Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Experienced computer programmers know that in almost every computer program there is some task that needs to be done over and over again. For example: The job of processing a file of records is an iteration of the task – “get and process record”. These jobs are accomplished using iteration constructs. 

One such is the old Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) PERFORM statement.  The PERFORM statement enables a programmer to write a set of instructions once and execute it many times during the program.  Each such perform statement has a name, a LABEL, by which it is referenced.  

Once written the set of computer instructions defined by the LABEL command can be used over and over without much thought.  The programmer just codes PERFORM:LABEL.   For example, this is much like when my mother used to tell my sister and me to wash the dishes.  She could have said,   PERFORM: Wash the dishes!!!  There are a lot of steps involved but she just had to use that one “PERFORM” statement!    

Computer programs are not the only places we find LABELS. It seems we're bombarded daily with LABELs, in MANY cases, unflattering LABELs, completely incorrect LABELs, hateful or malicious LABELs like…  Right Wing Conservative, Left Wing Socialist, Racist, Gay, Straight, Homeless, Poor, Rich, Terrorist, Muslim, Evangelist, Atheist, Christian,  Jew, yes... even Democrat or Republican.  And, of course, the worst label, Congressional Representative!!   The list is endless.

How easy it is to PERFORM: LABEL; to categorize a person or group by a single word, most often used in a derogatory manner.  By simply using the PERFORM verb, with one or more LABELS, we start off a chain of “instructions” which classifies the object as a completely horrible person.   It doesn’t take much thought and it so tidily sums up a person by attaching the right generalized LABEL. Using the LABEL allows us to categorize without thinking and looking below the surface.

For example I have found that these broad general LABELs are mostly superficial and should be avoided. (Not that I haven’t used them myself way too many times!!)   Looking at the LABEL of Campbell's Soup Can, we see clearly... TOMATO SOUP. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies have worked to improve labeling on products to provide specific information about what is BEHIND the LABEL, what really makes up the product in question.  On that same can of Tomato soup we can find complete nutrition information in addition to a list of all ingredients.  We don’t usually look at the ingredients; we just say “Let’s have some tomato soup”.  A look at the back of the can shows much more information about the product. 

Perhaps we should take a clue from these “detailed “ food product labels and start looking more closely at the ingredients, the details behind the labels that we throw around so carelessly.  That neighbor who seems to be a whining Left Wing Socialist who wants more government give-aways, or the despicable, arrogant Right Wing Republican down the street that drives the new BMW, may have details “on the back of the can” so to speak, that may prove that they are kind, considerate, loving, charitable and may actually have some intelligence behind their beliefs and convictions.  Or the Muslim, whom we may fear because we don’t know much about them but have heard that Muslims are all terrorists, may be loving and thoughtful.   

Or, what about that homeless man that is always dirty and may be looking for a handout or a hand up.  He may have a heart of gold and a story that would wrench your heart.  Or he or she may have faced heartbreaking situations that sapped their will to keep going in the face of such adversity.   

In my work with animal rescue a few years ago I was at a pet adoption event showing a number of the dogs that we had available.  A small family was attracted to one cute doggie and fell in love.   When I took the couple's Dog Adoption Application over for processing, the lady that was in charge of our group wanted to refuse the application. She said that “they looked poor and probably couldn't afford a dog.” That was a good example to me of PERFORM: LABEL.   She had already "categorized" the family without knowing anything about them.   In fact, I have seen homeless and very poor people who have dogs and have loved them more than most because they were most in need of love.  And the dogs, have only a few PERFORM statements like PERFORM:Love and Tail Wags.

So, as any good programmer knows, if you want your program to run flawlessly, make sure that when you PERFORM:LABEL, that the LABEL accurately and fairly describes the true person or group that you are addressing.  To paraphrase an old commercial tag line, "Look for God on the Label."  I'm checking my old programmed thoughts today to make sure my PERFORMS are "good code", as we geeks call it.

