Category: Technology


For the past several years, I used a Galaxy S8 Active. You know, it’s the phone you can drop from an airplane, hit and crush a car’s roof, land in the neighbor’s pool, pull it out, wipe it off and make a call. However, with my entire family possessing a hoard of iPhone’s, there I stood, an outsider looking in.

Longing for love and acceptance, I ventured into an Apple store in November 2018 and purchased an iPhone XS Max. Yeah … the ‘Max.’ The ultimate. The coup de grâce. It will be the phone I will die with, the phone that will outlive me, one that will let me enjoy my retirement looking for cheap buffets, and garage sales. I felt the slick golden beast in my hand and Apple’s seduction oozed through my body. Apple was subliminally saying; God has an Apple. He will even text you if you ‘BELIEVE.’

I believed. “Sold,” I said to the Apple Expert. I had to have it.

My first several connections with my mother via FaceTime were fantastic. Then I upgraded. 12.1.whatever. Then came 12.1.1.whatever. And more ‘whatevers’ after that. And for the last four months, FaceTime has been challenging. FaceTime with friends or family is perfect until the four to five-minute mark. After that, I get Apple’s equivalent to Microsoft’s Blue Screen of Death, “poor connection.” Regardless of effort, FaceTime would only recover if the phone was restarted and try again.

I turned to Mr. Genius. Mr. Genius called on my home phone and subliminally confirmed I was no smarter than the fish in my aquarium, “FaceTime error is a fairly simple error and fairly simple to correct.”

Before doing anything, he checked Apple’s System Status page to ensure FaceTime Servers were up and running. I presume if the servers weren’t up, he’d have a crisis and wouldn’t bother with an old, bald, fat, sixty-year-old from Washington.

Yup. Good,” he noted. “Let’s try restarting the device.”

Ok,” restarting.

Now, let’s test FaceTime.”

Five minutes passed, “Poor Connection.”

In the course of attempting to repair this, here’s a list of attempted steps Mr. Genius requested I perform, in order.

  • Run a speed test on my networks to ensure that they are reaching 5mbps or greater. If not, low data rates cause problems with FaceTime
  • Toggle Wi-Fi off and back on again
  • Connect to a 5 GHz Wi-Fi signal and not a 2.4 GHz or vice-versa
  • Turn Cellular Data Off
  • Toggle Airplane Mode on, wait 20-30 seconds and toggle Airplane Mode off–the quick method is via Control Center
  • Toggle FaceTime off and back on again, then sign in again
  • Change internet connection to cellular data by toggling off Wi-Fi
  • Turn off Wi-Fi Assist
  • Restart or reset my home router
  • Force the FaceTime app to close and launch again
  • Restart device and then force restart
  • Change DNS info, as may fix FaceTime connection issues
  • Set Date & Time to a time that is at least one year ahead and try again
  • Delete the FaceTime App and reinstall it via the App Store

Phillip Moffitt wrote that cultivating the two paramis (perfection and completeness) are found in patience and persistence are essential. The two go hand-in-hand.

Patience is the ability to abide by things the way they are. It allows you to tolerate failure, disappointment, defeat, unpleasantness, and confusion without giving up—both on the meditation cushion and in life. Persistence is the capacity of energetic resolve—the determination to hold steady to your intentions. Persistence brings into play the essential energy for directing your attention to what needs to be done right now. Deliberately placing attention on patience gives you the strength to cultivate patience; steady attention on being persistent will yield the energy to nurture new habits of mind.

I must admit, it was only through patience and persistence that I finally found an answer.

Hey, Mr. Genius. I found the soultion.

Great,” he paused. “What was it?

Well,” I stated. “You know that SIM Card in the iPhone?

Yeah?

I took it out and placed into my old Galaxy S8 Active. Works like a charm.

But sir, FaceTime does not operate on Android.”

Yup,” nodding to myself. “If they want me, they can call.”

Humility

As a consultant, I’ve worked in hospitals across the country for years. Every once in a while, I see a physician with a pager. For all the high-tech equipment to use, one thing seems pretty archaic: pagers. Yet, 85 % of hospitals still use pagers.

There are significant reasons hospital staff still use one-way pagers to get in touch. For one important reason is that hospitals can be dead zones for cell service. In some areas, where the walls are built to keep X-rays from penetrating, heavy-duty designs make it hard for a cell phone signal to penetrate exterior walls.

A few days ago, I was sipping coffee in the cafeteria and overheard a physician complaining that the pager’s battery drains too quick.

A person at the adjacent table leaned in and said, “Excuse me, sir.

