Saturday, December 3, 2016

Time and Money and Leisure: An insight from Candy Crush

Note - this is going to sound narrow minded and oversimplified. That is intentional, to make a point. Take it for what it is worth.

I decided to try out Candy Crush a while back, as I know so many people who play it. I must admit I have found playing it.... conflicting.

The fact is it is a mind numbing, time killer. There is really almost no room for thought or strategy in most plays. It is mainly luck. Yes you have a few power-ups you can choose from, but for the most part, they really aren't that effective except in a few very unique occasions, if they happen to be in the right location.

And I find myself annoyed by the psychological tactics they use to keep people hooked, and to "encourage" in-game purchases. Every so often you get some sort of side quest, with a timer. Completing the request gives you rewards. IF you don't make it in time, the quest goes away. Actually it doesn't really go away, it shows up again a bit further down the path. But psychologically that timer makes people feel a sense of urgency - a need to buy power-ups in order to finish it in time.

And quite frequently you find yourself out of moves, and so close to completing the level!... Very tempting to spend a few dollars just to get an extra few moves, or a booster of some sort to get you the last little bit (Actually the paranoid conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the program doesn't fudge the randomness on occasion just to create that scenario... " No honey, I don't know what happened to all the tinfoil....").

Yet even though I loathe it, I have continued to play it. Why? In animal training, I have heard it referred to as "playing the lottery". It is a training technique for reinforcing a desired behavior by rewarding that behavior at random intervals, it is the key addictive quality of slot machines, and most other games of chance. Every now thrown money into a slot machine and pulling a lever is both boring, and dumb. But every now and again, lights flash, alarms sound, and money falls out. So people keep pulling money in and pulling the lever.

Every now and again a move in Candy Crush will reward you with a chain of matches, explosions, massive progress toward completing the level. It gives you that "casino rush".

They also appeal to my curiosity. I'm the kind of person who can't hike half of a trail I have never been on. I always have to go see what is around the next corner, over the next hill, behind that next tree...  Candy crush throws some new little monstrosity at you every dozen or so levels, appealing to that innate curiosity. What will they dream up next?

And of course, with thousands of levels, my natural OCD desire to finish holds me hostage as well.

It is an absolute time and money waster.

And you know what, that is okay.

That is one of the tributes to human progress. Leisure time. We have become so good, so efficient at meeting our basic human needs (food, shelter,...) That we don't have to spend our every waking hour meeting those basic needs. The average american farmer feeds 155 people today. For every one farmer, 155 people don't have to spend their days foraging, hunting, gathering... Their time is freed up to make music, write poetry, build bridges, invent new technology, dance, play professional sports, make movies, watch movies, watch people play sports... or play candy crush.

And leisure time doesn't necessary interfere with the laws of Conservation. Properly applied and in appropriate doses, that leisure time can reinvigorate us. It can spark new ideas, new innovations, new efficiencies, new improvements to the human experience. Religiously speaking, "Men are that they might have joy."

So by all means candy crush away.


Keep this in mind...

If you are an avid movie goer/sports watcher/candy crusher/.../all of the above...

And if you feel the need to complain to the world about the economic unfairness of it....


Anecdotally, a friend of mine shared a conversation he had with his in-laws, who were giving him a hard time for not been a sport-fan, for not watching football, baseball, basketball, etc..

"What do you do with your time?" They asked.

"Well," he responded, "I work on my Four wheeler. Which is why every hunting season, mine runs and I am able to bail you out when yours breaks down."

I also remember a story of a man, after a piano concert, going up to the pianist and congratulating him for his magnificent performance.

"I would give my life to play like that!" The  man said.

The pianist replied, "I did."

If you feel the urge to complain about all those evil, greedy Millionaire's, who were working while you were recreating. Do yourself a favor and don't. You made your choice, they made theirs. Once you've made the choice, the consequences naturally follow. Accept them. If you don't like the consequences, then perhaps instead of spending your energy complaining and demanding 'fairness', you might consider changing the way you spend your time.

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Right Privilege"

A few days ago a left-handed colleague of mine was complaining about writing on white boards, noting that he erased everything he wrote as he went. A right-handed colleague looked puzzled, then started laughing.

"I'd never considered that!" he said. I assured him that it was common for lefties in middle school to deal with smudged homework and a perpetual graphite grey smudge on the edge of the left hand, opposite the thumbs. and then of course you added spiral-bound notebooks into the mix - those wires constantly gouging the side of your hand.

Righty asked if there were other things like that. So we discussed scissors.
Scissors are made so that when you operate them you push with your thumb and pull with your fingers, causing the two blades to pinch together. When you operate them in your left hand, that same actions pulls the blade apart ever so slightly. More delicate pieces of paper will simply flop between the blades rather than being cut.

Also, when held in your right hand, on the right side of your body, you have a clear view of the cutting edge. In the left hand, your view of the cutting edge is blocked by the top of the blade, making precision cutting more difficult.

Most hand guns eject the bullet to the right, directly across the line of sight of a left handed shooter. And Bolt actions - you have to engage in a weird form of yoga after every shot in order to work the bolt to chamber the next round.

Remember those old school desks? The one with the desk attached to the chair? On the right side? The desk reaching about 2/3 of the way across the chair? Yeah, those are awkward for a lefty.

Can-openers? Awkward, Tape measures? upside-down. Playing cards are all just a white spot when held left-handedly.

Righty chuckled. "I never even thought about it!"

"Of course not." I said,  "It's Right privilege." Then I proceeded to tell him about the suffering of my people in olden days; being whipped for using their left hand in school, having their left hand tied behind their back to force them to use their right hand....

Of course nowadays there are left-handed scissors and can-openers and such, but most of the time, us lefties just learn how to adapt.

Right privilege.

And at that moment I had an epiphany. That is the point the "White privilege" people are trying to make isn't it? That I lack understanding of the black man's experience?

Let me make a suggest to the white privilege crowd. It doesn't come out the way you mean it to.

You are lumping an enormous group of people - past, present and future into one big collective.  There have been rich and poor, free and slave, good and bad, fortunate and unfortunate in that mass of white. such an enormous characterization is impractical, even... racist?

(Besides, where are you drawing the line in the skin color continuum? Actually, the folks in the middle often get it the worst; Too black for white people, too white for black people.)


noun. special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

The term brings to mind stuffy kings and their courtiers, or arrogant city dwellers a la hunger games.

"White privilege" - it just comes out of the mouth sounding vulgar, dirty, hateful. And at the risk of being offensive. When white people throw the term around, it sounds more like they are degrading black people. That black people are somehow an inferior species who can't make it on their own and so, like "save the whales", "protect the seals" etc... they need to be sheltered and coddled. Again... racisim?

Might I suggest you instead move to conversations of increasing empathy? From and for both ends? attempt to understand the challenges each faces, and consider solutions for the problems, rather than assign blame?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The 4th Industrial Revolution vs Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Work...

I've been pondering the burgeoning fourth industrial revolution again recently...
It is very exciting to consider the possibilities.

One thought which crossed my mind is that of economics and politics.

First consider some of the possibilitie.

Consider FarmBot:

This thing is very nearly a fully automated garden. It is also opensource, and much of it can be manufactured using additive printing and relatively cheap and open source parts. Give it the ability to save/recover seeds and it becomes almost entirely autonomous. In theory any household could grow their own produce.

Consider self driving vehicles:
Uber is planning to launch a fleet of self driving taxis,  several companies are working on self driving vehicles for consumers, self-driving semi-trucks for freight transportation.

Consider Surgery Bots:

And they are learning to perform operations autonomously.

And that's not all.

Amazon is working on drones to autonomously deliver your stuff to your door.
They are also working on robots to handle the warehouse work of picking, packing, and shipping product.
There are printers which can construct any 3D part or object in plastic, or metal.
There are projects to build printers which can print fabric, and not just fabric as sheets of fabric, but fabric as clothes.
Food printers.
Even printers to create human organs.

