Snowdrops in Centralia

Snowdrops by house in CentraliaOur new friends, Bob and Gena E. (we have so many common, old, old friends and things in common they actually feel like old friends) ran up to the house we are still trying to buy in Centralia and took a picture of these snowdrop flowers. Lorena loved them and is dying to get some more things planted around the place and start cleaning up the yard. There is just too much stuff to do both inside and out on the place it is going be a few years to get it how Lorena wants it but we are both, very much looking forward to the task. Now we just have to make it all the way to closing.

Stable kids

Kelly, February 2017
Chrsitian, February 2017I have been reflecting on it quite a bit lately and it seems kind of weird that both of our kids have been on their own and paying their own way for over two and a half years now. For our part, we have been in upheaval since they left North Carolina for graduate school in late June of 2014. We have moved three times (once to Oregon, once to Texas and once in Texas) and we are about to move again. I am currently on my third employer with a couple of contract jobs on the side. It seems they are the ones who are stable right now. I thought that was what parents were supposed to do, but it has pretty much been the nature of my kind of skill set to have to switch around a bunch.

We are about to move a fourth time in May if all the stars align and hope that stability thing starts to set in. I have a job and contract opportunities that could very well, God willing, take me to retirement without having to move again. At the same time, it is very, very nice to have kids who are sticking to long term, worth goals, working hard and staying on track when that is something that is hard to do in one’s early twenties, especially in this day and age. We are pretty much death on that pride thing–probably because we (read I) struggle with it, but I do feel very fortunate to have kids such as these.

The revolution will not be televised

There is a grating song/beat poem that came out in 1970’s that was some sort of a theme for a certain element during my college years. You can see it here (if you must). It is called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The thing that is going on in our country is put into context in a truly ironic way by Lloyd Marcus in an article titled The Trump Revolution Will Not Be Televised. He has enough years to have written this article based on personal knowledge. I am not sure that those who were not there and paying attention in the seventies will be able to understand and appreciate how much joy an article like this brings to those of us who were conservative, but were doomed to come of age in the hippie generation. Here is an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:

Trump’s election ushered in a new tone for America. Feeling emboldened, people are pushing back against the tyranny of political correctness by just saying, “no”. But you will not hear this widely reported in the leftist-controlled mainstream media. Panicked, the Left is desperately and frantically working to keep us believing that their extreme ideas are mainstream majority opinions.

This is why for the next four years, half a dozen protesters showing up to oppose Trump or his policies will be treated like a major news event by the media. Relentlessly, the Left will sell us their lie that Americans hate Trump and what he is doing. Therefore, the Trump revolution will not be televised.

Back in the game for the house in Washington we want

My buddy, Mark P. met me in Centralia for the day on Monday to take a good look at the house we want to buy. We spent four hours in the house and came away feeling pretty good about it. Mark did a remodel for us in Albany back in about 2005 for which we still have a bunch of pictures here on the blog. You can see them here, but I have also included an image of one side of the kitchen below. He did a tremendous job. If we can finally get the house purchased, we hope to have Mark do a three or four phase remodel based on what we can afford and when we can afford it. I love to look at remodels as they progress. Here is Aunt Julia’s remodel web page. I will try to put up a page if we ever get there.

Remodel in Albany

Another whirlwind trip to Washington

Lorena at McDonaldsLorena took me to McDonald’s early this morning then dropped me off at the airport. If all goes well, I will have a look at our (hopefully) new house along with my real estate agent and my builder (thank you Mark P. for driving up from Oregon). Then I will get on a plane at midnight and arrive back in Dallas just in time to go to work on Tuesday morning when we are going to make the first major new installation of some machine vision/machine learning/video analytics software.

In the mean time, the working I am doing on finding low cost new methods to diagnose sickle cell disease in developing countries is getting to a critical juncture. I need to put some finishing touches on the work I am doing on that project so they can start real tests. I will have to work on that on the airplane ride to Seattle and in the hotel room so I can deliver it to the team that needs it at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Thankfully, that is something that can be done by email and dropbox.