Yes?” he queried.

Do you need your pager at night? Meaning, are you always on call?

No,” he responded.

Well, you might get better battery life if you place the battery in the freezer. This might slow the discharge rate.

Oh great. Thanks for the tip.”

Visiting Information Technology for a wiring diagram, I saw a pager laying on the table. The pager’s casing was cracked, and the screen had broken.

Pointing to the pager, “Dropped pager, huh?”

Nah,” said the technician. “Some doctor put his pager in the freezer believing it would extend battery life.”

Buddhism emphasizes the importance of service on the Eightfold Path. By serving others, one cultivates compassion and washes away past sins. Particular emphasis is placed upon service to parents, teachers, learned persons, fellow monks when they are sick or need of help, assistance to animals, friends, servants, ascetics, and others.

Fortunately, doctors, while specifically listed still make the list. In the course of assisting the physician, I found ‘humility‘ still exits. Anthony de Mellow highlighted the message.

To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.

I know. An overwhelming passion for it.”

No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.

Accessibility

It’s been announced our company is moving to the cloud. How’s your fear of heights?

~ CloudTweaks.com Cartoon ~

As suggested by CloudTweaks, technology hits everyone.

Several years ago, I read an article in Digital Trends indicating Buddhism was embracing technology with by installing a Buddha-bot. In hopes of luring a younger generation, a Buddhist temple in China welcomed a robot monk to its order. Xianer was designed to promote the wisdom of an older order. Xianer has a touchscreen that helps answer 20 questions. On a humorous note, if you’re the one person requiring 21 questions, this monastery is far too advanced.

The theme of it all centers upon the notion that Buddhism and technology are harmonious. According to the creator, there are plans for future expansion. In the past year, the electronic monk has learned English, established a WeChat account that was reportedly acquired 1.5 million followers. It also likes ice cream. “Wish I could have 100 ice cream cones at one time.” Me too, Xianer. Me too.

Pay no mind to the fact the Chinese government monitors WeChat. One wrong chat Xianer, and you’ll likely be hacking foreign governments, implanting ransomware and gathering secrets, including wqho really shot J.R., what’s really in that beautiful Bush bean recipe and is there an ancient Chinese secret to Calgon? Wait … the ancient Chinese secret was Calgon.

Sorry, I digressed.

All this made me ponder how Xianer could assist me. Like a company purchasing carbon offsets to balance carbon emissions, maybe Xianer could offset uneven meditation days. For instance, I usually perform forty-minutes of meditation per daily. Should I only get thirty-minutes, Xianer can offset my footprint. Fail the abstention from intoxication? “Xianer, come here please.” Maybe Xianer could answer the client who writes at 3:00 AM in the morning asking why I haven’t responded to his email at 2:00 AM.

Inevitably, women will daydream of Xianer. So many questions: Can Xianer cook? Can he cuddle? Or better yet, can he listen to any conversation longer than three minutes in length? Will he leave the lid up? Seriously ladies, there are easier things in life than trying to find the perfect man … like nailing jelly to a tree. Maybe – just maybe – Xianer is your guy.

The Longquan Temple introduced Xianer in 2015 in hopes of using cutting edge technology to spread Buddhism. Companies volunteered their expertise for the unusual project.

Developing Xianer wasn’t for promotional or commercial purposes,” said Xianfan, the head of the temple’s animation studio.

We only wanted to explore how to fuse Buddhism with science better, to convey the message that Buddhism and science aren’t contradictory.

And the tactic works well with China’s younger, digitally savvy generation.

It’s super cute…I feel it is like a temple mascot, making Buddhism much more accessible,” said Liu Jiyue, a college student who went to the temple to meet the robot.

What? A robot making Buddhism more accessible?

Technology has been available for years. A cursory review of the Apple Store has apps such as Breethe, Buddha Quotes, Buddhist Scriptures, Chill, and iDharma to name a few. If you’re Catholic, there are apps such as Abide, Laudate, Catholic Daily Readings, and Daily Bible Verse Devotional are available. Likewise, if you’re an Atheist, one may find apps such as Atheist Pocket Debater, Atheism, and American Atheist Magazine may be helpful.

The point being, technology isn’t new. And almost every religion has been, quote, ‘accessible.’ Buddhism has been accessible for hundreds of years. The problem is that many are too obsessed with celebrity teachers and practice validation. There’s nothing wrong with having a specific technology, a teacher who isn’t famous, or just practicing with a group of fellow travelers on the path. It’s about commitment: commitment to a group, commitment to keep showing up, and commitment to keep trying even when there is no financial incentive or approval of a famous teacher.