AS Jesus of Nazareth advised, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.    Matthew 7:1-3

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A lesson in Brotherly Love from Kuwait

It was so big, and so COOL, two air conditioners running and escape from the 115 degrees Fahrenheit is well worth the effort it took to move into my new home.   I loved it!!   Three bedrooms, and office, two living rooms, kitchen, two bathrooms and housekeeper’s quarters. Fully furnished, even down to the salt in the salt shakers, completely equipped kitchen, the whole works, thanks to the diligent efforts of our company’s Kuwait office staff.

Now in Kuwait, one of the two hottest cities in the world, summers are something to behold, very hot but dry. The kind of heat that lets you comfortably jog early in the morning, and humidity so low, like 5%, that on occasion we played tennis in the late afternoon, even well about 100 degrees.

But late this afternoon it is time to drink a cool iced tea and enjoy the pleasant breeze from the air conditioning. I haven't been in Kuwait very long having just started a new Middle East IT Consulting division for our corporation in the Middle East, I don’t really know anyone yet, so I'm looking forward to just relaxing and getting ready for the work day tomorrow. It is a very unusual and strange feeling, being somewhere and no one knows where in the world you are.

Now what? Was I dozing off or did I hear a bell ring? I guess I have a doorbell, I hadn't checked. But who can it be since no one knows I'm here.

Opening the door I see a wizened old gentleman, an Arab obviously, but probably not a Kuwaiti since he didn't have on a dishdasha, the traditional dress for Kuwaiti men. He was carrying some papers that look like forms so I figure he is either taking a survey or is a salesman. If he is a salesman he's probably a Palestinian since many Palestinians come from Palestine or Jordan to work in Kuwait.  Employment opportunities are pretty limited in their homeland.  

He could have been Lebanese but they usually wear more Western dress and not head coverings.  Kuwait is sort of a mixture of Afghans, Indians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and of course, the obligatory Brits, Germans French and Americans and it takes a while to figure Who’s Who... 

It becomes immediately obvious that this old gentleman doesn't speak English and my Arabic is Very limited. Other than phrases such as praising Allah in a greeting or phrases “slowly slowly” (similar to our English “gently gently), the numbers 1-10, “no problem”, how are you feeling, please and thank you, and terms for right left and hurry… my Arabic is nonexistent.  

 Learning left and right is pretty important since the Bedouin taxi drivers usually don't speak English and in order to get to your destination, if they don't recognize the name of the place to which you are headed, you say left, right,  straight ahead and stop in Arabic quite a lot.  Mostly as they are screaming past your street at 70 miles per hour in an old Chevrolet whose air conditioner never gets turned on and the windows are always rolled up!!!  

After letting the man stand in the doorway for a moment, I invited him in.  It was too hot to stand in the doorway.  We sat in the main living room on the couch across the coffee table from each other.  After miles of smiles and pleasant head nods, the man, whose name I determined to be Adel, he handed me a printed card, fortunately printed in English. It turns out that was a sales representative for the Arab Times an English-language newspaper printed in Kuwait every day.

Since I had just moved in and was familiar with the Arab Times but didn't have a subscription I signed up and gave him payment. At this point he just sat there, smiling. I asked him if he would like some chai, the only thing I can think of that he might understand.  His smile brightened and he nodded.

Now Swami, my housekeeper was gone at the time so I proceed to the kitchen to make the tea. Being somewhat of a talented chef myself I mastered the tea making quickly and efficiently, adding just enough sugar, lemon and tea to make the lemon chai.  I hustled the 2 cups of steaming tea back into the living room and presented one to Adel.

For the next half hour or so we sat, sipping our tea, smiling, chuckling, nodding in a friendly manner, and just enjoying the peace of companionship. No words passed between us. At the end of the half-hour Adel decided it was time to go. I ushered him to the front door and amidst a jumble of friendly goodbyes and “ma’a salamas”, meaning both "goodbye" and "peace be with you", and handshakes and hugs, we parted company.  This whole scene I came to learn later is an example of the love and hospitality shown to strangers in the Arab world. 

