Pi Day 2022
I settled upon something I haven’t done in years. I went to Micky D’s for an apple pie. The whole trip took roughly a quarter hour, and the pie actually tasted better than that fried thing I remember having the last time I got a pie there. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. But it did save the day for me.
And I got a better idea afterwards that I’ll use in the future. Next time I’ll visit a diner for a real piece of pie. Plus I can deviate away from apple if I so desire. I think I will desire!
Jiving at Jabbers
As a follow-up to seeing my sister’s kids last night in their Halloween costumes, I offered to take her boys to Jabbers so she could have some time to herself. Those boys were excited to spend time with their favorite uncle, although in reality they didn’t spend much time with me directly because we went to Jabbers. It’s a place with lots of open space and toys for children to play under the supervision of a parent or guardian. I’ve never been here before, but the kids have, so they knew the drill. As soon as they were in the door, they took off their shoes and wanted to go play.
Eventually I was helped by the one staff member present who didn’t seem to have much interest for providing efficient service. She was slow as molasses and nowhere near as sweet. But once I got in, I was somewhat impressed by the offerings. There’s lots of things there to entertain the kiddies and some really nice seats for the adults.
They also have a café with the usual overpriced fare. When my nephews started asking for a treat, I gave them a choice. They could help me do some grocery shopping and get a treat there at the store, or they could just play longer at Jabbers. In the end, they manipulated me into getting both. They started by saying they wanted to play. Then at the end when we went to leave, it became apparent that they were going to be a huge problem for me without some sort of treat to satiate them somehow. So we rushed to Winco where they were good helpers (for the most part) in helping me with my shopping and got a treat in exchange.
As they were quietly consuming their selected goodie in the back seat of my car, I realized that this is why the candy and soda pop industries are thriving. This is why McDonald’s happens even though it’s not high in nutrition. Parents worn down by the day and their kids are susceptible to giving their kids whatever just to get them to be quiet and contained. I’m not sure how I’ll be with that challenge since I’m still single. Wait — actually I do know because I just succumbed to it today! I guess that makes me normal.
I did enjoy my time helping out my sister and hope that I can do so again in the future. Only next time, I suggested to her, maybe I could take just one of the boys instead of both and then take turns spending time with each of them. Unless of course we go back to my place to watch Legend. They were pretty mesmerized by that movie last night!
A Halloween of Legend
Wednesdays are my busy days this semester. It starts with a hybrid class at 8:30 in the morning at CWI in Nampa, after which I meet with students during office hours, grab a quick bite for lunch, rush over to BSU in downtown Boise for an engineering lab in the afternoon, then rush back to Nampa for a stats class followed by another math class, and then another quick bite to eat for dinner followed by my one-a-week stats class that starts at 7:00 pm. By the time that class starts I’m beat, let alone when it finishes.
So when my sister and I talked about her bringing her kids by to visit and show off their Halloween costumes, we recognized the realities of my schedule on Wednesdays. I said I would text her when I got in.
And I did. Since I didn’t know how long it would be before they came over, I started chomping on a jack o’ lantern pizza I had picked up on the way home and started a movie. I’ve got several choices appropriate for Halloween in my collection, but this year I decided to watch Legend, the 1985 classic cult fantasy film starring a very young Tom Cruise as well as Mia Sara (think Sloane from Ferris Bueller) and Tim Curry.
Curry does an outstanding job with whatever he does, but his portrayal of the evil character Darkness is hands down outstanding, especially buried beneath all that prosthetic for his costume. This was 1985, so no green screen or CGI at work here. His look is absolutely impressive, and when you combine it with his superb acting skills, you get a real dynamite performance. Sara also delivers a solid performance, and Cruise — well, Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, especially in the early portion of his career. There’s a certain innocence to this performance, though, because he is awfully young. Plus it’s well before he went crazy while married to Nicole.
At length, the kiddos arrived, and they looked great in their costumes, especially my almost-two-year-old niece dressed as a hippo. She was rambunctious and full of energy as always. My nephews, on the other hand, were really interested in the movie Legend. So I gave them a brief introduction, and let them watch the movie while I visited with my sister.
