10 December 2012

Hanukkah Season Opens!

I missed the beginning of Hanukkah yet again.

My connection to Judaism is rather on the light side, as it is through my paternal line and Jewish ethnicity runs through maternal lines (as far as Jews define such). so I suppose I simply have a Jewish heritage. I could always blame my Kohen forefathers for marrying gentile girls, but what can be done at this point - things are as they are...

My oldest daughter has really been into her Jewish heritage when she was younger. She even got reasonably conversant in Hebrew and, thanks to the Internet, had a chance to use her ability!

My mother (you know, "the gentile") is so nice about bringing up my father's family background, even after being divorced for about thirty years and she brought over a paper menorah as part of a lesson she was giving for Family Home Evening. The interesting part was that I was searching on the 'net for LED menorahs just before she started her lesson!  Coincidence?  I think not! The paper one is up in the window for the world to see, but I hope to get a much better electric version for next year.

I found some really neat kits for LED menorahs from EvilMadScience.com.  The first is a "deluxe" version that looks a bit tacky to me, but I really like the minimalism of their LED Mini Menorah Soldering Kit, as it is a bit more difficult to make, looks more techy, and shakes out the casual sorts.

Anyway, have a Happy Hanukkah from one of those totally un-Jewish Kohens!

07 December 2012

Timex Sinclair 1000

My first computers were the Texas Instruments 99/4 and /4A. I bought mine as an adult friend was an engineer at TI and my first computer mentor who also offered me the employee discount. Sadly, though the first 16-bit home computers, these were probably the most proprietary, shackled, and closed home computers in the universe. I wrote many an Extended Basic program with them, but I longed for a bit more open of a box to play with.

I was an early reader of Byte and Computer Shopper magazines (back when they were far more interesting in the early 1980s. I always had a hankering for CP/M computers, but those were sadly far beyond my means as a teenager. When I saw some of the amazing things being done with the Timex/Sinclair 1000, always considered a "toy" computer, I was intrigued.  These were so stunning simple and cheap that even a kid like me could acquire one and, more importantly, it was so simple that expansion was wide open. The most amazing things were done with this hardware, things far, far beyond its original design.

I didn't write as many programs for the T/S1000 as I did for the TI home computers, but I had endless fun souping the thing up and making modifications. Years later, I haven't touched my TIs, but I still pull out my Timex occasionally and made another change to it.  I increased its memory to 32k (I know, that seems pathetic these days) and wired up a better keyboard (strangely, old TI keyboards are just about perfect). I will have to post a picture of the rat's nest that the computer has become, which I think is kinda cool and looks the way a home-made computer is supposed to - wires, free-floating chips, discrete components and all.

05 December 2012

The Psychic Proximity Principle

UPDATE! The Psychic Proximity Principle is all grown up now, rendered as a Kindle booklet, and even fools around on the altar of Steve Jobs! Check out Feeding the Soul of Steve Jobs today!

From Fiddler on the Roof:Tevye[to Chava] As the good book says 'Each shall seek his own kind'. In other words a bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together? 

The Psychic Proximity Principle:
You will gravitate toward a place and circumstance that actually fit you and your nature.

So, if you are unhappy:
  • You might be in the wrong place.
  • You might be in the wrong circumstance.
  • You might be ignoring your true nature.
  • You might like fighting gravity or inertia a little too much.

Hey, I believe in God and I believe that God wants us to reach our potential and find happiness. I also believe that God knows how to accomplish these goals better than we do. Therefore, we have a really secular-sounding thing called "The Psychic Proximity Principle" that tries to explain how it works.


I really worked for a long time to explain this thing that I felt was happening to me. That weird name came first and then, during one of my early morning walks, it hit me. You would be surprised at what strikes me in the wee hours and I am frankly surprised that a big vehicle piloted by some bleary-eyed dude has not also struck me as well.  So far, only epiphanies, no SUVs.

The Psychic Proximity Principle works on the principle of very weak magnetism.

You know about magnetism.  It is really fun to bring two magnets into the neighborhood of each other and figure out that, depending on their orientation, they either smack together pretty hard or get as far from each other as they can. This is an example of strong magnetism, that can actually move stuff and create electricity and might keep you on the ground rather than flying off into space.

