Category Archives: General

Easter dinner with friends in Texas

Easter with CK, Joy, Sophia, Olivia, Phil D. and Eric P.Most of the West (Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and California) as well as Florida, Minnesota and Nuevo Leon were well represented at the nicest Easter dinner we have attended in many a year. The highlight, of course, was two beautiful, well-behaved young girls in their Easter dresses. It was so nice to have Eric P. with us again and our amazing and insightful friend, Phil D. was with us, too, so it could not help be make for a stellar afternoon. We had ham, scalloped potatoes, tons of other fixings and sat around the table for at least an hour after we finished evening with coffee and a 43-step, hand made cake. It really does not get much better than that. Now Lorena and I have something to which to aspire when Easter comes around next year. Look how satisfied Eric looks after that phenomenal meal. Then, to top it off we were serenaded with guitar music (CK and Eric are both pretty amazing in that regard). Thank you CK, Joy, Sophia and Olivia for the best Easter dinner in a long, long time.

Tulips in the Pacific Northwest (and pretty girls)

Flowers in Washington with a pretty girlMore flowers in WashingtonI am trying to to show a more humble side to myself and I guess it is true I had nothing to do with the beauty of the flowers in the Pacific Northwest, but right now I am struggling a little. I have very much enjoyed the bluebonnet season here in Texas because they truly are beautiful. That being said, it got a little bit wrecked for me after seeing the insanely beautiful pictures of the tulip fields in Washington state and also knowing those fields pale in comparison to our own beloved tulip fields in Flowers in Washington with anther pretty girlOregon–Woodburn in particular. It just does not do this field of flowers justice to look at the pictures. You kind of have to be there–one of those Grand Canyon/Crater Lake kinds of things where you give lip service to acknowledging the grandeur of it and kind of roll your eyes when no one is looking. Then you see the real thing, up close and personal and becomes very much a religious experience.
Stunning red tulips--Washington

Texas bluebonnets

Texas bluebonnets--April, 2017

Being from the Pacific Northwest, we have fairly high expectations when it comes to wildflowers. Our dear friend Marie Mounce sent this bluebonnet picture she took about a week ago. The exceptional quality of this years bluebonnet crop is the talk of North Texas and I have to admit they truly are beautiful and abundant. There are fields and fields of them just about everywhere. We understand now why the bluebonnet is the Texas State Flower.

Signing day for the new (old) house

Signing the contractThe purchase of the house in Washington state where we expect to live starting in May is not scheduled to close until March 31, but all the insurance is bought and all the fixes, approvals and escrows are in place. The seller has signed off on everything pertaining to him. The banks and title company have everything they need so all everyone is waiting for are our signatures and the close date so the money can be released and we can have our house. We are scheduled to sign at 3:30 this afternoon in the office of the apartment complex where we live here in Texas. These are trepidatious moments, but it is all good. We did all we know to do and believe we are in a good place.

Mark P., our kitchen remodeler is chomping at the bit to get started. The cabinets, appliances, flooring, back splashes, sinks, faucets, counter tops, lighting and all the other required decisions, big and small, have been made and hopefully set in concrete so Mark can start as soon as he and his team have access. We are tired of waiting and want to get started.

Update: DONE! God willing, we will have a house on March 31.

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.

The year in review: 2016

Waiting for coffee with Christian -- Lewisville, TX 20162016 was a strange and wondrous year for Lorena and I. A semi-chronological list of what happened does not do justice to a year fraught with emotion and challenges, but that is all I have in me today (forgive the selfies, I am indulging myself today):

