Sunday, January 12, 2020

Church Notes

I take notes in little notebooks.  From time-to-time, I like to go back and re-read my notes.  I would like to start digitizing some of those notes.  So I'll be doing little posts like this from time to time.  Some of these will have lost context over time.  This isn't the totality of my notes, but just selected bits. 


Prodigal son - we don't know what he spent the money on, it's his brother (the older son) who mentions prostitutes.

Inheritance - the dad might have been foolish by granting the son's request.

"Father, use me as a hired hand" - reminds his dad that he's family and asks for a job (more money). Speech also echoes Pharaoh's speech to Moses.


Gap - between what we know and how we live.

There doesn't seem to be much of a difference between those who proclaim to be Christians and those who proclaim not to be Christians -- and the world notices.


"Let me see how you sing and pray and I will tell you what your theology is."

"Insight is not a muscle."

What do you do "religiously" for religious purposes?

Do you have a "spiritual agenda" (for yourself)? Prayer, study, family life, fellowship, health, financials, community.


People who claim to love Jesus can't help but live differently.

When we do things for man's approval, God doesn't pay attention (know your audience).  (Probably not quite Biblical?)

Humility - "not you" at the center


There is no scarcity in the fullness of God.

Free Money 2020 #2

Every time a bank offers me free money in 2020, I'm going to take it if I can.

Offer #2 is an easy one - tap 3x with my credit card to make purchases and they'll give me a $10 credit.  Usually the card is locked in the safe and only used to pay for the monthly subscriptions (phone, internet, etc.) but for $10 free, sure.  Used it today at Great Clips and to put gas in both cars.  Tap, tap, tap.  Money, please.

Friday, January 10, 2020


Multiple times today, I discovered it was Friday, and not Thursday as I believed. My schedule got thrown out of whack yesterday and I guess I haven't recovered.  Better than thinking it's Friday when it's actually Thursday, I suppose.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

2020 Charities

Every year I pick a few charities that I think are worth another look. Please investigate and if so moved, please consider making a donation. I'm only selecting two this year. The need is great, there are many fabulous charities making a difference in the world. If these don't do it for you, please do your research and pick a charity to support this year. This is how we keep America great, but supporting and celebrating those who help make this world better for those who need a little help.

Bithiah's House
In their words: "Bithiah’s House is a short-term residential therapeutic program for infants and toddlers in the foster care system.  We specialize in medically-fragile cases and strive to offer a loving home-like environment for each child who comes through our doors.

Throughout our 6-bed facility, we offer specific care plans and therapeutic services for babies and toddlers ages 0-4. Bithiah’s House is an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission to provide safe, temporary housing and treatment for babies with the goal of transitioning to a family."

Why I chose: I learned about this Southern California foster program earlier this year under very sad circumstances.  They had fostered a child who came to them when he was 2 years old, malnourished and unable to walk.  He lived with them 7 months while they worked on his diet and on helping him to learn how to walk.  Sadly, he was eventually placed back with his parents and you don't need to know anymore than that, trust me. But I really love the approach of Bithiah's House and the care they have for the little ones amongst us.

RAICES (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services)
In their own words: "LEGAL SERVICES: We provide affirmative, defensive, and litigation services to low-income immigrants. With more immigration lawyers than any organization in Texas, in 2018 RAICES managed 37,863 cases at no cost to our clients. Without pro-bono legal services most of our clients, including children of all ages, would have to go to court alone, with zero representation. We believe no child should go to court alone. Our legal services extend from low-cost residency and citizenship services to pro-bono representation for families and children in detention.

SOCIAL SERVICES: We empower the community by offering services to remove barriers of oppression, multiply agents of change, and increase clients’ quality of life.  We offer a wide range of services including case management, resettlement assistance, a national hotline to connect migrants with local community resources, and transit support for recently released migrants."

Why I chose: Forever, we have told the world of what a wonderful place America is. We have exported that dream through the entertainment and media we share with the world, the companies that have started here and gone out to sell their products (and set up local shops) around the globe, the aid our country has offered to other countries and the times we have acted to step in and stop conflicts and wars. We haven't always done everything right and there's plenty about America that could be better and there've been times where our meddling has made things worse, but all-in-all, we've sold that "American dream" to the world.  So much that people desperate for a better life overcome all kinds of odds to get themselves and their children to our doorstep. But we've changed the rules: You're no longer welcome here, America isn't what it seemed. We've become a land of small-minded, petty people who feel better when we see someone else suffer. Cruelty is the point. But it's not the America I know and love and idealize.  When we separate families, randomly move people around the country, incarcerate people for long periods of time, force people (or children!) to navigate the court system with no understanding of how it works (and maybe not even speaking the language necessary to speak for themselves in court) or throw people out of the the only country they've ever known for the lack of some paperwork, that is real and really sad impacts -- and people die.  RAICES works to lessen those impacts by helping people understand their rights, what's their obligations are, helps reconnect families and when our government in its infinite wisdom thinks it's smart to dump a kid at a bus stop in the middle of the night, volunteers from RAICES (and other organizations) are there to meet them and help them try to find their families.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