The newspaper came every day, as advertised, and I didn’t see Adel again for a few weeks.  Then one evening about 4 weeks later, Yep, doorbell again.  It was Adel.  I invited him in and we spent another half hour sipping tea and smiling and nodding.   He left after friendly goodbyes and I never saw him again.

With all of the hype and use of “Social Media” and Tweets and Twitters, Facebook, cell phones, email and every technologically possible device to avoid actual contact in our communications efforts, I think often of that encounter.  How, without words,  that old man and I, coming from a completely different backgrounds and cultures and with no common language between us other than love and respect, were able to  enjoy the peace, companionship, and the quiet contentment of just being.

As Mary Baker Eddy writes in her Miscellaneous Writings (1893-1896)
“When the heart speaks, however simple the word, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.”

I’ve often wondered if Adel remembers too, that brief time of quiet peace and contentment, and wonders at God’s priceless gift of brotherly love which we shared.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The God Particle

What an exciting time this is in the world of physics and human research into the origin of all things material.    So many dedicated scientists have been working for years to find the origin of life and matter.   

Today they are rejoicing in still another step forward in their quest in the wake of the announcement of  the possibility of the discovery of so-called “The God Particle”. And after decades of searches, it seems likely the elusive particle has been successfully detected inside an underground tunnel experiment run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research outside Geneva.  But in fact, many scientists, including the physicist for whom it is named, dislike the term, whether they believe in God or not.  
The Higgs boson, the official “nickname” of a subatomic particle which is believed to be the particle which gives mass to matter, is an important discovery in the scientific world..  Apparently this new discovery would confirm the existence of a Big Bang, the theory that the entire universe was created from a single “Nothing to Something” explosion  14 million years ago from which our known universe resulted.   

There are many of us, while respecting the incredible intelligence and dedication of scientists across the globe, have a completely different view of Reality.   That is that Life is Spiritual.  

The God Particle found in spiritual life doesn’t require tremendous amounts of energy to crash subatomic particles into each other in giant underground tracks, where they are steered by magnetic fields.

It is found in the hearts and minds of men and women.  These, equally dedicated individuals,  believe that God is not to be found in a Big Bang but in the still small voice as Elijah (The Bible - I Kings 19: 11-12) discovered.   Seeing the power of earthquake wind and fire he was quieted and assured by the voice of God in his heart telling him that the still small voice of Truth is where God is to be found.

Many citizens of this world today sincerely question God and God's power, and are seeking truth about where we came from and where are going.  They look to the Big Bang theory or search for infinitesimal pieces of subatomic particles to prove what life is about.  But the scientists have yet to discover, or at least to reveal what they have found, in that “material” God Particle the particle that would cause so many human actions.

What "material particle" of love and respect for life is it that would impel a  person to pick up a small spider and take it outside to release it rather than squashing it.  (O.K.  I confess, I am guilty of this.)

Or to release the mouse from a trap and set it free outside rather than taking its life.

What other than the spiritual "God particle" would make us reach out to help a poor or homeless person whom we do not even know, and lend a hand to uplift their life's journey.

What particle is it that compels people every day to go to a pet shelter to rescue an abandoned or abused dog or cat and to give them the joy of life and love.

What particle is it that softens a hard heart to make that heart beat faster and bring joyous laughter when a small puppy licks your face, no matter where that little puppy's tongue has been previously.

Or, from whence comes that God Particle that wells up in us, sometimes making our eyes teary as we sit on the porch and observe the wonderful peace and harmony of an evening sunset while the fingers of darkness are creeping across the lawn and birds are singing their "goodnight" songs.

We all hope that those scientists, in their search for the physical cause of life do find that Real God Particle,  the one that lifts us above and beyond the futile search for happiness and meaning in material things and reveals  life's real treasures,  Joy, Peace, Harmony, Brotherliness, Charitableness, Forgiveness  and  Selflessness. 

As Peter observed in The Bible, I Corinthians 2:9-10-
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Limitation????

Lately I have heard so much about the Special Olympics and how so many people are overcoming physical disabilities and performing well beyond all expectations.

