Friday, March 9, 2018

That feeling

When you realize God gave you exactly what you asked for but you didn't even notice because you were too busy complaining and feeling frustrated because you've assumed you wouldn't get what you asked for because it didn't really come from a place of righteousness

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My grandfather was racist

My grandfather was racist. 

He was many things. I don't think his racism defined him as a person, but it was there. I'd call it anecdotal racism. His personal experiences, processed through his personal opinions, caused him to apply invalid syllogisms to race which compounded over years of careless presumed verification.

I did my best to overlook it. I disagreed with it directly when appropriate, but also cared to show a concern for respecting his age and experience. I never thought he should die for those views. I wouldn't have accepted someone killing him over it. 

I hoped respectful discourse would have an impact. It never did. Yet, I still don't actually think his errant opinions warranted execution. I believe in accepting people with differing ideologies. 

Although I agree with the indignation expressed toward white supremacists rearing their ugly ideology, the ideology itself doesn't eclipse their humanity. At least not to me. They are clearly confused and even more clearly wrong. But what is this "kill them all" mindset which has pervaded our media as though such a stance is itself normal or acceptable?

As I listen to the bloodthirsty vociferations of our society I can only wonder how much longer until there is a murderous outcry to eradicate all who believe what I do. In my youth I never would have thought this version of the United States would exist within my lifetime. I was both blind and naive. 

This world is not my home.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Birthday Musings Round 2

I am also interested in some cooperative board games!

Escape from the Cursed Temple

Mechs and Minions (League of Legends board game)

Birthday Musing Round 1

When asked about what I might desire for my birthday, something leaped immediately to mind. I am not going to pretend it is the only thing, but it was the first. Before I get into it, though, I would like to note that the large sums being disseminated toward travel expenses to help our family are much appreciated and my highest priority. Please don't spend even more on presents if the travel is already a financial burden. 

What I thought about first of all was my desire to get a pen as a vehicle for some Pelikan Edelstein Aventurine ink into my life. I've already tried (and failed) to make this happen with cartridges and a Pilot Metropolitan Pop pen. Esther can attest to some of the general frustrations caused (read: ink everywhere).

I think the Pilot Metropolitan is a great fountain pen as an entry point into the "oh there are still fountain pens in the world" realization. These pens are about $14 and they are good writers for the price. However, they aren't phenomenal. They have some issues with leakage, drying and poor starts. Once the pen dries out, it can be frustrating to get it working again. On top of these natural concerns is the fact that the Pelikan cartridge system is in no way compatible with Pilot pens. The cartridges are too long. To overcome this, I pierce the cartridge and empty it into the Pilot converter. This tends to make a gigantic mess and although the ink is water soluble it still leaves a vague stain wherever it lands. I can't imagine Esther is a huge fan. Although I love the ink, the current system can't and won't continue.

I'd prefer to work with the bottled version:

I would need a piston filling or vacuum filling pen to put the ink in. My current pen interests are as follows:

Sadly, none of these pens is particularly inexpensive, ranging from the $150 Pilot Vanishing Point to the $60 TWSBI Diamond 580AL. Currently, I would say I am most interested in the TWSBI Vac Mini, as I have become fascinated by the vacuum filling mechanism employed by this pen. It's still a $70 pen. I have long been interested in the Lamy 2000, which has a very understated but beautiful "German" design and is relatively inexpensive for a 14k gold nib, which I am really interested in trying out. However, any pen over $100 is a bit of a stretch.

