How Safe is Your Identity?

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One scary moment of my life was answering a call from my credit card account manager who asked, “Mr. Lucas, did you recently purchase a dozen roses and four bottles of wine in New Jersey?”  Well, considering I’ve not been to Jersey, I had never used that card, and I don’t drink wine, my answer was, “No!”  I began immediately thinking about how bad this could be. Would I have to cancel my cards? Would I spend hours on the phone trying to clean this up? Luckily that’s all the further that theft went. I didn’t have to pay for the charges, and none of my other accounts had been compromised.

It is becoming increasingly harder to stay safe. In a world that’s wired to the internet and a culture dependent on a variety of electronic gadgets, identity theft is thriving. “You can’t prevent identity theft! No one can!” says financial expert Dave Ramsey. Even Todd Davis, the CEO of a large identity protection company, who shared his social security number publicly had his identity stolen 12 times, says the Phoenix News Times. While this may be a bit unsettling, understand that you can make it extremely difficult for the prowling identity thief. Don’t become the feeble gazelle faltering at the rear of the heard. When it comes to identity theft, there are three areas to consider.

Minimize the risk–There are a number of ways we can lower the risk of attack, and they all limit access to your personal data.

Get a shredder and properly dispose of old documents that have sensitive data; don’t just throw them in the trash. Anyone can drive around in the early morning hours and pilfer through your garbage. Don’t give out personal information to someone who calls you. If you need to give the info, then hang up and call their publicly listed number. Never trust that the person on the end of the line is who they say they are. And finally and most importantly, be cautious of what you put on the internet. From a person’s Facebook account or website it’s often easy gather all kinds of personal information. Even something as simple as, “Here’s my cat named fluffy!” Many people use their pet’s names as passwords.

Monitor your accounts. –Another big way to keep yourself safe is to monitor your existing accounts. If you can catch illegal activity when if first happens you can limit the damage.

Watch your monthly reports. Keep your receipts and match them with the report item for item, and if something appears that you didn’t buy then call. You can also check your annual reports for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get reports for all three (Trans Union, Equifax, Experian) of the reporting agencies from them. Another simple step to take is reduce the number of accounts you have. It’s easy to miss unwanted activity if you have 10-15 different accounts to watch.

Maximize your protection. –One final way to reduce the time and money spent on costly clean-up is to purchase identity theft insurance.

You must change your mindset. No person or company can prevent an identity theft from occurring, but a good company can help manage the aftereffects, and repay stolen money. You insure the things that are valuable to you, your homes, and your cars, so why not insure your identity?  You can find a good identity policy for around $6.75 a month. Dave Ramsey recommends the Zander Insurance Group as a good provider of identity theft protection.

Educational, Tech March 6th 2014

How to create an executable Jar file

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A Java Archive file (Jar) is a compressed file based on the ZIP format. Jar files can contain many types of files and folders, but most often they hold Java .class files. The Jar format helps keep all the files in one place, and reduces the overall size of a project. Another very useful function of Jar files is that some of them can be executed. The purpose of this tutorial is to explain how to create an executable Jar file.

First I’ll make the assumption that you have downloaded and installed the Java SE Development Kit (JDK), and have also set up the PATH and CLASSPATH environment variables. If you can run and compile .java programs from the command line, then you’re set to go.

First thing you need is a Java source file. A simple program that just gets and sends data to the command prompt will work as long as you run it from the command-line, but you will not be able to see any output if you just double click on the Jar file. So, in this tutorial I will use an example that creates a window using JFrame.

Step 1. Create a folder called test and put your Java source file in it. For my example I’ve created a simple clock application that just counts the number of days since something has happened…the number of days since you’ve quit a bad habit, the number of days your website has been up, etc.

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Go ahead and create a simple Java application and compile the source. You should now have a test folder that contains the source file, and a .class file.  Mine has two .class files because my source file contains two classes.

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Step 2. Create a manifest file…I’ll call mine Clock.MF. A manifest is basically a file that contains information about the files packaged inside the Jar file. You can create yours using a text editor, just give it a .MF extension. Here’s what needs to go in this manifest file:

Manifest-Version: 1.0
Main-Class: Clock
Created-By: 1.2 (Sun Microsystems Inc.)

