Category Archives: Life

An Ode to Stupid Jargon

blahMy extreme dislike of stupid words began around the time I noticed the first few car dealers replacing their used cars signs with ones that said pre-owned cars.  Put a new word on something, and instantly convince the masses that it’s something different.  The fact that it apparently works doesn’t help.  It just makes me mad at humanity for being as dumb and gullible as they think we are.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of invented words, designed to fool us into all manner of beliefs and action.  Web 2.0, semantic web, thought leader (by far, my most hated), etc.  In real life, when people start talking at me in this language, I belittle them by saying “I don’t understand all these made-up words you’re using.  Can you just talk regular?”  The look on the person’s face and the laughter from anyone who overhears this (some of whom, by now, know it’s coming) almost make it worth it.

It’s harder to stop this semantic madness when you’re reading stuff online or (if you enjoy day old information) in those quaint newspapers.  Over time, you become less sensitive to it, but it remains a mild irritant.  Like shirts with starch in them.  And ties.  I don’t need a neck tie, because I have buttons.  I don’t need to reach out to someone, because I can email them.

I’ve always been a Weird Al fan.  Now, I have another reason to be one.  This is my favorite of the recent Weird Al videos.

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NOTE: Some stupid deal made by somebody seems to be preventing people from embedding the video, which means we all get forced to the WSJ page to see it.  I just love the way old media tries to apply the old media rules to the web.  It doesn’t make us love you, folks.  It makes us as annoyed as some of the words in the clever music video you are holding hostage.

Regardless, the video is worth the trip.  Good stuff.

Hey Baby, It’s the 4th of July

From Farm Aid, 1986. Manor, Texas.

Staring Through His Own Tail Lights

Reddit, man, frickin’ Reddit.  I love it with the power of a thousand suns.

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So some poor mom writes a heart wrenching post about some asshole kids (and there are a ton of them) being mean to her little boy.

I just want him to be happy. My heart hurts for him, and my hugs aren’t enough anymore.

Shortly, some other Redditor, a stranger, writes some of the best, most powerful words I’ve ever read.  Holy moly.  That’s the best writing I’ve seen since the Indian attack in Blood Meridian.

And in the face of it all, asks for two wonderful favors.

1) Please, Never Be Cruel.

2) Please, Always Be Kind.

If everyone would try a little harder to do that….

 

 

Like You’re Watching It

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Like most holidays, Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the present, to look back and remember what’s gone, and to share hopes for what’s to come.  That sort of thing is easier for some than for others.  For me, it’s like whiskey.  The trick is in the amount.  A little is good, but too much can make you crazy.

I can barely remember my own father, and my children don’t always think I’m as wise and benevolent as I feel.  All of this, plus my deep-rooted desire to avoid participation holidays having to do with me (my birthdays, etc.), finds me hunkered down on these days, partially grateful for any overtures and mostly waiting for the next morning, when things will return to whatever approximates normal.

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So when Swedish songwriter Tom Levin emailed me about his new song, “Father to a Son,” a good and timely song about the difficulties of both being and having a father, and the often overlooked, but vastly important, legacy one creates through those relationships, it got me thinking about parental music.  A trip too far down that rabbit hole, like most introspection about one’s struggle to be good at what matters while simultaneously being excellent at much of what doesn’t, is to be avoided.  For sure.

But if I were to give a musical sermon to my children, it would sound something like this.

 

I haven’t done a particularly good job of doing all that stuff, but such was my intent, to the extent intent matters.  The anti-new age parent in me says it matters a little, but only a little.  To try is to fail with honor and all that.  But if intent is the precursor to action, maybe it matters more than we think.  In other words, to be you have to become.  To go someplace, you have to think about the direction you should travel.

Another musical message that I adhere to in theory, if not in action, is this one.

Well all the friends that you knew in school
They used to be so cool and they just bore you
Well look at them now, already pulling the plow
So quick to take to grain like some old mule
Young man full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man going to make a stand…

So here’s the point.  It has to do with intent, and direction and becoming.

Kids, you need to decide what you want out of life before life decides for you.  Not what you want right now, and not what someone tells you you should want, but what you want to do for the next few decades.  Something you’re passionate about, that will allow you to make a living and a difference.

