismpridepro-lifedebt, prosperity, )
As a generation of time has passed I have gone from reckless and fearless to careful and cowed. Fear, it turns out, is one of those very broad words including:

  • What I'm afraid to/not to, do
  • What/who I'm afraid of
  • If I do or don't do something, fear of regret

Fear can be healthy. Hunter and I went to the Grand Canyon once, some crazy guy was running pell mell on the very edge. I can only guess it was to prove to himself or others that he wasn't afraid. But there was nothing to be gained, you can run just as fast 3' from the edge and all to be lost with a single slip; cartoon physics only applies to cartoons.

Fear can imply respect. As a white water kayaker, you scout the rapid. Before you go in the ocean, be mindful. Stay seat belted in the plane, you only have to see someone's head hit the overhead bin hard once to get the idea. These examples pale when I consider that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Fear can be irrational. How many of us have a story about being terrified by something and not even sure why? And because it can be irrational, fear mongers use it to manipulate us: the convoy is coming from a sh*th*le country, bad, they are animals, will destroy our way of life. They will take our jobs, the same "take this job and shove it" we were complaining about at the bar yesterday.

In stock investing they have the Volatility Index, (VIX), in society I think we need a Fear Index, (FIX). January 13 Kathy showed me her phone, there was an incoming missile alert. I used to work in the field, shook my head said some poor schmuck hit the wrong button. She kept on with her bible study, I kept on with what I was doing. I had no idea none, that people would be afraid, that they thought these were their last minutes.

Here is the aha moment, catch it. For that hour, people were in crushing fear. Three months later, that will be a ghost, at least most of the time, else 99% of humanity would be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. But, that natural regeneration also means on of the hardest things to understand about ourselves is what we are truly afraid of.

Try it now. Can you remember being afraid? If you can remember, is it vivid, or is it faded and academic? For me it is the latter, but the pattern is still there, ready to spring back to life.

In each coming election both parties are going to try to manipulate us with fear: they will take our guns, our jobs, our children, our right to choice. They will take away what you've worked for, what heroes died for.

I'll never be a mental verbal kung fu perceptor master, but I am trying to teach my brain to identify when people are trying to influence me including by fear. One rule of thumb that is helping me, if the politician that is trying to make me afraid has a net worth of over a million, (or won't release the net worth), I discount what they are saying, If they had that many treasures to lose and whatever they are selling as a fearcycle was a valid problem, they'd be busy trying to plug the dam, or whatever, instead of selling it to me.

1 John 4:18 NLT is one of those Mount Everest Bible verses, right up there with "consider it all joy"; yeah right! I may have 60 gazillion steps to go, but the word of the LORD does not return void.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.


The next post in this series is holiness.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Prosperity is not a known side effect of Ambien

( This series starts with: racismpridepro-life, debt,)
Welcome, the party theme is the second gilded age, rich get richer, poor get poorer, debauchery is the word of the day. It was back in Amosland:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!"

Costco just opened a branch near my house. This was my second Costco grand opening, a gargantuan dose of sensory overload. When you see a Costco cart completely loaded you have to wonder, really, you need all of this? We had just come back to a house that has been vacant for 7 months and between us only picked up about 20 items.

For me, as a cook, one measure of conspicuous consumption is letting food go bad in my fridge. Letting food go bad in a time people are going hungry. A fragment of a story in Luke, talks about reckless and squandrous living and wouldn't you know it, as the money left, the famine arrived.

If we are blessed to have more than we need or owe some week or month we don't have to run out and spend it all, every dime, every time. There is this idea of savings, if we try to invest wisely, (and according to the Bible bit, by bit), makes a lot of sense. You've heard the stores of the person that wins the lottery, but loses it all.

Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. 

As voters we need to understand that this current party is paid for with borrowed funds. If a political candidate says I voted for tax reform so this prosperity party could exist does that qualify that person to govern? The current bull market either did, or did not, begin March 2009. It either is, or is not, the longest bull run in US history. But what goes up, must come down.

To one group in this country, it will be a correction, a natural event in investing, may have to skip the penthouse suite on the Carribbean cruise this year. To the rest, life just gets one step harder. And I suspect with the tariff mess, feeling the pinch in the pocketbook will come sooner than later.

If I am blessed with extra, I should save, but as a Christian, I should also give, sounds easy doesn't it? Have you ever given a gift and it worked out so badly you wish you just done a gift card? If so, come on over and we can share stories some day. Giving wisely is really hard these days, I've heard it all, from funding "Christian military organizations to Creflo Dollar and his jet.

The bottom line is that I am trying to avoid excessive consumption especially at the expense of others. I'm blessed, I know that I am, but I need to be mindful to save and invest when I can. I need to be willing to be generous with my time, talent and treasure.

The next post in this series is fear.

Debt is not a side effect of Ambien, at least not always

( This series starts with: racismpride, pro-life,)

Wasn't Paul Ryan a heartbreaker? Smart, sharp, fiscal conservative. And that big, "tax reform", bump to the economy, gotta juice those returns. Shouldn't judge him, he's been under incredible pressure.

Of course, while it did little for the vast majority of US citizens, it added to the debt. It isn't hard to find economic scholars warning of a debt bubble. National, corporate, and individual debt are all very high right now, that means no room to maneuver.

Somebody has to pick up the check. And those people will rightfully be in disgust of our excesses. The good news is that it has taken us a long time to get to this point. There is a phrase that sticks in my brain, The Republican Party left me.

I guess I have become an RIVO, Republican In Values Only. Right now, I don't feel comfortable being called a Republican. Believe in fiscal conservatism? Yes. Believe in manageable government and regulations? Of course.  My question is what do the individuals that sport those labels, Republican, believe, as evidenced by their actions.

Back to the theme of the post, debt, leaving our kids the bill for our excesses just does not seem right. Jesus might not return tomorrow, so we'd best be fiscally responsible today.

The next post in this series is prosperity.