The first line tells us that this file conforms to 1.0 of the manifest specification. The second line tells which class inside the Jar file contains the “main” function. And the last line defines the version and the vendor of the java implementation on top of which this manifest file is generated.

Step 3. Create the Jar file using the jar command. In the example below (jar) is the name of the executable you call to create the Jar file. The jar command has a number of options…I used four of them (c –create the jar file, v –generates verbose output to the screen during file creation, f –specifies the file to be created, and m –indicates the manifest file to be used) After the options parameter comes the name of the jar file to be created (clock.jar), followed by the name of the manifest file to use (Clock.MF). The (*) wild card indicates to include all files in that directory. If you wanted you could use *.class to only include class files. Here’s the command:

jar cvfm Clock.jar Clock.MF *

Your test folder should now contain four or more files depending on how many classes your app has…one of them being the new clock.jar file. You should be able to double click on the clock.jar, and it will execute. You can also execute this code from the command line by typing (java -jar clock.jar).

Click here to download the Clock.java example and here to download the Clock.jar.

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Uncategorized February 20th 2014

Four quick tips for Excel

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Excel is a powerful spreadsheet tool that is sold in the Microsoft Office software bundle. It allows you to manipulate and view data in various ways, and with it you can quickly organize your data into meaningful and manageable pieces. However, if you’re relatively new to this cool tool, it can be a bit daunting. This article will give you a few tips to help you get the most out of your Excel experience.

Functions are probably one of the most useful aspects of the Excel spreadsheet. By clicking on the Formulas tab then clicking the insert Function along the top; you can see a list of all the available functions. If you click on one of the functions it will give you a simple description of what it does. In the table below, containing made up data of employees, I’ve used three functions. COUNTA in our example counts the number of employees. SUM adds up the hours yielded and hours worked. And AVERAGE gives the average production rate for all employees. Cells A14, B14, C14, and D14 contain these functions.

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Patterns are also a very helpful functionality of Excel. For example, you can have 3 consecutive cells containing 1, 2, and 3; then highlight all three cells and drag them across. Excel will automatically calculate then next numbers in the series. You can see below that Excel knows a 4 should come next. You can also use this for functions—if you drag a function across it will copy the existing function but shift the rows it looks at. This horizontal or vertical dragging can save you a lot of retyping.

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Charts are also useful when sharing data with others. It’s good to give the chart a good title that explains exactly what you are looking at, plus the date range that the data is for. Also make sure that the X and Y axis of the chart have labels or are self-explanatory. The chart below shows each employee and how many hours they’ve worked compared to how much work they’ve done. Employee #1 is pretty far behind, but Employee # 10 has accomplished more than expected.

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My last tip for this article is about security. One of the biggest ways a computer gets compromised is through email attachments and particularly through Microsoft Office documents. If you are receiving an Excel file with the extension .xls or .xlsm then be aware that those documents can contain executable code called macros. Macros are a useful functionality of Excel, but they can also contain malicious code. And always make sure that you keep your antivirus up-to-date and never open attachments from people you don’t know. If any attachment looks even slightly suspicious then contact the person who sent it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Educational, Tech February 6th 2014

A picture may be worth more than a thousand words

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a_picture_is_worth_1000_words_by_refrigeratorbingo-d465awbYou’ve probably heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, when it comes to your cell phone photos it might be more.  As most of you know, when you take a photo with a digital camera it will save the data from the image into a image file on the camera, and this file can then be copied to your computer or uploaded directly to a number of popular social media sites.  An image is made up of thousands or millions of little dots called pixels and the data file stores the location and color of each dot, but what you may not know is that these image files can contain a lot more information.

Some of the data embedded into this file might be things like: type of phone, lens used, exposure used, colors used, and even the GPS location where the image was taken, and with the right tools anyone in the world can view this information if it’s stored online.

Earlier today I took a picture with my phone, then uploaded it to a website that can extract this information to see what it would show.  The image below shows some of this data.

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So far, it’s not too bad, and many of the images you find online and on facebook will show no more info than this.  However, if an image is taken on a phone where geo-tracking is turned on, then the image file will contain the exact GPS coordinates, and this website will show those coordinates in google maps.  When I scroll down to the bottom of the page this is what I see.

