Friday Follies: Artificially Speaking

Recently, Artificial Intelligence has been a huge topic of conversation in some circles. This appears to result from the awakening sense of wonder, awe, and dread concerning the fantastic advances in Information Technology.

ENIAC, the first computer to calculate the value of Pi

Yes, just a few decades ago, the technology needed to determine the value of Pi required a room full of equipment and thousands of watts of electricity.1 Today, there is more computing power in the watch on my left wrist than the computer first used to calculate Pi to billions of decimal places.

Now, it seems technology is moving almost as fast as your smartphone’s signal. We have gone from simple, though time-consuming, calculations to creating computer programs capable of operating in a manner that allows them to imitate human speech, make videos and pictures which look real, and convince you the entity on the other end of a phone call is a living breathing person instead of a computer system.

Yes, computer technology today can imitate human behavior and communication. Also, with the help of audio and digital devices, these AI programs, and their hardware can create images of humans so realistic it is difficult to tell them from reality. Take the alleged photos of former president Trump’s arrest making the rounds on social media lately.

So where is the folly in this Friday Follies post? Well, the folly is this. We, and many of our so-called leaders, are sitting around letting this take place, thinking, “Wow! Isn’t that slick!” We don’t consider that if this development continues at its current pace, it will not be long until the digitalization of everything will make it impossible to know what or who is real and what is not.

1 The normally used value of Pi is 3.14. However, Pi is an irrational number that cannot be expressed as a fraction, which means it does not end.

© 2023

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Milestones and End Games

How do you measure and evaluate your life? Do you set milestones or look back and acknowledge them? Do you count the years? Do you count successes or failures? Perhaps you count the blessings, hopefully, of children or loved ones. I’ve judged my life by some of these factors over the decades. I don’t know whether that is good or bad. It just is.

Take the question of age, for example. As a young person, I could not believe I would live to see the 21st Century. My family history, what I knew of it, and how my nuclear family lived made me certain I had better accomplish all I could before the year 2000 if I was to be remembered as anything other than a statistic or a weird uncle.

As the decades progressed and things changed, I changed. Still, there was that curtain hanging out there waiting for me. It would be the one that heralded the end of one existence and the beginning of what, if anything, lay beyond. Well, it’s the twenty-second year of the 21st Century, and I’m still kicking.

Not only do I look back, I remember the wins, losses, and stupid moves of those two extra decades of my life. Also, I still think there are milestones and goals I may live to see if I play my cards right.

The latest milestone in my saga took place this past weekend. My eldest grandson got married. Yes, the guy that wasn’t certain he’d live long enough to have grandkids witnessed one marry and start the journey I’ve watched his mother and aunt travel since they found the loves of their lives.1

Now, the question is, what does whatever future I have left hold? Certainly, it will hold challenges. I’ve survived when others might not, but at a price. Yes, when every new doctor you see looks over your records and says, “My! You certainly have an interesting medical history,” it is confirmation you’re a survivor. Of course, it may also confirm some stupid mistakes you made or chances you took in years past.

I am only here today, writing this piece, because of God’s grace and good doctors. In fact, I just started a cardiac rehab program that will hopefully keep me going long enough to see more milestones, such as last weekend. Yes, the advances in medicine over the last few decades are one reason I’m still here to write this, but they are not the only reason.

Working hard, focusing on success, and learning from the mistakes of others made me resilient. I also believe there are other reasons. I have been blessed to be surrounded by friends and colleagues who challenged me, supported me, and were there when I needed them. Even those I have not seen for years and only see now on social media have helped me grow and stay mentally strong.

With the love and support I have around me, I plan to keep on keeping on until that final curtain drops. Some of you are in the same boat, and some have to bail harder than I am. However, we can finish our journeys with the help of faith, perseverance, and loved ones. As I wrote in Keep Knocking or implied, at least, you don’t quit until the race is done.

1 Sunrise the morning after the wedding. If you believe in signs, I’d think this was good for the kids and their future. I’m praying they and the rest of us have many beautiful sunrises to witness in the coming years.

© – 2023

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Memory Lane: Alaska or ICU?

In case you are not a regular here, my life recently has been quite exciting or frightening, if you prefer. From a near-crippling back injury a year ago to an early morning ambulance ride to the emergency room a few weeks ago, 2022 and 2023 had my family and my doctors on the ropes to a degree.

As if that were not enough, as I write this, my right forearm is swollen from minor surgery to remove a carcinoma and the wound where my newly implanted cardiac device on my left chest is itching. Of course, the purpose of today’s post is not to whine about how unfair 2022 and 2023 have been to me so far. I did that on Facebook the other day.

