truth

Stunning and astounding doubt

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The above comment was left on my blog a couple of weeks ago and I have been struggling on what to do with it. I have my blog set so I can approve the comments and I marked this one as spam, not because I didn’t want a negative comment on my blog but because I didn’t want to give someone who is a Holocaust denier a voice.

The last part of that previous sentence resounds in my head – “…didn’t want to give someone who is a Holocaust denier a voice.” Why does it echo so loudly? Well, because I value the 1st Amendment and the right to free speech. Therein lies the struggle. Do I give this person a voice and try to convince them that they are wrong, or do I just pretend it didn’t happen and move on? My initial reaction was to just pretend it didn’t happen, but it has been nagging at me for the last two weeks for two reasons: 1) it is completely off base and should be countered; 2) by ignoring it and not giving the person a voice, I am going against what I believe is an important part of our society, regardless of whether it is offensive or completely wrong. People should be able to voice what they believe.

So, with it nagging me in the back of my head, I have sat on it and debated with myself about it. I posted it on my Instagram account and asked what they thought I should do. One very succinct response was that it was easy to counter because the claim is so far off base. The best part of the response was “If [he] died tomorrow, there would be less evidence that [he] ever existed than there is to prove the Holocaust was a historical fact. Yet, I doubt he would deny his own existence.”

That leaves me to pose two questions to my readers and fellow bloggers:

  1. What do you do with negative comments to your blog? Do you allow them AND ignore them by not responding OR do you allow them and respond?
  2. What do you think is the right approach for dealing with this particular comment? How would you respond?

I would appreciate your advice. What would you do?

Accountability of Weight: Update #2

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This is the second update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

This loosing weight stuff is hard!

This month has not been filled with much success, if any. I have continued to watch and track what I eat, but this month has been filled with birthday parties, and parties at work, and my wife trying to cook new foods…all that to say that keeping my calories down under the projected daily goal has been difficult at best and impossible at worst. Each day was near or over the goal, not under like it should be. So, progress isn’t a word I would use to describe the last month.

Physical activity hasn’t ramped up over the last month either…which I am, each day, keenly aware. A change is coming in that arena.

Highlights:

I guess to be honest there isn’t much to highlight. With little success or progress, it is hard to highlight what is going on in this journey.

However, one good thing that came out of the last month is we took some of the tax return to an outdoor retailer and purchased hiking books for the kids and my wife. We also visited a store that sells lightweight waterproof rain shells (we live in the Pacific Northwest, it never stops raining here) and bought all three of them some new jackets as well. Why not me? Well, I used to do a bit of hiking and backpacking in my “pre-married with kids” days. So, we will be venturing into the hills more now that we are properly equipped. My wife is excited, the kids not so much (they are teens).

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

  4 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/16

206 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Though I have gained a small amount back from last month (1.2 lbs), I have found that getting into the habit of tracking my intake is getting easier.

But, let’s hope the next month is better than the last.

Accountability of Weight: Update #1

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This is the first update installment for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

I am off to a slow start, physically, that is. I chose not to join a gym and I chose not to buy any exercise equipment. I figure if I am going to do this right, and do it for the rest of my life, that I should have a lifestyle change rather than a “quick-fix, make me feel good in the moment” type change. So, I set my step counter to a higher number than I had previously and attempted to reach that mark.

Yes, you probably caught the “attempted” in that last sentence. I say that because an every day effort in the last month has been difficult. I live in the Northwest and there is wet…and cold…and sometimes even snow and ice…and it is dark for major portions of the day. They sound like excuses, and they are of sorts. BUT, I have had at least one day a week where I go over my step goal and typically I have another day or two that are close. So, I am getting more steps in, but not really making a conscious effort at this point to make that happen.

Highlights:

I have purposely not done a lot of the physical activity because I have decided to start more with watching the type of food and how much of that food I put in my body. THAT is a big step because that not only requires a physical lifestyle change, but also a mental one.

My job now doesn’t lend itself to much movement and so I find myself getting munchie. It is easy to plow through snacks without really taking notice of how much I have consumed. So, food – type and how much – has been my focus this month. Places I have made changes and track in a food app:

  1. Eat some fruit or veggies for breakfast, to go along with my coffee (I never/rarely ate breakfast, so this has been a weird shift).
  2. I am aware of how much water I am drinking, or not, and aim to get three to four 16.9 ounce bottles of water.
  3. I am limiting the amount of calories during lunch.
  4. I am working on portion size and not getting seconds at dinner.
  5. I try not to eat after a certain time at night (except for maybe some popcorn, because popcorn is life).

Over the last month, the changes have been good and I anticipate they will continue to improve as I develop good habits and find what works, and doesn’t work, for me.

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

-5.2 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/11

204.8 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues!