A great video on one of the great sadnesses of our times

I saw the video below that a friend posted this video on Facebook last night about challenges for millennials in the workplace. I think it says some important things that has caused me to think I need to work on some of my own behaviors.  He talks about addiction to social media–on cell phones in particular and the dopamine high that is triggered. He talks about what a great disservice it was to tell children they were great when they were not great. He talks about the idea of delayed gratification that seems to be completely missing in an entire generation of young people. He talks about the increase in suicide and accidental drug overdose in that generation that is most probably a result of this. I think he is exactly right on all that. The video is truly a worth 15 minutes of your time.

It was kind of depressing though that in about the last third of the video he espouses the idea that the corporations need to take responsibility for fixing this. That is a completely different subject, but he is objectively wrong on that. The corporations might need to address the issues associated with this large problem because it prevents them from finding good, long term employees that facilitate them meeting achieving their purpose–to make money. Corporations should not be tasked with social engineering. They should, like government, achieve their purposes without meddling in peoples’ in areas where they are so patently unqualified. They really, really have competing interests with respect to what is good for individuals and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The individuals themselves, their families and, most importantly, God and their spiritual communities are the only ones who have the truly worthwhile answers to these kinds of challenges. Disinterested third parties whether they are government school teachers, coaches, bureaucrats, academics and even bad parents are the ones who trained them in this wrong thinking in the first place.

Link to video on Millenials in the workplace

Three weeks of Fitbit use

Fitbit result 1 of 2Fitbit result 2 of 2I have been wearing the Fitbit Kelly and Christian got for me for a present a couple of years back and my miles/steps are pretty good during the week. I kind of fall off the wagon a little on the weekends because of volunteer programming and church, but I am going to try to remedy that starting tomorrow. I have not been so great on the diet end of things–that self denial thing is not nearly as fun as getting outside and getting some fresh air. Still, I am down about ten pounds from my high and going the right direction. My buddy Lyle W. and I are competing a little with the steps thing over the Internet, so that is a good thing too.

Presents for Mom

Lorena's new birthday skirt from KellyWe got a package in the mail the other day. It was a new skirt from Kelly for Lorena’s birthday. She wore it on Sunday to church. It is beautiful and we were thankful for both a beautiful skirt and a thoughtful daughter. Lorena has been running like crazy, but now has our apartment under control. We can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel now and hope to be settled into a long term home within the next few months. We have had a wrench thrown into our plans at this stage, several times, so we are not holding our breath. Still we have hope.

No sooner had I put this up than these flowers arrived from Kelly and Christian as an “apartment” warming gift for Lorena. Wow. Maybe I am doing something wrong. Why aren’t they for me?
House warming flowers from Kelly and Christian

Sunset Science Park Federal Credit Union

Sunset Science Park Federal Credit Union logoThere might be a better Credit Union in the world, but I seriously believe the one to which our little family belongs is at the top of the heap. We have been members for just about twenty years now and they unfailingly do virtually everything they can possibly do to help us out. The first time that happened was on a business trip to Czech Republic when unexpected travel/business expenses came up and I need to increase the line of credit on my Mastercard. No problem. One phone call, a happy conversation and we were done. They have helped with college, kids accounts and now our new house (wherever that might be), making unique and special accommodations to make the whole thing possible. It is a joy to be part of their family. Now, I understand the credit union is open, not only to those who work at businesses closes by, but anyone in a fairly extended area around Portland.

A weekend with the Raspberry Pi

11.4 of 60

This weekend, I am finally getting to the place where I will be able to work on some of my side projects. I have decided to put a system together to do the things I normally have to do for small, cheap control projects. I did a drawing for one of the people I am helping so he can show people how we plan to make things easy to use in addition to making them work well at a cheap price. The idea is to put a framework together that runs on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi runs as a secure server that can be accessed via a secure web browser either locally or over the internet to control hardware and execute machine vision tasks. I have done a lot of work on this already, but now I have a first “real” application that will provide the incentive to turn it all into a commercial quality, reusable framework. This could be used for the medical device apps I am working on as well as some side projects I use as to learn new stuff. Should be fun.

