Friday, August 30, 2013

crafty

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.


Genesis 3:1-6 (NIV)
There are a lot of serpents around these days. I can imagine when the serpent told Eve that she certainly would not die and that instead her eyes would be opened and she would be like God if she ate the forbidden fruit, she must have stood there mulling over what he said, debating on what she ought to do. 

She probably figured she had good reasons for partaking of the fruit: it was good for food, it looked good, and she would gain wisdom.  Aren't those good and desirable things?  We would all like to be wise, wouldn't we? The serpent was making a lot of sense. And being the good person she was, she shared her fortune with Adam. 

Now we all know what happened after that. It didn't turn out well for either Adam or Eve. 

That's how it is these days.  People spend a lot of time discussing issues - mulling over this and that, same as Eve probably mulled over what the serpent told her. Mulling over what she saw with her own eyes, too. So based on that she made a decision.

The thing is, there wasn't any attention paid to what preceded what the serpent told Eve.  God had specifically said that she must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and she must not touch it.  That should have been all that was needed, case closed. Instead, the serpent was able to get Eve to focus on irrelevant matters. 

That's what goes on today.  Sure, a lot of people do not believe in the Bible so you can't blame them if they don't follow what it says. But a lot of folks who say they do believe in it, and a lot of folks who teach and preach from it, are the same way.  They let the serpent get them to focus on the irrelevant and they forget about what is written in God's Word or they think somehow that God's Word is what is irrelevant for these times.  It gets to where they wind up second-guessing God because somehow, the reasoning of this world makes a lot of sense to them. They forget who's the Boss.





Saturday, August 24, 2013

ten dollar lunch

The other day I had lunch with a coworker.  Well actually since I am still unemployed, technically it was with an ex-coworker.  I stopped by the office and we walked over to Jack in the Box for a budget lunch.

I told her I'd pay and just order whatever she wanted. I figured since it was JITB, how expensive could it be?

All together, we ordered six tacos, a cheeseburger, two orders of fries and two large drinks. The total came to $9.97.  It would have been less but I was so surprised I forgot to ask for a senior discount.  I found out that JITB offers senior discounts last year when the clerk was nice enough to assume I qualified without my even having to ask for one; this was discovered as I was looking at my receipt wondering why the register total said one thing and then the next moment was lower.

That's quite a bit of food for under ten bucks.  My portion was four tacos, and one of the fries and large drinks. I always have to get the mystery meat tacos when I go there - they've been my second favorite taco next to Tito's, and I've been chomping on them since the 60's. They don't seem to have changed any, either.

By process of deduction you could have figured out my coworker had two tacos, the cheeseburger, fries and a drink.  I have to say I was kind of surprised that she ordered (and finished) that much food. Yeah I know that's a chauvinistic thing to say or maybe I am just used to Julie who doesn't order very much.  There's a contradiction there because on one hand I appreciate it when people just order what they want and don't feel like they have to enryo, and on the other I am surprised when they do just order what they want and don't enryo. I guess because I'm the enryo type, to a fault.

Anyway, it was a filling, if unhealthy lunch but easy on the wallet plus I got my fill of mystery meat tacos for a while. And it was nice to catch up on what's been going on in the office since my departure.

Monday, August 12, 2013

the road not traveled

Not too long ago I received a Facebook friend request from an elementary school classmate.  I haven't seen him since junior high but I remembered his name right away and also recalled what he looked like back then.  The below photo is posted on his Facebook page (click the picture to see it in its entirety):


I'm not in it (so no, that's not me 2nd to the right in the 2nd row) because I spent the 6th grade at a different elementary school.

Even though it has been such a long time, I still recognized and remembered the names of a lot of my former classmates.  Would I recognize them as they are today?  Aside from Michael Jones (4th row up, third from the right), one of my best buddies that I got together with a few years ago, I haven't seen most of them since junior high at the latest.

I wonder how, if anything, my life today would be any different had I been in the above picture instead of a different 6th grade class at a different school?  Of course there's no real answer to that. Lives can be affected just by a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world and we never know what's ahead of us later in the day.  But it's fun to speculate and reminisce. I'm glad I went to 36th Street School and wouldn't trade those times for anything else.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

soda

Recently someone in an audio forum in which I participate posted a link to an article about how soda is the public health enemy #1, it being so very bad for you. That triggered a discussion about how much soda was consumed by the forum participants. The results, as you might guess, were pretty varied with some folks saying they rarely if ever drink soda and some consuming quite a bit.