I am reminded me of an experience I had some years ago.

I had applied for a new position with a well known company.   When I spoke with the senior management individual in charge of the Information Technology services, he asked if I could fly to South Carolina to meet with him for an interview.   He had planned to be at the company’s  South Carolina location early the following week and thought it would be a good idea to meet there on Monday morning.

We worked out the arrangements for meeting and spent some time discussing how we would join up. He suggested I stay at a certain hotel and that we meet in the morning for breakfast.    When I asked how I would recognize him, he thought for a moment and then said that he would be wearing brown slacks, a yellow shirt and he would be carrying a clipboard.  We were to meet in the hotel lobby  at eight o'clock in the morning.  

At the appointed time I kept looking for someone with a yellow shirt and brown pants carrying a clipboard and finally I saw him. He indeed was carrying a clipboard had brown pants and a yellow shirt and he had only one arm. I was pretty surprised to tell the truth.  As I realized that this gentleman was the man I was supposed to meet, I wondered why he hadn't mentioned that he only had one arm, a pretty safe bet for identifying an individual.   He was the only one-armed guy in the lobby.

During the day we had an opportunity to discuss in depth the responsibilities of the position, how the company operated and the role that I would be expected to play.  There was also time for some small talk about ourselves. He told me that he had arrived in South Carolina on Saturday  as he had been invited to a weekend charity golf tournament sponsored by the Governor.   He had done very well and was very happy to end up high on the leaderboard.

As we talked, it struck me that he didn't seem to realize that he only had one arm. That's why he hadn't mentioned it when we were discussing our meeting arrangements. This incredible individual had achieved senior management status in a very large international company, was apparently a very good golfer, husband and father  and took no thought that he was what some people would call "handicapped".

In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures , Mary Baker Eddy tells of a similar situation and the effect of thinking on human situations.  She relates, “The effect of mortal mind on health and happiness is seen in this: If one turns away from the body with such absorbed interest as to forget it, the body experiences no pain.

 Under the strong impulse of a desire to perform his part, a noted actor was accustomed night after night to go upon the stage and sustain his appointed task, walking about as actively as the youngest member of the company.

This old man was so lame that he hobbled every day to the theatre, and sat aching in his chair till his cue was spoken, — a signal which made him as oblivious of physical infirmity as if he had inhaled chloroform, though he was in the full possession of his so-called senses.”

And then there is Nick Vujicic…. A limbless son was not what nurse Dushka Vujicic, and her husband Pastor Borris Vujicic had been expecting. How would their son live a normal happy life? What could he ever do or become when living with what the world would see as such a massive disability? Little did they know that this beautiful limbless baby would one day be someone who would inspire and motivate people from all walks of life, touching lives all over the world.   See Link

Today is a good day to “put off the old man” as advised in The Bible, (Colossians 3:9)  to start looking away from limitations, lack and fear, and to emulate Nick Vujicic and  those Special Olympians who go forward every day overcoming seeming obstacles as they strive to reach their goals..  They defeat the  “I CAN’T thinking”  every day!!!

With God all things are possible.  God Bless You... and He has!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Weren't GREEN

Checking out at the store the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained. "We didn't have this  green thing back in my earlier days."

 The young clerk responded,  "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

 She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.  

 Back then we returned milk bottles soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

 But we didn't have the green thing  back in our day.

 Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things.  Most memorable, besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks.This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

 But too bad we didn't do the green thing back then.

 We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

 But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

 Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry  your clothes back in our early days.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from  their brothers or sisters not always brand-new clothing.  And we didn't have refrigerators running 24X7, we used ice. (See June Blog - The Ice Man...).

 But that young lady is right -- We didn't have the green thing  back in our day.

 Back then we had one TV or radio in the house -- not a TV in every room; and the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember?) Not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

 But she's right we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

 But we didn't have the green thing back then.

