Sunday, October 10, 2021

Lemonade from videos?

My nickname in many places online is some variation of trainman. However, it's becoming very rare that I get opportunity to go and just watch trains. Last Saturday, dad and I got to a small town in southeast Iowa to watch trains. To document the trip, I like to make sure to get trains on video and then put it on my YouTube channel.

After lunch, we checked out a model train display from Scale Trains and could then finally record the trains we were seeing. Dad isn't very familiar with my camera, so I try to make it as easy as possible to use. Instead of going through settings to select video type, I had him hit one button that would just record from whatever was set previously. 

Dad very nicely setup his tripod and made sure to have the shots framed well to see the trains, or barges, perfectly. We caught several trains on the busy main line and even two trains that met perfectly in front of my camera. On the three-hour drive home, I looked forward to seeing what we captured and getting them put together into a long video. However, when I transferred the content from the camera to my computer, I noticed the files seemed much smaller than I expected.

When I looked at the videos, I realized they were all taken in high-speed time lapse without any sound. Therefore, instead of nearly 30 minutes of train videos, they were less than three-minutes total. Looking at them, I could see they were all perfectly framed and looked great, except in high-speed. I felt horrible that dad went to all the work to capture the videos and they wouldn't be useful. If I had him use the slow method to setup video type, it would have been fine. However, in trying to make things easier, it ended up being worse.

I thought and slept about it Saturday night and Sunday and wondered what I could do in editing. I tried slowing the videos down, but they looked jerky. Therefore, I found a music site for YouTube, put the videos together, and did a high-speed review. It wasn't what I had planned, but it still worked out. Next time though, I'll go through the slow setup method at least once.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Fourth Visit in 28 Years

In June 1993, I went to my first week of CHAMP Camp. It has been 28 years since my first encounter with what would become a life-long commitment. I attended camp for seven years as a camper and have been a counselor 15 years in person and this year virtually. In 2018, I also went to the Louisville area to preach for a camp friend and a few others came to hear me. The summers I was not active at camp, I have visited at least twice and promote camp any chance I get.

With nearly three decades of involvement, I have made several friends of fellow long-term counselors as well as current and alumni campers. However, camp is based in Indianapolis and many of the people involved are from that area or further east. Therefore, I normally only see camp friends in person during camp week. However, that does change on some rare occasions.

This past Tuesday, a counselor friend came to visit for the day. Cayla and I had talked about her visiting a few years ago at camp. She would stop over during a trip she had planned to Nebraska with her family. However, this pandemic thing kind of changed plans. Therefore, we got it worked to reschedule before winter arrived and another year has passed.

Cayla's visit makes the fourth time someone from camp has come to visit me, with two of them during my camper years. It was fun getting to show her my little town and areas I like to go for entertainment. Camp also gets very busy with many people around and it's hard to find time to just talk with friends and get caught up. I enjoyed getting to just talk and actually get caught up with her, even with my parents or caregiver also with us.

She started driving early Tuesday morning from the Indianapolis area and arrived around noon. By 9:00 that evening, Cayla was ready to head to the hotel and then returned home Wednesday. Therefore, she drove about 14 hours and had an overnight stay for a nine-hour visit. I have done the same drive and stay for a three-hour visit to camp. I'm thankful it worked out and that I was able to spend time with friends twice in September.

As changes in the country and my physical needs continue, I doubt I will be returning to volunteer at CHAMP Camp. I hope this won't be the last time I see any of my camp friends in person, but I enjoyed this one as a rare treat.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Returning to Study

In July and August, I got used to working a lot while preaching several weeks in a row. When I was finished, I enjoyed the break, but missed having goals to work toward. Therefore, last week I returned to something I haven't touched in several years, Spanish.

When I received my diaphragm pacemaker in late 2010, I had to relearn how to speak. A few months later, I purchased a language learning program called Rosetta Stone and picked Spanish. I took over three years of it in high school, but never did very well. As the number of Spanish speaking people increase in the U.S., including in healthcare, I thought it would be a good language to learn.