Anniversary: A Travel Cup Commentary

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Some things in life are worth holding onto. Some things in life are worth letting go.

Most things, just aren’t made they way the used to be. Those old things, those are the ones worth holding onto, most of the time.

Week day mornings for the last 10 years have mostly started with the same object in my hand while I commute from home to work. It has travelled as far as I have over those years.

My trusty Starbucks travel cup bears the signs of use, and lots of it. It has kept me company in the car and has made my mornings that much easier to deal with the day ahead. Sure, it isn’t as pretty as it was when it was new, but I like it just the same.

When it was new, it was blue. The color has been long since worn away and now it is just a plain stainless steel, double walled shell. It didn’t have dents along the bottom ring, or a chipped lid. It certainly didn’t have a nose print (yes, that ring is a nose print) or a whisker burn on the lid. Some of the wear and tear has come from riding in a cup holder, taking dives off the top of the car, being tossed into the back seat, shoved into a bag, or just plain doing what it is supposed to do. But it has withstood all the travel and abuse.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t leak! The original rubber ring that closes the seal between the lid and the cup is still intact. The rubber nub that keeps the air hole closed on the lid is still intact as well. Not only does it not leak, but it also keeps my coffee hot for my entire commute (provided the coffee lasts that long), which can sometimes be more than an hour.

My wife gave me the cup just a little over 10 years ago for my birthday. We had just started dating then and it was the first of my birthdays we had been together, so who knew what kind of life it, let alone we, would have since then. She told me the other day, when I mentioned it was now 10 years old, that I should get another one. My response? “No way! I love this cup.”

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The thing is, there really isn’t anything special about the cup. It is, after all, just a cup. But, what is special about the cup is that my wife gave it to me and it has been a part of my mornings for so long, I can’t imagine using a different cup. It is kind of like that old pair of sweat pants or shoes, that old t-shirt or sweatshirt that is so worn out and thread-bare, but you just can’t give it up. Why? Well, because it is comfortable. When you wear them or use it, it just feels right. It is a piece of you, to some degree, so giving it up would be like giving up a hand, or leg. Ok, well maybe not that drastic, but you know what I mean.

I get it. Some people would say, “But there are new ones. New is better. It has more bells and whistles. It looks better.” I say, let them say it. Replacing something just because it is old, isn’t the answer and it is over-rated. Period.

They don’t make them like they used to…and some things are just worth holding on to.

 

What thing or things do you have in your life that is worth holding onto because it is familiar, comfortable, and just plain made better?

Aborted: Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Myself

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I can’t escape this day, so I might as well embrace it for what it is. What it is, is time to give myself some love, something I have neglected to do for a long time ever.

I have written about Valentine’s Day in the past. I don’t have a love affair with the idea of the day and maybe probably actually despise it a lot little. But something I have never done is actually given myself some affirming words on a day that is should be dedicated to me love. So, let’s give this a try and see how it works out…

My Love Letter To Me

You ARE enough. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t have to be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t try to be. YOU are enough the way you are.

You ARE unique. There is no one like you and you already stand out for the right reasons. YOUR uniqueness shines through in all that you do.

Abort, abort, abort…

OK, that is as far as I got. It totally feels foreign. Awkward! Why is it so weird to talk about myself in this way?

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The truth is that I am not good at this. I guess I have never been very good at accepting compliments, let alone taking them from myself. Maybe I never will be.

I am hard on myself. Always have been. My humor is self-deprecating, but that’s probably a reflection of the fact that I don’t see much that is valuable. I know I am valuable, but affirming it of myself, from myself, is not something I’ve been good at. Is anyone good at it, really?

I suppose most of us probably avoid this sort of thing because we see others who may be good at it but we feel like they are being conceited or full of themselves. “Well, lookie here. Who got up on his/her high horse today?”  We don’t want to come across as someone who is full of themselves so we do the exact opposite and then it turns into a habit, where we beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down.

Oh, for the love of Pete self…

So, has anyone written a love letter to themselves before? How do you do it? Got any hints, tips, pointers?

How did you feel while you were writing it?

How did you feel after you had done? Do you go back and reread it once in a while?

The great mystery here, at least for me, is how to love myself AND actually feel it without feeling like it is phony self-talk. Is that possible?

The Accountability of Weight

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There is a birthday coming around the corner, and it is high time something changes.

Number 46 comes on February 14 (yes, the one that is tomorrow) and I have been thinking about this for a while. The thing is about this birthday, as opposed to say some major landmark like 50 or 60, is that I feel like this one is scary. Not because I am getting older, but because there are things in my life that need to change and by putting it out there (as in, bringing it up on my blog and other places) I am going to have to do something about it. Accountability…I don’t fear it, but I do when it comes to this.

