Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Some Recent Reads

A few recent books and recommendations:
  1. WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly. It is a great book about trends in technology and markets that are shaping our future. O'Reilly is a well respected 'futurist' and his work is always interesting. This is his latest.
  2. I'm still working my way through the book, Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies which is simply unbelievable and a lot to process. I've shared this recommendation with some other friends and all who have started it are really equally impressed with the book.
  3. Damocles by 47North which is about an encounter with aliens and the long and difficult task of figuring out how to communicate without any starting points of commonality. Reminds me of the movie Arrival which I loved and wrote about earlier.
  4. 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King. I continue to be amazed at his storying telling ability. In this book, he had his character move through the plot of one of his other stories, which he does in other books too. Common places and characters crossing paths. So interesting.
  5. What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Carney is about how stressing ourselves can result in increased performance and results. There is a lot of material about the cold and how learning to run or compete in the cold can result in better performance. Most interesting.
  6. Ready Player One: A Novel: is a great fast read about gaming and the future. Great sci-fi.
  7. Artemis: A Novel by Crown is the followup to The Martian. Loved The Martian but didn't think as much about Artemis.
Before these books, I re-read the Nicolas Taleb books again. Might have to keep doing that periodically. He has a new book coming out next year.

I'll post more soon.


Running Again

Ran a marathon last weekend in Dallas at the BMW Dallas Marathon. Ran 37 minutes faster than my previous best. My running partner PRd by 14 minutes. Very pleased.

      

Learned some things about timing and pacing this time. Marathons are 26.2 miles but because you can't run the straightest, shortest distance on the streets. You always run longer. On this day we ran 26.62 miles in 4 hours and 44 minutes. Our real pace on the road was 10:42 per mile. But since the marathon is 26.2, we have a reported pace of 10:52. 

Beth, Mark Thompson, and Darci Thompson followed us around cheered us along the way. The weather was beautiful. It was a fun day.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Think only on those things...

“The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.

Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day.

The content of your character is your choice.

Day by day, what you do is who you become.

Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way.”

Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Our Leaders - North Korea and Other Thoughts

This mess in North Korea is getting worse and could really spin in a bad, bad direction. The latest missile launch, which is now called an ICBM because of the longer-range, was unannounced and flew through commercial flight paths. Imagine being on a 777 flying from Seattle to Tokyo and seeing that out your window. Imagine being a pilot on that 777 and seeing that out your window.

The NY Times reported yesterday how a conflict might unfold on the peninsula and it is not pretty and there isn't a happy ending.

Kim Jong Un is just another egotistical leader who thinks it is all about him and his ideas and not about the people around him. Rodman going to visit him and the country fits perfectly with the incomprehensibility of the whole mess.

Kim Jong Un doesn't realize that he could be a hero in his country if he took a different path. Can you imagine how the people of North Korea would respond if the borders were opened up, commerce was allowed and encouraged, jobs were created, food was available, the lights worked, infrastructure was improved, etc?

He could change the whole path of his country and the future by just turning a different direction. The whole narrative of him could change from a reckless, child dictator following prior dictators into a statesman who changed the path and course of his whole country. In one generation he could completely change the course of North Korea. Few leaders get that kind of opportunity.

There are other leaders around the world who are thugs, egotistical and self-serving. Countries seem to elect these leaders and most dictators are this way already.  And we seem to allow a lot of bad behavior by our leaders who are then not held accountable by anyone. This happens at the local, state and national levels.

Malcolm Gladwell's podcast called Revisionist History (Recommended) in Season One had a story called The Lady Vanishes which talks about the behavior of men towards women as they advance in offices and states.  The material and interview with Gilliard, the first women Prime Minister of Australia, is particularly heartbreaking.