Weak magnetism is attractive like the strong sort, but it just isn't irresistible. If you played with two little magnets as a kid, you could keep them apart pretty easily with what muscle power you could muster.  That was what made magnets fun - how much fun could it be if they got stuck together so firmly that you couldn't get them apart? The weak magnetism involved in The Psychic Proximity Principle is great fun (sometimes) but seems especially so for someone like God. It wouldn't be as interesting if you and your perfect circumstance slammed hard into each other very early in life!

You are attracted to your potential and your happiness, but you can resist it if you want. Sometimes the attraction is so weak that you have to "feel it out" to "find your way".

If you have noticed that a lot of people are unhappy and never seem to "come into focus", my theory is that they are ignoring or not feeling out the weak magnetic pull toward happiness and their potential. I have some big problems with finding happiness myself, but I am starting to figure things out. I don't know if that magnetic pull has different strength for different people, but I have learned one thing: Successful and happy people often describe their "journey" in terms that sound suspiciously like The Psychic Proximity Principle. Sometimes they even say that these things seemed to find them or that their success and themselves crossed paths one day. This sounds a lot like magnets attracting each other and people trying to figure out which magnet attracted the other - the answer is that both you and your "happy potential" (for lack of a better term) attract each other. The great part is that God set things up that way - what a great guy!

There is an analogue to this idea in religion, at least among Mormons. We call it "following the Spirit". Most Christians struggle with this because they fear "spiritualism" as some sort of parlor trick. It is just another way of describing what we can see operating around us all the time, whether some preacher says that God spoke to her in a dream about something she should do, or Dr. Emmett Brown from the movie "Back to the Future" saw the Flux Capacitor after hitting his head on a toilet. While atheists would contend that I am "deifying" the creative process, I can just as easily say that "inspiration" is God tickling your brain toward your potential. My contention is that if you simply chalk up The Psychic Proximity Principle to some atheistic coincidence or "luck", you will find it difficult to recognize that this happens all the time and that there is a weak magnetic pull between you and some large vats of happiness and finding your best potential that often leads to such nice by-products as financial success. In order for it to work, you have to trust that it works, which as a one-word term to describe it:  FAITH. These things don't often happen to atheists because, along with not believing in God, many also don't believe in anything as wonky as weak magnetism.

I call it the Psychic Proximity Principle because it is a fun name and it describes something that I have noticed again and again. I also think it helps Mormons understand "the workings of the Spirit" better. If people poo-poo the "religious" flavor of spiritual things, it can jokingly be called "psychic" and the principle still works until you are ready to acknowledge "a higher power" or just smile and admit that there must be a God up there that does fiddle with knobs.

My final point is that God is working to bring together you and your best potential, fraught with happiness and often with "success". You can call it "inspiration from the Spirit" or "weak magnetism" or "psychic proximity", but it is reliable and it lets me know (and perhaps you know as well) that God is there and that He loves you! Someday, we might figure out that we can take those promises to the bank and beyond!

04 December 2012

Monkey Work

I remember watching television re-runs of the television cartoon "The Jetsons" as a child. I actually liked it for its social commentary, for which I don't recall that it was known for. Honestly, I found the whole idea that George Jetson's job, that he was often complaining about and desiring a deserved pay-raise, was pressing a button. I don't remember him having to press that button very often, but it seemed vital to things, for the constant threat of a firing always seemed to dissolve away in the twenty or so minutes of any episode that featured his boss' angst. This was my first exposure to "monkey-work", which I define as paid work that trained monkeys could easily do. On "The Jetsons", George's "monkey-work" was a funny running gag that probably would be a little embarrassing in today's world as almost all of us just press occasional buttons as employment these days.

Monkey-work is everywhere. In my first job at a movie theatre, I had a checklist of things that needed to be done on my shift.  Other people did about the same thing on their shifts and that list varied very little over the months that I did that job. It was really easy to get bored with the monotony of it all, but the pay was supposed to make up for that. I got a few promotions, which meant that I had a different list of tasks which might require a slightly higher IQ, but typically only meant that I made slightly more money. Over the years, I can say that more than half of my paid employment was basically a list of simple tasks to do, for which I received increasingly larger amounts of money. Most times, I have functioned basically like a monkey, albeit an increasingly better-trained one.

