Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jersey City Postcards

I was in Jersey City for a few months recently.  Here are some photos that I took that I consider postcard-worthy.  Click on any one of the photos to see them all in full-screen slideshow mode.















Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, we remember those who died while serving in the military.  Today I remember the Croft brothers Edward and Daniel who died fighting for Independence in the American Revolutionary War.  May we bear in mind their sacrifices as we practice our citizenship.

Today I walked by the KatyƄ Memorial, a gruesome reminder of the massacre of thousands of Polish prisoners by the Soviets.  For this Memorial Day, a wreath has been placed beneath the plaque that was added to the memorial for the 9/11 attacks.





Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vitaspes

For awhile now, I have been looking for alternatives to traditional Christian holidays.  I have started collecting them on my Optihumanist Holidays webpage.

For a few years now on Easter Sundays, I have been inviting my family members to sign up for cryonics.  It seems fitting since Easter is about resurrection and new life.  So in addition to chocolate and hunting for colored eggs, I say a few words about attempting to cheat death.

I have come up with a new name for this holiday.  I was going to call it LifeHope but I thought it would work better in Latin.  Vita is Latin for life and spes is Latin for hope, hence Vitaspes.

Vita is either pronounced like "wheat-uh" or "whea-tuh".  It is supposed to sound breathy like "wheeze" since it relates to the breath of life.  Spes is either pronounced like "space" or "spayz", I am not sure which.  I am going with "whea-tuh-space" for now.

In addition to inviting others to sign up for cryonics, I think this holiday could be used to share our hope that someday our loved ones who have passed on will be returned to us.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shared Series

I do not follow sports so I am often at a loss when acquaintances want to chat about it.  It could be the height of the World Series and someone will say something like, "Do you think the [franchise name] are going to win this year?"  I will then obliviously respond, "Is that a [type of sport] team?"  There is usually no follow-up.

I follow national and international news but many others do not so that does not reliably work as a conversation starter.  News would seem to be more relevant than sports but probably is actually not since most likely neither I nor anyone I communicate with will be directly affected by it or have any influence over the outcomes.  We also have no control over the weather but surprisingly this does work well as a conversation topic.

I think the key here is the shared experience.  If it is cold, hot, or wet outside, everyone around you can join in on the conversation.  They have the relevant facts at hand and can proffer multiple opinions as to what the weather might do next.

My wife Shannon and I enjoy talking about our shared experiences.  Obviously, our six children are the main topic of our real-life soap opera.  But I have also learned that a fictional series, when experienced together, can be a joy to discuss.

I first discovered this with the serial novel The Green Mile.  As each volume in the series was published, Shannon and I would read it together.  The sweetest part was in the staking of claims on the predictions for the next release.

We also enjoyed trying to figure out together the deeper underarching conspiracy of the television series The X-Files.  This was great until the television series was interrupted by the feature film.  Since neither Shannon nor I saw this mystery milestone at the movie theater, we lost the flow.

Speaking of losing the flow, the real reason I am writing this blog entry is another television series that Shannon and I experienced together recently, Breaking Bad.  This is a show where all of the characters "break bad" at some point in the series.  They make selfish decisions which directly or indirectly hurt those around them.  They attribute their gains to false achievements to enjoy the respect and pride of their loved ones.  They then do much worse in order to maintain their shams.  After watching four seasons of this, I had to take a break.

I did not watch the fifth and final season until many months later when Shannon got interested in watching it and caught up to me.  As we watched the episodes of the final season together in lock step, we enjoyed discussing themes and trying to guess how the series would end.  As Shannon shared with me foreshadowing details that I had missed, I came to the conclusion that the writers and my wife were geniuses.

Now that it is over, however, I feel a bit funny about it.  I enjoyed Breaking Bad but I am not sure I am a better person for having watched it.  I am also ambivalent about the ending as I am still trying to digest it emotionally with regard to my feelings about justice.