Simply put, if you want to make Buddhist (or any religion for that matter) more accessible, do it.

Into The Streets

All of us are faced with a myriad of decisions. Do this, then that. Do that, then this. Life is full of complicated, often uncharted decisions. How one chooses often makes the difference for so many millions.  This is what the GOP health care bill legislation reminds me of.

As reported by the New York Times, the selected Senators working on the GOP legislation includes Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, and John Barrasso. The group also includes three committee chairmen: Mr. Hatch; Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, Rob Portman and Patrick J. Toomey. This was an all boys’ club, woman weren’t allowed. No public hearings, no healthcare professionals and zero representation from the insurance industry.

Having worked in healthcare for years, I’m accustomed to seeing an oft-forgotten segment of society, the elderly and ill. Much of this group includes the mentally ill, dementia inflicted, those with Alzheimer’s, cancer patients, and Medicaid/Medicare permanently bound nursing home residents.

As person inflicted with both heart and neck disabilities, I am at peace knowing that for the moment, I’m not on public disability.

For the moment.” For the moment. The words “for the moment” lingers in my soul. I, like nearly sixty-five percent of Americans, will become afflicted by disease so severe that I will be forced to receive care from another. This is not a picture I imagined 30 years ago let alone 5. Like many who experience this, the vitality of life has left for better weather and all that’s left is this old wrinkled soul. It’s a reality almost all I’ve encountered expected.

Elizabeth O’Brien of Time Magazine wrote

When it comes to finding—and financing—long-term care for older loved ones, most families are on their own. And many end up turning to Medicaid when their money runs out. It’s not hard to drain your life savings on nursing home care that runs around $82,000 per year but can go much higher in costlier areas of the country. To qualify for Medicaid for long-term care, applicants need to have depleted most of their resources. Criteria vary by state; in New York, for example, the asset limit is about $14,000, not including a certain amount of home equity.

My healthcare experience included many assisted-living and nursing home facilities. Accordingly, I’ve residents from all walks of life – former professional athletes, teachers, farmers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home parents, health aides, stockbrokers, CEOs’, auto mechanics, and laborers. You name a profession, I have seen it. Many entered old age with significant assets but were forced into Medicaid as resources depleted. A combination of longer life spans and spiraling health care costs has left an estimated 64 percent of the Americans in nursing homes dependent on Medicaid.

So what’s the unanswered question? If the GOP bill gets approved, where do all these people go?

To the streets.

htc-10

Against the advise of doctors and common sense alike, I pushed away regret and charted course for a fourteen day tour of Aruba, Cartagena, Columbia, Colon, Columbia, Panama Canal, Limón, Costa Rica and onward to Grand Cayman before heading stateside.

I packed lightly. Any clothing item packed had to be washed and hand dried. I also rolled an all-purpose sports coat into my back pack, couple packs of wash and wear undergarments, two wash and wear shirts and one set of blue-jeans.

Technology wise, I could have chosen from a number cell phones. Many might have taken an iPhone or iPad, but I carefully debated weight. I have an iPhone 6, IPhone 6s Plus, IPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, Galaxy Note 5 and an unlocked HTC 10. Strangely enough, with all the Apple Travel app’s available, I settled for the iPad Mini and the HTC 10.

The HTC was a great choice.

To provide some levity, in my past, I’ve owned an HTC One 7, 8, and 9. I loved al those phones. Thus, six months ago, dished out cash for an HTC 10 and the associated HTC 10 Ice case. And like all connected travelers, I wanted this relationship to work. And like all relationships, we fidgeted, fussed, yelled and at times broke up. Hey HTC, “It’s not you. It’s me.

So, I ditched my carrier locked Apple iPhone 6s Plus, took my clean, nick free HTC 10, inserted into the HTC Ice cover and off we went. Fourteen days.

There were specific advantages. The HTC 10 weighed roughly 6 ounces, had a wonderful screen size of 5.2 inches, with a 565 pixel density, was recently updated to Android 7, had excellent battery life and quick charger. The HTC also had additional storage capability. Not that I store music on an external storage card, I do. But I copied my passport, driver’s license, insurance information, medical prescriptions information and other key documents. This feature came in handy when completing “Customs Information” for countries visited. Instead of having to drag out my passport, I simply pulled the information from the HTC’s external storage card and completed the required forms.

