Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A New Feature

I know I don't post very often. I'm sorry if your the type that loves to hear what I have to say, but it takes longer than usual for me to refine a post than one would think. Some posts take several weeks of research and composting before they are ready to see the little screen in front of you, and more don't even get that far before I pluck them from the drafts page, deciding that they aren't Here and Now material.

So after saying that, I would like to announce a new feature of this blog. If you send me an email to this address with the subject being: "The Phantom Tollbooth," I will have Blogger send you an email every time I do post, with the post itself and a link to the blog.

On Responsibility

Have you ever heard the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”?

It has a nice ring to it, even if it is as cliché as we know it is. We won’t speak to much about the phrase’s origins, but focus on more about what it means in relation to our own lives.

Disclaimer: For this post, we are focusing on only the definition of this word pertaining to this phrase!

What is responsibility anyway? The word itself is the compound form of the words Response and ability. It is a response to your own ability. If something needs to be done and you are asked to do it, you have the responsibility of doing it. However, all responsibilities, by definition, are optional, and of the thousands of responsibilities we encounter in our lives, only a fraction we fulfill. If we punish someone for not fulfilling a responsibility, it has failed to be a responsibility anymore. It is now a duty. 
I will use an example to explain it. Hypothetically speaking, I work at a bakery. Before I started working there I spoke to the owner who told me to read about how to bake bread, bagels, elephant ears; fry doughnuts, twists, etc. I didn’t have to do it, but it was a responsibility I decided to fulfill. When I came to work at the bakery, it was easier for the workers there to teach me how to do what I studied. The actual hands on baking. Within a few short months of working there I was proven a diligent worker, and was asked to manage the shop closing every Friday night so that my boss could go home and watch his favorite TV show. I accepted this as a duty to fulfill, and if I had failed after taking it up, I would easily have gotten into serious trouble, but because of me being successful, I was eventually given more duties to fulfill, and so on.

This example also illustrates one of my favorite parables in the Bible. It is found in Luke 12:41-48. In it, if you are not familiar with this passage off the top of your head, Jesus is speaking to the disciples about stewardship, and our duty to be good stewards of what he has given us. 
He speaks of a steward for a great lord. When the lord of the house goes away, he expects that the steward will keep the house functioning properly, giving each of the lower hands their portions of “meat in due season.” And “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” he goes on to say, “…he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” 45: “But if that servant say in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him…47: And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. …”
He goes on to say that if a person didn’t know what was required of him and as a result didn’t do what was required of him, he is still guilty to some extent, but his punishment will be less severe.
The second half of verse 48 is what is really getting close to the axiom, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“…For unto whomsoever much is given, much will be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask more.”

So now it has become apparent our axiom, no matter how profound it may sound to some, is a truism. Any time you have responsibility, it already implies that you have power, or ability; in this case these two are synonymous, and vice versa. 
For me, I can play the organ. I have a responsibility to continue getting better at it, practicing and learning new pieces. Because I take lessons I also have a duty to practice regularly and in the way my teacher has instructed me. I do not always fulfill this duty, and the punishment is not severe, but it is mandated by my teacher to practice, so practice I must. 
So with great power comes great responsibility? Is great the keyword in all this? Is that what makes it different? It shouldn’t be. No matter who you are, or where you are, you have some ability to do things. Even if your current ability is to gain ability, then you are responsible for doing just that.
Do you have to do it? Of course not! If it is not your duty then no. If you are not accountable, then no, you don’t have to do it. But you will be the one missing out in the end if you don’t. 

I have to do one more thing here. It would be terribly easy to twist this post into something awful if I don’t say this, so I need to make a distinction.
To put it simply, all of us are capable of doing evil things. We do not, however have the responsibility to do those evil things because they are not desirable, or helpful to others. 
Here is a note: all responsibilities have one thing in common: they all benefit someone else besides yourself. Think about it for a second. Have you ever had a responsibility that only benefited yourself? You can’t think of one can you? However, if you can, please post a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear form you.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The One About OSs

Amongst the computer nerds, programmers, networkers, consultants, and even geeks, there is always a divide between what operating system is superior. This has been dubbed by RationalWiki as "OS Wars." Many of the more technically inclined like to poke fun at some of the more misunderstood operating systems. This picture presents an analogy of the three most common operating systems.

What can we infer about the author of this infographic? Immediately a Mac user will infer that the author has never used Mac, or never used it extensively. Any casual viewer will infer that the author doesn’t like Mac in favor of Linux, and judging by the corresponding pictures of dog breeds, we can tell that his views of Mac are that it is a joke of an OS, just like the Yorky is a joke of a dog.

I think that I will start with Linux. I like Linux for the most part. I think that the claims the Linux community make about it’s stability are a load of garbage, having used several distros. Maybe it’s just my computer. The only version I liked, coincidentally to this situation, was Puppy Linux. Lightweight and fast! The only one that didn’t crash after a day’s use and no reboot. As hard as that is to believe for some Linux enthusiasts, it does crash. Especially Linux Mint, which I liked a great deal while using it, it just took a rather long time to get everything set up and running. But it crashed after my sister logged in on another user and any time I left it running for a few hours before resuming my session. That might not be the OS itself’s problem, only the distro, but until I can test it further, I will be comfortable using Mac.

The other silly part about the Linux is that even within the Linux Community there is a huge divide between which is the superior distribution. Those who use Kali Linux or ArchLinux might make fun of people that use Ubuntu or Mint. I believe a very wise man once said "For how can a house divided against itself remain standing?"

Windows on the other hand is the Lingua Franca of computing. Everyone should know how to use Windows, and nearly everyone does. People from the Mac camp curse at it because it’s so difficult to understand. They have to make the simplest jobs complex! People from the Linux camp scorn it. Windows? Seriously? Have fun crashing and catch a virus! But it is the most common desktop OS, so there are a lot of smart people that use it, and for good reason. The lion share of software is written specifically for Windows, and runs the smoothest on it as well. There is tons of free software written for Windows. Most people will be able to follow directions of how to do something on their computer when they’re not around, because the chances are that the person you’re talking to is a Windows user.