I also really enjoy the Pilot Juice Up ballpoint gel pens. They are the best I've used to date, however, the 0.3mm variety I am currently using are like needles and are surprisingly unpleasant to write with when compared to the 0.4mm version I originally tested. I'd love to get a variety of the larger tip
Pilot Juice Up 0.4mm Variety

Friday, March 24, 2017

We Live

The Grand Heresy

There is a question I think everyone asks in some way. It isn't something you'd actually speak out loud or something you'd likely discuss with friends. You happily allude to it, but nothing more. There is something dark in the question, something fearful. At its heart, it is the presumption of wisdom and the insolence of perspective. We can't help ourselves, though. Lost in our belief that we, too, can be like God it becomes natural to question Him. What does He think of our questions? We sometimes condemn ourselves willingly and other times we condemn Him, perhaps defensively thinking we are owed the opportunity. I don't know what Almighty God thinks of our constant questioning. Not really. Not ever really. It is impossible for me to know His mind in the manner I intimate with the word "know." I can see parts of it and I can accept the gift of understanding. But to truly comprehend Him implies, for me, a fullness of understanding which is logically impossible.

I cannot hold God in my mind. At least, I insist on believing I cannot. He is creator. He is infinite. He would have to be no greater than me to be contained in my finite mind. This a comforting impossibility. He grants glimpses of how He views our audacity. I think of the story of Job and am comforted to know He is not threatened or defensive. Truly, He couldn't be, correct? How could God feel threatened by us or feel the need to be defensive? Yet I am comforted to know He is neither. He is... bemused possibly. Job endured more than I think my constitution could withstand, for I am so very weak. He was faithful throughout. He wasn't faithful in my estimation, he was faithful in God's estimation. God listened to him and possibly even considered his complaints. And why shouldn't Job complain? He lost love, comfort, hope, security and support. He complained. Yet, he did not condemn God for his misfortune. He understood that God is God and he was a man. Job eschewed the idea that he could be like God. He considered himself low, and faithfully so.

I want to have that kind of faithfulness. I don't want to prove it or be tested in it. Let nobody ever believe I would. I want none of what Job endured. I only want to be, in my mind, as faithful as that man. To consider God to be God and to see myself as low - never to imagine for one fleeting moment that I am equal to God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and oh, how deeply I want to embody that fear. I want wisdom. Not to flirt with her beauty, but to be locked in her arms. I want my intractable self-adoration to be yoked by wisdom.

Job complained. He questioned. He didn't question the Godhood of God, but rather the manifestation of it. He never accused God of being selfish. This may seem an odd observation, but I think an honest assessment would reveal how often we accuse God of selfishness. Because we think of selfishness as the evil that it is in our context. For me to be selfish, to place myself at the pinnacle of my own consideration, is purest sin. I do not belong there. I never have. But God? He belongs there for both Himself and myself. He can't be selfish. It is logically inconsistent to think it. The only place where God could be considered selfish is the desolate heresy where He is seen as less than God, somehow available to our feeble judgement. Somehow contained in our minds and worthy of our ire. Job failed to think that way. He never questioned God's immutable right to bathe our existence in suffering. For God to torment us is no evil. It isn't bad. It isn't sin. It wouldn't remove His Godhood. He possesses the right to treat us in whatever fashion He pleases. Job didn't just imagine this concept. He fully accepted it and mistakenly believed God might be acting just so. But God never did. Job just wondered why God wanted the fate he was experiencing.

The closest Job came to accusing God of impropriety was in his questioning. He wanted to know what part of God's nature called for such experiences. I think, in this way, Job remained faithful to God. He accepted, unquestioningly, God's sovereignty and wondered, incorrectly, which portion of God's nature was pleased to inflict such circumstances on Job. And God corrected his misconception. Time and again God reminds us His nature is not to remove our enjoyment. He is the source of happiness and the wellspring of all that we enjoy. No matter how many times we attempt to foist our unhappiness upon Him, He has never added any of those things to our life. He may allow them and that is a concept which the mind trembles to comprehend. But He doesn't bring them. As much as He could, as much as it would not be wrong for Him to do so, He does not. In fact, He protects us from our own comeuppance to varying extents. We deserve so much pain and suffering. We asked God to go away and in doing so, requested the source of happiness to disappear from our existence. Of course, He did no such thing, but that's what we have requested. He stands between us and the consequences of our folly, protecting our lives with undeserved affection and blessing. The Apostle Paul speaks of this reality. He exhorts us to accept the tremendous compliment paid to us when God allows us to experience, for His sake, portions of the pain we deserve. I read his words as telling us to accept the amazing blessing God allows when He gives us the chance to turn our consequences into His glory. There is a transformation in that which destroys me. I can't, in beginning to understand this concept, maintain my composure. I am shaking as I write it.