So, if food production is automated, transportation is automated, manufacturing is automated, medicine is automated. what happens to humans? Notice that none of the above technology requires approaching anywhere near the threshold of the singularity (a self aware machine, which might decide humans are a pest which needs to be erradicated).

What does human work look like in this new world? And if much/most of these machines can be replicated by machines - If I can print my own printers using my friends' printers and a few hundred dollars of metal and resin... Well, that was the primary stated goal of communism - the means of production in every individual's hands.

If anyone can print their own food, their own clothing, their own shelter, so long as they have access to the base materials, and if the base materials are all autonomously extracted/manufactured/recycled, transported... Apart from clinging desperately to archaic intellectual property laws, will any large corporate entity be able to remain relevant? Will the idea of a company as we currently know it become inconsequential? Will the debate over capitalism vs. socialism vs communism still be relevant in an economic sense? And if individuals or small collectives are no longer dependent upon substantial governmental bodies to construct, maintain, protect or interfere in daily operations, will Those terms be politically relevant as well? Will national borders as we now know them matter?

If you no longer work to subsist. What will you do?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016: My Political Endgame

I have been trying to coalesce my thoughts on the current election I have found it difficult to do in discussion - There is just too much emotion, FUD (an old geek term. Stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Refers especially to rhetoric or propaganda designed to instill those feeling in people in order to control their choices by keeping them off-balance, in fight-or-flight mode, unable to employ critical thinking.)

So, I am going to try here.

In 1971, Philip Zimbardo performed a human behavior experiment now famously known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. The purpose was to study the psychological effects of prison on prisoners. A group of volunteer students were separated into two groups- prisoners and guards. The experiment was terminated early, when things got out of hand.

The Dr. Zimbardo later published a book, chronicling the events, and drawing comparisons to some of the most heinous acts of human mistreatment by other humans at Darfur, Abu Ghraib,  The byline for the book is "Understanding how good people turn evil". And it shares frightening examples of American soldiers with excellent records - good, decent people - engaging in dehumanization and torture.

You see, there are some characteristics we humans have.
1) We organize and classify. We place things into buckets. Black, White, Male, Female, Old, Young, Spanish, German, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist...
2) We inherently seek our own personal self-interest. "People don't do things to others, they do thing for themselves".
3) We form groups. We associate with others, we are essential herd/pack animals (yes, even us social anxiety suffering introverts have an innate need for human connection).
4) We build filters through which we evaluate all information. Those filters are constructed from personal experience, from information provided by peers and parent figures, and from repetition (which is why advertisers pay so much to keep their brand in front of your face).

Because of these characteristics, it is incredibly hard for us to avoid classifying one or more groups as us vs. them. good vs. evil. (And yes, as a christian, I do believe in evil, and "them:.To me evil is the absence of good, just as dark is the absence of light. And them are those who chose to fight against God and became The devil and his angels, who seek to  lead humanity away from Love, peace, and joy).

But the simple reality is this world is imperfect, we are imperfect, we make mistakes we try our best. Most people are just trying to do the right thing, to the best of their knowledge - That is why we were given the planet and placed here. To learn, to experience to improve...

Okay, enough back story. To the current election:

Disclosure: I am  not a Democrat. I am Not a Republican. I am not a Libertarian. I don't like political parties. I believe they are a natural outgrowth of the aforementioned human characteristics. I believe they put us at risk of creating the precise conditions which lead to "The Lucifer Effect".

The two main parties are becoming increasingly polarized. Continuing on this path will inevitably lead to violence in the name of "the greater good". History is replete with examples of this.

Liberals - Conservatives are not evil incarnate. I know many good conservatives who are just trying to make sure our governmental system is fair for everyone, corruption is prevented.

Conservatives - Liberal are not evil incarnate. I know many good Liberals who are just trying to make sure our governmental system is fair for everyone, corruption is prevented.

Yes, there are differences of opinion, but they are not nearly so enormous as you have been lead to believe. You have been misled by FUD, by propaganda. You have been led to believe that "They" are inferior, selfish, self-serving, greedy, lazy, manipulative.... evil. "They" - mostly - aren't.

The world won't end if the other side wins. Every thing they can do can be undone.  Laws can be revoked. Supreme Court Justices can be impeached (not easy, not impossible). Any political leader can be removed from office by the united will of the people, should the united people find said leaders behavior not in accordance with the ideals for which we strive.

The real threat to America is continuing on this path of divisiveness. of allowing the relatively few, angry outliers to dictate our policy, our mores.

So, my endgame for this election - my hope is that enough people will vote for neither party. In doing so, a clear message will be sent that we the people don't approve of their behavior. That we the people will no longer continue to live the current status quo. That we the people want to come together, to understand one another, and find compromise - a choice which respects everyone, to the extent possible.

I believe most people are good. I believe most people want peace, I believe most people want their neighbor to live in peace. I believe we just need to find a way to overcome those human characteristics. I believe this is true of  Americans, Chinese, Russians, Syrians.... I believe we, the people of the world, can be better then this. I don't think it will happen until we can set aside the artificial gangs we create. I believe it can happen.

My endgame looks beyond the next year, the next 4 years, the next 30 years...

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
- John 13:34-35

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The dangerous power of PC

So a while ago - maybe two months - I was involved in a discussion around the term white privilege. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned the potential role epigenetics and genetic memory might play in some of the issues we see between races, particularly relating to violent interactions.

I was immediately told to "tread carefully".

Well, my anxiety kicked in then, as it tends to do whenever I am afraid I might have hurt someones feelings, and I started rambling and trying to be clever and witty with my response (and as usual was probably neither). Then I got labeled as ignorant and immature, which more or less confirmed my anxieties, and that is pretty much where the conversation ended.

But of course, as is always the case for me. I continued to play the event over and over in my mind, torturing myself with every word. How could I have worded it differently?

This afternoon I was going through another round of that for an hour as me and puppy went for a long walk (an aside, that was also an interesting adventure. Rogue has never been fond of cars, I thought I would try taking her in the car with the windows rolled down, to someplace new and fun - see if that wold help. For her the walk was great fun, the car, pure torture both ways)

But today I had a moment of clarity as I was torturing myself. Political Correctness has the potential to be very dangerous to intellectual progress.

A brief anecdote: A few years ago, I was at a training conference for a week. While there, a group of attendees, including myself became acquainted, and at one point several in this group started making plans to go for drinks one evening. The roughest, toughest looking of the group (Keeping in mind this was a technology training, not a biker rally) quickly declined, saying he doesn't drink.

Later I asked him if he was Mormon. He informed me he was not even particularly religious - agnostic. As a youth he had observed and learned of members of his heritage who had experienced considerable unpleasantness related to alcoholism. He concluded that there must be a genetic predisposition to  alcoholism in has ancestry, so he made the choice, as a pre-teen, to never use alcohol. "Why take the chance?" he said. He observed a potential genetic pitfall and made the choice to avoid any circumstance which might trigger alcoholism.

Now, in this previous conversation, I wasn't talking about genetics - inherited traits. I was referring to epigenetics - trait variations caused by environmental factors (one proposed theory is that violence in many inner city areas may be due to mild lead poisoning, due to old lead pipes in old plumbing), and genetic memory - a newer theory that some memories are subtly transferred genetically - think of the behaviors we call instinct as an example of this). But now I am including genetics generally in this thought.

I understand that in the past there were people who proclaimed the notion that some races were genetically inferior and others were genetically superior. I am aware of eugenics and some of the horrible atrocities which sprang from it (mentioned them in a prior post, in fact).

But, when you avoid ideas or theories, or general science, based on the fact that previous misuse might lead to uncomfortable feelings, you may very well prevent people from obtaining valuable knowledge which may improve - even save lives.