I grew up using Windows, way back when XP was a thing. I would still rather use XP over anything, quite frankly. Why? Because it was simple. I knew everything about how it worked, and it was easy to use. As far as I can remember, it never crashed once while I used it and MS Paint was awesome! But now I am very content with our next topic on the list: Mac OS X.

Mac has an interesting history, which I won’t discuss here, but perhaps in a future blog post. Mac is pretty. It is not useless. It does do cute tricks that I have seen done somewhat on Linux. It does work for years, a small malady will not knock it out and it can survive rough play. Mac is actually an Operating system that can take some pretty harsh things in stride. You can do anything on Mac that you can do in Linux, but in most cases the software is a lot nicer. Mac is a good operating system because it makes a lot of jobs simpler that are confusing in windows, like connecting a printer, for instance. I didn’t have to place the driver files manually where I could find them and change the path. It’s insanely easy to adjust screen brightness, which is important on a laptop. With every PC I’ve used, doing that has been more difficult than it needed to be. Mac just makes sense in so many ways. I chose Mac over any kind of PC because I wanted something that would give me fewer headaches than I knew I would get with either Windows or Linux. Ironically, the only headaches I have encountered are design flaws, not technical flaws, which are rampant in both Windows and Linux!

When it boils down to it, I I like to say that extremes are dangerous in almost any situation. Exceptions will be noted and discussed in a later post, but to say that one OS is superior to another is simply never going to be the case. The whole concept of “OS Wars” is so inflated and stupid for me to get caught up in, that I take the more stable (no pun intended) view that each OS has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. I would like to say that Mac is easier to use than Windows or Linux, but there are some parts about it that are difficult to deal with. I don’t use Linux on a day to day basis; I just don’t have the time right now to learn how to use it. I understand enough to get by, and what I learn for the Terminal in Mac, I can almost directly reapply it in Linux, since they use the same shell, but all the ins and outs of it I will have to discover later.

For now, I will use Mac for programming, writing, and the occasional necessity of video editing.

Please don’t judge any OS before at least trying it. I hope you don’t get me wrong about how I feel about Linux! I love the idea of a free and open source platform, and I’ll have to learn how to use it later when I start maintaining servers.  Until then, I will happily take the criticism of all those open minded people that use Linux, all the while using Mac, and occasionally Windows.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The TIPs & FAQs of ALL.

After giving you an idea of how to deal with Bipolar I disorder, I would like to give you a simple post about being an oncology patient, and how to deal with it.
     In case you are unfamiliar with the acronym "TIP," it stands for Thing Important for a Patient.
     I don't want this to be terribly long, but just enough to give a picture, more specifically of being a patient at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. After visiting another Children's hospital, not a part of Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, I realized that Children's is not the only hospital in its class.
     Anyway, that is not important. A few frequently asked questions might be the right way to write this post, so I'll start with the most prominent ones and go to the less important ones as I go.

Q: What does it feel like to be given Chemo?

A: For the most part not pleasant. Some Chemos are less aggravating than others, like Vincristine and Prednisone, but there are others that make a cancer patient feel—to quote another cancer patient—"Like a bag of dead mice." There are times when I'm on the hospital floor in my room lying on my bed just waiting for it all to be over and I here this question, "How do you feel?"
     My knee-jerk reaction would be to strangle the person who asked it, but usually I mustered the energy to say, "I don't feel well enough to answer that question," as smugly as possible.
     It is true that this is a most ungrateful way to accept life saving treatment, but one must wonder the time of administration if the treatment, that feels like nauseous torture, is really worth it. Well, the fact that I am telling this to you is a sign that it is worth it, so please forgive me, and every other cancer patient who has possibly thought this way.

Q: And speaking of staying on the Hemonc floor of the hospital floor for a few days, what do you do with yourself during that time?

A: The key to passing the time in the hospital is an ingenious new technology called streaming. At Children's they have free movies that you can watch at any time, unless every other person in the hospital is trying to stream the movie you want to watch at the same time, then the server gets overloaded and it becomes really choppy. Then your best bet is to wait till about eleven PM and try then, or watch another movie that isn't so frequently selected for viewing. If you're an older patient, you may rather want to watch a more action filled movie that most of the younger patients, of which there are typically more of than older patients, would not be quite as interested in.
     What makes Children's a little nicer than some hospitals is that it also has a Geek Squad office as you enter on the second floor from the green parking ramp. They'll let you borrow a computer or iPad for a few days while you're staying. With it you can browse the internet and do other stuff. Now that I have my own computer I probably won't need to, but it was probably the best feature when I did need it.

Q: Is the food any good?

A: When you order it the first time, the thirtieth time? Some hospitals may not do this, but Children's lets you order food a la carte. It's good the first few times you order it, but eventually you run out of good things on the menu. I got sick of the breakfast food faster than anything else on the menu, and so I found cheeseburgers a suitable breakfast food from there on out. That and broccoli. One visit it was mashed potatoes every night with extra gravy, which sustained me through nausea and other terrible things. I don't know why, but mashed potatoes are easier for me to eat while nauseated while feeling like I'll throw up.

Q: Are the nurses and doctors nice?

A: Yup. I think the doctors and nurses at Children's are all very competent, but also very kind. Especially on the oncology floor where you get to know them pretty well because you're seeing them for the full three years of treatment, or however long it is for you (I hear that brain tumors take longer), quite regularly. They're all fun and always happy to see you and willing to do anything that will make you feel more comfortable.

Q: Besides watching movies and browsing the internet, what else do you do for fun?