  • After returning to Oregon from North Carolina in 2015 to spend a year in a beautiful fourth floor studio apartment within walking distance of two grocery stores, my work, a plethora of restaurants, Lorena’s beloved Anytime Fitness and two grocery stores so we could be closer to my aging parents (Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah), we felt we needed to move to Texas to be closer to Grandma Conchita across the border in Monterrey, Mexico.Lorena visits Kelly in Seattle, 2016
  • I was offered a position with a company in Lewisville, Texas that has a wonderful product that literally saves lives in hospitals. I had worked with them previously and liked the people, so I took the job and we moved into a small, one bedroom house close to my work. Since we now had only one car, Lorena drove me to work and picked me up every day. It turns out we loved doing it that way.
  • Lorena was able to visit her mother (Grandma Conchita) more and Grandma Conchita was able to come to Texas, too.
  • By happenstance, our apartment was within walking distance of an excellent Anytime Fitness facility and Lorena, with a little more free time on her hands, was able to up her game to the point where she is on the verge of passing the 12K meters mark for an hour on a Concept II rowing machine–an amazing feat. She is hoping to hit that goal early next year.
  • Lorena visited Kelly several times, but only once since we moved to Texas and that was for a house buying trip in Washington (more about that later).Thanksgiving 2016 selfie
  • I (Dad) went to visit Kelly in Seattle once since we moved to Texas, too. The trip was for a job interview in Seattle because we realized Grandma Conchita was in good hands and in good shape, but my parents were heading down hill. Two very good things happened on that trip:
    • It turned out to be the last time I would see my mother (Grandma Sarah) alive. Kelly and I had a wonderful long visit with her where, even though she could only say a word or two, we talked, held her hand an stroked her forehead, read her the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, Psalm 23 and the epistles of John all in her beloved King James Version bible, sang hymns with the help of Grandpa Milo and prayed together. We cried quite a lot, but it was all good and a fond, fond memory I will always cherish.
    • I interviewed with a start-up company in Seattle made up of Microsoft, Amazon and Google people. I learned, definitively, that I want to do something else with the rest of my career than work at a start-up company in Seattle.
  • Grandma Sarah died in November. For a number of reasons, we postponed her funeral until January, but have now put that on hold due to Grandpa Milo’s current condition and will wait to see how he responds in his current condition (he suffered a stroke and caught a bad infection, but is out of immediate danger, though very weak and in rehab for now) before we plan to reschedule it so he can attend or not based on his capabilities.
  • I received a great job offer from a company in Vancouver, British Columbia who would allow me to work from my home anywhere on the west coast, but I would have to fly to China and Europe on a regular basis. Fortunately, my current company here in Texas offered me the same flexibility, so it has put us in the position where we can move back out west and still have cause to fly to Texas regularly. I will do it regularly for my work and Lorena will mostly fly through Texas on her way to visit Grandma Conchita in Mexico.Lorena slams the Concept II rowing machine 2016
  • We wanted to buy a fixer-upper house somewhere in Washington (more tax friendly than Oregon for the likes of us) so we could be close to both Kelly, Grandpa Milo and a decent sized airport. We settled on Centralia where Lorena went to look for houses, but found one with a great view of Mt. Rainier so we decided to do that instead. We made an offer, it was accepted and now we have found a bunch of stuff that needs to be fixed before we can buy the house. If we can get that worked out we will have a new (to us) house sometime in February. If not we are back to apartment living until we can find something.

That brings up to where we are now. Life is still in upheaval, there are lots of challenges and opportunities ahead, all of course, depending on the will of God.

A fascinating weekend

I have not been so consistent in my writing over the last several weeks, but interesting things are happening. Not so surprisingly, writing in this blog helps me sort through things a bit. Lorena, her mom and I all attended a church convention in Georgetown this weekend. We saw a lot of old friends from North Carolina and Mexico, ate some great food and got refocused on what is truly important. One of the really fun things that happened was a talk I had with an acquaintance who works in the very area of the Quantum Topology where that won a Nobel prize for three physicists who came up with and developed the idea. Microsoft is currently funding a very big effort called Station Q to build a quantum computer using these concepts. It could have huge impact on what it is possible to compute if they can get it to work. It will be fun to watch this, especially now that I know someone directly working on it.