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Wow, now that is revealing.  With google maps,  you can zoom down to the exact house where the image wast taken.  I have edited the image above so that you won’t know my exact location, but the point is, you could unknowingly be putting unwanted info about yourself on the internet.

There is a bit of good news though.  It is possible to turn off the geo-tracking on you camera.  It may be different for different cameras, but on an android you need to start the camera, then open the settings, then uncheck the icon that looks like an upside down tear drop.

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Creativity, Educational December 23rd 2013

Top Tech Gifts 2013

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vaioAs the holidays approach many of you may be hunting for that perfect tech gift. Whether that be for a friend of just something really cool for yourself, it’s good to know what’s available. I stayed away from the phones and tablets in this article because many of them were out in 2012, but here’s a short list before we get into our featured tech items: iPhone 5, Moto X, Nokia Lumia, HTC one, Galaxy S4, Google Nexux 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7, Microsoft surface Pro 2, and Kindle Paperwite.

The Galaxy Gear Smartwatch reminds me of something you’d see in a James Bond movie. The watch has several great features. It links to your smart phone and allows you to answer your calls without picking up your phone. It will allow you to give voice commands and also receives notifications from your phone. You can also take photos with it, and leave yourself voice notes. It is priced around $300.

I thought the Apple iPad Air was worth mentioning. It basically has the features that other tablets do but is incredibly light. It weighs in at just one pound and is 20 percent thinner, and still fairly durable. Some of the pre-release complaints were that it had no USB drive, kickstand, and that it was too thin. The iPad Air starts at about $500.

The Play Station is one of the most popular gaming systems around, and this year the PS4 will be released in late November. The main design theme behind the PS4 is the “frictionless and seamless” gaming experience. In a multiplayer environment it has the ability to track different player’s faces and when a player moves to the other side of the room the screen will automatically be swapped. It is priced around $400.

Microsoft is going head-to-head with the PS4 with their release of the XBOX One—also this November. At first it seemed the PS4 would gain the upper hand with all of the pre-release complaints about the XBOX One. Features like the 24-hour online check-in restrictions on the used game market were not well received, but Microsoft listened and scrapped those features. This console attempts to bring the entire living room together by integrating, TV, games, movies and other web services like Skype. The XBOX is priced around $500.

The Chromebook is a laptop running the Chrome operating system. It boasts that it starts faster and stays faster than traditional computers. It allows you to use many of the apps you’d see on your smart phone. It has a guest mode, so that you can lend your Chromebook to a friend without giving access to your personal files and its supervised user accounts make it family friendly. It’s priced around $250.

The next Google gadget we’ll look at is the Google Chromecast. It is a HDMI streaming media player. With it you can stream online video or music to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It supports applications like Netflix, youTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Google Play movies. It works with Andrid, iOS, and Chrome. To set it up all you need to do is plug it into your HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network. The Chrome casts costs about $35.

The Fitbit Flex is a wireless activity + sleep wristband. It will track your steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes, and also monitors how long and how well you sleep. It features a silent alarm that will wake you and not your partner. It will sync to iOS and Android devices. It costs about $100.

If you’ve ever traveled much you know how frustrating it can be to lose track of your luggage. The Trakdot Luggage Tracker is a cool little device that is designed to give specific location information about where your stuff is. The Trakdot uses cellular technology, so it works anywhere your phone works. The Trakdot is priced about $60.

The Sony VAIO Duo Ultrabook is designed to let you switch it up. You can go from tablet to a laptop and back again effortlessly. The Ultrabook boasts of a 10 hour battery life, and if you can’t decide between a laptop or tablet—then why not get both?

As technology gets better we see it moving into more practical places. The Nest Learning Thermostat is a smarter thermostat that works with your other devices. Other programmable thermostats have to be manually programmed to your daily needs, but the Nest Learning Thermostat picks up on your habits. This device connects to your WiFi which allows you to set it from your phone or other portable device. The Nest Learning Thermostat costs about $250, but it will pay for itself by lowering your heating and cooling costs.

Educational, Tech November 15th 2013

Are You Spiritually Bankrupt

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hagmann121512I’ve often wondered why I’ve met some of the meanest and some of the nicest people in a Church.  I’ve decided it’s because some of them are rich while others are spiritually bankrupt.

