Missing People

Well, I’m missing friends and family. Would not have expected this.

Can’t really visit with my parents or others other than by my phone or message or email. Missing seeing my friends at church. Miss working out in the gym with others that I know. Missing running occasionally with my running partner. Haven’t seen my sister or brother in weeks. Have seen my daughter and son-in-law some but trying to generally keep a distance from my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Having to do zoom meetings instead of going and sitting down with friends. Was supposed to teach a class at church this quarter but that blew up so I’m missing that experience too.

We dropped off about 30 care bags for a group we are in, some of our neighbors, some nearby family and some nearby friends. That was fun.

My calendar is nearly empty now which is so weird. Can’t even process that.

I hope wherever you are and whoever you are with that you are being safe and careful.

I hope you know you are loved. Reach out and connect.

Mark

A New Normal?

After this Covid-19 experience, whenever that is, what will go back to normal and will have a new normal?

Education is going to be transformed in multiple fashions driven by the realization that much of our learning can be done online without the need to be face-to-face with a teacher or a class. This will have huge impact on higher-ed in particular.

Will we return to shaking hands again?

What about churches where we pass communion trays across a row of strangers and where our kids are dropped off in a smaller class taught by someone and with some others that we don’t know or don’t know their health stories or practices. What about our older church members who go to church faithfully week after week, but suddenly they are going to realize their health may be impacted by that which they’ve done forever.

What are the 2nd and 3rd order impacts of this economic impact to our cities? Some leaders have suspended rent and evictions and the like. Well, what about the people who are expecting that rental income or need to remove a misbehaving tenant from their property? When Mayors close all the bars and restaurants, what about the employees losing their jobs there and the owners who are losing their income? Then what happens to them and their families?

See We’re not going back to normal in the MIT Technology Review.

Trump

I’ve been stewing on what to say about the Christianity Today article Trump Should Be Removed from Office on 12/19. What to say? He was elected by the US voters with the process and ground rules in place to win the nomination and the general election. Yes, social media probably distorted viewpoints, but in the end, he won. He is the US President.

He has done some things that are directionally correct in standing up to some foreign powers and in intending to call out some who really need to be called out. He has, perhaps, appointed more judges and perhaps we’ll have more balance in our courts for a season.

But here is the deal. He is fundamentally not a good person. The CT articles states:

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

James Comey wrote this week on Twitter:

I’m not here endorsing or defending Comey and I think the Democrats are equally a nightmare.

The impeachment process in the House has been a show itself. The Democrats wouldn’t let the Republicans bring some witnesses and then the Democrats are stunned and can’t believe the Republicans won’t let them bring witnesses to the Senate trial. Further, Pelosi holding the articles up and not delivering them to the Senate for trial as she is supposed to do further magnifies that all of this is a show.

Trump may directionally get some things right, but he is not a good person and he shouldn’t be the leader of this country.

I suspect the Senate will convene and quickly put this to an end by acquitting or denying the claims. Then the show will continue with the next chapter.

The Democrats may do another impeachment. Trump will tweet away. And our country will continue be led by a morally bankrupt person who we elected.

Shame on us. Shame on the Republicans. Shame on the Democrats. Shame on all of us.

Three days after the CT post, I saw this online:

As I read the Christianity Today essay, I was reminded once again of the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” Donald Trump is bringing an avalanche of lies into this world. It’s time for Christians once again to consider whether they want those lies to come through them—through their votes and their voices.

https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/christianity-today-exposed-the-reality

Let’s find better people to be our leaders at all levels of government.

Privacy Again

I’ve been troubled for quite a while about our deteriorating privacy in the modern era as everything we do, everywhere we go, what we look at, what we ‘like’, what we read or watch, is being tracked, stored, packaged and sold. In particular, apps on our phones track and record a lot of data about us. And that data can be then shared with others without our permission or knowledge.

The chaos around the last US election and the manipulation of opinions and attitudes by 3rd parties is very troubling and all of us should be concerned about it even as we don’t know how to deal with it.

A few days ago I read a post entitled the Facebook Catastrophe that urged readers to listen to the Techtonic podcast Roger McNamee, author, “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe” from May 6, 2019. I met Roger years ago and he spoke at one of my staff meetings where I worked. The thoughts he shared on the podcast which came from his new book are really troubling. I’m going to read the book.

After listening to this podcast I next listened to The Great Hack on Netflix as the ideas seemed to be related. This was just more insights into how all of these platforms enable us to be manipulated.

So, today I deactivated my Facebook account.

I didn’t delete it, just deactivated it. That might not actually solve any of the problems I’m worried about as I’m sure the data is still there about me, but at least I’m further removed from adding to that data and I’m not seeing what they choose to show me. I don’t think I use Facebook login services anywhere, but I’m going to be watching to see.

The next worry is here.

Thoughts? What are you doing about all of this?

