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. 






Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bridges Out of Poverty

I was at a board meeting for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma a while back and someone mentioned in passing the book Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities by Payne and DeVol and Smith. I made a note of it and about 10 days ago I ordered it on Audible to listen to in the car.  Two days later, another friend mentioned she was attending a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop nearby. Then I mentioned to another friend who runs a medical clinic in downtown Oklahoma City and she has gone to the workshop before.

Seemed like too many coincidences are happening here.  So I signed up for the workshop on 2/17 (come join!).

I'm just about done with the audible version of the book and it has made me uncomfortable and I'm unsettled with it. Generational poverty is a new term for me and beginning to understand it is hard.

I've ended up buying a real copy of the book with paper and ink(!) because of the worksheets in it and to take to the workshop.

Much to consider.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Not Finished

Ran my 3rd marathon a week and half ago at the Disney World Marathon in Orlando. Actually, it would better to describe this as a my first marathon because this one we did much better than the first two. In my first marathon my dear running partner had to keep me going and the second marathon was a mental disaster for various reasons. This run went well. We finished strong. We had fun. We kept going. And we were not a mess after the run.

Running is a strange sport/hobby/calling. There is no real finish line. There is always more running. There is faster and there is longer. Finishing something like a marathon or a half marathon or a 5K is a milestone on a longer journey.  There is next time. Faster or longer.

Seems true of a lot of things. Cleaning. Learning. Loving. Helping. There is no real finish line. Just milestones.

I think I'm going to have to go back to the site of the first two marathons and make another run at it again...

PS. I learned 17 days before this marathon that I had something called exercise induced asthma. We were on a 22 mile training run and I had to stop at 11 because I couldn't breathe. My doctor got me an inhaler and suddenly I can breathe while running! It is a 'whole new world.' And the prior marathon results I can 'Let It Go.' Hakuna Matata.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving

Best wishes to all of you.

I hope you and yours are well and have a great break from work (if you are in the US or anywhere).

I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Best wishes to you all.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Much

I've been gone for a long time. I think of this every single day, but I've been overwhelmed with so much.
  1. I have a relative who had a stroke and unfortunately, she is a hoarder. Turns out that my wife and I and our kids were the last family members to be in her house. Twenty years ago the house was crammed full and hard to navigate. She is recoving from the stroke well, but through some recent events it has become necessary that that his must be addressed. We've been working with her and family to help. Life is so hard sometimes and it is hard to know what to do. Hard to solve. Working it.
  2. I resigned from work. That is it. Done. Last day is 1/3/17.  Many friends there that I'm leaving behind. But I need to do this for myself. Time for change. Time for a new adventure. Future uncertain.
  3. Working with multiple non-profits. Maybe that is what I'm going to do going forward. Friends and new friends doing important thanks. Asked today to join a new board that a friend is championing. Glad to help and join.
  4. Read this hard article that SL sent me about millennials. Hard to know how to solve or help. The world is changing.
  5. Ran 18 miles last week in preparation for a marathon in January. That is hard.
  6. The election results and the resulting response from so many is so hard. We are so broken. The christian message about a broken world seems so true. We are broken and there is such despair and hopelessness. 
So many things going on. Hope you are doing ok. I'm going to write a LOT more starting in December.

Blessings to you and yours.

Mark

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Diet Dr. Pepper, Reading and Running

I have some friends who last week attempted to go the week without any sweetened drinks like sodas, diet sodas or variations of coffees that included sweeteners. Thought I'd give it a run and I can report that I'm on the 3rd day of no Diet Dr. Peppers. It has been waters, green teas and black teas only for me.

I can report no changes from dropping the DDPs. My teeth aren't whiter. My sleep is not deeper. My weight is not lower. My focus is not better. The experiment continues for a few more days in honor of my friends doing this and in order to see what this might mean for me, but so far the results are nil.

Have read a number of great books recently and posted some thoughts on diversity from one of them over here on my other blog.

Currently reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis again. And for the first time, I'm listening to the Harry Potter series on Audible while commuting to work.

Oh, and I've started training again for another marathon. The last few days have seen 9 miles, spin class, 1 hour on the elliptical, spin class and 7 miles tomorrow. Planning to run 10 this weekend.

Glad to be here. Hope you are well.

Friday, September 2, 2016

On the NW Passage

We’ve been on a little trip through the Northwest Passage from west to east on a boat. It has been amazing.

Stopped at Dutch Harbor and saw the fishing and crab boats and then off to Nome Alaska. Got a picture of ourselves in full on Thunder apparel for use at future Thunder game to hopefully get on the big screen.















Left Nome and then passed near the Diomede Islands. The small one, close to our passing, is US territory while the one 2.4 miles further west is Russian. This is the one place in the world where the two ‘super powers’ of the cold war can see each other. The international date line passes between so the US island is sometimes referred to as yesterday and the Russian island is called Tomorrow.  


As we passed it was in full on gale winds gusting to 71 miles per hour for a while. The boat was really rocking. Beth and I ran up to the top of the boat, which was probably not real safe, and took a poor quality selfie (not included) of ourselves with the islands in the background. 

Several more days sailing and two more stops in Canada and small villages where we were welcomed by the locals. Have sat in briefings and lectures on the Inuit, ice, climate change, whales, geology of the area, numerous lectures on the history of the NW Passage and its search, Canada sovereignty in the area and other topics. Lots of fascinating material. The boat has about 20 scientists and explorers on board who are doing all these lectures, who are on deck pointing out sights and who are around on the boat all day long. Several have joined us for dinner.