As for photographs, I will admit I am no professional photographer. I am a “point and shoot guy.” Accordingly, I took no camera. Every photograph taken was performed on  my HTC 10. I have to admit, the photographs were outstanding. Only once did I use photo editing options to alter a picture. Every shot was flawless, even when moving.

When HTC changed the dual speaker layout, I was quite disappointed. Yet, when under the stars in Panama I easily listen to Frank Sinatra, Harry Chapin, Andrea Brachfeld, Vivaldi or Billy Joel. The sounds were wonderful. Additionally, there were times when I connected a Powerbeats 2 to drown out the busy surroundings. Music sound quality never diminished.

The most impressive feature I loved about the HTC was its ability to connect other carriers or WiFi. Unlike my Tavel partner who used an AT&T iPhone, my HTC detected and connected to other carriers. When this occurred, a message from my carrier came front-screen “Text messages, email and data is free. Phone calls are 20 cents a minute.” I loved it. My companion’s iPhone rarely detected or connected to carriers outside the network. This may be due to the setup of the phone, or my friend’s carrier plan, but the HTC 10 connected perfectly.

Google Maps and location detection was my only sore point. Unfortunately, I did not download city-t0-city maps prior to embarking. Thus, unless there was solid carrier connection, Google Maps and location tracking often failed. Other things noticed included that neither Android Pay nor Apple Pay were wholely effective outside the US.  The US Customs App of IOS was ineffective outside the US and a US Customs App for Android is non-existence. Lastly, Airport check-in when outside the US, Canada and key cities in Mexico was messy. We found one could check-in via my HTC, but still had to obtain physical boarding passes as wireless boarding passes were rarely received outside of major cities.

Overall, I fell in love with the HTC 10 and now keep it as my primary cell phone. And after all that travel and hiking, the HTC remains flawless.

imageI spent this past week in Orlando, Florida. Ironically, the American Counseling Association was holding its annual convention here. During my stay, I befriended several counseling professors from a few universities. Although summarized, the following stories were garnered after a few drinks, with names and schools being omitted.

Story One – A Paid Vacation
“I came here for the conference,” the dean said. “I’ve been here three days and have yet to attend one conference seminar. I’ve been at Disney World the whole time.”

“Why haven’t you attended anything?” I queried.

“Well,” she exclaimed. “Others use the conference as vacation for years. So I got tired of it and decided to do it myself. The heck with them.”

“So the university paid for everything: hotel, airfare, car rental, dinning, gasoline and tolls?”

“Yes.”

“Man! Gotta love the cost of education,” I noted.

Story Two – The Grant
“My school has given me the best grant ever,” he pronounced.

“And that would be?” I inquired.

“I received a grant to watch gay pornography and report on possible counseling techniques to counter pornography.”

“Seuiously?”

“Yes. Seriously.” After a brief pause, “Guess what?”

“What,” shaking my head.

“In truth, I am a gay man.”

“So you’re a gay man. And you reccveived a grant from the university to watch gay porn?”

“Yes,” he laughed.

Story Three – The Email Spy
“I came to give a speech on data privacy.”

“Important topic,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “And if you run across anyone needing a software that can read emails, let me know. I built one.”

“You built one?”

“Yes.”

“How does it work?” I asked.

“Well, I own a private security company on the side. I funneled university computer technology student interns to work at my company. Students built the software that I sold back to the university and then to the government. The software tracks and records all emails sent by students or university staff.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah,” he said. “If you send an email through the university system … to Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail … whatever … If I turn the software on, I can copy, track it and read it. And you’d never be the wiser”

“And if the students and faculty ever find out, I’ll bet they’ll be pretty pissed.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.

Somewhere along the line I thought education was to better students, professors were leaders. But apparently, in some cases, it’s all about having students pay for stupid shit.

Derby Gets New Legs

This is an absolutely amazing story.

Published on Dec 15, 2014

See how unique, custom 3D printed prosthetics allow Derby the dog to run for the first time.

Follow them at:
https://twitter.com/3DSystemscorp
https://www.facebook.com/3DSystemsCorp

See Any Typos?

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 3.07.05 PMOne can watch television and experience nothing more than an hour’s worth of entertainment while others, like me, find wisdom to face adversities that life tends to bring. Thus, I was mesmerized watching Person of Interest, Season 4, Episode 1, Panopticon. Panopticon presented several valuable lessons.

First, if you’re going to go to war against whatever that prevails, be realistic. Find a purpose or something worth living for. Regardless of the odds, the world doesn’t call you to sit on the sideline, as Root (Amy Acker) so eloquently states:

… and the thing we’re up against has virtually unlimited resources … You know how many we have? Five. Six, if you count the dog. Now is not the time to be precious, Harold. You don’t get to sit this one out … Every life matters, you taught me that … You got your friends into this mess, the least you can do is get them out.”