A: Visitors are allowed at any time during the day, and  always greatly appreciated. Good friends would play cribbage with me sometimes and other times the hospital chaplain, who truly is a kindred spirit would come and converse with me on multitude of subjects ranging from theology to computers, two things he and I are both fascinated with. He also would play cribbage with me, usually pwning me more than I would care to admit.
     And then there are those other times. . .
     What is a lot of fun is when the nurse thinks that you're asleep, when in fact you were a few minutes ago, but are slowly waking up because the nurse is putting on another bag of lactated ringers or saline, or something. Replacing the morning fluids. This happened one time, and I will never forget the result. I knew she was there so very suddenly I popped up in bed and said as loudly as I could, "HYAHH!" which isn't very loud in the morning, but it was enough to give her a start. We both laughed about it and I got the satisfaction of hearing her outside telling other nurses about my little escapade.
     I have heard that there is a new teens only room on the seventh floor of the hospital for cancer patients. Unfortunately I have no more scheduled hospital visits as an inpatient, so it may be that I never have the opportunity to see it, however, if I run a fever of 101.5 ºF, I will be required to stay in the hospital until it has passed. If it had been there when I was admitted, then I would have most likely have endeavored to use it by sitting in it and enjoying the scenery, especially if they put in a window since last time I saw the room that they were going to put it in.

So there are my answers to your FAQs, and some tips of how to deal with cancer while getting treatment. Sorry, it was way longer than a not so terribly long post, but in any case, if you got this far I hope that you enjoyed reading it.

Don't forget to follow if you like what I write,

and as always,

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

When a family member suddenly has a mental illness when before you thought that your stock was pure it is truly unnerving, made only worse if the ill person is not only a family member but also yourself. It is true, this was the case for me. Two years ago today I found out that I had (and still do) bipolar disorder. At the time it didn't seem like a big deal, but nothing really did back then. I am sure you have heard of bipolar disorder, perhaps you have heard one of your friends make a joke where a person's behavior is compared to a bipolar person's, or perhaps you yourself have made a joke like that. I actually do have it, so I tend not to laugh at those kinds of jokes. I don't find them offensive, I just don't think they're funny.

So today we are going to try together to understand the queer behavior of people who have the disorder.

Bipolar is a genetic spectrum disorder, meaning that it is passed on by your parents, even if they don't  have it. My theory is that it has a lot to do with genetic entropy in play, but we'll save that for some other time. The other part, being a spectrum disorder, means that it affects other people more than some people who have the disorder. I obviously have it, but my body is so sensitive to medication (just ask my oncologists) that it doesn't take much medication to keep it under control.

Usually it happens in adults older than twenty, but there are some circumstances in which teens will be diagnosed, and even in some situations children younger twelve.

In this post I am focusing primarily on helping people with teen bipolar. That is the one area with which I have first hand experience.

Essentially the actual symptoms are partially explained by the name of it. Imagine that every person has their own planet. The north pole of it is beautiful and rosy while the south pole is dark, sinister and depressing. Most people live in the tropics where it is a nice, comfortable and real existence, whereas the poles are where elation and depression reign supreme and to the point where you can't even think straight. Maybe it's something in the water.

In any case, normal people live in the tropics almost all of the time, perhaps making a visit to the poles once in a blue moon, people with the disorder tend to build their homes there, usually both on the north pole and on the south pole, switching every few months or even weeks, and in a few cases days, and in other even more extreme cases hours. The way the symptoms first appear varies, but usually it is defined by a very high and good mood—elation, is what they generally call it, or even, well, maniaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yee-Haw!

I say that a little jokingly, but it must be said that that is the feeling that a person with bipolar experiences during this period of several weeks or months, unless it is controlled with medications or other methods.

The other side of Bipolar Disorder isn't nearly as fun to think about, but it is a fact of life for those who have it. Depression. Some of you, my readers, have had this awful anomaly happen in your brains, the imbalance of chemicals going the other way after an episode of mania. Because depression is so much more common, I won't try to explain it since even Charlie Brown knows what it is.

So there's the first part of understanding it—what it is.

The second part has to do with dealing with it.

If you think you have it, you are probably depressed right now after being in mania, since most people who are in mania will never admit that they are in mania. The first part of dealing with it is seeing a psychologist. They will know whether or not to say that you have the disorder or not.

But you probably don't have it, so we'll focus on how to help someone you know who does have it. You must understand that there are some idiots out there who do not have the disorder that think they know what will be best for those who do. They have some advice, but it is far from complete. No, I am not an expert, but I think I know what I'm talking about having dealt with it on a daily basis for the last seven hundred plus days.

Bipolar people tend to think, while they are in mania, that they are providing the world with new research and knowledge and helping everyone by acting pompous and better than everyone else. Probably the best thing to do with a friend or family member, whether that be a child or sibling is ask them to go on a walk with you to talk about what's on their mind. This simple solution is not talked about in the books that I have read. Just go for a walk and listen to what they have to say. Even if it makes zero sense (Which is what it will do in all likelihood) it should be taken into your heart and mind and used to help you understand their point of view.

Compare the mind of a bipolar person to a small child that has big ideas, but the difference is that a bipolar teen doesn't think he needs permission to act on his big ideas.

I have heard of another family's story in which their bipolar teen decided to build a trebuchet, so he went to Home Depot and bought the wood and bolts, not even using any instructions, just making it up as he went along, brought it home and built it, and it worked, being able to send what he wanted fifty feet away. His father got angry because the teen didn't put away his tools. It was a mess, the garage and the relationship.

I won't say any more concerning that story.

I think that in the end, you will have to grieve the loss of the old person that you knew and loved to this new stranger that he or she has become. But if medications are being used to help regulate his mood then in a few months he should be back to his normal self.

What is most important is trying to understand his views on things the same way you would try to understand a small child's, the same way you would try to see the way they see things.

And as always, Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Review: Cloak of the Light

Cloak of the light is a fascinating story about a young man who finds himself in a curious situation, being able to see those in the supernatural realm, just as the series title suggests — Wars of the Realm.

I have read Chuck Black's Kingdom Series, and enjoyed it to an extent, but never had the gumption to read The Knights of Arrethtrae series. I generally like all that he writes, as it all has a purpose, and a higher message. Thus is the case with Cloak of the Light.

I love the idea of the story, someone who gains the ability to actually see angels and demons, I mean, I loved Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, and this story falls in the same genre of spiritual warfare, and indeed I do like the story as a whole, but there are some things that I would like to review in this post that could have been better.