There are few things in life that bring you the joy of loving others.  When you give of your self, sacrifice, show kindness, politeness, use a little self-control, and a good portion of gentleness, then you are spiritually rich (Gal 5:22-25).

A life that is focused solely on self…in the end is lonely, depressing, and and only leaves you longing for more.  I like how 1 Corinthians says it below–If you don’t have love, you are spiritually bankrupt.

1 Cor. 13:1-7 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Spiritual Tid Bits November 9th 2013

Liar Liar White House on Fire

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I’ve noticed over the years that people lie.  I’ve seen children do it, little Billy who ate the cookie on the counter and told his dad he didn’t.  I’ve seen married people do it, no honey, that outfit looks great on you.  Some lies are bold and blatant.  Some are tiny, little bitty white lies…if even such a thing exists.  Sometimes lies can come by omittance.  Regardless, we don’t much like lies when they are told to us; we expect honesty.  Honesty is a virtue.  It is a character trait and a value that is up-right and good, and it’s something we should all strive for.

There are also certain professions that we hold to a higher level of integrity.  For example, we all expect pastors to be honest.  I find it funny and sad at the same time, but when I was studying to be a pastor, I recall one specific test that was particularly difficult.  I sat in the back of the class because it was easier to get out the door when the bell rang, and the future pastor sitting next to me asked if he could look at my answers.  We expect our doctors to be honest.  We want an accurate account of the status of our health, and I definitely don’t want a doctor that cheated on his tests to be operating on me.

We also want our public leaders to be truthful with us, and especially the high office of president.  I do understand the scrutiny that leaders go through today, and especially those on the world stage.  Every thing a leader says is recorded, watched, re-watched, and then criticized by millions of viewers.  It’s easy to misspeak.  I don’t really want to say that lies coming from public leaders hurt us more, because there’s nothing quite like being lied to by someone close to us, but I will say that lies coming from a public office seem to degrade society more.  I’ve put together a few of the public lies from my generation….check them out:

Here’s a clip from George H. W. Bush giving a promise on the campaign trail. Nobody likes taxes, but I’ve got to admit, how in the world can you expect anybody in public office to keep a promise like this.  It’s not good to promise things you cant keep.

 

Here’s probably one of the most famous lies of my generation.  President Bill Clinton lied about a relationship that he had with a White House intern.  This was a very blatant lie.  The president new exactly what he was saying was wrong, but to be honest, many people seemed to ignore it.  Several that I talked to said that it was a private matter, and did not affect his role as president.

 

The following lie has been brought to public attention in the past few weeks.  It is also different from the two former lies (a stupid promise, and a personal issue).  This was a sneaky lie.  It was an intentional deception and twisting of facts to get a specific piece of legislation passed.  President Obama was a community organizer, a lawyer, and a Harvard constitutional law professor; this wasn’t just jumbled words….PERIOD.

 

Richard Nixon was the president in office when I was born.  While I don’t remember this lie personally, I do remember hearing about it when I was young.  President Nixon lied about the watergate scandal and almost became famous for being the first president that was impeached, but he resigned before it could be done.

 

I had to throw this guy in just for good measure.  Here’s Rod Blagojevich a governor from my home state of Illinois.  It would seem that the governor’s seat in Illinois is notorious for producing felons.  Four of the last seven were convicted and imprisoned.  After watching this scandal a few years ago, I just shook my head.  Governor Blagojevich really seemed clueless.

 

Creativity, Random November 7th 2013

Why I Believe

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believe

Over the past few weeks I have had a conversation with one of my agnostic friends at work about the topic of faith and belief in God.  As a result, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about why I’m a believer.

I welcome comments to this post, but be warned, I will not approve anything that is mean spirited or personally attacks others.  I don’t much like online debates about issues of faith.  It usually ends up being two groups of people who treat each other poorly and post things they’ve only heard others say.  And I really don’t care for debate on the topic of the existence of God.  For the Christian its a waste of time.  What person ever said, “I’ve a believer now because this Christian showed me the folly of my ways in this online debate.”  For the unbeliever it’s also a wasted of time.  Why spend your time trying to disprove something that you don’t believe in?  Go do something important.  So here goes…this is why I believe.

I try and take a balanced view of life.  I think every person whether Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or someone of any other belief system needs these three things…. reason, emotion, and faith.