Underwhelmed, Connections, Overwhelmed and Peace

Amazon Prime Day has completely underwhelmed me. One of the things that I think about for events like this is how well the vendor (Amazon) has dialed into what I consistently buy or look at over time and then how well their smart analytics and data mining tune offers to match what I’m likely to be interested in and I might want to buy. I’ve seen nothing interesting so far. I’m surprised and underwhelmed.

Yesterday I was contacted about a Dean position at a University a few states away. I declined because I’m not interested in moving. I’ve never really considered such a position but it might be fun. However, it got me thinking about LinkedIn and recommendations on LinkedIn which I’ve never really cultivated. In a weak moment, I sent requests to some former colleagues at different places asking for recommendations in case I might need or want them in the future (before they forget me). Several have since called me and several have sent me recommendations already. If nothing else, I at least re-connected with some friends.

These past two months have been a time of reflection and reconsideration about many things. Church, organizations, growing older and what is ahead. Going to be a grandfather soon which is hard to believe. Talked to two different friends yesterday and had great conversations about things in the past and things ahead. Some other friends have moved away and I don’t see them as often which makes me sad. Some other things are not unfolding as I might have hoped or thought. Have been re-impressed with the value of friends and cultivating friends and connecting with those around.

On a really bright note, my wife and I had the chance to take a quick vacation this past week when we visited Alaska. Lots of great sights and times. And I got to experiment with a new camera, a Nikon Coolpix B600, which has quite a zoom lense capability. Really enjoyed working with it and realized I have much to learn.

The zoom…

Wherever you are and whatever your situation, I wish you well. May peace be upon you.

Being Taken to the Cleaners

I’ve come to believe that we are being taken to the cleaners over and over in simple and subtle ways.

Case in point, when your state issues tax refunds for overpayments on a debit card. They are absolutely, 100% on purpose, taking advantage of those of us who lose the cards or never get around to using them or are just overwhelmed with dealing with another card and account to set-up. Remember, you must call their 800 number and listen to their commercial in order to activate the card. That state keeps that which is never used.

Or how about medical service providers who send you a bill for an amount after insurance has paid what they will pay, you write them a check, and then weeks or months later you get a check in the mail for overpayment. Once again, they are counting on you not cashing that check and they were leveraging your money during the time of the overpayment by earning interest on those funds. This is not accidental.

And of course, the insurance companies send you a Explanation of Benefits written in a foreign language to most of us using codes and things we don’t understand to justify what they are going to pay for and not pay for on this claim. And, of course, they include several pages of how you appeal the payment of which nobody does.

Our leaders in Washington don’t have to live by the very laws we must obey. They get their own health insurance and retirement plans. They get to trade securities with insider information without fear of prosecution. They are lobbied by special interests (everybody, everything, every country) and people who go into Congress with typical financial resources end up millionaires within a few years.

And statistics are used to prove whatever points is required in the current argument or cause. For both sides.

I don’t think of myself as paranoid, instead, I think of myself and seeing more and more of this around me. It is just reality.

I think I’m going to read this Moneyland book. That will probably set me off further.

Take care of your friends and family that are nearby. Be kind. Help those who need a little help. Be gracious. The ‘system’ is not going to help and we need to help each other and just be kind along the way.

Grace

The last few weeks have been some of the most intensive thinking weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’m working trying to understand some problems and challenges and then trying to figure out the best path forward given those challenges. During these times, I’ve had many important and deep conversations with some colleagues as we’ve talked through these challenges and how to best move forward.

During these discussions, and some side discussions, I’ve been repeatedly reminded about how so many of us tend to think we are right in our viewpoints, directions, and opinions and anyone thinking differently is wrong. Of course we are right, we’ve considered all the facts and made a decision and it fits our worldview perfectly. Plus we are invested in that viewpoint and the idea of us being wrong is nearly inconceivable. Furthermore, the other person and viewpoint are evil.

There is a passage in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that I’m mindful of these days where in Micah 6:8 where it says:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly

This simple passage in Micah says so much to me.

I’m so tired of people who do not extend the “benefit of doubt” towards others on matters where they have no real understanding. People are critical of things via sms or email across hundreds of miles when they weren’t there to see what they are complaining about. Where is walking humbly? Where is loving mercy? Where is trusting the people you know there at the scene?

I’m tired of people who can not extend grace to others.

Everything in Washington (and on Twitter/Facebook) is black and white and the other person is evil and wrong and should be smashed and obliterated. Where is listening and trying to understand? Where is walking humbly in your thinking?

I’m tired of people who are not invested in a solution, being critical of those who are trying to do the right thing. If you are not willing to be in the arena, then you don’t get a vote.

On April 23, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt said the following famous lines:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Life is hard people. Be kind, for you do not know what battles others are fighting. Let’s learn to listen and try to understand first, second and third.

One day you might need grace from someone. One day you might need someone to listen to you.