The boat stopped near some drift ice and we got on zodiacs to get close. Saw a polar bear on the ice and was able to get within about 200 yards of it.  We were near lots of year one drift ice. Later than day we saw probably 10 more polar bears as we headed east through Victoria Straight. We’ve been collecting some amazing pictures that others were able to get with telephoto lenses.


We passed through the narrowest passage on our journey through the Bellot Straight where the narrowest part is about 1 mile wide. We believe we are on the largest ship to ever pass through this passage.


Afterwards, the boat spotted large icebergs from Greenland ahead 20-30 miles and we went nearby. Amazing.


At our farthest point north on the trip, we were at Crocker Bay and saw a large glacier flow into the ocean.  We got out in zodiac boats and were able to get up close, but not too close.




And finally a bonus bear pic taken by one of our fellow passengers with a telephoto lens.


Global warming is real. It is affecting eco-systems, communities, people and animals. Change is happening.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Habit

Just finished reading the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Very interesting and recommended. The book is about how habits are formed and how they can be leveraged for change. 

Key thoughts were:
  1. to use the cue that gets you started toward a bad habit but insert a new action or reward or better habit
  2. the importance of believing in something and how that enabled you to transform other parts of your life. “Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior."
  3. "As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything."
Consider this:

"Oaten and Cheng did one more experiment. They enrolled forty-five students in an academic improvement program that focused on creating study habits. Predictably, participants’ learning skills improved. And the students also smoked less, drank less, watched less television, exercised more, and ate healthier, even though all those things were never mentioned in the academic program. Again, as their willpower muscles strengthened, good habits seemed to spill over into other parts of their lives."

and this:

“That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician or a five-year-old soccer star,” said Heatherton. “When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour or run fifteen laps, you start building self-regulatory strength. A five-year-old who can follow the ball for ten minutes becomes a sixth grader who can start his homework on time.”

The book talks about habits in organizations and how people believe that their organization is making decisions based on rational choices but really, they are operating with long-help habits and have emerged through thousands of decisions made over time. And the book talks about movements and how they emerge and advance where they are based on social habits, friendships and strong and weak ties across a group or community.

Overall the book is fascinating and recommended.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Through Time

I’ve read a series of books lately that each cover huge sections of world history that were not clear to me before the reading. I’ve read or listened to:
  1. The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
  2. The History of the Ancient World
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
These books tell the known stories of parts of our past in a broad, sweeping fashion. Pieces of a puzzle are fitting together for me and it has been an interesting journey. I think I’ll likely look for a few more of these types to fill in more details.
Here are some thoughts:

  1. The unbelievable brutality of man in situation after situation is so sad. There are just so many places, peoples, kingdoms that were wiped out by others. In some cases in very horrific fashion. When the ‘Latins’ retook Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099, it is reported that they killed all in the city.  When the Khans were insulted by city or kingdom, they would simply wipe out all who were part of that community. The Khans did not torture, but they killed everyone except for those they could keep to help them (engineers, artisans, etc.).
  2. Treasures and libraries were destroyed. Books were burned. Art was destroyed. Seems that some groups still do that with various destructions taking place in the middle east. For example:  At almost the same time of Rubruck’s debate in Mongolia, his sponsor, King Louis IX, was busy rounding up all Talmudic texts and other books of the Jews. The devout king had the Hebrew manuscripts heaped into great piles and set afire. During Rubruck’s absence from France, his fellow countrymen burned some twelve thousand handwritten and illuminated Jewish books.
  3. Single individuals or families or decisions can ripple through time for centuries. The animosity between Muslims and Christians has some of its roots in the behaviors or both groups in the middle ages.
  4. People can use a religious reason to justify terrible actions. Current news in the middle east and parts of Africa as well as the Crusades and many other examples.
  5. A letter or a conversation can change history. For example, I read in the Khan book:
By happenstance, on July 22, 1246, in the midst of the massive gathering of the Mongol leadership, the first envoy arrived at the Mongol court from western Europe. Friar Giovanni of Plano Carpini, a sixty-five-year-old cleric, who had been one of the disciples of Saint Francis of Assisi, arrived as the agent and spy for Pope Innocent IV, commissioned to find out as much as possible about these strange people who had threatened Europe... 
the Mongols eagerly received Carping ... 
Pope Innocent IV offered the khan a pedantic synopsis of the life of Jesus and the main tenets of Christianity, all of which was probably well known to the khan through his Christian mother and his frequent attendance of religious services with her. Guyuk was likely a Christian himself; if not, he was certainly well disposed toward Christianity and relied heavily on Christian Mongols in his administration. The pope’s letter chastised the Mongols for invading Europe, ordering the khan to “desist entirely from assaults of this kind and especially from the persecution of Christians.” He demanded an explanation from the khan “to make fully known to us . . . what moved you to destroy other nations and what your intentions are for the future.”  
The letter informed the khan that God had delegated all earthly power to the pope in Rome, who was the only person authorized by God to speak for Him... 
The first direct diplomatic contact between Europe and the Far East had degenerated into an exchange of comparative theology mixed with religious insults. Despite the extensive spiritual beliefs that the Mongols and Europeans shared in common, the opening relationship had been so negative and misguided that in future years, the entire base of shared religion would eventually erode. The Mongols continued for another generation to foster closer relations with Christian Europe, but in the end, they would have to abandon all such hope, and with it they would, in time, abandon Christianity entirely in favor of Buddhism and Islam. 
The Mongols were very religiously tolerant and in face many of the Khan’s family were Christians but over time, they turn away with this letter and this message as one of the starting points of that turn. Imaging how this might have gone differently.
We just don’t realize how our actions and words can ripple through time into the future and long after we are gone. We need to be so careful of who we criticize, what we destroy, who we elect and what we say.