when the lights go out

Sometimes the best lighting of all is a power failure.  Douglas Coupland / http://www.brainyquote.com

I swear I only measured the voltage of the dead lamp.  I didn’t cause the whole neighborhood at that moment to go dark.

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Determining the reason why that fixture was bad was on my to-do list for six days.  In my garage, I have a cheap light fixture – the one dime-store novels feature in the dingy hotel rooms or corridors – mounted above the kitchen door.  One evening, I switched on the light switch – and the lamp went on.  I turned it off when I was done.  I turned it on again and it immediately went dark.   Seems simple enough but can be easily tested whether the light bulb burned out.   That’s where life steps in and pushes down on the to-do list.    Fast -forward to today.   Motivated,  I finally recalled where I put my digital multimeter (one of three I have) in an accessible tool bag.  I hypothesized  – I am an engineering test guy – the light switch itself went bad.     But just as touched the meter a second time to the fixture, the house and garage and outside went pitch black. Without a sound.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. Edgar Allan Poe
/www.brainyquote.com

Fumbling in the dark to find my cell phone just inside on the dining table a few feet away,  I found the “flashlight” function.  First thing through my head was the thought, were I at sea, I would have myself chewed out by myself for being so ill-prepared and untrained for emergencies.   O brother!   But before I could get all my protective gear,  tool bag and batten down the hatches,  the lights snapped back on.    My mind did not go to all the dark places, when I second-guess my actions.   I mean, really.  I just came home from a bible study group I lead tonight. I was still feeling the glow of good participation and feedback.

I wonder if this was like the last power failure where a guy hit the wrong switch by mistake.  That error a few years ago shut down virtually everything in Southern California for several hours. A “training opportunity.”   Tonight, with everything back up within a minute told me that it was human error again.

It’s a lot like my work right now.  I have a broken device, some confusing email, and my boss has absolute confidence I will determine the problem now that I am back to work.  Can you get it resolved by Thursday? Thanks.    No pressure.  I just need to run through everything myself.  I could sure use a power failure at work about noon tomorrow – maybe for a week?   Thanks.

 

dangerous intentions

The Sunday paper, actual newsprint, is still read in my house.  Peruse is probably a more exact term, but I grabbed onto two stories today that declare what a dangerous world we live in, and how some are fighting back.

pexels-photo-272337.jpegNo, this is not a tale of evil-doers thwarted by good-guys,  but rather the story of how a book can get an entire Government flustered, and a raygun available to police forces.   Apparently, the Japanese on Okinawa are irritated that a BIBLE was part of a display honoring Missing In Action and Prisoners Of War in a military hospital.   We all should know the terrible things that this particular book stirs up. To one who sees self-improvement, it is Truth, Love, Honor,  Selflessness.  To them, it is the possibility of overcoming the weaknesses of mankind:  Hatred,  Fear, Doubt, Hypocrisy, and Betrayal.  To believers, it is voluntary primer from a supreme Intelligent Designer.  But for some who seek Power over others, there cannot be a still higher power.

 And then, a featured story of the drone-killer ray gun catches my eye.  This is a tool to prevent danger to the State, and its law enforcement, from the foolish person who flies a drone in the path of aircraft.  When drones are sold in 7-Elevens, online, and in department stores,  everyone has the freedom and means to be hazardous to others.  Law Enforcement has to police another misbehavior of some, to whom words (law or rules) or norms (common sense) have little power.

So which is it?   Words have Power, or they do not have power?  The State doesn’t seem to know either.  If someone reads and practices the Torah, Buddhist texts, Hindi theology, or Book of Mormon, my family and I are not threatened.  At least, in the western world, it is all voluntary.  The Word of Christ has never hurt another soul.  People, alone, are capable of that.

misanthropic callers

“He loved the people just as much as he feared and detested persons.”
― Sinclair LewisIt Can’t Happen Here

Once I was accused of loving people that I came to know individually, but detested people in groups.   And then I came to a spiritual renovation which, painfully at first, changed my whole worldview of humanity.   There are bad people. There are people striving to help others.  And the whole of humanity in between.

20171217_102102.jpgFor twenty-five years in the online world,  I have been fairly well isolated from the dregs of humanity that poison your computers with viruses, and ploys to get sensitive information.  And yet we all – hundreds of millions of us – have been exposed to scams,  theft, and fraud by failures of government and commercial companies to protect our finances and our personal information.

In forty years, I have had bank accounts drained twice.  Family and friends have had credit maligned for items purchased in places we never visited nor lived.   Or received email from Nigeria, or China,  or your sister-in-law, with pictures and links we should never click.   Then Facebook and Russians or other ne’er do wells started to manipulate the public, through data analytics  of our habits and friends.   Trading a Windows-based computer for an Apple or a Linux one only slowed the criminals for a time.

censorship-limitations-freedom-of-expression-restricted-39584.jpegOnce my father-in-law got calls on his cell phone reportedly from my son needing money, and apparently gleaning details by way of social engineering,  I knew the scams were getting more sophisticated.   And then my son, on his work phone, got called to extort his emotions by false claims of an injured family member.  And I have had, on the very phone I was holding, a call incoming supposedly from me.

The milk of human kindness, and positivity for fellow man was in danger of being soured.  But the God whom I serve, I have faith will burn the dross of humanity, whether emailing, calling, or manipulating software from Alabama, Mumbai,  Mexico or the Baltic.   The times of testing have always been upon us.  And for this old Sailor,  I don’t have the means or the heart to launch Tomahawk missiles.  4347_1153409602051_4092653_n

But I do have the means to needle, cajole, inspire and support family and friends by getting the message out through a blog.  Report and record, where possible, these frauds.