Scientism and and the canards of evolutionsim

Barbara King’s advocacy of the old canard that rejection of neo-Darwinism is equivalent to belief in a literal six day creation is a very tired meme. Her ignorance and intransigence on the topic surely appears to be willful, too, as evidenced by a couple interesting push-back articles. An article at Evolution News and Views (ENV) gets to the crux of the issue when they call her out for not acknowledging the real and growing scientific controversy about the veracity of our current understanding of neo-Darwinism:

She does not bother to rebut intelligent design. After quoting responses that talk about the freedom to believe and about learning all of the evidence, she notes, “So in response to these remarks and others like them, let me say it loud and clear: Freedom to believe anything one wants in the religious sphere is incredibly important.” But she goes on to state: “Science isn’t about belief.” King buys into the simplistic equation of science, whatever it may say at the moment, with “truth.” She accordingly dismisses the scientific controversy over neo-Darwinism.

There is another article at pjmedia discussed and linked in the ENV article that is also worth a read. King whiffs badly when tries to address the pjmedia article by ignoring the meat of the objections and talking around the edges. Both the pjmedia and the ENV articles are worth a read. In the meantime, it was great to get a timely reminder of the fact that there are huge swaths of knowledge and truth for which science cannot account (h.t. Stand to Reason and William Lane Craig):

  1. Logical and mathematical truths – science presupposes logic and math.

  2. Metaphysical truths – e.g., the idea that the external world is real.

  3. Ethical truths – e.g., you can’t prove by science that the Nazis were wrong to experiment on Jews.

  4. Aesthetic truths – beauty can’t be scientifically proven.

  5. Science itself – science can’t be justified by the scientific method.

It is a small world. Drew Ryun and I have two things in common.

Drew Ryun wrote an article that speaks for me with respect to Ted Cruz and his participation at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Ryun actually knows Cruz and confirms my understanding of Cruz’s character. That is the first and most important thing we have in common. I will let the article speak for itself. The other funny coincidence is that his dad, arguably the greatest middle distance runner of all time, and I say that advisedly, ran many races against my father’s first cousin. I really did not know that cousin at all–I think I was in first grade when he ran in his first Olympics, but he won the very race where Jim Ryun became the first high schooler to run a sub-four minute mile. Having been born and raised in Cottage Grove, Oregon with an amazing tradition of track and field excellence, I was a huge track and field fan in general and middle distance running in particular so I followed all this closely. Who knew that Jim Ryun would go on to be a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and truly one of the good guys when it came to his politics. I surely sounds like he raised his son right, too.

Bought a $33 Kindle Fire

KindleFireI appreciate Amazon for its convenience, but really have a love-hate relationship with the company. Like Apple, they are notorious for treating their employees badly, but unlike Apple, they have some products I value, chief of which is the ability to buy products inexpensively and have them arrive at my doorstep two days later. I also find them to be a very convenient place to purchase books for my phone. The problem with my phone is that as I get older, it becomes harder to read. Therefore, when they put their Kindle Fire on sale for $33.33–for Prime Day (the price has since gone back up to $49.99), I bought one. I think the product is actually an OK product. For $33.33, it borders on great, because I really want to read my books on a bigger screen with bigger font. Lorena can do her social media thing (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) a lot better, too. Of course, we have to be within reach of Wifi to access the online stuff and they have a lot of the obnoxious Amazon apps in your face all the time. For me it is not so bad because I usually stay a book or two ahead on my purchases, so even if I am on an airplane and finish a book, I have one or two in reserve. For Lorena, though, it means she will still have to use her phone when she is out of the house. We bought two of these things, one for us and one for Kelly. I am having a hard time deciding whether or not to give the second one to Kelly

Bottom line: If you have a specific reason to buy one of these things

Math Help: What to do when Thinkwell and Teaching Textbooks explanations are not enough

Short AnswerPatrickJMT. We felt like it served our kids needs significantly better than Khan Academy Math although we like Khan academy and used it semi-frequently.