Or maybe, on Father’s Day, you’re allowed to just listen to this one (the Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy and the Seldom Scene are a wonderful combination) and sit on the back porch, waiting for the birds to return to the feeders.

Like most things, it’s complicated.

Killing Elephants is for Losers

“What kind of a person looks upon the world’s largest land animal — a beast that mourns its dead and lives to retirement age and can distinguish the voice of its enemies—and instead of saying “Wow!”; says something like “Where’s my gun?”

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I dislike litterbugs and big game hunters with the power of a thousand suns. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can redeem someone who tosses their trash out of a car window- this happens all the time on the road in front of our farm- or goes to Africa to kill majestic, and often threatened or endangered, animals.

I haven’t read GQ since the 80′s, but I saw a link to what turned out to be a well-written and thought-provoking story about an elephant hunt.

Part of the reason I am so vehemently against big game hunting is because I am a gun person and a hunter.  But much like religion, I have become hesitant to mention my affinity because I don’t want to be associated with the losers who kill lions and tigers and whatnot any more than I want to be associated with the haters who use religion to further their right-wing agendas.

I admit to being confused by the fact that countries that allow legal hunting have more elephants than those that don’t.  And it’s interesting that the World Wildlife Fund at least tolerates regulated elephant hunting.

But here’s one thing I’m sure about.  If you have enough money to hunt and kill an elephant, you have enough money not to.

Tonight, My Kids are Going to Learn About Carolyn Porco

Carolyn (at right) re-enacting the famous Beatles photograph at Abbey Road with the other members of the Cassini Imaging Team.

Carolyn Porco (at right) re-enacting the famous Beatles photograph at Abbey Road with the other members of the Cassini Imaging Team.

I have two daughters, both of them interested in science.  I like to show them examples of how ordinary people can do amazing things, just by following their passion.  Carolyn Porco is an amazing, brilliant and delightful example of that.  I’m tempted to call her the embodiment of girl power, but that would be selling her short.  She’s an ambassador for the power of finding and pursuing your passion.  Ask yourself this.  How many people talk about their job with this sort of excitement?  How many people can hold your attention like this?

Not many.

Kids, I hope one day you can look back and tell a similar story of how you discovered your passion, chased it hard and made a positive difference.

At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

(via io9)

Evening Reading: 4/22/14

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Here’s a great read on the life and abandonment of AIM.  Here’s my take on instant messaging, from the day before Google Talk was released, in 2005.

Apple (or someone) really needs to come up with a reverse-lookup phone book.  The majority of calls I get at home are from suspicious numbers.  Google used to do it with a simple phone number search, but some Chicken Littles whined about privacy so Google removed most of the functionality.  Maybe Truecaller is the answer.  Maybe.  The taking a screenshot thing seems burdensome.

The Atlantic (love it) is streaming the new Old 97′s record, which will be out at the end of this month.  Here’s the title track.

Who Originally Said “I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One on TV“?  I watched the show back then, and still didn’t remember.

The reason people hate airlines, and especially United, is because the gate attendants simply aren’t always nice.  I was on my way to Dallas last week and got to the airport early.  I walked up to the departure gate as an earlier flight was leaving and asked if I could get on that fight.  Not one of the three ladies behind the (not at all busy) desk looked at me or acknowledged my inquiry.  I thought maybe they didn’t hear me, so in a minute or so I asked again, nicely.  Nothing.  Eventually, one of them started typing away on her computer.  A few minutes later, she finally looked at me and said she’d put me on standby.  All I needed was a glance and some sort of response (yes, no, maybe) to be satisfied.  What I got was the sense that I was bothering them.

I was relatively late to the Oxford comma.  But I generally follow that approach now.

Fortran, FTW.  Fortran was the first programming language I (sort of) learned.  I thought it was a lot of work for a small reward.  Sort of like blogging.

This is exactly why I have never acted on my recurring urge to switch to a standing desk.

Yeah, I’m thinking Facebook’s Paper app is on the Google+ trajectory of use adoption.  I tried it.  I deleted it.

Not recommended:  Three times I have tried to use an Eye-Fi card.  Three times I have tossed them in the trashcan, irritated by the user-unfriendly, non-intuitive interface.  There is no way I am going to go through that sort of hell again just to create more cloud space, when Google and Amazon( AWS) are almost giving it away.