I only really notice this these days because I don't really engage in monkey-work. The stark contrast came because my job just before this one demanded that I behave like a monkey, basically just following an intricate flowchart of canned procedures in diagnosing and repairing computer problems. If you followed the process religiously, the solution would reveal itself ultimately. Sadly, as a non-monkey, I never looked at the flowcharts and just found solutions by "the seat of my pants", often with far fewer steps than expected. One time, my supervisor both praised me for my efficiency and chastised me for not following procedure. It is interesting how much I like my present job and how much I disliked my previous one - the work was basically the same but the "monkey-ness" was really different.

If you want a sad realization, just know that most people, armed with some training and a decent procedure, would make adequate medical doctors or corporate executive officers, both basically very(,very, very) highly paid monkey-work jobs. If you find a better version of almost any paid employment, you are probably not looking at a better person, but a more detailed and involved procedure adhered to more strictly.

It brings to mind the global obsession these days with "STEM" training, which stands for "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math", which are supposed to be the tickets to a vaunted high technology, high wage economy. Sadly, the extent of creativity imbued in the entire effort was basically spent in coming up with the acronym. The curriculum, for the most part, is an exercise in slavishly following a flowchart, reading detailed instructions completely (the mantra of schools and societies), and doing so quickly. If you look at education today, it can be summed up in the "timed test" culminating in college entrance exams that really only measure one's ability to quickly follow instructions. Apparently, these are the sort of skills the modern "college" and the larger society desires and rewards.

And what does the modern economy demand of us? It is the manufacture and consumption of a high volume of highly-marked-up and low-quality trinkets. Monkeys build such, monkeys consume such, and their masters profit from both ends by providing low-value products at exorbitant prices. The monkeys find it difficult to complain as they are often paid proportionately for their extremely low-skill labor, they are foolish enough to desire and buy over-priced and valueless trinkets, and they have few scruples to comprehend that they could do and have better. Every marketer knows that the best profits are to be made from the most naive and stupid consumers and therefore our schools manufacture these as well.

It brings to mind the excellent wisdom of John Taylor Gatto, the man who taught school for about thirty years and then walked away because he couldn't live with himself and what he and his fellow teachers did to children. As he began to look about for more purposeful learning, he investigated how the most elite American private schools prepares our next generation of masters and was stunned to see how different it is from a public education. The next leaders of the world don't engage in "monkey-work" themselves but know how important it is to impart such a living on their underlings so that their own superiority is an unquestioned reality. If all you need to aspire to is "monkey-work", you only have to be a monkey and your natural masters don't need to be much more capable.

If you are interested in avoiding a "Jetsons" future for yourself and your children, I would suggest a few things that anyone can do:

Avoid School-ish-ness.  If you can physically avoid it by homeschooling or perhaps fishing, that is best. On the other hand, if circumstances don't allow a real divorce from the institution, you can avoid the "dumbing-down" effect of school by putting what bits of time you have to better use than cruising the halls or creating pools of slobber on your desk.  I raced through math with good grades and spent my earned "free time" in class creating a little comedy called the "Term O' The Day" that I distributed covertly. No monkey could produce that!

Emphasize Production over Consumption. Fight the urge to spend your time and money trying to buy happiness or prestige. The only reason to have an iPad is if you are developing "apps" for it. Convince your kids that the only decent reason to be a "gamer" is to be a game developer. You will always do well to be more productive than consumptive, which I harp to the kids about a lot. Since you live in a "monkey" world, why not profit from them?

Build Your Creativity. Even if your creative efforts don't make you a dime (like this blog), you will be a far better person for having made the effort. Instead of watching TV, put on your own play. Instead of just reading a book, why not write one? Rather than eat pre-prepared meals out of the freezer, why not buy the ingredients yourself and make your own (and likely better)? Don't bother so much with a monetary cost/benefit analysis because being creative pays off in dividends far beyond the bank account.

Be "Value-Added". I used to do monkey-work for a government program, handing out food vouchers to poor families. I joked around with my clients and had fun bringing them "raw entertainment value" and I had one of the highest caseloads because my clients liked to come around! (I am not advocating the government dole here.) It would have worked in any endeavor and made people's days more pleasant and my life far more fulfilling.

Everything around us seems to encourage toward "monkey-work" and a sad life that accompanies a lack of real accomplishment.  Don't let it happen to you!

31 October 2012

I'm Back!

After a bit of a hiatus, this blog and I are back!

I thought it might be good to bring up some of my favorite movies, a few which are what I consider to be "perfect movies", which I seem to recall blogging about in the past. Of course, as a person of Jewish ancestry, I can help but love "Fiddler on the Roof"!  I am a bit like Motel but the older I get the more I channel Tevya.  Nothing brings out a desire to think about my heritage than the premiere Jewish play/movie!