The program works by showing pictures and associating words or phrases with them. Depending on the activity, you either speak, write, or choose the correct picture. As you progress through the program, it increases your vocabulary, but also continues to review what has already been learned.

My first time through the software, I got through the first major section and was somehow suddenly propelled to the most advanced learning. I struggled through this for a while an couldn't return to where I should be, and eventually stopped.

A few years later, I took it up again and started from the beginning with the hardest course possible, reading, writing, and speaking. Once again, I got through part of the opening level, but then started struggling with it, especially the writing. I figured I have enough trouble with writing English, Spanish was going to be any better. I pushed through for a while, but eventually quit in frustration again.

Now, I have been working on it again for less than two weeks and it has been going quite well. The program has five main sections, each divided into four subsections. Those also have different goalposts of gradually increasing vocabulary and reviewing new terms. This round, I'm only doing speech and not typing. However, I also started making my own Spanish dictionary. I know I can likely purchase one for very little, but it has been helpful to review and do it on my own.

So far, I haven't progressed past my previous attempts. I do feel much more motivated this time though and am enjoying it. Unfortunately, I have very little need to use Spanish or opportunity to practice, but I never know what God has planned for me next. Maybe I will get to speak with people who do not speak English well and I can help, I pray I will keep at it no matter what comes.

I am scheduled to preach again the last two weeks of October and have started work on sermon planning as well. It feels good to have an active quad life again, but not too much.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Freedom for Each

I have posted before that my parents enjoy going out on trips, but rarely get to as it's hard to find people to help me when they're gone. They both did get away in early June and are now in the midst of individual vacations.

A few days ago, mom and a friend left on a trip to a neighboring state. They had fun exploring different areas and seeing some sights. Dad and I had several days of just us in the house. I joined him outside with yard work one evening when my caregiver was due to leave, but he wasn't finished. It worked out well and we haven't starved.

Mom is scheduled to return later today and dad plans to take off tomorrow for a few days. He has had various ideas on what to do, but I'm sure watching trains at some location in the continental U.S. will be a big part of dad's plans.

Knowing other families that have a child, of any age, with a high-level spinal cord injury, it is very hard for parents to get away. Some can't go away at all for more than a few hours, and it often results in family problems. I'm very well aware that God has immensely blessed my parents and I with funding for caregivers and people to fill every night and 5-6 days a week. This is very rare and an extreme luxury in the world of spinal cord injury.

Even with this, I still sometimes feel like a burden to my family. They can't fully retire with me using dad's insurance and can't get out as often, or as long, as they would like. This has been the case for over 36 years, but it has become worse in about the last seven with no change in sight.

For now at least, I'm thankful for the times my parents can go and do their own thing. I also am thankful for the blessing God has given me with them and all that He has allowed me to do. Many changes are happening rapidly in America and around the world. I don't know what will impact living situations, but I can give thanks for what we currently have and know God has the future in His hands.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Have Friends, Will Experiment

Over Labor Day weekend, my best friend John came to visit, along with his two boys. Due to last year having travel restrictions, I haven't seen them in person since summer of 2019. In two years, children change quite a lot. It was fun seeing how the kids had grown and having an active house for a few days. John and I have not qualified as children for a few decades now, and some things never change.

On Saturday, the two of us were talking, watching the boys play, and just hanging out in the house. Mom was also talking with us and said she remembered when we were in high school and she would come home to find us grinning with computer parts strewn around my room. That reminded me that my parents found my old Toshiba laptop early last year and I kept it for just such an occasion.

Digging through my collection of outdated computers, we soon found the machine that I  received around 1991. At that time, it was very useful and I utilized it in the last years of grade and junior high school. Now, it is completely useless and unable to do anything modern technology does. I always wanted to see what was inside, and that's what we did.

It took some searching, but John kept finding screws hidden in various locations. Removing them slowly pealed the plastic case away from the electronics. After a few pops that sounded curious, we were soon inside. One of the first items removed from the interior was a long, thin, battery pack. Originally, it would have helped to turn the machine on. Now, corrosion had claimed the power cell, meaning the computer could not start if we wanted it to.