Reason is important and without it we could not live.  We need it to get up in the morning, to drive to work; to live our daily lives, to build things, to invent things, but our reason can fail.  A few years ago, I was driving to a nearby city and I heard my brakes dragging a little.  Once I got to my destination, I decided to get out of the car and reach my finger in and touch the brake pads…what was I thinking?  Well, I wasn’t!  They were hot and it burnt me—I wasn’t using much reason at that time.

How much knowledge does the human society have? Do we know 50% of everything there is to know? 20%?  Of everything in the entire universe I bet we know less than .0001% of all knowledge that exists, and maybe even a lot less than that.  It is not probable that our society will ever know all there is to know.

If we take a look at black holes, the mathematics that describe them breaks down at the singularity.  How can something become infinitely dense?  Some would say they don’t, but we won’t go there. General relativity does not work well with quantum mechanics.  And just how many dimensions are in our universe?  Three?  Four?  Eleven? We just don’t understand how things work.  Again, I’m not saying we will never understand these things, we are making strides in formulating a theory of everything, but I am saying that logic alone is not enough for a human to live.

Let’s say you’re in a room full of people.  Some of them old, some young, but the only other person you know is your spouse.   Then someone lights a bomb and you only have a second to save one person, who would that be?  Logic say’s you should pick one of the younger ones.  You should pick someone with a longer life span because they have the most to loose, but your emotions say it should be your spouse.  Logic without emotion is a bit empty.

The second thing I think we need is emotion.  As mentioned above, a life without emotion means nothing.   Our emotions can help us make good decisions, and there’s nothing quite like a good intuition.  But emotions can fail you.  I remember watching a TV series the other day about phobias.  There was a stronger macho-looking guy that was really fearful of dogs.  It was really sad, but he had a hard time even touching a dog or being in the same room with the dog.  His emotions were leading him in the wrong direction.  He needed to use more logic and less emotion, and he knew it—it was just difficult for him to do.

The third thing we all need is faith.  You may say that atheists need no faith, but I would disagree.  There are things in life that we do not understand that we have to accept by faith.

There are things that we don’t understand that others do, and we accept them by faith.  For example, some people may not know how electricity works.  You turn the switch on the wall and the light turns on.  That’s all they need to know.  They have faith that someone else has it figured out, and they can just use it.  Maybe for you that might be the process of nuclear fusion, or how a combustion engine works, or what code makes a web browser work … the point being we take those things by faith they will work.  We just understand that someone else understands.

There are also other things in life that have no proof that we take by faith.  I’m going to use for an example the topic of our beginnings.  When it comes to beginnings, we can narrow it down to two possibilities.  It was created or it just happened.  When it comes to the science of beginnings it is all speculation, and has little or nothing to do with the scientific method.  The scientific method requires a hypothesis to be formed and then tested.  We cannot create a universe nor can we create life in a test-tube.  We can form all the hypotheses we want, but without the test it’s not science.

What is the probability that life began on its own?  I don’t want to get into all the math involved, which is probably impossible to calculate anyway, but it would be astronomically high.  One author said 1X10 to the power of 40,000.  There are only 1X10 to the power of 80 atoms in the universe.  Is this really the probablility—I’m not sure, but regardless, the probability that life began on its own is an impossibly high number.  In any other field of science we would say it’s an impossibility.  In the science of beginnings we just increase the age of the universe until it works.

It takes faith to say life began on its own because it cannot be proven.  It also takes faith to say there was a creator because it cannot be proven.  In my life, I try to employ a lot of logic, some emotion, and a little faith.  For me it’s easier to believe that a creator made what we see than it is to believe it just happened.

So why do I believe the Bible?

Literary Consistency and Longevity.  The Bible is an incredible document.  It contains 66 books written by 40 different authors over a time span of 1600 years and in three different languages.  Despite all of these differences it holds an astounding unity within its pages.  You can pick any book of the bible and after doing a solid investigation you get a feel for what it’s about. Its basic message is that God created man, man is imperfect and needs the help of a creator who has willingly offered help.  There is no other book that has been read as much as the Bible, or has had as many copies over the years as the bible.  With the number of original works we can be assured that what we read today is very close to the original version.  Even despite the attempts of many down through the ages to destroy it, the Bible has lasted.