Let me throw a what-if. out. Talking of blacks and police violence as a specific example. I have read of several studies showing police of any race are more likely to use force and/or shoot a black person. I have also read an analysis concluding that Black police officers are more likely to use force. Now it is fairly obvious why someone would wish to avoid talking about this. Some would choose to imply that black people are more violent (genetically inferior/savages/...). Others would fear someone might think they are implying this.

But what if, for some genetic (less likely), epigenetic or genetic memory reason, Black Americans are genetically more aggressive? To be clear aggressiveness is NOT a negative trait. Aggressiveness is a key trait for success in any extroverted fields of endeavor. Acting, performing, sports, business, sales, politics,... Aggressiveness - reaching for the stars significantly aids in success. Yes, there can be negative consequences  depending on when, where and how aggressiveness is applied. That is true of almost every good thing.

Now, what if, knowing this is a common trait, people (especially law enforcement in this case) are trained with specific techniques allowing for the avoidance of triggers - just like my acquaintance avoiding alcohol? What if?

But, we don't know 'what if'. We are afraid of offending someone, or of giving some idiot ammunition to support his racist rhetoric. In essence we choose to remain ignorant and suffer the resulting consequences because of the stupid, or because of a fear of being labeled as not PC, or ignorant, or immature.

Our company brought in some personality expert to do a personality interaction training. Based on our answers two a battery of questions, a color wheel was filled out which to a certain degree identified our personality - how we would likely behave in certain conditions. Many people have kept their result on their desk. One of the HR guys commented to me how much he likes that. When he goes to talk to someone, he can glance at their color wheel and tailor his conversation to them. His specific example was that one pattern favors small talk, so he initiates conversations with them by asking about family, friends, etc... (that is his pattern by the way).  Another pattern hates small talk, and prefers quick concise information, so for them he get right down to business. The result for him are his interactions are almost always perceived positively.

Political Correctness - Word policing, thought policing can be very detrimental to this.Fear of words, of ideas, because they have a checkered past, or because they are vaguely related to some bad event... very.... counterproductive.

Health adventures: Just when you thought it was over...

So after years of dealing with abdominal pain, thinking it was Crohn's, dealing with side effects of Crohn's medication, and not really getting significant relief from symptoms. We finally chased my problem down to a physical manifestation of anxiety disorder. I was put on  Lexapro and voila! symptoms gone! I was feeling better, I was starting to regain physical fitness. My wife noted that I was less wound up... all was good, well minor side effects; a little more insomnia than normal for me (which was hardly a blip, since I was always pretty bad there), and an unpleasant cotton-headedness - just a kind of dull ringing sound in the background, and a sort of... fuzzy brain... Not pleasant, but livable.

Then, months later, another side-effect popped up. They call it SSRI induced apathy. I started reading up on it, after I became suspicious of a behavior change which started several months ago. First, I found myself really struggling to do... stuff. Anything really from work around the house to work at work. Even if it was something I wanted to do... I'd find myself sitting there and hour or two later, still not doing it. The real shocker, which got me to start doing research is when in the course of two months I ran up an absurd credit card debt. I mean BAD debt! Just a snap of the fingers.

I have always been very cautions about credit card debt. Since about 2000, when I recovered from the debt which resulted from illness (probably also anxiety induce, in retrospect). I have adamantly refused to carry a credit card balance. Then, as if overnight, boom!

Now, it isn't the end of thew world. It won't require bankruptcy or selling our house or children to resolve, but it will require some belt tightening.

Next week I go to talk to the Dr. about alternatives - Several professional journals recommond 3 options; 1) Lower the dose of the SSRI (already onthe lowest dose). 2) Augment with Buproprion (a little nervous about adding a drug to remedy the effects of a drug. Also the recommendation is based on anecdotal evidence rather then a full study.). 3) Switch to an SNRI (a whole new world of side effects to discover. hooray! :) ) Related to the last alternate were several anecdotals of successful treatment with a very low, regular dose of Tramadol, which is an opioid that appears to have some SNRI behavior. That is an interesting alternative to consider, lower side effect risk etc, but concerns about addiction. Not sure if it would be permitted as a treatment in the US either.

At any rate, it continues to be an adventure. But a goo lesson learned as well. Don't be too quick to judge people for the choices they make. In some cases, they may not have had full, conscious control of those choices. It also makes think a bit differently about the concept of possession in scriptural stories, and medieval history.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Let Me Tell You About a Most Amazing Woman.

Let me tell you about a most amazing woman. There is this woman I know, who decided to marry this guy, even though it meant she would have to move almost a thousand miles from her friends, her family her burgeoning career (which undoubtedly would have been wildly successful, and lucrative), to a culture very different from the one she was accustomed to.

Then mere weeks before they were to marry, she drove through the night to be with him, after he was involved in a life threatening accident. She began preparing herself to marry a potential invalid, with all the sacrifices that would entail. Fortunately he recovered, but not before the wedding, so she sacrificed much of what she had dreamed her wedding to be.

Then she sacrificed again by taking on greater home burdens as, late in life, he returned to school to finish a degree, the result of which was no change in position or compensation (she did not complain).

And now she sacrifices clothes for her, make-up for her, fun for her... to instead by food and snacks for her kids, and for all their friends. She sacrifices her time every week to participate in PTA, to go to school and help out in her children's classrooms, and sometimes in classrooms where none of her children are present, because nobody else has volunteered.

She loves the children in the neighborhood, and is a second mom to many, always ready to be a friend, adviser, and confidant.

This woman, my wife. is truly amazing. Happy Anniversary my love.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mormon Misconceptions: "Cry Repentance"

This is another one that applies to more than just Mormons.The scripture talk about Crying repentance, but what does that really mean?

I have always envisioned some guy standing on top of a city wall, yelling down to the people to mend their wicked ways - Certainly, there have been cases where God has very specifically instructed individuals to do just that: Jonah was sent to Nineveh, Samuel the Lamonite was sent to the Nephites... There are many other cases.

But... That kind of crying repentance was always initiated by a very specific, personal directive form God. What about the rest of the time? And how do you reconcile the seeming dichotomy between "Cry repentance" and "Judge not...".

Because after all, while you are lecturing that adulterer regarding his/her final resting place for their most heinous sin, you are equally damning yourself by driving 5 miles over the speed limit, or 'borrowing' a pencil form work, or possibly watching you favorite TV series, or by saying something mean on twitter/facebook/etc...  ("I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.",  "Whosover looketh upon a woman to lust after her...", "Whosoever shall say unto his brother 'Thou fool...'")

"But those aren't as bad..."

Who says? Re-read the previous scriptural quotes. Seems to me God made it clear we're all doomed, but for the Atonement, (Which is infinite, so...).

So, looking to the Savior again as the example, how did he "cry repentance"?

"Come, follow me." He invited people to "Be better",

"Neither do I condemn thee..." He knew their mistakes, he knew they knew. He didn't cluck his tongue, roll his eyes, or whisper to the apostles. He was frank, honest, nonjudgmental, and encouraging.

He invited through example, he was honest, patient and sincere. He spoke softly. He was consistent.

Repentance isn't about confessing how horrible you were to everyone - How you were wrong and they were right. Often I think that is really what repentance criers are seeking - That smug self-satisfaction, that sense of  'justice' the opportunity to say "I told you so" (Hey, even Jonah struggled with that, he Finished up in Nineveh, and went outside to wait and watch the fireworks when God dropped the bomb, which  didn't drop, because the Ninevites did repent.

Repentance is continual improvement. Crying repentance is encouraging those who are struggling to improve.

Moming is hard

My wife is out of town, and I have three of the Kids. This morning, I lost track of time (as did the older two kids), and had to scramble and drive them to school. In the meantime, number three was to be picked up by a carpool. H e was up earlier than the older two and seemed to be on top of things, so I left him with instructions to watch out the window for his ride.