They aren’t that hard to swat.  If you have a fly swatter.

It’s Time to Reclaim Religion

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To avoid any doubt and to lessen the chance we get off on some avoidable tangent, let’s summarize my religious views as of 2014.

I believe in God, fully and completely.  I pray all the time.  I am less sure exactly what God is, but I am certain some greater power is at play.  I don’t know that God micromanages the day-to-day operations of life (I tend to end up somewhere along the benevolent ant-farm line of thought), but that doesn’t affect what I want to talk about today.

I believe one’s relationship with God should be direct, and not via some person or organization who offers or demands to tell you what God thinks and what God wants you to do.  In other words, the more human beings you put between you and God, the more messed up things get.

I believe that far too many of the human beings who would place themselves between you and God have agendas that aren’t always in the best interest of you or God.  This is not to say that there is no place for organized religion.  I simply approach so-called religious doctrine imposed by some human beings on other human beings as inherently suspect.  God is love.  Religious leaders often forget or ignore this foundational reality.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for religion and/or God are doing way more harm than good.  I notice more of this with Christians, because I am one (more on that below), but it is the case with all or most religions.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for Christianity are conscripting religion to further their own purposes.  If you doubt this, ask yourself the last time you heard a so-called Christian leader say “I’d really like to do X (marry my same-sex partner; drink a beer; you name it), but the Bible says I can’t.”  It’s always “those people would like to do X, but the Bible tells me that they can’t.”

If Christians don’t get a handle on this soon, there is a risk that, by acting in ways inconsistent with right-thinking Christian beliefs (take love and tolerance, for example), we will allow Christianity to become marginalized.  In other words, if you make good and just people choose between calling themselves Christians and acting in a good and just manner, they will choose the latter.  If I’m hesitant to call myself a Christian because of all the idiots and haters spouting off nonsense on Facebook and in the media, that’s a small problem for me, but a huge problem for a religion that wants to matter in 10, 20, 100 years.  I’m in my 50′s and I have a problem with the lack of love and tolerance exhibited by many Christians.  Imagine how young people feel.

A big part of the problem is that people (usually old men trying to hold on to diminishing power or influence) start rattling on about what the Bible means, and how if you don’t do this and that- or if you tolerate this and that, you are acting against the word of God.  The thing is, it’s not the word of God.  It’s some other cat’s interpretation of the word of God.  And more often that not, that cat has an agenda.

The Bible is a work of love, not a weapon of control.

If I came face to face with God and could ask him just one question, it would be: “Do you think the Bible is the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity?”  I think it’s an open question, not because of the Bible itself, but because of the way it’s used by some to influence and control others.  The two stupidest things I regularly hear are:

1. Global warming isn’t happening.
2. The Bible is the literal word of God and must be literally complied with.

The problem with number 1 is that it is clearly disprovable, by facts.  I suppose one can debate the cause of climate change, but its existence is no more debatable than the existence of atoms and molecules.

The problem with number 2 is that proponents of this theology pick and choose which parts are literal, while ignoring both the parts that don’t fit their objectives, as well as all the crazy stuff.  And there is a lot of straight-up crazy stuff in there.  By picking and choosing which parts matter and which don’t, the Biblical literalists disprove the foundation on which they seek to stand.

Which leads me to the list.  I am tired of debating people on a one-off basis every time someone posts some allegedly Biblical-based reason as to why we shouldn’t let some people marry, why we shouldn’t watch the Super Bowl (the topic of probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read), why this group is bad and the other group good, etc., etc.  So if you want to claim the Bible is the literal word of God and that word means we have to act in an intolerant or unjust manner, be prepared to explain the following.  I’ll add to the list over time.

Or we can stop fighting over the unimportant stuff and get back to love and tolerance.

9 Surprisingly Progressive Moments In The Bible

The 9 most baffling passages in the Bible, and what they really mean

10 Religious Verses Used To Justify Terrible Atrocities

10 Biblical Figures Who Teach Outrageous Morals

The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Is Real: What Now?