Today, I want to let you know resilience and gallows humor are part and parcel of my presona. Accordingly, let me invite you to take a short stroll down memory lane with me to September 2011.

North to Alaska: Getting off to a questionable start

© 2023

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Friday Follies: Upon Falling

A lot of things fall. Whether one is thinking of leaves in the fall chunks of space debris or Chinese spy balloons, things fall or get knocked down. My wife has several decorative items she hangs on windows with suction cups which fall more than once a year.

When they fall, she picks them up, dusts them off, and hangs them back in the same spot. So far, they continue to survive. Still, there will be a time when they take that final fall. The same can be said of people.

As we age, the fear of falling becomes more of a reality for humanity. Many people wonder when they, or a loved one, will enter the falling stage. The stage some feel is a sign the end is nigh. Take the time I tripped and fell, leaving my daughter’s house.

It was a sudden and dramatic fall that would have made a great scene in an old comedy movie. You know, the cocky old cowboy in his boots and jeans who walks around like he’s God’s gift to everybody and falls flat on his face in a pile of horse manure.

Thankfully, I fell into a pile of boxes that cushioned my fall. I might have ended up face-down on a concrete floor without them. Also, I wasn’t strutting around putting on airs, but I did look good in starched jeans and nicely polished boots.

Okay! Back to the message here. My girls reacted as if I’d just been shot and were certain that was the beginning of the end for dear old dad. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt, and there was a relatively logical explanation for the fall.

My eldest had just purchased this house; it was my first visit. For some reason, the threshold for the doorway from the house into the garage had a raised edge on the house side of the door. The sole of my boot caught on the raised edge, and the result was my thankfully cushioned face plant.

Still! You’d have thought I fell from a ten-foot ladder onto a concrete floor. Someone even commented I was getting to be that age now and needed to be careful. For the record, I have never fallen over that or any threshold again. However, I have tripped or fallen several times without serious consequences.

So, why is this being posted in my Friday Follies series? Falling as we get older is a serious threat to our well-being. Failing to realize that can lead to problems. However, being afraid to step off a curb for fear of falling is also a problem.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help, and make certain your doctors and close friends know if you begin to have a balance or other issues that might lead to falls and injuries. Keeping quiet is definitely folly.

© 2023

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Friday Follies: Off To A Rocky Start!

The idea of a Friday Follies series came to me late last year. At the time, I envisioned it as a place where I could have a bit of fun, share an apology occasionally, and explain myself when I felt the need.

It was also a platform I thought I could approach more informally and perhaps whimsically than when I write about current events, religion, or why “professional sports” is an oxymoron in Dallas.

Sadly, my attempt to produce such a series has become folly, at least for now. The roadblocks I have encountered have me wondering if a higher power might be trying to tell me I need to do something else with my time!

My latest roadblock was not, so far, as bad as what I chronicled in Deja Vu. Still, it has not been a piece of cake, and it has not made me give up on the idea of the Friday Follies series. If you wonder why that is the case, you can read my thoughts on quitting in Keep Knocking.

To wrap this up, let me share one more point with you. Perseverance is not the only thing one needs to move forward or succeed. You must be observant and alert. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder and harder to develop and practice those talents, given all the assistance available today. Consider the two pictures below.

Today we have self-driving cars and navigation systems that will give you directions quicker than a backseat driver, and often not as reliable. This is the picture of the system on my car at an intersection in downtown Fort Worth. It’s the intersection of a one-way street with a two-way street, so the system indicates you can turn left from two lanes, right from one lane, and go straight ahead from one lane.

There is just one problem if you try to go straight.

© 2023

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Production Values and Worship

One of my favorite churches to visit as a young man was a small Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a traditional Church of Christ for the day, with no paid staff, musicians, falderol, or gimmicks.

Church Elders took turns delivering sermons. Volunteer song leaders led the hymns. Everything was a capella, with no instruments, no background tracks, just a few dozen folks singing their hearts out every Sunday.

This memory returned to me as I watched a sermon from a Texas Hill Country church I attend occasionally. The pastor is well-educated, well-spoken, and preaches with just enough humor to keep things interesting without trashing the message. I was not present at the live service, but I was told I should watch the recorded sermon, which I did.

However, I did not limit myself to the sermon. I watched the entire service. It started with the Worship Team singing a song my wife said brought her to tears. Sadly, the person with her at the time, our daughter, thought Mom had fallen asleep as her head was down and her eyes were closed during the opening song.

Photo by Tajmia Loiacono on Unsplash

She was not paying attention to the Worship Team, the lighting, the screen graphics, and the rest of the production. No! She was listening to and reacting to the message in the song! The assurance that God will fight our battles if we let Him. A belief that she strongly feels, given her testimony.