2020 Predictions

Ok, here's my 2020 Predictions.  A much shorter list this year.  I still think a few things from last year are plausible, like Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft going big on HR just as Google ends Hire.

1. After a bidding war, Microsoft triumphs over Salesforce in taking over -- say hello to your new email address.  This was a consolation prize, however, after the surprise announcement that Google had purchased the Verizon Media Group mailboxes (,,,, etc.). At this point, do we even still call it email, or should we just start calling it gmail?

2. Warner Bros. launches HBO Max as scheduled, but by then it has a different name designed to appeal to a broader audience including people who have a negative perception of HBO.  It's not The WB, but it has a more playful approach than its competition, especially in its pre-launch positioning. Advertising features the phrase "NOW it's time to cut your cable." with people clutching lengthy expensive cable bills in their hands as they shout to the neighbors about being "mad as hell" as they literally take scissors, gardening shears, shovels, axes and weedwhackers to the sides of their houses to cut the actual cable. The nod to "Network" isn't lost on Communications Majors.

3. NBCUniversal launches Peacock but by years' end it's a joint venture with Amazon that also brings Amazon programming to Comcast cable subscribers.

4. Netflix begins selling add-on subscriptions to other streaming services to compete with Hulu and Amazon Prime. By year's end, you can add Hulu to your Netflix subscription or Netflix to your Hulu subscription. But you still have to juggle all the apps.

5. Netflix and Hulu engage in a bidding war for Discovery's streaming business. It's not decided by the end of the year due to multiple legal battles and government investigations. Disney and Apple emerge as late stage suiters making it even more confusing.

6. Amazon purchases an automotive parts chain and begins installing industrial 3D printers in each location. By August, you can order many automotive parts or tools (including for defunct brands and models) and pick up the part within 24 hours. By year's end, Amazon is experimenting with printing-on-demand for other products.  (In 2021, Amazon lets you design simpler products - think basic jewelry and figurines - that are printed when ordered.)

What doesn't happen in 2020:

  • AT&T spins off WarnerMedia and DirecTV, sending them off with a bunch of AT&Ts debt. 
  • Salesforce buys Oracle.
  • Disney buys Apple.
  • Google parent Alphabet purchases an island in the Pacific, reincorporates on the island, declares itself a sovereign country and begins building a rocket and launch platform with plans for a moonbase.
  • Fox Corporation buys Crown Family Media Networks and Sinclair Broadcast Group and Lionsgate.
  • Discovery buys ViacomCBS. 
  • Twitter or Wal*Mart buys TikTok.
  • Sprint PCS files for bankruptcy.
  • PayPal buys Square.
  • Fire Sales: Amazon acquires Uber's assets and Wal*Mart buys WeWork's assets.
  • Elon Musk announces a new Tesla Motorcycle, the IM2, a two-door sedan called the Model 4 (what?) and a new sailboat (what?) called the "MyShirt" (Yes, this is a Right Said Fred joke. Deal with it.)
  • Roku still doesn't put search front-and-center in its User Interface.  I don't get it.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Last Year's Predictions

Last night I was wondering what would happen this year in tech and entertainment and I remembered I had written some predictions last year.

How did I do? Not so good. It wasn't quite the exciting year I had imagined. I have a much smaller set of predictions I'll be posting soon.