Raspberry Pi control system

Henry VI, Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73

Shyster's at work11.1 of 60

We are have had all kinds of challenges with our house negotiations in Washington state. It turns out the current owner of the house is a trial lawyer. If you REALLY want to know how the negotiations are going, look up the reference in the title to this post*. We still have hope that we will make it through, but boy howdy, we will have earned our stripes if we negotiate this successfully. If we can get past one or two more hurdles I will keep my appointment to do the final inspection in Centralia in the middle of the month. I have the ticket and the day off from work, so I really want to this to work out. So does Lorena.

*Please note we do not mean this literally. We are more in accord with what Luke 11:46 than with Shakespeare on the topic of lawyers.

The house hunt inches forward

10.6 of 60

I went backwards about a pound and a half on my exercise/diet program, but other than that, life is pretty good. I am beating my buddy Lyle W. like a drum on the number of steps on our Fitbit’s, but that is mostly because he has been sick. I still counting it while I can because I am sure it won’t last. The house is still in Washington state is still up in the air, but we have our fingers crossed. I have a ticket out there in a week and a half to meet my other buddy, Mark P. to do the final inspection if we get our latest offer accepted. It is all good. I also have two work-from-home jobs (one requires domestic travel, the other requires domestic and international travel) from which I need to choose within the next couple of months. Now, though, we are on hold to see whether or not we have a house.

The continuing saga of the house in Washington state

The house we want to buyI am not sure how much I wrote about the struggle we were having getting to a close on the house we wanted to buy in Washington state, but just a few days before the funeral the whole deal fell through. What happened was that a lot of stuff showed up on the inspection that needed to be fixed. That was OK with us; there was nothing on the list that was not fixable for a very reasonable price. The house owner, a lawyer, decided he wanted to give us about a third of the money required to fix the problems, add a bunch of legalese to the contract and have us take it “as is” so we were saddled with all the issues. We decided to bail out.

So, three weeks later, our real estate guy calls us and tells us the owner is having everything fixed at his expense. I told him we were still interested. He recommended we make the same offer contingent on an inspection after all the repairs are complete. So we are still in the game to head back to the great Pacific Northwest and are truly excited about it. Who knows what will happen, but were are hopeful it will all work out.

An odd dream

12.0 of 60

All my life, I have had people tell me they dreamed about their parents after they died. I have heard it from people in both Mexico and here in the U.S., pretty much described in the same way. I had an odd dream about my parents last night. I do not know what to think about it. Some describe an über-reality that almost transcends the dream state. I cannot say that was true about my dream, but the content and immediate “in the present” nature of the dream gave me pause. I am not really sure how to process all this, but it has definitely given me food for thought.

Six more months in an apartment

Second Dallas apartment9.8 of 60

We change apartments tomorrow. We wanted to extend our lease in the old apartment, but had already given notice when we thought we had a house bought so we are having to make a move because they had already rented the apartment. The new apartment is nice, but we are really tired of apartment living and want to get into a house. We are back to looking everywhere for our next house.

Sometimes patience is required

Questions, questions, questions!Down 10.7 of 60

Just when I thought stuff would slow down again, everything seems to be speeding–in a good way. We have to figure out where we want to live. To give ourselves time to do the figuring and to accomplish some much need work at my day job, Lorena and I got a six month lease on an apartment closer to work. The really good news is that I will have the walks (one mile to/from work and one mile to/from restaurants from work for a total of four miles per day).

The problem is we are not sure where we want to buy a house, but we are sure we want to buy a house. We know we need to be close to a major airport. We also know we love the west and we love Mexico. Oregon and California are probably too liberal for comfort and have a lousy tax situation for the likes of us. Washington is borderline, but maybe OK. That is about all we know. So we have decided to look in as many places as possible. Even heading back to the deep South is not out of question, but probably a little bit of a stretch. The older I get though, the more confidence I have that something appropriate will open up–not necessarily even what we would pick for ourselves. So we are working on figuring it out and waiting until something becomes a little more apparent.