Its claims.  The bible makes bold claims that it is the only inspired Word of God.   2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God.”  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, and approved of the writers of the New Testament.  Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to God.  John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Historically accurate document.  The bible has never been proven wrong through archaeology.  They’ve discovered a number of things mentioned in the bible: Jericho and its walls that were actually fallen.  The five cities of the plain mentioned in Genesis were thought to have been nonexistent, but they were recently found.  We also see the histories of the bible matching up with other historians comments and historical documents.  The first century historian Josephus speaks about Jesus in some of his writings.

Prophetically accurate document.  There were many prophecies made in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled.  Daniel chapter 2 predicts the next three world kingdoms very accurately…the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman empires.  The prophet Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 44:28 that a king by the name of Cyrus would come and help in the restoration of the Jewish people.  He made this prediction about 150 years before it happened.  700 years before it happened the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Zechariah predicted about 400 years in advance that the Messiah would be betrayed with 30 pieces of silver.  He also predicted that none of His bones would be broken and He would be pierced in His side.  There are many more prophecies that have been fulfilled.  I challenge you to look them up, but to keep this letter short I’ll stop there.  These Messianic prophesies are not ones that Jesus could have fulfilled by choice.

It works.  My last reason is that I can see that the principles the Bible promote work.  Millions of lives have been changed by the words in this book.  I’ve applied many of the principles to my own life and I’ve never been disappointed.  Can the Bible be proven to be the Word of God or to be absolute truth? No, but for me it is a reasonable option.  It does take faith to believe in God, but it is not blind faith.  It is faith built upon good observations.

The alternative for me seems less probable, and beyond that has little hope.  When I think of a world without God, I find no hope in politics.  All I see there is bickering and fighting, and a group of people just trying to be re-elected.  I’m reminded of the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I find little hope in fame; I see people like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, and think the pressures of fame have done them little good.  I see little hope in money.  A little money is needed, but beyond our basic needs of food and shelter and clothing, money does not give you happiness.  I supposed there’s a little hope in family, friends, and society.  But honestly, society changes.  In Africa, we see the morals of the head-hunter society that are pretty different from ours; in our prisons we see an entirely different set of values, and the values of today are vastly different than they were in the 1920s. I don’t think society is the foundation we can put our hope in.  And in the end, we die and everything we’ve learned, valued, and loved disappears.  Maybe we’ve impacted others in this life and have passed on things of value, but eventually they pass on too and all we’ve done, valued, loved is gone. And maybe we’re one of the very lucky ones who has impacted society in a way that we get our name in some book and it lasts generations.  Eventually that disappears too, and in the end life has passed and nothing we have done remains.

I choose God because it’s a logically plausible choice that I feel with my emotions and believe with my faith.  I do not chose my faith in God because it gives me hope…but I can say there is an amazing hope in my faith in God and the Bible.  I believe there is life after death, and what I do in this life affects the next. I have a hope that in the next life, I will see some of those I knew in this life. I have a hope that by passing on this hope to others that they too will enter the next life.  With my faith in God I feel that I have a purpose.  And that purpose is to help others find this hope.  And that purpose will affect the lives of others for eternity.

The implications of this choice are huge.  Because without God life is all about me and what makes me happy.  Whether that means a life of hedonism seeking all the pleasures possible to man, or a life dedicated to working my way up in society and becoming popular and important–really it’s all about me. But if God is real, then His Word is truth and I should do my best to live by it and up hold it.  Suddenly, my life is no longer about me, but about God.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be; I’m just trying to do my best.

Many think the Bible is just a book of rules, but really you can narrow it down to just two.  The first says this: Love the Lord God with all your heart, body, mind and soul. And the second says: Love your neighbor as your self.

Spiritual Tid Bits October 22nd 2013

The Intern

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The InternOne of my favorite past times every summer is to float down the Current River.  This past year we had a new intern join us.  This is the story of that trip.

I’m not sure if you remember that place where tiredness meets imagination, but I found it a few nights ago in a tent near Jadwin Missouri. It was a cool evening and coupled with a long day of oaring on the Current River and a world class game of volleyball the day before I fell asleep quicker than a baby with a bottle of Nyquil.

I wasn’t dreaming, just sleeping hard when I was jarred to consciousness by a voice screaming in the night, “NOW!”