So, I am back and this is a really easy thing to do while I am constantly called to the door by cute little trick-or-treaters!

09 July 2012

Flickers of Light, Enclaves of Righteousness

It is my thought that this world and circumstance must be among the lowest in the domain of our Heavenly Father.  There has always been stories of how this world was the only one in which the Christ would be crucified, but as I read scripture and view the expanse of history, I can come to the conclusion that righteousness is a very rare commodity here on Earth and often taken away from this place to find its promised thriving elsewhere.

I think of the people of the city of Enoch, who built a Zion Society that lasted for perhaps 400 years and then "fled", literally taken off of the Earth.  We also have a little reference to a group that was assembled at Salem, led by the great high priest Melchizedek, who are mentioned once and never heard of in scripture again, perhaps also removed from this sphere. We also have the case of the "lost" ten tribes of Israel, who legend says repented whole-heartedly of the behavior that led to their capture by the Assyrians and were eventually also taken from the Earth, perhaps. We have amazing satellite technology that has eliminated the thought that these people are hiding on some island or hitherto unknown place, so where did the larger part of Israel get to?  It seems that when the righteous come together, they are taken from the Earth by the hand of God, presumably to somewhere distant, maybe off the sphere entirely, no matter how fanciful that might seem.

In the time of this planet, the surface of the Earth has been changed, separating one land mass into different continents.  God says that he did this and proclaimed the land that we call North and South America as a chosen land for the righteous to dwell.  The miraculous "bringing" of the Jaredite, Nephite, and Mulekite nations to this chosen land are documented to varying degrees in the Book of Mormon, adding credence to the idea that God regularly separates the righteous from others, often by divinely inspired migrations.  It is no less telling that the seventeenth and eighteenth century Protestants braved the seas to come to the "New World" to practice a more biblical way of life and the nineteenth century Mormons fled Europe and the United States in order to pursue the restored Gospel in the Rocky Mountains.

Wherever the righteous are found, there always seems to be a migration and "gathering" involved, bringing them together.  Righteousness in concentration seems to increase it, so-much-so that it seems the only thing for the Lord to do is to ultimately take it away from this telestial world altogether and let its righteousness continue elsewhere for a time. In our own time, instead of gathering to one locality or two, we are instructed by God to remain physically dispersed as we can gather together through technology.  This time might be referred to as the Last Gathering, where the message of the Gospel will flood the whole earth and ultimately in no place will the words of God be inaccessible.  Further, in no location will the authorized servants of God and the saving ordinances they provide be unavailable.  It is an incredible time to live and to participate!

In the not-too-distant future, the chosen land of the Americas will be cleansed of unrighteous people, this time by plagues, famines, and such rather than a great flood, and the righteous of the Earth will be invited to migrate a "chosen land" once again, yet another enclave of righteousness.  All of the "fled" righteous people, those of Enoch and Melchizedek and Israel and perhaps others that we have no record of, will return to this place of gathering and endure the final destruction of the wicked when the entire Earth and all its people are cleansed and promoted to a terrestrial status and the millennium beyond.

I look forward to such things and I hope you do as well.

06 July 2012

Home Server Reborn!

I actually reactivated this blog as a bit of a replacement to the old web/gopher server I used at home. I was using an old POS board that used old laptop hard drives that are very very fragile and everything that was transferred to them was ultimately lost to little stuff. I have upgraded that system to be totally solid state, but I haven't put it back into service for now.

Instead, I am now using an old consumer minitower with a software RAID in it, which should solve my worries about losing data again (at least for a while). For now, I am populating the server with some very, very old data that was backed up eons ago, some of which was on the previous server and some that never was, so things are a bit different.  Explore away!

So, I expect to continue the blog for a bit as a replacement, but with some interesting stuff on the home server that are probably unique due to their age.

11 June 2012

The Great (Yet Premature) Down-sizing

It was almost a week ago when some spare hard drives, disturbed by my shuffling about in preparation for our upcoming move, dropped from a cabinet onto the open-faced motherboard that served as my web and gopher server for the past year.  The debris dislodged the sound card and jarred the hard drive enough to gouge the surface and totally ruin the drive.  I typically have a none-too-recent backup of the drive, but I have had to shuffle around the backup drives to put my daughter Shayna back into service, so the backup drive had been recently formatted and EVERYTHING is now lost!!