10 Truly Bizarre Or Unsettling Biblical Accounts

10 Misconceptions About Jesus

Millennials ‘Talk To God,’ But Fewer Rely On Religion, Survey Finds

​God’s 12 Biggest [Mean] Moves in the Old Testament

When Thomas Jefferson Rewrote The Entire Bible

Mary Magdalene Was Never A Prostitute

Hout and Fischer conclude that a big part of the decrease in religiosity can be attributed to “liberals and moderates declaring no religious preference as a way of rejecting the growing connection between churches and conservative politics, especially conservative cultural politics on topics such as the family, women and sex. [They] were saying, in effect, if that is what religion means, count me out.”

Again, I love God.  I just don’t like a lot of the things human beings say about God.  It’s time for right-thinking people of all religions to take back their religion from those who would misuse it for their own purposes.

God is love.  Peace.

Evening Reading: 4/10/14

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It seems inevitable that the world is moving away from desktop computers, through laptops to tablets.  I guess I am an iMac loving dinosaur, but I find it much harder to create anything on a tablet.  Read?  Sure.  Work?  Nah.

This would be the best thing that ever happened to every Apple TV competitor, which is why Apple won’t do it.  There are pennies in putting geeky headsets on nerds.  There are bags of gold in helping non-geeks to cut the cord and get elegant, on demand content.

Let me say it again.  No redesign on earth is going to save iTunes.  I love almost everything Apple, but I abhor iTunes.  It needs to be tossed and a new media application redesigned from the ground up.  I’m not the only Mac devotee who feels that way.

10 Most Unnecessary Movie Sequels Of All Time.  I’ve never seen any of them.  But I eagerly await Sharknado 2.  No, I’m not kidding.

This is good advice.  I do OK on humble and kind, as long as I trust the intention of those who would seek kindness (e.g., don’t knock on my door at 10:00 at night in some sketchy outfit and offer to sell me magazines).  I struggle sometimes with the calm part.

College costs are out of control.  I make way more than my parents and I’m not even considering my alma mater (Wake Forest) for my kids because it’s too expensive.  Yeah, it’s a great school, but not great enough to warrant the price.

Speaking of too expensive, Feedly, which I love and happily pay for, is really hawking Zapier.  I’d never heard of Zapier before, and there is no way I’m paying this much to use it.  Word of advice kids.  If IFTTT can be free (and I’d happily pay for it)….

OK, about this Heartbleed business.  Here’s the source you should trust.  If you use LastPass (and you should), they have made it very easy for you.  Click the LastPass icon then Tools>Security Check.

I don’t have much of a spam problem in my Facebook news feed.  What I do have is a lot of humblebrag.  I’m starting to dump folks who use Facebook primarily to humblebrag.  It’s tiresome.

Evening Reading: 4/8/14

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So, the Weather Channel fought DirecTV and DirecTV won.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the upcoming iOS 8 ands OSX 10.10.

I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and my initial impressions are positive.  Shows seem to load faster, which is a plus at the farm, where our broadband is not all that broad.  Consumerist has a good write-up.  Google TV was one of- and maybe the- worst designed train-wrecks I’ve ever experienced.  I threw mine away (I didn’t want to donate it and ruin someone else’s day).  So my expectations for Android TV are low.

Here’s a good read on parenting, routines and Michael Phelps.  All I can say is I didn’t do any of that stuff, and it shows at my house.

While we’re thinking about things to do differently, Confront These 10 Inconvenient Truths Today for a Better Life.

I don’t know how I missed this, but I did.  Amazing work.  Much, much better than typical “fan fiction.”

This does not surprise me at all.  And, of course, our broadband connection went out last night.  So we get to dive into customer service hell with the winner.

Adobe Lightroom comes to the iPad.  Photoshop is the only software application I rent, and only because I need it more than I need to prove how much I hate renting software.  Everyone loves Lightroom, so I need to check it out.  Cult of Mac loves it.

RIP, Archie.  I’ve never been a big comic book reader, but I read a few of these back in the day.

I meant to share this on 4/6/14, but I forgot.  Here‘s a site that shows your first tweet.  Here’s mine.  Follow me on Twitter for daily pointers to interesting stories that don’t make it into Evening Reading.

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Looks like I need to rethink my correspondence valediction.  Or maybe not.