Second, just when you feel defeated, look for God’s typo’s. Just as irrelevant people of the world matter, God may send you messages via the most strangest methodologies. Just as those of Christian faith clearly claim God inspires through the written word, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) finds an encoded message in a “thesis” written by the Machine containing deliberate typos. These ‘typos’ lead Finch to information about a possible new base of operations.

Third, find ways to make enemies allies. Just as Root becomes a key team member and assistant moral compass, recognize you and your enemies may not always be so polar opposite. Some are, many aren’t. As Reese (Jim Caviezel) says to Elias:

Which brings me to the other reason why I am here. I’d like to hire you.”

Fourth, sometimes doing the right thing means getting out of your name tag and high-heels. Simply put, you must become engaged. And regardless of the odds, you must make a stand.

Most people I’ve met live opposite of those four points. Even I lived opposedly for far too many years. This is how people are. But you … you can look closely, look at yourselves.

The Buddha taught about having recollection and self-awareness in all situations. So I ask, did you bring your actions, speech and thoughts with you today? Or have you left them at home? This is where you must look, right here. You don’t have to look very far away. Look at your actions, speech and thoughts.

Do you see any typos?

transcendence-teaser-trailerAt its root, Transcendence is about a guy who gets turned into a computer. In essence, it’s the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and how AI impacts our culture, our lives, our relationships, ourselves.

I could rally around similar thoughts presented in the movie Her, but from a personal thought, the story arcs around the subtle, often little explored ‘personal intent.’ As Wayne Dyer often quotes, everything begins with a thought (i.e., intent). From a Buddhist perspective, it means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with consequences.

Buddhist masters claim even a little poison can cause death while a tiny seed can become a huge tree. Quoting Buddha, “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Thus, while Transcendence focuses upon human migration to technology, I was fascinated by an unexplored subplot: the intention to destroy.

In Transcendence, a radical fringe group headed by an intense, brow-furrowed Bree (played by Kate Mara) coordinates deadly attacks on computer labs around the country. In essence Bree feels the research is ethically/morally wrong and ‘intends’ to destroy everything associated with it. Moving from intention to action, Bree coordinates progressive simultaneous attacks, involving large numbers of death and destruction.

Don’t lose yourself,” are the dying words of Will Caster (played Johnny Depp) to his wife, Evelyn (played by Rebecca Hall). The pivotal question is how much humanity would we lose if any one of us transcended? Accordingly, resistance against change offers positive and negative lessons.

What most fail to see is that no matter how positive the intention, bad things happen. Bree killed a lot of people. And with complete worldwide power grid and technological failure, along with resulting economic collapse, a wave of tremendous death and pain ensued. More than likely, hospital patients died, planes crashed, nuclear facilities overheated, damns burst, medical and various other maladies had to occur. Yet Bree’s intentions were never addressed.

So, the single most important lesson from the movie: Don’t lose your humanity. But everyone did … in fact … lose himself or herself. Even Bree.

Inherent in every intention and desire lay the mechanics for fulfillment. All of us have infinite organizing power. Thus, when introduce an intention on fertile ground of pure potentiality; we can put this infinite organizing power to work for us.

Just don’t lose yourself.

maxresdefaultCosmos’ final hour revealed the final message embedded in the space probe Voyager’s Interstellar Golden Record. It was a recording of life on Earth, ending with Carl Sagan’s life-summing meditation on this “pale blue dot.”

So was the show worth it? Cosmos was television on an ambitious scale, a full-blown science program in prime time on a mainstream broadcast network, on the most crowded, and competitive night of the TV week.

Throughout the show, there were those who sought to deny the scientific evidence presented. The opening episode featured an introduction by President Obama and stirred controversy with a lengthy segment that deliberately pitted religion against science, providing an animated story about the Catholic Church’s persecution of the 16th-century monk and astronomer Giordano Bruno.

To the creationist viewpoint, there was no opportunity for rebuttal. But that wasn’t the show’s premise either. With that being said, one can believe in religion all they want, but when an asteroid falls from space at about 22,000 miles per hour and crashes into earth, I’m presuming God won’t be there to stop it. Remember, I didn’t say “if.”

Tyson said if he reached just one viewer deeply enough to get them interested in science, Cosmos will have succeeded. Cosmos began and ended with Carl Sagan:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Dr. Tyson, regardless of my faith … you reached me. I loved the show.

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