Though lost under the weight of pondering the great depths of my sinfulness, God has granted us the overwhelming beauty of experiencing His glories. There is no truthful logic which can carry our minds to anywhere but facedown adoration. How He can transform this mess which I call my life is beyond mere acceptance. I can begin to see how His glory would absolutely erase my existence without the protection of the justification provided by Jesus. He wants me to exist, and never placed me in a position where I would be destroyed. He made a way for me to exist and to avoid the separation I keep asking for.

And in these thoughts lies some of the foundation for the question. People wonder: If this is the paradigm of life and if we are meant to be with God while wishing for separation, then would it not be better that we had never been created to begin with? It is embodied in rhetorical musings like "It would have been better if he was never born." It is a sentiment often raised when we are overwhelmed by consequence or observing someone else who is. Or in my co-worker, hearing about the trials endured by the babies we foster, saying "Well, if ever there were an argument for the legalization of abortion..." It is the blind passion dictating statements like "I just want to die" or "I can't wait until this life is over." It is dishonest, yes, but it is also the petulant pouting of our shared belief that we are equal to our creator. If we can't have everything the way we think we want it, even though we completely lack any understanding of what we want, then God was wrong to create us in the first place. For myself, I have resolved the answer to this view. Life is a blessing. It is a gift which doesn't require justification. It is a kindness unaffected by circumstance or choice. Praise God for making us. Praise Him without ceasing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On Chromebooks - Second Week [Part 02]

Shortcuts to happiness

It is no secret that I love shortcuts in my computing experience. I like the built-in shortcuts. I like custom macro actions. I like shortcuts I can define for myself. I've even caused problems for myself by becoming too reliant on the shortcuts I've programmed into my mouse at work. In all the time I've spent learning the Windows computing environment, I've become very accustomed to the shortcuts offered by Windows and I've immediately noticed their absence where ChromeOS diverges from Windows.

For instance, there is no need for a Windows key in ChromeOS, yet I continually try to press it to open the "search" (where all of the Chrome and Google Play apps reside). There is, in fact a key to accomplish this action, but Google placed it where the caps lock would normally reside. I use the word "normally" because it is normal for me. Of course, if I had used ChromeOS all my life and was moving to Windows, I would find the placement of the Windows key strange. But that was never an option, so let's ignore it.

If I connect a standard Windows keyboard to my Chromebook, I can observe the Windows key is interpreted as the search key. The caps lock key is interpreted as the caps lock key. Therefore, my assessment of the situation is that Google decided to change the caps lock and... well, I am not sure what to call it now. Is it the search key or the windows key? This depends on the environment, but I think a universal term would be convenient. It is probably something else in whatever Apple calls their operating system. It is the menu key, perhaps. The UX dongle. Anyway, this Chromebook keyboard has placed the UX dongle where the caps lock would be located on almost any other keyboard and I am not certain I am in favor of this decision.

I have noted there is a shortcut to the caps lock function via alt+UX Dongle. This isn't horrible, but it will take some measure of adjustment. I have also noted ChromeOS will allow me to change the UX dongle to a caps lock key and assign some other combination of alt+key to the search function it is assigned by default in ChromeOS. This seems reasonable, but I am not completely sold on doing so. Should I need to powerwash my Chromebook and move to a different channel, I would have to remember to make this change again. This isn't a hardship, simply a matter of whether I want to remember to do so each time or simply become accustomed to using the key the way my Chromebook is asking me to.

The print screen combinations for ChromeOS are a bit more streamlined in my opinion. Perhaps this is because it is so clearly laid out in the help sections for the OS, whereas in Windows there is some mystery as to when, why and with what button combinations the print screen feature will work, The task switcher button is expected and this in concert with the ctrl key will capture your screen. Add shift and it will capture the app in focus. That is fairly simple to remember.