Maybe it is best that I stop thinking about that series and move on.  I might distract myself by finally getting around to watching The Red Wedding.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Dr. Cauller's Obituary

For most of my many years at the University of Texas at Dallas, I was a graduate student in the Neuroengineering Laboratory of Lawrence James Cauller, Ph.D.  He was an enthusiastic lecturer and I took or sat in on every class he taught whenever I possibly could.  His neuroprosthetics medical research excited me and I admired his endeavors as an inventor-entrepreneur.  Above all, I appreciated his warm personality.

A few years ago, the School notified me and the other students in his laboratory that Dr. Cauller had retired abruptly due to health reasons.  I came to learn that his condition was untreatable and that he had left to spend his final days traveling.  I was able to speak with him on the phone for one last time while he was on the road.

I discovered his obituary today.  Even though I had known that he must have passed away some time ago, I find myself suddenly in grief.  His death reminds me that medical research is perhaps our most important endeavor.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Google+ Profile URL

I mentioned in a previous post why I quit Facebook.  I now use Google Plus (Google+) exclusively.  It is better because you can control who sees what posts by grouping your friends into "circles".  You can also "follow" someone without having to "friend" them.

As of tonight, I now have a custom URL for my Google+ profile:

Here is a picture of my son James Arthur in his favorite sleeping position:


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Make a Change

Our emotions signal to us whether situations are good or bad for our future prospects.  It is an additional form of intelligence or knowledge that we should not suppress or ignore.  When we are unhappy, it means that we know on some deep level that we are not headed in the right direction.
When you are feeling trapped or stuck,
Then make a change and try your luck.
I added this verse to the Optihumanist Principles as part of my annual revision.  I also made a few minor tweaks here and there as part of the process of refining this document over time.

Speaking of a commitment to periodic changes, it is once again time to choose your New Year's Resolution!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

I planted pumpkins in my backyard this year.

I used a soaker hose.

I planted different varieties of pumpkin.

The vines made their way down the yard.

They made it all the way down to the fence.

Here is a growing little pumpkin.

Here is another one.

We harvested when they turned orange.

No mowing the backyard this year.

Spotting new green pumpkins was a fun challenge.

The pumpkin patch kept expanding to the side yard.

A cute little pumpkin.

All guests were given pumpkin patch tours.

We kept discovering new pumpkins for awhile.

Eventually frost killed off all of the leaves.

It was a good year for little pumpkins.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

James Arthur Croft

My wife Shannon gave birth to our new son James Arthur Croft on 2013 October 18th Friday at 4:08 A.M.

Excluding sonograms, here is his first photograph:


Here he is a bit later, all cleaned up and resting comfortably:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fakebook

Awhile back, I started seeing postings from my Facebook friends endorsing products of dubious efficacy such as herbal diet pills.  I suspected that these were fake ads posted by Facebook.  I took a screenshot of one and e-mailed it to the friend who had supposedly posted it.  "Yikes," she replied, "that wasn't me."

A quick search revealed that Facebook had been recently sued over these fake endorsements, which they euphemistically refer to as "sponsored stories", and was ordered to pay a fine of ten million dollars.  Facebook responded by modifying the terms of use of their service to require that every Facebook user authorize allowing them to use their name, photo, content, and other information for any advertising.

On 2013 August 30th, I received an e-mail from Facebook announcing that their "Data Use Policy" and "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" documents had been updated to clarify
What to expect when it comes to using your name, profile picture, content and personal info with ads or commercial content.
At this point I knew that my continued use of the Facebook website would require me to give Facebook my consent for them to present false postings of me endorsing whatever products they chose.  Facebook was asking me for permission to deceive my friends.

I searched and found a website explaining how to quit Facebook and have your account deleted.  After a two week waiting period, Facebook finally granted my request.  My wife Shannon had already quit Facebook a month or two before.

Please join me in dropping Facebook.  It is absurd that a business would even consider it appropriate to ask its users to conspire with them to defraud their friends.  Meet me on the alternative social networking website Google+ which is run by a company with the unofficial motto of Don't be evil.



Update 2013-10-11

It looks like I might have spoken too soon when I endorsed Google+ as the safe alternative because Google is now getting into the same game. A distinction between what Google and Facebook are doing is that Google only shares endorsements of products that you have actually rated whereas Facebook will associate you with any product. Another distinction is that Google permits you to opt out.