Winter Storm Is Over

I live in Southeastern Virginia. Virginia is a beautiful state. I have lived here all my adult life. Virginia has it all, mountains, piedmont, beaches, history, and an amazing natural beauty. Two things this area has that I don’t like are hurricanes and blizzards. Today is the morning after one of the worst blizzards we have seen in recent memory. While we got through the storm without any problems, the sub-freezing temperatures forecast for the next two days will make driving anywhere problematic.

Cabin fever is now starting to set in. I’m too old to go out and make a snowman unless it is a very small one. During the storm yesterday I spent time with online courses I am taking on Udemy.com. The courses are on Lightroom photography and Gimp 2 graphics software. They are a lot of fun and I am learning quite a lot. I managed to get out this morning and took a video of the results of the storm. I cleaned the snow off the outside unit of our heat system and cleaned up the front stairs some. Now I thought I would spend some more time writing on my blog. I don’t often post here, it is mostly a therapeutic thing for me.

The sun is out for the first time since the New Year and if not for temperatures in the low twenties it would be a great day for doing something outdoors. It’s just that you can’t drive anywhere to do anything. So I guess after I finish this I will spend the rest of the days reading, watching a football game, and maybe a movie. The roads should be ok by tomorrow I hope.

That’s about it. Just wanted to kill some time. Hope everyone is having a wonderful New Year so far. Stay safe.

Completed Computer Build

I finished building my new computer. All the parts came in yesterday to complete it. It was really quite easy to build. The only problem I had was with the wifi module. First I had to file the holes out to mount the antennas, then I found it impossible to connect the wires from the antennas to the module. You have to be a brain surgeon with an electron microscope to connect the wires. Honestly, I don’t think it was possible. Big fail from ASRock on that one.

As I said, mounting the CPU, RAM, and SSD were simple and straightforward. And I was pleasantly surprised how quick and easy it was to install Windows 10. I am using a wireless keyboard with trackpad for input, and a USB wifi device. I was up and running in no time. The computer boots in about 10 seconds, much faster than the old computer it replaces. I am writing this post on the new computer. I am still amazed how small it is considering it has a 65W processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. And there is still room to add another SSD or an M.2 drive.

All it all I am extremely pleased. I hope this satisfies my urge to buy or build any more computers or electronics for while. I have included a few photos I took to document the build. Now I need to go and check on the John Wayne casserole I am cooking in the crockpot for supper.

ASRock motherboard parts case

 

New Computer Build

ASRock

I have been building computers and electronics since I was a child. For Christmas I always wanted a chemistry set, biology set, 100-in-one electronics kit, etc. I learned to solder at an early age. I built a Heathkit shortwave radio for my dad for Christmas one year. More recently I have built 7 segment clocks, played with Raspberry pie, Arduino, and other electronic kits. I have also built most of the computers I have ever owned. My professional training is in Electrical, Electronic engineering, I think you get the idea.

Anyway, this will be one of several posts I hope to write documenting the building of my newest computer. I watch YouTube videos all the time about computers and electronics and it was one about the new ASRock DeskMini 110 mini-stx form factor 5×5 case with motherboard and external power supply that made me scratch my old itch. I loved the fact that it was so much smaller than the mid tower I build 5 years ago which I just recycled at Best Buy. It supports Intel i3, i5, and i7 65 watt CPU’s and uses SO-DIMM DDR4 memory. It has a lot of other nice features but instead of listing them all here you can check it out yourself here.

As it is a bare bones case I had to purchase the CPU, RAM, storage, and an operating system. I ordered the CPU, storage, and RAM from Amazon. The DeskMini 110 I ordered from Newegg. I found a way to purchase a legit OEM license for Windows 10 Home edition for only $27. I have already downloaded a bootable Windows 10 image which along with the license key will allow me to install an OS on my new build at a very reasonable price. Listed below are the specifics of the parts I bought. They should all be delivered by tomorrow or the day after. I can’t wait to get to building it. Wish me luck and I will be documenting the process here in another post.

  • ASRock DeskMini 100 5×5 case Socket LGA1151
  • 16 GB G.Skill 2400MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory
  • Intel Boxed Core i3-6300 CPU 3800 GHZ
  • Samsung 850 Pro 256GB 2.5 inch SATA III internal SSD
  • Windows 10 Home Edition

 

 

Orlando tragedy, gun control, and Radical Islam

The radical Islam terrorist attack in Orlando has once again brought the topics of gun control and radical Islam to the national debate. Adding fuel to the furor is the fact that the site of the terrorism was a gay nightclub. This adds homophobia to the debate along with Islamophobia and the second amendment. Sadly, the last 8 years under President Obama has done little to bring clarity to any of these issues. In fact, the various positions on these topics have grown further apart, rather than heading towards some form of consensus.

What is lamentably apparent, especially on social media like Twitter, is the knee jerk jump to conclusions along with the immediate use of the tragedy to promote a particular political agenda or other world viewpoint. In too many cases it is all to apparent that there is little real anguish or grief for the horrendous loss of life. In fact often the first comments posted are immediate references to the NRA, gun control, homophobia, and how fill-in-the-blank needs to be done now to end the senseless slaughter. If my pessimism and dim view of the human condition are troubling, believe me when I say they trouble me as well. I have lived to see the citizens of our country become increasingly divided over far too many issues.

The sad truth is, there are no simple one step answers to gun violence, radical Islamic terrorism, homophobia, or Islamophobia. That should be readily apparent to anyone in light of the fact that none of these issues are simple in nature or origin. I am not going to go into detail on what I think should or can be done to address any of these issues. I am neither an expert on any of them nor do I have the time to address such complicated issues in a simple post.

What I will say is that jumping on tragedies like this and using them to call for the death of the NRA, taking away the rights of lawful citizens to own firearms, blaming Christians for homophobia, calling for all Muslims to be deported or banned from coming into the country, etc., etc., etc., are not legitimate or even rational answers to any of these issues. What needs to occur is rational, honest, civil debate and national discourse. Peoples individual rights and viewpoints need to be acknowledged during the course of this discourse. The rule of law as well as the Constitution of this great country need to be upheld. There can be no room for self-righteous anger, hatred, and intolerance.

Nothing will be resolved in 140 characters on Twitter or in a Facebook post. Communities, churches, local, state, and national government should focus on these problems and try to discern practical answers that can address these issues while still respecting the Constitution, existing laws, and the rights and freedoms of every citizen. It can and has to be done.

Dump Loyalty Cards

CC3H15_2401584bI was shopping at my local grocery store recently, and as I was pulling up Android Pay from my smartphone to access my loyalty card, I had a thought. Why are we still using loyalty cards? When I got home from the store, I pondered the question.

I know that loyalty cards were originally designed to encourage customers to continue to shop at or use the services of businesses associated with each card. I’m not sure when the first loyalty card was issued, but I do know that they have been around for years. While they may initially have been some value to both customer and business, today, with the proliferation of loyalty cards, I wonder if that is the case anymore.

I have loyalty cards for grocery stores, bookstores, electronic stores, pet stores; just about every category of business imaginable. They have become both a nuisance to keep as well as to use. They have not made me loyal to any business today. Since every business now has one, I tend to use use whichever business provides the best value and services. Loyalty cards seem to have lost the ability to engender loyalty in a customer.

With that said, and the businesses knowing full well that their loyalty cards no longer work as designed, why do we still have them? Wouldn’t it be far better for all involved, business and customer alike, to do away with loyalty cards altogether and earn loyalty again the old fashioned way? The old fashioned way being to offer the best value and service from the get go.

It must cost businesses quite a bit to maintain such programs, and has become increasingly onerous for the customer to keep and use all the myriad cards available. I think I will start a hashtag campaign on social media to eradicate the loyalty card. #DumpTheCard

The only problem I see with my campaign being a complete success is the fact that the very first business to drop loyalty cards may actually suffer economically. That is where the customer needs to step up to the plate and give their loyalty to that first and subsequent businesses. And then one day we can return to the days where a loaf of bread costs exactly what it is labeled, with or without a loyalty card. It takes more than a card to earn my true loyalty.

Wish me luck!

 

State of the Union

No, I am not the President of the United States. Nevertheless I feel compelled to present my own State of the Union, as I have never been accused of being introverted. The government has its take on the state of our country while the citizens of this great nation have their own. Seldom are the two in agreement on anything. The government seems to see things through rose colored glasses, which is what frequently happens when you are basically critiquing yourself. The citizens however, are critiquing those whom they voted as representatives for their interests. Things tend to be seen much more clearly from the perspective of the citizen as the state of the union is in reality about the state of us, the citizens.

Let me start with the 500 pound gorilla in the house, the economy. The President will present all sorts of statistics that demonstrate how well the economy is doing under his wonderful leadership. Has there ever been a President who painted himself as anything other than a genius when it comes to the economy? I am not an economist, I can’t easily counter with facts the claims made about the economy when statistics, presented as facts, are as tenuous as the wind. But I do know what I see, hear, and experience. What I see is 11 stores shuttered in the local mall I shop at. I see other upscale stores replaced with moon golf and Red Dragon martial arts venues. What I hear is the lady who rents from a friend of mine being unable to find steady work as a painter and having to move because she cannot pay the rent. What I experience is the young lady who is my Bible study class telling me she is desperate to find a job, any job, and yet is unable to do so. What I experience is the unbelievable cost to feed a family, pay the utilities, and pay my taxes. These events tell me that the economy is not in the state that the President says it is in, statistics be damned.

As bad as the economy may be, the moral state of our union is much more troubling. The rancor, divisiveness, intolerance, and apathy that is the hallmark of society today is far removed from what it was when I was a child. You can see this in the elections that are currently taking place across our country. Again, while politics has never been played out in a completely civil manner, the degree to which civility in politics has taken a nosedive is stunning. This decline in civility can be seen in every other aspect of our society. Racial tensions have never been higher, even with a black President. Religious intolerance, where religious protection laws are portrayed as anti-LGBT and businesses are being destroyed simply because the owners were exercising their religious beliefs, is rampant. LGBT rights are not greater than religious rights, both need to be respected.

Our national security is threatened at a level unseen since WWII. A weak, naive foreign policy, based on misguided beliefs and ideas, has emboldened our enemies while at the same time left our allies isolated, ignored, and betrayed. Our president just finished visits to Cuba and Argentina, neither of which has ever been an ally of ours, while completely ignoring the only democracy and ally we have in the Middle East, Israel. China is building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them, while Russia has committed aggressions against South Georgia, Ukraine, and the Crimea. We have unlocked billions in frozen assets to Iran, the worlds largest sponsor of state terrorism, while at the same time doing little to deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran still threatens us and has even taken our sailors prisoner, continuing to mock us at every turn. North Korea daily threatens us with nuclear annihilation while our response is to weaken our military capabilities to almost historic lows.

Suffice it to say that I and the President do not see eye to eye on the state of the union. I know that there are many, many more citizens of this great country that feel as I do. Unfortunately I do not have much optimism that things will change for the better any time soon. Actually, I am as pessimistic about the future of our country as I have ever been in my life. The Democrats offer us Hillary or Bernie. Hillary was a disaster as Secretary of State and her reckless disregard for law, procedure, and national security in the establishing of a private email server should have every voter cringing at the thought of her becoming president. Bernie is a Socialist who is anathema to everything our Founding Fathers stood for and promoted. His grandiose plans of free everything will cripple the already overburdened taxpayer with more taxes. It will also generate an even bigger government than the already far over-sized one we have currently. The Republicans are as big a disaster as the Democrats, almost. The only reason Donald Trump is doing as well as he is with voters is due to the great level of anger and frustration that the voters feel by their betrayal by establishment politicians. He would be a disaster as a president, on a scale with either Hillary or Bernie. Ted Cruz, being a Constitutional Conservative, closely reflects my political view. But I fear even he would be just more of the same. The two parties have merged into one party, where there is no middle, only the extremes on either side.