I dropped the older two off at school, after some debate as to where their school actually was, then returned home to find number three sitting on the computer, watching videos, at this point 5 minutes after he was supposed to have been picked up.

I sent him out to the car so I could drive him, just as the carpool showed up, then he tells me that he is going to wear sandals, because he can't find his shoes! "Aaack! I tell you to get ready and watch for your ride, and you are playing on the computer with no idea where your shoes are?!"

An hour later, I get a call at work, form the school, my son wishes to speak to me. 

"Dad? I forgot my homework folder".

Mom-ing is hard!

I am not one to take my wife for granted, I know she works hard and have much to do and keep track of. I also understand that I am disadvantaged in this role, because I don't do it often enough to develop the 'muscle memory'.

In spite of that, I am actually glad I get this opportunity every so often to remind me just how much she does do. That whole "Walk in another's shoes thing" is good for the soul.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mormon Misconceptions

At church today during a discussion on the topic of service in the community it was mentioned that many people who are not LDS but familiar with members of the church are of the opinion that "Mormons are good friends so long as you listen to their missionary lessons."

I have also occasionally heard the complaint that Mormons engaged in "Doublespeak", meaning deliberately ambiguous, or euphemistic (replacing a harsh word with a mild or less embarrassing  word, a non-controversial example would be saying "he passed away", instead of "he died", a less kind example would be "A few brick shy of a full load" instead of "stupid").

While it occurs to me that some of this is due to cultural differences, and many more come from the common difficulty we humans have of accurately expressing our thoughts through word transmission ("Your lips look like rubies", "Who's Ruby? And how is it you are so acquainted with her lips?!").

But there are a few misconceptions about Mormonism that trip people up - both in the church and out of the church.

Yep, you guessed it. I am probably going to ramble about them for a bit.

"In the World, not of the world"/"Love the sinner, hate the sin"

This isn't uniquely a Mormonism - It shows up in all of Christianity, and probably in other religions as well. The application of this is, I believe, a source of much of the ill will I mentioned at the start of this post. I think this is due to those who apply this term misunderstanding its meaning. It is interpreted to be a very pessimistic phrase. In LDS culture, this is perhaps exacerbated by the notion that we are a "Peculiar people". In essence "Just because you are stuck in a pit of losers doesn't mean you have to be a loser".

This misinterpretation of these phrases leads people in the church to believe that they must be better -and better off than everyone else. (That "must" is both "must" - meaning a logical conclusion, and "must" - meaning an expression of necessity, see what I mean about communicating with words? Two entirely different meanings from the same four letters said in exactly the same way!).

But the phrase is not meant to be interpreted with pessimism. It is not meant to be a comparison of "non-members" and "members". Since it is the "Church of Jesus Christ", it is his interpretation of the phrase which we should look to, which he demonstrated through his example. He did not avoid "sinners", he did not withhold blessings form those who were not of "the faith", he did not turn his back on those who didn't hang on his every word. Jesus was sent specifically to the Jews, yet he still healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10),  and a group of (or at least one) Samaritans (Luke 17:11-16). His help was available to any who asked for it.

In fact there were really only two groups which Christ spoke, or behaved unkindly toward. The first were the money-changers in the temple (Mathew 21:12-13), which he chased out with a whip he fashioned from the leather of his sandals. These would have been members of the church who were exploiting the religion for personal gain.

The second group were the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees (Matthew 23) - These three groups represented positions of power in the Jewish world. The Saducees were the Aristrocratic leaders, the Pharisees were Middle-class leaders, and the Scribes were the Lawyers and Judges. (Note that Jewish culture was deeply religious, so all of these religious as well as secular in nature). Pharisees could also be considered somewhat equivalent politically to Liberals -progressive in thought, whereas the Sadducees were the Conservatives - adhering to strict scriptural doctrine.

You will notice the one key commonality among these three groups is power. Political, Financial and Religious influence. They were leaders, celebrities, people whose voice held considerable influence. Christ had a few unkind things to say about these groups, all dealing with their hypocrisy. His beef with them was that they sought for their own self-interest, they used their positions for personal gain, rather than to serve the people. He pronounced doom on them.


Also take note of Matthew 23:3 - He told the multitude, and his disciples to "Observe and do whatsoever they bid", but to "do ye not after their works". He didn't tell the people to ostracize them, to speak ill of them to look down on them. In fact, he told the people to listen to them and follow their words (They were after all teaching the commandments).

So how does this apply to a "good" Christian today? Look for the good in everyone, listen to and take positive benefit from the good things that people say, even if they are otherwise despicable people. Just don't follow their bad example. But while you are gleaning as much good as you can, and avoiding bad examples, remember, you are not called to be judge or jury. In other words, a true Christian is a kind, critical thinker with a general leaning toward optimism.

And for those who are in positions of leadership, consider your behavior carefully. Your role as a leader is to serve. Failure to do so will have dire consequences when you one day stand before your maker.

Remember also, that Christ spent much of his time among sinners, even Dining with them (Matt 9:10). But hie did not engage in sinful behavior

So, being "In but not of the world" means to be actively engaged with the world, to be friends with your neighbors, to help and "Love thy neighbor" (who is anyone, even - those who are a different religion, different race, different gender, different nationality...). It means to be part of the community in which you live. To  be involved in and in service to your neighborhood, City, County, State, Nation... (Which implies you are making an effort to get along with them).  Just remember while you are being with them, working with them, playing with them, etc.. to live to the standards set by Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kaepernick's Gesture: Success or Failure?

Colin has been big news of late. I just saw a few bits declaring him victorious, based on the fact that a handful of others have joined in his pledge protest - raised fists and what-not.

But was his gesture really a Success?

I have to think that, rhetoric aside, what he really, truly wants and is seeking to promote is greater peace, less violence. I believe that he is trying to stick up for the 'little guy; the victim of hate who can't speak for himself.

The National Anthem - I'm not sure he understands what it is. Standing at attention during the National Anthem, like participating in in the Pledge of Allegiance is  about reaffirming our commitment to the ideal - The "Republic for which it stands".  It isn't about what we are, it is about what would can be, should be, hope to be. For those brief moments, we set aside our differences and recommit to the ideals of one united, indivisible nation, committed to the ideals that all men are created equal - not economically equal, not physically, intellectually, or socially equal, but of equal worth in the site of our creator. And as such we are all entitled to life, to basic liberty, and to the right to pursue happiness (note the 'pursue').

Choosing that moment to protest... It sends a mixed message - sort of like beating spectators at a boxing match with a baseball bat in protest of boxing for it's violence. 

At one of those rare moments when we collectively set aside our differences and unite in consideration of possibilities, he chose to revel in the darker realities.

The result of his action as I have seen it has been yet another schism, an increase in the separation of two sides, in increase in counterproductive rhetoric.

So, assuming I am correct in my evaluation of his intent - It is possible he had another motive - perhaps auditioning to become the next hatemonger to join the likes of Jackson and Sharpton - but assuming the best intentions on his part, I am afraid he missed his mark.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stop Depending on Cops

Let's face it. cops are human, just like the rest of us. There are going to be good cops, and there are going to be bad cops. Good cops are going to have bad days, Good cops are going to make mistakes.

And there simply aren't enough cops to handle every problem, nor is there enough money to hire, screen, and properly train a sufficiently large police force.

So, stop depending on cops. Stop being mad when you get pulled over for speeding, after reading about a drunk driver who killed someone (BTW, did it ever occur to you, that had he not been sent to run a speed trap in an area where there were complaints of speeding problems, he might have had more time to hunt for drunk drivers?).

It is time for us to stand up and pull our weight. Here is what I recommend.

1) Obey the law. Cops who are having to deal with speeders, dogs off leash, loud music, etc... are cops not dealing with dangerous criminals.