Why should you listen to us on this subject?  Of course, mileage will vary, but since using these programs, the kids described here graduated Magna Cum Laude in Statistics (Kelly) and Summa Cum Laude with Honors in Applied Mathematics (Christian) from a large state university. At the writing of this note (June 30, 2016), they are both midway through PhD programs at national research universities here in the United States. You can read more about that here.

Other posts about our math experience:

Longer Answer

We found the instruction given in any one math program was not enough for our kids to fully “get” the concepts even though we used what we believe are the very best curricula: Singapore Math for grades 1-6, Teaching Textbooks for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry and Thinkwell for Pre-Calculus and Calculus.  Someone asked us what we did in the higher levels of math when the kids got stuck. The question was asked particularly about the Thinkwell program, because they seem to provide less remedial, “make sure it is explained in more than one way” kind of instruction. The following question was asked four years ago, but I somehow (shamefully) missed it. You can read the the original question in context here. So, four years late, here is the part I missed and our answer.

Also, how did you handle any problems with the upper level Thinkwell classes your kids took? If they couldn’t figure a problem out, was there anywhere to go for help? My understanding is that, unlike TT, there is not an explanation for every problem.

Our kids, Kelly and Christian, have very different learning styles. Sometimes the things that were easy for Kelly were difficult for Christian and vice-versa. When they were in elementary school years that was not really a problem. We could handle arithmetic and the Singapore Math program was repetitive, yet interesting for the kids so they learned everything they needed from just following the program. As they moved into higher levels of math, they more frequently got stuck and needed some additional insight beyond what was available in the packaged programs. They got stuck in different places. At first, we pointed them to the Khan Academy videos. They were good, but some friends Christian met on the IRC Math Channel said he ought to try the videos at PatrickJMT. There was no comparison between PatrickJMT and Khan Academy. PatrickJMT was just better. I can not say that will be true for everyone, but it was certainly true for our kids.

Kelly and Christian continued to PatrickJMT after they entered their undergraduate degrees for help in more advance Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, etc. We recommend it highly.

I heard a secret today that made my day

BettyToothbrushWhen I talk to little kids, I have learned that if I get down on one knee so I can look them in the eye and speak quietly, I do not scare them so badly. I did that after church this morning with a little girl I really had not known very well as she stood holding her mother’s hand. I think she must be about four years old.

I said, “What do you have to say today?”

She said, “I have a secret.”

I said, “Well, tell me, tell me! What is your secret?”

She very proudly and with quite a bit of flair said, “I did not brush my teeth last night!”

I said, “That is a GREAT secret. I promise I won’t tell hardly anybody.”

Then she hopped up and down, quite pleased with herself, as her mother rolled her eyes. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Time to be optimistic again

I know, as a Christian, there is not a whole lot of value in being pessimistic, but we all liven in a fallen world and have sinful natures, so it can be a challenge to be positive. I have to admit I have been in a little bit of a funk lately, what with the nature of the political and cultural landscape in America and around the world along with the instability of our own situation. Several events, though, came together to remind me that, in the end, life is good, true believers in Jesus have everything going for them and even though everything might not be hunky-dory right now, they will be in, what is a blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things, not only great, but literally perfect.

There is no reason not to have joy. The reality is that I lead a wildly privileged life in terms of all temporal measures. And from there, things are looking up. Everything might all fall apart later this afternoon (I am not expecting anything like that, just sayin’), but even if they do, I need that not to rob me of my joy.

Cultural malaise–is a comeback in the works?

This weekend was an odd weekend for me. I planned to work through the whole weekend, but got sick and ended up not doing much other than read a few articles on the Internet, talk to the kids and hang out with Lorena when I was not sleeping. Some of the articles on a fairly disjointed set of topics seemed to form a very interesting theme. The theme, you can decide for yourself whether I am imagining things, is that there are huge chunks of society who are tired of the direction of culture and are starting to push back. I talked to Kelly about it and it seems like there is an undercurrent of rebellion against:

There were more articles, but the ones linked above give you the idea. It is probably too little, too late. I have been reading about Josiah in II Chronicales lately. He was one of the great, good kings of Judah. Still, Judah had been so evil for so long, God told Josiah, through the prophetess Huldah in II Chronicles 34:24-38 he would have peace because he humbled himself, but Judah would be judged harshly after Josiah was gone. Maybe that is where we are headed–it is pretty much been promised that judgment is on its way.