My experience in this area leads me to believe most of the congregation’s younger people might have reacted as our daughter did. To them, it is not worship if you are not moving to and feeling the beat of the music!

To be clear, I move a bit, or more, to contemporary worship music as well. Heck, I sing in a traditional choir and have difficulty not bouncing to some of the more traditional music we sing. I don’t think God will be offended if we react to the beat of a well-written and performed upbeat worship song.

Back to the sermon! After giving a well-received and thoughtful message, the pastor bowed his head in prayer. The lights dimmed, and a spotlight shined on him while he prayed. The prayer seemed heartfelt and appropriate. During the prayer, the Worship Team silently returned to the stage, arranging themselves behind the pastor.

Completing the prayer, he opened his eyes; the lights dimmed further. The pastor quickly and quietly walked off stage right. As he exited the stage, the first cords of the Worship Team’s closing number stirred the air. The lights came up, and a full-blown production was underway!

I know times have changed since I visited the little church in the Diamond Hill area of Fort Worth. Still, the idea that church services should be the religious equivalent of a Broadway or Vegas production seems a bit much. I addressed this point in one part of a longer piece almost a decade ago. Check out Whose Jesus if you’ve got the time.

© 2023

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Friday Follies: Rebellion at Bluff Springs

Rebelliousness was not part of my childhood persona. Some friends, even my baby brother, seemed to have such a tendency, but not me. I am not certain why that was the case, but it was. Perhaps it was my sense of responsibility.

Responsibility was drilled into me early in life. I was responsible for getting things right. I was responsible for making certain my baby brother was okay. I was responsible for knowing what was going on and my role in whatever it was.

By the time I started school, I could read and write. I also had at least an elementary grasp of science and history. To be clear, that did not mean I could recite the Periodic Table or give a lecture on U. S. history. I did know accuracy was important, and twisting facts to meet my view of things was WRONG!

That last sentence is what made me the rebel in Bluff Springs. After several years in big-city schools, we moved to Bluff Springs, Texas.1 There, I met the teacher who laid the foundation for my future relationships with teachers, professors, and other so-called learned people.

The lesson creating the problem between Ms. Whatever Her Name was and me involved a textbook. Looking back on those days later in life, I realized she was in a bind. I could only focus on how she misrepresented our textbook’s information then.

She was in charge of a class composed of students from three grades, fourth, fifth, and sixth (my grade). She was teaching all of us simultaneously and having to make allowances for differing levels of previous learning and skills. However, all I knew was she was wrong, at least this once.

The problem and ultimate head-butting arose over a history lesson. The lesson covered the migration of people from the Asian continent to the American continent. The text made it clear there were two theories concerning this migration. Our teacher only mentioned one.

Not only did she fail to mention it was one of two theories, but she also stated it as a fact. Her comment triggered my keeping things on the right track persona. Raising my hand respectfully, I waited until she called on me to remind her the text advised there were two possibilities or theories concerning migration.

There was an audible gasp from the other students and a steely glare from the teacher. Then she said I was mistaken. Of course, I could not let that stand. Grabbing my text, I opened it to the section concerning this matter and read it aloud.

The silence was deafening when I looked up and closed my textbook. The teacher seemed to be standing like a statute, not moving or breathing. After a moment, she took a breath and banished me to the cafetorium until she came for me.2

From that point forward, there was a tenuous truce in the classroom. I promised not to contradict her at the school again openly, and she agreed to discuss differing viewpoints privately. She did not have much wiggle room on her side, as I had my father on my side. She was not interested in having my dad show up at school.

Honestly, I did not want to drag Dad into the situation either. I’d seen him angry when he felt a principal at a much larger school mistreated me once. This poor teacher would not have had a chance.

Besides, we only had a few more weeks of school. Then I would move back to the city for the seventh grade. The teacher would still be stuck in a two-room schoolhouse trying to teach kids who were more interested in getting home to get their chores done than understanding who the first settlers in North America were.

1 Not to be confused with the current unincorporated community of Bluff Springs, Texas. Our Bluff Springs was an unincorporated area of Tarrant County, Texas, consisting of a two-room schoolhouse, a cafetorium, and a few dozen ranches or farms of various sizes. Today our Bluff Springs is nothing but a memory.

2 For the record, the reality of how and when the migration from the Asian continent to this continent occurred is still now completely clear. See The Fertile Shore for more information.

© 2023

Posted in family, Family Vaules, Humor, Public Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Suddenly, a Relevant Jesus?

If you consider yourself a believer, does the title above make you bristle or cringe? Does it make you wonder about my motives or faith system? If it does, great! If it doesn’t, read it again and parse it a bit. Why would I give the piece that title? One reason is the quotation below.

“We look at the biography of Jesus through a modern lens to find new relevance in often overlooked moments and themes from his life.”