2) Get to know the cops. I realize this isn't easy, but when an opportunity permits, go and introduce yourself. Get to know them. people who know each other tend to communicate better, treat each other better.

3) Don't waste their time. Don't call the cops because burger king won't give you fries an 9:58 am. Wait the 2-10 minutes until they start cooking fries. Don't call the cops because your neighbors dog got loose for the first or second time. Go help your neighbor round up their dog. Don't call the cops because you neighbors yard is a mess. Go help you neighbor clean up (but be nice about it).

4) Video the cops when they are dealing with a situation. This isn't about catching them doing something wrong. This is about providing unbiased documentation. Not all police forces have or can afford the new body cams. As a citizen, you can help the police by providing that unbiased documentation. And make sure it is just as readily available when the officer handles the situation well. Regardless of how the situation was handled, make the video available to the officers superior if they desire (i.e. volunteer it). If the officer did well, the superior can give positive feedback. If there were mistakes, the superior can provide positive correction. This is how you improve quality. It is why sports teams and athletes film and analyze their performance. It works.

5) If you are in a situation with an officer and he says something stupid, comply anyway (so long as doing so is not life threatening). It may be he is stressed out, or dealing with other problems which have clouded his judgement. When the event is over, notify his superior, who can then take action to correct for future incidents.

6) If you are in a situation and the officer handles it well, notify the superior officer. Positive reinforcement always works better than negative reinforcement. Make sure they get rewarded for doing well, which will encourage repetition of those behaviors.

Stop depending on cops. Start working with them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Regrets 7: Me

The title is not really accurate, but more accurate would have been a paragraph, so, I am going with it.

When I decided to do the regrets posts, this is one of the first items I considered posting about. It has been the hardest one to get started on too. It is quite different than the others, but also more significant. For what it is worth, this will be best read completely, and dispassionately, I think.

I am glad it has taken me so long to get around to writing this post though, as recent pondering about it, and new information has helped shape and give names to some of my thoughts on this subject.

a decade ago, I was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. I managed it - or thought I did - for several years using cognitive behavioral therapy, but for one reason or another, the problem morphed from an emotional one (which I was reasonably managing) to a physical one (initially misdiagnosed as Crohn's disease. My but the human body is a fascinating machine...).

Retrospectively as I have considered this experience, I have come to realize this particular malady has been with me for much longer. Probably from my childhood.

In looking back now, I have come to realize that as I was going through life, I was plagued by an insatiable need to be.... not just accepted by everyone, but admired.. adored... by everyone.

I think Tyler Whitesides gets some credit for this realization on my part. His book series, Janitors - the First book - has a part  where a Girl Named Daisy calls Spencer (The story's protagonist) a Chameleon. She explains it is because he changes his skin in order to be accepted by who he is with. It was not meant as a compliment. And when I read it, I inwardly to issue with it. I had always been proud of the fact that I was something of a Chameleon- that I could get along with almost any group.

That gnawed at me for a few years, and more recently, I began to connect the dots. Yes, I was able to get along with most any group, clique, gang, organization, etc... I was casual friends with most everyone.

But I was also, almost always... lonely.

After I returned from my mission, I desperately wanted to get married and do the fairy tale, happily ever after thing. But I couldn't. I would date every now and again, but somehow I would make a mess of it. If a girl expressed an interest in me, I withdrew. If they weren't interested, I would borderline obsess with trying to get them to like me. I did and said countless stupid things then, and therein lies the regret. Decades later, I still stew over those incidents - the hurtful things I said, and did (or didn't).

I regret the hurt I caused.

 years later, looking back, and understanding my anxiety disorder, It begins to make sense now. You see, it is impossible to be universally adored. Sooner or later, you will make a mistake. Sooner or later you will wear the wrong skin in front of the wrong group. Sooner or later, no matter how hard you try, people will discover that you are imperfect. So, I subconsciously sabotaged any burgeoning relationship in order to protect my facade.

If I could go back in time....

If I could go back in time...

I wouldn't change it.

Yes, I feel regret. I feel gnawing regret for the hurt caused, or imagine I caused (reality is those people likely no longer remember who I am, much less what I did).

Yes, I wish there was a way to take that back, or at least properly apologize. But I still wouldn't change it. You see, those experiences, though they have caused me a great deal of pain... have helped to shape me. To mold my character. Those experiences have help me to be more empathetic, more compassionate, all that skin changing has allowed me to see through other's eyes, to see other perspectives. I have gleaned so much from those experiences.

And ultimately, those many years of shaping, molding experiences brought me to the point I am today, Happily married to an amazing woman, The father of four amazing children who I adore and who are absolutely delightful to see grow up. Those experiences, in spite of the regrets, are simply worth too much to change.

And that is why this particular regret is unique. Yes, there is very real regret, yes, there are some things I wish could have happened differently, but not at the expense of what was gained. Sometimes, you can have a regret that you wouldn't, shouldn't change.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dancing, Sports, Art, Attitude. The common link

I was shown a great story a few days ago, on the subject of complaining, and why it is bad for you. This is of course an interesting subject to me. I have a fascination with the brain, how it works, and what shapes us. (one of my earleist posts, and favorite games to play is "String Button Mind Magic").

I went on a bit of a hunt for information on Neuroplasticity I found some interesting information, and research, including this tidbit from 2010 (an older one, yes), talking about a technological advancement allowing for more precises analysis of brain activity.

I had a couple of thoughts hit me:

I love watching videos of talented people demonstrating their talents. Many of the videos I linked in my r-positive posts were of this sort. Anything really, gymnastics, dancing, skiing, jump rope, soccer, painting, parkour... It is just amazing to watch talented people. Do you know how they become so talented?

Check out this 11 year old dub-stepper, and hear what she has to say.

You see - tying these thoughts together. That amazing ability comes through dedicated, focused practice. What happens when you repeat an action? or even visualize the action repeatedly?

Every time you think about something or due something, neural connections are created in your brain by electro-chemical signals traveling from neuron to another across synapses. When you continually repeat an action or thought, the synapses for those particular neural pathways are reduced, which makes them the easier path in the future, thus, what once required a focused effort on your behalf becomes second nature. an unconscious reaction.

That is what is going on in the brains of these great talents.

Now yes, genetics does play a part in this, perhaps even genetic memory. And upbringing plays a key role - your highest levels of neuroplasticity are in your younger years, up to age six is the highest level of brain growth, after which growth rates decline slowly until roughly age 30-40. After that, growth drops quite dramatically.

Environment plays a role as well, quality of food, quality of water, air... certain types of music have been shown to have effects on brain structure development.

And there are of course a number of diseases which effect the brain, from bacterial to viral, to chemical, including anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, meningitis...

But, While these things may set certain limits, or give certain advantages, it is still key to note that, particularly in our earlier years, it is our thoughts, action and dedication which bring to fruition those amazing skills.

This  idea isn't new of course. When I was a kid there were lots of book by "New age" psychologist on the subject of "think and grow rich", think yourself happy, think yourself successful... (There was an overabundance, in fact).

In early scriptures, prophets taught this idea as well. Proverbs 23:7 says "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he". There are a number of parables on sowing seed which allude to this idea as well. Mosiah 4:30 also warns of the consequences of not watching your "...thoughts, and your words and your deeds.

And now science is building a strong case to support that idea - not soft science, not studies which may or may not be replicable, but hard, physical science.

So then, I have to ask myself, what am I training to become? A world-class gymnast? runner? complainer? friend? victim? helper? jerk? A few videos to ponder...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Asking Why?

So, I'm laying in bed last night, replaying the accident (oh, I was in a car accident yesterday, did I forget to mention that?) , events leading up to it, etc... over and over and over... Can shut my brain off.

It is so easy to find yourself asking "Why?", "Why me?"