I am overweight and something needs to change.

I know. I have known it for a while. Now, I’m not grossly overweight – though the current standards on obesity certainly indicate that I am, in fact, grossly overweight. I don’t really feel it (all the time), but I know that my clothes just don’t fit well any longer and that the prospect of buying bigger ones that do fit, well, that isn’t all that appealing really. So, I am at a crossroads.

According to several websites, the ideal weight for my age & height ranges somewhere between 130-145. To me, that doesn’t sound reasonable because it is too low. The reason it doesn’t sound reasonable is because that is the weight (130) I was at when I graduated high school. At the end of high school I was a lean, mean wrestling and baseball machine and I don’t really have any intention of going back to being that lean. But, it does give me insight into what I think would be a much healthier me, maybe 15-20 heavier than the “ideal weight.” I mean, let’s be honest here, I am going to have to have some muscle! I don’t care if it is toned or sculpted or whatever they call it these days. I just want to feel better and have more energy. So…

I would like to lose 46 pounds in the next year. Yes, that’s right, I want to lose one pound for each year I have been alive and I want to do it in the next 365+/- days. That would mean this:

Currently I am 208 lbs – 46 lbs in 1 year = 162 lbs as a final weight.

Ok, ok, let’s just round that number to 165. There. That is my goal. I have one year to get it done.

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a blog about my journey to/thru weight loss, so I am body_deadline-2not going to write lots of regular updates here. I don’t think you want to be bored with that kind of info. But, what I do want is some accountability, so I am going to try to post an update on my progress about once a month (hopefully progress, and not lack thereof). Approximately every 30 days you should hear something from me about how it is going. Hold me to it! If you don’t see something 30 days from now, email me and remind me. Please. Pretty please. Thank you please.

 

I was talking with a friend last night and he has lost 95 pounds in about 14 months. Man, that was a motivator too! I can do this…I just gotta put my head to it and my nose to the grindstone…

If you see me with food that is bad for me, slap it out of my hand and punch me in the nose. Ok, that would be good accountability but I don’t think I really want that. Maybe.

Any advice as I go into this? I mean beyond the typical eat right and exercise. I know that part. Food tips? Exercise tips? Motivational tips? Music? Apps? What do you know and recommend? Comment below!

Apple’s Apology Absent of Authenticity

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I know I am not the first to talk or write about this, but I still feel like I need to say something since I have been an iPhone user and supporter since the first iPhone came out. And, while I won’t be giving up my iPhone any time soon (I actually just upgraded to an 8+ just before this all was confirmed), my confidence in Apple has waned a little.

As you all are aware of, I’m sure, by now is that Apple finally admitted to and apologized for slowing down phones supposedly because of battery issues. Unfortunately, it lacked anything that came even close to authenticity, and maybe even the truth, and had me calling a great big loud BS. Apple, you did it, so how about owning it and not making excuses about “software” or “hardware.”

Let’s start with the apology first. To be really blunt, this is really the only paragraph in the whole letter that really matters, the rest is just fluff.

“First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

Did you see that? That part about “we have never and would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product…making [them] last as long as possible…” Considering the day and age we live in, I think we can all agree that isn’t really the case, or the truth.

We live in a consumer culture that has planned obsolescence built right into it. Nearly every product we buy has an “estimated life” – whether is in the actual hardware (the materials used to build it) or the software (the stuff on the inside that makes it work). Products aren’t built to last longer because that would keep people from buying newer (and perceived better) products. Sales for companies would tank if they actually built something that would last more than several years. So, companies change the models, designs, and features available which contributes to “planned obsolescence” – making the consumer feel as though what they have isn’t good enough, even if technically it still is or could be with minor upgrades.

Unfortunately, you can see it in every product Apple produces – iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, iMacs, etc. It only takes a short look back over the products and how long ago some of those older models were produced to see what is going on. We now know that Apple was slowing down phones on purpose, but how can we trust that they aren’t doing it with their other products as well? The truth is, we can’t.

Products that are only three, maybe four years old are no longer getting software updates and are no longer “supported”. If Apple was truly trying to keep those products going as long as possible, they wouldn’t be left out of software updates. We could have been told to get a battery replacement before doing the next software update and then the phone would run at its optimum capacity without threat of random shutdowns or freezes. But, no, Apple didn’t decide to do that which means Apple knowingly created (or supported) a system that would warrant buying a new phone instead of simply replacing the battery.

I understand that some of the older products may not run the newest features in the software. And, yes, I know that newer software may put a strain on the battery or processor(s). But, shouldn’t that be something we have a choice about rather than being led to believe our product is coming to the end of it’s life? Some have even argued that this doesn’t prove that Apple was using planned obsolescence, but that seems incredibly naive. Think of it this way, just because the tires, or battery, or engine, or muffler on my car are worn out doesn’t mean I need to go buy a new car. But Apple was certainly hoping that you would go buy a new phone.