I can't solve the North Korea problems or any of these problems around the world. I can decide how I'm going to vote and what I'm going to consider where I live. I think we need to:

  1. We need elected leaders who are not career politicians. We shouldn't allow people to stay in office long. We need term limits everywhere.
  2. We need teachers, engineers, doctors, business people and the like in elected offices.
  3. We need to elect more women into senior offices in organizations and in government. We need their views and insights more than ever.
  4. We need more diversity of ideas in leadership. It can't just be a two-party, white man's club in government anymore. 
  5. We need to hold anyone in leadership roles accountable for their behavior, their actions, their words. Remove them if necessary and certainly don't vote for them again.


Just some thoughts from my corner of the universe on this Thursday AM.

Hope you are well.

Mark










Monday, July 3, 2017

Going for a run...

My running friend challenged us to run 100 miles in 10 days starting July 1st. This is the 3rd day and here is where I stand:

I am 36% of the way there as of today three days into the quest.

This is an amazingly hard thing to do.

Running 10 miles is not a big deal by itself. But we are doing this in July and the temps have been hot for some of the runs and the humidity has been 85-90%. That makes it hard. I'd prefer to do this in October or November, but we are doing it now.

There is a huge toll physically, but there is probably a bigger mental load. This spans so many days and there is always more running to do and all of it needs to fit into the days around whatever else. And when you are done for the day, there is tomorrow. I'm ahead now, but many miles remain. 10 per day.

I've managed to get ahead a bit but unfortunately, my right foot is signaling that this must/could/should come to an end. I'm worried that I'll have to stop. Today I saw a PT and got the foot and ankle KT wrapped. We'll see.

If you run marathons, you hate to give up and you must learn to continue through misery. However, you also need to listen to your body when things don't feel right.

I'm ahead by 6 miles of the needed pace but worried about the foot.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Friends and their Kids

Years ago, we were in a small group Bible study whatever with some families that had kids around the same age as ours. We met on Sunday night and gravitated towards doing Bible studies for our kids. Over the course of time, all those families drifted different directions. Some moved away and in fact, we moved to another country. Some we still see from time-to-time.

However, I've continued to pray for those kids.

They are now married and I have no idea, in most cases, what is going on in their lives, but they are still on my prayer list. Occasionally, I see one of them or I see their parents, and at different times, I've told them or their parents that I still pray for them, or their kids. We've attended several of their weddings. Across the years, I still think of those families and those kids. And, whether they know it or not, I'm still here for them.

I have added other kids to my prayer list over the years. I now pray for people I don't even know because their parents asked me at some point in the past to pray for their kids. I can't decide if these people want to know that I'm still praying for them or not. I tell some of them at times and I always get mixed kinds of responses. Someone asks you to pray for their kid and then they are surprised months/years later when you are still praying?

Today someone told me he was praying for me because of a work I'm doing. I know of one other person who is praying for me. I tend to believe it makes a difference. Of course, I believe there is a creator, that he stepped into history 2000 years ago, and that he is 'out there' and listening and acting and still working.

I think that life is hard. That hard things happen. That evil happens, and that pain and hurt happen.

And I believe we need to look out for each other.

A few weeks ago a friend asked my wife and me to join he and his wife on a trip. The date happened to be a date where I had committed to a friends daughter that we'd attend a fundraiser event for something that was important to her (and now me). Declined on the trip because we had committed to someone that we'd be there.

This past week my wife and I coordinated a VBS session for grades 4 and 5(worthy of another blog post as that is not in my wheelhouse). A 4th grader that we know came in and casually said 'Hi Mark' as he slid into his seat and began talking to his friends. That is what it is all about. Being there for our friends and their kids. Boom.

Life is hard. Be there for your friends and their kids.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Funny Shipping Experiences

I wrote on my other blog about some funny shipment problems I have had in the past year and a half. Three times when I've ordered something and received 2x what I ordered. In all three cases, the companies just told me to keep it.