Primarily my problems are with the structure and description of various things, or with how things are put. I think that some of the things are rather awkwardly stated, such as the following

"It was apparent that he had inherited his dad's athletic prowess and muscular physique. When most of his friends struggled for every ounce of muscle added, his workouts simply toned and defined the muscles that his body naturally grew." — Cloak of the Light, p. 8.

It was almost painful to read the first time. I had to jump back and read it several times to realize that Black had actually written that. It is true, it is important to note that Drew is exceptionally strong and well built, but it was a mistake to put it as blandly and bluntly as that so early in the book.

Let's just say that the entire first quarter of the book was written sloppily. There were other parts as well, like,

"When Drew had mastered the environs in the States, their trips reached beyond the borders of the US to further expand his training. That's when Jake started infusing combat training into their trips—and Drew soaked it up like a sponge." — Cloak of the Light, p. 6.

Ugh—need I say more? It just doesn't sound right, put like that. It's not my story, so I'm not going to suggest an alternative to what I think is rather cumbersome.

Maybe it was supposed to be like everyone else's awkward teen years, in which case, bravo! Mr. Black.

But don't be too quick to write it off your reading list, it gets better later on.

If you can just get past the sixth chapter (before which I almost set the book down and stopped reading) it actually does get pretty good. As he becomes an adult the awkward descriptions cease and an intriguing plot takes shape, out of the rather shapeless first six chapters. I suppose, though, that if they weren't there it would be sort of hard to follow and perhaps empathize properly with our protagonist.

As the story progresses it reaches the final climax, which doesn't seem like the final climax because we don't know what will happen after the last chapter of the story. We are waiting for the final book, Light of the Last, to arrive at our library and eventually at the MACHÉ conference. Hopefully it will be ready before then.

All in all I, despite the rough beginning, I would have to give Cloak of the Light slightly more than . It isn't quite as good as Peretti's spiritual warfare books, which I would give  hands down.

I must say that his second book, Rise of the Fallen, was written far better than Cloak of the Light. As a result, I have high hopes for the third in the series.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Types of republican idiots? Yeah right!

Recently I found this comment on an article I was reading for perspective entitled "7 types Republican Idiots"

Scrolling through the comments I found this lovely specimen:

"Ha! Give me one valid point that a conservative has made in the last 30 years. Just one. Come on, can’t you find just one…"

This post is what would have been a reply, but I didn't think it was a very good idea to volunteer as tribute in the Hunger Games of politics. My goal is not to be the last man standing.

So here it is for you.

I would like to ask you what you consider to be a valid point, so I will. What do you consider to be a valid point? Anything that fits with your own ideology? Anything that doesn't sound stupid to you?

Anyway, I am a Christian conservative. I will try to make one valid point right now.

Capitalism works because if you let people try to make for themselves a life they are then more encouraged to continue working and add to society. The government can either make this easier or harder for them by having either high taxes or low taxes, and as I think we all know, liberals would rather have High taxes.

Other than that, I don't want to post more than one comment on this website so I'll just write this here. I am just wondering if Mr. Desmond has ever read the Bible. Obviously not, because if he had he would know that Jesus was not anticapitalist but anti selfishness. In the story of the rich young ruler it is talking about whether or not your god is money or your God is Yahweh.

It is also true that Jesus was antiwar, but we are not supposed to try to start wars. We are, however, allowed to defend ourselves, which is entirely what all Christians that I know personally believe.

One more thing, I think that in general liberals are more racist than Republicans, like calling any black republicans modern day uncle Toms and such, which is not hard to find on the internet, as if it is impossible to have an educated republican black person. That's pretty racist if you ask me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hey Mac,

So pretty recently I switched from Windows to Linux then back to Windows then as a last resort—to Mac. Yes, I went to the Dark Side of the computer force, I am almost ashamed to say, but the simple truth is, I am simply tired of dealing with the common problems that I encounter with Windows. The most prominent being the limitations (I will explain soon) of the best version before 10 and the built in Microsoft approved spyware. Just google search Windows 10 spying. To tell you the truth, I was very excited when I heard about Windows 10. It looked like it was going to have a beautiful GUI with multiple desktops and live tiles in the start menu. It looked amazing from the video I saw on youtube, whose creators dubbed it as “It’s Actually Not Terrible,” just so you know that they were not just fanboys. If you are not familiar with Tek Syndicate, you can check them out on YouTube right here.*
The deal with Mac is that it is user friendly and well designed. The hardware/firmware compatibility is probably the biggest thing going for it. Everything in Mac is specifically designed to run on the hardware it is preinstalled on. You will never find an HP, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, or any other kind of computer that has Mac preinstalled or an operating system tailor made for it, or perhaps it is the hardware that is tailor made for the operating system. There have been very few hiccups in my outset of Mac besides being rather tired when I first did the unboxing. I didn’t video tape it or anything. I wasn’t that excited, but I was very happy with it from the first moment I turned it on.
So I am writing this as a review of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, if you are interested. You will be able to find this same review on my computer programmer blog right here.
First of all, The entire UI is gorgeous. From The preinstalled wallpapers to the fluidness of the genie effect when minimizing and un-minimizing windows. I have to say that the genie effect is my favorite feature of the desktop. The entire feel of it is laid back and I would almost say restful. 
Although Mac is a good option for computer n00bs since it’s easy to understand, I would also say that it is a good option for computer power users. It can make a lot do with a little. When I first thought about getting a computer for myself I thought that I would absolutely need at least a fourteen inch model, but because of the way multiple desktops works, I can pretend that I have five (or more) monitors, easily accessible with a swipe of my fingers. The filing system Finder is also relatively user friendly and really almost identical to Windows Explorer.
The other thing I like about Mac is that it is Unix based, meaning that it is very stable and not requiring a reboot more once every week and a half for me. This is something that I find very useful because I don’t have to shut down my computer every day and leave it shut down over night. 