This makes 6 automobile accidents for me (only one of which was my fault), one of which was me on a mountain bike vs a car. Why me?

I was diagnosed with meningitis when I was about a year old, I spent a lot of time being very sick as a little child, I remember missing quite a few days of school to abdominal cramping, nausea, etc...

I got sick and had to drop out of college one year from a degree (did finally get back and graduate a decade later).

I spent five years under a misdiagnosis of Crohn's disease.

Right before this accident, my wife had a premonition that I was going to be in an accident? Why didn't I get something?

I almost never turn left on main roads. I will typically drive a mile out of my way to avoid it. Why didn't I do that this time? Why did I miss seeing their care, or misjudge their speed so badly that this accident occurred?


There are rarely ever any satisfactory answers to that question, I have concluded. It is hard not to ask it, but it is't very productive. The better questions to ask are "What?" and "How?"

Specifically, "What can I learn from this experience?", and "How, can/will/did I react to this experience?"

It interesting to observe how people react in those abrupt, unexpected situations that life throws at us. I still recall with amusement the behavior of the passengers On a plane from Brussells, Belgium to Cramlington, UK, which was diverted to Loughbrough, Scotland (Longer runway), when the flaps failed, forcing an emergency landing, firetrucks racing alongside. As we came finally to a safe stop, the sweet stewardess with a smile on her face announced "Welcome to Loughbrough!". People freaked out! I'm supposed to be in Newcastle!!! I have a meeting!!! Etc... The poor little stewardess, a bit frazzled by everyone yelling at her, mutters under her breath as she passes my seat "Fine! Not welcome to Loughbrough!", My traveling companion looks at the other passengers in disbelief and says (loud enough for me to hear) "You're alive!".

So, how did I do? At the moment of impact... I said a bad word. Not proud of that. I suppose that is a fairly common response, have been exposed to such language to much in my younger days, and int TV, movies, etc... over the years (String Button Mind Magic.).

Then minutes after that, I was asking the other Driver if she was LDS and did anyone need a priesthood blessing. I think mostly I behaved myself in a manner that the Savior would Condone.

What can I learn? Well, I need to be more diligent in policing the media I consume. I also learned what wonderful people I am surrounded by and acquainted with. So many prayers and well wishes from friends new and past. So many people offered aide at the crash site. The police officer was so very kind and compassionate (especially impressive where he was simply too young to have much life experience to draw from!) .

I think I can also learn to be more patient and understanding when I am passing an accident in the future. Yes, I am, one of those people who often feels inconvenienced by an accident.  While waiting to get through the resulting traffic bottleneck, am often silently berating the victims for not being more careful, thous avoiding the accident which is now inconveniencing me for a few minutes. Now, I have experienced the other side of it. I thought I was being careful. I looked both ways, I thought I had a sufficient opening in traffic. Perhaps I will remember this in the future, and be more compassionate, more understanding, less judgmental.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Regrets 6: I regret 'saving a buck'

In my first apartment I purchased a shop vac - The tiniest, least expensive one they make. I was poor and didn't have very much space. It worked well enough, but I often found myself wishing I would have gone just one size larger, to handle larger areas more effectively.

Nearly a decade later I bought the next size up, and experienced the same emotion. A little over a decade ago, I found myself buying a new shop vac, the next size up. Same thing. When I bought it, I really waffled over the size I purchased versus going at least one size larger (which would have put me in the larger nozzle size and the attachment that is long enough to use while standing upright).

Not a month later a neighbor had a pipe burst in their basement. That larger shop vac would have been SO much better for helping with clean-up.

Around that same time, I purchased an air compressor- the smallest one I could find (again, to save money). It was for keeping car and bike tires properly filled. It served (and still serves) that purpose well. But since then I have found myself wishing I would have gone bigger, in order to run a nail gun, staple gun, and paint sprayer, as well as one with sufficient power to use to blow out dirty vacuum filters, air conditioner compressors, etc...

Fortunately a neighbor had an extra one of sufficient size and I was the lucky beneficiary. It has been so nice!

I also bought a cheap reciprocating saw somewhere back then, and I cheap mitre saw. The mitre saw has been very sturdy, and I am very happy with it, however it is small, and I have found myself wishing on many occasions that I had one capable of cutting boards larger than 2x6.

The reciprocating saw, I really didn't expect to use much - I really purchased it for one project. I have since discovered a number of other projects, but having only used it maybe a dozen times, it is already threatening to break. It is extremely difficult to seat and remove blades.

There are two lessons learned:

1. Pay a little extra for better quality on tools, even if you don't think you are going to use it all that much. You will likely save yourself money in the long run.

2. Strongly consider buying tools that are more/bigger than you currently need. You again may save yourself money in the long run, and you may find future projects for yourself, or freinds/neighbors which will benefit.

PS. Note - I am not saying go into debt, I am saying wait a little longer and save up for better (refer to my first "regrets" post).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The one diet that will save your life

I caught a documentary a few night ago. It chronicled a groups' scientific exploration of a specific diet. It reviewed the results of those scientific studies, and presented a number of analogies regarding the diet improving quality of life for those who followed it - there were even testimonials from individuals who had been cured of diabetes and other diseases by faithfully following this diet.

That alone was pretty compelling stuff. They continued form there to document their efforts to implement legislation to correct certain misconceptions in current government nutritional guidelines. They discussed how legislators were quite enthusiastic after hearing their findings, and in some instances trying out the diet personally and seeing the difference it made for them. Then various agricultural lobbyists became involved, and things suddenly cooled. The implication of course was that money changed hands, or that political pressure was brought to bear by the lobbyists, whose industries wold be hurt by this dietary information. While that may cause the tin-foil hat alarm to ring, the history of the tobacco lobby suggests this conspiracy is not nearly so implausible.

In the same vein, they discussed modern medicine's failure to educate individuals, pointing out that healthcare workers aren't properly educated around correct diet principles, and that the economy associated with modern pharmaceuticals gives no incentive to apply principle which would lessen their need.

They also spent some time analyzing several currently popular diets which they deemed "dangerous fads". Again, they provided plenty of evidence to back their claims, in the form of studies, anecdote and basic logical analysis and interpretation of current medical and biological data.

I imagine some of you are annoyed with me right now, for being so vague about this amazing diet. I didn't want to prejudice you right at the outset, because the really interesting thing to me wasn't the diet itself, nor was it precisely the information they provided.

The diet presented in this case was the whole-foods, plant-based diet (essentially vegetarian). And the 'fad diets' they targeted for debunking were several meat-based diets, including the Atkinson diet and the Paleo diet. I point that out specifically because as I was watching the program, I found myself recalling a a body of documentation I had read quite a few year ago promoting the Paleo diet, and what struck me as interesting is that this program and those documents were nearly identical in content. Both presented the scientific journey of a group to find the ideal diet for humans, both referenced scientific studies and analogies demonstrating the effectiveness of the diet in improving health and preventing or even curing some modern ailments (Plant based focused on heart, Paleo focused on gut, both claimed wins with diabetes).

Both cited lobby interference and pharmaceutical economy as reasons the "truth" was not more widely know and accepted. Both made sound, rational cases against the alternative diet based on scientific evidence and  analysis and interpretation of current medical and biological data.

Of course, I have also seen rebuttal's by each side claiming the other side's science is junk science;  flawed at best, or dishonest at worst.

But it lead to me to couple of thoughts.

Perhaps most success stories on these diets are really success stories for the placebo effect; people are convinced that it will work, and therefore dedicate themselves to it. Consequently they also are making other changes (exercise, etc...) which - combined with their belief - is what really made the difference.

So, if you can't trust "science" (or at least not the people presenting it), you can't trust the governments, you can't trust the testimonials, who can you trust?