And should they be politicians pestering you for your vote,  persistent contact to insist on protecting us from technology abuse should help.  After all,  weren’t the Russians able to cajole you in the voting booth?

Honoring John Harrison’s invention

Yesterday a Google doodle honored John Harrison, an 18th Century British craftsman and clockmaker (1693 – 1776) who won the Crown’s prize for developing an incredibly precise measuring device for determining Longitude.  For centuries, mariners had the sextant, which enabled them to determine where they sailed relative north or south of the Equator.  Calculated with a sextant and maritime tables, sailors determined position by the angle of the sun at noon to the horizon.

As a sailor, I knew that all time aboard ship (and on installations) was in reference to Zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time.  Greenwich, England marked the line North to South (0 degrees longitude) from which the longitudinal measurement was derived.  Given that the Earth’s rotation is very stable, the longitudinal measurement, west or east,  derived by accurately knowing Greenwich Mean Time to fractions of a second could be relied upon.

As a self-educated carpenter, artisan, and clockmaker, Harrison found resistance from the royal societies which issued a monetary prize for an accepted device that would meet the requirements for accuracy.  From his first tests aboard ship in the 1730s, over several decades, he improved on his design and finally, due the Crown’s influence, he was awarded the prize for his invention.  By the mid-1760s,  others had developed similar systems so the award was important in establishing John Harrison as the first one who accurately determined longitude.

An experiment conducted in this century using his once much-derided advanced design indicated only fractions of a second lag over the period of a hundred-day test.  Not bad for someone who was hundreds of years before the Global Positioning System.

The Taliban Have Gone High-Tech

Weapons given to the Afghan forces have found their way into insurgent and foreign terrorist hands for the past decade. Now, our armed forces are finding high tech night vision goggles, laser -detection devices and more are in insurgents’ possession.

The article in today’s NYT reports what our military have always been challenged by in conflicts particularly since unconventional warfare – guerrilla tactics, remotely detonated devices, and local forces corrupted or threatened by local insurgents –  replaced conventional warfare.

via The New York Times

fiddling around

Sometimes you get assistance and support from your elected representative.  Sometimes you get a letter where they have miss the point the constituent was making entirely.

Thank you for your letter regarding your concerns about unsolicited calls and the enforcement of the Do Not Call Registry rules.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I understand that you have registered your number with the National Do Not Call Registry, but that you have continued to receive telemarketing calls with disguised identities and phone numbers.  In your letter, you expressed your support for stronger penalties against companies that violate the Registry rules. …”

I actually studied Political Science at the university ages ago, as I had some fantasy about going into government service.   But that was before most colleges became a breeding ground of Orwellian thought control.    These days I think back to the movie and musical, Fiddler on the Roof.   Living  as best one can apart from the Government bureaucracy.

Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We’ve always had our special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the beggar… And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.

Leibesh: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?

Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!

Leibesh: Is there a proper blessing… for the Tsar?

Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!

I actually reached out to Senator Feinstein to demand that the perpetrators of cell phone abuse: spammers, hackers (who masquerade as someone in your contact list — or when you receive a call from your own number! – and malcontents be the focus of more intensive prosecution and penalties.  I acted after my son received a call at his work number claiming that his mother had been injured in a traffic accident.  It was b.s.

So all my friends and family who truly believe that the proper political party leading the country will make the roads efficient, the cell phones free from telemarketers, and the social media free of Russian meddling have great faith.   Me,  I will continue to be

Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!

 

Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should the “Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act” come before me for consideration in the Senate.

 

Dust

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, died this week.

Lots of people are voicing condolence.   Maybe people know of him due to the 2014 movie , Theory of Everything, that many who don’t understand his grand theories know his name.  A very intelligent being nonetheless, and one of the most celebrated brains who had ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  (As an aside, I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed Hawking in stunning fashion in that movie.)  Not having read any of Hawking’s work, I nevertheless learned a bit about him.

He went to the grave an atheist.   Yet his religion was ‘science’, which for all the debate from atheists about facts versus myths,  is still human observation of the universe and its interplay on physical objects. With every passing decade, a “fact” gets refined, or refuted, or re-interpreted.  A deduced certainty – weather, tides, or planetary body is still victim to an “uncertainty principle”.   Of course, we have launched satellites and people into space, but these have finite parameters.  We cannot create an organism from a vacuum.  Science still cannot define origins.  It cannot define why – in our own solar system – life evolved to the scale it did from gas and dust.  It does not explain the origin of the gas and dust.  And science does not explain human thoughts.

Stephen Hawking for all his contribution to science wanted to determine a grand unifying theory for the universe.  It eluded him.

Some atheists who really examine evidence and limit their biased presupposing, have admitted that they just don’t know.  Those who believe what that grand unifying theory is,  and have empirical evidence – also from human experience and perspective – in their lives, will continue onward.  I do not pretend to know why some very intelligent scientists  and scholars do not embrace belief in God,  while other’s look at the same evidence and hold an awe for a Master Engineer at the center of everything.

Hawking may now return to dust from which he formed.   Sagan may be “star stuff”.  And it all may be a futile cycle of randomness that anything exists at all.    But what if Eternity is … a corollary of the Grand Unifying Theory?  And all that scientific dust….

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