A transition from firmware to hardware is the SSD. My neighbor, who is a veteran Mac user told me that the new SSDs that come in the new MacBooks can have data loss overnight, which I believe could be true, because the lithography of the new SSDs is so small that it’s hard to keep the correct charge in the correct cells, but this is not an issue in Mac, because it is not designed to be shut down for any extended period of time. I have not once left my computer shut down for more than five minutes since turning it on for the first time. You can’t get away with that in Windows, and even in Linux, with the distros I was using.

But moving on from The OS and on to what I actually touch.
The best thing about Apple computers is the trackpad. Keyboards are a dime-a-dozen, but the track pad has the be the most well designed feature if the device doesn’t come with a mouse, and Apple has, I think, the best trackpad available on any computer out there, for the new MacBook Pro Early 2015 model. You can actually adjust the amount of pressure it takes to left click, and there is also an extra layer called ForceTouch which allows you to push a little harder to bring up the Apple dictionary definition of a word in most programs, and especially when browsing the internet. Unfortunately at this time only Apple designed apps have support for ForceTouch but that could change soon (I hope).
I said that keyboards are a dime-a-dozen, but the apple keyboard on the MacBook Pro is slightly better than most. My favorite feature is the backlight, as battery hogging as it is when not connected to power, it is very handy when typing in a dark place at night or in a restful sort of dark environment where you don’t want to disturb others, or something like that. I never thought I would really needed it—until I needed it. One night I was editing a sermon for church on our porch when I couldn’t see the keys anymore because it had gotten too dark. I thought about turning on the light when it occurred to me that I didn’t need to do that. I fumbled for the correct key, accidentally opening Launchpad while I was at it, but soon could see the keys, letters glowing softly in the moonlight. (Not really, but it sounds so poetic.)
Another thing is the ports. The Early 2015 Model has five ports. Two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt Ports, and one HDMI port. Just a little FYI on the HDMI, that was one of the things that I hated dealing with in Windows setting up an external monitor with HDMI. In Mac it’s pretty much plug and play.
I don’t know if I will ever use Thunderbolt even once, I probably will eventually, but now I’m just content to know that I have it. It also features the handy MagSafe power connector, which has already saved me from possibly harming my computer.
Next is the display. The Early 2015 Model features the retina display, with a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels for a pixel density of 227 PPI, which is probably my favorite feature of hardware. It is absolutely crystal clear, and though I can still see the pixels if I look up close, there is really no way to tell that there are pixels at all when looking at it from eighteen inches, which is a pretty usual viewing distance.
The last thing I think is the battery. Out of the box it was nearly fully charged, and I don’t know how long it was on the shelf in BestBuy, but I think that’s pretty good for maintaining the charge. The funny thing is that some nights when I leave it unplugged and make sure that it’s fully charged before putting it on the shelf, I wake up in the morning to a battery that is usually either 94% or 96%. I don’t know what’s special about these numbers, but that’s what happens sometimes. Other mornings I wake up to a 100% charged battery. I don’t know why it depends on the night, maybe it has to do with the temperature of the room or something, but it’s just one of those curious things about things that are far beyond my understanding.

Now for the less fun to read part (Unless your anti Apple, then this will be your favorite section).

One thing is that iWorks doesn’t have the  Smooth Typing Animation. This is very, very minor, but it was my favorite feature of Microsoft Office 2013, and I was hoping to find it somewhere else. Hopefully someday it will be included as an extra option you can select.
The next one is not so much a bug as an annoying aspect being that applications developed by third parties like Audacity and Google Earth, as well as Finale NotePad appear pixelated and messy. I don’t know if this is the fault of the developers of these programs, or the compatibility with the operating system when trying to port the original Windows version to Mac. I believe it is most likely the latter because it appears most frequently with apps that I had originally had on Windows. This is by far the most disappointing thing I have found in dealing with OS X, but it is not the case with all programs. For instance, Skype has no issues like this, and I used it it Windows frequently as well.
This one is a little more serious. Pages (iWorks version of Word) only opens Apple formats, unlike Word, which will open almost any word processor format, such as .rtf .txt .odt, .doc, and .docx. This is a big issue for me, because I hate working with open office OpenOffice, and I’m afraid to use LibreOffice (which is better than pages) for fear of viruses.
I think that I really can’t say anything bad about the hardware, which is rare in the computer arena. The design team always makes one, sometimes two or even three design flaws. Not the case with this computer. I really can’t say anything bad about it, which is probably the best thing about the MacBook Pro.

All in all I would have to give the MacBook Pro Early 2015 Model  + 1/2.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moving Stories

I love stories. They make me happy. They move me. Sometimes I read stories that make me feel so philosophically satisfied that I feel like sharing some of the thoughts I had on it.

There are several stories that were great when I first read them, but had no philosophical value, or the philosophy they were pushing was not relevant to me, or really anyone that the story was marketed to. Look at The Hunger Games. They're interesting stories and fun to read and have a philosophy behind them but really in the end no one is going to do anything about it, or really even take anything from it. There are other books, however, that do.

I wish to call your attention to a series of books that is relevant to everyone that reads them: The Chronicles of Narnia. I call your attention to these because I am sure that you, my reader, have probably read them. Each book has some very philosophical conversations in it that keep the reader thinking long after the book is over. I think of The Last Battle in particular. In it the end of the world takes place with the invasion of Narnia by the Calormens. With all of the destruction and the death that takes place as a result of it, many think it to be a depressing book. I prefer to read the last few chapters of it. In them it describes how a well meaning person doing good deeds in the name of someone evil, can take it back and offer them to God, and he will accept them as deeds done in his name.

I think of other books like The Giver, that offer some very interesting insights to the problem of perfection, and the lack of interest that ensues with it. Perfection is absolute. There is only one perfect for human beings because we all have the same nature. When we are given new bodies, we will be able to be perfect, but also have our own thoughts and desires, unlike in The Giver, which paints what I think is an accurate depiction of what it would take for the world to be balanced and perfect while still being in our current state of imperfection from sin.

I think that one story should cover one topic of thought. The last battle covers the end game of Satan and the even bigger end game of God. The Giver covers the cost of perfection. The Fault in our stars covers the reality of mortality. The Horse and His Boy covers the truth about any misfortune.