Kelly and I talked about all this last night. She was the one who pointed me to the article on the rebellion of the alt-right. It reminded me of what it was like to come of age in the seventies, surrounded by amoral and immoral hippies and nihilists. A lot of conservative Christians felt pretty lonely on the college campuses of America in those days, but their rebellion against the “feel good” generation led to the Reagan Revolution. Kelly mentioned Ecclesiastes commands to “serve God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man…” and enjoy the good things God has given us. Even though, in one sense, all is vain because we all die, God has good things planned for those who love him that should be enjoyed in this life and the next.

Life is good–maybe boring for others, but not for me

I think I have seen what is happening to me as sixty year old guy happen to other people who were working schlubs their whole lives. Over time, one tends to pick up knowledge. If somebody works at one thing, no matter what it is, they accumulate a lot of knowledge over the years, no matter what the field. Then, when they get toward the end of their career and are thinking about retirement, opportunities start coming out of the woodwork. It is not about intelligence, it is about experience. The older I get, the less irritating it is to hear about the importance of experience.

So now I have three active projects beside my day job that have to do with what I did in my career. I need to quit two of them and work on just one of them or I will do a bad job at all three. So, over the next few weeks, I am going to try to decide where it would be best to focus my efforts. This seems to be a very good thing partially because I love what I do, but also because it gives more to do now that the kids are gone. It makes me look back and wonder what life would be like if I had more focus on my career before I was forty. Maybe it would not have been much different and it does not pay to think about it, but it does make me thankful that we helped the kids remain focused on something that would last past their youth both in terms of work and spirituality.

I realize that what I do for a living must be supremely boring to everyone looking on and I have to remind myself that most people do not really care how I do what I do so I have to work hard not to talk about it too much. Still, there are people just like me and even more so. I have the good fortune of working on one of the projects with a guy who is ten years older than and with deeper skills than I. We talk the same language and really enjoy even the most trivial minutiae of our chosen field. I just hope I can get to that point in my relationship with God before I die.

Texas. What’s not to love?

We are enjoying our time here in Texas. One of the best things about Texas, now more than ever time, is its place as firewall against many of the evils of America’s current coarse and ignorant culture. You can even see it encroaching here, but if there will ever be a bastion of sanity against the current evil zeitgeist, I am sure it will be somewhere here in Texas. I got to thinking about this because of something someone wrote in a totally unrelated context:

No doubt about it: conservative Bible Christians are under attack — subjected to stereotypes that, for any other group (except Texans) would be taken to constitute bigotry.

The thing that is good and bad about Texas is the frequently don’t care what non-Texans think because really don’t get Texas. How could they? They are not Texan. I am not a Texan and never will be. In some ways, I know I do not understand it all myself. I don’t want to be a Texan, but that does not mean I do not have anything other than a huge (as it should be here in Texas) appreciation for all the good about this wonderful place.

 

Some things are the same no matter where you are from

This is one of those posts I have to start by saying it is a true story. So, Lorena’s number two brother, Jorge was in a wreck this morning. It involved two trucks that ran into each other swiping both the trucks off the road along with Jorge. Jorge was OK, but it scared him to death. The police showed up, the insurance guy showed and they had everything just about worked out when the owner of the property on the showed up. It took them an extra couple of hours at the scene because of damage done to the fence. Take a close look at the fence. It was quite impressive to me that the land owner actually convinced the insurance guys to compensate him for damage to the fence. It was also quite impressive that this could have happened just about anywhere in the world. I think insurance turns people into victims–not that we don’t need it, but give me a break. You have to think though that the guy was probably a soccer player. Soccer, of course is a big thing in Mexico. You see what happens when one soccer play light brushes another soccer player in a even the most unimportant of matches.