Sickle cell disease diagnosis project

HemexHealth sickle cell Anemia diagnosis deviceDown 7.4 of 60

After things started to settle down a little in our lives since the funeral, I had been trying to figure out what to do next. The folks were gone and the kids are on their own and are way too low maintenance for our taste (still going through withdrawal from their going off to college three years ago). Fortunately, I was recently selected to help a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University and a company named HemexHealth develop a product with an incredible social mission. I really do not know much about how it all works (after all, I type for a living), but the product is designed to rapidly and inexpensively diagnosis sickle cell disease. I DO know how to do my part of the product and am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to such a noble endeavor.

It is going to be a ton of work, but this is exactly the type of project I love. If this is not a good hobby project, I do not know what is. The other thing it will do is take up enough time that maybe Lorena will fill some modicum of guilt about browbeating me into exercising so much. “It’s for a good cause honey and you know I program better with a belly full of biscuits and gravy!”

Back to the salt mines

I noticed something from a recent family photoDown 7.4 of 60

I noticed something from one of the photos taken over the weekend of Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s funeral. I am WAY fat right now. There is really no excuse. So, at Lorena’s urging, I broke out the old fitbit and have set a goal again to lose 55 pounds (ouch). The good part of the whole deal is that we are moving this weekend to an apartment that is exactly one mile from work. There is a grocery store that is also one mile from work.Kiwi and I setting up my fitbit If I can walk to work and back every day and also walk to the grocery store for lunch every day (I am doing that now), I will have put in four miles and reduced my gas bill. No down side to that.

My hope is that I can get back down to my weight when I left Oregon in a couple of months then spend until August losing the additional thirty pounds. It might be too ambitious because I love to eat too much. Still, I would rather walk a little more than back off on the food, so there is a modicum of hope that I can do this. I will keep you posted.

Two beautiful funerals

Lorena and I went to the funeral of a man we really did not know yesterday. It was truly a wonderful funeral of a kind and wonderful man. In form, it was very different from the memorial service held for Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah. Yesterday’s funeral was more of a traditional funeral that followed a form to which we are accustomed although there were some wonderful personal accounts at the beginning of the funeral that were different than most we have attended. Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s broke that form significantly, partly to accommodate the varying needs and desires of the family and friends in attendance, but also to remember two fairly non-traditional people instead of one with a familiar, but significantly less than traditional ceremony.

All that being said, both events were beautifully done with Christ as the focus even in those elements of the celebration that addressed the secular elements of the departed. I think that is a testament to the way all of them led their lives, focused on helping others as driven by their devotion to Jesus. In the end, that is all good and that is the point. This morning I read I Corinthians 1 where Paul gave an admonishment to some who counted themselves as having been baptized by one or another of the apostles rather than counting themselves as followers of Christ. I think that reading was very timely and the precise reason why both of the funerals were celebrations of successfully lead lives; all of those lives were focused on Christ and none other. Let this be a reminder to me.

Grateful for friends

Kelly at Starbucks before Grandpa Milo's and Grandma Sarah's memorial serviceLorena, Kelly, Christian and I had time to spend together as a nuclear family while we were out in the Pacific Northwest for Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s funeral. We all agreed that in spite of all the hiccups that occurred (really bad weather, cancellation and change of venue at the last minute, etc.), it was the best service of its kind we ever attended. I am sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is our parents and grandparents who were the objects of the whole event, but that does not diminish the joy we experienced in celebrating their lives with dear, dear friends and family.

The photos with this post are of the kids when we had some time just to sit together and talk about life. Even though we are all at a different place now that the kids are off at college and working, we have decided we need toChristian at Gladys's house before Grandpa Milo's and Grandma Sarah's memorial service make more time for these kinds of getting together. We want to include our friends in that getting together, too. At these kinds of events it surely seems like all pettiness falls away. We will be contacting all the people who made all this possible over the next week or two to let them know how much they are appreciated.

One gift we received in all this is that we have the opportunity to attend another such event in Dallas this weekend. It is for a man not dissimilar to Grandpa Milo–bigger than life with a lot of love for “the least of these.” I think I learned a lot about how to be a friend at times like this from those who were there for us during these last days. I want to express a special thanks to my siblings who worked very, very hard to make things work well between all us siblings and with the larger, very diverse community. They and a group of close friends (you know who you are) really were the ones that made all this just work and I am grateful for you all.