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I bought a lock-picking kit at the end of August. Tools and some clear locks for practice.

Tonight I tried it, and I was successful! Yes, I’m sure the locks are made to open easily. Doesn’t matter. I took a lock that opens with a key, and opened it without a key.

I’m kinda proud. Doesn’t translate into real-world skills, yet, but it’s a skill (experience?) that I didn’t have yesterday.

Communion Meditation 2021-09-12

Yesterday was the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11, when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.  That was a terrible, tragic event, one that I hope never happens again.

The whole country, the whole world, was alarmed, very watchful, on high alert – and rightfully so.  Everybody was glued to their news sources – television, radio, newspapers – for days on end, wanting to find out more, to understand what had happened.

Which brings me to my own twenty-year anniversary, which is today.  On September 12th, twenty years ago today, I was scheduled to have my gall bladder removed.  We had confirmed that yes, the surgery was going to go forward.  So I went.

My memory is a little hazy, because of the anesthesia, but my recollection is that everybody, from the receptionist up to the surgeon, was watching the TV.  The nurse feeding me jello afterwards would kind of aim the spoon at my mouth and let me finish the action, because she was looking elsewhere.

Did this concern me, make me wonder about the quality of the surgery I had just gotten?  Yes, it did – but without reason.  As distracted as they might have been, the doctor and nurses were still professionals.  They got their job done, regardless of the cost.  They may have had relatives or friends on the planes, or in the buildings, but they did what they needed to do.

And that makes me think of Jesus.  He had a task – to do God’s will.  That included living a perfect, sinless life, and dying on the cross without guilt.  He gathered and taught the disciples across years, teaching and correcting them. He had one job, and he did it perfectly.  Was it easy?  No – He was tempted in every way, just as we are – but He resisted temptation.  Did He want to pour out His blood on the cross?  No, He prayed the exact opposite.  Did He do His Father’s will?  Yes.  Hebrews 12:2 says “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He did the job, He ran the race, He won the prize.  That is what we are remembering now, with the bread and the juice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You loved and still do love Your Son.  You loved and still do love us.  Thank you for having Jesus show us the way, and pay the price for our salvation.  In His name I pray, Amen.

Two black cylindrical things

Two nifty things recently, both black and round in two dimensions.

The Amplifi Alien has been serving wifi throughout the house for a month, and doing a wonderful job of it. Phones, streaming devices, wireless printer – everything just works. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Is it a terrible thing that I can’t do network segmentation on it? Nope, no more sad that I can’t extend my hammer. Purchased to do one thing, and it does that thing well.

The other cool thing is a little bluetooth speaker from Anker. Twenty bucks for twenty hours of audio (at lower volumes), that is surprisingly loud, clear, and bassy. It isn’t green – it’s reflecting in the glory of the “signal-is-good” Alien.

Both recommended, for different purposes, of course.

This has been a good week.

  • I turned sixty-mumble, and lived to tell about it.
  • I had a colonoscopy/endoscopy this morning, results next week, and no immediate problems or ill after-effects.
  • I upgraded our home networking with an Amplifi Alien – ‘spensive, but worth it. Mesh system that just works. Our streaming TV service no longer needs a warm-up and no longer pauses. Wish I had done it sooner – been bothersome for months, and a major weight on me.
  • I got my brother-in-law’s site (which I host) up and running with rotating pictures. He’s been asking for that for a long time, and today I had time and energy and inclination to do it. Piwigo to the rescue.

My health is good. My God is great. My job is turning around (less stressful). My weight is the lowest it’s been in 22 months, and down 30 pounds from my high three and a half years ago. And for data geeks, that’s in the bottom 4th percentile across daily readings from almost 8 years.

So what? Not much. This isn’t a brag post, nor a humble brag one. I just feel good about what I have gotten accomplished. And that’s been a while.

PS: That pic of the Alien shows a few things in the blurry background. A potato gun that I got because I wanted to do a project at work that I had named SPUDGUN – never got off the ground, but I like seeing it and saying “spudgun”. A coaster from Scrabble tiles from my very favorite niece Caroline. A model train car from the Rock Island line, because a friend I’ve never met blogged about the trademark being publicly available. My work laptop (powered off), and one of two side monitors that help me do things. The ear coverings of my active sound canceling Bluetooth headphone (sometimes I work better with comfortable music on, and everything else off, even if I’m home alone). A large-letter, lighted keyboard because I’m not getting any younger. The white box contains a piece of bismuth I picked up at the fair a few years ago, which led to my Dad and I home brewing our own bismuth parts, one of which I have in my office window, and I smile every time I see it. Yes, we used thrift store pans. My momma didn’t raise no dummy.

I wish I was a dog.

I was having one of those whiny, gripey woe-is-me moments, thinking life was unfair, and then I realized that dogs have many advantages.  They get fed on a regular basis, and sometimes get scraps from the table.  They get to go for walks with their owner.  And even at the end of their lives, they aren’t worried, because they trust their owner. Wonderful.

Then I started to count my blessings.  I do have ready food, and choose when I want to eat.  I don’t get scraps from the table – I have a seat at the table.  Dogs lying around most of the day is overrated – ask anybody who has spent quantity time in the hospital.

And then, as He does, God moved my thoughts into the spiritual realm.  That table that I have a seat at – it could be anything from David’s “Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” to Revelation’s marriage supper of the Lamb.  Going for walks with my owner – well, the great theologian Merle Haggard put it like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

The leash that dogs wear?  Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  All through my life, and at the moment of my death, and for all eternity, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting and guiding.

And all this is because although I am a creation of God, like dogs are, I am much more than that.  I am made in His image.  And because I have accepted the gift of salvation, I am a child of God.

