Category Archives: Random thoughts

Random Ramblings: January 28, 2017

The other day my daughter was messing around on her phone; laughter filled the air.

She was using “Snapchat”.

She’s been using this app for quite some time now, and I’ve seen what it does several times…

If you aren’t familiar with Snapchat, it’s an app for your smart phone that can take filtered images that make people look… well… crazy. You can be a dog or a clown or Santa or just funny looking. You can make videos and send them to your friends and then chat while looking weird on the other end. Some of the images are hilarious… most are kind of dumb.

What always strikes about things like this is the amazing creativity and technical skill that goes into them… and all that we might achieve if we put such creativity and skill to work doing something productive. OK, you’re right, somewhere in all of this someone is making a great deal of money, so I’m sure it’s productive in a commercial sense, or they’d stop upgrading it, but couldn’t we do more than just that?

Yesterday, it was my plan to leave this post with just these thoughts, but there was late breaking news… My new phone arrived. To be sure, I had no idea that I had a new phone on the way. My wife had mentioned that I was eligible for a new phone (she is in charge of that sort of thing) and I told her that I was happy with my old one, but if I could go back to my old iPhone 3, that would be even better because it’s smaller than my Galaxy 5. Other than that, let’s just leave things where they are…

Therefore, my iPhone 7 plus arrived yesterday.

To be fair, the iPhone 7 is a marvel, it does so many more things that I’ll never use; I can even watch TV on it, and oh yes, that’s entirely free of charge for a whole year!!!

But for me, TV on a big screen is hard enough to see… What’s the advantage of seeing it on a very small screen? If I come up with an answer to that one, I’ll let you know…

And so today, my Galaxy 5 goes into the box where my iPhone 3 and all of the other perfectly good and operable phones are that I was “required” to replace with newer models that do more things that I don’t need.

It occurs to me that in so many ways technology

is just a waste of resources…

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Random Ramblings: January 7, 2017

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Earlier this week I wrote a wonderful piece for this feature, it was a “Random Ramble” that was so good, so well-written, so brilliant, so artfully done that they would have made a Pulitzer Prize for blogging after reading it. Much to my dismay however, I now see that my blog has been hacked, no doubt by the Russians, probably by Mr. Putin himself, and has been stolen.

Great.

Now I have to come up with something else, and it will never be as good as the one the Russians got.

I’m guessing you aren’t buying my story…

This past Christmas, I received and Amazon “Echo” as a gift from my wife; it was the first I ever heard of an “Echo” and to be completely honest, for a few days I felt like the kid who got an electric train set from his Dad for Christmas. If you’re my age you might recall the famous picture of Dad with a big smile on his face playing with the electric train set with the boy sitting next to him with his arms folded looking really mad because Dad wouldn’t let the kid play with his trains?

That’s what it was like for me with the Echo; my wife loves things like that.

If you aren’t familiar with the Echo, it’s a device that ties into your wireless network and is entirely voice-activated. You can ask questions, have it play music or radio stations, give you the weather or read books to you from your Amazon library. It can even run your heating and air conditioning, start your car or turn on your smart TV… at least theoretically. I read somewhere it can operate kitchen appliances, if they are enabled.

I hope to get a turn soon.

There is one thing about the Echo that strikes me as a little creepy, though. You see, it’s tied into your network, and it’s always listening. Any time you want to talk to it you say “Alexa” because that’s “her” name. So it just sits there and waits for you to say “Alexa…” and then it does its thing. Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to a program on WMAL radio in Washington, Dc, a great news station. They were talking about Alexa, and the guest, who was on the show via telephone, was asking questions, beginning with “Alexa…” as a demonstration of the cool things it can do, and my Alexa heard him and answered his questions: That’s freaky!

So, if I work for Mr. Putin, do I send Mr. Trump an Amazon Echo for the Oval Office, you know, just in case he wants a report of the weather or something? (After all, she’s always listening… and connected to the internet…)

My guess is that the Secret Service wouldn’t allow Alexa anywhere near the property, but who knows for sure?

I don’t feel comfortable saying much around Alexa, how about you?

Random Ramblings: November 19, 2016

First off today, a bit of “housekeeping”: By the time this posts, Cathy and I should just about be arriving at a warm and sunny seashore where we will enjoy a week of relaxation on a beautiful beach. As a result, I will be absent from this chair for the forthcoming week. However, you will hardly notice as I have scheduled posts for each day at the typical times. No doubt you will notice a repeat of last year’s “Thanksgiving week” posts that chronicle my adventures in getting ready for the big day… I had fun writing those, I must say. Please feel free to leave your comments, but they may take a while to show up… Beginning on Monday November 28, I will begin a short series of posts on the prophet Joel.

With that out of the way, I wanted to share something with you that took place in my local small group the other night. Two weeks ago our group anointed one of our members in prayer for an upcoming surgery to remove a kidney that appeared to be cancerous. The following Friday the surgery was completed, and last week it was confirmed malignant. The interesting thing was that the surgery was on Friday and he was in church on Sunday, and then subsequent tests revealed that there is no sign of any lingering cancer and he has, as I understand it, a clean bill of health.

Then last week, we again prayed with a member about a chronic knee condition, and by the following Sunday it was gone. The other night we were discussing how amazing our God is when His people pray big prayers with boldness and faith that he will keep his promises.

I really don’t have much more to say on the subject other than to ask a simple question:

If we believe that God answers prayer, and if we believe that God keeps His promises, then why do we spend so much of time doubting Him, and why are we surprised when He comes through?

And with that, I’ll say see you in a week or so, and have a great Thanksgiving!

Random Ramblings: October 1, 2016

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The other day I posted a piece announcing that I would begin this new Saturday feature today and when I did so, I had two fun ideas for the first one. Quite naturally, now that it is time to actually write, I can’t remember what those two fun ideas were. Obviously, I’ll need to get into the habit of jotting them down from now on. Thus, I must settle for the one subject I can’t seem to get away from.

I don’t know about you, but this past week I’ve had a hard time not hearing people talk about the great debate this past Monday evening. I didn’t really want to watch it, in fact I planned not to, but by the time it was about to begin, my curiosity got the better of me, and I turned it on.

I quickly came to understand that I must have been confused about the two candidates.

You see, I thought that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were running for President of the United States, but I came away thinking that they must actually be running for the presidency of the West Undershirt High School student body, for surely no one can support these two spoiled brats for an important position.

I know there has been a lot of talk about the Donald’s “fitness” to be president, but I think both candidates demonstrated, at least to my satisfaction, that neither is “fit” for the office.

After all, didn’t this serious and noble exercise in democracy start off with a joke when Mrs. C in her first statement told the viewers to watch her website during the debate for real-time fact-checking to correct the Donald’s lies? I don’t care what your politics might be, that’s hilarious!

I think leading off with a joke, kind of set what followed in its proper light; a joke.

In an actual debate between candidates for the U. S. presidency, it isn’t customary for the moderator to participate in the debate, yet moderator Lester Holt chose to jump in several times, once “fact-checking” the Donald on an assertion about a legal matter, and along with Mrs. C, getting it wrong; no dear reader, these two must be running for student body president…

The Donald didn’t prepare for the debate, and like any cocky high school boy, he just winged it, and it showed. Mrs. C, like any stuck up cheerleader made a point of smugly telling us that she spent 11 days preparing for the debate, and like a stuck up cheerleader, she came off as totally fake while brushing off issue after issue, and then making cheap shot after cheap shot at her opponent, who had a few of his own flying around.

I’ve been involved in debate prep a few times, and if I were a supporter of either of these candidates, I would be furious with them. As a voter, I will never feel confident in claiming all that much intelligence, but I really resent the insult these two have given to what little intelligence I’d like to think I have. Sadly, these two adolescent senior citizens are really not running for president of the West Undershirt High School student body, they really are running for the big dance; even worse, one of the two is going to be sworn as our 45th president next January 20th.

I’ve never been less optimistic for the future of the Republic.

Sunday at the White House

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Last week, as I was sitting in front of my computer wondering why I couldn’t get an internet connection, I started thinking about how glad I will be to get out of here; I will be glad when I can return to Illinois. As is usually the case when my thoughts go in a direction that isn’t helpful, I caught myself; what’s the point of such thinking anyway? Then I had to admit to myself that I’m probably not doing a very good job of taking advantage of the opportunities that living in the Washington, DC area offers… Later that evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed came home with tickets for the White House Garden Tour, and we spent last Sunday afternoon in the gardens of the White House.

It was one of those afternoons that the Chamber of Commerce loves, for it was a glorious day; sunny with a few puffy clouds, a breeze with a hint of Fall and beauty all around. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have seen the White House both inside and out, but the one thing I’ve never had the opportunity to do is to walk around the South Lawn… until now. They let everyone in at the southwest gate, and though the ever-present security was all around, it was not at all ominous, in fact it was almost friendly, with both attendants and guards welcoming you to the White House as we entered. Yep, I must give credit where credit is due, the folks at the White house did a great job with this year’s Garden Tour.

One of the first things you see is the east garden…

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To the right is the East Wing where the First Lady has her offices, directly ahead is the east colonnade, first built by Thomas Jefferson in imitation of the colonnades of his home at Monticello.  The White House itself is out of view to the left.

From the South Portico of the Residence(shown at the top of this post), the President has a fabulous view of the Washington Monument.

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From the portico, you continue walking to the west, and pass by a nice spot where the President and First Lady can enjoy some shade on a sunny afternoon and a quiet moment together, and perhaps a nice glass of iced tea.

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Continuing on, we reached the famous Rose Garden where so many Presidents, from Herbert Hoover onward have made so many announcements and speeches (particularly when their poll numbers are low).

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The colonnade on the right is where the President walks each day from the Residence to the Oval Office outside, and in which the Press Room is located; the West Wing is to the left. The red building in the background is actually across Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Now, with an unobstructed view, we can see the Oval Office, those long windows you see straight ahead are the ones behind the President’s desk.  I doubt that guy would appreciate it if we went up to have a peek inside!

A little further along to the southwest is the famous putting green. If I remember correctly, President Ford put it in. I know President Eisenhower practiced his putting in the Rose Garden…

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I once heard a story about President Eisenhower’s putting practice, and it was a lesson is restraint. It seems that he had a few golf balls around the garden when suddenly a squirrel scampered along and grabbed on his balls and raced up a tree.  In frustration the President was heard to say that he wanted every one of those stupid squirrels out of his garden. A week or so later, he was back out there with his clubs when he noticed traps all over the placed and asked a Secret Service man who had authorized them. The man replied that he had given the order himself!

The President had them removed…

Well, that’s about it for this post. I only wish that I had brough a real camera along Sunday; cameras in phones just aren’t quite up to snuff, but I hope you enjoyed this little trip anyway. I have lots more pictures that I’ll be posting on my Photo Vistas blog in the next few days, so if you are interested, you might have a look.

 

Reflections on an Interesting Morning

This morning we headed off for our tours, informal, yes, but still tours. We took our grandson to visit the White House and the Pentagon, no simple thing in the rather too complicated times we live in.  She Who Must Be Obeyed made the arrangements, and succeeded in getting us into the White House; my job was finding the Southeast Gate… easy enough, yet all the way from the Metro Station to the gate, SWMBO wasn’t sure I was going the right way! I’ll admit that if I sit my phone down someplace unusual it will be days before I find it, but when it comes to how you get into the White House, or finding something in downtown DC, I’ve got it covered. Southeast Gate? Easy money: One block west of 15th, one block north of E Street…

When we arrived, I couldn’t help recalling my first trip there back when I was 19. In those days, you went to the Ellipse, and got a ticket from a kiosk with a time on it. Then you took a seat in the bleachers and were entertained with live music until your time came and then walked right in the gate of the White House. Now of course, it’s a little different. SWMBO had to request a date from the White House, and give them our information for background WH 7-1-14 003-Achecks, and subject to availability, we were approved. (Because she is from the Pentagon) Then you go to a gate a block away from the actual gate for the first round of security, then proceed to the actual gate for more security… a sad fact of modern life. Of course, no cameras or other electronics are allowed. No backpacks, tobacco products, handbags or purses are allowed… and no food or drink. Cell phones are OK if the are turned off.  Not like my first visit! Back then they didn’t really care about anything other than food or drink…

Once inside, we proceeded along pretty much as before, and to my amazement, my grandson seemed fascinated by the portraits of past presidents. OK, I’ll admit that my inner  history geek  got the better of me, and I pointed out this and that and told stories of events that happened there, some of which I could give a personal memory of… and then on to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is always a hassle to get into unless you work there. You get to answer questions about why you’re there, show your ID (but not as many times as at the White House) and tell them whether or not your escort is coming to meet you. Eventually you get a badge with your photo on it and then meet up with your escort, who just happened to be SWMBO. She took us u to her office  so we could meet her new coworkers, she’s changed offices a few months back, and we met her boss, the Undersecretary of the Air Force.  All along the route through Air Force territory, the walls are filled with paintings of aircraft from the earliest days of aviation to the present. There are great Air Force heroes, model airplanes… all the sort of stuff that I really like.

Since I’m married to a military person, I meet lots of military, and I’m always amazed at how friendly they are. Of course there are all sorts of people in any large organization, but the military, at least the ones who have been there for a while, usually strike me not only polite, but genuinely hospitable, much different from the way they are so often portrayed in the media… but then I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I asked my grandson which he liked the most, the White House or the Pentagon.  He couldn’t say, because he liked them both for different reasons. I doubt that at 10, the history of the White House would really sink in for most kids. It may be that his first taste of all of those uniforms at the Pentagon might have been a bit overwhelming… and what 10-year-old has a clue what an Undersecretary is. Everyone’s friendliness made an impact though… and all those airplane pictures didn’t hurt.  I wonder what he will tell his buddies back in Illinois about today, or if he’ll even remember for the next few years, but I suspect the day will come when it sinks in that he walked the halls that most make the news, the halls where greatness has trod.

He was impressed that there is a Taco Bell in the Pentagon, and yes sir, my grandson can say that he’s eaten lunch in the most secure Taco Bell in the world!

Excuse me, is there a problem?

I had the radio on most of yesterday, and since I got tired of listening to everyone crying about the latest Redskins defeat, I switched to a news station.  It seems that the big news of the day was that the NSA is tapping the phones of friendly foreign leaders, and Mr. Obama had no idea.  It also seems that yet another reporter had her doors kicked in and her papers and documents seized by government agents, and nobody is commenting.

Hearing these stories reported over and over, I got to thinking…

Last summer we heard that the NSA is getting the info from our Facebook accounts, our emails and our phone calls; but nobody knows anything about that.  The IRS is targeting political opponents of Mr Obama for special treatment, but nobody knows a thing about it.  A US Ambassador is murdered in a terrorist attack in Libya, but nobody knows a thing about that. The Department of Justice has been wiretapping and reading emails of reporters who have reported stories that are inconvenient for the Administration, but nobody knew anything about that. Previously, the DOJ was involved in selling arms to drug cartels in Mexico… but nobody knew anything about that.

And when it came to negotiating about the impasse leading to the government shutdown, the Administration’s negotiating position was that they would never negotiate.

I’m probably not the smartest person in the room, and I’m happy to admit it, but do these fine people really expect anybody to buy this?  No one ever knows about anything that is going on, but what is going on all seems to deal with getting the goods on everybody else, spying on our own citizens and friends, punishing the opposition, never negotiating with the other party… isn’t there a pattern here?

Is it just me?  Wouldn’t a reasonable person have just cause to ask?

Or, to be very fair, let’s say that the president and senior staff and officials really didn’t know about all of this.  In that case, might I suggest that they get a handle on what is going on in their midst before things get much farther out of line?

Hey, just asking…