F2 is more problematic. In Windows, this is the default key for rename across all applications. In ChromeOS there is presumed to be no need for a universal rename/insert function. I have found a replacement in ctrl+enter which seems situational, but perhaps I have just not explored it enough. There is, of course, always the option to rebind some other key, but as stated before I am not necessarily interested in this. I have also observed that using a mouse button bound to F2 has no meaning in ChromeOS. It doesn't recognize the command at all.

F5 is not refresh in ChromeOS. It is the task switching button. Refresh is bound to F3 instead. Aside from this undercutting my old concept for a web design company named F5 (for refresh or refreshing), it isn't that terrible of a change. I do find myself pressing the task switcher by accident, though, as the positioning is different enough to confuse my unfocused muscle memory. I don't think I hold this change against ChromeOS as much as I simply wonder why it is necessary. Why move refresh at all? Most people would be familiar with the F5 placement, so why not just arrange things according to this familiarity? These are probably not questions I can ever answer, but there they are.

Otherwise, all of the shortcut keys in ChromeOS appear to work exactly as I would expect them to, which is a bonus. I haven't attained enough distance from either computing environment (nor do I think I am likely to) to be able to say objectively which arrangement is better. My current conclusion is that neither is better, but since once is more pervasive it should be used as a standard. Therefore I see the changes made in ChromeOS as a disadvantage instead of simply as a change.

I try to assess all of this via the perspective that versatility breeds complication. In Windows I can assign complex macros to my mouse buttons. In ChromeOS, I can do the same, but not natively - I still need a Windows computer nearby to program the mouse. The macros I program in Windows don't necessarily work in ChromeOS and the macros I program for ChromeOS don't necessarily work in Windows (there is a little overlap). No real advantage there to either system.

The more I use ChromeOS, the more clearly I see that the goal here is simplicity. I want to replace my Windows computer, so I keep trying to complicate things. Doing all the activities I have become accustomed to is complicated. I don't think ChromeOS will ever "get there" in terms of what I am trying to do with it. I don't think the people developing it have those intentions. ChromeOS is a beautifully simple and focused environment. It is meant for simple things and it is meant to do them simply. I am starting to see how that can be good, even though I foster disappointments over the things I hoped for when beginning this process.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On Chromebooks - Second Week

Beta Blues

I was surprised and disappointed when, upon receiving my new Chromebook I discovered Google Play had been reverted to the dev channel from the stable channel (more on this below). I wasn't devastated by the change as I truly didn't purchase the Chromebook solely for its purported access to my Android apps. I've spent time discussing why this was an important part of my purchase decision, but the main goal for this device remains writing. I don't need Android apps to write. I don't really even need a new device, though the look and feel of this one has certainly inspired me with a desire to use it.

Writing is well and truly in hand at this point, though I do need to deal with some of my (possibly self-inflicted) trauma over past... efforts. I wanted to write "failures," but they weren't actually failures. They did lack the level of success I anticipated. Of course, the level of success I had anticipated was lost in that realm where the mind can confuse hopes with purpose and dreams with direction. Despite my disappointments, I can't escape the knowledge I am meant to write a story. I still don't know if it is a good story, a trite story, a forgettable story, a meaningful story, or a selfish story. I have to learn to accept my own ignorance in this regard.

I am still struggling to find that balance between writing what I am capable of writing and honing my capabilities into something greater. There is a parable about Mona Lisa to be applied here, but I will abstain. I think both are important and while I struggle with the fear of writing again in a way that is no better than what I've written before, I am also fearful of never bringing myself to write again. There is actually quite a bit at stake here. I highly value my desire to be seen by my children as a writer and to share my stories with them. Malachi is at the age now where he would accept anything I write as amazing and fuse it with his childhood memories. He will not be at that age forever. If I start writing again when he is a teenager, struggling with hormones and his own desire to be the leader God made him to be, then my stories may no longer have any impact for him. This isn't a tragedy in the larger sense, but it would be a personal tragedy. He has already lived seven years without any tangible evidence of his father's supposed love for writing.