So, my life, as it exists right now, even with burdens and cares, is much, much better than a dog’s life.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”.  And why rejoice?  Because of God’s love for us, expressed through Christ and His sacrifice.  Jesus was willingly obedient, by choice, by love, to die for my sins and yours, to ensure that the end of our lives would not be the end of our life with God.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate communion with wafer and juice representing Christ’s body and blood, I thank You for the indescribable gift of salvation.  Your ways are not our ways.  Like Job, I sometimes need to put my hand over my mouth.  I know You love us, and You have plans to give us hope and a future, plans established in time immemorial.  Help me to seek Your will here and now, not wish for something not in Your plan.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In my library, where I do a lot of my reading of physical books, I keep three reading streams. Fiction, non-fiction, and “spiritual”.

Fiction encompasses mysteries, science fiction, cozies, anything that is made up.

Non-fiction includes a lot of history, science explainers, and trivia.

Spiritual has included an in-depth analysis of the book of Revelation from four perspectives, Christian biographies, and conservative archeology. I recently tossed a book that tried to redefine King David as the ringleader of a small group of tribesmen – that’s not the way I read my Bible.

As I finish a book from my reading streams, I replace it with a similar one. A day or two ago I finished up Indianapolis, a sad story with a happy ending. I replaced it with Homestead, the story of a failing mill town near Pittsburgh.

Today I completed The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, hardback, at about 700 pages. All the stories and novels, with fascinating explanations of the language, the locations, and the exact dates the fictional events must have happened on. A hefty hardback, coming in at four pounds. As enjoyable as it was, I wasn’t sad to reach the end and move on to the next book.

Which is The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, volume 2, at 800 pages.

Woe is me.

Jim Knowles died earlier this month. He wasn’t a large man, but he was a big man.

He was big on his family.

He was big on his wife, Nancy.

And he was big on Jesus. A licensed minister, a holder of a Masters degree in Religion, and he had more than twenty years of service as a minister in a couple different churches. I don’t have pictures, but I have memories of him. He’s sitting in his rocker, early in the morning and late at night, Bible on his lap or right next to him.

He wasn’t an ivory-tower saint – he lived in the world, knew how it worked, and understood people. And loved them.

One thing I don’t understand, though, is how to reconcile the fact that the Bible says that there will not be marriage in Heaven, in contrast to the eternal love Jim had for Nancy.

God will work it all out. Jim trusted Him, eternally, and God is still working out His plans through Jim and his legacy.

Every one of us are unique.  We are created in the image of God, but we are not identical.  We all have something that we’re born with, maybe something that has happened to us, that makes us different than anyone else.  My wife Bettie has something that’s different, and only shows up when her hands get cold.

She has a thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome.  How it works is that some of her blood vessels like to go overboard – they clamp off the blood supply to part of her fingers if she gets too cold.

Fortunately, there’s an easy cure for this – just warm up, and everything is fine again.  The blood vessels open up, blood starts flowing, color returns, and everybody’s happy.

If she doesn’t get warmed up, I imagine there could be some significant consequences – we all need the blood to flow to keep on living.

And then I realized this is true for us spiritually.  If we don’t have the blood of Christ, we don’t have life.  1 Peter 1, verse 18 and into 19, says

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ

And that is what we’re celebrating now, the life-giving body and blood of our sinless Redeemer and Lord, available to all who answer the call.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You know us.  You see us in all of our imperfection, and You love us anyway.  You love us so much that You sent Your perfect, spotless Son to die in our place.  We are called to remember that, and to celebrate it.  We thank You so much for that priceless gift, the blood that washes away our sins.  We thank You for the gift of eternal life, and the calling to follow Jesus Christ down that narrow road.  In His name I pray, amen.

Communion meditation April 11, 2021

Ohio crossed one million cases of Covid-19 on. Monday.

I had it right after Christmas.

That makes me one in a million!

I started a project in June to re-digitize all my CDs. Finished all the CDs I could locate, turning them into FLAC files. I know I’m missing some, and I didn’t do my vinyl (the project could grow infinitely).

I used the excellent dBpoweramp and the accompanying PerfectTUNES to get the audio off and locate cover art. Again, still more work to do. I’m aiming for useful, not perfection.

Then Google Music shut down, so I downloaded everything I had sent to the cloud, which filled in some gaps and added some Amazon samplers as MP3s. Google downloads don’t know about folders, and every download has the group and album built into the song title. I could fix that, but the project could grow infinitely, as I may have mentioned before.

I spent some time cleaning up folder names and structures, and was finally ready to transfer it all to my phone (I really don’t like YouTube Music, Google’s replacement – it’s structured for them instead of for me, and rather forcefully. Gmail, Google Drive, and Keep are tools for me. YTMusic is all them.). And without a slot for an external memory card, it wouldn’t all fit on my phone.

I’d given myself a budget of 40G for music – seems right on a 128G phone. I had almost 180G of music. On my PC that’s fine – a 10T drive holds that without blinking. But for my phone I achieved 450% of my goal. If I was selling Girl Scout cookies that would be great. With a limited container, not so much.

With much hacking and chopping, making hard decisions, I got down to 50G and couldn’t see much more fat.

Today, Christmas of 2020, I have finally transferred all that music to my phone. No playlists yet, but I have the source material.

I verified the transfer with the always-helpful Beyond Compare. I’m playing the music through Musicolet, a local player. Yes, I paid for the upgrade to be able to cast to the TV (thank you, Google Opinion Rewards!).

Now I can carry around 2,444 songs – that’s 176 hours of music, so I can go a week without repeating – in my pocket.

Merry Christmas, Steve!

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