The damage done to our country may be irreversible. This great experiment of a Republic that the Founding Fathers made for us may have run its course. And as history has shown, the downfall of most nations comes from within. The only solace I take is my faith in God. He is in control and his Will will be done. That is sufficient for me. I just wish it hadn’t happened in my lifetime.

state-of-the-union-history

The Exaggerated Crimes of Religion

crusades

 

I have been reading a great book by one on my favorite authors, Dinesh D’Souza. The title of the book is ‘What’s So Great About Christianity’. One of the chapters is devoted to the topic of the exaggerated claims by militant atheists that religion is “The most potent source of human conflict, past and present.”

According to atheists religion has given us stonings, witch-burnings, crusades, inquisitions, jihads, fatwas, suicide bombers, and abortion clinic gunmen. Claims have even been made that “a toxic religious mania could end human civilization overnight.”

The problem is that these claims are greatly exaggerated while at the same time ignoring the vastly greater crimes committed by secular and atheist fanatics. Lets start with the example that is most frequently paraded about, the Crusades. The Crusades have been heralded as “a set of world historical crimes” whose “trail of violence scars the earth and human memory even to this day.”

This discounts the fact that the Crusades were in response to over two hundred years of Muslim invasion and conquest of Western Europe. Without the Crusades , Western civilization might have been completely overrun by the forces of Islam. Christians fought to defend themselves from foreign conquest, as any country or civilization has the right to do.

As for the Inquisition, historians have for the most part established that the horrific images of the Inquisition are largely a myth concocted by the political enemies of Spain-mainly English writers who shaped our American understanding of the event. Inquisition trials were fairer and more lenient than their secular counterparts. Conservative estimates of those actually executed for heresy during the Inquisition total from 1,500 to 4,000 over a span of 350 years.

The best example of religiously motivated violence in America is the Salem witch trials. How many people were killed in those trials? Fewer than 25.

How about the Thirty Years’ War? While religious motives were initially in play, most historians contend that it was primarily fought as a result of political clashes over power. Even in modern clashes like in the Balkans, Iraq, and Northern Ireland, the conflict was over ethnic rather than religious differences.

I will save for another day the story of Atheism and the mass murders of history.

 

It’s About Time

I seem to have acquired the emotional level needed to want to post something on my blog. It took a dreary day with torrential rain to get me to the keyboard.

It has been a tough month since my beloved Max died. Anyone who has lost a beloved pet has a good idea of what I have been going through. Trying to deal with such a loss is an ongoing process that will never truly end.

So on to what has been going on in my life. The new year has seen my direction in life change quite a bit. I have always been active in my church, but recently I have started to be a part of the ministry of another church in Portsmouth, the Sanctuary of Hope. The church is part of Bishop Frank Allen’s Hope Charitable Services.

Hope Charitable Services serves as MISSIONARIES TO THE POOR, working in the inner city of the Greater Norfolk Area (Portsmouth) with a reach across the United States and into 26 third-world countries. It represents the love and compassion of our Lord and the commitment of His Church as well as the care and generosity of its donors and partners as it presents the love of Christ to the least, last and lost of our world. It is a missions ministry to the poor, for the poor, by the poor and of the poor.

The foundation of Sanctuary of Hope is an amazing group of men and women, many of them coming from backgrounds of poverty, crime, and addiction. They are truly dedicated to their calling and have a burning love for their savior Jesus Christ. I am humbled to be a part of their ministry.

In other news, I have adopted our stray cat Sabrina. She was originally an outside cat only, but with the onset of winter she now stays inside most of the time, which is fine by her. She is a sweet and adorable cat.

I am writing this post on a new laptop I won at auction of Cowboom, which is an online computer site. They sell new equipment as well as used. The laptop I won is an Asus, with a 15.6″ UHD display, backlit keyboard, 1 terabyte hard drive, 8 Gbyte of RAM, an Intel i5 processor, Windows 10, and a touchscreen. I saved over $300 off the list price of a new laptop. The condition of the laptop was listed as satisfactory, but it appears almost brand new to me.

That’s it for now. If the rain lets up a bit I might get to the library to read the WSJ. I hope everyone has a blessed day.

 

A New Year A New Direction

I never make New Year resolutions because as the poet Robert Burns said:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men  Gang aft agley


I do however often use the New Year as the anchor point for starting off in a new direction in life. This new year marks one of those new directions. As the philosopher Yogi Berra said:


When you come to a fork in the road, take it.