I had a related yesterday when I wanted to return something to a well-known company and exchange it for another at a different size. In this case, the person on the phone couldn't find my order at all. Did not exist. I had a paper shipping document in front me of and I found the original email from the vendor both of which had the ordered number but it didn't exist in their systems. Perfect.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Learning to Swim

I had swim lessons when I was a kid, but never really learned how to swim. I have always done that keep your head above water and dog paddle while looking cool approach whenever I had to get in the water. I've had two events in my life where I was in jeopardy while in the water which have shaped me to not be comfortable in water.  Well, there actually are three events. I tried to snorkel while on vacation once and couldn't do it, couldn't do it, couldn't do it and panicked and returned to the shallow water and took off the fins, mask and snorkel never to touch them again.

Since I'm this runner person and I want to get better at running I added some spin classes to my training a while back. Now I want to add swimming. But I can't swim.

The gym where we are members has 2-3 pools and they will give adult swimming lessons so I signed up.

After demonstrating my advanced level of swimming skill to the coach, she promptly had me paddle with a float board, while wearing fins and just practice breathing. Now it wasn't quite that simple. We are in an indoor pool and there are other adults around some swimming in other lanes very nearby. She proceeds to go up and down the lane beside me as I demonstrate my inability to swim. And all the while she is saying rather loudly for all to hear, blow air out your mouth, keep going, you are doing great!

You know that voice in your head that is always talking to you? That voice was laughing its a** off, on the floor, rolling in laughter at how ridiculous I looked and about how I felt. A grown adult, taking swimming lessons, with a coach hollering at me with tips loud enough for all to hear. I felt like a little kid learning to swim.

I have to say that I have kept smiling and laughing about this. I have been back to the pool 5 times practicing on my own and the last time I managed to swim free-style the length of the pool without stopping. That was my near term goal and I met it earlier than expected. Pretty pleased with myself if I do say so. I don't think the US Olympic team will be calling on me any time soon.

I have another lessons with my coach on Monday. No cameras are allowed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Warning

Two years ago I read a book about the opiate problem spreading across the US. There are several documentaries on Netflix and HBO and everywhere about the problem and the local and regional impact this is having on communities. I saw a show a few weeks ago that said whole communities are being affected.

This week I had a procedure done on my foot called Orthotripsy which is a shock wave therapy to the foot to deal with some soft tissues problems. The procedure has to be done under general anesthesia as it can cause a lot of pain at the time of the application.

Immediately after the procedure and just after waking up in the post-op room, I was told that they were writing me a prescription for pain as needed in the next few days. And they were going to give me two right then to get that process started. I had never heard of the medication and I took it because, well, they told me to and I was just waking up.

I asked my wife on the way home if she had heard of it and she hadn't either.

The post op instructions were about 7-8 pages long which began with resting and stretching and in the back were some notes about acetaminophen and hydrocodone mixed together and a whole list of cautions. Turns out that medication had hydrocodone in it, an opioid, and they wrote me a prescription for 30 of these.

The very thing all these books and movies talk about is how people have surgery, are given variations on opiates, and then they get addicted.  They gave me this at the hospital without any prior conversation about risks or concern whether or not I had any history with this. It is just so hard for me to get around the fact that this was given to me without any dialog.

Two in the hospital and one that night and then they have been thrown out of my house. Gone.

You need to be cautious about these drugs yourself and you need to warn your family and friends to be careful.  Please warn your family and friends and watch out for those close to you. Read up on this.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Throw it Out

I read that book on Tidiness a couple of years ago and I've continued to think about it a lot. A few minutes ago, I opened a drawer and saw a zip lock bag of old FitBit bands that I no longer wear. I kept them in case I might need them. Can't imagine ever in this universe needing those bands again. Why do I still have them? Inertia? Fear of needing them if I throw them out? Not sure.

I've been on a wave of throwing things out lately and I think I'm about to accelerate that effort.

I subscribe to Blinkist which provides condensed summaries of interesting books. I just read the 'blink' on Stuffocation where part of the summary says:


Yep, that is it.