It wasn’t long before both of those boys became mesmerized with the movie. I can’t say I blame them. We were watching the theatrical version with the Tangerine Dream soundtrack. Jon Anderson of Yes fame (one of my favorite rock groups growing up) has a style that is perfectly fit for this film. I’m sure the Jerry Goldsmith track on the director’s cut is great, too, but come on. I know it’s Jerry Goldsmith, but it just doesn’t work as well for me as Tangerine Dream. Too bad that version of the film is really hard to purchase. I don’t even own a copy; I have to watch it streaming through my Amazon Prime account.
At length, my sister needed to go, and so I offered to let her boys come back and finish watching the movie another time. They eagerly agreed and then expressed excitement for our play date tomorrow — which reminds me. I need to get to bed. It was great to have them visit and see their costumes. I’m not sure what next year will bring since I’m likely to be out of state somewhere attending grad school, but whatever the future brings, I’m not letting it stop me from enjoying the present.
Running to the devil
No, I'm not talking about a classic Hootie and the Blowfish tune. I'm talking about Facebook.
I've put this off for a while. I knew it was coming, and I didn't want to face it. I wanted to hope -- indeed, I did hope -- that it would not come to this, that somehow I might escape what seemed inevitable. For years I never gravitated to social media. It just never attracted me. There's probably multiple reasons for that, but the biggest reason is probably that the whole virtual reality deal just seemed fake to me. I still remember a few years back when I reached a point in my life where I hungered after real and declared that I wanted real in my life. Social media just seems so fake, the opposite of the real I hungered after then and still do today. And so I turned my back on social media, which had no place in my life.
And now that is changing.
Why?, you might ask. The question is more than fair. I've staunchly opposed my own participation in social media for years. I wanted real. And in that search for real, I entered a self-improvement kick that transformed into creating my best life. And then I started wanting to help others create their best life. And that's where it stopped.
You see, I reached a point where I could not progress further towards accomplishing my goals without other people. And sadly, those people are where just about everybody is these days. Yep, you guessed it --- social media, and specifically Facebook.
It's been about three years, I think, since I last logged into Facebook. Clearly I'm not dependent on social media to enjoy my life. I'm not sure how often I'll post or what I'll post. I am sure that I still won't put Facebook on my phone. I'll probably check in no more than once a day, if that. But I need to be where the people are, and unfortunately, it's inside this fake space of social media.
That said, I've reached a point in my life where I'm more determined than in past times to chase after my dreams and find ways to make them happen. I'm more willing to commit myself to whatever it takes to make those dreams real. Again, I'm not sure on all the details of what my relationship with Facebook will be going forward. But I do know I'm going to do what I need to do to achieve my goals and make my dreams reality.
Overnight blueberry French toast
Traditionally, my mother spearheads the effort to make breakfast on Christmas morning. This year, since she's lost some of her zest for the kitchen, I thought I would take over and make breakfast for her. She loves blueberries, so I thought this gem might just do the trick. It turned out far better than I could have imagined. And best of all, it's extremely easy to make.
I made some hash browns as well, but I won't go into their preparation. After all, if you don't know how to make hash browns, then . . . well, you should probably look into it.
My 3-day struggle to join Facebook
In my last post I explained my decision to adopt a policy of limited personal use of Facebook. I then moved to stand by my decision my joining Facebook.
I thought that it would take only a few minutes. Instead it took me three days.
It all started when I submitted to Facebook's apparently new standard security policy. I can understand passing a captcha to prove I'm not a robot. I can also understand Facebook wanting to prevent the creation of multiple accounts for the same individual. What I don't understand is why they couldn't send a confirmation phone to my phone via text.
Here's a cropped screenshot of Facebook asking me to provide a phone number.
When I provide my phone number, I see this little dandy window pop up.
I would become very familiar with this window, because the text that was purportedly coming "soon" didn't come within the next 5 minutes. When I click Resend, I see the little window refresh, but there is no text message that appears in my phone.
In the lower left corner behind the window is a link that says "I need help." I saw that, cancelled out of the smaller window, and clicked on that link. It brought me to the Facebook help pages, which you can see here.
The last option ("I can't use my phone to verify my identity.") captured my attention. Here's what I saw when I selected it.
I don't mind submitting a request for assistance, but did they really expect me to send them an image of my driver's license? See for yourself.
