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

 

 

Holidays, Holidays

Holidays, holidays, tis the season for holidays. Halloween is over, not much to talk about there except I love the seasonal decorations that are everywhere. Where I live, I seldom get any trick or treaters. I still buy a bag of candy just in case but end up eating it myself. Then if you celebrate these days, there is All Saint’s Day and All Souls Day. They are sort of related to Halloween I think but I’m not sure. Next up is Veterans Day, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve. And of course my sons birthday is in December and my dog Max will be twelve this month.

When the weather has cooperated I have been getting out and doing what I love best, taking photographs. With my new camera and lens, I have been able to better express myself through photography. Although I have been taking pictures since I was a child, I still want to to develop my talents more every day. I see some of the fantastic art on Flickr and it motivates me to do better. I have two friends that are professional photographers and they inspire me to be more creative.

When I’m not out taking photos, I spend time reading, surfing the Web, shooting my firearms, and being active in my Church. I am an elder, treasurer, department head, and go-to guy for all the technical things that need to be done. I designed and maintain the church website and well as the church Facebook page.

My formal training was as an electrical/electronic engineer and I have spent my whole professional career in one field or the other of engineering. I have been employed by the power company as a nuclear engineering technician at the Surry Nuclear Power Station here in Virginia. I have also worked for the Navy in the overhaul of A-6 and F-14 aircraft, in the IT department with Public Works, and with Training and Doctrine Command with the U.S. Army at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.

But as you might have surmised, I have been retired now for more than 7 years. But I do pretty well at staying busy and it sure is great to have all those hours to do the things I really enjoy, like not having to commute to work every day.

That’s about it. It is a bleary day here in Virginia and I hope I can find things to do to fill my time.

God Bless.

Schooners , Snakes, and Potheads

I have two friends who are professional photographers and they often steer me towards interesting things to photograph. First let me say that I am not a professional photographer, but I have been an avid photographer since I was 12 years old. So while I don’t make money at photography, I do know a little bit about composition, subject, and lighting. Anyway, one of my friend photographers told me about the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The race starts in Maryland and ends here at the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel. The boats then tie up at North Landing in Portsmouth. Since I have always wanted to be a sailor, especially sailing, I went down to North Landing to see the schooners as they came in.

I arrived a couple hours early so I stopped at Olde Towne Coffee House for some coffee and a crumble muffin. After breakfast I walked down to the dock and met a couple who had a beautiful Siberian Husky. After talking with them for a while I learned that they used to race in the Schooner Race ten years ago. I had a very interesting conversation with them about sailing, the technical aspects of which I know very little. The husband had a portable marine radio with him so I got to listen to some of the radio chatter. I could keep track of the race in real-time thanks to my smartphone and a web site which had a real-time map of all the boats with their tracks and current position, speed, etc. From the website I could see that the Schooner Woodwind home-ported at Annapolis Maryland, and a past winner, was leading the pack, followed by the Pride of Baltimore.

The weather started to turn bad just as the Woodwind appeared around the bend of the Elizabeth River heading to dock at North Landing. She had crossed the finish line already, having won the competition. She had her sails furled (drat) but she was a beauty nonetheless. Here are a few pictures of the Woodwind.

As for snakes, this is the story.  My cousin Roxanna, who lives in Ripley, NY but is down in Virginia visiting her son, invited me to Sandy Bottom Nature Center to visit with her and her son who is the Park Ranger in charge of the park. Sandy Bottom is an awesome park with lots of fun stuff to do. Hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and a great Nature Center building with a wonderful teaching program for youth and adults alike. They have an impressive collection of reptiles, amphibians, fossils, relics, and assorted other stuff that is fascinating.  When I arrived, Roxanna’s son was showing a small snake to a group of scouts. It was a hands on show so all the boys got to touch the snake. Having owned a snake, a python, I thought I knew a lot about snakes. I could differentiate between venomous and non venomous snake by the shape of their head, pit between eyes and nostrils, and pupils. But Marc, Roxanna’s son, told me one thing I did not know. The bottom of the tail (behind the anus) of venomous snakes looks the same as the rest of the belly. If the snake has a cross pattern (like a diamond shape) it is non-venomous. There are three species of venomous snakes indigenous to Virginia. They are the rattlesnake (canebrake), copperhead, and cotton mouth. The Nature Center had beautiful specimens of each one. I took a few photos with my smartphone.

king snake King snake1

 

After looking around the rest of the Nature Center Roxanne took me on a long tour of the park. It was a beautiful day and as I said before, the park is awesome. It was nice spending some time with my cousin as I rarely get to see her. Anyway, it was a great day and I managed to get a few good photos. See if you can figure out why the title mentions potheads.

 

The Neon District and Why Norfolk Rocks

I have lived in Chesapeake, Virginia for over a decade and for the most part love living here. Chesapeake is a largely rural city and lacks a lot of the things that an urban city like my neighbor city Norfolk abounds in. Among those things Norfolk has is an abundance of art and cultural resources and fine dining and entertainment. The adjacent city of Portsmouth also has more art and cultural resources and restaurants than Chesapeake. The good thing about Chesapeake is that it is very close to both Norfolk and Portsmouth so I can enjoy the suburban living of Chesapeake and partake of the arts, culture, fine dining, and entertainment of both Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Norfolk especially has an abundance of places to eat. You can partake of just about any cuisine you can imagine. Chesapeake, on the other hand, is more a Sonic and Burger King kind of city. It is even hard to find a good hot dog in Chesapeake. Did I mention that another adjacent city, Suffolk, also outshines Chesapeake in the areas mentioned? Sad, but true. Norfolk has a major Zoo, sporting venues for college football and basketball, professional Hockey, and semi-pro baseball, a botanical garden, and an actual downtown.

It is the downtown of Norfolk and the art aspects that I want to talk about today. Norfolk has some beautiful architecture, including the Chrysler Museum, a world-class art museum. Norfolk has recently undertaken a project to paint many of the old buildings in downtown Norfolk in what is now being called the NEON District. Many volunteers have gotten together to paint fantastic art on the walls of buildings in over 30 areas of Norfolk from the Chrysler Museum to Granby Street in the heart of the city. I first heard about this project on local television and I had to go take a look. I am a lover of great architecture and especially enjoy murals and painting done on buildings.

Here are a few of the photographs I took of some of the fantastic art adorning buildings in Norfolk. All of them are within walking distance of each other.

 

 

Out and About

I decided to take a ride the other day and just go where my instincts pointed me. I ended up in the little towns of Holland and Franklin, Virginia. They are both quaint small towns located off U.S. 58 as you head west. I was hoping to find some interesting things to photograph. The weather was quite nice for a change and I really enjoyed just taking in the scenery.

Our Sunday school Bible class has started with a new book by Beth Moore titled A Woman’s Heart – God’s Dwelling Place. It is about the Tabernacle of the Old Testament. I have done the first weeks materials and am really enjoying it. I am also attending a Wednesday evening Bible study led by our Pastor. It covers the Acts of the Apostles and our Pastor really brings new understanding to my previous knowledge of the book of Acts.

That’s about it for now. I really enjoy this time of year. So many things to do and the weather is gorgeous. My brother Skip called and we are thinking of going to Skyline Drive in the Appalachians to take in the Fall colors. It has been quite a while since my last visit and it is one of my favorite places to visit.

God Bless.