2015 was a tumultuous year for me. I expect for most people life if tumultuous also. There has been the loss due to death of two friends, as well as the loss two days before Christmas of my beloved Golden Retriever Max. Both of my friends succumbed to cancer as well as my companion Max. Since I retired in 2009, Max had been my constant friend and companion. It was heartbreaking for me to watch him not only lose his battle with cancer but to go almost completely blind in the last months. So while the New Year will have its share of mourning, I also have much to be thankful for.


If you have read any of my previous post you might have noticed that I am a Christian. I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior some ten years ago. I have slowly (too slowly) grown in faith in those ten years. I have seen God move mightily in those ten years, especially in the last two years. If you want to hear of some personal testimony let me know as I would love to share my testimony with you.


Our church, Park View Christian Church (DOC) has struggled in the ten years since I became a member. There was a period of over a year when we had no permanent Pastor and our membership dwindled. We struggled as a church to define our mission and our relationship with the community. But God chose to bless Park View in the last year through many ways. We were blessed to have a new Pastor, Tim Campbell, as our permanent Pastor. He answered the call of God to serve our church and community. He did this despite knowing the circumstances that were facing Park View. We could not offer him much in the way of monetary compensation and from his research about our church had learned that most local ministers had written off Park View as a church that was certain to fail.


But Pastor Tim answered Gods call nonetheless as he knew that God had great plans for our church and our community. And in one year Gods plans have been made manifest in many ways. Our membership has increased by fourteen new members. Before Pastor Tim answered Gods call Park View only had forty plus members on the roll and average Sunday attendance was only twenty to thirty.


Our community outreach has grown tremendously. We have embarked on several new outreaches, including Paint Your Heart Out, Stop Hunger Now, pizza and movie night, a diaper drive, donations for an orphanage in India, mission work in Cambodia, Wednesday evening Bible Study, and more. Our stewardship drive this year showed a 29% increase from last year. Great things are happening at Park View for the Glory of God.


All of this has affected me personally in many ways. I have devoted far more time to reading Scripture, devotional and meditation time, more prayer time, and serving my community in more ways. I have agreed to help the Sanctuary of Hope and Bishop Frank Allen with their mission and outreach programs. I have attended Wednesday Bible study and teach a Bible study class Sunday mornings.


In short, the new path my life will be taking this year will be a spiritual one. Many of the old things I used to devote my time to have been put away. This doesn’t mean that I will become a Monk cloistered in a monastery. But it does mean that more of what I will be blogging about in the blog will be of a spiritual nature. I hope you will be OK with that.


Have a Blessed New Year!

Advent

It has been a busy December for me. So busy that I have been remiss in posting anything. Time to make up for that. As a Christian, Advent is a special time for me. It is a time of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Our church prepares for Christmas by decorating the Narthex and Sanctuary, as well as the entire church. We put up two Christmas trees, one traditionally decorated, the other decorated with Chrismons. Every Sunday of Advent a candle is lit in the Advent Wreath, with the central, white candle being lit on Christmas Eve.

Advent is also a time for community outreach. Our church participates in Operation Christmas Shoe Box and Operation Santa Claus. Operation Santa Claus provides gifts for children in foster homes while Operation Christmas Shoe Box provides a shoe box of gifts for needy children worldwide. We also participated in a program that packaged 40,000 meals for distribution all over the country.

As for myself, I have been busy doing the other things that fill my day. Reading, photography, church work (I am the treasurer among other hats I wear), traveling around, and shooting. Yes I cling to my guns and Bible. Just kidding.

The only down note is my beloved Golden Retriever Max has been sick. He turned 12 years old in November and has been diagnosed with liver cancer. He has been on chemotherapy and Prednisone for some time now and although he seems to be holding up remarkably well, his eyesight is failing. It is probably a combination of the drugs and the cancer but the vets aren’t sure. It is agonizing to watch your pet slowly go blind and not be able to do all the things we used to enjoy doing together. He is being treated for the blindness but the prognosis is unknown.

I will leave you with some photos to document recent events in my life. But before I go I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, or whatever you celebrate during this time of the year.

God Bless you Richly