It is interesting to note that while both claim the other is unhealthy, and both have significant points of conflict, they do have some commonalities (eliminate processed foods, processed oils, alcohol, coffee...), so, given that they all agree on those, perhaps those are the real culprits that need to be eliminated.

I am still inclined to stick to my theory that since different people have different biologies, it is more likely that different people derive better health from different diets. Perhaps some day in the not-so-distant future, there will be a genetic test which will allow you to correctly identify which foods are most beneficial, and which are most risky for your specific biology.

In the Old Testament, God gave some specific dietary guidelines to the children of Israel, In our day, Latter Day Saints believe that God provided an updated version of these guidelines (for some portions the idea that it is updated make sense. Pork for instance was a no-no for the Jews, but not restricted by the Latter Day Saint "Word of Wisdom". Pork is a much less risky option nowadays, given better food prep. technology. Of course the Word of Wisdom was written in 1833. Technology has come a long way since then - refrigeration, freezers, better food preservation technologies, we are are even starting to print food. It would be interesting to see what an current update from God would look like.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Re-Thinking apple - oh yeah, one more thing...

A follow-up to my last post...

The recent news regarding apple is another thing for me to seriously consider (i.e. the government is trying to get them to break into a dead terrorists encrypted phone and they are refusing).

Once upon a time I had this dream, of a single card you could carry in your pocket, which could as as your cash, your debit cards, all your credit cards, your insurance card, your drivers license, your passport. one card that would do it all, no more bulky wallets nor more hunting through piles of membership/rewards cards...

The smart phone is hovering near the edges of that dream. You can handle credit card pay through your phone now, some membership programs now send their special offers/rewards coupons directly to mobile phones....

Our phones are holding an increasing amount of extremely sensitive data: Financial data, health data. Friends' data...

A device with that much of my information NEEDS to be impregnable.

And the simple fact is - if the government has a back door, so does everybody else. So, I am watching this case to see whether technology will take a step forward, or backward. I am encouraged that Apple has said no, they won't decrypt it. I would feel much better if they said no, they CAN'T decrypt it.

But that being said, how this all shakes out could have a significant influence on my views on apple, in spite of my dislike for the 'cult of apple' and for the personal restrictions...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Re-thinking Apple.

So,just over a year after making this post about Why I don't own anything apple sells, I found myself the unwilling owner of an iPhone, forced upon me by my company. Then a few months later, company policy changed, and Android phones, and some Microsoft phones were added to the list of allowed devices. I was of course stuck with the iPhone for two years, and I was eagerly awaiting the day when I could switch the thing out and be done with it.

That time is fist approaching, and now I find myself second guessing.

From a technical perspective, my views haven't changed much, I still find them fairly equal. For me, apple is frustratingly restrictive. I am constantly annoyed by the seemingly simple things I can't just easily do on the apple device because, I am apparently not doing it the way apple thinks everyone should do it.

My chief example of this is alarm clocks. I don't think I am asking for that much. I want the ability to assign a playlist as my wake-up   alarm and I want the clock to randomly select a song from that list (nothing ruins a favorite song more quickly than using that one song as your wake-up alarm every day. I want it to start softly and slowly fade in, so as to gently wake me, rather than jar me awake.

It was easy to get this working on Android. Not so on apple. first it was not easy to find an app that had this feature set. And then none of them actually work reliably. If you forget to leave the app running on the fore ground before you go to bed the alarm won't work at all. And I can't let the alarm clock override the Do not disturb function. If I set the alarm, I do in fact want it to 'disturb' me.

I still don't like Apple's business practices. I still find them to be innovation killers. And I still disapprove of their practices in China.

However. I have been gaining some new political education on the subject of  "conflict minerals". You see much of the fundamental minerals used in the creation of electronic devices comes from conflict areas in Africa. In a number of cases, mines have been taken over by guerrilla forces, who then implement genuine slave labor from the locals to extract these minerals for profit to warlords. Apple's behavior in China is downright civilized in comparison to this.

I haven't been able to find any numbers more recent than 2012. But for 2102 company progress at eliminating conflict minerals, Android companies aren't making much of a showing. Motorola is the one exception. Microsoft is Neck and Neck with apple, and Nokia is right in close. So Apple or Microsoft gain a strong lead for me, in spite of my general preference for the Android ecosystem.

So which of those two? I like Cortana better than Siri, she's much more personable. And in my experience she seems to work more reliably. But, then I also like Speakto it Assistant, and that one is cross-platform.

I like the Microsoft ecosystem, I like the convenience factor of my phone and laptop all peaking the same language. That is likely to lead to better integration and cooperation. I really like the efforts Microsoft if making int he area of family safety. I like the controls they offer to monitor and manage children's devices.

On the other hand, Microsoft is still struggling in the phone space. The current round of Lumias aren't performing well, and rumors are they are going to drop that line. There are rumors that they might pick up with a new phone based on the Microsoft surface platform, but for now, that it vaporware.

What to do, what to do?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Health update: peeling back the layers

I keep putting this off, holding my breath, waiting to see if I am really where I think I am. Which is silly, as the main reason I started posting about my health was to document the process, and information as it was gathered. oh well.

So, a quick recap. 5 years ago, I began experiencing severe abdominal pain, and spasms. A number of tests and procedures later, and I was given a diagnosis of Crohn's. I lived under that for four years. I learned a great deal about Crohn's in that time, as well as a modest amount about various treatments, with their various drawbacks. I also experienced the pain of a change in healthcare policy, which increased the cost of treatment by a few orders of magnitude.

I was still experiencing some symptoms, but sporadically, and not as intense. My life was certainly not what it once was. My wife mentioned a few weeks ago how hard it was to see me wasting away.

Then last march, the abdominal pain and spasms returned with a vengeance. I went to a third Gastroenterology specialist, and switched to a new Family Dr. A number of tests later, and it was concluded that either the Crohn's had gone into remission, or more likely, I had never had Crohn's.

Many more fruitless tests later, and my new Dr. decided to call it IBS instead, then after trying a few unsuccessful, direct treatments for IBS, we did a little out of the Box thinking.

Many years before all this, I had been diagnosed with a mild social anxiety disorder. Where it was mild, and where I was not eager to go the pharmaceutical route with its various side effects, I utilized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as treatment.At that point, It seemed to be working well, and I thought I had the problem licked.

My Dr. and I decided to include that in the list of possibles, And as it was one of the easier, less expensive ones to explore, she prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. For me to try for a few months.

The first two weeks were horrible! Horrific nausea, a drastic increase in insomnia - that was already a problem for me... I couldn't function! She switched me to a similar alternative medication, and the The symptoms were... lessened... at least to a level where I could mostly function. After about a month, the nausea had passed, and the insomnia was ... well... better...

The spasms were also fading away. Less and less with each passing week. My wife observed that my temperament was much more even as well. I was more patient, less stressed. So we stuck with it. Within a few months, the spasm were gone. I was still experiencing occasional abdominal pain, but now, with the other problem under control, this problem was predictable, and we were finally able to link it to lactose. (A big think you to the person/s who invented lactose free milk and butter!). Years before, I had experimented with that, but could  make no link, due to the other issue masking it.

So a few lessons learned:

Patience - I'm not going to say positivity, is necessary, though I suspect it helps, but stoicism is crucial. Sometimes it just takes time to find the right person or place to start peeling back the layers.

Persistence - Don't be afraid to talk to more doctors. The other Dr's weren't necessarily bad. They just missed a crucial piece of information, or made the diagnosis based on their experiences. They did the best they could with what they had. Sometimes a different pair of eyes can understand the information in a different light...

Compassion - My problem - as it turns out - was all (mostly) in my head :). But that doesn't make it any less real. There are many people in this world who are dealing with real health issues which you, me, even they likely don't understand. Their pain is real. Be patient with them.