I can understand Facebook wanting a reliable and standardized way of confirming identity. At the same time, they along with everyone else have a snowball's chance in hell of me actually surrendering a digital image of a document that could be used to steal my identity.
My sister had a hard time believing that Facebook actually wanted a copy of my driver's license just to start an account, so I invited her to come over and see for herself. My sister is more liberal when it comes to privacy and sharing very personal information in a public forum, but even she cringed at the option of sending a digital image of one's driver's license. My sister and I navigated around the site, trying to find another way for me to confirm my identity. All we could see was an option to submit a report about the incident. So I did and then moved on to other things while I waited.
Three days later I get an email from Facebook. At first I thought that perhaps they had solved my problem and were going to help me. Oh, the optimism of youth! They had sent me an automated message telling me that if I did not confirm my account within three days of joining that my account would be locked. So I have three days to confirm my account, but the only reminder you give me to confirm within the three-day window is right before that window is about to close? This is just more fuel for my Facebook user-unfriendliness fire.
I followed the link in the email, logged into Facebook, and found the same confirmation steps I had encountered previously. I tried entering in the confirmation code that appeared in the email, but Facebook said that code was invalid. If it was invalid, then why did you give it to me? I thought.
I don't know what happened, but after repeating a few more iterations of resending the confirmation code, I finally got a robot from Facebook calling me to give me the code. I entered it, and nothing seemed to happen. With no way of knowing whether or not the code took, I didn't know what to do.
Then I decided that I would just log out and then log back in. I then was greeted with this lovely notice.
I wanted to laugh. I mean, here is Facebook making my account creation a three-day ordeal, and they tell me that if I want to prevent this in the future I need "to learn the right way to share and interact on Facebook"! I couldn't even get into Facebook to share anything or interact with anyone! Of course, once I got in, then establishing a very bare bones profile took a few minutes.
I know from searching with Google and other sites to investigate my online reputation that at least 14 other people in the world share my first and last names. So I don't discount Facebook from being skeptical, especially if they are serious about enforcing a policy of one account per real person.
That being said, it shouldn't take three days to figure this out. I'm not sure what the problem was with the texting, but someone inside Facebook needs to look at that. I'd love to talk to someone inside Facebook about it, but they don't provide me with any means to contact them. After all, I'm not a customer. I'm just a user.
That's why, as soon as I could, I submitted a photo and changed both my profile name and username to reflect the brand I have been trying to create to differentiate my from those other 14 guys I referenced earlier.
So now I'm on Facebook, though still very cautious and skeptical. We will see where this takes me.
Lately I’ve been re-evaluating my position with Facebook.
Historically I’ve opposed using Facebook. You can read my case against Facebook if you aren’t yet up to speed. In short, Facebook has a business model in which the user is not the customer and the company has behaved very untrustworthily. So I never signed up.
A recent experience brought that policy into question. As I sought out more information about electronic publishing (in order to promote my upcoming book), I began to see that in order to be successful one needs to establish a platform — a following that will buy the book and spread the word both before and after the book becomes available. I have a small following on the blog for my first book, which I have been working on for the past three years, but I need a much larger reach if I am to have the success with it that I really want.
Putting the pieces together, I began to see that without social media my journey to that success would be very much uphill and very steep.
So I re-examined my earlier conclusion in light of the new information I had encountered. What resulted was what you see elsewhere on this website. The page formerly titled “Why I Don’t Facebook” was re-titled “Dancing with Facebook” because I did change my position slightly to allow Facebook use, though on a limited basis. I feel like I took two steps back and then one step forward.
What brought about this change of thinking? It wasn’t the steep cliff I would need to climb if I didn’t use social media to promote my upcoming book. That just got the ball rolling. I still would have attempted to climb that steep cliff had my deliberations returned the earlier verdict.
What changed my thinking was the introduction of a new perspective. Why was I engaging electronic publishing to begin with? Sure, there are the dreams of starting a new business and finding a new flow of funds that will let me have more control over my life. But ultimately I wanted (and still do want) to take the unique contribution that I believe that I can make and dent in the universe. Perhaps the dent will be very small, but the world will be in a slightly better shape than when I found it because of my contribution.
I saw the question of using social media as a question of how large I wanted my sphere of influence to be. I can make a small dent and be very satisfied with that. But what if my contribution could bring light and goodness to more people? And since I love to dream big, when I imagined more people, I imagined many, many more people. Social media makes that possible on a scale unseen before on the stage of history.
Choosing to stay away is choosing to remain aloof, to dim the light of my candle so that it shines not quite as bright as it might.
These considerations do not invalidate my earlier conclusions about Facebook’s business model and track record of untrustworthiness. While the use of Facebook threatens the majority of my top 10 values, Facebook does have the potential to promote many of my other values, including my top 3 values of truth, imagination, and freedom. It all depends on how I use the platform.
I believe in being in the world but not of the world. To be in the world means engaging with it, and much of the world of the early 21st century is on Facebook. There are other social media platforms, but none have anywhere near the reach of Facebook. If I truly believe what I say I do, then I must engage the world.
I still prefer living in the real world. I still don’t trust Facebook. And I still think that privacy matters. But I am willing to trade a limited use of the Facebook platform for the opportunity to make my unique contribution, because the alternative means limiting my sphere of influence and with that the contribution that only I can make.
Schoolhouse Rock Live!
Last night I took my nephew and my sister to see the Idaho Musical Production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!
I have to start by reminding myself that I'm no longer living in Seattle. I saw Wicked there at the Paramount, and it was an awesome show. What I saw last night was staged in a charter school in Caldwell, Idaho. So I have to keep telling myself that I shouldn't have the same expectations. Actually, I believe that people should be excellent wherever they are, but I'll save that discussion for later.
That being said, I found the overall experience enjoyable. There were some noisy teenagers sitting right behind us that insisted on holding conversation during the performance. I'm not sure how best to approach the decline in etiquette I am witnessing in society, but it is a question that will not leave me alone.
The play didn’t have much of a storyline. It was constructed simply as an excuse to perform Schoolhouse Rock songs on stage. Normally I would find that unforgivable. In this case I have so many fond memories of eagerly anticipating and then enjoying my childhood Saturday morning ritual that I find myself overlooking a very glaring defect.
Apparently most of the audience had similar memories. I estimated about 100 people in the makeshift auditorium, possibly 120 but certainly not much more than that. And no more than 10, including my nephew, were children. Such a low percentage of children in the audience surprised me, especially considering that the musical revolved around songs for children. But it was also a Thursday showing, which means getting up early the next morning for the regular school/work routine. That may have had something to do with it.
And yes, the auditorium was very makeshift. The stage entrance was simply a rectangular opening at the end of a gymnasium with a slanted roof of corrugated sheet metal. Two portable loudspeakers sat at each side of the stage.
The acoustics were therefore awful, which may explain why some of the sound was not quite right. A live band provided the music, and that helped a bit. But some of the voices on stage just didn't sound right. Wendy Inman's voice appeared better suited to the opera than the musical stage. And Tristan Fishman, I'm sorry but your tenor just doesn't suit the likes of "Conjunction Junction". Maybe I've just heard the original too much, but it just doesn't sound right without a deep baritone voice delivering the lines. And that's sad considering Tristan's acting was among the better of the group.
Other voices were incredible, which is really saying something in light of the bad acoustics. Of particular note are Mary-Michael LeClaire and Tamara Hess. Mary-Michael seemed a little stiff in her performances, but I simply ascribed that to nervousness. Her voice during “A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing” was incredible. If she could bring her composure on stage up to par with her voice she would be amazing. Tamara on the other hand seemed more comfortable on stage. And her rendition of “Unpack Your Adjectives” was better than the original.
Christopher Purdy, who played the lead role of Tom, was also excellent. I loved his rendition of "The Tale of Mr. Morton" at the end. The song was crafted when Schoolhouse Rock experienced a rebirth, and it has always been one of my favorites. He did a really good job with that.
There wasn't much to the stage, but given that the whole affair was little more than an excuse to sing favorite childhood songs, there didn't need to be. I did enjoy the costumes, especially the animal masks that the children wore while the group sang "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla". They were awesome. And the child playing Interplanet Janet, whoever she was, did a really good job.
Again, it's not the Paramount in Seattle, and there is no real storyline that demands a suspension of disbelief. But if you love the songs or have fond memories of watching Schoolhouse Rock as a child, then this show will provide you with a satisfactory evening. It did for me and my company.
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