Through the next several minutes, John continued to take out screws and unplug wires until the kitchen counter was covered with what used to be cutting edge technology. The keyboard and screen would not yield to further destruction. However, John's oldest son quickly latched onto the bones of the computer. The screen worked well to prop his iPad and the keyboard functioned as a tool to help with typing practice. He didn't seem to mind that punching the keys had no results, it was fine for his imagined document.

Our previous computer escapades always resulted in an upgraded, functioning machine. This time, the parts went to the curb and the bones went home with a happy boy. Living the quad life often means few close friends, but I'm thankful for when we can get to be together and enjoy mutual destruction, I mean exploring.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Day of Remembrance

Twenty years ago today, terrorists hijacked four planes. Two of them were flown into the Twin Towers of New York, one into the Pentagon, and one crashed in Pennsylvania. Anyone over thirty very likely remembers where they were on that day and can play out the day's activities by heart.

Photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash
The following days, everyone was glued to their television to not miss any updates. American flags were up on houses all over the country and we vowed never to forget the heroes who died trying to help save others. Not long after the attack, President George W. Bush declared war on terrorism and sent troops to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, much of America has forgotten and gone full circle.

A few weeks ago, President Biden declared that American troops would be completely pulled out of Afghanistan and set a date. Unfortunately, many have said it was the worst possible way to remove our troops. Thirteen were killed trying to protect the airport so people could evacuate. Many civilians that helped the U.S. soldiers were left behind, as well as $85 billion worth of military equipment.

In less than two days, the Taliban took over the country and have been killing those who helped the army as well as any Christians. The terrorist organization now has more black hawk helicopters and equipment than many countries. While this happens, the leaders of the U.S. have been promoting social issues in places like Vietnam, where we also had horrible war results. Watching news from countries like Australia, America has become the laughing stock of the world with allies unsure if they would receive military aid if, or when, needed.

For the last several days, my morning reading has been in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet warned of coming disaster due to Israel forsaking God. In many ways, it echoes what I see happening in much of the developed world.

Today, remember those that died twenty years ago in the attacks as well as soldiers who have been killed fighting for freedom. Also pray the past is not repeated and the country will return to Christ before it's too late.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Labor or Resignation

The unofficial end to summer has arrived again. Labor Day is a full three months after Memorial Day, but it seems to be the time of year that passes most quickly. Busy activities during warm months attribute to the speed, but I only wish the cold months of winter went as swiftly.

As the country takes an extra day of rest from work, it reminds me of 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. The apostle Paul was writing to the church and heard that some people were not working and had become busybodies. Verse 10 says in part, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." This is something I always try to remember myself.

In August, I officially worked 3.5 hours at my actual job of web development. For the same 31 days I also preached four Sundays in a row and also volunteered at the Iowa State Fair three mornings. It felt very good to be active and contributing to society, but I still regular feel like I'm lazy and don't do as much as I should.

Most people my age are working 40, or more, hours a week and then have family responsibilities at home. I look at my dad as an example who works over full-time most weeks and then has a lot to do at home to help mom and I. For me, I lay flat large portions of the day and try to spend time wisely by learning something, work of some fashion, or at least just maintaining the body I've been given. However, I'm quick to turn to a game instead of doing something more productive.

I again heard a recent study of people in their 20's that called this generation the "resignation generation." It found that many in this age group were planning to resign from their current job within a year, didn't like their career, or were content to stay home and live on government subsidies. This is evident looking at current job openings.

Two years ago, I posted about jobs being available due to not enough workers available. Now, workers do exist, but due to measures taken during the pandemic, they can make more staying at home than getting a job. A country in this situation can't survive for very long and have any resources available.

Yes, situations do exist where people absolutely are unable to work due to disability or other circumstances. I'm thankful programs are in place for this, I use a few of them. However, I still believe everyone should do as much as they are able, and just not being able to breath or use your limbs isn't an excuse.

Hopefully, I can try to be an example through the quad life. I try to keep that in mind as part of my activities and writing this blog. I pray that more young people will also head these verses and learn to earn the bread they eat.