  • Target and CVS partnership - turns out the pharmacy side actually happened in 2015 (shows how aware I am).  Target taking over the store side hasn't happened.
  • Wal*Mart and T-Mobile banking joint venture.  Nope.
  • Verizon sells its inboxes to Comcast and other media properties to Meredith, Condé Nast and Discoverynope
  • Disney+ launches at $24.95 (nope) and has technical difficulties at the start - yep
  • Apple and Verizon each consider buying Netflix - perhaps
  • Netflix acquires a majority of the TV/movie production capacity in Vancouver - nope
  • Discovery launches its video-on-demand service and Amazon acquires it. - mostly no. Discovery is taking way too long to launch stuff.
  • AT&T / WarnerMedia pass governmental reviews - yep - WarnerMedia has a few bad quarters until AT&T goes hands-off - nope - There is talk of a spin-off - nope.
  • Google adds an ESP - nope
  • Microsoft adds an ESP - nope - also begins to craft its own competitor to Gmail's AMP with Yahoo, Salesforce and Comcast - no, may be collaborating with Google 
  • Microsoft,  Salesforce and Oracle are still lacking in a good web analytics/tracking offering for their Marketing Clouds. - YES!
  • Adobe rebrands Marketo as Campaign, begins to sunset Neolane - nope.
  • Salesforce makes a large purchase in the HR/payroll space - nope
  • And kicks of an HRaaS arms-race - nope
  • Microsoft buys Roku, integrates it into Xbox. - nope
  • Intel and Vodaphone Global Enterprises enter into a joint-venture as a precursor to an eventual merger - nope
  • Tesla's next generation of automatic driving software begins to develop a 3D memory of hills, curves, potholes and speed bumps allowing it to optimize acceleration and braking, resulting in a 15% improvement in range without any hardware changes while delivering a smoother ride. - sadly, not so far as I know
  • Apple doubles-down on its "context-less instant awareness" efforts with additional imaging and cognitive purchases, struggles without a new category-killer but makes progress on its car, but it's still slow going and rumors persist that they're going to stop work on it.  Services continue to make them heaps of money. - eh
  • Microsoft makes great progress on its AI-based ribbon in the office products - sadly, no
  • Dell EMC outbids IBM for HPE.  Lexmark gets HP(consumer products). - nope
  • Steam announces it's open to strategic offers. - nope
  • GM attempts a hostile takeover of Tesla. - nope
  • Ford becomes majority-owned by Chinese-interests sparking anger, protests and idiots burning their cars. - nope
  • Twitter loses money. - too easy
  • Snap loses money, enters talks with Twitter, but nothing comes of it. - not so far as I know
  • Specs leak for the Samsung Galaxy S11. It has a lot of cameras and Bixby.  - probably

Sunday, January 05, 2020

On My Minimalism

So my birthday is coming up.  My daughter recently observed to my wife that I am a minimalist.  My wife agreed, and as such, said I'm incredibly difficult to buy gifts for. I thought I would look into this a little more. I found some great thoughts on this website, unfortunately after a great bit of thought, they then immediately went to things you could buy.  An excerpt:
Minimalists want to keep clutter to a minimum so that they can better enjoy their lives. They know that if their home and schedule are cluttered with things they don’t love and need, they are sacrificing space and time for the things they do love and need. 
People who practice minimalism are often looking for ways to simplify their lives. They want to be surrounded by things that they absolutely love…ONLY what they absolutely love.  
For minimalists, it’s about priorities. If you know a minimalist enough to know what their priorities are, start there. You should be able to come up with some appropriate, and very much appreciated, gifts for the minimalists in your life. 
Minimalists aren’t necessarily opposed to receiving more things for their home, but it’s best to ask. After all, minimalists definitely want to keep clutter to a minimum. If you aren’t a minimalist, but you want to buy something for a friend or family member who is, you must consider their lifestyle. You could buy them something that makes their life easier. Or maybe something that makes their life more enjoyable. To do this, you need to know their hobbies and interests, as well as their needs. 
So.. what do I love? Getting away. Vacations and long weekends. Why? We spent time together, we play together, we eat together, we worry less. We're not constantly looking at an overflowing to do list or trying to get our daughter to finish her responsibilities. We explore, we discover, we are surrounded by a clean environment (apartment and rental car).  We're not creating clutter, we clean as we go, and the only new stuff that comes into our living space is stuff we bring back, not unwanted clutter like old papers or unwanted mail. In general, we have less.

We are surrounded by art, landscaping, things that are complete. Rather than piles upon piles of incomplete. And if something does need help, usually a quick phone call and someone else comes and takes care of it. Everything is quieter. The pantry is simpler. And did I mention there's no mail? Even the time in the car is better. It's not our own traffic in our way, and we're not in a hurry to get somewhere on a schedule. Instead, it's just our journey towards whatever we're going to explore, or back to homebase to regroup and prepare for the next adventure.

What do I hate? So many things unfinished. So many demands on my time. So many things stacked in piles in progress because that's the best place to put them.  Some of this is the limitations of our small house and limited storage, some of it is the nature of too much stuff but some of it is just the way we process things in progress, like my giant pile of books to read. On vacation, I'll only have one or two, or I'll just have my Kindle, I won't have the massive pile like is currently on my nightstand.

And then there's the anxiety of the world intruding on our lives. School, work, the rest of the world. Social media.