Some said they'd like to drink water but they want something that has taste to it, and they and others listed the healthier alternatives they drink instead of soda.

Me, many years ago I used to drink about a can a day of regular soda. These days I drink mainly water with my meals although when having fast food I'll get a Diet Coke. I also have a bottle of iced tea most mornings.  But mainly I consume water, and most of that is filtered tap water at room temperature.

Room temperature? Ugh!  I used to feel the same way about water as many other people do, which is that there's no taste to it and I wanted something with taste. Then when I started drinking more water, it had to be ice cold because room temperature water was so blah.

I got used to it, though.

These days I am fine with drinking water at room temperature.  I used to not like salads and veggies and stuff like that too, but once I started eating them more often, I got used to it. In fact I look forward to having a salad each day, and on days when I have few vegetables or fruits, I don't feel right about that.

Regarding foods that are bad for you - do we really need all these studies out there telling us so?  It seems to me that it ought to be fairly intuitive what foods are healthy and which ones are not.  Such studies just confirm what people already know anyway. Now once in a while you may get some controversial finding that upsets the cart, like how research showed the benefits of drinking red wine. Prior to that, people probably thought all wine did was make you get drunk and it wasn't good to consume alcohol.

The thing is, even though red wine has an ingredient in it that is supposed to be good for you, it is stupid to consume a lot of wine and get yourself drunk just for that reason because the negative effects of doing so outweigh any positive effects.  It's like how the Apostle Paul asked the question, if God shows us His grace by forgiving our sins, does that mean we should sin even more so we can enjoy more grace? 

It's a matter of common sense and moderation, a couple of things that seem to be in increasingly short supply in our society.  A person has to make their own decisions and make, sensible wise choices not only about what they consume, but about their life in general.  Often these "studies" are just a veiled attempt by people who have an agenda to legislate decisions and choices, to tell people what they can and cannot choose (New York being a shameful example).  The focus ought to be on facilitating the use of common sense.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

shipping

I wrote about my listening experiences with DAC's (digital to analog converters) the other day, and how I couldn't hear the difference between the one I just purchased and another one that I already had. Despite not being able to hear a difference I decided to keep the newer (and more expensive) one and sell the old one.

Someone bought the old one.  He lives clear cross the country in Washington, DC. I went to the FedEx, UPS and USPS web sites to try and get an estimate of how much it would cost to ship the package by each service. The original package had been sent to me via USPS Priority Mail but the carton size was slightly different from the flat rate package sizes offered by USPS - by less than an inch in any of the dimensions.

I decided to take the package to the post office to get a quote.  "This is almost the same size as the medium flat rate box," the guy at the counter told me.  USPS has a great shipping deal - they will send that flat rate medium-sized box, with all you can stuff inside of it, for $12.35 anywhere in the U.S. Well, almost anything; it has a weight limit of 70 lbs but unless you are sending matter that's been condensed by a black hole I don't think anything the size of that box weighs more than 70 lbs.

The key word here was "almost." It wasn't the same size. But since the original package had come via Priority Mail I figure the company had gotten a good rate on it so I asked the clerk how much it would cost to send this particular box. About $23. So for just a small difference in size, there was a significant difference in cost.  I wanted to use the original box since the foam padding inside of it fit just right.

I took a medium flat rate box - which incidentally was free - home with me to see if I could fit the DAC inside of it and save some money. Using the original padding, the box bulged a bit. I didn't want any bulges and didn't know if the post office would accept it, so I just shaved the foam padding slightly and voila, it fit nice and snug. I sealed the box, paid for and printed the postage online via the USPS site, taped it on the box and took it to the post office.

On top of that, you get a discount if you do everything online so the postage turned out to be $11.30. That, plus a signature confirmation, brought the total to $13.50. Not only that but with Priority Mail it would be delivered from California to DC in two days.