 Back then people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

 But isn't it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Now friends, I hope this doesn't sound like "Self Justification" for an older generation.  It just provides a perspective.  And,  it is so good that people today are concerned enough to try to be green in light of all of the technology that has changed life in our country over the last 100 years.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Television Comes to Chillicothe

Now Chillicothe, Ohio is not some backwoods, Johnny-Come-Lately town and as a matter of fact was the first capital of Ohio.    It lost that title mostly due to geography since it is in the lower part of the state and Columbus, the current state capital, is more in the middle the state and closer to the other major cities.
The name Chillicothe comes from the Shawnee word Chalahgawtha meaning “principal town", as it was a major settlement of that people.  The Shawnee and their ancestors inhabited the territory for thousands of years prior to the arrival of pilgrims in the country.

Modern Chillicothe was the center of the ancient Hopewell Culture from 200 BCE until 500 CE. The Hopewell Indians built earthen mounds for ceremonial and burial purposes throughout the Scioto and Ohio River valleys. The Hopewell Indian Mounds can still be seen at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park which we always called Mound City.  

So it's not because we were small town with no history and no appreciation for culture that television was such a novelty in 1948-1949. It was probably just the most exciting thing to happen there since the Indian Mounds were built.

Now I had seen a television in the early days at my Aunt Mary's lovely house in Connecticut.  Her state-of-the-art TV had a screen just slightly larger than a coffee saucer and the picture was very fuzzy. Of course it was black-and-white and contained a lot of what they called “snow” which is a technical term for “you can’t really see much of a picture".  But it was so fascinating to me.

But residents of Chillicothe did eventually get television sets. Now, not everyone got a TV since they were pretty expensive and many people decided that it was rather too expensive for what you got. To receive a signal on television you had to have an antenna on your roof pointed towards the only stations that we could receive which were in Columbus and Cincinnati.    I guess it didn't matter if the programs were very good or not, we were just so excited to see this new communications medium. The most popular in the evening shows were John Cameron Swayze's news program and Milton Berle.

Milton Berle was very popular.  His autobiography notes that in Detroit, "an investigation took place when the water levels took a drastic drop in the reservoirs on Tuesday nights between 9 and 9:05PM.  It turned out that everyone waited until the end of the Texaco Star Theater before going to the bathroom".   He is credited for the huge spike in the sale of TV sets. After Berle's show began, set sales more than doubled, reaching two million in 1949. His stature as the medium's first superstar earned Berle the sobriquet "Mr. Television".

Now a wonderful thing, maybe a phenomenon happening only in small towns like Chillicothe, showed the graciousness and generosity of the citizens. We lived across the street from the Woolums family and they were one of the first families in our neighborhood to buy a television set. We were all very curious to see what it was about and they ever so kindly open their doors to the neighbors.  On many nights there were folding chairs set up in their living room and a small group of neighbors filed in to watch Milton Berle. Now is that generous or what?  Quite different from many neighborhoods today where the houses are buttoned up tight and neighbors hardly know each other.

Some folks brought popcorn with them and it was like being in a movie theater. I'm not sure that the neighbors appreciated just how generous the Woolums family was.

Our family finally got a TV in 1950.  It was a Sylvania Halolight that had fluorescent lighting around the screen.  The purpose was to make the picture clearer and sharper.  Or it may have been a cheap trick to sell more TVs.  In any case, we were excited to have our own set.

The power of television was proven to me by the effect it had on people.  While visiting my Grandmother and Grandpa one evening, as we sat in their living room watching their new TV,  I saw an amazing transformation. My elderly grandmother, the very picture of poise and decorum, turned into a raving fanatic in the middle of a TV wrestling match. The usually gentle, serene and loving lady erupted in screams of “hit him,  hit him, come on mister,  hit him… and hit him again”, all accompanied by shaking of fists and facial grimaces.   It was a scene much funnier than even the BEST Milton Berle show.  Gorgeous George or whoever it was did miraculously overcome his adversary and all eventually ended well.   

But I will never forget that scene.  And I came to an early understanding that the power and seeming reality of the television programs can have an absolute effect on the minds of the viewers, for better or worse.

And, at midnight, the National Anthem was played and the test pattern.