I've cleaned out my garage recently and done another purge of papers in my house. Time to do more. I just don't want this stuff around filling up space, worry and time.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Serial and S-Town

If you've not listened to Serial Podcast (at least season one) yet you need to stop what you are doing and go get it on your phone. The podcast resulted in multiple new podcasts about similar cases and many of these are most interesting with several podcasts followed up on the Serial case. Serial did a 2nd podcast season which was interesting too.

The same team has split off a new podcast (involving some of the same people) called S-Town which you can find here.  S-Town is about a person and people in a town in Alabama and after listening to all of it, I'm still trying to process it.

Listening to podcasts is a great alternative to audiobooks while driving and I find myself going back and forth between the two. I've about given up on the radio and in particular sports radio.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All Hang On These Two

Lots of reflection and interesting conversations lately. And lots of things on my mind.

I've read the following four books recently which have informed my thinking:
  1. The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight.
  2. Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight.
  3. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns.
  4. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs by Peter Enns.
This coupled with events around me, conversations with friends, email correspondence with others and current events has caused a time of reflection for me.

I believe there is a story unfolding and that there is a creator who stepped into history 2000 years ago. 

I believe that those who encountered this creator 2000 years ago had profound experiences that impacted their entire lives, changed the direction of their lives and accordingly changed history from that point onward. They were so profoundly impacted by what they saw, felt, heard and experienced that couldn't help but tell others of what they had seen. They wrote of their experiences, insights, believes and practices. Many of them reportedly died difficult deaths because of their beliefs.

I believe this 'story' for two fundamental reasons. First, everything I see in the world runs down, not up. Something had to get everything started. Call it a big bang or a creation or something else, but something or someone started all of this we see and experience. Second, the core parts of their story, the brokenness of the world (which we see everywhere), the felt need for some kind of restoration/rescue/redemption and the principle that loving one another is of most importance rings deeply true to me.

Organized religion seems to have put much tradition, rules and boundaries around lots of things that sometimes help and sometime confuse and hinder us. 

If you accept the hypothesis that the story is true, then we must be careful to not confuse the rules and traditions with the core elements of the story.

From the written words of one of the eyewitnesses, Matthew:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Much to consider. Trying to get it right. Or at least trying to discern my way...

Blessings to you on your journey.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Some Music Thoughts

Brianna Gaither has a new album out called Vanity which you can find on iTunes and at http://www.briannagaither.com/music.  A video documentary about the creative process behind the music and the album was made called Resonate. Recommended. I'm listening to the music now for about the 10th time.


And here are a couple of wonderful videos of violins being played in public. Lindsey Stirling playing Hallelujah:



And Joshua Bell in the Washington DC Subway:


These are fun, wonderful and magical.

If any of you have some good recommendations on string quartet collections on iTunes or elsewhere, please let me know. I'm not remotely an expert on such, but I enjoy hearing quartets play selections. On a recent trip, we were around a quartet that was playing a selection of wonderful pieces at dinner and I'd like to find more or some or any.




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reading of Late

I've had more time to read lately and wanted to comment on and recommend some books to consider. And my queue is always full, but certainly welcome good suggestions. 

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight is a fascinating book that will challenge how you read the Bible. We pick and choose what we follow and believe and McKnight calls us on it. Very thought providing. Much to consider here.
"Many of my fine Christian friends, pastors, and teachers routinely made the claim that they were Bible-believing Christians, and they were committed to the whole Bible and that—and this was one of the favorite lines—”God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me!” They were saying two things and I add my response (which expresses my disturbance): One:    We believe everything the Bible says, therefore … Two:   We practice whatever the Bible says. Three:  Hogwash! Why say “hogwash,” a tasty, salty word I learned from my father? Because I was reading the same Bible they were reading, and I observed that, in fact—emphasize that word “fact”—whatever they were claiming was not in “fact” what they were doing. (Nor was I.) What I discovered is that we all pick and choose. I must confess this discovery did not discourage me as much as it disturbed me, and then it made me intensely curious (and it is why I wrote this book). The discoveries and disturbances converged onto one big question: How, then, are we to live out the Bible today?"
and he reminds us that Paul was adapting as he went along. 
"What about the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23, where Paul says his strategy is one of constant adaptation? Paul’s strategy was to be Jewish with Jews and to be like a Gentile with Gentiles. If Paul was already adapting first-century Jewish ideas to first-century Gentile situations, can we expect to do anything else? Can we imagine Paul wanting to back up in time to Moses’ day? To quote Paul, “By no means!”"
I will be processing this book for a long time. 