Compared to the online pricing I got from UPS and FedEx, USPS Priority Shipping is a downright bargain! The cost is about half, it gets there in two instead of five days, and even the box is free. I also feel more secure taking it to the post office instead of a UPS or FedEx dropoff point because the post office seems so much more "official" and I've noticed the customer service is pretty darn good, too.

No wonder they are on the verge of bankruptcy...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

complacency

The most recent book I've read is $10,000 Gold: Why Gold's Inevitable Rise is the Investor's Safe Haven, by Nick Barisheff.  As you might surmise from the title, the premise of the book is that the price of an ounce of gold is going to rise to $10,000, and sooner than you or I may think.

I thought the author put forth a compelling argument.  Now, will gold really hit that price or not, who knows. At its current price it has a long way to go but then there was a time when people may have thought the Dow at 10,000 was preposterous.

The arguments supporting the book's contention made a great deal of sense to me. I highly recommend reading it but for purposes of this blog post, I will make a very short summary: The U.S. economy has been artificially lifted up for way too many years, in large part due to its printing lots and lots of paper money out of thin air with nothing to back it up, and soon the game will be over because we cannot sustain this financial charade. The demand will be for something representing true wealth, like gold, rather than worthless paper. That will drive the price up, to the $10,000 level claimed by the author.

Now, some, maybe most, maybe all of you reading that preceding paragraph may feel there is some merit to it but you're probably also thinking I'm overreacting. After all, just look at how robust our economy is. The stock market is heading up and up, the numbers coming from the government paint a rosy picture ahead, and money is money, right?  So what if it is gold or paper, it's still money.

So it makes me sound and feel like the guy on the street corner holding a sign, screaming at cars.

It takes a lot more than just the above paragraph to truly explain the situation, a situation that I feel Mr. Barisheff has indeed explained very well in his book. If anything, get the book and make sure to read chapter 10, Gold Never Sleeps, which puts the solemn picture together.  When I try to do so with people, most of them get a glazed look in their eye.  Or else, as I just said, they think I am overreacting.

On top of that, people don't want to deal with negative stuff; they want to feel good. When things are going okay, then they get complacent. It's like the ending of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The inmates all had the opportunity to escape but before they did so, they decided to celebrate and throw a party. They got  so drunk they passed out. And then none of them escaped because they were still sleeping off the liquor when the staff arrived the next morning.

So what's the purpose of this post?  One, that I highly recommend the book because even if you have no plans to buy gold, it presents an excellent and realistic argument for why we are headed for troubled times in this country.  Two, I just wanted to put forth my observations about how people don't see what's in front of their face and they get complacent. Or maybe they just don't want to see; they'd rather just let the good times roll.

So I'm still the guy on the street corner holding a sign, screaming at cars.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

dacs and our nutty memory

One of my hobbies is audio equipment. People, including my wife, think I am nuts because I am always buying speakers.  Well, I don't always buy speakers, sometimes I buy other stuff, like a DAC.  Do you know what a DAC is?  It's an acronym for Digital to Audio Converter.  In other words, it takes digital information (1's and 0's) like what are on CD's and DVD's, and converts them into analog information that can be played through a stereo system or watched on a television.

In the audio word, much ado is made over nothing. That is, people will make the biggest fuss over the most minute of differences in specifications and sometimes over no differences in specifications but they still insist they can hear big differences.  So there are big audible differences claimed, for things with microscopic differences in specifications.

One of those things is a DAC. Audiophiles claim to hear big differences between DAC's.

The other day I purchased a new DAC and connected it to my system. I set it up in such a way that I could compare it to another DAC I have, as well as the DAC that is built into a CD player that I have, too. I listened to various well-recorded song samples while switching back and forth between the various DAC's to determine what differences there were.

I heard no differences. I listened through speakers and I listened through headphones and it all sounded alike to me. Granted, it all sounded fantastically good, but nevertheless, there was no audible difference I could discern.

It made me wonder why can other people hear such "jaw dropping" differences between equipment like that, and I can't?  I have no trouble hearing differences between speakers and headphones but when it comes to comparing amplifiers or preamplifiers... or DAC's, I don't hear differences. If you compare the specifications among them, they vary so slightly that it is below the ear's ability to hear a difference. But yet some with golden ears claim to hear differences.