Fortunately, I had been slowly moving most of my core documents to cloud servers, so all of what I would consider to be the really important stuff has weathered this storm.  The server itself is back in service and there is a web and gopher server running, but they are both quite empty for now.  Both the old podcasts are totally gone, which is a bit sad, but it would probably be just as well that I render most of the information that went into the podcasts into far more concise text, probably for posting in the future on this blog.

Frankly, there were likely some very dangerous recordings and essays on the server that probably were very outdated and really needed to be removed.  It isn't good to have too much of your uncensored self out on the public web anyway.  It was okay when no one really looked at the site, but with job changes, moving, and graduate school in the offing, there was a good chance that something damning that I have said/wrote in the past could come back to haunt me!  I am quite prepared to attribute the falling hard drives event to a fortuitous act of God and be grateful for the happening...

If you go clicking on links to the old QuIX properties, I hope you are not too disappointed at the lack of objects to browse.  Life happens!

05 June 2012

Navigiary Begins

After years of effort and trying to walk away from the thing, the first book of the Navigiary series: Escape, is finally out and available on the Kindle store.

There is also another blog that I have just for Navigiary. Surprisingly, I also allow commenting on that blog as well!

See what I have been working on all these years but know that Escape is but an introduction - the meat of the story is yet to come!

17 January 2012

More than a New Year's Resolution

I am tired.  I find myself bored with my present life and the person I am right now.  I have a fine, fine job and I work alongside wonderful people, but I need to be doing more.  I need to become more and I am reasonably sure that this is also what God expects from me.  I hope you readers don't consider this a "cocky" statement as I consider it an indictment of my lack of activity in the area of rising to my potential.  I have no idea what that potential is, but I have not be making much of an effort toward discovering it.  I want to begin to rectify that, starting right now.

Every Sunday, we hold a family council and a bit of a "home evening" with whatever family members are available.  During the council, each family member has an opportunity to ask a question, present a concern, or make a comment.  Last Sunday, during my time to do "questions, concerns, or comments", something popped into my head and, after only a moment or two of thought, I commented that I wanted to share a personal goal.  With all the insight of a minute or two, I said:

"I want to celebrate my fiftieth birthday in London."

That may sound silly and totally unrealistic, especially given our family finances, but that is because you are likely not aware of the context of my statement.  Please allow me to tell a little about what almost unconsciously informed this goal.

Ever since my children were small, I have thought and spoke "internationally", which is to say that I dreamed of far-away places and things.  What would it be like to live in one foreign country or another? What places would be most possible for us to go?  What different cultures or languages would we have to understand to function well there?  Coupled with a total inability not to keep my thoughts to myself, I shared these questions and my research toward answering them with my family.  Over time, I began to see that some of my children were being affected.  My older daughter took it upon herself to teach herself Hebrew and to look forward to visiting and perhaps living in Israel which is not an inconsistent thing to do as both she and I share a Jewish heritage.  My younger daughter dreams of someday living in Italy and enjoying the beauty and art of that place.  Though my other children have so far expressed no desire to travel or live internationally, I would not be surprised if they quietly dream of such things or, at the very least, are familiar enough with locations outside of the USA to be far above the local average in a world geography exams.

When I was a younger man, I left a wonderful yet boring job and went to sea, getting a position as a seismic navigator hunting for oil.  It was an interesting two years, floating in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of west Africa.  Although I became familiar with various airports in exotic places, I took little opportunity to explore past being an airline passenger in the international terminal.  Although such travels whetted my appetite, it did nothing to address my hunger.

Unfortunately, outside of dreaming and flying a bit, I had not yet really taken my own advice.  I was encouraging my chlidren, but I was not being an example of someone who works toward the goal and accomplishes it.

I need to do a better job.

So, I don't know exactly how I will get myself working in London and in what capacity, but I have taken the first step to making it happen.  I have my passport updated and all my credentials in as much order as I can.  I am already interviewing with the company I worked for internationally over a decade ago and I hope they hire me and get my foot back into door of foreign travel.  It really helps to be there even occasionally when you want to live and work there.  It is also far easier to get transferred to London with a company than to get a job there as a non-resident non-citizen.  If I want help, especially from God, I will need to show everyone that I am willing to do as much as I can to make it happen myself.

I will likely keep you readers informed on how it goes.