Category: Technology


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.

The Search for God

pillars-of-creationWatching the Hubble Space Telescope at the planetarium gave some great and wondrous insights to our universe.  One photo pictured a small segment of space, about one 24-millionth of the whole sky. Within it, almost all of the 3,000 galaxies could be seen, some of which are among the youngest and most distant known. Each of these galaxies contains over 100,000,000 stars (i.e., solar systems). Multiply all that by 24,000,000.

On face value, the chances “we” (this island earth) being the only planet supporting life seems shockingly remote. However, Hubble’s discoveries do leave questions. First, if we are products of the universe, where does the universe come from? How do we solve it? Second, where is God? Third, how do I fit into this potentially vast universe?

One could take a ‘scientific’ or ‘religious’ view of our world, dividing the world into believers and nonbelievers. From a straight scientific perspective, religion is wrong. Believing in spirituality is flawed. For those of the moralistic side of religion, one can visually conceptualize God, but simply cannot tolerate the written word as inscribed by leaders of the past. And there are those who believe every word of the Bible is verbatim, every sentence is sacred.

I believe we do this because we are guided. For instance, much of modern day life is run more from an Apple iPhone than by spirit. Think about it, we structure everything, including time. We synchronize encounters. We are a culture of repetition. Our world is an endless cycle of calendars; a way of ensuring each year repeats the same patterns, same themes, same ideas, and same messages. For instance, the Super Bowl occurs in February; NCAA holds it’s madness in March; Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December; Easter around April; businesses financially budget in either fiscal or calendar years; vacations occur around the same time of year; morning starts early, sleep starts late; seasons occur yearly, etc., etc., etc.

We forget to remember that we are not simply bodies in motion. We are spirit. And when the hand of God or the body of life teaches us lessons, it’s commonly done via the spirit. For instance, the Hubble Space Telescope cannot conceive of the idea of forgiveness, tears of the heart, falling in love, starting anew, starting afresh. You cannot immerse yourself in the water of love when only a physical action backs up a philosophical idea. God is neither.

There is nothing about space itself that offers any insight to the power of humanity or love. Hubble makes no make a room for love. There is no room for generosity. You cannot measure the fulcrum of agape love in a stellar explosion. It’s impossible to understand the mystery of faith watching two solar systems collide. How eerie our world mirrors the universe. The same violence and warfare in the universe affects everything we do – our hopes, dreams, aspirations, fantasies, relationships — and our religion.

Transcending the world of Hubble, the world of God, Nirvana, Allah or Dao lies beyond the reach of words. In our world, only our collective humanity prevents us from bringing faiths (scientific and religious) together. To do so requires a level of compassion far greater than the universe, far more powerful than even the Bible’s written word.

Our view of Santa Claus matures from a byproduct of knowledge and age, whereas our ideas of God remain at a rather infantile level. Selfishness, greed, envy, self-preoccupation and our engrained ability to make ourselves the center of the universe prevents us from the reaching the level of love necessary to create the universe or the very level of love God intended for you and I. We remain woefully ignorant of the hatred produced each and every day.

Buddha had a monk who pestered him constantly about the existence of God and the creation of the world. The Buddha told him that he was like a man who had been shot with a poisoned arrow but refused to have any medical treatment until he had discovered the name of his assailant and what village he came from: he would die before he received this perfectly useless information. One could, the Buddha said, spend many pleasant hours discussing these fascinating topics but this would distract a monk from his main objective: “Because, my disciples, they will not help you, they are not useful in the quest for holiness; they do not lead to peace and to the direct knowledge of Nirvana.”

The quest for God comes from our ability to love one another. Real love transcends everything.

healthcaregov_logoExperts from Google and other prominent technology companies are joining a so-called “tech surge” to fix the struggling HealthCare.gov website. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the surge includes “dozens” of people with expertise in the site’s key issues: reliability, stability, and large-scale operations.

Besides government employees, the surge includes employees from Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), as well as employees of software giants Red Hat (RHT) and Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500). The funny part … the tech giants HealthCare.gov are using are the very companies the National Security Administration spied upon.

Talk about irony!

The current NSA spy-gate is the epitome of how America turned on itself through fear; former ironclad moral concepts became open to debate and off-centered partisan positions.  Somewhere between terrorists attacking and media spun paranoia, we learned the wrong lessons and we’ll be suffering the consequences for decades.

America has become so bad and fear ridden that we seem to have lost our humor and the ability to see ample colors of beauty in each and every person. Therefore, unless you’re a conservative pundit, one must be a willing participant in the lame-stream media. Reinforced theology of hatred pour though our politics, served right onto palate where each of us unknowingly sips from the cup bigotry.

As Captain America ironically professed, “This Isn’t Freedom. This is Fear.” 

In a world of instant soup, instant access, instant internet and instant response, we’ve become fearful of a national healthcare policy. There is no instant healthcare. And many people with some very strange thoughts now claim that they alone can lead the masses unto the “promised land.” As the fictional President Andrew Shepard would say, “… They are interested in two things and two things only: a) making you afraid of it; and b) telling you who’s responsible.” These leaders are raised in partanship and hatred … nothing more, nothing less. Oftentimes, they are delusional at best.

From a Buddhist perspective, our experience of the world is only distorted and messed up because it is reflected in the messed up mirrors presented to us. To me, that definition meets both the current spy-gate and fear of HealthCare.gov. Our delusions see things in fear that aren’t really there. But we get taken in by the delusion. And even though it’s the same thing – they are reflecting something not there and then believing it IS there.

When we don’t like someone, they’re just bad. Hatred apprehends other people to be bad from their own side. So all of us become intrinsically bad. But of course there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person.

In the case of healthcare, the Obama administration must ask from those upon whom we have spied upon. It’s funny how God puts one in a place to ask of our enemy for thing we need the most.

Grace and forgiveness.

Internal Pollution

ohio_frackingWaste-water from the controversial practice of fracking appears to be linked to all earthquakes in an Ohio town that had no known previous earthquakes. The first earthquake recorded in Youngstown, Ohio occurred 13 days after fracking began, with tremors ceasing shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011. In addition, dips in earthquake activity lined up with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and other times when injection at the well was temporarily stopped.

Unfortunately, we tend to see ourselves as the smartest of all beings. Accordingly, being “wise ones,” we have misused, abused and destroyed species of animals, forests, mountains and natural resources. Additionally, our environment is seriously polluted because our internal environment (i.e., our mind) is seriously damaged. Bottomless greed pushes us to quench our unceasing internal fire, leading to destruction and environmental damage.

Early Buddhist legends detail many legends, prayers and stories that specifically dealt with humanity’s correct relationship with nature. All elements of nature were viewed as part of a unified structure. Each natural element had its own spirit. Accordingly, harmoniously co-existing many Buddhists performed ecologically sound practices, including avoiding digging the earth in certain places, defiling rivers, cutting trees, destroying the roots of grasses, disturbing the nests of animals or, generally killing of animals unnecessarily.

We do not have to abandon our desire for research, or the attainment of knowledge and truth. We can seek these worthy elements of knowledge while living in harmony with all beings and with nature. We must emphasize the interconnectedness of all elements of nature – both in the visible and the invisible worlds, teaching about the organic and the non-organic world and the relationship between the two. Greed ultimately brings harm. And that failing to recognize the consequences of our environmental impact will cause numerous ecological catastrophes.

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