So, in this regard, $500 is a small price to pay to stimulate my waning desire to risk my pride on another attempt at crafting my narrative. In this regard, the fact that my Chromebook fails to support Android apps the way I expected it to is a miniscule concern. Alas, I am an incurable problem solver. I can't simply accept the way things are when there is a better way in sight. I've tried.

It seems ChromeOS has three "channels" available to the end user. There is the stable channel, where everything is meant to work the way one would anticipate. This is the bug-free and dependable environment Google is selling as an alternative to other computing platforms. For a trouble-free Chromebook experience, the stable channel is the only option. There is the beta channel where most of the bugs have been eradicated. This environment isn't guaranteed to be stable, but it is pretty close. There are potentially more features to be found in the beta channel. Google allows access to new capabilities not fully developed to the point where they can be safely added to the stable channel. Lastly, there is the dev channel. This is the "unstable" version of the operating system that grants access to features and ideas which haven't been developed very far yet. This channel is meant to provide access to the earliest additions to ChromeOS, but comes with a sort of "use at your own risk" caveat. Things may not work as expected on this channel. In fact, your Chromebook might crash or lose data. Apps and features might crash unexpectedly. That's the tradeoff.

Having enjoyed ChromeOS on the reliable, Android app desolate stable channel for a few days, I was compelled to abandon it in favor of the dev channel, where I could experiment with the missing feature I anticipated so voraciously. Having done so, I can say with confidence that running Android apps on my Chromebook, even in the current dev state is pretty wonderful. It's not a thing that Google can really sell, though. I would characterize my usage of Chromedroid as light. I am not trying to be an app power user at this point. I just wanted to fiddle around with some games to see what the experience would be like on a large screen.

For the most part, the large screen Android experience has been satisfying for me. I have invested my time mainly in puzzle games, where the occasional, inexplicable lag is a non-issue. Mini Metro runs without a hitch, and I really prefer playing it on a 12 inch screen to a 5.5 inch screen. Ankora works well. The occasional lag is noticeable, though it doesn't really affect the gameplay. I like this type of game with a mouse instead of a finger, so I would say this one is also better on the Chromebook than the phone. Almightree is, again, easier to use on the Chromebook and better suited to the mouse in my opinion. It is also less fun, because its design flaws become more apparent in this environment. Zookeeper works fine, though this is an instance where I feel the smaller screen works better for the game. Shoot the Birds has some obvious ChromeOS oddities. However, since this one doesn't really work with any Android device I currently own, I am happy to be able to enjoy it again. Beyond some aesthetic concerns, it works fine, so it is another win. Lost Echo barely functions and although I paid a higher price for the game, I've already abandoned it. I thought it would be a good candidate for Chromedroid awesomeness. It is not. Vainglory does have game-affecting lag issues. They seem random to me as the user, having nothing to do with the intensity of the game itself. Most of the time, Vainglory runs as smooth as butter - even better than what I can achieve with my phone. But there are a few scattered moments where it becomes unresponsive for a second, which cause problems in a MOBA environment. Overall, though, this is a much better experience on my Chromebook than it ever was on my phone.

With these experiences in hand, I am reluctant to give up my access to Android apps on my Chromebook. There are other things going wrong with the ChromeOS experience as a result of my entry into the dev channel. For instance, Google Drive is completely unusable for me. The worst shortcoming is that I can't edit or view Google Sheets on my Chromebook any more. I have to use Chrome Remote Desktop and connect to my Windows PC to use Google Sheets.

In light of these problems, I know there may soon come a day when I have to abandon Android apps as a thing on my Chromebook in favor of ChromeOS being the thing. I am disappointed about this, but apparently shoehorning Android onto ChromeOS isn't such a simple thing. Who could have guessed?