The other day I put myself in listening enjoyment mode and just sat down to listen to a bunch of tracks using the new DAC. I was wowed and happy. It sounded great.  If I had not done my previous comparison I would have said that this new DAC made a definite improvement in my audio system. It was sounding good, good, good.

But, the fact is I HAD done a comparison and at that time couldn't hear any differences. I don't think anything changed with this new DAC between the comparison time and listening enjoyment time. It seems my memory is just faulty.  Well not actually faulty; I mean, how can you really listen to something even several minutes ago that has only a teeny weeny difference, and then be able to accurately assess the differences you hear?  I believe that often when people write about the jaw dropping differences between old and new audio equipment, their mind is playing old Jedi mind tricks on them.

Friday, August 2, 2013

when you're gone you're gone

Related to my post from yesterday, my friend and I were also discussing our funeral plans. Pretty morbid, huh?  She said her desire is to donate her body for scientific research, after which time they have done that research, the organization would handle her cremation. In fact they handle everything - the cremation, coming to pick up the body, having the death certificate issued, etc., all at no charge to the donor. That makes sense considering they get to use your body for research.

Her husband is opposed to that idea. He said, how do you know they don't abuse or violate you, or perform other misdeeds?  She said who cares, that isn't her in that body anymore - she'll be in heaven and that's just her former shell so what does it matter?  I agree.  When it's my time I don't want any muss or fuss, just cremate me, although the option of donating my body sounds plausible.

I can understand why loved ones wouldn't want to see that happen, though. They would like to have a fitting, respectful service - especially in line with Asian culture. But the thing is, instead of going to all that trouble, including the expense of a funeral which can easily run $15,000-$20,000 and more, why not celebrate the person when they are alive?  And use that money for something enjoyable while alive, too, instead of when it's too late?

She said when she had to deal with her first funeral, she didn't know what to do but everyone told her it had to be first class all around. Only the best. So she spent a lot of money. The next time around, she was wiser from that experience and bought the casket from Costco, where it cost about a third of what the mortuary would have charged. She didn't tell anyone, though, because she didn't want to hear people exclaim, "What??? You bought a discount casket from Costco???"  - Even though it was the same thing the mortuary offered.

Mortuaries make their profits off the guilt over the deceased, as well as good intentions expressed at a vulnerable time. They have to make money, too, so I am not criticizing them.  But the time to really "spend" on a loved one is when they are alive, not when they have departed.

Well, please forgive the morbidity of this post as it has strayed from the usual subject matter and tone of this blog but hey, we're all getting older. The stuff I think and talk about now is not the same as a few years ago. I didn't even like thinking about it before, wanting to pretend it wasn't there, but it is what it is.  It's all in the good Lord's hands as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

enjoy the day

The other day a friend was telling me about her recent Canadian vacation with a few of her long-time school friends. Initially they took these vacations every three years but decided to make it an annual event - to enjoy life before they got too old to go on such vacations.

We both agreed, you have to make the most of life at the moment, since who knows what is ahead of us even in the next minute. A mutual friend of ours, 55 years old, suddenly died from an aneurysm. In the morning he was fine, preparing his specialty breakfast for one of his daughters prior to her taking the SAT, and that afternoon he went into a coma and died without regaining consciousness.  The husband of a coworker suffered a massive heart attack while driving a van pool and was gone before they could get him to a hospital. You just never know what is in store.

That's not to advocate being reckless and partying like there's no tomorrow like the grasshopper instead of the ant, but only God knows what lies ahead for each of us and we should make the most of what He provides using the wisdom He gives us. There's got to be a balance between now and later; I understand the wisdom of delay of gratification as a means of preparing for the future but life's for enjoyment now, too.

Someone put it nicely, asking, "when you're on your death bed are you really going to regret not working that extra hour of overtime?"  That puts it into perspective although I suspect there are some folks out there who just might have those regrets.

My cousin told me there are some 250,000 elderly Japanese being kept alive by feeding tubes. When my folks were in a skilled nursing facility, I'd look around at the residents during my visits and at least from my current perspective, I have no desire to be so old that I can't really "enjoy" life. Perhaps the definition of "enjoy" will change as I get older.

For now, I agree with my friend who had her recent vacation - do what you can now while you're able to do it.