All of these stories are moving because they are not just a story. They are a collection of thoughts, ideas, and philosophies of the author. The books that make people think are the ones that people remember because they exercise the memory of them by making themselves the origin of the thoughts.

I myself love writing because of this very thing. It gives me an opportunity to write down my philosophies effectively, without stating them outright. It acts like a very useful buffer. I will always be outright with beliefs concerning faith, but most are not willing to listen to the outright views of a person of faith, but are willing to hear the conversation between their favorite character and his friend concerning what they believe to be true. These are always my favorite parts of the story when writing them, as well as reading them later. Even more I love reading what others have written in the conversations of their characters.

I believe that Frank Peretti says in his bio on the dust cover of his books that he writes stories that make people think long after the last page has been read. This is what I aspire to do. If you have a moving story that you suggest that I read, please email me. I would like to be moved by it*.

*There are some qualifications. Bad language must be limited. If any vulgar words are used by the lead character I will stop reading the book (unless already halfway through and he/she has been good so far). The same is true of thematic elements. Thank you for your suggestions.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Time for Stories!

I think I said it in a previous post that everyone likes to here a a good story, especially one that makes the listener think really hard about what's going on. I didn't say it then, but I'll say it now that even if you pride yourself as a toughie personality that's too old or too mature for a story, you are lying through your teeth, but you may be thinking of something else when I say story.
     I alluded to the fact that no matter who you are or where you're from, you make up stories on a regular basis, you may even be good at it. There is an art to making up stories that apply to real life situations. This is known more commonly as lying. Your creative mind uses an ancient art to get out of or get someone out of trouble on a regular basis. I could go into the reason why we do this, but I frankly do not have time right now. The other side is whenever you harbor hatred (I mean like you seriously want this person dead) in your heart towards someone it is almost a given that you make up some type of storyline in which the end involves them going somewhere else, and usually not such a pleasant place. Let us not concern ourselves with these types of self-storytellers. Instead, we will use my sister as a prime example of a positive, upbeat and fun self-storyteller.
     My sister claims that she won't right down the stories she tells to herself, but there will most likely come a time (as was with me) that she cannot help herself and write down her great idea so she can in turn read it to herself and enjoy it that way. It's much easier to read a story than to make one up as you go along, there is a lot less thinking required and you don't have to worry about the dreaded and rightly named "Brick Wall" and for writers like me "Writer's Block." Anyway, we all do enjoy a story.
     Now that was a rather long intro, I know...

     Wait a minute, Ed, that was just the intro?

     Yes, it was. In my old boy scout troop I went camping on a beautiful lake called Namakan in the boundary waters in Minnesota. The owner of the property where we camped (for it was a private, family owned property that he was generous enough to share with us boys) would before a sort of ceremony always 'warm the boys up' before our scoutmaster would begin. Of course he was talking about warming our minds up for the discussions that would follow. He did this by telling a short story story that usually rhymed and would make us laugh or say 'Ooh' at the end. I say all this to explain why write three paragraphs before I begin the body of the post.
     To tell you the truth, the body of this post is rather short. I only want to invite my faithful readers, though you be few and far between, to read a truly Amazing Story.
     Yes, I have a much coveted membership as one of the Writerly Friends that try to publish regularly a segment of the epic An Amazing Story as it is called right now, and is likely to remain being called for the rest of its production. To tell you truthfully, it's much more popular than this blog is right now, but that may change. Everything is nailed down in Jello, as they say in Minnesota. If you like Sci-Fi, Dystopia, time traveling, or otherworldly fantasy, then you might like An Amazing Story.

Read it right now, right here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chinese Cooking Endeavors...

I, like most people, enjoy a good meal, however, getting one without paying more than ten bucks a head is unlikely in this day and age, unless you cook it yourself. Sooooooo...

I cook it myself. What to cook, what to cook.

My mom has a boatload of cookbooks on the shelf in my intellectual productivity room, otherwise known as the office, where I am now, in fact; but it is where I am usually most intellectually productive. I rarely look at them, falling usually on the old standby Betty Crocker cookbook that we keep at all times in the kitchen. It has everything. Except bagels. And egg rolls. And lemon chicken. Bagels aren't Chinese, but all the same, the Betty Crocker cookbook doesn't have them.

However, to remedy this, General Mills recruited Leann Chin to hand over her recipes to contribute to a cookbook of authentic Chinese and Cantonese cooking. Seeing this on the shelf one day I wondered if I could make Chinese food without going to a Chinese restaurant. The short answer that I know now is yes. I can make Chinese food at home. Woohoo. What now? Telling you about it is what.

I made lemon chicken and as my family will attest, it was truly delicious and I will do it again. How much does it cost? I can buy lemon chicken for two at the King's Wok or the 88 Wok just up the road for around 7.95. Is it cost effective to make it yourself at home? Well really, it's about the same, maybe just a skosh cheaper to do it at home, but what's the fun of that? Don't you want to get your hands dirty? Maybe get a few hot oil burns while your at it, then you really appreciate it (I didn't get any hot oil burns). I've gotten to the point where I really appreciate the food just as much either way, it just matters if it tastes good.

Anyway, I did make lemon chicken, and it was very good. I suppose it could actually be counted as sweet and sour chicken really. The sauce tasted more like it than lemon. If you want a recipe like the one I made for pretzels yesterday, I will do that eventually, but it might be a few months. If you want it sooner then just ask and I'll get it up sooner. I didn't make the egg rolls this time, those were over a year ago by now I think, but I'll do them again sometime. Probably when I do lemon chicken again. They are very good as well, as long as they don't soak up too much oil!

I just realized that I really don't know why I'm writing this. Oh yes, it's because I feel like showing off my handiwork in the kitchen. How do I show off with just words, though? I don't. Here are some pictures. The top one is the lemon chicken and the bottom one is a partially successful attempt at Challa that I meant to post yesterday but forgot.

 And the Challa:

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to just post recipes and foodies. There should be lots more, diverse things I'll talk about, that I want the world to know and read. So just bear with me in this time of cooking. 

Today We're having friends come and my mom and sister want to do the cooking. As a result I have been banned from the kitchen, but I may in the end be recruited to do the mashed potatoes, and no, you probably won't be seeing any of the dinner on this blog.

So now I'll stop boring you with my endless chatter and go get some work done. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pretzels and Stuff

So I was thinking about what makes me me. There are many things I think, but several stick out more than others. If you know of me in person, then you're likely to first think about my disease. I have leukemia. Sad, isn't it. Why must I be defined by something I hate about myself? The short answer is that I don't. It is sad that whenever we meet someone that mom hasn't seen in a while all they can think to talk about is my condition. Why? Well, I have a rant brewing, but we'll save that for another time. Today it's: what makes Ed himself?

What does this have to do with pretzels? Well, really, it has everything to do with pretzels. And baking. And cooking in general. I haven't said this before, but this blog is really for only a few people I know but lots of others that want to know more about the infamous Edmond Manchester.

Why does he spell his name with an o instead of a u? Where does he live? In short, Who is he?

I will try to slowly answer these questions. With each post you will learn more about the Infamous Edmond Manchester. I know I'm really not 'Infamous', but it just seems to go with the phrase. It would be boring to just say the Edmond Manchester, or just Edmond Manchester...

Moving on. Pretzels. Why do they define me? Well, they don't really. I just like making them, and those who know me well know this about me. What more people know about me is that less specifically I enjoy baking in general. Except cakes. I don't do cakes. I prefer to stick to the fun yeast breads. There is something about seeing the dough, risen to double, then punching it down. What could possibly be more fun? (Hint of sarcasm, but I still do enjoy it.)

Originally, I was famed throughout my body of family and friends for making plain old white bread, the claims being that it was far more delicious than ordinary store bought bread. I will say that mine is of a heartier breed than the nearly unbelievable softness of Wonder Bread and such. I have yet to figure out the secret to the soft puffiness of it, but then again, it may be that what people like about my bread is that it does have that homestyle touch or heartiness (I mean, whatever, right?)

Anyway, This is not just going to be a post going on and on about why I like baking. We want to accomplish something don't we? (referring to myself and you, the reader.) In the last post I gave my perfect three points about writing. That was productive enough, right? Well today we're going to actually bake pretzels, at least, you're going to learn how to bake them, and I'm going to tell you.

Pretzels, in case you didn't know, are delicious; despite this though, it wasn't until recently that I started making them. This basic recipe is from the food network website, but I did make a few alterations that I think really help it. So here goes. Delicious soft pretzels in about two hours.

Here's what you'll need:

     A healthy amount of morale;
     2 hours of your life, minus the raising time;

     2 cups of milk. It doesn't matter what %age of fat it has. I use 2%;
     2 tablespoons of yeast. I use active dry yeast;
     3/8 of a cup of brown sugar, preferably light, not dark;
     4 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for kneading. I really don't think it matters what kind of flour you use;
     2 teaspoons of salt;
     1 stick of butter;

     3 cups of water, slightly warmer than warm;
     1/3 of a cup of baking soda;

     A few drops of oil. It really doesn't matter what kind of oil you use. I do not, however, recommend using motor oil. It can noticeably affect the flavor of the pretzels.

     1 oven;
     1 stove or microwave. If you have a microwave, it will make your job a lot easier;
     1 large wooden or bamboo cutting/carving board. If you're especially adventurous you can just use your counter, provided that you have meticulously cleaned it first.
     2 bowls: one for mixing and one for raising. If you are multi-talented then you can wash the mixing bowl while the dough is resting on the counter or bread board. Please make note that the dough will rise to about double its original size, so choose your rising bowl accordingly;
     1 digital kitchen scale. (this is optional, but really handy.)

First of all, you need to have your stove or microwave handy. Warm the milk in a 1 quart or larger pot if you are using the stove, if you are a microwaver then measure the milk into a large mug and microwave it for 50 seconds, stir it and microwave it twenty seconds more. Milk should feel about the same temperature as a warm bath.
     Next, pour the milk into your mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top allowing it to soften a few minutes. Alas, the yeast is not the only thing that needs softening.
     Put the stick of butter in the mug you used for the milk and nuke it until it's almost melted, then stir it until the rest is taken care of. Now back to the yeast milk.
      After a few minutes stir it vigorously in order to dissolve it. It's okay if there are a few lumps. Those will go away when mixing in everything else.
     Next you need to stir in the brown sugar, then the melted butter, then 2 cups of the flour. Stir until it makes a smooth batter. Then you'll add the salt and the rest of the flour. Just gently stir it until the rest of the flour is incorporated to make a rather sticky dough. The next part is a little tricky, but it's not that bad. Don't worry.
     Now spread some flour generously on your counter top or our carving board. Enough so that there is absolutely no chance of the dough sticking to it when you dump it on over it, which is what you'll do now that the board is floured. Kneading to some is a pain and so they opt for electric mixers with dough hooks. I use that method when baking loaves of bread but haven't tried it with pretzels yet. If you want to, try it yourself and leave a comment below on how it worked out for you. Anyway, to knead, first you push the dough down onto the work surface then fold it towards you and turn it one quarter turn then repeat. Do this until the dough is nice and elastic, kneading more flour into it as needed. Most say that it should take about five minutes. I agree with them.
     After that, oil the bottom of your raising bowl and place the dough in it and cover it with a towel. let it sit for a half hour and check on it. by this time it should have risen considerably, but if you don't think it's risen enough, you can let it rise for another few minutes, but I do not recommend letting it rise for more than an hour.
     Right before it's done rising, mix the baking soda and the water in a bowl that is at least one quart until it's dissolved then turn on the oven and preheat it to 450° fahrenheit.
     Now this is where the kitchen scale is really, really handy. I'm only going to include instructions for those who do have one, but if you don't, read along and you can probably come up with a way around it.
     Remove the dough and weigh the bowl then set it as the tare. Now weigh the dough in grams and divide the resulting weight by twelve. This quotient is the weight that each dough 'slug' should weigh and it should be between 90 and 100 grams. Try to be as exact as possible, measuring to the gram if you can. Once you have the twelve dough slugs you can roll them into a thirty inch rope of dough then form them into the pretzel shape. Take the two ends of the rope and cross them to make a loop, then make one twist and bring the ends down on the loop and press gently, but don't let go just yet. Pick up the entire pretzel and dip it into the soda-ed water then place it on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until the cookie sheet is full of pretzels and bake them in the 450° oven for twenty minutes.
     Do this for the rest of the dough, that is, rolling it, shaping it, dipping it, and baking it until there is none left.

Congratulations! If you did everything right you now have twelve delicious looking golden brown pretzels!

Now give yourself a gold star and get an organic gluten free treat sweetened with agave nectar;-)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Books and Stuff

Some people like to read. Some don't. I do (sometimes). [something goes here but I don't know what] (sometimes). However, I don't think there is anyone in the world who doesn't like hearing a story.

Some people like to watch movies. Some don't. I do (sometimes). ditto third sentence in the above paragraph. And the fourth.

We're here today to talk about books. When we read a story, we of course imagine the characters in each situation they're placed in and what they do; how they react. The next step of course is putting ourselves in the same situation, especially if it's something difficult or scary. (At least it is for me. Maybe it's a survival mechanism of some kind.)

There are so many stories out there, so many plots, characters, settings, morals. If there were say just twenty-seven plots ever and only a hundred and thirteen characters to choose from ever and only seventy-three settings to choose from ever, then there are trillions of different stories that could be written if that were the case. (You probably thought I was going to tell you the exact number of different story combinations that could be made, but I'm not going to. You can do it yourself.) It is not the case. There are far more plots than just twenty-seven, an infinite number of different characters, and an infinite number of settings. This makes for an infinite number of stories that could be written.

Duh. We already knew that, Ed.

So the question is, why isn't everybody making up more stories? Limited resources is not a valid excuse, based on what I said earlier. The answer? I have no idea. But I do know some very creative people and what they've come up with. Authors and Writers get to play on a very large playground and they love it. most of the time they come from backgrounds that aren't really serious about writing, but some try to get paid to do it. Imagine getting paid to play on a play ground. Of course, if we continue this analogy, if you're paid to play, you have to play. There's no monkeying around on the teeter totter too long, but if you're not, then you may never get to play on the teeter totter. Instead, you have to play on something that doesn't require much concentration. No, don't say 'I'm okay with the swings!' here. This is the end of the analogy.

This brings me to my first point: The moment you ask yourself  'maybe I could be a published writer.' This is practically the end of your writing career. You have to say 'I am going to be a published writer.' Of course, if you say maybe, then you are probably not cut out for that lifestyle. I know that I am certainly not cut out for that life style. I love writing, but I could never do it professionally. Maybe I could be a published writer, but it will have to wait. There are more important things to me right now. (did see what I did there?)

Though it's empty right now, you can check out my other blog here for a hint as to what is more important to me right now in case you were wondering.

There may be a day when I write stories and publish them, but they will be public domain and no publishing company will be allowed to make money off of them. How can this be? Really, I'm already doing just that right here. What I write is public domain as far as I am concerned, but I can't speak for my writerly friends, but I think they're pretty lenient themselves.

My second point is that writing, whether you do it as an amateur or a professional, is fun.

I don't know anyone that has written a book that didn't enjoy doing it. In fact, off the top of my head I don't know of anyone who wrote an actual novel that didn't enjoy writing it. They may have sweated over a few parts of it if they were trying to meet a deadline, but overall they probably enjoyed it.

I have shelved several ideas after losing interest, which I feel a little bad about, but I don't count these as failures, but rather unfinished projects that I will go back when I have the time and interest. If writing is simply a pastime, then I think it is perfectly normal to have a graveyard of old ideas, but keep in mind that you can always go back and rob the graves, even if you're only after the valuables. That can be fun too: combining old ideas with new ones to come up with truly remarkable spellbinders. The bottom line is that writing is fun. It just is. There is no other way to put it.

My third point is: if you are not a writer, you are missing out.

I haven't read many books where the story stops for me at the end of the last page. After finishing the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, I couldn't leave it alone. It was such a good idea. A teen spy. I was just a little younger than the main character when I read it; I enjoyed thinking about the other possibilities for Alex's life. What if another Intelligence agency blackmailed him again into working for them? Alex was not a Joanna Mason, without anyone in the world he cared about. If you are not sure of what I'm talking about, that's okay. I barely know myself what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I haven't met many many people who haven't in some way tried to alter the story after the story is over to make it fun for them. Both my sister's do it. My mom has done it. My brothers....I don't know about my brothers. Oh, I bet my brothers have done it too. The point is, people that read books have an imagination. That imagination is imagining what the author describes as you are reading the book. and it doesn't want to stop imagining after the author tells it to stop. Most authors and writers (myself included) would be thrilled if their story inspired you, the reader, enough to make you want to add on to it; to write fan fiction about it, even.

Where am I going with this? Well, I am going to be as bold as to say that if you have ever done any of the above, you are already a writer in spirit. What you are missing out on then is the actual writing part. I don't care if it is just fan fiction. That's fine. It's like training wheels. Eventually you won't need them anymore, and you'll write your own stories independent from anyone else's. The point I'm trying to make here is: If you have an idea, no matter how dumb it is, write it down! You will have a ton of fun. Think of Twilight. Many would would agree that it is rather dull story that offers little or no merit, and yet it was wildly popular when it came out. I'll admit that the story I'm working on right now by myself is not in any way unique. It's been done before, and my version, right now, would sound dumb to anyone but me and a few close, understanding writing buddies. (My writing buddies and myself are not dumb; we have simply attained a higher understanding of the way each others minds work.)

Well there you have it. I have covered my perfect three points about writing. This was not a shout out, or anything. Just a friendly post about what I think writing books is all about. I hope you enjoyed my first post on this blog which has been in existence for months with nothing on it. Sorry about that, people who thought the URL was being wasted.