Let’s be real here in the new year…that apology was more about CYA against class action lawsuits and a damaged reputation, not about being honest and truthful. Oh, and look at that Tim Cook got a huge bonus too – which was built on many our unnecessary upgrades.

If I upgraded at least twice, unnecessarily over the last four years, perhaps I am in for a bonus myself when these class action lawsuits find Apple was intentionally deceptive and harmed consumers. But then, I won’t hold my breath either…

 

Goodbye, Gramps

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I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. It was just a matter of time, but it’s a time you never want to arrive.

He turned 91 just this past September. He’d had several episodes of going in and out of the hospital, but he always came back out – sometimes not quite the same as he went in.

I have been extremely blessed with something I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances haven’t had – until last week, all four of my grandparents were still living. It is something really special for someone to know their grandparent(s) into adulthood. Many people only have vague memories of their grandparents while they were children, or visited so infrequently they never really got to know them. Often, the memories aren’t really memories so much as they are memories given/created by others via conversations and stories, pictures, or maybe a video. So, I am keenly aware of how lucky I have been.

I am struggling with what to write as memories come rushing back to flood my mind, and my eyes, with happiness and joy.

I guess I don’t really need to say much about those.

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I told him to smile for a selfie…this is what I got!

I just need a place to express remembrance and appreciation for a man who loved his wife (their 69th wedding anniversary was the day before his passing) and his children. For raising my dad in a loving home. For raising his family in a home of Christian faith and passing that legacy on to the rest of his family. For working hard, at two jobs (a fruit orchard and a factory) and teaching his family the value of hard work. For having a wry sense of humor and a mischievous smile. For all the time spent camping, and fishing, and playing cards, and laughing. For all the stories of life on the farm. For going back to the family farm in South Dakota and telling us about his younger life in a sod house on the prairie. For the story of outrunning and catching a jack rabbit in the orchard. For the times of sharing meals. For the quiet times sitting on the patio, sharing conversation, a sunset, a cool breeze, and sometimes even a beer. For the garden goodies he grew every year. For his mealtime prayer that never changed and I will forever hear in my head, “God is great and God is good and we thank Him for this food.”

Now, he is home in Heaven with his Savior. He is in His presence, praising the One who gave him life. He is whole again.

I am sure he is now fishing, gardening and farming, playing cards, talking with his parents and the son he lost to cancer while a toddler. He is hanging out and laughing with the siblings that have gone on before him. He is, no doubt, preparing a place for those who will come after him as well – because that is the type of person he was.

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Tools of my grandfather – bench vise and a pole saw he used on the farm.

Saying goodbye to Gramps is, after all, not really a goodbye. It’s just a “see you later.” Cliche, I know, but I believe it really is the truth. I know that one day we will sit together again and do the things we enjoyed here on Earth, because we have been given and accepted a promise.

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A few quiet moments with Gramps, hours before he joined his Heavenly Father.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I hope you have that knowledge too. The knowledge and assurance that death is not the end for a loved one, or for yourself. That one day you will be reunited, because it sure takes the sting out of death.

Am I still sad? Yes, of course. Not because I have no hope, but because of the missed opportunities I could have had with him or the opportunities my own kids will miss too. But, with the sadness comes rejoicing as well. How can I not be happy for him as he continues to live, living in triumph over death? There is still a funeral and memorial to come, but for now this will do. Goodbye is so hard to say, and yet…

“Welcome to Heaven, Harold! You are going to be missed down there because you were really loved. But don’t you worry, your family knows where you are and they are celebrating too. We have lots of time and I’ll show you around in a bit. But first, how about I show you a thing or two at canasta…”

Goodbye, Gramps.

Check Your Bias: Media Evaluation

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I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

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An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

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An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

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Rather, they have been here all along and top administration officials in previous Executive branch positions have either ignored them and benefited from it, or allowed them and benefited from it. Either way, the evidence that the Russians are playing freely on American soil and in American cyberspace appears to be mounting – and this isn’t just a Trump issue, this is an issue that was prevalent long before him.

The interesting thing is this all took place during James Comey’s FBI. Another big questions is, if this was going on while he was the head of the FBI, why was this issue not raised during the past administration, like screamed from a mountain top! Or why wasn’t it raised during the presidential election when a Clinton was running and clearly benefitted from the arrangement outlined in the article?

There are a lot of things the need to be questioned here AND why isn’t this all over the media?

See the article and link below:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Source: FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow | TheHill

And an UPDATE:

Senate Judiciary opens probe into Obama-era Russian nuclear bribery case