I opened my eyes and listened in the darkness, but all fell silent again…well mostly. There was the muffled sound of people talking nearby, Call me maybe playing on the community iPod, and the sound of either a sick duck or injured frog that would not shut up. I closed my eyes again and listened.

“INTERN NOW,” Chris bellowed out again.

I had to chuckle. The poor guy. The intern. Colin had to be tiring of that phrase, but if he was it didn’t show. I thought about what the next day might bring, but the sandman hadn’t traveled far and I was soon asleep again.

The next morning brought with it a few early risers, but most loomed around like extras on the set of The Walking Dead. It wasn’t until Captain Ron broke out the brown sugar and bacon that the rest of the group emerged from their tents. The Intern was one of the last ones to belly-up to the table, but not even he could resist the smells that came from the big black cooker.

There’s a point in everyone’s career where they really begin to connect with others, when you go from being the intern, to being the INTERN, and Colin found that place about half way through the float at the top of a 30 foot cliff.

The chant started slowly with just a couple individuals, “Intern. Intern.”

I can only image the rush of endorphins that ran through his body as he stared down at the little stream below. His heart raced. His time at Dot Foods flashed before his eyes. “Intern. Intern. Intern.” More people joined in on this catchy little phrase.

Was it really worth it, to risk his life for this group of half-cocked IT professionals? The shouts began to roll down through the entire valley. Old men, women, children, Jager the stuffed dog, and even people who didn’t know this guy joined in. “INTERN. INTERN. INTERN. INTERN.”

Colin stepped to the edge and jumped. In a fraction of a second he rolled forward into a full flip as his body hit the water. When he came to the surface, the crowd erupted in shouts and applause.

To the rest of Dot Foods he will be known as Colin the college student, but to those of us who brave the waters of the Current River every summer, he will forever be remembered as THE INTERN.

Creativity September 29th 2013

Captain’s Log — Star Date -37636.00370

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stardate

Ehhh, sorry about the title, but I’ve always wanted to say that. The star date is something that was seen in the Star Trek movies and TV series.  It is a bit cryptic by design.  It was a way to give a date without actually giving the date.  There were a number of different methods used to create the dates, but they generally followed the decimal pattern seen in the image above.

I’ve also used a similar method in some of my own writing, not to copy what Star Trek had used, but to find an interesting way to handle time in a galactic way.

In thinking about time—years, months, and days are all based off of the workings of our solar system. There have been various methods of measurement…pounds, grams, inches, centimeters, the hand, etc… but our measurement of time is pretty standard around the world—that’s because the sun, moon, and earth are common to all the inhabitants of earth, and our day, month, and year are built from them, but someone on a different planet orbiting the sun, or on a planet in an entirely different star system wouldn’t measure time the same way. Mars takes 687 earth days to complete its cycle, so an earth year to someone on Mars would mean very little. A Venerian year is only 225 earth days, but a day on Venus lasts 243. How would you like a day that’s longer than a year?

Any measure of time within a galactic civilization needs to be based on something common to all. My idea was to base time off of the rotation of Sagittarius A*—the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which makes one revolution every eleven Earth minutes.  My standard unit was a cycle, and is equal to one rotation of Sagittarius A*…about 11 minutes.  Here’s how I broke it up:

 

10000000000 yottacycle 209715.55 Earth years
1000000000 zettacycle 20971.55 Earth years
100000000 exacycle 2097.16 Earth years
10000000 petacycle 209.72 Earth years
1000000 teracycle 20.97 Earth years
100000 gigacycle 2.10 Earth years
10000 megacycle 2.52 Earth months
1000 kilocycle 1.09 Earth weeks
100 hectocycle .76 Earth days
10 dekacycle 1.83 Earth hours
1 cycle 11.00 Earth minutes
.1 decicycle 1.10 Earth minutes
.01 centicycle 6.60 Earth seconds
.001 millicycle .66 Earth seconds
.0001 microcycle .066 Earth seconds
.00001 nanocycle .0066 Earth seconds
.000001 picocycle .00066 Earth seconds
.0000001 femtocycle .000066 Earth seconds
.00000001 attocycle .0000066 Earth seconds
.000000001 zeptocycle .00000066 Earth seconds
.0000000001 yoctocycle .000000066 Earth seconds

Creativity March 16th 2013