Science - The scientific process is crucial, examine the evidence, and see where it leads. It is so easy in situations like this to latch onto any idea that offers a cure. And there are so many theories, with compelling sounding defenses, and an abundance of anecdotes. Note, lactose is now a problem for me (along with roughly 50% of the human population). But that doesn't mean that I believe Milk (or Grain, or Meat, or ....) is bad for humans. I can point to just as many anecdotes of people who have thrived on diets of most every sort. It just proves that we are all different. I can imagine a day in the future, when they will be able to perform a genetic test and tell each individual which foods they uniquely should avoid, and which foods they specifically should seek out and make a regular part of their diet, and when that will change as they age.

Faith and Fellowship - There are times when personal stoicism and positivity aren't sufficient. There are times when it is more than you can personally bear. I frequently found myself there. And at those times, I relied upon  my Friends, my family, and my Faith in Jesus Christ. I am blessed to be surrounded by wonderful neighbors, and to have many friends around the world who were willing to offer me an ear and a shoulder. I am blessed to have family - also throughout the world who offered both comfort and service in my moments of need. I am fortunate to have had so many people praying on my behalf. Just knowing that gave me hope. And I am fortunate also to have my Savior to turn to. There are many times when I felt like giving up that I would start singing to myself "Fear not, I am with you, oh be ye not dismayed, for I am thy God, and will still give thee aid, I'll strengthen thee help the and cause thee to stand. Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand."

"In every condition, in sickness and health. In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth. At home or abroad, on the land or the sea. As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be."

Inevitably as I sang that song, I would feel peace. And I would feel comforted. And I would know that I was being watched over by a loving, caring Father in Heaven. That while pain and sorrow and suffering are sadly a part of this life experience, they are not the end, they are a small part of the grand plan. And even in difficult times, we can experience peace, and joy.

So, now life is slowly returning to something more closely resembling normal. Of course, now I am beginning to experience some effect of growing older, so I am not likely to return to the vigor I had before all this started, but there is now hope again that I might keep one of my long term goals regarding a 5k run at a certain speed after the age of 50 (which my wife was so kind as to smirkily point out was just around the corner. Thanks sweetie).

Onward, ever onward.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Young Men's Basketball

This Saturday, I went with my son to a young men's basketball game - One of those things the LDS church does, to give youth something good to do with their time, to try to foster fellowship and good sportsmanship etc...

As I was watching the game, I noticed something - There was one boy who has some... relatively minor - physical challenges/limitations. Whenever he had the ball, the opposing team players all eased up a bit, matching there playing level to the capability of this boy.

I went to the coach of the opposing to and asked him, was this his doing, or the boys? He informed me that he had said nothing to the boys. These 12-14 year old young men had each independently made the choice to do this. I should note also that they lost the game, and it is quite possible that their easing up on this one boy may have been key in that.

There are some very exceptional young men in this world!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: A few Musings.

I found this article today. I'd recommend taking the time to digest it...

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond

 A very well written article, which examines many facets and possibilities for the future due to advancing technology. Worth the time to read and consider.

The author doesn't go into it quite as much, but mentions 3D printing and the integration of Biology and Technology. One point I find myself considering in this area, which he comes to the edges of in this article...

What will happen to the large businesses and governments of the world? There are now 3D printers for Plastics, Metals, Fabrics and even some biologics. And some effort is being made to construct said printers in a way which allows the various printer parts to be replicated on the printers. Suddenly, not only can the digital world be copied, duplicated infinitely for virtual no cost, so can the physical world. Anyone, ANYONE, with a clever idea could have the potential to produce it.

Can't afford some new toy, some new tools, some new gadget? Design your own and print it yourself.

Much of the massive cost associated with medical devices and drugs is due to the heavy burden of government regulation. What if you are manufacturing your own device or drug for personal use?

But what then happens to big businesses? Will their revenue streams dry up? Will they be able to adapt to a new, decentralized economy? Or will they try desperately to protect themselves through government regulation?

What happens to the world of intellectual property? How will intellectual property be defined in this new world? Will Apple, for instance have to run around suing individual consumers for owning a home made rectangular device with rounded corners that is roughly the same size and shape as an i-something and runs similar programs? Would they be able to win those cases? Would they be able to be profitable?

The Music industry has been something of a precursor to this - Music is now mostly, and may one day soon become exclusively a digital medium. For the past decade or so, we have watched the music industry desperately cling to the good old days. Touting out Metallica to cry about how poor they are because everyone steals their music, Sending their army of lawyers out to sue twelve year old girls for sharing music. They even tried loading spyware on music CD's, and they continue to fiddle around with DRM, and protective legislation. They roam around issuing take-down orders to youtube in a last desperate effort to stem the flow. In a less stupid direction, they have begun to embrace cloud subscription services, making it so convenient to rent access to music, that it is frankly to inconvenient for many to "steal" it. Some artists have left the old music industry behind, acting as their own label, producer, and distributor. Cutting out all the middle men saves them a great deal. And so long as they have sufficiently rabid fans who will choose to willingly pay for their product, they can be very successful.

The final line of defense for most of these large, slow moving behemoths will likely be government regulation.They will try to turn to the Government to write better protection for intellectual property, perhaps event try to prohibit the self-production of certain items. But how can the government control and enforce this? Will the government recognize that there role is going to shrink, or will they too desperately cling to the old way, desperately try to hold on to illusory power?

There is a brave new world coming, one that will require a world of individuals to be alert, forgiving, kind, cooperative, engaged, charitable... willing to negotiate, seek compromise, and stand together. If we do, amazing things will happen. If we don't...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Random Thought: The Future of Artificial Intellligence - Is Skynet's Grandaddy What We Should Really Be Worried About?

I've had conversations with a number of people on this topic. What do I think of ever-improving AI, do I love it or fear it? Will it help humanity, or destroy us?

The Skynet reference in the title is specific to the Terminator universe, in which an AI becomes self-aware, then proceeds to exterminate the human race, going so far as to develop time travel in order to go back in time and eliminate its most troublesome foes before they become troublesome.

But it also tends to generically reference the idea - commonly used in Sci-Fi  - of an artificial intelligence which becomes sophisticated enough to think for itself, then determines that humans are the biggest threat to itself - or humanity, and then through various acts (or inactions) attempts to subjugate or exterminate humans. Terminator, The Matrix, I, Robot (The Movie), Eagle Eye... To name a few.

And this is a concept that worries many, including such "luminaries" as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak...

But here's a random thought... Is it really Skynet we have to worry about? Or is is his relatively dimwitted grandfather which will be our undoing?

Currently, AI behavior is cropping up in internet search and content delivery. It is a convenience, and a money saver, If you search for Grills, you will suddenly find ad's popping up for grills, if you show an interest in gardening, ads for garden supplies will follow you around. This benefits the suppliers of products by targeting their ad's to interested audiences, rather than spamming the whole world, which theoretically saves advertising dollars. It benefits the customers by showing them things they are actually looking for, in theory reducing the number of pointless cold calls, and potentially putting exciting new products they might actually need in front of them saving them time searching.

But what about the dark side of this?
"I think therefore I am."
"As a man soweth, so shall he reap,"

See. the down side to this targeted media. Is that we see more of less, and consequently less of more...

I purchased a few "Epic Score" albums from Amazon a while back. Now when I visit amazon, I am flooded with music titles from that same genre. Social media is using this AI as well. I watched a video by some guy named Mat Larson once, years ago, now his tinfoil hat is taking up a whole row in my you-tube feed.

So here's my theory, this relatively dumb AI is helpfully feeding us more of what we like, what it thinks we want to see, what we agree with...  and showing us less in the way of new information, new ideas, alternative viewpoints... making us more insular, more isolated, more narrow of view, more ... radical... until we self-destruct... leaving dim-net to starve to death long long before skynet is ever born.

So. what do you think? Is it bad form to make fun of someone for wearing tinfoil whilst donning tinfoil yourself?