What is a gift? Less things unfinished. Less clutter. More things accomplished, cleaned up, put away, checked off the list. More time together, more exploration, more discovery. Simplicity. Things getting better. Piles getting smaller. To do lists getting shorter. Fresh air, singing, happy, silly, being present. Eating on the patio.

When we're on vacation, it's a break from the pressures of this world. Of what the future holds.  Bills that will come due, the living arrangements for our son in the future, especially after we die. Our estranged relationships with extended family. There are people who take care of things, whether something needs repainting, something needs weeding, etc.

Does this actually yield gift ideas? Not so much. And really, isn't quite a bit of this within my control? Isn't there ways I could reframe things so that I'm not being so selfish with my time, that I'm not wasting time on things that don't help piles to get smaller, being present, not filling my time, and so on? Yes.

So how does this help someone who wants to get gifts for people who are impossible to shop for?  It's probably the following:

  • Shared Experiences - exploration and discovery, chances to experience new things. The gift of time.
  • Indulgences - the opportunity to treat yo' friends - food, artwork, new landscaping, treatments for the mind and body
  • Help - someone else to share the load when it comes to tackling the never-ending list: painters, landscapers, housekeeping, consultation with financial advisors or life coaches or job advisors and resume writers, baby-sitting, errand-running, coach/trainer/dietician for weight loss
  • Elimination - identifying anything that the recipient feels is a responsibility placed on them that's not really their responsibility. If it can be discarded, that's one thing. But it's something the minimalist feels strongly about, then may not simply be eliminated, it may need to be addressed (see "help").   Is there physical stuff that's causing the minimalist anxiety... can it be eliminated or stored elsewhere?
  • Technology - like help, is there some device that will take over a task or make a task easier? I know in our house, all the Alexa-enabled stuff and the RoboVac are good examples of this.   
I would like to thank my family for making me think about this question -- and (and this is huge) for letting me have the space to retype my handwritten notes from earlier today, turn them into a blog post, and reflect on my own participation in improving things, because a lot of this has aspects that I can address on my own and treat myself to more simplicity. 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Free Money 2020 #1

I said in 2020, if a bank was going to offer me free money, I was going to take it. (Unless the deal was really awful, like Capital One which wants to tie up $10k for an insane amount of time just for $100.)

Deal #1 - A Credit Union - Open a 37-month IRA with $50 (3% APY) and they'll give you $50.  Small price to pay to double what would have otherwise just been a small amount of float.  But at 3% APY, pretty tempting to direct more money that way.

I'll be watching out for other deals as they come my way in email or postal mail.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Mail Call

I've been saying for a long time now that I'd pay the post office to deliver mail less frequently to my house, if I could just subscribe to some once-a-week delivery service for $48/year, it would be totally worth it.  Nothing urgent, valuable or time-sensitive comes in the mail. That's what email is for.   Of course, I'd still like to get packages.

Processing all the junk mail, obscuring our name and address, sorting, recycling, it's a pain and takes time.  I've tried just letting it pile up on the counter, but that's not without its own annoyances. 

I've found a compromise. Through the USPS' website, you can - for free - do short-term mail holds.  I tried one a few weeks ago. It was confusing...

* Starts On should be the day they start holding, right?  They still delivered mail that day.
* Ends On - is that the last day they hold mail, or the first day they start delivering normally again?  Not quite sure.
* I still got the daily emails telling me what mail was queued
* We got at least one notice from Amazon saying that a package couldn't be delivered (though it ultimately way)
* We got a notice from the post office saying we needed to come to the post office to pick up a package (we didn't; it was delivered)

I've also started unsubscribing from mail at the source where possible (a local realtor was really confused about us demanding to stop receiving his newsprint newsletter) and refusing obvious junk mail.  (No, SiriusXM, the 14th offer you send won't be the one that gets us to sign up.)

But just having the mail delivered less often is great.  It doesn't clutter up the house and we're still able to dispatch it to the recycling bin quickly. It does mean regularly going to their website to start a new mail hold and it does mean to expect some packages won't arrive as quickly as expected, but it's just one less source of incoming clutter. 

And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2010: A Look Back

2010 was ten years ago.  I was ten years younger, I had been married for ten fewer years.  I had fewer kids. I was employed somewhere else, doing the same sort of thing, except with a lot less influence and for quite a bit less pay. I had a different car and a different address. But now it's ten years later, I'm ten years older, I've been married for ten more years.  I have twice as many kids.  Half as many counts and infinitely fewer dogs. Both of the 2010 cars are now charity donations and the 2020 cars aren't. So... yeah... happy new years. We shall see what the next year or ten holds.