I hope the authors of this comment did not intentionally frame it in such a vacuous manner. However, after reading other comments and thoughts attributed to the group and its supporters, I fear they may be treading on thin ice in their attempt to make Jesus more relevant in the modern world.

If you read what has been written and shared by the folks making that statement, you will see them claim at one point they believe in the Jesus of the Bible, the Son of God who came to earth, “died,” and was resurrected. They also acknowledge including many “voices” with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.  

In summary, if you follow their work and reading programs, you will see a Jesus hidden by those who wrote the Bible and studied it in the centuries since His “death.” This Jesus, the one relevant today, was more evolved than the Jesus I learned about in Sunday school classes, adult Bible Studies, and at seminary.

This Jesus, the one who gets us, was allegedly pushed aside in the past by those who focused on laws, doctrine, and sin. However, with the enlightenment of the 21st Century, we can now see how His “biography” was manipulated to make him fall in line with church leaders and scholars long after He left the earth.

To be continued…

© 2023

Posted in Christianity, Commitment, Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Deja Vu 2022

Wow! I wasn’t even thinking of rhyming when I chose the title for this piece. I was thinking of the late and lamented Yogi Berra and his famous or infamous line, “It’s like de ja vu all over again.”

For those who didn’t know or haven’t heard, I managed to end up in the hospital a week and a half ago. It happened quickly and with a lot of confusion about how serious my condition was, how long I might be there, and what have you. So, few people knew. Even fewer knew details.

The good news is that things went well, despite the confusion on my medical team. Okay, things didn’t go swimmingly at one point. Due to “potential” complications, my primary care doctor insisted I go to ICU to be closely monitored.

Thankfully, he was just being overly cautious. It could have been problematic if I had been in worse shape than the others thought. ICU was full of cases much more serious than mine. I spent most of the night listening to the hustle and bustle outside my room and waiting for someone to come in and silence the alarms on my monitors when something got their attention.

Don’t get me wrong. I was not ignored. The nurses and technicians monitored me remotely, but they had much more serious cases to deal with. I only suffered from a lack of sleep and the blaring horn in my right ear.

Okay, enough, poor pitiful me. Here is the gallows humor aspect of this little trip. This was my third January to end up in the hospital. I knew it was my second, but I’d completely forgotten it was my third.

Yes, I ended up going to the ER and spending some time in the hospital in January 2021, 2022, and 2023. If you’re interested in some of the details and my attempts at making light of things, check out Seriously Doc and Dates With Destiny.

In closing, let me clarify one point. If you’re a close friend and this is the first time you hear of this, I hope you understand the medical response started with an ambulance ride at 4:30 in the morning. Once I was stabilized, it was hard enough to stay in touch with family and concerned neighbors. Plus, every few hours, it seemed things changed as the doctors involved put their heads together.

Finally, I’ve been my usual sarcastic self when talking about this incident. Since the previous two Januarys also involved events leading to a stay in the hospital, I’ve told friends I might try to hibernate next January. Since I realized this was my third January, I’ve decided I’ll try to make a deal with the hospital. If they turn the room I’ve occupied at least twice into a reasonably priced VRBO for next January, I can save the ambulance service a run.

It’s a nice little suite with a great view of the southern horizon.

© 2023


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Sunsets: Location, Location, Location?

Someone on the WordPress Bloganuary team is waxing a bit poetic today. As the sun sets on Bloganuary 2023, the prompt asks participants to write about the best place to watch the sunset in our area.

The request is also a bit ironic here in that my part of Texas hasn’t seen a sunset in a couple of days and probably won’t witness a sunset or sunrise for several more due to a winter storm that blew in and seems intent on hanging around for a while.

Oh well, that will make the next sunset I witness that much more special.

Let’s get back to the assignment or challenge. The title of this illustrates two things about me. First, I spent some time in the real estate business after retiring, and location is hugely important in real estate. Does that mean it is important for sunsets?

The simple answer to that last question is, “Of course!” A sunset from the Grand Canyon’s eastern rim will be different from a highrise in Dallas or Fort Worth.

However, it is a matter of personal preference and perception when it comes to sunsets in North Central Texas. In my case, I just like sunsets, and the location is less important than the other elements of the situation.

The pictures in this piece are just a few examples of sunsets in my area. They were all taken from locations within a few miles of my home or, in one case, my front yard.

So, where is the best place to watch a sunset in my area? Wherever I happen to be, when one catches my eye! To be on the safe side, maybe I need a bumper sticker on my car, “I brake for sunsets!” I say that because the first photo was taken from the shoulder of the interstate where I pulled over to get the shot and watch the sunset.

© 2023



Posted in Daily Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments