These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

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Warning this is pure rant. I hate computers. Perhaps it would be more correct to say I hate computer companies. Let me explain.

Anyone who knows me knows that Apple Macintosh is my platform of choice. However I realize it isn’t for everyone. One on my nieces hates the Macintosh. She thinks it is confusing. She really likes Microsoft Windows. I know there are many other people who feel the same way. Some people like Linux. Frankly, there are many things about linux to like. However, the market share is still extremely small for the end user.

Google seems to want to get in on the end user market with an operating system. They have certainly made inroads in the mobile device market with Android.

For purposes of this rant I will lay out a few of my thesis so you can mark me off as a lunatic now.

  1. The Operating System and the Graphical User Interface are two separate things and should be treated as such.
  2. Applications should run on any operating system.
  3. Unix (or Linux) should be the operating system.

My first thesis The Operating System and the User Interface should be Separate. Does anyone remember back in the olden days of DOS. Windows was a user interface that was installed on top of DOSDOS never went away. Go over to your Windows and open Command Prompt. Viola! It is still there. Microsoft has done everything they can to hide it but DOS is still there. 

Macintosh is built on NetBSD Unix. Open Terminal and play with Unix commands until your heart’s content. 

Linux and its Unix brethren are quite open about keeping the Graphical User Interface separate. On Linux or Unix you can have GnomeKDE and a veritable host of others each with their particular strengths and weaknesses. This is as it should be. Why? By doing this for the most part Linux avoids the necessity of my second thesis. You can download an app and it will usually run on UbuntuRed HatSUSE, distributions of Linux and they also run on GnomeKDE, or most of the other desktop environments.  

My second thesis Applications Should Run On Any Operating System. This is one of those that seems so incredibly simple I can’t believe there is much need for discussion.  

I understand that programmers write programs for the market where they think they can turn a profit. That seems reasonable. Welcome to the free enterprise system. The problem lies in that for many programmers that means writing for Microsoft Windows. After all Microsoft Windows is the most widely used Graphical User Interface. But here is where it gets a little circular. I am a lawyer. Some of the applications I want to use are written ONLY for Microsoft Windows. If I want to use one of the programs badly enough guess what I have to do? That’s right, buy Windows. Thus, reinforcing the notion that Windows is the most popular operating system. I cannot count the number of people who want to run a different operating system but have no choice. 

The solution is so simple. It is my third thesis.

Unix (or Linux) Should Be the Operating System. Unix has been around for many years. Over the course of these many years it has gotten to be rock solid dependable. For a long while Bill Gates criticized Unix because it was old. But with every new iteration of Microsoft Windows Microsoft adopts more features from Unix. Additionally, Unix (or Linux) runs most of the web servers out there, Unix is the core of Apple Macintosh. So who is left that doesn’t  use Unix? I’m looking squarely at you Microsoft. Except even Microsoft uses Unix to run many of their web services such as Hotmail. But they don’t seem to want any part of it for the desktop operating system. Why? 

The History of the Man We Call Santa Claus

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Saint Nicholas  also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey) in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. His feastday is 6 December.

The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honored by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students in various countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as well as in parts of Western Europe. 

Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor during the third century in the city of Patara which was a port on the Mediterranean Sea, and lived in Myra, Lycia (part of modern-day Demre, Turkey), at a time when the region was Greek in its heritage, culture, and outlook and was part of the Roman diocese of Asia. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius and Johanna according to some accounts and Theophanes and Nonna according to others. He was very religious from an early age. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader, and later as a priest.

In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him, but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man’s house.

One version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. Another has him throw the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes of age. Invariably, the third time the father lies in wait, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In another version, Nicholas learns of the poor man’s plan and drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicholas’ Eve (5 December) is the primary occasion for gift-giving, when his reputed birthday is celebrated.

In the days leading up to 5 December (starting when Saint Nicholas has arrived by steamboat in late November), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. Often they put a carrot or some hay in the shoes, as a gift to St. Nicholas’ horse. (In recent years the horse has been named Amerigo in The Netherlands and Slechtweervandaag in Flanders.) The next morning they will find a small present in their shoes, ranging from sweets to marbles or some other small toy. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has behaved well in the past year. This is often done by placing a bag filled with presents outside the house or living room, after which a neighbour or parent bangs the door or window, pretending to be Sinterklaas’ assistant. Another option is to hire or ask someone to dress up as Sinterklaas and deliver the presents personally. Sinterklaas wears a bishop’s robes including a red cape and mitre and is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dress, dating back two centuries. These helpers are called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (“Black Petes”) or “Père Fouettard” in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

The myth is that, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten put all the naughty children in sacks, and Sinterklaas took them to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns after 5 December). Therefore, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas.

In the past number of years, there has been a recurrent discussion about the perceived politically incorrect nature of the Moorish helper. In particular Dutch citizens with backgrounds from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles might feel offended by the Dutch slavery history connected to this emblem and regard the Zwarte Pieten to be racist. Others state that the black skin color of Zwarte Piet originates in his profession as a chimneysweep, hence the delivery of packages though the chimney.

In recent years, Christmas (along with Santa Claus) has been pushed by shopkeepers as another gift-giving festival, with some success; although, especially for young children, Saint Nicholas’ Eve is still much more important than Christmas. The rise of Father Christmas (known in Dutch as de Kerstman) is often cited as an example of globalisation and Americanisation.

On the Frisian islands (Waddeneilanden), the Sinterklaas feast has developed independently into traditions very different from the one on the mainland.

In Northern Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot) outside the front door on the night of 5 December. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. If they were not, they will have a tree branch (Rute) in their boots instead.

Sometimes a Nikolaus impersonator also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they have been good (sometimes ostensibly checking his golden book for their record), handing out presents on the basis of their behavior. This has become more lenient in recent decades, and this task is often taken over by the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus). In more catholic regions, Nikolaus is dressed very much like a bishop and rides on a horse, welcomed at public places by a large crowd.

Typical in the German speaking countries for Saint Nicholas Day is the Stutenkerl, a pastry made of sweet leavened dough.


Another Open Love Letter

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A little shy of 27 years ago today I came home on leave for a weekend. A few weeks later my brother was joking with your mother that she was pregnant.  As it turns out Uncle Bill was right. 26 years ago today you were born.

First let me apologize to you. I am not and never have been the father to you that I should have been.  I got mad when there was no reason to.  I wasn’t helpful when I should have been.  I was at work when I should have been at your football, soccer, track, boy scout, etc. At the convention of great fathers my name will never be called.

Still, you turned out to be the most remarkable young man.  You have bested me in every regard. You are a better musician,  You are a scholar.  You are a better son. You are a better husband. I assure you the only way I got through college was through the generosity of a few professors. Not you. You went in and got straight A’s. You got straight in to grad school.  You have excelled at everything you ever undertook. In speaking of accomplishments my name will never be mentioned in the same breath as yours. I stand in awe of you.

I know I tease you about having added Kate to the family and that you married up.  The truth is I think she is just as lucky to have found you as you are to have found her.

Happy Birthday Paul. I hope you know just how proud a father I am. I love you with all my heart.

An Open Love Letter

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About 8 1/2 years ago a young woman got pregnant. I’m sure she had many hopes, plans, and dreams for her life and her unborn baby. Would he be an astronaut, the President, a writer? As soon as her boyfriend found out about the pregnancy he, like so many others, bailed. After much consideration and prayer this young woman made what must have been the toughest decision of her life. She decided to give the child up for adoption.

At the same time a couple were desperately hoping and praying that they would have a child. Though their hopes had been dashed before each phone call from someone with a “lead” brought new hope. Then in October 2002 they received a phone call from their pastor regarding a parishioner who was pregnant and had made the decision to give the baby up for adoption. Before she agreed she wanted to meet the couple. Friday October 18, 2002 the parties met. There were a lot of tears. At the end of the meeting she decided that Denise and I would be the parents to child she was carrying.

We were afraid to get too excited. Our hopes had been dashed before. The baby wasn’t due until March 2003 but we were already behind on things we needed to do in order to get ready.

Saturday January 25th I was at work just like most Saturdays. About 2 o’clock I got a call that there were complications and that the doctor was going to perform a cesarean section in order to save the baby’s life. At about 5:30 p.m. I became a father for the second time. Robi was tiny. His whole body would fit in my hand. He was admitted to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. Denise and I stayed there almost 24 hours a day. Though he was in NICU, the doctor said he appeared to be healthy. He had 10 fingers and 10 toes and that’s all I cared about.

Once his weight got up to 5 pounds the doctor let us take him home. He was, and is beautiful. He is our Bon Vivant.

To Sharon, I can not thank you enough for the present you have given Denise and me. I can not imagine what must go through your mind when you think of this. I pray for you often.

To Robi, Happy birthday! I love you now, and always to the sun and the moon and the stars and to infinity. I can not imagine my life without you in it.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

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OK let me begin with…. I did NOT write this.  I’m just not that clever. I am smart enough to steal from those who are.  I do not know who wrote this. I wish I did.  It seems to me they “get” it.

OK with those disclaimers….

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.  

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 – 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up… It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless?  Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary– especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your count. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember



Customer Service is Dead!

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Customer service is dead!
My house was recently struck by lightening. When that happened several appliances and other electrical items were destroyed.

My homeowners insurance company is requiring that I take each item to a repair shop and have them examine the item and then state whether the item can be repaired or not. Additionally, they must state the cause of the damage.

My quest began by me taking my items to a local store that is part of a national discount electronics chain. Their “customer service” department was truly brutal to deal with. I swear to you they do not listen. They have some little computer generated questionnaire. They aren’t prepared to deal with ANYTHING not in that questionnaire. So if you happen to be a square peg and don’t fit neatly into their round hole, GO AWAY. We can not help you. We don’t WANT to help you.

I purchased many of the products in this store. But because I either no longer had the receipt, they no longer sell that brand, or the item was no longer under warranty they simply REFUSED to help. Unless every one of the preceding conditions was true they weren’t interested in helping.

I don’t get it. This was a chance to create customer loyalty and very likely generate some immediate revenue for the business because some of the items were going to have to be replaced. Had they been wiling to be the least bit helpful I would have purchased the replacements at that store. Instead, given how I was treated, I can assure you that is the one store I will absolutely NOT purchase the replacement items.

Fortunately I eventually found a store where a nice young man was willing to listen to my story and assist me. He took the time with me to figure out how he could help me. Guess what? He earned a commission and a customer.


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I have absolutely no idea how my dad did it.  Every day he got up and went to a job that offered long hours, dangerous working conditions, and very little pay.

Every year we were able to go on vacation. He bought a house. He loved us and he died at the ripe old age of 32 of pancreatic cancer.  That’s right 32. I have outlived my own father by several years and he accomplished more in his short life than I have in mine.

A few years later my mother re-married. She married another man who was a real man. He took on the responsibility of raising two young boys along with his own three young girls. He also worked ridiculously long hours in sometimes dangerous working conditions for very little pay. 

He fed the five of us kids. We took a vacation every year. We had a house. Anything I needed, I had. I didn’t always have everything I wanted, but I had everything I needed. He died several years ago of cancer.  At this point I am almost as old as he was when he died.  He was tough. He lived 15 years after the doctors told him he had a few months to live. He also accomplished more in his life that was cut short that I probably ever will in mine.

These two men taught me how to be a man. They taught me how to be a husband. They taught me how to love. They taught me that sometimes being a father requires sacrifice. Sometimes it means sacrificing your own desires in order to provide for your family.

They taught me that love is not an emotion. It is a verb.

Post Deux

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Okay clearly I’m not going to make a living as a blogger at the rate of one post a month. 

My older son graduates from college today. Summa cum laude. Clearly he got brains and a work ethic from someone OTHER than me.  I am very proud of his accomplishment. Next Saturday he gets married.

My younger son’s futbol team had their first game of the summer season this morning.  Unfortunately they ran out of time before they could complete their comeback.  A tip of the hat to the Turbulence Futbol Club.  They played a great game.

I have stopped by the Apple store a couple of times lately.  I’m not sure how long I can hold out.  That iPad is just keeps calling out to me. Well that, and a Mac Mini with a cinema display and an Apple TV, and a PowerBook for good measure.

Ciao for now.

Hello World

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My first blog post. I don’t know of any reason you would want to read it. But on the off chance that someone does, here goes…

I am an attorney. But don’t let that scare you off.

I do not particularly think of myself as either “liberal” or “conservative” politically.  There are issues about which I am or would probably be considered “liberal” or even “socialist.”  On other issues I am sure I am or would be considered “conservative” up to and including “raving lunatic.”  That’s fine, just don’t try to corner me or pin me down with such petty labels as liberal or conservative.  I generally think the terms are in and of themselves meaningless, and more dependent on who is calling you what.

I am a computer geek.  Though I prefer the Apple Macintosh platform to Microsoft’s Windows, I am not a Macintosh or Apple apologist. In my opinion there are plenty of good and bad things about both (and other) platforms.

I am a father to two wonderful sons. Paul is twenty-five and will be graduating from college and getting married next month to a lovely lady named Kate. I don’t tell him often enough how proud of him that I am and just how much I love him.  I have not often been the father that he deserved and I hope he can forgive me for my shortcomings and be the husband and father that I have not been.

I also have a seven year old son named Robert. He is my second chance at being a good father.  He is an absolute joy.  My wife nicknamed him “Bon Vivant” or the good life or happy life. You have never met someone who is so happy so often. I need a healthy dose of whatever he has.

OK that’s enough for now. If you care to come back I make you this promise I will endeavor to be fair handed in my rants about all things.