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness is really a children's story with a powerful message. This monster is teaching a lesson that is needed at just the right time. We listened to this on Audible and it was magical. My reading consultant and hero wrote about it here.

Here are some quotes from the book:
“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 
and
Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”  

Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson which is related to another book that I read years ago called The Story of Writing by the same author. I've been fascinated by how lost languages can be deciphered. The movie Arrival reminded me of this where one of the key themes in the book is trying to understand aliens.

The first section of the book talks about characteristics of written languages and then highlights how one would proceed to discover the meaning of a written text. The next section of the book tells the story of three great decipherments: Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Linear B and Mayan Glyphs. Fascinating. The rest of the book is about texts that are still undeciphered. Most interesting. Both books on this subject are fascinating to me.

I read the full story on the Linear B decipherment in an early book that I mentioned here.

More next time. Send me recommendations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Time

My wife was watching a cooking show, or at least it was on the TV while she was in the kitchen cooking when I walked into the house. This is what was frozen on the screen while the audio continued about cooking. The show was literally still going on the audio side, but the screen froze with this creepy picture of a person and an eye. Doesn't even seem related to the cooking show.

I lead with that observation. No real conclusion. Just wanted to share it. Time froze perhaps?

Watched the movie Arrival this past week and I've since watched it several more times. One of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Lots to think about and a profound story. And well done by the director and team. If you've not seen it, I recommend it. I heard it is based on a short story which I've now downloaded to listen to soon.


The two prior items have to do with time. This has been on my mind a lot lately after having quit my job and transitioning into whatever is next. I've cleaned up my study at home and in the process, realized that most of the books I own, I will never open again. In fact, likely nobody on earth will ever look at these books again. They've become a decoration on a wall. They provide color and in some cases, memories in this office.

I've transitioned to electronic books 99% of the time now so these books are aging in the sense that newer books are not finding their way onto this bookshelf or other shelfs in the house. These books are 'aging' and will be less relevant in some sense if they are time sensitive.  I supposed fiction and history and faith based books remain timeless, but non-fiction and science become less so. In fact, on one shelf I have some of my original engineering and physics and electronics books. They have certainly aged and they are kept for the memories of what they meant to me at some point in the past.

Related, we had a large number of DVDs on a shelf that were no longer being referenced or touched. They were also providing color and something on a wall and on a shelf. We removed all of those and put them in boxes, but even as we do this, I know this is just a step on the way to disposal. They will sit in those boxes for a period of time and then at some point, they will be disposed of or donated by me or someone else at some point in the future. I should probably skip the storage step and transition them out now.

I've been thinking about some future runs and going to some 'destination' runs. Runs in other cities. But I find myself thinking about doing this one in 2017 and these in 2018 and then trying to get this other one in 2019. That just seems strange and hilarious to me in some sense. I don't know what tomorrow will bring and I'm planning runs or thinking about runs in 2019.

Time. It goes by fast. You make plans and you assume you are going to do this or that. A friend discovered in the past few days that her mother is dying. Other friends suddenly lost a loved one recently. A coworker lost a spouse suddenly this past year. A relative lost her husband suddenly last year. All in the blink of an eye.

Hold onto your loved ones. Be grateful for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; ...

James 4:13-14 ESV
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.